Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Bad Candy

I feel dismal and annoyed with what happened on my street tonight between 6 p.m. and 6:55 p.m., when I gave away the last tiny red packet of Skittles, blew out the pumpkin-colored candle in the front window, closed the curtains, turned off the porch light, and hunkered down to finish off the bottle of red wine (Ars Poetica, from The Boot, if you must know) with my friends Teddy and Dennis.

Between 6 p.m. and 6:55 p.m., about 150 people came to my door. Cars lined the street, crawling along as their passengers darted out (in the rain, the last 15 minutes or so), dashed up my sidewalk and pounded on my door. Pounded.

More than half of the trick or treaters tonight looked to be 15 or older. I'd say only about half bothered to show up in costume. One kid, who looked about 17, didn't even have a bag. I asked where his costume was and he said it got ripped. He wanted me simply to hand over the candy. Why did I care? Yet I felt intensely irritated. Some were over six feet tall and didn't even make a pretense of being a father with kids -- they just wanted candy. It felt...thuggish.

Teddy, an optimist and teacher to her marrow, suggested refusing candy to anybody who wasn't wearing a costume. I said, with a combination of anxiety and moral torpor, naw, just give it all away. Halloween ain't the time for conscious B-Mod. It's JUST CANDY, right?

So, we simply surrendered to the hectic mania. What kind of weird transaction is this? What reflexive game am I playing out? It's a strange ritual, absent of wit, creativity or innocence.

What am I saying? Halloween historically isn't exactly about innocence.

And this was, of course, an itchy exercise in class disparities. My neighborhood is considered "fancy," one of the best in town. The comers were not from here. We're almost all "liberals," with yard signs for the mayoral candidate who's a Rhodes Scholar and Democrat -- young, white, well-fed and good-looking. But I have a sneaky suspicion political distinctions, however much they salve our late-night doubts, are irrelevant to last night's comers. The conscientious residents of Maxine Street were only People With Candy. Free candy.

I don't like where this is going.

I realize now that what I missed was...the mask. The illusion. The facade. It was Halloween, for god's sake. The naked truth about Flint, with its 8 percent unemployment rate, violence and acres of brownfields and deserted houses, isn't very amusing. But why should poor people (if they WERE poor -- I'm depressed by and wary of my own assumptions) have to put on funny outfits to get free stuff from relatively rich people? This all seems embarrassing, undignified and disheartening.

Anyway...The cutest costumes I saw were worn by two of the only people I actually knew who came to my door -- one guy in a blue smock covered with bunches of cotton balls, the other guy, a car board glitter sun. Dopey, innocuous sun and sky, parading up my walk: a gay couple in their 20s. Three cheers for gay men! Relieved by something to laugh at, I gave them a lot of chocolate.


1 comment:

Krista said...

There were a few years when Ken and I lived in Flint and actually passed out candy. Once the kids were born and the house was built out in the sticks, we were the ones traipsing from house to house.

I don't miss handing out candy. Like you, we had very few little ones appear at the door. Mostly we got older kids in lame costumes.

I much prefer watching my pirate and vampire slayer running down a leave-littered sidewalk with their little fingers gripping their goody bags.

(I've got a few pictures on my blog, if you want to see the crew we trick-or-treat with..)