A very important consideration to understand when trying to understand Texas is that we get involved in Halloween festivities. It’s not because Halloween marks the end of harvest season: out here, the end of September marks when we start our fall and winter gardens. It’s not marking the last few warm days before the nightmare of winter falls upon us: I’ve regularly spent Christmas Eve picking habanero peppers and tomatoes for Christmas dinner. You could make an argument that in as repressed an area as Dallas, Halloween is an essential safety valve, as the innumerable seasonal Halloween stores popping up in otherwise empty strip mall storefronts might suggest: that’s an argument that has merit, considering that half of the costumes inside are some variation on either “sexy” or “zombie”. There’s really only one good reason for us to go insane about Halloween festivities, though: this is a completely justifiable celebration of the end of summer. As of right now, we have seven months of air that doesn’t smell of burned flint, seven months of opening windows at night instead of running air conditioners all night long, and seven months of being able to go outside for more than ten minutes at a time without bursting into flame.
If you think we’re enjoying an end to outside conditions more evocative of a cement kiln than a back yard, you should see the plants. The problem out here isn’t that things get so hot during the day, but that most of that heat is trapped at night, too. Most of our native plants shut down over the summer, because temperatures only drop at night to the point where they can photosynthesize for an hour or two at dawn. Non-native plants either struggle or burn off, which is why we’re so fond of separate spring and fall gardens in between the days of “I’m Going To Blow Up The Sun Just So I Can Sleep at Night.”
If it means we go a little insane in Halloween festivities, then so be it. Sure, I can name the number of times I’ve seen an actual hard frost on Halloween Week on one hand, and still have enough fingers left to play baseball, but that just means that the decent weather lasts that much longer. It’s pretty comparable to the craziness at Easter in higher latitudes: we’re just celebrating that it’s OVER!
That said, it’s not all spiderwebs and werewolves. Fall in Texas means that the fundamental conflict between two groups of obsessives comes to full force. You have us, the normal people who bawl our eyes out at the end of Alien when the best-developed character in the whole movie gets thrown out the airlock, and then there are the freaks. The people too busy for haunted houses and apple cider because they’re focusing on Texas’s one real official religion. Yeah, the football fanatics.
It’s always a struggle. Always. You don’t see workplaces telling everyone “Come in Friday dressed as your favorite monster,” and then threatening anybody who wears anything but vampire garb with disciplinary action. Downtown Dallas doesn’t smell like beer vomit and Rohypnol every weekend because of roving gangs of pumpkin carving hooligans. I have yet to hear of a single case of a crazed parent shooting or threatening to shoot a drama teacher because his/her kid didn’t make the cut in a theatrical makeup competition. And when the costumers have their big party, we tend to clean up after ourselves. It’s no surprise that one of the great philosophers of the Twentieth Century was so succinct about his fear of Dallas:
(Fifteen years ago, I was living in Portland, Oregon when King of the Hill first premiered. I was already pretty homesick for Texas, but nothing hit me so hard as having to explain to well-meaning co-workers why this line was so convulsingly funny. Spend a few weeks in Dallas this time of the year, though, and you’ll understand.)
Most years, there’s no real conflict. The football fanatics hold up garlic. We grab it away and use it in chili. They retaliate with tailgate parties. We reciprocate by asking “Not used to staying up all night, are you?” They stay away from the apple cider doughnuts, and we don’t spraypaint “REMEMBER 1996?” on SMU’s new stadium. It’s mutually assured destruction, but it keeps us both a little sane.
Well, that was then. Someone amped up the war. Some sick vermin crossed a line that was set about a mile back, and grinned while doing so. This person or persons unknown produced what’s probably the most horrifying Halloween decoration I’ve ever seen. This person, when found, will PAY.
This is uncalled for. I couldn’t come up with anything this sick, and I’ve spent the last week overdosing on Ego Likeness albums. Is someone REALLY wanting to awaken at dawn to find us standing over him, ready to plunge a goalpost through his heart to stop the nightmare?