Sunday, November 4, 2012

Superstorm Sandy: Ogden Nash on the Rise of the Vandal

Forty-eight years ago Ogden Nash protested how the Halloween tradition of clever 'trick or treat' pranks had regressed into blunt vandalism.  

Those of us in the Northeast would gladly trade toilet papered trees and soaped profanities from past Mischief Nights for the devastation caused by last week's superstorm Sandy. 

If Halloween ever had an innocence, in Nash's view it was rapidly disappearing by 1964.  The pocket knife has morphed into a switchblade in the October Ladies Home Journal illustrations accompanying the poem.

Here are my favorite verses from  Halloween Hoodlums: Go Home:

There is one old hymn that now arouses my curiosity as well as my
Which is the one that begins, "For all the saints who from their
   labors rest."
Heaven knows all the saints have earned a good rest after their
   hardships on this earthly scene,
But I wonder how much rest they actually get on the
Eve of All Saints' Day, generally known as Halloween.
Despite nostalgia that increases with age, I don't insist that new
   ways are decadent and only the old ways are fit to venerate,
But I do feel that the celebration of Halloween has tended to
I can remember when children got an adequate thrill from ringing
   doorbells and running away, or rigging ticktacks on the window, or even bobbing for apples,
While they now amuse themselves by upsetting gravestones and
    desecrating chapels.
I try to refrain from crabbedness and contentiousness and general
But I find it difficult when the young have ceased to distinguish between
    mischief and vandalism.
What has become of the old-fashioned urchin who terrified his cooperative
   relatives with the aid of an old sheet and a lighted
He has given way to a savage and malicious breed compounded of country slicker and city bumpkin...

Then, of course, no Halloween would be complete without Trick
   or Treat.
This is a system of extortion that has grown even beyond the
   incredible and the preposterous.
It equals the Mafia in ruthlessness and arrogance, it is altogether
   Cosa Nosterous...

With such thoughts in mind I firmly expect that on some future All
   Saints' Eve all the saints will enjoy undisturbed rest from their
And so, I selfishly add, will I and my neighbors.

Copyright © by Linell Nash Smith and Isabel Nash Eberstadt.

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