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As the years pass I find myself wondering more and more if what I remember about my childhood are the events themselves or merely a memory of those events. There is a half-awake feel about these memories, a sense of being twice-removed, as if somewhere along the way the direct chain of cause and effect had broken, replaced by a more vaporous connection. Still, I am aware of something deeper that is just beyond my grasp. Events don’t seem only distant in time, they seem more like scenes from a movie that keep flashing through my mind that I struggle to place because I’m no longer sure I’ve even seen the film. Yet I am aware of myself as a player in those scenes. The more I try to wring meaning from these memories the more I realize that the way to do it is to unveil the universals that lie beneath them. Only then will they reveal themselves as more than a collection of unrelated episodes grown hoary with time.

I was born in the Point Breeze section of Philadelphia in a two-story brick rowhouse. It was the first house my parents bought after they were married and where my father was about to begin his medical career. From Colonial times through to the early twentieth century homes in Philadelphia were commonly built of brick, and Point Breeze was a classic example of the type. Standing on the sidewalk in that first neighborhood in the first years of my life, whichever direction I looked revealed long rows of red brick homes, usually two stories high, some with three and, less frequently, four. Grass, except in tiny back yards that butted against even tinier alleyways, was almost nonexistent in those canyons of brick. On cloudy days the neighborhood seemed to huddle beneath a grayish shroud; on cold rainy days it seemed to draw inward on itself and was downright depressing. Despite the dearth of greenery those block-long brick walls formed by the rows of identical houses were boundaries of my youth. I felt a strong sense of place and time and that it was right for me to be there. By the time I was ready to begin grade school my parents had moved a few blocks west to the Stephen Girard Estate, originally the home of the wealthy Colonial-era philanthropist and banker. It was there that I spent the next 12 years of my life. More… “Everything Desirable”

John Capista is a reader who loves to write and a writer who loves to read. He reads, writes and resides in Drexel Hill, PA.

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When I was seven, I moved out of the room I shared with my older brother and into my own room. I don’t recall what caused my parents to decide this — perhaps it was a birthday present for my brother turning ten — but for me it was nothing if not a mixed blessing. I mean, I loved getting my own desk and new wallpaper that I picked out and my own bed, all the trappings of a room to grow up in. But without my brother there with me, there was something truly terrifying about being alone at night in the dark.

Not that my brother was much of a protector. More often he’d attack me in my sleep, steal and break my toys, and “dead-arm” me over and over again for his sadistic pleasure. But in my room alone, all alone, I felt susceptible to all the forces of darkness — the monsters under the bed, the prowlers lurking at the window, the creepers in the closet waiting to kidnap me. I had no protection at all. Leaving the safety in numbers of my brother’s room and the comfort of our New York Giants’ helmet night light filled me with imaginings of untold peril.
More… “Halloween is Cancelled”

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While haunted house goers in the U.S. evade hordes of murderous chainsaw-wielding zombie mental patients, those in Japan take a more personal approach to inducing sheer terror. (Slate)

Some popular Halloween sweets may be more trick than treat … watch out for these killer confections. (Atlas Obscura)

You should probably add a calculus textbook to your zombie apocalypse supplies. (Princeton University Press) •

Maren Larsen is the associate editor of The Smart Set. She is a digital journalism student, college radio DJ, and outdoor enthusiast.

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The Turkish delight was, in retrospect, a pretty big mistake. We were browsing a Middle Eastern market near our home in upstate New York, a festive, mom-and-pop place where I tend to buy way more than I need. It was winter — cars plowing down Genesee Street beyond the front window throwing plumes of brown slurry — and I needed a pick-me-up in the worst way. When I saw that box of candy, I was basically powerless to resist. It was obscenely large, the size of a cookie sheet or a generous end table, and it was on sale. For reasons that seem a little sad to me now, that candy felt like an opportunity.

My husband looked anxious when I approached the checkout line, box tucked up under my arm like a surfboard. Over the years, Rog has watched me eat a lot of things saner adults revile —… More…

Allow me to click the flashlight on, shine it under my face, and tell you a tale from a book that is innocuously, simply titled “Sweets.” Steel your courage, friends.

Imagine that it’s oh, say, 1920. You’re a young woman living in Pennsylvania, who has been suffering from poor health. One night, you take five bottles of an herb-and-booze tonic called Lydia E. Pinkham’s Vegetable Compound, which bears the image of a wise, grandmotherly Pinkham on the package. Blotto, you shove a who-knows-what’s-in-it “sanitative wash” from the same company up your lady pocket “as a vaginal injection.” And then… then you PASS A POLYP “THE SIZE OF A HEN’S EGG” OUT OF YOUR VAGINA.

You guys. A HEN’S EGG. Like you EAT FOR BREAKFAST. Breaking off of your vaginal wall and COMING OUT OF YOUR HOO-HAH. If you don’t feel properly scared or grossed out right now, Google “cervical polyp.”… More…

My name is Erica, and I was once addicted to menthol. Specifically, I was hooked on Halls mentholated cough drops. When I was in high school and college, it was not unusual for me to go through a bag of cough drops a day. I didn’t think of it as addiction at the time. In fact, I’d pretty much forgotten about my former habit until this past year, when I found out that the FDA is considering banning menthol in cigarettes. Some public health advocates have argued that menthol may be addictive on its own, or, at the very least, that it makes quitting smoking more difficult, and their evidence is pretty convincing.

Menthol may not be as habit-forming as nicotine or even caffeine, but it is a drug nonetheless — one that the FDA regulates when it’s used as an ingredient in cough drops, mouthwash, and… More…

From the perspective of a movie theater owner, all those lethargic explosions in Inception were just very expensive commercials for giant boxes of Goobers and Raisinets. Likewise, Colin Firth’s carefully modulated anguish in The King’s Speech. The Regal Entertainment Group — America’s largest movie theater chain with 548 theaters in 39 states — reports that its average patron spent $3.09 at the concession stand in 2009. That may be chocolate-covered peanuts compared to the revenues theaters generate from admissions at a time when tickets typically go for $7.95. But theater owners don’t have to split concession sales with distributors, and the mark-ups on salty tubs of popcorn and watery vats of Coke are huge. According to Smart Money, approximately 85 cents of each dollar spent at the theater candy counter is pure profit.

 

In… More…

Or, to be more correct, I rediscovered it. Between the ages of five and 12, candy was all I thought about. I couldn’t walk into a drugstore or a supermarket without being attacked by longing. The game Candy Land had a visceral attraction for me: just looking at the board would make me dizzy with desire. I was enamored of the word “gumdrop.” It had an enticing ring that helped me, later, understand the idea of Platonic forms: No actual gumdrop ever approximated the sublime delight the word evoked.

Despite such intense associations, candy reigned for less than a decade in my life. Fearful of acne and obesity, I trained myself to wait for dessert, that more mannered way of delivering sugar by being confined to the end of a meal. Learning to like the attenuated sweetness of dessert was the brand of civilization and propriety, a tarte tatin being… More…

Last month, I went to the National Association for the Specialty Food Trade’s 56th annual Summer Fancy Food Show, held at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York. Over three days, more than 24,000 attendees wandered among 2,400 exhibitors hawking thousands of so-called “specialty food and beverage products,” which is a $63 billion industry. In 2009, there were 2,318 new product introductions to the American market — which was actually a bad year. In, 2008, there had been 3,705.

Exhibitors at the Fancy Food Show split into two basic groups. One section consists of booths and rows devoted to food products from a particular region or country. Chile, for instance, seemed to have spent big money to introduce the world to its olive oil, cheese, wine, and the Chilean carica, a cousin of the papaya. Italy, Spain, and France were present, but so were some underdog… More…

I missed the moment when shop window displays changed from Santa red to sexy scarlet:  a fabulous froth of lace and slinky silken negligees. Most of the neighborhood still has Christmas lights up, but all the stores are pushing Valentine’s Day. In spite of the omnipresent window displays and advertisements, I’ll bet millions of men will forget Valentine’s Day. It could be chromosomal. Or maybe forgetting is a pose, a form of resistance. If men looked at Valentine’s Day like a second Halloween, it might be more fun.

 

That’s what I’ve decided to do, and it works for me.

Why not? After all, stores are filled with candy, and, while it’s not exactly the same as trick-or-treat, with a little imagination the evening of February 14 can be perked up to the next level with costumes. Just try… More…