Friday, October 31, 2014

Howling for Halloween

Well, we all know what tonight is and if we don't, the sight of Zombies across the street in costume should be a dead give a way—or un-dead giveaway.

Of course they don’t really need to dress up, but they’re sensitive to the fact that most people are still skittish around them, so they like to show folks they’re really no different than anyone else.

You know, except for the fact that they’re re-animated corpses and they don’t really like the Food Network.

Other than that….

So there they are, all dolled up as various characters from Toy Story and Frozen…even a couple of Teenage Ninja Mutant Turtles, which actually works for them.

I was talking to Burt about it, yesterday, as they were putting the final touches on the various trap doors and false walls they installed in their spook house.  He said, or I think he said that they find it safer to go with the more popular cartoon themes, rather than dressing up as other ghouls.

They tried that a few years back, and some of the local werewolves, witches and vampires kind of got bent out of shape over it.

Not that it was surprising to see the vampires and witches getting their noses out of joint—they’re sensitive to every little slight imaginable—but it was out of character for the werewolves to start howling about it; especially back then, when they weren’t the most popular lycanthropes in town.

Anyway, it got me thinking back to when I was a kid, and the difficulty I had coming up with a suitable costume, every year.

I mean, talk about stress producing.  I pretty much started agonizing over it the second I unloaded my bag of candy and began arranging them by size and color.

Of course, throughout all that night's trick or treating I made a careful study of what most of the other kids in the neighborhood had put together, which probably accounted for all those falls into the leaf piles.

Halloween costumes at that time were pretty much divided into the simple, the elaborate, the creative and the cheap.

And probably not much has changed today.

The cheap would be to simply grab some of your old clothes out of the rag bag, tear some more holes in them, rub some burned cork on your face, tie a rag onto a stick and voila…instant…uhm…hobo.

Not sure if that’s politically correct to say or even do anymore, but that’s what we did back then, in a pinch.

And if you were really ambitious you could get your mom to iron on some of those sticky patchie thingies that curled at the corners.

You could also throw on your personal cowboy hat and guns, Davey Crocket coonskin cap and long rifle, Indian feathers with bow and arrow and go in that direction as well.

The elaborate get-ups consisted of going to an actual costume shop and renting a lion, scarecrow or tin man suit…Superman, Frankenstein, Dracula…all realistic…all very expensive, and all pretty much unseen in my neighborhood…and if they were, you made sure to cross the street, because you could never be sure they weren’t real.

The creative tended to be the best of the best when it came to costumes. My cousin once painted a bunch of boxes silver, tied them around his shoulders and head and made himself into a robot.  He actually stills wears it…to this day, every day.

A friend once wrapped herself up in gauze and made herself into a mummy, which delighted all the other neighborhood kids. One of these days, she hopes to get it all unwrapped.

And if you had a handy mom, dad, grandma or grandpa, they could whip you up a Raggedy Ann, Barbie, Cinderella or Dorothy from OZ costume…any or all of which could lead to trouble if you wore it to the school Halloween party…believe me, I know.

And of course the simplest costumes were the ones that came in a box, featuring various characters from skeletons to werewolves to Tevye from Fiddler.  You just stepped into this flimsy cottony jumpsuit, tied it around your neck and avoided any open flames. And don’t forget the hot plastic mask that tended to collect your drool and kept you from seeing too much other than the inside of the mask.  Plus, don’t forget the ultra hi-tech fastening device—aka rubber band—that pretty much tore out your hair and cut a line into the back of your head.

But it was all worth it, and still is, because there’s only one day a year when you’re allowed to go panhandling from door to door in search of the elusive full size snicker bar.

And I know it’s only one day a year because back in the 60s I tried it in February…and March…and July…and nothing.

Not even a “How cute you look!”

So however you choose to dress up, tonight, make sure you compliment the Zombies on their costumes, and always say Trick or Treat, followed by a big thank you.

Because to be honest, I’m not really sure what those trap doors and false walls are for…and I’m pretty sure none of us want to find out.

Nobody wants a repeat of the Columbus Day incident…nobody….


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  1. Great story, Brian, and so many memories spring to mind. No store bought costumes for me! I was always one of the creative ones that would throw on a raincoat and carry a fishing pole and even did the "hobo" one a few times. It's amazing the things you can fit inside that rag on a stick - my cat seemed to like it! I think I like the Robin Hood one the best - nothing like tights and a homemade bow and arrow to bring everyone to attention! Happy Halloween, my friend!

    1. Thanks, Pami. We only had one Halloween together and I'm not sure you and your big sisters even let me hang with you that time. I do know I was Zoro that year...I have the kindergarten picture to prove it, mustache and all!


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