When they canceled Halloween

BY MICHELE HERMAN  |  It’s Halloween. The lights are on. The doorbell is ringing. Zombies are lurching up Sixth Ave. All is right, more or less, with the Village, at least for those of us whose homes and belongings were above the high-water mark a year and two days ago. For the less lucky among us — I hope the scars and the skittishness are fading, and the great unsung luxury of ordinary life is kicking back in.   Following the media’s lead in reliving awful events every time their anniversary rolls around, I just pulled out last year’s journal and reread my entries from those weird, out-of-time days last fall. A few samples:

On the sidewalk, a drowned mouse.

Wednesday when the doorman pulls up in his car, the super whoops with joy.

The Range Rover with the Louisiana plates is still parked outside, its window wide open and the bumper torn off.

Rode up to J’s office to check email. Posted on Facebook: “Greetings From Manhattan Frontier Country” and waited for “likes” to arrive. 

Felt strongly that life is not enriched.

Our neighbor’s father died happy at 89, mid-storm, mid-polka. 

I can actually hear the dog licking his chops and J. stirring carbonara.

Found a fifth bag of boneless chicken in the freezer. I’m poaching as fast as I can.

Particularly vivid was the Halloween that wasn’t. You have to hand it to Sandy — it takes a lot to bring down the Village’s high holy day. But even Jeanne Fleming’s army of ghouls and the spirit of Ralph Lee could not save Halloween. The 39th annual parade was first postponed and then canceled.

Halloween had long been my family’s shining hour but has been dimming as the kids reached the end of childhood. I don’t even bother buying a pumpkin anymore. For kids, Halloween is about controlled threats and mock terror and upended expectations (and peanut-butter cups). So how ironic that our benign, beloved Hudson River put on a costume out of the Old Testament and scared the pants off all of us and then, a couple of hours later, resumed its usual calm face.

Shortly before the surge, my husband and I had gone down to our basement storage locker to take precautions. Some of our stuff was already up on folding chairs from a flooding threat years ago that had never materialized. One of the last things I did before Sandy was hoist a huge bag of old Halloween costumes and another of surplus felt and fake fur off the floor and hang them from a hook.

My husband and I developed a good system during the peak trick-or-treating years: He did the papier-mâché and I did the sewing. I’d saved them all — the animals and inanimate objects favored by our older son: the eagle, the moose, the Tootsie Roll, the giant replica of his knapsack. And the heroic figures of our younger son: the Indiana Jones, the Viking, the Revolutionary War soldier, Philippe Petit.

On the 31st we stayed home in the dark to greet trick or treaters in our Halloween-friendly building, but not a soul came. My husband had a brainstorm: we would reverse trick-or-treat. We made a list of all the apartments in our building with kids, trudged up to the eighth floor with our bowl of candy and our flashlights, and started ringing doorbells. We worked our way down to the ground floor, but nobody answered; all the families had bailed. So, in our second brainstorm of the night, we rode our bikes through the dark up to the lights of Times Square and saw “Argo.”

By the time we emerged from the movie, we’d forgotten all about Halloween and were startled to see a few sad Catwomen and French maids. We rode back home into the abyss and what would turn out to be two more days of darkness and rotting food.

Here are some more moments from that week:

On Eighth Avenue, by the little building whose facade flew off, Anderson Cooper planted his feet and made his serious anchor face and then, in between segments, had to remain in the pose for continuity. A guy in the crowd kept saying, “Oh my God, he’s so gorgeous, I want to f**k him.”

The smell of woodsmoke has diminished — the people with fireplaces have fled.

I toss yogurt, dog food and some pasta that seemed to have a sea anemone growing on it. Something yellow and fragrant is leaking out of the freezer.

No one’s come to check on the old women in the projects. Why are we alive? Were we put here for a purpose?

We took a nighttime walk with our trusty flashlights, and I remembered how New York felt in the early 80’s, when I learned to make a fist with all my keys protruding in case I needed to punch a mugger.

Fast-forward a year. We’re about to get a new mayor after 12 years, which is exciting. People seem more worried about affordability than safety and security.

For now, I’m in the mood to celebrate everything mundane and routine and dry, and a day in the calendar that only pretends to be scary.

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