This Halloween, my son is demanding to be outfitted like his favorite two-bit Japanese creature-feature star, Ghidrah the Three-Headed Monster, and his expectations are high. I'm sure he thinks he'll be able to climb into the thing, fly off, barbecue cities with his multiple fire-breathing noggins, and stomp the sushi out of millions of Asian pedestrians as they run amok and scream "AIIIIIIIIII!" (Which in English means, "JUST WHEN THE REAL ESTATE MARKET WAS GETTING BACK ON ITS FEET, TOO!")
I'm not about to dampen the boy's excitement by telling him that, at best, if he can locate our front porch through his eyeholes, he might be able to stomp a few crickets--and maybe frighten the two-year-old girl who lives next door, provided she doesn't get close enough to notice that two of his heads are actually green gym socks stuffed with toilet paper.
Pardon the digression, but I am reminded of a thought-provoking scene in the all-star Japanese monster epic Destroy All Monsters--which is, as I've mentioned before, my son's favorite motion picture (beating out Truffaut's The 400 Blows by a baby hair). As Godzilla wades toward Japan with an especially mischievous look in his eyes, the film cuts to a television newsanchor who warns, "Godzilla is in Tokyo harbor! Repeat! Godzilla is in Tokyo harbor! This is not a drill!"
Now, does this mean they have Godzilla drills in Tokyo? Pretty hard to imagine. After all, Godzilla has trashed the burg hundreds of times, yet its population is never prepared to do anything but run amok and scream, "JUST WHEN THE REAL ESTATE MARKET WAS GETTING BACK ON ITS FEET, TOO!" Some are so stupid as to try to escape by train--and as any four-year-old in my house can tell you, the first thing a rampaging, ninety-ton, radioactive lizard is gonna do is pick up the train, peek in the windows, and then practice his javelin toss. Doesn't anyone mention this during the Godzilla drills?
Anyway, back to my son's Ghidrah suit. I've been trying to talk him into simpler and more traditional Halloween regalia. When I was a youth, I was always a cowboy or a clown or a hobo. I never figured out why until I had my own kid. All it took for my mother to transform me into a clown was a couple of lipstick circles on my cheeks. For the cowboy motif, she'd hand me a dime store Stetson and a squirt gun. The hobo disguise required no effort whatsoever; she'd just dress me in my regular clothes in the morning, send me outside to play, and a few hours later--presto!--I looked like a hobo.
One Halloween I begged her to let me make my candy-mongering rounds as a ghost. She finally relented, but was adamant in her refusal to cut eyeholes into a perfectly good sheet. I can't remember the outcome. I either went as a blind ghost or an unmade bed, one or the other.
At least my mother didn't play favorites. My younger sister was always a princess, a ballerina or a child prostitute. Of the latter outfit, I'm sure Mom had something else in mind, like a Mary Kay Cosmetics rep or something. But if my sister had cruised the neighborhood looking like that on any other night, we'd all have been arrested. Today's kids are hip to these money- and effort-saving ploys. Oh, when they're one or two years old you can still dress them up any way you want. (I saved a ton of cash and time on my son's first Halloween costume: hobo nudist). But when they start to suspect that perhaps you aren't the all-giving, all-sacrificing parent you pretend to be, they want nothing to do with your lame, low-budget ideas.
Nor are they interested in eliciting prolonged "Awwwwwwwws" from every simple-minded grown-up on the block. No, youngsters of the near-Nineties want to induce heart attacks, strokes or, at the very least, nausea.
It's a distressing trend, but more and more, kids get their costume inspiration from the most grotesque and repulsive characters in Hollywood. Last year, for example, my doorbell was rung by short but stomach-churning incarnations of Freddy Krueger (A Nightmare on Elm Street), Jason Voorhees (Friday the 13th), Leatherface (Texas Chainsaw Massacre), and Shelley Winters (Super Password).
All things considered, I'm thrilled that my son wants to trick-or-treat as Ghidrah the Three-Headed Monster. Given the choice, I'd rather have a kid who wants to squish and charbroil innocent people rather than rip them apart limb by limb and hack up their torsos with power tools. Just call me old-fashioned.
By the way, my son wants me to wear a costume, too. He's even promised to help me make it. I asked him how I should dress up, and he wasted no time coming up with an answer. "I know," he exclaimed. "Why don't you be a big, fat, hairy guy!" My mother would have been proud of him.
Too bad you're probably otherwise occupied this Halloween. You're gonna miss the once-in-a-lifetime sight of Ghidrah the Three-Headed Monster stomping crickets, trailed by a big, fat, hairy guy hollering, "This is not a drill! Repeat! This is not a drill!"
I saved a ton of cash and time on my son's first Halloween costume: hobo nudist.