Halloween and Trust; A Holiday We Love Incorporates a Virtue Society Needs

This Halloween I left my house at 6:30 to pick up my kids from their mom. As I drove through my neighborhood, I saw the first few early bird trick-or-treaters flitting quickly from house to house and it brought a tear to my eye. I didn’t understand exactly why until I got home with the kids and we began our own evening of candy hunting. As I watched the kids running from door to door, crossing the street on a whim, laughing and hollering about which house was next, staying just within the boundaries of what I thought to be a safe distance from me, I realized I had teared up earlier because Halloween is such a trusting holiday.

This may sound like a strange idea, but our Halloween actions truly denote a level of trust in our neighbors that I hope we never lose. We put our children in costumes and canvas neighborhoods, sometimes not even our own, in attempts to take candy from strangers in the strangers’ own territories. On any other day of the year, we’ve lost our minds! But that one night a year it is perfectly fine to throw all the rules out the window and trick-or-treat.

I worry a lot. I worry about things that most other people probably wouldn’t even consider.  When I first published my book I got back onto social media, which I had shunned for approximately two years, and I was sick to my stomach with worry that I’d somehow overly complicated my life. My wife is a saint in sinner’s clothing though, and she showed me the ridiculousness of my concerns when she stated, in a whiney sing-song voice, “Oh noooooo….I have a Faaaacebooook!” It really put the situation into perspective. The point I’m making here is that, despite my sometimes crippling worry and anxiety, I felt no concern as we walked in the middle of the street in the dark begging for treats from people we didn’t know. The few cars we saw drove so very slowly as they passed that a kid would’ve had to really try to get hit.

What about the candy?, some might ask. But in all my own trick-or-treating years and the 8 I’ve so far shared with my children, we’ve never suffered any illness other than nausea induced by over-indulgence. We’ve never found a razor blade in a caramel apple or rat poison in a candy bar. In fact, the only behavior approaching inappropriate I’ve witnessed has been on the part of my own children. Last year, the first year we handed out candy after our own trick-or-treating, my four year old son innocently enticed other children to enter our home. He is fast, reached the door before we could, and stood with his arm outstretched into the living room pleading, over and over, “Come in, guys! Come in! We have caaaaaandyyyyy!!!!” This year he and the girls stood at the door, with my wife and I close behind, and at the first hint of the sound of trick-or-treaters they bolted. Most of our visitors this year were met halfway down our driveway and had three children excitedly encouraging them to take candy from three different buckets. Most of the candy they handed out was candy my children themselves had just collected. If an adult were to act in these ways the police would surely soon be summoned. And the treats they offered would’ve lacked candy’s inherent sweetness.

In short, there are some creeps and weirdos out there who ruin Halloween for some, but they are few and far between.  And, despite the mild risk, we still dress up every year and go out with trusting hearts to bring joy to our neighbors and ourselves. I especially enjoy the smiles the elderly candy-givers display as they try to decipher my son’s over-excited babbling. Most times he is complimenting them. A few gems from this year: “I like your rocks!”, “We have that ghost!”, (in reference to an inflatable yard decoration) “You should get three ghosts!”, “Thank you for candy, you have nice pants, I like your dog!”. And a less polite offering from my picky seven year old daughter as she held aloft a bag of granola (that was delicious, by the way), and in a horrifically loud voice in close proximity to the house from which she’d received the granola, “That guy gave me food!!???!!”

I bid you adieu…and a don’t.

Adieu…enjoy Halloween for what it is. A display of neighborly trust that we desperately need in these times of danger and uncertainty.

A don’t…be too hard on your daughter if she’s mildly (very) rude. After all, kids have been trained by the very name of the act of trick-or-treating to expect things they consider treats. But adieu…gently advise them not to look a gift ghost in the black cavity that represents a mouth.

 

 

 

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Mothman: Another Misunderstood Monster

As far as I can tell from all the Mothman stories I’ve read and that one movie I watched, Mothman, although menacing in appearance, was after nothing so substantial as our very souls.

I’ll explain. I read no accounts of disemboweled animals. No eviscerated owls or exsanguinated cattle were ever found that I know of. Simply humans. Frightened horrified humans. And what is one thing that all humans, especially suburbanites in the 50’s, have in common?

They have clothes on. Right? No one that I read about was out for a nude stroll when Mothman confronted them. They were out with their families having completely G-rated (and in the case of the teens that saw him/her/it no more than PG, it was 50’s conservative suburbia, for crying out loud). They were wearing clothes!

Moths eat clothes. Men wear clothes. Mothman was either hungry or ashamed of his nudity. He didn’t want to horrify folks. He wanted to eat their Sunday best. He didn’t want to scare them. He couldn’t help that, by nature, he was scary. He wanted to either eat or wear their clothes and he hesitated. He never killed anyone because he just couldn’t decide which clothes looked tasty and which looked fashionable and I think, deep down, he didn’t want to kill anyone anyway. Otherwise, he would’ve.

Now, about that bridge collapse and the idea that Mothman prophesied it. Perhaps he truly did. But I think, in his innocent monster way, he didn’t show up to warn people about it. I don’t think he truly realized that people were dying. I think he simply thought “CLOTHES BUFFET!” And all the carnage was lost on him because it all had this decadent stagnant water sauce on it and he didn’t even stop to think about the terror that had been wrought on the small community he’d been terrorizing. He was, after all, a monster. A hungry, naked, confused monster.

I bid you adieu…and a don’t.

Adieu…wear clothes, even though it might attract mothman.

A don’t…stroll nude to repel him. The police are much more prevalent than mothmen and much more likely to complicate your life should they find you unclothed in public.

The Venting: Some Illogical Ranting and Raving Inspired by Inconsequential Inconveniences

If you’d care to read on, I’d like to rant and rave wildly about a few things I find mildly irritating.

Let’s start with the two lane drive-thru and the myth that it is faster. The speed of this is a mere illusion. Yes, the lines seem shorter because they bifurcate but there is still only one window. Therefore, even though you may get to place your order faster you’ll still be stuck in the “it’s my turn why are they cutting me off I’m gonna nose in front of them and hope I don’t mash my car I know I finished ordering before them why are they so rude?” bottleneck. And then there’s the “cars are moving through faster than usual because we have two lines converging into one meaning double the orders in the same amount of time so most people are going to have to park and wait anyway” bottleneck. I just don’t get it. One line is just as slow. Two lines need two windows. Just a thought. It really doesn’t matter.

Next, how about the fact that Halloween is still nearly a month out and yet most stores have given valuable seasonal shelf space away to Christmas already? I wasn’t done shopping for Halloween. It isn’t selfish to demand that we finish one season before proceeding to the next is it? I don’t want to feel haunty and cheery at the same time. It ruins both seasons for me. I suppose I could just do a mash-up and craft some rabid reindeer pulling a zombie Santa in a coffin sleigh with fake-blood fountains spewing from the exhaust pipes. But then I’d feel I was ripping off a popular Halloween-Christmas movie mash-up I’m sure you’re familiar with. Oh well. So much for originality. Boo to early Christmas. If you love Christmas (I do too, but not when it detracts from Halloween) thanks for reading on anyway.

Finally, silly texting while driving deterrents. The science behind the danger involves driver distraction. I guess, then, it only makes sense to distract people from texting and driving by littering the highways with flashing billboards shining quirky mantras about the dangers of distracted driving straight into the “let’s forget what we’re doing and look at the shiny thing” centers of drivers’ brains. Granted, it is a momentary distraction and not a “Gotta-let-the-significant-other-know-about-that funny-slogan-I just-read-right-this-instant” temptation sitting right in the lap or center console. But have you ever been behind someone who suddenly screeched to a near stop to get a better look at something? I think those signs are just as dangerous as the act of texting while driving. Ultimately it comes down to personal responsibility and consideration for the safety of others.  No flashing, distractive sign can instill that. If it wouldn’t further contribute to the problem I’m ranting against I’d print and sell a bunch of bumper stickers that say things like “Quit reading my bumper sticker and drive!” or “I was involved in a near fatal accident because I was paying attention to the humorous slogan plastered on another drivers car instead of the road.”  That’s a good one because the print would have to be really small and drivers would have to get dangerously close  to read it. I sarcastically proclaim that we can only fix the problem by first making it worse. Envision a man shaking his fist at the sky as he stands on a hill overlooking a highway awash in the glow of flashy signs begging people to watch the road and not the signs. And then, as the crashes pile up, clogging the roadway and causing further collisions, picture him laughing maniacally as lightning flashes around him. Probably he drools a little bit. Perhaps he falls to his knees at some point.

I now concede my soap box. Feel free to climb on up and shake your own fist if you’d like.

I bid you adieu…and a don’t.

Adieu…forgive my sarcasm and negativity. Ranting and raving is a hobby of mine and I enjoy doing it at the slightest provocation.

A don’t…text and drive, drink and drive, read bumper stickers and drive, read billboards and road signs (other than the ones that advise you of road conditions and traffic rules, of course) and drive, or read this blog post and drive. Just drive. If not for your own safety, do it for the safety of your fellow man

 

Multiple Burnings; Perhaps I Should Be Concerned

About a week ago I nearly burned down my house. It wasn’t purposeful, despite Freud’s input on the subject of accidents. I had the grand plan in mind of making a Halloween decoration. I bought a plastic skull on a pedestal at the dollar store with the idea of putting a candle in the top and answering the door for trick or treaters while holding it and offering an Alfred Hitchcocky “Goood Eeev’ning” before dispensing treats (and bookmarks depicting my children’s book. A shameless marketing ploy, forgive me).

“Here’s a nice led candle!” My wife wisely stated as I fantasized about the most spookiest time of the year.

“Real.” I dumbly asserted. “I want to be authentic.”

So we bought real candles. The tapered kind. I decided I wanted wax dripped all over the non-authentic skull. I carefully cut a perfectly sized hole in the skull and placed one of my candles inside. I (dumbly) waited until the next day when my wife was at work and set the thing on the kitchen counter. I lit the candle and let it burn while I did dishes. After dishes, I cooked breakfast and ate while watching documentaries on YouTube. After this I checked the candle, saw that it was nearly halfway burned down and thought to myself I’ll go to the bathroom and then blow out the candle. 

Only, I didn’t blow out the candle. I went to my room, sat in my bed and played Fallout. A guilty pleasure I sometimes engage in due to my obsession with survival skills and post-apocalyptic living. Several times during my foray into fantasy I considered going to get my glasses. They were on the kitchen counter. Several times I decided that not getting up was preferable to reading the dialogue on the screen.

After a while I began to smell something. I wondered absentmindedly why someone would be burning plastic.

The smell got stronger, and I absentmindedly wondered why they were burning so much plastic.

I didn’t become concerned until my English Mastiff, Stella, burst through my bedroom door, whining. She hid as well as she could under my bedside table, which wasn’t very well at all. She’s a monster. Basically she hid her nose under the bedside table. Several things clicked in my brain then, and I sprang from my bed uttering words I am normally loathe to use. I tripped over my blankets, my dog, my own feet. I ran to the kitchen to find a flaming puddle of molten plastic on my counter and, somehow, another on my floor a couple of feet away. The house survives but I’m going to replace a countertop and a good chunk of floor.

Unfortunately for my wife, she decided to keep me.

Last night I was attempting to light a candle the authentic way, with a wooden match. My wife was standing nearby, to her detriment. I’ve realized she loves me to her detriment. As I struck the match, the tip caught fire then broke cleanly from the…handle?…of the match and landed, flaming, on her shirt. We both stared at the tiny conflagration for a moment before I punched her in the stomach to save her life. Not hard, mind you, just hard enough to save her life.

In less than I month I’ve nearly burned down both my house and my wife. It seems it runs in my family. My dad has had some very close calls with fire most, as are mine, of his own making.

My poor mom. My poor house. My poor wife.

I bid you adieu…and a don’t.

Adieu…avoid me. Just avoid me. If you value your life and the in-charred status of your home, body and belongings avoid me.

A don’t…judge me. Pyromania is a genetic trait.

Halloween Book Reviews: It’s Not Too Early to be Halloweeny

It has been a tradition of mine for the past few years to find some new horror novel, preferably from an author I’ve never read before, and start reading about mid September. Ideally, I like to finish it on Halloween although this doesn’t always happen.

I read two a couple of years ago. The first was so engrossing I finished it before October, the second so chilling and wonderful that I read it twice before Halloween arrived. Following are reviews of these two books.

“Harvest Home” by Thomas Tryon was a book I purchased and hadn’t really planned to read. I bought it at an antique store my wife and I went to on our first date. It looked old. That was what first drew me to it. The dust cover was tattered and the art work wrought upon it was simple. A quaint town set amidst rolling hills in colors that, though less than garish, stand out well against the pen and ink, or perhaps charcoal, tree of faces and scythes hashed in on the side. The hashing continues around the spine and becomes fairly dramatic on the back cover. I bought it for that. I put it on a bookshelf and forgot it. Somehow it happened to catch my eye around the right time of year and as soon as I picked it up I was loathe to put it back down, even after finishing it.

It is a horror novel, but it is more than that. It isn’t guts and gore and beings from other realms stalking people or causing nightmares. It’s much more subtle than that and somehow more ferocious for its subtlety. It is a mix of small town traditions and innocent seeming yet ultimately deadly folklore. I don’t want to go into too much detail, in case you decide you’d like to read it for yourself, but the way the author weaves in the nightmarish bits without giving away their true role in the storyline is masterful. He evokes a charm and small-town homey feeling while at the same time tickling the imagination with details that could be perceived as innocent but are tinged with a certain insidiousness. Certainly a wonderful read and one that fits the feelings of the fall/harvest season as well as Halloween. I highly recommend it.

Second is “Something Wicked This Way Comes” by Ray Bradbury. This one is about creatures from another realm stalking people and causing nightmares. It has an extremely Halloween tone to it and is just pure fun if you enjoy the scary season. It is dark and disturbing without being overly vulgar. It is deeper than a book of nightmarish things though. Mr. Bradbury is a master at channeling the child within. He has a way with descriptive words and his works are unlike those of any other author I’ve read. If you’ve never read any of his books or short stories, treat yourself to this one. It is likely you’ll become obsessed and strive to devour every word he’s written. That’s what happened to me anyway. In fact, remembering this book has inspired me to write about another of his. Yay. Bonus paragraph.

“The Halloween Tree” is just as good and Halloweeny as “Something Wicked This Way Comes”. It has a similar dark tone and is also romantically reminiscent of childhood. It was made into an animated T.V. special and this is just as good as the book itself. It follows a group of kids on Halloween as they pursue the spirit of their coolest friend through the historic origins and evolutions of Halloween traditions. As I’ve found to be the case with all of Ray Bradbury’s works, it is masterfully written and uniquely descriptive. The book and animated special both put me in a delightfully somber yet somehow still light-hearted spooking mood. Another must if you love Halloween or reading in general.

I bid you adieu…and a don’t.

Adieu…read as many books as you can get your hands on. There are unexpected treasures everywhere.

A don’t…pass up the three I’ve mentioned here. If you’re a Halloween junkie like me they’ll certainly get you into the spirit of the season.