The only thing scarier than Halloween was my second honeymoon. Grotesque masks, glow-in-the-dark costumes and brain-damaging strobe lights all night long!
Halloween was much tamer. Scholars believe Halloween originated with the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, when people would wear costumes to ward off roaming ghosts and time-share salesmen.
By 43 A.D., the Roman Empire had conquered the majority of Celtic territory and the “bobbing” for apples was added to commemorate Pomona, the Roman goddess of fruit and trees. In the second half of the 19th century, young women believed that on Halloween they could divine the name or appearance of their future husband by doing tricks with yarn, apple parings and mirrors. If a woman I met on eHarmony ever pulled out yarn, apple parings and a mirror, I would be out the back door faster than Anthony Scaramucci.
In the 1950s our parents didn’t worry what might be in the apples or candy, other than the sugar that had us bouncing off the walls. Kids wore costumes of cowboys, ghosts or princesses. You never saw a kid walking around with a fake axe in their head. It was a gentler time. We were too busy diving under our desks in case the Soviet Union dropped a hydrogen bomb on our school. Kids today can’t go trick-or-treating without a security detail.
The banks in Los Angeles put up signs a few days before Halloween reminding customers to take their masks off before entering. In what other city do you actually have to tell someone to take their mask off before entering a bank? This might come as something of a shock to you people in Coeur d’Alene, but it’s starting to look like there might be a whole lot of idiots living here in California.
In 1988, I was driving a retired police motorcycle a few blocks from UCLA just before Halloween, when I saw a car slowly crawling up the street towards me. Some guy wearing a gorilla mask was hanging halfway through the passenger window. I thought the car had accidentally shifted into gear and the driver was simply trying to jump in and hit the brakes. What would you think? Suddenly a bank guard, down the block, runs out into the street and starts shooting at the car, which by then was right next to me. Several bullets just missed me, shattering the rear window of the getaway car. The bank guard, thinking I was a cop, shouted for me to chase them. I asked if they had guns and he shouted, “Of course!” I said, “No, thanks!” and drove away. Weird things always happen to me.
Every family has its own Halloween tradition. In mine, my father would drop my sisters and me off just outside the city limits on Halloween night. Since I was the oldest I always got the compass. For years I thought this was a cherished family tradition but later learned it was just bad parenting. I guess when you have four kids, you get creative in finding time alone with your wife. When we finally found our way back home, all our bags loaded with candy, both Mom and Dad had the biggest smiles we had seen since last Halloween.
My son is now 43 years old, and I have to admit I miss those days when he was just a kid, eager to fill his bag with trick-or-treat candy. If you’ve got young children, I envy you. Enjoy every moment, because they grow up so fast. If you live in northern Idaho, I envy you even more. Happy Halloween!
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Tom Neuhoff is a comedy writer whose wit and spleen reside in Hollywood, but his heart remains in North Idaho.