Monday, November 6, 2017

Just a quick thanks...

I have been so touched by how many messages and emails I've been getting since I posted my Hallowe'en wishes for you all. There are 5 comments here, but I have received at least a dozen emails and quite a few messages on Facebook, telling me how glad they were to see the ol' S&P was still running, your humble pubkeep still alive and kickin'.


As I wrote previously, I will return to more regular posting soon. I hope I can continue to bring you some spooky wonderfulness. I will certainly try.


Until then, thank you so much for your well wishes and support. It has gone a long way toward my returning to the pub, and taking my old position behind the bar.


Serving drinks on the house, for all... soon!


Cheers.


DDSP!

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Happy Hallowe'en, dear friends.

From beyond the grave, it would seem, your humble pubkeep wants to wish all of you a very happy Hallowe'en!

I hope one day to return here regularly, but until then, please understand and try to be patient. 

Just enjoy your wonderful All Hallow's Eve with your loved ones and spooky things and all the Hallowe'en goodness you can find!

My love to you all --

DUMDUMSHREKPOP!!!

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?...


DUMDUMSHREKPOP!!

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Plastics.

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?

Well...


... 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...

DUMDUMSHREKPUMPKIN!

Monday, October 5, 2015

Starting down the winding road.

It is so very, very Autumn, here at the S&P.

I have been out and about, exploring the byways and darker lanes of Autumn's woodlands and forests and villages.

At one point I even got some time to enjoy a little snack...

Don't worry about the ghoul behind me -- he only wanted some pudding.

So far, I am seeing some mighty fine Hallowe'enin' goin' on, and if/when I get some good camera time, I will be happy to bring some pictures here, we can pass them around. It'll be just like old times, here at the pub.

It's interesting how I can see, in better detail and greater appreciation, so much more of the seasonal celebrating and decorating than I used to notice, all around my neck of the woods, now that I have my October free to explore it all.

I am realizing that -- I guess -- I used to be pretty understandably but quite narrowly focused on the tasks at hand and wholly missed quite a few darker corners of spooky goodness all around me.

Being able to finally see others' decorations and ideas, some brand new to me, others a wonderful and much needed re-connection, has been a great gift to me already. And we still have the whole month to go!

As I knew and hoped it would... it all gets me thinking of my own creations, and inspires me to newer and better Hallowe'en madness.

I have to say as well that having support and comments from you dear S&Pbrains is another great gift, humbling and gratifying for this ol' run-down pubkeep. I truly appreciate you all.

Next post, I am thinking along the lines of... hhmmmm... OH! Oh yes, that will be PERfect... mmmmuuaaAHAHAHAHAHAH!!!

 Ain't October the very best?


Wishing all of you a fantastically frightening fun-filled Fall!

DUMDUMSHREKPOST#2!

Thursday, October 1, 2015

It Begins Again.

Well, my friends... my patient, long-standing pubgoers who have been without their S&P for quite a long time... a new post here is long past due, and offered here with my gratitude for your patience and understanding.

My life is a good one, but it shifts focus in various directions, and this homely haunted house has been one of the longest suffering victims of such shifts.

So it is with great joy and renewed fervor that I post a very Happy October to all of the S&P-brains here!

This year is going to be rather different for your humble pubkeep.

I will not be putting on my traditional, massive yard-haunt display, and I beg your indulgence as I try to explain why...

For almost 20 years now, I've been putting on that Big Spooky Shindig every single Hallowe'en night, joyfully so, passionately so. I have thoroughly enjoyed and loved all of it, all of them. But among the victims of that focused direction is the numerous friends and family who also put on their own haunts and creations which I have NEVER been able to see for the last few decades, being unable to leave my own yard for the duration as I make sure everything's running right, people are happy, kids are plenty sugared up, and so on.

An uncle, a cousin, a brother and his wife and son, and many other loved ones in my life are Hallowe'en fanatics just like me -- Hallowe'en runs in the family, deep and devotedly -- and they do all kinds of decorating and creating and showing off and cooking and hosting and... I have never been able to attend any of them. Decades.

Also, and I think even more importantly, is that for the last three or four years, I was getting more and more stressed every October, with building and finishing, programming, painting, all of the myriad creations and processes that go into one of my Hallowe'en displays. It got to the point where I was entirely missing out on the season, missing out on celebrating Hallowe'en the whole month of October!

I couldn't enjoy, even when I had a little time here and there during the crazy busy month, things like TV Hallowe'en marathons and fright fests and specials, because even while watching them I had to be paying attention to my work on figures and props, which became ever more complex and time-intensive as each year 'improved' over the previous, my ego telling me to outdo myself with every coming season.

I missed a lot of wonderful Hallowe'en happenings.

And because of that, my ability to truly create and finish a proper haunt became less fluid and natural, and more forced, the last few years... and I feel as if my last two Hallowe'ens were simply not up to the standard I hold in my heart and have since I was very young. They weren't really worthy, not entirely.

And because of that, my desire to create and display has waned over these past few years.

I need to recharge my Duraskull batteries and find inspiration again, this time in the creations and sweat and efforts of others' displays, others' celebrations.

I plan on hosting a big 20th Hallowe'en Anniversary yard-haunt in 2016, so I am certainly not giving up the ghost of our favorite holiday, no ma'am, no sir. I could never do that. My devotion to and passion for All Things All Hallow's has never wavered, will never change. So next year will be a good one.

But this year, I am going to revel in the entire month, the entire spooky season's worth of tricks and treats everyone else has been able to enjoy for a long time. I am looking forward to it immensely, and I have no doubt it will all inspire and supercharge my Hallowe'en fanaticism again and again.

Will I be back 'better than ever'?  Well... yes and no.

Yes, I will be better than I have been the last three years, I'd certainly hope. But no, I will not be better than ever, I will be as good and worthy as I have always been and was until I got so tired and strung out -- as Bilbo once lamented feeling like 'butter scraped over too much bread' -- and I think that will be the greatest gift of this year's restful revelry.

Of course, we will decorate, oh Hell yes! Just, you know, not like we usually do, but like... well, like NORMAL people do.

Part of my October celebration will be more posts here at the ol' S&P as we gleefully bask in Autumn's chilling magic all month long. I hope to post every few days at least, and I hope that whatever I do post and show and tell and review and celebrate will be of interest and be enjoyable for all of you dear pub-going friends.

I am so very happy to be back here at the Skull & Pumpkin Public House. I've missed it, and all of you.

But this year, rather than resuming my place behind the bar, I will instead be hanging out with everyone else on the other side of it.

And I already know it's going to be one hell of a happy Hallowe'en.

To October, to enjoying the season, to reaffirming passion and to Hallowe'en itself, come on everyone, for the first time in ages... let us lift our glasses...

DUMDUMSHREKPOP!!!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Happy Hallowe'en, dear S&P-brains!

It has happened again -- HALLOWE'EN!!!

I hope every one of you are enjoying this, our favorite day and night of the year, in any and every way that is important, meaningful, traditional and right for you.

I have been quite noticeably absent from this ol' homely house, and I apologize... but it seems every time I have tried to get back in here on a regular basis, life hands me another distraction or dilemma.

No complaint, no excuse, just life. You all know how it can be.

I really do hope to be able to be here on  regular basis, because I miss it, and all of you, and it was one of the most beloved 'things' in my life for a good long while. It will be that again, and hopefully sooner than later.

Until then, though, I thought I could be forgiven for re-posting what I feel is one of my better scribblings on the walls of this spooky public house, concerning our blessed, hallowed All Hallow's Eve, from a few years ago. It says what I feel, and I feel like every Hallowe'en is part of the same long, wondrous day and night, like we're just picking up from where we left off the year before. So why should I try to re-word or re-write it?

Enjoy, and celebrate!

-----------------------------------------------------------
-----------------------------------------------------------

It is here.


Our day, and most thrillingly, our Night.

It is the New Year celebration of an ancient world, and an ancient celebration of what has come and gone, what may lie ahead, and what our place will be in whatever comes.

It is the birthday of childhood fears, but the anniversary of casting those fears away, all at once.

Even as it changes with time and tide, it has never disappointed.

It calls us to come out and play again, to talk and laugh and scream and chase and run as the children we still are, will always be, no matter how we try to hide it.

It sets the sun a pumpkin orange, carries leaves on a woodsmoke wind to tap our windows, scratch our memories, to tickle and reawaken our love -- our need -- for the Tall Tale, the Scary Story, the Fright.

It is yours, and it is mine, and it connects us across miles.

It does not teach us to fear -- we already know fear quite well. It doesn't say 'See? Here are horrors you wouldn't know but for Me.'

No. Like all Fantasy, which is itself a child of our darkest primal nights, it does not teach children that there are dragons. They already know that.

                                             It just shows us all that dragons can be slain.

It is our secret satisfaction at the puzzle unsolved, our continuous joy at the Great Mystery, for it is the stating and confronting of our most primal fear... and because it is the facing of our own death, it boldly and blessedly reminds us to live while we are alive.

                                         It is Hallowe'en.


It is today, and tonight. God, what a gift.

The Skull & Pumpkin wishes all of you a meaningful, magical, 
and mystical Hallowe'en, wherever you may be.

A toast, raise them up high now:

DUMDUMSHREKPOP!