Who am I anyway?
That question, famously asked in the 1975 Broadway musical “A Chorus Line” often haunts me. “Am I my resumé? That is a picture of a person I don’t know.” I think that most of us, from time to time, experience an identity crisis of one sort or another, often brought on by having to play a variety of roles in life. “Am I the parent or the child?” I ask myself on occasion. Are we the master of our own destiny, or simply a player in the game of life? “How often,” I wonder, “am I wearing a mask?” As I take to my bed (sick as a dog) on the heels of Halloween, these questions haunt me as my temperature rises. “What does he want from me?” the song continues. “What should I try to be? So many faces all around and here we go. I need this job, oh God, I need this show.”
The truth in those lyrics was never more evident than over the last few days, when I found myself not feeling well, but forced into getting out, doing my job and wearing a mask of frivolity, having agreed to represent The River Reporter at the annual Halloween bash held in the ballroom of the historic Western Hotel in Callicoon, NY. The mask was both figurative and literal, as the costume party was co-sponsored by the Delaware Valley Arts Alliance (www.artsalliancesite.org), which had put out a call to artists asking them to create actual masks, to be auctioned off to the highest bidder during the festivities, which served as a fundraiser for the DVAA.
Feverishly, I set about creating a fairly complex golden mask for the event, while simultaneously scratching my head over a costume choice, checking my fever frequently and cursing my decision to use glitter on my mask. In addition to the auction, there was a 50/50 raffle at the party, fire dancing (by the luminous Raina Bowers), Tarot card readings with Roseanne Freeman, multiple DJs, haunted hotel tours, a bake sale, photo booth and of course, prizes for costumed revelers. Sound like too much? It was, IMHO.
I knew that I was taking a chance masquerading as ubiquitous TV pitchman Mike Lindell (www.mypillow.com), but the infomercials are so prevalent, I was fairly sure I would be recognized, especially with a giant pillow propped under my arm all night. My costume involved flannel pajamas, a robe, a wig and mustache (another serious lapse in judgment), and as the sweat began to course down my lip, it became apparent that my esoteric choice was a flop of epic proportion. Even my mask was a miserable failure, as I checked the silent auction sheet throughout the evening, with no bids in sight. “Can’t win ‘em all,” I rasped to the dog, doing my best to appear enthusiastic. There were some great costumes on the dance floor, and as the night wore on, I consulted with “invisible” judges in order to hand out some prizes before the witching hour. “Oh, look, he’s dressed as Groucho Marks,” I heard repeatedly in passing. “I wonder why he’s dressed for bed?” Shaking my head, I soldiered on, fuming over my failure and wishing that I were in bed.
As members of the DVAA tugged at my sleeve asking me to promote the seemingly endless variety of fundraising efforts being held, I took to the mike during breaks and announced them all, totally overwhelmed, which didn’t seemed to go over too well with the crowd. While attempting to keep my bad humor in check, I consulted with DJ Adam Owens, whose handmade costume (replete with gigantic head) was amazing. “You’re doing fine,” Adam said, doing his best to assuage my increasing guilt over being a less-than-congenial host. “No one can tell that you’re under the weather.” Stepping outside for a breath of fresh air, no fewer than seven people asked me if I was OK, which did nothing to make me feel better. Heaving a sigh, I returned to my duties, albeit with an air of despair.
“You were fantastic,” Western Hotel proprietor Irene Nikolai whispered to me as we handed out prizes for best costumes, encouraging folks to dance the night away. “You always are,” she said, as I shook my head in disbelief. Delirious and feeling as if I had let Irene down, I hung my head and slunk out of the room, making apologies and ripping that infernal horsehair mustache off my face, tossing it in the trash on my way out the door. “Who am I anyway?” I wondered on the drive home. Oh well, there’s always next year.