Monday, November 01, 2004

I Miss Halloween

...not because it just passed, but because it has changed so much. First of all, things are very different here in da big city of the aughts than they were in my 70s-80s little city and suburban youth.

When my age group went trick or treating, we went from door to door (with an occasional cut through a park, alley or cornfield), and although the old "watch out for razorblades in the apples" rumour had already come into fashion, by a certain age we were allowed to go by ourselves. Here in NYC, that's generally not done. As in much of the suburbs, parents have become too paranoid to let their kiddies beg from anonymous strangers in unknown apartments or houses by themselves, so the children are accompanied by adults. This seems to be true even for kids who, on most late, dark nights, are allowed to run through the streets yelling their fool heads off and buying as much junk food and candy as they can find. Odd.

Secondly, not only are they escorted, but kids do not visit other buildings on their street. They either visit pre-approved apartments in their building whose residents have signed up for giving out candy (and more and more this is becoming too "inconvenient" for many adults to participate in, making one wonder when Halloween is going to earn a literary equivalent of Scrooge to personify this stinginess. I mean, since when is it NOT FUN to give out candy?) or they go to the local strip of small merchants and trick-or-treat there.

Now, trick-or-treating at pharmacies, bodegas and 99-cent stores has always struck me as a little weird and sad. I mean, there's a big difference between getting a homemade cookie and some quality chocolates from the nice little old lady down the street and getting some crumbly, bottom-of-the-barrel gum from the pimply-faced plumbing supply cashier. But, even worse, this year I witnessed increasing incidents of children trick-or-treating without wearing any costumes at all. That's right, kids in their street clothes, without so much as a mask or cheap plastic smock on were walking into sneaker stores, holding out their plastic bags, and getting candy for nothing. No effort, no creativity, not even a threat of egging. Some of them weren't even saying "trick-or-treat!"

My friends, it is time for this to stop. I don't know if it is in the name of respecting diversity, religious intolerance or even related to low income, but the bar has been lowered too far. The rule is, and shall ever be: NO COSTUME, NO CANDY. I don't care if it's a bit of face paint, a schlocky store-bought plastic mask or you throw a floral sheet over your head and call yourself the ghost of bad interior decorating, you must do something to get a treat. And no, I didn't tackle any offending children and berate their imbecilic parents, but I had half a mind to. And I may do it next year.

Finally, although I find the local Halloween parade adorable and charming (and here I speak of the Park Slope event, not the hellacious, drunken-asshole fest of impending riot that the Village one has become - another sad change from days gone by, when it was centered around a bunch of fabulous drag queens strutting their stuff down once-very-gay Christopher Street), I have a word of advice: if you are not a parent accompanying a child and do not have a costume, do not march in the parade. And no, a hair band with ears on it or an LED toy is not a costume. Put some effort into it, or get out. You look nothing but misplaced and surly, and you should be on the sidelines with the rest of us who are misplaced, or surly, or both.

As for me, people seemed to enjoy my costume, which was nothing more than some signs affixed to my body and used as a mask. I went as the missing explosives, and a lot of people seemed to get and enjoy the joke. In my usual OCD fashion, I put a lot of effort researching what the authentic labeling for such explosives would look like, complete with Arabic translation, but then had to make a few less esoteric signs as well, so the average observer would easily understand what I was meant to be. Not my most detailed or labour-intensive costume ever, but I think it served its purpose.

Thanks to A, S and J'A for coming over to play games, make Halloween treats and carve a communal pumpkin. Here's hoping you weren't killed by gingko fumes, and that our next Halloween doesn't require such snide political commentary.

On to the Thanksgiving... and, oh yeah, the election... I was trying to block it out...

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