(Kids. Candy. Corpses. Career politicians. Okay, no corpses.)
Well, here in my neighborhood, we’ve all managed to survive yet another pagan-based festival. You know the occasion – the one where diminutive, oddly-dressed strangers coalesce in the twilight to gang-beg you and your neighbors. They materialize at your door, they rap or ring, they all chant the same, tired, terse half-promise-half-threat mantras, and they blithely demand you hand over some valuables to support their cause.
That’s right. It’s that Fall favorite – the political election season.
I’m kidding, of course. Sorta. The festival at hand is what we Americans now call Halloween. It’s had other names. All Hallowmas. The Day of the Dead. Feralia. All Hallows Eve. All Saints Day. Guy Fawkes Day. (By the way, you can thank Guy Fawkes for dragging politics into Halloween, thereby ruining a perfectly good holiday where America’s kids get to celebrate evil undead things AND tooth decay.)
Depending on your research sources, Halloween was invented long ago, either thanks to British pagans, or in spite of ancient Romans, or because of Bailey’s Irish Cream, or by Al Gore. Two thousand years ago, according to one story, the Boston Celts celebrated year’s end on October 31 (their fiscal year began in November, for tax purposes). They called this year-end festival “Samhain,” partly because nobody could say “Auld Lang Syne” without snickering.
But in a typically stubborn Boston solidarity, they pronounced Samhain like this: “sow-en.” In those olden days, that sort of rude, tricky pronunciation was not allowed outside of France. (France was formerly known as “Gall,” so named by guests who got their hotel bill.)
Soon, therefore, the Vatican intervened, and Alexander Pope Paul IV McCartney dispatched a cheapmason named Hadrian to England, where Hadrian built a WalMart. (The Pope couldn’t find a freemason.) Within minutes, the WalMart advertised a deep discount on candy, which was a pretty good trick, given that it would be another 1,400 years before Johannes Gutenberg invented classified ads.
And the rest is history.
One of Halloween’s benefits – and there aren’t many – is that the costumes help us gauge who’s currently important (or cool) in our culture. In my neighborhood, Spiderman is big, but so are some of the classic bad guys. Dracula always makes the Top Ten list. Frankenstein is popular, but then, in South Carolina, neck bolts qualify as orthodonture. On the other hand, Mao and Pol Pot are nowhere to be found, although, given their height, they ought to be solid players.
And you almost never see a kid dressed up like Guy Fawkes.
(To be fair, however, it takes a special kind of reckless abandon to wear knickers, then and now.)
But now that Halloween has come and gone, I have a question. If Halloween was All Hallows Eve, and the “eve” part has passed, where are all the Hallows? Personally, I’ve only seen three Dead People, and two of them were WalMart greeters.
Anyway, back to the day itself…about two hours before dark, I ran a quick pre-Halloween quality control test on a Tootsie Roll. Now, the last time I ate a Tootsie Roll was, well, decades ago. Way back. Back before we fully understood the dire threat of sexual harassment in the workplace (or, as we used to say before Political Correctness, “compliments”). I don’t think NASA had even driven out to Arizona to fake the moon landing yet.
So my T-Roll memories could be a bit hazy. But this dark, gummy little log I bit into on Halloween was amazingly non-enjoyable (or, as we used to say before Political Correctness, “nasty”). Maybe I’m just too old to appreciate it anymore. Or too tall.
But for pure persistence, you can’t beat a Tootsie Roll. Four hours later, I was still chewing the foul thing.
And since Halloween is our topic, let’s not forget the little (and not so little) trick-or-treatniks themselves. Witness:
- Just before dark, my first Halloween guest presented. Great mask, this kid. Scary, in a forty-inch-high kind of way. But I couldn’t quite grasp his overarching concept, his meta-narrative. He was either a Transformer or a World Series umpire. Or Nancy Pelosi, as viewed before morning coffee.
- The next kid must have sensed that I am “costume-challenged” (or, as we used to say before Political Correctness, “stupid”). This child piped right up and proudly announced himself: “I’m Captain America!” I snapped him a salute and said, “Yes, you are. And you’re doing a great job for the country, sir.” His eyes widened, he perfected his posture, returned my salute, and gifted me with a smile that could melt glaciers. I think he grew two inches. I think I did, too.
- One kid, I definitely recognized. He wears a Mitt Romney’s hair costume, and he’s been showing up perennially for over six years. Somehow, the hair has perfect teeth. This year, he took credit for denying that he had taken credit for not having denied anything. Another kid wearing a Rick Perry mask yelled “flip flop,” but he misspelled it.
- Another youngster showed up dressed as a Jet Blue pilot. I gave him candy, but I made him wait seven hours for it.
- Just after sunset, a monstrously obese, extremely sweaty kid wearing a Michael Moore mask stormed up to my porch, accused me of having candy, and filmed a documentary of himself eating it. Then he slipped into a sugar coma and repatriated to Cuba, where he died from outstanding medical care.
- A kid wearing a Lindsay Lohan mask didn’t show up, repeatedly.
- One shifty-looking truant showed up dressed as Arlen Specter. He had two masks, and knocked on my front and back doors.
- A kid wearing a Sarah Palin mask rang my doorbell. When I offered her candy, she riffled through the basket, dropped to one knee, and field-dressed a Reese’s Cup.
- A diminutive future parolee wearing a Timothy Geithner mask rang my doorbell and yelled, “Trick and Treat!”
- A kid wearing a Stephen King mask rang my doorbell and, as I watched, he drafted, wrote and published a 960-page novel.
- About 200 kids costumed as spoiled brats rang my doorbell, said they were the “Occupy Barry” 99%, demanded candy, and started setting up tents on my property. I had them arrested. End of story. No more news here. No film at eleven. (note to self: call Mayor Bloomberg)
- A kid wearing an Eric Holder mask came by and offered me contraband candy. When I accepted it, the kid had me arrested for having contraband candy.
- Down the street, a kid wearing a mask with no face was sexually harassed by a kid costumed as Herman Cain.
- Two kids dressed as Somali pirates stole my doorbell. They tried to ransom it to Greece. (see “stupid”)
- A kid wearing a Joe Biden mask rang the doorbell, but we’re in mixed company here, so I can’t repeat what he said.
- A kid showed up costumed as Kim Kardashian. In the ensuing twenty minutes, we got married, had a whirlwind honeymoon, filmed a reality show, were spotted having a bitter public spat at a trendy oyster bar, divorced, and fielded a cable TV offer for a series about lip stress. She got the house, I got visitation rights with the candy, and every other weekend with one lip.
- A kid in a Cinderella costume walked up to my porch. Suddenly, she was accosted by a kid wearing a Bill Clinton mask, who helped himself to her candy, as a kid costumed as an Arkansas State Trooper stood by. When confronted, the Clinton mask insisted “I did not half-sacks with that woman.”
- A kid showed up in a Barack Obama mask. He made me give my candy to the house next door.
And finally, as I gnaw my way through this lingering Tootsie Roll, let’s dispense with all the neurotic jabber about Halloween being evil. I don’t really believe Halloween is evil. WalMart might be evil. Guy Fawkes, maybe. Tootsie Rolls, definitely. But Halloween? No. Halloween’s not evil.
Unless teeth are holy.