Notes from a fascinating world.
The world is like a bazaar, full of interesting odds and ends, and I've been exiled into it. This is my all-over-the-map (literally and metaphorically) attempt at capturing some of the world's many wonders.
Ah, the American Halloween. Now that I’m outside of the U.S., I rather miss the adult costumes. When I was growing up in New Zealand, anyone above the age of twelve dressing up for Halloween was a curious sight.
This used to be true in the U.S. as well. As of the mid-20th century, trick-or-treating was an annual event for children, but adults seldom dressed up. But by the turn of the millennium, an estimated 65 percent of American adults celebrated Halloween, spending billions on costumes and party accessories. Halloween had become the second most important holiday for America's retailers, second only to Christmas.
Beyond the skimpy “sexy nurse,” “sexy cop,” “sexy cat” costumes or your annual fad like Deadpool, however, Halloween has actually served a very serious purpose in American history. And it was this purpose that made the holiday adult.
Halloween an occasion for transformation, for simultaneously wearing and mask and showing who you truly are. It’s okay because by the next morning you can always claim that it was only a costume. So marginalized groups began to dress up for the holiday in order to make a political point. The Greenwich Village Halloween Parade began in 1973 on Christopher Street because it was New York’s gay Mecca, and it was a way for LGBTs to announce themselves without provoking a full backlash.
It is sometimes pointed out that Steve Jobs, American titan, was the son of a Syrian immigrant. It is also often pointed out that the grudging European and American responses to Syrian refugees today parallel the American response to Jewish refugees from Europe on the eve of the Holocaust, down to ships full of desperate men, women, and children being turned away.
But few seem to be recalling that the greatest American (fictional) hero of all, Superman, was conceived as a Jewish refugee. Perhaps doing so would seem to trivialize the very serious public debate. But our imagination, in which we invest our deepest yearnings, is as good a moral compass as any.
Perhaps ironically, Superman’s Judaism is actually well-documented. Several books have been written spelling out the case for Clark Kent as an Ashkenazi Jew, with titles like “Up, Up and Oy Vey,” “From Krakow to Krypton,” and “Superman Is Jewish?” Here, then, are the basic facts:
Writer, traveler, lawyer, dilettante. Failed student of physics. Not altogether distinguished graduate of two Ivy League institutions. Immigrant twice over. "The grand tour is just the inspired man's way of getting home."