Tuesday, October 31, 2006

What's Happening to Halloween?

Something bothersome came to my attention today. Amy, who teaches fourth grade, informed me that her students no longer can celebrate Halloween at school because some parents take religious issue with the holiday. Instead, the children can opt to come to school dressed as farmers (I’m not making this up) to celebrate “Harvest Day.”

Correct me if I’m wrong, but doesn’t “Harvest Day” sound only marginally more exciting than “Snail Conference” or “Parsley Fest”? When I was a kid (I no longer feel any shame using the phrase “When I was a kid…”), the most fun part of the school holiday was the afternoon Halloween party, where we colored pictures of witches, werewolves, and black cats in jack-o-lanterns while devouring spooky-themed treats and comparing the relative awesomeness of our costumes.

What exactly do students do on “Harvest Day,” shuck corn and chew on dried out straws of hay? How invigorating.

What’s so bad about Halloween, anyway? As most everybody knows, Halloween is a contraction of “All Hallow’s Eve,” or the night before All Saints Day, which is a Roman Catholic holy day in which the church gives blanket praise to, naturally, all the saints.

All Saint’s Eve is supposedly a time when souls and spirits are most free, since they’re being called upon for the holy day, anyway. Think of it as ghosts getting to the Goblin Hotel a day early for their annual Apparition Convention. To relax, swim and stuff. Maybe hit up the hot tub.

But there’s no scientific evidence to support that your likeliness of coming across a ghost on October 31 is any more likely than the rest of the year. Mostly due to the fact that ghosts don’t technically exist. You know, that old chestnut.

In America, people of Irish and Scottish descent once used the day to celebrate their culture (much in the same way that Columbus Day used to be a commemorative day for Italian-Americans), with the Scottish performing something called “dookin,” which means “bobbing for apples.”

So what this means is somewhere out there exists a religion that is expressly opposed to apples and Irish people. Got it.

It’s hard to imagine what these uber-religious parents are so concerned about? If little Johnny sees Sarah dressed as a ghoul, does that mean Johnny will immediately become possessed with evil, rob several convenient marts, terrorize a national monument, then die and come back as a haint to spook neighborhood children for centuries to come?

If little Thomas comes to school dressed as Dracula, does that mean he is due for a life of impaling people mercilessly like the actual Transylvanian tyrant?

Students can’t even dress as something as harmless as Harry Potter, since J.K Rowling’s books are banned in almost as many schools as Halloween. Something about sorcery and witchcraft, because all 9 year-olds are witches picking up satanic tips from the novels.

In case you’ve forgotten, you zealot parents, little kids like dressing up. It’s fun for them. And part of the spirit of Halloween is getting involved in the holiday’s spookiness—making the insane witch laugh, stringing faux spider webs from cotton, getting your friend to eat cold spaghetti noodles and peeled grapes in the dark so they’ll believe it’s hair and eyeballs. When my siblings and I were kids, we had this Halloween tape that played the “Ghostbusters” theme, “Monster Mash,” “Purple People Eater,” and a whole slew of creepy Halloween sound effects. Dammit, THAT was what All Hallow’s Eve was all about!

Now, kids can’t even trick or treat at night because of lurching pedophiles. They’re out there at four in the afternoon instead of at night, like a real Halloween should be experienced. See, in the daytime, houses know that “trick” is no real threat, since they’d see you from miles away. Not that “treat” is bad, but it’s good to have the option.

I suggest we write letters to our federal and state senators demanding the immediate reinstatement of Halloween into our public schools. Amy swears Barack Obama is the devil, so I’m sure he’d help us out in getting “His” day back on the school’s list of holidays.

It’s just harmless fun, no different than dressing as a cowboy, or a princess, or Mike Tyson (actually, that last one is probably more dangerous and disconcerting than any mummy or Frankenstein). Let the kids have their Halloween party, and let the elementary teachers watch them enjoy themselves.

Now I’ve got to go change into my costume. This year, I’m going as a farmer.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

I Love This Game

When the heavy steel doors swung open to give way to the Chicago Bulls Hallway o’ Legendary Locker Rooms, all I could see was the glistening hardwood of the United Center floor in my peripheral vision.

I almost missed it, actually. It’s easy to suffer from tunnel vision when you’re actually IN a tunnel. But I stepped through the threshold and out into the stadium lights—out from the building's underbelly and into the fresh air, and there it was. The Court.

I’d been there an overabundance of times for varied games, but never that close to the floor unobstructed. My seats are usually so far above sea level that, had I been baking, I would have had to make temperature adjustments on my conventional oven.

Guys, Michael Jordan won championships on this floor. Nearly ever waking minute of my pubescent experience was spent considering what it would be like to be on that floor. (For the record, the rest of my waking minutes were spent agonizing over rampant facial acne, as well as the literally thousands of girls I’d fall in love with but never actually come into close enough contact with to determine important things like eye color and gender.)

Enough basking, though. I had work to do. So I headed towards the locker rooms and waited for the requisite 6:00 pm media “Release the Hounds” time. This was it; I was going to be inside an NBA locker room for the first time in my life. I for some reason had visions of something out a Jay-Z video—half naked black women, top-shelf liquor, a swimming pool—all to the backdrop of a delightfully angry hip-hop music track.

Yeah, that didn’t happen.

The rooms themselves really aren’t much bigger than my own bedroom, except for the flat-screen, high definition television with the approximate dimensions of a standard-size door. And nobody was there save one or two guys. So, I talked to them, got a little audio, then wondered if anybody else would roll out the red carpet for me.

I waited about six or seven minutes, and nothing.

So I trounced over to the locker room of the visiting Minnesota Timberwolves, hoping to score an interview with superstar Kevin Garnett. Sure enough, I breeze through the doors, and there he was, as tall as Andre the Giant and slightly heavier than Lindsay Lohan.

I shook his hand, introduced myself, and asked for an interview, but apparently the man they call The Big Ticket doesn’t provide pre-game chitter chatter. Oh well. Worth a try, right?

I did score a pretty decent conversation with P.J. Brown, but that information’s classified. If you want to know more about it, you’ll have to order the newest copy of “Swish,” where I will have my first professional magazine article published later in November.

Once the locker rooms closed, the media buffet opened. For six measly bucks I ingested a savory Caesar salad, beef stew with rice, the beverage of my choice, and the freshest fruit I’ve ever eaten. You know how on TLC they have those shows about chefs at five-star hotels, and how they pick out only the most delectable fruits from the garden? I think one of these guys picked out my cantaloupe this morning.

The game itself was lovely; I didn’t get to sit courtside, but the view from the press box is more than reasonable. Plus, I got free soda and popcorn. So, bonus.

After the game was over (The Bulls lost by two), I high-tailed it back to the locker room area to try and hit up Kevin Garnett. He said he’d be happy to answer questions after the game, so I was going to see if he was a big, stinky liar, or a man of his word.

Turns out, he’s a man of his word. He talked to me and a couple other reporters, but not until after most of the other guys had gotten dressed and left the room. While I waited uncomfortably amidst a slew of gigantic, half-nude athletes, I did manage a quick interview with Troy Hudson, who’s a starting guard for Minnesota. He was actually very cordial and pleasant.

Garnett… not so much. That poor man is so bored by reporters that he could barely speak after the game. He talked to us with a pizza box in his lap, and I know all he really wanted to do was munch. So he breezed through a few questions impatiently, and took off for the bus.

Kevin Garnett, ladies and gentlemen.

Honestly, there’s no better way to experience an NBA game than the manner in which I came upon it this evening. Access to the players, free seats and parking, and great food that doesn’t cost more than a two-to-three karat diamond.

I love this game.