a pro script reader ponders movies, reading, writing and the occasional personal flashback

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Trick or Treaters

I've always had a fondness for Halloween; last year I even blogged about the time I went trick or treating in July.

I grew up in suburban Long Island, where as a kid Halloween was all about getting candy from as many houses as we could. We weren't trickers, we were all about the treat. We wound up with pillowcases stuffed with candy.

But nowadays, it seems that too much fear has set in. Nevermind that there aren't any confirmable stories of razor blades in candy or costumed kids being snatched off the streets.

In the 9 Halloweens that I've had in the Los Angeles area, in various apartments, I've had maybe 20 total trick or treaters knock on my door.

Last night was a relatively good Halloween; we actually had 8 people knock on the door of our complex, and some were adorable.

But 8. Come on. That's nothing. We still have a bowl of candy sitting here that I can't eat.

It's better than last year, when we had no one knock on our door. This year, the complex sent around a piece of paper that to post on your door/window about whether you had candy. It's orange, you can't miss it, and we're in a fairly high-traffic area of the complex.

I was convinced that this was the turning point. So I bought a lot of candy, just to be sure.

8 kids came by.

And I couldn't help but notice that most of my neighbors either didn't put the sign up at all, or put up the "sorry, no candy" side of the sign.

I get that a lot of parents would rather take their kids to safe parties than turn them loose in the neighborhood or (god forbid) actually go trick or treating with their kids. I guess you can argue that most kids can do without the sugar. Maybe safety is an issue in some neighborhoods; I don't know.

But it just seems a shame that this fun, essential kid-thing of my youth is being lost.

Did anyone see a good number of trick-or-treaters last night?

Stories, please.


At 10:29 AM, Blogger Brett said...

It was a down year here, too-- way fewer kids and treaters than normal, it seems. Part of that likely is due to the midweek date for the event-- on years wheer Halloween fals on a Friday or Sat night, things get way moire hectic-- but I fear part of it is also due to some whacked out drive to diminish Halloween.

Down here in the souther part of the US it seems there's been a push in recent years to semi-criminalize Halloween as some sort of "satanic" event, which is of course absolute horseshit of teh rankest sort, but I know of many "good Christian folks" (whom I like well enough on a personal level so long as we're not talking religion and morality who now boast the most bizarre and baseless beliefs about what Halloween is and where it came from and so on, to the point where they are now incapable of even enjoying a holiday which was always among the more kid-centric.

My kids were (in descending order) Inspector Clouseau, a Viking, a Ninja, and a Princess.

I played my usual role of "grumpy homeowner guy with a beer and a bowlful of candy."

Good times. Not as good as in some years, but good times.

At 11:12 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

no, but i was in west hollywood and i sure as hell saw a lot of drag queens!

- Allen

At 1:04 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Halloween in the Midwest as a child was classic. Every house had candy. Dozens of kids of all ages wandered the streets from sundown until midnight. (The later it got, the older the kids got as well).

Some houses would be decked out. One couple on the corner would always dress up and sit on their lawn, handing out candy to kids, and hot cider to adults.

When the local mall started having a "safe indoor" trick or treat, we scoffed, "That's not Halloween!"

Now, just 10 years later, my parents received no trick or treaters. They said it has been that way for a few years, prompting most houses to not even bother handing out candy. When they walked the neighborhood, they saw 4 trick or treaters, and on their stretch of the street, only 2 houses with lights on.

Since living in Los Angeles, I have only lived in apartments and never once had any visitors.

Last night, I decided to stroll around the neighborhood and see if anyone was out. I ran across probably a dozen kids at most, and only a handful of houses with lights on.

What's going on? I think fear has something to do with it. But I think laziness has a lot to do with it as well. It takes a lot of time, effort, and money to decorate your house, walk the kids around, and be home to hand out candy. I just don't think people really care that much anymore. It's sad.

At 2:16 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I live in the Midwest, actually in the town that was the setting of Puxatawny, PA for "Groundhog Day", and Halloween still exists here as it used to for most of the country. Many houses were all decked out and several of the people giving candy were dressed for the occassion, causing my two year old to walk around saying "no scared, no scared" in order to reassure himself. This was actually my second Halloween here and it was pretty much the same as last year - except that 30 degree temperatures put a dent in the number of trick or treaters. The town had a costume contest, trick or treating around the square and a free magic show. It's actually better than my Halloweens growing up because we lived out in the country and only got to go to about 3 houses before calling it a night. I lived in LA (Glendale) for 8 years and we got quite a few trick or treaters then but I'm not sure what it's like now since I moved out about 7 years ago.

I've heard some parents complain that holding Halloween on the actual date (the way that they do in the town that I live in) is a hassle and they should keep it on weekends for convenience. This speaks to the laziness mentioned by the previous commenter - it seems to me that there's very little magic left in this world for our children and its worth the effort to keep the tradition alive for them.

Just thought I'd let you know that there are some places left in this country where the magic still exists.

At 2:48 PM, Blogger Ryan said...

We didn't have any this year. Only had two last year.

I never liked trick-or-treating as a kid because it was always too cold for the costumes (unless your costume was "ski instructor" or something.

At 3:04 PM, Anonymous Unk said...

I'm currently in Albuquerque in a hotel but I was out last night and there were a ton of trick-or-treaters walking the streets.

What I was more surprised about was how few of these middle-school aged kids didn't even have parents with them.

Pretty cool. Listened to the news and it seemed to be a fairly easy going night.


At 4:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've been on both sides of the coin (neighborhoods with houses vs those mostly comprised of apartments) and apartments kinda suck ... for trick-or-treating anyway. You'd think it'd be just the opposite, but nah. If you entertain, maybe you can put all that candy in several strategically placed dishes for your guests ... just take out all the Snickers for yourself--I know you're watching your diet, just jog several times around your complex after each consumption 'cause Snickers really satisfies :)

At 5:55 PM, Anonymous Blair said...

Without going into detail, my story is like many of the above; in the past, here in rural VT, my parents house got 20 or so kids (or small groups) a Halloween. Last night, I think they got five kids total, if that.

I thought many ended up forgoing trick or treating for a big party they put on at the Masonic Hall. Nope. Their turn out was poor too. The kids up and vanished.

Our apartment is too far off the beaten track to get anyone, but that's not a surprise.

At 6:05 PM, Blogger Tom said...

I was working last night. My wife says we got maybe six trick-or-treaters. I took a good heap of candy to work with me today. My little section of town has a kids Halloween parade each year, last night's was a bust, despite beautiful weather.

I work in a retail store in a mall and there's been a growing amount of parents bringing their kids to the mall to trick-or-treat. I tell you, it's a George Romero flick in waiting. I can't imagine any of the high-falutin' stores in my mall giving out candy or anything consumable. We gave out little penlights.

At 6:21 PM, Blogger Jeff said...

None out here in rural TN.

At 7:18 PM, Anonymous Scott said...

They still do it up right in some areas.

In my neck of the woods (coastal CT), I had about 150 kids, which was down from last year's 200 or so.

We live in a neighborhood of homes close together that traditionally do Halloween up in a big way. We also get a lot of transplants where we live, near the top of the street. More than a dozen vans pulled up during the evening, screeched to a stop and dumped out a pile of rugrats. They hit the candy basket like commandos and are off.

Thankfully, when we moved in last September, our neighbors warned us to be prepared. Like you, I'm nostalgic for the Halloweens of my childhood, so welcome the two-hour burst of insanity and eating candy for dinner.

At 7:35 PM, Blogger MaryAn Batchellor said...

Left a giant cauldren of candy on the front porch of my home in my small town while I went to help hand out candy to the 1700 kids who showed up to trick or treat the halls of our church in my small town. It was insane. No place to park and lines of kids and parents surrounding the building. Must have been the 25 cent hot dogs. Did I mention this is a very small town? That's a LOT OF KIDS!

Got home thinking that none of the kids would be on my street cuz they were all back at the church. Wrong. Hundreds of them. They were everywhere. Could hardly drive down the street. And my candy cauldren on the porch? Not empty. Those kids had all taken only one or two pieces of candy each.


Last year, I did the same thing, got halfway down the street and realized I'd left my cell phone. Went back to get it and the cauldren was already empty.

At 7:48 PM, Blogger Peter said...

In Northern California where political and by logical extension, Halloween correctness rules we had nary a soul, nor batman, ninjas or any other. The pot of prepackaged candies, that I would have died for as a trick-or-treater went untouched.

We live on a hill and heaven forbid the pre-packaged costumed kiddies and their oh-so cool, hovercraft parents would allow the little darlings to actually scale a gentle incline and reap the bountiful rewards that awaited them.

Do I seem - Bah-humbuggy - way to early for yuletide? Probably.


Every possible ingredient to a festive, fun Halloween is pre-planned, pre-packaged and pre-programed. Wal-mart costumes, SUV buggies transporting homogenous kids to oh-so safe neighborhoods with prowling parents. Sheesh.

Harken back to the days when a sheet with a couple of eye-slits did the trick, where homemade cookies, penny candy, popcorn balls, caramel balls and every once in a while, a nickel candy bar - BONANZA. We couldn't wait to be old enough to trick or treat without the parents and the little kids always went first and got first dibs.

Now - shove those little squirts out of the way so the bigger "kids" can muscle up to the doorway and demand the good stuff. "And could we have seconds?"

A couple of optimistic neighbors actually left tubs filled with candy next to the front door. They were still full this morning. Crap, the trick'o'treaters didn't even have to knock or say, "Trick or Treat."

At 9:02 PM, Blogger cvcobb01 said...

In Hancoock ppark just south of Parmaount it was madness. Lines to go up to doors, parents driving kids in from all over. Dwarfed anything from my childhood memories.

At 9:46 PM, Blogger Patrick J. Rodio said...

Most of the trick-or-treating happens along our Main Street businesses/restaurants, you'll see HUNDREDS of kids with parents being dragged behind. But at our house we had aboutt eh same as last year, I'd say around 40-50.

At 10:41 PM, Anonymous Ronald said...

I just gave out potatoes, raw spuds.

The kids loved them!

At 4:08 AM, Blogger Milehimama said...

Ahh, you just live in the wrong part of town.
When I lived in Denver, I never had any Trick-or-Treaters, despite the fact that 16 children lived withing 3 houses of me. Everybody drove to Cherry Hills Village, where John Elway lived, or the other chi-chi neighborhoods. There were rumors of full sized Baby Ruths and dollar bills intead of blow pops and tootsie rolls.
I guess I'm movin' on up... here in SC, we were so swamped, I had to go to the store and buy more candy - 6 more bags. I got back and my husband had broken into our hurricane stash and was giving away granola bars and beef jerky.
And I pay half as much rent for a bigger house with an acre yard... Denver real estate is getting as bad as LA.

At 2:47 PM, Blogger S. A. Petrich said...

Out here, where we don't even have Halloween, I probably saw more costumed-up people than you did. (Bloody American media, first you give us your language, then you give us your customs, and then we're thr 51st state).

However, we have a similar problem with Carnivale (Mardi Gras for you) when, according to a 1000-yer-old tradition, our children should dress up and ask strangers for candy.

But for the last couple of years, less and less kids do it. I don't know why. It could be a part of the new revolution of our society I like to prophesize about these days. Could be. Could be not.

At 2:49 PM, Blogger Paul Campbell said...

It's very different on this side of the Pond. I'm in Bromley, south-east London, England.

When I was young I'd never heard of trick or treat. Really.

But it's gradually creeping in.

The problem is that a lot of people don't like it. Licenced mugging. Teaching your kids to beg off strangers. An endorsement of threats of violence. Etc. Etc.

Of course, if you've had T or T for centuries, then such claims seem ludicrous. but try to imagine introducing T or T to somewhere, like England, where it hadn't been heard of before.

Older people in this country genuinely batten down the hatches on Halloween these days. I watched the kids knocking on my elderly neighbour's door all evening, without a sign of life. But I know he was there. He doesn't understand it, and he's genuinely intimidated by the kids - even the little ones.

Our local police force sent round advice on how to deal with rowdy T or T'ers. In the FAQ section they had a reply to the question "how old are Trick or treaters?" - the answer they gave was that if they were old enough to be out without their parents, then they were too old to trick or treat.

And, old fogey that I am, I'm with the objectors. I hate the idea. OK, these days I have learnt to go along with it, and I have a stack of sweets (sorry, "candy") ready by the door. But I can't help thinking it brings out the worst tendencies in our kids - unashamed greed, something-for-nothing, threatening behaviour, and glorying in the anonymity of disguise.

Bah humbug!

At 5:12 PM, Blogger suzbays said...

We gave out 21 bags of candy, all but four of those were jumbo bags. My neighbors gave out 1000 pieces of candy. The funny thing is, my street is just the start of the action.

At 5:36 PM, Blogger Robert Hogan said...

We saw only one kid (dressed as Captain Jack) which was a 100% increase over last year. A lot of my coworkers either took their kids to the more affluent suburbs or they passed out a lot of candy where they live (the same affluent suburbs). I blame this on the loss of neighborhoods. These days people just don’t spend the time getting to know their neighbors like the used to, so parents end up driving their kids across town to a community they see as safe.

At 10:49 AM, Blogger Piers said...

Trick or Treat is an obscene custom.

It teaches children the fine art of blackmail from an early age - threaten violence if you don't get goodies. Give me sweets or I'll pelt you with eggs. I want, and if you don't give me what I want I'll do something bad to you.

This is not what we should teach our children.

My grandmother's 93. I know this because she keeps reminding me. She's lived on her own for some years now. Must've been five or ten years ago that the front of her house got covered in eggs and flour. Because she didn't know the custom.

I remember her saying afterwards "Why would you do that to someone?"

And it's a question that I still can't answer.

At 10:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

We usually get around twenty treaters.. no trickers around here eather. not sure if their has been any trickers other than the usual eggs thrown at the school which seems to happen every week. this year i went to my cousins house same as last year. but this year we had a nice time. Well turns out that last year i dressed up as some sort of demonic dog thing with an old mans face lol... and this little kid came up dressed as batman.. really nice costume .. or so im told seeing as how i could see a darn thing out of that mask. but anyway i guess i scared the livin hell out of him becuse this year he dressed up as spiderman and refused to come to the door. lol, i take pride in knowing that i scared that poor kid for life. Oh well he'll be fine.. maybe.


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