Happy Halloween

I took my 10-year-old daughter to see the rebooted “Ghostbusters” over the summer. The film generated a ton of controversy from people who feared that women fighting ghosts would ruin their childhoods. One of the stars, Leslie Jones, was harassed so much that she briefly left Twitter.

We watched the original as a family before my daughter and I saw the new version. My son was bored; the sexual humor flew over their heads but my daughter turned to me and remarked, “Something’s really odd about Dr. Venkman.”

(The reboot was delightful.)

My childhood was affected by Ghostbusters in a different way. I watched the original movie in the theater when I was roughly my son’s age (8) and it scared the crap out of me, specifically the scene with the ghost in the library. I had nightmares about that ghost for months, and immediately after I saw the film, I had to sleep with the closet light on for a week. (I shared a room with my next-younger sister at that point and had she not been disturbed by the light, I’m pretty sure I would have kept it on for months afterward.)

My parents’ solution to all this was to dress me up as the Ghostbusters logo the following Halloween. I remember my dad making the the red sign in the basement. I may have helped paint it, I don’t know. My parents really started to get into the holiday at this point. Our next-door neighbors threw a big party every year and when they handed out candy, the dad would pretend to be a Halloween decoration against the wall and would start groaning when anyone got close. (In retrospect, I do not think they handed out a lot of candy after all. Their house was always terrifying in its decor.)

My mother would come up with more elaborate costume ideas every year, both for us kids and herself, to the point where it was extremely uncomfortable to walk around in them. One year we were crayons and my dad made the Crayola boxes. She went as the Headless Horseman, and I had to help her get in and out of her costume all night because it was so unwieldy.

That being said, the Ghostbusters logo took the cake in terms of sheer awkwardness. I couldn’t go through doors. The red sign got heavy after about five minutes, and didn’t cleanly sit on my shoulders, so I had to hold the sign as well as my loot. The bottom of it hit my upper legs, and made climbing stairs (to get aforementioned loot) difficult. The sheet part of the costume didn’t make it easy to see or breathe. All in all, I was a walking safety hazard promoting a film that terrified me.



We always handed down costumes (I had worn both the bunny and pumpkin getups my sisters are rocking in the picture above), but the Ghostbuster one was never used again, even for the neighbors’ Halloween party. I remember seeing that red sign for years afterward in the basement or in the attic and I would shudder every time.

(I stayed away from scary movies until my early 20s, when I saw the Blair Witch Project and had to sleep with my closet light on in my own apartment. I only can tolerate horror films when I’ve had some beers, because at that point they become hilarious.)

I still dress up every year, but my main job Halloween night is to hand out candy. Last year, a young teenager waddled up to my stoop in her very awkward TARDIS costume, a girl literally walking around my neighborhood in a box. Her discomfort aside, her costume easily was the best I’d seen all night. I thought of myself toting the red sign all those years ago, gave the girl the rest of my candy and turned out the light, signaling that at my house, Halloween was over.

Happy Halloween

I’m Behind on Television Because My Kid’s Teacher Threw Down a Book Challenge

I haven’t watched Luke Cage, Black Mirror, Mr. Robot, Poldark (besides the first episode), on top of shows from the summer I haven’t gotten around to watching. (Plus, The Crown and The Fall start up on Netflix soon.)

The kids and I have been watching the MLB playoffs. I had a very stressful two weeks of October but by the time the League Championship Series rolled around, all the teams I’d wanted to lose had been eliminated and I only had to sit through two games listening to the insufferable Bob “You Rotten Sabermetrics Kids Get Off My Lawn” Costas. For a man who never played the game, he sure loved to wax lyrical about the Days of Baseball Yore, despite a postseason littered with pitching gems and fielding heroics. 

But the real reason I’ve been behind on television is because of my daughter’s Language Arts teacher, who announced that in lieu of a traditional reading log her students would be participating in a 40-book reading challenge, and the contest would be open to parents.

I never turn down a reading challenge.

I sent in my first selection, with which I’ve been struggling for months, along with an email detailing the many criticisms I had of the work.

My daughter came home and told me the teacher read my email aloud. I was mortified, because fifth graders weren’t my intended audience (I’d called the book extremely self-indulgent), and because I’m at the stage of life in which I increasingly don’t care what people think and my daughter is becoming extremely sensitive to other people’s perceptions of her. I don’t want to compound her discomfort. However, she likes books too  and didn’t seem to mind that I appear to be the only parent in her class participating.

My plan after the World Series is to read books at night during the week and during weekend and catch up on television in the afternoons.

I’m Behind on Television Because My Kid’s Teacher Threw Down a Book Challenge

To The Unofficial Team Captain

Dear Number Eleven,

My daughter was nervous about moving up to a softball team in a older league in which she’d be one of the youngest players. She had to adapt to some new rules, a larger ball and different coaches.

Grant it, fall ball is not nearly as competitive as it is in the spring and this was the perfect opportunity to ease into a new league, but she was still jittery.

Then she met you.

You’re a veteran who’s been playing at this level for a few seasons, and you were a shining role model and leader this season for my kid and the other younger players.

Throughout the season, at every practice and game, you’ve been the team’s heart: the fiercest leader, its loudest cheerleader, the kindest and most patient friend. You’ve played any position asked–catcher, pitcher, infielder, outfielder–without complaint. You’ve been just as encouraging in an inning that dragged on for 30 minutes before ending on the mercy rule as you have when it took only seven pitches to get three outs.

You’re one of the best players on the team but you’ve never showed off, argued with an ump or coach or disparaged another teammate when she’s made a mistake. I’ve never even seen you in a bad mood, and the doubleheaders you play can take up to three hours. It’s enough to drain the energy out of anyone, but not you.

I told you an abbreviated version of the above after the game today, mostly because it’s what we have been talking about on the sidelines during the season. I hope I didn’t freak you out or make you feel uncomfortable, but I wanted you to know how much I appreciated you.

I would have told your folks, but I’ve never seen them. You always come to games and practices with a friend from the team. I don’t know your situation; it’s none of my business. But please know the rest of the team parents think the world of you, and we hope to see you in the spring.


Number Fourteen’s Mom

To The Unofficial Team Captain

My Unsolicited Thoughts on the MLB Playoffs So Far

The Blue Jays, Orioles, Giants and Mets have given us quite the Wild Card treat this year. The American League game went 12 innings and last night’s nail biter was scoreless until the top of the ninth inning. 

I really had no vested interest in either game, with the Phillies being eliminated from playoff contention since mid-June or so. I don’t follow the American League because of a deep disdain for the designated hitter–but let me just say that had a Phillies fan chucked a beer at an opposing player, the uproar would have been swift and loud– and the only possible outcome of the National League game that would have left me satisfied would have been a double forfeit.

It’s because of the Phillies that the Mets were able to start Norse phenom Noah Syndergaard last night. The Mets clinched a Wild Card berth in the second game during a series in Philadelphia last weekend, which allowed the Mets to manipulate the rotation (Syndergaard was set to start Sunday) to put their best pitcher on the mound for the Wild Card playoff game.

However, the Giants answered with October Specialist Madison Bumgardner, who was a huge factor during the Phillies-Giants National League Series in 2010. The Giants have won the World Series every other year since then. I can’t stand them, but a being a division rival (just barely) outweighs a nearly perennial pain in the butt, so I was halfheartedly rooting for the Giants. They won on a three-run homer in the top of the ninth. It was brutal all around.

I have friends who are Mets fans and I couldn’t even bring myself to trash-text them today, because the only mistake really was one pitch. There were no LOLMets moments, like errors or gaffes or other hilarity that so often befall the Metropolitans in the playoffs.

However, in honor of Throwback Thursday, let’s revisit 2007, when the Mets completed an epic collapse that catapulted the Phillies into the playoffs. Sometimes, when I’m having a bad day, I look at these newspaper covers and I feel better.

My Unsolicited Thoughts on the MLB Playoffs So Far

Stranger Things: A Love Letter to Stephen King and Steven Spielberg

Now that the kids are back in school, I’ve been making nearly daily trips to my bulk store to stock up on bon-bons and catching up on books and television.

Late in the summer, Stranger Things got a LOT of hype online and elsewhere, so much so that I was afraid when I watched it I would be really disappointed. To the contrary, I loved everything about it, mainly because I loved everything that inspired the show.66.0.jpg

If it were a mathematical formula:

(Stand By Me)(E.T.) /Goonies + (X-Files)(Freaks and Geeks)/IT = Stranger Things

In a nutshell: Some social outcasts band together against an all-powerful government agency to rescue a friend and destroy an alternate dimension.

Someone was literally reading Cujo at one point, a nod to the horror of Stephen King’s early work, but the good-versus-evil/kids-against-adults themes are also present in his stories, from The Body (on which Stand By Me was based) and IT to The Stand. The kids all rode bikes around, an homage to Elliott and his friends in ET. The kids look like real kids, kids I would see in my neighborhood, like those cast in Freaks and Geeks. There is an epic quest to conquer a monster, like IT.

Whoever did set design and wardrobe should get an award. The show was set in the 1980s and I swear I saw my old living room furniture from my childhood home. The hat that Dustin is wearing above was the same hat my dad wore from 1984 to 1988 (it came from McDonalds and had the Olympic logo on it, from when the Games were in LA) until he wore a softball cap. (My parents would have noticed IMMEDIATELY if we were pilfering waffles to feed a homeless kid in the basement, though.)

The character development was exceptional. Jim Hopper’s eventual transition from loser cop to paranoid hero–Fox Mulder would have taken him out for drinks at the very least–was a satisfying slow-moving avalanche. Eleven blossomed from a shell-shocked experiment subject into a fierce and dedicated friend. Nancy shed her self-involved world after unsung hero Barb’s death to align with Will’s older brother Jonathan and make a significant contribution to the discovery of the Demogorgon. The show even side-stepped cliched relationships that could have sprung up as a result of all the drama: Nancy doesn’t hook up with Jonathan; Hopper and Joyce remain friends and nothing more. All the kids were phenomenal, but I’m partial to Dustin (it’s the hat) and Eleven (it’s the Eggos). My only quibble with the actors is Winona Ryder, who had the same expression on her face in every episode, all episode long.

I don’t know what Season Two is going to bring; I thought the show ended on a satisfactory note and I’m worried about too much of a good thing.






Stranger Things: A Love Letter to Stephen King and Steven Spielberg