Thursday, November 1, 2007

Pumpkins and Tiggers and Scares, Oh My

The neighborhood I live in and the adjacent neighborhood where I like to walk came through again this year for Halloween. Pumpkins galore. Real pumpkins; plastic pumpkins; a string of orange pumpkin-lights strung around a palmetto palm. Then there was the inflatable yard art ranging from the cute (Pooh and Tigger) to the usual (ghosts, still more pumpkins) to the macabre: a darn near life-size, inflated hearse driven by a ghastly skeleton in a tux.

My favorite in the inflatable category was the humongous snow globe with a haunted castle inside it and - thanks to the motorized blower - scads of bats flying around the castle.

We also had the annual infestation of spiders. Huge inflatable purple ones one with red eyes, and others that are smaller but look meaner because they're hairy. One particularly hairy black spider was artfully positioned on a weblike rope hammock in a front yard. Very effective. My crocodile brain said, no way are we getting near that thing.

One house had a nifty front yard witch outlined in green and orange lights. There was a grim reaper to keep the witch company. But upon closer inspection of the grim reaper, he was actually an extra from the Christmas light show - a Manger scene shepherd, complete with a staff, but with the addition of an improvised sickle blade on the staff. The pink lights outlining grim reaper guy's robe were a dead giveaway. So was his bland, bearded face. Oh, my.

But the scariest scare of the year was a yard sign with a cartoon of a vicious-looking high rise building.

It's a 23-story structure intended to be shoehorned into a Rice University-area corner where the surrounding houses are nice and old and the trees are taller than the houses. In other words, it's a monstrosity of a development that would ruin the look, feel and traffic flow of that neighborhood for blocks around. Fortunately the residents who would be most adversely affected by this thing are fighting mad about it and well-off enough to hire good PR and top-notch attorneys. And I hope they win.

Houston lacks zoning ordinances. It's the largest US city without same. As a result, development is out of control. Whole neighborhoods can lose their historic character almost overnight. Historic homes or movie theaters get razed without fanfare and replaced with highrises, pretentious commercial centers, or even pawnshops and parking lots.

Unlike most of the Halloween yard art, which looks quaint in the light of November 1, that Ashby High Rise sign is every bit as scary today as it was yesterday.

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