Halloween - Nobody KnockedSunday, November 01, 2015
|Buenos Aires - 1951|
Halloween is something quite complex for me. When people ask me about it I act like a grinch and gripe how I hate it and the awful knocking at the door by children wanting sweet loot.
I sometimes add that as an Argentine who lived quite a few years in Mexico the concept of the holiday is alien to me.
And yet the picture here illustrates yours truly dressed as Hopalong Cassidy but holding what I remember to be a Gene Autrey cap gun.
The woman on the extreme right was Susan Stone. We were all celebrating American Halloween while attending the American Grammar School on Calle Freyre in Belgrano, Buenos Aires. The school was for the well-off children of American Company Executives peppered with a few from the US Information Service, a cover title for the American spooks.
My family was not well off but my mother happened to teach physics and chemistry at the American Grammar and High School- Colegio Ward on the same street. I received free tuition.
Susan Stone was the girl in my life even though she did not know this overtly. Her father was the General Manager of General Motors Argentina. She lived in a huge mansion that had something called a television set. This was 1951 and I was nine going on ten. Every once in a while Susan would send her father’s Cadillac to pick me up so I could spend the day with her. All I remember is the TV and nothing more. Even then I was an unmanly dolt.
Halloween came into the picture again in 1955 in Nueva Rosita, Coahuila. My mother taught at the two-room school house for the children of the American mining engineers of The American Smelting and Refining Company. I remember that I made a costume out of silver painted cardboard panels held together by string. I was a robot from outer space modeled after the robots I had made with my Erector Set. I called myself Gilbert.
It was in 1975 and onwards that Halloween became a cold rainy night in Burnaby when my two daughters wet and shivering would come with bags full of candy. I felt so sorry for them but they still found the experience enjoyable.
A few years later while working for a gay publication called Bi-Line I came to understand the special significance of Halloween to the Gay Community. In my capacity as the photographer I went to many dress-up functions at Faces, the Gandy Dancer and the Luv-a-Fair Affair. A parallel happening of sorts happens every year at carnival in Veracruz, Mexico where closeted gays dress up and throw all caution to the wind.
For the last few years I make my dislike of the door knocking and the screams of “trick or treat” known to my Rosemary. She knows I will have a long hot bath in the tub and force her to open the door. This year I prepared myself with Ian Rankin’s latest Rebus.
But the door downstairs was silent all night. Fireworks in the neighbourhood were loud and persistent. But no bells rang. No children’s voices clamoured for booty. Nobody came.
In 1986 when we moved to Athlone Street the two block long stretch of West Side real estate was a Canadian version of the Saturday Evening Post. Children played with red flyer wagons, there were cocker spaniels and Dalmatians. In the summer we had block parties. The Vancouver Police came with their dogs and the nearby firefighters drove up in their fire engines.
I remember two little girls (their father was a dentist) planting a tiny Monkey Puzzle Tree in their front lawn. I saw this as silly hope. It would take forever for that tree to be of any size.
Then houses were sold and demolished. People died or moved away. The two blocks changed. Mrs. Alm’s house was demolished after she was put in a home. The house that replaced it had, we were told, nine bathrooms.
The cars that did not fit into the new four car garages were large Bentleys or BMWs and Mercedes. These soon were traded in for SUVs. Car and home alarms went off at all hours of the night.
The Monkey Puzzle Tree is now 17 feet tall and there are no children living that I know of on the two blocks of Athlone. The two little girls that planted the tree come every once in a while with their children to visit their parents.
Nobody came for Halloween. And I finally must admit that in my depression over that fact, I do love this holiday and I plan to celebrate it next year in a neighbourhood where I hope to spot a Dalmatian and even a Cocker Spaniel.
And children will bang on my door and I won't mind.