Photo: Valary/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Photo: Valary/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

“What are you going to be for Halloween?” I ask the boxwood hedge during a late night stroll up the stairs on the backside of Elysian Park.

No response. No response needed.

I can already see this hedge is going to be a spider web. The potted palm, its neighbor, is a ghost. The stag horn growing on chain link is early to the party too, wearing the comically spooky white rubber mask that is not quite Munch, yet not fully Wes Craven.

“Do you like scary movies?”

I almost wait to hear it whisper, but a board creaks in the dark and decide it’s best to keep moving.

City streets can be predictable. Manhole covers. The occasional sign. Yellow stripes. Sometimes white. Convention for the sake of utility, communication through banality. But not tonight. Tonight there is a zombie outbreak on Echo Park Avenue. A witch, legs outstretched, crashed into the telephone pole. A shrunken head bobbing, as if for apples, from a stressed jacaranda. Soon waist high Chewbaccas and sugar high trolls will be opening these gates, tip toeing through front yard cemeteries and knocking on strangers’ doors, pillow cases wide, tricking for treats. This is normal. This is tradition, and under the guise of orange incandescent light, we play along, gladly.

Photo: CC0 Public Domain

Photo: CC0 Public Domain

Halloween embraces the landscape. It could be argued that Halloween is the most landscape oriented festivity. Graveyards take on renewed meaning, pumpkin patches and corn fields temporarily transition from browning bumper crops into amusement parks worthy of charging admission. Moonlight becomes eerie. Coyotes yipping in the river send shivers down your spine. It is great. Tis the season of playful affirmation, reminding us all that our landscapes are dynamic cultural conceptions.

The real nightmare on Elm Street is urban sprawl and invasive species.

The real nightmare on Elm Street is urban sprawl and invasive species.

Phenomenologically reaffirmed by that backwards glance and the quickening of your pace when you could have sworn you saw something move out of the corner of your eye but you can’t say for certain what. Freddy Kruger isn’t from Elm Street. We brought him there. And we bring him to every street, especially this time of year. Are you afraid of the dark?

I would urge you to listen to creepy soundtracks…alone. And then go for a walk. At night. Better yet – listen to creepy soundtracks while you walk around. Alone. At night. See how the landscape changes. Use this exercise to meditate on the idea that in fact the landscape has not really changed, you have changed it. Temporary landscapes are created by our rituals, and these influences are not beholden to cackling plastic skulls and carved pumpkins, they are always happening and like the poltergeist that rattles your recycling bin every morning at 3:00am they linger in place.

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