Back at the hostel, I pulled out my last-minute cat costume: a headband with paper ears, a grey tank top, a black cardigan, and stretchy black tights – easy to roll up tightly and in need of having a reason to be worn. The outfit went well even with my big leather boots and long, black coat. I didn’t have a tail, but I decided to kick it as a Manx for the night. Besides, the cat ears said everything. Oh, I also drew on a Sharpie nose and whiskers, then tucked in my green scarf and called a cab. The ride was farther than I realized and the cab was unfortunately expensive, but I got to see the sights on the way.
At the zoo, the lights were mostly out apart from winter decorations, like a musher and his dogs outlined in Christmas lights along one trail. “Mush,” I thought, “Comes from ‘Marche!’” I somehow recalled, from 6th grade French, the origin of the word. Now, here I was, standing in a city which hosts a piece of the Iditarod. Crazy.
The zoo was busy. There were kids everywhere. I knew it was mostly for the kids… but I wanted to see Alaska animals in the snow at night. Josh joked they’d be doing what all animals do at night – sleeping! He was a little right. But the eagles were alive and the owls were elusively dodging glances at passersby. There were tigers, true, but there were also muskoxen and polar bears, lounging in the snow and laughing at our down jackets. I began to feel a pang of guilt and sorrow for polar bears in any other zoo, forced to face the heat. Birds are always my favorite, but I also have a weakness for little foxes. I could see some pacing in the rehab center. Images of the Redwall stories came to mind as I envisioned just what those foxes would say if they spoke English.
Just watching the kids gawk and squeal at the animals in the dark was a treat in itself. They indulged in buckets of candies and hid behind their mothers as they pointed out, “Look at the kitty!” and I smiled and waved. One boy, a knight, dared to talk to me. I asked him if he had a horse. He told me he did. I asked what color it is and, probably not being able to decide, he told me it was a rainbow horse. I told him that I may be a cat, but I love riding horses. He laughed and ran to get more candy. I indulged in a pastry and hot coffee, then waited for my cab to come as the temperature threatened to tick below the zero line.
My cab came and I texted my friends to find their location. After a few minutes of being at my hostel, I was heading back out again. Anchorage isn’t exactly dangerous, but I did pass down some streets that made wearing a tight Halloween costume as a lone young woman feel somewhat intimidating. Nonetheless, I zigzagged through gangs of people and arrived safely at Humpy’s Great Alaskan Alehouse.
There were costumes everywhere. I joined Josh and his cousin, Dean, at a table. I ordered salmon chowder, stout and, eventually, my first room-temperature, classic Cask Ale. Josh and Dean didn’t wear their costumes. The rest of the Menominee group showed up and expressed their disappointment. An announcement was made that a costume contest would soon begin, so I convinced them to run back and change. They did.
Josh and Dean left, and in their place came the Blues Brothers. Josh was frustrated he had brought the wrong tie and it didn’t match, but their costumes were winning people over right and left. They convinced me to join the contest with them. We were paraded around the bar with the rest of the people competing. Costumes ranged from realistic, to silly, to provocative. Then we stood on the dance floor as each was called to stage. Josh and Dean made their poses and everyone cheered. I was never called and Josh complained, but I think the announcer was a little tipsy so I waved it off. That’s when we went back to our seats and Josh lost it.
“Someone ate my filet!” he gestured angrily at his dinner plate. He had hardly had a bite, and someone had eaten his fancy fish. He reached for his beer. “And they drank my beer!!” I was perplexed. Dean and I looked around at our things, but they were left untouched. “I swear, I saw some girl stuffing something in her face just a minute ago…” Josh looked around hastily, then pointed to a sloppy character coming towards us. “Her!” The girl joined the table beside us where all of her friends were as equally drunk and slap-happy. She tripped backwards a little and placed her beer on our table. Josh became cross. I was ready to say something when a guy in a superman costume approached me. “Hey, kitty, kitty…” he began, followed by a slew of inappropriate comments. I laughed, rolled my eyes, and turned around, not wanting to put up with it and not wanting to cause a scene. His attention span was short enough that he vanished, and our focus returned to the dinner. The girl was still tripping over things behind us.
I was impressed by Josh’s coolness as he explained to the waiter the situation. A new dinner was presented at no cost. Reflections on alcoholism crept back into our conversation for a few minutes before running back out. I opened up a little about my own family problems, and Josh was touched by how we could all spill such dark stories. We looked back over at the table behind us with disapproving frowns. Alcohol, a treat and yet a curse. We dismissed our distractions and focused on enjoying the rest of our night. I walked the mile back alone and satisfied that I had gotten to enjoy Halloween after all.
Getting into bed, I reveled at the thought that today really was just one day. It felt like a week of adventure. This is what it’s like to live.