Pseudo Black Friday

It's beginning to feel a lot like...Black Friday! Yes, the buzz is starting even though Thanksgiving isn't until November 25th and Black Friday not until the wee hours of the following morning.

Some retailers just can't wait, though. They're using the name Black Friday in vain, to entice recession-weary consumers back under the fluorescents.Check out this Sears weekly circular masquerading as an early Black Friday promotion.

Too Much Time on Their Hands (Videos)

The Ultimate Transformer

Where Did I Put My Gardening Shears?

For Geeks Only

New Uses for the Economy Roll of Foil

How Long Did It Take to Carve That?

Hellish Halloween Flashback

Halloween is coming and I can handle it. That's because I know this year will be a walk on the beach compared to Halloween 2006. I remember it vividly...

We woke up to no internet. It was out until mid-morning due to a Roadrunner problem. My then-husband sank into a foul mood and mine wasn't much better.

His car was in the shop so I had to drive him to work. Of course he was in a big rush and complaining about various issues, so he needed to get there ASAP. As usual, I was ready before he was, but he acted like I needed to speed it up. It was a testy drive.

Because of the 1:00pm street closures for the West Hollywood Halloween Parade, my son's school would be closing at noon. Chloe, 12, with whom we carpooled at the time, convinced him the street was going to close earlier than expected and that her babysitter wouldn't be able get through to pick them up. So my son, then 13, called me and said they would be walking to the Beverly Center, a massive mall about a mile away. I told him to stay where he was and then had to go pick him up, killing an hour of my day when I wasn’t supposed to have to drive. (Chloe made her break for freedom and had to be tracked down later.)

He told me he had no Halloween plans and was mopey and blamey. He said his mask had been stolen out of his backpack at school the day before, and now he had no costume for the evening ahead, but since he'd made no plans anyway he was upset for all kinds of conflicted reasons.

We stopped to load up on candy for the hordes we expected after sunset. That put me back at home with less than an hour to spend working before I had to go out again and pick up my husband. Time to eat about six pounds of "fun size" candies but not to get anything else done. Then, just before I had to leave, there was a brownout that disconnected me from the internet and almost stranded my car in the driveway. When I quickly opened the driveway gate so I wouldn't be trapped, the dog escaped and had to be chased down.

On the way to my husband's office, my son called to tell me the house next door was on fire and six fire trucks and an ambulance had converged. I told him to go see what was going on, but he said our neighbor yelled at him to mind his own business when he tried. (It turns out there was a small fire, which they put out quickly.) When I got home, my neighbor and about six other people were sitting outside and it was all I could do not to scream at her for being such a bitch.

On the way back from picking up my husband (he dropped me at home and headed to a meeting), he talked to Audi, who had no information on his car, and to a business partner who yelled defensively through the BlackBerry the majority of the drive home.

I had to call a friend of a friend's to tell her we didn’t want to invest $25,000 in her planned dating site. After the call I somehow ended up having to write her an email detailing my issues with her approach. (Writing that email, which essentially shot down the overall approach as well as the specific details of the service, turned out to be the highlight of my day.)

Somehow it did all end. And somehow I believe that next time Halloween won't be so bad.

Originally posted on October 28, 2006.

Halloween Hodgepodge (Videos)

Don't Stop at This House!

Stephen Lynch is just a little too dangerous for trick or treating.

Halloween Pranks

Just disregard that Easter basket and thank Halloween thoughts!

Be Careful Who You Prank!

Good reflexes can be a bitch.

An Animated Halloween (Videos)

Boop Boop Dee Boo!

A (Simulated) Halloween

A Very Independent Pumpkin

When Halloween Tricks Backfire - Literally!

The Season of Pokemon

Some years back, when Pokemon ruled the world and my son Greg was in second grade, Halloween took an ugly turn. It started out pleasantly enough, with three boys heading out together to trick or treat.

The cast: Jason, Harry and Greg.

The scene: A pleasant residential neighborhood teeming with costumed kids and hovering parents.

The backstory: Greg and his friends had been going to Pokemon tournaments for a year or so. Each had a collection of trading cards whose cost, coupled with the miracle of compound interest, would probably equal a year of college when the time came. (Better not to think about that part.) They had all planned to trick or treat together, and each would come as his favorite Pokemon character.

The costumes: Poliwhirl, Pikachu and Charmeleon, respectively.

Yes, the Age of Nintendo had dawned in these boys' lives and there was no looking back. Forget the Scooby-Doos and Supermen of yesteryear, 2000 was all about Pokemon.

All three chose an evolved Pokemon: The blue, frog-like Poliwhirl had begun life as the tadpole-like Poliwag. Pikachu evolved from Pichu. And Charmeleon, with its flaming tail, was one step up from Charmander, but still well below the all-powerful Charizard.

The boys convened at our house. Each got along individually with the other, but the three together had sometimes led to flare-ups in the past as each jockeyed for position against the other two. Factor in the competitive nature of Pokemon and the high spirits surrounding Halloween and you were looking at a tinderbox of juvenile emotion. Still, as the group's escort I was sure I could handle it.

It all went smoothly for a while. We made it down the block and around the corner, as bags filled with candy and everyone was happy. Then, for some reason, at one of the houses Harry lagged behind. The rest of us were on the sidewalk waiting for him but he was still lingering at the door.

"Come on, slowpoke!" Greg yelled.

Now, you may not be familiar with the entire Pokedex (basically the database of all Pokemon, which at the time numbered 151). A quick lesson: Slowpoke, at number 79, was perhaps the slowest and dumbest creature of them all, requiring patience just to tolerate it. Harry heard "slowpoke" as "Slowpoke" and lost it. He felt deeply insulted. He started crying. He didn't want to walk with Greg any more. He wouldn't listen to any explanations. (He may not have been aware that the word existed outside of Pokemon. Of course, Greg may not have either.)

The trick or treating ended quickly after that. Harry insisted on going home, which meant we had to head back to our house and drive him there. Greg and Jason protested, but were too young to be on their own. The candy-gathering ceased and the night was ruined. Not only that, but Harry never wanted to be friends with Greg after that.

If there was a lesson, I couldn't figure out how to teach it. I tried, "Be careful with your words," and told Greg that sometimes what you say can be misconstrued. I had him apologize. Nothing worked. Eventually we all moved on to ignoring each other. Greg continued to see Harry at school, of course. They were cordial but didn't have much to say to each other, and that was OK. They went their separate ways after fifth grade. And the lessons have only gotten more complicated since then.