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The Devil Made Me Do It

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Thursday, Nov 1, 2007




You thought that one would have been enough, didn’t you? One being the number of entries we would have on Halloween this year? Yeah, me too . . . until my daughter walked in last night looking like that and said: “Hey, Dad. Guess what I’m going to be for Halloween?”


And after I’d given her the up-down, head to toe routine, and cluelessly uttered: “um . . . inside of a ketchup bottle” (to her consternation), then “heartthrob” (to her delight) and finally “matador’s cape” (to her distaste), and after she’d stopped rolling her eyes and clipping my shoulder with each bone-headed guess, she said: “No Dad, now be serious this time.” But, then again, it was me she was addressing, so how likely was I going to succeed at that? So, finally, in exasperation she relented and said: “Okay, fine . . . I’ll give you a hint. This is what I’d wear if I was in a production of Faust. Ring a bell, now, daddy?”


Oh, well how in the world would she have expected


me to have guessed that

?

  



So, then, the next time my precious angel with a predilection for giving me hell, talked to me was as she was leaving for school in the very same devilish attire the very next morning. This time she didn’t take chances on speculation or “educated” guesswork. What she said, instead, was definitive: “Oh . . . and make sure that you write about this in your blog tonight.”


Which, coincidentally, is what I now find myself doing.


How, though, could you possibly blame me? After all, in the immortal words of Flip Wilson): “The Devil Made Me Do It.”


 



Well, it turns out that there is a whole lot more to Halloween than my precious daughter—as I found out later in the evening (but don’t tell my girl). Which is


really

why I am writing this entry.


This “whole lot more” all started when my wife told me about a street that she had heard from a friend of hers out in a city called Sierra Madre, which is about 9 miles northeast of Pasadena, just down the 210 Freeway towards San Bernardino.

Before getting in the car, though, I had a few more ounces of protest left in the reluctance tank to expend. Why let high octane crankiness go to waste? Since my wife knew it was all just for show, she sat demurely, tolerating my rant, as I complained: “what’s on


that street, anyway? And why is it any different than what’s on our street?” Which, I fancied, was a crafty way of raising the point: “why do we have to drive 9 miles out that way, when we could much more easily take 9 steps outside our door this way

. . .” And after I was done, my wife asked: “you done?” and, after I toothlessly nodded “yes” we piled into the car, driving those nine miles in a northeasterly direction to check out whatever it was that was out there.


And here’s to that old world explorer spirit that delivered us there. It is, after all, in discovery that the canvas of life takes on it most resonant colors.



The first thing one encounters when one gets out there—at the end of those nine miles—is how little room there is to park. Everyone in the Southland, it seems, has heard of this Halloween festivity—whatever it actually is—and apparently has come to witness it. Thus, after one finally arrives there, s/he hasn’t actually arrived. There is the matter of locating a vacant space along some side street and that turns out to be about 900 meters away from the actual action. So, there is plenty of anticipatory (and perspiratory) trudging involved to actually locate the desired target.


That would be East Alegria Avenue. Which, for this night at least, was cordoned off by orange and white sawhorses with plenty of police directing pedestrian and vehicular traffic. That is: police signaling pedestrians to walk (and walk and keep on walking) while vehicles are made to yield (and yield and keep on yielding). In cases like that (as I sit [and sit and sit] watching others being given the pass to pass me by), I try to restrain my overactive imagination from transforming this into some deep symbolization for my oft-still life.


At which point Kurt Vonnegut caps the paragraph by penning: “so it goes”.


Because: it does. It just so infrequently goes with me along with it.



Once on East Alegria Avenue, one encounters numerous signs.. Plenty of signs.


 




Beware! signs. Watch out! signs. Advance at your own risk! signs. Do you really want to be doing this? signs. Maybe there are a lot of liability lawyers living on this street and they want to try to wriggle out of any impending lawsuits.



Having been forewarned, the haunting begins almost immediately. House after house whose front lawns have been transformed into graveyards and haunted mansions and gholish menageries . . . 


 




Leaving us visitors, the interlopers who have trucked nine miles (more or less) into Sierra Madre and onto East Alegria Avenue, standing utterly transfixed, struck by the ostentation of the displays, the dedication of the home owners, the Carnival-esque atmosphere created by one horrific presentation feeding off and augmenting the prior other.




The next thing that one encounters on East Alegria Avenue are the numerous people . . . swells of witnesses, flocks of fans, a cornucopia of gawkers. Three across on the sidewalk, spilling out into the carless street. All bumping into one another. Polite enough to say, “oh sorry”, but spooked enough when the thing whose foot has been trampled upon turns out to be a 6 foot 4 inch 35 year-old guy in drag with flourescent green hair, jagged bloody scars stenciled across his cheeks, and glow rings around his neck and appendages.


Visitors giving into the whimsy of the moment.


After stepping on the same guy’s toes three times in 2 minutes I finally have to say something more, so I think about the whimsy of the moment and mutter: “the devil made me do it.”


Convenient, that phrase. And, appropriate (as hell!)



East Alegria Avenue is about 10 houses long. Well, 10 lots with enough space for a 4 bedroom house, a driveway, two car garage, a basketball set-up in the back, and plenty of front lawn. So, we’re talking about a quarter of an acre per lot—if that means anything to you. What it meant to all of us was about a 20 minute stroll in each direction—down one side and back up the other—given the shoulder-to-shoulder, three-across-the-sidewalk nature of our circum-ambulation. When we came to the end on one side we encountered the following pumpkin patch: about 20 or more pumpkins carved in various expressions.


 




There was even a set of carved-out gourds with name cards in front: “Schwarzenegger”, “Bush”, “Cheney”, and “Hillary”. None of the pumpkins actually bore any likeness to their real-life models, but then, the real-life models bear very little likeness to real-life people either! Just a lot of wax burning inside a hollowed out core. Maybe perhaps, because from those innards have come far too many tricks and too few treats.


So it goes. So it goes.



Making the turn for home, we bump into a battery of creepy figures. Sentinels from hell, one after another . . . conspiring to throw us off our game.


 




The game being to return home intact. Having been entertained, titillated, energized, happy to have partaken and contributed to the collective vibe. Like all crowds, we were, then, once dispersed, are no longer. We walk past the police barricade at the far edge of the action. Car engines start up, headlights flick on, blinkers are engaged, brake lights burn red. Up ahead, green lights give way to red, cars stop. Juiced up fun-goers dressed as Elvira, Mistress of the Dark and Fred Munster enter a ColdStone to buy a “MudPie Mojo” and “Oreo Overload”. Acting as if they have passed without incident onto the other side of normality.


Looking back, though, one can spy the palm tree looming over East Alegria Avenue. The one with the skeletal face, red with wrath, as if some evil God warning all who pass beneath: “for any misfortune about to befall you poor souls . . . don’t blame me . . . 




“The devil made me do it.”



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