#28 The First Annual Rat's Eye Halloween Special (1999)

All Rights Reserved © 1999 Thomas W. Day

When I started fooling with this essay, I was thinking about "tradition," "classics," and something that would be easy for me to write once a year. I was going to start my Halloween Rat off in the vein of an intro to a Simpsons' Halloween Special, "My father would like to forewarn you about the contents of what comes next; 'Don't go there,'" I might also have him say something like "My son, Tom, has considerably less respect for common decency than other members of our family." Or something. And I'd go on from there.

The inspiration for all of this drivel came from a drive through the streets of St. Paul, one of the oldest cities in the Midwest and, even, the country. I was struck by the valuable entertainment resources we have squandered in this city. All over the nation, Halloween lovers have turned their homes into half-hearted to full-blown cardiomegaly displays of ghouls, ghosts, and gore. Some people put more into their Halloween effort than they do their careers. (Not a bad decision, based on my experience.)

But there is only so much you can do with the standard ranch or A-frame structure and 100' x65' lot. Even if you start with one of those "Texas whorehouse" monstrosities that developers are so fond of throwing up these days, it's still hard to turn out something that really does the trick, or treat.

In fact, I didn't even get a little nervous during my trip through a couple hundred attempts at superstition and terror (No, I'm not talking about being trapped in a meeting with one of my company's many MBA clones/drones.). This is pitiful. I look away from the screen in the scary parts of "Snow White." I'm famous for deciding the family needs more popcorn anytime the pitch in a movie's background music drops below middle C.

So what I wanted to do was to take it on myself to suggest some changes in the way we "celebrate" Halloween. If I'd have decided this was a good idea for a Rat Topic, here's how I would have suggested we go about effecting holiday process improvements and implementing strategic dunderfluzels to impact the BYOB. (I can never remember acronyms or which noun has been turned into a verb this week.)

First, I'd recommend that we all be reminded that the word "Halloween" is derived from "All Hallows Eve." The day before "All Hallows Day," (All Saints Day) when Catholics try to remember which saint is in charge of doing what for who. Lucky for us, October 31 is when the Irish Celts officially celebrated the end of summer; the Celtic New Year. Thanks to the Celts we get to celebrate all those disembodied spirits who died on our highways and in inner city gun battles. Our celebration is supposed to help them find new living bodies to inhabit for the next year, so they can get into more gory high-speed, multi-car freeway pileups or shoot up more peaceful neighborhoods so that . . . I forget why. I could go on, this is fascinating stuff. There are a couple dozen different explanations for Halloween's existence, but they're even weirder and now I'm bored.

Anyway, I think this establishes Halloween as a no-holds-barred sort of holiday. Going from there, I think we're passing up the Golden Opportunity to really make this holiday do its job?

For example, St. Paul, Minnesota, has a cemetery in just about every one of it's rundown, decrepit "historic" neighborhoods. Minneapolis practically uses mausoleums for street signs. I don't see any attempt to make these places, which are at the heart and soul of the holiday , part of the action. Why the heck not?

Just about every half-committed Halloween exterior decorator has a tombstone or two as the foundation of the presentation. I say "screw that!" Let's move the party to the party house. You couldn't find more cool stuff to decorate and rearrange than the headstones, mausoleums, and creepy spiked fences surrounding a typical graveyard (are they keeping people in or out?).

For the most part all the tools we need for the job will be a little paint (mostly red), shovels, a hundred feet of rope, some tripwire, some really big coil springs, a power source, some electrical wire and a dozen electric motors. If we really want to do it up right, a distributed sound system and a little special effect lighting would turn our little project into something really special.

And that's where I was planning on going with this year's First Annual Halloween Rat's Eye Special. In the interest of good taste, I not going to go there. However, in the interest of accomplishing the task I originally set for myself in coming up with this cool idea, this is all I'm going to write for this year's mid-October Rat. I can squish two birds with one Warner Brothers' anvil: I can remain my tasteful self and still not have to work very hard to crank this one out.

October 1999

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