Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Halloween Show!

I don't get it.

Never did.  But really, doctor, I think it started in the second grade, in Ms. Wright's class (yeah I know they didn't say Ms. in 1962 but I can't remember if it was Miss or Mrs.). Google says Whipple School was on 5th Avenue (no, the building is on 4th Avenue) and 121st St (this is correct).  A child care center is there now.  But in 1962, that place of red brick and metal fire escapes held Kindergarten through third grade for the Lansingburgh section of Troy, NY. And in the back of the building, on the left, was Ms. Wright's home room.

Halloween 1962.  We had no idea, or a very vague one at best, that the world had just come as close to nuclear war as it had ever come just a few days early with the Cuban Missile Crisis. All we knew was Halloween was coming, and "who were you gonna dress up as?"

I had my plan: 

Yep, right from the department store (J.M. Fields). Mask and costume.  Halloween was the day you could wear your costume to school, and the principal had allowed us to have a party in the afternoon.  Desks were put in a circle and every child had to do a short talk about who they were pretending to be and why.  Now this is 50 years back (wow) so memory of being 7 is a challenge, but I do recall Jim Zlotnick was dressed as an astronaut and he climbed under a desk, curled up in a semi foetal position, back on the floor.. He yelled '10, 9, 8, 7, 6......" and on down to "Blast off!" and then went back to his seat.  I have no idea what anyone else did.  I know what I did.  I got to the middle of the floor and

Yabba. Dabba. Do.

Then I went back to my seat.  My first and final public performance until I threw up in Mrs. Hamilton's 4th grade class, but that's another blog (Great Moments in Vomit History).

That night I went trick or treating with some neighbors.  We went to what was soon to be described, in Lansingburgh lore, as the Addams Family House:

I have been in actual haunted houses. Nothing creeps me out like this place does, even 50 years later.  But what did Halloween in for me was a vanilla colored brick house six blocks from my home. I rang the bell, as I was told by my neighbors to do, and waited.  The door was opened by a tall swarthy man with slicked back hair, and a bowling shirt, black slacks and white Hush Puppies. He had a big cigar in his left hand. Loud music came from behind him.

"What the hell do you want?" he said in his best Tony Manero voice.

"Trick or treat?" I said.

He looked at me, and then the rest of the group.  He did one of those "Jeez, can you believe this?" shakes of the head.

"Kid, its my poker night. I don't do no tricks or treats. Get outta here."

Slam.  I suddenly had to go to the bathroom.  I asked to go home.  Sure, I had gotten candy, trolling behind the group (just ahead of the guy in the Charlie Brown ghost costume, who got the rock) and grabbing the dregs.  I went home, and never did go out again.  I went a party, I think, the following year, but then stayed home and answered the door, which soon fell into neglect (the answering, not the door), and now Halloween for me is an annoyance.  My wife answers the door now, and coo-hoos over the kids.

"I don't do no tricks or treats."

Maybe thats why I had problems at my job in a welfare office, doctor.  At age six, I could not understand why I was asking people to give me candy, and I didn't know many of these people at all.  And why were they giving this stuff to me? I was not going to hurt them or play tricks on them if they didn't.  I never went back and egged Tony Manero's house.  But oddly I still look at that place each time I'm in Lansingburgh.  I just never got understood why you go to a building, ask people you don't know for something, and then if they don't do it, threaten them, but if that's what you want to do, fine, have a great time.  Most do.

Now if you're talking spooky stuff, I'll take a HP Lovecraft story anytime.

HP. Born weird. Lived weird. Died weird.  Thanks, Howard.

Isn't weird a great word?

So that's where I'll be going soon. To the book shelf. The weird book shelf, where HP, Mr. Poe and Mr. Bradbury reside in weird bliss, terrifying each other with stories old and new and weird.

Happy Halloween.  Here's something really scary. We are now officially in the "Holiday Season."

Thanks for reading.  More soon.

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