HALLOWEENWhen I set out on my walk this morning the iPod started me off with “Sleeping in the Devil’s Bed,” a Daniel Lanois song that appeared on the soundtrack from Until the End of the World. It seemed a good choice as I headed out into a neighborhood that’s now home to a growing population of demons and devils (as well as ghosts and witches) up for Halloween. There’s one family in particular that goes all out for the holiday. They have a life-size wolf man standing in front of their light post, zombies that burst from the front lawn, a vampire lunging from a coffin, a huge pumpkin-headed creature lurking by a tree, and a life-size Michael Myers wielding a butcher’s cleaver on the side lawn. (Not the Michael Myers from Austin Powers. That would be scary in a totally different way.)

In many ways Halloween is my favorite holiday. It arrives with a lot less pressure than Christmas does, it’s at a beautiful time of the year, and it’s a nighttime event, which makes it unusual (and gives the kids a whole day to look forward to it). It also has an appealingly perverse side to it, a chance to drag out all those dark things that lurk inside our lizard brains and turn them into something fun.

In my township, for reasons I still don’t understand, we don’t trick-or-treat on Halloween. It happens on the Thursday before Halloween. I still don’t know why, but it’s an abysmally stupid policy. I’ve heard the Powers That Be don’t want trick-or-treating to interfere with the secular religion of high school football, should Halloween fall on a Friday night, or that the township changed the date to discourage juvenile pranks. I can’t figure it out.

However, there was one year when the policy did work to our kids’ advantage. They did their trick-or-treating at home on the officially sanctioned night, and then a few days later we drove down to my sister’s place in Mercersburg so they could score more candy on Halloween. That worked out well, because my wife and I were both worried that our kids didn’t have enough candy in their diets. The experience of Halloween on Main Street Mercersburg turned out to be quite a trip. A joyful mob of hundreds of costumed kids clogged the sidewalks and waited in lines at doors to get their candy fixes. It was the way Halloween should be a hyper-reality that seemed more like a TV movie than real life. It was also in marked contrast to the small numbers of trick-or-treaters we get at our house. Sometimes the paucity of kids leaves me with the sad, let-down feeling of a birthday party that hardly anyone attends.

Today was a beautiful morning for a walk, although quite cool. Fall has taken up residence with a vengeance. Summer’s just a memory. Yesterday the wind howled as though Mother Nature herself had decided to tear all the leaves from the trees all at once. She managed to get a few, but I hope she waits until the leaves turn before she gets the rest.

In honor of the upcoming holiday, today I played Kirsty MacColl’s “Halloween,” a song from her great Electric Landlady CD. MacColl would have turned 50 on October 10, but she was killed in December 2000 when a motorboat struck her while she was swimming with her kids in Mexico. A rich grocery store magnate owned the boat (and was aboard at the time), but his boathand ended up taking the rap for the accident. Kirsty’s mother is still seeking justice for the accident. You can find more details at www.justiceforkirsty.com.

Maybe it was the cold, but despite the bright sunshine I couldn’t really get into walking. The only song that really perked me up was XTC’s “Garden of Earthly Delights” from Oranges and Lemons.