This is my favorite time of the year — Halloween and All Saints’ Day. It’s been my favorite since childhood. I remember being fascinated by the costumes, roaming around in the dark, going from house to house with friends, the way in which the world seemed to change, for just a moment, to let in something beyond itself, indeed, to become that something, in jest or in seriousness. I remember my mother explaining the famous sequence in Fantasia, the terror and fascination I felt for the dreaded creature on the mountain and the invasion of skeletal spectres, and the odd sense of eternity that came with the solemn, meditative march of lights in the fog in the denouement.
As I grew up, Halloween took on more mystical and pleasant signification for me, as it was the time that I could spend with my oldest friends, Kav and Khaalid, in the former’s large and somewhat labyrinthine house in Yonkers. Eventually, it took on great personal significance, as it also became the day when I first encountered the Bab in Haifa. Increasingly for me, this time of masks has come to mean a time of truth.
Although drinking alcohol is against my faith as a Baha’i — and besides, I was never much of a drinker anyway — there’s no point to living in Belgium if one doesn’t try the world famous beers. Hence, I sample, usually just a few sips, occasionally a full bottle. The Flemings’ enthusiasm for beer is intoxicating to experience and they have a good laugh at my lack of skill in “proper pouring”.
My roster of Belgian beers so far is perhaps not that impressive. A few Chimays, a Duvel or two, too many Hoegaardens (I’m not a fan) and Stella Artois (even less of a fan), a nauseatingly sweet Kasteel, and a few Westmalles (delicious). Well, tonight I had the privilege to drink an entire Westvleteren 12, which is renowned as the world’s best beer.
My first full day in Leuven. Totally surrounded by people speaking an alien language with alien customs, including some kind of bizarre ritualistic square dance. Having fun but also quite bewildered; it’s actually a bit exhausting. Feels like I’m living an episode of Farscape.