Saturday, October 30, 2010

Halloweens Gone By: A List

I was seven, and I was pumped about my wizard costume. I wore it to school. I cast imaginary spells on the teachers. Best of all, I had plans to spend the night at a friend's house after my usual round of trick-or-treating. The thing is, I'd never actually been to this kid's house before, only hung out with him at school. I knew where he lived in theory–the white house at the end of my block, so it should have been easy to find. It was literally mere feet away from my own home, so my mom sent me off that night confident her child wasn't a complete moron and wouldn't get lost somewhere between Harrison Street and the end of Harrison Street.

The dilemma arose when I discovered the white house at the end of the block was in fact a duplex. I stood there for a moment, unsure of what to do, before choosing the left half of the house and hoping for the best. The door was slightly ajar, so I simply walked in, passed the foyer, and found myself smack dab in the middle of a raging college party.


Though completely out of place, nobody seemed to pay me much mind. One guy even complimented my costume. It didn't quite hit me that I was in the wrong house for a few minutes, but before long it became obvious I wasn't going to find my friend amidst the crowd of sloppy, flappy-tongued college kids. After narrowly dodging a falling lamp knocked over by drunk girl in a sexy Hitler costume, I hightailed it out of there. And thus was the first in a long line of shitty Halloweens.

Verdict: 2 out of 5 scary pumpkins.


The anti-Halloween seed had been planted young, and the next year that seed took root and began to sprout. That year, my mom was out of the country and I was forced to spend the week at my grandparents' ranch out in the country. Seeing as how trick-or-treating was out of the question in the boonies, my grandmother invited over one of the other country kids so I'd have somebody to play with. Her name was Michelle, and she was fucked up.

Michelle had our evening mapped out from the start. She told me we were going to brew a magic potion out in the corn field and bring the neighbor's scarecrow to life. She warned me that the scarecrow would probably try to kill us, so I should wear sneakers with good traction. I was at that age where girls could tell me to do anything and I'd oblige, no questions asked, so I shrugged and followed Michelle out into the fields. As we walked, she explained that she knew where we could procure the perfect ingredient for our magic potion. She led me toward an old barn, and as we rounded to the back, there it was: the perfect ingredient.

A partially decomposed feral cat.


I was positively delighted. I fell in love with Michelle right then and there.

Unfortunately, neither of us wanted to actually touch the cat, so instead we poked it with sticks for a while. After Michelle accidentally popped its eyeball, we decided our potion would have to consist of dirt, bugs, and corn husks. Using a cooking pot in place of a cauldron, we stirred together our ingredients, and Michelle began chanting under her breath. She claimed only she could cast the spell, because only she had a witch's hat, and if I wanted to cast spells too, I needed to go to Safeway and buy my own witch hat for $1.99.


She finished her incantation and flung the ingredients up into the scarecrow's face. Nothing happened. After a few moments of silence, Michelle turned to me with her hands on her hips and declared, "This is boring. You are boring." And with that, she marched off in the direction of her own house. I never saw her again.

Over the next few days I forgot about my brief brush with witchcraft, until one morning when I went out to feed the dogs. I peered out across the fields, and noticed something peculiar. The neighbor's scarecrow, usually looming above the crops, was gone. An empty post now stood in its place. Suddenly gripped with terror, I dropped the bag of dog food and sped back into the house. I found my grandmother brewing coffee and shrieked:


"Um. What?" My grandmother barely glanced in my direction.


"Adam, don't be silly. The neighbors took down the scarecrow because the corn season is over. Now go slaughter a chicken for dinner tonight."

I calmed down a bit at her explanation, but I wasn't fully convinced. To this day I still wonder if there's a killer scarecrow out there waiting for the right moment to strike.

Verdict: 4 out of 5 spooOOOooky cats.


I didn't give Halloween another shot until I was twelve. That year, I attended a costume party at the community center at the beach. My Thundercats costume was a hit, and it might have been a turning point in my attitude toward Halloween, if not for what ensued after the party ended. I foolishly decided to take a walk on the beach while I waited for my ride to pick me up. I'd been down that beach a dozen times before, but somehow in the dark of the night I got turned around and became hopelessly lost among the sand dunes. This was years before I had a cellphone, so I was essentially on my own. It took about two seconds for panic to set in.

I am going to die out here, I thought. Far away from the city lights, I could barely see a thing. I'd round one sand dune, hear a dog growling from the bushes, and book it in the opposite direction, only to stumble upon an angry homeless dude in a ratty fur coat. At one point I found myself ankle deep in mud, surrounded by the deafening sound of a million croaking frogs. Verging on tears, I frantically climbed atop the nearest beach dune, hoping I'd be able to gather myself and get my bearings straight.


In what seemed like a short amount of time, I'd wandered a surprising distance. I couldn't see anything. No city lights, no street lamps, no beacon of hope. Nothing at all. But then, a tiny break in the darkness. Off in the distance, a light turned on in a window. Consumed by that light, I scrambled forward through sand, mud, and bushes, finally reaching a tiny blue house in the middle of nowhere. Dirty and delirious, I flung myself against the window, startling an elderly couple in the middle of dinner.


The woman opened the window barely an inch and said, "...yes?"

I croaked, "" The woman pointed feebly and I stumbled away like some malnourished Swamp Thing.

Verdict: 10 out of 10 candy corns (candy corn is disgusting).


After that I swore off Halloween altogether. The next three years in a row I stayed in and watched The Craft by myself, ignoring trick-or-treaters who knocked on my door. I most likely would have resigned myself to an eternity of resentful Halloweens, but when I was fifteen I was invited to attend The Rocky Horror Picture Show, and warily accepted on the grounds that it didn't seem like typical Halloween fare.

Unfortunately I was thoroughly confused by the concept of Rocky Horror, having never seen it before. I gathered some loose concept of dressing in drag, but beyond that I was clueless, and it showed in my outfit. I bought a conservative tan dress from Goodwill, paired it with a mousy brown bobbed wig, then somehow saw fit to top it off with a giant pair of fake tits. If I remember correctly, I stuffed a couple of grapefruits into tube socks and tied them together behind my neck, effectively creating the most massively saggy breasts known to man. Nobody told me I was supposed to go the route of fishnets and trashy lingerie. As it was, I looked like an uptight librarian.


In spite of my loser outfit, I enjoyed myself throughout most of the night. Only a few people made snarky comments about my costume, and the rest seemed to think I was making some sort of ironic hipster statement. The night unraveled when I got up to use the restroom, and barged in on a couple of goth girls who had apparently been in the grips of a pee emergency.


The sight of a goth chick peeing in dirty sink was the final straw and I refused to acknowledge Halloween for the next five years.

Verdict: 1 out of 5 apples with razor blades in them.


I relented one final time when I was 20, and only at the prospect of getting laid. Invited as a date to a costume party, I reluctantly obliged and threw together a cowboy costume at the last minute. However, upon arriving at the party, I received a text from my prospective date:

sry cant make it.
dont b mad @ me k?

I spent the rest of the night sulking on the porch next to what was either a girl in a Courtney Love costume and a dwarf in a Ninja Turtle outfit, or just a drunk mother and her confused son. It's so hard to tell sometimes. At least there was free booze.


Verdict: 3 out of 5 severed heads of lost children.


In recent years I've returned to my holiday seclusion. I noticed The Craft is on Netflix now, making it that much easier to be a bitter old curmudgeon. Maybe I'll buy a pumpkin, sit in the dark, and stab it repeatedly with a butter knife as I spitefully recount Halloweens gone by.

Or maybe I'll suck it up and give Halloween one more shot.

So keep an eye in the papers. If you read the headline, "Portland man leaps to his death from atop the John Ross Tower in a tootsie roll-fueled sugar high, mistakenly believing that he is Amelia Earheart's lost Lockheed Model 10 Electra," then you'll know I relented, and that the Halloween spirit is still alive in my heart.

Also that I am dead.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

So That Happened

Tonight at the supermarket I found myself behind a pretty girl in the checkout line.


The universe hates me.

Like this story? Did you know I have a book coming out?

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Television! Teacher, Mother, Secret Lover

Alright. Let's get something out in the open: I have shitty taste in TV shows.

Okay, there, I said it. My television watching habits are downright embarrassing. I also listen to NPR, so I like to think it all comes out in the wash, but the fact of the matter is that I'm probably the reason the nation is going downhill intellectually. Case in point: I actually own Small Wonder on DVD, and I can name the winner of every cycle of America's Next Top Model. Hell, I know they call them cycles instead of seasons, which is shameful enough as it is. I could rattle off terrible shows ad nauseum, detailing salacious storylines in sickening depth, but I'll spare everyone the torture and just get to the point: Teen Mom.

Teen Mom is by far my favorite guilty pleasure. A spin-off of MTV's own 16 and Pregnant, Teen Mom is a reality show that follows four young women as they stumble through motherhood and generally make fools of themselves on a regular basis. It's the kind of cringe-worthy, exploitative trash that's been rapidly taking over the airwaves in recent years. And I fucking love it. I'm crazy about the show because almost everyone on it is completely vile and unpleasant. The cast has become celebrities in their own right, so I thought what better way honor these horrid individuals than as collectible trading cards?


Maci is the single capable parent on the entire show, and might actually be likeable if it weren't for her addiction to spray tans. For the first half of this season, her orange skin matched her copper dyed hair almost exactly. I thought I needed to adjust my TV set on more than one occasion.

Her baby, Bentley, could even stand a chance of growing up normally, but Maci's competence is offset completely by Ryan, the father, who is seemingly perpetually unemployed. Ryan appears hellbent on becoming the poster child for deadbeat dads everywhere. If he isn't napping at his parents' house or avoiding finding legitimate work, he's telling Maci that she's lazy, or stupid, or threatening to take her to court over their child. My guess is he'll end up doing gay-for-pay porn within the next few years, effectively completing the cycle of The Reality Show Douchebag.


Amber and Gary have a relationship that's almost beyond words. Amber goes back and forth between literally punching Gary in the face and making him propose to her, over and over and over again, while their baby Leah screams from the other room. I've lost count of how many times these two have gotten engaged (Gary spent a mere $21.40 for an engagement ring at Walmart), then broken up, only to kiss and make up before the episode's end. Their tumultuous relationship used to be marginally understandable, as they were both at one time the size of baby elephants. However, since losing a significant amount of weight, Amber seems to be on a cruel power trip with Gary, knowing that no matter how awfully she treats him, he'll always come crawling back to her with a to-go box of meatloaf and mashed potatoes.

Most recently, Amber seems to have finally given up on playing games with Gary, and has begun dating a registered child molester.

Yes, seriously.

(Edit: Ok, so he turned out not to be a child molester, just an unspeakable creepster.)


Caitlynn and Tyler made the wise decision to give their little troll up for adoption, thus giving themselves the chance to do something with their lives, though God knows what. College seems out of the question, as neither of them have enough credits to graduate from high school. Frankly I don't even know why these two are on the show, since they don't have a child anymore and they have the personalities of tree stumps. I suppose I have to give them credit for being somewhat well-adjusted, because their home lives are tragic even by my low standards. Tyler's mullet-sporting dad has been in and out of rehab, and Caitlynn's mom looks like a cross between Gollum and a Faces of Meth "after" photo.

To make matters worse, their parents are actually dating each other. I don't even want to think about that one too much. Another season of this family and I'll have a hard time telling the difference between them and the creeps from that "Home" episode of The X-Files.


Farrah, the show's resident single mom, started off sort of fun to watch but quickly unraveled into possibly the most spiteful human being on television next to Glenn Beck and Maddy Gosselin. The big story with Farrah was that her mom apparently assaulted her earlier this year, though no one can really be sure with Farrah. In all honesty I can't really blame her mother. I sort of want to assault Farrah myself.

It's a wonder that her baby Sophia isn't dead yet, as Farrah's favorite pastime is forgetting the fact that she even has a baby. Sophia spends most episodes either falling off beds or sitting in a sink full of soapy water unattended. Part of me suspects that Farrah might be some kind of Octomom with a closet full of identical babies. Whenever one croaks, she quietly brings out a new one like nothing happened and carries on being a grating skank with a massive head of hair.

Teen Mom has proven to be a ratings powerhouse for MTV, but there's only about another year left before the cast are no longer effectively teens. At that point I'm not sure what I'll do. I'm a 24-year-old adult male, and I need my weekly outlet of naive teenage youths to pass judgment on. Otherwise I might be forced to confront my own shortcomings, and that's just unacceptable.

I'll be keeping my fingers crossed that America's teens keep poppin' out babies, and that MTV keep giving them reality show contracts.



Monday, October 4, 2010

But....But He Started It!

In Dave Gilmartin's 2006 book "The Absolute Worst Places To Live in America," Allston, Massachusetts took top honors as one of the most dreadful towns in the country. During my college years in Cambridge, I used to trek out to Allston regularly for house parties, and I can't say Mr. Gilmartin's assessment is fallacy. Venturing home from Allston to my house in Harvard Square was always a unique experience, and if I made it back without stepping in vomit or tripping over a dead cat, I considered my night a success. While not without its charms, Allston was, in a word, really fucking gross (ok, three words). I could lament the bodily fluids caking every curbside, or bemoan the pervasive bedbug infestation which seemed to never end, but by far my favorite aspect of Allston was the fact that its residents seemed to have no problem with bringing their domestic disputes right out into the street. I suppose it's not a characteristic exclusive to Allston, but the nature of the fights always had a special flavor to them. I remember one night I watched as a dude stormed out of a house with a forty of Miller Light in his hand, followed by a girl wearing nothing but a pair of Juicy Couture sweatpants, and as the guy got into his car and sped off, the girl screamed, "FINE! BUT WHO YOU GONNA GET YER HEROIN FROM NOW?" I could only stand in place dumbfounded–mostly out of shock that anyone in Allston could afford heroin.

Last night, I could have been back in Allston. I was walking home from a bar, and as I rounded the corner onto my street, I could hear a commotion down the road. I approached the rising bedlam and came across a man standing with his hands in his pockets, calmly watching two girls beat the crap out of each other.


I halted next to the man, taken aback at the unfolding chaos, unable to do much of anything but watch. When I say the girls were beating each other senseless, I mostly mean there was a lot of name-calling, hair-pulling, and angry slapping. I'm sure not all girls fight this way, and I'm certainly not passing judgment on any one girl's fighting technique–I'm certain 95% of the female population could pulverize me. Regardless, I think the primary reason I didn't intervene is because neither of the girls seemed to really be hurting each other.

Eventually, they sort of clumsily wrestled each other to the ground, and one of the girls unleashed a move I've seen my cat perform numerous times. Sometimes, when my cat's really mad at me, she'll wrap her paws around my ankle and proceed to kick me senseless with her hind legs. I never thought I'd see a human utilize the same tactic, but it was surprisingly successful.


At that point I was becoming lucid to the awkwardness of the situation, and started to feel wildly uncomfortable standing there. Finally, I spoke up to the dude next to me.


It's probably a mistake to make assumptions about any single group of people, but if there's one thing I've learned from watching reality TV, it's that white girls are indeed unpredictable when then get into tussles. Granted, when white chicks fight on TV, they're usually drunk on PatrĂ³n and competing for the love of some aging rock star, so it's probably not the best representation of Caucasian females. And for that matter, all I really know about black ladies is that they make a point of taking off their earrings before they fight, which leads me to believe they're more serious about it and thusly more skillful warriors. As far as television is concerned, there aren't really any other races to speak of, unless they need a Hispanic cleaning lady or an Asian computer expert (Asian lesbian if it's a computer hacker).

Anyway, my point is I wasn't about to step in a break up a fight with my admittedly little knowledge of girlfights. Truth be told, I've only been in one real fight myself, and I'd prefer not to put myself in that situation again.

That's right, it's time for a...


My one true fight happened in middle school, but I remember it like it was yesterday; in fact I'm getting a black eye just thinking about it. I was riding the school bus home one afternoon, and if I close my eyes I can almost hear Lou Bega's Mambo Number 5 crackling out of the bus's tinny speakers. If there's a worse soundtrack to get pummeled by, I can't think of anything more terrible than Lou Bega.

Sitting behind me was the school bully, though I can't quite remember his name. Alan? Alec? Aaron? Dicklips McDouchebag? Something like that. He was punching the back of my seat, not because he didn't like me, but simply because I was the closest target and easiest outlet for his aggression.


I don't think he even knew who I was, and he certainly didn't care. But what he also didn't realize was that our mothers worked together, and as I sat there steeping in frustration, I recalled something I had overheard my mom mention on the phone weeks ago. Something about the kid's family, something I probably wasn't meant to hear. Something I should never had used as fodder for retaliation, but my blood was beginning to boil. He just WOULDN'T. STOP. PUNCHING.

So finally, I lost it.


I deserved it. I really did. Hunched in a ball, futilely blocking punches, I'd knew I'd made a huge mistake, not just because I was getting annihilated, but because I had aimed so low and said something truly cruel. Getting the tar beaten out of you certainly isn't a pleasant experience by any means, but it's not as bad as I would've imagined. It hurts, sure, but it's mostly just shocking and confusing–the real pain comes later, when you have the time to decompress and realize that even your bruises have bruises.

The abuse was thankfully short, broken up by the bus driver in what must have been a common occurrence for her. She separated us, and as she shuffled back to the front of the bus, I swore I heard her mutter something about her blood pressure and miserable pension.

And yes, I realize that might be an anticlimactic end to such an epic battle, so here's my delusional reimagining of events, inspired by Street Fighter II:


I'd like to claim I'm a lover, not a fighter, but that's simply not true. When playing videogames I become far too focused on blowing up civilians, and I only bought The Sims so I could trap my Sim in a room full of ovens and wait until he set himself on fire. I'm ashamed to say I regularly have dreams about beating the crap out of people–in fact I think I beat up a child–so I clearly have a horrible violent core underneath the soft flesh and impeccably groomed beard. Mostly, I just suck at fighting, and I don't like getting hit. If there were some way for me to clobber people without any repercussions, I imagine I'd just never stop punching. I'd be a human cloud of fists, wrecking havoc across the world.

I don't know which one of those girls won the fight last night, as I didn't stick around in the end. There were no corpses left in the street the following morning, so either one of them arose victorious and they simply went home, or city's waste management program is really on top of their game. Portland has great civic planning, so who knows how many dead white girls are discreetly removed from the streets in the wee hours before dawn? It's what makes America great. That and Starbucks.