Friday, November 2, 2007

Day Two - 30 Creative Days Hath November

I took my camera with me on my nightly walk and found a few good shots, although I skipped the smashed pumpkins in the street (which always give me a perverse thrill, and I don't know why), the two-foot spiders wrapped in cotton webs on porches, and the shiny skull lights, flashing on and off, that bordered a walkway. The trappings of Halloween can be truly creepy -- creepier still the older and closer to death one is.

At the same time, Halloween has become more childlike and innocent -- the sphere now of the third-grader who delights in wearing an elaborate costume and, for a week or two, is allowed a bit of candy as long as the toothbrush is close by. In affluent America, the day itself has been scrubbed clean of tricks and only chocolate largesse remains.

As a kid in Reno, we trick-or-treated two nights -- Halloween Eve and the day itself -- and there were tricks aplenty for the grumps who didn't hand out candy. Today it would probably be called "malicious mischief," authorities would be called and the media alerted. Back then it was just (and expected) retribution for flouting tradition and/or being cheap. There was none of this sissy "if the porch light's not on, we're not handing out candy" stuff, either. You either gave it up -- or knew you'd be cleaning something the next morning.

Along with our hot, rubber masks, pillow cases for candy and flashlights, we always brought chalk and soap for screen doors and car windows, and didn't hesitate to use them, either -- when we weren't overturning metal trash cans and running for our lives, or throwing eggs at fences (and each other).

Of course, no adults accompanied us then (life was not as serious, danger not as imminent) so there was nothing to stop the tricks except our own conscience -- which was suspended for one wicked dark night of the year.

Together with the scent of leaves piled knee high and the icy bite of autumn winds, Halloween is indelibly linked in my mind with my first exposure to the word fuck, as in "fuck a duck" that naughty JoAnn scrawled on the window of a car as payback. I puzzled about that phrase and asked my mom later, who told me "there's no such word."

Okay, mom....(naughty JoAnn set me straight).

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