Thursday, October 27, 2011

My Halloween Story, part one

Yesterday, I spoke of my love of Halloween and how I am getting into the idea of it all again through the love of my new family. The following is a one of my Halloween stories that I relayed to Kim while cooking our Sunday morning pancakes and she couldn’t stop laughing. Frankly, I never realized how humorous it was until I looked back at this with 43 year old eyes. I have to admit that some parts still frustrate me from my youth.
          To open like a Simpsons flashback, the year was 1976 and was all jamming to Elton John back when we thought he was just a straight man with flashy clothes and dreaming about the American Bicentennial. I was a bright eyed, precocious seven year old that was getting excited about Halloween coming up with all my second grade buddies.
How could have not known? Really?

See earlier in the week, Chuck Carey had talked about how the Woolworth’s had been putting out the Halloween costumes and we should all get some that matched. Well, we loved watching Superfriends so we decided on a meta-hero theme. 
          Sweet, I was all set because I had my old Superman costume from last year and I could recycle that one. Bonus! Dad won’t complain about spending money because “back in my day we made our costumes and our fun. Why can’t you just go as a ghost or a hobo?” 
          The other bonus was that Superman was the informal head of the Justice league therefore, leader of the Superfriends. It looked like I’d get my first taste of real power.  This was primed to be the best Halloween ever.
Yep, that was going to me in the center.

          Unfortunately, this was not to be the case. It began when our little group was on the playground and attempting to delegate their assigned roles for the upcoming trick-or-treat-fest. I was prepared to step and be the strong leader this group needed but was somehow outflanked by Keith Wray who had sneakily, planned ahead and brought Six Million Dollar Man trading cards as “gifts” to those who’d support his quest for power.  Keith was our Superman.

          Somehow I the roles were assigned and I still made out pretty good. Chuck Carey was Green Arrow, David Carnish would be the Flash, and I got Batman. It wasn’t Supes but it is still top tier. Now the issue was to convince Mom and Dad to get a new costume.
          A few tears and an impassioned speech about honoring a commitments and I was in the gran torino headed to Woolworth’s at Hatcher Square Mall in beautiful downtown Milledgeville. There was only problem. By the time, we got to the store, they were all out of the Ben Cooper made Batman costume. It was thin pickings at this point. I started to suggest going to another store but my mom had that look that all moms get when they are debating if they’d still have their looks once their sentence was served for the mysterious death of their persnickety child who couldn’t decide on an item purchase. You know what I speak of.
          I went with the Penguin from Batman. At last I was still in the DC meta hero realm. Besides, every hero needs a foil so I’d be heading up the Legion of Doom or maybe the Society of Injustice. I could make this work.
          Enter conflict number two. A bout a week later, we were eating dinner when my father makes an exciting announcement. We are going on a trip!
“Sweet”, I thought to myself. “I enjoy visiting new places and collecting postcards.”
My father grinned because he was so proud of himself, the old man could hardly contain himself. “Next weekend, your mother and I are taking to you to visit one of America’s greatest land marks, Rock City.”
“I can’t next weekend. It’s Halloween and we are trick or treating together as the Superfriends. “I said thinking this would easily resolve the matter. I had not learned my father’s tenacity at sharing great American landmarks as of yet.
Say it with me, you know what comes next. My father replied they endgame to every parent conversation regarding friends versus family events.
“You can hang out with your friends anytime. This is time we need to spend together as a family.”
“But it’s Halloween!” I pleaded.
“Son, we haven’t forgotten. We have made special arrangements for that.” My father countered.
Special arrangements, I thought. Ok, maybe this could work out. Maybe we are going to a special haunted house or there is some sort of catered event occurring where we’re staying that makes sure all kids stuck with their crummy parents will get Halloween candy. The good stuff too. It will be all candy bars and popcorn balls plus none of that black and orange candy that has no real taste except sweet.
I knew I had no real chance of debating my point. When the big guy laid out cash for something, we always “had to honor those commitments. “  Off to Chattanooga, Tennessee we went.

Maybe I’m getting ahead of myself here. Rock City is truly one of America’s landmark but only in the back roads of America sense. Basically, it’s a giant rock garden advertised by a series of barns proclaiming, “See Rock City.”

Black light makes history come alive!

The place was created by the same guy who created mini golf and made a mint selling franchises until the bottom fell out in ’29 with the rise of the great Depression. Using a piece of string, his wife had mapped out a rock garden on a strip of unused property and decorated with lawn gnomes/fairy tale characters. Poof! You’ve got a tourist trap, people. Combine that with some Civil War battlefields, and some museums and you’ve got the makings for a traditional Richardson family vacation.
Gnomes and moonshine make for a fun family getaway.....
Elves, bowling & moonshine. What the hell was my father thinking?

I don’t know why the big guy decided to pick that weekend of all the weekends to go on a family road trip. He never worked weekends. I asked my mom about this and she shrugged her shoulders and just said that my dad was famous getting a bug in his bonnet to go do something spontaneous. Hmm, can’ relate to that one. I guess my dad loved history so much that he really wanted to impart on my what an interesting are of the world we resided in. Whatever, it worked. I teach High School history and force my adopted family to stop and read those same signs in an attempt to impart that same love.
Halloween fell on a Friday that year and it was the longest day in school ever. It was even worse that the day before summer vacation. Eventually, the Richardsons began their trek in their’69 Gran Torino to the beautiful state of Tennessee. I was disappointed that I was not getting to be part of the SuperFriends but I never let on to Keith Wray and that crowd. I even went so far as to make a big deal about this special Halloween event my family was invited to up in the mountains so it was with a heavy heart that I’d to decline the Superfriends cordial invitation for admission.
The whole ride up made me a bundle of nerves. The Big Guy, in his academic brilliance, decided to map out our trek to Chattanooga via the same trial as General Sherman’s March to the Sea but only in reverse. This had to be such a major conflict of interests because, in addition to loving any chance to impart about history (which for the record, he was very good at); the Big Guy loved to make good time. I tried to use this as a point of order to hurry up and get to this Fall Fest. It fell on deaf ears as my mother pointed out to me that both of those possible routes were indeed almost the same. I clicked on my seatbelt and knew we were in for a long drive.
I remember stopping at this one. It's near Macon.
Many mile markers and a few rest stops later, the Richardsons pulled in to the Days Inn just down the road fro Lookout Mountain, TN. I excitedly surveyed the scene for any sign of a Halloween party or Fall Festival. No orange or black crepe paper decorated the scene. The office did have scarecrow on the window. Maybe everything was in the hotel’s convention room just like I had seen on TV.
I imagined myself casually strolling into the party dressed with a regal swagger as the Penguin. Hey, he wore tops and tails, shouldn’t I act the part and be the smooth criminal that deep down I knew I was?
The other kids dressed like ghosts and hobos would turn their hands and move aside as I marched up with a casual determination to the well stocked treat table full of cupcakes and candy bars. Red solo cup of Hi-C in hand, I’d make small talk with the girls dressed in the Holly Hobby and Raggedy Ann costumes. These same girls would giggle as I’d say clever things like, “I must get out of these wet clothes and into a dry martini.” I had no idea what that actually meant but I know it was something a classy guy would say at a party.
Oh yeah, that's me with the eye patch....

As Mom and dad unpacked, I plagued them with questions like. “When are going?” and “How much longer?” topped my lists. My mother kept trying to hush me told me numerous times that good things come to those who wait. This always frustrated me because this was the opposite how she’d wake me up with that “Early bird gets the worm” bit. Looking back, I realize that my mom was trying to keep the Big Guy in check rather than actually soothe my impatience. After one too many questions from yours truly, the Big Guy had enough and let out his famous Alpha male roar. This was my cue to be reminded that I was pack follower and not pack leader. I sat down in the corner in an attempt to be quiet.
To be Concluded Tomorrow........

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