Happy Hallowhat (Revsited)

Many of you have read this chapter either online, or as part of the book, however, it’s worth posting once again as it’s that time of year again. Full disclosure: I’d never felt this story fit into the theme of the book and had no intention to include it alongside the other short stories of life on the road.
Then a strange thing happened. Some fans who’ve now become friends, Doug and Liz Champagne from Vancouver Island told me it was their favourite story.
“Jay, you have to include that story. I laughed so hard man. You HAVE to!”
“Ok Doug, since you’re The Dude….I will abide!”
So here’s the story with notable references to costumes, trick or treating, fear, high-school hijinx, and bad acting with a girl named Lois who is now living somewhere in the US Virgin Islands. Those five back and forth years with her are forged in my memory like beautiful dream. Thankfully we’re still friends.  In the book, Canadian folk artist Pearl Rachinsky has brilliantly illustrated Lois to complement the song I wrote for her entitled: Could it Be.
So to answer the question (finally) of what the references mean?
She had Picasso prints on the wall. A copy of On The Road on her coffee table. Knew “Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night”, all of Cohen’s records, a poster of Janis Joplin on her bedroom door, a May West spirit and the soul of Aphrodite. That’s all I’ll share for now.
I’ve included it all here for you today. Happy Hallowhat!


My fascination with Halloween started quite young. I remember the very first time I was allowed to go along with my older brother and sister who were leading the way, they brought me home in tears after thirty minutes, telling mom I was a ‘tag-a-long’ and I was unceremoniously dumped back at home to count my twenty-five kiss candies. After a few years I realized I would have done the exact same thing if I’d had a younger sibling. Such is life.
I remember there was a three-year run when my desire to dress up as something totally unique was squashed as I donned a scruffy jacket, work socks, green toque, plastic bottle sticking out of a paper bag and went out as a homeless man. What the hell? Who approved this? Oh, I almost forgot the burnt cork rubbed on my face to simulate dirt. Oh so, hobo-sheik. So, yes there I was, stumbling around my neighbourhood looking like a kid who simply couldn’t pull his act together before the big day. That said mom did rig up a big-time Batman costume a few years later for which I’m eternally grateful. I have shied away from costumes ever since.
Two of those years, nearing the end of my route, just as my pillow case was beginning to fill, some bad-ass kids jumped out of the bushes and ransacked us. The first time they got away with my loot and the following year I held on tight enough to retain it all.

Ahhhh the loot: 10 per cent chocolate bars, 10 per cent fruit which was hurled immediately onto the street to detect the razor blades, 30 per cent multi-coloured chalky candy in a roll, 40 per cent Kiss Candy’s (made by the Dental Association of America), 8 per cent variety paper bags, 1 per cent loose change, and 1 per cent tooth brushes (always from an absentee dentists house). We’d get home and spread it all out on newspapers and proceed to hoard our stash for the days to come. Inevitably the high profile chocolate bars would appear in my brother Bill’s stash as his sweet-tooth was beyond legendary. I can’t say I blame him – we all have our weaknesses. After all, I still owe my brother Phil the complete songbook of Bob Dylan. I lost it along the way.
The years passed and there we were eighteen-years-old meeting at the Bolan house to prepare for the big Halloween Bash at the Ramada Inn. Greg, Marc, Geoff, Andy, Bob, Dale, Paul – the whole gang. Some were really into it and some of us were not. We had to inform our buddy Greg that the wizards beard he was Crazy-gluing to his face was neither effective nor safe. He disregarded our comments and continued gluing on a cotton baton moustache and eye-brows. Amidst the heat of the party hours much later on, these artificial adhesions simply looked like strands of rope dangling off of his sweaty face. Wizard my ass. I quickly borrowed Mr. Bolan’s trench coat (see hobo) and deked into a Shoppers Drug Mart to buy a mask. They were sold out of my size (oversized noodle alert) and I was forced to buy a skin tight plastic mask of an old man with a big nose. I remember trying to cut a hole in the mouth to help me breath and to allow for the occasional cigarette but alas, I ripped it to the chin making my costume look beyond low rent. Comical I guess, but really low rent.
Naturally we were strobing on some different planet by 10 p.m. By 11 p.mp I was wobbling around the ballroom reuniting with high-school buddies and sneaking out to the parking lot for a puff or two. Suddenly I heard our local radio DJ (dressed as the Iron Sheik) hosting the ‘best costume’ award from the stage. I stumbled into a long line behind the Three Little Pigs who I’d met earlier and eventually made it up onto the stage. The Sheik held the mic up to my torn mouth and said ‘So what group are you?” I asked rhetorically “What group?” Two hundred people laughed.

I didn’t get it at the time, but it was GROUP judging, i.e. Three Little Pigs. I was a random solo with an awful costume. I thought he was asking me what my favourite group was, so I responded The Beatles. People began to boo and The Sheik leaned in close and said “Are you okay buddy?” I was far from okay. I was escorted off the stage like the loser I was. The only redeeming part to this story was seeing my buddies on the floor in laughter when I arrived back to our table. Watching Merlin laugh through the cotton and Crazy-glue was enough reward for me.

The costumes are just one part of this scene I avoid. What about the pagan rituals? What about the witchcraft and horror? I’ve often never been able to deal with scary movies the way some folks just seem to love them. I enjoy the intentionally bad B-movie genre that’s tongue in cheek but as for the rest? No thanks! I can handle amusing campy flicks with chainsaws and goalie masks but when fiction turns to the spirit world? No way.
It first started when a gang of us tried to watch The Exorcist. Halfway through the movie, some of the guys came up with excuses about how they have to ‘get home early’, ‘stuff to do’, etc… Suddenly everyone was gone. I was terrified. Not only did they bail on me, they proceeded to tap on my windows and phone the house and hang up. You know all the tricks your good buddies would pull on you back then. To this day, I have still not finished that movie.
Then many years later it was another movie: The Blair Witch Project. I was in Gananoque, Ontario and I stopped in for the night at an old resort. The girl at the front desk claimed they only had a few cabins out back available to rent. It was a cold November night and just the perfect backdrop for what was about to happen. When I checked into my room I noticed a sign on top of the TV which read ‘Free Movies at front desk’. I walked to the front lobby and inquired about their selections. She strongly advised a new movie called The Blair Witch Project which was her ‘favourite of all time!’ I bit.
When that movie was over, I looked out the window of the cabin and noticed a long thin tree branch creaking up against the eaves. Suddenly I heard noises in the closets. My imagination was running wild! Or was it? I immediately took the movie back to the front desk like it was possessed. “I can’t believe you suggested that movie!” I said with authority.

“Would you mind switching me to another room?” I asked.

“Oh wow. I’m very sorry about that. I guess that movie is not for everyone!”

“Not for everyone? Are you kidding me? That movie was terrifying. I really need you to change my room.”

“I’m so sorry but we’re totally filled. You’ll be ok. Just get some sleep!”

I drove to an all-night Tim Horton’s and drank decaf until 5 a.m.

So why did I share this story?

The other day my girlfriend asked me if I’d like to go out for Halloween.
I cleverly responded “Why don’t we just stay home and have a Halloween party for two?”
“Yeah right. But you won’t dress up for me?” she said.
“Well, yeah of course I will. I’ll go buy a pizza, come back and knock on the door and you can answer it dressed up in classic French maid attire! You’ll be the French maid and I’ll be the pizza boy! It’s perfect.”
“Works well for you lover boy but what do I get out of the deal?”
“Well, I’ll eat some pizza and watch you tidy up for a bit and when the time is right I’ll let you make your move!”
“Sounds like you should dress up a Martian and go join your imaginary friends back on planet dreamer! And once you’re done that, call the Ramada Inn to make those reservations like I asked.”
“Yes dear. Oh, have you seen my trench coat and that old plastic wine bottle?”

She has Picasso in her hands
Dylan Thomas on her breath
Kerouac in her plans
Cohen in her death
Living just this side of lonely
in a house she’s built of stone
 Her thoughts are always shared
although she shares them all alone
Could it be
she’s tearing down the walls that surround me
She’s opened up my door and found me
She’s got a pearl within her heart
Portia in your eyes
May West in her breast
Aphrodite in her thighs
She’s a rainbow in a hurricane
A queen inside a fool
She everything she’s anything
She’s her own golden rule
Could it be
She’s tearing down the walls that surround me
She’s opened up my door and found me
The future’s an illusion
When our past is left alone
Now is the confusion
It’s the understood unknown
There’s echoes in the distance getting closer every time
If you  can’t do the loving boy
then don’t commit the crime
Could it be
she’s tearing down the walls that surround me
she’s  opened up my door and thrown away the key
Could it be
you’re tearing down the walls that surround me
You’ve opened up my door and found me
Could it be


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