Don’t ask me what I’ll be for Halloween tonight. To me, every day’s a costume party.

Finally getting around to parroting H. G. Wells, scientists now predict the human race will someday divide into two different species.

Right – those who celebrate Halloween and those who don’t!

Actually, it sounds almost as alarming as Bush 43’s putative presidency: “The human race will one day split into two separate species, an attractive, intelligent ruling elite and an underclass of dim-witted, ugly goblin-like creatures. …”

Morlocks, anyone?

Halloween’s not really my holiday. However, I admit, growing up in Jersey, once I actually dressed up as my mom, borrowing her clunky skunk-fur coat and cloche hat, while my little brother, disguised as Woody Woodpecker, kept pecking at me with his beak.

When I first moved into my Philly neighborhood over a decade ago, I walked around the corner, joining a group of neighbors celebrating Halloween outdoors. Before so many local folks moved away, or got sick, or the community became “condo-ized” – its stately brownstone mansions split into compartmentalized commercial fiefdoms for the very rich – this was a pretty chummy residential area in the heart of the city.

Although we didn’t realize it at the time, we were holding kind of a Last Hurrah for Pumpkins.

I’ll never forget how the “Arcadias” – “Anne” and “Arnie” – dispatched an entire pumpkin armada to commandeer a whole set of steps. Their pumpkin replica of a famous politician ruled – Bob Dole, grasping pen, pennies for eyes, a hollow, hollow man, poised to campaign, at the time, round the clock.

Of course, I’ve changed everyone’s name to protect their privacy.

“Jed,” the instrument maker, had a pumpkin shaped like a violin, stark as the back of a woman engraved by Man Ray. “Megan,” “Jed’s” lady, was taking pictures. “Tessie,” the professional ballerina, stuffed an orange sweater with a huge pillow, and came as a squash, her face x-ed out with black greasepaint, her skinny legs swathed against chills. She won a prize for the Biggest Pumpkin.

“Preston,” the block’s gentle, dreamy psychiatrist, dressed in cape and the head of a Mexican rat with eyes painted on its horns – a creature of nightmares – while his lady “Margaret,” mourning the recent death of their cat run over by a car, dampened her Southern gentility in stark pirate’s garb, eye-patch, bone in her ear, and held tightly onto her miniature collie, dark and silky.

I even saw a punk pumpkin; someone tuck a rude swatch of broom in its crown for a Mohawk, but the judge – “General Hathaway,” madly sporting an umbrella for a hat – snorted, not discerning its true ingenuity. That’s his privilege – he lived in the same house on his block since being born there early in the 20th century.

Naturally, having waited until the absolutely last hour to purchase my pumpkin, I could only find puny miniatures. I thought of skewering them a la shish kebab, and so they lean into themselves, a Pisa of pumpkins, anchored into green-sprayed Styrofoam, ready to fall. Smashing Pumpkins, I pronounced them, after the famous rock group, certain that trendy cleverness would pass over the judge’s head.

Even so, I won a ribbon and “Megan’s” grudging admiration. She nearly forgets how I once called her a twit when she blasted me for allowing my dog to irrigate the alley behind her house.


That night we were lucky. No skate-boarders. Few marauders. Only one crew of androids, their faces eerily obscured by white plastic hockey masks, plundered the children’s candy. On my little street around the corner, Trick or Treat, at its most urgent, could be an actual stick-up.

As for the children, they dunked their heads into a large copper vat, bobbing for apples. “Lucy” was nannying little red Spider-Man and his mob. “Tyler’s” blonde curls were soaked; he was clutching more candy than his mother would allow. Praised be, for once raucous “Celestina” was silent, her mouth stuffed with an apple, her cheeks puffed out like a piglet. “Celestina” steered “Tyler.” He was in love.

The makers of the so-called Happiest Pumpkin were confused at their prize; so was I. Pensive was more like it. Wait till next year, I said, feeling like Dennis Kucinich on a tear. Next year, I promised, pocketing my prize ribbon, we really would have happier pumpkins. Next year, I vowed, mine would be Pumpkins on Prozac.

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