No Time for Tricks ~ No Taste for Treats

With goblins, ghoulies, and ghosties skulking along the edge of consciousness. and with every horror movie that refuses to die — Psycho, Vertigo, Rebecca — being pulled from its grave, it must be Halloween.

While more sensitive little ones delight in dressing up as princesses or pirates, blood is dripping and body parts are piling up for the vampires, zombies, and other unspeakable creatures of the night who seek to displace chainsaw-wielding psychopaths as the epitome of evil terror. 

Apparently, there’s gold in them thar dismemberments. From neighborhood haunted houses to Universal Studios’ famous Halloween Horror Nights, everyone  is trying to take a bite out of the consumer.  Since we love to be entertained, and we love to be scared when we know it doesn’t count, the witches’ brew of  Dia De Los Muertos skeletons, decorated graves, black cats, and whacked-out pumpkins makes Halloween our perfect holiday. All those sugar highs are lagniappe.
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Birth of a 4th-Grade Radical

Once upon a time, a petite, sloe-eyed little girl whose primary gift is the ability to melt adult hearts upon contact and whose nickname is “Princess” determined to take on her school district’s move from Halloween Party to Harvest Festival.

Like every child above the age of five, she emails and texts regularly. In the process of chatting with her cousins, she discovered each of them attends a school where Halloween parties are allowed. In their emails, her cousins told delicious stories of pre-Halloween activities: pumpkin carving, bat origami, spider-web draping and skeleton-making. All of this, of course, is simply a precursor to The School Party, a celebration of a day that on the Scale of Childhood Preferences may be second only to Christmas or Hanukkah.

For the Sloe-Eyed Princess’ cousins, there will be sugary cupcakes and candy, “Cauldron Punch”, “Grave Robber Gumdrops” and “Casket Cake”. One cousin is to narrate a class performance of Edgar Allen Poe’s The Raven. Another is writing a poem that, while still under wraps, seems to involve a few body parts and a Brave Prince.

Best of all, each of the Little Sloe-Eyed Princess’ cousins will be given the freedom to dress in traditional Halloween costumes. At last year’s parties there were pirates, bed-sheeted ghosts and baby dolls, a Tinkerbell and a chain-gang prisoner. (The prisoner has parents who tend to watch a lot of early films. A lot.) There was the obligatory skeleton, a couple of vampires and an improvised ghoul. Everyone had fun, no one seemed to be traumatized, and everyone agreed the teacher dressed as a punk-rocker deserved her prize. Continue reading

Start Where You Can Start, Do What You Can Do

Whether you’ve been day sailing in Galveston Bay or managed an offshore jaunt to another Texas port, everyone has to come home. Tacking or reaching through the Gulf, moored buoys mark the shipping lanes and jetties.  Chirping and moaning across the waves, their bells, whistles and horns speak an ageless sea-language, and patterned flashes of light make them easily recognizable even for the night watch.

Slipping through the bay, there are day markers to look for – numbered red triangles and green squares on posts – or smaller red and green buoys.  If you have a chart (you DO have a chart, don’t you?), you know what to look for. When you find it, you know where you are.

Probably the most well-known aid to navigation in Galveston Bay is Marker #2. Attached to a scarred post that’s been replaced a few times, the red triangle alerts boaters to the beginning of the Clear Creek channel. A traditional navigational mantra reminds boaters to keep “Red, Right, Returning”.  Coming in from sea, the prudent skipper keeps red markers on the right, green on left, and the vessel in between for safe pasage.

Because Galveston Bay is so shallow, it’s always safest to enter the channel where the markers begin.  Sometimes folks will cut into or out of the channel between markers 2 and 4, where the water still is deep enough to carry smaller boats. But generally speaking, boats line up and take their turn, counting down the markers through the Channel into Clear Lake.

At least they did before Hurricane Ike.  Now, an eye for debris, a compass course or great familiarity with the channels are the only sure guides to safe passage because many markers apparently are gone, washed away in the surge. I say “apparently” because channel markers have begun to pop up in odd places –  a green marker in a pile of debris at Lakewood Yacht Club, a red light on a pier in Seabrook shipyard.

Last week, I was startled to find Marker #4 propped up against a fence on Second Street in Seabrook, just across from the Post Office. Surrounded by piles of debris and household goods that had been brought out into the sunshine to dry. it seemed less a guide to navigation than a memento mori for a way of life. Continue reading