I'm getting ready to send my son out trick-or-treating for what could be his last time. He took this Halloween as seriously this year as he ever has, working with his mother for a solid month on his Optimus Prime costume. He also insisted that we drag up all of our cobwebs and black garlands and scary caution tape. He wanted us all to have our own pumpkin to carve. Our dog is wearing her pumpkin-colored collar. We are trying to cram as much Halloween into one night as we possibly can. The hangover will be horrifying.
That made me think of the years I spent living in various apartments around Boulder, Colorado. This was a time and place where Halloween was a much more grown-up enterprise. For many years, the place to be on that night was on the downtown Boulder Mall. Crowd estimates from the mid to late eighties put the number of costumed revelers in the neighborhood of thirty-five thousand. Most of these folks were found in a two-to-three block area, near a very large number of bars and restaurants that were at first pleased and happy with the massive surge of business on the night before All Saints Day.
I confess that I rarely made my way down to the mall in those days, preferring instead to host one of our date-specific parties (as opposed to our more casual "Hey, it's Thursday" gatherings). But that didn't mean I wasn't interested. I would always make a point to dispatch an emissary or fact-finding group to bring back a report on the debauchery. Boys dressed as Clockwork Orange Droogs dangled from streetlights. People passed out and never hit the ground because they was no way for them to reach the ground. I was always pleased when our party offered as much bad behavior and high concept costumes as could be found at the Mall Crawl. The hangovers back then were horrifying.
At the dawn of the nineties, Boulder had had enough. They blocked off the Interstate exits to keep hungry drunk boys from driving in from out of town. They asked bars and restaurants to close early and after a decade of excess, happily complied. They closed parking garages and made the fun go away. By the time I left Boulder in 1992, there was no more craziness on the Pearl Street Mall on Halloween. At least by the standard they had set themselves. Tonight the powers that be will attempt to burst the fun-bubble in San Francisco's Castro district. BART trains won't stop there. Everyone will go home early because the place is closing at dark. All of those giddy good times will have to take place somewhere else.
It's almost like Halloween wasn't for grownups anymore.