I am the first of my friends to arrive at The Shed Blues and BBQ Joint in Ocean Springs for the Austin, Texas based blues duo, Bugaboo. Using looping drum tracks, the two guitarist/vocalist swapped leads and harmonies that reverberated with deep emotion and pounding, distant tones reminiscent of Led Zeppelin’s, “When the Levee Breaks”. In two weeks, on the 13th of November, I will be on the same stage doing the first open to the public Coastal Noise Podcast with blues traditionalist and songwriter Wes Lee of Mobile, Alabama. After our conversation, we too will have the stage for a set honoring such greats as Robert Johnson, Son House, Fred McDowell, Skip James, and R.L. Burnside as well as perform original works of our own. It will be a night full of “firsts” for me and I’ve been excitedly awaiting the date’s arrival.
I am sitting in the back by myself for about twenty minutes, waiting for Lyle and Julia to show up, and considering what this night might have in store. On the interstate en route to The Shed, I saw a black streak of something that appeared to be running into the road. I put lite pressure on the breaks…but then realized there was nothing there. Whatever I thought I’d seen was apparently non-existent, a fluke of human vision. That’s just what I would have needed, I thought, to hit a black cat on the weekend of Halloween. I’ve never once hit anything with my car and it would be an awful bad sign to do so tonight. I made a quick stop by my family’s place before continuing on. Not five minutes down the road, another black streak just to my right shot through the dark heading directly in line with the front of my car. I was doing 30mph easily and, this time, it was no illusion. The black cat ran right into the street and there was no stopping what was coming next. I applied as much break as I could but there was no use. The cat went under my car in the blink of an eye but, instead of a gut wrenching bump, all I saw was the cat darting out from my car’s left side. It had gone under and missed every wheel completely.
I’m sitting at The Shed, considering if this incident is something to consider, when I hear a “how’s it goin” just behind me. I turn to find Stephen Anderson of the Southland Music Line taking a seat next to me. I great him with a smile and we strike up a conversation, talking about the events of the weekend and recent photography projects. We hang around for a few minutes sizing the scene and then, as if it had been planned it all along, got up in unison and began taking shots around the venue of the night’s artists.
A short while later, Lyle and Julia show up in full costume. I told them both I would be in costume myself and in fact encouraged Lyle to dress up for the night, but, after looking over the crowd at first arrival and seeing not a single person in costume, I decided to leave mine in the car. When you have a costume like mine, you tend to distract from what’s really going on, and this crowd was too small to pull any attention awa. Lyle (a gladiator) and Julia (a mime) both looked questioningly at me in my T-shirt and shorts. “Why are you guys dressed like that?” I asked accusingly.
In the mix of taking some shots, I caught up with photographer, music lover, and The Shed Digital Director Fred Salinas about me and Wes’s upcoming show and our photography plans for the weekend. He had put me hip to the other shows going on this Friday night down on Government Street and said he was hoping to get into The Hard Rock tomorrow night to shoot the Marilyn Manson show (which he did, you can see some of his shots on his website which I will post below). The set ended at ten and all of us hung around to chat with the Bugaboo players for a while before moving on to the downtown area. It was time to dawn the Slender Man.
I parked my car across the street and made my way through the gravel lot. The lights from the Joint beamed down directly at me, reflecting off my white mask and practically blinding me. Ahead, I could hear two girls commenting on my slow, deliberate approach.
“It’s Slender Man,” one of them said aloud.
“Oh my God, that’s so creepy,” the other said.
I could hear them standing in the parking lot right in front of me, but I did nothing to change my course. Their voices rose up as I came closer and closer, until I came to a stop in front of them.
“That’s so freaky. You know that right?” The chattier of the two commented. I stared back at her with my dead, nothingness of a face.
“Do you talk?”
My voice was empty.
“Say something, you have to say something!”
She stepped closer to me. Even right before me I could not see a single detail of what she looked like. All I could tell was she was somewhat tall.
“I want you to talk to me. Just one word. If you say something…I’ll kiss you right now.”
I stood still not phased by her offer, but intrigued none the less. This was getting interesting.
“Come on,” she said in a hushed voice and put her face up against mine. I could feel her breath coming through my mask. She started caressing my body tight suit, moving her hands up and down my chest. “Just one word? Why don’t you just say…Pinocho?”
Pinocho? Jesus, females be trippin. If anything was growing here it wasn’t on my face.
Oh good, were counting now.
The tip of her nose is on mine.
Hands working overtime. She hesitates slightly in her count.
She says it more like a question, as if to say; will you really not just give me just one word?
She lingers for a second with her face all but pressing up against me.
“Fine,” she says and, just as she breaks away, I test her word with my own in a whisper so low I doubt the syllables even make it through the cloth. She gasps in delight and stops in her tracks. Next I know her hand is on the back of my neck and as she begins aggressively making out with me through my mask. A simple kiss turns into her attempting to get her tongue through the fabric between us, which is now becoming hot and wet and kinda gross feeling. I go ahead and pull her in closer. She’s skinny. A slender girl for a Slender Man. As quickly as it started, it ended, and the girl brushed right past me with her friend.
“Bye Slender Man,” she said from behind me.
I kept walking forward toward the bar, never looking back, as if nothing happened.
At the top of the stairs I sit down on the other side of the entrance opposite the bouncer.
“That’s awesome,” I hear someone else on the porch say. I wait for as few people to be around as possible before flashing my face and showing my ID, then creep into the bar. Everywhere I go, I sit or stand as motionless as possible. Hands by my side, I stare as long as I can in one fixed direction and occasionally turn my head to catch someone looking at me. If I find their gaze, I hold it until they look away. Other than that, music, contemplation, and intense observation are about the only things I can enjoy.
The Slender Man is really the best Halloween costume I’ve ever worn. My body type is perfect for the suit. I get to stand around, not having to talk to anyone if I don’t want to, just observing the goings on at places often filled with madness. In this way, I can detach from the craziness and just see it in action with only occasional input from a drunken patron or an admiring Slender Fan. I am the ultimate fly on the wall. A tall, freakishly faceless fly on the wall. On top of all that, the biggest thing I factor through all these barriers is the music. Where I lack in visual perception and communication, my sense of audio is heightened ever so slightly, and I can even close my eyes and just stand there listening to it without others looking at me funny…even though they are already looking at me funny. ..and sometimes I close my eyes just to doze a little bit, but that’s beside the point.
Just after one o’clock, I decide it’s time to make my way back home, but not before getting some totally awesome pictures thanks to Emily and Josh allowing me to creep over them onstage, immobile for several songs. They sounded even better from the performance space. After six hours of nothing to drink, eat, or able to go to the bathroom without it being a chore, it was time to go home.
My Saturday was already planned out in full. The bulk of the afternoon would be spent out in the country shooting guns and instructing a yoga session with family. It’s sentences like that make me proud to be an American. On top of that, we would all be watching Kung Fury for the first time, a short film I discovered that week and reserved to hold off on after seeing only the first five minutes. Its description of a 1980’s Miami cop who gets struck by lightning and bitten by a cobra (at the same time), develops ninja super powers, and goes back in time to kill Hitler, was as promising as it sounded.
That night, our group rallied together and took back down to the Grocery around 11 o’clock. Here we caught Rooster Blues performing a fire-y combo of drums and wildly progressive, fuzzy guitar arrangements. Some incredible talent to be seen here in this turbo geared two piece. After a few minutes of this fast paced noise, we retreated to the quieter outside patio for some easy conversation and drinks. I of course had very little of both. Before making our way to see The Tall Boys at the Flying Irishmen, I was encouraged back into the bar for a shot at the cash prize for best costume. Standing near the stage, the MC called each participant on stage and asked them who they were and, generally, why they should be voted for. When the final call came for any other male contestants, I slowly stepped onto the stage and did an about face to stare at the crowd, hands down at my sides.
“And what are you?” The MC put the microphone into my face. I do not move in the slightest. Silence.
The crowd started up in low laughter and, when I made no indication whatsoever to speak, more cheers came out from the people standing around. I stood around giving my death stare for a little longer before I was dismissed from the stage. I stepped down and turned at the front row to look back at the MC, hoping my gaze might influence he’s decision as to who to select. In the end, some guy who looked like he was dressed as a frat brother at a late night formal party won. Really?
Next, it was on to the Flying Irishmen where the Tall Boys were finishing their set. I hop on stage with the guys for a couple pictures and then sit back at the end table with my friends to remove my mask and enjoy the spectacle that only the Tall Boys can deliver.
Close to two o’clock, it was time to return home again. It had been a good weekend with plenty of good music, and I had gotten the chance to live out one of the creepiest characters I’ve ever known…and people loved it. To be honest, I’ve never much cared for Halloween dress up, but this year has inspired me to find new heights for the years to come, now that I know what kind of costumes suit me. Hell, maybe I’ll take a cue from Owl Man and go as him next year.
That’s all for me this time and remember, consider the healthier options for Halloween. Ditch the candy and go downtown for music and beer. It’s better for you in the long run.