Monday, October 17, 2011

A Memorable Halloween

Attila the Hun
A few years ago, August O' Connor and I were invited to one of Santa Cruz's most exclusive social events--Kate Bowland's annual Halloween Party. Kate Bowland is a legend in midwife circles, has delivered more than a thousand babies, and helped make more people-friendly both home and hospital births in California. And Kate knows everyone. So her party was sure to be a "scene".

The rules were simple. Show up as some recognizable character and for the first two hours, play that character's role. Afterwards you can be yourself. Kate was dressed as her favorite childhood hero--Annie Oakley--and would cock and fire an empty BB gun into the air whenever she pleased. Her husband Steve was dressed as Mikhail Gorbachev, complete with forehead birthmark, grey suit with red star on the lapel. Steve greeted every guest with a hearty Russian bearhug: "Welcome to the party!"

Later in the kitchen, Kate told us that many of the stories about Annie Oakley that her father "read" to her as a child were most probably the products of her father's imagination. She was never able to find many of these stories in any Annie Oakley bios.

Entirely unplanned, one woman came as Jackie Kennedy and another as Marilyn Monroe. After sizing up each other across the room they got together and treated the guests to a splendid cat fight. Most of the guests agreed that this tussle of celebrities was one of the evening's high points.

I decided to engage with Atilla the Hun who was sitting in a throne-like chair royally observing the proceedings with a jaundiced eye. "Hi, Atilla," I said, "You're obviously a very powerful man. But I sense that you are in need of my help." I was wearing what looked like a corny Batman (or cat) mask with a green Celtic knot on my chest.

"Need your help? I need to kill and eat you. Who are you anyway?"

Atilla was obviously really getting into his role.

"Never mind me," I said. "See that woman over there? Let's call her over here."

I gesture to August and she slithers over to Atilla's throne. "This is Lady Luck," I say. "And I am Lord Luck. Would you accept our help? Do you agree that you need us?"

"Cancel the death threat," says Atilla. "The help of both of you I most definitely can use."

Even a barbarian warlord recognizes how important it is to have luck on your side.

Later, after the meal and the customary intoxicants, I wandered out onto Kate's deck to discover King Satan himself lying in a beach chair looking out over the lights of Santa Cruz and into the darkness of Monterey Bay. I sat next to him and shared one of my long-term fantasies--not as legendary Lord Luck but as ordinary Nick Herbert.

"Mephistopheles, I presume?"

"That's me."

"As a scientist, Meph, I've always been fascinated by the Faust legend--the notion of negotiating with the Devil himself for some deep wisdom not accessible to others. So I'm really excited to meet you and want to hear more about that famous "Faustian bargain". Do you take my soul and give me deep wisdom in exchange?"

"That soul stuff is really old-fashioned," the guy in the devil suit replied, taking another sip from his bottle of beer. "The price for deep wisdom is very different from what you've been told."

"What's the price?"

"The price for deep wisdom, Nick, is separation--separation from the life of ordinary humanity. End of interview."

I left Satan to enjoy his view of the Bay and am still contemplating his version of the Faustian bargain. He was not really Satan, after all--just an ordinary guy in a mask at Kate Bowland's party. But his answer is certainly worth thinking about.

Thanks, Kate, for a truly memorable Halloween.

On other fronts, Los Gatos sci-fi author and Renaissance man, Rudy Rucker, recently published on his blog, the simplest description of quantum tantra that I have ever read. Read Rudy's post and inform yourself about the next big quantum science/religion/medicine/recreation of the future.

Lord and Lady Luck

1 comment:

Tané Tachyon said...

Kate was the midwife when my son Arthur was born -- she sang "Ring of Fire" to me, but the only costume connection I can think of is that later I heard she was telling people I had been wearing a long black dress, which was not exactly true. I was kind of sitting on an Orca whale, though.

I saw you on Pacific yesterday morning out the window of my bus downtown.