Monday, October 31, 2011

Halloween—Trick or Treat?


Trick or Treat!

Where's the snow shovel?

Hey Dude, you’re stepping on my tail!

Ho Ho Ho!

All things you normally hear on Halloween…except maybe the Ho ho ho.

Actually, now that I think about it, there’s probably going to be a Christmas commercial running somewhere the minute you turn off the lights on the Trick or Treaters.

Can’t start too early.

Halloween is one of those “holidays” that you either love or hate. To the uninhibited among you, you love it and begin plotting your costume-ware as early as July…maybe sooner.

I’m thinking you’re also a big fan of practical jokes. Can’t get enough of those fart cushions at parties!

To the inhibited, of whom I count myself, the thought of picking out some self-conscious bunny eared costume complete with cotton tail is…well…not pleasant.

Okay…sure… I had a bad experience once. But that officer was way out of line.

Luckily, Z looked so adorable in her little baby doll outfit that she was able to talk him out of using the least the metal ones.

So, tonight is the big night!

I think I smoothed things over with the Zombies. I waved to the dad Zombie yesterday, while he was out shoveling his driveway, and he actually waved back. Of course it was the Grandma Zombie’s detached arm he was waving, but I interpreted it to be a good sign.

Unfortunately, the Witches are still not speaking to me. I said hello while they were out practicing their broom riding tricks and I couldn’t get a rise out of either of them; not even a cackle.

Oh, well.

At least the Vampires are still talking to me. To be honest, they can be a little too chatty sometimes. I mean sometimes you just want to have a Vampire free moment. 

Just once in a while, you know?

The Vampires get a big crowd on Halloween. We all do, in fact.

Our neighborhood actually looks like a Hollywood version of Halloween night. The streets are filled with kids.  There’s actually a din…an actual din as the sound runs up and down the street alongside all the kids.  But we don’t mind, cuz they’re nice kids and for the most part they only use organic eggs to deface your house.

It wasn’t always this way. For a while the neighborhood was like a ghost town on Halloween—pun intended. If you got 15-20 Trick or Treaters you were doing well.  Then they began this “Boo in the Park” thing a while back and ever since, kids from all over town flood our little streets. 

It also doesn’t hurt that we have so many ghouls living in the neighborhood now.

We actually have about 40 pounds of candy; over a thousand pieces standing by.  And we give out every bit of it…aside from the couple of dozen that I consume while giving it out.

The first year, after we installed our full view glass storm door, was the best. Little kids were walking into it by the dozen, so excited were they to get their little treats. There’s nothing more enjoyable than watching a little 4 year old, all happy and smiley, race onto the stoop and then POW...he doesn’t know what hit him.

If you could see those little cute expressions of shock and awe!

But don’t worry; it didn’t seem to faze them. In fact I don’t think many noticed at all, so intent were they on this great new candied aspect of life.  I think they just thought it was part of the gig. And it was a great way to know when someone was at the door.

Thump… Thump…Thump… Thump…Thump…

“More kids at the door!”

Eventually, Z taped a paper spider to the door and the thumping stopped.

But it was great while it lasted.

Then there’s always the question of how many pieces of candy to give to each kid.

It depends on how much traffic there is. In the beginning I’m usually generous and will give out 3 pieces per kid. If it’s a neighbor kid that I know, then more. And if it’s a particularly cute kid or his mom’s hot, 5 or 6.  

But don’t tell Z my system.

One time I was starting to panic because we were getting low after only an hour and a half of treating, so I started giving out only 2 pieces to each kid…even if the mom was dressed as Jennifer Lopez.

One little Princess girl, in appearance and attitude, looked in the bag after I dropped in her 2 pieces and actually said, “We usually get at least 3.” 

No kidding….

So I told her I was getting low and had to economize and actually reached into her bag and took the two pieces back.

Well…actually I didn’t.  But I wanted to, and it makes for a better story if I say I did.

Anyway, by the end, we always start to panic, cuz we don’t want to have any turn aways. 

There’s nothing worse than a turn away.  A cute little kid in a Buzz Lightyear suit comes up to the door, loudly pronounces “Trick or Treat” and you reach back and the only thing that you get your hands on is the half chewed Almond Joy that you threw back in the basket an hour ago.

“Sorry, Buzz. We’re all out. Try the Zombies across the street; they never run out.”

Usually they’re so stunned by this unexpected development, they don’t know what to do. I mean the rules clearly state that if there is no Treat provided they must now Trick

That’s a lot of pressure on a 6 year old.

Luckily Z will usually come to the rescue and dig out a pack of Dentyne or something and throw it into their bag. Sounds odd, I know, but at least their breath smells minty fresh when they get to the next house…and 4 out of 5 Dentists approve!

No kidding, one time we actually had to start doling out my supply of Peppermint Dentyne, just to get through the final rush. Then we quickly shut the door and turned out the lights. 

Sometimes we even huddle behind the couch so as not to be seen from the windows.

Well, I better go get ready.  The Zombies are already out shuffling around getting their little “Haunted House” thing set up.  The Witches are still working on their broom routines and the Vampires are rolling out the candy filled caskets.

Hard to compete with all that.

I do feel sorry for the Werewolves though.  Nobody ever goes to their house any more.  Not since that little over salivation incident a few years back. Now they don’t even turn on the light.

I don’t know…they’re Werewolves. Shouldn’t we cut them a little bit of slack? 

I mean it's Halloween.

If not now...when?


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Saturday, October 29, 2011

October Snow?

So this has to mean something, right?

Snow…in October…before Halloween?

What is this...Lake Wobegon?

I haven’t seen snow in October since I was a wee innocent student up in Syracuse. It was bad enough that I was forced to don my winter coat by Columbus Day, but my freshman year it snowed around October 15. At first I thought I was hallucinating, due to the mind altering fumes that emanated from my roommates clothes. But no…it was the real thing.

Snow in October.

 I was so depressed at the thought that I wasn’t going to see grass again, the green kind you walk on, until May…if then. 

Of course the next day it was 60 degrees and it all melted. So I was relieved. Fooled again by the fickle forecasts of Central New York.

But I can never remember snow down in lower Westchester in October. 

November, maybe…December, most definitely; even as late as April.

But never October.

And now, here it is. 

On top of everything today was lawn mowing day, and since I’m very rigid in my lawn care I had to stick to schedule. 

Snow shooting through the lawnmower is an interesting experience. Maybe I should have shoveled first.

So I thought I’d better write up a special retort to addresses the situation. The only previous special retort was back on June 18th to report the first firefly sighting of the year. And now I’m reporting the first fire sighting of the year…in my fire place.

Other than a rather large tree branch that Z and I had to drag out of the street with the help of our next door neighbor, who is not a ghoul of any sort—although he is a lawyer—there was not a lot of excitement…luckily...knock wood..

The first snow fall was of the heavy glop variety and was sticking to the limbs of my huge silver maple like weighted marshmallow fluff.  So it was a little disconcerting to see all the limbs drooping precariously, especially the one over my power line. 
As Z and I were putting the finishing touches on the clean up a loud crack sounded from above.  We both looked up expecting to see a huge branch plummeting towards us. Naturally, I screamed like a woman…”We’re going to die!” as Z pushed us both out of the way, or mostly me, back up on the sidewalk where we watched a tiny little branch float harmlessly to the ground.  

In the end nothing substantial fell, but it could have…and I was ready.

Just not as much as Z.

Luckily the wet snow abated, somewhat, and the limbs began to straighten back up. Except for Sponge Bob, which is what we call a large 7 foot bush by our front door, because he resembles the little crustacean…and because we are odd.

So now we are sitting by the fire, warm and snug awaiting the baked manicotti that Z prepared as our first stick to the ribs storm dinner of the year. And despite, or perhaps because of, my half Italian heritage, I pronounce it just like it’s spelled, Man-a-cotti…and not like a real Italian who pronounces it Mana…and something that sounds like they are choking on phlegm.

So all in all it was a rather nothing storm…except I heard they ran out of ketchup or catsup, at CVS. It’s probably the Zombies. They like to entertain a lot this time of year and nothing goes with human flesh like Ketchup…or catsup.

Snow on the pumpkin…

Go figure.

Friday, October 28, 2011

The Zombies are Annoyed

So now the Zombies are annoyed with me.


Apparently they read my last story about their big heads  and took offense.

Who knew they could even read?

Zombies…so sensitive.

You never hear a peep from the Vampires and nary a howl from the Werewolves.  Maybe because I’m always complimenting the wolves’ on their torn and tattered clothing.

Hey, it works for them.  What can I say?

So the Mother-in-Law/Grandma Zombie shows up at my front door and rings the bell. 

I thought it was the UPS guy, so imagine my surprise when I open the door and find Grandma Zombie standing there, decomposing all over my newspaper.

What now? I thought.

She didn’t say anything; she just looked at me but I could tell there was some attitude.

And there’s nothing worse than Zombie attitude…unless you’re married…

So I stammered a bit and said, “I guess you read the piece, huh? 

I think she may have nodded, but it’s hard to tell since they move very cautiously in social situations.

“Look, it was just meant to be satirical. I don’t really think that…sort of.”

Z came out from the kitchen and shot me a look. She’s always warning me about taking things too far.  I could already hear what she was thinking, what’s wrong with you…I told you the Zombies were oversensitive!

“Hello there”, Z says as she approaches the door. “I was just making myself a cup of tea; come in and join me!”

I’m a bit stunned by all this cordiality from the woman who won’t even answer the door to pay the pizza guy; now she’s cozying up to Zombies?

“Sure,” I follow up.  “Come on in…I think we have some Halloween cookies too.”

I felt a little stupid, but it was all I could think to say.

Grandma Zombie smiled…I think, and shuffled through the door and into the kitchen with Z.

I know it sounds terrible but all I kept thinking was… I have a Zombie in my house...a Zombie.

So we sat at the kitchen table, exchanging pleasantries as neighbor will do when they’re getting to know one another. Z asked about her grandchildren and Grandma Zombie took out a few pictures she had in her purse. You could see it had been a very nice purse in its time, but now it was a little cracked and tattered. Kind of like her, but hey, who isn’t…?

Z made a fuss over the grandkid’s pictures, but to be honest, I’ve seen better autopsy photos.

All the same I expressed my approval as well.

“Cute kids.  How old are they...?”

How old are they?  What a stupid question to ask the resurrected, I immediately thought, kicking myself.  

Grandma Zombie just glanced at me with that look that Zombies get sometimes. You know, the one that’s a cross between confusion and disdain.  Then she started licking her lips…so I passed her the cookies.

This went on for a while until the doorbell rang again. 

I would do anything to get out of there so I jumped to my feet and said, perhaps a bit too enthusiastically, “I’ll get it!”

Z just shook her head in that subtle way that no one can detect, except for me, so I hurried off to the door.

“Hi…we were conjuring up some holiday treats and we thought we’d be good neighbors and bring you some!”

It was Hannah and Helga, the cute Witch couple from next door.

“Hey”, I said, genuinely pleased to see them. “I haven’t seen you Witches since the middle of the summer. Where’ve you been keeping yourselves?”

Hannah handed me a colorful plate with an array of chocolate covered something on it; I couldn’t tell if it was eye of knute or toe of frog.  Last year they brought wool of bat and tongue of dog, and the year before that a delicious hell-broth boil and bubble that really hit the spot on a cool October day.

“Oh, you know how it is, with Witches these days. There was some last minute business that came up overseas, and with all the layoffs, there was no one else to handle it, so we had to fly off on a moment’s notice.”

I just nodded, but in truth I had no idea what kind of business the Witches were in and I wasn’t in a hurry to find out. Sometimes its better not knowing what the neighbors are up to…if you catch my drift.

“Hey, one of the Zombies from across the street is here having tea, why don’t you come in and join us?’

Helga bristled at the word Zombie and said, “You let a Zombie into your house?”

Hannah added, “I thought I smelled something rotten.”

I had no idea that there was such animosity between Witches and Zombies. I just thought they were all in the same boat and would naturally get along.

Not the case…uh uh.

Just then Z came around the corner with Grandma Zombie and you could suddenly cut the tension in the room with a silver knife. 

There was this big ugly hiss, which, at first, I thought came from Z, since she’s not as fond of the Witches as I am, but it actually came from Grandma Zombie, and I have to tell you it was a little pointed, if not just rude.

The Witches’ stiffened, made some odd hand gestures that I wasn’t familiar with and spoke a few phrases in a language also unfamiliar. Then they turned and walked off in a huff.

“Thanks for the treats!” I shouted after them, but they just kept walking and didn’t acknowledge me.

Great, I thought. Now the Witches are annoyed with me too. What next, the Vampires?

Once the sour aura had cleared the room, Z thanked Grandma Zombie for stopping by and said she hoped she could come over someday and meet the Grandkids.

Grandma Zombie made some high pitched squealing noise that I took for agreement and we wished her a Happy Halloween as she shuffled up the walk.

She was nearly to her front door across the street when I noticed she had left one of her arms on the table, so I chased after her to return it.

Zombies...its always something.

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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Zombies Have Big Heads

Today is the dark of the moon, a day when it's said the veil between worlds is at its thinnest.  Secrets from the other side are revealed to all that are willing to see…except the secret recipes for Coke, KFC & McDonald’s special sauce.

Its also Halloween time and I have to tell you, the Zombies across the street have gotten big heads.

I mean what’s left of their heads. 

People are always taking shots at Zombie’s heads because they’re badly misunderstood.

Ever since the “Night of the Living Dead” came out in 1968 people assume that all Zombies are merely the undead walking aimlessly from town to town in search of human flesh.

 I mean there is some of that, but not to the extent that people think. They enjoy a nice vegetable dish with rice, from time to time, as well

So people see Zombies walking down the street and what do they do?  They remember that one silly line that stands out from all the rest. 

“Kill the brain…kill the ghoul”.

Anyway, they’ve gotten big heads because after a bit of a down period there’s a resurgence of Zombies in films and on TV; they’re practically everywhere you look, these days.

So I guess they’re entitled.

A couple of years ago it was the Vampires down the street who were doing all the howling.

Finally,” they said. “People are seeing we're more than just peaked hairlines, bad teeth and capes with red satin linings!”

And that’s true…the Vampire woman down the street is just another soccer mom who waves hello every morning as she flies by the house after a night of bloodletting. And once you get past the fangs she has quite a nice smile.

I was talking to her husband one day—I think he works on Wall Street—while he was outside washing his coffin. He was telling me how hard it used to be for your average, run of the mill Vampire to get around without causing a flap.  Now, he said, because of the recent popularity of all the Vampire books and movies, people at least recognize that Vampires have feelings, just like everyone else. Say something disparaging to a Vampire and their hearts bleed, with or without a stake through it, just like yours and mine. Sure, the bloods a different color, but it hurts just the same.

And now they have to deal with all the Zombies shuffling around like they’re the only ghouls in town.

To be honest, the Zombies across the street aren’t as friendly as the Vampires by half. They really don’t say a lot, and to be honest, they smell a little. I mean is there a rule or something that says a Zombie can’t take a bath once in awhile.

There’re 5 of them. A mom and a dad Zombie…I think, but with Zombies who can tell. 2 teenage Zombies, a boy and a girl…again, I think.  And I believe the mother-in-law/Grandma Zombie lives in the basement apartment. An illegal basement apartment, I should add, but who wants to get on the wrong side of the undead. 

I don’t even know any of the Zombies by name.  My friend’s daughter is in the same class with the girl Zombie, but she doesn’t know her name either. She says all she does is sit there all day, looking bored, playing with her hair…after it falls out on the floor.

Once, while they were out, I snuck over to check their mail. I figured I could peek at a cable bill or something and catch a name, but that was a dead end. All I found was junk mail addressed: To our Zombies at 1313 Mockingbird Lane.

Junk mail…no one’s immune.

So I continue to wave and say hello as they mow their lawn and walk they’re Zombie dog. Hey, just because they’re rude doesn’t mean I have to sink to their level.

I mean I kind of get where they’re coming from. If people were constantly criticizing and taking shots at my head all the time, I would be a little standoffish too.

Besides, they’re good to all the kids on Halloween who really get a kick out of them.  They’ll slump there all night long, handing out all sorts of treats as long as the kids keep coming. Sure, sometimes a wayward finger and in rare instances a hand snaps off and causes a bit of a stir, but hey, they’re Zombies…get over it.

So I say, let the Zombies have their night in the moon. These things run in cycles; before we know it the werewolves will be back in vogue. 

If it were you or me we’d be holding our heads high too.

Just not in our hands….


Monday, October 24, 2011

In Short

Reader’s Digest is having a writing contest in which you’re invited to tell your life story, in a 150 words or less, for a chance to win $2,500 and a spot in their magazine. A small spot since that’s pretty much all they have.

It’s a promotion for a new book they have coming out called “Life, the Reader’s Digest VERSION”.  It’s in conjunction with Facebook, so you have to have an account to enter, which is disappointing, but this is the way of the world today.  

I guess 800 million Facebook subscribers aren’t enough, so cross promotion is in order. I mean there’re still almost 699 billion people out there who haven’t bought in yet; 699 billion and one if you include me.

So I didn’t enter the contest but I thought it was an interesting idea and exercise in word discipline to reduce your life to just a couple of short paragraphs.

So here’s what I came up with…138 words.

I was born 3/30/54 at 11:17 AM EST.  By 11:30 I was bored, having seen most of what I needed to see and asked to watch TV. I was brought to the nursery where I was annoyed to find a preemie already watching Crusader Rabbit.  I wanted to watch the news. 
Preemies…always the first in line.
Eventually, with the help of a good therapist, I got over it and moved on with my life. Much of my pre-school years were spent living in my head in and out of various adventures. Much of my school years were spent living out of my head, wishing I were back inside. My post graduate years to the present are a combination of both as I am a writer…sort of.

There’ve been good days and bad.

The rest remains to be written.

I even inflated the font for the most important part in case you wanted the Reader’s Digest condensed version.

So it got me thinking about how we would hone down other important events of the past.

The Creation

Once you take out all the biblical flourishes that pretty much says about all we really know.

The Discovery of America

Despite rumors to the contrary that America had already been discovered by explorers such as Leif Erickson and Amerigo Vespucci, Christopher Columbus is credited as the first, mostly because neither Vespucci Day nor Erickson Ohio roll of the tongue as easily as Columbus.  The common thread among the latter two is their experience in map making, which was marginal as both were said to be looking for a short cut to the Far East by traveling west. Erickson on the other hand was merely out pillaging and joy sailing, spotted a McDonalds...and stopped for fries.

The rest, as they say, is History.

The American Revolution

A group of New England Patriots, after turning Boston Harbor into a giant cup of tea and defeating the New York Jets 30-21, proclaimed “No taxation without representation…or at least free TV”. This led to hard feelings amongst their British occupiers who donned their red coats, because tweed was out of season, and charged up Bunker Hill for no apparent reason since it was said that most had already visited the monument and there really isn’t all that much to see.  This eventually led to the American Declaration of Independence, which severed all ties with the British until the Beatles introduced their unique sound of rhythm and harmony from sea to shining sea in the mid 1960’s.  Free TV, however, is a thing of the past.

The rest, as they say, is History.

Biography of Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln was born February 12, 1809 in Kentucky in a log cabin. Self-educated, Lincoln was known to spend hours reading and practiced his numbers on the back of an iron skillet, which caused numerous problems as his mother was cooking at the time. He had few friends due to his bookish ways and the odd beard he sported since the age of 5. When asked by his father why he didn’t grow the mustache, he is said to have replied, “It’s a look.” He later moved to Illinois and was known for his exceptional skills as an orator, which disappointed him since he preferred to be known for his skills as a basketball player, despite his inability to jump.  He became a politician, was elected President, preserved the union then went to the theatre, which killed him, since he had hoped to order in and watch Survivor.  (1809-02-12)

So as you can see, when telling a story, any story, we spend way too much time on insignificant details. Most of what’s important can be summed up in under 150 words.

Except for this blog.

And Little Richard.

The rest, as they say, is History….

Friday, October 21, 2011

Adventures in Groceries

Z asked me if I could run down to the Grocery store for her the other day.

I figured, why not, since I had a 7 or 8 hour hole in my schedule, I could squeeze it in.

“Are you sure?” she asked.

“What could be so difficult?” I said, a little annoyed. “You think I’ve never been to the grocery store before?”

“Not since 1979,” she countered.

“Just send me the list…I’m sure I can handle it!”

So she e-mailed me the list and off I went...eventually.

I mean how hard could it be and it wasn’t like this was a major shopping trip. Just a mid-week tune up.

Aside from the crate of tangerines I picked up instead of the requested 3, and the zucchini that looks remarkably like a cucumber.  And who can tell if a seedless grape has seeds in it or not?

I mean really…who?

Aside from those little miscues, everything went off without a hitch.

Okay, so I thought the cool little car wagons were self-propelled and easy enough to get in and out of…which they’re not.

And if you don’t count the mix up at the automated deli machine…which I still contend could happen to anybody…who had trouble with fractions in 4th grade.

I’m sure 5 pounds. of bologna will keep.

As well as the 14 gallons of chickpea soup…even if it is a little dusty.

And I’m sure they have some kind of special machine that will pick up all those broken eggs and make something productive from them.  I mean I know the ones that fell into that woman’s purse are probably history…or will be once she finds them.  But I’m sure they can use most of them in the potato salad or something.

I know they need to make a lot more because of an incident that I still say was a great big tadoo about nothing.

They have this cool new gadget at the grocery store now that you carry around with you so you can scan all your items as you put them into your cart. You have to be careful though because if you’re not you can scan a whole aisle of kibble and borscht...and kitty litter.    And if you don’t have a dog or a cat or know anyone from the Ukraine, these items are pretty much empty purchases.

I also cloned several people’s cell phones so I’m getting to know a lot of new folks. 

So that’s definitely a plus….

Of course I couldn’t have found half the things I found without asking for a little help. To be honest, some of the ladies in the store seemed to be having "one of those days"…like when I was standing in the canned goods section…in the middle of the aisle, next to the guy stocking the soup, trying to find the chicken gumbo…lite.

Finally after 5 or 10 minutes one nice lady, who was muttering to herself, probably because the stock guy was blocking the aisle, started throwing cans into my carriage including 5 or 6 cans of gumbo.  Well, they mostly hit me first, but she was in the general direction.

I was so moved by her kindness that I wanted to pay it forward so I helped another nice, but somewhat older, lady who was having trouble putting her corn nibblets and string beans back on the shelf.  She could barely reach the top, standing on her little tippy toes, poor thing, so I took the 5 cans she still had in her carriage and put them back up there for her.

It was the least I could do. 

She stared thanking me effusively in a language I was unfamiliar with but I could tell by her hand gestures that she was saying I was number one in her book. She was also scratching her chin a lot…I think she might have had a skin condition.

The lines at the checkout aisles were pretty long, but I noticed they had these self-service aisles, which were shorter. In fact the express lane, which said less than 15 items only, was completely free. I counted my items and found that as luck would have it I had 35, not counting the borscht and kibble.

Close enough, I thought, who would begrudge me a few extra items.

Besides, that’s really more of a guideline than a rule…right?

And nobody did, except people must have thought I had indigestion, maybe because of all the borscht, and kept tossing little rolls of tums in my direction.

Because of the little scanner, I didn’t even need to run my items down the conveyor belt, but I have to admit I had some trouble trying to figure out how to pay with it.

I kept holding it in various places around the machine, until eventually I looked like the statue of liberty. Soon the little light above my aisle began to blink on and off. I figured that must have done the trick so I rolled on out the store.

There were a lot of bells and whistle going off as I walked into the parking lot. I figured someone must have won a prize or something…maybe a lifetime supply of borscht.

Actually the whole experience was kind of fun…and so easy.

Maybe next time I’ll figure out how to drive the little car wagons.