Halloween is a big thing is this country. Knowing that I forced myself to go out although I didn’t really feel like it. I toured the neighborhood to watch the New York version of Trick or Treat and went downtown for the Village Parade afterwards. The real fun however was waiting for me when I got back home: carving pumpkins and watching Ghostbusters.
I could have spent the whole day writing that little memoir I’m working on. I was not in the mood to go anywhere. Not at all. Halloween or not. But could I spend Halloween in New York ignoring it? Not a good idea. So at 4 pm I put on my coat and stepped out into the world. What I found out there was very disappointing then.
There was nothing going on in Astoria’s residential streets. They were creepily quiet. Groups of kids were touring the business streets, Steinway Street, Broadway and 30th Avenue They were costumed but not necessarily frightening. There were little butterflies and historic figures as well. Most of them carried an orange colored bucket or bag. They were walking from shop to shop where somebody was standing at the door handing them a piece of candy.
They didn’t even have to say something, just collect the candy. Not just from groceries but from all kind of shops, restaurants and bars. Laundromats as well as real estate agencies. Some shops had a sign in their window saying “No candy”.
Little kids were accompanied by their mothers. And some mothers were happily carrying their buckets when they seemed to be too heavy for their little ones. Like all those mothers at home who carry schoolbags because they must be too heavy for the poor little kid. I think if a bucket of candy is getting too heavy for a kid then it is enough. One girl was driven from place to place along Broadway in her father’s big black Mercedes. No comment on that. At not even 5 pm, before it started to get dark, more and more shops posted “No more candy, sorry!”.
I am a visitor to this country and I know I have to be careful about criticizing. But what I watched this afternoon has nothing to do with the tradition of Halloween I read about and people were telling me about. It is nothing more than collecting sweets that are readily handed out. Without any effort. Where is the fun in that?
Having seen what Halloween is like in a New York neighborhood I got interested in seeing what was going on in the City’s hot spots like Times Square. I caught a train at Steinway Street and went there. Yes, I went to Times Square voluntarily! But there was nothing halloweeny going on there. It was pretty quiet in fact. Just some smurfs outside Toys R Us were around for photos. Some people were studying the TKTS board others were just hurrying to somewhere.
I walked east to Rockefeller Center. Same thing there. Nothing about Halloween. The ice rink was just prepared for the season.
5th Avenue as well didn’t show anything spooky. Business as usual.
I took a train to the Village, to see the parade, starting at 7 pm. In the train I met a lot of people in costumes on their way to either the parade or a party. I got off at West 4 Street. When I got out of the station on 6th Avenue I found myself right in a crowd. 6th Avenue was lined by barriers and bulks of people were waiting on both sides behind them already. I thought I might not have chosen the best spot and tried to walk south towards the parade’s starting point at Spring Street. Walking south was everything but easy because some side streets could not be crossed. I had to walk over to 7th Avenue to get further south. Finally I stayed between King and Charlton Streets and stood there in third row. The timing of the parade was good. A couple of minutes past 7 policemen on horses came by, forming the beginning. What came behind them was simply amazing. Groups of people having a theme and costumed individuals. The parade is open to everybody and all those people walking in it had put great effort in their outfits. There were skeletons, pumpkins, bats and dragons. A group beetle like little carts with illuminated covers, frighteningly designed faces. A bit of everything. It was really fun just to watch.
I didn’t watch the whole parade. It started raining and after standing in the rain for a quarter of an hour I decided I had seen enough and started to go home.
That was not easy at all. The next subway would have been on 6th Avenue and Houston Street but it was not possible to get there. So I walked over to 7th Avenue to catch the 1 train there. There were lines at the turnstiles. They only have the revolving ones there, which are much slower. But I caught the second train at least. In the crowded train a black woman was standing right in front of me. She was a remarkable appearance. Her hair, dyed in a golden tone and braided, covered the edge of her tight mini skirt. The man sitting next to me could not resist in touching it to see if it is real.
When I got home there was a surprise waiting for me. Rachel and Noel had a friend over. They were sitting on the sofa with pink cat ears on their heads and cat noses hanging loosely around their necks, chatting, drinking wine and eating homemade cookies. In the middle of the room a table had been set up with stools around it. On the table seven little pumpkins were sitting, waiting to be carved.
I had no knowledge at all about carving pumpkins. Rachel had bought a set of carving tools and we each got a knife and a spoon. First step was cutting off the top or the bottom. Then the pumpkin was hollowed out with the spoon or a special kind of scraper. After that the artwork begins, giving the pumpkin a face. My pumpkin ended up being not really frightening. I found it too nice. Rachel said the eyes are creepy though.
The artist among us was Noel. She carved Scenes into her pumpkins. One of them showed a crooked hand the other a flying bat. Gorgeous!
While carving pumpkins we watched Ghostbusters, a cheesy 1980s movie about hunting ghosts in New York. It was fun, both the carving and the movies. When the pumpkins were finished and the movie was over we lightened them and watched them for a while before we all went to bed.
What I learned today:
How to carve a pumpkin