Halloween ’14

Before I even get to Halloween this year, who watched The Goldberg’s this week? They nailed it.  Again.  Who doesn’t love this show?  If you were between or around the ages of 10-20 during the 80’s you love this show.  If somehow you came through that decade as a teenager and don’t love this show, you my delusional friend cannot claim any affilitation, relationship or link to or with the 80’s, Gen X or, and let’s be honest, any amount of coolness.  You can’t.  You just can’t.  I’m sure you’ll argue this point.  And you will lose.  It’s like trying to show off you’re knowledge of hair bands while bringing up Winger and stating with confidence that Seventeen is their best song.  Again wrong.  Can’t Get Enuff.  Suck it.  Winger by the way just played live locally a couple days ago.  Just saying…

Seriously though The Goldbergs is The Wonder Years for Gen Xers. Pop rocks, Coke and Mikey from Life Cereal?  The ghost in the VHS tape of Three Men and a Baby?  Freaking excellent.  You can only hear that rumor about Mikey so many times before it just becomes part of the fabric of time and space itself.

So as many of you know, we live in Des Moines which has the tradition of Beggar’s Night. Which is nothing more than trick or treating on the night before Halloween.

Yes, it is stupid. And I mean stupid in the strongest most literal sense.  But if you go back and research the reasons behind Beggar’s Night you are really left with one conclusion.  It has outlived its usefulness.  Like public employee unions.  It was put into place by a well-meaning individual to stop vandalism and other assorted acts of hooliganism.  But then the do-gooders took up the cause and screwed it up like taking Thundarr the Barbarian off the air because, well, nobody really knows why but it sucked.

Anyway, because Halloween is awesome, I left work early to carve pumpkins. Went with a traditional geometric design.  Triangles for eyes, square nose with a wide fanged smile.  I’ve found that an ice cream scooper is the best tool for cleaning out the pumpkin brains.  Bails and Kinz, much to my dismay, decided to carve their own this year.  Not bad for their first entirely independent foray in the art of pumpkin carving.  I mean all I did was cut the hole in the top and then engaged in a little bit of trim work and clean up after they were done.  A couple years ago I used some of those glow sticks to light them.  Sounded like a good idea.  Turns out it wasn’t.  Not enough wattage.  So this year, after digging through a couple drawers we have that are filled with candles and other assorted seasonal stuff, I went with the plethora of mini Yankee candles we have.  Sure the jack-o-lanterns smell like mistletoe and balsam fir but whatever.  They looked awesome and stayed lit until well after the trick or treaters were done.

Top costumes this year? Ninja turtles and zombies.  Surprisingly not a single Elsa.  No wookies either.  One kid was James Dean.  Not kidding.  He walked up and we asked if he was The Fonz.  His response?  “Well that was my original idea but I decided more people would know who James Dean is.”

What? You’re like 10 years old.  James F’ing Dean?  Seriously kid just go ahead declare Theater as your major now.  As he walked away, he stops, turns and says, “Hey, I’m surprised you guys know who The Fonz is.”

Again, what? The Fonz?  I’m 44.  I know who The Freaking Fonz is.  I know who Potsie is.  I know who Pinky Tuscadero is and I know what the freaking Malachi Crunch is.  I know Laverne and Shirley worked at Shotz Brewery in Milwaukee.  I know Jack, Janet and Chrissy spent a lot of time at The Regal Beagle.   I know BA ain’t flyin’ on no plane!  I know Nick and Cody lived on a boat and I know what the Blue Freaking Moon Detective Agency is.  Don’t freaking test me on Tuesday night TV lineups of the 70’s and 80’s son.

Geez. Do I know who The Fonz is…

One kid looked exactly like one of the clowns from Killer Klowns from Outer Space. Safe to say we kept our eyes on him until he was gone.  Additionally I made the mistake of eating nothing but candy for about 4 hours.  I don’t recommend this.  Nobody is built to consume that much candy.

However the best thing, or worst depending on your perspective, was when my neighbor ordered pizza. Normal standard pizza delivery as the pizza guy pulled into the driveway, got out and walked the pizza up to us as we were sitting in the garage.  However as he was handing the pizza over his van started to roll forward.  Towards the house.

Yeah, he either forgot to put the van in park or it shifted itself into drive.

Pizza guy freaks out and attempts to use his super human pizza guy strength to stop the van from rolling forward with body.  Not kidding, he tried to stop the van with his girth.  And listen this guy was blessed a fine amount girth.  But he’s not stopping a mini van.  Eventually he realizes this and moves with speed he only likely dreamed about and jumps into the driver’s seat.  At this point the rest of us had moved towards the van as well.  None of us however attempted to step in front of the vehicle.  I mean we all were in agreement that the van needed to be stopped and everything it was just that after a quick list of pros and cons, we all kinda decided against the standing in front of the van strategy.  But as fate would have it the van rolled by the corner of the garage and misses it by about six inches and keeps rolling over the walk up to the front door and assumes a collision course with the front window.  Luckily the left front wheel of the van hits a retaining wall.  The grass slopes away from the walk so when the wall engaged in a battle of physics with the van, the wheel had to overcome about a five inch wall.  The van won but the speed was reduced allowing the pizza guy to recover.  But not without incident.  Instead of standing on the brake he accidently hits the gas.  I assume by accident.  Thankfully the amount of adrenaline coursing through his body allowed him to immediately switch his foot to the brake and stop the van from hitting the house.  A couple feet short.  We scored that a win.  Then pizza guy decides that he not only needs to back away from the house but he needs to do it quickly.  So the van again narrowly misses the corner of the garage again…except going the opposite direction at rate of speed that was probably unnecessary.  Unfortunately the excitement was at such a high level I forgot to find out if the pizza was free…

The Last One

We inadvertently started a tradition in 2009. Or more accurately we unknowingly set a precedent. That precedent was a birthday party sleep over for all your rowdy friends when you are in 4th grade.

If you are going to set precedents with your daughters, this isn’t necessarily a bad one to set. You get to spend time with their friends and determine which of them are the greatest threat to your sanity. Sure they are only 4th grade but sometimes you can pick out the delinquents early. You can kinda set your expectations as to which of them is most likely to pursue a path of unhelpful, at least in your eyes, or even felonious behavior in high school. But let’s be honest, when it comes to precedents, there are probably a few more constructive or useful precedents that could have been set. Like any clothes that remain on the floor for longer than 1 hour end up in Clothes Jail. The warden of Clothes Jail is Dad. The only way to get clothes out of Clothes Jail is to master the art of folding clothes and putting them away. This is a lost art.

That would have been a good precedent to set. Or that talking to Mom and I during Person of Interest is a prerequisite to being fed. That would have been good too. We had that with LOST but have been unable thus far to transfer that precedent to our current favorite show.

Anyway, good news is we’re now done with 4th grade birthday party sleep overs. Unless we somehow end up with another kid that grows into a 4th grader. Which would be…well, it would be awful. Like a friend of mine said after she had her first baby a few months ago. The thought of being pregnant now is more terrifying than it was in college.

But these parties are a really big deal to the girls and they’ve grown in importance over the years. Bailey had been looking forward to her’s for months. She wasn’t really doing any planning other that deciding that they were going to eat ice cream and drink lots and lots of pop. That seemed reasonable to us but what do you with the rest of the 16 hours all the girls were supposed to be in our house?

Thought about giving them the Holland’s Personality Test and directing them on their way for the rest of their lives.

But we went with this instead:

DSC02441

Pumpkins and moustaches.

Turns out we only had to intervene a few times. At these kind of parties you’re really in a UN Peacekeepers role. Nobody is really listening to you because even if you some type of actual or metaphorical hammer to swing, nobody believes you’ll actually swing it. But after a 12-pack of pop, two pizzas, 3 bags of potato chips and 1 bag of Cheetos, they conked out. The last couple fell asleep around 2 a.m. Unfortunately for three of the girls, they had soccer games the next morning and had to leave a little early. See soccer is bad. It ruins birthday parties.

Here’s the thing though, Bails had all these girls over on Friday night. Then on Saturday night one of the girls at the party had her birthday party at a hotel a couple miles away. Where the nearly same group of girls stayed up late again, ate pizza, potato chips, and Cheetos. Except on Saturday night they went swimming instead of carving pumpkins.

By late Sunday afternoon Bails was moving at zombie speed. Walking Dead zombie speed not World War Z zombie speed. Had pretty much the same temperament too. But like I wrote earlier, we’re done. Boom.

Halloween ’13

DSC02450Happy Halloween. Or if you’re from the Des Moines metro area, Happy Day After Trick or Treating Occurs. Yes we continue with the inanely stupid tradition of Beggar’s Night in which kids are forced by the local powers that be to trick or treat the day before Halloween. Not only that but they have to tell a joke. Yeah, the trick part of trick or treat in Des Moines is that they have to earn their candy by telling a joke. This, if you have not already surmised by now, I also consider stupid. I always kinda assumed that the trick part of the trick or treat was “give me some candy or my friends and I will egg your house.” But I prowling the streets trick or treating back in the late 70’s and early 80’s. People were still giving out apples and homemade cookies. Until somebody decided to stick razor blades in the apples. Or maybe that was an urban legend. Regardless, sometime during the first few years of the Reagan administration, fruit was no longer part of the Halloween madness. And madness it was.

I remember riding the bus home from school in ’79 or ’80. Had to be about 3:30 in the afternoon and parents were already taking their little kids door to door. Yeah, that early. And people were ready! They didn’t tell the kids to go away and come back later. They didn’t lecture them about running across their lawn. They gave them candy. Might even have been those candy cigarettes. Ha! Not that I want those to come back or anything but its kinda funny how its entirely unacceptable to manufacture candy cigarettes but its okay to use the IRS to for your own political agenda. Whatever. Back to trick to treating. When those folks answered their doors at 3:30 with a big bowl of candy were they excited? Well, no. It was 3:30. I’m going to go ahead and assume they were unhappy. Why? Nobody wants to hand out candy starting at 3:30. Idiot teenagers are still going to be showing up at your house around 9. And that’s a long freaking time to be camped out by your door before the internet and smartphones.

We’ve been handing out candy at our house since ’97. And yesterday was one of the least active trick or treating events we’ve experienced. Not sure why. But I’m okay with blaming the same folks I blamed last year. Anti-American funsmashers and helicopter parents. Sometimes they are one in the same.

Who in the hell are you people who hate Halloween? Fundamentalist Christians who think it’s a pagan holiday? Relax, it isn’t. Communists who think it’s disrespectful to the authority of the state? Um, FYI, not even the communists could make communism work. Or good old-fashioned grumpy a-holes? Because if you turned your lights off and sat at home watching TV while little hopeful children dressed up as their favorite superheroes and princesses walked by your house…you, my friend, have put yourself on a list. You know what list that is? It’s the asshat list. Not everybody goes trick or treating anymore. And local city governments almost universally limit the timeframe in which it happens to something like 6-8 p.m. So for those kids who still believe in George Washington, apple pie and the American tradition of asking for stuff from your neighbors, you just wiped you nose all over their happiness. Why don’t you go ahead and throw a flaming bag of dog crap at the Lincoln Memorial. Fly out to Pearl Harbor and dump some sewage on the USS Arizona. Because that’s what you’re doing.

Trick or treating might be the only way to save America. When I was doing it in the late 70’s the streets were packed with kids and parents. It was like a roving block party. And neighbors talked with each other. Pretty soon, after all that talking, they realized that Jimmy Carter sucked and Keynesian economic theory was asinine. As a result, Ronald Reagan was able to cut taxes, 70’s easy listening was replaced by hair metal and the three point line was added to college basketball. By your refusal to take part in your patriotic Halloween duty, you’re dooming America to a future of 70% tax rates, Seals and Croft and uncomfortably snug NBA shorts. And ain’t nobody want that…

Halloween ’12

You know what you don’t get as an adult that you did get as a kid?

Halloween decorations. Or Thanksgiving decorations now that I think about it.

Remember back in grade school how your teacher would decorate the classroom with seasonal and/or holiday decorations? You’d get those stickers on your papers after the teacher graded them. A jack-o-latern sticker in October, then a pilgrim hat in November. It’s weird the things you miss. Like Vikings home games in December at the Met. Now that was a homefield advantage.

Anyway, Halloween comes in second to Christmas when it comes to the amount of money Americans spend on a holiday. Those of us in the New World evidently really love Halloween. But not so much that we staple cardboard ghosts to the walls in our offices. Or cut pumpkins out of orange construction paper and tape them to our desks.

Which is weird considering how Halloween seems to be as polarizing a holiday as the current red state/blue state battle. You either participate or you go to great lengths to avoid participating.

Plus you have a growing number of adults who are turning Halloween into a holiday for us instead of for kids. But that’s a different rant.

So you’re wondering about my evidence regarding the polarizing effects of Halloween? Exhibit #1: America hating a-holes who lock their doors and turn out their lights and refuse to be neighborly and hand out candy. Who are you people? First, why are you a funsmasher? I can’t document this but I’m pretty sure America’s trick or treaters spend more time planning their Halloween costumes than Obama spent on his health care law. Even if you are a twentysomething without kids who is dressing up as a drunk vice-president, what keeps you from handing out candy for an hour or two before hitting the bar? Or just sit at the door with a beer and hand out candy. Sure you look like a d-bag, but you’re neighbors probably already think that anyway since you only mow your lawn once a month and when you do, its just to chop down the dandelions. And how big of a douche do you have to be to turn out all your lights and sit in the dark and pretend you’re not home? A really, really impressively douchey douche. Like reaching David Axelrod douchiness levels.

I mean what happened to you on Halloween back in your youth that has driven your Halloween hatred so deep that you feel justified in punishing little blond princesses and 3 and a-half foot draculas? Seriously, unless you lived in the same town as Michael Myers, you have no excuse. None!

Exhibit #2: Any number of “festivals” or “parties” that actually replace instead of compliment trick or treating. This is not okay. Unless you live in a sketchy neighborhood, trick or treating is about as American as it gets. Fireworks on the 4th of July, Pat Summerall and John Madden on Thanksgiving, begging for candy on Halloween. I believe these so-called celebrations are the work of overzealous and/or overenthusiastic parents. The ones who use the term “momsense” and are sometimes referred to as “Apache Attack Helicopter Parents” which, as everyone knows, are the most dangerous of the helicopter parents. They seek to command and control all activities involving children. They often use the dark arts or ninja techniques to destabilize events or goings-on that are outside their sphere of influence or do not meet their expectations. Beware!

Exhibit #3:
Dude, back in the day we’d have kids from miles away come to our door. You remember this. The kid who got off the school bus like six stops before you shows up on Halloween asking for a Kit-Kat. And were Kit-Kats not like the pure gold of Halloween candy after-market trade scene? Same thing with Reese’s Peanut Butter cups. I’d trade multiple Three Musketeers bars for a Kit-Kat. I was always willing to part with any Three Musketeers bars. Those things aren’t for everybody. Remember the candy cigarettes? Genius marketing by the tobacco companies. Anyway, the long distance Halloween hike has joined the aforementioned candy cigarettes in extinctland. This year we made it about two streets over and that’s it. Although one of the Mom’s gave me a beer. Shock Top Belgian White. But you don’t see these ambitious souls anymore. Why? Because they are at some party or festival being indoctrinated as to why trick or treating is dangerous. Boo! Boo I say.

I’m sure these are the same people who skip Thanksgiving and go right to Christmas. They just blatanly cheat on Thanksgiving without any remorse. But, again, that’s a rant for another day…

The Magic of Mid-October

A couple weeks ago on SNL Christina Applegate sorta mocked the nothingness of mid-October. As if the gold soybean fields, the smell of burning leaves and pumpkin beer mean nothing. Every other year we get the glory of negative political ads. Which are awesome. I love them. If I win the lottery I’m totally buying time and going negative on everybody who deserves it. You’ve been warned. Anyway, I’m just paraphrasing but Applegate said something about no decorations, no cards, no weird family tension. It’s that period of time before the holidays. Before Halloween, before Turkey Day, before Christmas and New Year’s.

Well…that’s crap. Fall is the best time of year for many reasons. Among them are pro football, college football and pumpkin beer. But mid-October is the kickoff. It’s really doesn’t get the credit or appreciation it should. I mean Columbus Day falls right in there. I love Columbus Day. It’s always on a Monday and in grade school we got the day off. And that meant I could watch the NFL all day without the gnawing feeling of doom of going to school the next morning. The girls don’t get Columbus Day off. I assume it has something to do with the revisionist anti-American historians like Howard Zinn who can’t find anything good about America’s past. So public schools don’t celebrate Columbus Day anymore. Rumor is he hates the NFL too. Can’t confirm that but it stands to reason. Anyway, aside from simply being the beginning of what really is the most nostalgic two and a-half months of the year, it contains several monumental history changing events.

October 13, 1960…3:36 p.m. eastern. I became possible. Not kidding. On a sunny mid-October afternoon Bill Mazeroski stepped to the plate with no outs in the bottom of the 9th in Game 7 of the 1960 World Series. About a minute later he hit a 1-0 pitch over the left field wall. And my Dad walked from his job at Gimbels Department store to meet some friends in front of the Pittsburgh Hilton. He met my Mom there. So don’t let anyone tell you sports don’t matter or they are unimportant in the grand scheme of things. They’re full of crap. Thanks Bill Mazeroski. I owe you one.

October 15, 1977. With the leaves changing a little 2nd grade boy sat in the south endzone with his parents and watched the 17th ranked and defending national champion Pitt Panthers beat Navy 34-17. Mid-October is what college football is about. And I fell in love with it that day. Mostly because there was so much more of it compared to the NFL. So be careful to what you expose your children…you never know what they’ll fall in love with. This is mostly the reason our girls don’t play soccer.

October 12, 1980. Nobody really sensed it at the time but it was the end of the 70’s Steelers dynasty. First play from scrimmage Franco fumbled. Then near the end of the first half the greatest outside linebacker of the era was beat by Pete Johnson on a short pass over the middle. Jack Ham was beaten by Pete Johnson! On a pass pattern! I know. Its hard to even say let alone type it. It’s like saying Abe Lincoln was bested by Nancy Pelosi. Or Justin Bieber is better than Def Leppard. Or Thundarr the Barbarian was outclassed by Zan from the Wonder Twins. Anyway, the Steelers lost 17-16 and I experienced the NFL playoffs for the first time without the Steelers. It was horrible. Awful. Like the first day of an Obama second term.

October 14, 1992. Braves 3 Pirates 2. There are times in your life in which you learn to deal with disappointment. With loss. When you are old enough to know that the last chance at a wonderful opportunity has been missed. And you must deal with the consequences in an adult and reasoned manner. Except I was still in college at this time so I dealt with it with lots of Miller Lites. Regardless, Jose Lind’s error, Francisco Cabrera’s hit and Barry Bonds’ poor throw are why when something really awful happens to the girls, something that tears their hearts out, that knocks them off their feet with the brunt force of disappointment…all I have to say is, “10-14-92, damn you Jose Lind!” That should get the point across that I too have suffered at the bony, gnarled, pitiless, heartless hand of destiny.

So, um, not sure what my point was with this post but I like mid-October

Socialism, Capitalism and Halloween

We live in Iowa. And as your most likely know, we just had our caucuses. Which meant that our house just got pounded day after day with an artillery barrage of political robo-calls that rivaled Col. Alexander‘s barrage of Union troops on Cemetery Ridge just before General Lee’s doomed attack on the Union center at Gettysburg.

But that’s what you get for being active participants in democracy.

Anyway, a few days after our caucus, which was thankfully free of disruption by any Occupy freeloaders, I’m fixing a chair in the kitchen while Riley is doing her homework. She starts out by saying that her teacher was talking about Ron Paul and Rick Perry and few other candidates and why they may have finished where they finished. Which made Rye curious about each candidate along with my plan to participate in the uprising next November to relieve President Obama of his responsibilities through my voting privileges. I spend a little time talking about each of the GOP presidential candidates and what I liked and disliked about each of them. Then she asks why I don’t like President Obama.

“Well it’s not personal. He might be a really cool guy. I don’t really like or dislike him, I just disagree with his decisions as president. And since we’re Americans, we get a chance every four years to voice our opinion on the president by voting.”

“Okay. But why aren’t you voting for President Obama? Is it because he’s a Democrat?”

“No. It’s because he’s a socialist. Or at least he’s doing things that seem a heckuva lot like socialism.”

“What’s socialism?”

This is an interesting question from your 6th grader. I mean this is key moment. A moment that if not handled properly could lead to yet to come Thanksgiving dinner arguments punctuated by raised voices, flying cranberry sauce and extended phalanges. I need to be careful here. An answer that shows any semblance of sympathy or toleration of socialism could like to a future of lazy, self-important behaviors marked by a underserved sense of entitlement for Rye. This situation is fraught with peril.

“All right, there are two competing theories – capitalism and socialism.”

“Okay.”

“Well, capitalism is really about you getting to keep the things that your worked for while socialism is about the government taking some of the things you worked for and giving to other people whether you like it or not.”

“So it’s like you make me give some of my Halloween candy to Kinsey.”

“Yes! Okay, let’s say you go out on Halloween and stay out for hours going to a ton of houses and filling bags and bags and bags of candy. You worked hard, did it on your own and now you have all this candy.”

“Cool.”

“That’s capitalism.”

“What’s socialism then?”

“Let’s say that when you get home you see Kinsey sitting at the table with just one bag of candy compared to your 10 bags of candy. And then I, representing the government in this scenario, tell you that you’re going to have to give at least 4 bags to Kinsey because it’s not fair for you to have all that candy. You can’t ever hope to every eat it all and Kinsey only has one bag.”

“But it’s mine. I got it. It’s Kinsey’s fault she only has one bag.”

“Tough. The government says its unfair. Everything should be equal regardless of how hard you work or how little Kinsey works. So give up the candy. And if you don’t….you’re going to jail.”

“That’s totally unfair.”

“That’s totally socialism. And that’s what President Obama is doing to America.”

Halloween candy, as it turns out, is one of the best political teaching tools parents have at their disposal when describing modern American politics, government and democracy. It possible it has other applications…

Halloween 2011

Yes, I’m late with this. But Halloween is one of many things that makes Fall awesome. Pumpkin ale at Rock Bottom, the smell of burning leaves and the slow wave of gold that overcomes the soybean fields are among the others. Plus there’s football and Thanksgiving too. Oh, and that dusty crispness of the air that smells one way in the morning and then another way in the evening.

Plus, I get to have conversations with Mom about how NFL offensive lineman get away with holding.

“See if they put their hands on the inside and below the shoulder pads, they can clamp on and not get called. But if the DL gets his arms inside first, the OL has no choice but grab on the outside and BAM, that’s holding baby! You know back in the 70’s when rivalries really mattered in the NFL the OLs couldn’t even extend their arms. Its one of the reasons Mean Joe Greene routinely killed guys every Sunday. Seriously. The Pennslyvania National Guard had to set up a field hospital outside of Three Rivers Stadium. One hospital in Pittsburgh started billing him because he was responsible for so many paramedic calls. Not kidding. You can look it up.”

Anyway, we had trick or treating on October 30th. Yes, in Des Moines we continue the staggeringly stupid tradition of Beggar’s Night and trick or treat on a day other than Halloween. Plus, we tell jokes. Yup, the trick part of trick or treating is evidently a joke in Des Moines. So kids get asked to tell a joke before they get candy. Listen, I’m all for earning your candy, but isn’t the costume and braving the often inclement late October weather enough? Back to Beggars Night. Here’s a quick history on it. Way back in the 70’s in Bethel Park, PA we had Devil’s Night. The night before Halloween. Local teenagers would more or less run around their neighborhoods committing various acts of vandalism. Its still rather stunning to me that local authorities put up with this. I mean small fires, broken windows, missing fence posts, soaped windows, etc. Well Des Moines evidently had a similar issue back in the late 30’s. The night before Halloween they go out and vandalize the crap out of the town. Not surprising with the New Deal strangling the national economy. Probably a lot of pent up anger. Anyway the local powers that be decided this hooliganism had to end decided that Oct. 30, and Oct. 30 only, would be the night kids could go door to door for treats. Also decided was that the kids would have to earn the treat through a joke or something. Every year they promoted Oct. 30 as the REAL day for trick or treating. During the WW II, they even so far as to say that ding-dong-ditching or soaping windows was actually helping the Axis win the war. Immaturity was helping the Axis. And Americans think today’s politicians will say anything….

So that’s the story. And we’re stuck with it because, as we all know, teenagers screw just about everything up.

So good friends of ours have a Halloween party every Beggars Night. We all had costumes this year. This is not the norm. Mostly because I’m lazy. Up until today, my best effort was in 2009 when Mom and I went as us…in 1987. I had shredded up jeans, rolled at the bottom while wearing a high school football jersey. Mom had a cheerleader uniform. This year, however, I think we may have surpassed it. Mom was a 60’s go-go dancer. Cool swirly psychedelic dress with platinum blond hair and orange go-go boots. I went as 70’s tennis superstar Ilie Nastase. Couldn’t drop the f-bombs that would have made the costume completely authentic but I did have a sweet black afro along adorned with a headband and a white shirt and shorts in 70’s sizes. Man, I don’t know how my Dad did it. Those are some small shorts these guys wore. Got a pair of white Adidas shorts, 5 inch inseam…size medium. Tried on the smalls but Mom correctly observed that there would be children at this party and the smalls might be inappropriate. I agreed. Topped off the costume with wristbands, sunglasses, tennis racket and a sweet fu-manchu moustache.

Except the sticky adhesive on the back of the damn moustache was like NASA-grade duct tape. It was killing me. Plus, I could barely talk. Or eat since the thing was so big I was concerned I’d be walking around with chili hanging off my ‘stache. Then, since its allergy season, I had a bit of runny nose. Ever try wiping your nose while wearing a big thick 70’s fu-manchu moustache? Can’t do it. It’s impossible. Its like watching the Bigfoot episode of the Six Million Dollar Man and not thinking it was awesome.

The lubricant running from my nose got between the adhesive and my upper lip, and it got, well, gross. Then you add some chili, rib tips and couple beers…dude, it was just ridiculous. Not as ridiculous as the girls looked when they thought they’d wear it as they handed out some candy after we finished up this year’s candy grab.

Now a lot of people like Halloween. I’m among them. But how many people would go so far as to build a scary maze in their garage? Complete with inflatable Halloween arches over the entrance and exit? Not to mention actual plywood partitions and animatronics rivaling Jurassic Park?

Okay, I’m kidding about the animatronics part. But they had real people in the maze, I’m assuming teenagers because you couldn’t get anybody else to do it, wearing spooky costumes, using those creepy voice changers while waving glowing swords and stuff?

Yeah, not many. Especially since they would have been shutdown if OSHA happened to come by. Kids thought it was freaking excellent however. Bails and Kinz went through it twice.

So it was a sufficiently scary Halloween. Although the scariest part was when I got back from trick or treating with the girls and my neighbor tells me the Steelers blew it in the last 30 seconds and lost to New England…yeah, that crap ain’t funny man…

Of course they went and let Joe Flacco drive 92 yards without using a timeout to beat them last night. I hate the Ravens…

About Halloween…

You know what you don’t ever see? Really good Halloween or Thanksgiving commercials. Christmas has great commericals. Classics that you remember and expect to see year after year. Maybe even get a little upset because Miller Brewing doesn’t run their classic commercial anymore…

Regardless, Halloween seems like the kind of holiday that would lend itself to TV advertising. It’s colorful. It’s the second most commercialized holiday in America. But when it comes to TV ads – nada. Weird.

You know what else is weird? The staggeringly high levels of humor Mom finds in cartoon cats. Seriously. She sees a commercial for Puss in Boots and she’s in tears. He’s evidently the king of cartoon cat comedy. I don’t really get it.

You what I do get? Scooby. He’s the most awesomely perfect cartoon for Halloween. A couple Mondays ago Scooby Doo: Camp Scare was on one of the many cartoon channels on Direct TV. So, Camp Scare, this is the scariest Scooby Doo of all time. Real scary, not Scooby scary. Like the first Halloween when Michael Myers is driving around in the paneled LTD station wagon stalking Jamie Lee Curtis. That kind of scary. But animated and less graphic. The Woodsman, in Camp Scare, could be the scariest Scooby villain ever. EVER. I’m not kidding. He’s a freakishly tall, green, axe wielding guy who lives alone in the woods. Yeah, that’s not the backstory for a reclusive environmentalist. That’s a guy who likely has beers with Jason Vorhees. Plus, if you are a Dad with three daughters, and I am, he helps with a few nuggets of Dad wisdom. Like stay out of the woods at night. Especially if there are boys involved. I added that last part.

Other scary Scooby monsters and villians? Hmmm…

You have the Spectre of Ebenezer Crabbe. He scared the crap out of me when I was 6. Look at those eyes…I mean those are crazy eyes. And who runs around on exposed steel girders on a half-finished high rise? A spectre with crazy eyes, that’s who. Plus all I have to do is let the girls watch Ebenezer Crabbe and that’ll kill all talk of moving to the big city after college. You can’t move there. There’s ghosts and unsafe construction all over the place.

The Werewolf Ghost who haunted the local mill? Also scary. I mean he’s a werewolf and a ghost and he’s lurking around an abandoned mill. An abandoned mill with big saws. This also helps keeps the girls from moving to the Pacific northwest. Can’t move there. Werewolves. Ghosts. Werewolf ghosts.

Then you have the Headless Horseman. He scares everybody. Doesn’t matter if it’s a Scooby cartoon or Christopher Walken. The Headless Horseman is scary. I saw Disney’s Legend of Sleepy Hollow when I was about 7. Haven’t gone near a covered bridge since. This is also why you don’t fool around with all those Halloween legends. One of them is bound to be true. Its math. Or science. Or both. But eventually somebody is going to find out there is reason for all these scary legends. And since the Headless Horseman is probably the scariest Halloween legend ever, its bound to be the one that’s true. I mean Nancy Pelosi ran Congress without access to a brain so I’m guessing this guy can ride a horse with the same limitations.

It’s Happening

It’s happening. Everybody said it would. There isn’t a grizzled veteran parent around who hasn’t said it to fellow parents with young children. You can’t stop it. You can’t even slow it down. And most of the time you don’t realize it is happening. That is until something happens that punches you in the face to remind you of it.

The girls are getting bigger and growing up.

Yesterday was Columbus Day. Back in the day, we’d get this day off. I’d look forward to it with nearly Christmas Eve like anticipation. Why? Well, I like history. No seriously, that’s not why. But it was always observed on a Monday. In the fall. Which meant that I could watch the NFL all day without that impending sense of dread that I had to go to school the next day. NFL highlights from the day before Columbus Day 1983 just to give you a glimpse of it.

Didn’t feel it did you. Maybe it was just me then. Regardless, yesterday was Columbus Day and the girls had the day off. Not in tribute to Christopher Columbus but because the union contract for the teachers says they get a “professional development” day each month. It was yesterday. I took the day off. Mom took a half day and we went looking for Halloween costumes. This is an activity in which parents should engage with great gusto. In case you forgot what gusto was, do not fear, Schlitz is being reintroduced.

Anyway, shopping for Halloween costumes lets you be a kid again for a very brief period of time. Plus it gives a very real example of why its awesome to watch your kids be kids. And as time moves along it also gives a glimpse of your children changing. Riley is in 6th grade. She went out Friday evening after school with her friends (chaperoned by one set of parents) to the mall and they shopped together for their costumes. They are going as nerds. But she did it without us. She’s beginning to do things without us. And without her sisters.

She came along yesterday and we caught a glimpse of the Riley from 2 or 3 years ago when she’d morph into a mini-parent and help Kinsey and Bailey behave and stay on task. She did it yesterday and she did it while being nice to them. This is an occurence nearly as rare as Americans looking into the their past and discovering that vast government intervention into the economy worsens it instead of fixing it.

Holidays are nostalgic. Halloween is no exception. Holidays aren’t simply the actual day. They are everything you do to prepare for that day, all the anticipation of that day along with everything that happens on the actual day. Shopping with your kids for Halloween costumes qualifies. But it was weird. Maybe it was just the first time that I really took notice and thought about how Rye is just, well, older. She’s almost 12. When Kinz gets to 6th grade it’ll likely be different again. Hmmm…maybe I’ll be used it to then. Maybe I won’t. But it’ll never go back to way it was. Like college football rivalries. Top three rivilaries that no longer are played because of greed. And ESPN.

3-Notre Dame vs. Pitt
2-Oklahoma vs. Nebraska
1-Pitt vs. Penn State

So while Rye is being a nerd, Kinz and Mom found this nice little 50’s car hop girl outfit. It’s kinda cool. Plus she loved it. Bails, as is tradition, is being a witch. I think she’s been a witch every year since ’06 when she was 3. I distinctly remember her not being a witch in ’05. She was a bumblebee. A very short bumblebee that was often knocked out of the way by older kids in far more of a rush than she was to get to the next house. But it was also the time I decided that I probably wouldn’t have to worry about Bails sticking up for herself. She’s at the door, carefully choosing what piece of candy she’d like when all these other kids just pile up behind her. Naturally, they’re impatient. Can’t really blame them, it’s freaking Halloween and people are just giving out free candy. Again, if you are one the anti-American fun haters who refuses to hand out Halloween candy, I can only assume you are out somewhere burning the Constitution and throwing eggs at Mt. Rushmore.

Back to Bails though – she gets pushed a little by the other kids. She regains her balance, plants her right foot firmly on the ground, looks up at the kid who pushed her and…puts everything in her tiny bumblebee body into a sharp forearm shiver right to the kid’s stomach.

Nice. Small smile crept across my face. Of course, 6 years later I’ve seen that confidence manifest itself in ways that don’t make me smile. Most of those ways are relayed to us by her teacher…

Anyway, Mom and I are deciding what we’re going to do for Halloween. If you have ideas let me know.

Halloween ’09

AM-139-0121Halloween isn’t what it used to be. And I don’t mean because it was cold, windy and rainy last week. On our street, at best, 30 percent of the houses were giving out candy. What. The. Hell?

By the way, Riley went as an 80’s rocker chick. Side ponytail, hot pink earrings, faded jeans rolled at the bottom and a vintage ’86 Bon Jovi Slippery When Wet concert tee. Kinsey was Hannah Montana. Bailey was Sharpay from High School Musical. And Mom and I went as ourselves. In 1987. Mom had a cheerleader outfit and I had some shredded up Joe Elliot jeans and a high school football jersey.

Jack-o'-LanternBut none of that changes the fact that America has a Halloween crisis every bit as serious as Major League Baseball’s inability to promote any sort of parity. By the way, the World Series should not be played in November. It’s dumb. Not as dumb as the Falcons taking Aundray Bruce with the number one overall pick in 1988, but still pretty dumb. Anyhow, don’t get me wrong, the kids still get excited. But they have no frame of reference. Like Pedro Martinez when he said he was one of the most influential players ever in Yankee Stadium. They aren’t comparing trick or treating in 2009 to trick or treating in 1979 like I am, they just assume that most houses don’t pass out candy. Halloween isn’t freaking Arbor Day! You don’t get to choose whether or not to be part of it. It’s an American institution. I mean you don’t get to turn off your lights and ignore fireworks on the Fourth of July. Not passing out candy on Halloween is like booing Santa when he comes down the chimney.

When did this happen? When did Americans decide this was okay? To find out I decided I needed to learn a little bit about Halloween in America. So I went to History.com. Turns out there was a show on The History Channel about it. Which surprises me considering how much time I spend on that channel. Of course The History Channel isn’t really about history anymore as much as it is about Ice Road Truckers.

Turns out back in colonial American autumn festivals were pretty common. The founding fathers would get together with neighbors, tell ghost stories and talks all kinds of smack about King George. It was more common in the southern colonies than in the north. Kinda like NASCAR or wearing camo to church.

Then, between 1845 and 1900, America was flooded with immigrants. Led by the Irish fleeing the potato famine of 1846. The Irish evidently already had some Halloween traditions regarding dressing up in costumes and going house to house asking for food or cash. Like congressional Democrats searching for a way to pay for their health care bill.

Then sometime in the late 1800’s there was a steady change to how Halloween was celebrated. Americans evidently decided they wanted it to be more of a holiday that centered on community and neighborly get-togethers. Which of course is also the beginning of the tailgate party. Good people the Irish.

Then the progressive do-gooders stepped in. They decided to take all the spookiness, scariness and pranks out of Halloween for the good of the children. Then the country elected Woodrow Wilson and enacted the first income tax. Which means that the progressive do-gooders not only tried to kill Halloween 100 years ago but they also tried to kill America. Sense a pattern?

Anyway, up through the end of the 1940’s Halloween was more of a town autumn festival than anything else. But in some areas of the country trick or treating became the norm sometime between Calvin Coolidge and Ike. This is another reason why Calvin Coolidge is the greatest president in American history. He cut taxes and brought back trick or treating. Despite the misguided hopes of the progressive do-gooders they never really eradicated the spookiness, scariness and pranks involved with Halloween. Families in neighborhoods with lots of kids could, at least in theory, keep tricks from being played on them by handing out candy. Its nearly identical to the electoral strategy of the Democrats. Pass out some goodies so voters won’t engage in any payback.

So, boom, the wonderful tradition of trick or treating in America was cemented into our culture. Today, according to history.com, Americans spend an estimated $6.9 billion annually on Halloween, making it the country’s second largest commercial holiday. So not only is Halloween fun, its good for capitalism.

Other countries that celebrate Halloween? Ireland and the UK. Countries that don’t? France and Russia.

I rest my case.