Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Hippy Halloween

I overheard a woman today talking about her kids' plans for Halloween. She and her neighbors got together and planned a Halloween scavenger hunt of sorts, where the kids go from house to house making crafts, playing games and enjoying heart-healthy treats such as carrots. Although I have no objections to their efforts to phase out the sugar glorification that is trick-or-treating, I did feel a tinge of regret for adventure lost to the new generation.

I grew up deep in the 'burbs, where rows and rows of houses stretched uninterrupted for miles. Most of the time, the area was as boring as plaid. But once a year, the pumpkins came out and the neighborhood glowed with endless opportunity. I was 10 or 11 - arguably a little too old for trick-or-treating - when I realized that given an infinite amount of time, the rate of gain also was infinite. But I had but limited time. I had one freakin' night. And I wanted to make the most of that infinite possibility of gain, so my friend and I formed a plot.

We set out as soon as we noticed the first trickle of toddlers hit the street. I believe it was about 4:30 p.m., with the afternoon sun still blazing over the mountains. I don't remember what my costume was. It hardly mattered. We tentatively knocked on a few doors, and when no one made a comment about us being out too early, we upped the pace.

We scoured our own neighborhood before darkness had even completely set in, so we crossed the busy highway and knocked on the first door in our first unfamiliar neighborhood. I looked down the street at the yellow lights illuminating dozens of waiting houses. I imagined the neighborhood beyond that and the neighborhood beyond that, and announced to my friend, "we should move faster."

She had no objections. Hoisting the now-bulging pillowcases over our shoulders, we raced - literally ran - from house to house, hastily knocking on doors, stretching out cramped arms and screaming 'trickertreat' in breathless gasps. As soon as the Kit Kat hit the stash, we broke into sprints renewed - probably leaving the homeowners more than a little bewildered at their open doors. But it didn't matter. We were in a race against time, no longer hearing exclamations of "aren't you a little old?," "my, you have a lot of candy in there," and "do I know you?" We ran by one house that was handing out Dixie cups of hot chocolate. My friend looked longingly at the relaxed trick-or-treaters sipping their hot drinks, but I grabbed her hand and urged her to pass the house by. "Waste of time!" I said.

With that, 7 p.m. became 8 p.m. became 9 p.m., and the miles just flew by. It's easy in the fog of memory to exaggerate distances, but I'll use this example: My dad and I did I five-mile run when I went to visit last year. I had definitely trick-or-treated beyond the furthest reaches of that run. By the time people really started to complain about the late hour or outright refused to give us candy, our pillowcases were so full it was hard to keep them closed, let alone hoist them the two or so miles we had left to walk home. I can recall few other times in my life when I was so proud of my accomplishments.

I imagine those women I overheard today would have called me greedy. I like to think of it more of Halloween capitalism, and a great adventure race at that - prowling those dark, unfamiliar streets in a whirl of adrenaline and endorphins. I find it hilareous to think that my youthful candy obsession may have sowed the seeds of my current bicycle riding obsession. It's like that Gumpism - life is a box o' chocolates. You really do never know what you're gonna get.