RSS

Category Archives: October 2012

October and everything after…

October has felt strange and unfamiliar to me this year.

I’ve written about her for more than a decade, her traditions, her quirks, her unique personality. But this year, she was quiet. She didn’t whisper to me as she has in the past. She didn’t give me the words I have shared with you over the years.

Part of it, I’m sure, is that October and I embraced so fully, so completely last year. Pumpkin patch trips and a day in wine country and, on the very last night of October, a few hours spent communing with restless spirits in an historic cemetery, October was a gracious hostess last year.

I had a few moments this year when I felt her spirit, but for the most part, she remained elusive. I kept waiting for her call, for her to arrive on my doorstep, but she never did.

I’ve seen hide nor hair of a scary movie. Where are the Draculas, the Frankensteins, even the Freddys and Jasons? Where are the ghosts and goblins and the things that go bump in the night?

Bats and black cats and orange plastic pumpkins with handles that cut into our hands when they are filled too full of candy begged from neighbors. Haunted houses filled with dry ice smoke, strobe-light illuminated zombies and gallons of oozy, sticky fake blood.

Where were they?

Apples baked with walnuts and brown sugar, those horrible peanut butter taffies wrapped in black and orange waxed paper, T. Marzetti’s caramel dip with crisp green Granny Smith apples. The scent of hot apple cider, of wet fallen leaves turning to mulch, of the pumpkin spice latte from that coffee place from the north whose name we dare not speak.

I feel like I missed most of this. I’ve often said that October is a state of mind, an emotion too big to be contained in 31 days in the fall. I’m hoping that’s true. I’m hoping that, as has happened in the past, there will be a day in January or in March or in the dead of summer when something will strike me as being incredibly October.

Until that time, I’m operating on the assumption that the few October Thoughts I put forward this year, lackluster though they were, may be the last ones.

My writing has turned elsewhere, my heart was dizzy from trying to keep up with my two major blog subjects at the same time while also trying to prepare to write – seriously write – a novel in November. As a result, all three suffered. And, as it turns out, October, with the tens or thousands of words I’ve written about her, was the easiest to leave behind. I have no doubt she’ll forgive me. She did quite fine without me before.

Thanks to all who’ve come along for the ride, and especially to those who were there at the very beginning, in that big blue van with the red Fender fender somewhere in Wisconsin, when October was all apples and fallen leaves and a gigantic bag of Chex Mix.

Happy October.

Advertisements
 
1 Comment

Posted by on October 31, 2012 in October 2012

 

October 26, 2012: Great literature of October

The key here, of course, is that not all great October literature involves stories that take place in October.

When October rolls around, there are three obvious choices at the top of my list.

Bram Stoker’s Dracula

Stoker’s Dracula was certainly not the first literary vampire, but is undeniably the one that has had the greatest influence on modern vampire lore. Prior to Stoker’s telling of the tale, the vampire was a monstrous thing, but Stoker made the vampire a creature of (albeit bloodthirsty) romance. Without him, we don’t get Anne Rice’s vampires or, regrettably, Twilight. Bram, will brilliant, owes us a bit of an apology, doesn’t he?

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein

Shelley’s Frankenstein predates Dracula by almost 80 years. I hadn’t realized this until just now and I’m awed by it. Written during a rainy holiday near Lake Geneva in Switzerland, it is arguably one of the first instances of what we now term “science fiction.” If you haven’t read it, I would suggest trying to find a copy of the 1818 version rather than the more common, heavily-edited 1831 publication.

Washington Irving’s Legend of Sleepy Hollow

For all of you ‘Merricuns, Irving’s book of short stories offers a glimpse into early-American life and are some of few pieces of literature from that period still in print. And how can you not be scared of the Headless Horseman.

Speaking of the Headless Horeseman, I’ll just leave this here:

Happy October.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on October 26, 2012 in October 2012

 

October 25, 2012: From the vault

I know, I’ve been slacking on the October stuff this year. How many years can one continue to write about candy corn. So, here’s a little something from the vault:

When I look back over my years of writing about October, it’s easy to see a pattern.

What makes October special?

Is it the sound associated with October? The howl of the werewolf at the full moon, the crinkle of cellophane as you pull it away from the caramel apple, the wind moving fallen leaves?

Is it the smell of October? The dark earthen musk of those same fallen leaves after the rain, the scent of the freshly cut jack’o’lantern, the sweet spiciness of hot cider?

Is it the flavor, the texture, the anticipation of a holiday waaaaay at the end of the month? What is it?

It’s more than that.

I won’t speak for anyone else, but when you read this, look back. October, for me anyway, is a month-long remembrance of my childhood.

It’s camping out on the floor in front of my friend Holly’s tv to watch the Legend of Sleepy Hollow. It’s the Halloween carnival at school. It’s the Halloween party when I was 7 (?) with the plastic spiders strung on fishing line. It’s trick-or-treating in Palm Springs and, yes, trying to shove those popcorn balls into that little plastic pumpkin.

It’s the awful, muddy trips to the pumpkin patch with my cousins when we first moved to Oregon. It was in October so long ago that I found myself in Portland, a city I now proudly claim as my own.

It’s the memory of a simpler time in all of our lives. October, even as fantastic as this one has been so far, will never compare to the Octobers of our childhood.

Happy October. Remember.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on October 25, 2012 in October 2012

 

October 23, 2012: An embarrassing confession

I am absolutely not sitting here watching “Practical Magic” on the ABC Family channel.

Except that I am.

It’s one of a couple dozen movies that pop up this time every year and, because I’m a sucker for a crappy movie on a family-oriented cable channel, I’ll watch it every time it’s on. I waste so much time this way.

Anyway, it, in a very Disney/Hollywood/contrived manner touches on a bunch of October topics, the most obvious is the icon of Halloween: the witch.

I’ve known witches for years. Not the Disney/Hollywood type, but followers of what I have long referred to as the Earth religions: Wicca and the like. It’s all interesting stuff if you’re someone with an open mind (which many people sadly do not possess), these old belief systems and their newer, revised counterparts.

I love that many of them revolve not around feast days that celebrate individual humans or specific events, but instead follow a more organic calendar, tied to the passing of the seasons.

October 31 not only marks the more commercialized holiday that we know as Halloween, but is also still celebrated around the world as Samhain (or, in the southern hemispheres, Beltane). It the most common terms, it is the New Year for many of the old religions, Wicca and Druidism at the forefront.

It is, as has been so often written, a time when it is believe that the veil between this world and the next is at its thinnest, when we can most easily communicate with those who have gone ahead of us.

I’ll write a little more about all of this over the next few days as many of our Halloween traditions stem from the observance of Samhain.

Happy October.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on October 23, 2012 in October 2012

 

October 19, 2012: The writing’s on the wall

Don’t walk under a ladder.

Turn back if a black cat crosses your path.

Breaking a mirror will earn you seven years of bad luck.

Don’t open umbrellas in the house.

Don’t throw your hat on the bed or put your shoes on the table.

Avoid anything relating to the number thirteen (unless you’re in Asia where you should avoid the number four).

Now, I know that not all superstition comes from or is inspired by October. But it just fits, doesn’t it?

Something about the darkness of oncoming winter, the howl of the werewolf, the constant barrage of images of witches and seances and other occult figures and events brings out the superstition in me.

You know where this is going, don’t you?

Sarah Winchester.

Ahh, Sarah. You haunt me. You probably don’t mean to, but you do. As you have around this time every year since I was eight.

Sarah was, perhaps, the most superstitious person ever to have inhabited North America. She suffered great tragedy in her early years and, following the deaths of her daughter, her husband and her father-in-law, she began to believe her family to be cursed.

She sought counsel from a medium in Boston who confirmed her fears.

Sarah, upon the deaths of her husband and father-in-law inherited 50% of the Winchester firearms empire and, the psychic told her, she was being haunted by the spirits of those killed by the rifles that bore her family’s name.

Move west, she was told. Move west and begin construction on a house. Don’t. Ever. Stop.

And that’s precisely what she did.

The house, in San Jose, Calif., still stands, a testament to Sarah’s belief in the occult and her extreme superstitious nature. Staircases leading nowhere, secret passageways and hiding places, chandeliers with thirteen arms, doors that when opened will drop you from the third floor directly into the garden below, the house is a labyrinth meant to confuse and, perhaps, trap the spirits that sought to harm our dear Sarah.

Construction finally halted when Sarah died. It had been 38 years.

Tours are available everyday except Christmas. Tickets, directions, etc., can be found here.

We all have our weird little quirks and superstitions, whether we’re willing to admit to them or not. Sarah’s quirks caused her to build a house and a legend that have outlived her by nearly a hundred years. What are your quirks building for you?

Happy October.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on October 19, 2012 in October 2012

 

October 18, 2012: The boys of summer

When I was a kid, maybe seven or eight, my friend Paula had a California Angels baseball cap. It was blue with the red A and the halo. There was something about it that caught my eye. I wanted one just like it.

About the same time, while still living in southern California, it seemed that the center of the known universe might be Fernando Valenzuela. The 1981 World Series was the first major sporting event that I have even the vaguest memory of. You could even buy a Dodgers windbreaker at McDonald’s.

When we moved north, I lost touch with my California teams. Baseball wasn’t that big of a deal in Portland. There was a minor league team, but I don’t think I went to any games until the late ’80s when I caught a couple when they were packaged with Beach Boys concerts.

It wasn’t until 2001, when Civic Stadium reopened as PGE Park after some extensive renovations, that I set foot back in the park.

It’s a beautiful park, right at the edge of downtown, steeped in the history and the flavor of Portland, both new and old.

I went to dozens of Beavers games over the last decade, spending afternoons and evenings either up in the cheap seats in the 200s along the third base line or down low in the club seats along the first base line. I loved those days.

I know. You’re all confused. Isn’t she a Timbers fan? What about soccer?

You’re right. I’m guilty: season ticket holder, Axe Society, member of the Timbers Army.

But it was baseball that brought me to what is now Jeld-Wen Field first.

With the run-up to the Timbers move to Major League Soccer, changes needed to be made and our local baseball team, the Pacific Coast League Portland Beavers, were left without a home.

Baseball has struggled in Portland, despite the calls for a major league team. There are great gaps in Portland’s baseball history and, with the departure of the Beavers two years ago, we’re in another one of those lulls. Hopefully, still-greiving Beavers fans will be placated a bit by the new team moving into Hillsboro, the Hillsboro Hops.

I write all of this as a prelude to this statement: as much as I am a soccer fan now, with as much time as I spend obsessing over my beloved Timbers, there’s still a little bit of me that perks up when the World Series comes around. By my count, and I may be misreading the tables, we may have our match-up defined Friday night. And then, for a week or so, I will become an unabashed baseball fan.

Happy October.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on October 18, 2012 in October 2012

 

October 17, 2012: Homecoming

October is Homecoming.

It is the high school football field with the pep band in the stands playing “Tequila” over and over, mercilessly.

It is a return to a simpler time, a gathering of old friends, a remembrance of the past.

It is a Norman Rockwell painting we can all live in, breathe deeply of, smell and taste and embrace for thirty-one days in the fall.

Homecoming at my high school is, I’m told, this Friday. Some of my fondest high school memories were those Friday night football games. The band, the game, the cool autumn nights. It all combined to become something permanently etched in my memory. One of my greatest regrets is that I never bothered to get a letterman’s jacket at the time.

Take a minute or two today and look back at that time in your life, a time before mortgages or car payments or any of the other Big Adult Things found you and took hold. Remember seeing your friends everyday, laughing too loud, being more spontaneous because you just didn’t know any better.

And, when you do, I hope what you remember makes you smile.

Happy October.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on October 17, 2012 in October 2012