Trick or treat, smell my feet, give me an almost-40-year-old man who gets into Halloween way too much

Mr. Bones

I shall now regale you with the tale of “The Man Who Loved Halloween (Perhaps A Bit Too Much).”

I, quite simply, lose my fucking mind on Halloween — particularly since the arrival in my life six years ago of Mr. Bones.

Mr. Bones is a 4-foot tall skeleton who sports a black grim-reaper cloak, and who has in the back of his skull an electrical input and a microphone input. When one speaks into the microphone, one’s voice is broadcast from a speaker hidden beneath Mr. Bones’ cloak while his jaw moves in sync with the dialogue and his eyes light up.

Wonder Woman purchased Mr. Bones in the middle of August back in 2002 for about $20, and I can say without any hesitation that we have gotten far more than our money’s worth out of his undead ass.

In years past, I have hidden in the bushes with the microphone while Count Dracula (a.k.a. my uncle, the other member of the family who is as fully looney as I am about Halloween) has greeted the children as they come up the front walk and led them to Mr. Bones, who sits in a pseudo-coffin (known the other 364 days of the year as your run-of-the-mill toybox) with the candy bowl in his lap.

Some version of the following exchange then takes place:

“And what is your name, young man?” the Count asks.

“Timmy,” says Timmy with no small amount of trepidation.

“OK, Timmy, come say hello to my friend Mr. Bones,” says the Count, leading Timmy to Mr. Bones’ coffin. “Mr. Bones, say hello to Timmy.”

“Hello, Timmy,” says Mr. Bones (in an accent that, for no particular reason, has evolved into a mix of Transylvanian, Spanish and Triumph the Insult Comic Dog). “So nice to meet you.”

Invariably, the kids are surprised that Mr. Bones has actually used their name.

“He just said my name!” they exclaim disbelievingly. “How did he do that?”

“What do you mean, ‘How did he do that?’ I’m Mr. Bones, man! I’m magic!”

At this point, most kids have a funny look on their face that says, “OK, I know there’s no such thing as talking skeletons with red-LED eyes, but holy stromboli, I am totally having a conversation with a talking skeleton with red-LED eyes, and I’m trying to decide if this is the coolest thing ever or the freakiest thing ever or both.”

“Now, Timmy, what do you say on Halloween to get some candy?” asks Mr. Bones.

“Trick or treat?”

“Trick or treat! That’s right. Nice. OK, Timmy, take a piece of candy, yes, that’s righ— WAIT! NOT THAT ONE!

[Child freezes]

“I’m keeding, Timmy. You take it. I’m on a diet. And make sure you brush your teeth after you eat all that candy, man, because if you don’t, your grill will end up looking like mine.”

This year, I realized I was tired of sitting in the bushes, so I got my geek on in a big, big way.

Enter, 25-foot microphone-cord extension from Radio Shack, and hello, me sitting comfortably inside our front room by the big picture window, scarfing down pizza and beer.

“But wait: If you were sitting by the big picture window, couldn’t people see you talking into the microphone?”

Good question: No. I covered the windows with some plastic ghost-mural things.

“But … but … how could you see the trick-or-treaters?”

Another good question: As I said, I got my geek on … to include planting in the bush behind Mr. Bones a baby-monitor camera that allowed me to see all of the action on a small, television-like monitor.

“Wow. That is geeky. Can it get any geekier?”

Oh, helllllll yes. In addition to the microphone and the monitor, my newly established indoor mission-control post also included a remote switch for a flood lamp positioned on the left side of the lawn, a remote switch for a strobe light positioned on the right side of the lawn, a remote switch for a fog machine in the bushes behind the Bonester, and a remote control for the boombox from which emanated the obligatory spooky-sounds CD. Throw in two bushels of that fake-cobweb shit (which Wonder Woman so graciously strung up all over the front yard), a giant spider web and accompanying giant spider, some feaux tombstones, my mother dressed as a witch (taking over for the missing Count), my sister dressed like a gypsy seated at a table giving feaux Tarot-card readings, and a full-sized plywood coffin containing this year’s newest addition, Pirate Pete, and you have the mini-Disneyland of our quiet little neighborhood.

Pirate Pete

Of course, I had to take a half-day off from work in order to have time to string up the 2.5 miles of extension cords and cables required to pull this whole shebang off. But it’s worth it — especially when Wonder Woman tells me that she, while taking Zan and Jayna trick-or-treating, heard kids saying they wanted to go to the “cool house” or the “spooky house.” I’m spooky and cool, yo.

Particularly funny this year was handing the microphone to a pleading Zan, who had watched me deliver my Mr. Bones spiel numerous times, and who, using a funny voice of his own, nailed it while interacting with a couple of young trick-or-treaters. It’s like I’m teaching him the family business.

“Some day, son, all of this crap can be yours!”

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Patriotic duty

This morning, I taped my “Veterans for Obama” sign to my front-door window. I did so to compensate for the fact that some asshole walked all the way up to the front of my house in broad daylight yesterday and stole my Obama yard sign. Fortunately, I’m pretty sure that the lack of signage in my front yard won’t have a substantial impact on Obama’s final vote tally tomorrow.

Though I served in the U.S. Army from 1988 to 1992, it took me a while to actually internalize the fact that I am a “veteran.” Part of my inability to identify with that label on any meaningful level was the fact that I did not serve in a combat zone. I was active duty during the first Gulf War, and I am classified as a “Gulf War vet,” but my K-9 partner and I were patrolling a base in the Mojave Desert and doing narcotics searches in New York City, not ducking rounds in the Kuwaiti desert and wondering if we’d make it home.

My father served on a naval destroyer in the South Pacific during Vietnam. Both of my grandfathers served in World War II, one of them a marine who experienced heavy combat on Iwo Jima. They are the types of men I picture when I think of the word “veteran.”

That said, I have come to embrace my veteran’s status over the past eight years, largely because of my outrage over the fact that thousands of service members have been getting maimed and slaughtered as the result of a war I strongly opposed from Day One.

Many people who never served like to claim that “opposing the war” is synonymous with “not supporting our troops.” As a former one of those troops, I can assure you that’s bullshit.

Supporting our troops means not putting them in harm’s way unless all other options have been exhausted, and getting them out of harm’s way if a group of draft-dodging, chicken-hawk politicians with poor judgement and questionable motives uses them like disposable pawns in a preemptive, mismanaged war that never should have been waged.

I’m looking forward to voting today.

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Mr. Bones

About 6 years ago this past August, Wonder Woman was at the local Christmas Tree Shop and saw a palette of boxes, each of which contained one of these handsome fellers. They were about $20 each. Best 20 bucks we ever spent.

Mr. Bones here comes equipped with a corded microphone that, when spoken into, causes his jaw to move and eyes to light up, as well as the voice of the person who is actually talking to come out of a speaker in Mr. Bones’ chest, which is hidden beneath his cloak.

In other words, he is the ultimate tool for freaking people out. I shall expound in a related post shortly.

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Jack

With life having become such an unbelievably fast-moving blur in recent years, I’ve realized I don’t have any time to get properly excited in advance about specific holidays—and Halloween is right after Christmas on my list of favorites.

Yes, I am a Halloween freak … and you will learn just how much so when I write something later this week about the lengths I go to in order to amuse myself on Halloween night. (Fortunately, the police have never found the bodies. No, I’m just kidding; they found a few, but haven’t been able to pin any on me.)

This lovely Jack O’ Lantern is one of several on a string of Halloween lights that Wonder Woman hangs in the kitchen each year. Making one of them the focus of today’s photo seemed like a good way to start getting in the mood for the coming shenanigans.

MWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH! [Insert scary organ music here.]

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Alternate ending

CUT!

CUT CUT CUUUUUT!

OK, c’mere. Do you see this script? Do you? Look right here, genius:

“The Boston Red Sox, who were down three games to one and came within seven outs of being eliminated, complete yet another stunning and historic comeback to claim the 2008 American League pennant; World Series starts at Fenway Wednesday night. ROLL CREDITS.”

Now, listen, jackass—who are you again? Tampa who? Tampa Bay? And you think you can just waltz in here and start ad-libbing? I don’t think so!

Why not? Well, not that I owe you an explanation, Mr. Johnny Come Lately Tampa Bay Rays, but we’re the fucking Red Sox! That’s why not! This is what we do! We snatched a World Series berth out of your smirking, toothless, manta-ray mouths the other night in one of the most historic comebacks of all time! Now, riddle me this, smart-ass: why the hell would we do that if we weren’t predestined to advance to the World Series?

Not only that, but Zan and I? We remembered to do the cheer! And—OK, OK, aaaaand I wore my magical Red Sox apparel. What exactly makes you think you can flout the power of my superstitious, OCD-induced rituals?

I mean, I was pumped—PUMPED!—for a Red Sox vs. Phillies World Series … and I guaranfuckingtee you that so was just about everyone else who follows baseball and doesn’t live in Tampa fucking Bay!

Tampa Bay! I mean, the nerve of you people!

Now I have to wait for this feeling to pass … this sick lump of defeat, disappointment and sorrow that’s been knocking around in my stomach for the past 11 hours. Granted, it’s nothing like the state of shock I was in after Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS … but, in the wake of our championship wins in ’04 and last year … well, frankly, I’m no longer equipped to deal with failure.

To be fair, I will readily admit that I am extremely spoiled and fortunate; this was only my seventh full season as a diehard fan … and the Sox have gone to the postseason for five of those, and won the World Series twice. I saved myself 32 years of pain and disappointment by not giving a rat’s ass about sports until 2002.

Of course, that realization makes me think that I may be setting Zan up for more than he bargained for. The kid’s five years old and he’s already been around for two World Series victories. His frame of reference is completely skewed. What if they don’t win another one for 86 years?

And it’s not like following this team is a casual undertaking. Seven months and 173 games, this season encompassed. More than half of the year here at Casa de Scratches includes a daily undercurrent of Red Sox fandom … which is fine when your team is a juggernaut, but what happens if we slip into a decades-long postseason drought? I’m almost 40, and I feel like my puppy just died; how can I subject a little kid to this kind of (potentially long-term) disappointment?

Fortunately, he’s still too young to be truly broken up about this year’s demise … and half our family lives in Philly, so we still have a horse in this race.

But, still … Tampa Bay wins Game 7? Stop it. Just stop it.

Next year.

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