Monday, October 6, 2014

What Halloween Means To Me '14 Day 5: Teisha

Yeah, yeah, I know I missed yesterday.  There were technical issues.  Major technical issues.  I will make it up to you later in the countdown.  Can't say how right now.  You're just gonna have to trust me on this one.  Today we get back on track with Teisha, one of my Atlanta horror homies. Normally I'd do a little introduction here, but she sent me a killer bio, so I'll use that instead.  Suffice it to say, she's my kinds people.  So Tei, tell us about yourself and what Halloween means to you...

"I was born in the UK, grew up in Florida and Williamsburg, VA and have lived in Atlanta for 12 years.

One story that is always told by my grandfather was the first time he saw me. I was born in northern England, where it was cold and damp year round. He flew in to meet his new granddaughter. He said he peeled back the blanket and saw these huge black eyes staring at him. The darkest eyes, the devils eyes…my whole family says that and laughs when he innocently tells that story. So, there it begins, my life. From day one I believe I was predisposed toward an affinity for the dark side of life. Even my first name is easily remembered by strangers as sounding like Morticia.
I’m a huge fan of 70’s and 80’s low budget horror films, I love S.F. Brownrigg.  Slashers and anything having to do with a sanitarium where patients are featured. The worse the edits, sound, and direction are the better. I’m very old school when it comes to this, I still have a massive VHS collection and am always searching for these films on DVD. I refuse to go to Blu-ray due to the obscurity of these films never making it over to that format. Not a fan of any remakes of the classics and remain incredibly stubborn in that regard.
I’ve been in the death care industry for 18 years, there’s nothing I haven’t seen nor done in that regard. I can tell unbelievable stories. However I feel as though I’m the one haunting this world as I pass through usually unnoticed. I met Nathan at Days of the dead Atlanta in 2013. The infamous weekend where I was stalked by Tom Savini. It resulted in a wonderful evening in his room talking all about our lives and influences. Turns out we had a great deal in common. I got into funeral service because I love to sculpt so practically I could use that talent to reconstruct the faces of those that died from trauma and he got into make-up because he saw his brother, a mortician, do the same thing only he wanted to do it in reverse.
Due to a demanding work schedule, I don’t go out too often but when I do it’s for the good stuff.
Halloween is the scariest damn night of the whole year.  So many indicators of what’s to come: Pumpkins, black cats, spider webs, witches, ghosts, goblins, skeletons, and vampires.  During the peak of autumn, longer nights, crisp air, crunchy leaves, there's a feeling in the air.
As a kid I remember going to K-Mart right after Labor Day to see them stock the shelves with so much Halloween stuff - decorations for outside the house, inside the house, and costumes coming in kits with everything you'd need.  All you have to do is choose your mask and its accessories.  However, I preferred to do my own make up and costume. After school I'd come home and prepare the yard for fellow trick-or-treaters, raking beautiful leaves into tall piles then fall backwards into them as if they were clouds. With my chores done, it was time to scarf down dinner and into the makeup room (aka bathroom) to create whatever my imagination had in store for me. I hated hearing that doorbell ring before I was ready to hit the streets. I always had that feeling that there wouldn't be enough candy but that was never an issue. We'd go door-to-door for what seemed to be several hours, always freezing with blisters on my heels by the end of the night. Then, of course, time to dump the bag and argue with siblings over who had the most then the negotiating over trading the candy and guarding that bag for days to come. It was a prize and the first thing I felt I ever worked for.
Nowadays, I feel that going door-to-door is becoming a lost art with the popularity of trunk or treat. Yeah, let’s have the children go up to the truck of a stranger’s car for candy. There’s no work in that. Try doing that any other time of year and the kid will end up being the victim in next year’s horror flick. Don’t get me started on the teenagers that go out not even dressed up ringing the bell wearing hoodies, which feels more like an attempted robbery.

The last time I went trick or treating was the first time I was in a parental role as it was my nephew's first time going out.  He was about 3 years old and was a clown with the big multi colored wig and I painted his adorable face.  I had to work at the funeral home that day; as a funeral director and embalmer there is the old saying, “Death knows no holiday.” I was stuck working late embalming and rushed home to get my nephew ready.  Since I had to leave work in such a hurry, I simply kept on my embalming apron which had streaks of blood on it. This wasn't the desired PPE (personal protective equipment) and I didn't dispose of it.  That and the fact that I wore it outside was a ‘no no’ but I had one witness and he took that secret to the grave. In fact, I made sure of it.  I wore that, teased my hair Robert Smith high, smeared red lipstick, took my clown by the hand and headed out. I couldn't believe how genuinely frightened the neighbors were. In hindsight it looked like I was the deranged clown mother with my offspring. I'm sure they always wondered about me as there was often a hearse in my driveway.
 When I moved to Atlanta and lived in a rural suburb, I involved myself in a haunted hayride for an all delinquent girls orphanage. I joined the committee and designed a few of the haunts. It was a lot of fun to see my creations staged and actually scaring people. It was a big success the haunt brought in hundreds. I was an actor on my sites as well.  I would lie in a casket that would open as the wagon drove by and I'd slowly creep out in a long white, dirtied dress with ghostly make up on.  Then I would jump onto the wagon and scream bloody murder into the faces of the passengers, causing them to hop off backwards and return to the forest. The biggest compliment was hearing over and over a mother comforting her child by saying, “She's not real, honey, It's ok, she's gone.”  I loved it! As always, all good things must come to an end. It was rumored that we weren't actually raising money for the wayward girls but for the President of the orphanage's square dancing troupe. They were outed by the opposing team. Talk about backwoods politics. I'd love to have John Water's write the screenplay for that whole experience. It has everything bizarre that he needs: dead-eyed delinquent girls, a haunted hayride, and square dancers.  The secret came out when we were asked to stay out in the field another hour in the freezing cold. I was working a cemetery scene as a ghost and one of the local ministers dressed as a zombie wearing a Bob Marley deadlock wig got pissed and let the cat out of the bag. We all jumped on the next tractor in rebellion and slowly made our get away.
I was also the mysterious hearse chauffer for Mr. Dooley. A century old tradition at Emory University, Mr. Dooley was a silent gentleman with a crimson ghost face mask decked out in a top hat, tuxedo, and cape with a skull carved wood cane. We'd meet at my funeral home around 11PM, he'd greet me with a red rose and bow down to kiss my hand, then I'd place him in his coffin take him to the Fox Theater. Dooley's dolls waiting to walk behind the casket, his pallbearers awaiting his arrival. Once inside he danced a bit then made a speech, which were letters he'd have someone read for him telling all of the secrets of his fellow classmates (exposing the homecoming queen’s abortions, cheating professors, etc.). Then he'd limp back into his coffin and I'd have his hearse waiting as his bearers kindly loaded him in. It was beautifully coordinated and highly confidential. I was lucky to be involved for 5 years.
This is just a glimpse into what Halloween has meant to me over the years. It’s not just one day out of the year, it’s every day, and it’s a way of life. Enjoy the holiday as much as you can, you never know when it could be your last. These days I usually stay home carving pumpkins and watching my favorite films and listening to music. Songs like Siouxsie and Banshees’ Halloween, The Misfits’ Halloween I and II, and The Cure’s Lullaby. As far as films, I have to watch Trick or Treats (1982) and let’s face it, Halloween isn’t Halloween without watching Halloween (1979). There’s your cue SOC-"

25 days 'til Halloween, Halloween, Halloween.  25 days 'til Halloween.  Silver Shamrock!

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