Between Seasons and Between Worlds

So, today is Halloween.  My first introduction to it was through Disney comics.  It seemed like a great deal of fun, what with pumpkin carving and all that.

And we’ve tried to make Halloween fun for the kids.  I think mostly we made it sideways and backwards from normal.

Look, the only two years the kids had purchased costumes was when Dan had the traveling job and I was breaking into writing, 99/2000.  Because there just wasn’t time and – briefly – we had money to order costumes.

Other than that, normally, I had long discussions with them about what they wanted to be, then assembled materials.  On Halloween, as soon as they left for school, I sat down and made costumes for them.

The most memorable one required SOME purchased parts (I think from big lots, although it might have been the Oriental trading catalogue.)  The kids wanted to be dragon and knight, so I bought a plastic breast plate, and helmet and sword.

Then I set about making a dragon costume with fabric purchased at the thrift store (miles and miles of ugly polyester for I think $5.)  I used a sweat suit that fit Robert to cut the pants and “shirt from, made the head like an extended hood – he looked through the mouth – add in some spikes from metallic golden fabric, and bob is your uncle.

This is when we lived in Manitou Springs and the path for the kids was about three miles, up and down hills.  (Manitou is a mountain village.)

Our friend Charles and our cat Pixel walked the boys because I had to stay home to hand out candy and Dan was working late, which was normal in those days.

Charles says the sword quickly became the “righteous sword for smacking brother.”  Marshall was two or three?  Anyway, when they stopped at a house, Robert would make dragon sounds.  Marshall took this as a great offense and would whack him with the sword on top of the head.  Then Robert would squawk and flap his wings in protest.

They enacted this for me when they got back, and it was very funny.  They got enough candy to choke an elephant.  Although to this day Charles maintains that the MOST impressive thing wasn’t the dragon and knight act, but the fact that Pixel escorted them to the door and politely waited for them, before walking with them to the next.  Charles said people kept asking “How did you train your cat.”  This made him feel he was in a parallel universe because… who trains cats?

Other than that, though I still have some costumes in the basement (Found the crusader one the other day…  With the bunny of death attached) the one I remember vividly is the first one, when Robert was two and a half, and our friends invited us to trick or treat in their neighborhood.  I had no costume, so I dressed Robert as a prince and even sewed a sword (hey, he was two and a half.)

I’ll forever have this memory of him “getting it”.  Go to the first house, get candy, go to second get candy.  Eyes light up, and he gallops ahead of the group to the next house, and the next.  I still feel guilty over not teaching him to say “Thank you” more clearly that year, because he would yell “Fank you” as he ran away.  I still worry those people thought it was something else.

Of course, in Portugal, Halloween is serious business.  Oh, not day of the Muertos type of thing, though you can see where that came from (and I know that mostly through Bradbury stories.)

No, it’s if anything closer to the festival of the Hungry ghosts in Asian religions.

Halloween is the day you visit the cemetery and get acquainted with lost relatives.  You don’t talk to them (I hope, that would be REALLY creepy) but you talk about them, show their graves to the kids, tell them who they were.

You go early and wash the graves (the graves are almost all covered by marble slabs.  Pauper graves and children’s graves aren’t, but those you weed.)  Then as night falls you light candles.  EVERYONE is there – or at least in my day and in the village, everyone was.  And because the cemetery was shared between five or six villages, you usually ended up having a sort of visiting day with relatives who lived further off/friends you hadn’t seen in years.

All of it though was pervaded with this melancholy feel, because you talked of the people who’d gone before you.

I often say that my dad – 83 – now has a tendency to treat going to the cemetery as “old school week” and goes there all too often, and takes me through it, and talks about each person he knew (and some my generation) who is now there, and remembers them fondly.  This is perhaps logical when most of your generation is beneath the turf.

But Halloween, everyone treats the cemetery that way.

It is both disturbing and somewhat creepy, but also, in that type of place, with that type of continuity… I don’t know how to put this… comforting?

You know someday you’ll be gone to join the silent majority, but you know you won’t be forgotten for generations, and that your relatives will tell stories of you in November, as winter draws near.

Usually you adjourn home for roast chestnuts (you put chestnuts under a pile of pine needles. When the pine needles burn off, the chestnuts are perfectly done.) and red wine, and more talk of the old days.

I remember a feeling that the dead weren’t so much gone, that day, as a continuum with the living.

The highlight for me was visiting the grave of my cousin Dulce.  I remember that.  I don’t remember Dulce.  I guess I did, back then, because we were the same age, and according to the relatives still alive, we used to play together.  She died at three in what was either an unusually virulent form of chicken pox or the last small pox epidemic to sweep Europe (It escaped from a lab in Germany.  Okay.  No.  It was carried out by accident.  I’m now seeing it in daring do, breaking out of the lab.)  I don’t know which because in Portuguese they fall under a continuum of words and could mean either.  I don’t think anyone knew which, either.  But it killed about a third of the kids too young to be in school/vaccinated.

Funny thing, my cousin was the strong one of the two of us – I was born premature and my health now is perhaps a little better than it was then.  I always wonder if I hadn’t spent so much of my young years sick in bed, would I be a writer now?  My nature is more active and less introspective than it was molded to by those years of solitude and enforced inactivity – and she was the one who died.  I pulled through by the skin of my teeth.

But I remember wanting to see her grave, and being fascinated by all the little graves in the children’s cemetery.  I remember wondering if they came out, after we left, and played among the graves. The funny thing is that this didn’t seem creepy at all, more like eternal recess.

On that, until a few years ago I was convinced I’d killed Dulce.  I don’t think anyone told me so, but it went something like this: we were having tea and she finished her bread and butter and wanted mine.  I refused to share.  She cried.  The adults told me I was mean or something like that.  Then we both got sick.  (One of us probably gave it to the other at that play session.)  When I recovered, they told me she had died.  (They also burned all my toys/books that couldn’t be washed.  It was that virulent.)

Unexamined at the back of my head, until my mom mentioned that Dulce had died in that illness wave, was the certainty she had died because I wouldn’t give her my bread.

Now this doesn’t stand up rationally, of course, but it was never thought of or examined.  I knew it so firmly as a kid that finding out otherwise was a shock as an adult.  I realized that for most of my life I’d been carrying the guilt of “killing” my cousin.  Weird, uh?

Anyway, as I get older I draw comfort from those memories of childhood where life and death were a continuum and there was never any idea that the dead just vanished.  No, they were still there, and you could go to their graves, which were sort of receptors for communicating to them and assure them that you were thinking of them and would be along by the by.

It’s very hard to fear death or even to view death as anything much in those circumstances.

Halloween to me back then was also the beginning of an enchanted season.  Within weeks, lights would go up downtown Porto, and my dad would take me downtown to see them put up.  This was around the time of my birthday too.  And chestnuts would be sold on the streets (I love roast chestnuts.  Still.)  And my grandfather would light up the Franklin stove in their kitchen, and I could have “potatoes with a punch” – these were little potatoes, the ones ignored by the harvest but gleaned afterwards with a rake – and you’d put them in the ash pan of the stove, so the hot ash fell on them.  When they crumbled with a punch they were done.  They were eaten as a snack, and I loved them.  (Yes, we were weird.  Deal.)

So Halloween, even if slightly spooky and sort of mystical, was the beginning of winter fun.  It retains some of that aura, even now.

Now excuse me, I’m going to see if I can talk one of the young men into wearing a dragon costume.  For old time’s sake.


115 responses to “Between Seasons and Between Worlds

  1. “…eternal recess…” What a delightful, youthful, insight into the age old question.

  2. Those Portuguese customs sound oddly like the ancient Etruscan view of the dead. On one hand they seem to have had elaborate apotropaic rites (is that the word I want?) for getting them to stay in the shadowlands; on the other hand I think I’ve seen the occasional image of the spirits of the dead coming out to party. I suppose it’s not for nothing that Chelsea Quinn Yarbro made Saint-Germain an Etruscan. . . .

  3. When Chris was young, he wanted a dragon costume a few times. The best one, I took a green sweatsuit (or dyed one green) and sewed a yellow panel on the front, then made a tail from green fabric and stuffed it. The head I began by carving the snout out of foam and then covered it with fabric to make a hood. I was kind of proud of it.

    Then one year he wanted to be Bowser from the Mario games. THAT was challenging. I bought orange material that looked like scales, also some green scaly material, plus cream yellow for the belly area. Next, I put the orange and cream colored material together with padding to make a shirt and pants. Then I took two layers of foam insulation and carved a shell, which I covered with the green scaly material, and stuck foam cones from the craft store on it for the spikes. Finally, I created a wireframe head, covered it in paper mache’, and spray-painted it. Unfortunately, we didn’t get any pictures of it, because it was impressive, if I do say so myself.

  4. Which of the boys gets to wear the “A Few Good Men” cover costume this year?


    • Heh. Personally, I want my two to get Thor and Loki costumes, because they would be perfect for them (even if Chris is a little less buff than he should be for Thor).

    • We live in CO. It’s rather cold…

      • Wearing your winter coat over your costume is sadly limiting.

      • Well it would be warmer than the Darkship Thieves cover costume.

        • I’m sure there are a lot of us with teen or pre-teen daughters hoping they do not take inspiration from that cover.

          Last night my daughter joked about letting me pick her Halloween costume next year, like her friend’s dad did this year. I told her I’d be buying her a burkah.

          • I find as I age that I harbor a great deal of resentment at adults who refuse to let go of Halloween, who are stealing the holiday from children.

            Probably an artifact of the absurdly extended adolescence. Complete with “Sexy Noun” costuming.

            Last night I suggested to Beloved Spouse and the Daughtorial Unit, Pratchett fans both, that somebody ought try a “Sexy Dwarf” costume.

            • There are those vendors who set up in empty stores near Halloween. There are two about here, one of which sells only one female costume — slut — with variants on decorations, and one of which sells a few other possibilities among the bulk of them.

              • I ought clarify — while the costume description may be “Sexy Noun” the more accurate term is indeed “Slutty Noun” and I am not among those who conflate “sexy” as congruent with “slutty.” (There is room for debate, but I suspect the majority of participants in these comments would put the area of overlap as somewhere between 0 and 50%.)

                We received a flyer/mailer for one or another of those seasonal storefront operations and the multiple pages of costumes for post-pubescent females were primarily distinguishable from a Victoria’s Secret catalog by the quality of the photography and costume materials. (And, of course, VS contains some pages of sports wear, business wear and activity wear that do not involve exposure of epidermis in excess of sixty percent of surface.

                • that, and VS articles of clothing are well-manufactured and last for quite a few years with regular wear and laundering. (They’d better, at the price they charge!)

                  The slut costumes, though, are just as cheap, flimsy, trashy, and disposable as the slut label implies.

                • The difference between “sexy” and “slutty” is easy to describe:

                  A woman wears a revealing costume in private for the sole benefit of her husband*: sexy.

                  She wears it in public for everyone to see: slutty.

                  * Or, in many modern cases, boyfriend / significant other / whatever the kids are calling it these days. While I would maintain that marriage is vitally important, it’s not as important to the distinction I’m making here, which is the factor of showing herself off in private only for the benefit of her loved one, rather than showing herself off in public.

                  • I would say it’s easy to describe for those sort of costumes – but then there are other dresses that are incredibly sexy and still perfectly acceptable for a lady to wear in a public place (indeed, they are much sexier precisely because of what and how they conceal and reveal). This includes a lot of better-cut evening gowns and business suits.

                    In that sort of dress, though, the sexiness is like Sally Rand’s fans – much more exciting in what it conceals and alludes to than exactly in what it reveals. When all the modesty and all the mystery is gone, and all a body has left to flaunt is available and on display like a side of beef? That’s just sad.

                    • Admittedly I may be being affected by the fact that as I read these comments I am listening to Glenn Reynolds interview Virginia Postrel about her new book The Power of Glamour, but I think the distinction here might be the element of intimacy. Robins example of a wife with her husband and Dorothy’s evening gown clad lady both promise intimacy, the first instance actual, the second example an invitation to intimacy. The alternate, while the “Slutty Devil” or the “Miley Cyrus”* is the refutation, the rejection, the antithesis of intimacy.

                      *I started to type “Slutty Miley Cyrus” but that seems redundant.

                    • I think RES has hit on it with the importance of intimacy. Intimacy, by its nature, is something shared by just a few people. (In the case of sexual intimacy, just two.) And it’s something that can only be given as a gift, not bought and sold. One could pay a prostitute for sex, but paying her for intimacy would be impossible by the nature of the thing itself.

                      Dorothy’s example of evening gowns is good, because the gowns themselves can be worn in a way that communicates a promise of intimacy, later, to just one person — or the very same gown could be worn by a different woman whose body language and actions communicate “Any man who wants me can have me, I’m easy,” which is the opposite of intimacy. The gown itself, in this case, does not convey sexiness or sluttiness on its wearer, but it enhances the sexiness or sluttiness that she chooses to display.

                    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                      “she chooses to display”. That’s a good phrase and sometimes it might be “subconscious” on her part. Awhile back, I was manning the front desk of our local county museum and a couple came in. With him I got the impression of “well-to-do” in a nice way but with her it was a different matter. While nothing about her clothing “shouted” Slut or Bimbo, I still got the impression of “Bimbo” and possibly “Slut”. Strangely, this was the first time I got such an impression about a woman. Not even the teenagers with the “fuck me shirts” gave me that impression.

                    • Hints and teases = sexy. Shows = slutty.

                    • By the way, something that is funny, in a rather sad way: the way one former escort whose blog I read tells it, the professionals, if you talking about the high prized ones, tend to dress like business women or maybe old time movie stars, most times looking very respectable (although they do take customer wishes in account, so there may be occasional slut dresses, but they are the exception). If you see someone looking like a slut she’s either cheap, those ones you pick from the street, or is not a prostitute.

                    • Sexyness or Sluttiness aren’t really the clothes, they are the woman inside them. Clothes are just the seasoning, when you sit down to a meal you can add salt and pepper, and tabasco sauce, to enhance the flavor, and spice it up a bit, but underneath the seasoning it is still the same meal. That meal was done and whether it was tasty or foul before it ever hit your plate.

  5. I guess it’s the Celt in my background, but after the kids go home, and the lights are all turned out, I sometimes get the sense that there’s something in the air, even out here. Something moving, low and slow, as old as the legends about All Hallows Evn’. Both my families come from wandering stock, so perhaps we brought our spirits and ‘haints with us as we worked our way west.

    October is the month I start listening to Celtic music again after a summer break, and November first is the first day I will listen to winter music. Autumn, especially late October and early November, is my favorite season.

    • EVERY writer lives in a haunted house. Call it our imagination, or the fact we live between worlds. Your choice.

    • I know we brought our haunts 😉 Some of them are actually benign.

      • Oops – I initially misread that as bought our haunts, and my reflexive reaction was “I can get them for you wholesale.”

        I recommend avoiding the “giant mystery assortment” however.

        • Ah, I think I agree with your recommendation. I’d hate to get the box with a Japanese ghost, a peeved rusalka, and someone else’s doppelganger.

        • I like how you think … rummaging through my giant assortment of haunts and unknown unknowns. *grin
          Better than Christmas

          • Some poetic accompaniment to your rummaging:

            Fears of Zero
            A bit late for Halloween, but think of this as alternative to The Raven.

            Late at night.
            When the world sleeps.
            And I am here alone.
            And here I come some nights to confront my fears.
            They’re here…my fears.
            They are always with me.
            Lurking, scurrying, hiding, and waiting.
            They come!
            And they go.
            Though they are gone they are never far
            and here alone at night I can confront them.
            There they are…confronted fears!
            Fears of hunger, fears of pain, fears of missing the last train.
            Fears of dentists always drilling, fears that no one will be willing…
            to see me as I know I really am.
            Once they are counted and compelled…they can quickly be dispelled…
            Like figments of my own imagination.

            But always, there are other fears.
            Fears of snakes, fears of cats,
            fears of maītre d’s and rats.
            An irrational black terror…
            that someday I may get fat.
            Fear of elevators falling, and the taxman someday calling
            And the accidental walling of myself up inside a clammy, dank, old, dingy cellar where the spiders weave around my tummy
            And the worms, and bugs and crawly things squirm and squiggle at my person. (Oh, I love it!)
            Once they are counted and compelled, they can quickly be dispelled…

            But then there are other fears.
            Fears of bullets, there’s a dread.
            Fear of baldness on the head.
            Fear of waking up one morning, to discover that you are dead.
            Once they are counted and compelled, they can quickly be dispelled…
            Like figments of my own imagination.

            Then there is the last fear.
            Just about the time I’m past fear.
            The one that really is final.
            It will come.
            Yours…and mine’ll.
            In the darkest of the night
            it will come without a fight.
            It will count me and compel me.
            It will casually dispel me.
            For I am just a figment of its own imagination.


            Fears of Zero
            Written by Jerry Juhl
            Preformed by Zero Mostel on The Muppet Show

            HT: anightintheforest.blogspot(DOT)com/2011/11/fears-of-zero.html

  6. Maybe I’ve watched too many Amine series, but if going to the cemetery isn’t creepy (and it isn’t, to me) why would talking to the departed be creepy?

    But I’m firmly convinced that my Father’s first Bulldog (Big John) came to get my mother in her last days, and that the two of them came and got my Father when Mother decided he’d been spinning his wheels.

    *clap three time to attract the attention of the spirits*

    Happy Halloween!

  7. Some lab tests have found that if you remind someone they will die, such as instructing them to write a passage reflecting on how their hands will one day be skeletal, and then ask them questions about things, you get much more liberal answers in the control group. Liberalism is based on delusions of immortality.

    • Delusions of immortality??? Denial of mortality is more like it. Death used to be a familiar, homey activity; it has now become a distant, sterile activity done behind closed doors, never discussed. (Copulation, OTOH …)

      • Death is very personal to me. I am the youngest in my family and was still living with my father when I came home one day to find my him grey faced and wheezing. I went with him in the ambulance to the hospital. He lost consciousness on the way and died two days later.

        I prefer death in a hospital because they can do more for you there.

      • We never had a denial of mortality in my community. People were treated and died in the hospital. But, There were prayers for the dead and the sick at daily prayers. Births and marriages were also celebrated. Mourners were visited and consoled.

        I guess if you aren’t part of a smallish tightly knit congregation death would be distant.

        When you say death was homely do you mean that there were no hospitals near you?

        • When I say “death was homey” I mean most people died at home. This was because there was very little hospitals could do for the dying except drag out the experience. Look at such documentary evidence as is available about medicine a mere fifty years ago.

          I do not say the experience was better or worse, I merely note it was different and society has not adapted well to that difference. Mortality was a far more present fact of life up through the Eisenhower presidency, with most people knowing at least one family who had lost children before reaching maturity. These days we are far less likely to be confronted by child mortality and far more likely to bubble-wrap the children in spite of there being far lower risk.

        • The village was like that, plus things were very serious. I remember the consternation when a neighbor died so bloated with whatever issue she suffered from that they couldn’t get her skirt on, and just lay it on top of her in the coffin. For days the village women worried on what she would think when she got up on the last day and her skirt fell down. It wasn’t a put-on but a real worry.

      • walks around that, eyes it again, pokes it with a ten-foot pole, and finally asks the question

        What is the crucial difference between denial of mortality and delusions of immortality, such that it can be one rather than the other.

        • A delusion is a false belief, “knowledge” that does not correlate with reality. Denial is repressed knowledge. Each condition carries implications and consequences subtly different from the other.

          • Well, they certainly falsely believe they will live forever — they get all chortley about it when pressed –so it’s a delusion

  8. Mom never bought costumes for us. She only occasionally sewed anything for them. Mostly we assembled them from the costume box. I still remember the year I borrowed an old square-dancing skirt and a shawl, and put on a bandana over my hair, and went as a gypsy.

  9. My mother used to give me all the worn-out sheets, and I would contrive costumes for my little brothers and sister from them. Amazing what one can do with a couple of boxes of RIT dye, and some odd accessories from the costume box. My favorite was the one that I did for my little brother, the Halloween that I was reading Lord of the Rings to him. He wanted to be one of the hobbits, so he had a shield and a sword made out of wood, and I made him a tunic, cloak and pants from dyed sheets, and found him a pair of brown wooly socks.
    One year, he got dressed as a flying ace – my other brother had picked up an old-fashioned flyer’s helmet at the surplus store. The helmet, with a pair of headphones, and a long white scarf over a plain windbreaker jacket and pair of pants was all that he needed.
    I had a little more scope in costuming my daughter; her favorite costume was as Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz. Commercial pattern for a blue gingham dress – but the ruby slippers were special. I found a pair of flat-heeled pumps at the thrift store in her size, and I colored them red with shoe dye, and then slathered them with red glitter-glue. Everyone loved the ruby slippers!

  10. I never had a store bought costume either growing up, the one I remember best (I think it was the last year I dressed up) I am thinking about now and can’t remember for the life of me what I was supposed to be. I know I made my face, hands and hair black with that black face paint bowhunters use (incidentally don’t do this, it is a real PITA to get out of your hair) and carried an old broken maul handle. I don’t recall what I wore for clothes and can’t remember what I was supposed to be (possibly one of those guys that used to shovel coal for the steam engines? can’t remember what they were called either, apparently my memory isn’t functioning today) but these days someone would be sure to call my costume racist, and I’m pretty dang sure it wasn’t.

  11. I know different years I was both cowboy and Indian, both of which I heard the other day at least one Colorado University has banned* as being racist.

    *Here is another example of extended childhood, University students still dressing up for Halloween?

    • I think they dress mostly for parties.

    • The Other Sean

      My experience has been that the vast majority of university students wearing costumes are doing so for attending costume parties, not trick-or-treating. Also, my recollection of the news article on this is that CU didn’t actually ban any sort of costumes, but merely requested that students not hold costume parties with any sort of “ethnic”/cultural theme – I remember examples given including cowboys & Indians, white trash, gangsta, Oriental, and gypsy. It was not an outright ban, but it was a request that was much broader in scope, basically a request to avoid offending anybody. Yeah, good luck with that, university administrators.

      • Some people are perpetually offended.

      • I’m offended by their thin-skinned pretense toward umbrage.

        As a recovering blueshirt, foul-mouthed offensiveness is part of my culture. I refuse to stand for their cultural imperialism.

        • I’m really tempted to find out which CU campus banned cowboy costumes, then show up there defiantly wearing the best cowboy costume I can put together. Not being a CU student myself, it wouldn’t have quite the same effect (the worst I’d be risking would be getting myself kicked off their campus* instead of, say, risking expulsion for defying the petty dictates of a would-be tyrant of an administrator). But my reaction to such nonsense declarations of “that’s racist!” is:

          See these? These are my middle fingers!**

          * And they do have the right to kick anyone off their private property for any reason, good or bad. So I couldn’t exactly complain that their reason was bad.

          ** I am greatly indebted to M’Lady Sarah for teaching me this phrase.

    • At Flat State U, the profs were pretty tolerant of a few roaming costume skits interrupting classes on Halloween. One year Captain jack Sparrow (and that guy had the mannerisms down beautifully) appeared from behind the instructor’s desk in the big science teaching theater, snuck past the lecturing professor, then sprinted up the steps and out of the room, tossing candy from his treasure chest. Another time, Batman and the Joker (classic comics version) darted in and out of a few classrooms. Danny Darko and his rabbit caused quite a stir in the Student Union, as I recall. The unofficial rule was no gore, no exposure of naughty bits, and you could go through classrooms if you didn’t interfere with the presentations, but no going into labs.

      A lot of us saved our costumes for parties, though.

    • Hey – I’m a university student, and I dressed up for school today! Also, i didn’t enter, but the bookstore was running a costume contest with a $50 prize… and some professors were offering extra credit to students showing up in costume to class. We didn’t have rules about what we could or couldn’t wear, that I saw.

      For the curious, I went in my steampunk persona of the Mad Librarian.

      • I dressed up as a time traveler from the 31st century who traveled to the 21st century, and used our excellent research department to attire myself.

        A co-worker was talking about dressing up like a ninja, and I explained to her that she had. The black get-up is in fact a stagehand’s attire, put on ninja characters because there, it was the way to fade into the background.

  12. Christopher M. Chupik

    I like spending time after work wandering around and having a look at the costumes. It’s like going to con, only cheaper.:-)

  13. Two links for your Halloween amusement:

    1) Best toddler ever:

    2) Best pumpkins ever: – check out the Flickr link.

    And re: my fantasy series, Happy Wild Hunt tonight!

  14. OT: 4600 words and I think I see where the rest of the book is going to go; one mile plus 45 minutes of furniture moving to get set up for a concert, and a Liberty Bell jack-o-lantern carved.

    • Ok, I would like to see pictures of the Liberty Bell jack-o-lantern.

    • Dorothy Grant

      Didn’t get a jack o lantern carved this year, and the area’s under a high wind advisory that moved official trick or treating to tomorrow. (it’s only gusting 39 here; from Alaska, that’s just a nice blustery day. But I’m not in Alaska anymore.)

      However, I’m up handing out candy to anyone braving the weather, and Calmer Half is downstairs working on the last fight scene in the next book.

      • Gusting to 39 rates a high wind advisory?

        • Yeah, it’s real mental disconnect, isn’t it? But they have trees here that grow thick horizontal limbs, and they have termites. Put the two together, and 35mph can take down power lines (has already tonight), knock a few holes in houses, and after weeks of no rain and not much wind, adding wet leaf drifts and oil slicks to the roads has caused some spectacular pileups this morning. (A four-lane stretch of I-40 shut down in spots during rush hour, and the six-lane I-65 Southbound was down to one lane.)

          So… to each place its own unique dangers, that aren’t at all apparent to the rest of the world. Don’t be around Middle Tennessee for a snowfall or an icestorm, either, apparently.

      • Well, the gusts arrived here this morning; hope it means it moved out of your vicinity.

  15. One year, a group of us went as a USMC squad — camo, cork, and the whole bit.

    It served us well when we found ourselves halfway down a cul-de-sac with two teenager on bikes with baskets of rotten eggs at the entry end, and a full-on “war wagon” (van full of teenagers with rotten eggs, old fruit, etc.) at the closed end.

    We got as many rocks and stones as we could, then split into three groups: One snuck up to the entry; a second down to the closed end, and a third selecting which houses had alarms on them.

    I think you can guess where this is going. >:)

    On cue: Groups 1 and 2 began pelting their respective targets with rocks, while Group 3 began ramming the doors of the houses with the alarms.

    The result was perfect. The teens on the bikes and the “war wagon” met in the middle of the cul-de-sac, and started brawling right there; meanwhile, the home-security companies’ phone lines went absolutely apeshit with calls, which provoked a full-scale response from the local cops, who showed up just in time to see a full-scale riot taking place on the street. Arrests ensued.

    Us? As soon as the kids started brawling, we de-assed the area with the quickness, and set up shop across the street from the entrance to the cul-de-sac; once we’d confirmed success, we *VANISHED*. The kids — and the cops — never saw us…. >:)

  16. I don’t do costumes myself, having neither suitable skills nor much visual imagination. But when my former workplace did costumes, the best thing I ever saw was in the “Art Imitates Death” set one workgroup did: A young woman in a body stocking, costumed as Liberty from “Liberty Leading the Masses” (to let her get away with Liberty’s bare breast)—but with the broken off staff of her banner seemingly thrust into her torso with blood pouring out from the wound. I wish it had been recent enough for someone to put the picture up on the Web.

  17. Dovetails nicely with my seasonal feelings. That sense of continuity and ‘comfort’ is interesting to me. Something I don’t really have context for, but the idea is compelling.

  18. Clorinda Madsen

    Someone I know once said that her children called a headstone a “doorway into Heaven.” I like that Portuguese tradition for Halloween. It seems to fit with the dead just being on the other side and listening in on all the stories. I can see them chattering among themselves. “No. That wasn’t how it happened. It happened THIS way.” Or “They still talk about that story? Move on. I had some more exciting things happen to me in my life.”

  19. I forgot to make string licorice nooses for the anniversary of the martyrdom of Blessed Albert Toirdhealbhach O’Brien. Sigh. It’s really a shame I didn’t know about him when I was in parochial school. I would have done a Really Gruesome Picture of him for the All Saints’ saint report. (Not to diss my girl St. Therese, but martyred clansmen beat even a close spiritual friend.)

  20. I think the French – or at least the Provencal – have (had?) a similar tradition to the Portuguese.

    I like that tradition.

    But I also like fireworks and bonfires and so on of Nov 5th aka Guy Fawkes night which, when you think about, it is much more nasty than a bunch of ghosts.

    • I have to admit, that tradition sounds awfully similar to “Wake the Dead.”

      Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

  21. A couple of photos of the local cemetery, old section:

    I had planned to put those up last evening, but I was too tired after work. And there is one recent one of me with that skull replica I own. I said I wouldn’t show any recent ones, but since it fits the theme and all… ah, what time does to us (and since I’m vain it’s one I had played with a bit, so the jowls and wrinkles are less in evidence :)).

    • Those are very nice.

    • Its odd, but because I’m a big history buff I’ve spent a lot of time looking at maps of Finland but not much time looking at photos of what the countryside looks like.

      • I will post new photos sooner or later. One big problem I have currently is that I don’t own a good camera myself, most of the ones I have taken have been taken with camera borrowed for a few days from some friend. I like taking photos though so a better, but probably used camera is in plans, I just hope I’ll find a good one. Only I will need a better computer before that. And then there are the occasional vet and car repair bills, so it might take a while.

        Finnish countryside looks a lot like the areas where most of the Finnish immigrants settled, the lands around Lake Superior. Building styles are somewhat different, though, or at least were when I visited there 26 years ago.

        • What kind of camera are you looking for?

          • Pretty much anything that works and with which you can get at least decent pictures. One of the ones I borrowed for a few days was a Canon PowerShot something, which I liked, but something like a small compact would probably do just fine. Well, over 5 megapixels, but almost everything even a little bit newer seems to have at least around 10.