Nerd It Through The Grapevine
October 23, 2007 9:05 PM   Subscribe

Raisin Hell, a tale of fourth-grade Halloween woe by Eric Feezell. "I was deep in thought, mulling over ideas for a Halloween costume, a fresh, heart-stopping one. Something that had never been done before... Suddenly I witnessed something stupendous. Instantly, any ounce of reason contained in my young mind evaporated. I saw a California Raisins commercial." For reference: a list of California Raisins commercials on YouTube.
posted by amyms (29 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
I then spotted John, clad in a black karate gi, red belt, and red headband, holding a toy light saber.

“Hey, John, what are you, dude?”

“I’m Star Wars,” he answered stupidly. God, did I feel bad for him.

posted by dreamsign at 9:14 PM on October 23, 2007

Reminds me quite a bit of A Christmas Story.
posted by Brainy at 9:30 PM on October 23, 2007

When I was in 4th grade (late 80s), all the teachers went as the California Raisins.
posted by k8t at 9:58 PM on October 23, 2007

Holy Crap! I clicked on the RSS link for this post from my home page based on its headline (an action that happens roughly 15-20% of the time) and I find thats it about Eric! I love Eric Feezell! Not just because he's my friend and neighbor, but because this is yet another hilarious tale of adolescent woe from the depths of Southern CA.

Nice work Eric!
posted by FuturisticDragon at 10:10 PM on October 23, 2007

I dressed up as a California Raisin when I was nine or ten. I thought I was being incredibly original. My mother couldn't sew, so we did what we could with a garbage bag and face paint, and off I went to the community center Halloween party. Where there were three other California Raisins wearing store-bought costumes, which I hadn't even realized existed. I was mortified. I went around the whole night telling everyone I was a prune.
posted by Uccellina at 10:12 PM on October 23, 2007 [6 favorites]

That? That ain't nothin. You want to know what an asshole looks like, kid?

Asshole is when Halloween falls on a Tuesday during your tenth year. When your impossibly perfect, nice, pretty, beyond cool next door neighbor gives you her impossibly perfect Crayola crayon costume to wear to school on Halloween.

Asshole is when you're four feet tall and dressed up like a five foot fucking crayon, and you topple over and land on your back, and you can't right yourself and you can't get your arms out of the costume, either.

Asshole is when your teacher, Ms. Condon, can't get you out of the damned thing either, so she has to get Mr. Jolly and Mrs. Towne to help her cut your hyperventilating, bawling self out of the crayon with a boxcutter.

That is looking like an asshole.
posted by freshwater_pr0n at 10:13 PM on October 23, 2007 [12 favorites]

The childhood trauma of badly sewn costumes probably kickstarted the nascent therapy culture in upper-middle class english suburbs in the 1980s.

I think if there were ever a 'fear up' interrogation method (a-la abu ghraib) aimed at captured civil servants in the UK, it would involve forcibly dressing the captive up in a subpar costume, and having lots of cardiganed frumpy schoolteachers ineffectually try to hide their crushing disdain and mockery from them.

They'd break within hours.

Not speaking from personal experience, not at all.
posted by lalochezia at 10:47 PM on October 23, 2007

Thank god that despite our money woes my momma took Halloween as seriously as I do now, and I ended up with a store-bought California Raisin costume.

I think she really just saved money for Halloween by making me re-use my Freddy Kruger costume every other year. Despite how badass I looked as a raisin, a fat kid squeezed into a long-outgrown striped sweater really looks like an asshole.
posted by Roman Graves at 2:08 AM on October 24, 2007

In 1992 my (very white) friend, Scott, went as Steve Urkel. The costume consisted of big glasses, suspenders, pants hiked up to his chest, and blackface.
posted by hjo3 at 2:40 AM on October 24, 2007 [1 favorite]

When I was in my 'tweens, I wrapped myself in cheesecloth and went as a mummy. For the following Halloween, I went as Cookie Monster, in a suit made for a friend; apart from playing Santa in a shopping mall years later, it was my only stint in fur suit.

Before I continue, I'd like to impart a bit of caution for any prospective trick-or-treaters: ventilation is key. Due to the way the homemade Sesame Street outfit was stitched up, I could see why my friend had given me the thing. I was walking door-to-door in a bipedal sauna. After pulling back Cookie's "face" so I could breathe easier, I decided to finish the evening with the top down, rather than submit myself to the further torment of a blue Hell. Hardly anyone in the remaining homes had a clue as to who or what I was supposed to be, nor did I really care at that point.

So once again, for all you potential ghouls and whatnot - keep it cool, or you'll die like a fool.
posted by Smart Dalek at 3:46 AM on October 24, 2007

In 1987, I read a lot of old MAD magazines, and there were a couple jabs at Fidel Castro. So I rubbed some bunt cork on my face into a beard, borrowed my dad's old army jacket and cap, and my uncle gave me (as I later found out) a real Cuban cigar. All night I had to explain who I was,except for one old lady, "who the hell are you, Fidel Castro?"
posted by notsnot at 3:53 AM on October 24, 2007 [1 favorite]

In 1989, I was ten years old and living in Seoul, South Korea. American culture had a weird way of filtering across the Pacific. We got ALF, for instance, but not The Cosby Show. The local Air Force channel, the only English language channel on television, aired Johnny Carson episodes one day late because there were no live feeds back then. They literally received a videotape in the mail each day of the previous night's Tonight Show.

One cultural landmark of the '80's we were lucky enough to receive were the California Raisins. I'm struggling now to even recall what form they took. Did they have their own television show? Or were the commercials that popular? I don't remember.

What I do know is that I attended an international school who's roster included ex-pats from 80 different countries, though the lion's share were American. One of these Americans was my friend, Robbie. We generally only hung around with other Americans (we were occasionally joined by a Finn named Mikko and we all had a crush on an Israeli girl named Nawell), but Robbie was also buddies with a Greek kid named Paul. I couldn't really understand it; Paul was fat and awkward and socially inept in just about every way. The three of us all lived in the same apartment complex and I'd occasionally seek out Robbie only to discover that he and Paul were already doing something. Those were lonely days.

Our school was putting on a talent show, which I had zero interest in taking part in. But then I heard that Robbie and Paul were going to dress up as California Raisins and dance to Heard it Through the Grapevine. I was a child consumed: I had to be a part of this. I asked Robbie if I could join them but he said they only had two costumes and had already perfected their routine. I tried to convince him to abandon the stupid raisins and we'd do something with the Batman soundtrack (which we had devoured that summer in all its Princely glory). "Even Paul too," I said. Robbie said no.

They did their routine during the talent show and were a huge success. I'm almost sure they won for our age group. I mean, people were standing and applauding. For two kids in raisin costumes. Jesus, at least the other kids actually sang their songs. I couldn't understand it.

Whenever I come across the California Raisins, I get a feeling of immense loneliness.
posted by Terminal Verbosity at 4:11 AM on October 24, 2007 [7 favorites]

Several years ago, on an unusually hot and sticky Halloween night, my son's ten-year-old best female friend went as a princess.

As the humid evening wore on, her make up tragically ran, her outsize gown slipped off her shoulders, her crown tilted over her ears & she staggered up our path on her painful play high heels, leaned limply on the porch and rang the bell.

"Look, mummy, Meredith has come as a prostitute!" yelled my son. (Meredith's dad - standing behind her - was not remotely amused.)
posted by Jody Tresidder at 6:52 AM on October 24, 2007 [3 favorites]


Every Halloween, if the temperature went below...oh, say, 72 degrees, my mother made me put on a sweater over my costume. Occasionally, I could negotiate down to a sweater under my costume, but dressing as a slightly chubbier, sweatier whatever-I-was didn't feel much better.

Therapy has helped somewhat.
posted by PlusDistance at 7:23 AM on October 24, 2007

Gosh, perhaps I'm sentencing my son to a life of therapy, but I've made most of his costumes...and most of my own too.

When he was two, he was a pirate....arrrrr! That one was pretty easy. Last year he was Buzz Lightyear. That took more work than you might think. Most of it painting things on a white spandex dance full body suit. (That he could wear over longjohns if it turned wet and nippy, as it tends to do every year.) I did buy the electronic walky talky bracers, because Mommy was too tired to program LEDs at that point. Heh. This year, thank gods, he wanted to be Qui Gong (sp?) from Star Wars. Bless his heart, that one is tres simple. Again, I bought the light saber, because I chickened out on the LED project for making one, even with the Make Mag instructions.

I don't think I ever had a store bought costume. We always felt kinda sorry for the kids in store costumes, but back then, the costumes were crappy little plastic sheaths made out of material like garbage bags...and who wanted that?

For the record, this year, I'm wearing a Lucille Ball wig, a swiss dot dress made from a vintage 1955 pattern, Groucho Marx glasses with the mustache and eyebrows, and carrying a basket of rhinestones. I'm Disguise...With Diamonds. Bwhahahaha....I kill me. I love Halloween. My neighbors, they're all very confused by us.
posted by dejah420 at 9:05 AM on October 24, 2007 [2 favorites]

I'm going as Larry Craig this year.
posted by ericb at 9:39 AM on October 24, 2007

"Look, mummy, Meredith has come as a prostitute!" yelled my son.

Oh my. I can't stop laughing. Tears are running down my face!
posted by ericb at 9:44 AM on October 24, 2007

Oh my. I can't stop laughing. Tears are running down my face!
posted by ericb

For crying out loud.

Lighten up.

It was a silly, goofy story about my kid - nothing more.
posted by Jody Tresidder at 10:00 AM on October 24, 2007

Jody Tresidder -- you're misreading me. I think it's a great story! It made me crack-up.
posted by ericb at 10:07 AM on October 24, 2007


Crap - I am SO sorry.

(I'd even decided it was a terrible mistake to post it & the excruciating point had come out all wrong & snotty..god, I am an idiot sometimes.) Really - total, cretinous misreading of your tone, sorry, eric.)
posted by Jody Tresidder at 10:25 AM on October 24, 2007

Ah, Hallowe'en. Every year, my mother would make a big pot of baked beans for dinner that day. Nice thick slab of homemade brown bread with butter, sliced up hot dogs, and a pile of baked beans... mmmm. Delicious, one of those meals that defined "comfort food" in our family. It wasn't until many years later that one of my brothers pointed out to her the (to us) bizarre coincidence that she always made the most flatulent-inducing meal for us immediately prior to sending us on our way to parade by as many houses as possible, sweating profusely all the way. My mother just smiled at him.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 10:32 AM on October 24, 2007 [2 favorites]

My old roommate and I decided to have a halloween party.

In a beerfueled state, we decided everyone should come in costume. Those that showed up out of costume would have one provided.

So, a box of black trash bags, some white rubber gloves, and some purple face paint later, and we had half a dozen California raisins running around the party.

Of course, we couldn't just paint faces. Nope. My roommate wrote on everone's forehead - "Raisin". It somehow worked.

The next year, everyone brought a costume.
posted by fnord at 10:51 AM on October 24, 2007 [3 favorites]

...just as she’d done in previous years for costumes such as mummy, army man, and mummy army man

Mummy army man huh? I think I have an idea for what I'm going as this year...
posted by quin at 11:49 AM on October 24, 2007

Picture a young, sprightly baphomet, if you will, age six, and completely ecstatic about the prospect of his first solo trick-or-treating. I had received unexpected permission for what was to be a definitive costume: Dracula. Not just a vampire, but THE Dracula. My mom sewed up the costume- and it was great. My mom is a wonderful seamstress. (your store-bougth Zubaz didn't look anywhere near as cool as mine- that's a fucking promise) This costume was so great that if you put it on you immediately turned into an ancillary, vampiric menace on the spot.

This was in 1989, a year which saw an ungodly blizzard reign snowy fury down on Minnesota during the Halloween season. I had what I was convinced was the single coolest costume ever. Facepaint. Cape. Medallion. Fake blood. The unholy image of undead, blood-sucking terror, loosed on my unsuspecting suburban neighborhood in search of chocolate.

But it snowed. Oh yes, it snowed mightily. So before heading out to trick or treat I had to put on my snow coat...mittens...and hat.

I was crushed. Rather than being the ravenous epitome of bloodthirst and seduction, I was just some kid wandering the snow drifts with white facepaint and an orange plastic bag. My costume defined my character, and it was buried beneath layers of clothing. Without the costume, I was nothing.

Wearing the costume again next year was no consolation. I was utterly, horribly crushed.
posted by baphomet at 2:41 PM on October 24, 2007 [2 favorites]

Leaves. Vinyl leaves, and green facepaint. I told people I was the Jolly Green Giant. But they knew I was Sprout.

Also, one non-halloween, a friend and I decided to go out on the town in three-piece suits, with canes and half-face pig masks. It kinda worked. I can't explain it.
posted by dreamsign at 7:21 PM on October 24, 2007

Every Halloween, if the temperature went below...oh, say, 72 degrees, my mother made me put on a sweater over my costume. Occasionally, I could negotiate down to a sweater under my costume, but dressing as a slightly chubbier, sweatier whatever-I-was didn't feel much better.

That reminds me of this Planetdan retrospective.
posted by Locative at 10:31 PM on October 24, 2007

That's a really sweet link in it's own low-key way - oddly Garrison Keillor-ish.
posted by Jody Tresidder at 3:58 AM on October 25, 2007

PlusDistance earns a cool point for being the first person I've seen toss around a At Last the 1948 Show reference the way people have tossed around Monty Python jokes for decades.
posted by JHarris at 6:18 AM on October 25, 2007

McSweeney's had a collection of Halloween stories a few years ago. As you'd expect, most are pretty funny, but this one is sad and poignant.
posted by Terminal Verbosity at 6:42 AM on October 25, 2007 [1 favorite]

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