The World Is Scary Enough

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Halloween is more than five weeks away. Already, store aisles are set aside for candy and other treats, costumes and yard art. That seems premature, when it is still hot enough to take a plunge in the pool. I am a grinch when it comes to Halloween. I always declined to participate when the office workers donned costumes for the holiday, spending the day dealing with customers while dressed as a witch with a green face, or a bloodied victim of the “Texas Chainsaw Massacre.” Not much work got done on Halloween. I told colleagues my uniform was pretending to be a newspaper publisher.

Like all holidays, the amount of stuff sold for Halloween has expanded. When I was a child, people did not decorate their yards for Halloween. They bought a bowl’s worth of candy, told their kids to cut a couple of holes in a disused sheet, and sent them out the door with a paper bag to harass the neighbors and get enough candy to allow the dentist to make his snowmobile payment.

Maybe my lack of enthusiasm for Halloween stems from the fact that chances were fair it would snow in New Hampshire that day, a harbinger of a long winter — and months before we could play baseball again.

Or maybe it is because I have no desire to purposely allow myself to be frightened. I was driving on the loop the other day and saw a billboard for a local haunted house. Its slogan is: “The Fear is Here.” Now, why in thunder would I want to pay to have someone covered in fake blood and looking like a zombie scare the bejeebers out of me? Or stick a running chain saw in my face, even though I know the chain has been taken off for safety’s sake? The answer is nope, not going to happen.

This lack of desire to subject myself to scary stuff extends to horror movies. I have never enjoyed watching them and avoid them assiduously. My middle daughter, Mere, loves horror movies. She is a film critic and thus in part gets paid to review horror films, as well as other genres. She regularly attends horror film festivals. I would rather spend an afternoon reading Donald Trump’s tweets.

Mere recently drove to Austin from Houston — a three-and-a-half hour trip — to see Stephen King’s “It,” then drove back, got a few hours sleep and wrote her review. I admire her work ethic, for sure. I might have to watch “It” once it comes out on DVD or is streamed, because it is the scariest novel I have ever read. “It” also feels as if it could have been set in my little N.H. hometown, which had its share of creepiness when I was living there — a murder down the street, a suicide by a next-door neighbor, a classmate abducted and later found dead, a series of mysterious fires by arson. But I am not about to watch “It” on a big screen, where I can’t hit the pause button when it gets to be too much — or drink some wine to calm my nerves.

I figure the world is a scary enough place all by itself. Deadly hurricanes, murderous earthquakes, massive forest fires, not to mention the threat of nuclear conflagration with North Korea — with two unstable leaders at the helm and increasing brinksmanship on both sides. Just turning on NPR or reading the New York Times online often leaves one with that sick feeling in the pit of the stomach. At least it does me. I end up switching to Spotify or watching cat videos on YouTube.

There is comfort in knowing that I grew up during the height of the Cold War. As kids, we were drilled in how to get under our desks and cover our heads in the event the Russians launched nuclear missiles. And we emerged unscathed. No nuclear weapons have been launched at another country in 72 years. But this current conflict appears to be dangerously close to getting out of hand, and the present Oval Office occupant is not making the situation any safer.

That is far more frightening than any Haunted House. The “Fear is Here,” indeed.



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