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Bill Gates, Mary Poppins and the Grim Reaper: the usual gang hits the streets for Halloween

on November 1, 2009

An efficient vampire leaned past two dawdling fairies and Mary Poppins to snag a mini-package of Whoppers.  The vampire glanced at the fairies (who were wasting perfectly good candy-collection time explaining their costumes to the lady holding the treats bowl), stuck the Whoppers in his bag, and hurried back down the walkway and out to the Lawton Avenue sidewalk.

Huck Fin eyes the Grim Reaper while a witch, a flapper, and the Summer of Love chat with a police officer on Lawton Ave.

Huck Fin eyes the Grim Reaper while a witch, a flapper, and the Summer of Love chat with a police officer on Lawton Ave.

A dragon, who had stopped mid-walkway while his foster fathers checked that the safety pin on his tail wasn’t poking him, pointed at a skeleton dangling from the roof over the well-lit porch.

“Look!” he called to his foster parents.  He  made a fearsome dragon face. “Roar!”  He contemplated the skeleton and added, nonchalantly, “I have one at home, too.”

The fire-breathing fellow is three years old and was  out for his first trick-or-treat, said foster dad Joey Burrage.  He and his partner, Bevin Shamel, live in Oakland and have been caring for their small dragon, aka Kevin Tran, for almost a year now.  Burrage and Shamel are working with Aspiranet, a nonprofit group that facilitates adoptions for families already caring for foster children.  They read online about Lawton as a good place to take trick-or-treating kids.

Kevin was one of a series of dragons, many of whom had found their scales on sale at Old Navy, parading up and down Lawton last night.  Over the years, parents say, this particular tree-lined stretch of street between College Avenue and Broadway has become famous in North Oakland for its friendly people, family atmosphere, and extensive decorations.  With fall leaves crunching underfoot and calls of “Trick-or-treat!” ringing out up and down the crowded sidewalks, it was easy to see why.

Cole and Zachery Pine (cows) and their cowboy father, also Zachery, get an early start with their friend, skeleton-slash-Batman (aka Roman Hurtado).

Cole and Zachery Pine (cows) and their cowboy father, also Zachery, get an early start with their friend, skeleton-slash-Batman (aka Roman Hurtado).

“Last year,” said Ken Summer, who lives on Lawton and hosted this year’s pre-Trick-or-Treat neighborhood party, “I bought 2000 pieces and gave them out one at a time.  But I ran out by 8 pm.”

He said he took some from his own kids, who were too young to notice.  Finally they had to turn out the lights and hide in the back room.

“This year, I have two shopping bags full,” Summer said.

Why is Lawton so popular?

“Kids want to go for the optimal candy,” said a female pirate, also known as Liz Laub, explaining why she, her husband (also a pirate), and her daughter (a bumble bee) had  left a bowl of candy on the porch of their house in Piedmont and come to hang out with Steve Chow and Grace Kim (convicts) and their son (a skeleton), on Lawton. Apparently Laub’s street is not optimal for trick-or-treating, but Chow and Kim, who are new to the neighborhood, had heard that theirs was.  Laub’s husband, Jim Molmen, carved a pumpkin on the porch and the others sipped mulled cider on the lawn while they waited for the evening’s festivities to begin.

Now it was after dark and the street was crawling with creatures – some fantastic and some scarily realistic.  A young lawyer passed Bill Gates, who was trick-or-treating tonight with Dorothy.   (As in Oz.) Harry Potter gripped his wand; a petite flapper conveyed her trick-or-treat request with a look instead of saying it out loud; and Darth Vader, Wall-E and the Grim Reaper all remembered to say thank you and “Happy Halloween!” as they added another treat to their bulging bags and headed off to the next house.

Some of the costumes were a little hard to place.  The boy in the brown hood was given away by his light-sabre: Han Solo.  A girl with red horns and a sparkly red dress was a devil princess.  A girl in a long white dress, who looked to be about ten years old under her white face paint, walked up to the porch where the skeleton hung.

Kids pick up Whoppers, Twizzlers and Reese's Peanut Butter Cups from a house on Lawton Avenue.

Kids pick up Whoppers, Twizzlers and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups from a house on Lawton Avenue.

“Trick-or-treat,” she said politely.

“Are you a skeleton?”  asked the woman doling out the candy.

“Actually I’m Tim Burton’s corpse bride,” replied the trick-or-treater, tossing her blue-yarn hair over her shoulder.

Across the street, Thing 1 and Thing 2 bounded up the steps of Dov and Cathy Rosenfeld to snag Snickers bars.  The Rosenfelds have lived on Lawton for 14 years and hosted a large group of their daughters’ friends for pizza earlier in the evening.  Their older daughter, Anna, is 12, and she headed out into the night trailing two punk rockers and a ladybug, among others.  This group has been allowed to trick-or-treat alone since last year;  the added benefit of this privilege is that they get to leave before the others.  The Rosenfelds’ younger daughter, Ziva, had to wait with her fellow nine year-olds (Hagrid, a punk zombie, a faerie and a butterfly-slash-dragonfly) for a parent escort.

“I don’t think any age is too old for Halloween,”  Cathy Rosenfeld said, after dispensing treats to two seventh graders and a ninth grader,  “as long as they’re in a costume.  Even just a mask.”

Lena Milton, 12, made her own costume this year, as she does every year.

Lena Milton, 12, made her own costume this year, as she does every year.

Twelve year-old Lena Milton, who was stunning in a self-made ladybug costume, complete with curlycue pipe cleaner antennae, said she’s not sure when one is too old to trick-or-treat, but that the candy is not the draw for her.  “I really like going because of the costumes,” Lena said.

Back on the street, Michael Jackson strolled by in triplicate.  More commonly referred to as the Derryck family, tonight Beat It Jackson, Thriller Jackson and Jackson Five Jackson were trolling for candy with a young girl in a leather fringe dress and a feather in her hair.  They had come over from Grand/Lake because “we heard it was a good neighborhood,” said Erica Derryck.

“And it is!” Thriller Jackson piped up from her side.  “There’s lots of people to trick-or-treat.”

How exactly did her feather-adorned daughter fit into the Stages of Jackson theme?

“She’s Indian Princess Jackson,”  Derryck said.

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Photo by Basil D Soufi
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