I know there are few things as interesting as dull as recounting their holidays, but relax: I don't regard Halloween as a holiday. Is there mail? Does Wall Street surge or fade? Yes? Then it's not a holiday. But the moment November kicks in, Halloween is pushed away with stern resolve, almost like everyone wakes up next to someone they regretted taking to their bed. The world seems a wee bit embarrassed for spending a month on that foolishness. It was fun to anticipate it; it was amusing to see everything in the stores go orange and black, to see the cliched iconography grafted onto every possible product, but all of a sudden you realize you are in the province of November, a stern month, a long and serious month of grave duties and diminishing joys, at least until the end. Seeing a ghost hang from the tree on November 1st is like seeing Santa on a lawn in February.
We had a lot of kids, but not as many as before. It ebbs, rises, declines, retreats. The dog barked himself hoarse. My wife dressed up to go down to the Haunted Triangle down the street, but for a while sat in the rocking chair by the door reading a Tom Wolfe book, looking very elegant in her bat costume. She had bat ears and tiny wings. She'd bought them for the dog, but he'd had none of that.
"Now that I am Batgirl," she said, "you could be Batman."
I thought about the relationship between the two and wondered if it fit the marital narrative.
"Don't all men want to be Batman?" she asked.
"All men think they are Batman," I said, "and most men also know they are not Batman. We can only hope we could be Batman if we had to be."
I thought of guy I'd seen down at the Haunted Triangle; he was Batman. Except he had a yellow cape that only came halfway down his back. This had the effect of utterly unbatmanification, like dressing up as Superman but having a T on your chest.
There was a fire down at the Triangle, as always; there was chili, as always. Plates of food, neighbors in costumes. There wasn't a bouncy house, but that was just one year, long ago. There weren't any lights strung, because the two big trees were chopped down a few years back, and the guy who used to string them - that was his job, dressing sets, doing lights - wasn't here any more. Divorce. In a part of town like this, where we do get together now and then, and especially in this peculiar location where the houses rise up the hills and face each other around the Triangle, the word still has its thunderclap power, and you just sag when you hear the news. Because it's a shame. But it's been a while and time goes on and here's the fire, and here's the chili, and where are the kids? You talk to the dads with whom you walked up and down the blocks a few times, talking about Work, talking about Tech - the kids are out there, somewhere, wherever, on their own.
I had taken daughter to a party at a house on the nearest lake, an enormous brightly-lit mansion where a school chum - public school, mind you - lived. Last year was the last year they could possibly have gotten away with trick-or-treating, and now it's the obligatory Parties where you stand around and realize that the world will be like this for quite a long time, atoms looking for a nucleus to orbit. While I was standing outside talking to the dads about how the kids are out there, somewhere, I got a text that Daughter was heading to another party. Via Uber. Her friends had judged this party to be insuperior to the possibilities presented by another, and daughter had downloaded the Uber app, signed up, used her card, and called a ride.
I stared at the screen with mild surprise and admiration, but could not help thinking that it was just a week or month or year or two ago I got that twinge in the gut when she turned the corner out of my sight to hit another house.
At evening's end I talked to Daughter about how it felt to not have a bag of loot, to not sit on the floor and perform Candy Triage, to be thrown into the social whirl of Halloween and experience all the naiscient pressures that would only be compounded, and arise as a hydra-headed contrast to the simplicities of childhood.
"Yeeeeahhh, it's okay."
And then she told me about the hot chocolate she made for herself at work when they were cleaning up, and how it had more water than milk because the milk had been put away, and she said "Not that I would know, but I imagine it tasted like police station hot chocolate," which made me laugh out loud. And few things do.
Earlier that day the Giant Swede and I went to the coffee shop where Daughter works, and I met the owners; to my amazement, I knew the owner's wife from college years. She worked at the Daily in the library. And now she is my daughter's boss. It's a big town. It's a small town. When I picked up daughter from work later she said she'd been talking to her boss about conspiracy theories, and they'd had fun discussing all the strange ideas floated on the internet - the myth of the Middle Ages, the faked moon landing, space stuff, the hollow earth. When she said "Space Stuff" I wondered if they'd discussed that satellite that some think is an alien artifact, and I waited for her to bring it up so I could casually say "oh, you mean. . . " and talk about that cool thing. But it didn't come up.
Later while driving her to the mansion party I mentioned how Mom thought I could be Batman.
"Oh - the Dark Knight," Daughter said. "Not Batman."
"The conspiracy theories! The Dark Knight! Have you heard -"
"The satellite, right! The object in space that NASA covers up."
"Right! That's so freaky."
"Do you think it's real?"
I don't know. I can't say one way or the other. I don't have enough evidence. Probably not. But earlier that day I had texted her a picture. Spooky Ooky. See, many years ago when she was small, and Rolie Polie Olie ruled our mornings, the pumpkinesque apparition known as Spooky Ooky was part of Halloween. Only for a few years, of course. After that it was a reference. Then it was something I watched by myself with rue, and then it was something I filed away. But we talked about it on Friday on the way to Goodwill (she wanted to buy vintage jeans, Mom jeans, those being the rage of the moment) and she remembered how Spooky Ooky had given her the requisite shivers. How Zoey had danced up the pumpykin stairs. How Spooky was possibly evil, but possibly not. Then we split up so she could look for jeans and I could look for old bad records. I found a thick wad of LPs whose presence said "Grandma died, kids dumped off stuff." Somewhere in the store was a ceramic cookie jar she'd stocked when the grandkids came over, I'm sure. Grandma's remains were scattered all over the shelves.
Anyway. Between 11:45 and Noon I knew Daughter would be walking from the church Pumpkin Lot to work, and I just texted her a picture of a grinning pumpkin demon rendered in the 1998 CGI.
SPOOKY OOKY she texted back.
HE IS REAL, I typed.
I BELIEVE, she replied.
I don't think she'll ever forget Spooky Ooky.
Let's pad out two weeks of entries with some pictures from my favorite antique store / museum. Everything changes all the time, but that's the same for life outside the store.
A curtain-fixture tool for the Traveling Salesman. It's huge and weighs 16 pounds; the Traveling Salesman must have tired of schlepping this thing around.
There had to be an easier way to convey this information.
Well, here's something you rarely see in a mystery movie:
Not really. The movie opens with some extraneous information that really only needed two words:
And those would be "London, 1902." So: here's our hero, or protagonist, or the fellow we're supposed to care about. Did he kill this one . . . .
. . . for this one?
Laughton is a nice fellow. A decent fellow. He’s not in the Pathetic Mode of, say, Edward G in a Fritz Lang movie about an old man mooning after a strumpet. The young lady is Decent and Kind.
And she's Ella Raines, so she's got to be innocent-until-proven-married.
One night the harridan wife really lays into Laughton, and the next day we hear the locals gossiping about what a shame it was, that nice lady falling down the stairs and breaking her neck.
So: did he do it? I won’t spoil that. I’m here to give you some examples of the wonderful things they did in the 40s in black and white.
Then there’s this guy.
Henry Daniell. Perfect for despicable men who know they’re despicable and hate themselves for it but not so much that they’d change, because they rather like being a rotter. Low-rent George Sanders, in other words. Wikipedia:
He married Ann Knox, and in the years following the Second World War lived in Los Angeles, California.
He and Ann were involved in a Hollywood sex scandal in the late 1930s. Visiting author P.G. Wodehouse wrote to his stepdaughter Leonora about the couple:
Apparently they go down to Los Angeles and either (a) indulge in or (b) witness orgies – probably both … there’s something pleasantly domestic about a husband and wife sitting side by side with their eyes glued to peepholes, watching the baser elements whoop it up. And what I want to know is – where are these orgies? I feel I’ve been missing something.
Reviews say it’s based on the Crippen murders, and I suppose that’s possible up to a point. If you recall that case, the patent-medicine salesman killed his nagging wife and tried to run off with his girlfriend, who was disguised as a much younger child. The story was retold in various media; it was a template, just as Jack the Ripper was a template for “Lodger”-type stories.
One more thing. The Harridan was reading a magazine in bed.
||I had to see if I could find it, and I did.
If you doubt me, well, I googled a description of the back cover of the issue, and by Crom I found THAT.
The internet, ladies and gentlemen. The Internet.
That's it for today! See you tomorrow.