When I was in college I loved Halloween. There was drinking, revealing costumes, a chance to be someone else for the night—and did I mention the drinking? In fact, a friend of mine still throws an “adults-only” pre-Halloween party every year that is so true to the hallowed traditions of holiday debauchery that she has a DJ and a bartender. However, as I’ve gotten older, and as the thrill of staggering home at five am in full face paint has lost its thrill, I’ve started to wax nostalgic for the Halloweens of my youth, where the only adults you ever saw in costumes were the mothers who dressed as witches to hand out candy, and any drunkenness was confined to that one house on the corner where the dad was always drunk by six pm regardless.
Nowadays, however, Halloween drunkenness is common, especially downtown where I live. Who knows, maybe it’s because the town’s collective liver is still “in the spirit” after Homecoming’s Sunrise Services, but for some reason Halloween in Flagstaff seems to be especially beloved by the inebriants. In fact, a few years ago my family came up with a game to play the morning after both Homecoming and Halloween: it’s called “Puke Bingo,” and instead of using squares on a piece of paper, you use sections of downtown sidewalk and . . . well, you get the point.
Sometimes I feel a little guilty about raising my children in a place that is so young adult-centric. I mean it—if you’re twenty-one and up, Flagstaff is the bomb. But for those under twenty-one . . . well, not so much. Don’t get me wrong—I think Flagstaff does a great job in trying to provide opportunities for children and families, whether it’s the new Aquaplex or the Wednesday Night Concerts in Wheeler Park. But the sad fact is that, thanks to Flagstaff’s “poverty with a view” economy there’s only a limited audience for these things, and it’s getting smaller all of the time.
When I was growing up they couldn’t build elementary schools fast enough—my own had to switch to double schedules for a year just to find enough room for all the kids. And yet, here in Flagstaff, we’re talking about closing down elementary schools—even high schools, for that matter. And I can understand why. Again, when I was growing up my neighborhood bus stop was the pick up point for over two dozen kids—every morning before the bus came it was like a miniature version of Lord of the Flies. These days there are so few kids in my neighborhood that they could probably all be picked up by a Prius.
The lack of children becomes even more painfully obvious every year at Halloween: last year less than ten kids showed up to trick-or-treat at our house, even though we kept the light on until nine. And the number of houses on our block that were handing out candy was in the single digits as well.
Maybe it’s just evolution. Maybe trick-or-treating is just going the way of Hopscotch and Red Rover, and when my kids look back and reminiscence it will be about all the great Halloween carnivals of their youth, the ones put on by churches, and youth centers, and the city Parks and Recreation department. In fact, I was even thinking myself that the one Parks and Rec is putting on this year down at Heritage Square looked like a pretty good deal.
And who knows, maybe they’ve got the right idea. After all, if we get enough kids downtown, we can be the ones making all the drunks uncomfortable, and not the other way around. It’s definitely worth a try.