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Daniel Ruth

Night of the living brain-dead

You there! Yes you! Very slowly, put that Michael Jackson mask down — now! Put it down! And while you're at it, remove the glove, the creepy black wig and those hideous spandex gold lame pants.

You are a 53-year-old white male who weighs 273 pounds. And you are only 5'6". You simply cannot go to your job as an insurance actuary dressed as a dissolute dead pop star. Not today. Not ever. Stop it, stop it right now!

How did this happen to us? It really wasn't all that long ago when Halloween was simply a cute little evening as drooling, ungainly children dressed up as Tinkerbell, or Spider-Man or Snow White and tapped on the door, received their Baby Ruth (what else?) candy bar and went on their way to annoy the next-door neighbor.

And then this simple one-night stand of tots having a bit of fun somehow became completely co-opted into unnerving strangeness. Adults got involved.

Nothing ruins what should simply be a joyful children's experience — youth baseball, mere playtime, Halloween — more than adults deciding to butt in.

You have probably seen this around your neighborhood — homes and lawns decked out with tombstones, orange lights, faux bones sticking up from the ground, Grim Reapers everywhere and ghostly images hanging from tree limbs.

It's the Holy Night, Saw II Night. Come all ye baleful.

This is hardly an original thought, but parents spend 364 days a year scaring the living bejabbers out of their children about the looming dangers of predators lurking in the bushes waiting to snatch them away, forever warning youngsters about talking to strangers, much less accepting candy from them, only to blithely urge their progeny to approach in the darkness of the evening blood-stained porches inhabited by ghouls and monsters to ask for cheap sweets.

This is not a national holiday. It is a plot by the American Dental Association and the Chinese Political Prisoner Costume Manufacturers cartel to get you to buy confections and embarrassing getups to make a total rube of yourself in the workplace.

Think about this, Bunky. You are in line to get promoted to assistant associate junior vice president of bean counting and you are about to show up for work in drag looking like Cher. Put that mascara down! Now! And the lip gloss, too.

Or you are a young woman with a masters, a doctorate and a law degree still trying to crack the glass ceiling and you are planning to meet with a Fortune 500 client posing as flesh-decaying zombie. And you wonder why you are not taken seriously?

But the weirdness, the chintziness, doesn't stop there.

Forbes magazine estimates Americans will spend $4.75 billion — that's BILLION!!!! — on Halloween geegaws this year, an incredible figure to be sure, until you realize that number is significantly lower from the 2008 night of the living brain-dead.

Or put another way, Carole Rome Crist, the J.D. Salinger of Florida first ladies, still works as a consultant for her family's Franco American Novelty Co., one of the nation's largest purveyors of Halloween trivialities. Or put another way, her lifestyle has been financed by unsuspecting consumers who want to arrive at work decked out as Sasquatch, or Lady Gaga, or Luke Skywalker.

You have to believe that at some point today someone will walk into a bank to close on a real estate deal and find themselves sitting across from a financial institution employee pimped out as Bernie Madoff. How comforting.

This weekend in Ybor City, as if it wasn't already strange enough once the sun sets, the place will be inundated with adults strolling the byways in the full regalia of dancing gnomes, cartoon characters and hookers. Wait a minute! Those are really hookers. Sorry for the confusion.

You know someone really needs to get a life when the life they are pretending to be is — Jon Gosselin.

An admission. I come by my Halloween cynicism honestly.

I still have vivid memories from the 1950s watching my parents getting ready to go to a Halloween party, my father dressed up as Ed Norton from the old Honeymooners show, wearing a fedora with the brim turned up, a white T-shirt and a vest. My mother, naturally, was turned out as Trixie.

My mother may have served many maternal roles as I was growing up, but a Trixie she wasn't.

Oh the shame, the abject traumatic horror of it all!

You see something like that and you are forever scarred for life — or least one night a year.

Night of the living brain-dead 10/29/09 [Last modified: Thursday, October 29, 2009 6:40pm]

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