Twenty seven years ago today on Halloween night I was planning on staying home. Living on the fringe of the Castro district in San Francisco, it was an unprecedentedly crazy night to be out and about. A last minute invitation that afternoon changed my mind and my life. It was 1982, hope I did the math correctly, and I headed to my favorite thriftshop in the Mission for a costume.
Charlies Angels and Farrah Fawcett were everywhere including across the front of my outfit that night. Red boots and a leopard coat completed the look and I stepped out on a hot date starting out on my favorite barstool up the street. I was the party animal those days, youth and stupidity went hand in hand in my life back then. There was nothing I liked more than dancing the night away to the BeeGees or Donna Summers and I have fond if not blurry memories of those San Francisco nights.
I had been at the bar for less than an hour when someone taped me on the shoulder and said, 'your house is on fire'.
The exterior of the apartment building was being painted and apparently the painters had left cans of oil based paint in the cellar around the furnace that ignited and roared up the air shafts. It being Halloween night there were no parking places for blocks including in front of the fire hydrants. A ladder went up from one of the 5 trucks to one of the windows to rescue an old man who had stayed in for the evening and as they carried him down the ladder he had a heart attack and died. I stood in the street, watching the flames leaping out my windows for about 15 minutes before we decided to head to another neighborhood bar over in Noe Valley. I cleaned up on sympathy drinks that night and the pain of losing everything but the costume I was wearing wore off as the night wore on.
The next day the tenants were allowed back into what was left of our apartments. What wasn't scorched was soaked and I gathered a few things with a little help from my friends. Life went on, in a different neighborhood and I gradually rebuilt my life although it took many years to get over the trauma and drama.
Looking back I realize that I was in a state of shock for weeks, but it could have been so much worse had I not decided to go out that night. There were definetly some angels watching over me and I don't think it was the one on the front of my wacky costume.