Tag Archives: halloween

Lame Adventure 439: The Annual Halloween Scourge

As Halloween fast approaches, Jack O’Lanterns, black cats, creepy tales about ghosts and goblins abound. But my mind is drawn in the direction of something truly frightening. Something that has nothing to do with apparitions, zombies or cackling witches, but is infinitely more terrifying and gag-inducing:

Candy Corn

Candy Corn.

These pellets of tooth rotting mouth burn have been haunting the US and Canada since the 1880s. Made from all naturally bad ingredients — sugar, corn syrup, carnauba wax and artificial coloring, the National Confectioners Association estimates that 25 million pounds of this poison are sold annually.

Doomsday scenario: candy corn, roaches and rats inherit the earth.

Doomsday scenario: rats and roaches feeding on candy corn inherit the earth.

The name candy corn always sounded so appetizing to me as a child. I liked candy. I liked corn. I still like both candy and corn. But every time I ate candy corn I would feel bamboozled.

Me (as a child): This doesn’t taste anything like candy or corn! It tastes awful!

It was too sweet, too fake and if I ate more than two pieces at one time, I would feel like I had a sore throat for three days. To my sensitive palate, candy corn’s most prominent ingredient is irritation with tooth decay a close second. Possibly I am in the minority i.e., someone who is not drawn to foodstuffs that are derived from dual-purpose ingredients. Carnauba wax can also be used on cars, surfboards and to shine shoes. Shoe polish is more appetizing to me. I like its smell, not to imply that I’d also like it spread on a cracker.

As for candy corn’s artificial food coloring, what might it look like without it? Marlon Brando is famous for saying:

Marlon Brando: The most repulsive thing you could ever imagine is the inside of a camel’s mouth.

As I imagine what candy corn looks like in its natural state, hardened repugnant fluids are crossing my mind. I’d much rather take a gander deep down a camel’s gullet, but while wearing nose plugs.

As I think about rank scents, the overly sweet, cloying smell of candy corn is noxious to me. When I whiffed the contents of this bag of it …

Purchased from It's Sugar, first cousin of It's Tooth Decay.

Purchased from It’s Sugar, first cousin of It’s Cavities.

My eyes started watering and I suffered a wave of nausea. If Wayne Newton had been playing on the radio, I would have become physically ill.

It baffles me why something so toxic does not come with a Surgeon General’s warning. Anyone pregnant, nursing or would like to live beyond age sixty should not eat this cacophony of bad chemistry. I looked at a cross section of a piece of one where the bottom fell out. It appeared stuffed with something. My first guess is bad vibes. My second is the active ingredient in toenail fungus.

Candy corn innards.

Candy corn innards channeling Dr. Scholl.

Considering that 25 million pounds of this blight is sold annually, someone must do the unthinkable: eat it. How can this be? Who are these people? Could it be scoring a big hit with small fry who have underdeveloped taste buds? Or, the elderly who are so heavily medicated that their taste buds are obliterated? Who likes these toxic lumps? I want to know. Are they inbred, do they have the intellectual acuity of a small soap dish, do they hail from the town of Stepford?

25 million pounds is 12,500 tons. The Statue of Liberty weighs 125 tons. Who in the US and Canada is contributing to ingesting the equivalent of one hundred statues of liberty made out of sugar, car wax and artificial food coloring instead of the infinitely tastier combination of copper and steel? Here’s a scary thought: could I know someone that eats candy corn? I must, but who could that be? Neither of my parents were candy corn eaters. My dad liked peanuts and my mother, cheese. My siblings and niece are not candy corn eaters, either, and my brother-in-law, Herb, likes waffles. I’m a product of a completely candy corn-free family. But someone in my orbit must be doing his or her part to keep candy corn thriving ever since Grover Cleveland was president. Confounded, I vented my frustration about this bottomless pit of orange, yellow and white scourge haunting every Halloween to my trusted confidant, my best friend, Milton. He responded to my tirade with a photo of his desk at his Grind.

Milton's desk at his Grind.

Sucker punched.

Lame Adventure 392: Feeling Foolish While Silently Screaming

No argument from me.

No argument from me.

Halloween has never been my thing, but I gave it a shot back in the day when I stood armpit high to an upright meerkat, or if you prefer, when I was short and six. My mother suffered the migraine headache of a lifetime, more specifically one that spanned eleven minutes, deciding how to dress me. My first grade class peers in San Francisco circa 1965, were girls eager to be Cinderella, Snow White, Suzy Homemaker or a ballerina; the more demented ones, all four combined. Mom knew if she forced girly-girl garb on me, my reaction would be on par with starting a holy war. I wanted to be Superman, Zorro or a Beatle, even Ringo. None of these guys rated Mom’s seal of approval.

So hand in hand, Mom and I entered Woolworth’s where we reached a compromise solution: an urban caveman in a dress, Fred Flintstone.
My Fred costume was the cheap Ben Cooper brand made from flame retardant vinyl. It was comprised of a screen printed Fred tie and a smattering of black spots signifying either a pre-historic animal pelt or some scary melanoma. But the pièce de résistance was an allegedly ventilated plastic mask shaped like Fred’s smiling mug. The mask was held in place with a narrow elastic band that hugged the back of the head. Holes were cut in Fred’s eyes and in the vicinity of the nostrils guaranteeing that at precisely thirty-eight seconds of wear alleged ventilation would give way to minor asphyxiation and a face soaked in sweat.

At this juncture I should mention that not only was I short but I was slight in build. Or as my reliably image deflating mother was quick to say to anyone from my father to the butcher:

Mom: She’s forty-two pounds soaking wet!

Mom alternated this observation about my slender physical presence with another dose of confidence implosion.

Mom: She turns sideways and she disappears.

It never occurred to Mom to pad me to look more Fred-like. We just accepted the fact that I resembled Hunger Strike Fred. After completing her role in costuming me, Mom passed the baton to my father. It was Dad’s job to take me out trick or treating. Since most nights it was chilly in the City by the Bay and a damp foggy mist often hung in the air, Mom bundled me in my dark red corduroy coat, a coat that completely hid my costume prompting candy givers to ask:

Candy Giver: And who are you supposed to be?

Even at that tender age, I found it astounding how many people failed to recognize Fred from my mask. I wondered how culturally vapid were these folks? Looking back, this initial glimpse of cluelessness was good preparation for insights about the human race, offering hints that we descended from rocks.

Together, Dad and I trolled our neighborhood. I appeared on doorsteps in exchange for candy that would be inhaled back home by my two salivating older siblings, Dovima and Axel. They had stopped trick or treating years earlier so it was my job to take one for the team. I was grateful that they ate the candy. Born sweet tooth deficient, my snacks of choice were fistfuls of dry Cheerios, lightly buttered rye toast or if I was really lucky, a dish of boiled spinach drizzled with olive oil. My sister, Dovima, who to this day could still easily eat herself sick on milk chocolate if she did not keep both hands in restraints, often said to me:

Dovima: God, you’re weird.

If my mother had issues with my slight stature, Dad, in Mama Rose-style, was quick to stage direct my projection of the phrase, “Trick or treat.”  This was a phrase I tended to mumble in a near inaudible whisper. To this day, I remain soft spoken. My Ethel Merman-esque father is a guy who was born to shout from the rafters, “Sing out Louise!” On that brisk Halloween night, he groused at me.

Dad: What’s the matter with you? Why won’t you shout out ‘trick or treat’ so people can hear you?

As we bickered on an elderly widow’s doorstep, I insisted that was exactly what I was doing, but he disagreed. I knocked feebly on the lady’s door and said the go-to phrase in an anemic whisper. Dad resisted the urge to smash his head against a wall. We stood for a three count outside the lady’s closed door, waiting. Another three count passed. The response was the same, continued silence. Exasperated, Dad bellowed in a demanding 38-year-old male bass baritone that resonated throughout the entire neighborhood and possibly crossed the California state line deep into Nevada:

Dad: Trick or treat goddamn it!

The elderly widow’s porch light shut off. Dad and I were left standing in the dark.

Dad (with renewed calm): Let’s go to another house.

Back on the sidewalk he urged:

Dad: Don’t mention this to your mother.

Me: Deal.

Note: I wrote this post as a contribution to the series Remember the Time, a dumping ground for old school stories co-hosted by Emily at The Waiting, who has been very supportive of Lame Adventures, and Kelly of Are You Finished Yet?


Lame Adventure 111: Gay Christmas Preparation Time

Gertrude Stein’s most famous quote is a sentence she wrote in 1913 for a poem she penned called Sacred Emily. Stein wrote, “Rose is a rose is a rose is a rose.”  This quote is often interpreted to mean that things are what they are.  Had Stein written, “A Tazmanian Devil is a Tazmanian Devil is a Tazmanian Devil is a Tazmanian Devil,” instead, it is likely that this observation might have shot straight out the window and into oncoming traffic rather than standing the test of time for nearly a century.

Recently, I was walking up Broadway where I spotted Mike, dressed for work outside a Rickey’s Halloween pop-up store in a man-sized costume that brought to mind a six tall hound, located between West 77th and West 78th Streets.  If I were inclined to get a Halloween costume, Rickey’s would be my go-to source.  When I do shop there it is for unusual items, such as the cat-butt magnets that scored a big hit with my former sidekick, Jewel, on her birthday.

Formerly a Ruby Foo's restaurant; now Halloween costume shop central.

Bracing myself for Mike’s response I revealed the infinity of my ignorance and asked, “Who are you supposed to be?”  Barely able to hide his contempt for such an imbecilic question, he muttered in an annoyed tone, “Taz.”

Easily recognizable Taz.

In fairness to Mike, many decades ago when I went trick or treating, dressed as Fred Flintstone, nothing annoyed me more than some old-timer asking me, “And who are you supposed to be?”  I wanted to say, “Fred Fuckin’ Flintstone, you moron!”

My protective father hovered behind me like my very own personal Tazmanian Devil.  No sooner would the candy-giver close their door than my dad would channel his inner Ethel Merman/Mama Rose; a Rose Ms. Stein would surely see as unlike any other Rose had she the chance to catch the musical Gypsy.  My dad would be coaching me on how to announce, “Trick or treat!”  The more he urged me to “shout out” the quieter I’d get, to the point where I’d stand mute, and just tap an anemic knock on a door.  This drove my Type A personality father so crazy, he took it upon himself to stand behind me and voluminously bellow, “Trick or treat!”   A deep male voice emanating from a pint-sized girl – dressed as Fred Flintstone — thoroughly confused the candy givers, but somehow he and I got through Halloween together that year.  After we returned home I was popping the Milk Duds, and he, the Anacin.

I asked Mike if he had a choice of costumes.  He mentioned Super Mario and a character I had never heard of called Yoshi.   To camouflage my blank expression to the latter half of his response, I rubbed my chin, puffed my Sherlock Holmes pipe thoughtfully, and said, “Interesting.”  When I returned home, I immediately did a Google search on Yoshi who happens to be the dinosaur in Super Mario Brothers video games.  Small world.


What I remember most about my childhood Fred Flintstone costume was nearly asphyxiating behind the plastic mask that fit over my face with a string of elastic wrapped around my head.  Already, by the tender age of six, my nose was B cup bordering on C cup.  The pinpoint-size air holes just didn’t cut it with my industrial strength ventilation system.  I could not have been sweating harder than if I had been hiking the Sahara at noon as opposed to walking a few evening neighborhood blocks in chilly San Francisco with my dad.

It might seem perverse that my mother chose to dress her whippet-thin daughter as Fred Flintstone for Halloween.  Yet, she instinctively knew I would sooner throw myself in front of a moving bus than be seen in a tutu or some princess getup.  Therefore dressing me up as anorexic Fred was the perfect solution.

A real Taz Devil. "Dad, can we keep him for a pet? Can we, can we, can we? I want to call him Marvin!"