It Was Halloween in the Lower East Side on Wednesday
Bonfires burning bright, pumpkin faces in the night. I remember Halloween. This Halloween, I DJed at Lit, one of the few bars with electricity below 38th Street. The celebration of Halloween in New York normally begins on the Friday before October 31st and can last for days. Festivities were cut short Sunday when the subways were shut down. Then civilization was thoroughly whomped by nature.
I'd been booked to DJ at Lit on Halloween for about a month in advance. But when the power went out, I assumed the party was cancelled. I received a call the day before confirming that the owners had a generator. Party on! But the next day, I got a text from another DJ telling me that getting into Manhattan was next to impossible and that there was a rash of lootings in the city. He backed out, and I almost did too. But thanks to one of Lit's bartenders—who told me to nut up or go fuck myself—I decided to do it. Thankfully, the same bartender and one of Lit’s owners came by my house in Brooklyn in a cool truck, and we drove over the bridge towards darkness.
Cruising over the Williamsburg Bridge towards Manhattan and seeing everything south of the Empire State Building in total blackness was one of the most frightening things I've ever seen. I felt like Snake Plissken when he swoops into New York. The eeriness didn't end once we reached the other side. There were no street lights or stop lights or anything. It was just darkness lit occasionally with cabs and NYPD patrol cars driving by. For the first time ever, I was able to see stars while standing in the Lower East Side.
I got set up at Lit and began DJing. I started the evening with “Season of the Witch” by Donavan and went into “Werewolves of London” by Warren Zevon. Then I played a lot of other monster-oriented rock anthems from the early 60s. I played like ten songs about mummies in a row. Did you know that Boris Pickett made a whole album of songs that are very similar to the “Monster Mash?” I played a song by him called the “Monster Swim,” which felt appropriate since so much of New York City was underwater at the time. It’s an awesome song, a sequal to the “Monster Mash.” “We do the swim! (It's a poolside smash!)/ The Monster Swim! (It's bigger than the Mash!)” Then Frankenstein asks, “what happened to the Monster Mash?” in the middle of the song.
While I was DJing, a goth lady in a thong gyrated on the bar. A guy dressed as Towelie enthusiastically danced along in approval. Later my VICE buds, Billy and Dan, showed up. They'd skated over the bridge and seemed high as fuck. Gabby from Noisey and Braydon were there too. It turned into a severe graveyard smash. There were some great costumes. The huge, black bouncer was dressed as Marty McFly. OJ from Xray Eyeballs who just got back from opening for Cat Power was dressed as “a punk,” and he made a game out of photobombing every couple he saw making out. Spam the bartender was dressed as Moses. There was a Klaus Nomi and Bruce Leroy plus a great Invisible Man. I saw a guy dressed as a broken condom making out with a lady dressed as a cabaret whore. I saw a lot of lazy, pretty girls who just put on some sort of dress and then smeared fake blood or black make-up on their faces. Gabby told people that her costume was a slut. If anyone asked me what I was, I would get really close to them and whisper in their ear, “I'm a raaaapist." Later, I found a pink wig on the ground, and my costume became a guy who is bad at avoiding lice.
I took turns DJing every hour with Ben Rayner, a British photographer, and Mel Honore, the bassist from Cerebral Ballzy. Mel kept talking about all the “spooks” that were out because he is tickled by outdated racial epithets. And who can blame him? My friend Billy got too drunk and kept feeding singles into the go-go dancer's thong. I saw a Darth Vader who kept drinking his highballs through his mask with a straw. I closed out the night by playing the “Monster Mash” to an enthusiastic crowd who'd been hungering for it all night. A minute later the generator gave out.
It was truly a Halloween like no other. Everyone who was there would keep repeating the same comments: That it was like Escape From New York or a zombie apocalypse. It was beautiful and frightening.