My most terrifying night at Dallas City Hall involved a six-hour Redistricting Commission meeting, during which I was forced to eat 1,000-year-old, partially fossilized peanut butter crackers for dinner. It was harrowing. City Hall employees held their annual Halloween party in the plaza just outside the building today, which was much less emotionally damaging.
"Keep your eye on Rowdy," the mayor's chief of staff, Paula Blackmon, advised. She led a bevy of women dressed as Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders as she gestured at somebody decked out in the Cowboys' mascot uniform nearby. "I'll tell you who it is later."
Nearby, First Assistant City Attorney Chris Bowers wore a ratty flannel shirt and old jeans. Spider-web-y wisps of facial hair swarmed his mouth and upper lip, and handcuffs dangled from one of his wrists. He carried an old sleeping bag and a sign that read "Occupy Halloween -- Corpses Aren't People" on one side and "The First Thing We Do, Let's Protest 99% of the Lawyer$" on the other. The man whose office brokered the Occupiers' move to the land behind City Hall was, yes, dressed as an Occupy Dallasite.
"It's my birthday," he told us. "I like to go all out."
Then, Occupy Dallas actually showed up: a line of about 13 guys holding signs filed into the plaza, a few wearing bandannas over their faces. They lined up silently behind the stage facing the crowd. For a moment, it looked as though things were about to get awkward. I pointed out Bowers to them and asked for their reaction.
"That's cool," said a man with a dark goatee, holding a blue tin mug.
"Tell him to join us," added another guy with an orange bandanna around his neck.
A few moments later, Rick Warden, a member of the Occupy Dallas news committee, walked over to Bowers to say hello. Warden, 46, wore some eyeliner, large silver hoop earrings and a big smear of fake blood ran down one arm. He shook Bowers delightedly by the hand and snapped a photo with him. They chatted for a minute or two, barely audible over the strains of "Old Time Rock and Roll" blaring from portable speakers nearby.
"I didn't enter the costume contest," Bowers told Warden.
"Because you woulda taken it!" Warden said warmly. Bowers dropped his sleeping bag, and Warden bent down to help him pick it up.
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"I don't care if it's done in mockery," Warden told us a little later, referring to Bowers's outfit. "It doesn't matter, if it brings awareness to our cause." He called Occupy Dallas "some of the most productive, intelligent people I've seen in my 46 years."
As Bowers and Warden spoke, Rowdy removed his head to reveal a slightly boiled-looking Mayor Mike Rawlings. "It's hot in there," he said conversationally. He posed for a few photos and then headed inside, as the Occupiers headed back to their camp on the far side of City Hall.