By Ruth McKee
In mid-September, the county supervisors announced that trick-or-treating would be banned this year. Within 24 hours, they had reversed course and said it was only “discouraged.” A city populated by so many migrants trained in the arts, I’ve often thought of Halloween as Los Angeles’s most significant holiday. The weeks leading up to the big day are typically filled with carnivals and festivals, parties and parades, giving children and adults the opportunity to dress up and express themselves. On the night itself, our neighbors pull out their projectors and fog machines, theming their houses to Halloween movies.
Within a few days of the county’s announcement and reversal, I started seeing ads for drive-thru Halloween events. I signed up for all of them: the one where you drove past displays of immaculately-carved jack-o-lanterns, the haunted barnyard, and the mall parking lot where they made candy rain down through the sunroof of your car. My neighbors and I also organized a drive-thru event for our kids on Friday night, with ten stops on the map, where neighbors wearing masks passed bags of candy into the windows of each other’s cars.
Halloween in LA has always given structure to a long, hot, season where the weather doesn’t turn to fall. This year it has felt more essential to me than ever, giving me something to focus on other than the election. Time has slowed to a crawl as the nation drags itself towards November 3rd. Virus cases are spiking all over the country, to levels we have never seen before. Since the current regime has given up on any sort of control measures as well as any economic relief, our only hope right now is for regime change.
Halloween itself is quiet. It’s a Saturday, so the kids wake up and play their online games while my husband and I do our morning yoga. The air is clear and we can see the mountains from our bedroom window. I joke with my husband that I will miss this view when we move to Canada next week. It is only sort of a joke. Unlike most of my friends here, I have the extra privilege of a second passport, a way to get my family across a border closed since March. My husband and I float the idea of leaving, back and forth, with each turn of the news cycle. We don’t want to go. We like our lives here, or liked them, anyway. Three more days. We hold on to the hope that we will like them again.
In the afternoon I take my daughter to an art class (in person, with masks), and to a drive-by birthday parade for one of her friends. The new Whole Foods is open, after four years of construction, and we talk about stopping and going inside. As we drive down Ventura Blvd, a caravan of shiny white pick-up trucks, waving flags and honking, encourages us to join the Trump Train. A chilling display, even for Halloween.
We take a walk in the early evening. None of us says it, but we’re all curious whether trick-or-treaters will be out, after all. There are a few families out with small children, a few houses that have set up candy chutes or treat pass-out tables, but it’s nothing like a normal year. We put our leftovers from the drive-thru out for any passers-by, turn off our lights and huddle inside.
Around nine, a party starts up in the rental house next door. Loud-music pumps through the neighborhood, and dozens of young people are dropped off in rideshares, or park their cars along the street. I call the non-emergency police number, to see if anything can be done, but no one is there to take my call. The party rages until two in the morning, when a police helicopter finally comes by, circling overhead and putting a spotlight on the revelers. They cut the music, the helicopter leaves, and for a few minutes it is quiet. Then the music starts again, a little softer, but still consistently beating into the night. I go to sleep and wait for the next stay at home order to come.