A Writer’s Life in October

Such busy, busy days and nights, and so much happening! It’s been one of the best Octobers I can remember in quite awhile. For the most part, the weather has been gloriously warm and sunny, and I’ve spent as much time outdoors as possible. (The sun is so rare in Niigata that when it comes out, you drop everything and run outside in full absorption mode.)

Seriously, where to begin? First, the Fan Art is beginning to roll on Cricket‘s website, and they’ve got the first three pictures up of “The Star Shard” done by young readers. (www.cricketmagkids.com) I can’t describe the feeling of seeing artwork drawn for a story that entered the world through my mind and fingers. It’s humbling . . . it’s moving . . . it’s awesome . . . it’s — well, indescribable! Actually, it’s the second time I’ve had this rare joy. The first was years ago, when a teacher friend cajoled his students into drawing various villains from Dragonfly. I still treasure those. When kids draw the Harvest Moon heavies, they’re terrifying!

Second, just today, a friend passed along to me a review of Dragonfly written by a friend of hers on LiveJournal. (Ooh, am I allowed to say that on WordPress?) It’s truly uplifting to know that someone somewhere curled up with my old book and spent the day riveted. That’s the wonder of art. That poor book has been wandering around out in the world for close to a decade now — knocked around, remaindered, pulped, offered for sale on Amazon for a penny. . . . But it still connects with readers now and then. It still offers a world to escape into. This reviewer gave it an “A+.” She writes:

“Today was a good day. I spent it in bed under my pink polka-dot blanket reading page after page of Dragonfly until I could read no more and it was finished. /…/ I found it utterly fantastic. /…/ Frederic S. Durbin creates an entire world in only 350 pages [sounds like the paperback], and I would have to say that the world he creates is one of the biggest, most creative worlds I have ever ventured to by way of reading. /…/ Throughout the end chapters of this book I found my eyes welling with tears. I honestly did not know how this book would end up until the very last battle, and even then I had my doubts; but I will leave you to find out which side prevails.

“I think that everyone that enjoys embracing the dark side of life or ever wonders what hides in the shadows of a dark room will enjoy this book because it acknowledges our worst fears. I also think that anyone that enjoys female leads will find entertainment in this novel. Dragonfly is a strong and witty little girl wise beyond her years.”

Soli Deo gloria! And thank you, o thou friend-of-a-friend!

So, I’m about to head to Calgary for this year’s World Fantasy Convention. I’m really excited about that, as you can imagine! I’m scheduled to do a 30-minute reading again this year. Last time, I opted for three shorter selections to fill the half-hour, going for variety. This time, for the sake of experimentation, I’m planning to use the whole time to deliver one unified whole — namely, the Brigit and Phocion section from “Seawall,” the last novelette in Agondria. I chose that one because it’s an encapsulated, standalone tale, and because I think it’s some of the best writing in that book. (It gives me a little chance to act, too! Oh, the drama! “Alas, poor Yorick!”)

At the Convention, I’m also planning to have lunch with my agent on Friday. It will actually be our first face-to-face meeting. He is truly worth his weight in gold and then some — he’s working so hard to get my novel-length version of “The Star Shard” sold to the best possible publishing house. (I’m now thinking of calling that novel The Star Shard. Isn’t that brilliant and innovative? Maybe some fans of the story will notice a connection between the titles!)

While I’m dropping phrases like “my agent” and sounding all like a hoity-toity writer, I’ve got to tell you about a day I spent recently. The theme of this posting is a writer’s life in October, and this day in question, my major activities really sound like I’m living the writing life — like a page from the G.Q. of Writers, if such a magazine existed. Heh, heh — read on:

First (this is all one day, mind you), I made notes on a bundle of my poems from my old chapbook Songs of Summerdark at the request of a colleague at the university. She’s a composer who delights in setting words to music, and she wants to take a whack at some of my poems. So I was going through picking out poems, suggesting instrumentation, and writing notes on what I was trying to capture in the poems and what I thought the instruments and voices should be doing. It will be great fun to see what she comes up with!

Second, I worked on timing my reading for the Convention. The only way to do that is to read it more-or-less aloud from beginning to end and notice how much time elapses. I ended up cutting a bit from the middle.

Third, I put together a promotional package of some things for The Star Shard to deliver to my agent when we meet. I try to keep him supplied with anything and everything that might be useful in selling the book.

Finally, I read and carefully critiqued a novelette for a good friend, which was pure joy, not work.

If that ain’t livin’ the writing life, I don’t know what is! I’m thankful for the chance to be here, to be now, to be doing the things I’m doing. It’s not a matter of course — it’s a matter of grace. I’m thankful for the sunlight this October. I’m thankful for my students . . . for words on paper . . . for imagination and the coming of Hallowe’en . . . for the gift of participation in this incredible, unforeseeable sprawl that is life.

Speaking of Hallowe’en: I’d like to encourage another round of reader participation. Are you all still out there? If so, we can’t let this holiday slip by without a proper celebration — a proper revel in smoky lantern light while shadows caper. Two questions I offer: you can (ideally) answer both — or one. (Answering neither is not an option!)

1. What do you do to celebrate Hallowe’en? If you love the season, what is one thing you do to make it particularly shivery and delightful? Dredge up your dearest All Hallows customs and confess them here! A certain mode of decoration? A way you greet the trick-or-treaters? A book or story you read in October? A traditional jack-o’-lantern face you carve? Anything at all . . . how do you greet the long shadow season?

2. What is your favorite Hallowe’en memory? This is your chance to go into detail on that time you. . . . Or when you made that. . . . Or when. . . . Childhood? The threshold between childhood and adulthood? Later still? What was a particularly memorable Hallowe’en for you?

Okay, I’ll get you started on the memories. One Hallowe’en I’ll never forget was 2005. That was the year my mom unexpectedly passed away on October 18. I flew back to the States to be with Dad and for the funeral and all. On the day of the funeral, the town was breathtakingly gorgeous — trees a miraculous palette of brilliant reds and golds. The procession of cars to the cemetery was the grandest Hallowe’en parade one could hope for — couldn’t have ordered a better day for Mom’s last ride through the town she loved. I saw a whole lot of friends and relatives that I don’t normally see — all very loving and friendly, all gazing into Eternity and aware of the brevity of life, all with an awareness of how much my mom had meant to them. A surreal time, when I’m normally teaching but wasn’t that year.

The town was decked out in Hallowe’en glory: fake tombstones like gray toadstools in yards; chokingly thick webs in trees, covering bushes; scarecrow figures, jack-o’-lanterns, ghoul dummies, witches, oddities, orange lights. . . .

I bought Hallowe’en candy, which yanked a crown off my tooth, and I had to go to the dentist. I bought pumpkins — big, orange pumpkins, so abundant and cheap in Illinois, so rare and expensive in Japan. I carved them, and my dad smiled. He said they looked like a couple, this one male, that one female. I took pictures of them.

I took the jack-o’-lanterns to my aunt’s house, because she has the best location ever for trick-or-treaters — no kidding. She’s right on the main street, in the safest neighborhood in town, where parents trust and everyone is home in well-lighted houses, and kids flock thicker than clouds in August. We set the jack-o’-lanterns on the porch and lit them. We set out my aunt’s Indian mannequins: a man and a woman (though the woman is really a man wearing a wig and a dress — a transvestite Indian). They have feathers and moccasins and fringe, and older kids love them, and middle-kids gaze at them in half-terror, and babies fear them and bawl, but still their moms carry them to the porch to receive their Hallowe’en treats. I am proud of how some kids whisper to each other about my jack-o’-lanterns — “Look at their pumpkins!”

My aunt lets me hand out the candy. We are both still somewhat numb in this world without my mom. My aunt makes popcorn, and we eat it in the brief intervals between visitors. The intervals are brief — we have something like 150 kids the first night and nearly 100 the next. We run out of candy and have to buy more for the second night. My aunt keeps a tally, making a mark on paper for every kid that comes to the door. We laugh in the quiet intervals and talk about how many of the girls seem to be dressed as hookers. There’s vampire hooker, witch hooker, and just plain hooker.

One of the most amazing things is how kids appear out of the night. They materialize from the darkness out by the street. Some cut straight across yards, through the drifts of dry leaves, crunch, crunch, crunch. But some — usually boys — RUN from the curb, a skeleton or a Scream-masked horror swooping toward our porch. Kids stand under the street lights, comparing loot, plotting their courses. Tall witch hats tip and bob as they speak. Many carry little sticks that glow in phosphorescent colors.

I comment on the kids’ costumes (though I avoid saying things like “Oh! A hooker!”). Isn’t it odd how most kids seem oddly disinterested in their costumes? One girl has a knife through her head, with blood trickling down her temples. I say, “Wow. You might want to have that looked at.”

I’m wearing a flannel shirt. For some reason, that sticks in my mind — that shirt, in that surreal October of grief and the Otherworld. Candy, candles, trick-or-treaters. Dragonfly hit the mass market that year; it’s in stores, in Barnes & Noble, in Waldenbooks — for a few brief months. I’m making it as a writer. I sit in a rocking chair opposite the door. I make the decisions about how much candy to put into each bag. My aunt sits off to the side, making her tally marks. She can see the kids through the plateglass window.

Toward the end of the evening, when the visitors trail off, and we’re eating the unpopped kernels that can break your teeth if you’re not careful, my aunt wants to call it quits. But I insist on staying open for business until the end of the time the city allows. I’m so low on candy that I can only put two or three pieces of boring stuff into each bag. But I want to stay as long as I can in my flannel shirt, up and down from my rocking chair, watching the dark, listening for the whisper and giggle of stragglers. A few bigger kids come, kids too old to be trick-or-treating — but, like me, clinging to this night.

This night. Hallowe’en. This year, this 2005, I’m  halfway through writing “The Bone Man.” Mom passed away during the restaurant scene, and I got a phonecall in Japan from the coroner, because no one else in my family could make the international phone number work. “The Bone Man” will go on to receive honors — publication in Fantasy & Science Fiction [Dec. 2007], translation into Russian, anthologization in Year’s Best Horror, honorable mentions from Dozois as a science-fiction tale and from Datlow as a fantasy/horror story. It will be on the ballot for Locus and for the International Horror Guild in their last-ever round of awards. It’s on the ballot against a Steven Millhauser story. A couple people nominate it for a Nebula. Wonder and love and family, sadness, childhood, adulthood . . . Japan, the U.S. . . . life, death, loss, success, crisp air, the imagination. . . . Everything flows together. The world turns toward winter, but on these nights, we’re linked to the earliest times, the beginnings. We are all storytellers, said Paul Darcy Boles, sitting around the cave of the world. “Why don’t you write a Hallowe’en story?” a friend of mine in Japan suggested at the beginning of that October, when I was feeling down and agonizing over what to write. So I started to write “The Bone Man,” just to distract myself. Just to have fun.

Yeah . . . as wonderful as my childhood Hallowe’ens were, I think 2005 was my Hallowe’en, the one single one I’ll never forget.

* * * * * * * * *

Don’t be overwhelmed — mine was long, but short is great, too! What do you do to celebrate Hallowe’en? What are your Hallowe’en memories? Back me up here! Let’s hear from you! Come running from the dark. I’m waiting!

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17 Responses to “A Writer’s Life in October”

  1. annmarie Says:

    I was actually just sent this and screamed with delight. I wrote the review that you mentioned. First off, I wanted to thank you for writing such an amazing book. Secondly, I’m sorry you were subjected to my poor grammar. Dragonfly is surely one of my favorite books of all time. And I shall pass it on to friends of mine as well.

  2. fsdthreshold Says:

    Thank you, annmarie! Thank you for reading the book — for the wonderful review — and for dropping in here so that I can thank you directly. Please visit here all the time!

    And–heh, heh!–I’m glad you screamed with delight, and not with rage that I quoted you rather extensively without your permission….

    Again, thanks! Thanks thanks thanks! Happy Hallowe’en!

  3. Lizzie_Borden Says:

    Knock’em dead, Fred!

    Our Halloween is only consisting of Halloweensgiving Dinner this year. (To those who don’t know, I make a giant Thanksgiving feast on Halloween so that we can have “our” own holiday and leave Thanksgiving and Christmas for the big family dinners at, well, family’s houses. (We’re at that point in the family hierarchy where we’re still stringently required to attend other people’s dinners instead of having out own.) -Fortunately, I do not believe that this year will involve any shards of pyrex shrapnel exploding through the house *hopes*.

    As for the Halloween I miss, I’m going to take the easy route here and say that it’s any Halloween involving my Mom’s house. She put Halloween right up there on scale with Christmas and goes ALL OUT on the decorations. We watch scary movies and eat candy until we’re just about sick.

  4. fsdthreshold Says:

    Has it already been a year since your casserole blew up? I certainly hope THAT doesn’t happen again! Thanks for ringing in! That’s the spirit!

  5. John Says:

    Ah, what to write? I have many fond memories of suiting up, meeting my friends and going door-to-door in the autumn darkness with leaves rustling at my feet and my bag growing heavier and heavier as I harvested the blocks of my neighborhood. But I think my fondest Hallowe’en memory comes from my sophmore year of high school. I was late in signing up for our school Spook-walk, so I missed out in getting assigned to a room. Instead, on my first night I was given a fright mask and sent to an alcove to spook the “victims” as they passed by. I tried to “Boo!” with the best of them, but I just didn’t have the right stuff. Few people were scared and after about a half an hour of derisive laughter, I just gave up and sat quietly in my cell. I felt like I had just got a rock in my trick-or-treat bag.

    The next night, however, things got better. The line for the Spook-walk started in a stairwell, where people waited to descend down to a tunnel. Someone had the idea to tie a wig onto a rope and swing it over the heads of our victims. Being the unassigned extra, I got to climb up to the second floor and let loose our flying creature. I found that I had a much better aptitude for quietly attacking poor victims than to try to terrorize them with vocal utterances. The shrieks of surprise were quite gratifying.

    And then there was the ride home I got from this Senior girl… well, my wife reads this blog, so maybe I’ll stop here. 😉

  6. Mary Ann Says:

    One of my favorite halloween memories is from junior high school, running around in the dark way past trick or treat time, dressed in black, with bags of dried field corn to fling at unsuspecting doors and windows throughout town. We’d run away laughing hysterically thinking we’d never get caught. I bet you remember too! What rebels we were! (My kids can’t believe I would ever do such a thing.)

  7. fsdthreshold Says:

    Thank you all so far — you’re doing great! Those are exactly the types of memories I’m hoping to hear! John, I love that story. Mary Ann–well, you were a town kid. I lived in the country, so I didn’t get in on any of the running around in town after hours. My late-night Hallowe’en memories are more of the windswept fields and lonely country roads. Most of my trick-or-treating was done by car, my mom driving me to the houses of people we knew — relatives, teachers, etc.

    I remember rigging up a dummy to hang over our basement stairwell, which was right inside the door from the outside. Trick-or-treaters could see it hanging there in all its grotesquery . . . but where I lived, we were lucky if we had, like, two trick-or-treaters.

    I have a funny memory of my year as the volunteer at Shirone Lutheran Christ Church in Japan. I started up the custom of Hallowe’en parties at the church, which went on for several years even after I left the program. That year, I dressed as Mr. Spock. I actually CUT my HAIR to look like Leonard Nimoy (even though the all-VYM retreat and business meeting began the next day–hey, it was Hallowe’en!–my co-workers would just have to deal with my weird hair).
    The apartment building I lived in also had a great abundance of Brazilians who had immigrated to Shirone to work at “Bourbon,” a large confectionary factory. That apartment complex was the site of a near-constant fiesta–everybody seemed to keep their front doors wide open most of the time, and the music and spirited gatherings flowed from apartment to apartment and spilled over into the yard.
    So I knew when I walked to the church for the Hallowe’en party, dressed as Mr. Spock, carrying my jack-o-lanterns, I was going to have to walk through a crowd of my Brazilian neighbors, and I wasn’t sure what they’d think. The former volunteer had left an English-Portuguese dictionary in my apartment, and I paged through it, frantically looking for words such as “Hallowe’en” or “Hallowe’en party” or “costume party” so I could explain myself. I wasn’t finding much helpful. (I didn’t even try to find “Vulcan” or “_Star Trek_” in there.)
    Hoping for the best, I set out….
    And I needn’t have worried about a thing. The Brazilians greeted me warmly and approvingly with: “Eeyy! Mr. Spock!” They gave me thumbs ups and big smiles. With words and gestures, I invited them all to come along to the festivities. They didn’t — I think they were having more fun on their own without playing Pin the Tail on the Skeleton. But they were certainly all for Mr. Spock and Hallowe’en.

  8. I saw Fred dressed up Says:

    Fred always had the best costumes! Every year at North School there was a K-6 costume parade and Fred always stood out. I remember one year he had a coffee-can/string/masking tape C-P30 that was awesome (that is your cue Fred … tell everyone about it!).
    Our town always has Trick or Treat (they call it Beggar’s Night in Iowa — I hate the name!) on two consecutive nights. The real trick was to decide which night to go: Do you venture out on night one to friend’s houses or wait at home to see them come to your house? It always turned out you bumped into them at a common friend’s house anyway.
    I certainly recall “corning” and throwing handfuls of seed corn at houses. It sounds like a hail storm from hell when it hits siding and windows (no damage is done, though).
    The house I grew up in had one of the biggest porches in the whole town, and we would be ‘corned’ relentlessly. The next day we would sweep it up, then make a ring of corn around the oak trees for the squirrels, who must have thought they had died and gone to heaven. Dozens would converge from all over the neighborhood for the bounty!
    I recall Randy Hopper as Sherlock Holmes, Fred as any numer of great creations, Peter Hill as Frankenstein and so many others. My own favorite creation was in sixth grade, when I went as a ‘monster’. It looked pretty cool, and, being big for my age, I scared the hell out of dozens of kids by lying strategically in wait under bushes, behind trees, etc all over the neighborhood.
    Ahh, October!

  9. tandemcat Says:

    1. If there is any Halloween tradition with me, it is being a cat. I got my little black eye mask when I was a student at Concordia River Forest. In a way, it more resembles a small Batman mask, but since it has whiskers, it has to be a cat! I wore that mask off and on for years. I also, in one of my earlier years of teaching, made a huge cardboard cat face mask which was very popular. After I became principal, I kept it on the wall of my office, and re-used it several times. This year, alas, I could find neither, so I dug up, with considerable difficulty, an item I had used for a Headless Horseman costume one year–a large plastic jack-o-lantern with the nose cut out so I could see (and breathe a little!) through it. But we went on an important tandem bike ride right before the party where I was to wear it, so I left it at home. Our ride ran overtime, so there wasn’t time to stop and get it. I arrived at the party in full bike gear: helmet, goggles, rear-view mirror, blue jersey, black warmup hood, and black tights with yellow stripes down the sides. It was a big hit, and the party leader wanted to take my picture right away!

    2. My childhood memories of Halloween are pretty ordinary, but one thing that stands out is that we had a special visitor hovering over us as we went trick-or-treating. Gene Jarvis (his wife’s name was Jean Jarvis) was a police officer who lived in our neighborhood. He would dress up in a full-length sheet outfit with a dead old man face and a hat. He would just walk up and down the street, ringing a bell underneath his sheet and keeping an eye on us at the same time.

    When I started out my teaching career, I always made sure to have candy ready for trick-or-treaters on Halloween. But no kids ever came. I kept this up for several years, each time getting sick eating all of the candy myself, so finally I gave up!

  10. Eunice Says:

    When I was a deaconess intern, I was at a church with a Lutheran school, and found out the day of that all the kids were dressing up for Hallowe’en. I wanted to enter the spirit of things, but I hadn’t brought a costume. So with the help of the custodian and the church secretary we used what was at hand. I put on the secretary’s brown sweater, the custodian put a black garbage bag over me after cutting holes for my head and arms, I suspended an apple from each hand with rubber bands, and tied a branch of a plastic plant in my hair. I was . . . an apple tree! It worked! Got lots of laughs, and I still have a picture!

  11. Catherine Says:

    For two years my family and I all lived in a somewhat remote area of a foreign country (in a city that isn’t always on a comprehensive map); so no one there celebrated Hallowe’en except for ourselves. So my sister and I invented our own way of celebrating the holiday. We’d dress up and put on a “show” for our parents, who would then give us some candy. It worked well, both years. One year, we dressed up as our favorite folksingers, since no one besides our parents had to recognize us. We dressed like they did (my sister wore one of my father’s shirts, and I painted a beard and mustache on her face with black watercolor) and made paper representations of their instruments. Then we came out and pretended to give a concert. The four of us ended up laughing so hard! My father took a picture and sent it to the people we’d dressed up as, and THEY thought it was hilarious — in fact, they asked for (and received) permission to put it on their website, of all places!

    The second year, I dressed all in black and wore a gray glove on one hand, dressing as Luke Skywalker. My sister dressed up as the Death Star — actually, she held a poster-board version of it in front of her. We had a panel discussion: “Meet your favorite Star Wars characters!” After that we hung the Death Star in our apartment, to our mother’s chagrin.

    But what I like best, however, is the way our family does it here in America — I get to dress up and hand out candy to the four or five children who wander around our inner city neighborhood for trick-or-treating. They come in all sorts of costumes and I hand candy to each one. Sometimes they’ll smile, and sometimes they’ll be shy. And sometimes they’ll say thank you. But I just love that connection to the outside world.

    Yeesh, that was long. Sorry, guys!

  12. Amy Whetsell Says:

    I remember sneaking into the farmer’s fields to steal the corn so we could go “corning”. Shelling the corn was rough on the hands, but very worth the work. Corning is throwing handfulls of shelled field corn onto people’s front porches and running away as fast as possible. If you’ve been “corned” it sounds kind of like a machine gun being fired at your front door. Storm doors were the best target as the corn rebounding off the metal fronts made quite a racket. Targeting a least favorite teacher that was home for the night was the best! To top it off, we decorated the trees with toilet paper and tried not to give ourselves up by giggling too loudly. I’ll never forget the year my mom helped me toilet paper a neighbor who was mean to me.

  13. Sakura Says:

    I just realized I can comment on these blog posts!! How did I not know this…well you learn something new every day, I guess.
    I’m going to answer question number two.

    Last year, exactly at this time, I found the violin. THE violin. The gypsy fiddle. I remember playing it on Halloween Night last year, and relishing those deep, dark jewel-notes that come straight from its soul. That was also the night I finished reading Dragonfly. Sitting in bed with the wind moaning outside… (after feeding all the trick-or-treaters, of course.) I really can’t remember a more magical Halloween than last year’s. And here we go again! Tomorrow night!

    Happy Halloween, Fred-san!

  14. Sakura Says:

    P.S.

    Bananas

  15. House-of-Twilight Landlord Says:

    The first haunted house I constructed, with a school chum, I was in the eighth grade. We came up with some good effects, though we were limited in space to his parents’ garage. I’ve been hosting more and more elaborate haunted houses ever since. Now I’m married to a wonderfully weird (weirdly wonderful?) woman who has gotten in on the act. Joining forces, we transform our old two-story house into a haunted mansion that only the bravest dare enter. And beware the basement! Most of the cobwebs down there are real; the “victims,” fortunately, are not. Clever use of mannequins and fake blood give visitors the impression of walking through some ’70s slasher movie…

  16. Marquee Movies Says:

    Some Halloween comments: This year’s Halloween in the Chicago area was one of the warmest ever. As I took a stroll two blocks down to visit my local video store, I saw many home owners actually sitting out on the front steps of their home. Children dressed as wonderful looking monsters and animals were walking up to the homes to be greeted in a very friendly manner, and offered candy. My favorite were two young sisters who were dressed in identical black witch’s outfits, with tall pointy hats and all.
    Another element of this year’s Halloween for me was sharing a number of classic movie monster scenes in my film presentations. I showed scenes from Frankenstein, The Wolf Man, Dracula, Bride of Frankenstein, and finished up with Abbott and Costello meet Frankenstein, a movie that is actually pretty scary and funny! Right in the middle of all these great monster scenes, I did show the Halloween sequence from the American masterpiece, Meet Me In St. Louis – this is as close to a time capsule as anything we have on how children celebrated Halloween at the beginning of the 20th century.
    One final note – a few years ago, in some of my film classes, I began showing some Charlie Chaplin films. When I began sharing these great movies with young students, I suddenly remembered that in the 6th grade, I dressed up as Charlie Chaplin. As I look back on that decision, I am still amazed at how early my love of film came forth. There were no other passionate film fans in the house, I received very little encouragement to pursue my love of movies (my glow in the dark movie monster models were thrown out by my mom), and almost no one I knew at school shared my towering passion for stories, film in particular. I can see how I got lost teaching math for 10 years, but I sure wish I could go back and say to that 6th grader, “Your love for this art form is NOT a waste of time – it’s a noble pursuit to study that which moves so many people.” Interestingly, I was so excited to get home and start trick or treating as Charlie Chaplin, that I ran out of school the second the bell rang, and raced home to put on the jacket, little moustache, and the plastic bowler hat and cane. As I pedaled my bike past my elementary school, I saw my 6th grade science teacher as he was about to leave school in his car. Now, I found out the next day that he had been so angry at our class for being so squirrely during science, that we were all supposed to stay behind. I didn’t hear this, and ran out when I wasn’t supposed to. (He wasn’t a mean teacher – I’m sure he kept them for just a few minutes, to remind them to control themselves.) Anyway – not knowing that I had ducked out of detention, as I saw him – I waved joyfully. He recognized me, and, not to put a damper on anything, smiled and waved back at me.
    So, that young, I was Charlie Chaplin – I knew who I was and what I wanted way back then – but I didn’t know I knew it.
    One final note – for all those people who way that The Bride of Frankenstein is better than Frankenstein – they’re right! Both are fantastic films – but the Bride will break your heart. The point I made over and over again in presentations was, There’s a monster in this film – but it’s not the creature – it’s the SCIENTIST. Great, great storytelling!

  17. fsdthreshold Says:

    Ladies and Gentlemen, I couldn’t be happier with your responses! Thank you all for coming to my “on-line Hallowe’en party.” We’ll have to do it again next year — but before that, we have a whole year of other discussions and seasonal delights to enjoy, all centered upon the writing life — or, in a broader sense, for those of you who absolutely insist you aren’t writers, centered upon the imagination and the celebration thereof.

    Anyway, thank you all for sharing in the wonder and magic and mystery of this amazing holiday.

    I’ll close with one more quick memory: the first Hallowe’en I was in Niigata, I put on a party in my apartment for my English-school students. These were people of all walks of life, from young company workers through retired folks — maybe a few university and high-school kids — anyway, my place was packed.

    To get ready for the party, I converted my entire apartment into a cave. I spent quite a number of hours cutting stalactites and stalagmites out of colored construction paper, and I taped the stalactites over just about every square inch of the ceilings of my kitchen and two tatami-mat rooms (the eating and living areas). I taped the shadowy stalagmites along the bases of all the walls, against desk legs, the bookcases, etc. — that is, everything that didn’t have to move or open up was covered in “formations.” And did I stop there? Of course not. I used yards and yards of transparent greenish ribbon to make “streams of water” to dangle between the stalacs and the stalags. So you couldn’t walk anywhere without pushing your way through these “drips” of the living cave.

    As we sat down to our feast of tacos, the housewives’ class members in particular were looking around in awe. “So THIS is what Americans do for Hallowe’en,” one of them said. Try as I might to explain that this was just my own unique take on the holiday, I think everyone left convinced (seeing is believing, right?) that everyone in the States on Hallowe’en converts his/her house into a cavern, cooks Mexican food, and invites people over!

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