October 30th of every year used to be the greatest night of the year. I grew up in New Jersey; described by some as the armpit of America. The geography and anatomy of the United States confirm that assessment and if they don’t “The Sopranos” sure as hell did.
Living up to that title is no easy task. Our politicians are corrupt to the bone. In fact, we elect them for that reason. We bury bodies in the Meadowlands and then build stadiums on top of those bodies to house some of the most snake bitten professional teams on the planet. In fact, our one and only New Jersey football team “The Generals” was a shitshow. Wait, that is not fair to shitshows. No offense Doug Flutie. You look great in the Nugenix commercials.
That is enough New Jersey bashing for today. Let’s talk about one of the great things I experienced while growing up in the Garden State: “Mischief Night.”
Out here in California nobody seems to have even heard of this annual event. The night before Halloween in Rockaway, New Jersey was the night to go out and really raise hell. Ever egged a house? Let me tell you, there are few things more satisfying than heaving an egg into the side of a house or better yet a window. Ever toilet papered a tree and everything else in someone’s front yard? Sheer joy! Ringing and Running (Ringing the doorbell then bolting) was cathartic. Do not fret for the owners of those houses! Like being roasted by Don Rickles, if one had their house egged or yard toilet papered or answered the doorbell for nothing, it was an honor. We had our house egged and toilet papered. I considered it a privilege.
Of course, there were always the miserable neighbors that lived on the block. You know, the people that got angry when the street hockey ball wound up on their lawn or went through their window. They never answered the door on Halloween. They were the person who called your parents anytime they heard you using the F-word. We were 10 years old!! What happened to freedom of speech??? Well Mischief night was the reckoning! There simply was no chance the person’s mailbox made it through the night without being blown up by an M-80.
It sounds dangerous to use explosives as a twelve year old. Well, it was! But so was riding a BMW bike with Mag wheels without a helmet over a cardboard ramp barely attached to three cinder blocks. I landed on my head plenty of times and my friends know my mental development was not stunted at all. It was dangerous to drive in an old beat up car on “Garbage pick-up Thursdays” and take out every trash can on the block. It was dangerous to get in a fight at the arcade in the mall over a girl. I can say with pride I am 3-8-1 in the fights I remember. I know my mom and her yenta friends might be saying “Jewish boys don’t do that kind of stuff.” Well, they don’t play hockey at West Point either!
The day after Mischief Night was Halloween. We all got dressed up and went to school, but we walked extra slow to the bus stop (without our parents ever) to examine our handy work. We stuck to “omerta” like good Sicilians and quietly imagined the look on everyone’s face when they opened their doors in the morning.
I miss Mischief Night. But more so, I miss what Mischief Night represented. It was full of surprise and excitement that didn’t involve playing a video game. Your heart raced as you tried not to get caught. You had to be athletic, which everyone was back then because all you did was play outside. The night was full of suspense. Back then Mischief night was long and full of terrors way before the Red Woman coined that phrase. I need to remind myself not to take myself too damn seriously!!! And Mischief Night is a good reminder that we can all sin a little and still be good people.