Majestic October: Month of Months


Written by Bruce and Robert (but rejected) for the California magazine column "Best of California" sometime back in like '81, '82. (It was typed on an IBM Selectric, I can tell you that much.) Bruce eventually ran it, slightly retooled, in the L.A. Weekly as part of a "Best of L.A." issue he edited, but I don't remember when that was, and you don't care, do you?

 
 

October is the coolest month. Not the coldest, just the month with the most on the ball. It's got the weather, it's got the holidays, it's got the World Series. And it's got it all over those other months. We know -- we've been through all of them. More times than we'd like.
Take February, April, June, September and November -- please. These so-called "months" have no more than 30 days each, and one has even less! (We don't have to tell you which month that is.) But mighty October has 31 different days. It's simple arithmetic: More is better.
"But wait a minute," you say. "There's other months with 31 days." What, like March? Come on! Sissy month! In like a lion, out like a -- what? -- that's right ... a lamb. A little lamb. And how about May? Almost as wimpy as March. Might be okay if it were called "Must," but it isn't. And July's when all the back-to-school sales start, and August is too hot and has a pretentious and utterly inappropriate name. And December and January -- sure, some nice holidays, a couple parades -- but, hey, it's really cold!
Not in October. Suspended twixt solstice and equinox in a warp of climatic perfection, October, like the baby bear's porridge, is neither too hot nor too cold -- it's "just right."
Every schoolchild knows the old saw, "As the weather goes, so goes California." And as California's frolic factor increases dramatically through the tenth month's cavalcade of days, each somehow more congenial than the one before, multifaceted October confronts leisure-happy Californians with an awesome array of activities.
October! Promoter of domestic vivacity! Beach-weary families find fun in their very own backyards. A chef's hat, a piece of meat, and wow! It's a barbecue! Santa Ana winds sweep in over the mountains, scattering paper plates and napkins into pools still warm enough for a few well-placed cannonballs through autumn's first floating layer of fallen leaves. No swimming after lunch, but here in the intersection of America's greatest sports seasons it's neither too early to hurl the pigskin nor too late to swat the horsehide. And if some errant missile should breach the neighbors' fence, no problem! They're having a barbecue, too!
October! A month for love! As crickets chirp their amorous ostinato, young lovers are lured out under the palms by the balmy evening. Puckish gods of love and weather nudge them closer with a subtle chilly breeze that hints of cooler days to come. Shine on, harvest moon, shine on these paramours, and while you're at it shine on that field of pumpkins -- we ain't had no pumpkin in January, February, June or July!
Yes, in this month of orange splendor, pumpkins, God's gift to the economically disadvantaged gourmet, can be had for as little as one cent a pound. Pumpkin pudding, pumpkin pie, pumpkin custard, pumpkin bread, pumpkin soup, pumpkin ice cream and just plain old pumpkin.... Mmmmm! But don't call your sweetheart "pumpkin" in the month of October -- at least not while you're holding the carving knife.
And it's a great month for TV. All the new shows get canceled. It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown airs once again. And -- play ball! -- here comes the World Series into a million California living rooms.
But unstick yourself from that screen long enough to get social: October is party month! Marxists whoop it up in commemoration of the 1917 storming of the Winter Palace, and Lennonists gather in downtown Los Angeles around a life-size bronze replica of the late Beatle (born October 1940). Real and ersatz Germans hie themselves down to a panoply of real and ersatz Oktoberfests hosted by every bratskellar and theme park worth its salt -- plenty of those in entertainment-conscious California. Sleepy Glendale goes loco con mucho gusto for the Days of the Verdugos, a week of frantic fiesta-ing in honor of the town's 18th-century Spanish aristocratic heritage. And porciphiles from every corner of the state journey to exotic Yermo and the colorful Calico Ghost Town, on the banks of the perhaps once-raging Mojave River, where the revelry of Calico Days is capped by the perilous greased pig competition, in which modern-day gladiators wrestle slippery squealers in a battle that determines the primacy of man or swine.
But win, lose or draw in Yermo, by October 31 that gulf which separates men from swine has grown negligible, as humans eat apples out of buckets, squeal on doorsteps demanding food and generally make a big mess -- and it's all okay, 'cause it's just Halloween. Children the state over merrily dress in the guise of juvenile delinquents and vandals, festooning neighbors' houses with attractive egg and tissue paper designs.
The thoughtful Californian, however, will recognize that Halloween is only the second most important holiday in this best of all possible months. For without the man we honor on the 12th of October, where we we be? Not here. Without Christopher Columbus the world would still be flat, and there wouldn't even be a California, much less a California magazine, not to mention a "Best of California" -- right now you'd be reading "Best of Sumatra" or "Best of Zimbabwe" or "Best of Berwick-on-Tweed" and wearing a peaked hat or wooden shoes or decorative body scars. Think about that, Mr. and Ms. Laid-Back West Coast Lifestyle, when you're charbroiling those burgers 'round the hot tub, and the warm wind blows off the desert, and the harvest moon shines, and it's October.

 
 
 
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