I cannot tell you where I live.
Orange lights brighten the porch and fake spiders hang from the eaves. The pumpkins await their big moment, ready to sacrifice themselves to become jack-o'-lanterns -- the highest level of consciousness in the pumpkin afterlife.
But I still can't tell you where I live.
Forgive the secrecy, but my neighbors might never forgive me if we get any more trick-or-treaters running up to our doors Monday night.
We're already expecting 1,300.
I didn't add a zero by mistake. If the skies remain clear -- and even if they don't -- 1,300 kids will converge on my block once the sun sets. Or maybe 1,400. Maybe more.
Just how an ordinary block somewhere in Greater Los Angeles became our own Halloween Central is a tale worth recounting because it never required committee meetings, never involved any nonprofit groups. It started with what my neighbor Joyce calls the ghosties.
"I came up here and nobody showed up," she remembered of when she moved in years ago. It was a neighborhood of mostly older residents, and Joyce and her husband, Lloyd, didn't see many trick-or-treaters.
Then, during a trip back East one fall, they saw the ghosties, simple ghost-shaped Halloween decorations made from scraps of white cloth. The next year, 1995, Lloyd and Joyce made their own ghosties, along with a witch.
You've seen this figure all over the city -- a witch who was merrily flying on her broomstick until she slammed into a pole. Lloyd was proud that his witch was homemade.
"We never had more than 25 trick-or-treaters until we started decorating," Joyce said. More kids prompted more decorations. Our neighbor Rusty has a particular genius for clever yard displays, and his collection of scary and whimsy -- a bloody bride, a dog digging for bones at a grave -- brought more kids.
Fifty grew to 100, and 100 became 200. "It kind of doubled every year, until we got to 800," Joyce said. "Since then it's been going up 200 a year."
The kids have been a great bunch and mostly polite. A few lapses in etiquette are understandable, like the time a mom prodded a boy -- he was perhaps 4 -- to remember his manners after my wife gave him candy.
"What do you say?" the mom asked.
"I want another one."
Another neighbor, Frank, learned of our block's fall tradition only \o7after \f7he bought his house a few years ago. The other day he said jokingly that Halloween needs to be mentioned during any real estate transaction on our block.
"It should be on the disclosure," Frank said.
He looked down the street, toward a house that sold not too long ago. He was tempted, Frank said, to alert the new owners. "They need to know what's coming," he said.
Indeed they do.
Some neighbors have grown weary of the onslaught and wisely turn off their porch lights on Halloween. Others hand out what treats they can, then post signs saying "No More Candy." This is wise too.
But Lloyd loved the spectacle. He would set up two man-sized dummies on his front patio and then, dressed in similar fashion, sit perfectly still in a chair next to them. The screams rising from across the street always told us when "Igor" decided to spring up and surprise the kids.
A few years ago, our beloved Lloyd died, and in a simple ceremony attended by most neighbors, a young crape myrtle was planted in his honor. When kids ask for Igor, Joyce gently explains that he's gone but that they can visit his tree.
When people hear about my street, inquiries always follow:
Question: How did this happen?
Answer: See above.
Q: Where do you get your candy?
A: At stores that sell in bulk. Special sales and coupons from this fine newspaper also help.
Q: How much does this cost?
A: You don't want to know. A dad once asked Joyce who paid for all the candy. We do, she replied. "He was in so much shock and awe," she said, "he brought his candy down the hill and we gave it away."
Q: Do you keep a head count?
Q: What kind of candy do you give out?
A: Anything from sweet Jolly Ranchers to chocolaty kisses. My thoughtful wife, who always plans ahead, hands lollipops to toddlers and gum to older kids. Adults in costume get gooey Abazabas.
A surprising number of parents show up in costume. One dad used breakfast pastries to mimic the round braids of Princess Leia in "Star Wars." They went well with his white dress.
A girl dressed as Dorothy from "The Wizard of Oz" was paired with a man all in yellow, with black horizontal lines across his pants, shirt and face. These lines were connected by vertical lines drawn at staggered intervals.
"Cool," I said. "The yellow brick road."
"Well, I'm glad someone figured it out. Some people thought I was a wall."
My favorite adult costume popped up last fall. He wore a spiffy nautical outfit: blue blazer, white slacks and a captain's hat topped with braid. His blazer was decorated with John Kerry stickers on one side, George Bush stickers on the other.
"I'm an undecided boater," he explained.
Other moments from recent years come to mind: