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Dia De Muerte: Notes From Halloween

Hope you had a good Halloween.

I did. For the first time since we’ve moved into the house, I was home on the 31st of October and was able to hand out candy with Erin. We spent Monday night carving pumpkins, eating BBQ, drinking whiskey, watching the new Pearl Jam documentary, PJ20, and handing out mini-candies to the neighborhood kids. Pretty good was to spend an evening. It was fun having kids knock on the door and threaten tricks if we did not provide treats. It’s a goofy social contract: with their parents looking on from the street, kids promised not to do serious property damage to our home if we give them candy. The Mafia calls this protection. I call it being a good neighbor. Every time I answered the door with a hollowed-up out Jack-O-Lantern filled with Reese’s, I could help but think that every parent in Sugarhouse should be sending me a thank you card. If it wasn’t for childless couples in their mid-thirties, their children’s Halloween would blow.

I didn’t wear a costume on Monday. My contribution for Halloween was putting down my Highball when I answered the door. Besides, after the fiasco I went through this last weekend, I didn’t feel like getting into character again. I am a fan of dressing up once a year for Halloween. Too often in college, I would wear a costume for a party and find that outfit making it into the regular rotation of suits I would wear throughout the year. I once made the mistake of wearing a tunic from a convenience store one year in college and I think I just threw it away last week. For the record, dressing up like a 7-11 employee was both my best and most racist costume I have ever worn. Nowadays, I figure the best costumes are the ones you can only wear on Halloween. If your costume doesn’t draw the attention of law enforcement outside of October, you probably didn’t put enough effort into it for the Halloween party.

My Incredible Hulk costume was a hit. At least my mother thought so. For work, the staff at Keys On Main were encouraged to dress as superheroes. I was initially disappointed that I had to wear a themed costume with everybody else. I have been cultivating a clown costume for the last five years that looks like it was hand-delivered from a white panel van driven by John Wayne Gacy but in the spirit of the evening, I elected to follow suit and dress up as a superhero. I was a veracious reader of comics as a kid. I loved the Marvel banner. I collected closets full of X-Men, Punisher and Daredevil comics. It was easy to fall into the comic universe and escape into Stan Lee’s universe growing up in Las Vegas. When it’s 110 degrees outside, who wouldn’t want to stay in an air conditioned house and read about mutants, vigilantes and blind lawyers? My favorite was Daredevil. I liked him because he could hold down a job and kick the stuffing out of any of NYC’s criminal underbelly. With 10 years of reading comics, you would have thought it would have been a cinch to pick my costume. It would have been if I wasn’t the size of a beer refrigerator in the garage. Given my girth, I was relegated to two choices: The Hulk or Ben Grimm’s the Thing. We talk a lot about prejudice with people of color, gender or sexuality but why does it seem that any time a guy is caring around a couple of extra pounds, he has to be some sort of bulky freak? Where’s the Al Sharpton for chubby guys? Given the pressure I was under from my co-workers, I picked Bruce Banner’s alter ego.

In terms of putting the costume together, it was a piece of cake. I found a pair of salmon colored shorts wore my Red Wing work boots and used an old dress-shirt. I went to Wal-Mart and bought a 55-gallon drum of green grease paint. The only real struggle I had been going to Pip’s Costume Store in Sugarhouse and buying a bright green wig. I was going for a Lou Ferrigno’s Hulk and needed a wig to pull the outfit together. I waited until the eleventh hour and went to Pip’s to find a sea of adolescences simultaneously loitering and shoplifting. I am not a big fan of crowds. It’s not agoraphobia but rather a general distain for people not moving with purpose. The store was packed with kids literally spinning in circles. I was able to push myself though the crowd and find the right wig. I got into a serpentine line to cash out and waited as the future of America texted and spit in the face of both decency and commerce. Instead of trying to get a wig to put my costume together, I probably should have hit a pull-up bar and put down the nachos for a week to get into character. Lou Ferrigno would probably cry if he saw how I disgraced his beloved Hulk.

I covered my amble body with globs and globs of green paint. It took forever. Imagine painting a barn with a tube of toothpaste. The club had a decent night but it certainly wasn’t our busiest Saturday night. I think we were competing with too many house parties. Nonetheless, it was fun seeing all of the costumes and watching people enjoy their Halloween. We were able to get out of there at a decent hour and I was able to take a Silkwood shower when I got home. I brought a couple of beers into the shower and scrubbed my body until the bottom of the tub looked like a crime scene. You never know how good it is to be clean until you’ve been smeared with body paint for seven hours. It’s the equivalent of going on a cross-country bus trip in terms of how gross you feel. No matter what I am doing for Halloween next year, I made a personal promise to myself that I would not be dipping my body in paint. Leave that to the guys with washboard abs.

Speaking of fitness, I am back to boxing. Three months ago, my boxing gym, Fight 4 Your Life, closed when the owner, Tom McClelland, moved to New York City. I was bummed. I had become really disenfranchised with going to 24 Hour Fitness. Felt too often at 24 that people were there to look at themselves in the mirror and to hook up. The music was always too loud, too many beefcakes grunting and never enough instruction. I stumbled into Fight 4 Your Life and immediately found a home. It smelt like work. Tucked in a warehouse, it was raw space with the ring in the center of the room, heavy bags lining the walls and weights stacked into a corner. The classes were an hour long with 30 minutes of cardio followed with a half-hour of boxing instruction. Even in the height of my rugby playing days, I never received a workout like the one I got from Tom’s classes. I learned to skip rope, wrap my wrists, throw a combination and learned the value of a push-up. Had he not closed his doors, my Hulk costume might not have been such an embarrassment. I enjoyed the classes because you pushed yourself for 60 horrible minutes and left feeling like you’ve really accomplished something. I lost a bit of weight but mostly felt like I was getting into shape for the first time in a long time.

When he closed his gym, I checked out fitness-wise. I started double-downing on my portions, drinking like I was on shore-leave and not really doing much of anything. I went to a variety of other gyms in town trying to find something similar to Fight 4 Your Life but I really didn’t feel like joining a Muay Thai gym. Sure, I liked kung-fu movies growing up but I didn’t much feel like buying a gi and bowing to a sensei. I don’t know if it was the jingoism talking but I’d rather look like John Goodman than join a karate dojo. Just not my style.

That’s why I was excited when my friend, Heath Haraki, took a big chance and opened up his own boxing club in Salt Lake. Located 75 West Bower Street (2225 South), Heath was able to get most of Tom’s equipment and re-open the gym. He is calling it Lake City Fitness and it is fantastic. Minus the ring, Heath was able to recreate Fight 4 Your Life and the best part is that Heath will be the trainer. He was teaching a lot of the classes towards the end of the old gym and Heath does a great job. His classes are really organized, fast and compact. That’s the polite way of describing it. Heath is a ruthless slave master who runs you ragged with an assortment of medieval exercises that should be reserved for Navy SEALs or Demi Moore. It is still broken in to two parts with the first half cardio and second boxing but the reality is after the first 30 minutes, I’m ready to take a shame cry in my truck with a bucket of chicken. Nonetheless, I totally support Heath’s new club and I am encouraging anybody interested in getting into shape to check him out. At $65 a month, you’ll avoid all of the tool-bags from 24 Hour Fitness and get a ridiculously good workout. My goal for the next two months? Lose enough weight to see my knee caps and I think Heath is the man to help me. Send him an e-mail at lakecityfitness@yahoo.com if you have any questions.

And now a word about a word. Last week at the end of the shift, I was sitting around with a skeleton crew of the staff and we were talking about second jobs. One of the cocktails said the best second job one could get was a “retarded phone answering” job. I don’t know if it was the hour of the night or the fact that I am exhausted from hearing the word “retard” thrown around loosely but I said that that word offended me. It is funny calling somebody out for their language considering I have a self-imposed Tourette syndrome. I swear a lot and I have a pretty sacrilegious sense of humor. I like offensive language and I love profanity. A lot. I think this column is one of the few places that I don’t use curse words. I do this mostly out of the fact that bad words look particularly ugly on the page. In the real world, however, I love using potty language. I usually tune out when somebodies starts talking to me and doesn’t drop an F-bomb within the first ten seconds. Moreover, I like racy jokes. I justify this by honestly believing that everybody is equal. I think I do a pretty good job of looking at the world through Martin Luther King Jr. glasses. Behind the bar, I treat everyone equal until they do something that demands that I treat them elsewise. Like Gunnery Sergeant Hartman, there is no racial bigotry here. Everyone is equally worthless or special depending upon what kind of mood I am in. I know that in the gay community, guys call each other the F-word and African Americans use the N-word amongst themselves. I disagree with that but unless it directly impacts me, I choose to let them keep it amongst themselves. Perpetuating a hurtful term in a group is their decision; I would just rather not hear it.

“Retard” or “retarded,” on the other hand, is just hurtful. It isn’t limited to a race or creed, so people use it freely without consideration for what it means. It doesn’t have the impact of the F-bomb, C-word, T-word or the rest of the alphabet soup of slurs and therefore doesn’t get corrected very often. For me, the word conjures an image of a poor kid with Down syndrome who never really had a chance. The hard R of the word makes it sound harsh and I can’t stop thinking how harmful the word is when people really listen to it. Retard means to make slow but most people use it as a synonyms for slow, stupid or dumb. Outside of talking about fire retardant material, I usually can’t see much use of the word. I guess I could come up with one scenario to use the word: You’re drink service will be retarded if you choose to use the word retard around me. It’s funny what offends us. I think it is usually the tone which people use while saying something offensive. Cool guys versus creepy guys get different ropes to hang themselves with creepy guys getting very little. Something said by Chris Rock will always sound better than the guy checking you out at Harmon’s although I can’t imagine Harmon’s hiring any loud mouth, uppity cashiers. I don’t think I can change the world but I am offering fair warning: drop using the R-word around me. I have enough phlegm in me at any time for you to regret ordering a drink from me.

Halloween is a year away and I am finally getting the last of the hard to reach dye off of my body. I hope that I can go back to the simple pleasures of wearing a terrifying clown suit next year. Maybe I’ll give the Hulk another shot but the bowls of undistributed candy won’t make that any easier. Who knows, maybe I can go as a sexy Hulk next year.

Ben Raskin can be found bartending at Keys On Main Wednesday through Saturday. Follow him on Twitter @BennyRaskin or his Tumblr feed. Become a fan of Behind The Bar on Facebook.

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About Ben Raskin

Born in El Cajon, raised in Las Vegas, educated in Reno and living in Salt Lake City. I bartend, write, box and live in Sugarhouse UT.

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