Saturday, October 22, 2005

Creeped Out

It's not just the fact that some people are spending lots of money to string orange bulbs over their shrubbery (really, folks, it's just two short months until Christmas!), and it's not just the huge fake spiders--only slightly less unpleasant than real huge spiders, not my kind of fun. What really bothers me about Halloween decorations is the death stuff: the hanged effigies, the tombstones in the front lawn, the skeletons with the heads detached. It's not that I don't understand the origins and psychological need and cultural resonances. And yes, I know I'm showing no sense of humor.

But ever since 9/11--really, right after that horror--when people trotted out their death-is-a-joke stuff, I thought, wait, this is too real, too soon, too close for comfort. Since then, we've had no dearth of death, man-made and natural: car bombs and hurricanes, earthquakes and soldiers in body bags, far away and up close and personal. Last year, I was in a red state right before the election, and the face of Bush and fervor for the war along with the Halloween torture scenes put a real ghoulish twist of irony on the landscape--in my mind anyway.

And today's paper: a teen is charged in a murder by beating, an unhinged mother tosses her three babies to their death in the ocean, death toll of US soldiers in Iraq climbs toward 2,000, hurricane Wilma wreaks havoc in the Caribbean. And then we have the jolly--ho, ho, ho tombstone inscriptions and knives hanging.

Okay, I'm ready to admit I have issues. Maybe I'm just soured 'cause I no longer have a little person to make a Halloween costume for. I made some great costumes, in the day. And carved a mean jack o' lantern.


Robert said...

I love Halloween. My complaint is that it's too sanitized: too much about M&Ms and too little about death. I wish it had more of the Latin American spirit of the Day of the Dead. Hey, Diane, how about we get together with our significant others and anyone else who wants to come along and go down to Half Moon Bay this afternoon and pick some pumpkins and carve some jack o'lanterns tonight?

Beverly said...

Dang, I wish I could go with you. I love to go down there, the fields covered with huge orange globes and the air full of fruit flies (well, it's part of the thing, the rotten and the ripe together).

I've always been partial to Halloween since it's my birthday.

I've swung from Diane's view to Robert's, death seeming to be horrifying & sacred & ludicrous all at once (sounds like sex). We're making a Day of the Dead altar in our house this year because this year Annie no longer does one at school. Now it's my mother, my father, Linda's father, my sister-in-law—and Annie still wants a picture of our cat who died ten years ago up there.

I think it's the countries who are closest to death as an uncontrollable and random thing who honor all the sides of it. The sad part about how we celebrate Halloween is not, to me, that we put out all these emblems of death but that we're so disengaged from them, as if they really have nothing actual to do with US.

Robert said...

And the connection between us and U.S. is not coincidental! Not to mention sex and death. If the barriers between the living and the dead have been washed away, sexual barriers can hardly have survived. Halloween = Mardi Gras. Unfortunately, besides the orange globes and fruit flies, there's a ton of traffic on the roads to Half Moon Bay this time of year, so I'm not sure we'll make it.

Diane K. Martin said...

I'm pretty sure my views are not clear. I have no problem, for instance, with an altar for Day of the Dead. That doesn't seem the same to me as an effigy hung from a tree looking very much like a lynched person. Call me thin skinned. Can we honor death without seeming to be in favor of it?

Anyway, Half Moon Bay is not happening today for us. John's just finished with the last performance of Dr. A--that was 28 rehearsals and 10 performances--a large chunk out of our lives. He has tons to do, including studying for the class he's taking and submitting midterm grades for the class he's giving.

And I've got a zillion miscellaneous things to do that all involve getting a freakin' job.

Still one more weekend, next, for pumpkins and perhaps a picnic on the beach....

Robert said...

Once again, my clever plans for "avoiding the muse" fell through. Unable to find anyone to go pumpkin hunting with me, I was forced to stay home and work on a poem. Sigh.

Robert said...

I (sort of) know what you mean, Diane. I wouldn't say I'm comfortable with what might be called the Texas Chain Saw Massacreization of America. So far, though, I haven't seen any realistic (or unrealistic) effigies in my neighborhood, mostly just little kids giggling as they shove aside the skulls hanging from the supermarket ceiling so they can get to the popsicles.