The little girls paused below the flashing lights of Rothschild Liquors, Minnie Mouse being so bold as to pull on the door handle.
Raggedy Ann and the garden-variety princess stood back, watching the older girl pull back and hang off the door in that way little kids have of making everything a game. Their parents rushed up to suggest, not tell, that maybe this wasn’t the store for them.
The five trod on, continuing their search for candy along Western and Chicago.
The stretch of Chicago Ave — Noble Square to the east of Western and East Ukrainian Village to the west — isn’t a bad area. It has its share of boarded-up storefronts, dubious discount stores, beggars and hobos, that bar just to the north where all the windows are blacked out and it is in Harrison Gents territory, but it’s not bad. Just a well-worn Chicago neighborhood, still closer to Lincoln Park than Englewood.
It also has the library, lots of great places to grab a bite, a few trendy bars and restaurants, some posh salons. The up-crust infestation is coming from the east, their Yelp-reviewing armies advancing on Western to spend the next five years gentrifying and the next 10 bitching the spot’s not “authentic” anymore.
But on Oct. 31, the culture war and hopefully the gang one took a breather. The night, the street, the liquor stores and posh salons all belonged to the children.
Ghosts, goblins, bees, princesses, M&Ms, Angry Birds, devils, demons, reapers grim and smiling, knights, cats, Marios super, angels, fairies, a half-faced Day of the Dead sugar skull all walked the streets taken in day by rushing businesspeople, the homeless and the adults in between.
The ghouls (and ninjas, ladybugs and Captains America) weren’t taking their buckets from house to house, but store to store.
The Chicago Ashland Discount Store, a sketch place in daylight, stationed a young man outside with a witches cauldron of candy for passers-by. He stood beneath the sign offering toys, luggage and cigarettes as if they were the most natural things in the world to buy in one place.
Other places had their candy inside. The little ones would burst into a laundromat, dentist’s office or taqueria, say the magic words and leave with the same tiny Snickers bar and sense of joy they would have gotten running across yards and dinging doorbells.
Even if the setting’s more Chicago and Rockwell than Norman Rockwell, to the kids in West Town and the rest of the planet, it’s still Halloween.