Not hours into October and already the throngs have descended on Salem. It’s as if people were sitting in their cars, costumed, just waiting for the calendar to flip. All of a sudden there’s smoke coming out of the witch museums and vendors popping luring even the locals (apple cinnamon buns?). Overnight, in an abandoned lot in a prime location that always puzzled me, a sign goes up: Parking $20. I remember waiting for my real estate agent on the day of my home inspection last October and grinning when he cruised in on a scooter, parking his car for the month to avoid the traffic. A smart man, that agent.
At Target, before the shelves are even half-bare, I buy a boatload of Kit Kats to satiate the neighborhood kids—all two of them; the odds are good that the loot will be mine. And I don’t have to go around collecting it with a pillowcase.
But living in Salem levies a certain pressure to be outlandish when it comes to Halloween. My friend needed two days to decorate. But I eschew the skeletons, witches, the homemade graveyard made from cardboard and decorate for my first Halloween in Salem by refusing to sweep away the cobwebs that spiders have sewn in the corners of the house. I’m going for the natural look.
I will also be picking from a patch, or more likely buying, a plump pumpkin for my front step, but that’s as far as I go. No orange lights strung along the garden; no skulls resting in a flower pot; and absolutely no candy corn-colored decor wrapping around the dying shrub. I’m a minimalist.
If people want the full treatment, I’ll point them in the direction of the cemetery haunted by the old sheriff. I pay him 20 bucks to scare the hell out of people taking pictures with their iPhones.