Halloween lifts the darkness on the edge of town
Of course, if it had been down to me, the kids would have gone trick or treating dressed in ripped shower curtains as seriously third rate zombies.
Instead the whole Halloween process had progressed smoothly with me blissfully unaware down to the sewing on of a tail as Zara's Bride of the Dead costume was converted into a cat suit.
And as twilight fell on our miserable subdivision we descended on the less miserable subdivision down the road to take part in the only festival of the year when it's considered OK for a fully grown man in a mask to jump out of a doorway cackling, threatening children with a bloody knife. I'm still hoping that knife was plastic.
So we progressed from lit up house to lit up house, having occasional conversations with women sitting outside covered in orange blankets. Fewer households had gone to the trouble of converting their front yards to faux graveyards this year, prompting a soliloquy from my wife about how Halloween isn't like it used to be in the good old days when people handed out full sized chocolate bars rather than fun sized bars.
Yep. And we all left our doors unlocked.
It seemed lively enough to me but then I have little to compare it to, coming from a country where trick-or-treaters are discouraged as a menace and people sit quietly in their homes, pretending they aren't in when they hear a rap on the door.
After the soulless subdivision it was off to Portsmouth Old Town where I had heard the Halloween scene was better. I was trying to recall the source of this information as we parked on a deserted street, curiously austere in pale lamplight.
But then we headed up some steps to a house where a buxom Marilyn Monroe was handing out candy. I advised Zara to walk very slowly up the steps because of their precarious nature. So slowly, in fact, that my wife's hand started twitching with a distinctive poised to slap motion.
Onwards we went through the cobbled streets of the old town. Now at least this had atmosphere. There were overhanging gardens where the antique streetlights fell on solitary statues of Venus, lush magnolia trees and grand porticos. There was a throng of children on the street and well-to-do people having Halloween parties on their porches.
There were graveyards homeowners had build beside their homes, replete with mock cackling and moving skeletons. There were real graveyards lying beyond, mouldering in the mosses of time.
And it felt inclusive like a street party and momentarily I wished I was someone who owned a house with a rambling porch, who had friends who could hang out and drink and talk late into the sweet smelling fall night.
Still a lot of the kids on the streets seemed to be from another place, from the darker edges of town. As we drove back from Old Town, chewing some of the candy and realizing the owners of the largest homes were handing out the stalest candy, we passed other places that were free of the orange lights of Halloween, or the welcoming receptions on the front step.
Halloween had passed the projects on the edge of the city by. There were no porch parties in the mean blocks with tiny windows where there were also no porches. There were no treats and nobody had lovingly recreated a graveyard. Maybe you don't have to when most of the homes are graveyards, bereft of hope and ambition and the only day of the year the kids can walk up the grand staircases of Old Town, is October 31.