Bernard Bar Natan

I’m far from a socialist, but… A never-ending Halloween story

It was Halloween, 1995 and I was in Boston for the first, and still to date the only time, as part of an Israeli government sponsored road trip to garner investments for incubator projects and start-ups, my very fledgling medical company among them. I had been living in Israel for the last 15 years.

I grew up in NYC and during the 70’s worked some summers in the Borscht Belt, but that was as close as I got to Bean Town. I never did the 5 hour drive each way from there, two hours closer than from the City to eat Boston Clam Chowder as some did. I never saw the logic of driving so many hours to eat un-kosher soup, whereas transgressing at the Liberty Diner with one or more roast pork on garlic bread sandwiches, no hold on the Saucy Susan was simply, sinfully, tastier and easier.

Boston and NYC have an often-shared history, many similarities and a few rivalries. Do some people from Boston still resent that the House that Ruth built is in the Bronx? Being from Brooklyn, I did. The Irish population of NYC is quite large, primarily Catholic and unfortunately to my experience, often anti-Semitic. “Dirty little Christ killer” was an often-heard taunt from the catechism; I remember thinking; these people really hold a grudge. If you’re not Irish Catholic; ask the Protestants. Boston is Irish and Irish is Boston, and we’ll leave it at that. Both cities also have longtime established Italian populations and neighborhoods. The Italians, good Catholics as well, did not seem so much religiously anti-Semitic as generically xenophobic until they got to know you. Anti-Semitism and Halloween also have a shared history. It’s the ‘Trick or Treat’ time to deface facades and break synagogues’ windows with bottles and rocks and glorify the Halloween spirit by vandalizing Jewish cemeteries.

The hotel where the Israeli Mission stayed was in the North End, Boston’s Little Italy. I am genuinely friendly and sociable, but sometimes I can also be like Greta Garbo, and “vant to be alone”. Greta often appears and then deftly disappears after a day of pitching and pressing the flesh. Group dinners at more than I want to spend restaurants, more talking with all due respect, with the same people about the same topics as during the day, was and is not my first choice. Specifically, I was looking forward to just walking around in the autumn air and being on the street, feeling an Italian neighborhood again as I did when growing up. Likewise, I was sure that I would find some good pizza.

October 31st that year in Boston was past brisk into cold and windy. The leaves’ colors were changing, and even in the city, the palette was incredible! There is an ironically macabre statistic that every year around Halloween there is a spike in the number of road accidents, drivers becoming enthralled with the multi-colored foliage, watching the trees and not the road.

It was late afternoon/early evening and the stores and markets were full of after work shoppers and the elderly from the neighborhood. The vendors were eager to sell as much as they could before the end of the day, so there was a quick paced back and forth with the customers, many on a first name basis. Natoli’s Fruits and Vegetables occupied a corner store open to both streets at a pretty busy intersection in the neighborhood and to borrow from the store’s business; there were more people in the store and on the street than seeds in a Chinese Apple, a pomegranate. I focused on the place because of the name; I had a friend on the block, Tony Natoli. The girls in 1st Grade tortured him, singing up more and more rhymes, for days, Tony Natoli smells like a pony, Tony Natoli Canoli Head, etc…Mrs. Natoli from the fruits and Joey the vegetable guy each with their name embroidered into the front of their bright red for fruits and green for vegetables aprons were handling the crowds with smiles and shouts, only so as to be heard above the din; bagging the produce, taking the money, making change, Joey reminding the patrons that Thanksgiving was just around the corner and to think about their holiday orders, Mrs. Natoli informing a few select customers that blueberries were due in from the country tomorrow and so on and so on.

I continued down the street and followed my nose to the bakery where I filled a bag with still warm from the oven anisette sesame cookies. The pizza parlor was 5 or 6 stores further down the street at the next corner. In many cities, Boston as well, there are large square iron grates embedded in the sidewalks that function as vents often emitting warm air produced by the workings of the city underground. Such a vent was 2 yards from and exactly opposite the pizzeria’s front door. Not a bad thing to have at your front door in a cold city, and not a good thing to have at your front door if there are more than one or two homeless on the street. The grate was occupied when I came to the door, and it was obvious what a prime spot this was, warm with street food traffic. The guy on the grate was finishing a half-eaten slice; it was likely that handouts of crusts and unfinished drinks were common. The storefront had a big front window and glass door fogged at the top third I guess because of the temperature difference between the cold air outside and the warm oven air inside. It was a parlor; draped with Italian flags on the walls and bright green, four-leaf clover satin banners covering most of the ceiling. It was a good sized place. One side had the oven and where they made the pizzas, a red and white counter, swivel stools and soda fountain for customers; and on the other side, 3 or 4 booths with cushioned benches and tables along the wall. It was very familiar, being very similar to Gino’s Pizza in my neighborhood. Same division of the space, the counter and booths, same style and colors, except Gino’s had a lot less green. So far, my mojo was working and I was soon to be rewarded with one of my ‘soul foods’. Pizza represents all the food groups; grains, dairy products, fruits and vegetables, tomatoes are fruit, is a warm, filling meal containing proteins, vitamins, oils, minerals and probably providing most of the nutritional requirements of an average person; at a price usually affordable to nearly all.

There weren’t a lot of people so I was able to take one of the booths for myself. The pizza looked and smelled authentic. I got two slices and a drink, and sat facing the front, with a view of the front door and street. Like the A-Team Col., don’t you just love it when a plan comes together! The pizza was really good, hot from the oven, the bread was soft and crusty, and they were generous with the olive oil, sauce, cheeses and spices. Outside, the light was fading but the streetlights hadn’t turned on yet. Costumed kids, mostly younger, elementary school age cowboys and Indians, superheroes, gaggles of Caspers the Friendly Ghosts and a few one quarter sized uniformed police and fire, were rushing along the street in search of this year’s last Treats before the maternal curfew: ‘be home before dark, don’t make me come look for you’ took effect. As it got darker outside the smaller sized, costumed creatures gave way to older ones wearing only rubber masks/hoods, a lot of Freddie Kruegers, zombies and various assorted larger goblins and horned demons. None of the smaller kids dared, but more than a few of the older ones would open the door, stick their rubber hooded heads in and shout; Trick or Treat! To which the pizza guy replied, buy a slice and I’ll give you a small drink.

I semi-wolfed down the first slice and was enjoying the second, considering a third when half the initial reason for the narrative came through the door. It stopped me in mid bite, and I remember the physical sensation of my eyes widening to the point of; what the fuck are these people thinking? That was only the second time I had that physical reaction, the first time was about seven, eight years previous when as a policeman in Jm. I encountered a man with 24 fingers and toes, 6 fingers on each hand and 6 toes per sandaled foot; but that’s a different story.

It was a couple on their way to a costume party, maybe contest or to the filming of a remake of the Bride of Frankenstein. These people were over the top ready; and it was evident that they took their partying very seriously.

They were in their twenties, early thirties. Ladies first…she was a stunner, long black hair, with a wide streak of silver at each temple, long thick black eyelashes and eyeliner brows, blood red lips on pale, white powdered skin and long red pointy talons at the end of long white powdered fingers. She was a little bit The Bride, a little bit a Witch with an apple, a little Lily Munster and Morticia Addams; all rolled into one. But it was Fine! Clearly, the work of a professional make-up artist. She opened her coat to reveal long flowing veils and capes of white chiffon shrouds over a floor length, skintight, black silk dress with a very high split in the fabric over a tall womanly body; she was fine art. I was sure she could ‘grow’ impressive fangs to complete the look and give you one Hell of a hickey if she was thirsty, but at the moment she was sans her dentures in order to eat pizza without injuring herself or making a mess; though, tomato sauce on a fang could be interesting. She had on a big witch’s hat and props for effect, her flying broom in one hand and a small basket on her other arm. There was a man’s decapitated head lying face down in the picnic basket on her arm with a good sized meat cleaver buried halfway into the bald spot at the crown of the skull. Naturally, there was a lot of blood and gore at the severed neck end and on the head and blade. I then saw and heard that every few seconds, the head would vibrate or twitch once or twice and simultaneously sound a long sighing, moaning groan of pain. True camp carried off with aplomb.

Her escort was of course, the Frankenstein Monster; so much so that all I wanted to do was cry out: It’s alive! It’s alive! He was the original, the classical creation. He was about 6 foot tall, a few inches taller than Vampira, with broad shoulders and a barrel chest. I don’t know if it was him or a padded costume, but he really looked the part. He had an electrode on either side of the neck, a flat top haircut with the long gash in the forehead, his face pallor and all visible skin were of a pale greenish hue, with thin dark lips, shadowed eyes and blackened fingernails. He wore the dark gray jacket, with sleeves 2 inches too short to reveal baseball like stitches around the wrists, over the darker pullover over the darker pants and the black pontoon like shoes. His make-up and wardrobe were Karloff.

About 15 years after that I was at Universal Studios with my 10 year old son when who should come lumbering up to us? He didn’t hold a torch to my Boston monster.

What a show! They ate standing up at the counter halfway between where I was sitting and the front door. I think only my eyes widened. They were a monstrously good looking, even admirable couple. It made sense to eat something before you start drinking and before she has to get into character, with her fangs and all; and their commitment, the All-In attitude was impressive. It occurred to me that they probably spent hundreds of dollars, if not more, on themselves for the evening’s events. The professional make-up and hair, their wardrobes, props; it adds up to a lot of money. If they didn’t do anything bad to have their disposable wealth, God Bless, do whatever you want with it. Play dress up, invest in a start-up, pay bills and debts, give charity, save for a rainy day, burn the notes in the Town Square. They finished their slices quickly, paid and left the pizzeria before I finished my second one.

I was really pleased with the evening; a delicious dinner and a great show, a bag of fresh cookies to take back to the room; at a great price. I could have done a 3rd slice, but stopped at 2, the show was over anyway, so thinking about coffee and cookies in the room, I left the pizzeria and came face to face with the 2nd half of the initial reason for the narrative, the guy on the grate.

BAM! Karl Marx, there but for the grace of God go I… with a Bullet! A cosmic example of contradiction, spooky even for Halloween. I was in the US to shnorr dollars for my start-up to become an industrialist and capitalist, but something needs fixing when one guy will spend a significant sum of money; let’s face it, to basically look silly. And another guy lives on the street for the crust of the pizza the silly person didn’t eat; not good, NFG. How about as a species; less Me and more Us? More sharing with ‘the other guy’, everyman is everyman etc… My family, my Judaism, my education and reason, my military service, this very strange, 100% true story, other experiences taught and still teach me about Us. Unfortunately, I haven’t followed up on the lessons as much as I should. Maybe I’ll ask the guy from the grate if he wants to go back with me to a kibbutz in the Negev?  He’d be much warmer. My defense.

In my lifetime, Halloween lost more of its innocence, becoming mean and hurtful. The ‘holiday’ turned from fun to dangerous and from trying to be sinister to trying to be gross. Incidents of little kids getting intentionally poisoned apples, food and candies or Treats so old that poison is the correct term became too common. Pedophiles and muggers used the masks to their best and worst design and became real monsters through and through. Masks and costumes of ghosts, witches, devils that wanted to give you nightmares but mostly just still entertained mutated into showing festering boils, blisters, open wounds and bloody parts on possibly really deadly latex mask and gloves. Scare the pants off you became make you puke.

And then just for me, my very own Arsenic and Old Lace farce, a Halloween Story with some class, a moral with a twist; teaching about seeing humanity on Halloween. How pleasant to think of the couple and how scary to think of the man on the grate! Alone and easy prey for the monsters that prowl the streets in the cold, dark, dead of night. His outward appearance was not horrific, and yet his image is much more frightening than the pizza Monster’s and any other rubber masked beings on the street.

Everyone knows that on Halloween, the evil bloody horror and face-eating creatures are ‘make believe’, people in masks and costumes for a day. What do you call a costume that you wear every day? An Uniform; be it soldier, police, fire, medico, Hasid, Priest, business suit, prostitute, mechanic, etc… the costume identifies the wearer. The poor guy on the grate won’t remove his uniform on the 1st of November like his counterpart in the narrative, he will remain just as scary and cold until after Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year.

I put my unfinished soda next to the other cups left on the sidewalk for the current grate occupant and put a couple of cookies on his kit. Since I already opened the bag…the cookies were as good as they smelled.

The delegation left Boston the next day, tried its luck in another 3 cities and ended in NY on Friday, Nov. 3rd without any start-up returning to Israel with an Angel feather in its kova tembel, dunce cap.

I came to friends living in NJ on Friday afternoon, planning to stay for a few days.   There were still bags of candy remaining from my friends’ own Treats shopping and their kids’ Halloween forays and it was agreed that I would take back some to my kids. A Win – Win situation, my friends reduce the amount their kids devour, and I get to pack the free candy in my bags and not have to go shopping or buy in Duty Free. It was the only deal I made on the trip. Saturday afternoon in NJ and the phone rang. I was alone in the house, and I saw on the phone’s display that it was a mutual friend calling from Israel. I answered, he called to tell us in case we weren’t watching CNN, that Prime Minister Rabin had just been assassinated in Tel Aviv by a Jew. I didn’t know. Have a nice weekend!

All the days of the year, people wearing their everyday masks and uniforms try to, succeed to, don’t care to; conceal little and big monsters, some being really very dangerous and scary. If they can, whether by guile and/or terror, monsters take what they can, including life and freedom. Hence the second title; A never ending horror story, Halloween or not.

Starting close to home…

Four days after Halloween 1995, Rabin was murdered, and six months later there were elections in Israel. I thought about it then and I think about it now, Rabin in the SS Uniform. The image is a stupid Jew’s Button Pusher. But apparently… Even then the crocodile tears of the sole beneficiary of the graphic artwork, didn’t wash.  A little crude monster until Nov.4th, he is one of Israel’s greatest on-going failures and dangers. Then and still today, even as the layers of make-up are being wiped away, the Bibi Boogey Man still continues to use fear, hatred and division against the people of Israel to foster an insidious, dangerous sense of empowerment of some people and a hateful de-legitimization of others, obviously those perceived as threats or simply weaker. His malicious continued presence in politics and not sitting full time at the defendant’s table of his criminal trial until the verdict is rendered is an embarrassment to Israel as a so called law abiding nation. His most immediate, absolutely one and only goal; not to go to jail; only to the believed safety of Balfour and the PM’s seat in the Knesset like the undead needing to get to the safety of the coffin before the light shines on him to show his full depravity. His own mask and costume have worn so thin as to rival the Emperor’s New Clothes exposing a criminal, perhaps even traitorous, hedonistic opportunist and his eerie in an uncomfortable way, accomplice family who, in this ex-policeman’s opinion are probably guilty as Sin of more than one thing they shouldn’t have done, and like the famous Dorian Gray, it’s not a pretty picture.

This election, once and for all, like the raven, we should all say; Never More. The Bibi Boogey Man held the land captive for many years, but his black gates were thrown down. As you read this, the monster and his coven are scheming and planning. The day after Halloween 2022, he wants to destroy and remake Israel according to his needs, and his needs alone. The promises of Treats are only more lies and come-ons; monsters only look to their own plates, champagne glasses, humidors, etc… The Tricks and Threats worked for many years, but the spell has been broken, the curse has been lifted. Defanged and declawed, he should lose his job in utter humiliation and be sent to his cave in Caesarea, cordoned off with salt and garlic until the Court says his cage is ready.

The former President of the USA with the bright red ties and the brighter yellow hair publicly and blatantly violated his Oath of Office inciting insurrection and an attack on the Capital. He took TOP SECRET docs home and tried to hide them, maybe with the idea to sell them or even try to blackmail, the US Gov’t. was forced to pay inflated, exorbitant rates at Trump Hotels for his own Secret Service bodyguards’ rooms, and he apparently presented vastly and ghastly incorrect financial statements to NY State Tax and financial institutions. He is still the head of the Republican Party.

Antisemitism in word and deed never left Us. Its popularity today in the US and Europe has never been higher, it brings people together. It gets politicians elected and Rappers more Likes. Mark Twain wrote in his Letters to the Earth; ‘all nations hate each other; all nations hate the Jews’. Nothing has changed. The Far Left and Far Right march together against Israel the apartheid state, and the Jews who control the media and entertainment industry. BDS wants to boycott not to protest against Israel, but to delegitimize the Jewish State.

There is a Saudi Crown Prince in a Lawrence of Arabia costume that has his critics chopped to pieces and put into suitcases.

There are warmongering despots such as Putin that piss on the world and then complain about the stench

So much has already been written about Iran the pariah state, it’s almost anticlimactic.  At least now though, no cleric’s robe or sorcerer’s cloak of deception can conceal the Islamic State’s true thinking and intentions. Iran is liable for the destruction of Lebanon by proxy, support of the genocidal Assad, much of Iraq’s inability to set itself right, the persecution and cultural eradication of the Yazidi and Bahai, financing international terror, and lately, suicide drones being used by the Russians smashing into Kiev. Iran could be bloody this Halloween. Iranians are protesting and rioting all over the country and Iranian Police and Revolutionary Guards are shooting them. Forty days ago, the Police beat a young woman to death in a police van because according to them, the mask and costume of choice were not being worn correctly. The Police also said that her death had a prior medical condition.

In Afghanistan a male suicide bomber killed over 70 people, more than 50 of them women in their late teens and early twenties at the entrance exams for the teaching program at Kabul University, the explosion was so powerful, it blew the roof off the auditorium. In Kabul, all the women wear burkas, or the equivalent so it wasn’t the costumes. The Taliban authorized the exam before and shrugged their shoulders after. Among the dead was a 14 year old girl who came with her 18 year old cousin, also killed. Halloween’s got nothing to beat this scene. One monster/idiot wore the bomb, but the organization and preparation took more than a few people, time, money and motivation. There are some real fucking monsters and whole regimes of insanity out there. Where does the evil that thinks up and carries out such acts come from?

Hamlet hears a ghost’s story of jealousy, treachery and murder, yet he also knows that the fault lies not in our stars. Painful as it is to admit there is nothing supernatural about it. People are the evil doers and the only real monsters 365, 24/7. Halloween is just a Purim Shpiel.

About the Author
I was born in NYC in 1954 to a Holocaust Survivor family. I grew up Brooklyn, and was a Yeshivah boy and a member of Betar, I made aliyah on my own at the end of 1979 and have had many positions in IL Jewelry salesman, photographer, police officer, tour guide, and others... I established a medical start-up based on my own invention and made a successful exit. I'm married with 2 kids, a daughter and a son.
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