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Your Fall Guide, 2015
By Chris Colcord
Fort Wayne Reader
The autumnal equinox arrives this year on Wednesday, September 23rd, at approximately 4:22 a.m., and while I don't expect everyone to be performing Wiccan or druidic rituals at that moment, I do believe in the importance of celebrating the changing of the seasons. This does not necessarily have to include partaking in any pumpkin-flavored coffee drinks, though I certainly wouldn't dissuade anyone if that's their inclination. (To be honest, I'm a little baffled by the whole uber-cultural awareness of the seasonal arrival of Starbuck's Pumpkin Spiced Latte; I can't tell if the reaction reflects reverence, disdain, irony, post-modern irony, post-post-modern irony, retro-delight, dandyism, infantilism, churlishness, or a strong animosity towards diabetic agents.)
Anyway, it's been hot as blazes this September in Indiana — not an "Indian Summer," which most almanacs identify as unseasonably warm days happening in late September (and usually follows a "killing frost") — but we've had enough 90+ days this month to make the impending cooler temperatures a most welcome reprieve. As a public service, then, I've accumulated a list of the 8 activities that any self-respecting autumnophile needs to complete in order to fully appreciate the richness of the season. In no particular order of importance, then:
1) You must disable/detonate/destroy at least one leaf-blower before Thanksgiving. Not to encourage anarchy or the destruction of public property here, but Mother of God, isn't there some way to reduce the plague of those infernal, nuclear-blast furnaces this fall? There's simply no greater buzz-kill on a beautiful autumn day than the sound of those mauling beasts ruining your walk, your peace of mind, your life. And let's take a moment to celebrate the timeless simplicity of the humble leaf rake, available at most hardware stores for about seven bucks, and the pleasant shick-shick-shick sound of its implementation. Not to go all Norman Rockwell/Garrison Keillor/Americana here, but this is one of the instances where the old agrarian method handily trumps the modern machine.
2) When the first chilly rain falls, you must wear black, go outside, and look melancholy and pretentious as hell. This almost needs no explanation, but fall is the most essential time of year for the eternally precious artist-types. And it doesn't count to be all troubled and dangerous in the comfort of your own home, no, you simply have to go out and do it publicly. Take the weight of the world, put it squarely on your shoulders, and then go outside and kick some clumps of wet, dead leaves with a conflicted look on your face. People will wonder if you're contemplating man's inhumanity to man, the fate of the universe, or whether the Cubs have enough pitching to make a decent run in the playoffs.
3) You must drive with the windows down. I simply can't conceive how people can go from using the a/c all summer to flipping on the heat when the first bracing wind of fall arrives. It's not like the air in Indiana is so polluted and foul that it's unbearable — we're not Taipei, or Seoul, for gosh sakes. After weeks of punishing, rain-forest humidity, the arrival of the first blast of dry air should be greeted with all four windows down and music blasting from the car's stereo system. Even terrible music, I approve of that. Fall is time to howl at the moon, after all.
4) You must howl at the moon. Again, not to incite anarchy, but you've been cooped up all summer in your house, when merely sitting still and thinking causes a bead of sweat to crease your forehead, so now it's time to get out and get loose. The sun is setting early now, the nights are stretching out, and the environment is ideal for vampires, werewolves, lawyers, and hipsters to get out and raise the requisite amounts of hell.
5) You will be required to dress up for Halloween, but you simply cannot wear a "sexy"-anything costume. Halloween is the high-water mark for autumnal celebrating and excesses, and while everybody relishes the chance to dress up as someone/something else, there is a protocol to be followed. If you find yourself tempted to buy a tacky "sexy" outfit--sexy squirrel, sexy cop, sexy meth-head, et al — please remember the following: your name isn't Kelsey and you're not in nursing school. Use some creativity here, please. And I don't want to see any Donald Trump masks this season, either.
6) You gotta take in the Harvest Moon. On September 27th, at about 10:50 p.m., that enormous burnt-orange moon is going to engulf the Indiana skyline and you simply have to get out and appreciate all of its eerie splendor. Bonus points for seeing the 2nd full moon of the season, the wonderfully named "Hunter's Moon," which will be visible on October 27th.
7) Read something American and scary. I'm not trying to appeal to the xenophobes here, but there is something deeply satisfying about spooky stories with an American backdrop. For a country with a relatively short literary tradition, we've managed to produce some first class horror stories and writers that have a distinctively American perspective. It doesn't have to be one of the usual suspects--Poe, Hawthorne, Henry James, Washington Irving--but it can't be any of that "Twilight" twaddle, either. If you want a Hoosier writer, there's nothing wrong with James Whitcomb Riley, whose beloved works include some genuinely spooky and disturbing October poems. But for my money, Ray Bradbury's "Something Wicked This Way Comes" remains the essential American horror story.
8) You must eat 2 lbs of Candy Corn before the snow falls. Because you're going to anyway. Here's what you need to know about candy corn: it's made of sugar, corn syrup, confectioner's wax, and artificial coloring. There is nothing remotely healthy about it. It's not vegetarian. It is a wholly contrived, nauseating concoction that epitomizes this country's incredible appetite for tackiness and artificiality. Which means, of course, that it is more American than apple pie. American choke down 25 million pounds of the stuff every year. Eating your fair share is not only a terrific way to celebrate the season, it's almost a national duty. You can choose the "Indian Corn" version, or the "Baby Pumpkin" version, you can even choose the "S'mores"-flavored version. But choose you must. For you don't want the season to end without making yourself sick, at least once. And remember, we always have Pumpkin Spiced Latte to wash it down with.