Oct 30, 2020

Our Annual Beggarama is Saturday

Reliving some Halloween memories

By Ed Goldman

Saturday is Halloween—or whatever county health officers will still allow— and I have to tell you, the less the better.

As a kid, I looked forward to what I now see as an annual door-to-door beggarama with even less enthusiasm than I now muster for similar events put on by public radio, public TV and high-haired televangelists.

Raisin the Stakes for Halloween

I’m just not wired to ask people for things. I’m the guy who’d yell to firefighters about to catch me before I leapt from a building that was engulfed in flames, “Oh, I’ll be okay, you guys, no need.” Even when I pray I begin with a silent “Thank you,” not “Could you…?” 

So the thought of putting on a costume and demanding my parents’ hard-working neighbors throw candy in my pillowcase always made me feel I was behaving like a “goniff,” the Yiddish word for thief. I heard my folks use that word fairly often in describing the owners of auto-repair shops and dry cleaners, as well as their rabbi when his annual contract came up for renewal. I was never sure how they could regard a man of the cloth as a thief, but at the time I had yet to see the film “Elmer Gantry” or watch a Jim and Tammy Bakker televangelism pageant.

By the time I grew too old to go trick-or-treating, I got a genuine kick out of handing out candy at my front door. The funniest incident came when I lived in a brand-new tract home in a still-developing subdivision in the east part of Sacramento County. A little boy came to the door dressed as a superhero yelled “Wee-wee!” then raced past me, down the hallway and into one of the bathrooms.

His mother was mortified. “He thinks he’s home,” she said. “All the houses in our tract are laid out identically.” This was proved when the little guy walked back to the front door and, a little upset, asked his mommy why his pet collie had turned into a dachshund, which is what I had. The mother was thrown by the question; my suggesting the dachshund was really his collie but was wearing a shape-shifting costume didn’t seem to help matters. He was tearfully calling out his doggie’s name as his mom carried him to the next house. That one had the same layout as mine but in reverse, so I figured things would go okay — unless the other homeowner told the kid he’d fallen into a mirror. (Maybe when the mother asked what to do to comfort the child, the other homeowner would have the presence of mind to say, “Go ask Alice.”) 

Some years later, when I bought a home in an affluent East Sacramento enclave called The Fabulous 40s—so designated for its numbered streets, not the years of construction—Halloween became a nightmare. The only one we participated in had us greeting more than 550 trick-or-treaters, some a tad old for the activity (a boy needing a shave is one thing; having male-pattern baldness at 10 is highly suspect). People had been literally bussed in: rumors must have abounded that we all gave out not only jumbo Kit Kat bars but also luxury cars and we’d pay off their mortgages.

After that, we had a new tradition: Every October 31 we turned out the lights and went to an early dinner and movie. By the time we returned at 10, our bellies were full and the streets were deserted. I’m sure I said a silent “Thank you.”

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Ed Goldman's column appears almost every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. A former daily columnist for the Sacramento Business Journal, as well as monthly columnist for Sacramento Magazine and Comstock’s Business Magazine, he’s the author of five books, two plays and one musical (so far).