Welcome to the Neighborhood
If you live in New England like I do, the coming of fall brings to mind crisp weather, hot apple cider, and here and there a ghoulishly carved pumpkin. I remember mom tying a triad of colorful ears of Indian corn to a nail on the front door and setting out gourds on the dining room table, and if memory serves she would also tape a flimsy cardboard black cat to the living room picture window, which was about as spooky as we were allowed to get in our Catholic household. Dad got the job of handing out candy to the neighborhood kids, the less appreciative of whom might return later in the evening to stick a potato in our station wagon’s tailpipe as a sort of asphyxiating gag. By morning, the fun and games were over, and we’d get dragged off to church with sugar hangovers because it was All Saints Day and mass was mandatory.
If my conservative upstate New York parents were alive today and had occasion to visit me around Halloween, they’d be shaken at some of the over-the-top decorating antics you find in the community these days. Not content to turn their yards into old-fashioned burial grounds with chintzy Styrofoam headstones bearing “R.I.P.” epitaphs and here and there a witch on a broomstick, these people display faux dismembered body parts and erect full-size prison cells with the rotting remains of tortured prisoners still chained to the walls. Here you find a bloody guillotine 12 feet high; there a corpse impaled upon a stake. Not only do my own children find some of the images unsettling, but I suspect that invading aliens from distant planets, upon viewing the spectacle, might be prompted to reach for their intergalactic vomit bags.