Of Politics, Blogs and Deadly Diseases
This Week in Elder News: 1 November 2008

Happy Halloween 2008

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.

My heroes!

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.

counterclockwise foot

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.

don't fly while drinking

[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Grandma Henke will have you laughing out loud (I promise) with Let's Talk about Booby Traps.]


It's 9 a.m. in New York City. Just tried your exercise: you are right! Was hoping it'd work on my abs.

Parents in our 6-building complex have really organized this holiday. A parade of little costumed people last weekend, orange piece of paper to put on your door if you accept trick or treaters. Security guards try to control for invasion by surrounding neighborhood.

Many of us recall a time in smaller places when it was simply a kids' adventure. I recall my surprise back in Baltimore in the 1980s the first time I went to a restaurant and all the waitresses were in Halloween outfits. Everyone has to have her/his fund, I guess. I do have this rubber chicken mask...

I tried the exercise on my right hand and foot and was able to keep my foot going clockwise. I guess it's all those years with a violin bow. BUT the left hand and foot did as predicted.

I'm really glad my wife didn't come in while I was doing all those gyrations! She doesn't need any more ammo to think me totally nuts!

What I like best about Halloween--apart from the memories--is the feeling of connection I get to millenia of humans, collectively spitting into the face of the long, scary, winter darkness.

When I decided to carve my pumpkin last night, I was thinking mostly of my Dad, who made a work of art out of carving jack-o-lanterns. He'd chisel eyebrows; one year he used half-grapefruits for ears. He was gleeful and excited as a kid. That's probably the reason my pumpkin this year ended up wioth a nice bright smile.

Happy Halloween Ronni! Love the story of the drunk on your doorstep. It's great to have good friends willing to drag off the intoxicated.

Your favorite Halloween picture is about the way I feel most days!

Halloween doesn't mean much out in the country as nobody trick or treats. There used to be a big neighborhood party at the school to keep kids from walking on dangerous country roads at night. It was a time where adults and kids would dress up, with games and a community feel but I don't know that they do that anymore either. I only went a couple of times (like when I had to because of my own kids).

On that exercise, yes, I tried it again, but I knew I could do it as I had done it before. I think it comes from years of sculpture maybe.

Many Halloween memories here in addition to the years spent trick or treating with our 3 now grown children in years gone by.

There were the Halloweens we lived in a suburb of Chattanooga on Signal Mountain, a bedroom community. Way on over the mountain there was a coal mining community called Edward's Point. The people there were mostly poor miners. The first year we ran out of "treats" for the children. The Edward's Point people were hauling truck loads of children in the beds of their pick up trucks to troll for treats. Mr C had to make a quick run to the store for more candy.

Growing up in Athens Ga. in the 1930's we had never heard of "Trick Or Treat" on Halloween. We just shivered outside in the dark while pretending to look for goblins.I do remember my older brothers playing tricks on some of the neighbors but no such thing as ringing a doorbell and asking for treats. :) I think the trick or treat Halloween tradition must have migrated south after the war years and during the '40's

We lived in Washington D.C. for 4 years at the Watergate Condos which was near the Georgetown area of the city. Halloween night we took a taxi drive through Georgetown to see the impromptu parade of adults dressed out in weird costumes.

Now in the townhouse community where we live, not many, if any, "goblins" come by.

Circle of life I guess.

One Halloween when my daughter was small we lived in Johnstown, Pa (which, incidentally, was the friendliest place I ever lived.) A tragedy in the past (a little girl was murdered) decided the city to avoid such a happening again and they started a new tradition. The Fire Department led a parade all through the town ending up at a large hall for a party. The kids and parents joined the parade as they passed your house. I thought that was the safest and most sensible way of handling the holiday and everyone had a great time.

Halloween doesn't mean a lot these days as we don't live in a neighborhood with a lot of children, but I do remember the Halloweens when my four were growing up and all the fun and excitement of getting to go out after dark and get goodies -- which of course, led to sugar overload. I tried the exercise and of course flubbed it! Love your photo, you gotta watch those drunk witches!

I love that witch on the tree, and this is the first time I've seen it this year. Thanks.

I remember, as a young mother, baking batches of oatmeal/raisin/ nut cookies which were handed out, still (barely) warm from the oven. As I recall, from 100 to 120 kids would come by. I included a return-address sticker on the plastic wrap that encased each cooky--so that the parents would know that the cookies were made by a neighbor who wasn't up to mischief.
It wasn't many years before living conditions changed enough that only commercially packaged treats were "acceptable". Several years ago, kids stopped coming by, at all, so we no longer participate.

Never heard of "Trick or Treat" until '60's in Ariz. When I was young living in an Ohio town we had "Beggar's Night" the night before Halloween. I didn't go out the next night, Halloween, because that's when the misdeeds occurred. Mostly windows might get soaped but damaging items wasn't typical.

Once we moved away in the late 1940's I don't recall ever celebrating Halloween anywhere I lived until I married and had children of my own.

A few years ago neighbors with children started sending them to private parties and so no one comes to the neighborhood anymore. Even those who used to dump loads of kids here have stopped. I don't have to be tempted with left overs now, 'cause I usually had too much. I always enjoyed seeing the little ones -- most especially when everyone made original costumes instead of buying them as they do now.

My mother grew up on a farm in the early 1900s before indoor plumbing and told me the dastardly tale of how some farmer in their community was in his outhouse and Halloween jokers tipped it over with him inside.

Interesting that the artists have no problem keeping the foot going clockwise. I did not have a problem with that either.

We don't get trick or treaters either out here in the sticks. Its one tradition that I do miss about living in a suburban neighborhood.

Have any of you seen the drunk jack-o-lantern pumpkin photo? Now there is a classic. Its three or four faces on some steps with beer bottles. The largest, closest jack-o-lantern has over imbibed. He is getting sick and the "sick" part is just pumpkin innards, the strings and seeds, coming out of his mouth onto the steps. Its hilarious and in the same vein as the witch in the tree. I'll send it to you Ronni if I can find it.

I did not expect any Trick or Treaters in my Over 55 community but was pleasantly surprised by costumed individuals knocking on doors to collect goods for the local Food Bank.
This is a tradition that I can support. I was also thankful for the lady with the candy filled pumpkin who greeted our car so our 19 month old Grandson got a treat.

Argh - I keep trying it and I can't stop my foot from changing direction! I tried it once and wasn't bothered but then I read your comments.

If I get a sprain I'm blaming you.

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