They had Halloween in Greenville, N.C., on one block of a downtown street. The street was filled with bees, Jasons, Draculas and art students. At each end of the street, the municipality posted 3,000 to 4,000 policemen backed by a hundred ambulances with their motors running. Anyone trying to gain the hallowed grounds of the masqueraders had to be patted down, metal-detected and checked for weapons. The young policemen of Greenville seemed highly embarrassed by the duty of looking under the hoop skirts of Southern belles and the horns of devils who were the same age as they. One policeman was blushing like a silk rose as he passed his wand between the legs of a transvestite Scarlett O'Hara. The only way such vast police presence could have made itself useful was to kill every reveler on the street and then import some enemy types from another country to fill the quota. Maybe a hundred masked New Orleanians and a few dozen Mexicans getting ready for the Day of the Dead.
I couldn't figure out what the point of massing an army to police Halloween in a small Southern town could be, so I'm advancing two theories: (1) a grant from Homeland Security to conduct an exercise, and (2) to prevent people dressed as bees from drawing attention to the fact that bees are disappearing. The first theory is pretty good, given that DHS has been seeding small towns with money and mandating idiotic exercises to find WMDs. I myself handed a piece of candy to a cop who took it somewhat reluctantly and only after looking furtively around to make sure nobody saw him. It could've been a WMD instead of peanut brittle, and that would have made the exercise fail, thereby justifying the sums spent on seeing how first responders act under pressure. The second theory is also believable because, as everyone knows by now after seeing the PBS documentary, bees are disappearing, which means that we'll be out of fresh fruit and vegetables in the near future, and we'll be slurping gruel from large bowls as WMDs go up around us. Mark Twain, who knew everything, wrote, 'The apocalypse will come when there are no more bees."
Mark Twain was the reason why I, a New Orleanian, was in Greenville in the first place. They were holding a Humor Conference and they paid me to speak. After witnessing firsthand the massive show of police power against bees, I spoke, naturally, about the Apocalypse. Very funny. Ha-Ha. On Halloween night, the day before my speech, I talked at the bar with an escaped bee who was so disturbed by the police state in Greenville, she turned her stinger around, to face front. Now bees, as you know, have their stinger in the back, and not being very efficient flying machines, they are set upon by various faster things, so they use their stinger in self-defense " not a very good defense because they die after they sting. This bee at the bar decided to turn her stinger around to dare anyone to attack her, whether a policeman or a drunk. She had a massive stinger, so I advised her to use only about half of it on an intruder, on the off chance that the pierced enemy might back off, and that she might live another day to sting some more. That's the kind of thing Homeland Security makes you think up.
Meanwhile, I am wondering what Homeland Security has in mind for next year's Mardi Gras in New Orleans. Levee-piercing shells?
Andrei Codrescu's latest book is New Orleans, Mon Amour: Twenty Years of Writing From the City (Algonquin Books).