September 21, 2017

Halloween was there, right on the periphery, the whole day.

I'm writing this at midnight in a hotel in New Jersey. The inevitable has happened. I've had my least Halloween day of the season. Today was an office day, so I woke up, drove into the office, spent the day there, and then right after, I and two of my colleagues jumped into a car and drove almost six hours to Princeton, in the Springsteen State. We have a meeting hereabouts in the morning.

Nothing Halloween happened the entire time.

But there were hints.

I passed a banner for a haunted hayride. It was stretched onto the side of a trailer on a rise above the highway in Massachusetts. It's there all year-round. I've posted about it before. It was one bookend

The other bookend was in New Jersey, a sign for a Spirit store, bright orange with the cowled skeleton mascot on it that by this time in the Halloween timeline should have his own Halloween special.

We passed about ten miles from Sleepy Hollow. I saw a highway sign for the Tappan Zee Bridge. I could feel my usual draw to place. I'm hoping to get down there for a day or two this season. 

I'm also, right now as I write this, only four miles from Grover's Mill, site of a monument dedicated to Orson Welles and his 1938 Halloween radio broadcast of The War of the Worlds. Welles chose Grover's Mill as the site of the alien landing in his Americanized version, and the town has memorialized their place in pop culture. The memorial was one of the first oddities I visited for OTIS. Unfortunately, my schedule won't allow me to revisit on this trip. We're headed back to New England right after the meeting.

No Halloween today, but I could feel it at the edges of my vision, trying its hardest to ooze its way in. It'll be there, ready, tomorrow, springloaded in a closet or wafting from the mouth of one of our plastic Jack-o-lanterns when I return.

September 20, 2017

I love what happens to grocery store entrances
this time of year.

Pumpkin bread and Party City. That was the Halloween side of my day today. My wife made the bread. I never know where I stand on pumpkin or pumpkin spice or whatever. I don't dislike it, but I also don't go out of my way for it. All I really crave about that stuff is the word "pumpkin" itself and images of bright orange globes on packaging. I want every product to have those on it this time of year. But her pumpkin bread was pretty fantastic. After work, I took the girls to check out the Halloween Annex in town. It's a Spirit-like store that, I'm hoping, has stuff that I haven't seen anywhere else. Surprisingly, it wasn't opening until next week. That felt kind of...refreshing.

To salvage the trip, though, we pretty much did the same thing my youngest and I did yesterday in that we just continued to the adjacent stores. First, we hit up Party City next door. Just to casually browse, although my eldest does need werewolf hands to go with her werewolf mask. That's going to be her Halloween costume this year. After that we hit up a grocery store called Market Basket. Market Basket never has a holiday section, but they always have a wide variety of seasonal stuff. They just works those items in throughout the store, which makes it a lot of fun to find and inspired the Grocery Store Scavenger Haunt I did five seasons back.

I meant to mention yesterday that I received in the mail the auction catalog for Debbie Reynolds' estate sale. She had quite a collection of movie memorabilia, both from her career and just in general. But you know what I didn't see in there? Anything from her Halloween Town movies. Ha.

The past few days have been gray and overcast and rainy. My yard is covered in mushrooms. The season feels right. I'm just waiting now for the forest around my house to start changing colors.

September 19, 2017

This doesn't need a caption, right?

Honestly, today, I didn't think I'd get more Halloween out of the day than the T-shirt I threw on in the morning. The above "I'm with Creepy" T-shirt. I'm not a big fan of this T-shirt. In fact, I usually like my T-shirts plain or, at the very least, unobtrusive, but this was a drunk purchase. Half of my wardrobe is a drunk purchase. But I still wear it all because it pushes laundry day that much further down the line.

The payoff for this shirt came later in the evening. Lindsey and my eldest took off for most of the evening, leaving myself and my youngest. My youngest is a hellion. She's three years old. Just yesterday, she hid in the kitchen closet for a good ten minutes waiting for someone to open it. That someone was Lindsey, who was treated to a tiny child with her eyes squeezed shut holding a rubber spider in the air bigger than her two hands combined. Lindsey panicked appropriately, much to the delight of my three-year-old, and ensuring that we would need to check closets for the rest of the season. I mean, scaring people makes sense. But being so dedicated to it, you'll hide in a closet for ten minutes...at three years old? I'm like Casey Jones. Total trouble ahead.

Anyway, the payoff was that I needed to run a quick errand to Staples, so I took my youngest with me. It was in a strip mall. On a whim, we went to the adjacent stores in the strip mall. The first was an A.C. Moore. Tragically, the Halloween stuff had been constricted to one aisle, and a staff member was putting up Christmas in the other aisles that for the past few weeks had been dedicated to Halloween. This is our fault, people. Getting interested in Halloween in August. Our fault. 

After that store, we meandered to the next store, a Whole Foods--a grocery store I rarely visit because it doesn't stock any of my comfort brands.

But there I came upon Pumpkin Pie Soda, which I haven't seen since a 2011 trip to Salem. I picked up a pack after ogling all the cool pumpkin beers that will just never be a part of my season because I can't drink beer. Wine? Bring it on. Cocktails? I'll ruin my life over those. But beer just tastes wretched to me.

After a while, I realized that the strange looks I was noticing from the people around me weren't the usual "Aw shucks, a father and his daughter" looks that I'm used to when I take one of my kids out. This time, it was because my youngest was holding my left hand the entire time, meaning the "I'm with Creepy" shirt was aimed right at her.

Later, we ran into the neighbors when we went to get our trash bin at the base of our driveway. The only relevant bon mot here is that I warned them about the 12-foot-tall inflatable ghost we'd be erecting soon. They seemed fine with it.

After I put my three-year-old to bed, I basically tied loose ends. I packed up the ARCs to mail for the recent Death and Douglas giveaway, took photos of a book for a future OTIS Halloween Season post, practiced one of my upcoming talks, and just made tonight as productive as possible.

Sometimes it feels good to break the "Halloween candy and a horror movie" routine we often find ourselves trapped in on week nights during the Halloween Season.

September 18, 2017

Come hang out with me in my living room, guys.

All right. A satisfying day, ya'll. A satisfying day. Nothing too big. After work, we finally got our decorations 100% up...at least on the interior of the house. We also plan on doing some exterior decorations, really for the first time ever. We'll wait for October for that...or at least until the neighbors start.

Speaking of Halloween decorating, we also set up the AtmosFX for the last few photos I need to tell you about that Halloween machine. We've had a lot of fun with that thing. Almost sad to have to post the article.

Finally, we were ready to watch a movie...last year's Tales of Halloween.

But first, the ritual.

See, all the decorations being up meant that now we had to flip switches, light candles, and turn on power strips until everything that could possibly do so glowed in our murky living room. We actually have half of the lights on a remote this year, so it cuts down on the work (it's not really a ritual I need that bad). Makes me really want smart homes to happen so that I can program one voice command to do it all for me: "Alexa, hit the Halloween."

With everything flaming and flickering and twinkling, we settled into the couch, and turned on the movie. Tales of Halloween is an anthology movie. I didn't catch it last year, but, man, I'll probably catch it every year from here on out. Such a lot of fun, that movie was. I wasn't expecting it to be, honestly. The segments were more numerous and shorter than your average horror anthology flick, so they never wore out their welcome and, in many cases, left us wanting more. A lot of Halloween creativity in this movie. Some really good gags. Some really good twists. Some really good ambiance.

Now, I'm ending the night taking screencaps of Boris Karloff movies, listening to Weird Al's Nature Trail to Hell, and in general just winding myself down to see what the season holds for us tomorrow.

Hopefully, it'll be a severed head or a handful of candy corn. Either one works.

September 17, 2017

The opening shot of the horror movie.

As prophesied, today started out hot and summery. We fought this by staying indoors as much as we could. We worked on our interior Halloween decorations (we're like 75% of the way there), and then we went to play Monster Mini-Golf, an indoor, black-lit putt-putt course full of monsters. It's a year-round thing, and they have 'em in 13 states (plus Alberta, Canada). I've never played one before. Always meant to, and always knew I'd time it for a Halloween Season. We had a blast, but possibly under the only conditions we could have had a blast at a putt-putt course. But I'll reserve that explanation for the OTIS Halloween Season article.

Later in the day, we kind of just gave in to summer. My wife had a family photo shoot on a beach in Kittery, Maine. That's about an hour or so from our house. So we decided to go with her. Let the kids play on the beach while she did her clickety index-finger thing. The kids love the beach, and the only reason we feel bad for raising them in New England is that the beaches are too cold and rocky for them to have real beach-type fun. Which just happens to be the way me and Lindsey love beaches.

But then we got to Kittery, and we found ourselves in a Scooby Doo episode. The temps had dropped to the mid-60s. There was a thick fog that almost completely hid the ocean. A crumbling fort perched on a bluff and overlooked an old pier and the pieces of an older one. It was low tide, so the shoreline was bumpy and ragged with monstrous-looking rocks and seaweed. And we did find a monster. But I'll reserve those words for an OTIS Halloween Season article, as well. 

The best way to sum up today is that it was a two-poster for OTIS. And that means a good day. Like an Ice Cube-level good day. 

September 16, 2017

Sorry. I know this is an awful photo to look at, but it seemed
repetitive to have two days in a row of Boris.

Today was the one year anniversary of the death of my mother. I only say that because it becomes relevant later in this entry, and I feel like it's a statement that should be said up front instead of inserted later on.

I woke up this morning to an awful summer day. Like ninety degrees, sticky, a real Halloween Season mood killer. Lindsey was away most of the day on a shoot, so it was just me and the girls. I had some good options for autumning the day up. There was a small carnival one town over. I also had a nice, short route that incorporated two graveyards that I'd been meaning to get to. Even had a short hike into carnivorous plant territory on the potential docket. But the heat just really beat me up, and I couldn't muster the enthusiasm to muster the enthusiasm in the kids. Eventually we did get out of the house, but we only went a few miles away, to a park repurposed out of an old zoo. It's a way cool place, and I've written about it before on OTIS.

On the way back, Thriller came on my Halloween CD mix, and it perked up my daughters' interest, so I promised to show them the video when we got back. And I did. I pulled up YouTube on the TV, got as far as Michael Jackson Were-catting out, and then just dropped deep into Sandman territory. By the time I woke up, one of my daughters was sitting on top of me and the other was covered in fruit snack wrappers, and they were finishing up The Book of Life. At least they stayed in brand for my family.

Lindsey returned later that night and, once the kids were asnooze, she pulled out the bottle of gin that she'd picked up on the way home. We then settled into the couch amidst our still-unfinished Halloween decorations and had a sequel night to last season's Gin and Boris. I don't know if I'll do this every year to commemorate mom's death, but it seemed right this time. I'll be writing about it soon.

Tomorrow's supposed to be another summer day. Maybe if I can pretend I'm melting in the center of a giant jack-o-lantern, I'll be able to take it better. Doubtful, though. Tomorrow's entry will probably be about watching Summer School in swim trunks with a giant green and pink wedge of watermelon in my hands.

September 15, 2017

Two Boris heads are better than one.

Man, great night tonight. Right after work, we took off, got some food, and headed to Target and Michael's to pick up some Halloween decorations. Like I've mentioned, this is our first Halloween in this house, and our decorations from my previous house just don't quite fit. Basically, we've got some jack-o-lantern-shaped holes to fill.

Target's stock was pretty much as expected, except they have a line this year called Monsterville that includes decor and costumes based on classic Universal Studios monsters. It was a complete time warp (to a time I've never lived through) to see kid's costumes of the Wolfman and the Gill-man and decorations featuring Boris Karloff's face in a modern department store aisle. We picked up some plastic jack-o's and a black serving tray made from a Ouija board. 

No surprises really at Micheal's. Here we were looking for candles and cheesecloth and a few other mood makers, although we had to avert our eyes from the burgeoning Christmas stock. The best thing we bought here, I think, was a set of cardboard bats with LEDs affixed to them. You stick them to your wall, and then the lights are reflected off the wall and surrounded the bat, kind of like a back-lit sconce. That wording probably didn't at all give you any visual picture. Sorry.

Usually, we just kind of window-shop Halloween decorations. It's more the activity of seeing what's out than a purposeful act of consumerism. As a result, when we see things we kind like, we never know whether we should buy it or not. And that's because we kind of like every Halloween decoration and are never sure if we need yet another thing. 

This time, we knew exactly what we needed and were invigorated by how full our shopping carts were.

This weekend, we'll finish up the decorations, and then I'll post some photos to the blog. 

When we got home, we re-watched Idle Hands from 1999, an entertaining little Halloween flick that's almost a time capsule of the 1990s. For some reason, Rotten Tomatoes gives it a 16% on the Tomatometer. I mean, it has its issues, but no way should it be that low. It's a fun movie that doesn't have a single scene in it that isn't Halloween-y.

I have a few options for wrapping up tonight. Maybe I'll put together a new post. Or work on a presentation for an upcoming talk. Maybe I'll descend into the basement to construct a little set for the next OTIS Halloween video (a Strange Stuff from My Study one). If you never hear from me again, know I died doing what I loved.

September 14, 2017

I should draw red vein lines on these things
and really theme these suckers.

Today I drove into the office. It's in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Depending on traffic, that could be between two and four hours of commute time, round trip. But that's fine. I only have to do it like once a week. And this time of year, I have the antiques pictured above sitting on my dashboard ready to go to murder that commute. They're called Compact Discs. Sometimes CDs. They hold music. And they can be played in 12-year-old cars with 205,000 miles on them, especially if the owner splurged back in 2005 and bought one with a six-CD changer in it to impress the babes.

This is my Halloween music collection. Well, half of it. I think Discs II and III are under the floor mats somewhere. Except that today, I didn't listen to them. It was kind of hot outside and miles away from the Halloween nest that is my house, so I wasn't really in the right mood. Plus I had some horror movie podcasts to catch up on. Post Mortem with Mick Garris and Shockwaves from Blumhouse.

But next time, I'm sure these shiny flat things will do their thing for me. And when they do, I'll be treated to hours and hours of Halloween music culled from websites and YouTube and my own stash of music. Sure, these days, you can call up a Halloween playlist on any streaming site just by speaking into the air. But you'll miss out on a lot. I mean, they'll give you the important stuff--Thriller, Werewolves of London, This is Halloween, Monster Mash, Rocky Horror, but there's so much more to slide down the spirals of your ear canal during this time of year.

My Halloween music falls into three categories:

1) Horror Movie Theme Songs. Everything from Little Shop of Horrors to Killer Klowns from Outer Space to Alice Cooper's The Man Behind the Mask from Friday the 13th Part VI and Pet Sematary by The Ramones.

2) Novelty Stuff: This could be anything from Elvira's oeuvre to that one album Freddy Krueger put out or songs from Halloween specials like Garfield's Halloween Adventure.

3) Pop Music: Examples here include Rockwell's Somebody's Watching Me, Oingo Boingo's Dead Man's Party, Rob Zombie's Halloween (That's When She Gets so Mean), and most anything by the Misfits or Screamin' Jay Hawkins or Screaming Lord Sutch.

A fourth category that I haven't quite gotten into yet is that dark mood music-type stuff with instrumentals and synth and electronica...unless it's in on a horror movie soundtrack. No reason, I don't think. Possibly because I like my Halloween music on the fun and/or embarrassing side.

Anyway, spending so much time in my car, my evening at home was foreshortened as a result. We did squeeze in another spooky Murder, She Wrote. This time one where a man who runs a haunted attraction tries to talk Jessica into lending her name to a murder mansion idea he has before getting murdered himself in a locked room mystery.

Now I'm writing a future Halloween post while burning a Forbidden Apple Yankee candle that I found only half-spent in the Halloween decorations that we pulled from the basement.

It's kind of like a dead man's party.

September 13, 2017

The kid who shows up in this costume on Halloween
goes in my will.

Tonight, Lindsey had dinner plans with a friend. That meant I was left to my own devious devices once the kids were abed. And that meant one of two paths: One, watch a horror movie I'd be embarrassed to watch with her due its silliness, its potential to disturb, or its general unknowness. Two, turn it into a productive night of writing Halloween posts, planning Halloween activities, and prepping for my upcoming public appearances. Either option is equally enjoyable and totally Halloween-y, especially when you add in scented candles and autumn booze. So it was a toss up.

I know. You're like that girl in the taco commercial, "Why not both?" I'm just not that disciplined. I'm either passive or active. Not both in sequence. But to prep for either path, I ran out before she left and picked up some hard cider, a box of Little Debbie Bat Brownies, and some whipped cream vodka. The latter because hard cider and cupcake vodka is one of the best fall concoctions out there, and whipped cream vodka was the closest substitute that my liquor store stocked. It's not a great substitute.

Once I'd settled in, I settled on the movie option. I picked the 1973 film Sssssss, which is the story of a man, played by Dirk Benedict, who gets transformed into a snake by a mad herpetology-obsessed scientist. I picked this flick for two reasons. One, I'd always wanted to watch it, but never had the chance. Two, I wanted to test the limits of my voice-activated remote. Turns out, when I hissed into the remote, it didn't understand what I wanted. But when I said "S" seven times, it pulled the movie right up like it was hoping I'd watch it. Voice recognition software has officially surpassed the human ear as of this experiment. Tell the world.

Sidebar Dirk Benedict story. I met him once in Florida at the only science fiction convention I've ever attended. It was either in St. Pete or Tampa. He was hawking a book on some organic diet he'd developed. And when I showed up at his table with my black-and-white photo of him as Starbuck in the original (and then only) Battlestar Galactica to get autographed, he asked me, "Do you want to buy a book?" I responded (and this is a direct quote), "I don't really read books." I was at the time pursuing an English degree and wanted to be a writer. But that's all I could come up with in the face of Face. I'll forget various important moments of my life, but I'll always remember that. I still have the autograph.

My wife and her friend got back earlier than I expected, so I paused the movie in horror (and finished it later in the night, thoroughly, thoroughly enjoying it), and we all just hung out together in the light of the still-unfinished Halloween decorations, drinking hard cider laced with the wrong vodka, and chatting. We made her try the pumpkin wine. She hated it.

I'm not a gregarious person, but hanging out in a warm orange glow with cider lips and friends...that's the goal of everything.

September 12, 2017

It's not easy bein' Halloweeny.

I'm only on Day 2 of this die-ary, and I can already feel some of the disconnect between it and my life. For the week days, at least. Those are always going to be Jekyll and Hyde. I spend more than half the day working for my day job, so things don't get Halloweeny until the eagle screams around 5:00 or so. Well, except for today when colleagues noticed the human skeleton behind me on a video call. I work from home a lot.

Tonight we messed around a little with at AtmosFX digital decorating kit. The company sent me one a couple of weeks back to see if I'd be interested in reviewing it on the Halloween Blog. After playing around with it, I totally am going to review it. This thing is way cool. I'll write about it soon.

After projecting serial killers and monsters on our windows, we grabbed some Halloween-packaged Cheetos, and settled in to watch...a spooky episode of Murder, She Wrote. Lindsey and I are on a kick of watching Halloween-flavored eps of old series. I think I like to do that more than watch Halloween or horror movies, honestly. Seeing regular shows transform into Halloween eps is the magic of the season. Feels like more of an event than just a movie made for the season is. And, believe it or not, Jessica Fletcher has had to solve quite a few mysteries involving witches and ghosts and things that go murder in the night. I'd go more into the ep we watched tonight, but I'm half-considering doing an OTIS post on all of them.

I also did some writing. I finished up a upcoming OTIS Halloween post and created a page for my public appearances this season. So, productive in addition to festive (and, yes, Cheetos, Angela Lansbury, and a projector are festive when they all come costumed for Halloween).

Another spooky night over. They go fast, man.

September 11, 2017

Our in-progress living room fireplace.

So I hit post on the inaugural 2017 OTIS Halloween Season, grabbed a bottle of Harpoon pumpkin cider, and headed downstairs to watch the last fifteen minutes of 976-EVIL because by then everybody in my house was in bed and I suddenly realized that I started that movie five months ago and never got around to finishing it. Actually, I first probably started it in 1997, but whatever. 

That whole scene is my version of me walking off into the sunset after I saved the town from the bandits who killed my father.

Of course, going live wasn't as smooth as all that. I thought I'd set up everything to be four keystrokes from done, but I'd forgotten a bunch of stuff and messed a bunch of other stuff up, so it was more like 400 keystrokes. Still, I ended the night calmly, the open windows inviting a cool breeze from the black night, while I sat surrounded by our unfinished Halloween decorations and a demon Stephen Geoffries leering at me from my television screen while making a joke about hell freezing over.

I really do love this time of year.

1 comment:

  1. Daily updates from my personal Halloween Season...