Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Late October's Spell

"Tubular Bells" pretty much fits the eerie mood of late October

Driving my daughters back from their gymnastics class around 6:30 yesterday, it hit me. The ancients were very wise, and much more in tune with the messages being sent by our natural surroundings than we are today. In late October (at least in this latitude), you really do get the eerie feeling come evening time that the world of the dead feels very close to the world of the living. The wind blows the dead leaves skittering across the street as the sun goes down before dinner time. That dinner time dark just feels so much darker than sundown did back in September.

I do get a thrill over this eerie feeling, but after awhile, the open portal to the world of the dead beckons in ways that are not as enjoyable. It was during this time of year three years ago that my grandmother died. I remember the last conversation I had with her, wrapped in the gloom of a dark Newark night as her voice traveled out from under the impossibly starry Nebraska night sky and found its way into my ear. I keep wishing I'd been able to have one more conversation with her, but alas.

Today while riding the bus from the train station to my house the looming dusk gave me another powerful flashback, perhaps a message from beyond the grave from a departed friend. I suddenly, and quite vividly, started recalling the dark October night when my friend Dave and I rode the Chicago el from his Rogers Park apartment down to Old Town to an art house theater to see Velvet Goldmine. We were two Nebraska rubes just arrived in the big city of broad shoulders, reveling in the freedom and excitement of urban life as only people who have come from outside of it can do. We loved the movie, I gravitating to the Bowie character, Dave to Iggy Pop. Me ever the mod, he ever the rocker. Two odd ducks too weird for regular society and too dorky to ever be accepted as bohemians. It was a great night, a night when my decision to leave the plains for the urban jungle seemed to be the best idea I ever had.

There is nothing like a Chicago night in late October. The wind blows chilly off the lake, carrying ominous rumors of winter. Despite the lights of the city, it seems oddly dark and quiet, the subdued prairie under its streets trying to reach its tendrils out through the concrete and reclaim its dominion. I spent those nights in movie theaters and record stores, dive bars and house parties, and smoking Camels while walking the streets not knowing what I was looking for.

I was too young and too unaware of mortality to know that the dead were there in the night air floating about me. Now in the less mysterious world of suburban New Jersey, settled down and wandering nowhere, I can feel them on this dark chilly night. The least I can do is think about them, and the good times we once shared.

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