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Swapping out the Past for Pumpkins [Oct. 19th, 2012|02:21 pm]
So, it’s that time of year…where I swap out one consume-every-shred-of-free-time activity for another, in rapid succession. One exercises my being on stage, the other exercises my making stuff for stage. So, while it might seem as if there isn’t really any difference – still going to be damned if I can find free time for such essentials such as cleaning, yardwork, laundry, shaving the necessary hours of sleep to keep myself upright and healthy – it’s a major shift of brain gears and that’s refreshing enough.

Besides, you all know what happens when I have free time!

Er, no, actually, no one does really. I’d probably self-destruct. Give me a tropical paradise for a week and I’ve got to snorkel everything worth snorkeling, take hikes, go bird/critter watching, eat as many different local foods as possible, and see just how many books I can plow through. I relax HARD.

But the maples are doing their best to be as crimson as the Mid-Atlantic will let them, and leaving the bedroom window open a crack is leaving me with a cold nose and three cats snuggled up against me, and it’s time for me to get a new hot-glue gun burn scar and destroy some beloved item of clothing by being clumsy with spray paint.

Tromping up and down the stairs to do laundry, I’ve been noticing a slight off smell to the outside room (also known as the unheated room where things go when I can’t find space downstairs or upstairs) and I was a little concerned. I mean, I have a new roof, for crying out loud, so I know it’s not some dead raccoon, or other critter, and the smell just wasn’t escalating fast enough for a medium sized mammal. And it seemed a little vegetal. But each day it was getting slightly more pungent, now verging on almost meaty and still I didn’t have a spare second to hunt it down.

Okay, and honestly, I wasn’t sure I wanted to find it. That’s the thing you learn about a dead rat stuck inside the barn wall. Eventually, you can wait it out and the smell will go away. The waiting, however…ick.

But yesterday, I finally DID have a few minutes…what could it be….and suddenly I looked around a box and there it was, the pumpkin I bought a week and a half ago and put out here, thinking that the cooler temperatures would help it keep better. (Outside, it’s just squirrel food.) But it looked fine. Did it have a rotten spot? I lifted it up by the stem and KERSPLAT. The expletive had rotted out on the bottom and when I picked it up (Note to self, skill I need to learn: GINGERLY) the whole rotting liquefied insides went splattering and splottering all over me and half the room. Awesome. Let me tell you, you know how bad a rotten potato smells? (No? On your knees now, child and thank a deity I don’t believe in, because it’s AWFUL.) A rotten pumpkin isn’t quite as bad…but unlike a potato, a fifteen pound pumpkin sort of makes up for it in volume of stench.

But I got it cleaned up in time for the neighborhood Halloween meeting. And here, this is why I love my neighborhood and why I do this thing, despite the fact that once again, it’s a lot of work to throw a party, essentially, for a bunch of strangers and even DURING the party I’m still working. The ability to eke shreds of joy out of a granite mountain of hard work: my superpower. “Well, this is FUN, isn’t it?” she hissed, teeth clenched so hard they splintered. Anyway – here are some moments of joy –frontloaded joy – that make all the later stuff enjoyable…bearable. Whatever. Beats a meth addiction.

So, I’m managed to clean up the Pumpkin of Doom, but the smell is sort of clinging and threatening to waft into the living room where I’m about to the meeting, so I light candles everywhere and put a large box of fabric softener sheets on the stairs in between the rotting pumpkin scented room and the living room, like some kind of scent talisman to keep the evil pumpkins of the night at bay. And cheese and crackers are ready, wine’s ready, ice bucket, glasses, and just as everyone’s scheduled to arrive, Spike dashes into the litterbox and lays down…you guessed it, Poop of Doom. (Long story short, ZombieGeezerCat = needing to have a litterbox in the kitchen.) So, there I am lid of the box open, frantically trying to bag the Poop of Doom so that my guests aren’t surrounded by stereo-olfactory Eau de Doom. And just as I’m rooting around in the litter box, knock, knock, knock, in comes the first set of neighbors. But you know what, they’re the kind of neighbors who find it funny as hell when you say “Oh, thank god, it’s just you” understanding that’s a compliment…nor not caring. And in any case, right onto pouring you a glass of wine before you can even get the lid of the litterbox back on. Because, they KNOW how it is.

And several other neighbors trickle in and you start talking about the logistics of moving 2000 kids through your yard in three hours, without destroying your lawn and your birdbath and the astilbes that the summer drought probably already killed, thank you very much. And just how much candy IS 2000 pieces and the answer is, a LOT. More than you would think. You’ll look at 1500 pieces and say, oh, no, that’s got to be plenty. That’s like half the candy in the world….but it’s NOT. And there’s just no way you can explain it to new people on the block. You try, but words just can’t quite encompass it. They just have to live it. And run out of candy, or friends, or wine, or candy-ladling strength. And then they’re ready for the next year. Now they get it. And join in the reindeer fun when you explain the importance of cheap candy. Not fun-size, but bite-size, or even better, not-much-fun-size.

And you begin the meeting, starting with the logistics of the bamboo harvest – very handy for making impromptu fences, barriers, poles, and using the foliage to camouflage the ugly truth that the dragon has no body, just a head, and ditto the gorilla, and many other partial creatures. Bamboo being bamboo, in the mid-atlantic, there is no shortage of neighbors who are grateful to let you take whatever you want, and really only wish you’d pull it out by the rhizome next time. Usually the same day as the great bamboo harvest, which does involve some trucks, but also kids parading down the streets dragging big bamboo branches behind them, usually in their little rubber boots, and even makes my shriveled prune ovaries smile just a bit. Part of their reward is then the great sewer tour.

Yes, we put the kids to work and then send them down into the sewers as a reward. And also use the words Great and Doom a lot. It’s that kind of a neighborhood.

To be fair, they’re actually storm drains and relatively speaking clean and safe. And more importantly run all under our neighborhood, mostly tall enough for at least middleschoolers to stand upright in. We adults go down there to set up a little scenario in one section, where there’s a ledge that will hold dummies or other props. But, hey, as long as we’re down there, it’s the kids’ chance to do a little creepy supervised rampaging. Which lead to one of your neighbors saying “Well, if I’m not in ForeignCountry that Saturday, I’ll help with the bamboo and take the kids on the sewer tour.” Which is a combination of concepts that you just don’t hear every day.

Topped not long afterwards during a discussion about why said neighbor would be in ForeignCountry, when we started joking about smuggling Halloween props out of said country “Well, the problem with trying to smuggle ghouls out of ForeignCountry is that on the plane, the snipers take up all of the overhead luggage space, because you just can’t stow those guns under the seats.” Which is even funnier when delivered completely deadpan…and when you realize that “ghoul” is the only unlikely word in that sentence.

Again, only in DC, really…

And of course, we couldn’t let Binders of Women pass us by, so we jumped on plans to add that to Lovecraft’s Produce Stand, and agreed to skip putting balloons out in the cones at the end of the street. That was my contribution to the odd body of knowledge that lives on our street, knowing that there’s a global helium shortage. Well, to be more accurate, like the bacon shortage, there’s enough…it’s just going to be much more expensive and a bit of a seller’s market in the short run; for helium, maybe for much longer.

Although honestly, I’m glad of an excuse to skip the balloons, as this event is completely about faith in humanity, and how a bunch of people can just get together, decide to do something for no other reason than because it’s fun and they get joy out of creating fun for others. So, when we put two dozen balloons out in the cones at the end of the street to add a little touch of festive….and several self-centered expletives decide that clearly we’ve put there so that they could cut them down and give them their monstrously spoiled spawn…well, it chaps my humanityfaith, which is tenuous at best. Let’s NOT poke the atheist misanthrope, all right?

And now it begins. Boxes of candles and eyes and cheesecloth are being delivered to the house. Yards of Velcro (hey, it’s the easiest way to put up and store tombstones and stakes), plaster of Paris, large Styrofoam balls. Testing of fog machines, strobe lights and flicker lights.

I love this.