It finally feels like fall. After having days that topped 80 degrees in October, it was a relief to have days where temperatures stayed mostly in the 50s. This past weekend it was time to get out and enjoy the weather somehow, and I was on a mission to keep my children entertained while my wife prepared our home for more entertaining.
A Pumpkin Patch and other attractions were available at the Queens Botanical Garden. After a late morning I managed to herd my children into a van and off we went.
After paying for parking and Garden admission and finding parking, we made a bee line for the pumpkin patch. My girls wanted pumpkins.
The attendant was a young woman in glasses whose high smiles and uplifted voice was thick with dramatic artifice, faux-professional and failing to mask the relish in every new financial kick in the teeth and bureaucratic inconvenienced layered on.
“I’m sorry, this receipt is for entering the Garden. There is a separate charge for entering the pumpkin patch…. And do you want to keep your pumpkins…. There is no re-entry… stroller parking is over there…. Please turn in your ticket to keep your pumpkin.”
In the end, I paid $17 to enter Queens Botanical Garden and another $42 to let three little girls pick up three small pumpkins. To be fair, advanced registration for the pumpkin patch was available online and I could have saved a few dollars; the attended gushed over the woman ahead of me in line who had done so. I refused to grumble or grouse and give the attendant the satisfaction of seeing me mad. I smiled my own high smile and ushered my children into the fenced-off area filled with pumpkins.
Inside the sanctioned patch area, lines of pumpkins made walking lanes and pumpkins were massed into different shapes and groupings. Bales of hay and other decorative displays were spread throughout as well. Volunteers in neon vests offered to take my picture with my kids, and we managed to pose for a decent photo.
A young man adorned in platform shoes and an outfit of leaves greeted us also. He had freckles painted on his face and an umbrella that was also lined with leaves. He took his photo with some of the other visitors there and one of our twins saw this and wanted her photo taken with the spritely personality as well. We patiently awaited our turn. While one of our kids was too shy, two of them posed for a photo on some bales of hay.
“Smile for Professor Pumpkin,” I told the girls, assigning this autumnal eccentric young man a name. “Is that OK to call you that?” I asked him, realizing he hadn’t given us a name and maybe I should check to see if he offered another.
“I’ll take that,” he said.
Professor Pumpkin showed the patience of a saint, as my daughter asked to pose for more and more photos. I thanked the young man for his time and we finally moved one.
While the pumpkins in the patch were relatively small, my kids were enthralled with the choices they had, and eventually, after they each chose one they found best, we left the pumpkin patch with our choices.
It would be easy to call this day a rip-off, and paying $42 for three small pumpkins is by most standard measures a massive overpayment. But what going to the pumpkin patch gave me was time with my children, and that is priceless. I leave for work when it is still dark and my kids are still asleep. I see them for dinner and then help put them to bed, and I ask them about their day while we are trying to eat and get them into pajamas. Most of my waking hours during the week are spent on things that take my mind off of the things that matter the most.
The pumpkin patch is a time to enjoy the season and time with family, and in the end that is time and money well spent.
Halloween season means a lot of things. It means that the coffee shops of Gotham are rancid with the odors of pumpkin spice. It means full-grown adults are planning to spend time and energy on Halloween costumes. It also means that horror punk fans can look forward to Misfits cover bands and tribute bands coming out of the woodwork to play shows.
For those not familiar, The Misfits pioneered the genre of horror punk in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Their songs are simple and fun and punk fans have enjoyed singing along to their “Whoa”- centric lyrics for many years. As such, punk musicians started forming Misfits cover bands and tribute bands so local fans can get their Misfits fix for Halloween.
Green Hell is the band that can bring a lot of fun and get a crowd to be drunker and louder than is necessary or normal Misfits songs led themselves to crowd participation. The annual Green Hell reunion became a favorite part of the fall season. The five of us would start messaging one another to try to schedule rehearsals and shows. We’ make time for fewer rehearsals than we thing we needed, spend a good portion of that rehearsal or rehearsals drinking and goofing around, and then play a few very fun shows anyway. Since we’ve been playing the songs for so long now, we do a pretty decent job despite ourselves, and are usually not as sloppy as the real Misfits.
Through over-commitment, habitual aggression, and a pure not-giving-a shit punk ethos, Green Hell became the vessel of pure, unadulterated fun that every band should aspire to. It was the highlight of the Halloween season for many of us.
Green Hell didn’t play last year. Our singer and drummer each moved out of town and too much other stuff has been going on. Two of us have kids now. It was the first year Green Hell didn’t play since the band’s inception in 2004. It made Halloween less fun.
But this year the two guys that moved out of town, singer Marc Sucks and drummer Joey Bones, made plans to get themselves to New York and wanted to play Green Hell shows again. Green Hell offers those of us less active in music now a chance to enjoy playing out again. And Green Hell is fun because it exists with no ambition other than to have a fun time with other people who like the same music. It’s not a complete reunion, unfortunately. Circumstances beyond my control have led one member to sit out this year for the sake of keeping the peace, but I am determined to have a full roster next time around. We wouldn’t be keeping with the spirit of the Misfits if some of us were pissed at each other about something.
We have two shows this weekend: this Friday at the Shillelagh Tavern in Astoria, Queens and Saturday night at Hank’s Saloon in Brooklyn. It’s been nearly two years since we’ve played these songs and we haven’t had a rehearsal yet. We have more shows than rehearsals scheduled and we wouldn’t be Green Hell if we didn’t.
Earlier this year, members of the Misfits reunited with original lead singer Glenn Danzig for two shows at Riot Fest concerts in Denver and Chicago for a reported $2 million. Green Hell will be happy to get a few drink tickets each. Our crowds will be a fraction of the size and we’ll be spending more money getting to the shows than we could ever hope to make, but I guarantee we will have as much fun playing on stage as you can have.
Autumn is a great time of year in New York. The humid misery of summer is behind us and the holidays are ahead of us. The trees turn brilliant shades of red, orange and yellow and the air is electric with new possibilities. There is a sense of renewal that is similar to that of the spring but with a more ominous edge. The light grows dimmer and there’s a depressing feeling as the twilight of summer is again denied us. It is time to reap the harvest, but time is running on our days and year.
Like the Christmas holiday, the commercial anticipation of Halloween grows larger every year and we saw Halloween pop-up stores appear as early as August in some places. And there are pumpkin spice flavored food and beverages being offered ad nauseam. At the 7 Eleven where I get my coffee, they have a shaker of pumpkin flavoring so you can make your coffee like a pumpkin Big Gulp if they run out of pumpkin spice coffee. I agree the pumpkins spice has become excessive, but let’s not turn our back on traditional greats like pumpkin pie.
But the season of the pumpkin is a good time to embrace the fall. And the increasingly long Halloween season brings with it some worthwhile activities.
My good friend Jay, lead guitar player for New York punk rock band Endangered Feces, invited me and my family to join his family at the Rise of the Jack-O-Lanterns event, which features a walk through a path lined with intricately carved pumpkins. It features pumpkins carved with many different images and strung together in forms as large as dinosaurs, zebras, skeletons. There was a Hillary Clinton pumpkin and a Donald Trump pumpkin, and carvings that celebrated popular TV shows like Orange Is The New Black and Game of Thrones. The security people told everyone no flash photography was allowed, so my photos didn’t come out too well, but it was enjoyable to bring the kids.
It was a nice brisk evening and it wasn’t too long, and brevity is much appreciated when you’re hauling little kids with you. The event we went to was in Old Westbury, Long Island, New York not far outside our city’s borders. Living in Eastern Queens makes it easier to own a car which makes it easier to head to Long Island for events such as these, but you can take public transportation to similar events elsewhere.
You don’t have to go see nicely carved jack-o-lanterns and you don’t have to put any pumpkin crap in your coffee, but it’s important to do something to commemorate the autumn. Watch the leaves change colors, visit a haunted house, hand out non-poisoned candy to children on Halloween. Walk through a corn maze and go hunting. Take your significant other into a cemetery and conceive a child there. Wander the streets of New York on a ridiculously long walk. Get out of the house before it’s too cold.
The season of the pumpkin is upon us. Do not let it go quietly.