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No. 23 - Halloween Goodness
An Issue in Two Parts
Practitioners, are you good and prepared for the greatest holiday of all? Have you picked your monstrous outfit and are you ready to get spoooooky?
The Halloween spirit has been good to me this year, giving me plenty of cool ideas for this post.
Therefore, because I dislike choosing between two equally good options, I decided to split this issue in two. The first part will be a short essay, and the second will consist of a series of eerie haiku. Enjoy!
Part 1: Autumns in Communist America
It may have been the children of my generation who introduced Romania to Halloween. As the final offspring of the 1990s, we were born into a world much different from the one that had shaped our parents. We grew up with easy access to the Holy Trinity of Cartoons, Cheap Soda, and Fast Food Chains, and in many ways knew more about the West than we did about our own country.
Back then, word about Halloween had begun to creep around, but most older people didn’t know what it actually was yet. The foreign word came out of their mouths garbled, corrupted by their unshakable Eastern-Europeanness: Hah-lo-een. Needless to say, trick-or-treating wasn’t a thing—knocking on an elder’s door with a punctured sheet draped over your head and candy on your mind was unlikely to earn you anything sweeter than a slap for being a little beggar.
Still, some of us kids were entranced by the concept. Dressing up as our favourite characters, sharing candy, and trying to spook those cranky adults that kept tracking our every move? We were all for that. So we founded our own version of the holiday. Much like Christmas, our Halloween was home-centric. We took great care haunting up our houses with spooky decorations like witch hats, origami bats, and fake spider-webs (which had the annoying tendency to never shoot where aimed for, thus ending up everywhere but where they were intended to), before dressing up and taking photos together. I’m not sure if mine ever went that far, but some families even baked Halloween-themed cookies and pastries.
Year after year, I drove my mother crazy with outlandish costume ideas. The fact that I wouldn’t be doing any trick-or-treating didn’t stop me from commissioning her, with a slew of aunts in tow, to prepare for me a collection of outfits that would rival Batman’s. There exist photographs of me dressed as a) Serious Sam, b) a member of a motorcycle gang, and c) a Spider-Man approximation. But by far my most successful look was Jedi Batman, pictured above.
For quite some time now, I’ve considered fall my favourite season. While I’m not sure how much that’s true anymore, I believe this love was born during those early-century Octobers, when my imagination was given its first outlet, its first gateway into the material world. To me, autumn was, and in many ways still is, the season of the creator. Perhaps it’s the wind, angrily whispering stories into our ears, or the sheet of rain and fog that drapes over everything, forcing our imaginations to work filling in the gaps. Whatever the case, it was in autumn that I once sat outside in the rain, reading poetry while I listened to piano music on my headphones. It was in autumn that my first short story was born. And it was in autumn that I began this little Substack experiment.
Autumn does weird things to the human heart.
As a child, with no better alternatives, I chose to give my imagination free rein. If I couldn’t actually put together a crew of ghouls and monsters with whom to go out candy hunting, there was nothing stopping me from imagining myself in such a scenario.
My version of Halloween brought me great joy. It also showed me all that we were missing. In America, amazing things were commonplace that we’d never even get to smell, let alone taste. The Reese’s Pieces and the Hershey’s Kisses and the candy corn, and even those black licorice strips that American kids grimaced at—the ghosts of all this mouthwatering candy hovered around me, mocking me. God, what I wouldn’t have done to try them all!
At my request, my family got me close to what I dreamed about. Year after year, my costumes lay ready for me to step into on October 31st, and my mother and I laughed as we decorated our home to the best of our combined creative strength. We made a little corner of the West in our post-communist apartment.
It would be hard to overstate how much American culture has shaped the people of my generation. Which is why all these recent developments have left me so distraught. How can the country which invented Halloween—perhaps the quintessential community holiday—treat its people so poorly? Where is the America that blessed us with Coca-Cola, the Ford Thunderbird, Karate Kid, and McDonald’s? The America that broadcasted commercials with beautiful families gathered around the dinner table, laughing and gorging themselves on Big Macs? Where has that magic gone?
Once upon a time, America was like our big brother: a guiding light, a standard. These days, that big brother has lost his way, corrupted by charming conmen and gun-toting berserkers. Perhaps it’s time we little siblings intervened.
Part 2: Alien Haiku
A Modern Prayer for the Modern Man
Saucer in the sky,
Bless us with your light. Warp us
To a better place.
Push, the nurses screamed,
But there was no need—the thing
Had clawed its way out.
That fall, in the fields,
Strange signs appeared on the ground—
The green ones were here.
That’s it! I hope you enjoyed this spooky offering. Now tell me something. What’s your most cherished Halloween memory?
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