Joy suckers…

I was served up an article today listing the “10 costumes you must never ever wear for Halloween” unless you want to risk being branded a privileged cultural appropriating racist. Having worn a few of those costumes as a kid, I can only say I’m incredibly thankful to have grown up before everyone started being offended by everything and all dissent can be silenced by simply branding the other person racist. The ideological lock step with which certain segments of the population seem to believe must be adhered to without question or deviation is chilling. Especially when you remember a time when that same group rallied regularly in support of radical free expression in the arts, in public forums, and on the airwaves. Then again, perhaps that really just meant freedom for those enunciating approved, doctrinaire ideas.

Here’s the neat thing about being a grown ass adult: I’m old enough to not have to ask anyone’s permission before wearing anything, especially not when the point of the day is to dress up in such a way as to come as you aren’t. I’m also old enough to remember when the ending of a popular children’s poem was “But names will never hurt me,” though that’s probably a topic for a different post. In any case, I heartily thank the gods I haven’t gotten a cease and desist letter from the punk rockers, or the new wave kids, or the grunge bands demanding that I give up my beloved Doc 1640s. Surely, based on how the idea of cultural appropriation is being applied in the early 21st century, I’m guilty of absconding with late 20th century English heritage, no?

Maybe you won’t hear it anywhere else this year, but you’ll hear it from me – if you want to dress as a samurai, bandit, cowboy, cop, biker, construction worker, sailor, Indian chief, or whatever else happens to tickle your happy place, go forth as you will and enjoy your Halloween festivities. My advice to you is to not let the fact that some small segment of the population wants to act as judge and jury of a self-appointed inquisitorial hurt feelings goon squad get in the way of your enjoying the day. They’ve clearly managed to suck the joy our of their own lives already and you’d be well served not to let them do the same to yours.

Not a sermon, just a thought.

My biggest regret…

Over the last couple of years I’ve tried to be a decent member of the community and distribute the requisite candy on the day designated each year in which we teach America’s youth that begging door to door is the key to momentary happiness. After watching literal van loads of kids and adults from elsewhere being hauled in and deposited in the neighborhood to scavenge last year, though, I’m out.

The comings and goings and ringing doorbell agitate the hell out of the dogs – which in turn agitates the hell out of me. It’s the middle of the week and after a day’s work, a hundred trips to the door amidst the frantic jostling of Maggie and Winston sounds like the polar opposite of a good time. The whole process requires a level of polite interface with perfect strangers that I will just never find enjoyable no matter how traditional the holiday experience.

If I thought individual humans were to in any way be trusted to restrain themselves and display a modicum of civil behavior, I’d leave heaps of candy unattended for the taking… but since experience tells me that doesn’t last past the third visitor, it’s all going to be a big pass for me tonight.

It’s a Tuesday night and all I really, truly want to do is be home, enjoy the critters, make dinner, and spend a few hours relaxing before sleep claims me. Truly Halloween is the night of the year when I most regret not buying a house with a gated drive or a drawbridge I could pull up.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Begging. Tonight’s the night when all you parents out there send your children mixed messages by encouraging them off to talk to strangers for candy. Fortunately the houses in my neighborhood are far enough apart that it’s not particularly lucrative bit of ground to cover, so there aren’t typically herds of children wandering around looking for a handout. It’s not so much that I mind the giving away of candy, but like the 4th of July, it’s one of those nights that threatens to send one or both of the dogs over the edge every time they hear the gate close or someone knocking on the door. Then again there’s the unmitigated glee when I open the door so parent and child are faced with a surly looking bald man with two barking dogs at his back… so at least there’s that.

2. Getting Close. Earlier this month it looked like jeffreytharp.com was well on its way to having its best month ever in terms of unique views. WordPress was regularly reporting daily views of 50 or 60 people. On October 3rd, the site posted its biggest single day. Since this past Sunday the number of views per day have plummeted for reasons I haven’t been able to identify just yet. At the rate they’re hitting now, I’ll be lucky to bring in 50 or 60 views this week. Alas, such are the vagaries of the internet. As October draws to a close, I’ll have to content myself with having the 2nd best month in the blog’s short history… and start worrying about how to keep November from ending up recorded as the 2nd worst.

3. Indecision. You can accuse me of a lot of things, but being indecisive is generally not one of them. Right, wrong, or otherwise, when confronted with possible courses of action I’ll pick one based on the best information I have available at the time and move out smartly. I’ll never claim to make the right decision all the time, but I’ll by God make one instead of just sitting around waiting for something to happen. Whether it’s where to have lunch or which program to throw over the side, I wish the populace at large would just stop pussyfooting around and figure out what they want to happen. Walking through life having other people’s bad decisions foist upon you is simply piss poor planning. As far as I’m concerned, any decision made on the spot is better than a great decision made ten minutes too late.

Beware of Dog…

Once upon a time, my opinions were sought out on such issues as organizational efficiencies and streamlining processes and procedures. I like to think that I had some good ideas that ended up saving a decent amount of time and money for my employer. Since that kind of thing is no longer part of my operational portfolio, I have to make do with dispensing these little pearls of wisdom to whomever happens to be in earshot at any given time (i.e. anyone who happens to wander across this page in the hope of finding something new or informative to read). Suckers.

It’s with that in mind that my thoughts turn to Halloween and trick-or-treating. That magical time of year when for one dark, dark night, it’s perfectly acceptable for your children to brazenly approach strangers and accept candy from them. If I sat at the park offering the same candy on a random weekday evening in June, I’d be locked up for sure. Like most other pegan-based holidays, I’m sure the roots of Halloween are originally a good time for everyone. In a day and age when you have to drive little Bobby and Suzy from door to door so they can learn the only socially accepted form of begging in the civilized world, I’m not sure that it continues to serve a useful purpose. That said, this is my proposal: Instead of spending a lot of money on a costume, running out gas getting too and from the neighborhood of your choice, and generally spending several hours out in the cold, why doesn’t every parent just go to the nearest Walmart, Giant, Kroger, or local convenience store, spend five dollars on candy for their own kid, and call it a day. We’d collectively save a mountain of cash by following this simple plan. I wouldn’t spend the night worried that someone is going to slip, fall, and sue me. And the dogs wouldn’t launch into a barking fit every time they hear someone walking across the deck. So come on, help me help you.

Now if you’ll excuse me it’s time to go hang up the Beware of Dog signs and make sure today’s troubled youth stay off my lawn.

The holiday spirit…

Let’s go ahead and get something out of the way right now. Trick-or-treating is really just an excuse to send your children out into the street begging for candy from strangers. It’s pretty much exactly what you teach them not to do the other 364 days of the year. If it’s a guy in a van offering you a Snickers bar, stay away… but feel free to go right up to his house and knock on the door. Nice job on sending mixed messages, mom and dad. That’s fine. They’re your kids, so it doesn’t make much difference to me either way. That’s not really my point, though.

Before you send little Johnny or Suzie to knock on my door tonight, I need you to take note of the “Beware of Dog” sign placed prominently displayed in the window. It’s not that my dogs are particular vicious. In fact they’ve never shown signs of it at all, but if I decide to open up the door when you knock, there’s a fair chance that they’re going to bound out of the house in a bit of frenzy. See, they’re not all that keen on visitors and they’ll have a tendency to jump on you and your little darlings until they’re satisfied that you’re not really that interesting.

Sure, I could lock them in the basement tonight, but you see, the thing is they live here and you don’t. More importantly, I like them more than I like you, random neighbor who’s showing up at my door expecting me to give candy to your children. So in order to save us all a lot of headache, here’s the deal: I’m going to set a large bowl of candy and a “help yourself” sign on the deck. Feel free to take something. When it’s gone, it’s gone. If you decide to knock on the door instead of following instructions, I’m going to let the dogs out to jump on you, bark at you, and hopefully knock you down.