5 reasons why Lily hates Halloween

2015-10-30 19.42.38Two years ago we adopted a dog named Lily. We got her from the Toronto Humane Society, but we suspect she grew up in New York. The Bronx, to be exact. She comes from a world of cigarettes and cheap perfume and kitten heels and sale racks at Macy’s. She likes her lipstick red and her Baby Duck pink. Think an older Bette Davis with Marg Simpson’s voice.

I’m telling you this for context. Because it’s part of the reason why Lily hates Halloween. In fact, we have it down to about 5 reasons why.

  1. She has to wear a costume.

Lily is a worldly woman. She did Studio 54 in the 70s. She hung out with Andy Warhol and Bianca Jagger. She dated Lou Reed (though she never told him her favourite singer was really Billy Joel).

2015-10-21 19.03.06This is not the sort of woman you dress up like a monkey. But a monkey costume is nonetheless what is forced upon her Halloween night. To say she hates it is an understatement: with long face and sad eyes, she sits for her close-up, then off it comes. 

  1. People come to the door.

Lily often makes us wonder why we bought an alarm system. The slightest tap on the front door will set her off. She’s even barked when I’ve knocked on the kids’ bedroom doors, despite the fact she’s sitting beside me.

2015-10-30 23.48.33It all comes down to her dislike of visitors. And hey, I get it. When she’s chillin’ in front of the TV, painting her nails and having a smoke, the last thing she wants is some goddamned person at the door, pretending to be all friendly and basically killing the chill. 

Needless to say, on All Hallow’s Eve, with doorbell dinging and candles lit and throngs of sugar-fueled kids, she’s a nervous wreck. She yells at the door, over and over again (“F*** off! Goddamned kids…”)…  until, at last, hoarse and spent, she flops down again in front of the TV, with her O.P.I. and her toe spacers, pissed that she missed the part where Linda Blair’s head spins around.2015-10-30 20.10.35

  1. The people who come to the door are kids.

Lily hates kids. She’s been known to whack them with her Coach and throw her Jimmy Choos at them; thankfully her aim sucks. (Sidenote: The adoption coordinator at the Toronto Humane Society told us she’d been given up because she’d bitten a 7-year-old girl. I strongly suspect it was because the girl was teasing her. Despite having been around the block a few times, Lily’s an incredibly gentle lady who’s hardly even growled in the two-and-a-half years we’ve had her.)  2015-10-30 23.55.46 (1)

So come Halloween night, not only is the GD doorbell going off every two minutes, but when it opens — guess what? Kids! And more kids! And still more GD kids! (“Go away! Jesus, my gams are killin’ me…”)

  1. The kids are taking treats. 

Did I mention Lily likes to eat? No, I mean really eat. One of my daughter’s nicknames for her is Fatty Chan: ‘Chan’ is a term of endearment the Japanese add to the name of someone close to them.

2015-10-30 23.51.40Lily’s other common alias is Potato Girl. In addition to her rather round body, she has no tail (she’s part Corgi) and no neck to speak of. Steve calls her “the easiest dog in the world to draw”. Start with a potato-shaped oval, draw 4 lines down from it, and you’re pretty much done.

(Of course, all this is said and done out of earshot. Lily is truly a diamond in the rough: trampy on the outside, but mushy on the inside; she’d be quite hurt if  she knew we joked about her like this.)  

2015-10-31 13.44.04All that said, given that she loves food as much as she does, the idea of giving it away at the door is preposterous. (“Oh, Christ… not the Kit Kats too… So what’s left?… The wrapped caramels? You know I can’t eat those… Goddamned dentures… ”)

  1. The cats get all the attention.

Halloween and cats are almost as synonymous as Halloween and bats. They just go together.

2015-10-31 00.00.37But Lily has a thing about cats. It’s not that she hates them. She just… isn’t sure about them. Lily is a black-and-white kinda girl, literally and figuratively. She’s hungry, she’s tired, she has to pee, she needs a smoke. All simple wants that are pretty easy to decipher.

The cats, on the other hand, are more enigmatic. They don’t say much. They stay up all night. They sit on the kitchen table. They vote Democrat. (Lily’s 100% behind The Donald.)

In short, she doesn’t get cats — and she doesn’t trust them. So in addition to having to cope with a holiday she hates, she has to listen to everyone talk about the cats. (“Cats this and cats that… Christ… isn’t it enough they get to shit in a box inside the house?”)

2015-10-30 23.02.02As I write this, she’s stretched out, cucumber slices on her eyes and a tumbler of scotch beside her. Fox News is on, and she’s mumbling about finding a happy place.

Another Halloween is here… have a good one.

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7 reasons why Halloween is better than Christmas

I’ve always lamented the fact that Halloween is just one day, while Christmas is an entire season. We spend weeks — months, even — bombarded by red and gold baubles and silver tinsel and carols and bake-offs and elves on shelves. Halloween, meanwhile, gets maybe a weekend.

I think Halloween deserves much more fanfare. Here are 7 reasons why. 

Ingrid Pitt1. You get to be someone else for the day. Or, put another way, you don’t have be yourself. How great is that? I put up with me all year long. Same old face in the mirror. Same body (for the most part, aside from the incremental, inch-along changes that same to slide from one dress size into the next without me realizing it). Same uncooperative hair. Same work. Same worries. Blah, blah, blah. At Halloween, I get to wear a long, black flowing robe and cape and imagine myself some wizened vampiress with a 36-24-36 figure who need only wink and snarl to beckon her army of bats and sic them on that shitty boss she used to work for at an agency long ago. How great is that?

2. You don’t have to spend it with relatives. God love my mother-in-law (she’ll never read this) and God bless her family get-togethers, but oh my Lord, the big to-do for weeks beforehand about what time will everyone be there and will I bring my stuffing again, and if I do, can I bring it up the night before, and when should she buy the vegetables (“It’s on a Sunday this year, so if I buy them Saturday, they’ll only be a day old, but Saturday is Christmas Eve and Loblaws will be so busy, but if I buy them Friday when it’s not as busy, they’ll be two days old…”) Oh, to just put on a black robe and light candles and hand out candy and watch The Exorcist. 

3. It’s cheaper and doesn’t involve trekking through malls. Okay, you might spring a few dollars for your costume at Value Village, and the candy might run you $30 or $40 at Walmart. Oh — and the fake tombstone and spider web and orange lights from Dollarama… we’re talking maybe $10. We all know that pales in comparison to the cost and logistics of Christmas gifts — even with online shopping.

Lucy_bag_full_of_candy4. You get a bagful of candy. I’m going back a few years, but I remember the feeling of Halloween candy like it was yesterday. Carrying that bag. Feeling it get heavier house by house. Knowing what awaited when you got home into the light and could survey your loot. I even got a kick when my kids used to come home after trick-or-treating, and would shake their bags out on the floor and begin separating: crap to the left, good stuff (Kit Kats, Aero bars, Smarties, etc.) to the right. It always reminded me of how I felt as a kid. That Gollum-like thrill: Precious.

5. It’s not as cold and there’s no snow. Unless you live in Ottawa. With all due respect to my relatives in our nation’s capital, we lived there for a couple of years when our kids were small, and one Halloween it snowed. Talk about depressing. Made me wanna go out and kill a civil servant. Or sic my bats on them.

6. Yonge Street is a giant street party. I’ve lived in the Toronto area most of my life, and of all the places and parties I’ve been to at Halloween, none of them beats Yonge Street — especially when it falls on a Friday or Saturday night, like this year. The costumes, the revelry, the parties in pubs and bars spilling out onto sidewalks… it is so much bloody fun.

julia-roberts_cropped7. You can dress like a prostitute and get away with it. Come on, admit it: who doesn’t wanna at least try dressing up like Julia Roberts dressed up like a hooker? Thigh-high boots… A barely-there mini-skirt… Wild, unruly tresses… Again, I’m going back a few years *suck in gut* but in my Ryerson days, Halloween was a chance to put down the hairbrush and step away from the mirror and be that person (or hooker) you kind of, sort of wanted to be.

So… enough said. There are still two weeks left to celebrate. Go eat some chocolate, and find some Spanx.

5 reasons to watch The Conjuring

Last night I watched The Conjuring. It was a dark, rainy Saturday night, perfect for snuggling down with Netflix and this deliciously creepy flick. If you haven’t seen it, it’s the best haunted-house movie to come out in a long time. It stars Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson as vintage 1970s paranormal investigators (complete with calf-length skirts and ruffled blouses), and Lili Taylor as the homeowner whose home is… not her own.

Now this wasn’t the first time I’d watched the movie. I saw it when it was first released in 2013. But I’d seen something about it recently — a still from it, or maybe it was a clip on YouTube — and I decided I had to watch it again.    

And because it’s October, I figured it was worth a post in this blog.

However, rather than simply ramble about the movie (I would never do that), I figured I’d pick, say, five things that make it good. I had to think hard about this, and I had to do some swapping in and out to keep the list to five. This really is among the best of the best when it comes to scary movies, and if you haven’t seen it, hopefully this list will entice you (and fyi: no plot-spoilers here).

So, without further adieu… five reasons to watch The Conjuring:

  1. The house

In some scary movies, the house is simply a location. A place. Four walls and a roof, under which people live and shit happens. Take, for instance, the Paranormal Activity series: gorgeous home, with that to-die-for kitchen and ginormous staircase; however, the house is not especially frightening in and of itself.

In other movies, the house is a character in its own right. The first example that comes to mind is 212 Ocean Avenue — a.k.a. The Amityville Horror.

Conjuring-house-itselfThe Perron home in The Conjuring is the same. Now I must say right up front that the house in the movie is not the real Perron home. The real home where the haunting reportedly took place is a rather plain-looking farmhouse in Harrisville, Rhode Island. The movie home is located at 405 Canetuck Road in Wilmington, North Carolina.

But who cares. The movie is based on a true story, and the house we see in the film makes the story much more convincing. That’s good enough for me. (Should I add that the interior shots of the house are sets? I guess you can’t win ’em all.)

  1. Vera Farmiga

IMG_4913.dngAlready very attractive, here, as medium Lorraine Warren, Farmiga has a feminine prettiness and maternal softness that you remember somebody’s mom having way back when. Maybe it’s the ruffles. Maybe it’s the fact that we see her fold laundry. Either way, while she’s good in whatever she’s in, she’s really spot-on here.  

  1. The tree

Conjuring_TreeThat big lonely tree down at the end of the yard is…well, if you’ve seen the movie, you know it. Enormous black trunk. Looming, clawing branches that look like they could reach down and grab you. More than just a prop, the tree is central to the storyline — and one scene in particular that still totally creeps me out.  

  1. The dresser

Maybe ‘dresser’ isn’t the right word. This thing is a mother of a wardrobe. Like the tree outside, the dresser inside is a big, dark, looming fixture where bad things happen. I myself would now think twice about buying one; I’d never rummage around in one; and I sure as hell wouldn’t stand in front of one without first checking above it.

  1. The kids

Conjuring_kidsI often don’t like kids in movies. And God bless ‘em — I have two myself — but a lot of the time, they’re over the top and unconvincing.

Not these kids. These kids are real. They’re a bit disheveled and a bit nerdy and their rooms are messy. Just like real kids. No doubt they had good coaching from director James Wan (who is, by the way, the man behind Insidious and Saw, and who even created Billy the Puppet).

Honourable mentions

I said I had trouble keeping the list to five. The following was also worth noting…

The game   It’s called hide ‘n clap. One person is blindfolded. The others hide. Those in hiding then clap (up to three times, at the searcher’s request) until everyone is found. This is the Perron family’s favourite game. And I think it adds to the authenticity of the movie. I so remember playing hide ‘n seek at my cousins’ place in Arnprior, Ontario — except that we played it in the dark (basement, lights off, no blindfolds needed). And while it scared the bejesus out of me, I loved it. Hide ‘n seek. Kick the can. Nicky nicky nine doors. Didn’t every kid in the 70s play at least one of these games? Of course, in a horror movie, the game takes on a new dimension when a stranger decides to join in. I’ll say no more.

The 70s   The 1970s were a kinder, gentler time. No, seriously. There was no internet, no Osama bin Laden (that we knew of), no Snapchat, no Kardashians. It was a more innocent era, and that fact adds to the movie’s atmosphere. Even my 17-year-old son, who’s cynical and skeptical about everything, likes the comfortable, worn-in feeling the decade lends the movie. My own theory is that it makes everything feel somehow familiar and ‘real’ — which in turn makes it all more scary. Make sense? (Plus you get some great 70s tunes along with it.)

The witch   Bathsheba is her name (of course it is). Bathsheba Sherman. Nothing like a good ole grassroots Biblical moniker to set the stage for some unholy shit. And she is indeed one scary woman. How frightening Bathsheba Sherman was in real life might be up for debate. By the way, a bit of trivia: the actor who played the witch was a man, Joseph Bishara, who also composed the music for the movie.

So… Now… How can you possibly resist? It is October, after all. Tonight would be a perfect night to put on your jim-jams, dim the lights, fire up a candle or two… and keep your pillow handy.