Halloween on a Budget: Carmen Sandiego

Nobody understood my costume last year. I tried to go for abstract and learned my lesson. I was a “Hairdresser on Fire, approved ” yes as in the Morrissey song.

Prior to Halloween, and my friends asked, malady “how are you going to do that?”

It wasn’t tough, but it was time consuming. I had my mom make me a smock and I sewed flames all over the smock (which was more like a coat). I also named the hair salon something punny and stuffed my pockets with cheap hairbrushes and combs. The costume was a dud. Nobody got it, even hardcore Morrissey and Smiths fans. Plus, it was too warm to wear while dancing in a crowded club.

Right after Halloween ’07, I chose Carmen Sandiego. I grew up playing the computer game, watching the PBS game show, humming along to Rockapella, and watching the cartoon. I’ve always loved geography, maps and trivia so Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? was the perfect game. I knew the costume would be recognizable and easy to put together, save for finding a red hat.

Here’s how to dress up as Carmen Sandiego

  • Red trench coat (I bought mine right before Christmas on sale)
  • Red fedora, a nice hat would’ve cost too much so I just found a $10 hat on an online costume shop
  • Black gloves (purchased in a Santa Cruz hat shop)
  • Black shirt, pants and shoes (found in my own closet, but I might borrow boots from my mom)
  • Long hair (oh well, short will have to do this year) and red lipstick (I’ll borrow some from my sister)

DB is dressing up as a detective on the chase.

Now all I have to do is steal some monuments or priceless art and jet off to some unknown corner of the world.

Happy Halloween!

PS I would’ve posted this earlier, but I didn’t want anyone to steal my costume idea! Carmen is the one who does the stealing!


A few years ago, viagra sale Isa held a small pumpkin carving party. I didn’t mind her guests, as many were my friends too, but I wasn’t in to it. I arrived a few hours late sans pumpkin. I sat on the couch and watched as Gabby attempted to carve the Dodgers LA logo on her pumpkin. She gave up soon after. Isa had more success with her Jack Skellington pumpkin. The others spread out with newspaper and knives on the floor and tried to keep pumpkin guts and seeds off the wood floor.

That was the first — and only — time I’ve ever had the opportunity to partake in the Halloween tradition. Yes, that’s right. I’ve never carved a pumpkin or made a jack-o-lantern. I’m pretty sure the same goes for everyone in my immediate family.

I’ve come up with three reasons why we never carved pumpkins:

First, we liked pie more than we liked knives. I suppose at one point I was attracted to the idea of making a jack-o-lantern. But then mom started making delicious pies. There was no contest. Pumpkin pie >>> jack-o-lantern (that will begin rotting a day after Halloween).

Second, I doubt mom had the time to supervise four kids wielding pumpkin carving knives. She knew better. We were accident prone and sharp objects, no matter how kid-safe, meant about a 50% chance of making an ER trip. Plus, mom was busy sewing our Halloween costumes.

Third, we’re Mexicans. We weren’t poor, but my parents came from poor families. As a rule, we didn’t waste food. Rotten fruit? Cut off the rotten part, it’s still good enough to eat. If we’d eat questionable fruit, then why would we waste a perfectly good pumpkin? It didn’t make sense.

Instant Fun

Route #1

Step 1:
Obtain a Polaroid camera.

Continue reading “Instant Fun”

Question of the week: Adressing los abuelitos

Last night I joined Pachuco3000, viagra Chimatli, El Chavo, El Random Hero, Wendy Carrillo (who goes to USC, boo!) and Leticia of Thats So Paisa for the monthly bloguer@ gathering. We met up at La Carioca in East LA for beers and $2 waters (really, they charged us for water).

After talking about Halloween and Día de los Muertos plans, I learned that Chimatli had also just finished reading Gustavo Arellano’s new book, Orange County: A Personal History.

“You’re from the same place, right?” she asked.

“Yeah,” I told her. “Well, my mom is from the same place, El Cargadero.”

“Did you grow up in Orange County too?”

“Oh no.”

We both liked the book and discussed some of the things Gustavo wrote. I don’t have time to get in to a full review (I should be packing). However, I can say that I really enjoyed the autobiographic aspects. As I learned more about Gustavo and his family, I learned more about my own family history and roots. While everything felt so familiar to me, Chimatli found some things curious, like how Gustavo addressed his grandparents.

“Do you call your grandparents something like that too?” she asked.

“Yeah. I call my mom’s parents — the ones from El Cargadero — Papa Chepe and Mama Toni. But on my dad’s side, the Guanajuato side, we call them Grandpa and Grandma.”

I never thought this was odd. It’s easy to generalize your personal experiences and make them seem normal. But Chimatli made me wonder. Could such labels be associated with gente del rancho? Wendy chimed in and suggested that the labels may correspond to the role your grandparents played in your upbringing. Perhaps the mama/papa was emphasized because the grandparent played a surrogate parent role or lived with you.

Or it could all just be a family thing. So I went to the expert on my family, my mom.

Mom admitted that all she and her cousins addressed their grandparents as Mama ____ y Papa ____.

“Mama Toni’s dad was Papayito. I don’t know where the -yito came from. [His name was Juan.] There was your Mama Chila, Papa Chepe’s mom, too.”

I’m still curious, thus the question of the week.

La Pregunta: How do you address your grandparents?

Halloween on a Budget: Ugly Betty (love triangle version)

I rarely ask for advice on costumes. I’m pretty good at figuring it out myself. Still, this site I heard “you should go as Ugly Betty!” from 5 or 6 different people. I don’t get why. My hair is not long and unruly. My eyebrows are pretty normal. I don’t wear braces or glasses. I usually match and avoid clashing patterns. All that really doesn’t matter. I didn’t want to dress up as Betty — even though she’s my favorite Chicana on network TV and is a pocha just like me — because she’s just too popular. If you can buy a kit for your costume, chances are you’ll show up at a party and find your twin. One costume site I found was sold out of the Betty kit. That’s too much for me. I don’t want competition.

I’m not going to write up Betty like I’ve done with other costumes. A simple Google search will yield some pretty good how-tos or you could just watch the show (here and here).

To avoid looking like every other Betty, I’d recommend making it a group costume featuring one of Betty’s two love triangles.

Betty, Walter and Henry:

  • Betty: see links above or watch the show
  • Walter: jeans, button-down shirt and a blue big-box store vest
  • Henry: geeky glasses, sweater vest and slacks

Betty, Walter and Henry – Halloween version:

  • Betty: purple butterfly costume plus standard Betty hair, eyebrows and accessories (see The Lying, the Watch, and the Wardrobe)
  • Walter: net for catching butterflies, safari hat, fishing vest, khaki shorts and matching shirt
  • Henry: Superman t-shirt under conservative grey suit

Betty, Henry and Gio:

  • Betty: see links above or watch the show
  • Henry: geeky glasses, sweater vest and slacks
  • Gio: red apron and bright colored flyers with “Gio’s Sandwiches” and a pickle with a smiley face (see: Something Wicked this Way Comes)

If you’re in a true love triangle, the group costume could be awkward. It might be better to just get some guy friends together. Or drink lots of alcohol (responsibly, of course).

Halloween on a Budget: La Catrina

Growing up my family never celebrated Día de los Muertos. Late October and early November were spent preparing and celebrating Halloween, check my tía Martha’s birthday, All Saints Day and All Souls Day. I didn’t learn about the wonderful traditions associated with Día de los Muertos until I got to college. I was hooked by the imagery and art, especially any take on José Guadalupe Posada’s 1913 zinc etching of la Catrina.

I realize la Catrina may not be a low-budget or low-effort costume, unless you have turn of the century clothing and hats lying around. However, dressing up as la Catrina will set you apart from all the other women dressed like sexy [insert random profession here]. As la Catrina, you won’t be showing any skin. You also won’t be just any other lazy Chicana who simply painted her face like a calaca as your costume shows much more effort. Finally, you can easily go from your average Halloween party to a Día de los Muertos event in the same costume.

Here’s how to do la Catrina:

  • Black and white face paint (I shouldn’t have to tell you what to do with it)
  • Fancy women’s clothing circa 1910 OR
  • Fitted maxi skirt and fitted long-sleeved blouse with a high collar (or a dress)
  • White gloves
  • Ankle boots (they’re in style these days!)
  • Wide-brimmed straw hat decorated with many fake flowers
  • Optional accessories: faux fur, feather boa, expensive looking earrings
  • Works best if: you’re tall and thin

If you can pull it together, send me pictures!

Upper left photo (purple hat) by Pepergrass, used under Creative Commons License.

October Project, Part 2

October 11: Chicano satirists get locked up! The Puro Pedo Magazine staff got together in Oxnard at our usual meeting place in the area, ask Rusty’s Pizza. The restaurant was recently remodeled and now features several theme rooms, including the Alcatraz room.

Later, I’d use this picture to back up a friend’s joke. He told his family I’d just been released from prison after a 9 year stint.
Continue reading “October Project, Part 2”

Upper reserve

By the time Alfred and I got to our seats in the upper reserve section — just one row from the top — I was hot, view hungry and annoyed. The score definitely didn’t help my mood. In the two and a half innings we’d missed while stuck in traffic out- and inside Chavez Ravine, treatment the Phillies had already scored 3 unanswered runs.

I should have just stayed home, tuberculosis I thought. This isn’t going to be good.

Then I turned away from the game to check out the view of Downtown to the south. I changed my mind.

Same photo, different post.

Halloween on a Budget: Bumblebee Man

A few years ago, more about my ex dressed up as a Killa Bee* (of Wu Tang fame). He bought a bumblebee costume online (above right) and found a Wu Tang medallion. Some people thought he looked more like Bumblebee Man from The Simpsons rather than a Killa Bee.

As faithful Simpsons fans may know, link the Bumblebee Man is a parody of el Chapulín Colorado and appears on Channel Ocho in Springfield.

Here’s how to do it:

  • Grey or black hoodie
  • Yellow t-shirt with wide black stripes for the bee body (if you don’t mind spending some money, you can easily find a baggy bumble bee costume like the one above)
  • Antennae (DIY with a black headband, pipe cleaners and yellow pom poms; or you could just buy some for a few dollars at a costume shop)
  • Blue/grayish wings (DIY with wire hanger and panty hose or foam)
  • Khaki or brown shorts
  • Black Converse Chuck Taylors or other black canvas sneakers
  • Pansa (beer gut) and brown skin
  • Chihuahua doll
  • Walk around saying nonsensical and grammatically incorrect Spanish phrases, such as “¡Ay, ay, ay, no me gusta!”, “¡Ay, ay, ay, no es bueno!” and “¡Ay, Dios no me ama!”

If you’d rather be a Killa Bee, you’ll need a Wu Tang medallion or pendant (try eBay).

*That’s the year I dressed up as a sunflower.

Halloween on a Budget: La Llorona

I didn’t hear the story of La Llorona until I was 13. At the time, arthritis my cousins Adán and Jorge were living with us after moving back from Zacatecas. During the day, they’d work delivering roofing materials throughout Southern California. In the evening, we’d sometimes talk about what it was like to grow up in Baldwin Park and then move to Mexico right before high school. Eventually, Adán would start with the creepy stories about weird phenomena in el rancho.

Those stories were creepiest to me, because Adán swore he’d lived through the events or knew the main character personally. Adán is the one who told me about witches transforming into owls or dancing balls of fire. He’s also the first person I remember telling me about the legend of La Llorona. It was creepy, of course, but I was just glad he told me while sitting at the kitchen table and not around the campfire at Kern River.

Here’s what you’ll need to be La Llorona:

  • Black and white face paint to paint like a calaca
  • Baby powder or hair paint to lighten up hair
  • Long hair teased so it looks ratty (or buy a cheap wig and tease)
  • Flowy and dirty white dress (or a few yards of white fabric fashioned to look ghostly)
  • Works best: if you live by a river or creek and moan “¡mis hijoooos!”

An added bonus: if you dress up as La Llorona, you can save money on candy for trick-or-treaters. The little kids will run when they see you.

Photo by Rio Yañez