Halloween Humbug

I don’t like Halloween. It’s my least-favorite non-fabricated holiday. I don’t like what Halloween is about: tricks and treats. It sends an inappropriate message to children. (And I’m a humbug about dressing up in costumes.)

Kris and I won’t even be home tonight to hand out candy little ghosts and goblins tonight. We’re going to see Spirited Away (trailer), which is Halloweeny in its own sort of way.

There is at least one aspect of Halloween I do enjoy: ghost stories. Here’s one of the first I can remember hearing…

The Velvet Ribbon
by Ann McGovern

Once there was a man who fell in love with a beautiful girl. And before the next full moon rose in the sky, they were wed.

To please her husband, the young wife wore a different gown each night. Sometimes she was dressed in yellow; other nights she wore red or blue or white. And she always wore a black velvet ribbon around her slender neck.

Day and night she wore that ribbon, and it was not long before her husband’s curiosity got the better of him.

“Why do you always wear that ribbon?” he asked.

She smiled a strange smile and said not a word.

At last her husband got angry. And one night he shouted at his bride. “Take that ribbon off! I’m tired of looking at it.”

You will be sorry if I do,” she replied, “so I won’t.”

Every morning at breakfast, the husband ordered his wife to remove the black velvet ribbon from around her neck. Every night at dinner he told her the same thing.

But every morning at breakfast and every night at dinner, all his wife would say was, “You’ll be sorry if I do. So I won’t.”

A week passed. The husband no longer looked into his wife’s eyes. He could only stare at that black velvet ribbon around her neck.

One night as his wife lay sleeping, he tiptoed to her sewing basket. He took out a pair of scissors.

Quickly and quietly, careful not to awaken her, he bent over his wife’s bed and


went the scissors, and the velvet ribbon fell to the floor. And


off came her head.

It rolled over the floor in the moonlight, wailing tearfully: “I…told…you…you’d…be…s-o-r-r-y!”

My sister, Shelley, had this story on a 45 when I was in the third grade. It scared the hell out of me, but I listened to the story over and over and over again.

The Better Business Buerau just called me here at Custom Box Service. They gave me a highly polished, though gentle, sales pitch which was little different from the telemarketing calls I receive every day.

To whom does one report the Better Business Bureau if one is unhappy with their business practices?


On 31 October 2002 (01:38 PM),
Dana said:

I did not know you had a sister.

I can’t remember you EVER mentioning a sister.

On 01 November 2002 (11:04 AM),
Dana said:

Does this mean you like Halloween less than you like Christmas? I thought Christmas was at the bottom of the heap with you, holiday-wise…

On 01 November 2002 (11:07 AM),
J.D. said:

Ah. Good point. I hate Christmas so much that I had blocked it from my mind…

On 13 October 2004 (08:52 AM),
Kathy said:

I, too, had the 45 of “The Black Velvet Ribbon.” I would love to find an audio copy of it. I’ve been researching online but haven’t found one. any ideas?

On 30 October 2004 (12:31 PM),
Deb said:

I’ve got an mp3 for The Velvet Ribbon!

Friday Grab Bag

Jeremy and Jennifer and Harrison and Emma came over last night to test a candidate dish for Friend Thanksgiving. (The test was very successful, by the way: Caprial’s fantastic smoked salmon chowder.) At the end of the evening, Harrison (nearly four) and Emma (just two), in pajamas, chased each other around and around and around the kitchen, laughing and cackling, bursting with childish vigor. Jenn says she can’t remember being that rambunctious as a child. I can.

Jeff and Tony and I used to play the same games: chasing each other and squealing and loving every minute of it — we had no cares in the world. Now our adult version of this game is sitting around Custom Box, telling stories and insulting each other.

It’s been a few weeks since I shared interesting links. You didn’t have anything else to do today anyhow, right? (As usual, many of these links were found at the in-decline-but-still-fun Metafilter.)

Mac and Pam are hosting game night tomorrow. We’re supposed to arrive in costume, but I haven’t any ideas. We’re already doing costumes for next month’s Harry Potter premier. I’m not fond of costumes in the first place, so trying to find two suitable disguises in one month is testing the limits of my resourcefulness!


On 26 October 2002 (08:29 AM),
Jeremy Gingerich said:

Hey, I think you should go as a soccer goalie. This requires no funny costume making and you already have all fo the stuff. I hope your not offended by my bad email address and website.



November is National Novel Writing Month, and I’ve considered joining the exercise, possibly writing from a woman’s perspective. The following is the only piece I’ve ever written from a woman’s perspective, and it’s fourteen years old now:


knock knock so i let you in you wet you drip dripping shiver from the rain cold night outside face red corners hanging frowning anger frowning i close the door wind howls outside warm fire inside you pull back hood hair is anyhow wet long and black and shining like onyx shiny hair i love to stroke when i hold you nakedly your weight pinning me to the earth pressing but you are not naked you are here and wet and say give it to me laura your words like needles prickly prickly poke me hurt me lose my balance teetering but i will not fall i catch myself turn on my heel and flutter to the couch leaving you drip dripping on new rug looking like melting popsicle silly i sit skirt floats to knees dainty dainty o so pretty you tell me you love when i wear skirts i lift book note the place look at you thoughtfully do not crack be strong laura say to what are you referring dean my love voice good like rich woman high class perfectly perfect gaze stare your eyes are black as coal god i love those eyes when we make love deep i float in them floating like in peace in time in space in waves but now they burn stare fiery gaze do not drop my guard do not fall you stony faced angry drip dripping sniff nose dont play games with me so serious your voice like you are an adult a man you are only a boy dean so young so pretty your hair your eyes your arms are nets your back an anvil your thighs a vice your hips mine you are firm you are soft you glide when we make love you glide sigh laura ease air gently i look at you just the right face drop my rigid eyes disappointed cant i be trusted lightning flashes boom thunder boom crashes you are standing in my doorway dripping on my new rug puddle of wetness beneath your face is tense is full of passion red and eyes hair are black and wet and you are wet and smooth i will make love to you i stand come here dean i retrace my path stand before you stare eyes black fiery burning im falling falling no catch myself hold on will not fall my arms around your wetness calculated seconds waiting your eyes unchanging falling help me kiss him laura i kiss you biting kissing hard your lips are so beautiful but you do not kiss back dripping on my rug i look your eyes are burning black fiery my blouse my skirt im wet no drip dripping soggy like cornflakes you stand before me still face still red no longer from cold your face still red angry angry raise an arm i turn my head cheek cracks meets hand pain falling crying i fall o dean o dean o dean crying dripping on the floor i am crying tears and rain drip dripping face is burning only want to love you only want you to love me i didnt mean to take it i sputter crying dripping myself curled on the floor you tower above me tall and handsome so young you are a boy give it to me you scream your eyes glare burning give it back no need to yell i am falling nothing to grasp nothing to catch o dean i am crawling to the bureau oak drawers oak frame shiny shiny like your hair your eyes your nakedness third drawer up slowly open reach inside crying falling slowly like an instant replay i pick up your heart your heart red bloody muscle organ pump giver of life hamburger raw your heart you must love me you must love me o dean i cry you stride wetly to my side footprints black on the hardwood floor you watch i lift your bruised heart take it out im falling wont you catch me dean hold me catch me do not let me cry i am falling and you grab my wrist grab your heart snatching it stealing it o dean please dont leave me only a piece i beg you take you take you hold you swallow it stare at me once more eyes burning fiery fiery o dean please dont i can feel you bursting feel your violence and you whisper come laura lets make love you gently catch my fall

Strange, eh?


On 21 October 2002 (09:56 PM),
Tammy said:

Yikes I have a headache. I must not be fully woman because that went way over my head. I’m left with only one thought. Either JD is clueless about the dynamics of the English language or JD is so brilliant that I in my stupidity cannot understand him. Beings there is strong Roth blood flowing through you I’m left to wonder if the latter conclusion is closer to the truth. Good work JD!….I think.

On 22 October 2002 (06:21 AM),
J.D. said:

Actually, when I was in college I played with the English language a great deal, much to the dismay of certain professors. At the end of my freshman seminar I had to write a long, comprehensive paper demonstrating that I’d assimilated everything the seminar had been trying to teach us. I wrote my paper by hand using four colors of ink and a bizarre Plato-esque dialogue format. My professor refused to grade it. In one religion class, I wrote a paper on Job’s suffering using Biblical chapter-and-verse format. It was my religion professor who suffered. Later I turned in a paper to him that used no capitalization and which replaced standard punctuation characters with inventions of my own.

I went through a phase in which I thought could express my individuality by breaking free from the stifling confines of English grammar.

That was a long time ago.

Fall Thoughts

A long, hot bath on a Saturday morning is my favorite way to fight a lingering cold. If Kris decides to put U2 in the CD player, so much the better.

Ah. My inner core is warmed.

I’ve spent several hours this week editing fifty minutes of footage from last Sunday�’s soccer game. My goal was to create a single four- or five-minute montage set to music, but my editing skills aren’�t keen enough yet. The montage is ten minutes long and set to three songs (“Tubthumping” by Chumbawumba, “Crash” by the Pixies, and “Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want” by The Smiths). A lot of rough footage remains in the movie, but it’s more fun to have it there than to take it out.

After working with iMovie for eight to ten hours, I retract my earlier casual dismissal of the software. Perhaps there are better applications for video editing, but certainly none can match the price. And iMovie is full-featured enough for me to create films with which I am quite happy.

Spending so long with footage of FC Saints reinforces how much I enjoy playing soccer with this team. We may not be skilled — in fact we all have glaring weaknesses — but we play with enthusiasm and “heart”. We have a good chance to earn a win or two during the final four weeks of the season.

In the fall and winter, Kris and I occasionally buy hams and sausages from Voget Meats in Hubbard. Voget’s is an example of the type of business I try to support: it’s small, family owned, and has been in the community for seventy years. Their meats are outstanding. When I was a child, it was a treat when Dad would bring home sausage from Voget’�s and fry it for dinner.

When I bought the ham for tonight’s book group, the woman told me, “This is a great ham.” I don’t know what she meant by that. How can she tell it’s great? What makes this ham better than any other ham from Voget’s?

Kris and I just put the ham in the oven. It smells delicious: smoky and salty and, well, porky. This afternoon is going to be fantastic as the aroma of the ham fills the house.

Fall is here.

This autumn is a little unusual for Oregon: it is clear and warm during the day, cool and crisp at night. It’s typical fall weather for many parts of the country, but not so much for Oregon. By this time in October, we’ve usually had nearly an inch-and-a-half of rain, and the days have turned cool, with highs in the low sixties. This October we’ve only had about half and inch of rain, nearly all of which fell on the third. In five out of the past six days the high temperature has exceeded seventy degrees; it was eighty degrees on Wednesday, a record high!

I’m sure that rain is just around the corner.

This afternoon I walked over to the high school and practiced punting the soccer ball. When I was satisfied with my progress, I sprawled on the grass and basked in the dull October sun. It was quiet. Birds chirped in the woods. A fly buzzed. Somewhere in one of the housing developments somebody revved a chainsaw. I was alone. On the field. In the sun.

It was quiet.

I felt fine.

Two boys interrupted my reverie by jogging out of the woods and onto the field, passing an orange soccer ball between them. Their talk was filled with plans for the future. I sat up, smiled at them, picked up my gear, and walked home.

Last night at Powell’s I was transfixed by the Atlas of Oregon for twenty minutes, yet barely read ten pages. The book is fantastic, filled with facts and figures, charts and graphs, every piece of information about Oregon one could possibly desire. I must have this book.


On 19 October 2002 (03:44 PM),
ks said:

how did the ham taste?

On 20 October 2002 (09:40 PM),
Bill Conwell said:

Did a Google search for Voget’s today, and this page topped the list.

‘Came across Voget’s from smoked beef they donate to the annual Mennonite Fall Festival — a fundraiser held in Albany last weekend. We’ve enjoyed the thinly sliced beef before, but the labeled bag has always been discarded before I made a note of the source. This time I resolved to do better, so entered the Voget name in my organizer so I can make a personal visit next time I’m down Hubbard way.

Kudos to Voget’s for their support of Mennonite relief efforts.

On 21 October 2002 (01:28 PM),
jeff said:

I think Custom Box Service needs to buy a copy of the Atlas of Oregon. 🙂

On 21 October 2002 (02:16 PM),
Tammy J said:

I too love Powell books. I haven’ been there in a bout 6 years though. It’s just not the place to go with kids in tow. But thanks for reminding me of the pleasures I once knew! Lol