October 30, 2008
Hallowe’en has always been my favourite religious holiday (next to Gay Pride weekend of course). It’s the same concept really,except at Pride you wear as little as possible and enjoy eye candy.
Growing up in the country, we were spoiled by “neighbours” (who sometimes lived miles away and weren’t really neighbours at all) who anticipated and expected our Hallowe’en arrival. They didn’t mind that I was still trick-or-treating at age 17. Mrs. Kellam handed out baggies of buttery nuts & bolts with two unfrozen freezies every year. Mrs. Columbine made cookies as big as our heads dotted with Smarties (although I suspect now that they were Smartie knock-offs, those bulk bin cousins with the budget chocolate inside). Mrs. Vigh routinely gave out real-life-size Oh! Henry bars—not the mini ones. We loved her for not cheaping out, but I have to admit, the Oh! Henry’s were always the first to go in my “tradesies” pile. Somewhere along Pleasant Ridge road an elderly couple with a parrot gave us candy apples with candy that stuck more to the Saran Wrap than the apple. They always told us their last name, so we could inform our parents that the apples were razor-blade friendly, just like dolphin-friendly tuna in a can.
My parents had to drive us between the long stretches, otherwise Halloween would have been a terrifyingly dark two hour walk of maybe seven farm houses with too-long laneways. And, our mobility would have been affected by my brother’s generally immobile costume choice of the year. Poor Dax, his creative attempts (which he usually began after school on the night of Halloween) were always failed. One year he ambitiously started wrapping his legs with my dad’s hockey tape in his plan to be a mummy. By dusk he was only up to his knees with tape that was wound a little too tight and making his upper legs purple. He smeared some grey eye shadow under his eyes to look more mummy-ish, but everyone pegged him to be a baseball player with the tape up to his knees and shadow under his eyes fo catch fly-balls. Then there was the pumpkin-head year. Dax picked the heaviest, most awkward pumpkin from the garden and made a neck hole big enough to not totally strangle himself. The eyeholes were too small, giving him a pinhole version on the world, and were cut around his nostril level. After visiting three houses with a 15-pound hazard on his head, Dax left the pumpkin behind in the backseat of the Oldsmobile and simply trick-or-treated in what he was wearing, meaning, he was just Dax Torti with pumpkin pulp in his hair from another disaster costume. The award winner though, had to be the Hallowe’en that he decided to be a toilet. Doesn’t every kid want to dress up as a toilet? Dax found the largest boxes he could for his dream costume, painted them porcelain white and affixed a flush handle. What he didn’t consider was fitting his toilet contraption into a vehicle (it would have been so much more efficient had he been a bidet). As you can imagine, the toilet costume was also abandoned somewhere along Pleasant Ridge road, and Dax left everyone guessing. Now, what are you?? I think that’s when he became gay.
My sister was the forever princess , fairy (she copied Dax) or ballet dancer. She was sugar and spice, and all that’s nice, that’s what little Kiley was made of. She was the humanitarian right from the get go with her damn Unicef box. Dax and I usually left our boxes at home due to the infringement they had on quick candy collection—and the toilet design didn’t really allow for a hanging box. Kiley held us up with her pleading Unicef requests, I’m surprised she’s not the one in Africa right now. Dax and I would eventually ditch her and cut across the dark yards at high speed, with poor Kiley crying behind us. “Wait uuuuuuuuuuup!” She was born with the ability to scream and make every hair on your body stand on end but always gave us the excuse that she had her legs in a brace as a child and couldn’t keep up with us(which we’re pretty sure she is lying about, but somehow she still identifies strongly with Forrest Gump because he had leg braces too).
While we carried on with our gluttonous collecting, my parents sat in the idling car pilfering our treasure. Our technique was to empty our bags frequently so that the neighbours would be more generous, perhaps giving bigger handfuls to the poor kids just starting out. It took us a while to catch on that my mother was not to be trusted. Her mumbled conversations with us between candy unloading were due to all the chocolate she packed in her mouth when we left the car!! She later confided that she took from us equally, but still, the betrayal! My dad only ate our raisins, which was fine by us. He liked those Sun-Maid boxes with like six raisins in a box—not even the Glosette variety!
The Grandmother tour was a critical part of the Torti Hallowe’en route, luckily two of them lived on our road and were our first stops. The photo sessions at Nan Chapin’s were like a Vogue fashion shoot with proper lighting, different stances and location changes. Another pile of grandkids would arrive and we would be released with cans of Cplus or grape crush, and surprise bags. The cans of pop were like hauling around shot puts after 30 minutes.
Our end point was my grandmother’s in the city where we would sit cross-legged guarding our piles, watching It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown out of the corners of our eyes.. We would dump our garbage bags and freak out at the colossal amount of sugar we had just gathered, for free. The fighting would start soon enough and the most-loved treats quickly hidden. I was a sucker for the Kraft caramels, Thrills gum, Smarties and Crunchie bars. Kiley would go for broke trading for Crispy Crunch minis and Gobstoppers. Dax gladly accepted our Aeros and Oh! Henry’s, Ju-jubes, Swedish fish, Fizz-Whiz and black and orange jelly beans were usually one-offs, hurriedly eaten before stolen. The Sweet tarts and suckers were kind of throw-aways (as well as the dumb toothbrushes from the dentist who lived near us) –that candy lasted well into November and was only eaten out of sheer desperation.
Unfortunately, we were all such hoarders that our candy apples without the razor blades would be rotten because we tried to save them for so long. The nuts & bolts would be stale, and Mrs. Columbine’s cookie became a weapon, budget chocolate or not. My mom always said they tasted poorly because she “must have used margarine instead of butter.”
There is just something magical and whimsical about Hallowe’en that I will miss this year. I imagine if I handed out free candy to kids in the local village that I would be stampeded. Somehow the one night of free candy wouldn’t translate well and I could see a pack of kids at my heels chanting “Candy, Mizungo! More candy!” until I leave in January.
I know Wanda will have the lights out and be crawling around on her knees to avoid being spotted by potential trick-or-treaters. Moving to suburbia with her excited me, finally after downtown Toronto apartment living in a gay village, I would have kids to dish out candy to! Little did I know that for police officers Hallowe’en is the most dreaded night of year to work. And with dogs, little goblins screeching and chanting at the door doesn’t make for a happy golden retriever who is already scared of a plastic bag blowing across the street!
Church street in Toronto is certainly a remarkable place to be on Hallowe’en. Boozy drag Queens, and some of the best costumes you will see anywhere. There is always a salt and battery, 5,000 gay sailors,3 groups of the Village People, 5 Monica Lewinsky’s in stained red dresses (still!)…but my favourite was the guy who carried around a framed Mona Lisa with his face where Mona’s would be. Or, the woman who was a box of Godiva chocolates and her face was one of the truffles! Brilliant.
Of course, with age I have moved on from sticky candy apples to candy apple martinis (1 oz vodka, ½ oz butterscotch schnapps, 1 oz Sourz apple liquer and 1 oz cranberry juice.). At some bar I remember drinking candy corn shooters. How would one make a Thrills shooter? Maybe I have the Ugandan ingredients to make one. Yeah, I know, laundry soap and gin, haha.
I tried to source out a pumpkin to carve tonight (African pumpkins look more like green watermelons), but none will be available until Tuesday. Sigh. I asked Ruth, our staff cook if she knew of a place where I could get one and she bent over cackling at me like a wicked witch. Maybe pumpkin means something else?
At least there is a ghost in this house to make me feel like I’m celebrating…
Boo from Africa to everyone at home, enjoy!
“There are three things I have learned never to discuss with people: religion, politics, and the Great Pumpkin.”
– Linus in It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown