It’s a windy, rainy Beggars’ Night tonight — which makes it very difficult to keep our jack o’ lanterns lit. Although the weather isn’t ideal, we’ve had a decent number of trick or treaters this year — but out of an abundance of caution and a fear that we’re going to be stuck with gobs of leftover candy, we’ve also moved to the “take a handful” approach earlier than normal this year.
It was the summer of 1976. I had just finished my freshman year of college and was working at the Alpine Village resort in Lake George, New York with a bunch of other high school and college kids — along with one 30-something guy named Jerry, a Vietnam War vet who captained the Alpine Village boat and who was focused with laser-like intensity on achieving meaningful dalliances with every unescorted mother bringing her two kids up for a week-long stay at the resort.
Jerry’s family owned a house that was located nearby. It was the old family homestead, a sprawling, century-old house back in the woods that was still fully furnished, although no one lived there. It was a convenient place for Jerry to take those lonely young mothers.
One night Jerry invited the lot of us to the house for a clambake and sleepover. The house was like a scene from Arsenic and Old Lace or a Vincent Price movie, complete with creaky floorboards, odd family memorabilia, portraits of long-dead relatives whose eyes seemed to follow you when you moved, dusty drapery, and unexpected alcoves where you might be startled by your reflection in a mirror as you passed by or the sight of a stuffed raccoon. It was a creepy place, and Jerry told us without much elaboration that family lore had it that the place was haunted by at least two ghosts — a weeping woman who had died during childbirth in one of the upstairs bedrooms, and a boy who had been killed by a fall into a well out back.
We chuckled at the story, gobbled our clams and burgers, and drank more beer than a responsible person should.
That night, I awoke after I thought I heard an odd noise. It was black as pitch, and the wind was blowing. I stuck my out of the bedroom door and out of the corner of my eye noticed some movement down at the end of the upstairs hallway. I didn’t have my glasses on, but something seemed to be moving down there. The floorboards creaked, I suddenly felt cold, and the hairs on my arms stood on end — then I retreated to the room, shut the door, and got back into bed, soon to fall into alcohol-assisted slumber without further incident.
The next morning I explored the other end of the hallway. There was a mirror and window, and a table with some old framed photographs. Perhaps I saw myself in the mirror, or curtains blowing in the early morning breeze? I’m not sure.
Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore—
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
“ ’Tis some visiter,” I muttered, “tapping at my chamber door—
Only this and nothing more.”
Quoth the raven: “Nevermore!”
Today NBC’s Today show reported on the Beggars’ Night plans of a Fargo, North Dakota woman who sounds like a hopeless jerk. Rather than handing out candy to every trick-or-treater, this officious busybody will judge whether the kids showing up at her door are “moderately obese.” If she concludes that they are, she’ll decline to give them candy and instead will give them a note that reads:
“Happy Halloween and Happy Holidays Neighbor!
“You’re probably wondering why your child has this note; have you ever heard the saying, ‘It takes a village to raise a child’? I am disappointed in ‘the village’ of Fargo Moorhead, West Fargo.
“You [sic] child is, in my opinion, moderately obese and should not be consuming sugar and sweets to the extent of some children this Halloween season.
“My hope is that you will step up as a parent and ration candy this Halloween and not allow your child to continue these unhealthy eating habits
This sounds like a fake story, but there are so many judgmental tools in the world it is completely plausible that it is, in fact, the unfortunate truth. It’s hard to imagine what kind of supercilious dolt would tell a costumed child that they are too fat to get candy, but maybe that’s just the logical end of our increasingly patronizing, nanny-state approach to parenting and nutrition. Setting aside the misspelling, poor grammar, and bad punctuation, which reveal the author of the note to be a poorly educated pretender, what kind of paragon of physical and ethical perfection does this woman think she is? Can you imagine living next to such a person?
There’s only one response to this kind of behavior — and it’s why the “trick” is in “trick or treat.” If I were a kid who got this kind of a note, it would be time to break out the soap, the toilet paper, and maybe the eggs, too. And if I were the parent of a kid who got such a note, I might “step up” to toss a roll of toilet paper myself.
In a memorable episode of the classic TV sitcom 3rd Rock from the Sun, Sally the alien and Officer Don are discussing becoming intimate for the first time. The straightforward Sally asks: “Well, Don, are you ready to rock my world?’ And the nervous Officer Don gulps and responds: “Well, perhaps jostle it a little bit.”
Officer Don clearly understood the perils of overpromising. It’s a lesson that President Obama and his administration are learning the hard way these days.
Hundreds of thousands of Americans have been receiving cancellation notices from health insurers that are discontinuing existing coverage because it doesn’t satisfy all of the requirements of the Affordable Care Act, or “Obamacare.” It’s not clear how many people ultimately will receive cancellation notices, but experts predict that a significant percentage of those who currently buy individual coverage — between 7 and 12 million people — will be affected. Under the Act’s “individual mandate,” all of those people will need to find new insurance that complies with the requirements of the Act, either through the dysfunctional Healthcare.gov website or some other process. News sites are filled with stories about people who have found that they will need to pay much more each month for coverage, often with higher deductibles.
These people are upset because they remember President Obama’s repeated promise that, under the Affordable Care Act, if you like your insurance, you can keep it. But the statute and its regulations were written to prevent that pledge from being honored, by requiring that all insurance plans include certain forms of coverage, such as maternity care, mental health benefits, and prescription drug benefits, that were not offered by many stripped down, inexpensive plans. The inevitable result was that those plans would end and the new options, all of which include the mandatory coverage, would be more expensive for many people. Of course, when you hit people who are trying to live within their means with monthly insurance costs that are significantly higher than what they had budgeted, you’re bound to make those people angry and bitter.
It’s a predicament that the humble Officer Don would have avoided. Of course, few politicians seem to truly appreciate the perils of overpromising.
On our visit to downtown Detroit over the weekend, Russell made sure that we stopped by the Guardian Building, which has to be one of the coolest buildings you’d find anywhere. It is a fantastic palace of a building that combines Incan themes, Art Deco motifs, and the kind of architectural flourishes that you’d expect from a wealthy Bavarian prince. Walking through the building is a feast for the senses — as I hope the photos in this post demonstrate.
Of course, Detroit being Detroit, reality had to intrude into the dream. Some time ago, somebody thought it would be wise to connect this fabulous structure to the boring high-rise across the street through what looks like a cheap aluminum tube. It’s hideous, and it tells you a lot about the kind of judgment Detroiters were using during the city’s long downhill slide. Fortunately, nobody messed with the lobby area of the building, where these photos were taken.