daily preciousness

Tuesday, October 31, 2000

dressing and grits for Halloween

Last year, the all Hallow's Eve holiday really sucked. The little apartment complex had absolutely no trick-or-treaters and I just sat at home alone with a bowlful of unneeded candy.

But this year, the holiday was a real treat. Over the weekend, Molly had asked me if I wanted to drop by and hang out. So I accepted.

I dropped by at 5:30, right at dusk. There was a little goblin and a little princess walking up the steps just as I arrived.

But they had no costumes. Driving up, I saw them from inside the car. I was *certain* they were dressed up. But the goblin was just a figure hunched over in the darkness carrying a pillowcase and the princess was just a little girl with a plastic shopping bag. They had no special costumes at all.

So I stepped up to Molly's place, bags of candy swinging from both hands.

I see her bunny ears first. That's the most prominant feature -- that and the go-go boots. She looks great and the kids love her costume. All around her front porch, there are pumpkins and candles and strings of pumpkin-shaped lights. She's got the holiday spirit!

The little girl with no costume holds out her little plastic shopping bag and says "trick or treat!" while her Mom looks on. Molly asks where her costume is and offers to give her some pink toeshoes shoes that she has left over from a previous costume. The girl accepts and the Mom looks grateful. Go Molly -- you not only provide candy, but you also hand out costumes to the less fortunate! That's a good neighbor!

(Later on in the evening, I found myself handing out bags -- seems like some people just started walking around asking for candy without any preparation at all!)

I walk in after the first little group leaves and plop my belongings on the coffee table. My keys, my supper supplies, everything. I grab the italian seasonings packet for the dressing and I put it in the candy bowl that Molly is using to dole out the goods. Here's some italian dressing that I'm sure some kid will love! It will be their favorite treat this year!

Soon Ginger and her friend Jason arrive. Ginger, being the uber-Martha Stewart, brings homemade soap, three pumpkins, a varitety of special carving tools, another three bags of candy and plenty of cheer.

We all agree that "waltzing matiltda" is a freaky little national anthem -- but that it's also very cool. The P.J. Harvey rendition that's playing on the stereo is appropriately spooky. (The first music that Molly tried was very sad classical that wouldn't have scared *anyone*. But this stuff is kind of creepy, so it works.)

All in all, we have four candy hand-out engineers, 6 large bags of candy, five pumkins and tons of spooky atmosphere. I am certain that *this* is going to be my most successful Halloween celebration in recent memory. (The previous nine have been spent in rural areas, student apartment complexes and in foreign countries, so this would be my first traditional event in nearly a decade!)

But it wasn't traditional, mainly because about half of the kids that came by didn't come close to dressing up. There were very few costumes. It was most distressing. Now far be it from me to complain about traditional family values, but AREN'T WE SUPPOSED TO HAVE A COSTUME OF SOME SORT for Halloween? I mean, REALLY!

Soon I realized that it was partly a cultural thing. The kids that didn't dress up were mostly from "the other side of the tracks." Perhaps they lacked the income necessary to buy costumes. Or maybe it just didn't seem safe to dress up... or pehaps they just greedily wanted candy without the implied promise of providing a moment's entertainment to the candy provider? I have no idea. All I can do is theorize.

There were kids that dressed up. My favorites were cute little teletubbies (La-La and Po), a baby in an adorable duck costume, OG (an imaginative girl in red pigtails who called herself simply, "Orange Girl"), a rap star (East Coast or West Coast? He wouldn't say, perhaps in fear of some retaliatory measures on my part) and a girl who said she was a "Hoochie Mama."

Soon we were running low on candy. No one wanted to make an emergency run, so Molly went into the house and rustled up some grits packets to add to the mix.

During most of the peak hours of visitation, Ginger and I were on the floor carving out jack-o-lanterns with her super deluxe carving tools. They were actually printmaking tools, so I was very comfy with them. I had just finished my gin & tonic when I realized how funny the evening was... I was sprawled out on the floor with Ginger. Jason and rabbit-eared Molly sat on the porch swing and handed out candy to the kids. The large bowl of pumkin seeds and pumkin innards was a perfect prop. When the kids walked up, I was the first person in their line of sight. So I greeted them and offered a handful of gross, gloppy, runny, sticky, icky pumkin debris. "Yum! We've got some delicious pumkin goop. You want some?" I would ask them. The look on their little uncostumed faces was precious. Every now and then, a brave girl or foolish boy would respond with a loud "Yeah, I'll take some!" Their Mom would soon correct their mistake. "You don't want any of that stuff! It's sticky and messy!"

Meanwhile, Molly soon handed out her supply of bacon-flavored grits and sticky cough drops. Before she knew it, she'd accidentally handed out the italian seasonings dressing mix as well. (We knew there would be some confused kids that evening when they got home. "What the hell is this crap?" They'd ask their Moms incredulously.

Once we ran out of candy, cough drops, grits and dressing mix, Molly was about to start giving away her pennies. But then she realized that you just can't buy anything anymore with pennies. When we were little, you could buy gum or something for 5 cents. But now, all of that sort of stuff was at least ten times that cost. So rather than risk being egged by angry kids, she vetoed the penny idea.

Ginger had the bright idea to start giving children their fortunes. I wondered, briefly, if that would anger Jesus-freak Moms and bible-thumping Dads. But I quickly realized that if they had serious Halloween issues, they would've stayed home and prayed for all the sinners out running around in (or out of) costumes. So we commenced with operation: fortune tellers. Molly found some index cards and Ginger and I sat on the front porch, asking children to spell their names for us and we wrote out things like "Jamal will be a very good student this year", "Joequisa is going to be a great cheerleader", "LaTricia is going to be very popular and friendly" and that sort of thing to the kids. I think my favorite name that I got was "Joequisa" since it has a certain melody to it. (It's sort of sounds like what a songbird might say if it could pick out a pretty name.) That was a pleasant and amusing adventure for Ginger and me. After we quickly scrawled out a fortune, we'd fold up the index card, drop it in the bag and say, "Don't read this until you get home, or it won't come true!" We figured we'd eliminate any angry customers that way. If they read it before they got back to the sidewalk, they might come back and take issue with our predictions.

The childrens faces would really light up when we informed them that we'd run out of candy, but we'd give them their fortune if they wanted one. I guess that the idea of getting a fortune on Halloween sort of appealed to them out of sheer originality. I wonder if this is something I should try in the future. Was it more fun for the kids or for me and Ginger? I'm not sure. Ginger said that she gave out fortunes similar to mine -- they were all positive and/or scholastic in nature. But she admitted to one not-so positive fortune. She told a jolly 10-year-old -- I forget his name -- that he would "grow to be very afraid of clowns one day" since he was dressed up like a scary sad clown. And no one likes scary sad clowns!

Hmmm. You know what? Maybe that *was* a positive fortune, because it will keep that boy from foolishly dressing up in a costume that could get him killed one day!

One of Molly's former students from when she used to teach school dropped by. He was one of her favorites -- a sweet boy with a bad skin condition -- dropped by. He still had really dry skin on his hands. But he was so cheerful and sweet that he didn't seem to mind them at all. And Molly was thrilled to see him.

After about 10 minutes of fortunes, we had to close up shop. My jack-o-lantern only had about 30 minutes to enjoy the attention of on-lookers before he was out of the spotlight. But I suppose that's enough for a squash. (They can be so shy. They're nothing like tubers. Don't get me started on tubers! HA HA.)

Ginger and Jason soon left. I was sorry to see them go, because Ginger's always so much fun. And I was enjoying Jason's company. I was just starting to get to know him. But they had things to do. Couple stuff, I'm sure.

Molly and I watched That 70s show, which I didn't care for, even though it was a tribute episode to Hitchcock -- a worthy attempt at inter-textualism, but it failed to push the story along. Next I really enjoyed watching Sela Ward, that sultry vixen from the telephone commercials. (Pienso que ella esta fabulosa.)

Before long, it was time for me to wish Molly adieu, since her beaux, the sensitive economics professor with the body of an Olympic athlete, Jon, came by for a little company. I sensed that they needed some alone time, so I made myself scarce.

All in all, a very enjoyable All Hallow's Eve. I think the crucial ingredient was the italian dressing and the grits. Let's all make these items an important part of a balanced Halloween meal, shall we?


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