When I first moved to New York City in 1968, and for another ten years or so, the Greenwich Village Halloween Parade was a casual, friendly, neighborhood affair anyone could join.
Accompanied by their parents, small children marched through the winding streets dressed up as ghosts and goblins and chocolate chip cookies while the locals, in costume or not, stood on the sidewalks and hung out of upper story windows to watch.
The grand surprise, mixed in among the kids, was the magnificent drag queens, as gorgeous and statuesque as Las Vegas showgirls with their elaborate, sequined costumes and feathered head dresses they had undoubtedly worked on all year for that one night of display.
Alas, nothing remains the same, and the Greenwich Village Halloween Parade degenerated into a highly-organized, professional production that has become notorious for drawing a quarter of a million drunks from the ‘burbs prowling the streets and puking on sidewalks. I learned to stay home.
One Halloween about a dozen years ago, I was reading in bed when the front gate rattled followed by a horrendous crash against the door. Peeking out the window, I saw one of said drunks, either passed out or knocked out but definitely not conscious, leaning against the door.
I pondered the problem. If I opened the door to shoo him away, the drunk would fall into my house. If I left him to sleep it off, I would be faced with the same difficulty if he was still there when I went out for my paper in the early morning. Hmmm. He had to go, I decided, but how?
It wasn’t an emergency, so instead of 911, I phoned the main number of the Sixth Precinct and explained my problem, asking if a police officer or two could stop by to remove the drunk.
The man who answered the phone was clearly harassed and impatient with me: “Lady,” he said, “it’s Halloween in the Village and we’ve got bigger problems than a drunk on your doorstep.”
I got his point so I went back to bed and resumed reading. About an hour later, I heard someone shouting my name. Peeking out the window again, I spied two friends who said they had been walking by, saw the drunk and asked if I wanted them to haul him away.
Not meaning to throw cold water on anyone’s good time, I’ll admit that aside from the early days of the Village parade, Halloween doesn’t do much for me. It’s been four decades since I lived where kids trick or treat, and dressing up in a costume myself doesn’t thrill me now anymore than it did when I was a kid.
Nevertheless, it is an ancient ritual that should be marked in some manner. So, although it has nothing to do with Halloween, here’s an odd little exercise I found while wasting time one recent evening following web links hither and yon. Try it. It’s really weird how it happens.
Pretty cool. Silly, too. But I like picturing all of you twirling your foot and drawing air sixes to see if it's true.
Just so we don’t ignore the holiday altogether, here is a photo I’ve published before. Many years after first discovering it, it’s still my favorite Halloween image.
[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Grandma Henke will have you laughing out loud (I promise) with Let's Talk about Booby Traps.]