That's me--second one from the left--at around 5 years old, with my neighbor-friends, wearing my all-time-favorite costume. I've never been a minimalist, have always liked multiple strands and layers, and strands and layers are the basic elements of the Gypsy costume. Gypsy costumes are also fairly easy to do, at least for those of us who tend to accumulate strands and layers.
There I am again, closer to 50, once again dressed in my favorite costume--this time holding a skull and just having finished reading a portion of my novel at Ragdale, which is an artists' retreat in Lake Forest, IL. My novel opens on Halloween, and I was at Ragdale on Halloween, so my reading was on Halloween, and I dressed as shown.
I'm thinking about all this because last week I went to Pittsburgh to give a reading at the amazing Gist Street Reading Series. Believe me, Gist doesn't need any publicity because they already have to turn away about the same number of people they can admit. They hold the readings in a wonderful sculptor's studio, and can "only" accommodate around 70 people. Doors open at 7:30, and when I arrived shortly before 7:00, 20-30 hearty souls were already lined up on the dark, cold sidewalk.In Pittsburgh, they also have a fabulous restaurant called the Gypsy Cafe, and my husband and I went there for dinner Thurs night, also the night they have a great band, called the Gypsy Strings that plays (part of the time) while strolling around the restaurant. None of these people seemed at all averse to the term "Gypsy."
All of you will, of course, know that Romany or Romani are sometimes the preferred terms for (via Phil Herbst's glossary of ethnic terms) these "traditionally nomadic people who, around the fourteenth century, migrated out of North India and are now living throughout the world." The name Gypsy was bestowed by outsiders, based on a confusion related to the word Egyptian (I won't go into all the technicalities here). Granted, the word Gypsy has some derogatory overtones--linked to con artists and thieves. And most of us know that the people were also targets of Hitler's Nazi regime. In his book, The Gypsies (1992), Angus Fraser refers to this group (if you can call it a group) as a "rich mosaic of ethnic fragments." My purpose here is simply to celebrate that rich mosaic--with all its strands and layers. And my goodness, that wonderful music that reaches right into your heart.