I cannot buy Count Chocula anywhere remotely near my house. I don't want to minimize anyone's problems, but my problem is worse than any of yours multiplied by a blolillion, because none of you people have, in the past week, driven around for a full afternoon stopping at five grocery stores in the futile hunt for a fictitious cocoa-based vampire who apparently IS NOT VISIBLE TO THE HUMAN EYE, much, now that I think about it, like real vampires, except Carl Paladino, who is, tragically, quite the opposite.
I have discovered two equally displeasing things about Halloween this year: 1. The neighbor down the road, the one on the corner at Sundew Court, which is like the least-evil name ever (she might as well live at Dew Drop Hug Soup Supportive Boulevard), has produced a front-yard Halloween display of such breadth and creativity that frankly my fake tombstones ("Here Lies Doug M. Upp" ka POW), cheesy blinking "Great Pumpkin" Linus and assortment of cut pumpkins looks like amateur hour at fat camp by comparison. This display is probably 2,500 square feet, likely needed special paperwork from the power company, includes what I'm sure were Army-sized rations of that cobwebby cotton stuff and is making the rest of us feel SUPER INADEQUATE.
The second, and obviously more important problem: I cannot buy Count Chocula anywhere remotely near my house, and/or Sundew Court.
I don't want to minimize anyone's problems. I know times are hard for lots of us. Your boss is slicing back your hours, your bank is being a jerk, NPR fired you for being an idiot and saying idiot things on an idiot TV show, those cell-phone pictures you took of your Little Viking are all over the Internet — but my problem is worse than any of yours multiplied by a blolillion, because none of you people have, in the past week, driven around for a full afternoon stopping at five grocery stores in the futile hunt for a fictitious cocoa-based vampire who apparently IS NOT VISIBLE TO THE HUMAN EYE, much, now that I think about it, like real vampires, except Carl Paladino, who is, tragically, quite the opposite.
Here's how we I got here: The Boy was treated to Count Chocula as a post-homework snack at his after-school care house, hence, logically, he awoke the next morning politely asking for a bowl of the crunchy deliciousness he'd had the afternoon before (and by that I mean he stumbled down the stairs with a look of half-sober cobweb-brained delirium, laid his head on the kitchen table and mumbled something about "Cow Chuckington" but I think the message was clear). I didn't have any, I replied, with the little pang of nostalgia you get when your child reveals himself to be interested in something you enjoyed at that age, be it a game or a sport or a song or a brand of cigarette or a breakfast option. But I said I'd get some tomorrow.
I spoke too soon. Every place I went: no dice. By the third store my little man was getting noticeably apprehensive, as though bracing himself for near-assured letdown like a Chicago sports fan. My son has a gift for the dramatic, so when I returned from that third mission a failure (albeit a failure who had thought to purchase what he believed to be a fair, equitable compromise involving Cocoa Puffs), he came exceedingly close to bursting into real tears, conveniently leading to a thoughtful discussion from Dad about what does and does not constitute a Real Problem. It's a spectacularly effective parenting technique you can try at home with your kids. Here, give it a shot. If the problem at hand involves an undead cereal-themed ghoul, IT IS NOT A REAL PROBLEM.
Now, do not even get me started on Franken Berry or Boo Berry. I had always imagined Count Chocula to be the ruler of that little group — he'd never been formally appointed, it was just sort of accepted by the others — so it stood to reason that with the Count out of the picture, there was no hope for Franken or Boo to be around. And indeed, the monstrilicious part of the cereal aisle was desolate, abandoned like a "Scooby-Doo" town, replaced with countless boxes that all had the word "FIBER" on them in large, insistent type and over-dramatized starburst callouts about the alarming wealth of vitamins and minerals stuffed, literally stuffed, into each box. It was horrifying. I needed my chocolate vampire.
But sadly, this is kind of where the story ends. I don't get it. It's not like Count Chocula is a rare synthetic lab-borne super-element that can only exist for quarter-seconds at a time, unless it is, and yet, aside from ordering cereal online, which seems like the loser-iest thing I could do tonight, I think I'll just try redirecting to the Cocoa Pebbles, which aren't quite as Halloween-themed, I'm afraid, but plentiful.
Jeff Vrabel was always more of a Cocoa Pebbles fan anyway. He can be reached at http://jeffvrabel.com or followed at http://twitter.com/jefvrabel.