I wish every State Street partygoer came in the spirit of three young men I spotted. They were dressed as trolls, and they scampered along the sidewalk, periodically stopping to assume strange poses.
There was calm on State Street just after 10 p.m. Friday night. Revelers walked in groups of four and five and more in the damp, chilly night. Many wore costumes: Elvis Presley was there, and Hugh Hefner, looking thoughtful with pipe and smoking jacket. The Wizard of Oz' Dorothy Gale skipped along and then screamed, startled by a staring, dagger-wielding Michael Myers. Two Ms. Potato Heads squeezed by Rubik's Cube, who posed thoughtfully.
I spotted one costume again and again, except it was not exactly a costume: The police uniform worn by scores of officers up and down the street. Some gathered in groups on corners, while others tromped up and down the thoroughfare, their bunches of plastic handcuffs rattling. Many of the cops wore festive blinking lights.
The mood on State Street was buoyant, if slightly ominous. The shouting of bar-goers was a little louder than usual, and some young men seemed ready for a fight. Indeed, teasing chants of "fight, fight" kept breaking out, even though no one was brawling, not yet.
It was, in short, a great place to be college-aged and drunk. I was neither, and ambling along, I mused on how rarely I go to State Street on a Friday night these days, Samhain or no Samhain. That's a reliable way to be aggressively jostled and called faggot, I find, and this particular faggot has little patience for that.
It's a shame what has happened to Halloween in Madison. What should be a delightful holiday of masks is now something the city tries simply to endure. We hold our breath and hope there's no violence downtown -- and especially we hope no gets killed there, which hasn't happened in many years. But it has happened.
I wish every State Street partygoer came in the spirit of three young men I spotted. They were dressed as trolls, and they scampered along the sidewalk, periodically stopping to assume strange poses. Passers-by hooted in appreciation. It was a marvelous bit of street theater, and very much in the spirit of a better Halloween: impish, subversive, weird as hell, and no tear gas in sight.
Yes, there was calm on State Street just after 10 p.m. Friday night. But then, the weekend was only beginning.