Halloween. Scary times. Seriously. My San Francisco childhood memories are of teenagers armed with eggs and shaving cream. One year someone threw Nair at my friend Libby, who lost a large clump of blonde hair from the back of her head.
When I was a fifth grader, a group of teenagers waged war on our front steps. Afterward, my parents had to hire a contractor to sandblast dried egg and black spray paint from the front of our brick house.
The worst year of all someone took a baseball bat to the rear window of every parked car for three blocks. The asphalt glistened with shattered glass. This was Presidio Heights.
In contrast, Alameda's Gold Coast is the October page torn from a Norman Rockwell calendar. Our girls are grown now, and I don't have to think about making costumes, or coming up with a different costume for a child who changes her mind on October 30th and absolutely, positively must be an alien from Roswell instead of Disney's Little Mermaid. Nowadays, I get to "Ooh" and "Ah" at every other parent's hard work and the adorable short people who come to our door.
At dusk, we position our chairs by the front door and once it starts, there is usually a continuous line up our front steps. We invite a few friends over for pizza (no time to cook on Halloween…) and trade off manning the door. Last year we counted over 600 trick or treaters, and the houses closer to San Antonio get even more.
Almost every child is polite and grateful. One sweet girl stepped onto our front hall rug, spun in a full circle, and said to me, "I like what you've done with this place!" When I complimented another girl's canvas candy bag, she replied, "Thanks! I got it at the Gaslight Emporium - two bucks!" Later, Si asked me what she said to make me smile so wide. I said, "Never mind. It's a girl thing." There's just something magic about buying a gorgeous bag at a bargain price.
For years our neighbors Ted and Victoria Holgerson held an annual pumpkin carving party. Their yard was filled with neighbors, friends, Boy Scouts and countless Holgersons (big family). We would carve, help our children carve, or ignore carving altogether to gossip and drink wine. The next day, Ted would cart the carved pumpkins across the street to his father's yard and create a graveyard scene worthy of Michael Jackson's Thriller. Ted and Vicki's boys are grown and they retired from the pumpkin carving business, but the Holgerson graveyard remains—headstones, hay bales and all.
On the next block of Bay, there's a huge pumpkin face staring down from multiple windows, and another yard with Peanuts characters waiting for the Great Pumpkin. This one wins the prize for truly green decorations; they recycle their pumpkins for Christmas by painting them white and turning them into snowmen. Al Gore would be proud, indeed.
Hands down, my good friends Peter and Monte on San Antonio, have the best Halloween decorations on the entire island. They spend most of the year searching the Alameda Point Antiques Fair for vintage decorations. Their dining room glows orange. It's downright beautiful! The Hallmark Channel should pink slip Martha Stewart and let Peter take over. I don't know Martha personally, but I heard rumors that she can be difficult, and Peter and Monte are two of the kindest people I know.
Although Alameda is not nearly as scary as the big City, Halloween can give small children bad dreams. One year our friend, Eric Pedley, opened our door to a little girl who looked a bit apprehensive. Eric bent down to her eye level, smiled and gently said, "I don't blame you. There are bad people everywhere!" Her eyes grew wide. She grabbed her candy and ran down our steps at warp speed. Sweet, mild mannered Eric looked dumbfounded as he shut the door. He is not the type of fellow who would ever intentionally frighten anyone, and thus it became a favorite Lewis family line. "There are bad people everywhere!"
Unfortunately, it's true that there are bad people everywhere. But I know plenty of good ones, too, right here in Alameda. They knock themselves out decorating their yards, carving their pumpkins and buying candy in bulk. They keep their eggs in their cartons, their shaving cream on the shelf, and if they frighten small children, it's certainly unintentional. At day's end as the sky darkens and the street lamps come on, they to man their post by the front door to watch the children's costume parade. These are, indeed, the good old days.
So come on over! We'll be ready. Extra candy for anyone who mentions Patch, particularly if you flatter the local columnist. Happy Halloween!