Frankenfish and an Amaretto Sour

September 29, 2023 — I celebrated a long Halloween before this current, more solitary part of my life. Before my family. Before I started OTIS. In theory, it shouldn’t be impossible to shift back into that version of me and that type of celebration. Of course, that version of me was fumbling at all aspects of life, including Halloween. I was constantly dropping jack-o-lanterns to splat on the sidewalk as I tried to figure out why I had this annual instinct to throw bats on the walls and shove monster cereal in my mouth.

The problem is, I mostly perfected my Halloween Season during the last fifteen years. During what was apparently a mere phase of my life instead of it being my actual life. Or, maybe another way to think about it is that the season became the most meaningful to me during this phase. It might even be inextricably linked to this phase. I really hate the word phase. People shouldn’t be phases. But the point is, when you have a crew celebrating with you every second, it’s hard to go back to Billy Idol’ing with myself.

What’s that? You want an example of the fumbling? Sure, why not.

I remember one night, in my mid-twenties, I decided to take advantage of a cool, smoky night in October to watch a horror movie and make an autumn cocktail. Super simple. One of the basic building blocks of any Halloween Season.

What went on next was the least autumn night of my life.

I was living in a small, beat-up apartment in a small, beat-up town on the railroad tracks. I remember sitting in a chair across from a four-foot-tall, three-foot-thick tube TV. Not in a relaxing, couch potato kind of way, but more like one of us was the police detective and the other handcuffed to the table kind of way. This TV was a monster. A real presence in both my apartment and my life. It was so big it seemed like the actors from any movie I watched were actually in the box performing live.

And the actors I chose for this particular night were the ones from the 2004 movie Frankenfish.
This is not that night. This is not that apartment. But it is that TV.

It was the wrong movie to go with, of course, despite the name. Unless you subscribe to the more nuanced teachings of the alchemist Paracelsus: that there is no such thing as a wrong movie. But it was Frankenfish. It was probably the wrong movie no matter the context. I chose it because I was living in Maryland at the time and the movie’s titular monsters were based on an invasion of walking, breathing, three-feet-long fish called northern snakeheads that were discovered in a pond in Maryland in 2002. Plus the nature-run-amok event made me nostalgic for the killer bees and acid rain stories of my youth. That sounds like something Gomez Addams would say.

But anyway, it was the wrong movie, Paracelsus be damned. It had zero of the atmosphere I needed that night. I mean, it would have been fine maybe as part of a summer movie marathon, squeezed in between the 1972 flick Frogs and maybe the 1976 Squirm. But when you’re trying to summon the spirit of Samhain, it’ll turn down a sacrifice of Frankenfish flat.

Maybe a drink would help.

I tried to make an Amaretto sour. That felt Fall enough without getting cutesy. But I chose a complicated version of it that I found online. With confectioner’s sugar and all. And I made it while watching the movie to more wed the two elements of my night.

It was a mess of a make, though, powdered sugar everywhere, the drink never tasting right, my hands all sticky from the black cherry juice.

I also don’t remember a single thing about the movie. I could even be wrong about the title. It could be Snakehead Terror, which was released the same year as Frankenfish.

Whatever, I just ended the night yucky and showering off cocktail ingredients with a spooky movie itch still unscratched. No autumn-scented Yankee Candle was going to rescue that night. So I went to bed, consoled with the knowledge that at least nobody would ever know about it.