“Some folks without brains do a lot of talking.” Scarecrow, Wiz of Oz
“That’s the problem, he was dead to begin with.” Ichabod Crane, Sleepy Hollow
“When brain and season blazes we no longer need ask why we’re alive.” Nijinsky
“Fantabulous night to make romance, neath the cover of October skies…” Van Morrison
Dear Wickedly Wonderful October:
You own autumn. If you were a franchise, you’d also own all the SWAG: apple cider/butter/pie; fields of pumpkins and mums; faux haunted houses and ghost tours; costumes and associated gadgets and soundtracks; spicy, noble rot scented air, not quite hibernating bears…You’re a little bit hocus pocus, with a whiff of seasonal buenos noches.
October 1 is not only World Vegetarian Day, it’s Black Dog Day in the UK, celebrating the likes of shaggy furred, red eyed Shuck, the Grim, and Hecate’s favorite 2 headed pet. With a fierce fido at your side, on 10/2 conjure your own guardian spirit by following instructions in Sacred Magic of Abramelin the Mage. Slainte and Za Zdarovje (good health) on 10/4, National Vodka Day. You’ll need it for 10/5 Roman Mundus Patet, the 2nd of 3 days when portals of Hades open and ghosts wander. For practitioners of Santeria, hail Oya on the 15th to avoid future storms and interference from deadly departed. If this year’s 10/13 fell on a Friday (it doesn’t), Norse Freya’s powers would be mighty. It doesn’t hurt to offer her a few drops of honey to encourage gold crossing your palm. If Emperor Claudius had, he might not have died eating wife Agrippina’s poison mushrooms (10/13/54).
What’s up with this winding down as winter approaches? Why not rev up or is that just witchfull thinking? A new year begins—TV shows, vibrant scenery outside the door, Broadway opening nights, blooming mums, ripening pinecones, bright, though not warm suns. New car models (lst Model T 10/1/1908) introduced, preparations and celebrations—three months of fetes! Many don’t have to mow or garden until spring. Bye bye bugs, hurry back birds, hello dazzling skies and gaily decked (and toilet papered) trees.
One first Monday in October (1967) Thurgood Marshall was sworn in as a Supreme. These days, they’re due for a new name—the Terrible 12 (minus 4), Sleazy Dozen… Many will cheer recalling 10/16/1916, the date first birth control clinic opened in Brooklyn, NY. Historically, October brings unhappy memories for indigenous people and those that recognize injustice. Mighty Shawnee Chief Tecumseh was killed 10/12/1813 and brave Nez Perce Chief Joseph ‘I shall fight no more forever’ surrendered to US Cavalry near Chinook, Montana 10/5/1877 after the government broke a treaty. He was 40 miles short of Canadian border.
Of barriers broken, King and Yeager can tell you a thing or two. Martin Luther King was awarded Nobel Peace Prize 10/4/64 and AF Captain Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier 10/14/47. His achievement made possible by efforts of Robert ‘space race’ Goddard (born 10/5/1882) and magnificently mad chemist/alchemist Jack Parsons. At California’s JPL, they hold an annual Halloween Party, complete with Jack Parson mannequins. As Strange Angel (book & series on Paramount+) shows, he was ahead of his time, a visionary rocket scientist. There’s a persistent rumor JPL means ‘Jack Parsons Lives.’ This CalTech alum was blown up in his coach house lab in Pasadena, CA in 1952. L Ron Hubbard, a former friend and Scientology founder, stole his money and ran away with Jack’ lover, the sister of his ex-wife. His mom took her life hours after learning Jack had died.
The die was cast for so many artistic souls in October: Janice Joplin od’ed 10/4/70 at Landmark Hotel, a mile from Laurel Canyon, where Mexican movie idol Ramon Novarro died by ritual killing 10/30/68 (mischief nite), and Duane Allman crashed his motorcycle 10/29/71. Not far away, John Denver crashed his plane 10/12/97. Apple founder Steve Jobs died in Palo Alto 10/5/2011, a stone’s throw from Ventura Freeway, a direct connect to Laurel Canyon. Ditto for River Phoenix, od’ed 10/31/93, Viper Club, Hollyweird; and Houdini, a Canyon resident, who died in Detroit 10/31/26. Séances were held every Samhain until 1936. David Grateful Dead Crosby’s girlfriend Christine Hinton perished in head on canyon collision 9/30/69. Is there a pattern, a weird Laurel Canyon psychic ley line railroad into oblivion?
The name’s Bond (aka Sean Connery), he died 10/31—2020 as did Studs Terkel 10/31/2008; Frederico Fellini 10/31/93; and Indira Gandhi 10/31/1984. Johnny Nash I can see clearly now died 10/6/2020 in TX. Just what did he see? Some tripped the trigger in other ways: Mati Hari, death by firing squad 10/15/1917; ditto for Pierre Laval 10/15/45, premier Vichy France. Nazi Hermann Goering swallowed poison hours before his execution 10/15/46 and a paltry 10 other Nazi’s were hanged for crimes against humanity 10/16/46. Marie Antoinette lost her head 10/16/1793, as did Sir Walter Raleigh 10/29/1618, but on 10/19/1781 7,000+ Brit/Hessian soldiers saved theirs by surrendering at Yorktown, VA. Brits were victorious 10/21/1805 winning Battle of Trafalgar. Alas, Admiral Horatio Nelson died, though through deeds he’s immortalized.
Were voices ghostly when heard 10/21/1915, first transatlantic radio message—from Virginia to Paris? JFK’s voice was firm 10/22/62 when he announced Russian missiles detected in Cuba. His vocals were humble when he declared missiles removed 10/28/62. Hungary’s voice was loud and clear 10/23/56 protesting Communist rule. On 10/22/1989 Hungary declared itself a republic, free of Russian rule. Irish Free State was declared 10/24/1922 and ushered into existence in December of that year. Cheers went up 10/24/94 during the cease fire/ absence of troops in Londonderry.
Charlie Brown and pals smile on 10/26, National Pumpkin Day, as does driver of Cinderella’s coach. Black Thursday folks (10/24/1929) didn’t grin when NY Stock Exchange went belly up. Situation was glum, as it was 10/26/1881—30 second shootout at OK Corral, Tombstone, AZ—several, including Wyatt Earp weren’t okay—(though he lived to fight another day). Opposite true 10/25-30/1983 when Grenada was invaded… Few are sure why. US was the ‘who,’ Russians were part of some unfolding coup? Birthday boy Teddy Roosevelt (10/27/1858) was shot, knocked off his feet 10/14/1912 in ol Milwauk. Bullet grazed his chest, slowed by thick coat, glasses case, and winded speech notes. He refused to sit down, but unlike noted Chinese orator On Tuo Long, did cut his speech short. Remarkable Rosa Parks (died 10/24/2005), first lady of civil rights, refused to sit as well—at the back of the bus. Her freedom focused life is a reading must for other fledging activists.
Draw close and assemble, this be a night to make you tremble …scary on…Lots of witchery in kitchens in October, to the tune of songs that include: Bewitched, Bothered, Bewildered; Don’t Fear the Reaper; Abracadabra; Witchy Woman; and I Put a Spell on You. For Monster Mashes, I made deviled eggs topped with black olive spiders, mummy pastry wrapped hot dogs with red pimento eyes/candy corn nails; bacon turtles and crudités in the shape of a scarecrow. Those were just a few of the dreadful edibles and twisted treats served. Not to mention brewing Hissss and Her steamy mugs of grog. I still have a plastic brain mold I filled with jello so we could…eat, drink and be scary…We downed cocktails in beakers and test tubes and jello shots in faux syringes. We slugged pitchers of bloody Mary’s (ab neg) and ah’ed at dry ice issuing from cauldrons. Trust me, don’t make Halloween party treats too realistic, or you’ll be the only one eating pounds of giant ground round steak tartare/pate mice!
A pet alert goes out 10/30-11/1, especially for felines: bring your dog and black cats inside. Superstitious and mean people target black cats and dogs, perform pishoguery. October 30 is the night for TP’ing trees, smashing pumpkins, and throwing eggs. On Samhain (10/31) it’s alleged, the dead ride out, attracted to fire and light; seeking souls they once knew, hence the need for costume/mask disguises. To open lines, hold a dumb supper. Set a place for the dead—don’t speak, eat in reverse order. Yes, it’s hard to buy it—remaining quiet.
Folks born in first part of October, Libras, are hailed as peacemakers, while those born under Scorpio’s sign (10/23-31) aren’t typically benign, lean towards drama, and can release dangerous undercurrents. Aleister Crowley, mage, madman, spy, was born 10/12/1875; he should have been a Scorpio. He said ‘to do what thou wilt is to insist stars shine, vines bear grapes, and water seeks its level. Man is the only being in nature to set himself at odds with himself.” Or, as Orson Wells guessed (died 10/10/85), the only being that purposefully scares him/herself.
It was a wretched day for Poe (died 10/7/1849 in Baltimore) and for thirsty folks 10/28/1919; Volstead Act went into effect and people like Carrie Nation, of anti-drink renown, though against libations, hit every bar in town. Hello organized crime and 13 years of bathtub gin. Ordinary folks became bootleggers; pockets were enlarged to accommodate hidden pints of booze. People frequented speakeasy’s, which were frequently raided. Did you know boobytrap backwards is partyboob? Here’s to a temperance supper, with water in glasses tall—still and sparkling—and me not there at all!
Is anyone surprised police in FL (in 2020) arrested a man boarding a plane wearing a black & white striped prison costume, complete with plastic ball and chain? In certain parts of France, it’s illegal to wear a clown or priest costume. Halloween isn’t a holiday, it’s a lifestyle. “It reeks of children” said Salem’s Winifred Sanderson. For 31 days, I get to say the dust, cobwebs, dark stains are part of seasonal decorations. I carve out time to take coffin, not coffee breaks, and drink blood potion #19 after dark. Candy corn becomes a favorite veggie. There were no canonical October Ripper victims after the 9/30/1888 double event; Jack was gearing up for final(?), grisly 11 November murder of Mary Kelly. Will you be trick or treating in a pumpkin seedy part of town or tiptoeing thru graveyards? Will you find a tomb with a view or one marked Ima Gonner or Hugh R. Next? “Whatever you do, don’t fall asleep,” uttered by a vic, Nightmare on Elm Street. Kidding aside, the movie was based on 1981 article regarding real life nighmare deaths of 13 men in Oregon and nearly 20 in LA.
You’re our 10th month October, though Latin Octo means 8. In 10’s pantheon are #10 Downing St, a decade, number of Canadian provinces and lost tribes of Israel, Exodus commandments of men, an order of magnitude, the Tarot Card that corresponds to Chance or the Wheel of Fortune, the amount typically tith’ed to some churches (that never pay taxes). To reduce something by one-tenth is to decimate. If sailors mutinied or villagers rebelled, their ranks were decimated as punishment. To Romans, X marked the spot and represented #10. It’s neon’s atomic number and the quantity of lords a leaping. In Blackjack, royal cards are equal, all worth 10 points. For PC’s, the F10 key may activate the menu bar. If you’re a 10, you could be a Capricorn or Bo Derek’s look alike? The Rorschart inkblot test has 10 cards, and 10 is what you get counting fingers or toes.
The stretched out, scintillating sunset of the year is here. Orange you glad? October’s sun is bright, though not warm; rain brings chills, and wind sneaks under sleeves, shimmies down cleavages, hairy chests. We are hungrier. The air’s redolent with tension—vibrancy versus rot, pungency vs nippy chilly thoughts. What we sowed, we reap last labors of the plough; we gaze at brightening boughs; shorter days, longer nights endowed… On cloudy days, we opt to watch movies instead of sleep: Practical Magic, Ghostbusters, Nightmare Before Christmas, Halloween’s Michael Myers version 666?
Or we absorb films that help us glean what others endured—at camps like Sobibor (escape 10/14/43); on North American stolen lands and reservations (10/10, Indigenous People Day), and inside submarines (Hunt for Red October). Who can forget Churchill’s famous words never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few…(Battle of Britain 10/31/40)? Were his words repeated in The Gathering Storm or Darkest Hour?
It was ‘sunset and evening star…with no moaning of the bar’ for Idylls of the King/poet Alfred Tennyson 10/6/1892. What a way to depart ‘no sadness of farewell, no ringing of evening bells.’ A fragment of a Robert Frost poem rises with October’s Hunter Moon (10/9) ‘…retard the sun with gentle mist, enchant the land with amethyst, let leaves ripen like grapes, for autumn’s sake.’ October, wickedly waving—you’re the month I’m emulating. And if, when I go (or lie like Mozart, decomposing) I insist on behaving like a loose, wanton leaf, cavorting wildly in spite of, in front of death. Though perhaps homeless left, I shall not be bereft; whether sallow or golden skinned—voice gone reedy, paper thin—I’ll defiantly utter I lived; damn how I lived. Will you too?
I love October. It is the start of my “season within a season.” I am not a Spring-Summer person. I am a Fall-Winter person. October is indeed a month where I ramp up rather than wind down, as you noted. All the holidays that fall in Fall and Winter get me fired up. I love the idea of naming coffee breaks as coffin breaks. I love that picture of the witch in the wind – lots of atmosphere. I do not love that picture of the pate mouse. That will take a while to leave my consciousness. I am dying to call someone a partyboob. That is my word of the day!
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Excellent; kindred PA soul! That steak tartare rat was delicious, though next day rest was cooked. Party on and keep writing.
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I just want to go on record as saying that candy corn is one of the grossest candies ever, only beaten out by Peeps 😦
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Oh, FFS in a good way! here I was thinking September was passed, and perhaps a new month will be the right time to drop by again, but to my delight, I’ve got several hot meals for the mind waiting for me! Inject this all right into my bloodstream, your knowledge and erudition make this a treat for a bright Octover afternoon. And to kick off, I need a cold shower after finding out that this is where I Will Fight No More Forever comes from; always loved that title when it came up in film reference books, but had no idea what the source was. And while I’m no longer navigating the miles of twists in laurel canyon, or exporing the depths of the Viper room, you bring all the signifiers back into view. October is where the rubber hits the road in terms of the leaves falling, and needing retrieved from the drains; I must remember to remove my wedding ring next time I attempt to do so. Everything falls, everything dies, pulped, rotting, but ready to live again…at least I’ve got the Sanderson sisters to keep me company as the evenings draw in…Bravo again!
hot meals for the mind!’ Fabulous phrasing Film Authority! There are several fairly good/accurate movies about Chief Joseph’s trek and wisdom. More on gloriously creepy Laurel Canyon coming up in next chapter of Act of Ambition…Yep, even with gutter guard, those pesky leaves find ways of staying…