At 10 p.m. on Halloween

By David Grima | Oct 29, 2020

Heartbreak upon heartbreak; the big news this week is the decision by the Blessed Lord Prez Reginald K. Trumpleton to cancel his Halloween date at the concrete towers at the foot of Mechanic Street, where I am forced to live.

The Lord Prez planned to appear dressed as an enormous exploding coronavirus germ, with the explosion designed to shower the crowds of admiring onlookers with candy. I heard Monday that he thought better of it, having remembered the coronavirus is a Democratic hoax, and deciding intuitively his costume would likely give a boost to Democrats here in Rockland.

So, I am very sorry there is no time for me to plan an alternative entertainment, and this year the towers will probably be fairly quiet during the festivities. The Lord Prez sends his regrets to the eight or nine million people he was expecting to show up.

* * * * *

It is probably worth mentioning that 2020 is the 200th anniversary of the publication of Washington Irving’s famous tale of haunted old New York, “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.” It was written, strange to tell, in Birmingham, Britain’s second largest city.

I must admit I am a tad irritated by Lord Trumpleton’s last-minute cancelation, because if I knew sooner I would have been happy to stage a vast and costly holiday extravaganza based on the tale of Ichabod Crane and the Headless Horseman.

Oh well.

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There is other sad news. According to a bulletin from the Rockland Main Street organization, at 10 p.m. on Halloween, the city will cease to allow the placement of chairs and tables on Rockland’s sidewalks, and will remove all the Jersey barriers and other paraphernalia that has allowed us to dine relatively safely outdoors all summer and this far into fall.

I remember tippling on a particularly good margarita while sitting outside the Park Street Grille Aug. 18, when the famous L.L. Bean bootmobile — a vehicle mounted with an enormous Maine hunting boot — drove up Park Drive. You don’t see stuff like that in Rockland very often.

Obviously, temperatures hereabouts are falling as the year moves on, and fewer people are likely to dine outdoors after nightfall, which starts to arrive an hour earlier now because we have to put our clocks back one hour this weekend.

But some restaurants in bigger places are playing this problem rather smartly. A few days ago, I read that some Chicago restaurants are adopting a Japanese technique that dates back to the Middle Ages, and are installing heated tables outside their restaurants.

* * * * *

As election fever mixes in with the plague, it is producing a heady potion and some potentially brilliant thinking. The usual rash of political-sign thefts around town has already hit, but a particularly clever resident on Pleasant Street has struck back with psychological wit and cunning.

A notice outside that particular house announces that every political sign stolen from that yard will cause the owners to donate $20 to the Biden-Harris campaign. What’s a petty thief supposed to do in the face of such a conundrum?

* * * * *

There are various decorations around town, at the moment. A three-headed, skeletal, Halloweenish dog appears as a fanciful sculpture at the Main Street entrance to the public landing, guarding the harbor as Cerberus guarded the Underworld in Classical Greece. There have been holiday lights in the trees at the Hannaford plaza for several weeks.

I appreciate both.

* * * * *

I wonder how many children and families will give Halloween a shot this year. I hear mixed reactions from various people I have asked about whether they will invest in major heaps of candy and keep their porch lights on, in view of the plague. Some will. Some won’t.

No matter how many kids dress up this year, I hope none even think to dress up as Rockland police officers and chase a stuffed porcupine through our streets.

Rockland was humiliated across the country when the recent story of two on-duty officers beating porcupines to death with their batons was picked up and run in media nationwide. These were sworn peace officers, public servants entrusted with the safety of the city, and made us look like hicks all across America.

Police officers run in my family — apparently they can’t afford cars — and I had the good fortune to be personally assisted by a police constable in 1966 when I was a mere lad running across a busy road and came off second best against a moving car. So, to trust the police has usually been my default mode.

In an online column for the New York Times that appeared Oct. 14, writer Jennifer Finney Boylan, who is apparently from Maine, mocked us in what probably passed for a piece of humor in the Big City:

“As I stood by the woodpile, I heard a sound. I looked over to see a porcupine emerging from the woods. He was the fastest porcupine I ever saw. If you didn’t know any better, you’d think he had the whole Rockland police force chasing after him.”

At least there is one thing to be grateful for, that the people who think it would be a good idea to “defund” the police in Rockland have not stooped so low as to make this shameful event a part of their pitch.

* * * * *

Speaking of newspapers, here’s a simply absurd headline from the Maine Sunday Telegram of Oct. 11: “A woman has given birth to a baby on Maine’s Little Cranberry Island for the first time in nine decades.”

To be told this woman actually delivered a baby, rather than anything else you could imagine, is most reassuring. But did she really have to wait more than 90 years to do it?

The English language does have its rules, and a complex idea of word order that I suspect we inherited in part from Latin. (Oh, those zany Romans, etc.) For example, you can even speak pieces of it backwards and still make sense, for which I refer you to Jedi Master Yoda. But when we break the rules altogether, they can make us look slightly daft.

I know, for I am sure I have done it many times.

The Bangor Dreadful News’ equivalent story, written it seems by a trained English speaker, begins: “Two weeks ago, for the first time in more than 93 years, a baby was born on the Maine island of Ilesford.”

The trick, I suppose, was in the BDN realizing the wee baby was the focus of this story of a rare appearance, not so much the mother, although she was most necessary and no doubt did her part bravely. Almost certainly she was considerably younger than 93.

David Grima is a former editor with Courier Publications. He can be reached at

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