I spent a mellow, anti-hipster Halloween at my friend Mark's house in the burbs. It was supposed to be a Harry Potter party, but Mark changed his mind at the last minute. Instead of butter beer, he had Guinness and Budweiser. The entire Harry Potter aspect consisted of me, my cousin in a Tonks wig, a girl in Deatheater robes, and one Professor Lupin. Mainly, Mark set up a kind of haunted house in his garage and got some friends to scream at kids and leap out at them from behind dark corners at opportune moments as they wound their way through the maze. And let me tell you, the kids loved it. The simple pleasures are the best part of Halloween. It's funny how far a few yards of garbage bags, twine rope, shredded cloth, the chill in the night air and someone saying “Boo!” will go. People who'd worked on the maze in years past got their name on a styrofoam tombstone. The kids who “survived” the haunted garage were rewarded with candy.

The set-up gets more elaborate each year, I'm told. Mark bought the skulls for 99 cents each at Michaels. He carved the tombstones himself. He had plans to hit the craft stores and Target the next day to capitalize on the after-Halloween sales. Maybe he'd do a mock human sacrifice next time. Maybe they'd pretend to carve out someone's beating heart.

When I got home, I tried to dress my cat in a pumpkin costume. He was very angry and is currently plotting murder.

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