Wednesday, October 29, 2008

"All the leaves on the trees are falling to the sound of the breezes that blow..."

It's late October and Autumn is in free-fall.  There was a week at the end of September when it was in the 70s, then during the night a switch was thrown and the next day the temperature dropped 15 degrees.  Since then we've been bumping along in the 50s and high 40s.  Last night the news reported 12 inches of snow in New Jersey, which is south of here.  However, the arrival of Fall is obvious even without considering the temperature.  Just look at the trees, the women and the houses.

The trees are doing that thing that trees in the American North-East are meant to do and turning orange and red.  I'm sure Vermontians would say that New York tree colour is a tawdry brown compared to the spectacular firework display of their maples, but they look pretty good to me.

I took a few photos across the river to the Palisades, but I think the zoom may have washed out the tones a little.  Certainly this photo of less distant trees is more vibrant.

Note for Sopranos fans, the Palisades are a line of cliffs along the Western side of the Lower Hudson.  They get a mention in the New Jersey mob series when Tony Soprano suggests that his demented Uncle Junior can wander off the cliffs.  However, these photos are taken at the Northen end of the  Palisades, near my house but away from Tony and Paulie Walnuts.

The women have signalled the end of Summer by moving their rain boots to the front of the closet.  Whenever it rains, the commuting women of New York take to wearing what I would describe as welly boots.  Not the plain black or green welly boots of England, however.  All the welly boots here are patterned with flowers, or spots, or stripes or paisley.  Each pair as individual as any other item of clothing.  In England, these sort of boots are reserved for children, and it is a sign of increasing maturity that you outgrow your colourful wellies and accept the uniform dullness of the standard boot.  Americans don't seem to do uniform dullness.

UK boots                                                   US boots

As for the houses, well Americans are of course the World's greatest consumers and they embrace any holiday as an excuse to buy stuff and use it to decorate the front yard.  Halloween is not a holiday, but it is a great excuse to buy plastic ghosts, scarecrows and pumpkins and arrange them around the front of your house.  Like, um, this:

I knew Halloween was a popular event in America, but I didn't realise quite how popular.  In someways it's bigger than Christmas, as Christmas is a Christian holiday, whereas Halloween is celebrated by
pagans everybody.

Son Number One's school is holding a parade on Halloween.  All the children will bring a costume and then march around the school grounds in front of the parents.

Il Capo took the children to a party shop to choose costumes.  It was a kind of modern-day Argos, in that there were no pens or form-filling.  One long wall was covered in photos of the costumes.  When you have made your choice you tell an assistant and he radios the guys in the back room who bring it out to you.  Son Number One picked a Spiderman outfit and Bagpuss will be a spider.

To generate a little ectoplasmic spirit we went to a couple of local events the last two weekends.  First was Legends at Philipsburg Manor in Sleepy Hollow, which is the setting for Washington Irving's story about the Headless Horseman - The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.  We all wandered around the grounds in the dark and met various period characters.  There was a story-teller who talked about local ghosts and tales of Ichabod Crane.  We listened to him for twenty minutes before Bagpuss began to rebel against the enforced silence so we moved on.  When we left he was showing no signs of flagging or repeating himself.  There was also a musician singing songs of murder and a few of the ghouls mentioned by the story-teller were wandering around, including the Horseman himself.  He was headless, and for reasons that slipped by me, waving a pumpkin.

We followed that up last week by visiting Blaze at Van Cortlandt Manor .  This is simply a display of carved pumpkins.  The interest comes from the quantity of pumpkins - there were over 4,000 - and the quality of the carving.  The images were created by not just cutting holes, but by also by leaving varying thicknesses of pumpkin skin to alter the amount of light that shone through.  Again we wandered the grounds of an old house in the dark, this time moving from tableaux to tableaux, each rendered in orange fleshy vegetables.  It's kind of hard to explain, but basically there were dinosaurs, pirates and fairies as well as a scene from Thriller all made from piled pumpkins.

Suitably inspired, the next day we took our knives to our own brace of 25 pounders and created the works of art in the photo above which I think all will agree would not look out of place in the Louvre.

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