Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Haunted House Halloween Jam Adventures

And so the die was cast: we would descend upon Ward Acres Park under cover of night to infiltrate the forest with our music and pay tribute to all hallows and the change of season beneath the full blue moon. The plan was scheduled to the minute with digital map aids, ample provisions, communications protocols, and even some contingencies allowed for. But as some of our Mexican forebears might have said, "Si quieres hacer reir a Dios, cuentale tus planes" - if you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.

Halloween came and found Conchi (a.k.a. Kani Bosoorah) and me carving pumpkins, donning costumes, and applying makeup before loading up the car for our adventure. Madame Kani did a very convincing job - though her makeup could have been merely part of an innocuous Halloween costume, the chaotic and severe way it was applied in splotches and streaks across her face made it disturbingly plausible she was in fact on her way to a satanic ritual and out for blood.

We rode to the back side of Ward Acres Park with our gear in tow, including the talismans of our rites, two jack-o-lanterns to be illuminated once we reached the inner sanctum. After driving by slowly with windows down and confirming the site had not already been staked out by Occupy Ward Acres Park, we drove around to the front and met Uncle John arriving stealthily in his car. He looked avuncular as ever but of course has a streak of criminal mischief a mile wide concealed on this particular occasion with some spectacles and an unassuming brimmed hat. Little did we know, but we would soon need him to do some of our dirty work. Good thing Uncle John's poker face is such that he could've just come from burying a couple guys he did a hit on and you wouldn't know the difference. People wonder why that banjo case is so heavy.

We deployed and loaded up the wagon and I hauled it down the road and into the park. First I completely blinded myself by turning on Uncle John's thermite-bright lantern right in front of my eyes. Turns out I needed to cloak the lantern inside my coat in order to actually see anything. I motored in and around the dog run, turning the curve and then penetrating the perimeter of the deep forest. Which was the best way to the haunted house? Already I began to question whether maybe Madame Kani had been correct that five minutes might not be enough to get to the house. I eschewed some muddy paths that might have been quicker and probably walked in circles and often the wrong direction, but after pressing onward for something like eight minutes, I managed to see the lights of Pinebrook Boulevard and Tulip Lane and A COP CAR stopped behind Uncle John and Conchi - what the?!?!

I hauled ass and wagon right back into the park like a hipster pushing a shopping cart in the Idiotarod. Back into the depths I wheeled (thankfully, by design, the cart was not heavily loaded) until I found a somewhat sheltering tree beneath whose shade I could conceal my misdemeanorous ass and little red wagon. Breathing heavily, I peered back into the darkness to see if I could make out what was going on with the police on Pinebrook Boulevard.

From newly named Fugitive's Grove, maybe 300 feet from the road, I could see that a uniformed officer had left his car and was interrogating Uncle John. It looked peaceful enough, but I knew that even though John was white and an elder, the cop could get bent out of shape and put him in a chokehold or force him at gunpoint to reveal that I, his co-conspirator, Trevor Milton Alarcon de Escartin von Hochman, was hiding out in the forest with a wagonload of trouble up to no good. And then the Rambo-like manhunt in Ward Acres Park would be on, police with their bloodhounds and searchlights penetrating deeper and deeper into the forest as I flee at breakneck pace, eventually ditching my wagon as a ruse and climbing up a tree in the opposite direction after running through the water to get the dogs off my scent.

I hauled the wagon farther into the darkness to put more space between me and the long arm of the law before ringing John to figure out, "Trouble, Uncle John?" He confirmed that a curious cop had pulled up to find out why he was stopped alongside the road, but John had explained that "these aren't the droids you're looking for; move along," and the cop had bought his prepared-in-advance excuse of stopping to make a phone call. Good; cops were gone and none of us in the paddywagon. But now the Pinebrook Road entrance was out of the question; John and I agreed to meet at the front entrance, where soon Michael and Jon would soon arrive at 11:30.

Realizing I'd have to pick up all of the instruments and gear at the front entrance, I first returned eastward and this time actually reached the haunted house, where all was well and no cops nor miscreants were in sight. I stashed all of the contents of the wagon on the edge of the porch and hauled it back - I thought! - whence I had come.

But my flight into the woods had further disoriented me after not having been on sure footing in the first place. I pulled the wagon through an open path and eventually found a berm to my right that I took to be the eastern perimeter of the dog run, so I continued until I could make a right around the front (south) side of the dog run and then present myself at the park entrance. However, as I pulled around to the right, I found my path more and more rocky and brambly, gradually elevating as well. I spun around and saw in the distance to my left a road I presumed to be Quaker Ridge Road, the southern park border. Nope - have to keep on into the brambles.

And so I came upon a dilapidated, overgrown shack that made our haunted house look like the Ritz. Beyond it lay an uphill haul into the rocky darkness choked with branches and brambles. Turning to my right, I almost fell into a swamp just a few feet downhill. I mentally conceded that I'd need to turn back, climb to the road I'd seen, and come around the park the long way on the street. Retracing my steps and then ascending the hill to the oasis of pavement and street lights, I began to concoct a plausible fairy tale to tell anyone who stopped to help or inquire as I walked along the side of the road with what probably looked like a wagonful of IEDs.

Lo and behold, moments after reaching the street I realized I'd been lost in the park and completely mistaken about where I was - I had not been in the southern section at all but had instead traveled west after getting turned around, and now had emerged on Broadfield Road amid trees just over a hundred yards north of where we'd parked. Soaked with sweat in my tie, three-piece suit, and heavy jacket, I silently celebrated as I pulled the wagon south along the sidewalk, taking advantage of unexpectedly arriving from the north to surprise my companions. Believe it or not, it was just a few minutes past 11:30pm.

Michael, notorious for traveling hundreds of miles over two continents to join jams, and Jon, who lives only a few minutes away but had not yet explored Ward Acres Park - though he had discovered from his parents that our house was most likely the formerly legitimate haunted house of yore! - had arrived and were chatting with Conchi and Uncle John as I pulled up. We greeted each other, readied our gear, loaded up the cart with guitars, bass, amp, power block, and supplies, and headed into the park.

Thank goodness all my companions were as stalwart and patient as they were (although as we searched the park perimeter for the nearest entrance, Madame Kani did look like she was ready to rip a few tree trunks out for obstructing her path). We found an opening next to the dog run, but alas, in my haste to heave the fully loaded wagon into the park and over the prolific tree roots woven thickly over the entry path, I upset the wagon, and everything spilled out onto the forest floor with the wagon walls ejected as well. My companions collected the scattered instrument cases and instead of beating me vigorously with them for my stupidity, helped recontruct the wagon. We sallied forth into the park and flanked the lengthy western fence of the dog run.

I led the group on a meandering path through the park that from above would look like a panel from Bil Keane's Family Circus, at one point leading us into a questionable field and running across sans wagon only to confirm it was wrong and we needed to turn back. But thanks to the patience of the crew and the kindly shining moonlight, over dubious mud-filled paths weaving among trees we somehow finally made it to the haunted house, where the gear I'd stashed was awaiting us, and we hunkered down and set up for some midnight Halloween jamming.

We jammed from just after midnight until 2am, then turned the clocks back to 1am and again played until after 2am, finally wrapping up close to 3am. What a great time, and great music with a wonderful group. Thank you Conchi, John, Michael, Jon, so much for making it a very special Halloween. Photos of our Halloween adventures follow.

Halloween Jam for TH Blog