The New York City air has turned crisp, chilled by autumn's embrace. Fallen leaves coat sidewalks and planters along the city streets and avenues. An occasional wind gust stirs them into action, briefly making them reddish and brownish blurs in search of a new temporary home. While people shuffle through unswept piles of leaves, the children frolic in them.
But on the city's Upper East Side, at the intersection of Park Avenue and East 91st Street, something very unusual has caught everyone's attention. Giant spiders are affixed to the side of an apartment building -- perhaps waiting to pounce on some innocent victim. Since the arachnids suddenly appeared overnight a few days ago, those who walk by do so with extreme caution!
The spiders were the first sign that Halloween is upon us.
Perhaps no city block takes Halloween more seriously than East 91st Street. On this ghostly, otherworldly day, people from all over the region descend on this two-block stretch lined by beautiful limestone townhouses and apartment buildings. The famous Brick Church is located across Park Avenue from the spider-infested building.
Typically beginning in the late afternoon, thousands of costumed kids crowd the sidewalks in search of candy treats. They come from the Bronx, Harlem and Queens. A few come from New Jersey and even Long Island. Some arrive by subway, and others are bused to the neighborhood.
Kids are dressed as superheroes and villains. There are often several Buzz Lightyear and numerous Disney characters. Some trick-or-treaters wear sophisticated and intricate costumes, while others might wear a colorful tee-shirt or goofy hat. And, just when you think you've seen everything, a group of parents will wander by in full costume. This can very very weird!
The neighborhood has seen some very famous trick-or-treaters in past years. They include Alec Baldwin and his then preteen daughter, Ireland. Woody Allen, who once lived in the hood, and family once joined in the fun, (although he never looks like he is having fun). Former New York Met Al Leiter brought his kids by one year. Other trick-or-treaters include some of the most powerful young bankers and lawyers in the nation.
As the evening wears on, more and more houses display "Out of Candy" signs. Some residents run to the corner to buy more sweets, bringing their total expense for candy to well over $1,000!
Then, as evening turns into night, the flurry of actively subsides. A quiet calm settles onto the neighborhood. The temperature cools and the leaves, now mixed with candy wrappers, are still. Soon the spiders, skeletons, vampires, ghosts and goblins will all go into hibernation for the next eleven months. And thousands of kids will each have a lifelong memory.