Friday, October 31, 2014

Mischief night

Oct. 30, 1980

It’s the day before Halloween, a day that meant real trouble when I was young – not for me, but for every single car window within blocks of my house I could lay a piece of soap on.
We called it goosey night; elsewhere people called it mischief night.
But over the years, I’ve seen the tradition fade from the somewhat maniacal passion we put into the evening’s festivities.
Halloween itself was supposed to have been the wild night, the night before All Soul’s Day.
But society found ways to clean up the wild holiday so that eventually a new night evolved in which we could let out our wild spirits.
Yet in my travels, I found some places never expanded the transition, and the idea of a night for mischief seemed as alien as some of the characters that showed up at people’s doors begging for treats.
In Portland, mischief night was still Halloween, keeping with the tradition that ghosts and goblins let loose prior to All Soul’s Day, so that trick-or-treaters were often intermingled with mischief makers like me. But even at that it is tamer than what I’m used to back east, and only those from my part of the country recognize the difference, or are even aware that mischief night ought to be on a different night than Halloween.
People in the southwest seem to know nothing of this primitive habit, and look on me with shock and dismay when I mention it, asking why anyone would so such an uncivilized thing as that.
And to tell you the truth there is no way to explain the exhilaration I’ve felt fleeing down a dark street, staying in the shadows street lamps cannot illuminate to the pop, pop, pop of leftover fireworks and the raised voices of angry people trying to find out where we went so they could ring our necks.
Or the smug pleasure we felt walking to school the next day when we saw red-faced people scrubbing soap or wax off the windshields of their cars. Sometimes, a besmirched store display would go all the way into the Christmas season uncleaned, giving us a good laugh each time we passed knowing that those marks were ours.
We were leaving our mark on the world, getting our small piece of immortality.
Something people today seem not to understand, even though many of them grew up in the same place and time as I did.
Knowing all this, I’m still debating whether or not to move my car to some “safe” location, seeing myself red-faced in tomorrow’s cold scraping soap, wax or worse off my windshield.
When I was younger and on the other side, I saw it all as right and proper – and important ritual I had to do each year on this day.
I was telling people I existed, even if they didn’t know exactly who I was.
These days, I’m still trying to leave my mark, not with a bar of soap, but in other ways, and these days, I want people to know exactly who did it.
Still, I feel the urge to get some soap. If I do, I’ll start with my own car.

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