Thursday, September 11, 2008

"Why Halloween Is Better Than My Crotchety Opinion Of It"

Halloween floated over from Europe years ago but I think its celebration and institution in this country make it more of an American holiday than any other. Even Christmas. (Most places have a 'peace on Earth' holiday of some sort but not too many have ones that guarantee candy and half a million girls dressed in cat suits.)

But I've had little interest in this money-hole of a holiday since I could carry my own trick or treat bag around. My children had their turns, and they had fun dressing up as dinosaurs, Star Wars characters, ninjas, Strawberry Shortcake and fairies. The problem started a few years before they even knew what a Jolly Rancher was.

Just like cartoons, the experience of Halloween lost its luster right around when Nickelodeon gained steam on cable. Cartoons were a special event for Saturday morning. My parents used to punish me by keeping me in my room on Saturdays if I was a pain in the ass. Now kids can watch cartoons any time, any day of the week. The same goes for candy. Sweets used to be special and reserved for holidays and trips to the movies. They weren't more expensive, they were just, well…a treat. My kids get more candy at school than I've ever bought them. It's everywhere. Why would begging for Milky Ways dressed as Darth Maul be special when you could get them any time?

But Halloween exists for one reason only: Fun. That's it. For adults and kids. There is no remembrance of veterans, or traveling hundreds of miles to hang with your drunk aunts and uncles watching a crappy Detroit Lions game in November, and there is no religion. Unless you are one of these extremist nutbags who think that my daughter dressed as a bumblebee is somehow praising Satan.

Sometimes I wish it was. Just to scare the piss out of those kooks.

So I get grumpy because I don't celebrate it anymore and everything about the holiday is disposable. The costumes, the decorations (gourds or no gourds, they all end up in the landfill) and the three hundred pounds of high fructose corn syrup. Transitioning from kid to adult for certain holidays is pretty smooth; but for this autumn festival I'm just a shopping cart and a crossing guard for these kids.

But I'm a coot, right? If I had Halloween parties and a myriad of like-minded friends to invite to these parties I would enjoy it more. I'm sure if I had a little more of a budget I could conjure up a spookhouse in my garage. I could work on a costume and get in the spirit of werewolves, ghosts, mutant mummies that dude from Saw.

(I'm assuming there was a dude in Saw. Never watched it. Come on! It has a sharp tool for a title!)

Halloween is also sweet because of when it happens. Autumn. Ah, sweet autumn. In Oregon you can smell apples and the hear the bristle of evergreens and that sharp undercurrent that is unmistakably the first chill of winter. In Florida, we used to love that time of year when a few leaves turned slightly brown, the humidity dipped below 80 percent and we could feel a cool breeze after seven o'clock. Here in the Northwest, the landscape turns surreal. The leaves of some of the local trees change crazy colors and fall to the ground! All by themselves! By the end of October, there are heaps of these multicolored leaves in heaps all over the place. It’s quite a site for us southeastern types.

(How does everything turn into a trashing of Florida? Well…too bad.)

Here's how I'll solve this. I will shut the hell up about it and go with the flow. Just because it's not my forte I don't have to be a piece of coal in the trick or treat bag.

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