Yesterday, while walking home from an improv show at the Annoyance Theatre, something truly magical happened. Or possibly it was something spooky: you decide.
When I leave an improv show I often find that everyone around me is trying to be a lot funnier than usual, as if to try and get in on the act. It can be annoying, but usually it's just a symptom of the ebullient high spirits which accompany a really excellent piece of performance, especially one in which you've been laughing for twenty minutes at some guy who's talking in an effeminate-yet-indefinable fake foreign accent, and trying to hide the fact that he's just watered down his imaginary salsa.
It made sense at the time, I swear.
Anyway, I was in the same jokey mood as those around me, which I usually express in story-telling mode. So as we walked down the darkened residential streets I began trying to amuse someone with the story of the Peculiar Dog Man of West Argyle Street. The Dog Man is not an urban myth, but a vaguely unsettling neighborhood character whom I see from time to time, walking his white American Eskimo Dog (I put this particular breed before you as a likely guess). The thing about him that makes me frown and cross the street when he's nearby is not anything particularly menacing. Rather, it's his simple propensity for engaging people in prolonged conversations that they do not want to be in.
Now, I've only ever seen him actually do this with other dog walkers: he'll blink his big, bleary eyes and start asking someone painfully obvious questions like: "So do you like dogs?" while their unknowing pet answers the call of nature. Because I don't actually have a dog, I assume that I'm immune. But I do in fact like dogs quite a bit, and I'm always concerned that I'll accidentally lean down and pet his before looking at its owner, unwittingly pinning myself into a half an hour of semi-decipherable small-talk.
The people whom the Dog Man talks to always look like they're trying to escape: they shuffle their feet and lean their bodies purposefully backwards while giving uncomfortable half-smiles and making hopeful comments about how late it's getting. The Dog Man himself keeps a cheerful disposition through it all, tugging gently on the American Eskimo's leash.
My friend was very much charmed by the description of this character.
"Tell me more!" he said seriously.
I was just about to explain reluctantly that I didn't really have any more to tell, when we happened upon a pair of people standing outside of a dark apartment building. One of them was in house slippers and a muumuu, urging slowly towards the door. One of them had rheumy eyes and a little white dog with him.
"That's him! That's the Dog Man!" I hissed, and lo it was. Up close he looked even crazier, and he grinned at the air around us - he never looked distinctly in our direction, but into the streetlights beyond - as we passed by. We stared over our shoulders for half a block, unable to believe our luck.
That is the magic of Halloween, ladies and gentleman: just when you think you're sort of making a scary story up, it comes true.