I don't want to sound like a tired old man, but I might just skip Halloween this year. I retrieved my box of decorations ... cobwebs and a pumpkin carving kit and a mechanical spider that shrieks and a mummy's arm that crawls across surfaces and a super-cool Frankenstein head candy dish ... but it all looks tattered and just plain silly. I might still put out some pumpkins and gourds and Indian corn, but I may pass on "Beggars' Night" ... just go to a movie or be elsewhere. Especially since buying candy to feed the masses has gotten to be so expensive.
I'm also in a new apartment this year and really don't know how many kids are in the area. I don't want to buy too little candy and run out and look like a douche to all the little gkosts and goblins, but I also don't want to buy too much cause I'll just devour it myself then. And I have a cat now ... she could get loose and terrorize the neighborhood with her loud purring and back feet-only claws. And my steps are steep and narrow. No, this would be an ideal time to break the cycle ... buck the tradition. And I can blame it on the cat and the apartment, I thought ... insert evil laugh here.
But then I remember when I was a kid and how magical Halloween was. The air always chilled and crisp. The streets choked with laughing kids in costumes ranging from original to store-bought silly. And the candy ... oh, the mounds and mounds of candy. Pop Rockz, Mallo Cups, Razzles, chocolate "pirate" coins, BlowPops, candy corn, Nerds, ReeseSticks, Gobstoppers, M&Ms ... all the sugar a little boy could dream of. And then up the street there was this really nice guy who transformed his lawn into an eerie graveyard and he dressed up like a very convincing Grim Reaper. Until I was a bit older, I could never deal with the man when he said "hi" when I walked past, or if I was out riding my bike and he was in his yard and asked how my parents were. All I could see was his face covered in grizzly make-up and the sickle up the sleeve of his tattered black robe while he did his best to talk in a low, menacing voice. GOOSEBUMPS! DAMN!!
When I was very little, my parents also helped out with a neighborhood "haunted barn," after which the families would have a big bonfire with hotdogs, big crockpots of potato soup and chili, and toasted marshmellows and caramel apples. And us kids would swap candy so I could corner the market on Razzles. Every year, my Mom usually dressed like a suburban witch and my Dad like a ship-less pirate.
After my mother died, I was one of two siblings still living at home while I finished college. We lived in the "busy" ... code word for rundown and packed with people ... section of town. Our Mom loved decorating for Halloween and really enjoyed seeing all the kids and parents while she handed out candy, so my older brother and I decided we'd keep her zest for trick or treat alive if Dad would foot the bill. That first year he was still in a daze ... he just handed us cash and told us to do the best we could.
Well, my brother and me got serious about the event ... organized. We decided we would use inexpensive sandwich bags and create Halloween "treat kits" so all those germy little hands wouldn't be touching all the candy we secretly hoped to inherit as "leftovers." Each bag had one "miniature" candy bar, a packet of candy corn, a packet of Skittles, four or five flavored Tootsie Rolls, and a jawbreaker that looked like a faceted gemstone. We also found several bags of little glow-in-the-dark rats and spiders and tried to put a few in every bag. We started the "assembly line" about three days before Halloween ... Dad had to get more candy twice. "Christ, boys," he said, "we're not supplying candy to the whole state!" We reminded him that, as just barely young adults, we knew the kind of onslaught that was just around the corner. I think he was just happy to see us excited about something.
Halloween was on a Thursday night that year. We had the porch light blazing, Mom's Frankenstein bowl,... the one I now possess ... filled with bags, and the rest within easy reach. Just shy of 350 little princesses, police officers, mummies, vampires, Power Rangers, ghosts, wizards, dinosaurs, black cats, Pooh characters, and more made the trek up our four big stone steps to add to their bounty of confections. We had about a dozen bags left which disappeared quickly ... the craziness and frenetic energy of the evening demanded a sugar fix!
But now ... in the present ... did I really want to go to that kind of trouble? Besides, I had a potluck at work to worry about too. We always go a little crazy with food on the holidays, and Halloween was no exception. One year, I made those pumpkin rolls with decadent cream cheese frosting. I always add a bit of extra cinnamon and nutmeg into the pumpkin batter and a touch of lime zest to the filling ... a nice fresh twist. And another year I made a thick root vegetable stew that you actually cook and serve in a hollowed out pumpkin. That stuff was killer ... garlic and oregano and cumin accenting the flavors of squash, potatoes, leeks, parsnips, onion, fennel, and eggplant. There had not been enough left of that to even bother bringing home.
This year I was making "deviled eyes" ... basically deviled eggs, but you tint the filling (I chose green and brown), add a black olive for the "pupil," and draw a few bloodshot accents with a red icing pen. As a dry run, I made a dozen and took them to my landlord to sample. She thought they were wonderful and appreciated how I had added sage and celery seed to the fluffy filling. Now, my landlord is a wonderful lady who is also an outstanding cook. She suggested I switch the brown hue for blue ... I agreed it would be much more appealing ... and that I dribble some spicy cocktail sauce on the eyes instead of using the squiggly and too-sweet icing accent. "And maybe give the two different colors slightly different tastes," she cooed as she popped a second egg in her mouth, replacing the Saran wrap over the small serving plate and promising to save the rest for later on when her husband got home.
Well, I had a while until Halloween actually occurred, but i decided to make a grocery list for all the ingredients I would require for my eerie appetizers. Maybe I could pick up a bag of party-size 3 Musketeers bars ... or maybe two ... just in case friends with kids stop by, I thought as I added it to the list. And it wouldn't hurt to have a bowl of candy corn on hand. And some of those gummy eyeballs I saw last week ... those are so cool! And I wonder if they still make "pixie sticks?"
Oh, hell, I laughed inwardly, I better get some sandwich bags just in case!
POINT OF RANT: Like a vampire, old habits will always come back and bite you in the ass ... and the wallet!