Last Minute Costume Ideas

It’s everyone’s favorite pagan holiday today. A day for dressing up in costumes, summoning the spirits of the dead, and drinking booze. OK, every holiday is for drinking booze. Well, the good holidays at least.

When I was a kid Halloween just involved candy, and vandalism. As you aged you got less and less of the former, and more and more of the latter. Going out alone to trick or treat was the norm for children from age 6. Parents stayed home handing out candy, and conspicuously cleaning their shotgun to discourage teenagers from throwing eggs at their house. Adults did not wear costumes, or put on makeup. Although in retrospect, the clothes they wore in the 70’s would pretty much qualify as costumes nowadays.

Sadly, those days are gone. The mass hysteria of the 70’s and 80’s when everyone became convinced that psychopaths were trying to slip razor blades and cyanide to little children, pretty much killed off trick or treating. And the increasing surveillance technology, and zero-tolerance police state greatly reduced the ability of feral teenagers to terrorize the populace.

In the place of old fashioned scary Halloween, we have created safe & fun Halloween®; a sanitized holiday with smiling black cats, and friendly ghosts. Children no longer trick or treat. Now they go to parties in brightly lit church rec rooms where they are lectured on the evils of sugar, and forced to eat vegetables.

What the hell fun is that?

Now the fun is reserved for the grownups. The increasing infantilism of our culture has turned Halloween into a holiday where adults play dress up, and blow more money than they do at any time except Christmas. Halloween® is big business.

Still, some of us prefer the good old fashioned, last minute, thrown together Halloween costume. So for all those people that are scrambling this afternoon to find something to wear tonight as they take their children to the local mall to trick or treat for toothbrushes, and sugar free gum, I give you the:

Top Five Last Minute Halloween Costume Ideas

5.) Corporate Automaton – Just keep your work clothes on, and try not to wipe that dazed, thousand yard stare off of your face. Extra points for bringing powerpoint slides to the party. Extra-Extra points for checking your Blackberry when someone is speaking to you.

4.) Mammogram– Place a cardboard box with two large circular holes over your head. On the front of the box write “free breast exam”.

3.) Meth Addict – This is by far the most popular Halloween costume in Anoka County. Umm… those are costumes, right?

2.) Steve Jobs – Jeans, glasses, and a black turtleneck. The halo is no longer optional. This costume also gives you license to act like a total a-hole, so long as you have a shiny gadget in your hands.

1.) Brett Favre – He’s baaaaaack! AAAAIIIEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! GO AWAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Autumn Blaze

As the East Coast suffers from a Nor’Easter, here in Minnesota the longest autumn in memory continues. We are now on week 8 of the changing of the leaves. The Ash, and Birch have finished their solo’s and turned the stage over to the maples and oaks. There is more red, pink, maroon and russet in the neighborhood that I have seen in our 16 years here. The sugar maples are blazing orange and the silver maples are glowing yellow. Without a doubt this is the most beautiful time of year.

Your Name Here

It has been brought to my attention lately that various companies have decided to embrace social media as a grass roots marketing tool. They hire marketing people, and focus them solely on searching the internet for mentions of their products on Blogs, Twitter, and the book of faces.

I have a friend whose 13 year old son has taken to posting his own reviews of electronic gadgets on youtube. In doing so, he’s made friends with other teenage kids who do the same and learned that they are often on the receiving end of free samples from the companies whose products they review. These companies will also sponsor free product “contests” for blogs, and pay for links to their product sites. While this might bring into question the impartial judgements of youtube and blog product reviews, it also brings to mind the fact that I have yet to be approached by any faceless corporate automatons interested in using my front porch as a platform for stealth marketing.

Really corporate America? I’ve given you 20 of the best years of my life to oil your gears with the blood of the working classes and this is the thanks I get? You’ll send iPad’s to pimply faced teenagers to pump up the buzz about your products, but you can’t spare one measly little trinket for my efforts at filling the gaping digital void with thousands of words of original content? What gives?

So just in case all you marketing folks have been holding back on offers of cash, and prizes for access to 20 Prospect on the mistaken assumption that I have high moral standards, stop! I can be bought. Just drop me an email and lets start talking figure$.

North Country Northern Lights

The Great Sine Wave of Life

Everything goes in cycles. This is one of the great truisms of life. Whether we are in the pits of despair, or the heights of joy, we know that change is inevitable. Life tends to follow a Sine Wave, oscillating up and down from +1 to -1. Like a sine wave, the zenith and the nadir are the moments of stasis, where time seems to sit still, and our mood hangs in the air, before it slowly begins its swing to the other extreme, accelerating through zero, before slowing as it reaches the other extreme. Rinse and repeat.

The sun also follows this cycle. Every 11 years the solar activity on the Sun peaks, and begins to decline. We are at the bottom of a cycle right now, preparing to begin the climb again. You can look it up. Years of peak sun spot activity play havoc with radio communications, as the Earth is bombarded with waves of solar wind, resulting in the creation of the Aurora Borealis, or Northern Lights. For those that have ever been lucky enough to see the aurora, the unearthly display of dancing curtains of light in the night sky is something you will never forget.

Aurora Borealis

As I’ve said before, my senior year at Clarkson saw me rooming with 3 friends in an old farmhouse about 5 miles East of Potsdam on route 11B. It was 1989, during one of the peaks on the great sine wave of solar activity when the earth is awash in the great solar wind. In my own life, it was a time of great uncertainty and change. College was ending, and my world hung poised at a moment of lethargy, waiting for gravity to begin pulling me back towards zero. As I arrived in Potsdam in September, and moved into our apartment in the North Country, I had little idea of the great changes that lay ahead. All I knew was that the life I was living was inert, and stagnant, like the August heat. It was the year of the Nynex phone company strike, which only seemed to amplify the solitude of living outside of town.

My North Country Home

The farmhouse was old, and our upstairs apartment was drafty in the winter, and a sweatbox in the summer. With no fans in our possession, we stewed in the late summer heat. Sleeping on the old mattress on the floor, beneath the window in my bedroom, I would awake to the sounds of houseflies buzzing against the window screen, and the snorting of horses below. Rosie and King, the sway backed old workhorses our landlords summered on the property, would stand in the early morning shade beneath my window, swatting flies with their tails.

The first few days were given over to trips into town to buy books, and register for classes, followed by evenings sitting outside on the deck, watching the darkness creep out of the foothills of the Adirondacks. One night after a dinner of fried sausage, and Utica Club, we decided to pile into my roommate’s car and head into the bars in town . Potsdam being a village of 9,000 people, a good half of whom are college students, was well appointed with bars along the length of Market Street.

My roommates and I were contrarians for the most part. As misfits, and avowed anti-Fraternity types, we tended to avoid the dance clubs, and stick to a more sedate place called Maxfield’s, that even back then in Pre-Micro brew America, stocked Bass and Guinness on tap. But it was the first night back in town for all of us, and we deviated from our norm, to bar hop down the street to try to catch up with as many classmates as we might run into. With no phone service, chance encounters were about our only way of catching up with friends.

Despite being vehemently opposed to the Frat boy culture that permeated Potsdam, I still had a fair share of friends that belonged to different fraternities. And it wasn’t long before we ran into some of them at a dive noted for selling the cheapest pitchers of cheap beer in all of the North Country. I hung out in the back of the bar where they were playing pool, before wandering back to the place where my roommates had been standing. It was then that I noticed they were gone. Mildly annoyed that they had left without telling me, I walked outside to the next bar down the street in the hopes of catching up with them. But they were nowhere to be found. I began checking out each and every bar along Market street getting angrier by the minute. Finally, after a half hour of searching I walked back to where we had parked the car only to discover that it was gone.

Now I was pissed. How the hell could they ditch me like that? We didn’t live in walking distance of the bars anymore, and I had no idea how the heck I was going to get home. Rather than go back into one of the bars and hang out with some of my fraternity friends, and spend the night at their place, I decided that I was going to go straight home and confront them. I began walking out Elm Street, planning to hitchhike back to our apartment, despite the fact I had never hitchhiked anywhere in my life.

Now keep in mind it was the tail end of the 1980’s, and the “peace love and understanding” of the 60’s had long since faded. Potsdam isn’t a big town, but it is the biggest town in all of St. Lawrence County, and the nearest village of any size to the East of us was over 30 miles away. A hand full of cars drove right on past me as I made my way out of town. That should have been my first hint that the likelihood of any local stopping to pick up an obviously drunk college student was pretty slim. In my drunken and agitated state it never occurred to me that the only people that probably would stop to pick up a drunk hitchhiker at 2 am in the morning were either cops or serial killers.

I walked, and walked. Out past the airport, past the salvage yard, and into the pitch black countryside. As I walked in my stupor, my anger began to fade, and I began to be aware of the world around me. It was a moonless night, and the darkness was unnerving. Looking to the North I could see the faint glow of lights over the horizon. At first I thought it was the lights of Massena, 20 miles away. But as I walked I slowly became aware that the lights were moving. Now I was really confused. It took me quite a while before I realized that I was seeing the Northern Lights.

My walk home took two hours. It was past 3 am when I climbed the stairs to the apartment, and walked through the door swearing. To my surprise, my roommates, and their girlfriends were still awake. As I let into them for ditching me in the bar, they looked at me like I was crazy. Only when I had completed my profanity laced tirade, did they tell me the real reason that they had left.

While at the bar, a couple of thick necked frat boy bouncers had started giving a hard time to a scrawny little underclassman, that was undoubtedly trying to sneak in with a fake I.D., (along with about half of the kids in the place). My roommate Chris, seeing this, walked up to them and said “Why don’t you pick on someone your own bleeping size”. At that point he was jumped from behind by a couple of frat boys, and pushed out into the street. Falling onto the sidewalk, they started kicking him in the head, as his girlfriend screamed, and my roommates rushed out to his aid. By the time they broke things up, he had been roughed up pretty bad, and they decided to take him home. All of this had happened while I was in the back of the place talking with friends, oblivious to the events.

By now I felt like a first class jerk, and my anger subsided into guilt and embarrassment. They all assumed I would do the rational thing and just crash at a friend’s place. No one expected me to walk home five miles through the dark countryside. That was my first experience with the Northern Lights, but it would not be the last.

Later in the month, I awoke around 2 am to a buzzing sound coming from outside. At first I thought it was a fly against the window screen, until I realized that it was night and not the time for houseflies. Slowly coming to my senses I looked out the window and saw a green glow in the sky. I pulled on a shirt, and walked out onto the deck. There, in the sky above was the most ethereal display of light I had ever seen. It took me a minute to realize that what I was seeing was the Northern Lights, blazing so brightly that they seemed to cast a glow over the earth.

the night sky aflame

I sat down on the deck, and watched the light show for hours. At times the Aurora filled the whole sky, changing from green, to red, and surrounding me like the walls of a giant tee-pee, flapping in the breeze. I didn’t know it then, but my life was to begin picking up speed again on it’s downward trajectory along the sine wave. By spring it would be approaching zero, and unraveling at a speed that I could never have dreamed possible. Sitting there in the dark, as the invisible solar wind blew in from millions of miles away, and lit up the sky in green and red filaments, it seemed as if the whole, dry, world around me was about to burst into flame.

Think Pink

Once upon a time October was a sleepy month. A month where we all caught our breath after the hectic return to school of September, and prepared for the coming onslaught of the holiday season. It was a month for earth tones, and autumn leaves. A month for Halloween. If any colors could be associated as the official colors of October, it was Orange and Black.

Those times are past. At some point in the last few years someone designated October as the official month of breast cancer awareness, and declared that pink would be the official color.

Now I’m a huge fan of breasts. (I’m also a fan of huge breasts for that matter.) I’m also no fan of cancer. I’ve seen it cut down too many people, at far too young an age. I’ve had close friends who have had to fight against it. I can assure you;

I HATE BREAST CANCER.

But you know what? I also hate pink.

Don’t get me wrong. Pink has it’s place in the color pallet of the world. However, the crusade of pinkness that we are now being subjected to is getting out of hand. In our rush to show the world that we hate breast cancer people are going overboard.The result can sometimes make my eyes bleed.

why does this remind me of the Cat in the Hat Comes Back?

The NFL is by far the worst offender

et tu Rugby?

This reminds me of the Red Ribbon AIDS crusade of the 90’s, where no self respecting Hollywood celebrity would dare to be seen in public without a strategically placed red ribbon.

and the Yellow Ribbon We-Support-Our-Troops crusade of the 2000’s, when you felt self conscious driving down the highway without a yellow ribbon magnet on your trunk.

Do all cultures suffer from this desire to “one up” each other, or is this a uniquely American phenomenon?

It reminds me of the chapter in the book Catch-22, where Captain Black initiates the Great Loyalty Oath Crusade, as an attempt to discredit his rival, Major Major. Within a short span of time the bomber squadron grinds to a halt, as every function of daily life begins to require the signing of a loyalty oath to prove ones patriotism.

So at the risk of being a misogynistic, communist, flag burning, gay bashing, bigot, I will not be wearing red, yellow, or pink ribbons this month, or any month.

Also? In the glorious words of Major —— de Coverley , “Gimme eat!”

and enough with the pink already

The Tail of the Ghostly Tiger!

As it is the season of spooks, and specters, I thought it appropriate to share a Halloween story. Forgive me if you have heard this one before, but it’s one of my favorites.

Growing up, Halloween was always my favorite holiday. Behind Christmas of course. (Gotta give the fat man and the Christ child their due.) Although when I think back upon my years of Trick or Treating, it isn’t always with fond memories.

The first year I was old enough to go out alone with the other neighborhood kids was 1974. I was six years old, and I had decided that I wanted to be a ghost. In my mind I could picture my ghost costume, right out of Charlie Brown, a white bed sheet with two holes cut for eyes. I begged Mom to help me make the costume, and she obliged by digging through the laundry room, until she found a yellowed, thread bare old bed sheet that she was willing to sacrifice. I explained to her exactly how I wanted it to look. How it would fit over my head, and I would be able to lift my arms and look just like Caspar, only scarier. She nodded, and told me she knew just what I meant. Then she took her scissors and cut one big hole right in the middle of the sheet.

It was big enough to put my head through.

Then she explained to me that it wasn’t safe for a six year old to go trick or treating with a bed sheet over his head, and how this would help me see where I was going.

I stood there speechless, the tears welling up from deep within.

There was no way I was walking out that door with my head sticking through a hole in a bed sheet. I didn’t look like a ghost, I looked like the angel from the Nativity Scene. The kids were going to laugh at me. She suggested that maybe if I had a mask to wear over my face it would look better. So we dug around the basement for awhile until we found a tiger mask. So as the kids in the neighborhood gathered out in front of 20 Prospect, I set off with the Army Soldiers, Frankenstein’s, Cowboys, Dracula’s, and Planet of the Apes as the only Ghostly Tiger in the City of Batavia. Maybe even the world.

At every house we came to a little old lady would open the door and ask “and what do we have here?” then proceed to name each and every costume until she came to me. After an awkward silence, I would mumble “Umm… I’m a ghostly tiger”.

I swore right then at age six that I was never going to do that to my kids.

So when Halloween 1975 rolled around I had great hopes for redemption. This year I would have the best costume on the street. So the week before Halloween, Mom took me to Fay’s Drug Store to buy a fancy store bought costume. I looked over the Planet of the Apes, the Astronauts, the Frankenstein’s, and the Superhero’s and I found the best costume I had ever seen.

A Dinosaur.

This was it! This was the one! It had a plastic Dinosaur mask with a snout that protruded like a Crocodile’s. I begged Mom to buy it for me, and she did! On the night of Halloween I sat at the dinner table, squirrely with excitement. That’s when Mom informed me that my Big Bruddah had a High School Football game that night at Niagara Catholic in Niagara Falls, and that we would have to leave early to go to the game so there would be no time for trick or treating with my friends. Instead, my sister took me to five houses on our street.

That night I rode all the way to Niagara Falls sitting in the backseat with my Dinosaur mask on, pondering the fact that Mom clearly did not grasp the concept of Halloween.

So for Halloween 1976 I turned to my Dad. That was the year of Star Wars, and I had gotten a toy light saber, made out of a flashlight and a hollow plastic tube. I wanted to be Darth Vader, so Dad put on his thinking cap, and then gathered up a pair of welding goggles, one of granny’s oxygen masks, and a toy German Army helmet, and took them out to the barn and spray painted them black. Mom even got into the act by sewing me a black cape, and letting me wear her knee high black leather boots. The night of Halloween I stepped out onto the front porch, flicked on my light saber, and started breathing like James Earl Jones with a nasty head cold. The neighborhood was in awe.

What followed was the greatest Halloween ever, as I spent 3 hours walking the streets of Batavia basking in the celebrity of an adoring public, until my pillow case was full to over flowing with sugary goodness.

I was Darth Vader again the next year.

Epilogue:
Two years ago, when Lil’ Miss 20 Prospect wanted to be a ghost, I knew exactly what she meant. I went to bat for her and argued with Mrs. 20 Prospect that there was no danger or safety hazard in sending a nine year old out into the dark with a bed sheet over her head. It only took 34 years to get redemption.