Kage Baker tolerated September, with its endless echoes of the horror of Going Back To School, in order to get to the month-long festival of October.
Even though we were actually back in the classroom for October, it was the month when Fall really began in Los Angeles. The skies cooled and cleared, there were dangerously exciting winds; the leaves changed, then fell and then flew chittering through the dark streets like the ghosts of crabs. There were often tarantulas hidden among the drifted leaves; and yes, most emphatically, there are tarantulas in the Hollywood Hills. Also in Griffith Park. Also, one memorable evening, on Franklin Avenue – where we mistook a scuttling fuzzy shadow for a kitten – at first, anyway …
All this transitory shadowy horror was just the frame for the main event, of course: Halloween. We lived for Halloween when we were school age, Kage and me and all our sisters. We still lived for it once we (presumably) grew up, but when you are managing the mania yourself it’s easier to present a false face of deliberation and calm. When decoration is done by your own will and whim, you can get it done without nearly as much whining and nagging. On the other hand, you end up doing a hell of a lot more of it. The brakes are off.
Anyway, the changeover between September and October – in which we are now embedded – brings out all the hitherto-hidden goodies that have been sheltering from the summer heart. Under the house, maybe, where the skunks like to den and hunt black widows, before they come out every evening to eat spilled bird seed on our front porch. (They are good neighbors. They eat many bugs and spiders and slugs, clean up spilled sunflower seeds, and keep the raccoons under some control.)I’ve been subconsciously collecting interesting things to share with you, Dear Readers.
All this gives me some impetus to rise above the level of depression in which I am also embedded. The world keeps kicking my household in the teeth. We are fighting back, but sometimes success can only be measured by whether or not someone cries all evening. It is my great good fortune that the beginning of Fall, Halloween candy, new television seasons, cooler days and cold nights all intersect at once. I even wrote two new sentences on the ghoul story yestreday.
I am honestly trying, Dear Readers.
The season of pumpkins is also upon us. The dark side of this is the appearance of pumpkin spice in everything. This tasks me, Dear Readers, it tasks me and I will not have it! I don’t like pumpkin spice in anything but pumpkin pie ( and sometimes Dreyer’s pumpkin pie ice cream), but I do love it in that! The best pumpkin pie in the world is made by my sister Kimberly – she has won contests with it – but the best commercial pie is made by Costco. They’re the size of Captain America’s shield and are a superior custard. And there’s a Costco only half a mile from my house.
It’s also the season of marshmallow pumpkins. The best ordinary one is made by See’s; I have one of them, plus a bag of the extraordinarily good See’s licorice, just waiting for October to ignite. The best speciality version is made by Russell Stover. The chocolate is as thin as gold leaf, weirdly crackly, and the marshmallow is flavoured orange – a mouthful is bliss, unnatural bliss. Perhaps my diabetes is contributing to my delight, since I have to ration candy with scientific exactitude – but really, who cares? It all tastes twice as grand this year, and I will take whatever sips and slivers of joy I can manage.
There are also plain chocolate pumpkins (again, See’s are best). Got a couple of those in reserve, too. Also, there are skeletal pumpkins this year. Kimberly has become enamoured of animal skeletons as Halloween deco, and we currently are harbouring a cat, a dog, a parrot and a frog – all in their bony morphs. The skeletal snake is cool; the skeletal unicorn is rather over the top. Today, she found a pumpkin skeleton: the ridges in the pumpkin are made of bone, literal ribs.
She also found a new variety of real pumpkins, called a Mellow Yellow. It’s … yellow. Kind of nice, actually. It’s sitting on the front porch now, looking ever so harvesty. And yellow.
I myself have found an interesting heirloom variety, called the Long Island Cheese Pumpkin. It is not made from cheese, nor does it taste like cheese, and further nor is it used in cheese making. It’s just a straightforward cooking pumpkin, lauded as one of the best; it fell out of favour and was almost lost, but a few vines were preserved in private gardens. (Thank you, Mendoza!) You can check it out here: https://tinyurl.com/y25xq8ze
So, it’s pumpkin season, and Fall, and Halloween is coming, and we are changing out all the front porch lights from the red-white-blue of Summer to the orange and yellow of Fall. Later we’ll add some purple, maybe; definitely some pumpkin lights and candy corn lights for Halloween and then Thanksgiving. We are coming back to life, here.
Fall is not classically the season to come back to life – but hey, I also take my opportunities where I can. And I was conceived in October, at a Halloween party in a brewery … mythic, huh? It makes the season a good one in which to feel life pumping through my veins again, in the sweet, warm dark.
Bear with me, Dear Readers. I may be on the edge, but I am building a fort and laying in supplies. Of pumpkins, right now.