Come celebrate the darkness by bringing your light.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

The music returns.

Welcome back, dear S&P'ers.

Please sit where you like, I'll get to all of you in turn.

But I want to tell you first -- I have finally found our old Hallowe'enith console radio in the attic of this humble house (an adventure I am loathe to recall, as it was dark, terrifying, dangerous and lasted almost a week)!

I finally got it back in place, dusted it off, a little spit and polish, some lemon oil to get her shining again... and I was worried that she might not play after spending such a long time in dark disrepair.

But my fears were unfounded. As soon as I plugged her into the sparking, smoking wall socket, she began to crackle and hum and pop and warm up and then... ah!

Our kind of music, once again filling the air in our little homely house. Joy.

It's in no particular order for now, but they are classics of the S&P, and I am sure most of you remember them well...

-- Moon & Sand, a beautiful bossa nova piece from jazz guitar maestro Kenny Burrell.

-- My own humble piano jazz reworking of the Haunted Mansion's Grim Grinning Ghosts.

-- The Shape of the Land, a thoughtful, melancholy instrumental by Philip Aaberg.

-- Pumpkintime, the official incidental music of the S&P, by the Anger-Higbie Quintet.

-- Our beloved, official S&P theme song, Vince Guaraldi's timeless Great Pumpkin Waltz.

-- Stars, the closing piece from George Winston's seminal work Autumn.

I am sure you know what to do. Pick one, pick all, play, pause, stop, replay, it's all in your hands, dear ones.

Ah! It is good to have our songs playing again. They bring back some fond memories and wonderful feelings.

I hope you feel the same way.

So turn 'er up and raise 'em high... to our kind of music...


Monday, October 3, 2016

The autumn winds bring change.

October greetings, 

Oh, my patient, understanding S&P brains.
It is obvious to all and sundry that Your Humble Pubkeep has been beyond 'absent' and deeply into 'gone' this past few years, barring a few minor posts, each riddled with now-broken promises to return more regularly to the pub.
I do hope none of you think any apology is necessary, because I can't honestly apologize for my disappearance from the ol' S&P. I mean, I'm not trying to be a belligerent tough guy -- the type who usually gets bounced out of here when we call in Mighty Joe Young to escort him out -- but I just don't feel a need to apologize for life simply happening and changes brewing.
I haven't been too busy at work, nor constantly traveling, or lost my internet service or spent two years in a lockup with a big bad girl named Fred.
No, I've simply been changing. My life has changed in some important ways, and my heart has changed too... and Hallowe'en has changed with it.
But by changed, I don't mean gone, altered beyond recognition, etc.. I mean grown deeper, become more personally and immediately meaningful to me.

Hallowe'en has become bigger.

Over these past few years, I have grieved the loss of too many relatives and friends of varying ages and causes; in one seven month stretch last year, I lost eight dearly loved, good, fatherly friends and relatives. I endured the loss of older loved ones but also had to struggle through the murky waters of grieving young people, which is just so much worse.
Last year, I had decided on taking a break from the big display and spend some time doing things I've never been able to do before, on October 31st -- take my Kiara (she's 11 now!) trick'or'treating all over the city's decorated side streets and cul-de-sacs; finally attend the yard haunts of many friends and family whose work I have never been able to see and appreciate due to having to stay home to care for all the animatronics, keep things running smoothly, and so on.
I was able to attend my cousin Dee Dee's annual Hallowe'en party, having missed the first 14 of them already.
After I enjoyed that wonderful night, one of the most incredibly unique and new Hallowe'ens in my life, I began to realize some very deep things...
For one thing, I had spent some time leading up to the 31st feeling like I might be sad if I didn't really put it all up, as if I'd missed Hallowe'en altogether. And yet, I didn't feel that at all. And I then understood that the last time I truly thought I'd missed Hallowe'en (the true tale is here), it had actually been more meaningful and deeper and truer than any Hallowe'en before it, and it set the stage for the next thirty years of my life as a Hallowe'en lover, displayer, decorator, reveller.
And that feeling came to me last year, realizing how much more I was enjoying it than I'd been enjoying my own displays for the past few years. It was a revelation.
With Hallowe'en being a time of the thinning of the veil between this life and the next, with it being a night of the celebration of death and darkness, I realized that in so 'celebrating' we are actually affirming our being alive, tempering the joy of life with the sure knowledge of death to come one day.
Just as surely as the kids laugh at the old folks, we mock what we are to be, all of us.
It means more to me, now, to carve one pumpkin and light one candle in the name of the season and the spirit and all my loved ones who have passed on, than any servo-driven piece of art, no matter how well done or beloved.
It means a kind of respect and maturity of emotion, an acceptance of certain truths only shown to us when we come to a certain age or level of experience in this life.
It runs deeper than ever before -- my love and desire for all things Hallowe'en, my need to celebrate and uphold and continue and create and revel in all of its Autumnal majesty.
Did you ever read the Narnia book The Voyage of the Dawn Treader? In that tale there is a scene of healing and growth which I keep seeing in my mind as I write here, as I recognize more and more fully the changes I'm feeling.
The character of Eustace, in his greed and selfishness, slept upon a massive hoard of dragon's treasure, dreaming dragon-ish dreams, and when he woke, he had become a dragon. He went through all kinds of attitude adjustment after that, to be sure, and ended up being a caring, selfless, helpful dragon. But he was still a dragon...

... until Aslan the Lion came to him in a dream and healed him.

Eustace sees Aslan at a steaming pool, beckoning him to come bathe and cleanse and relieve his tired dragony body there. He flops into the hot, swirling, wonderful waters and immediately feels better than he had in ages -- possibly his whole life up that point, he muses – and as he enjoys it all, Aslan commands him to remove his dragon skin.
He does, starting at a tear in his upper arm that had been injuring him the entire time (he'd put on a big golden arm cuff when he was human, and it got locked onto his dragon arm, digging into his flesh 24/7), and it hurt but he could peel away great folds of skin and feel raw and clean but then see in the water that he was... still a dragon.
Again and again he tried it, but a dragon he remained... 

... until Aslan Himself lent a paw.
Eustace later described it as the most deeply moving pain he'd ever felt, those claws digging in and then tearing great strips of dragon flesh off of him. It took longer and was much more painful than when he tried it himself, but once Aslan was through, Eustace saw that he was indeed back to being a boy, and in his joy he leapt back into the steaming water to cleanse away the mess and debris, and become the better person he was now sure he would be.
There are certainly a lot of allegorical points in that scene – C.S. Lewis was indeed a Christian allegorist – but the allegory to me now feels beyond any religious viewpoint.
I needed the harder, more difficult, more painful parts of real life to pull me from the almost real man I'd been into the bigger, better man I become now. I tried it on my own, in my own ways, for years, and it never took... but let real life lend a hand, and the process is far more painful but unlike any other attempt, it finally, truly succeeds.
I feel as if I've experienced that same scene... only in my version Aslan is The Great Pumpkin and I was not a dragon but a haggard, brain-fried mess of middle aged fail.
Now, I've come out the other side a better man, ready to feel and explore and cherish the deeper truths of life surrounding the real meanings and mysteries of Hallowe'en. It's so much more important to me now to do new things, different, more subtle things, more human and supernatural things, to be truly celebrating the truer meanings of the night as I'd never been able to do before.
None of this is to suggest, in any way at all, that I consider my previous traditions and decorating and displaying as immature or disrespectful or childish and shallow, etc.. If anything, my new outlook moves those passions and traditions up into a greater level of proper respect and magic and rightness.
I will always be building figures, plying my animatronic Hallowe'en artistry, especially at Monsterpalooza every year, and so I will not be losing or missing out on that aspect of my passions and desires for creating and celebrating. I will do yardhaunt displays again, mark my words.
So now it is my true hope that you understand why I've been so distant and quiet here; I want you all to know how much I honestly am humbled by your following, your patience and support for our little pub here. I appreciate each and every one of you, I am quite serious about that.
There is still much to be seen and read here, though audio has fallen out some how – none of the Hallowe'enith radio files are working anymore (stinkin' Podbean can bite me). But there is always the S&P to visit, explore, and enjoy.
I will return to add more things, no matter how irregularly I may write here.
The Skull & Pumpkin Pub will be open for business and pleasure for a long, long time.
Enjoy your Fall season, my S&P-brains! If you find a site or a picture or story you want to share with us here, pleeeaaase mention it to me in a comment and I will make sure it becomes a post for all to enjoy. Please do it!

As I lift my own mug of hot chocolate, I think we all need to say something to shake the dust out of the rafters here, that hasn't been said in too long. Ready?...


Wednesday, October 14, 2015


Hi-lowe'en, everyone.

I hope you're all having a fine, fine October, as we really get into the spooky, spectacular season of our favorite day and night of the year.

I have been truly enjoying it all, and in fact have discovered a little interest I'd never really considered I had until now...

Blow-mold plastic Hallowe'en lanterns.

That picture is not mine, it is a collection of reproduction pieces from an anonymous (as far as I can see) user on Halloweenforum. But it gives you the idea of what I'm getting at, here.

I only have a few pieces at the moment, and I honestly have no idea if I will get more or not, but I know me, and if something really jumps out at me, I will bring it home!

So far, these are my finds...

Again, this pic and the rest are all others' pictures, none of which I can credit because I can find no names. My camera's acting up so I can't show you mine just yet.

And yes, I know the winking, smiling fella here is not technically a 'lantern' but a treat bucket. I don't plan on getting into those so much, but his face is too cute and fun. I found him in a flea market in TX for $8, so it was a no brainer for me.

The main thing about this piece, however, is that it was the beginning of my now-burgeoning interest in such items.

I never knew I really dug these little guys!

My next find...

I saw this cute coupling of Hallowe'en icons for just over $5, and it was another no brainer. It's a common item like so many made by Empire in the '60s. 

The toothy smile, the spooked cat's expression, even the little pumpkin stem atop, give this piece a character I just loved the moment I saw it. 

It's been lighting my room 24/7 for months now.

And my most recent find... 
I love this one.

Also made by Empire in the early '60s, it is similar to the previous piece, but the addition of more Hallowe'en stalwarts like a grimacing skull and flying witches made it really stand out... and the top hat gives it a jaunty little twist.

At $7, this one was a bit more expensive than its Empire brother, but again, total no brainer.

I know these items are fairly common, and can be found with ridiculous ease on the world wide interwebs, but I find that trying to find them in little flea and thrift markets not only makes the hunt more rewarding and fun, but better yet keeps prices low. No need to buy a $3 lantern and spend $12 on shipping, you know?

The ones I am (currently) trying to find...

Come on... way too cool.

Oh, and all of these...

I wasn't aware of the Dracula and Frankenstein's Monster pieces' existence, so this image from another user on that Hallowe'en forum has me pretty excited to try and locate them.

But I think the dashing, caped, top-hatted skeleton is the best piece here, just look at him!

I know that not all of these pieces are terribly old or 'vintage', though the three I have are reliably not reproductions but actual items from the '60s. 

But I am not really concerned with 'vintage'-osityness anyway. If I like the look and feel of a piece, it's mine. Simple as that.

And this one, well, it means a lot to me and will be a very nice find when I finally run across it in some little knick-knack shop somewhere...

Of course I mean the bandit-masked fellow lit up, and not the slightly burn-victim-skin-graft-ish thing on the right.

Why is it so meaningful to me?


... there were two of these, one on either side of the front yard gate, lighting up the walkway there, every Hallowe'en night at my grandmother's house and our big family display/yard haunt.

I loved the bandit lanterns, because they signified the official start of the celebration there, at least to my mind. 

Not long after my grandmother passed away, I asked an aunt if these were still in a box somewhere, and a number of people went looking for them, but to no avail. Sadly, these two sun-bleached, brittle lanterns either died a flaky death or simply vanished along with the family Hallowe'en haunt.

To have another of these would be very gratifying, and would no doubt occupy a place of honor here at the S&P. 

Miss you Gram.

Miss your Hallowe'en love.

Still... onward! There are more pumpkins to find and rescue from mundane flea market shelves all around me... and I intend to find all of them.

Did I mention I am really enjoying my October Hallowe'en season?

Alright, say it with me now...