Friday, May 11, 2012

I Call Bullshit ... On Halloween.

That's right.

You heard me.

I said it.

Halloween! I call a long belated (or is it prudently early?) "bullshit" on you!

Apologies, dear readers. If you could indulge me a moment, I need to take a second to hike my pants up to my ribs and holler at the damn punks on the lawn. Ready?

Wait ... why am I doing a post about a holiday that's six months in the past and/or future? Because shut up is why.

Okay. Are we ready now, Mr. ThisBlogIsntTopical?

Okay, then.

Annnd ....


Now, to be fair, my problem isn't with Halloween proper. I actually dig the ever-loving shit out of the holiday. As an enjoyer of quality horror films, a frequent scribbler of creepy yarns and an enthusiastic, near-bottomless consumer of vast amounts of high-fructose corn syrup ... it really is my favorite time of year.

Or at least, it should be.

So why isn't it? What's changed?

Trick-or-treating. Nobody knows how to do it anymore.

And who's fault is that?

Surprise! It's not the kids.

"Did I mention BULLSHIT? Because I really meant to. Vis-a-vis Halloween.
Also, I should point out that I may be an unholy hybrid of an
old man and Scrooge McDuck. Damn you, Science!
Damn you for meddling in God's domain!"

Anyway, here's the deal.

For most of the 18+ years I've been in New Jersey, I've lived mainly in a series of rather grim apartment complexes. Sadly, trick-or-treaters could never even find most of those buildings, let alone my actual door. So having any turn up at all was a pretty rare phenomenon.

But once we finally moved to an actual house on an actual street in an actual neighborhood we were excited by the prospect of taking part in an actual Halloween.

But, the first couple of Halloweens at the house ended up falling on weekdays. And with our work schedules and commutes, we didn't manage to get home until most of the fun was over. We'd catch a few stragglers, but never really got to hand out many snacks.

It wasn't until Halloween 2010 that the holiday finally landed on a weekend. And I would at long last get my chance to live the pageantry and splendor that is The Suburban New Jersey Halloween Experience.

It was going to be glorious!

Nothing but eight-year-olds in Snooki costumes as far as the eye could see! And I would fill their bags with all things fun-sized! And their little orange faces would light up with glee! Or early-onset diabetes. Tomayto/tomahto.

"Fuggedaboutit! Badda-BING! Amirite!? Jersey Strong! I'm Snooki! Sure I am! Popular and/or current catch phrase!"

It was a Sunday. A spectacular fall morning. Sun beaming. Warm breeze fluttering. Birds singing. If you could bottle a morning like that you'd be a millionaire.

(Also, you'd be terrifying. Because only an evil, weather-controlling, cosmic wizard could dare trap time and space in a bottle, only to then sell it to the highest bidder for his own amusement.)

I digress.

As a suburbanite, for me, nice weather on a Sunday almost always means some manner of yard work. It is Suburb Law. And on this fine October morning, with hours and hours to go before all the Halloween fun got started, I decided that it was a splendid opportunity to wash my car.

Or more accurately, my minivan.

(No, it's NOT creepy for a childless person to own a minivan! Darned if it isn't convenient for all sorts of-- DON'T YOU JUDGE ME!!)

So I gathered my bucket and hose and headed for the driveway. There was a filthy, rust-crusted van that needed my attention, and by GOD I was going to give it.

It was 11 A.M. on the dot and all was right with the world.

That is, until our first trick-or-treaters toddled up.

Did I mention that it was 11 A.M.

Yes, that's right. I said "A.M.".

Which I believe, in scientific parlance, stands for ... IN THE COCK-FUCKING MORNING.

Now to be absolutely clear ... I don't blame these kids. They couldn't have been much older than five or six and surely couldn't tie their own shoes yet, let alone strategize and plot when to wriggle into their Barney costumes and waddle out the door to do some systematic pan-handling.

Hell, they weren't even all that clear on what they were supposed to be doing, half-heartedly mumbling a few slurred syllables that sounded something like: "... (mumble mumble) ... chicken feet ... (mumble) ...".

Or words to that effect.

Nope. My beef was with their mothers, who were watching from the sidewalk a few yards away, beaming like fools.

Helicopter mode set to: HOVER.

Did I mention where I was and what I was doing when these toddlers were sent shambling up to me by their mothers at 11 A.M. with their candy sacks open?

To reiterate ... I was in the driveway.

With a hose.

And a bucket.


Purely from a candy acquisition standpoint, it's a terrible plan. When you approach a man on all fours, elbow-deep in soap suds, vigorously scrubbing what appears to be decades of filth from a rusty minivan ...

... and you then ask for candy ...

I'm just saying that ... realistically ... you should probably not expect to actually receive any candy.

The closest thing to candy you're likely to get is a clot of pennies from the bottom of the cup-holder, spot-welded together with five years of congealed soda syrup.

But candy?

Probably not so much.


Needless to say, I was caught a bit ... let's call it ... under-prepared.

It should also be pointed out that I was in NO way nasty to them. Those little guys were adorable. But the truth was, I hadn't actually bought any candy yet. BECAUSE IT WAS 11 O'CLOCK IN THE FUCK-SHITTING MORNING.

All I could do was smile and shrug and explain: "Sorry guys. I don't have any candy right now. It's too early."

Had these little guys been older, more seasoned veterans of the holiday, they would have just taken this in stride and shambled on to the next house in search of a sugar teat that was producing. All while filing away my address for use later that night when they might return with some eggs and toilet paper.

"Gonna burn your shit DOWN, old man. Burn your shit down to the GROUND."

But they looked to be on their very first Halloween sortie. They must have been. Because my answer was not one they were expecting or prepared for.

They stood there, blinking and confused for a long moment. And then they just started over. Like I was a glitchy PC. They just rebooted. They took half a step closer, held their bags out again and repeated: "... (mumble mumble) ... flicker meat ... (mumble) ...".

Or words to that effect.

"Make with the Skittles, motherfucker. 'No' is not an option."

So, I tried to explain my position again, this time loudly enough for their moms to hear.

And at that exact moment, it would seem there occurred some kind of temporal rift or atmospheric anomaly or cosmic flux or somesuch. Because the words that left my mouth clearly weren't the same ones that made it to their ears.

What I said was: "I'm sorry guys, it's too early. I haven't bought any candy yet."


Or words to that effect.

Clearly they must have heard something like that, because they were instantly enraged. In an eye-blink they went from grinning like a flock of cooing, squinch-eyed Renee Zellweger impersonators ... to huffing and sneering at me like a trio of rodeo bulls eyeing a cornered clown.

They just couldn't FATHOM that the strange, pony-tailed man washing a van on a Sunday morning didn't readily have fistfuls of Snickers to give their beautiful, beautiful babies! The nerve! The goddamn NERVE!

In a whoosh of huffy, track-suited dudgeon, they snatched confused little Trench and Chaynce and Jaydien (or whatever the hell suburban white women are naming their kids these days) and dragged them away like they'd just been booed off stage of the Apollo. All the while their baleful, withering, reproachful glares searing deep into my soul.

Somehow I was at fault. Somehow I'd betrayed them.

It was as though I had broken some solemn pact we'd made. Like we'd all gotten together the night before and pinky swore to hold Halloween about ten hours too early.

Now, granted I'm not a parent, so I don't know how this whole "having kids thing" works. But it seems to me, if you encourage your toddlers to approach strange men in vans and ask for candy ... well, frankly, you should probably count yourself lucky to get those kids back.

Also: Free duct tape!

Now I understand how parents might want their kids to do their trick-or-treating during the "safety" of daylight hours. I get it.

I just don't agree.

Thing is, I don't actually remember there being any safety issues with Halloween when I was a kid.

Sure, that was approximately two hundred thousand years ago, but I certainly don't recall ever having all this paranoia about it being "dangerous" to go out trick-or-treating.

And I grew up in the '70s when shit actually was dangerous. Slides at the playground were twenty feet high, pocked with skin-shredding rust, and angled 70 degrees straight down into concrete. And when you were being treated for your inevitable tetanus and stress fractures, the doctor would light up a Lucky Strike in the goddamn exam room.

And yet we survived.

"And I don't wanna hear any of this bike helmet bullshit either.
In my day, massive head trauma was considered roguishly charming.

When you stop twitching, walk that shit off. You know, if your legs still work."

Nothing spooky or Halloweeny has ever happened at 11 A.M.

Didn't Halloween used to be an evening activity? Not so anymore, I guess. Last year, the last of our trick-or-treaters rang our doorbell before the dinner hour. The whole thing was over before it ever started.

When I was a kid, we didn't even put our costumes on until the sun went down. And once we left the house, we were completely unsupervised; marauding in packs through the neighborhood in the middle of the night.

We didn't get driven from door to door by our parents.

I mean, sure, we'd all heard the urban legend of the crazy old lady who put razor blades or needles into apples, but A) that never happened. Anywhere. Ever. To anyone. And B) if some asshole actually did give you an apple, that shit got chucked at the back of your brother's head before you got back to the curb.

In fact, if you're talking about "safety," it would seem like that "worry vector" should probably have been pointing the other way. Hordes of sugar-gacked, feral kids roaming the streets in the dark ... well, we tended to get up to a fair amount of mischief. (Or, as fancy-pants legal scholars like to call it: "minor vandalism.")

Think "Lord of the Flies" with fun-sized Butterfingers.

And yet ... somehow ... we all survived.

I say it's time we were all honest with ourselves, each other and the kids when it comes to Halloween.

Is it measurably safer to trick-or-treat at 11 A.M. than it is at 6 P.M.? Or 9 P.M. for that matter? Nope.

Admit it, parents of America ... chauffeuring your toddlers about for a round of pre-lunch trick-or-treating has absolutely NOTHING to do with their safety, and absolutely EVERYTHING to do with your convenience.

Do your kids a favor this year. Just wait a couple more hours.

Because the quickest way to totally ruin what used to be an awesome night, is to hold it at 11 in the morning.

I guess what I'm really trying to say is ... I should've just blasted them all with the goddamn hose.

Till next we meet ...

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