I made a point of going up to Herkimer and securing a window seat today, because it was the Greenwood/Phinney district's annual Halloween celebration, where the kids are welcomed to trick-or-treat up and down the main drag of businesses. I'm a little skeptical of how the process has evolved since I was a kid, because it simply can't be as thrilling, never mind scary, to go door-to-door in broad daylight on a crisp fall afternoon. But at least they're not relegated to a mall...and the spectacle offers some prime hilarity, which I suppose is all the better for being well-lit.
Anyway. So I took up a stool at the street-facing counter for nearly 2 1/2 hours, laughing helplessly at the hordes and hordes of kids in synthetic manufactured costumes, and painstakingly homemade costumes, and indifferently assembled "costumes" that I do not think, really, should count. I have a couple rules about Halloween; one of them is that, if you are old enough to grow your own mustache, you are too old to be begging for free candy on the sidewalk. (For the girls, if those high heels are your own, same thing. Or, you know, the mustache--though if you are thus tonsorially...gifted? challenged? you probably ought to receive a mini-Snickers and some sympathy.) I gave the five teens outfitted as the complete Scooby Gang a pass, though, considering that Fred agreeably put on both a blond wig and an ascot. Although, Shaggy--come on, you get a D for effort, because a Shaggy costume just involves rolling out of bed and putting on the contents of the laundry hamper. The dazed munchies are optional. Probably you will need that pillowcase of candy later, Shag.
On the other end of the spectrum, a word of advice, to parents of the smallest trick-or-treaters: the cute floppy feet attached to the costume pantlegs, or the ruffled fairy anklets, or the long gauzy strips of princess-gown hemline? Do not put that crap on your charges who have barely mastered plain regular walking. That kid is going down, casting a debris field of dropped candy for a three-foot radius, and there will be tears. Toddler total-faceplant tally, just those directly in front of my window? Three. "OoooOOOHHHhhh," me and all the other spectators in the windows moaned, each time a little plush tiger or bumblebee or dinosaur smacked the concrete headlong. Owie.
But good grief, storebought costumes have gotten fancy since I was little. Whatever happened to the old ones, where you got a thin molded plastic mask and what amounted to an acetate romper, usually with the character's name and face printed idiotically right in front? I can remember bumbling down the block in those, already a little freaked out by the darkness and certainly unable to see, since my glasses wouldn't fit underneath the mask. The elastic band snarling in my hair, my breath forming cold condensation on the flimsy plastic...good times. We coveted those! I can remember pawing frantically through the display at Fred Meyer in search of a Princess Leia...and the crushing disappointment of getting stuck with Chewbacca. (Sis, that year, was a three-foot-tall Darth Vader. Hee.) But now the costumes are plush and voluminous, sequinned, bedazzled, equipped with hats or wigs, fake foam muscles, giant spiny lizard heads that bob above the wearer's own. Too much! Too easy! I want to see you work at it a little, kids, come on.
So I was pleased, in the ceaseless tide of princesses, fairies, fairy princesses, and superheroes, to see a few kids marching to a different beat. A little-girl Hulk, pushing her younger sibling in a stroller: right on. A boy dressed as Angus Young from AC/DC. A...prairie bride? another princess? tall and gangly, but with checkered Vans clearly visible beneath the six-inch ruffled hem of her ivory gown. A boy who I think was meant to be a Barack Obama campaign bus, clunking down the street inside a blue-painted cardboard box with paper-plate wheels, festooned with all manner of Obama and Biden and HOPE stickers. Ten more days, little man! Rock the vote! Also, a pug in a pumpkin suit. Come on, that's hilarious! A pug! In a pumpkin suit!
My runner-up favorite: two boys, probably 14 and so hovering on the border of trick-or-treat legitimacy...but allowed a pass by me, for dressing in drag. One had a long red wig and hideous skirt; the other was galumphing gracelessly in white-go-go boots, updo, and glasses--yeah, waitaminute. Yes. Yes! Sarah Palin. An eighth-grade drag Sarah Palin. So, major points for going as the scariest thing this liberal-enclave neighborhood can envision right now.
But I've saved the best for last: the girl, probably 11, whose Girl Scout uniform I recognized in a glance, that shrill kelly green. "That's cheating," I thought idly, as she got into the candy queue in front of the coffeehouse. "That's an extracurricular activity, not a costume." Then she turned around. The jaunty green vest of merit badges, the little neckerchief thing, were shabby and streaked with gore, her face painted gray, eyesockets hollowed, lips and chin gruesomely bloody. A ZOMBIE Girl Scout! Oh please, please let her have thought of this herself. Please let her have come to this in total exasperation after years of flogging cookies in front of the supermarket and being forced to camp in the rain. The Ghoul Scout stared blankly right into my face, dead-eyed, through the Herkimer window, never breaking character. "AWE. SOME," I mouthed at her through the glass, before she turned and shuffled away, undead, triumphant. Oh, zombie Girl Scout, you are made of win. Happy Halloween!