Recently, I was reminded of the FM Rock stations in the late '70s/early '80s, and their habit of referring to this month as "Rocktober." I have no idea if this is a real or invented memory, but I can hear the song "Rock Bottom" by UFO as the backdrop to a Rocktober promo spot. That prompted the catch-phrase "If it's too loud, you're too old." While I'm sure the 16-year-old-me would consider the 50-year-old-me as almost dead, I still think October rocks, just for different reasons. Here are seven of them:
Maybe it's the angle of the sun, but there is something magical in the clarity of light this time of year. I live fairly close to O'Hare airport, and I swear I could reach out and pluck jumbo jets right out of the sky. They look like the scale models that creepy kid on the block used to make, suspended by a thread only a foot in front of my face. Everything seems to be in sharper focus. Unfortunately, that includes evidence of the overdue need to clean the windows.
That light plays into color. The sunrises and sunsets have been spectacular. This year's fall foliage is either late or a bust, but I'm still hopeful to see clusters of glowing yellow, fiery orange and blood red leaves set against a deep blue sky on an afternoon drive. If the timing is right, I'll pull over and watch the hues shift as the sun sinks lower in the western sky. And I'm always happy to see a monarch butterfly, the flying symbol of fall.
To me, nothing beats highs in the 60s/70s, lows in the 40s/50s and low relative humidity. In the daytime, the sun feels warm, like a friend, not like its evil twin in the dog days of August. Since I was a kid, jeans and a sweatshirt were my favorite things to wear. These days, I'm convinced that the two greatest pieces of clothing ever invented are the zip-up hoodie and pajama pants. At night, I look forward to cracking a window open and climbing under a heavy blanket. I have actually caught myself saying the words "good sleeping weather."
Last weekend I made a stock-pot full of chili con carne -- an October tradition. While the majority of it is going towards next weekend's chili cook-off, there was enough left over for a bowl or two and a couple of chili, cheese and onion dogs. Next Saturday I'll have the smoker rolling, cooking the pork and Italian sausage that will end up in the giant pot of spaghetti sauce that will stock my freezer for months to come. Biscuits and gravy are in my future, along with slow-cooker soups and stews.
That first cup of coffee seems to taste better when you're outside on a chilly October morning, and can see the steam rising from the cup. After raking a big pile of leaves (and sometimes still jumping in) I love a mug of hot apple cider. I'm a craft beer enthusiast, and in the summer I crave the taste of hops in a good pale ale or IPA. In October, my taste reverts back to my first loves, the dark and malty Belgian dubbels, Scotch ales, porters and stouts. A glass of red wine, like a big fat Cab, goes great with that homemade sauce and pasta, or a roast.
My three favorite spectator sports are college football, the NFL and Major League Baseball. We're more than halfway through the college season, with some of the best rivalries and biggest upsets to come. The NFL is in full swing, and I watch my team every week, even though they're not very good this year. Although I'd agree that the baseball season can be long and boring, I love the playoffs. I wouldn't say Chicagoans are exactly accustomed to having a team playing in October, so the Cubs generated a lot of excitement (and I'm a White Sox fan.) For those who love the NHL, the season has begun, and NBA fans don't have much longer to wait.
As a kid, Halloween was about candy. As an adult, I dread trying to come up with a clever costume. But I still love being scared. If I can't get a recommendation on a quality horror film I've never seen, I'll go back to the classics, like The Exorcist, The Shining or Alien. Although childhood has long since passed, primal fears remain, and October is the month to confront them.
Never mind that I choose to do so from the safety of my couch, wearing pajama pants and hiding under a blanket...