Sunday, October 25, 2015

Woooo! Happy Halloween!

For as warm as Christmas can be, and as bracing as New Year’s Eve, Halloween remains my personal favorite holiday: There are no expectations, no “shoulds.” You do what you want. It’s not particularly religious (though you can make it so), and there are no travel or familial requirements. If you don’t like it, you don’t have to do anything at all.

It’s not everybody’s cup of tea! Don’t like trick-or-treaters? Well, hand out tins of liver pâté, or handfuls of cough drops, to les petits monstres.

But little kids generally love Halloween, and so do adults. It can be as adorable as a little kid dressed in a clown suit, or draped with a bedsheet with holes cut for eyes and the word “BOO!” written on it for good measure.

Or it can be as raunchy and lewd as “acting out” one’s secret Dracula fantasies. (Ooh-la-la!) Or . . . fill in the blank. (Look at all the “sexy” and “naughty” doctor and nurse, cops, pirates, etc. costumes made these days for adults.)

Or it can be anything in between. People have always had a great time at costume balls. You’re in charge of your own Halloween fun!

If you haven’t been to one, go visit one of those seasonal “everything Halloween” stores. Or, better, go to downtown Columbia and visit the costume store Gotcha! this time of year. What fun!

Halloween gives us a chance to “be” something we are not, or are not allowed to be. Halloween, for instance, has traditionally been popular in the LGBT community, in part because we can dress quite gloriously in ways society generally is uncomfortable with. Such as drag. Or police outfits. Gay folks can be particularly creative and hilarious with all kinds of costumes. Maybe, like a bunch of thespians, we’ve had a little more practice in “thinking outside the box” regarding “who” we can be.

And there’s an “edgy” side to Halloween—it’s scary, spooky, dark . . . thrilling. Mischievous. Naughty. (Though some people, however, take this waaaay too far. I mean, these days, it can be just sick. I blame those over-the-top disgusting movies.)

As a kid, if I had been given a choice between going to a kid’s birthday party, or to a Halloween party, there would be no question! Halloween parties were (and still are) incredibly fun! You never know what to expect!

The treats are great—pumpkin-spice “everything,” apples in all their permutations, cookies, candy, hot dogs that look like mummies, popcorn balls, etc.

And then there’s the decorations! Maybe I’m a frustrated stage and set designer, but I love creating scary-looking effects with dummies and masks, fabric, and lighting.

Which leads me to the following pictures—I’m particularly proud of our decorations this year! Photos don’t do it justice, since you have to see it in the dark, and there’s a strobe-effect light.

The “dummy” is a “Reaper” I bought at the local Walgreen’s. I’d passed it by, resisting my urge to buy it on the spot, during a few previous visits to the store, but I finally purchased it a few nights ago. When you press a button, its face and hands flash with internal lights, and a ridiculous recorded voice cackles “AH—ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha! AAAHHH—ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-haaa!!!!”

But I thought it looks cool, anyway. It has just that wicked touch. But not revolting. And it’s very lightweight.

First thing I did when I got it home was hang it from our living room ceiling fan and turn it on low speed—Ha! It looked really cool! Wooooo!!!

Originally, I’d thought to hang it on a stiff rod outside our top front dormer, so it’d look like it was flying into or out of our house! But it’s not quite weather resistant. Plus, all the spiders and the multicolored Asian lady beetles and the box elder bugs . . . nah. . . . So, Plan B!

I hung it so it’s looking out of the window of the third floor facing Broadway, then rigged a bunch of lights, including a green light and a strobe-type light, to flash and shine on it.

I put those on a timer, so all evening long it flashes up there for all to see. It’s in a spare bedroom we don’t use much, so I just keep the door shut (so the flashing won’t give me a seizure or anything).

Anyway—this didn’t take a lot of work, but I had a blast putting it together. The moon gives it an especially eerie glow!

If you’re in Jeff City, drive by and check it out. It’s not a huge-scale thing, but I suspect it would be kinda interesting to a passerby—it would make you look twice!

I hope you have a happy Halloween, however you celebrate it!

Monday, October 19, 2015

Our Musical Opossum

Every once in a while, I’ll awaken in the night to hear Grandma’s windchimes* dinging and donging far in excess of what any current breezes might naturally cause.

I came to the conclusion that it must be a “critter” out there on the handrail at the top of our back porch steps. We have had raccoons, opossums, and half-feral cats perch, at times, on that wooden railing. The long, metal tubes of the windchimes stretch down from the soffit nearly all the way to the railing.

Maybe critters view the windchimes as a possible way to access the roof of our house. Like an incredibly noisy, hard-to-grasp rope ladder. Maybe that’s the attraction.

Anyway, we finally caught ol’ “Tuffy”** in the act a few nights ago. Sorry, there are no pictures—I’ll have to paint it for you with words.

It was well after dark. We were sitting on the sofa on the sunporch, reading Charlotte Brontë’s Shirley to each other—and that clanging started up. It was not particularly windy, but the chimes were dinging and donging so vigorously that it might have been someone swishing his hand among the pipes: Ding-dong-dinga-donga-ding-dong-ding-ding-donga-dong!!

“Sue! Shh! Let’s see what’s out there!”

We snuck up quietly to the door between sun and screen porches—unlocked it carefully—swung it open—and caught “Tuffy” red-handed!

No joke: He (or she) was on his back haunches, with his arms upraised, “playing” the windchimes with his little pink opossum hands as if he were stroking the strings of a harp.


He quickly sensed we were watching him and immediately withdrew to a crouching pose, still perched on the railing. He turned his head to face us, nose-down, unblinking, in that way they do—like they’re looking over their eyeglasses. You know—that opossum deadpan expression that always seems to sigh: “Seriously? Surely you are not going to make me have to run away—are you? Come on . . . seriously??

We retreated quietly back into the sunporch, closed the door between us, and “Tuffy” likewise retreated silently down the back porch steps.

A half hour later, it occurred to me that we had an extra apple we’d acquired during our recent trip to northern Ohio. A mini-Cortland, ooh-la-la. I placed it at the top step, in case “Tuffy” returned.

Musicians should be paid for their efforts, I believe.

No, we don’t make a habit of putting food out right by our back door for the opossums. But just this once, I did.

About 4:30 the next morning, I again awoke to “dinga-donga-ding-dong-dinga-donga!” By the time I arose, the apple was gone.

And that’s the story—so far—of “our musical opossum.”

* Realize that I’m compelled to call them “Grandma’s windchimes,” because from my perspective they were “always” here at Grandma’s house, and seemed an extension of her personality. One could always hear them dingle-donging just outside the bathroom window, or while sitting out on the sunporch. When we bought the house, we saw no reason to take them down or move them. Like so much else at our house that we technically own, I feel like I’m just a “caretaker.”

** We call every opossum “Tuffy.” We just do.