Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween

 I suppose it's appropriate that on All Hallow's Eve, I'm reminded that I'm running out of time. Again, this year's Halloween was barely half of what I'd planned, hoped, wanted, dreamed. But it was great. I made the time for what I could, and it was Halloween.

 This October I baked cookies, traveled to Sleepy Hollow, carved pumpkins, went to haunted houses, picked apples, put up tombstones. And yet there were so many things I didn't get to. Next year, I can hope.

 For me, two things defined this season. The first being my Sleepy Hollow trip. Being in the Hollow in October was wonderful-- and, very soon, I will have all of my photos of the cemetery organized enough to form posts out of them.

 The second defining thing of this season for me was carving pumpkins. I've never done so many. It helped that I inherited five large pumpkins that served a purpose as a decoration for a spaghetti dinner fundraiser two weeks ago. I felt like it was a challenge, daring me to carve them all. And I carved them all but one. The final pumpkin sits on my dining room talbe, hollowed out and ready to carve-- perhaps, as a last hurrah, I will carve something into it this weekend.

 My first carving of the season was a part of my Day of the Dead altar piece to another one of my favorite writers, Ray Bradbury, who we lost this year. I'll post a piece about my altar later this week. The second was inspired by the passing of another artist-- Jerry Nelson, the voice of Count von Count on Seseame Street. There was something about, for lack of a better term, immortalizing the Count in a pumpkin-- and I hope I did him justice.

 My third was a face I have been wanting to do for a long time. I had just had the experience of seeing John Carpenter's original "Halloween" on the big screen thanks to a one night showing by the Dipson Theaters here in Buffalo-- and I was inspired to carve the face of Michael Myers. This I followed up by attempting to reconstruct the jack o'lantern face that is shown during the famous opening credit sequence of that film: a sequence with only the jack o'lantern burning, and the iconic "Halloween" score playing.

 My next carving was a new favorite of mine: Sparky the dog, from Tim Burton's "Frankenwennie." I absolutely loved the film-- I laughed, I cried, I jumped-- and Sparky was a bit of a challenge. I hope I did him some kind of justice.

 I finished this evening with Barnabas Collins from "Dark Shadows." With the Burton film released this year (which I enjoyed quite a bit), and my Sleepy Hollow trip having an unexpected thematic reoccurence of "Dark Shadows" (which I will write about soon)-- I thought it only right that I carve Barnabas.

 And there you have it-- from the Ghost's home to yours, wishing you another Happy Halloween.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Exploring Sleepy Hollow, Sunday afternoon

  My first morning in the Sleepy Hollow area began by searching for somewhere to go for a run. Staying across the Hudson, just on the other side of the Tappan Zee Bridge, I found myself at a hotel in a section of Nyack, New York, that was conveniently located exactly at a thruway exit,  but in an area void of any proper sidewalks. I ran up one street, and the sidewalk ended. I ran along another, and in passing wished there were a cemetery somewhere nearby where I could run, as I do in Forest Lawn when I am at home. I ran not twenty seconds down another block, turned a bend-- and an enormous cemetery, set on a large hill, appeared before me. The gates were open, and I would find that the sprawling graveyard spanning the hill was more than large enough to run in, and had graves going back to the very early 1880's, at least. There was even an old plot for a family by the name of "Crane." At the very top of the cemetery, having ran up the hill, you can see over the Hudson River, to Tarrytown and Sleepy Hollow. 

 I was excited to head back over the bridge, pass through Tarrytown, and be in Sleepy Hollow, again. The plan was to wander around the village, see any sights there may be to see, and head to the cemetery. The night before, from what I could see of the cemetery from the Old Dutch Church, I thought I knew how big-- or, rather, small-- it actually was. The lantern tour was not until seven in the evening; I thought that after looking around the village, I could see what the full cemetery was like, and take it all in prior to the tour. 

 My first thoughts seeing the Hollow in daylight were, still, that the Horseman was everywhere. From the street signs, to the village hall-- to restaurants, the post office and fire department-- either he was there on horseback, or he was chasing poor, terrified Ichabod. It was also quietly amazing, pleasantly surprising how much the village, in 2012, feels like the opening lines of Irving's story. In my head, walking the streets, I heard the words "Not far from this village, perhaps about two miles, there is a little valley, or rather lap of land, among high hills, which is one of the quietest places in the whole world. A small brook glides through it, with just murmur enough to lull one to repose; and the occasional whistle of a quail, or tapping of a woodpecker, is almost the only sound that ever breaks in upon the uniform tranquillity."

The weather was calm. Even the wind was quiet-- and the dropping rain, sparing but ever present. The leaves continued to drift down from the trees, falling to pave the streets. There are several streets intersecting with the main road in the village, and the shops, stores, homes, restaurants and the like did not seem big, did not seem small-- just quiet. Very sleepy. "A drowsy, dreamy influence seems to hang over the land, and to pervade the very atmosphere." I could hear Irving's words very clearly. 

As I headed closer to the bridge, the church and the churchyard, I began to completely understand the influence a place like this can have, the spirit which makes tales such as the Horseman possible. "A drowsy, dreamy influence seems to hang over the land, and to pervade the very atmosphere. Some say that the place was bewitched by a high German doctor, during the early days of the settlement; others, that an old Indian chief, the prophet or wizard of his tribe, held his pow-wows there before the country was discovered by Master Hendrick Hudson." 

 In the daylight, it struck me how clear you can see Ichabod's path. Walking up the street, you see the bridge, the church and churchyard all in succession-- and, now, you even see a statue of the Horseman's chase, as if Ichabod will eternally be riding that way, for the bridge he will never reach. I imagine Washington Irving wouldn't be able to help being proud, if he were able to come back (from the churchyard) to the Hollow today-- and see that the legend he penned to paper has taken on such an immortal life, it nows stands literally in the spot which the fiction took place. It is an awesome thing, an aweseome feeling. 

 Finally, I came to the church again. The plan was to explore the cemetery on my own, in the daylight, in preparation for the tour. Before passing through the gates, I  met the tent sent up by the Old Dutch Church to sell souveniors and the like. Incredibly charming people, with wares that many of which were nicer and more interesting the the gift shop by the Horseman's Hollow I'd been to the night before. I bought their book on the cemetery, among other things-- and headed off to walk among Sleepy Hollow's graves. 
The street, the bridge, the church and churchyard- with the statue far right.

My full album of the afternoon (before the cemetery) here:

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Horseless Headsman

 While I prepare for Halloween, and get the rest of my Sleepy Hollow posts writtten, tonight I give you a commercial that struck my funny bone. Well done, Snickers. Well done.

YouTube: SnickersBRAND

Thursday, October 18, 2012

My first Night in Sleepy Hollow, New York

A lantern, lighting the way to the Old Dutch Church

After the drive full of the changing and falling leaves, I finally got to Sleepy Hollow. I came into the village for the first time at night, well after dark. Crossing the Hudson from Nyack, I can't say for sure what I thought Sleepy Hollow might look, feel like.

 You come into Sleepy Hollow crossing the Tappan Zee Bridge. The long, wide, winding bridge spans the Hudson River and, at night-- at least on the first night I crossed the bridge-- you can look over your shoulder to the south, and see the lights and skyline of New York City. You finish the bridge, pass the tolls, and take a turn-- and you are in Tarrytown and, suddenly, the Village of Sleepy Hollow.

 In the opening of Washington Irving's "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow," Irving describes the area known as Sleepy Hollow, and admits that the area is "properly known by the name of Tarry Town." The actual Village of Sleepy Hollow as it stands now is officially known as such, having changed the name to "Sleepy Hollow" in 1997 (which, my cemetery tour guide would later say, did wonders for their tourism industry.) The Village of Terrytown still exists, home to Washington Irving's home and the delicious Tarrytown Tavern-- but more on those places, later.
The Old Dutch Church

 Driving into the villages of Tarrytown and Sleepy Hollow feels small. You are suddenly driving along a winding, hilly, tight street lined with a small and-- absolutely-- sleepy village. In Tarrytown, you begin to see the images of the Horseman. On flags adorning people's homes, on shops and in restaurant windows. And then the sign for the Village of Sleepy Hollow appears, and the Horseman is everywhere. On the town hall, on police and fire vehicles-- and then you are at the center of Sleepy Hollow. All the while you have been driving along the hilly terrain you have been driving down-- and just as you hit the bridge by the church the road begins to climb up.

The altar, with Ichabod jack o'lantern atop.
 The bridge by the church is the bridge by the church. The Horseman's. Washington Irving settled in the area he loved after being sent there during his youth from New York City to avoid the yellow fever outbreak in the late 1700's. There is something so uniquely special, moving, about seeing the inspiration of a story you have loved all your life, and held so dear. Seeing that, yes, the story is real. "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" has long dominated my literary understanding, and my love for the Halloween season. Since childhood, the animated Disney version of the tale has been the standard all other ghost stories are held to. There is so much in the story, about the telling of tales, of ghost stories, about what is and can be truth with the supernatural-- that is so classic, so autumn, so ripe of the harvest, so Halloween. Walking up to the bridge, and seeing what brought Irving to write the story-- still there-- was amazing. No, the bridge is not wooden and covered and in the woods, but the bridge is there. Paved over and modern, there is still a river it stands over-- and you cross the bridge, look up and see the Old Dutch Church; which, too, remains.


 I had tickets to the last performance of "Irving's Legend" for the evening, which takes place in the Old Dutch Church. "Irving's Legend" is a performance piece by professional storyteller Jonathan Kruk, who offers a one man (and an organ player) performance of "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow." I tell you, the grinning smile spanning from my one ear to the other did not leave my face the whole night. I was in Sleepy Hollow. Having crossed the horseman's bridge. In the Old Dutch Church. Outside each window, you can see the cemetery which surrounds the church. And you are surrounded by candle lit jack o'lanterns. With the organ blaring. And then the tale of the horseman begins to be told from the altar. Jonathan Kruk gives a great performance of the tale-- and it's certainly worth noting he gives these performances multiple times a night, most nights. Being told live, as he does, you truly get to experience such an essential part of Irving's tale-- how the Horseman is all about the legend, the telling of ghost stories together, and sending you out home, alone. Into the darkness.

The Horseman's Bridge.

 After Kruk's performance, I walked around the church taking photos, still on a cloud of Halloween. Later, taking some outside of the church, I quickly realized my limitations with my camera at night-- taking photos in the dark is something I don't have much experience in, and playing with the flash and seeing what it can and cannot do made me wish I had practiced some more before the trip. But I don't think all of these photos are bad, and I loved taking them. It was so hard to be torn away from the old church, the cemetery, the bridge and the rest of the hollow, in the dark. Across the street, and down a riverbank, is the Horseman's Hollow haunted house attraction, but even that was dark, quiet and sleepy. Occasionally, on a light wind, the screams of those going through would drift over. And there was nowhere else I would rather have been.

In vain, I tried taking some pictures of one of the Horseman and Ichabod statues in the dark, before acquiescing to go back to the hotel-- and return with the daylight on Sunday to spend the day exploring the village and, at long last, the cemetery.

 You may view my photo album from my first night in Sleephy Hollow here:

Old Dutch Church, First Night in Sleepy Hollow

 And a short video I took sitting in my pew, waiting for "Irving's Legend" to start in the Old Dutch Church: 

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Fallen, slowly

 I know this isn't the Sleepy Hollow update I was looking forward to. When I finally sat down, after returning home from Sleepy Hollow, New York, to organize all the photos I had taken on my memory cards (both the one I took, and the new one I had to buy at a Walgreens when my original card filled up)-- I realized I had quite a few photos.

 And so I am uploading them in the order they were taken, and will update in sections. This first set is simple, from a rest area somewhere in the Catskills region of southern NY. There were signs posted that the woods were private property, and they kept me from going into them too deep. But the quiet, trickling creek and the leaves still, so slowly, falling, were too autumn, too breathtaking and too gorgeous for my camera to resist.

 The leaves aren't Sleepy Hollow, but they were the perfect introduction to my long weekend in the Hudson Valley. Driving across the most southern part of my state, I saw the trees exploding in reds and oranges and yellows and deep greens we have not even begun to see here yet. It was as if fall were exploding louder driving across the state, culminating in the small, iconic hollow on the Hudson River.

 You may view my photo album here:

Catskill Region Rest Stop

Friday, October 5, 2012

Forest Lawn, Twilight Tour

 This evening, I finally took the majority of the Forest Lawn monthly twilight tour, which I had been waiting to do all year. And I saved for the last one of their season.

 The sky was grey, all day. As I got out of the car at the cemetery, the air had a small, setting chill and began to rain. Lightly, a mist.

 There was truly no other place I would have rather been. We had a small group, and a wonderful guide, who was so knowledgeable about the lawn. I did learn several things I had known nothing of before. A corner patch of the cemetery, seemingly blank and by a tree, which I run by almost every other day, contains a large number of remains from unidentified people who perished in a horrific train accident in the 1800s. A large mausoleum I have noticed before is the resting place of a state representative who sat by President William McKinley's bedside as he died, after being shot here in Buffalo, in 1901. So many stories. So many stories. So much time.

I wish I could go into more detail on the tour, and how wonderful it was to be in Forest Lawn after the gates had closed and the sun was set. But tomorrow I am off on a road trip-- to Sleepy Hollow, NY-- and at least one other cemetery tour, there. Which I will blog about as soon as I am able.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

First pumpkin, off to Sleepy Hollow

 A brief post. This weekend, I will be off in Sleepy Hollow, NY, for the first time in my life. I could not be looking forward to getting there more, and I do plan on blogging as much as I can while I am there. If, for some very possible reason, I don't get to blog while there, I know I will have a photo or two to blog about when I get home.

 This here pumpkin is the first I've bought this season. None of the pie pumpkins or jack o'lanterns I tried growing in the yard made it, and so I have broken down and begun buying pumpkins which seem to be good carving candidates. I have a few ideas what this may become.

For the last few years, I've done some major carving projects, but only one or two a year, and always on Beggar's Night and Halloween itself. My goal this year is to start carving them earlier-- but not too early-- this year. Perhaps next weekend?

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Frightworld 2012

 No, it doesn't feel like it is Halloween until I've stepped foot into one of our local haunted house attractions, of which I am fortunate enough to have a few in my area (as I have written about in the past.) This year, I was able to go to Frightworld on opening night. My friend and I wondered, before going, if opening night just before the start of October would mean wall to wall people, or if the place would be completely dead in every sense of the word. In the end, we concluded it would likely be dead.

 Were we ever wrong. Frightworld on opening night was mobbed with people-- mostly young kids in their early teens. I do prefer not having to wait in line for twenty minutes before going into each house; but, there was just something exciting about being there with so many people excited for Halloween, looking forward to being scared.

 As a review of a house, Frightworld was again in the same location this year, and was mostly the same. There were some minor tweaks, such as the elimination of the Headless Horseman (who I was always partial to) in "Wicked Woods" and the introduction of quite a few feet of fencing in that house (which clearly felt like filler, and truly served no point.) In the haunt, you are walking through an outdoor woods/cemetery setting, and walking through cabins, and you walk out of one of the cabins into this stretch of yard fencing. One or two of the actors from last year were back, and they were among the better ones- which I appreciated. There is a woman playing a character dressed as a young girl, sitting on a bed and playing with dolls, who has mastered a voice and air so creepy- I cannot do justice to it with words. "Do you want to play with me?"

 And, yes, the balloon rooms, which I have blogged about in the past, remain the single thing about the attractions that get my heart beating the fastest. Stepping into the dark, feeling the walls, floor and ceiling close around you, until you are encased on all sides and your personal space taken over by the balloon-like walls and ceilings you have to make it through. That is fear. I believe that this is year three of my experiencing them, and every time I do, the long stretch at the end makes me question whether or not I'll make it through, that the fear will never end. And a haunted house could not ask for a better result.

 One minor qualm about Frightworld this year. Even though your ticket is hole punched over each house as you go into them, and cut in half at the end, you are not allowed to even keep the mutilated ticket to take a picture of, to post on your write up of the night on your Halloween-themed blog. And that is why I don't have any pictures but their logos.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The Halloween Candy Project 2012

This weekend, I made my yearly pilgrimage to Mayer Bros-- our local and revered cider mill and bakery. The setting is ideal- a small, barn-like red building with a bakery smelling of apple, maple and any fall spice you can think of. To the left of the cider mill is St. Paul's Lutheran Cemetery, which I have blogged about before here. 

 While my visit did include the purchasing of many apple spice and maple walnut doughnuts, apple cider and even an apple cider slushie-- it did contain some maple candy. And that made me think of last year's Halloween Candy Project- my documenting, collecting and posting photos of all the Halloween candy I came in contact with last year in a photo album here on the blog. I like to think the effort wasn't completely a waste of time. And it is, shall we say, interesting to look back and see all the sweet strange sugary calories I consumed last year during the fall season. So I've decided to do it again.

 This year, I've started off small: a pumpkin Peep; a new, yet to be tried, bag of Candy Corn M&M's; and, even, some sweeter things of note which are not real candy (such as an apple pie or the above mentioned cider slushie). I'm not sure if this year's candy project will be interesting, boring or somewhere- anywhere- in between.

 We shall see. I will be uploading new photos to the album as I take them, and will be trying to include comments on the photos if I end up not being able to post many updates about the project here on the blog itself.

Happy Eating. See my Halloween Candy Project 2012 here: 

The Halloween Candy Project 2012

Monday, October 1, 2012

Apple picking at Hurd Orchards

 It's here. Finally. I watched it coming for weeks it seems, the first leaves starting to burst with darkening color, the pumpkins starting into stores. But. It never truly hits like the calendar turning over to October 1st. 

 Over the last few weeks, I've been doing as much as I can to help get me into the seasonal mood. Two weeks ago, I was fortunate enough to make it out to Hurd Orchards in Holley, NY; an apple orchard, that also has a pumpkin patch. Apple picking, pumpkins, bales of hay, hot cider with a delicious lunch in the barn-- autumn came hurtling toward me, in every wonderful way. 

 The orchard is run by a mother and a daughter, and the smaller, intimate feel goes such a long way. I had never been apple picking before, and it surely will not be the last time. I could stand in that orchard, eating apples (and the apple jelly we had for lunch)-- forever. No exaggeration. 

 I also probably could take photos of their pumpkins and orchards and barns in all their autumnal goodness forever, as well. Mums beginning to bloom, bright orange pumpkins fresh from picking, taking an apple off the tree and placing it in a barrel. 

 On the way back from the orchards, we took a turn into an older cemetery, and as we were turing around, we realized the cemetery went farther than we thought: right into the beginning of some woods. Areas of older stones from the earlier 1800's lay on ridges down a path of trees-- and was quite the sight to behold. I took a couple of photos, but would love to go back there when I have more time-- and all I was able to catch were just glimpses of so many stones, and a whole new cemetery world to explore. 

 Yes, autumn is underway and now it is October. So much to be done before Halloween, so much that will happen now, again- all at once.