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Halloween in August

Illustration by Mitch HandsoneJULIO WEINSTEIN WORKED LATE Saturday nights as a waiter, but got up early Sunday mornings to make hash browns, generally after something under four hours of sleep. “That’s the secret,” Weinstein claimed. “To make decent hash browns, one must be sleep-deprived. Being hung-over helps, too.”“Really?” said his impressionable new roommate, Lime Barty.“Well, no,” said Weinstein. “Not really. But it’s worked so far.”Lime Barty was an independent laborer. These days, he was producing stick figures — oil on Masonite, 17 by 22 inches — and selling them on offramps and street corners for 25 bucks apiece. The stick-figure paintings had started out as a joke, but now they were selling, and Lime needed the money, so who was he to question the public’s taste? For his own peace of mind, however, he penned the following disclamatory verse on the back of each: If you back up far from this surface the figure will appear quite small Back up even farther and you won’t have to see it at all. Stick-figure income usually covered about half his rent. For the other half, and the rest of his expenses, Lime Barty installed custom space dividers in private homes. California Closetworks would first send out its designer to take measurements, then Lime Barty would cut the materials to spec at the warehouse and haul them, via company van, to the work site, where he’d perform the installation.One of these sites was the closet of one Charlotte McFarland. McFarland was also a painter, with a huge loft space on Slauson. She took a liking to Lime Barty, staying to talk as he worked, offering him refreshments and an excellent view of her thighs.“Do you have plans yet for Halloween?” said Charlotte.“Not yet,” said Lime Barty. “But it’s only August.”“Halloween’s early this year,” she replied. “You should come to my party.” WEINSTEIN AND BARTY shared a beat-up hillside bungalow in Beverly Glen. This was before real-estate agents decided that Beverly Glen was part of Bel Air. Lime paid $350 a month for a huge studio with high ceilings and good light, and Julio paid $325 for a smaller, woodsier space with a stone fireplace. Each had separate access from outside, and separate entrances to the shared kitchen and bathroom between them. Soon after Lime Barty moved in, he joined in on the Sunday-morning hash-brown cookery, chopping the garlic and onions, crying from airborne onion mist as Weinstein diced the red potatoes, poured the oil and raised the proper flame to the old cast-iron skillet. HALLOWEEN DID INDEED ARRIVE EARLY that year. There’d been a premature crop of candy corn, some supposed; others suspected foul play. Almost everyone agreed that the ancient Celts, creators of the first documented Halloweenlike antics, would forgive American consumers for dressing up and poisoning themselves with sugar and booze two months early, just this once. The owners of Shanley’s Smokehouse encouraged employees to work in costume, and Julio Weinstein had waited as Nixon, as Reagan, as Sacajawea, as rice pudding, as Gandhi, and as legendary game-show hosts Monty Hall, Wink Martindale and Bob Eubanks. Last year he’d worked as Jesus of Nazareth, a well-meaning Middle Eastern philosopher whose life and gruesome execution inspired peace and conflict, religions and business enterprises, especially the sale of replicas of the murder weapon. Weinstein’s replica was larger than most — 5 feet high and 3 feet wide, cut from an 8-inch-thick slab of discarded foam rubber. To this he added an ascetic cotton robe from a thrift store and sandals he already owned, and thus recorded his highest tip total ever. BUT THAT WAS LAST YEAR. This year, Julio Weinstein felt ornery. He liked his Halloweens in October. So without considering the potential effect on his tips, he decided he’d go to work as Adolf Hitler, an outspoken right-wing German nationalist whose no-holds-barred pro-industry agenda in the 1930s attracted investment from such prominent American businessmen as future U.S. Senator Prescott Bush, grandfather of our current president. Weinstein lent Lime Barty last year’s Jesus getup, which he’d saved for just such an occasion.“Now neither of us will get laid,” said Lime Barty, as they met in the kitchen to compare costumes. “Thanks.”“Heil me.”“I’m not gonna heil you.” A STARLESS HALLOWEEN NIGHT in August. Hitler waiting tables on Ventura Boulevard, while Jesus makes new friends down on Slauson. “Can you tell who I am?” asks a girl named Olivia wearing enormous prosthetic chipmunk-cheeks and a poofy white dress.Jesus guesses unto her, “The Lady in the Radiator?”“That’s it!” she replies. “You’re the first one!” The Lady in the Radiator is a character played by Laurel Near in David Lynch’s Eraserhead. She’s awfully happy, in the movie, and sings, “In heaven, everything is fine. You’ve got your good thing, and I’ve got mine.” “MAY I TAKE YOUR ORDER?” Adolf Hitler inquires. “The salmon,” the devil replies. “And what the hell kind of a costume is that?” “CAN YOU SING THE SONG?” asks Olivia. “Yes, but not right now.”They dance, they drink. “What kind of a name is ‘Lime Barty’” “My great uncle was Admiral T. Lyman Bartholomew.”“Who’s that?”“And his younger brother was famed Packers coach Vince Limebarty.”“Shut up.”“Sorry,” says Lime Barty, adjusting his cross. “It’s Celtic. Can I wear your cheeks?” HITLER AND JESUS scared the shit out of each other at 5 a.m., for they had arrived simultaneously in their shared kitchen. “AAAUGHH!”“AAAUGHH!”“Don’t do that!”“I didn’t.”Fucked up. Bumping into objects, elbows. How was, how many, can you reach that, here, thanks, tips, lady, radiator, couple stiffed me, shouldn’t have driven home. Hitler’d been drinking, done a couple lines of blow, smoked weed in the parking lot. Jesus, too, was pleasantly stoned, and beaming with red wine, coffee and the Lady in the Radiator’s phone number in red ink on the top of his hand, which he proudly displayed to Hitler.It was Sunday morning. Jesus chopped the garlic and onions, crying as Hitler diced the potatoes, poured the oil and raised the flame.