I admit there are times when I behave like an old man shouting at kids, “Hey, get off the drought-starved patch of seared weeds and withered sprouts that used to be my lawn.”
It’s also true I don’t coo at every cute picture of a local otter. They’re really belligerent, bewhiskered water weasels who crack open and devour abalones with cruel abandon. “Put yourself in an abalone’s shoes, for pity sakes,” I argue. Alas, to no avail.
Most otter apologists dismiss me silently as a crank. Others, who are earnest and hopeful that they can pry open my sunny side, will smile and shake their heads. “Abalones don’t have shoes,” they’ll counsel. As if stating this obvious fact would sway me into the pro-otter camp.
Hey, it’s figurative language. I’m well aware abalone in the wild go barefoot. But why beat myself against the brick wall that is Big Otter? Other things rile me, and I pour drought-rationed cold water on them as well.
Take Halloween, which falls this Saturday, for instance. Halloween is my least favorite holiday, rating much lower than Take Your Adorable Otter to Work Day. I shift my curmudgeon car into overdrive as Oct. 31 approaches.
No, I haven’t got my Captain Buzzkill costume ready. Hear me out. Try to understand why this holiday, with its promise of free candy for kids and masked revelry for adults, hits me like a mummy allergic to adhesive tape.
Consider the bookends of my long, failed relationship with the holiday that reverses Socrates’ advice for being a wise human from “Know thyself” to the duplicitous “Know thy blood-stained zombie.”
My earliest Halloween memory is when my two older sisters dressed me as a little girl — makeup, skirt and wig with flowing curls — and dragged their trusting, little doll on the trick-or-treat circuit. I learned two things that night. People seem to think little girls are cuter than little boys. And little girls, on average, receive only 78 percent as much candy as little boys while demonstrating equal childish glee while trick-or-treating. Congress should do something.
If I had older brothers, perhaps my earliest Halloween memories would have been more golden. We would have done what bands of boys traditionally do — shake down small children for their good candy while leaving them with candy corn, fruit and walnuts. Yes, I recall being given unshelled walnuts by supposedly responsible adults. Oh, the horror. It really stings when you’re hit on the back of the head by a violently rejected walnut.
For the past two years, I’ve hurried to the store at the last moment to buy not one but two bags of candy from the massive Halloween displays that go up shortly after Labor Day. We had only a single visitor to the door last year, and he was dressed as a salesman trying to interest me in a deal on solar panels.
Needless to say, we had bowlfuls of leftover candy that lasted into the new year. I didn’t get the Milk Duds unstuck from my molars until Groundhog Day. I’ll probably make a similar last-minute run this year because of the threat of tricks, the malevolent part of the Halloween choice offered by strangers seeking handouts.
Talk about too many Americans wanting free stuff. When is Bill O’Reilly — patron saint of angry old geezers everywhere — going to forget his phony war on Christmas and launch a real war on Halloween? He’s got the scary costume.
I have plenty of Halloween horror stories from the intervening years. There was the time I was chased by a mob of deranged Trekkies when they discovered, despite my perfect costume as Klingon warrior Worf, that I didn’t speak a word of Klingon. Of course, there was the failed, last-minute ghost costume I made with a fitted sheet. And the brief stay for observation I earned one year after running amok in a particularly confusing and claustrophobic corn maze.
Truth be told, I just can’t do Halloween costumes.
As the last day of October approaches, I worry so much — about a. getting a costume; b. assembling the costume; and c. avoiding falling over a cliff while trying to see out of my costume — that I’m a frazzled ball of nervous indecision.
One year in college, my costume brain-freeze led me into the most shameful decision ever. I simply cut two eye holes in a brown paper grocery bag and went to a party being thrown by a nice music major I was going with and her house mates.
Her roommates were all art majors, and their costumes were works of Halloween art. My girlfriend was decked out as some sort of goddess, princess or temptress. When the fellow who opened the door — a graying wizard with sceptered wand and pointy, purple velvet hat — saw me in the clunky grocery bag, he shouted, “Get thee away from here! Oh vile Safeway creature!”
I took the bag off so quickly I suffered a fairly deep paper cut on the end of my nose. “Hey, it’s me. Can I come in? Where’s the keg?”
The wizard replied, “Go away. It’s a costume party.” The next time I saw my music major, some other guy was blissfully carrying her piano to and from class.
This Halloween, I was going to make an abalone costume. But I gave up, knowing full well I’d never get the shoes right.