Halloween 2009

20 Nov

November 2, 2009

Halloween 2009

First, let me recap a little bit.

As long as I can remember, I always wanted to dress up for Halloween. As a kid, it was pretty easy. This was back in the Ben Cooper era.

A few weeks before the holiday, the candy store down the block would suddenly be filled with stacks and stacks of boxes about the size of cake boxes from the bakery. They were flimsy and had a plastic hole in the front where masks peered out at you. Inside were Ben Cooper Halloween costumes. This is long before anyone realized that if you put a costume in a bag instead of a box you could maximize shelf space and increase sales. (That’s the business spin on Halloween. Any wonder why Bernie Madoff masks were so popular this year?)

Ben Cooper made amazing costumes. One year I dressed up as Frankenstein and I looked just like Frankenstein would have looked had he been wearing a thin plastic overall that tied in the back and had a picture of himself on the front. The Darth Vader costume could have been awesome had it not had the words “Star Wars” plastered across Vader’s chest. And the Ben Cooper Batman costume? Let’s just say that it totally failed to inspire fear in Gotham City’s underworld. I still remember the Mr. Spock costume that had a colorful picture of a hand giving the Vulcan salute on the front of his Starfleet uniform. All these wonderful memories, all those crappy costumes, no wonder Ben Cooper is out of business.

As I got older, all I really needed for a costume was a cape. A black one, with a high collar. Who was I dressing as? Didn’t matter. I was Guy With A Cape. That’s all you ever need. Walk down the street, cape flowing out behind you, that’s cool. More people should wear capes. All year ‘round. I’d wear capes all the time except I have a low tolerance for getting the shit kicked out of me.

Capes were very versatile when I was a kid. Batman wore a cape. Dracula wore a cape. Elvis wore a cape. Captain Kirk wore a cape. He didn’t, you say? He did when I dressed up like him in 1981.

Eventually I got older (at the rate of about a year every 365 days or so) and learned how to drive. This opened up a whole new Halloween era, the Era of Not Getting Invited to Parties. Well, technically I had been living in that era for many years, but now with a car I could find something else to do instead of sitting at home and watching Fat Albert teach Mudfoot Brown to lighten up and come to his Halloween party in the junkyard.

My buddy Marc and I would get in my car on Halloween and drive around listening to Halloween music on the radio. Were we driving to a party? No. Were we picking up other friends? No. We were driving around Brooklyn and Manhattan to see what we could see.

So what did we see?

One year we followed a blimp over the bridge into Manhattan, just bored enough to think it was a UFO.

Another year we solved an age-old dilemma, the building with the big “R” on top, visible from the BQE before the Battery Tunnel. We found the building, but it took a lot of research to discover that the “R” is the only letter left of the old E.J. Trum Playing Cards and Paper Company sign. A lot of research? OK, we asked my Dad. He knew all along.

Then there was The Suicide Dog.

We were driving around Red Hook. Why Red Hook? It was rundown, it was scary, and I was dumb enough not to consider the fact that driving around Red Hook at night was a really stupid thing to do. I drove through an open gate and found myself in the middle of some sort of sanitation complex where it seemed that the city’s definition of sanitation was “dumping brown water into the creek under the Gowanus.” You know, they probably use the same definition today.

Nothing much to see, and of course we were trespassing, so I turned around to get out when the guard dog came rushing out at us. Sure, didn’t make a peep when we rolled in, but trying to get out he came at us. What security. Anyway, the dog rushed out of a building on my right, snarling and snapping, and this is where he got his name, literally jumping under my front driver side tire. The dog, for all intents and purposes, was ready to commit suicide under my front wheel.

I stopped.
The dog stopped.
I creeped ahead.
The dog threw its head under my wheel. What kind of a dog was this? Cujo made more sense.

We eventually got out of there, never moving ahead more than 2 or 3 miles per hour. I was drenched with sweat by the time I got out of the complex.

One year we were driving around Coney Island (always the best on Halloween for me) when we found a beach right outside the Sea Gate fence where the local residents had made a fake graveyard. You know, the kind with tombstones for Frank N. Stein and bad rhymes like “here lies the body of Mary Jones, who was buried with most of her bones” etc. This was OK, but we got out of the car and climbed over the scrub grass and dunes to the actual beach. It wasn’t a beach you’d go sunning on. It was old and dirty, and by that I mean even by Coney Island standards it was dirty. It did have some really cool stuff lying around. There was a broken-down pier that marched into the water. Huge chains, like from ships, were tethered to concrete slabs in the ground. Big rusty metal hatches led into the earth. Wooden planks were half buried in the sand and led off into the scrub. There were broken anchor parts. Once upon a time there must have been some kind of nautical industry there, but now only decaying relics were left.

At low tide we were able to skirt the Sea Gate fence and follow Sea Gate Beach all the way to the lighthouse on the tip of the peninsula.

And that was Halloween. Eventually things changed and no longer did I go on those Halloween drives.

Now flash ahead to 2009. See? I wasn’t lying when I titled this blog Halloween 2009.

All I wanted to do this year was capture just a bit of bygone Halloween with my camera. I wanted to drive up to Dyker Heights and snap the decorated houses there, then I’d get back to that beach after all these years and get pictures of all the cool relics (Marc having deserted me years back by getting married and having a couple of kids. Thanks “pal.”) and have a really nice time of it

It didn’t happen that way. I didn’t even get to wear a cape.

First, Thursday was open school night. That was a bad time to ask another teacher to go with me so I went alone. It was a legitimate excuse for Michelle not to have to give me a phoney excuse not to go, so she really dodged a bullett there.

Secondly, what happened to the Halloween spirit? Almost no houses were decorated. It was really pathetic. I remember when the expensive houses would be filled with carved pumpkins, witches hung out of the trees, vampires peered out of orange-lit windows. Rows and rows of houses, each spookier than the last.

This year sure, a couple of houses had skeletons in the window, but Dyker is also a big Mafia area so who knows if they were decorations or just victims? I bet come December all those houses will suddenly be strewn with tinsel, decorated with bright lights, snowmen, Rudolph, Petey the big-nose elf, and all those other religious icons that celebrate Santa’s birthday on December 25th. But what about the haunted houses? Witches?  Those inflatable pumpkins that Casper pops out of? Not a single one. OK, maybe one or two. But you just know there’ll be tons of tinsel and sleds soon.

Determined to see some Halloween houses, I drove out to Long Island, which really is a very long island, very aptly if not creatively named. Check it on a map. Staten Island is flaccid compared to Long Island. It is Staten Island after Viagra. But do they decorate anymore than we do here in Brooklyn?

No they do not.

At least the Freeport Haunted Firehouse had clowns out front. Clowns? OK, not mummies, but it was something, and clowns are scary- just ask John Wayne Gacy.

By this point I gave up on the houses. It was getting late and so I figured I’d go back to the beach by Sea Gate. I hadn’t been there since the 90’s. It was about time I got back and took pictures of all the ancient stuff there.

The ancient stuff was not there.

Oh sure, it was there, but it was all buried under ten feet of sand provided by the Army corps of Engineers. Nice.

Back in the 1990’s Coney Island was hit by a series of storms that washed most of the sand into the sea. They eventually replaced all the lost sand and they should have stopped there, but no, this is the government. Remember the old song by the Drifters, “Under the Boardwalk”? It was about some guys who hung out under the boardwalk on Coney Island. It was actually possible, until the mid 90’s, to walk under the boardwalk. Not anymore. The boardwalk used to be elevated high above the beach, now the sand comes right up to the planks. The army just poured sand right up to the top. Too bad for the Drifters. Three of them were still hanging out under the boardwalk and only one made it out alive, the other two being buried under all that sand.

They did the same job to the other side of the peninsula, and all the cool stuff I was dying to photograph after all these years are now under tons of sand. I’ll have to go back with a metal detector and an excavator if I want any shots.

They also seriously compromised the security of Sea Gate.

Sea Gate is a gated community, meaning “hey you, keep out.” (More truthfully, it means, “hey you poor black people, keep out. We are a wealthy white community.”) The fence once extended right out and down the beach and at high tide it was in the water. You could skirt it at low tide, but if you weren’t out when the water came back you’d have to wade around it. Anyway, the fence is nearly buried for most of its length. At its new highest point it rises a majestic sixteen inches out of the sand, a formidable hop for the most brazen of crickets but not any security against the normal burglar. Unless he trips over it or something. And then he might have a lawsuit.

So what did I take out of Halloween 2009?

Nobody plays Halloween music on the radio anymore, though I did hear Godzilla by Blue Oyster Cult. That probably doesn’t count since Q104 plays it all year ‘round.

I still have sand in my car.

With or without a cape, a Ben Cooper costume could not have helped me this year. Alhough the cape could have kept me warm on the beach.

One Response to “Halloween 2009”

  1. David November 21, 2009 at 7:32 pm #

    I was a pre-teen Ben Cooper Bobba Fett!


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