Tuesday, December 28, 2010

COLUMN: Trick or Treat

Well, it's been a ground-breaking week... I think.

But thanks to my early deadline, I'm going to have to guess as to exactly what ground we broke. It's okay, though, I'm a professional journalisty dude, I can totally play it off. Let's just assume that our nation went to the polls in droves, and let me be the first to give a hearty congratulations to Governor-Elect Quee'glort from the planet Epsilon Beta IV on his(?) successful last-minute write-in campaign.

Or maybe not. But as far as I know right now, every Congressional race could have been won by aliens. (That would, at least, explain Rand Paul.) Sarah Palin could have overthrown the government with a horde of highly trained Alaskan flying monkeys. I have no idea what may have happened, because as I write this, it's Monday night, the election hasn't happened yet, and I'm presently looking over my laptop at a cavalcade of negative political ads on my TV. Thus far, I have learned that everyone running for every office is an incredibly bad person who should probably be stopped at any cost.

But more importantly, this same early deadline also explains why I am the only professional journalisty dude in the world still writing about Halloween.

As I've mentioned in a few past columns, I am a self-confessed Hallo-weenie. I'm all for kids in costumes and the free market trade of candy, but that's pretty much where it ends for me.

My friends ALMOST applied enough peer pressure to get me to go haunting-housing with them last Friday. My friend Linn pointed out that the experience would make for excellent column fodder, but my epic willpower (otherwise known as laziness) prevailed. Besides, I will never understand the appeal of being scared.

After 39 years of the lifestyle known as Shane, I like to think myself somewhat an expert when it comes to leisure activities. At the drop of a hat, I could provide you with a rather lengthy annotated list of things I like to do in my downtime. And you will never find "paying $12 to go walking through a dark building while grown adults in masks and make-up jump out of doors yelling BOOGITY BOO" on that list.

As Friend Jason put it so eloquently the other day, "When dudes in make-up come at you indoors wielding chainless chainsaws, it's not scary. It's just loud and annoying." Amen, brother. I know there's a lot of you who spend gobs of time and effort volunteering to make haunted houses a success, and I know some of the local ones are quite impressive in scale and design, but sorry. If your goal is to make me afraid, then I'm afraid you'll never be getting any of MY money, sorry.

That said, I don't want to be a Halloween fuddy-duddy. I like creepy movies, ghost stories, goth music, and getting the occasional mild case of the heebie-jeebies. I just don't want to be the self-conscious guy in the awkward costume making awkward small talk with other grown adults who look ridiculous in their awkward costumes. I'm perfectly okay with Halloween, so long as I'm a passive observer.

In fact, I kinda got excited about the prospect of the first Halloween in my new house. Growing up in the country a good mile off the main road, we never had trick-or-treaters. Of course, it never stopped my mom from stocking up on candy (her annual excuse to defy the gods of Weight Watchers.) And at my old apartment complex, they actually used to post "NO TRICK OR TREAT" signs in the halls. But now that I had my own house in the city? Game on.

I asked my next-door neighbors about the Halloween situation.

"Mmm, nope," came the reply. "We've been here for years and never get any trick-or-treaters."

Bummer. That just stinks, even for a Hallo-weenie like me. When I was a kid, running around and getting candy was the only thing that made the costume-wearing worthwhile. I might've hated dressing up, but the week-long sugar high comedown was the payoff.

So despite my neighbors' advice, I brought home 3 huge bags of candy and on All Hallow's Eve, I dutifully turned the patio light on and hoped for the best.

Little did I know that apparantly the children of the Quad Cities have some kind of super-hi-tech candy telemetry. No sooner had I turned that light on than DING-DONG. "TRICK OR TREAT!" Cute little vampire kid and a Spiderman kid. Those must've been the scouts. Five minutes later, I peeked outside to a GAGGLE of children heading down the block in a ravenous, candy-crazed little line. Within an hour, my girlfriend was rationing our remaining stock while I was racing to Walgreens on an emergency candy run.

By the time it was done, SEVEN bags of sweets were dispersed. It turns out that our neighbors across the street, neighbors who I had never before even seen outside, are Halloween-heads. In the course of one afternoon, they converted their front yard into a graveyard of horrors, special effect lighting, and creepy sound effects. Their house was the Pied Piper of Halloween, and my place was caught in their gravitational pull.

We had cute kids aplenty at the door, sure, but I'd say only about half of them were in costume. The rest MIGHT have taken enough time to put something orange on before heading out the door on their quest for free candy. Maybe it's always been that way, but as far as I'm concerned, if you want free candy, you've got to work for it, or at least suffer by wearing some horrifying costume your parents have forced you to wear. I had to be Uncle Sam. I had to be a hobo. The least you could do is put on a mask, kid.

Still, I'm not going to deprive anyone of candy. That would just be mean. Instead, I have a better solution for next year: TWO bowls of candy. In one, a vast array of chocolately goodness. In the other? The unholiest evil of all: CANDY CORN. Show up at my door in costume? Chocolately goodness. Yell, "Yo, you got candy?" to me from the sidewalk? You bet I do, buddy, and it tastes like vaguely sweet chalk. Enjoy.

As for me, I'm off to get an early start on catching the Christmas spirit. Maybe I'll write about it, oh, mid-February.

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