Halloween started with a bike ride to the home of a retired skater for brunch. A small group of us had gathered -- Dolls past and present, but mostly past. We ate french toast and an announcement was made: a baby is coming.
One other still-skating Doll was in attendance, a veteran like me, and she was noticeably limping. She's skating again following a year spent recovering from knee surgery. It hasn't been an easy comeback for her. Every time she falls at practice, we skaters collectively suck in our breath, hoping she's OK.
It's funny to think back on our early years together in the league. I was working in the FIDM library where she was a student, and every once in a while, I'd help her at the reference desk. I'd been with the Dolls at least a year when she started skating. Barely able to remain upright that first month, she wasn't exactly a natural, but she was determined and progressed quickly. She eventually became one of the brightest stars in the league -- talented, strategic and a great leader.
I don't doubt that she's capable of making a total comeback from this injury, but watching her take those uncertain steps on Sunday, all I could think was, I don't have that in me anymore.
Our stomachs sloshing with bread and coffee and beer, the old folks caravanned to the Bob Baker Marionette Theater to watch a Halloween-themed puppet show. I've passed the building countless times, fascinated by the idea of marionettes living beneath 2nd Street overpass, but for whatever reason, I never found the time to attend.
It was magic. The puppeteers worked in plain sight, manipulating their marionettes to a soundtrack that hasn't changed in decades. I loved the rawness of it, the old-timey feel. The show stood as a testament to Bob Baker's faith in his audience. In the age of slick animation, CGI and Pixar perfection, I was delighted to watch children suspend their disbelief in the face of a dude with his hand clearly up a puppet's ass. This was the kind of entertainment so many of us grew up on, and I was grateful to experience this bit of nostalgia with kids who maybe aren't as hard as I sometimes fear. That this place endures makes me feel good about L.A.
Afterward, we filed into a party room decorated for every season -- dust-covered ribbons and ornaments hung alongside withering skeletons. Among the rows of long, cafeteria-style tables, we were handed plastic cups of ice cream to eat with flat wooden spoons.
A pit stop at a nearby bar followed. A bloody mary and a michelada later, we rode our bikes across town in search of Thai food. We sailed past Echo Park, the towering palm trees guarding the lake like sentries, to Sunset Blvd. At Coronado St., the iconic Happy Foot/Sad Foot greeted us, ushering our crew into Silver Lake. The sun setting, we rolled toward Hollywood, flying past the packs of roving trick-or-treaters, tiny warriors with pillowcases slung over their shoulders, scavenging the streets for chocolate. The air was filled with the scent of pastries baking somewhere.
And finally, Jitlada. There were six of us, but we ordered food for ten, and over two hours, we licked our plates clean -- no morsel left behind. Noses ran and tears rolled down our cheeks as we worked. A whole fish was ordered and decimated. We took turns pulling it apart with our fingers, a grade school dissection project. We devoured the cheeks, the eyes. Sated, we sat back in our chairs, sucking on the bones. This was Halloween for grown-ups.