31 October 2007

A Small Medium at Large

Ah, Halloween.

Weeks of pre-holiday costume creativity and a load of free candy. Who dreamed up this festival, and can I thank him? Actually, I imagine it was probably a her, due to the copious amounts of chocolate involved.

Since it falls on a Wednesday this year, Frenchy and I have been sort of blah about actual partying--we're not organized enough to plan something last weekend, and apparently it's lame to do a post-Halloween event. Meh.

But the ambiguity has proved useful in another way, affording us an extended window during which to play our favorite seasonal guessing game, "Halloween or Hipster?" Here is our corner of Brooklyn, the hipster reigns supreme, with trucker hats, tshirts from the late seventies/early eighties and skinny jeans to shake a multitude of sticks at. Sometimes the getups get so overboard they're ironical. Or would that be so ironical they're overboard?

Anyway, at Halloween the line between costume and everydaywear in the Billyburg gets blurred, and as we sip a coffee or walk down Bedford, we point out passersby and try to figure out if they're dressed up for the holiday or simply out'n'about. It's harder than you'd think! (Unfortunately I have no photo evidence. You'll just have to take my word for it, or take the L train someday. Then you'll understand.)

Eschewing the present (see: lack of party this year) notable Halloweens in the past have featured kids running through my college dorm, collecting candy like the little monsters they're dressed up to be. One year, I noticed the kids were remarkably silent, and all scratched their chins before running on to the next door. "How rude," I thought. "Back in my day, we said thank you before leaving a house, or our mamas would whup us." (NDLR: not really. But look disapprovingly, and perhaps subtract some of our precious takings.)

Finally it hit me that these were the kids from the deaf school down the street, and that they were indeed saying "thanks" in ASL. Duuuhh!

Moving further back to my own trick-or-treating days....in St. Louis we seem to have a tradition that the rest of the country doesn't. Before getting a piece of candy, you have to "deserve" it by telling a joke, usually a bad pun or knock-knock. You know, typical kid stuff. "How do you make a handkerchief dance? Put a little booger in it!" (Digression: when I graduated to opening the door and handing out the candy, I amused myself by guessing the punch lines of the kids' jokes, and watching their faces as I ruined their joke. I know. I'm going to pay for it in chocolate karma.)

In St. Louis we think this tradition is totally normal, and it's a rite of passage to go off to college and realize that no other city does it. I always justified it by figuring that it was the "trick" part of trick-or-treat, although I subsequently ran into a snag in explaining the "or." Perhaps I thought it was the late 20th-century version of stealing watermelons, or throwing sacks of flour à la Tootie in Meet Me in St. Louis. You collected jokes for weeks beforehand, and carefully planned which houses you were going to use which jokes at, because you couldn't possibly tell the same joke at each door. If you went with your sisters or a group of friends, before ringing each doorbell, you discussed and traded rights to jokes: "Okay, this time I get to tell the pirate ghost one, and you can do the doctor and his patient walk into a bar one. Okay? Got it?"

Yes, I was organized even back then. Get over it.

Most of my jokes were terrible, but there's one that still makes me smile each time I tell it. Are you ready? Are you prepared for the brilliance?

What do you call a petite fortuneteller who's escaped from jail?

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