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Wednesday, October 26, 2005


At some point in every trick-or-treater's life, one must look at oneself in the mirror, look deep, deep beneath the gummy scar and glow-in-the-dark fangs, beneath the gnarled witch's wig and the magenta fake blood and ask, "Am I too old for this?" The All Hallows Eve of Reckoning, let us call it.

During our first two years in California, Cindy and I lived in a part of Los Angeles called Silver Lake, named after a man-made reservoir from which hills rise on the east and west sides. Silver Lake Boulevard and West Silver Lake Drive, our street, surround the lake. Back in the day some beautiful modern homes were built up there in those hills, Schindlers, Neutras, at least one Lautner. Cindy and I used to take walks and check them out before returning to our modest apartment on the first floor of a Spanish duplex. Keith lived on the second floor as he had for the previous 13 years. When we moved out he divulged the reason for his extended tenancy – an outrageously low rent, unheard of in Los Angeles. When I drive by the old place I look up the driveway and see Keith's Honda still there. Make that 18 years.

Our particular stretch of West Silver Lake Drive and some of the streets that branched off of it REALLY got into the Halloween spirit. Never before have I seen such intricate and painstakingly constructed holiday-inspired lawn scenes as I did during the two Octobers we spent there. I'm not talking about dummy witches straddling telephone poles or plastic door wraps with "Happy Halloween" printed on them. I'm talking about what amounted to theatrical sets lovingly crafted by frighteningly talented people. Saguaro cacti became multi-armed spike monsters, normally manicured yards became cemeteries, corpses crept from their graves, and entire homes were transformed into hellish tombs of horror all for delight of those children who dared to venture out into the dark each October 31st.

And venture out they did. You'll think I'm exaggerating but each Halloween we were there, easily two hundred kids came to our door looking for candy. Apparently, it's a tradition in that neighborhood. They shut down a few of the streets and the whole place becomes an outdoor spooky festival. Parents come from all over just to have their kids trick-or-treat there. The first year, we were woefully unprepared, buying just three bags of candy. Depleted of treats in less than an hour, we were forced to turn out all the lights and hide in the back of the house until the doorbell stopped ringing.

The next year we were ready. We had our own little party and asked everyone to bring something to hand out. We took turns answering the door. It was fun and the kids were all cute and nice and polite and well behaved and beyond any reproach whatsoever. We had high-tech killers (the mask from the Scream movies with actual real fake blood streaming down the outside), low-tech classics (the traditional hobo with the stick and handkerchief over the shoulder), the monstrous (a child who I think actually was part bat), and the adorable (one kid who admitted sheepishly that even he didn't know what he was supposed to be). Those kids, God love 'em. May they enjoy these ghoulish festivities until their All Hallows Eve of Reckoning is upon them.

There was one trick-or-treater, however, whose Reckoning I fear came many years ago only to be summarily dismissed. The doorbell rang and I answered. A group of maybe five kids eagerly chimed "Trick or Treat," handfuls of sweets their reward. One by one they thanked me and shuffled aside until the last one stepped forward.

"Trick or Treat," came the voice from behind one of the cheap plastic masks you get from the RiteAid, the kind with the micro-thin rubber band held in place by two staples. I think it was a skeleton mask, but I was distracted by the voice. It was awfully low and jaded sounding. I looked for a costume but only found Wranglers wrapped around a suspicious paunch. A Dickies jacket stained liberally with white paint covered a stocky frame. I peered a little more closely at the mask which was a little too small and didn't completely cover his face. And then I saw it. The mask was failing to conceal a full beard. This was no child before me. This was a full grown man who apparently worked as a painter during the day and supplemented his diet by posing as a child on Halloween. I felt both impressed and sorry for this guy, so I gave him a handful of chocolate and sent him on his way. Here is someone who must know he's too old for Halloween but refuses to give in. He has met his All Hallows Eve of Reckoning and scoffed at it. You have to respect that. Or if not respect, then accept it and move on.



At 10/29/2005 11:08 AM, DasGort said...

I went trick or treating when I was 21. Two girls my age and I went. They dressed as Olive Oil and a Ninja (both from my vast costume stash). I was a magician. I wore a red gown with a silver star and moon and a cape with shiny silver lining that was obviously meant for a child. I also held a wand with a star and streamers on the top. So we went door to door in a neighborhood that had been abandonded b/c of the new community of rich people not too far away. I wore a beard at the time. It was hilarious. The people there really appreciated it too, since it was so baren. I don't know if I'll do it again, but revisiting childhood like that is wonderful. I was also made fun of a lot. I didn't mind. That's what you get when you dress up. I'm dressing up as a cow this Halloween. Don't tell anyone.


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