Wednesday, October 31, 2007


halloween was one of my favorite holidays. not for the costumes and charlie brown specials. not for the late night scream flicks or pumpkin carving. it was all about the sugar. the treats. candy could possibly be my first love.

as i developed into a seasoned trick or treater, it became apparent to me that my rounds lacked efficiency. i realized that its not a matter of how many houses you hit, but which houses. fortunately, i lived in town, so i was under no parental time constraints. my limits were only the supply of candy being offered. when i was 11 or 12 years old, i decided i needed to formulate a plan of attack. the results were so fruitful, i thought i'd share my knowledge with the sugar junkies of tomorrow.

first of all, its imperative that you wear a mask. it makes a clever, double costume a possibility. i had a cape that was red on one side and black on the other. if a house was exceptionally generous, i'd hit it twice. first, as a wolfman in a black cape, then as a superhero in a red cape and eye mask. just covertly mesh into another group of kids on the second approach to avoid detection.

its also important to start as early as you can get away with. when i grew up, there was a halloween parade. all the kids would get dressed up and march through town so all the adults could gape at them, "ohh"-ing and "aww"-ing. trick or treating officially opened following the parade. i bypassed the parade and used the time to venture to the far west side of town. there was a substantial section of wealthier, younger families. lawyers, politicians, and doctors mostly. three houses in particular were famous for there goodies. if you got there while supplies held out (which wasn't long as lots of kids knew these to be hot spots), you were assured 3 full size candy bars. usually, an Oh Henry, a Whatchamacallit and a Hershey Bar.

a map can be incredibly helpful. it will keep you on pace. residential areas tend to have congregations of similar people. sketch out a drawing of your locality. just the main streets will suffice. its not to keep you from getting lost. more of an itinerary. think of the neighborhoods. once you've generalized your vicinity, you'll quickly see the high priority locations, and the areas not worth your time. i made a rough version of what mine may have looked like:

areas you want to hit for the goods:
  • any grouping of large, expensive houses. usually on the edge of town, so make this one of your first stops, then work your way inward. they don't stock up since they're out of the way, but their treats are usually high quality.
  • near hospitals. lots of doctors and nurses live nearby hospitals. doctors have lots of money to spend on candy and in small towns, they're well known in their community. their guilt will buy more candy then they need. this means that they usually dump it all in a bowl and let you take what you want. great for a double hit. first, cherry pick the best candy. then go back for a potluck handful.
  • older parents with kids too old for trick or treating are eager for visitors. they miss the old days of halloween excitement and reminisce over their once adorable children. exploit that nostalgia. there was a lady who started making home-made caramel popcorn balls after her kids moved out. i don't recommend taking things like that from strangers though, unless you have a taste for razor blades and strychnine.
  • smaller neighborhoods are perfect to connect two sections. the smaller the better. they get less traffic so they tend to keep their lights on the longest. they're also eager for the attention and with a little chit chat, you may be able to finagle a bonus Bit-O-Honey for your cuteness and conversational skills.
  • know your old folks homes! i can't stress this enough. the elderly are probably the most ecstatic to see you and they're all congregated in one building. my town had 2 that were both conveniently located near my house. The Green Home had a table set up in the lobby covered in candy dishes. the residents sit around as you come in and stock up on your pick of the litter. park hill manor gathers its occupants in a circle in the game room. you had to make a lap, but nearly each wrinkled hand offered a fistful of candy. you may get a few cheek pinches or a box of raisins here or there, but its well worth the sacrifice.
stay away from businesses and schools. some stores may have a small dish of penny candy, but they tend to be few and far between. also, schools and their surrounding areas tend to attract younger families. they would happily dispense candy if they were home, but they're not. steer clear.

use the buddy system. having a friend with a double costume is a great benefit for both time management and making your double hits less suspect. if you and a friend each take one side a side of a street, you can point out the best houses at the corner or team up for a second attempt.

finally, plan your route. do not start from home and work your way out. you'll find yourself crossing the same ground twice, wasting precious time. if possible, start at one end and move your way across. try to hit your neighborhood somewhere in the middle. this not only allows you the chance to get your neighbors' candy (let them know its you. they might give you extra), but to empty your bounty. i kept a pillowcase in my tree house as a drop point. carrying an empty pumpkin pail late in the evening can often win you some sympathy sweets. plus, having a hidden treasure can help alleviate the stresses caused by parents who insist on a candy rationing system.

keep in mind, the best treats require a few tricks.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007


at times, i wonder whether anyone makes real scary movies any more. most of the newer flicks are outlandish ghost stories and monster movies or, worst of all, remakes of classic horror movies. they just go for the cheap reaction. an onslaught of blood and guts. a dark figure jumping out of the bushes. some sort of beast springing suddenly into frame. its not scary, its startling. real scary movies should actually scare you. leave you nervous and weary well after the credits roll. leave you awake at night wondering about every creak and shadow.

terror to me is reality. its hard for me to have any lasting after effects over the supernatural. Frankenstein and Dracula, though great books, fail for me in that they don't cross over to a real world possibility. the same goes for Freddy and Jason. the scariest thing for me is the human mind. not just the character's, but the viewer's own imagination.

i was about 10 when i first attempted to watch The Shining. i was staying over at my friend's house. his dad had rented it and sent us to bed early because it was "too scary for us". that's like telling a kid he can't have the candy on the table because its just too delicious. we went upstairs and laid on the floor at the top, poking our heads down just low enough to see the TV through the top railing posts. i could only make it about half way through. i wasn't even sure what i was scared of. the monster wasn't tangible. really, it was just a damaged psyche mixed with isolation. there's nothing really supernatural, which makes it all the more terrifying. its all much easier to accept as reality. i tried watching it a few more times as i got older. it wasn't until my junior year of college before i could watch it by myself.

a young woman on the run seeking shelter stops at the bates motel. so begins Psycho. Hitchcock really is a master when it comes to thrillers and storytelling. again, the monster isn't some science fiction, but the madness of a man. a man in a disguise, hiding in a silhouette, who stabs his victims to death when they're most vulnerable. insanity can't be reasoned with and it can't be dealt with logically. its the unknown and unexpected personified.

about the only ghost story that every really frightened me was The Amityville Horror. mainly because it was a true story, or based off of one. again, though this add a bit of a poltergeist twist, its the possession of the fathers mind amidst his helpless family that's the most chilling. there are ghost and demons, but they're never seen. they're presences. that's why they're scary. there's nowhere to direct the terror.

the first Alien movie was pretty scary when i first saw it. this one has a legit monster, but the danger of it is in the viewer's own mind. its minimal and quiet and secluded in the emptiness of space. you never really see the alien until the end. that's what makes it scary. you create a monster in your mind that's specific to your fears. when the slick, reptilian alien finally gets some camera time, its not a disappointment.

the Twin Peaks series. two season of television that is as chilling as it is addictive. i've watched the them all twice. the first time, i watched every episode over the course of a week (29 45-minute episodes). its mysterious and creepy and intriguing. mainly creepy. possible the best drama on television, ever.

what do you think?
what flicks scare you?
do they still make scary movies?

Tuesday, October 16, 2007


i've had a cell phone for about 5 years. most of the time i keep it in my front pants pocket. its always set to both vibrate and ring. the vibrating starts a few seconds before the ring so i have slightly more time to answer the call. more often then not, if i'm available to talk, i'm engaged in a conversation before the ringtone ever kicks in. i feel the call before hearing it, improving my response time

as a result of this behavior, i've been getting phantom rings. for about 2 years, give or take. little bursts of a vibrations on my upper thigh. right in the pocket region (blessing or curse - you make the call). i instinctively pull my phone out to find no one is calling.

its similar to phantom limb. the medical phenomenon, not the Shins song. when a person loses a part of their body, they sometimes experience a recurring sensation or pain felt coming from a part of them that no longer exists. like an aching in their left ankle after their entire left leg has been amputated. its odd. some sort of glitch between nerve endings and the synapses of a nostalgic brain .

i'm beginning to think that this "phantom" feeling isn't confined to limbs.

i've tried to formulate possible explanations behind this "phantom ring", but as per usual, my train of logical thought quickly derails into a fiery mess of imaginative unlikelihood. while this offers me no real answers, it does make for better blog posts and amusing campfire story times.

my theory:
cell phones emit and receive radio waves. my phone is kept in close proximity to my right leg. more specifically, my right femur. these radio waves probably travel through my flesh to the bone, then travel down through my fibula to the titanium plate and screws i had medically added for bone stability in high school. the radio waves excite the metal. it creates an attraction to ambient electrical charges, turning my ankle into a powerful electromagnet. the charged metal acts as a generator once its stimulated by the radio waves, thus turning my whole leg into an low pitch antenna. the phone in my pocket acts as a make-shift satellite dish. this lightning rod of nearby radiation pulls information of my surroundings in faster, allowing a for a slightly precognitive thigh. therefore, the vibration i feel is a 'spidey-sense', warning me of pending danger.

seems reasonable.
here's an artistic rendition:

...or it could be that i've just fallen into some psychosomatic habit from following a patterned routine .

i like the spidey-sense one better.

Thursday, October 11, 2007


i'm a dairy fan. actually, i was a dairy fan, once upon a time. i loved milk. with loads of vitamins for strong bones and healthy skin and a scrumptious refreshment beyond comparison, can you really blame me?

approximately 6 or 7 years ago, after countless mysterious belly aches, i discovered i'd become lactose intolerant. hypolactasia for all the smart pants. i think i over dosed on the stuff. i had broken my leg near the ankle during my senior year of high school just before a two week trip to Spain. far be it from me and my hobbled state to hold up any walking tours of foreign lands. after only a few days, i left my crutches behind and walked on my cast. i returned to a very displeased doctor who informed me that my bones weren't healing. i got the same news a month later. then a month later. nervous that my bones were lacking in some vital minerals, i turned to the bottle. the jug actually. i binge drank milk. gallons. the bone began to mend slowly and after 6 months, i was in two shoes again. not days after the liberation, i broke it again in a roller blading mishap. with nowhere else to turn, i found the jug. it was calling me. comforting my pain with its creamy goodness.

of course this is all speculation, but i believe that my body's production of the lactase enzyme, the enzyme which breaks down lactose sugar found in milk, had shut down from the stress of my demands.

i have since been forced to change my diet. no more ice cream or milkshakes. no skim, 2% or whole. if i want milk, i pay the price, if not physically, monetarily. special Lactaid milk (with the lactase enzyme added) is nearly twice the price. cheese is out too, unless its aged. i have to take special pills along whenever i go out to eat.

i've spent close to a decade cowering to my own intestines. no longer will i sit idly by while my guts hold the rest of me hostage. i'm drawing a line in the sand. i'm fighting back.

they say that humans are the only animals that continue to consume milk beyond infancy. they say that it's against evolution. against evolution? i say its the next step in evolution. by becoming my own guinea pig, i may just open the door to the next era of mankind. i'm approaching it like an addiction in reverse. i've begun slowly weaning milk back into my life. for the past couple months, i've been using half & half in my coffee. then this week, i bought regular milk. i'm drinking a cup of the blue cap each night.

my digestive system controls my intestinal tract, but i control my digestive system. i'm the boss. do you hear that, small intestines? who's yo daddy? i've got the brain and the muscles. what have you got? step out of line? fail to comply? i'll punch you. i'll eat indian food every night. i'll get that bypass surgery if i have to. i don't care. i'll do it. you WILL shape up or i WILL ship you out. digest milk or you're haggis.

that's not a threat, intestines. its a promise.


Friday, October 5, 2007


about a week ago, i was watching a late night re-run of Seinfeld. George and Jerry were sitting in the coffee shop trying to figure out what the deal is with something or other. i wasn't really paying attention because on the counter in the background was a box of Cherry Clans.

i haven't seen Cherry Clans since i was a boy. back when i used to shop at the 5 & 10 for penny candy, pop rocks and candy cigarettes. on occasion, i'd splurge on a box of Cherry Clans to satisfy my sugar fix. sweet and sour, hard and soft, all in one. little round cherry flavored deliciousness to aid in ridding my mouth of all the unwanted baby teeth, once and for all.

in those days, i had no idea how offensive it was. in reality, i failed to understand the meaning behind the confusing name, the derogatory cartoons on the box or the asian inspired font of choice. i never thought twice about the confusing name. things didn't have to make sense when i was 8. it wasn't until seeing them in the distant set design of a sitcom did it suddenly occur to me that it was a play on Charlie Chan. i immediately sent my team of top notch researchers to investigate.

it turns out Cherry Clans were made by the Ferrara-Pan Confection Co.. Ferrara being the founder, pan being his preferred cooking utensil. the same Ferrara-Pan Confections Co. who brought you the Lemonhead, the Jawbreaker and the Atomic Fireball. originally, Cherry Clans were in fact called Cherry Chans. no beating around the bush.

i don't know if threats of anti-defamation litigation got the ball of change rolling, but the name was altered from "chan" to "clan". not too long afterward, the cartoons changed to less enthnically specific caricatures. then, finally, maybe sometime in the mid to late 1990's, the company did a total overhaul of its branding. virtually all of their fruit flavored candies hopped onto Lemonhead's back, freeloading on his (yes, Lemonheads have a gender) success. Cherry Clans are now Cherryheads.
i guess ancient greek warriors found the Alexander The Grape candy equally distasteful. they're sensitive about their humongous feet and indigo complexions, i suppose. i, for one, will miss the mohawk helmet with build in sideburn shields.

it seems good 'ole Johnny Appletreat has hung up his sauce pan hat and closeted his neon green coveralls for keeps. apple growers of america really must have caused a ruckus over Ferrara's insinuation of their misuse of cookware and the slandering of agricultural heroes.

while i understand the need to change the Cherry Clans, did the rest of the treats need equal reprimand. seriously. there were definitely a few times when i bought Alexander The Grapes over Lemonheads purely because i thought i'd look cooler with them in my shirt pocket. he was a conqueror after all. a legendary king, an american pioneer, and a crime solving detective. now they're just generic, bow tied bubble headed nerds. the unique intrigue of yesteryear has turned to unbridled confectionary conformity.

a side note to concerned parents looking out for the welfare of their offspring: the candy's image has changed. they are all now virtually indistinguishable to the color blind. no one's feeling will be hurt... but the candy now comes in almost twice the size with almost twice the candy. while your outrage has successfully shielded your children from the harsh atrocities of human nature, its of little defense against their future diabetes.

touché, Mr. Ferrara.

Monday, October 1, 2007


i came across this full documentary of the film "War Made Easy". it's well made with great archival footage that can't help but make you think about the world we live in. take the time to watch this. its only a little over an hour and its narrated by Spicoli.