READY, SET . . . GO!

OK, I thought it would be appropriate to start off this IRON NODER CHALLENGE with a bunch of garish capital letters and a daylog for November 1st. And since a daylog about All Saints Day just doesn’t do anything for me, I’ve chosen to share a bit about the last few days of Halloween revelry, instead.

First up, my award for most hilarious pumpkin decoration. This would have to go to a pumpkin I saw on the stoop of a house in the Oregon Hill section of Richmond. This part of town is a ramshackle neighborhood of two-story clapboard townhouses, many of which look as though they were last painted sometime in the 1950’s. The streets are beautifully lined with trees of all sorts, and the fall colors are just about at their height. Fallen leaves swish and crunch underfoot, and the cozy smell of woodsmoke pervades the crisp morning and evening air.

Oregon Hill is home to an eclectic, alternative type of crowd. The band GWAR lives in a house next to St. Stephen’s church, smack in the middle of the neighborhood, if that gives you an idea. I see lots of piercings, tattoos, dyed hair, and black, ripped clothing when I walk through the area on the way to work each day. There are lots of hip bumper stickers and scooters, and the average age of a resident appears to hover somewhere in the mid- to low-20s.

Sometimes when I walk through Oregon Hill at night, I imagine that creepy music from Halloween, and it just fits.

Well, the other day I saw a jack-o’-lantern on a house stoop that totally cracked me up. It was carved like most any jack-o’-lantern, I suppose, although the artist had managed to catch a certain bleary look to the eyes that suggested some holiday pumpkin debauchery the night before.

On the steps below the pumpkin stood an assortment of liquor bottles and beer cans. Jack Daniels. Courvoisier. The “Beast,” Milwaukee’s Best.

And spread over the bottles and cans, down the steps to the street below, was a huge fall of pumpkin innards streaming from the jack-o’-lantern’s mouth.

That’s one jack-o’-lantern that really puked his guts out.

Next up, my award for creepiest Halloween house decoration. This one comes from the Blackwell area of town, a tough section of town on Richmond’s gritty Southside, and home to The Healing Place. Two decades ago, Blackwell was the site of what was probably the worst high-rise public housing project in the entire Commonwealth of Virginia. Friends of mine who lived through it tell me how rough it was, so bad, in fact, that the high rises were torn down, replaced with much more livable townhouses and low-rise apartments.

But you can still see the foundations of the high-rises, buried in vacant lots like lost dinosaur bones from some primordial age.

Anyway, I was walking through these “kinder, gentler” projects the other evening, marveling at the residents’ ingenuity in decorating their homes with playfully gruesome doo-dads from the local Family Dollar. One item that seems to be popular this year is Halloween crime scene tape. The standard CSI yellow, this Halloween tape doesn’t say “Caution: Crime Scene, Do Not Enter.” Instead, it is emblazoned with messages like “Beware! Enter At Your Own Peril” and “Fresh Graves, Keep Out,” and “Haunted House, Enter At Your Own Risk.”

This tape was stretched out across the porches of at least a dozen houses as I passed on my way to The Healing Place. I thought of it as a playfully in-your-face rebuttal to the sometimes oppressive police presence in Blackwell. And then as I approached Maury Street, on the far end of the Blackwell project, I saw a house with its Halloween crime scene tape torn and shredded in the front yard, with tattered remnants hanging from the doorway.

In its place stood fresh crime scene tape. Real crime scene tape. Reflecting the flashing blue lights of three police cruisers parked out front.

There had been a shooting there just an hour before.


My last award is for most surreal Halloween moment. Last night –- Devil’s Night -– I was walking down Franklin Street in downtown Richmond. As I was approaching the Jefferson Hotel, a posh Old World hotel that would easily blend into downtown D.C. or Manhattan, I spied a group of people coming out of the lobby.

Well, what I really noticed wasn’t so much the people, as it was the legs. What seemed like miles and miles of legs, coming straight at me, attached to four absolutely striking women, all of whom appeared to be 5’10” or better. And this group of models, actual or wannabe, was decked out for Halloween in what looked like genuine Playboy bunny outfits and stiletto heels.

I stood for a minute, probably drooling, I can’t remember, and waited for this apparition to vanish into thin air, like the mirage I felt for certain that it was. But as these women approached, they didn’t disappear. They just kept getting more and more beautiful as the distance closed.

Clearly, these weren’t hometown girls.

I’m sure I looked quite the fool, as I broke out laughing. They looked at me, and one said “Oh, look, he’s smiling.” As they approached their car -- a little hybrid -- they all turned in unison towards me, struck a pose, and shouted “Happy Halloween.”

Then, laughing, they folded themselves into their tiny car and sped off into the night.

Trick or treat, indeed.

Happy 50th birthday, Ann!

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. an acclaimed American jurist who served on the Supreme Court of the United States in the early part of the 20th century once remarked that, “a Constitution is not intended to embody a particular economic theory.” (see dissent in Lochner) He may as well have been discussing the notion that a constitution should neither reflect a particular set of morals.

The Constitution of the United States or any constitution is more than a document, it is more than just text. It embodies a spirit of law and an way of government. The Constitution of the United States has survived more than 200 years, not because people are beholden to a textual reading, but because people have been able to interpret and adjust the ideals in the Constitution to reflect contemporary life. The framers would certainly not have anticipated the growth of worldwide communications nor the use of the telephone, but these are issues that we have been forced to deal with in daily life, that the government has been forced to regulate, and the courts have been forced to interpret.

Proposition 8 is an attempt to force a particular type of morality onto the California people. Attempting to modify the California Constitution will not magically allow the prohibition of same-sex marriage to stand up to a test against the Equal Protection Clause of the California Constitution and/or that of the United States Constitution and it is embarrassing that people are willing to mask an abridgment of rights with the logic of moral turpitude or even worse, an appeal to “tradition”.

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