Memory Upgrade

So sometimes your memory betrays you. Okay, most of the time your memory betrays you. Like for example, how you may remember an argument with an old friend that caused a riff between the two of you. When you finally have that heart to heart and discuss things you realize you remembered things all wrong. That friend didn’t actually say what you thought they said. Or you watched a movie as a kid and you remembered it a certain way for 25 years. When you go back and watch that same movie as an adult you realized the ending in your head was all wrong. Even how you remember a person. My grandma died over 6 years ago. I think I remember how her voice sounded, and her laugh. But I don’t have anything to go on anymore. No old home movies or answering machine messages saved. I’m going on those pieces still lodged in my brain. A couple phone conversations just a few weeks before she died, and a visit to her house just a month before she was gone.

It’s all I got, so I have to run with it. Try to keep it fresh and glowing, like stoking embers in a fire. Once it’s out it’s out. No more kindling to throw on the fire.

There’s no lesson here I’m trying to teach. There’s no moral to any of this. I’m just thinking a lot about memories and the importance of making them. My oldest was home this past week for spring break. I took the last part of the week off so I could spend time with her. My wife had to work all week and the younger ones were still in school(they aren’t off until the first week of April.) When the oldest comes home on extended weekends she’s often either sleeping, hanging out with her old school friends, or with her mom on some shopping excursion. I’m here at home making sure she’s getting her favorite meals while she’s here. I’m keeping the gears running at the homestead. I’m not ever going on adventures with her. So this time I wanted to be able to do something with her, so she knows I care and that I actually do like to spend time with her.

Wednesday was taking her to the dentist and the eye doctor, then being at home waiting for the heating and cooling guys to put in our new water heater. Thursday wasn’t much, but then Friday my daughter and I spent the day in Fort Wayne shopping for books and music, eating quite well, and just enjoying time together. We hit three spots for books and came out of it with a stack for each of us. I wanted to hit up Neat Neat Neat Records as well as I haven’t been there in over two years. Hasn’t changed much, and I’d hoped for that. For lunch we ate at Bravas Burgers. Probably the best burger and fries I’ve had in a very long time. We will go back for sure. After a coffee refueling we hit the road and made it home by 5pm. Saturday was just hanging out at home mostly, which is what we all needed I think.

Today, my wife and mom are currently driving the oldest back to school while I’m home with the younger ones. Making dinner and keeping the gears turning at the homestead.

I look back at my life, even just the last 6 years, and there are these moments that stick out in my head. They’re good moments: family vacations down south, trips to record shops, Christmas eves with board games and snack-y foods, a Colorado wedding, school carnivals, and band concerts around the holidays. They’re not grand gestures like trips to Disney World or anything like that. They’re just these little moments that define such significant times in my mind. More than a grand gesture can do, the trips to the bookstore, or a cabin in the woods, or the cinema on a Sunday afternoon are what stick in our memories. More memories we make the easier it is to remember them all.

Anyways, that’s what going on in my head. We made some memories this week, and I’m happy about that.

Friday Rentals

All this talk of classic horror films from when I was a boy in short pants has me reminiscing about Friday nights of my youth. The Friday night video rental, to be exact. It was a semi-regular thing for my parents and I to go out after my dad got home from work and go grab a pizza at Pizza Hut, stuff ourselves, and then head to Video World and rent some movies for the weekend. Of course, I’d head straight to the back room(not THAT backroom, you perv) and start perusing the horror and sci fi. Video World had a back room dedicated to nothing but horror, sci fi, music docs, and weird odds and ends. That’s where I spent a good portion of my time. This was my formal education into the world of the undead, vampires, alien creatures, soulless slashers, and general weirdos that I’d carry around in my memories for years to come. At first it was an appreciation for being scared, but then it changed. It was the whole aesthetic that I loved: the effects, the music, the set designs, and yes even the stories that were attempted. Some were better than others(much better at times), but each movie carried with it something endearing, no matter how horrible the film was. If it was really bad it would sometimes transcend into something even greater than scares. The horror film that tried so hard but missed the mark would become something else: parody. Something so bad that it became a completely different genre. Even a lousy movie could make for fun viewing.

This Friday night ritual continued on through high school. One of my best friends and I would crash at either my place or his, grab a Tombstone pepperoni pizza from the store along with a bag of Cheddar and Sour Cream Ruffles, hit Video World for the newest horror film(by this time we’d rent from either Video World or Video Plus), and spend Friday night distorting our minds(and our intestinal tract with that Tombstone Pizza.) Oh, and if you hadn’t guessed, we weren’t the partying types. Were we dorks? Nerds? I don’t think so. But we definitely weren’t “popular kid” material. Listening to Rush and Joe Satriani and pining over Daphne Zuniga didn’t win us any cool points, but we were cool with that.

I don’t think much has changed for me(except I make my own pizza nowadays.) The video store has turned into renting movies off of Amazon, and Fridays are also shared equally by watching movies and spinning records. If I’m going to waste time, I might as well waste on things I love to do, right? I do miss the video store, though. The strange cast of characters that haunted the aisles: whether it was parents and their kids looking for something to watch together, teens looking for something they shouldn’t watch, or the creepers disappearing into the “other” back room. And of course the folks working behind the counter, renting to the folks hungry for entertainment on a Friday evening. Spending their weekend making ours a little more interesting. I had much admiration for them. I was one of them, as I started working at Video World when I was 18 and worked their for nearly a year. A great year it was, too.

So here’s to Friday rentals and making the most of those little moments.

Memo To My Son

What have you done to the mirror?
What have you done to the floor?
Can’t I go nowhere without you?
Can’t I leave you alone any more?
Can’t I leave you alone any more?

One year ago yesterday on March 1st I drove my wife along snow-covered county roads to what would be her final OB appointment before we’d hit her due date for what would be the birth of our third(and final) little Hubner. The doc informed us that she was 3 cm dilated and that if we wanted to just head over to the hospital and get settled in we could. Since there was no great rush, we decided to go grab breakfast before the big wait. We dined on crepes and omelets and then drove in what I would describe as a blizzard down US 30 West two miles to Kosciusko Community Hospital and indeed settled in. After a day of crappy TV, hospital food, and uncomfortable naps our son, Owen Christopher, was born at nearly 2 am on March 2nd, 2005.

I know you don’t think much of me
But someday you’ll understand
Wait’ll you learn how to talk, baby
I’ll show you how smart I am
I want to show you how smart I am

As far as births go, it was a pretty easy one. Given that our oldest was a long and painful birth, and our middle child was a whopping 10lbs, 3 ounces(the nurse was literally pushing down on my wife’s stomach to force her out), Owen came relatively quietly and with little drama. My wife’s stepmom stayed with our girls so I could be up at the hospital for the duration. My wife made the hospital stay a two-for-one deal and the next day had a tubal ligation. It wasn’t that our son was a “whoopsie baby”, more than he was an “oh shit” baby. We had two beautiful daughters and had hit the child quota we’d created in our heads. Christ, we’d just bought a brand new Honda Civic…perfect for a family of FOUR. There was no chance of another baby coming into Hubner the family quotient.

Well, the family quotient flew out the Honda Civic’s window(we ended up trading that in late summer of 2004 for a Honda Odyssey.)

fullsizerender-4Now my “oh shit” baby is now a 12-year old young man. It’s such a cliche thing to say but I’m gonna say it anyways: where did the time go? I can’t imagine our lives without “the boy”. I think he’s a balancing force in the house. He’s the mediator between two sisters constantly butting heads, he’s the board game partner to a mom that loves board games, and he’s dad’s partner-in-crime when it comes to watching horror movies, spinning soundtracks, and hitting up the local comic book shop.

Before I had a son I always thought the whole “father and son” bonding thing was a myth. Sure, I bonded with my dad and all when I was a kid, but I remember spending lots of time by myself in my room getting lost in Star Wars battles and Van Halen cassettes. My dad and I never had things in common that we loved together(well, maybe great Philly cheese steaks and MAD magazine.) I just looked up to him because he was this hulking figure that put a roof over our head and fixed things in the house when they were broke(or spent all of Christmas morning affixing decals to Kenner and Hasbro toys.) Plus, having two daughters and having the connection with them that I had I just couldn’t imagine how I could love more than that.

A quitter never wins
A winner never quits
When the going gets tough
The tough get going

But raising this little guy into a bigger guy I can see there is something to this father/son dynamic. I love my kids equally. That’s a no-brainer. But seeing my son grow from a cooing baby to a polite young man, and all that came in-between, I can say the heart grows to accommodate the love that you uncontrollably develop. Ones capacity to love never stops growing. It’s an ongoing construction site, the heart. My son has opened my head and heart and made me a better person, better dad, and a better listener. He’s been my buddy from the beginning, and I hope it stays that way.

So on today, March 2nd, the boy turns 12. One year away from teendom and a whole new stretch of awkward road for him to travel. I know teen angst is coming, so I’m going to enjoy hopefully one more year of the kid that loves hitting the comic book shop with his old man. And going to used record shows on Sunday mornings. And the boy that loves playing board games and card games with his mom. And one more birthday gift wish list that’s dominated by Marvel collectors action figures and a request for a taco fiesta for the birthday dinner.

Maybe you don’t know how to walk, baby
Maybe you can’t talk none either
Maybe you never will, baby
But I’ll always love you
I’ll always love you

Time flies, baby. So keep up.

Friday Thoughts

So it’s Friday. You made it through another work week. How’d you fare? Was it a good one? Not so good? I hope things weren’t too painful for you. Me? Ehh, work has become a function like breathing, blinking, or going to the bathroom. It’s a necessary function, but one I don’t really think about all that much. It provides me with the funds to put a roof over our head, heat under the roof in the winter and cool in the summer. It puts gas in our cars, clothes on our backs, and music in our ears. It allows us family vacations, dinner for two, trips to the comic book store, record shop, and Starbucks. It gets us into the cinema, the museum, and the amusement park. It allows us to be generous to others when they don’t quite have enough. It gives me reassurance that if someone gets sick we can afford to get them better.

These are things about my job that I am forever grateful for. Things I do not take for granted, or ever will for that matter.

But this is a job. Not a career, or a dream position. I have been and always will be just a cog in the machine. I don’t get any sort of satisfaction in the workplace(other than what I mentioned above.) I’m not saving lives or changing the world(though they’d have me believe the opposite.) No matter how much good we do in the world, the bottom line is money. If they can save some bucks and keep those top end bonuses nice and fat by canning some folks in the Midwest and pushing more manufacturing to Puerto Rico, Costa Rica, China, and Mexico then that’s what they’ll do(and have done.) They did it just two weeks ago. 25 people clocked into work on a Friday and within an hour they were offered packages and sent on their way. Some had worked there for a year. Some had worked for 30 years. Some had spotless records; some not some much. It was a big, painful surprise.

I’m not saying I didn’t sweat it for about 3/4 of the day. I did. There was no rhyme nor reason that those that survived could see. It felt pretty random. This happened back in 2013, too. Back then we knew it was going to happen. They warned us. It was still bad, but at least it wasn’t like a random bullet flying through the picture window of a peaceful household and taking someone out. We were prepared for the worst that day. More than a few friends were let go then. More than a few were let go a couple of weeks ago.

So the last couple weeks have been tense. Still reeling from what happened, and a little sickened by management’s willingness to just move on to the next thing. A few of us see the writing on the wall. More work will head over borders south, west, and east. Less work will find its way to our plant. If the place is still running in three years I’ll be surprised. Shocked, really.

It’s time to figure out what I’d want to do. Not for a job. I’ve done the “just a job” thing for 24 years now. Something not so soul-crushing. Something I look forward to go to everyday. That would be something, wouldn’t it? My dad has been my inspiration in all of this. He had a job, too. Not a career or a passion. Just a job. For 50 years he plugged away at the same company supporting our family of four so we could live a reasonably comfortable middle class life(by 1970s-80s standards.) At 17 years old he lucked out and got a Journeymen apprenticeship at a Chicago-based printing company that had built a plant just 20 miles from his house in Northeast Indiana. He’d planned on going to the Indianapolis School of Art once he’d graduated high school(my dad’s an amazing artist), but with this job opportunity he felt he couldn’t pass it up. He lied about being 18 on the application and went for it. Figured he’d work a couple years then head to Indianapolis. He met my mom, then met my older brother(just three months after he and my mom were married), then 50 years later life got away from him. He did continue to put his artistic abilities to good use by drawing caricatures and comic strips of people he worked with that pissed him off. Some of them were hilarious and quite biting satire(think Mad Magazine and National Lampoon for references.)

My dad comes over and has coffee with me every Saturday morning. We rarely talk about work, though. He’s been retired for over 2 years now. He worked 50 years and 6 months at that place. He went to work whether he felt like it or not. He had a responsibility and he didn’t take it lightly. That made an impression on me growing up. It showed me that it’s not always about you and what you want. Sometimes you sacrifice your wants for everyone else’s needs. That’s just how it is. But with how things are at work nowadays, I’m thinking it’s time to pare down the money going out the door. Take stock of things. I may not find a job that will give me the benefits and money that I’m currently getting, but if I can get rid of some of this existential heft then I think it would be worth it.

Now might be the time to make that change.

I guess I’ve got a year or two left to figure it out. Until then I’ll keep plugging away, plotting my next move, and continue being a cog in the machine. I’ll keep looking forward to Fridays and movies, trips to the comic book store with my son, and date night with my wife, and all those things that keep us a tight knit family crew.

I’ll keep working for the weekend.

 

 

Lost My Shape, Trying To Act Casual

Last week we had my parents over on Valentine’s Day to share a massive pizza and some cake with. It was a nice evening of chit chat and laughter(it usually is with them.) After we ate we were in the living room talking when the conversation went to my childhood. My dad made the comment “You could be peculiar at times. You always got upset when we weren’t acting “normal”. When things were out of place it really bothered you.” At first I laughed, then I realized he was right. What shocked me was that my dad remembered this about me. I’d always known this to be true, that if things were off or my parents weren’t acting like my parents that I’d panic. But I never realized they noticed my (erratic)behavior. I guess parents notice more than you think, kids.

I can remember being 5 or 6 and trying to wake my mom up. She was on the couch and had fallen asleep. It was close to 11pm and I’d woken up from a bad dream. I’d gone out and found her on the couch with TV on in the dark. She was snoring(family trait) and I tried waking her up. My mom was a heavy sleeper and was prone to talking in her sleep. She slowing opened her eyes and seemed to be talking nonsense, which made my already nervous state even worse. I was half crying telling her to wake up when I think she was awake and looking at me like I was insane. I turned around and my dad was up and getting ready for work(he worked third shift at the time.) They both looked at each other like “WTF??”

I suppose this is something you don’t forget as an adult.

There were other instances. Complaining in a restaurant about a pizza not having enough meat on it(valid complaint, but in my 8 year old brain I thought “What if people look at us?”). On a pontoon with my parents and grandparents and we run out of gas in the middle of Lake Manitou. They were all a little on the intoxicated side and my dad started yelling “Help me! Help me!” in between bouts of laughter(we made it to shore unscathed.) I was horrified. And there were the late night games of Monopoly and UNO that would go on till midnight, on a school night. My brother and I had to finish the game regardless. “Finish what you started, guys.”

My parents didn’t seem like my parents in those moments. They just seemed like these people I resembled physically. They weren’t the loving couple that helped me with my homework, took my brother and I to amusement parks in the summer, fed us, clothed us, loved us, and generally made our lives pretty amazing.

They were just these people. People acting like other people than my parents.

I can remember having nightmares when I was really young that my parents were taken over by strange entities. I’m sure a lot of that came from watching Invasion of the Body Snatchers and V as a kid. One dream I remember was being at a construction site and I was inside a house that was just framed out. I was lost and couldn’t find my mom and dad. These people show up and they were outlined like two adults that could’ve been my mom and dad, except that the shapes were filled with television static. Outlines of two bodies walking towards me, but within the outlines was just analog static with occasional sparks of lightning inside. They spoke but it was in these buzzing tones. They were supposed to be my parents, but obviously they weren’t. It was terrifying to my pre-science fiction-loving mind. I’d had another dream around the same time where I’d woken up in the middle of the night and walked out to the kitchen and found my dad making coffee. I immediately ran into my parents bedroom and my dad was also in their bathroom shaving. Two dads, identical, in two different rooms of the house. Which one was the real dad? Who do I ask for a glass of water?

Now, being 43 years old and having read more than my share of psychology books I can see that it was a fear of change and a fear of losing my parents. I think its a pretty normal thing for kids, it just manifests itself differently with different people. And I can also look back and see that in those moments when my parents weren’t acting “normal”, they were just being themselves. At that young of an age I only knew mom and dad. I didn’t know them as individuals. I didn’t want to see them “having fun” or “goofing off”, or as just people(or not paying attention to me, dammit.) That’s confusing! But now that I’m in those shoes I can completely understand. You can’t lose sight of who you are. Sure you’re mom and dad, but sometimes mom and dad need to be individuals. You lose sight of who you are deep down, or who you once were and things get a little complicated. Maybe you’ll start resenting yourself and what you’ve become.

Hell, I don’t know. I’m not a psychologist.

So yes, I was a peculiar child. When things weren’t as they should’ve been I’d kind of freak out. I might be that way a little still, but at least the nightmares stopped(all but those back in high school nightmares.) And strangely enough I’m relieved that my parents saw how peculiar I could be, and yet they still seem to think I’m okay. Same with my family.

I think I’ve made my normal self as the dad that listens to vinyl, drinks micro-brews, reads comics, makes music in the basement, and loves science fiction. My kids would worry if I started reading the paper daily, watching football, drinking light beer, and going to church. Over the last few years I’ve made a concerted effort to “be me” in all aspects. Maybe that’s the difference between me and my parents. Parenting was more of a role 30, 40 years ago, as opposed to who a person was. I was used to the roles and not the individuals. Hopefully my kids know me as dad and that guy spinning records.

Or just the neurotic guy that sits in the living room often typing on a Chromebook.

 

Bring Out Your Dead…

So over the weekend I was thrilled to see that Amazon Prime had Lucio Fulci’s Zombi 2 available for streaming. Of course I had to watch it and my son was equally as excited to watch it as well. I’ve been gearing him up for these Fulci films for a few years now, ever since I started collecting the soundtracks on vinyl thanks to Death Waltz/Mondo and my severe record buying affliction. We watched Fulci’s The Beyond on ‘Black Friday’ of all days last year. My memory didn’t serve me correctly on that one, as what I remembered to be a classic in the genre was really kind of a turd. There was some great cinematography and the music was outstanding, but it seemed to just be a garbled mess of bizarre story line and effects that were extremely dated. The Thanksgiving leftovers in the fridge looked far more “fresh” than The Beyond. So,  I thought Zombi 2 would be a chance for Fulci to redeem himself in my eyes and my son’s. Five minutes in and I realized this wasn’t going to happen. Two New York harbor cops come up on a stranded boat in New York Harbor; one cop’s voice matches his lip movement while the other does not. This seems to be the case throughout the whole movie. The “acting” wasn’t horrible and the story was at least somewhat understandable, but overall it just didn’t hold up to my memory unfortunately. My son was waking me up whenever something was going to happen.

Zombi 2 was kind of a bust, but there’s still a touch of bizarre Italian magic there. Fulci always seemed to tow the line between exploitation and Fellini. He seemed to have grand ideas and a widescreen scope, but it never really came to fruition due to lack of funds to fully commit. He ended up making a name for himself as the Italian master of exploitative gore. Dario Argento was also a master of gore, but he fell more into the art camp as opposed to the woman-hating, misogynistic gutter camp Fulci ended up in. I’m refraining from watching House By The Cemetery and City of the Living Dead, as I don’t want to completely destroy those horror cinema memories from my youth. Someday I’ll go back to those. Just not right now.

14628081_1114520488655196_1490173642_nThis whole zombie kick started off because last week I began getting caught back up on Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead. I started reading TWD back in late 2010, around the time the first season of the AMC show started. Everyone was talking about how great the show was, but I wanted to go the source before I started watching the TV version. I ended up going through the first 12 trades pretty quickly but then the zombie fever sweeping the nation left me and I felt I was done with the books. I stayed caught up on the show because, well, I didn’t want to be left out of the discussions and what not. I’d grown an attachment to the TV versions of Carol, Michonne, Rick, Carl, Rosita, Abraham, and Eugene and felt invested in the show. After last season’s finale and the introduction to one of the book series’ most reviled antagonists Negan, I knew I wanted to revisit the books and get up to speed on the story. Sure, the show veers off from the books and their narratives, story arcs, and character developments/demises, but knowing the books helps to give you a guide as to where the show may go next(it also allows you to feel superior to those that don’t read the books and feel like you’re one up on them.)

So over the weekend I read the entire The Walking Dead : Compendium Three, which collects books 97 through 144. There’s only two other trades out now, so when I read those I’ll be caught up. I have to say, I’m surprised by how easy it was to jump back into that world. I have always enjoyed The Walking Dead, but diving into the world of the zombie invasion and the Rick Grimes crew I realized how little the zombies have to do with the stories. The zombie take over was merely the tool by which you get to see how truly evil the living can become. You do get to see how the strong and capable take care of those who can’t take care of themselves. You see the perseverance of strangers coming together and what lengths people will go to in order to protect their loved ones. But what’s even more striking than the good, is the evil. You see characters like The Governor, Negan, The Whisperers, the cretinous goons that Rick, Abraham, and Carl came across on the deserted post-apocalyptic highway and nearly slaughtered them like animals; sadly I think that’s where most of the reality lies in the story. We’re seeing some of this right now in this current presidential campaign. All across America hordes of what were at one point regular human beings living their lives and occasionally spouting something maybe inappropriate are now all-in and backing a misogynistic, racist, xenophobic, hate-mongering, bully ignoramus billionaire(?). They’re blindly following this turd in a suit and bad hair because he’s “gonna make America great again”, and that he’s gonna “build a wall” and that he’ll keep America safe from ISIS and Syrian refugees and Mexican drug dealers and rapists who are coming over the border and stealing our jobs. Sight unseen, they’re following his hate speech. Out of fear, like most of the followers of the Governor or Negan? No, they’re following because Trump is saying all those horrible things that his followers really want to say. They’re willfully and gleefully backing this guy, even after the “locker room talk” audio that was released last Friday.

14627910_1114520471988531_1051177666_nI don’t know how anybody in their right mind would back this guy, zombie apocalypse or not. In the world of zombies, I could see Trump more like Dennis Hopper in Romero’s Land of the Dead as opposed to some villainous leader Robert Kirkman created. Hopper, if you’re not familiar with Land of the Dead, ran a ritzy skyscraper where all the rich and wealthy stayed after the zombies took over. It was walled off and you had to buy your way in to live there. While the rest of the world traveled in armored vehicles and carried machine guns, the rich stayed comfortable smoking their fine Cuban cigars and drinking single malt scotch. You see? The zombies are more or less hungry observers while the living go in being evil.

Anyways, it was great getting caught up with The Walking Dead. I look forward to keeping up with it. And sorry for the whole Walking Dead/Election correlation. It just seemed to damn related not to bring it up. And if you haven’t seen George A. Romero’s Land of the Dead, you really should. It’s a classic in the series.

 

Snorting Pumpkin Spice(and other not-so good ideas for Fall)

It’s finally here. That time of year when hoodies and jeans are a staple of the Midwest fashion diet. Sure, there’s some that try to hurry that fashion trend into regular rotation at the beginning of September, but they’re the ones sweating walking from their car to the grocery because they saw dew on the grass at 8am. Listen, just because it’s September and you’ve seen a few leaves on the ground doesn’t mean you can break out the fleece and your comfy jeans just yet. Don’t be the sweaty fool at the check-out line freaking out the cashier as she assumes you’re slowly dying underneath that Nike hoodie and baggie Silvertab jeans. Bring it back a bit. Keep the shorts and flip flops handy Captain Autumn, summer’s not done with you just yet.

As I was saying, we’ve surpassed the summer grind and October is upon us. We’ve made it to October 7th. Today’s high temp is going to be 74 degrees. Tomorrow the high will only be 62 degrees(yes, get out the hoodie now.) This really is my favorite time of year. You can keep your balmy, sun-drenched days of yore. And as far as winter goes it can go to Hell. I’m done with frigid temps, too. Nah, fall is when I feel most alive; when everything around me is dying.

pumpkin-smashing-heroMy love for Autumn and October started as a kid growing up in Northeast Indiana. The house I grew up in was situated in a forest of pine trees. It was a newly minted housing addition called, wait for it, the Pines. The pines were a single row of homes along to intersecting county roads that lined the edge of this pine forest. When fall rolled around pine needles would fall, turning from vibrant green to fading brown. This wasn’t like having a couple maple trees in the yard and raking those up. No, pine needles embedded into the grass. You couldn’t easily rake or blow them into a pile. It took work. Backbreaking, time-consuming work. Fortunately for my mom and dad they had two aloof sons they could barter with in order to get the raking work done. A couple Mad Magazines, some packs of baseball cards, and maybe throw in a couple Star Wars action figures and the work would be done. My brother and I would make a game out of the work. We’d rake lanes in the back yard for miniature golf. We’d create trenches where I could land the Millennium Falcon, Snow Speeder, and X-Wing Fighter. We’d make a trail for the dog to walk along(which he never did.) Raking isn’t the reason I love fall, but it was an activity that my older brother and I did together. One of the few things we both disliked doing but made something fun out of.

Another reason for my adoration of the falling of the leaves, as it were, was the woods I lived in. Back then it was a dark and ominous place to be in around dusk. This was prior to any development of the land behind my parent’s house, so it was just a vast forest that felt like it went on forever. Being a pre-teen growing up on horror films the forest was the ultimate spot for bloody mayhem. Heading back into the woods on a Friday night or Saturday evening the imagination of an overly bored 9 year old would kick into overdrive. Movies like Friday The 13th, Lon Chaney Jr’s The Wolfman, The Fog, and Sleepaway Camp tossed and toiled in my brain and I’d eventually end up freaking myself out enough that I’d end up running like my ass was on fire back to our house as if Jason, Wolfie, or a psychotic she-man was chasing me through the brush of the pine forest. It was horrifying and exhilarating. I’d call this self-horrified cardio. The woods behind my house was a vast wonderland of shadows, broken trees, thick brush, and ample pockets of unknown that pushed my “what if?” button almost constantly.

Caramel apples. Need I say more??

Of course, this was all just mere foreplay that led up to the big kahuna. The amber-colored main event known as Halloween. The day when every kid in thecooper neighborhood got to pick out a flimsy cardboard box at Kmart, 3D, or Harveys department store that was filled with a plastic surgical smock in the colors of C3PO, Strawberry Shortcake, or He-Man; as well as a painful, molded face that might resemble that character. You’d put the smock on and your mom would tie the back for you like it was hospital gown, you’d put on said painful mask, grab a brown grocery bag, and head out for the goods. Where I grew up I was pretty lucky because there were plenty of houses along our road to hit up, as well as the adjoining Lake Forest addition that was just down the road. Traffic was minimal and the upper middle class Reagan-ites were happy to dole out sweet, mass-produced confections. I was a shy kid, so I always liked trick-or-treating with a friend. But if no friend was available my mom would walk up to the house with me(I eventually grew out of that and mom didn’t have to walk up with me anymore. I think I was 30.) There was still an air of creepiness, even in the housing addition. It was in a forest, so not much light back there with the exception of the front porch lights and a few random street lights. I can remember one year not wanting to go up to a house because they had a sign on their front porch that read “No Peddlers”. My mom tried to convince me that I wasn’t peddling, that I was trick-or-treating. I wouldn’t have any of it. Even the owner of the house was on his front porch with a bowl of candy telling me it was okay. No way. Couldn’t do it. Me and my vampire mask kept walking. I think my mom ended up grabbing some candy for me out of embarrassment; both for me and the poor guy that couldn’t give away candy to a midget-sized bloodsucker.

Now, being a responsible adult, husband, and father of 3 the fall still holds that magic for me. I probably only have a couple more years left of the trick-or-treating before the kids are too old and too cool to go to homes of strangers and ask them to smell their feet in exchange for bite size Hershey bars. That thought makes me a little sad. As a parent, one of the advantages is you get a front row seat to revisiting some of your own great childhood memories(and maybe a few childhood traumas, too…but that’s for another day.) The thrill of a birthday party and opening gifts, Christmas morning, spending the night with grandma and grandpa, your first scary movie, and the thrill of Halloween night through the eyes of your children are all pretty great things. When those go, you’re kind of losing those memories all over again.

It is what it is. Enjoy the autumn stroll, no matter how many times you’ve walked the same path. Eat the lousy candy your kids give you because they don’t like it(and neither do you.) You may be tired, but stay up and watch that stupid movie with ’em anyways. Sooner or later they’ll hole up in their bedroom and you won’t see ’em again until you’re moving them into a dorm room. Make some trails in the pine needles, just for the hell of it.

And when all else fails, snort some pumpkin spice. Or don’t.

mmm....caramel apples.
mmm….caramel apples.