Halloween fever has well and truly hit the States. As far as holidays go, I think it's fair to say that it's bigger than Christmas over here.
Huge stores the size of warehouses have been open since September selling everything you can imagine, from costumes and accessories to full-size statues of the living dead. It's pumpkin mania too, of course - thanks to Halloween those big old veges have all but taken over the city.
Fake or real, it doesn't really matter, just as long as you're buying into them or biting into them, everyone's happy. Personally I'm not a big fan of pumpkin so I just have a wee sprinkle of it in my coffee.
The family and I live in a busy Los Angeles suburb right next to a school. We found out the other day that our whole street prides itself on decorating the hell (and I think it's appropriate to say that) out of its houses during this festive season.
Our indoctrination, if you will, began last week with a chance sighting. The wife and kids and I were approaching our gate having just returned from our Friday night treat-dinner at Chin Chin's Chinese restaurant when suddenly I noticed some mysterious illumination coming from the front lawn of the property two houses down and opposite.
"By hokey!" said I, "whatever could that be?"
Upon further investigation (we walked down the road a bit and looked across) we were pleasantly surprised to see a fantastic display of Halloween joy.
There were creepy gravestones, skeleton bones protruding from the grass and a flattened witch attached to a tree. Obviously she had slammed into it, perhaps the result of flying after one too many potions. The best bit, though, was the centrepiece on the lawn, a giant inflatable pumpkin with a large wedge cut from the side. It took me a second to click but then I realised what I was looking at ... it was Pac Man and he was chasing two Pac Man ghosts.
They too were illuminated but with randomly pulsating coloured lights thus signifying their vulnerability for being captured. It was a sight to behold all right and it firmly set the benchmark for what the rest of the block was expected to achieve.
"Yeah, you better start planning your decorations," said one of the locals I spoke to at a garage sale. I asked him what he had planned and he told me he was moving ...
"No, we're outta here," he said. "We can't afford to keep installing the elaborate installations."
Well, neither can we, I thought to myself as I gave him five bucks for an old skateboard. My street will just have to put up with our house doing it Kiwi style.
The wife and I have instructed the kids to make all their own stuff using their keen-as flair for arts and craft. We have loads of polystyrene and cardboard boxes left over from our constant trips to Ikea (the Swedish furniture store) so now it's time to put those Play School skills to good use. After all, Big Ted and the gang didn't teach us how to use sticky tape and snips for nothing.