Saturday, October 31, 2009

Halloween for Our Children

When I was growing up Halloween was a holiday to which I definitely looked forward. It wasn't my favorite, but I liked getting dressed up in the costumes we managed to pull together and then going out to try to rake in all the candy we possibly could in our neighborhood. I remember the year that it suddenly became unsafe for us to take unwrapped/non-manufactured treats from our neighbors. There were legends of razorblades and poison in those candied apples, so they were to be thrown out straight away. In spite of scares like that, however, it was a safe holiday during which we wore our costumes to school, probably had a party and then had fun at night going door to door looking for free loot.

In most of this city it is not that way. It really varies greatly, though. Last year I was in Park Slope, Brooklyn for Halloween and I sat on a stoop handing out candy to the little kids coming by with their parents. Kids didn't ring doorbells, but they still dressed up and got their fill of candy from people sitting on stoops. This year I'll be on the Upper East Side where there is no Trick or Treating for some reason, but the holiday is not an unsafe one. I assume most of the kids go to swanky Halloween parties where their parents booze it up and "network." In the Bronx it seems to to be a different story altogether.

There is a pretty powerful urban "legend" that the Bloods have their initiation over the weekend of Halloween. Depending on who you talk to it's no legend at all. Supposedly the Blood's new recruits have to slice (or kill depending on who you talk to) thirty-one females throughout the city. Whether it's true or not may not even be the point. The rumor itself is so strong that it affects the community in a very substantial way. Perhaps that's what the Bloods really want- just to flex some muscle.

On Halloween many of our students are kept home by parents or choose to stay home. Safety is a very real concern on any given day, but on the day/weekend of Halloween there is added emphasis by parents and the community. Some students are afraid of eggs being thrown and of the threat from the Blood's while some just use it as an excuse to stay home. At any rate, we had an attendance rate of about seventeen percent last year, if I remember correctly. Even if the initiation is just a myth, it is a powerful one.

Today we had about half our students in class, which was an improvement from last year. I did hear that a couple of my students were going door-to-door, but they were going upstate to do so.

Today's Wine: Feudi del Duca Montepulciano. I couldn't find much online about this one, but it's pretty good. It didn't seem as acidic as many other Montepulcianios.


  1. I really love the idea of your blog and thanks for posting about your job. It is an eye opener for those of us who stayed in the Midwest to teach/write/educate. I found you on Teacherlingo (FYI). Good luck to you this year. I look forward to your posts.

    Margo Dill

  2. Thanks very much! It's good to know a few of the people I'm writing for are reading! Best of luck to you as well.

  3. I started my career in the South Bronx also. I didn't move from anywhere since I was living in Queens- crossing the Whitestone Bridge felt like entering a different world.
    Three decades later I'm still teaching in NYC

    Keep writing- I'll keep reading and drinking wine

  4. keep up the good work nick... so did you dress up for your students? I spent way too much time trying to create a "historically" accurate Uncle Sam because the ones in the stores are far from Nast's. it held up ok at school, but kinda fell apart around 2 am on mass street :)
    take care teacherman

  5. I didn't dress up per se, but it was a Friday and therefore Hat Friday. I've been wearing various period hats every Friday of the year so far. I'm getting stuck on the Progressive Era though. Let me know if you have any ideas of hats related to suffrage, labor reform, etc.