I’ll be honest. When I think of Halloween these days at four decades in I get a little, well, meh. For me the gusto goes primarily to my kids and their assorted notions. “Nerd vampire” here, “moustachioed lumberjack” there, maybe a growling bat, maybe a smiley cowgirl. Costuming druthers swirl into the ether, their ideas and pairings, until something likely unforeseen altogether comes to fruition. The freedom of imagination and living in a town where almost anything goes. Swoon. And to be 12!
Because when I was 12? Man, I rocked it! Growing up in the less-than-noteworthy burg of Beaumont, Texas, I truly savored the outlet Halloween graced us with annually. OK, by New Orleans standards it was very tame or mundane, what have you. And mischief was met in creative outlets that may or may not have included eggings and fireworks, but this was the 80s after all. No scary Vine videos to loop into perpetuity. No hashtagging afoot either. Maybe a Polaroid or three and whispery remembrances scrawled on the back.
Year after year at All Saints Episcopal — say it with me a la the Tappet brothers duet “our fair grade school” — the oft black-and-white robed, bespectacled and balding, lean-framed headmaster, Fr. Calcote, gave the same chapel service each October 31. His voice echoed perfectly if not dryly off the stony walls the words, “All Hallow’s Eve,” while preparing without yet another communion. But this was Halloween edition! You see, we did chapel daily. That’s right: d-a-i-l-y. So. I mean, while each daily service sort of ran together, his voice recounting the religious basis for this haunted holiday was something — though at 40, the specifics are now fuzzy.
The average Halloween POV: just get all dressed up, all funny like, spoofing something or trying to be scary with it and partake of some candy, right? Wrong. There’s a reason for everything. So sit down and listen, bub. Or just wiki it. But as kids, listen we did. At least I did. But my recollection? Shot! Because again, as I am now bespectacled and balding myself, my own kids’ voices tend to erode away what sanity, memory, and hearing remain, so Fr. Calcote’s words in hindsight meld into something akin to a variation on M. Night Shyamalan’s The Village. Really.
Now my neighbor across the street on the other hand? Miss Cindy? Well, she’s over 40, but man, she doesn’t fool around. H is for Halloween, and Halloween is for her! Every year she gets gonzo on the festivities, and this year, thanks to much American Horror Story inspiration she has outperformed all prior years by freaks and bones, er, leaps and bounds. And a tip of the festooned top hat in her general direction, and also of course to the scores of others in and around the Crescent City who make the holiday so special and memorable. Unequivocally, New Orleanians possess the insatiable desire to excessively adorn, playfully distort, and share amid the masses just about anything, really.
Except I don’t know for me. Maybe next year? If life begins at 40, as so many before me have attested, then may inspiration strike and by my 41st or sooner. Today would be good. I want to believe.
Jean-Paul Villere is the owner of Villere Realty and Du Mois Gallery on Freret Street and a married father of four girls. In addition to his Wednesday column at UptownMessenger.com, he also shares his family’s adventures sometimes via pedicab or bicycle on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.