Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Halloween in the Hood

If there is one holiday that really gives you a feel for your neighbors and your neighborhood in general, it is Halloween.

When I was a kid, Halloween was a huge deal, or at least I thought it was. Our costumes pretty much consisted of a mask. Or, we went as hobos. Remember when hobos were not politically incorrect? I would love to see a kid dressed as a homeless person today. I think that would be hysterical. Or, maybe not.

I find it funny with my good memory that I cannot remember one Halloween costume I wore as a kid. I guess because I was inside the mask looking out, and we also stopped trick or treating around age nine. Today, they trick or treat up to age twenty-two. My mother was not one to put much effort into costumes the way mothers get into them now, so I think I wore my regular clothes and a mask, and that was it.

Maybe she thought a full-fledged costume would make me gay or a drag queen. How is that abstinence education working for you, Mrs. Palin?

Around age ten, my friend Jerry from across the street and I would make a haunted house out of his garage for the trick or treaters, and this was a lot of fun, too.

On Halloween, we had the usual hijinks – kids bags being lifted, smashed pumpkins in the street, toilet papered trees and the like. These were to be expected, and a Halloween without such mayhem would be un-American.

As an adult living in apartments, Halloween was not a big deal in Newport News or Florida, but when I moved to Mount Pleasant, the gates of hell opened up, and all the monsters and ghouls were on the hunt. I lived one block from an elementary school, and little did I realize how many children lived in my neighborhood. I went through three bags of candy in twenty minutes then I had to turn off the lights and hide under my bed. They kept knocking on the door until 10:00 pm! I kept hearing in low, growling voices, “Trick or Treat … trick or treat … we know you’re in there!”

I learned my lesson, and every year after that, I bought ten bags of candy as did all my neighbors. We would dress up for the trick or treaters, and a good time was had by all.

Then came Rockville, and living in a luxury apartment building, I went for two Halloweens with no trick or treaters, not even the man from the third floor whom the nut on the fourth floor claimed was a registered sex offender. The first year, I ate two bags of miniature Mars bars. Someone had to enjoy them.

So, I expected living in a mobile home community to be much like Mount Pleasant. While the average age of our residents is fifty-five, there are about ten teenagers and an equal number of smaller children, plus there are some who babysit their grandchildren while their parents work at night.

I bought eight bags of the crappiest candy I could find – at least crappy to me, so I wouldn’t eat any of it. Jolly Ranchers, Smarties, Nerds, Starburst and something called Monster Sticks. Of course, I had to sample one of everything to be sure I didn’t like them. I didn’t.

Then, I waited, and I waited, and I waited. Around 7:00 pm, the first trick or treaters came. I gave the two of them a handful of candy. They were very polite and said thank you. Fifteen minutes later, three more came. They were very polite and said thank you. Ten minutes later, Mrs. M’s grandchildren came and asked where Esmeralda was. Esmeralda was sitting on the back of the sofa wondering why people were constantly knocking on the door and interrupting her after dinner nap.

Have I told you she doesn't bark when someone knocks on the door? She doesn’t even care. Someone could walk in and attack me, and as long as they didn’t wake her, she wouldn’t care.

I was impressed with the costumes. All were well executed, and my favorite was the five-year-old, complete with perfect bouffant hair piece, dressed like a bride with a veil and train. She looked like a midget bride. Can one say midget anymore? I meant Munchkin. Can one say Muchkin?  

Twenty minutes and ten kids later and Halloween in the hood was over.

That’s it! No one came from other neighborhoods to trick or treat in our fine community? No teenagers came out trick or treating? Only little kids? All very polite well costumed little kids?

With no more kids, and four unused bags of candy (I threw a fistful in every bag), I took Esmeralda for her before bed walk. Here is what I noticed. Half the porch lights were out. No one had a real pumpkin, and only one family, a mean father, his stumbling drunk wife, holding a Budweiser tall boy, and their two unhappy children were out. While four of five houses were decorated, this was a major disappointment.

What is happening to our country? This is un-American! These people are gun-toting, God fearing Americans! Is there no hope left for our great nation?

I really should not have been surprised. My parents did the same thing once we were grown, and I guess anyone without children figures they did their Halloween time. I am childless – well, human childless – so I am immune to Halloween burnout, and those of my persuasion love Halloween – another excuse to do drag, any kind of drag!

But, come on people. What is Halloween without at least one smashed pumpkin in the street? No one egged a house or toilet papered a tree. Is the economy so bad that people can’t even spare one roll of toilet paper? Next year, I’ll toilet paper my own trees and smash a pumpkin on my deck.

As Endora would say, “I find this situation utterly boring.”

Maybe during Thanksgiving they will drop turkeys from a helicopter.  As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly!” Arthur Carlson, WKRP in Cincinnati.

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