I loved Halloween as a kid because, duh, candy. I grew up in a small town and for as long as I can remember, our parents sent us out with friends to run around the neighborhood until we got tired of trick-or-treating. Neighborhood parents rightly rolled their eyes about the bogus poisoned-candy and razor blade scares. The only horrible thing that ever happened was that once some teenagers ran by, pushed us over and stole all of our candy. They are surely going straight to hell.
My kids love Halloween because, duh, candy. I still love it, although for different reasons now. I like that it’s the one time of the year that most of the city throws a giant block party. Everyone welcome! If the price I pay for that is that my children stuff themselves with candy until they get sick for a couple of nights afterward, well, that’s a learning experience too. I also like that this is one way San Francisco is like where I grew up; older kids go trick-or-treating on their own, and their parents stay home to hand out candy. In San Francisco parents walking around with younger kids aren’t forgotten either; if we’d wanted to, we could have enjoyed a full cocktail hour thanks to the beer, wine and cheese and cracker spreads laid out for parents.
The only downside of trick-or-treating in San Francisco from our perspective is that there aren’t enough kids. As a result, when our kids went out in our neighborhood last year their bags broke, because everyone was so excited to get trick-or-treaters that they gave out candy by the handful. Even with all the stair-climbing in our neighborhood (roughly 20 steps per building) to tire them out, it was out of control. I’m guilty of the same thing: we were so excited to double our trick-or-treaters—two this year instead of one last year—that we were like shills for tooth decay.
So this year we headed to Belvedere Street, where the neighborhood decorates to the hilt, and where with 2,000 trick-or-treaters coming from as far away as Marin, the one-piece-per-kid rule is very strictly enforced. The decorations were amazing. But because most people decorate their garages, they move their cars to the street. And it’s tough to park a car in that neighborhood under the best of circumstances. And 2,000 families come to check it all out. A good proportion of them, sadly, come by car.
We can top that! We took the Bullitt, of course. I had two giraffes riding in my Bullitt, and on Halloween even more than usual, people were impressed. “What’s that bike and where can I get one?!?” people asked, and then they took pictures. I’m sure we would have gotten even more attention if we weren’t so quick by bike. In the time it took us to ride up the hill, park, walk the kids up and down both sides of the street, load up, and head back home to do an abbreviated circuit of our neighborhood, other families who’d arrived when we did (but by car) were still circling for parking. That must suck.
The only bad news for me this year was discovering that there is such a thing as “Trunk or Treat.” Apparently this is a suburban thing, where churches or schools (!!!) encourage families to drive to a parking lot with a trunk full of candy, then have the kids run around from car to car bagging it up. Someone called it “tailgating for kids.” I’d like to stab this “new tradition” in the heart with a plastic sword. I can’t think of anything more antithetical to the spirit of Halloween as I understand it. Handing out candy isn’t the point of the holiday. It’s an excuse, an incentive strong enough for kids to pull their parents out of the house, and make a city a place again. On Halloween we talk to the neighbors. We take the streets back for people.