Urban Halloween- Flashback to Oct. 31

This is the first year that I’ve understood how Halloween works in Bed-Stuy. When I first moved here, I lived on a predominantly industrial block lined by warehouses, auto shops, and vacant lots, so trick-or-treaters weren’t on my radar. Having grown up in the Detroit area, I was much more concerned about “Devil’s Night.” However, they don’t seem to have that the same way in NYC; just the odd egg, not too much setting things on fire.

In 2005, we moved to a brownstone block, which seemed much more suburban. We had been slowly renovating the creaky old Victorian house over a period of years. I knew that my former tenants, one of whom was a props manager and stagehand, had created a haunted house in the still-derelict floors and invited the neighborhood children to tour it. With its crumbling plaster and exposed lath, crude Masonic diagrams crayoned on the walls, the cobwebby spiral stairwell, and the lengths of BX dangling like jungle lianas from the ceiling, it must have looked the part even without the skeletons and masks. In the basement kitchen, its wainscoting black with ancient shellac, my tenants had erected a pasteboard graveyard with epitaphs for all the former residents who still received mail at this former boarding house and S.R.O.. Scary as the house might have been for the children, the flaking lead paint, holes in the floor, and feral dogs in the yard must have been a lot scarier to any parents who found out about it. (And to any stray designer who might wander in off the street, the layers of grimy turquoise and yellow paint covering the mahogany woodwork would have been more frightening still.) And in retrospect, for me it was a veritable Liability Nightmare on Elm Street.

Given this notoriety, I was at least expecting trick-or-treaters and I dutifully stocked up on Mr. Goodbars and Hershey Kisses at the dollar store. By five pm, I was ready. I waited and waited. Nobody rang my bell. I could see the odd gaggle of kids in costume, apparently heading for a party, but no families traipsing door to door. Gazing out at the crack house down the street, it dawned on me why trick-or-treating might not become a tradition in the inner city. You just don’t know who’s going to answer the door. The next year I bought one bag of candy as insurance, but still no comers. Then I gave up.

This year, as I was strolling to the Duane Reade in search of a last-minute Feline Frenzy makeup kit, I observed that people with candy will sometimes come down with a big bowl and stand at their gates handing it out to passing kids so that no one has to knock on doors. The trick of of Trick or Treating in the ‘hood is revealed.

Still, the Halloween Party for kids seems to be a popular alternative. There was a huge party swarming with little ghouls and goblins at the Pentacostal Church on Nostrand Ave. I was a little surprised because I know that many evangelical denominations think Halloween is satanic. However, this one was really rocking and rolling. I swear that someone with a microphone was belting out something about Jesus vanquishing all the ghouls and demons, but to be fair that could have been my imagination and it could have been the Monster Mash. And clearly, a good time was had by all.


~ by heysnowflake on November 24, 2009.

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