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My First Zumba Class

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On a recent Saturday morning, Olga Capas, Rita Zvirblis, and Vanessa Staskus ordered late breakfasts and early lunches at the Diner on Clifton after finding a table in the shade on the patio and easing into their seats after their first Zumba class. Over cups of steaming coffee, three-cheese omelets, patty melts, and shared sweet potato fries they caught up with their breath and the Zumba experience.

“We got there early and found our space in the back,” said Vanessa Staskus, “but then everybody went behind us, so we became the front row.”

“I thought they were going to kick me out,” said Rita Zvirblis, “ because I have no rhythm, but it’s so fast, you can’t think about anything.”

A dance-fitness program created by exercise instructor and choreographer Alberto “Beto” Perez in Colombia during the 1990s when he improvised salsa music into an aerobics class, since 1999 Zumba has expanded to 125 countries, taught by more than 20,000 certified instructors. Practiced weekly by approximately 14 million people worldwide it is today’s most popular dance-fitness phenomenon.

In 2012 Zumba was named the ‘Company of the Year’ by Inc. Magazine and is today the largest fitness brand in the world, practiced everywhere from big-box gyms to church halls and community centers.

At the Harrison Elementary School, sponsored by the Lakewood Recreation Department, classes are taught by Amy Annico, a trim, black-haired young woman sporting a quick smile, very bright blue sneakers, and carrying a yellow Dewalt boom box the size of an air compressor.

“One minute she was monkeying with that yellow thing,” said Mrs. Zvirblis, “and then at nine o’clock exactly that yellow thing was blasting.”

“I’m not really for nightclubbing at nine in the morning,” said Mrs. Staskus, “but she makes it a lot of fun. It’s like partying yourself into shape.”

Zumba is different than many other fitness programs because people don’t always take it for the fitness benefits, although the results can be transforming.  It is a cardiovascular calorie-burning hour of twisting and turning in varying states of synchronization to loud, infectious music.

“They are taking it for the happiness and joy that they feel while they are doing it, and the fitness is just the result of this,” said Alberto Perlman, who with Alberto Perez was a co-founder of the Zumba enterprise.

Zumba is a fitness program, including core fitness, married to dance routines. Set to bouncy Latin American beats, it burns between 360 – 530 calories an hour, according to Harvard Health Publications. Sweating is not optional, since everyone starts sweating within minutes and doesn’t stop until the end of class.

“Zumba is hard,” said Olga Capas, “but it’s not like going to the gym. I have to force myself to do that, but with Zumba the music is going and you just want to move.”

“It’s fast-paced and you’re just watching her feet up on the stage,” said Rita Zvirblis between bites on a Reuben sandwich. “It’s those blue shoes the whole time, trying to follow what she’s doing, and then you immediately start sweating.”

“Immediately!” echoed Vanessa Staskus. “Sweat was dripping down the small of my back before the warm-up was even over.”

Amy Annico, a music teacher as well as part-time actress, has taught Zumba since 2008 at area YMCA’s, Live Well Lakewood, health fairs, and retirement homes. She regularly attends the annual Zumba Instructor Convention in Orlando, Florida, upgrading her skills

“I’m trained in Zumba, which is for everyone,” she said, “and Zumba Gold, which is for older, active adults, and Zumbatomic for kids.”

There is even Aqua Zumba, a water-based workout integrating Zumba with traditional aqua fitness disciplines. A great deal of jumping and splashing is involved. Strapless bathing suits are strongly discouraged.

“The Harrison school class is a great community class,” Amy said. “Everyone’s dancing, it’s like a party, people are hooting and hollering and shaking, and the hour flies by and you don’t even know it.”

By all accounts shimmying, shaking and sliding, hooting and hollering, as well as chest pumping and bootie shaking, are generally subscribed to and applauded.

“I always say, don’t be shy, give it a try,” said Amy Annico. “It’s all about spreading the joy of music from around the world with fantastic fitness and dance moves.”

The word Zumba is Colombian slang and means ‘to move fast and have fun.’ It has been described as exercise in disguise. Set to four basic rhythms based on salsa, merengue, cumbia, and reggaeton, it is a non-stop workout that works out endorphins as well as muscles.

Some lose inches off their waistlines, others see their cholesterol drop and their energy levels rise, while still others simply reduce their stress levels. Some men even learn to dance and not make fools of themselves at weddings anymore.

Just as sweating is mandatory, so is staying hydrated.

“I told Vanessa to bring water, even though she doesn’t like water, because I had heard you get really thirsty at Zumba,” said Mrs. Zvirblis.

“My bottle of water was gone before half the class was over, and I never drink water, “ said Mrs. Staskus. “Everybody was going back and forth to the bench getting more all class long. You don’t get winded, even though it’s non-stop dancing, but you do get thirsty.”

Their dishes cleared, coffee cups re-filled, and lingering over dessert, the three women agreed that Zumba was the best way they could think of to exercise without actually exercising.

“The salsa moves are really good for you, your whole body is going, your hips are going,” said Mrs. Zvirblis. “Amy is so animated, she makes all these noises, like she is definitely having fun doing it, and she makes it the same for everybody.”

“It’s just dancing from beginning to end, but it’s exercise, too. You do it with joy, and afterwards you feel so good,” added Mrs. Capas. “It’s guaranteed to put a smile on your face.”

They all agreed Zumba is the best of both worlds. There are shortcuts to happiness and dancing is one of them.

“Your whole body is moving and you don’t have time to think about working out,” said Mrs. Staskus while walking back to their car. “It’s like having your cake and eating it, too.”

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On the Loose

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On a recent May morning my wife and I visited Barron Cannon, whom we hadn’t seen much since the previous fall when we met him picketing The Hungry Conscience, a vegan restaurant in our neighborhood.

The first time we encountered Barron we were attracted by the flashing lights of a police car at the eatery, and were greeted by the sight of a slender pony-tailed man in his 30s bearing a placard on a stick with a single word scrawled on it: HYPOCRITES.

The two patrolmen who had been called to the scene by one of the outraged cooks were politely asking if he would refrain from protesting without a permit. Although he insisted he had more than enough reason, he reluctantly agreed to go home, and strode off, his picket sign thrown over his shoulder.

He was going our way, and after falling into step with him, we were astonished to learn he was himself a vegan.

“Eating is an act of nourishing my body and soul,” he said. “I choose to do no harm.”

He did not eat animals, drink their milk, or wear their leather. He eschewed all animal products for any reason, at all. He considered eating honey exploitive and avoided it.

“I don’t like people who eat animals,” he said, “but that’s just about everybody, and since that is not changing anytime soon, that’s that, there they are. At least I don’t have to live with them.”

As least as long as they weren’t his parents.

“My parents are the worst,” he said. “They are always bringing chickens, pigs, ground beef, Slim Jims, beef jerky, Spam, and sardines home from the grocery. I see them in their kitchen every day, sticking forks into decomposing flesh and animal secretions.”

It turned out he lived in a yurt in the backyard of his parent’s home overlooking the Metro Park, barely a mile south of Lake Erie. He did not have a job, a car, a refrigerator, a wife, or any pets.

“Don’t even get me started on pet slavery!” he said.

A philosophy major with a Master’s degree and more than a hundred thousand dollars in unpaid student debt, Barron Cannon was unqualified for nearly any job, even if he had been interested.

He did not vote, watch television, or take medicine.

“By FDA requirement,” he explained, “each and every pharmaceutical is tested on animals.”

He was a vegan purist, pursuing his ideals to their logical conclusion.

He had few friends, other than several elderly bicycle-riding hippies and a handful of retirees in the neighborhood for whom he did odd jobs. But, he only worked for them if they did not have cars and agreed not to talk about their problems.

Whenever we visited Barron we always walked, because if he knew we had driven to see him, he would refuse to see us.

“Can’t we just drive and park a block away?” my wife asked, reminding me of the four-mile round-trip hike from our house.

He lived on an allowance his parents begrudged him, shopped at a local farmer’s market, practiced yoga every day for two hours, followed by an hour of meditation, and only recently had gotten his yurt connected to his parent’s power supply.

Unbeknownst to them he had dug a trench from the connection at the back of their house to his yurt, into which he had buried a concealed electric transmission wire.

“I found out we are on the nuclear power grid now, which I will tell you is a blessing,” he said. “It gets dark and cold in this yurt in the middle of January.”

“I used to heat it with firewood from the park,” he added. “I had to collect it at night, otherwise the rangers gave me grief. I don’t think they liked me.”

He now heated his yurt with a 5000 BTU infrared quartz heater, and compact fluorescent bulbs were strung from the rafters.

Barron Cannon had previously refused to enjoy either electricity or natural gas, on the premise that both are petroleum products, in which are mixed innumerable marine organisms.

“That’s one of the things I can’t stand about those leaf-eaters at the restaurant, cooking their so-called vegan cuisine with gas made from the bodies of dead fish,” he said. “And the Guinness they serve, it comes from kegs lined with gelatin. They are too busy ringing up the cash register to even know what they are doing!”

Vegetarians drew his ire, too, although he tolerated them.

“I can put up with vegetarians if I have to,” he said, which I reluctantly admitted to being when he quizzed us. He gave me a mirthless grin.

My wife, who describes herself as an omnivore, on the side of free range and organic, aimed a dazzling smile at Barron Cannon, keeping her eating habits to herself. As we approached the road overlooking the Metro Park valley we gazed out across a sea of green treetops, always a welcome sight after a long winter.

Barron Cannon’s yurt was on the backside of a sprawling backyard on the edge of the valley, where Hogsback Lane intersects with Stinchcomb Hill, named after the founder of the park system. It is a bucolic spot in the middle of the city.

I was loath to mention that William Stinchcomb had been a pork roast and beef tenderloin man in his day, as well as president of the Cleveland Automobile Club.

“Vegans are the worst, the whole lot of them,” he said. “Show me a vegan who isn’t an elitist, or spouts veganism who is not a do-gooder, or making mounds of money from it, explaining how it’s all one big happy equation, yoga, and veganism, and new-age capitalism, and flying to their Lord Vishnu immersions in Germany, and everywhere else around the globe for their yoga retreats, damn the carbon footprint, and I’ll show you the real invisible man.”

Since Barron Cannon did not own a phone, or even a doorbell, we were relieved to find him at home. He was laying out rows of seeds and tubers inside his yurt, where he had opened the flap over the roof hole and hiked up the walls. We joined him, sitting down on the canvas field chairs that passed for his living room, my wife remarking how pleasant and breezy it was inside his home.

I was nonplussed to see an Apple laptop on a small reading table.

“I keep up,” he said. “It’s not like I’m a caveman.”

Barron led us out to his new garden. He had dug up most of his mother’s backyard, dislodging wild roses and rhododendrons, and was planting rows of root crops, including beets, onions, turnips, and potatoes. He was especially proud of his celery.

“I cover my celery with paper, boards, and soil. They will have a nutty flavor when I dig them up in December.”

“I don’t eat anything from factory farms,” he continued. “In fact, I am getting away from eating anything from any farms anymore, at all. Farms whether big or small are not good ideas. Freedom is a better idea.”

As we prepared to leave, Barron scooped handfuls of birdseed from a large barrel into a small brown paper bag.

“You should take every chance you have to feed the birds and other animals you see outside your house,” he said. “Give them good food, organic food, not processed. It will make such a difference in their lives.”

On the sidewalk in front of his parent’s ranch-style house, Barron Cannon touched the brim of his baseball cap in farewell.

“Be a real vegan. That’s the biggest thing any of us can do,” he said.

On our way home my wife was unusually quiet. As we passed a small café with outdoor seating, we thought we would stop for refreshments.

“I know chocolate brownies have eggs in them,” my wife said, “and cappuccino has milk in it, and I know Barron wouldn’t like this, but right now I think I need to sit down in the shade and enjoy myself for a few minutes.”

We both agreed that the vegans we knew were ethical and compassionate, their lives complementing their health, humanitarian, and environmental concerns. We could not agree on whether Barron Cannon was a determined idealist, a mad ideologue, or simply lived in an alternate universe.

We had espresso and cappuccino, raisin scones and chocolate brownies, watched the sun go down over the western edge of the valley, and walked the rest of the way home in the dusk in a happy buzz.

Charles Dickens, Stieg Larsson, and a Side Order

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The ‘Billions and Billions’ served up at many drive-thru’s may not be on the menu at the Lakewood Library, our hometown Ohio library, but the millions and millions of pages that go through the its own sliding window arguably have a much higher nutritional value.

Built in 1916 and expanded as well as modernized in 2007, the Lakewood Library is considered one of the best in the country, routinely ranked as exceptional for its size in the United States. Hennen’s American Public Library Ratings scored the Lakewood Library in its top ten nine of the past ten years.

The library houses more than a half-million volumes and circulates close to two million items to fifty-five thousand residents every year.  Materials are processed at the five-station main circulation desk, flanked by a two-story sky-lighted lobby and the Grand Staircase, and the four-station audio-visual department adjacent to the Grand Reading Room.

On the backside of the library is the more modest single-station Materials Return & Pick-up Window, better known as the drive-thru, facing onto the asphalted parking lot.

“All the service people work at the drive-thru,” said Beverly Coffey, one of the more than twenty-two customer-service clerks at the library. “It’s exactly the same as the front desk, except one person at a time.”

Drive-thru’s were first pioneered by banks starting in 1930, followed by burger joints in the 1940s. Since then fast food chains have made drive-thru’s ubiquitous, and their use has spread to pharmacies, coffee shops, post offices, wedding chapels, and even funeral parlors.

National Drive-Thru Day is July 24th.

The first library to install a drive-thru was the Milwaukee Central Library in 1956.

“Really, when you think about it, it’s a nice convenience,” said Mrs. Coffey. “You can order or place books on hold, check out CDs and DVDs, and sign up for a library card without ever leaving the comfort of your car.”

Not every patron agrees that convenience is the best of all possible worlds.

“No Lakewoodite ever need make the long walk from the parking lot to the front counter to pick up a copy of ‘The South Beach Diet’,” one wag waiting at the circulation desk said.

The mother of four adult children, the engaging Mrs. Coffey has lived in Lakewood since marrying soon after high school, and has worked at the library for three years.

“I saw an ad in the Lakewood Observer, and I thought, I’m always here anyway, so I applied for it,” she said. “Everybody comes to the library, it’s like a little slice of life. I enjoy working at the drive-thru; you have the window and can see outside. Except when it’s cold, you shut that window really fast.”

The drive-thru frees up parking spaces, and when it rains or snows, or a man has his dog with him, or a mother her brood about her, it is the venue of choice.

”It allows me to get good developmental books for the kids and pick them up without destroying the library in the process,” said a mother of toddler twins. “If it wasn’t for the drive-thru I might avoid the library altogether because of the hassle of getting both kids out of the car and into the library, not to mention the chaos they could cause.”

Children in the back seat are a staple at the drive-thru.

“There are lots of babies, lots of kids, which I totally understand,” said Mrs. Coffey.

Sometimes pile-ups ensue when children can’t bear to return something.

“They’ll say, no, mommy, not that one, I like that movie, when the DVD’s are coming back through the window, so we renew them,” said Mrs. Coffey. “There are certain movies they want to see over and over. The Barbie movies are very popular right now.”

Begging the question, if Barbie is so popular, why do all of her friends have to be bought and paid for?

The drive-thru is often the preferred portal for returns that have been damaged and whose returning patron doesn’t want to face a librarian at the circulation desk.

“Usually they’ll hand them to us, they’ll say, it got dropped in water, or my dog chewed on this, I’m really sorry,” said Mrs. Coffey. “It’s the nature of the material, its paper, it’s not indestructible, but that’s just library stuff.”

Patrons with fines also frequently prefer the drive-thru.

“I’ve noticed that people who drop off material and don’t wait for us to check it in often have fines,” said Mrs. Coffey. “Not that it matters, because we don’t say, you owe a dollar, wait, wait, let me get out of this little window!”

Even in an age of Kindles and i-Pads, circulation and visits continue to rise at the Lakewood Library, according to Library Journal.

“Yes, we are a really busy library,” said Mrs. Coffey.

From the classics to cops-and-robbers, books remain popular.

“I just saw a Charles Dickens go out, and I don’t think it was for a child,” said Mrs. Coffey. “It was a big heavy copy.”

“The new titles,” she added, “like Payne Harrison, Stephanie Myers’s Twilight Series, and the Stieg Larsson books, especially since the new movie has come out, are some of the hot titles now.”

Patrons occasionally linger at the drive-thru.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo trilogy, people sometimes say they didn’t quite understand the second one,” said Mrs. Coffey. “I’ll ask them if they read the first one, because there are layers to the full story, and if they didn’t and somebody’s behind them I ask them to circle around the parking lot while I call the front desk and try to get it for them.”

There are no traffic jams at the Return & Pick-up Window when the Beverly Coffey’s of the service staff go the extra plot device and character development mile.  Unlike the fat and sugar served at most drive-thru’s, the fare served at Lakewood Library’s sliding window is always rich in nutrition and food for thought.

Happy Meal

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Early on a late spring morning Hal Schaser was snug in his seat at the Lakewood McDonald’s, facing the high plate glass windows fronting southeast, nibbling on an English muffin with jam.

“I always sit in the same booth,” said Mr. Schaser. “I can look out and see the sunshine.”

A line of cars inched through the drive-thru lane, making their way towards the menu board and speaker box. Behind the counter, bags of breakfast egg and cheese and sausage biscuits, hash browns, and cups of hot coffee made their way to and out the pull-up window.

“I get up, exercise, then I usually get here before 8 o’clock, and sometimes I stay until eleven,” said Mr. Schaser.

“I used to read the newspaper at home, but I got tired of doing that, just sitting there all alone. Here you can read the paper, and interact with people, and I like their coffee, too. Some days I don’t read much because I start talking to people.”

In his early 80s, Hal Schaser has lived in Lakewood for more than 16 years. He boxed in Golden Gloves as a young man, served in Korea at the height of the war, and raised a family on Cleveland’s east side.

After more than 40 years with Palmer Bearing, working his way up to vice-president of sales, he took early retirement in 1993, and began polishing his golf game.

“I used to shoot par and better, but I can’t anymore. I don’t even try to figure out my handicap these days. We play 18 holes on weekdays. When the course isn’t busy we play another 9 and it doesn’t cost anything extra. You can’t beat that!”

Although he comes and goes to McDonalds alone, once there Hal Schaser is rarely alone for long. Many seniors start their day with a McCafe and animated discussion of the day beneath the golden arches.

More than most of the morning diners scattered inside the fast food restaurant on any given morning are retirees. At a table one day were a retired manager, retired plumber, retired teacher, and a man just plain retired, keeping up a steady banter.

“We’ve solved a lot of the world’s problems right here at this table,” one of them said.

Some problems are harder to handle than others, however.

“It gets heated up once in a while,” Mr. Schaser said. “There was one guy, he came in regular, handsome fellow, but always talking about abortion, and he got into an argument with another guy, and now he doesn’t come in here anymore.”

The restaurant manager passing by with a coffee pot in hand refilled Hal Schaser’s small cup and stopped to talk.

“It is my pleasure to often open the store in the morning, and get coffee for this fine gentleman,” said Glenn Haas, a trim, affable man in a crisp McDonald’s shirt. “My memory is short sometimes, but it is long enough to remember what he is getting.”

“There is what I call coffee klatches at my store,” he said. “My parents used to belong to one that was at Snow Road in Parma when I was younger. They’d drink some coffee, chit and chat with their friends. That happens here, gentlemen and some ladies, five or six, sometimes ten, get together here every morning. It’s a social gathering place.”

Mr. Haas refilled coffee at several tables, including that of a well-dressed man sitting alone.

“He always sits over there, by himself” said Mr. Schaser. “He’s an older guy. The kids who serve the food, they bring it out to him, because he has trouble walking. He told me he used to be in the diamond business. He goes to those casinos, like in West Virginia. He likes to gamble.”

Several men stopped at Hal Schaser’s booth, genially greeting him while they waited for their food orders to be filled.

“Most of the people who come in here are pretty regular,” he said. “We talk about everything in general. It’s a lot of baloney.”

The talk turned to local churches being torn down and replaced by drug stores, or simply closed and shuttered.

“I had a neighbor once who was a very religious man,” said Hal Schaser. “He went to church two times every Sunday. Once when he took his wife, and once when he went back to get her.”

Watching his waistline, even at McDonald’s, and staying fit has stood Mr. Schaser in good stead as a senior.

Before and after the Korean War, and before taking up golf, which later proved to be a life-long pursuit, he boxed as a featherweight, only ever losing two amateur bouts.

“There was a guy who wanted to manage me,” he said “and I was training, but I always thought if a guy ever really hits me with a right cross, I’m going to quit.”

“One day I was sparring and a guy hit me with a right, and I mean I saw stars, so I said, that’s it, I’m not going to walk around on my heels all my life. That was the end of my career.”

The day was sunny and long on the other side of the spic-and-span windows.

“In the old days, when I was younger, we would go play golf on a day like today,” said Hal Schaser. “But, I don’t have those golfing buddies anymore.”

The talk drifted to a recently departed coffee klatcher.

“He was a millionaire, lived in Bay Village, collected gold coins, all kinds of stocks and bonds,” said Mr. Schaser.

“Some of the guys kidded him about wanting to be in his will. He never went anywhere, never went on vacation, or spent his money. Then one day he didn’t show up and we found out he had passed away.”

“Sure enough, the guy couldn’t take it with him,” he added.

Outside a fleet of yellow Cushman scooters began pulling into the parking lot, the city sanitation workers trooping inside for break time. Hal Schaser frowned at his winter-weary Suzuki sedan.

“I’ve got to get this car washed for golf season,” he said.

Time is Candy

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Three hundred and sixty-four days of the year parents tell their children to never take candy from strangers. Then, on the last day of every October they dress those same children up in masks and weird costumes and tell them to go out on the streets at night and either threaten or beg strangers to give them candy.

Halloween is traditionally a holiday observed on the eve of the Christian feast of All Hallows, or All Saints Day. In the Middle Ages it was believed that restless souls of the recently dead wandered during the year until All Saints Day, when their fate would be decided. All Hallows Eve was their last chance to get revenge on their enemies before entering the next world. Some people, fearing the consequences, would wear masks to disguise themselves.

It wasn’t until the first decade of the 20th century that Halloween began to be celebrated in the United States and not until the 1930s that children began trick-or-treating. Since then costume parties, haunted house attractions, and watching horror films have also become popular.

When I was a child Halloween was a special night after a long day filled with anticipation. My brother and sister and I and our friends couldn’t wait for nightfall to head out onto the dark streets and ring as many doorbells as we could.

On the night of the past Halloween, postponed several days by Hurricane Sandy, my wife and I and a neighbor sat out on our porch, on the top lip of the stairs, on a cold but dry night, with our cauldron of chocolate treats. We long ago learned that anything mostly chocolate was “the good stuff”.

As we put fun-size Milky Ways and Kit Kats into plastic pumpkins, coffin containers, and grab-and-go pillowcases, we began asking many of the children in disguise coming and going up and down our walk what they liked about Halloween.

“The most fun is dressing up,” said one girl, dressed as the Material Girl. “I’m an 80s rock star. I love Madonna.”

We wondered if she wasn’t chilly because of the weather.

“I’m not cold,” she said. “I’m insulated.”

One boy was a walking bundle of towels.

“Some safety pins and a lot of old towels and you’re warm,” he said.

We asked a puffed-up little boy in white what he was.

“I’m a cloud!”

“What is that on your pants?”

“Lightning!”

“What are those spots?”

“Rain!”

“Is that your mom?”

“She’s a rainbow. We go together!”

A girl dressed as a witch said she liked seeing other kids in costumes.

“It’s a time for them to dress up like they’re not, to just be someone they never could be before.”

Others take a minimalist approach. When we asked one boy why his friend wasn’t wearing a costume, he said, “See, he’s on his cell phone. He’s not wearing a costume because he’s a businessman.”

Some children delight in the scary side of Halloween, the ghost stories, monsters, and gory special effects.

“I like Halloween because it’s fun, “said a boy dressed in a Warrior Wasteland costume. “People scare you a lot. It’s so amazing. I just like the horror of it.”

Other children take delight in seeing their heroes in the flesh.

A stocky six-year-old in black pants, a red over-sized jacket, a red hat, and an enormous black mustache told us he was Super Mario.

“Because I am,” he said. “My happy time, it was when I saw BATMAN! I love Halloween!”

Another boy dressed as Spiderman said Halloween was fun because “Kids dress up!”

“I like Spiderman because he’s red and white. If I was Spidey I would sling my webbing and save all the people.”

In a MSNBC poll adults were asked what their favorite part of Halloween was. More than 50 percent said it was seeing little kids dressed in costumes, while just 10 percent said it was eating candy. Our own unscientific poll revealed the exact opposite. Nine out of ten kids told us it was all about the candy.

“Candy is the best thing that ever happened to me on Halloween,” said someone in KISS regalia

“It’s my favorite season. You get all the candy. I’m a vampire,” said a girl with bloody fangs.

“They should have more Halloween weekends, and pass out a lot of candy,“ said a boy dressed as a pirate, waving a rubber sword.

Many children walked the streets in groups, the smaller ones accompanied by their parents. But, one teenager rode up alone on a bicycle, wearing a Beavis and Butt-Head latex mask. He jumped off his bike, which clattered to the ground, and ran up our walk. We tossed chocolate bars into his bag, asking him what he liked about Halloween. Sprinting back to his bike, he turned and shouted,

“Can’t talk, time is candy.”

Our chocolate bars moved briskly all night, followed by the lollipops our neighbor had brought.

“You just wolf down candy bars,” said a girl dressed as Fluff N Stuff, “but you can play with suckers, click them against your teeth.”

I asked several children what were the least-liked treats they had gotten. Among the worst offenders were Mary Janes, Necco Wafers, and Christmas ribbon candy.

“I don’t even know what Mary Janes are,” said a boy dressed as Luigi, in blue overalls, a gigantic green hat, and white gloves.

“They taste like molasses sawdust.”

The worst offender, however, turned out to be money. Towards the end of the night we ran out of candy, and since all we could see on the street were some stragglers, we gathered up our loose change rather than race to the corner store.

A small girl dressed as Popstar Keira, with a tiara on her head, came up the stairs smiling. My wife put some dimes and nickels into her extended hand. The girl looked at the coins and then up at us. She threw the coins down and started crying.

“I don’t want money! I want candy!”

She refused to be consoled until we finally found a full-size Hershey bar in our kitchen and brought it out to her.

After the streets were finally empty and Halloween was over, my wife and I popped a big bowl of popcorn and watched George Romero’s “Night of the Living Dead” on DVD.

When my wife, who had never seen the old black-and-white horror movie, finally realized what the zombies were after, she asked, “Seriously, are they trick-or-treating?”