Thursday, September 8, 2011

Caption this photo

"State of the Union"

"The retirement age will now be raised to 84"

"Obama has OK'd the Keystone XL-pipeline"*

"The computer just crashed and lost all your 
unbacked-up files containing all your writings"

I met the charming gentleman above in an aisle of the pharmacy this morning and his face expressed how I feel sometimes, reading the latest "Can-things-get-ANY-WORSE-in-the-world?" news.  He was propped up next to a witch having a bad hair day on his left.

Him I understood.  Her--frankly, she gave me the creeps.  Those maliciously malevolent red eyes and blackened, clawey fingernails were enough to scare the bejesus out of anyone, though even kids are so inured to frightful images these days, most just laugh. (Not the little babies, though--they haven't quite reached the age where they can distinguish fake from real. One little glance and that witch's beady red eyes could return, let loose in a nightmare.)

Over at the Dollar Store they were stocking rubber severed limbs with dye-bloodied red gashes, gigantic decorative spider webs, and of course, glow-in-the-dark skeleton keyrings.  (Did I mention the edible gelatin eyeballs?)

It's not even Halloween for another month and a half yet, and the shelves are already being cleared and racks of expensive hobo, princess, dragon, devil, witch, Hulk and zombie costumes put into place.  When I was a kid we rummaged in our grandma's attic for things to dress up as, and we'd get more apples than chocolate sometimes, in our little trick-or-treat bags.  Now it's a retailer's heaven--a fun thing commercialized to death.

Once a year we get to spread phoney Fear and celebrate Greed.  (Zombies!! Zombies!! Run for your life!!!  Buy your jumbo size, orange candy bucket NOW, kids--before they run out!!!  Hey Moms--sale in Aisle Four on chocolate Count Draculas, shipped straight from China.  Flashlights, purple hair dye, wigs, teeth and fake blood in Aisle Six!

A man, unable to afford to buy candy for little Halloweeners potentially knocking at the door, embarrassed and ashamed, turns his porch light off and watches behind the curtain at his window, smiling, as a gaggle of little ones trudge past on the sidewalk: a Batman, a Spongebob, a fairy, and a bumblebee with an umbrella.   He could be the man in the photo, in his reflective moments, mutely screaming at how he's forced to have to decide whether to buy food this winter, or get heat.  "Let's see," you can almost hear him thinking:  $4.69 for a bag of mini Hersey bars or marshmellow tarantulas; a handful of change to split for a package of Ramon noodles for him and a can of cat food for his cat.  He wishes he could buy the candy.  He wishes he had an apple to give them instead. This story is made up.  But it's also not, for many people.  I look at that store manikin's face and I imagine stories like this.  I only went to the pharmacy this morning to buy toilet paper and look what happens, ha ha. It took me by surprise.  A look that haunts, reminds.  I've screamed inside like he's screaming. Haven't we all sometimes. I hear ya, bud.

The kid in me still loves Halloween.  I once saw a  ghost riding the bus, an adult probably going to a party, but it was so comical at the time (20 people's heads visible from the bus windows--plus a guy wearing a white sheet--all sitting there riding along, no one thinking it odd.)  Okay, you had to have been there.  I cracked up laughing and that scene still makes me smile.

Well before Thanksgiving this and other stores will probably begin displaying plastic Santas and reindeer.  You begin thinking you're in a time warp.  "Can't I just enjoy NOW now?" (Now, now,  the robed wizard in Aisle 2 hushes me).  (Monk costumes were very "in" last year, too, I forgot to add.)  I can't believe I'm posting all this stuff about Halloween  a month and a half before it even gets here, making fun of merchants who drag out all their Halloween merchandise a month and a half before it even gets here. 

Wait.  My new gentleman friend is trying to get my attention:

"Help!! I'm stuck in this photo!!  Get me outta here!!!!!"
*[Over 500 people were arrested during a week-long protest in front of the White House asking President Obama to reconsider and not allow the massive XL-pipeline to transport  unrefined oil from the Alberta tar sands in Canada down to Texas, which could result in an environmental catastrophe and which oil will likely not be for the U.S. but sold elsewhere).  Asked about the protest, Obama said he hadn't been aware this week-long sit-in took place.]

*photos by awyn