We are now in the midst of that madcap season where everywhere we turn, we confront spooks, goblins, diabolical attempts to frighten us to death, skeletons jumping out of closets, and masked short people ringing bells and demanding treats on pain of extortion.
Naturally, I am talking about the upcoming mid-term elections.
If you thought that I was referring to Halloween, it would be a natural mistake and I would think no less of your intelligence. After all, both Halloween and political elections have an uncanny amount in common. Ask youself: How easy is it to tell the difference these days between the horror festivals organized by fans of “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” and the screamfests served up on political radio and TV shows? In these waning days of October, you aren’t safe anywhere, not even the supermarket. Outside the market, ardent political volunteers try to lasso you into debates about civil rights and terror networks. You might make it past them, but only after you engaged in a lengthy and passionate debate that has left you exhausted and hungry. Then, you will enter the store and have to face down acres of Halloween candy on every aisle.
Besides, it’s just too hard to pay attention to both campaigns simultaneously, so generally one must choose between the two. My decision to give up Halloween was easy, and not only because I never learned how to carve a jack o’ lantern with any finesse. Halloween and I were finished by the time I was nine. That’s the year I dressed up like Sally Field in “The Flying Nun” and made my mother drive me to another neighborhood where I hoped to “accidentally” bump into Mike, on whom I had developed my first crush. Mike was not only very handsome, but “rich,” at least compared to the rest of us. His father owned a dry cleaning store in Hollywood, and his family was known to employ a cleaning lady every day. This was heady stuff!
That night, I wasn’t so much the Flying Nun as I was the Stalking Nun, lying in wait near Mike’s bushes, hoping to recognize my heartthrob under a cape and mask. I didn’t see him, but soon after, when he realized I had designs on him, he cut a wide swatch to avoid me. That same Halloween I heard my mother admit that after she sent me to bed, she took some of the best candy out of my stash and kept it for herself. Compared with these bitter revelations, the disappointments of political campaigns have been mild.
I also never went in for that whole extortion thing. “Give me a giant Snickers bar or I’ll tee-pee your house” always struck a wrong chord, even if the message was delivered in code: “Trick or Treat!” I figure, if there’s any extorting to do in a neighborhood, at least let the stakes be a little higher. “Hand over five thousand dollars and I’ll see about getting those giant potholes on your street filled” is more expensive, but at least it’s more logical.
Yes, hobgoblins and ghoulish laughter are plentiful this time of year, and one never knows from which corner they will strike. Between the campaign ads on the radio and TV and the hanging skeletons on the neighbor’s house, it’s no wonder the wind is howling and leaves are falling off trees. Who isn’t petrified of what’s coming next?
I used to enjoy looking down on those poor dumb shlubs who loved Halloween and horror movies. What kind of dolt would pay to be frightened out of his wits? Who would volunteer to watch celluloid fantasies of the most hideous crimes imaginable? But I realize I may be no better. Like an excited teenager tiptoeing from room to room in a haunted house waiting for a spider-webbed skeleton to fall on his head and make him scream, I indulge in my own, arguably tamer version. I open the newspaper each morning searching for the latest election accusations, scandals, and shrill cries for special prosecutors, usually delivered with a great gnashing of teeth. Some are amusing, such as the congressman who claimed he had no idea how fifty-thousand smackers ended up in his freezer. (”It came as a surprise to me, but I hear that cash stays fresher longer that way.”) Some are tragic, some are graphic, and reactions from the Other Side are often more terrifying than anything served up in “The!
Texas Chainsaw Massacre.”
So this fall, don’t look for me gallivanting in pumpkin patches in a witch’s robe with blacked-out teeth. Following the news is spooky enough. Just yesterday after finishing the newspaper I caught a glimpse of myself in a mirror, and darned if I didn’t look like I was wearing a fright wig.
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