A Doug's Life: Halloween Hijinks

Jeff Ortiz paused during an impromptu interview on his darkened front porch to get back to business.

"Somebody's coming," he mumbled through his Michael Myers fright mask.

Two teenage girls approached, hesitating as the mist from Ortiz's fog machine returned and the creepy music -- complete with moans and screams -- gradually increased. They gave me a strange look, as if a guy in jeans and a polo shirt was not who they were expecting.

"Go ahead," I told them. "It's not my house."

Stepping aside, I watched in amusement as Ortiz crept out of the shadows, candy bowl in his outstretched hands, saying nothing to the frightened girls as he stood there menacingly in the trench coat and mask made famous by the villainous character of the movie series whose title says it all:


Just as Ortiz put a scare into the neighborhood kids on Shadow Hills Court, residents all around Menifee enjoyed some good old-fashioned trick or treating Monday night. By 6 p.m., with dusk barely settling over the hills, little creatures had taken to the streets. Everywhere you looked, there they were: zombies, barnyard animals, princesses, Spongebob, Peter Pan...

And although doorbells went unanswered at some homes, most area residents in our unofficial survey in the Hidden Meadows community welcomed trick or treaters with scary yet safe surroundings and snacks.

Community involvement all around town helped make this a fun and family-centered time of year. Halloween events were held in several places throughout the last several days.

There was the Halloween Harvest Festival all weekend at Wickerd Farms; a "Halloween Fun" event Friday night at Lazy Creek Park; a "Zumballoween" party Saturday night at the Marion V. Ashley Community Center; "trunk or treat" parties at many area churches; and much more.

But when it comes right down to it, the real treasures of Halloween are the sights of little children marching up and down local streets, proudly wearing their costumes, parents at their side, sharing smiles with neighbors they know -- and some they've never met.

My escorts for the evening were three of my grandchildren, who along with me are fairly recent residents of Menifee. Kaylee, age 5 and Dorothy from the "Wizard of Oz" for the night, and her brother Cameron -- age 2 and safely tucked into a cow costume -- have lived here for a little more than a year. Riley, age 3 and dressed up like a "lady doctor," arrived in town about three weeks ago, with the rest of us.

Where we come from, Halloween has changed a bit over the decades. I'm not saying our section of the San Gabriel Valley has become too dangerous for night-time walks, but the emphasis on a "safer Halloween environment" has certainly resulted in fewer little kids knocking on neighborhood doors. Instead, parents are urged to take their children to public places where large crowds gather for trick or treating.

This trend has become popular in many towns across the country. But at least on this night in this town, the kids were out in force on the local streets and the residents were loving it.

"This is the way I remember Halloween, growing up as a kid," said Ortiz, who previously lived in South El Monte. "You'd be scared to go up to a house, but you'd do it anyway because you wanted the candy. It was fun.

"Now they tell the kids to go to churches for trunk or treating or to the mall. We're losing that small-town appeal of Halloween neighborhoods. I'm just trying to do my part to bring it back."

Ortiz, president of the Hidden Meadows Home Owners Association, advertised his "haunted house" on the community Facebook page. His neighborhood wasn't unique in this regard. In the Heritage Lake community, residents were asked to tour "haunted houses" in the neighborhood and vote on their favorite.

In Hidden Meadows, Halloween was a lot more fun than a stroll through the local mall would've been. Cameron the cow had a little trouble keeping up with Dorothy and the lady doctor, but the look on his face as he approached each door was precious. Kaylee's exclamation of "Look, now I got five Nerds" was worth the long walk. And Riley's enthusiastic runs up each walkway were reminiscent of the childhood each adult re-lived for a few moments as we exchanged greetings on the sidewalks.

The residents of Highland Court, a quiet cul-de-sac, get together each year on this night for fellowship, food and fun for the kiddies. Dorothy, Dr. Riley and the cute little cow collected candy from a well-stocked table on the driveway of Tony Aguirre, host of this year's block party, as introductions were made.

"We take turns hosting this," Aguirre said. "Somebody said, 'Hey we need a bigger driveway.' So this year, it's our turn."

Flames from a small portable firepit lit up the faces of the neighbors seated in a circle, joining trick or treaters in enjoying not only candy, but treats from another table stocked with sushi, chili, chips and other delights.

The firepit was well supervised because Dave, from down the street, is a firefighter. Mike, another neighbor, traded jokes with Louie Moreno, proclaimed the "mayor" of Highland Court by the others.

"We've been here five, six years, since the beginning," Moreno said. "Everybody on the block gets involved and contributes to the food and candy."

When, I asked, is Moreno's term as "mayor" up?

"You can't vote him out," shouted Mike from the other side of the driveway. "He's got the pool."

Yep, I think I'm gonna like this place.


  1. Speaking of Riley... i found her doctors badge in the street! lol. Does she eant to keep it? I have it!

  2. Yes Stacy, we'd love to get the doctor's badge back. I didn't even realize she had lost it. Are you on Facebook? You can message Doug Spoon there or put a post on the Menifee 24/7 Facebook page and I can message you to make arrangements to get it back.