“Look at her — she's frightening! Big headdress, strange costume, makeup. What are you gonna to do when she's coming right at you?”
Sister MaeJoy B. With U., a 12-year practitioner of martial arts, is across the room at the Eureka Valley Recreation Center, brandishing her 4-inch heels. Any second now, she'll run at me — and it's my job to deter her progress.
I don't know what to do. I haven't gotten into a fight since I bit some snotty, taunting bitch in first grade. Considering that I'd have to gnaw through the sister's six layers of lace and padding just to break skin, it seems a new technique is in order. And I'm hoping that this free Halloween Shall Not Be Hell self-defense training seminar (the last one's on Oct. 28) — co-hosted by the Triangle Martial Arts Association and the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence — will do the trick.
A 6-foot-tall mustachioed man in an ornate nun's habit may be the issue at hand, but the real problem — the reason for the seminar — is quite different. “After this year's Pride celebration, we started hearing reports from the community of gay-bashing in the Castro,” says Ken Craig, master and president of TMAA. “The police didn't see a significant increase in incidents, but we're a little concerned about Halloween and the certain element that drives into the city for not the best of reasons. We want people to be aware and safe.”
This year, due largely to Supervisor Bevan Dufty's drive to “reclaim Halloween for the community,” the event will be, it is rumored, scaled back — less advertising and fewer stages will ideally draw in a smaller bridge-and-tunnel crowd.
The problem is “mostly out-of-towners,” echoes Officer Lisa Frazer, who drops in on the session while on her rounds as a Castro beat officer. “I think of the Castro as a sanctuary, but Halloween brings in a different element.”
The sister is running toward me now, but when I cower, not making use of any of the evasive or disabling maneuvers I've just been taught, she just pats me on the back. This may be the only city in the world in which mustachioed nuns with sharp shoes are not the ones you have to worry about.