Monday, October 24, 2005

Beautiful on the inside

I went to a Halloween party on Saturday night, and the evening turned out to be full of highs and lows. I thought that I'd focus today on the positive things from that night, and I'll get into the negative ones later after I've had a little more time to put them in perspective...

The party was just off of South Street, a very funky section of Philadelphia with a lot of hip bars, goth clothing stores, tattoo parlors, and the occasional fetish boutique. I was invited by someone kind of last minute, and I didn't know the couple that was hosting it or anyone else who would be at the party. Everyone had been encouraged to dress up, and it was clear that most of the people had put alot of thought and work into their costumes. There were a good number of geishas and samurai milling about in ornate silk robes, powdered faces, and black wigs. There was one couple who went as individual halves of the 'American Gothic' portrait, which involved cutting out an oval for their faces and wearing the exact same clothing as the man and woman in the painting. Another woman wore all black and had round black balloons taped in a cluster all around her midsection. That one kind of eluded me until I saw that she was handing out little post-it notes saying 'you have a message', and then I realized that she was a Blackberry.

But hands down, two costumes stood out above the rest in terms of the most unique ones that night. In the female category, a woman came dressed as the Chicken Lady from the sketch comedy show "The Kids in the Hall". She had all of the details down, including the white wig, the pointed nose, the orange tights with chicken feet, and the white feathered boa. In the male category, a man came as Mugatu, which was Will Ferrell's character in the movie 'Zoolander.' The fact that the guy was about 6'6" (actually, 6'8" with that wild hair) only added to the weirdness factor.

One of the more surreal moments of the night came when these two people were off talking in a part of the house right next to the bar. As it so happened, that's where I was located for most of the evening, but that is a separate story for an upcoming entry. It became clear after awhile that Chicken Lady and Mugatu apparently had a history together, and as they continued to talk, I couldn't help overhear (due to the fact that I was actively eavesdropping) the two of them start to admit that they really had feelings for each other beyond just being friends, and that maybe they should give themselves another chance to see where things might lead. It was like a scene right out of "When Harry Met Sally", if you can picture a six-foot-six Billy Crytal with a white goatee finally admitting his feelings to Meg Ryan in a chicken nose.

But the most surreal moment came towards the end of the night--and as it so happened, it also involved the Chicken Lady. A small crowd had gathered in the living room, and the host of the party brought out an acoustic guitar. Chicken Lady, whose real name was Emma, or Emily, or something with an 'E', began to play and little by little, the conversations dropped off all around the house, and more people began to gather around. She was an excellent guitar player, and had a strong, clear voice. Apparently she plays regularly around the city, and has put out her own local CD. She played all of her own songs, and her style was a cross between Sarah McLachlan and Jewel. I can't remember the particular words, but the overall theme was of the highs and lows of relationships.

The longer she played, I found my focus being drawn closely in towards her face--particularly her eyes. She sang with such passion that her emotions shone through despite the make-up and costume that she was wearing. As ridiculous as that picture sounds, this woman in a white wig, fake nose, feather boa, and orange tights held that entire room spellbound with her intensity. I wasn't looking at a funny person in a silly outfit anymore--I was looking at a very gifted artist opening up and pouring out her heart through music.

After about 30 minutes, she set the guitar aside to loud applause, and the illusion was broken. She was back to being the Chicken Lady, receiving compliments from a guy in a Superman costume (with an excessively enhanced 'package' beneath his tights) and a woman dressed as a hippie. The stereo was turned back on and the house began to fill up again with the sound of dozens of overlapping conversations. Later it occurred to me that if by chance we passed by each other on the street someday, I'd have no idea who she was outside of her costume. But if I were to ever hear that voice again filling up an entire room from some random stage one night, I would recognize her in an instant.