And now, The Observer’s Big Idea for Little Rock, which we fully expect to go nowhere, even if it would be crazy fun and cool and bring to our burg one of those things that we always hear folks complain only happens in other cities where things actually happen. Still, we figger if we’re not going to actually use this precious space in the marketplace of ideas to push for the stuff that would actually make this city we love into a city we love even more, we prolly oughta hang up our spurs and call it quits. So here goes:
It’s probably November where you are now, reading this, all the Halloween candy eaten and the skeletons packed away for another boring 364 days, a full winter and spring and summer to go before the blessed month of October rolls round again. October has always been our favorite month. Call us an old fart if you must, but by Oct. 1, The Observer is always sick and gatdamn tired of hot weather in every way possible, ready to stuff those sunbunnies who live for summer, margaritas and suntan oil into a barrel and push them down a boat ramp in their flipflops and cutoff shorts.
October! Now that’s a month! After the wholesome, back-to-school goodness of August and September, but before the schmaltzy, sugarplum sweetness of Thanksgiving and Christmas (the latter of which The Observer never took much a shine to other than as an opportunity to eat more pie), we get one bare month of the year when it’s OK to be a bit moody and dark, to contemplate the mysterious and the spooky and those things that move by night.
Back when Junior was a lad, we celebrated our love of Halloween and October in grand style in the front yard of The Observatory, along with a blowout Halloween party to which we invited a truckload of our kin. There for a solid decade in the 2000s and early 20-teens, our yard sprouted anybody’s definition of an attractive nuisance the last weekend of September, complete with a 15-occupant graveyard of lovingly crafted foam headstones, a rickety black picket fence, and a set of leaning cemetery gates with the word “CEMETERY” above, set off in glowing red neon. One year, we even had a ghost on a wire, powered by the motor from an old box fan we’d cannibalized, our captive spook zipping back and forth from tree to tree trailing an appropriate length of cheesecloth shroud. Another October, The Observer built a wooden crate for one corner of the veranda that, when activated by a pressure plate hidden under the welcome mat, shook and rattled, the chained lid banging up and down while monstrous growls — recorded by Yours Truly in our cozy, echoing bathroom — issued forth.
For us, Halloween has become the greatest thing one can do with underpants on, a chance for adults to be kids again and for kids to consider an insulated-by-fun glimpse of all those things that you must confront as an adult: the unknown, the macabre, the unsettling. Don’t tell anybody, lest they think Spouse and Her Loving Man as oddballs, but to this day, the dining hall of The Observatory, which also does duty as a library, cat rumpus room and Junior’s computer cafe, is decorated year-round in Halloween style, with foam pumpkins and skulls and great Halloween decorations of yore that we cooked up once upon a time.
And so, a modest — and not altogether unselfish — proposal for Little Rock: Let’s start the tradition of decorating Hillcrest, Stifft Station and/or Capitol View for Halloween with the same vigor other Little Rock neighborhoods decorate for Christmas. In a city that always seems to be looking for ways to set itself apart as something other than a place to stop for gas and a pee break on the way somewhere else, a bit of Halloweentown Spirit could quite quickly become a major claim to fame. Hand out some awards from City Hall for Best Halloween Decorations. Get some attention from the folks with satellite vans. You know, the important stuff.
Already in Little Rock, there are a few weirdoes like The Observer who have shown us the way, doing up Halloween right every year at two houses at Markham and Mississippi with a platoon of skeletons warring on the lawn and creepy lighting galore. How fun it would be to have houses like that for block upon block! The Observer gets positively giddy at the prospect.
#HauntHillcrest2020 and #SpookifyStifft- Station is a long shot, but worth a shot. Next year, we’ve already decided, we’re going to lead by example, dragging all the foam headstones and Halloween goodies out of mothballs and setting them up again out front of our little house on Maple Street, in the way we haven’t since Junior was a lad. It’s the least we can do, we figure, for a month that gives us an obscene amount of joy. And if others want to join in, who are we to stop ’em? Maybe it’ll even become A Thing. This is, after all, the month when witches and spirits are said to walk the gloom, and tens of millions of strangers hand out free candy to any little beggar who wants to ring the doorbell. Given that, we figure anything is possible.