Sunday, October 31, 2010

My problem with Halloween

Preface: This is one of those posts where I will relate bits of my personal history that unveil the workings of my mind, and as such, may be viewed as (a) self indulgent (b) pathetic (c) whiny, or (d) all of the above. I proceed apace, undeterred.

Central thesis: Halloween sucks for me.

Argument: Halloween, for me, is like almost every other holiday - front-loaded with anticipation, and rarely providing a commensurate payoff. And that stems from a series of childhood incidents that left me as unfulfilled as a trick-or-treating kid who sees a toothbrush dropped into his candy bag.

There were at least three elementary school Halloween disasters - my Halloween baggage. Being just as "actor-y" at age six as I am today, the selection of a costume was of immense importance. My mother always offered to sew up something, so we would peruse the Butterick patterns at J.C. Penney and I would usually find something super cool that I wanted to be. In disaster number one, I had chosen to be a matador, and mama had put in the hours at the sewing machine to make me the elegant, dashing character I wanted to be. The disaster ensued when I tried on the outfit for the first time, looked in the mirror, and was brutally reminded that I was a rotund little bastard and the word "dashing" was waaaaaayyyyy down there on the list of descriptors. I looked like a 6 year-old, blonde Oliver Hardy. I think I ended up being something else that year - some get up in which my lard was better disguised. And I had a bad taste in my mouth for days. But that may have been the circus peanuts.

Disaster number two came the following year - third grade, I think. Always the excitable boy, I was manic for the coming of the big day and the wonderful Halloween parade at school, which consisted of walking up the street about 200 yards and walking back. The social event of the year. Can't even recall now the costume I had come up with this time, but I remember thinking it was absolutely the best ever, and I would be widely admired. I never got to find out. Instead I was felled by an excitement-induced asthma attack and spent the entire holiday flat on my back trying to breathe. Just like in those commercials, it was like trying to breathe through a straw - and not one of those nice fat 7-11 straws but like one of those little tiny mothers that you stir your coffee with. A boy can't even work up enthusiasm for a Reese's cup in that state.

Disaster three was only 364 days away. That year I had decided to forsake the heroic costumes and go for something in which I would be totally disguised - I would leave everyone guessing for hours. "Who IS that? Is it Jimmy? Is it Frankie? Who can it be???" To achieve this goal, I talked my mom into forking out the cash to rent a gorilla suit, the full-blown, ancient, mangy gorilla suit from the costume rental shop in town. Of course, it smelled like ass (literally) and I sweated like a Swede once the head was screwed on, but I was willing to make any sacrifice for the grand theatre of mystery I was about to present. A major element of my ruse involved not speaking to anyone at the start of the day and sitting at the desk of another kid who was about my size (husky, as we liked to say) when we went into the classroom. He sat parallel to me one row away. I knew everyone would be duped by this brilliant deception. I asked to be dropped off far enough from the school so no one would see my mom's car, and the chubby, smelly, silent gorilla lumbered into the school. My masterful plan worked like a charm! Kids were pointing, talking - "Who is THAT? Who IS it?" I was monk-like in my silence, giving no clues to my identity. But my enjoyment was short-lived. With my vision obscured by the mite-infested gorilla head, I mistakenly sat in my own desk. A chorus of "Oh, it's Barry!" rang out, ending my three minutes of perfect illusion. And then I had to sit around in the stinky gorilla suit all day. An asthma attack never seemed so attractive.

Layered onto this every year was the annual let down of trick-or-treating in my rural neighborhood, which was nothing like Charlie Brown and his pals on TV, but consisted of getting in the car and being shuttled along to houses of far-flung neighbors who gave out mealy apples and inedible popcorn balls. I secretly hoped for something riddled with razor blades just for the excitement.

And to top it off, I don't like to be scared. I don't love zombies, people in Jason's hockey mask jumping out with a chainsaw. I already had an overactive imagination, for God's sake. However, I do have fond memories of the year our enthusiastic neighbor tried to fly himself off his barn on a homemade harness and wire to scare his kids, and ended up plunging into his own bonfire. That was fun.

Summation: Have a great time out there, people. I know Halloween is some folks' favorite holiday, so enjoy the shit out of it. And I will concede that it's become a better celebration since the advent of slutty costumes for women and the realization that it's a grand excuse for getting really hammered.


Kristie Tusinger said...

Barry, I think I remember that gorilla costume, I thought you always looked adorable. I love Halloween and agree with your summation but I have to add that drinking and then screaming and laughing in spook houses is the ultimate fun every October!

Kate said...

Excellent writing. Kind of like Dave Barry, only wayyyyyyy better. It's also a little like the Christmas Story (Ralphie) complete with nasty language. Have you ever thought of putting your adventures in a book? Or on film! I can see a much beloved "Halloween Story" broadcast each year for 24 hours straight on Lifetime or AMC.
Kate Weis

burgerdogboy said...

ya, you'll poke your eye out with that gorilla costume. on second thought, have you thought of renting one again for a date? I've always found that an interesting twist.

Bel Stella / Bella Carrara said...

A small response to your post. And, as always, thanks for sharing with us!

frank said...

Well done my friend. As always, spontaneous combustion of laughter erupts from my office....leaving everyone else wondering WTF ??!!??

Anonymous said...

Brilliant once again! You forgot about the double homicide two blocks from your house. Always loved the 20-30 club's big party in Napa.