A Tale of Two Cities (Revisited)

Downtown New York
Reclaims Its Dark Glow

The glitter’s gone. The boasted safety of Alphabet City’s been taken away after sunset. And even if there’s no looting or sleazy crimes to report at this time, New York has returned to its gritty surname, if only for a, hopefully, brief time. We still remain polite, though.
Downtown has no lights, power, or hot running water right now, and even the traditional Village Halloween Parade has been canceled this year. Alas, if you’re really New Yorker, you’re used, even proud to trample tradition, and start it all over again, every once in a while.
It’s a pain, to be sure. Cold showers are no fun. Finding deli after deli surrendering to the inevitable, and closing their doors on your face is quite disheartening, if you’re a resident. And delivery from your favorite restaurant is out of question. You’re on your own, pal.
Then again, we were getting a bit too comfy with the Bloomberg world of glitzy parties, and supermodels, and unaffordable stores, so Hurricane Sandy was an inconvenient, but needed, shock to the system. And if you really remember the 1970s in the city, you’re almost dismissive.
So what? Let them enjoy Times Square, that ghastly Trump-inspired shopping mall. We’ll walk all the way there to get a decent cup of coffee, but we’re not staying. No open Duane Reade around? Good; that will teach them. Bloomingdale’s closed too? We were not planning to stop by there anytime soon, anyway.
Fine, when the wind howled and the trees began to fall, we cowered for protection just a little bit. And we looked like frightening light posts with our flashlights, wandering like the walking dead, in search for a drink and some conversation, since TV’s also out of question.
But we’ll toughen up. We can take it. Well, for a couple of days, top, at least. Then, it’ll be madness. But for now, silly but still argumentative New Yorkers will not give it an inch. We’ll be back, you just wait. And coming Monday, remind us to call cable, phone and ConEdison to ask for a discount.
Still, it’s kind of unfair that our Halloween got screwed. We really had a neat idea for a costume. And candy. Well well. Since kids would be smart to not wander in the dark in a night like that, we’ll have them ourselves. In bed. With no phone service. What a drag. No, we’ll not complain.
And just to prove that we’re no scrooges, here’s what we wrote last year to mark the date. You know, for the kids. Have a nice Trick or Treat; see you on the other side of this darkness. Also, our thoughts to those who’ve lost lives, belongings, homes, and a bit more of what they didn’t have with the hurricane. Help is on the way.
(Originally published on Oct. 31, 2012)


All Hallows’ Eve

Last Rites For Halloween:
Candy Slaves & Ole Zombies

The origin of the bloodiest of all popular holidays is pagan. But church soon got into the action. It celebrates the dead and the dark side of the human experience, and the first frost in the Northern Hemisphere.
For sure, it’s a healthy and playful way to cope with the fact that the mysteries of the great beyond are usually fully disclosed, or not, only to those unable to report back to us.
Pretty much all ancient cultures had a day or time of the year dedicated to the diseased and the spooky, and even a place to do so, from the Celtics to the people who built Stonehenge, the Pyramids and everything else we hardly know much about these days.
The fact that now most celebrations congeal around the same time of the year, regardless of the hemisphere, may have a lot to do with primitive religion, which successfully inserted itself in many holly dates and cults to superior beings that pagans used to mark and worship.
It was a clever and effective form of domination, exemplified, for example, in the fact that to this day, many Catholic Church saints are loosely based in pre-Christian figures.
We could get here into demonology and the changing depictions and characterization of Satan, for example, or Lucifer and all that, but why would we want to make an ass of ourselves?
Besides being utterly unprepared to lecture on the origins of paganism and religion, we have way more interesting fare to cover below.
Halloween is also a great time to uncover old stories about the dead, the damned and the plain goofy, but a good place to start, if you haven’t already, would be Atlas Obscura. Enjoy it.
Not all is fun and games about Halloween, of course. What else is it? Let’s start with that most-diabetes inducing of all traditions, the Trick-or-Treat game, which children, in their ever-receding pre-obesity days, love to play.
Guess what? We’ve just found yet another reason for your kids to hate your guts. It’s all very easy, really. Just tell them that they should be ashamed of themselves for going out asking for candy from strangers, but not because it’s bad for them.
After all, it’s part of the game for you to show them how little you care about their health or even personal safety. No, as usual, it’s all about those disgusting African children their age, that you seem to be much more concerned about.
You see, if you’ve been doing your homework, you’ve already bored your kids to death with miserable tales about child slavery and extreme famine and disease and pestilence. All in the real spirit of Halloween, of course, but it can be done all year round too.
So now, you just add that it’s all their fault. No one is telling you should give them the hard facts, that about 280 thousand children slave to death in the hazardous conditions of West African cocoa farms.
But you can still make them cry by describing in detail how you’re taking away their Snickers, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, Butterfingers, and all Hershey, Mars, Nestle and Cadbury chocolate bars, because that way, those kids won’t have to work and die in such horrible conditions.
No need to tell them they’ll die anyway, because then they won’t be able to make a living and will probably starve, and that will also be their fault. But you can be creative and convey the idea that only monsters, even little ones like them, can cause such an enormous harm to the world.
Cheer up. On the bright side, you probably won’t spend much in dental bills or radical gastric bypass surgery later on. Boo hoo.
Another Dicksensian way to counter all that frenzy for the rush of sugar that the little tykes become addicted to so early on is to impose an exchange: earn it.
Ah, nothing like dangling the promise of all that costume-donning, walking alone in the dark, getting to scare the little sis to death in front of their eager eyes with a big IF. As in, if you recycle ALL the candy wrappers you find on your way, say in a week, you can go.
That’s because there’s now a company that specializes in collecting wrappers before the extra tons of them are dispatched to landfills. But someone has to actually pick them up.
So it happens that you do have a considerable amount of free labor at your disposal, so why not having the little pumpkins learn a valuable lesson about what really takes to earn a few hours of fun?
You may even offer to take them and their worst-favorite friends on a trip to the local dumpster, so they can have a full picture of where all that fun always winds up.
Make sure they take deep breaths while there, and wash your own hands afterwards, of course.
It’s hard work but it’d be nice if you can get them to do it. Otherwise, no candy for you.
Candy should never be the only Halloween-specific food, of course. Specially if you can’t remember the last time you were sent away by your Mom, because she and her special friend needed to do something inside. At least, that’s what you imagined they were doing, cooking.
Now you’re all grown up but that doesn’t mean you can’t have some holiday-appropriate munchies for dinner either. What about a Meat Hand? Or a Cheese Head?
We can’t think of better conversation piece for your and your tipsy friends, when the kids are finally passed out in their costumes upstairs.
Which is just as well. They’ve learned so much today, thanks to your sharp parental skills, and the last thing you want is for them to developed a twisty taste for cooked body parts. Just kidding.
The easy-to-bake Meat Hand has no human flesh in it, you creep, and can be prepared in a variety of ways. The Zombie Cheese Head is even easier as a snack and, despite the prep work, has a very satisfying visual impact.
We wouldn’t want to wake up the kids to look at it, even on Halloween, though, and you’d better use your judgement as to when to present it to your friends, before or after the Tequila.
In any case, the Hand and the Head beat the contents of your dog’s stomach featured elsewhere in this post anytime of the night.

It’s hard to say when the figure of the undead, of the rotten kind, became so much more prevalent than vampires, monsters, ghosts and homicidal slashers. The fact is, at least in the past 20 years, zombies have beat this crowd senselessly.
Two recent trends confirmed zombies’ certified ability to woe horror aficionados of all ages: a mock-advertising video, prescribing the wonders of yoga for those disjointed shoulders and dangling limbs, those permanently hanging heads and that familiar unsettling gait we all love so much.
And a series of Zombie Action Figures, introduced at the latest New York Comic Con. You’d think that Frankenstein or Dracula would have the precedence, but at the podium of this kind of merchandising products, they appear way below even Stan Lee’s newest line of Superheroes.
There’s even an Action Figure Customizing kit, with spare parts for you to build a zombie from the ground (bones) up, complete with ripped costumes and different heads to choose from. Who knew?

Couples can be deliriously creative on their wedding day, and while some may choose, say, an albino dwarf and a voodoo priest to officiate the ceremony together, or ask a wrestling performer to literally crash their party, others go for the Zeitgeist’s jugular.
Photographer Amanda Rynda was composing the pastoral scene of Juliana Park and Ben Lee‘s wedding book, at a meadow park outside Los Angeles, when seemingly out of nowhere a zombie wandered in and ‘attacked’ the couple.
It was all prearranged, of course, which may explain how fast the pictures ended up on the Internet. Then again, what doesn’t, these days?
We’re sure that if parents in the 1800s had that kind of access, they’d do the same with the pictures of their kids wearing Halloween costumes.
The fact that even for today’s standards, they look spectacularly creepy is another matter, though. In a case of “what you see is what you get,” we doubt that even with Photoshop resources, one could achieve such utterly unsettling effect that these pics transpire.
It’s all in good fun, of course. Merry Halloween, Boils and Ghouls!

Originally published Halloween Day, 2011. Read also:
* Hallowed Ground
* Undeadline

One thought on “A Tale of Two Cities (Revisited)

  1. WordsFallFromMyEyes says:

    Oh, you KNOW Wesley, I love the way you write. Trump inspired shopping mall…

    You really do cover some ground. That lot about the child slaves I had no idea. I checked out the link. Totally sobering – & then as you described little kids crying at you taking their Snickers. Then you move on in topics. A solid read.


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