Saturday, October 20, 2012

tender lumplings everywhere

When I was a kid, my favorite holiday, aside from my birthday, was Hallowe'en. I would begin thinking about my costume somewhere around the time I came home from trick-or-treating that year. I would begin to give serious thought to my costume as summer came to a close and I prepared my return to school. As autumn approached, I would narrow my selection down to a few choices and by October 1st, I'd start to gather the needed elements to bring my costume to fruition. By the second week of October, I'd drag out the family's box of Hallowe'en decorations. I'd methodically tape each tattered and worn cardboard pumpkin cutout and jointed cardboard skeleton in the exact position in the exact window as previous years. Once the big night arrived, I'd hurry through dinner and jump into my costume. I'd grab an old pillowcase and set out for my annual candy shakedown of the neighborhood. Trick-or-treating in my densely populated community was an all-night ritual. This was the 1960s and distribution of full-size candy bars was not uncommon, so several stops back home to drop off a load of sweets too heavy to drag around the block was to be expected. Once, a fellow Hallowe'ener reported on a house that was handing out full packages of six Hershey bars. That house had a line that remained steady into the late evening. Of course, the after-Hallowe'en surplus of candy sometimes lasted until Thanksgiving, until the few stray Mary Janes and sour balls that dotted the bottom of my picked-through bag were finally tossed into the trash.

When I was a teenager, and became too old to go knocking door-to-door, I'd stay home to hand out candy. I also decorated my house to elicit maximum scares from unsuspecting beggars. Pulling out all stops, I'd spend hours preparing Styrofoam tombstones, eerie flashing lights, prop figures in weird masks and a soundtrack of creepy music blasting through hidden speakers. Naturally, I was decked out in full vampire costume and makeup. I didn't give out a whole lot of candy, as kids were too frightened by the display. They felt a measly piece of candy wasn't worth getting the shit scared out of them. That was okay because it meant more leftovers for me.

In high school, I attended many Hallowe'en parties. Over the years, I wore a variety of costumes — Frank N. Furter from Rocky Horror, The Hunchback of Notre Dame (I refused to take off my make-up for the entire night), and even Gene Simmons, accompanying some friends who dressed as the remaining members of KISS (including my friend Sam).

When I got married and became a father, Hallowe'en continued in full force at the Pincus household. We had more Hallowe'en decorations than most people have for Christmas. Our house was transformed into that house, you know, the one that everyone looks forward to visiting because of the awesome way they celebrate the holiday. We had lights and music and animated figures and tons of candy. I took my son out at two months old, attired in Superman pajamas (him, not me). After a brief introduction to the fine art of confectionery extortion, we easily slipped him into his crib, already prepared for sleeping. As he got older, I created original and unique costumes for my son, including homemade Boris Badenov and Sonic the Hedgehog attire. I taught him to say "Trick-or-treat" and "Nothing with coconut." (Not because of a dietary restriction, because I don't like coconut.)

As time marched on, something happened. My son — in high school, then college — made other plans for Hallowe'en. We received less and less visitors. With younger kids making their rounds in the safer, daylight hours, the festivities began to trail off by nightfall. We stopped dragging out the box of decorations and, eventually, my wife sold the vintage stuff on eBay.

In 2010, we traveled to Disneyland to rekindle our love of Hallowe'en. Like giddy, rejuvenated children, we attended Mickey's Hallowe'en Party, a separately-ticketed event that converts the Magic Kingdom into a (not-so-scary) Hallowe'en Wonderland. My wife, my son and myself — three adults — had a blast wandering the darkened trails, interacting with costumed characters and other guest and receiving a huge amount of candy. We enjoyed ourselves so much, we went back the following year.

But Hallowe'en at home sucked. Few houses decorate. Few kids trick-or-treat... and those that do, don't even have the courtesy to put on a costume. ("What are you supposed to be?" "I'm a kid that just got off the school bus. Give me a goddamn Reeses Cup.")

Last year, we locked the door, turned off the porch light and ate the candy we bought to give out. This year, we're going to Las Vegas and I'm putting a "Go Fuck Yourself" sign on my front door.

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