Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Top five reasons to honor Halloween

I did it last year.  The year before.  And I'll do it again this year.

The children who come to my door on October 31st will meet a hideous old woman, wretched and hidden inside her black, hooded cape; her features smashed by a dark,  opaque stocking, her hands vanished in black socks.

She won't speak.

Instead, she will gurgle a terrifying, muddled murmur.

To the tiny brave ones who dare to step into the eerie, green-lit porch where bats and dismembered bones abound, she will offer marvelous, full-sized chocolate bars.

The candy will bring the brave children closer.

The timid will be terrified and turn down her candy rather than step into her lair.

The neighbors complain

When I was in my fifties (yes, when I was fifty-something-years old!) the neighbors began their annual complaint about my Halloween antics.

They claimed I take Halloween too far.

I don't need to be so frightening - the kids seek only sweets and a soft congratulations for the mother-made costume. They don't need the terror I impose.

Some said I have fun at the expense of children - an immature act that robs little ones of both the innocence and merriment of Halloween. They said I replace good stuff with fear.

I've heard this for over ten years, and I don't give a rat's ass.

My attitude?


There are only so many Halloweens in our short, sweet lives.

Think of it - one day, when we least expect,  we will wake up - dead.

When that happens, the opportunity to "haunt" will be authentic and meaningful.

Until then, all we have is one night of the year - Halloween.

I intend to squeeze every possible scream out of every single child who dares knock on my door.

For those of you who choose (for bogus religious reasons) to ignore this magnificent celebration of the dead, I offer these five, simple, clear reasons why you are wrong.

Dead wrong.

The top five reasons

to honor Halloween - irrespective of age

Reason #5 - Halloween is the only holiday when we are encouraged  (and allowed!) to cultivate and exploit an alter ego.  If we cannot let loose and enjoy the dark side of our personality (or, the light, miraculous, cheery side) - we are poorer for the lack.

Reason #4 - It's true - Halloween is for children.  And we're children as long as we grab Halloween by the gonads and wrestle it to the floor.  Celebrate and stay young!

Reason #3 - Locking the door, turning off the lights and pretending to not be home on Halloween night will provoke the neighborhood children.  Granted, they might not commit outward acts of vandalism.   Even so - who wants to be known as the "mean old man" in the corner house, who can't open his heart or door on October 31st?

Reason #2 - Halloween is the first of a string of wonderful, fabulous, festive and outlandish holidays.

 Shutting it down is a bit like turning your back on fun.

Making it a grand event will deepen your gratitude for autumn and winter - - here, in the land of sludge, crabby neighbors and people who wear too many clothes - - even in the summer.

And reason #1 - Childhood is short.  Without your good example, those little children at your door will "trick or treat" five, maybe six times in their lives.

Don't let that happen.  Show them adults know how to have fun too.  Be a witch. Be a vampire.  Be Peewee Herman, if you choose.

Be the best Halloween grownup you can be.

Be a child again.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Ghosts in the heartland

My new play is a ghost story.

After Elsie dies, she realizes her life was peppered with unfinished business.

She returns, hoping to open the doors she closed in life.  Along the way she discovers most of life is "unfinished."  Nothing comes to a conclusion.

And no one is irreplaceable.

I was only eight-years-old 

when my grandfather died.  

Oscar was a cranky, difficult Swedish immigrant with little tolerance for childhood.

He never learned English; never had to.  Everyone in my family understood the language of rage.

Grandpa Oscar died on a cold afternoon in May.  Three weeks later, my cousin Cherry died of acute leukemia. She began to bleed on a Friday afternoon and was dead by Wednesday.

My cousin Cherry was eight-years-old. 
And so was I.  

Death was not proud in that year.

My Aunt Olga followed Cherry - and within a few short weeks, another uncle and aunt died together in an automobile accident.   For all of this loss, I was too young to attend funerals, too old to be ignorant of grief.

Theologians tell us that our first exposure to death is lasting.  The sudden shock of mortality changes a child.
Early exposure to death may result in everything from a propensity to alcoholism and drug addiction - or, as in my case -  an adulthood dedicated to parish ministry.

Elsie's death leads her people to a  new appreciation of limits and a fresh compassion for the imperfection of all things.

"HOME AGAIN - A GHOST STORY"  premieres in 2015. 
Watch for opportunities 
to attend a staged reading
at Theatre in the Round Players
 January, 2014.