Dave Barry

A fun-free Halloween

(This Dave Barry column was originally published Oct. 27, 2002.)

Gather `round, boys and girls, because today Uncle Dave is going to tell you how to have some real ``old-fashioned'' Halloween fun!

Start by gathering these materials: a commercial air compressor, an acetylene torch, a marine flare gun and 200 pounds of boiled pig brains. Next, select a neighbor who ... Whoops! Scratch that, boys and girls!

Uncle Dave did not realize that your parents were also reading this column. Ha ha! Hi there, Mom and Dad! Uncle Dave was just having a flashback to the Halloweens of his boyhood, an innocent time when parents were far more relaxed and clueless about what their kids were up to.

``You kids have fun, and be home by Thanksgiving!'' our parents would call to us on Halloween night, as we staggered out the front door, weighed down by hundreds of pounds of concealed vandalism supplies, including enough raw eggs to feed Somalia for decades. By morning, thanks to our efforts, the entire neighborhood would be covered with a layer of congealed shaving cream and toilet paper that, around certain unpopular neighbors' homes, was hundreds of feet thick. This is how the Appalachian Mountains were formed.

Yes, boys and girls, Uncle Dave and his chums sure had a lot of fun on Halloween! And when Uncle Dave says ``a lot of fun,'' he means, ``a very unsafe time.'' Because it turns out that we were violating many Halloween safety rules. In those days, we did not know about the importance of Halloween safety, because the Internet did not exist, at least not the way it is today.

Back then, the entire Internet consisted of two slow, boxcar-sized UNIVAC computers about 50 feet apart, connected by a wire. It would take one of these computers an entire day to send an e-mail to the other one, which would immediately delete it, because it was a Viagra ad.

Thanks to technological progress, we have access to much more information today, so we understand how hideously dangerous pretty much everything is, especially Halloween. Uncle Dave looked up ``Halloween Safety'' on the Internet, and he found a scary Web site established by the National Safety Council, at http://www.crimemuseum.org/documents/Halloween%20Safety%20Tips

On this site, you parents will find numerous tips to ensure that your children have a safe Halloween. For your convenience, Uncle Dave has boiled these tips down to five:

1. Never allow your children outside on Halloween night.

2. Or in the daytime, either.

3. Your children should spend Halloween locked inside a windowless room, sedated and wrapped from head to toe in reflective tape.

4. If, God forbid, some neighbor, somehow, manages to actually give one of your children a treat, you must immediately snatch it away and destroy it with a flamethrower.

5. Never use a flamethrower while sleeping.

Uncle Dave's point is that Halloween is not the carefree holiday that it once was. These days, nobody goes outside on Halloween night except teenagers, which Uncle Dave-believe it or not!-used to be one of, although he now finds them terrifying. But does that mean that youngsters can no longer have fun on Halloween? Yes!

No, wait, Uncle Dave means: No! There are plenty of Halloween activities that are both fun AND safe. For example, there is: CARVING THE PUMPKIN.

This is a Halloween tradition that began in the British Isles, where one magical night several centuries ago, a group of people decided to put a lit candle inside a hollowed-out pumpkin, to symbolize the fact that they had been hitting the sauce pretty hard.

Today, pumpkin-carving is an activity that the whole family can enjoy, except for Dad, who gets stuck with the job of actually carving the pumpkin, which means he has to stick his hand inside and grasp the pumpkin slime, knowing that at any moment he might encounter the North American Gourd-Dwelling Scorpion, whose toxic sting claims more American lives each year than cellular phones and asteroids combined.

The best way to avoid this danger, advises the American Pumpkin Growers Council, is to make sure you buy a pumpkin ``that costs a lot of money.''

You'll have to excuse Uncle Dave now, because he has a batch of pig brains on the stove.

(c) Dave Barry

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