Max has not only become fixated on a TV show that debuted in 1959, but zealously promotes it to everyone within earshot. He’s enticed countless Ann Arbor grade-schoolers — and even a couple of Brooklynites [Iris and Nate, I’m talking to you!] — to join the cult of “Dennis the Menace.”
If you don’t already know, Dennis is a cute and sweet 6-ish year old who, though acting with the best of intentions, drives his parents out of their gourds (how does this map onto Max and his parents? you might ask). Dennis especially exasperates his neighbor, “Good ol’ Mr. Wilson,” who’s driven virtually to the point of nervous breakdown in each half-hour episode.
The essential iconography of Dennis is fairly simple: striped shirt, baggy overalls with a slingshot protruding out of the back pocket, Chuck Taylor hi-tops, and a thick mop of blonde hair with an unruly cowlick poking up in the back. Also, Dennis is not infrequently seen sporting Wild West cap pistols and a sheriff’s badge. (Max couldn’t put those pistols down! We managed to keep toy guns out of the house for 10 years; now Dennis the Menace has effectively repealed our family’s gun control policy. But perhaps this is just the inevitable result of allowing that lightsaber a few years back.)
Max approached trick-or-treating completely differently this year. Given his dark hair, Max needed a way to make his “character” clearly recognizable: He’d greet the neighbors with a shrieking “HELLO, MR. WILSON!!!” If the person manning the door looked puzzled or hesitated for just a second, Max would ask, “Do you know who I am?” and even make a point of showing them his slingshot. (He thought it was pretty hilarious when one person calmly replied, “Yes, Dennis.”) For him, accumulation of candy wasn’t the point of the evening; rather, he relished spending time interacting with folks at each home, in no apparent hurry — wow, what a punk!