I don’t have many memories from kindergarten. I remember Paul Angelos, heavyset and Greek and the first bully our class ever encountered¹, scrawling a curse word on the side of our bright red plastic playhouse. I remember guiltily stealing an intricately-detailed toy space shuttle that had been die-cast from some kind of dense metal – I stowed it in my palm and could still hide it completely by closing my fingers, such was its size, and yet it had considerable heft, and dragged at me in my pockets as I walked out of the gate and home. I remember also a night one December when my father read Christmas stories to a group of us as we sat cross-legged in pajamas around his chair; what stands out most in my mind is that it was the first time I’d heard ‘Saint Nick’ used as a sobriquet for Santa Claus.

What I remember most is a grey afternoon when I was sitting alone on a swing in the playground, idly moving back and forth by the tiniest of swaying degrees, scraping my shoes, heel and toe, along the ground. In my memory, this scene is close-bordered; there is only me and the stillness of the dull sky, the moment unbroken by other voices or, indeed, any trace of human presence. It’s the earliest memory I have of complete contentment, a feeling I didn’t have words for at the time.

I have no recollection of when either the concept or the word ‘ghost’ entered my consciousness. It must have occurred at one point, but I can’t pinpoint exactly when – all I know is at one point the idea of such a thing did not exist to me, and then, somehow, it did. Likewise Halloween – although I know it didn’t take me long to figure out that Halloween is the worst holiday of all if you grow up in Australia.

A kind of cultural osmosis occurs over here as you gain more and more exposure to American TV, and American books, and American movies.  Concepts and facts like the Gettysburg Address, what Willis might be talking about, and the exact nature of the relationship between head cheerleaders and quarterbacks seep into your awareness. You also learn that once a year there comes a time when the air is thick with spirits, and witches fly through the night, and devils congregate to laugh over a fresh pot of telemarketer’s hearts, and, best of all, you get to be a part of it. You get to be an angel or a demon, a hero or a villain, a vampire or a detective or a pirate or anything you can think of, and people have to give you candy, and if they don’t, you get to mess up their house.

You get to bob for apples, and carve Jack O’Lanterns, and dream of how awesome it would be if a mummy or a vampire or a werewolf ripped Paul Angelos’s still-living head from his body and carried it, screaming all the while, into the shadows and away.

For a kid like me, who thrived on stories that scared me, this sounded like paradise. I regularly went to bed only to remain awake and terrified of Pennywise the Clown, or creeping severed hands, or, after reading one particularly gruesome ghost story, a spectral, ectoplasmy green monkey-like creature which turned out to be the spirit of a murdered child whose small corpse had been weighted down and hidden in an overgrown well (hence the green).

What you don’t know, growing up in Australia and looking forward to Halloween, is that you’re going to be looking forward for a long, long time. Inexorably, the grim discussion draws closer, and, eventually, and innocently, you ask your parents what they’ll be handing out to kids for Halloween this year, and the axe falls.

In my head, this discussion always occurs with the parent in question glancing over the top of a newspaper, unconcerned with the devastating blow they’re about to deliver to their child. As if it’s nothing – nothing, of no importance –  the cursory admission will come: ‘Oh, Halloween? No, we don’t celebrate that in Australia. That’s an American holiday.’

With that statement, a little more of your childhood bleeds away, and you start to think of how someday, you’re going to make all of those American children pay for this.

The Truson kids were the only Australians I remember ever celebrating Halloween.  There were four boys, the youngest of whom was in my grade, with about a year between each of them. Lank brown hair and a puckered, upturned goblin nose that dripped incessantly ran in the family, so the Trusons probably counted their blessings they never had a girl.

Whether it was bravery, or ignorance, or simply a sheer refusal to buckle under the weight of reality, I don’t know, but one year the Truson kids convinced their parents to let them go trick-or-treating. On the way back home from going to the supermarket, in the late afternoon sunlight, my mother and I drove past them. Three of them, a tiny pack of costumed children clutching bags, were walking slowly down the long emptiness of the road, hustled and clucked over by Mrs. Truson all the while.

I have no doubt they received absolutely nothing for their trouble, because no Australian household would have laid in supplies in preparation. Over here, every house is the house that gives you fruit. The Trusons would have returned home with Halloween sacks of apples, oranges, and bitter-tongued disappointment.

It’s not that I particularly liked Jamie Truson, but I could sympathise. On Halloween in Australia, no child is an island.

High school Halloween parties were usually non-events, where costumes were rare things. It was as if we knew this wasn’t for us, that while we could pretend Halloween was global, underneath, we remained just that – pretenders.

When I was seventeen, I lobbied my then-girlfriend to watch The Lost Boys with me, to at least mark the occasion with a sense of the supernatural. I figured maybe I could create a kind of bubble of appropriate eeriness around us if I just kept the event small and personal enough; if I didn’t over-extend the boundaries of my Halloween to the point where they would collapse before the pounding waves of dogged Australian non-observance.

It was that night I learned my girlfriend had an annoying, and incessant, habit of interjecting either an opinion or what she assumed might be the next line into films.

‘See,’ she said knowledgeably, lying on her couch and adding her own commentary for the hundredth time as Corey Haim, unaware that Jason Patric was stalking up the stairs towards him, sang falsetto in the bathtub, ‘that shows that he’s still young and innocent.’²

I clenched my teeth, silently.

This was clearly not to be the Halloween of my childhood dreams.

My one opportunity to wear a costume came some years ago, when a friend, who holds the same love for October 31 in his heart as I, threw a small party. We carved pumpkins – harder than I originally assumed, although the amateurish jaggedness of my carving lent my lantern a twisted, malicious appearance later, after the sun had gone down- and I wore a singlet and suspenders and went as Indestructible Sam³. And while it was fun, it wasn’t the overwhelming, all-encompassing experience I wanted.

I want the Halloween I grew up hearing about – the one with the paper bats and the fake cobwebs, the skeleton cut-outs and the candy and the cheerful phantoms hanging from the ceiling, with the costumes and the ghost stories and the Halloween specials on TV⁴, with the unquiet dead climbing out of crypts to scour the earth, looking for David Wills.

I want it.

I need it.

So this year, I’m going to cross the Pacific to get it.

The last time I left America, I promised myself I wasn’t going to miss one single further chance to have a real Halloween. On Wednesday morning I’ll be boarding a plane to San Francisco, to have my first proper and true All Hallow’s Eve, to search out that same feeling of contentment I remember from being a child alone under a wide, featureless sky.

As a plus, that means I get to celebrate Dia de Los Muertos as well.

And while I referenced this in a comment on Cynthia Hawkins’s board recently, this, to my mind, sums up what Halloween is all about.

Enjoy, and have a Happy Halloween.

*

¹ Poor Paul Angelos. He was one of those kids who was just born a couple of sizes too big and turned his confused rage at that fact on the rest of the world. In second grade he left and his position was taken by William Gount, who was less a bully than a swirling vortex of pallid skin and phlegm. Will’s proudest times were the occasions when he would blow his nose into his hand in full view of the class and then, in a single motion, swallow the resulting mass.

² Which might have been OK, had her suggestions for what the next line would be not been wildly wrong, every single time.

³ Samuel Dombey’s tragic tale is told here.

⁴ To add insult to injury, given the difference between Australian and American programming schedules, it is not uncommon for Halloween specials to screen in March.

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SIMON SMITHSON is an Australian writer and editor. He is currently based in Melbourne, Australia, but frequently finds himself in Los Angeles and San Francisco. His work has appeared on both sides of the globe in print and online in publications such as BLIP, Every Day Fiction, Beat, The Loop, My Sinking Boat, and more. He has a tumblr at www.simonsmithson.com and he runs a lifestyle experiment at www.selfhelpless.net.

143 responses to “In the Company of Ghosts”

  1. Becky Palapala says:

    A lot…a LOT of Americans will tell you that Halloween is their favorite holiday.

    Then again, there are a lot of Americans who are sort of annoyed by Halloween. Its persistence…or maybe the persistence of those people for whom it is a favorite…inevitably means that the Halloween party invites will roll in again, and again, you will realize that you have put no thought at all to what you might wear, despite vowing last year (or the last 10 last years) to not procrastinate so much next year.

    So, in desperation, you do something ridiculous, like wearing your own normal clothes and claiming that you’re a “Stepford Wife.”

    Or drawing ligature marks on your neck using only the make up you use every day and, dressed an unnecessarily elaborate nightgown, ordering the husband to put on a suit, drawing dead-face makeup on him, throwing a rope around his neck, and showing up at the party claiming to be murder-suicide, a la some couple in the Beetlejuice underworld waiting room.

    And as proud of yourself as you may be for your quick thinking, you will inevitably get to the party and find that everyone’s costume is WAY fuckin’ cooler than yours. Not even close. You didn’t even get CLOSE.

    Halloween is stressful, man!

    • Simon Smithson says:

      I look forward to joining the ranks of those fine, fine people.

      In fact, even if the reality should differ from my fantasies, I’m going to cling tight to the fantasy version.

      I seriously hope that doesn’t happen with my husband this year. Because ligature marks are an awesome idea.

      I actually still have little idea of what I’m going as. There are a few suggestions floating around, but I’m very aware that I’m going to want at least some mobility, which is important to me.

      • Becky Palapala says:

        Absolutely cling to the fantasy.

        I didn’t develop an attitude about it for a looooong time. And still, the actual getting dressed up and seeing other people’s costumes and the smell of scary rubber masks is a profoundly pleasant experience.

        It’s just the pressure, man. The PRESSURE!

        • Simon Smithson says:

          That’s just it! I want to be a part of it! I don’t want to make my own Halloween, I want to be wrapped up in the Halloween that’s occurring around me.

          Clearly, though, my sex teacher was wrong and wearing a mask doesn’t relieve the pressure at all. This is terrible news.

    • Gloria says:

      Halloween is stressful! YOU try dressing up toddler twins who aren’t allowed to eat candy while at the same time making sure your tween doesn’t try to sneak out of the house dressed like a hooker – all while trying to figure out how to leave your house darkened so that kids don’t knock on the front door and frighten your seizure-prone dog.

      The boys still don’t eat very much candy – at all. We have a rule in my house: whatever you collect on Halloween, you have precisely one night to consume. Whatever is left after you pass out in a sugar coma gets thrown away. It has always been this way, and since the boys have never known any different, they don’t complain and they’ve learned to go for the creme de la creme of the treats.

      I, personally, hate Halloween and believe that it is just one more holiday-as-excuse to get drunk and stupid.

      I pretty much hate October through January.

      Bah humbug.

      • Becky Palapala says:

        I, personally, hate Halloween and believe that it is just one more holiday-as-excuse to get drunk and stupid.

        Okay.

        You lost me there.

        What’s wrong with this, again?

        • Gloria says:

          Heh. As each year passes, I get one year closer to the crazy cat lady, Becky. It isn’t like you just wake up one day and are that way. It takes years of hard work.

          YOU KIDS GET OFF MY LAWN!! **shakes cane**

        • Simon Smithson says:

          Gloria, are you Gran Torino?

        • Gloria says:

          Not yet, Simon. Not yet…

        • Simon Smithson says:

          Or, as one friend called it, Get Off My Lawn: the Movie.

        • Becky Palapala says:

          YEAH! But if it’s Halloween, you can sit on the porch in a scary outfit, in a chair, in the shadows, motionless, and LEAP OUT at the children when they get too close.

          It’s the one time of the year it’s perfectly acceptable to scare the living crap out of kids, then laugh at them. So many hundreds of degrees cooler than just shaking a cane. You should be all over this.

        • Gloria says:

          This year, Becky, I am going to be spending all weekend herding cats – not actual cats. metaphorical cats. Here’s a conversation that actually recently happened:

          Indigo: Mom, can I be an assassin for Halloween?

          Me: No.

          Indigo: Why? Ronan’s mom is letting him be an assassin.

          Me: I’m not Ronan’s mom. Besides, you can be one of the things that we already have the stuff for.

          *dumps out bag of Halloween supplies I’ve methodically collected over the years**

          Tolkien: Ooh! I like this hooded robe. I look like the grim reaper. Can I wear this?

          Me: Sure.

          Tolkien: Will you buy me a scythe?

          Me: No.

          Indigo (shrilly): Heeeeeeey! If he can be the grim reaper, why can’t I be an assassin?

          Me: **blank stare, gaping mouth**

          Damned smart kids.

          Wanna lay any bets about whether or not Indigo ends up going as an assassin?

        • Simon Smithson says:

          Why didn’t Ronan’s mom make him go as a Ronin?

          Man.

          Talk about a wasted opportunity.

      • Simon Smithson says:

        I absolutely and completely refuse to believe in anything that doesn’t match what I have in the inside of my head, despite whatever hard evidence to the contrary you might produce.

        I won’t.

        I think it’s one of those holidays that has been sucked into the engines of the commercial machine and spat back out, isn’t it? Which doesn’t make it any the less awesome, to me.

        Or at least, that’s what I assume. I do like an undercurrent to my holiday cheer.

      • Lisa Rae Cunningham says:

        YOU try dressing up toddler twins who aren’t allowed to eat candy while at the same time making sure your tween doesn’t try to sneak out of the house dressed like a hooker.

        Gloria, I’m an impossible person, but I really think we should move in together.

  2. “The unquiet dead climbing out of crypts to scour the earth, looking for David Wills.”

    Wow. That line was so epic that Gmail actually notified me of its composition. “Ping-pong!” Wow. Epic.

    You poor bastard, Simon, I can’t believe they don’t have Halloween over there. All the worse because you have to see so many awesome movies on the subject, like “Hallween,” “Halloween II,” “Halloween III” and so on. I watched “Neighbours” for years and failed to notice an absence of Halloween-themed episodes.

    America certainly has a handle on it. As a kid, though, we had pretty awesome Halloweens in Scotland, although my parents never failed to remind me that it didn’t exist in their day, and they’re pretty young.

    Oh man, I love Halloween. I’ll be all alone in China this year, though, so I don’t imagine it’ll exactly be off the hook… It was fun in Korea because the locals had no idea what we were doing. They’d go out one day and all the white people were running around in masks and holding swords. Madness. That’s quite a trip to lay on a nation of humourless drunks after a long day at the office.

    I really, sincerely hope you have a great Halloween this year. San Francisco seems like a good place for it. You should get crazy high and then wander about to make it all the more scary and surreal.

    • Simon Smithson says:

      You know it’s the truth, David Wills!

      The more I think about it, the more flat-out creepy those stories of yours are. I can’t believe you saw that goddamn hand. Weird stuff, amigo.

      And it is, sadly, true. No Halloween. Even the pumpkins we get over at this time of year are small and sullen and out of season.

      Those jerks.

      ‘That’s quite a trip to lay on a nation of humourless drunks after a long day at the office.’

      ‘Nation of Humourless Drunks’ would be a great blog title, by the way.

      Thanks, man! I don’t know anything about getting high, though. And will continue to be ignorant until I’m in a secure enough position to not have to worry about potential employers reading TNB.

      • I’m now working at an Australian university in China, with two Australian co-workers… and they claim to have been trick or treating as youths, but also say that Halloween isn’t particularly big over there.

        We’ve agreed to have a big pumpkin carving night on Saturday with our students, so hopefully that’ll help bring Halloween to China.

  3. Irene Zion says:

    Simon,

    I believe you are the only one on TNB who includes footnotes.

    (What’s a singlet?)

    • Simon Smithson says:

      Oh, Irene. I do so enjoy a good footnote. It makes me so happy.

      (a singlet? It’s what you guys might call a wifebeater? We call them wifebeaters too, but I’m sure there must be a more technical term than that. It’s this, basically: http://www.smittenimagedesign.com.au/pages/men%27s-singlet-2.htm )

    • Uche Ogbuji says:

      Irene, just one word for you. But you have to read it out in a scouser accent.

      “SHOCKER!”

      • Irene Zion says:

        I swear! Uche!

        Almost every time you write to me you force me to look up a word!
        Okay: a scouser accent is one from Liverpool, England.
        God, you exhaust me!

        I happen to know what a “wifebeater” is.
        I had just never heard of a “singlet.”
        I’m pretty sure it’s some weird Aussie word.

        I can’t help it if you speak three thousand languages and dialects, Uche, I don’t.

        I can do pig latin, I’m from Brooklyn, for Godsake!
        I’ll bet your Brooklynese sucks!
        There, I feel better now.

        • Uche Ogbuji says:

          Forgive me. I wasn’t *trying* to be difficult, but you know how it is when you’ve heard a particular sentiment expressed by someone from a particular place, and you never think you’ll ever find a clearer expression of that sentiment? Well for me, “shocker” said by a scouser is one of those cases.

          As for my Brooklynese, oh you got me for sure. But at least I’m more down with it than with Pekingese 🙂 Woof!

          As for “singlet,” that’s just another shocker. “Wifebeater” surely can’t be older than 2 decades (no I haven’t looked it up). What d’ya think they called it before that? It’s always been “singlet” for me.

          But my original “shocker” was from the fact that I use footnotes in almost all my posts 😉

        • Gloria says:

          If I’m not mistaken, the term “wifebeater” came about because of the American television show Cops – which always seemed to show domestic violence scenarios involving men wearing that particular brand of tank top.

        • Simon Smithson says:

          You could call it either a singlet or a wifebeater over here and be understood in both cases. I wonder what the ‘proper’ American term is? I agree with Uche – it can’t have always been wifebeater – undershirt, maybe? Vest? Tank top?

        • Becky Palapala says:

          Third slang option: Muscle shirt.

          Undershirt would be a little archaic, I think. And non-specific, since an undershirt can also be a t-shirt.

          I think tank top is what you’re after.

        • Irene Zion says:

          @Uche,

          WAIT!
          I was only teasing you!
          I was pointing out how smart you are and how embarrassing it is to have to look up a word every time you comment to me!
          It was supposed to be funny.
          Obviously I need to take comedy lessons from Slade.
          @Slade? I need you!
          Uche, forgive me for making you think I was serious.
          I really, really wasn’t.

        • Don Mitchell says:

          Singlet (US) and vest (Canadian) are used interchangeable in the running world. Together with your racing shorts, the kit was sometimes called you “silks.”

          I have a memory that wife beater / undershirt had another name years ago, but damned if I can remember it.

          Anyway, Halloween. One year when I lived in the city I was bored by handing out candy to kids not from our neighborhood, so I went and found my academic robe, which is very bright, and put it to, to see what would happen.

          First kid up the stairs: Ah, the Pope. Cool.

          Last year we were visiting friends in Jamaica Plain (Boston) on Halloween. JP is very Democratic/Liberal. Dressed in regular clothes, we walked through one of those block parties and somebody called out, “Who are you?”

          I yelled, “We’re Republicans.”

          Got a laugh, but no candy.

        • Andrew Nonadetti says:

          One year, I went to a party dressed as a ninja. Totally traditional, black hakama, kyogi and tabi, whole nine yards. When I wasn’t wearing the hood, folks guessed I was a Jesuit priest. Sometimes, things don’t work out like you plan….

        • Simon Smithson says:

          Don – there must have been something pre wife-beater. Maybe I’ll make that a holiday mission for myself, to find out the answer to this question.

          The big question for me now is what to wear. You wouldn’t happen to have a spare gown, would you?

          Anon – that is the sweet part of going as a priest. All you need is a black shirt and some white paper wedged into your collar…

        • Andrew Nonadetti says:

          And a temporary restraining order issued by the local elementary schools….

          Doh! Sorry. Catholic upbringing. 🙂

          I think that’s what drove me mad. I’d put work into the accuracy of this thing! I didn’t just wander into Target, buy a black dress shirt and stick a damned index card in the collar!! Jeez! Then again, over-planning is a curse with me. Traveled out of state to another party as a knight and had to explain to the goons at JFK – repeatedly, for almost an hour – why I was traveling with a hauberk in my bag. Then I had to explain the concept of chain mail. And this was pre-9/11. Sigh. I tried to use small words….

        • Simon Smithson says:

          Heh. It’s OK. I went to a fancy-dress party as a priest once. I don’t think my date was too impressed by my drunk friend C kneeling in front of me to beg for confession.

          Heh.

          You have a hauberk?

          Dude.

          That’s awesome.

        • Andrew Nonadetti says:

          “Had”. It was borrowed and a long time ago. Now my armor is mostly Kevlar.

      • Irene Zion says:

        @ Uche,
        I never noticed your footnotes, honest.

  4. Stefan Kiesbye says:

    Simon, hope you find that scary, sweet Halloween you’re dreaming of. Although, I have to say that for a “real” halloween, the South or Northeast are better places than California…

    • Simon Smithson says:

      Thank you, brother. I look forward to searching it out. I can imagine that the South would be a perfect place for the holiday – although, I will be in LA for a few days in November, so if you want to get together for a few ghost stories…?

  5. Solar says:

    I totally disagree with Stefan. After celebrating Halloween in LA, NY, Florence, and some other less known cities, I can easily say, nothing compares to San Francisco. You are going into the heart of the madness and glory. Plus, the Mexican community is so strong, Día de los Muertos is just as significant if not moreso. Plus, we/they celebrate a week on either side there…any excuse to get freakier. But you know all this.

    Great write. Have an amazing time in my town.xo

    • Simon Smithson says:

      I love descending into hearts of madness and glory! It’s pretty much what got me through high school.

      I always wondered what Dia de Los Muertos in the Mission would be like. From the looks of Facebook photos, a lot of fun. I’m most likely going to end up with a calavera tattoo, but I’m OK with that.

      Any excuse to get freakier is right.

      Thanks Solar! I shall. Rip it up in NYC!
      ox

  6. jmblaine says:

    Hey, this seemed to have
    a bit of a bittersweet tone to it
    kind of different for you.
    Old memories and bones
    & trying to feel the way
    you wanna feel.
    Here’s hoping you
    find a way to defang the
    disturbing & make it
    fun

    • Simon Smithson says:

      Always having fun, my friend. I’m just trying to make room for the rest of what there’s room for – and I have a couple more posts in mind that might flesh things out a little more. Best wishes of the season to you!

  7. I hope this means you will write a post-Halloween essay describing your first real Halloween because a real Halloween from your perspective should be very interesting.

    Fantastic description of your childhood memories. And the William Gount footnote, bleck! I have a friend who witnessed that same thing, executed by an adult though, on the NYC subway recently. Which makes me think maybe Stefan’s correct … maybe you *are* headed to the wrong city for a real Halloween 😉

    • Simon Smithson says:

      Deconstruction! It’ll be like the Expendables post all over again.

      Which reminds me – did you see Predators? Did we talk about this already?

      William Gount’s finest hour came one day when he was chasing Tom Macintosh around the school oval. Tom was one of those kids who is endlessly annoying due to his adoption of clothes and mannerisms that were supposedly cool on TV, but in real life, just rubbed everyone the wrong way. Tom was calling William Gount a monkey, William Gount took offence, and chased Tom behind the fence. Tom managed to get through and latch the door behind him – it was one of those wire cyclone fences that you can see through, with metres to go on either side before the fence ended. So Tom was safe – if William ran one way to get around the fence, Tom could just run the other way and get to safety. Similarly, if William tried to unlatch the gate and get through, Tom would have enough time to bolt.

      So Tom, thinking himself safe, started hollering ‘MON-KEY! MOOOOON-KEY!’ at William Gount through the fence.

      He failed to take into account the fact that shaping the ‘O’ in ‘monkey’ required him to open his mouth wide – and it was in the middle of doing just that that William Gount hawked and spat, and the luminous loogie flew threw the fence and right into Tom Mcintosh’s open mouth.

      Tom’s eyes seriously bulged at this point, as the sudden, irrefutable knowledge of what had just happened to him was transmitted from his mouth to his brain.

      • Wait …. are you planning on blowing up David Zayas’ palace on Halloween?

        Re. the new Gount tale, you’ve reduced me to an exclamation mark parade: !!!!

        I haven’t seen Predators yet, but it is a priority. I’ve heard that Robert Rodriguez, as producer, stipulated that it should be as close in style to the first one as possible. I’m trying not to let that set my expectations too high. Should we tag-team this one after your big trip? Is this a job for Smithson and Hawkins?

        “The luminous loogie flew threw the fence and right into Tom Mcintosh’s open mouth.” !!!

        • Simon Smithson says:

          Happy Halloween, General Garza!

          As I wasn’t a big fan of Tom Mcintosh, it was one of the more awesome things I’ve ever seen happen.

          It was just so… biological.

          I really enjoyed Predators. I thought there was one mis-step, but on the whole, it hit the marks it set out to hit.

          Hmm. Maybe we can tag-team latter-day entries in our favourite action franchises – Die Hard 4.0, Predators, Terminator:Salvation, Rambo… I like our LCA interviews!

  8. Gloria says:

    Simon!! I’m so busy at work, I can’t read this. But I wanted to leave a comment now, while comments are still relevant. I’ll leave one later, too, when I read this, but no one will care anymore. 🙂

    Hi Simon!

    • Simon Smithson says:

      Gloria! I am not busy at work at all just yet, so I can take a relaxed attitude towards proceedings. But thanks for leaving the placeholder!

      HI Gloria!

  9. Lisa Rae Cunningham says:

    Simon. Once again you balance unique humor and sentiment with perfection. I loved this.

    Also, thank you for sobriquet. I’ve waited 34 years for the delivery of this word. LRC’s vocab: +1

    The Lost Boys is awesome. It was filmed at the Santa Cruz Boardwalk, which is just a short jaunt down the coast from SF. It runs on weekends year round. If you’ve gotta friend with wheels, I recommend it.

    • Simon Smithson says:

      Hey, thanks LRC!

      It’s a good word, huh?

      I’ve heard of the boardwalk! That’s a trip I definitely want to take some day. Hmmm. I wonder if I’ll have any wheels? Maybe I will. If not, I guess I’ll just have to take another trip.

      Or move. I could just move.

  10. angela says:

    “Over here, every house is the house that gives you fruit.” haha, awesome! i hated those houses as a kid. also the ones who’d give those popcorn balls.

    i’ve such a sentimental feeling about Halloween. the last time i went trick or treating i was in the 8th grade, and my friend and i went out at the last minute. because the kids in my (somewhat ghetto) town loved messing up houses, we had a 9 PM curfew. my pal and i threw on her father’s jackets, ties, and fedoras, penciled on moustaches, and ran from house to house, trying to get as much candy as we could before 9.

    my adult halloweens have paled in comparison. for women it seems like an excuse to dress slutty (not that i haven’t donned the naughty school girl costume in the past). i agree with Becky that it’s sort of stressful, the pressure to come up with a clever costume, even more so here in SF. truthfully, last year i was glad it was over (though my Amelia Earhart costume was pretty good, and will basically be my costume forever if need be).

    Halloween in a southern town like Charleston seems like it would be fun. they have some great spooky tours and ghostly legends.

    • Simon Smithson says:

      What is a popcorn ball?

      I, too, have a very sentimental feeling about Halloween. Did you end up shaking down the neighbours for a lot of candy?

      Maybe I can get someone to take me trick-or-treating. I’m sure I could leverage my accent into sympathy.

      I’ve heard about the slutty costuming. Did you go as a slutty Amelia Earhart? (good costume, by the way!)

      Lynchburg was spooky, spooky town (as was Charleston). Halloween there would be a great way to spend the night.

      More on the to do list!

  11. Gloria says:

    What I love most about this essay is that I get to see American culture from your perspective – which is kind of awesome. Kind of like the way you can look at Medusa in a mirror, but you can’t look directly at her. Wait… maybe it’s nothing like that.

    I get it though. Imagine my disappointment when I realized I would never wrestle a crocodile or…box a kangaroo? Throw a shrimp on the barby? Meet Paul Hogan in the outback?

    Over here, every house is the house that gives you fruit. ha ha ha – then every house is toilet papered.

    I truly hope that your Holloween is a Hallowed Eve. May your hopes and dreams not be dashed!

    • Simon Smithson says:

      God, how I love Americana. And America. Maybe this is why I have such a thing for Supernatural; it rolls all of those elements together into one.

      Never, ever, ever wrestle a crocodile.

      Or box a kangaroo. Their hind legs will gut you, quite literally.

      Thanks Gloria! The best part is I have such wonderful, terrible dreams.

  12. Uche Ogbuji says:

    I don’t mean to make things harder for the antipode, but Australians have no business, no business whatsoever celebrating Halloween in October! Surely you should be celebrating Beltane. You should be singing at the top of your lungs: “Send us, bright one, light one, Horhorn, quickening, and wombfruit.”

    Basically if you screw with the observances of the sun, the sun sees fit to screw with you, wherever you might be on earth.

    So absolutely no surprise that Halloween in October sounds like a very damp squib in Aussie.

    Of course, no one can in the least argue with your coming up north to do it properly 🙂

    • Simon Smithson says:

      That does explain the bunyip problems we’ve been having lately…

      And those damn quinkins! I hate those things! Well, the timara are OK, but the imjim? Those things are assholes, always running off with children to eat…

      Wait, damn it, wrong set of beliefs! What’s a poor Australian to do, upside down and turned around?

      I’m sure there’s a small-town element I’ll be dreaming of, but SF will just have to do for a start!

  13. Meg Worden says:

    Did anyone tell you what a popcorn ball is yet?

    Your teeth will never be the same after chewing on one of these sticky caramel-y wads of popped corn wrapped in plastic wrap. People used to make them and hand them out to trick or treators…but no more will homemade treats do since malevolents started including syringes and razor blades in them.
    Real Halloween menace like this has limited many a suburban child to the obscenely American “Mall” version of T&T, where kids go store to store, begging for their candy from Gap cashiers. Lame.

    We, on the other hand…still brave the houses, and like Gloria’s boys, the best costumes always include the best weaponry.

    I’m truly envious of your Mission extravaganza sans squirts. Have a hell of a time, Simon. I can’t wait for the follow up essay.

    This one was an awesome read.

    • Simon Smithson says:

      Well, Angela did, according to my email notifications, but it hasn’t appeared on TNB.

      They do look delicious, according to the pictures she sent.

      Yeah, I’ve heard about the razor blades and syringes. Man. I can imagine it would be difficult to reconcile doing that with any sort of self-image of yourself as a decent human being.

      Be jealous, Meg! Revel in it! I’ll have the best time ever!

      (thank you and thank you)

      • Matt says:

        That’s absolute bullshit. Total urban legend. There has never been a single case of a razor blade or needle hidden in any Halloween treat, ever. Not one. And in the only case of candy poisoning, the perpetrator in question was targeting a specific neighbor child.

        • Simon Smithson says:

          You heard it here, folks!

          Wow. Do we have a link to that story? Because there’s something about children raising the ire of adults that is fascinating to me. How do you suddenly flip to that sort of attack, where you think, I’m going to fuck that kid up?

          Last night, actually, we saw a cinema official shout at, grab, and then slap a teenager who was hanging out the front of a cinema.

          Weird, man.

        • Matt says:

          I believe I originally read about in in snopes.com while researching something else, but this Wikipedia entry mostly concurs, inasmuch as we can trust Wikipedia on anything.

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poisoned_candy_scare

        • Simon Smithson says:

          Wow.

          What an asshole.

  14. Nathaniel Missildine says:

    I’ve been thinking of planning my own trip back just so my kids can experience Halloween properly. I’m biased to the holiday in the northeast too. It’s the woods, it creates the right backdrop.

    But the streets of SF that night offer an atmosphere that’s unforgettable too. I’ve heard the Castro has made an informal resurgence after canceling the parade because of a shooting incident several years ago. Before the 31st, you should also go on a haunted woods walk. Or at least through a haunted hay bale maze.

    • Simon Smithson says:

      If I was a parent, I would totally make the effort to expose my kids to Halloween. I think a twist of the supernatural is an essential part of any childhood, especially if it can be placed against a celebratory background.

      Oh, man, I’d love to get some woods going on. Upstate New York would be a wonderful place for Halloween, I think.

      Yeah, I heard about the difficulties in the Castro. Someone got shot in Pride this year, can you believe that? What a shame. But I’d love to do Halloween in the Castro (as I’ll be hitting up Dia de Los Muertos in the Mission, for sure), and jump aboard all of the American Halloween traditions.

  15. Jessica Blau says:

    Man, those Truson kids are BOLD trick-or-treating in the land where there is no trick-or-treating!

    I’m quite excited for you have Halloween in S.F.! I spent eight very crazy Halloweens there. It’s a wonderful Halloween city–lots of gender confusion and profoundly irreverent costumes.

    I do think you should go check out a neighborhood with lots of kids so you can see how sweet it is with all the little ones walking around collecting candy. (7-8 is prime time.) Take some good pics for the TNB View From Your Phone.

    Can’t wait to read your post S.F. Halloween post!

    • Simon Smithson says:

      Those poor Trusons. They should have known they were never going to get anything except the humiliating taste of abject failure.

      Gender confusion and irreverancy seems to be par for the course in SF as is, so Halloween should be a blast.

      Maybe I can pretend to be three kids sitting on each others shoulders in an overcoat and score candy that way?

      Can’t wait to write it!

  16. Zara Potts says:

    Halloween…
    Somewhere two little countries wait…
    Ha! We’ve already talked about this – but it was alwasy disappointing how Halloween never arrived on our doorsteps. However, in recent years cultural imperialism has sen a rise in trick and treaters stalking the streets of NZ.
    I like it.
    And I liked this piece, Brew. Nicely done! Have so much fun in SF -I will miss you down here…

    • Simon Smithson says:

      This Australian will wait no more.

      Maybe I could go as Swearengen, brew? Although that would be more Matt, I think.

      Yeah, it was always kind of crushing to me. I wanted it so much. Especially as I lived in a neighbourhood that could be especially spooky at night. We even had a giant belltower that loomed over the area.

      Goddamnit.

      Thanks brew! I’ll bring you back some candy.

    • Simon Smithson says:

      Halloween represent!

      You could print out a bunch of these pieces, clip them to yourself, and go as the Nervous Breakdown… but no one apart from us would get it.

      Thanks, brother. I hear Dia de Los Muertos is great in SF (there’s a large Latino presence, specifically Mexican, so it should be fun) – I’d love to hear a stroy of Day of the Dead in Mexico itself, if you’ve got one.

      • Matt says:

        Actually, I’ve got a suit, a trench coat, and a pair of Converse Chuck Taylors; do my hair right and pick up a toy Sonic Screwdriver and I could go as the David Tennant Doctor Who.

        DotD in Mexico? Hundreds of people partying nonstop while dressed as skeletons, cemetery dances, parades, the creepiest mariachi songs you’ll ever hear, more sugar skulls that you can shake a human femur at, and about seven hour’s worth of really god damned good mescal. WARNING: don’t eat the worm unless you’re prepared for a few hours of low-grade hallucinations.

        • Simon Smithson says:

          As it just so happens, I am prepared for just that eventuality! It’s a long story, but I have everything I need to see me through the experience with a smile on my dial.

  17. Matt says:

    You know what Becky said, about some Americans claiming Hallowe’en as their favorite holiday? *raises hand*

    I’m not dressing up this year, but I have in the past, and when I was in college used to throw Halloween parties every year (costumes mandatory), with horror movies running on loop. I always carved a jack o’lantern, too. Okay, now I’ve really kind of talked myself into dressing up. Wonder what I can cobble together from out of the closet….

    Hope your Hallowe’en is everything you hope for, amigo. I don’t know what Dia de Los Muertos is like in S.F., but it’s been getting wilder and wilder down here for the last few years, due to our proximity to the border. And and actual Day of the Dead inMexico is un-fucken’-believable.

    • Simon Smithson says:

      Oh, man, what is happening with the comments today? That one above is a reply to you, Matt.

      • Matt says:

        I don’t know if it’s just the comments. I initially tried to look at this entry on two separate computers today and it wouldn’t show up at all. I ended up reading it on my phone.

        Seems to be working OK now, though.

  18. Being Scotch-Welsh, what I like most about Halloween is the Celtic tradition of the Samhain behind it. The mystical time of the harvest, reaping what one sows, all that. La dia de los muertos. The day of the dead. The time when the veil is at its thinnest.

    One thing I always come back to is people fear most what they don’t understand. That’s why people dress up with wax fangs and polyester capes and plastic pumpkins; dressing the not-understood up in Walgreens is a way to render it impotent. People don’t understand Halloween, only realize that they should be scared of it.

    At its best, the Samhain is intense, one of those pivotal, magical times when anything can happen. It takes guts to make something happen when anything can.

    • Gloria says:

      This year, I’m going to harness the potentiality of the season, and see what I can do to scare all the little Avatars and Lady Gagas off my front porch. Like Becky suggested. I think I have the guts to do that.

      • Simon Smithson says:

        You know, I hadn’t even considered the latent Celtic Samhain potentialities. But you’re right, the event has been de-fanged.

        Hmmm.

        I’ll have to make a wish.

        A big wish.

        Heh.

  19. Joe Daly says:

    Oh man, was this awesome. I had no idea the Aussies didn’t celebrate Halloween. You poor kid! Needless to say, I’m fucking stoked that you’re coming over here to get your ghost on. And SF is certainly a fantastic city to celebrate Halloween. Dia de los Muertos is definitely more of a SoCal thing, but you’ll find good places to rock a sugar skull.

    Some Joe Daly Halloween Memories:

    Lamest Halloween Costume: NFL Referee

    Best Halloween Costume: Paul Stanley

    Meanest Halloween Prank: Four of us went out trick or treating when we were maybe twelve, and two of us had switchblades, and towards the end of trick or treating, we slashed the other guys’ pillowcases full of their candy (unbeknownst to them, of course), and picked up the candy that fell out of the holes of their bags for the rest of the night. When one of the kids figured it out, he cried. To be fair, what else are you going to do when your friend is holding a switchblade AND your candy?

    Rock on, brah! Looking forward to hearing all about it!

    • Simon Smithson says:

      Ha ha ha ha… man. That’s so mean. But also awesome.

      And you had a switchblade when you were twelve?

      Straight pimpin, brah.

      Yeah, it sucks to be a kid over here on Halloween. Someone a while back wrote a post – A Lonely Jew on Christmas. The equivalent being A Forlorn Australian on Halloween.

      But no more! I’m going to sink my teeth into this holiday’s throat, and bring it down so that the ghosts of my inner children can feast on its steaming carcass, as it lies, still-kicking, in the snow.

      Wait, what?

  20. As a former long-time San Franciscan, you’re going to have to take my word on this, Simon: While later in the evening your debauchery is assured at numerous spots around the city, to really and truly immerse yourself in the childhood aspect of Halloween for which you are pining, you need to go to Belvedere Street. At 6pm, just as it’s getting dark, bring some friends, a flask, and a bag of handing-candy to the corner of Belvedere and Parnassus. There, for 4 quiet city blocks, the street is barricaded and almost every house does elaborate costuming, decorating, and arty scare-sets in their garages. Children come from around the city, there’s a true sense of anticipation and excitement that can only be felt by throngs of nine-year olds with pillowcases full of Almond Joys, and there’s almost no attitude. Stroll up and down with a grin on your face saying Boo! and giving sweets away. Later on, hit the Mission or Castro and start downing slushy red drinks with an intoxicatingly butch Marie Antoinette. But until then, Belvedere’s the place to make up for all those years of Aussie deprivation.

    • Simon Smithson says:

      Oh, man, that’s awesome!

      Thanks, Sean!

      God, I can’t even remember the last time I packed a hip flask. It was back in high school, actually.

      I wonder where my flask got to?

      I am so totally going to do this. Thanks, amigo! I’ll be sure to make a full report.

  21. Erika Rae says:

    I am so freaking excited for you I can hardly stand it. I love Halloween. I mean, as a kid, it was the devil’s holiday, but whatev. Even as a good little evangelical girl I lusted after the sweet, sinful swish of homemade costumes and the feel of a full plastic pumpkin. What? I was righteous – not stupid.

    For the last several years (seven, I think) we’ve hosted a Halloween party at the house. We decree a theme and then take our guests out back in the forest for a night hike. This year, alas, we’re skipping. And now, thanks to your post, I’m regretting this decision. Luckily, I have no less than 2 OTHER parties to go to. One of them, Scott and I get to dress up as bouncers and demand donations at the door. I’m thinking a Hans und Franz theme.

    Great post – as always. Oh man, those neighbors of yours. Bwahahahaha. And fruit! That was the most horrific thing to get on Halloween. We had to throw any and all of it away as it was sure to have razor blades in it. Wait. Has someone already said this in a comment? Sorry, if so. Have fun in San Fran!

    Oh – and the best Halloween treat: caramel apples. Get one done right. Go to a candy store or convince your hosts to make them along with popcorn balls. I promise you won’t regret.

    So…what *was* Willis talking about?

    • Simon Smithson says:

      Squeeeeee! First Halloween! Squeeeee!

      I am so lusting for sin right now. You have no idea. I have 28 years of sin-lusting that’s ready to explode all over everything.

      Wait. Wait. No, this isn’t something I should be saying on the internet.

      Oh, cool! You get to celebrate Halloween and someone else can worry about hosting – but your place would be so fantastic for hosting a Halloween gig, though, wouldn’t it?

      Thanks, Erika Rae! Those poor Trusons.

      I’m staying at a hotel so I get to stumble in and out as I please – and I was just thinking today about how long it has been since I had a toffee apple. Man. I’m on that like white on rice.

      What Willis was talking about, sadly, has been lost to posterity.

  22. Greg Olear says:

    You don’t have Halloween; we don’t have kangaroos. It all balances out.

    I will say this: Halloween is more fun as a parent than it ever was as a kid. And it was fun as a kid, too. But as a parent, it’s even more so. Two years ago, Prue was just old enough — two and change — to walk and trick-or-treat, but not old enough to grasp the concept of saving candy. She just ate what they gave her immediately. The kids were hungover the next day.

    Have fun in SF!

    • Simon Smithson says:

      I’ll bring you a kangaroo some day, Greg.

      Maybe a wallaby. They’re cuter. And better to have around kids, I assume.

      Also tastier!

      Heh. I was once dating a woman with a young son and one night, while she was out of the room, I forgot that whole thing about never feeding them sugar after eight and let him have chocolate. Two minutes later he was bouncing off the walls and gibbering at dust.

      The best part? She blamed him!

      HA ha ha ha ha… eat it, kid.

  23. Ronlyn Domingue says:

    A dream come true for you. Yay!

    I LOVED Halloween when I was a kid. I wasn’t into costuming, but I LOVED to do the decorating. My mom had the cardboard stuff to hang in the windows—ghosts, witches, and black cats–however, I’d go the distance. I made fake headstones for the front yard. I hung white ghosts from the trees. And my masterpiece–which I did three or four years in a row–was a spider web that I hand knotted with string all around the front porch. And made a big spider, of course.

    You know, because you have an accent, you might get away with actually going door-to-door. People might assume you weren’t informed of the age 12 cut off. Beware your height may be intimidating.

    Please share photos of your costume.

    Happy Halloween!!!!

    • Simon Smithson says:

      Oh, man… did you live in the South then, too? Because that would have been, for me, a perfect storm of Halloween. I would have hung out at your house every single Halloween I got.

      I’ll probably take up Sean’s suggestion and hand out candy. With narrowed eyes and a jealous expression.

      Fake headstones?

      Ronlyn, you’re so awesome.

      • Ronlyn Domingue says:

        Yep, in the South, in a neighborhood with lots of trees and spooky shadows. Most of our neighbors were older couples who typically understood the expectation of GOOD candy. Not FRUIT…or unshelled pecans…or pennies…or those lame maple candies in the black or orange wrappers.

        I read Sean’s comment. What a totally excellent tradition. You’re going to have a blast.

        • Simon Smithson says:

          Oh, man. That’s so awesome.

          Remind me to take a photo of the belltower in the neighbourhood I grew up in for you. It’s not particularly old, but it can be very creepy when you have to walk past it late at night.

          Sometimes drunk.

          When I was 17.

          I can’t wait. I cannot wait. I’m sitting in LAX right now, and I’m already planning to hang paper bats in my hotel room.

  24. Jeffro says:

    I went to Target to buy Halloween candy yesterday. (My wife and I just bought a house in the ‘burbs, so it’ll be our first really Halloween together with kids knocking on the door and me trying to keep my dog from eating them alive) I picked up a 200 piece bag of Sweet Tarts, Laffy Taffy, and Nerds from the $6.99 shelf. My wife grabbed one bag filled with tootsie rolls, dum dums, and tootsie pops. I snagged a pack of original-flavored Trident at checkout.

    My wife pays because I left my wallet in the car. (No, I’m not being a cheapskate. We have a joint account) We get to the car and as I place the two bags of candy in the trunk, the receipt falls out. I see the price. (I wasn’t paying attention at checkout. They were playing Kenny G. I tuned out all audio including the cashier’s voice)

    $17.98.

    $17.98!

    For two bags of candy and a pack of Trident gum!

    In other words, I hope you have an enjoyable Halloween in America Simon because all I have to say is fuck some Halloween. $17.98. Fuck!

    And it was shitty candy too. Not even Snickers bars or Krackle.

    • Jeffro says:

      Oh, I meant to add that the 200 bag of Sweet Tarts, Laffy Taffy, and Nerds was placed on the wrong shelf. It was really $9.99. I know this because I went marching back in the store, back to that aisle, and saw that the 115 piece bags were $6.99. Sons of bitches.

      • Simon Smithson says:

        Mr. Pillow! You got stooged!

        Damn, brother.

        If it helps, though, you do live in one of the spookier parts of the country. I say that on good authority. This season is tailor-made for the South.

        I have a whole bunch of Australian chocolate with me. Shoot me your address and I will post you some – no one gets sucker-punched this Halloween. Not on my watch.

  25. sheree says:

    Halloween 1987
    I am standing in the middle of the road of a poor neighborhood. I can see children way up the road trick or treating.
    None of them are coming down to my block. Frustrated I finally stand in the middle of the road and cup my hands to my mouth and yell full lungs: HEY KIDS, WANT SOME CANDY?!!!
    The old black man across the road laughs full belly at me and says: Gal, the cops is gonna lock you up for certain. Kids never trick or treat on this side of the tracks because we never have no store bought candy.
    I had two full boxes of bagged cotton candy and no one to take them. I spent months eating cotton candy.

    Hope you have a great halloween in America!

    • Simon Smithson says:

      HA ha ha ha ha… one of the many things you should never, ever yell.

      Did you get busted by the 5-0?

      Over here, or rather, over in Australia, we call cotton candy ‘fairy floss’.

      I haven’t had it in years.

      You don’t happen to have a spare bag around now, do you?

      And thank you! I hope you have a great Halloween in America too!

  26. Andrew Nonadetti says:

    As I write, it is Wednesday morning and there is a change in the air. An… unease. Some ill-defined impending doom. I think America just got a little spookier ;).

    As a child, Halloween was an annual exercise in the suspension of disbelief and it had nothing to do with the supernatural. My mother was a high-strung, neurotic wreck who would punctuate almost every sentence with details on how whatever I was doing would end in my gruesome demise (there’s a bit of irony there that will end up as a post pretty soon, I think). Yet, once a year, I was sent out, at night, alone, through a semi-ghetto to deliberately go to strangers’ apartments and ask people I didn’t know for candy. Of course, the next morning, I’d be lectured that “she told me not to eat so much candy because I could slip on the tile floor in the bathroom and crack my skull on the toilet” as I hurled. But that’s neither here nor there.

    Enjoy, brother!

    • Simon Smithson says:

      Damn straight. I have returned from the grave (situation I was in across the Pacific). Yes, I’ve returned from beyond the grave! (amount of distance).

      Wait.

      How does the candy-eating relate to slipping? Would you be sugar-drunk and loss motor control? Or would you be so weighted down that your centre of gravity would shift and tip you off balance?

      Thanks! Lots of love to the family.

      • Andrew Nonadetti says:

        “How does the candy-eating relate to slipping?” That was never clearly defined. Much like how I would spontaneously fall out of our fifth-floor apartment’s windows if I stood too near. Apparently, fifty feet or so is high enough to create a vacuum similar to when you pop the emergency exit door on an aircraft at ten thousand feet.

        My mom is sort of a “big picture” woman. Details are for others to worry – seriously worry – about.

        • Simon Smithson says:

          Heh.

          That’s pretty funny, actually, that last line.

          Yeah, my mother’s the same way. Did you ever see the episode of South Park with the Underpants Gnomes?

        • sheree says:

          Underpant gnomes!!!!

          I was a bad influence on my boys. I taught them to drink from cartons straight out of the fridge, wear baggy pants and spit and curse (but not in the presence of old people and ladies) and give wet willies to unsuspecting friends.
          Heheh and now i’m an auld granny who can’t wait to corrupt the innocent bundle of joy when he turns five.
          Most kids got bed time stories from the book of mother goose. My sons got Hunter S Thompson. My youngest still loves Hunter.

        • Simon Smithson says:

          You read your kids Hunter S as bedtime stories?

          That’s awesome.

          Gonzo FTW!

          Somewhere, David Wills’s just got stronger, and has no idea why.

  27. Judy Prince says:

    Jeez, I just read your non-nostalgic, non-creepy, tragically-missing-REAL-Hallowe’en post, Simon, plus all the comments of nostalgic, creepy (joke, folk!), still tragically-missing-a-kidstyle-Hallowe’en TNBers. But not until I read Jeffro saying he bought Hallowe’en candy yesterday did I say “WOH! I hafta buy Hallowe’en candy for the little English yobs here!”

    HAVE FUN, Simon! My only suggestion to join all the other great ones is that you borrow a little kid or two and take them trick’er-treating, both in the chaste and boring afternoon hours as well as a couple different kids in the scarier hours. I always wore a weird scary mask as an adult when I gave kids treats, and always gave the sugary chocolatey big candy bars bcuz it was what I’d always hunted for amongst the stoopid pennies or oranges or apples I’d got as a kid in my big brown grocery store paperbag.

    A couple years ago Rodent and I were driving past Stonehenge (a stone’s—-heh—-throw from where we stayed in the Wilton/Salisbury area). I said, “Hey, there’re some people wearing white hooded robes and acting funny.” Then we remembered it was the winter solstice.

    Here’s a link where you can hear AND see what might’ve been going on……Celtic costumes and all: http://heritage-key.com/blogs/ann/stonehenge-acoustics-englands-first-ministry-sound#video-solstice

    Judy Druid

    • Simon Smithson says:

      Kid borrowing! That’s an awesome idea! All the delicious fun of trick-or-treating, none of the sour responsibility!

      Yes, I’ve been seeing some of the news stories about the growing legitimisation of paganism – there were a big photo in one of Melbourne papers a while back of a dude who had re-named himself Uther Pendragon.

      Thanks for the well wishes, Judy Druid – right back to you!

      • Judy Prince says:

        WOH, Simon—–I know a USAmerican guy married to a Scot-Brit who chose his last name as Pendragon, too! Different first name from Uther, though.

        So what kinda costume will you be sporting on Hallowe’en? Be YOU-NIQUE, dude!

        • Simon Smithson says:

          That’s a wonderful question, and I have no idea.

          I’m simply sailing the rivers of fate and waiting for something to grab me.

        • Judy Prince says:

          Best way to do it, Simon. One more night ’til All Hallow’s Eve……………

          HOWLLLLLLLLLLL!!!!

  28. Lorna says:

    Halloween is a pretty big deal here in Vegas. Lots of people decorate their homes and full blocks of neighborhoods have parties. Lots of people will convert their garages into haunted houses for night. One year a lady was rolling around a trash can with her kid inside dressed up as Oscar the Grouch from Sesame Street. It almost a bigger deal than Christmas around here. Never have I seen such excitement over this holiday than I have here in Vegas.

    Have a blast in San Fran, Simon. The Winchester House would be cool to tour this time of year.

    • Simon Smithson says:

      Ha ha ha… I love the Oscar the Grouch idea. Unless it was actually that that’s how the live 365 days a year and just happened to coincide with Halloween. Sort of like Room but with extra depressing hobo.

      (Look what I did! Intertextuality, everyone!)

      Thanks, Lorna! I hope you have a blast in Vegas!

  29. Simon, I hope you have a GRRRRRate Halloween in SF. and I know exactly what you mean. There is a strange angst about the holiday in Oz. As an expat, I always make a big deal about it here—screw it. It was the best night of my life as a kid and that’s a lot to let go of.

    • Simon Smithson says:

      Thanks, J.S! I’m really looking forward to it. Which reminds me, I really need to get on a costume.

      What are you doing for the holiday? It’s today back there!

  30. Slade Ham says:

    I hope a true American Halloween works out for you as well… but I’m more concerned with the fact that you’re in the States, but not the right one. I should’ve planned to hit CA this month.

    Damn, bro. Damn.

    • Simon Smithson says:

      Sorry bro. Next time! We’ll Halloween in Dallas and both go as Richard Cox. And we’ll knock on doors and yell: ‘Trick or science!’

  31. Richard Cox says:

    Well, Hell, Simon. I seem to have TNB blindness lately because I somehow never saw your post. But I did follow some of your exploits via Facebook. I hope your American Halloween was everything you dreamed it would be. I wish I could have been there to see it.

    At the very least I hope you didn’t have a Helloween. Hahaha.

    P.S. Good one on the “Trick or science.” But you know that could just as easily be you.

    • Simon Smithson says:

      Hey RC! All good, amigo. What matters to me is that you read it eventually. I wish you could have been there too. I think we’d have fun hanging out on Halloween.

      And you know, I was thinking as I wrote that comment that the funniest part about it is that it is exactly the kind of thing I would say as well.

  32. Ashley (NOLady) says:

    It’s hard for me to imagine a childhood without Halloween. How horrible. The only thing I can think of worse than that would be living in NEW ORLEANS at Halloween and not being allowed to celebrate the event. Now that’s bad.

    My mother was a respiratory therapist and worked nights. Twelve hour shifts, six days a week only to come home to three kids (who hated one another) hardly left any time to think about anything else but her next nap. After the age of 6 my childhood costumes would consist of my mom’s scrubs. Rolled up bottoms dragging on the ground, sleeves rolled but hanging, a mask, surgical booties that would snag cement at every step, and red marks to imitate blood. A last minute fix if you ever saw one. Fortunately, my pathetic appearance would tug at the heart of old ladies so I would get way more candy than those princesses and fairies that danced around me.

    Between 7th and 10th grades I spent a few Halloween nights home. Alone. GROUNDED! Report cards would come out right before and anything lower than a C would get me punished for 9 weeks. That is the WORST!! Everyone around you celebrating. Kids at school had fantastic stories of their adventures and there you are….silently munching your cafeteria lunch….ugh.

    But, I have to admit, some of my best memories are those Halloweens when I was out-n-about in this fabulous city. No one does Halloween like NOLA! You need to celebrate with us in the future!

    • Simon Smithson says:

      I think the worst part of it is that we knew Halloween was out there – it’s not like we were dwelling in ignorance, you know?

      You got grounded for Halloween? Oh, man.

      That sucks.

      Do you still have any of your mom’s scrubs? I could come to NOLA and dress as Childhood You!

      Wait.

      Is that creepy?

      And not, Halloween creepy. You know. Regular creepy.

  33. Gloria Harrison says:

    So? How was it?

    I demand a follow up post, Smithson!

  34. Doug Bruns says:

    Yes, to Gloria’s demand, a follow up is anticipated.

    Where would we be if not for the missteps and disappointments of childhood? We would licking the snot from our hands, a la Bill Gount, that’s where–or wait, we’re writers, maybe that IS what we’re doing. Loved the piece.

    D

    • Simon Smithson says:

      Probably in the next couple of days, Doug – and thanks for the kind words.

      Halloween itself spoke directly to my childhood. Man, it was everything I wanted it to be and more, as I’ll extrapolate on when I have the opportunity to explain in more space than a comment gives me.

      Oh, Bill Gount. You disgusting child.

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