Happy Halloween! Though honestly, I'm not feeling the "happy" part, what with the relentlessly grim news. Nor the "Halloween" ... all those grinning skeletons and cartoon ghouls, cardboard memento mori at a time when actual death is already all too present. You want to snarl "Read the room!" and send them packing, scrambling back to the red hell from whence they came.
So what then? I glanced into the vault and found this, with manages to combine both concern for Israel and the demons of the seasons, but in a more light-hearted fashion. It was from when the column filled a page, and I left in the original subheads.OPENING SHOT . . .
Israel has a problem with Palestinians blowing themselves up in public places.
So it built a fence, to keep bombers from infiltrating Israel. And it started pulling down the houses of the families of suicide bombers, since it's hard to punish somebody who has blown himself up.
Not the most extreme governmental action in this woeful world, yet one that sends certain idealistic Americans into a frenzy, such as the protesters who broke up the Caterpillar annual stockholder meeting in St. Charles this week. They don't want the company to sell Israel bulldozers.
Why stop at bulldozers? I bet Israeli soldiers eat corn flakes. Shouldn't they also picket Kellogg's? And the Jews who support Israel drive Fords. Better demonstrate against Ford, too.
And the sun — it shines upon the Israelis, warming them, doesn't it? Maybe it can be boycotted, the way British academics are shunning Israeli universities.
It's silly. One can criticize Israel. It makes mistakes, like any other nation. I don't equate condemning Israel with anti-Semitism, though both can sure smell similar. To be an American, to survey this world of bloodshed and repression — the charnel house of Africa, the slave camp of China, the rigid theocracies of the oil states — and to decide to shout down companies doing business with spunky democratic Israel is out-of-balance, almost perverse. I'd be indignant, but these people are mere stooges, more to be pitied.
BEWARE THE MAN WITH THE HOOK
An article — a fake article, running down the right side of this column, headlined:
"TOP COP SLAMS HOOK MAN FEAR"
As I put together the tent poles, I merrily composed the article in my mind:
"Northbrook Chief of Police Buck Jackman assured parents there is no reason to be concerned about the 50th anniversary of the escape of the deranged killer known only as 'The Hook Man.'
"'All usual summertime activities, including sleepovers, should proceed as normal,' said Chief Jackman. "'The myth of his return on the anniversary to kill again is only that, a myth.'
I would fold the paper over, hiding the part that explained the joke to readers, and pass it across the kitchen table to the birthday boy.
"Look at that," I'd say, idly. "We'd better not tell your friends. Wouldn't want them to be frightened . . ."
But I had already turned in Wednesday's column. I briefly considered phoning the paper and having them tear up the page. But the copy desk might look askance at that . . .
So I let it go. The party proceeded as planned. Bocce ball and dinner at Pinstripes. Home for a ballgame, the pinata, gifts.
Darkness fell. The boys were settled in the tent to play poker, and I was getting ready to go to sleep when my younger son appeared. His older brother was teasing his friends.
I went into the yard, found Son No. 1 raking his fingers across the outside of the tent and crooning about a Hook Man — it must be in the genes. I sent him to his room, established that the five boys within were calm, and hit the hay.
At 3:45 a.m. one of the boys appeared in our room — feeling ill, he said, no doubt a combination of massive sugar infusion, late hours and excitement. His folks were called and they returned him to the comfort of his own room.
"The boys are going to wonder where he went when they wake up," my wife mused, in the 4 a.m. darkness. Then she smiled — I could hear it. "It must be you guys rubbing off on me, but I'm tempted to tell them that the Hook Man got him."
— Originally published in the Sun-Times, June 15, 2007