Wednesday, October 31, 2007

An Atypical Halloween.

It's officially Halloween... my favorite holiday of the entire year. This go around has not been nearly as enjoyable as years past. Part of the reason is that it falls in the middle of the week, and there's no clear weekend nights for the usual festivities. It seems the confusion about scheduling has made some people just give up, instead of planning parties. On an individual level, this year is clearly different because I am in the midst of an ugly labor conflict. That has put a damper on my spirits. We were explicitly told not to wear costumes out on the picket lines, for somewhat obvious reasons. The exact wording was, "This is not the time for "Holloweird". I'll admit that I was mildly offended by the disparaging connotations delivered by this cute little nickname.

Halloween simply doesn't get as much respect out there in the conservative exurbs as it does in the city. Areas with large populations of Christian conservatives are often quite hostile to the idea of celebrating the darker corners of life. In those parts witches represent Satan, and the typical traditions are insidious reminders of the world's pagan past. While it is certainly true that this time of year was honored with pagan festivals (refer to last year's Oct 31st post), the modern commercialization of Halloween has virtually nothing to do with age-old religions. It's merely a time to don silly costumes and gorge on candy (not that there's anything especially wrong with that).

But while much of the countryside may be rabidly anti-Halloween, when you run across a rural group that does enjoy the time of year- they tend to "do it up right". Perhaps the best time I've ever had at a Halloween attraction occurred in the general area of the school district where I now teach. It was advertised as a "haunted hayride", and I have to say that it truly delivered the goods. It was "not for kids". The tractor pulled us through the woods, past creepy fire-lit vignettes with live actors. Periodically monsters would jump out from the darkness of the trees and jump up on the flatbed. There was the sense all around us that we were being stalked by shadowy figures. The atmosphere was eerily effective. When we later reached a moonlit cornfield, we were surprised at a hidden clearing where hordes of zombies commenced to pursue us for a few hundred yards.

When the tractor eventually pulled up at a collection of connected barn-like structures, many of us thought our journey was over. Instead we entered a gloomy haunted house with more gory scenes set up in each room. The live actors were seriously unnerving, and attention was paid to every detail for maximum fright. As we meandered through, we continually expected the end to be around the next corner, or through the closest door. Finally we were told to exit through a crawl space, and we prepared to step out onto the fresh air of the night. Instead we were made to crawl around a hay-bale maze with many dead ends. It was naturally pitch black, and my companion began to show signs of acute claustrophobia. Her anxiety reached a fever pitch and started to wear on me as we got more and more frustrated and lost. Finally we were rescued by two giggling six year-olds who were joyously running through with flashlights.

Later on we decompressed at a trailer park bash, where we listened to heavy metal and passed around mason jars full of moonshine. Hooligans in flannel shirts pissed in the bonfire and looked for opportunities to get into meaningless scraps. It was a good ol' time. Nowadays I'm much more mature and adult-like. Tonight M. and I decided to avoid Trick or Treat, and went out to grab Mexican food. Our street seems to go to great lengths to get into the family spirit of Halloween. People put up elaborate decorations and pass out great amounts of candy. Teenagers that are way past the age to reasonably expect free sweets sullenly approach with their hands out. Even with our trip out to dinner, we probably saved about $25 by skipping out on the festivities. Next year we will probably be more sentimental with a kid in tow. I guess we'll have to wait and see.

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