There was an orange sign taped on the door of the McDonald’s on Pacheco Street:
Please Remove Halloween Masks Before Entering Restaurant Thank You!
When did the holiday become so dangerous? Or at least its perception. In 1984, James Huberty walked into a McDonald’s in San Ysidro, California and gunned down 21 people before he was shot dead by the San Diego police. I don’t think he was wearing a mask and it wasn’t Halloween. The murderer’s widow later sued McDonald’s claiming that monosodium glutamate in the restaurant’s food contributed to her husband’s madness.
I was stopping for a quick lunch on my way to Albuquerque to meet up with my brothers and my sister at the house where we grew up in Nob Hill. Yesterday our mother’s ashes were buried at the National Cemetery in Santa Fe. She was a sergeant in the Navy during World War II so she qualified for military honors. Here is what that means: The man who sits behind the desk in the cemetery office at the bottom of the hill plays a tinny recording of a bugler and gives the family a folded flag. He conveys thanks from the President. My mom would have been glad that it’s no longer George W. Bush. We were allocated only 20 minutes. Burials are tightly scheduled to maximize throughput.
In Albuquerque in the 1960s we would go trick or treating unsupervised with no one worrying about abductions or xraying candy for razorblades. We lived in something that barely exists anymore: an old middle-class neighborhood where dentists and doctors and public school teachers occupied the same blocks. While I was attending Monte Vista Elementary School, the first McDonald’s in the state opened on the corner of Lomas and San Pedro. At the shopping center across the street there was a Baskin Robbins. It was astonishing to think that there could be 31 flavors of anything.
Now I occasionally go to McDonald’s for the familiarity of the food and for the semi-random mix of customers. For the people watching. There are the old men from the neighborhood gathering over Quarter Pounders at what passes for the local pub. There are the drivers from the Interstate who exited on St. Francis Drive, lured by the golden arches a couple of miles away. As I sat there, a young couple with a Macbook surfed the Web and a wanderer with a reddish beard walked inside carrying a backpack and wearing military fatigues. I don’t think he was armed or dangerous. Through the window I watched a man striding toward the door, stopping suddenly to stare at the New Mexican vending machine. On the front page pictures of black bats hovered around the New Mexican nameplate, continuing the Halloween theme. The scary headline at the top of the page said End of buildup keeps county mired in recession. There was a picture of a construction crane.
It was an eye-opening story, by Bruce Krasnow, one of the paper’s editors. With the completion of big projects like the New Mexico History Museum, the Santa Fe convention center, and Buffalo Thunder, the pool of construction jobs has contracted by 25 percent. Real estate sales are down 21 percent since last year and 58 percent since the peak in 2005. Earlier in the recession we kept hearing how Santa Fe was faring better than the rest of the state. Now it seems we’re lagging behind in the recovery.