Noe Valley Voice October 2003

Memories from Halloween 2002

By Dan Siegler

Oct. 31, 2002. All our hip friends are off to the Castro for a drunk and raucous time. But Lisa and I have covertly abandoned the group, and are heading for the more genuine Halloween scene in Noe Valley. "We must be getting old," Lisa remarks.

Halloween on 24th Street is a party, but not that kind of party. You don't come here to see grim reapers or sexy vampires or evil Donnie Darko bunnies. You don't come here to drink or to "meet somebody," or to meet anyone above age 10, for that matter. It's a kid thing, a total kid thing.

Sitting on a newspaper bin at the corner of 24th and Sanchez, here's what we see: A bumble bee eating a bagel. A Keebler elf dancing on the sidewalk. An elephant looking happily lost in his tiny hooded elephant thing. A Guatemalan gypsy thrashing her candy bag around. A sad ladybug who's lost an antenna. Two waddling marshmallows. (Oh, wait, they're ghosts.) A baby duck with her beak covering her eyes, crashing into a lamppost. A butterfly hiding her face in her wings. A small giraffe trying (failing) to get up some steps. A pigeon-toed chicken adjusting his pigeon toes. A carrot laughing in a stroller.

We've come to this strange foreign land out of costume, but armed with three bags of Milky Way bars. Approaching Noe Street, we spy a ferocious-looking lion. "Rah! Rah! Rah!" screams the lion. We gasp in horror, convinced of our imminent demise. "It's okay," the lion assures us, smiling now. "I'm not a real lion." With a new outlook on life, we give the lion a Milky Way, pat him on the head, and move on.

The stores are giving out high-quality candy this year, in this safe yet cautious neighborhood. Out of hundreds of kids, we notice exactly zero of them are unaccompanied. Most are with mothers or both parents. A few are alone with their fathers.

"Men with babies are cuter," Lisa observes. "It's a nice accessory."

Some of the parents do this thing where they let their kid wander into the store alone while they wait outside to give the little critter a brief sense of freedom. Most of the parents seem quite young. Younger than us even, but we pretend not to notice.

We see a pony and a mule at the gas station. A real pony and a real mule. But nobody cares, because here comes Tiny Elvis! Having been here only 10 minutes, we instantly decide Tiny Elvis is the best costume of the night. Tiny Elvis has a tiny sequined jumpsuit and tiny white shoes and huge hair. Upon closer inspection, it turns out Tiny Elvis is female, and a very focused female at that, ignoring everyone and collecting what's owed her like a pro. She doesn't sing or dance or even talk. It's all business with T.E. Same with T.E.'s mom, who's handycamming T.E. non-stop.

But wait! Look over there! It's Nina the Happy Astronaut! She's two years old and blonde and adorable and extremely drunk. No, wait. She's not drunk. She's just toddlering around like toddlers do, with a muppety song in her head, her toddler walk further handicapped by her huge diapered butt. This is the happiest little girl ever.

Oops! Nina the Happy Astronaut goes down, splat on the pavement, her helmet cracking in two upon impact with the earth. Who cares! says Nina. Sure I've fallen and destroyed an expensive piece of space equipment, but no mind! I'm Nina the Happy Astronaut and I've got a lollypop and a song and life is good! Fa-la-la!

The judges immediately revoke Tiny Elvis' prize and award it to Nina instead. Maybe next year, T.E.

We can't get over how tiny some of these tykes are. Just when you think you've seen the smallest kid ever, you see another, tinier, impossibly small kid. Like a rare breed of preemie pygmy. Most kids are happy, but some are sort of wigged out by it all. They spend the night perpetually on the verge of bawling. But the majority are delirious with joy, drunk on the lights and the attention and the sugar. The ever-practical hoody-type costume is everywhere, with only the kid's hands and tiny nose poking out.

Some kids are missing out on our premium Milky Ways because Lisa is the only one who can hand them out.

"Nobody takes candy from a random unaffiliated guy these days," Lisa astutely remarks.

But there's clearly no candy shortage here. Every shop's delivering the goods, even the unshakeable mechanics at Noe Valley Auto Works.

We take a break to get some crepes at Savor. There's a bumble bee next to us. He's oneyear old, with his belly hanging out, and he's chirping away, sounding more bird-like than bee. He's sucking on the rim of a beer bottle, paying no mind to his parent's hot-fudge ice cream crepe.

Lisa, taking a cue from the bee, proceeds to get drunk. Our waitress appears to be drunk as well, but maybe it's those butterfly wings causing her unique wobble. Far from graceful, Savor's butterfly is spilling drinks and knocking into everyone like she was on skates. "She's more like a moth," we muse.

It's about 7 p.m. when we leave. Some of the shops are actually running out of candy. The streets are completely mobbed. This is the peak. An endless river of babies, infants, toddlers, kids, whatever you want to call these tiny creatures taking over the town. Pasta Pomodoro is a madhouse. (What is it with kids and pasta?)

The sidewalks feel like New York. Some sections are literally impassable. The parade of locomotively-challenged tykes spills into the street. There are more than a few people in their idling SUVs, not moving an inch, stuck on the perimeter of intersections and frowning into their cell phones. It's beautiful, just beautiful. Halloween in the Castro may be fun, but the real scream is on 24th Street, where a Critical Mass of miniature animals, aliens, and cartoon characters stops traffic. h

Dan Siegler is a writer and cartoonist for SF Weekly. Originally from New York, Siegler has been living in San Francisco's Dolores Park for seven years (well, not actually in the park; by the park). On Halloween you can look for him on 24th Street, or at www.