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Monday, December 28, 2015



     Halloween kind of crept up on me this year, and I didn't get a chance to decorate our house or carve a pumpkin. I felt a little bad about that, even though we NEVER get any trick-or-treaters. Our driveway is so steep that even when somebody showed up by mistake, they were tired, angry and borderline violent. It didn't seem wise to amp up their blood-sugar level with candy. This year somebody showed up in a great costume, but it turned out to be just the UPS guy.   

     So we decided to leave the pumpkin carving to the professionals, and visited the Great Jack O' Lantern Blaze at the Van Cortlandt Manor in Croton-on-Hudson. We strolled through the grounds and marveled at the number of intricately decorated jack o' lanterns, most of which marveled back at us. Marveling is much more fun when you share it with inanimate objects.

     There were all kinds of  themed displays, including pumpkins depicting dinosaurs, circus clowns, aliens, dragons and skeletons. Some of the pumpkins are real and some are polyurethane. All are the brainchild of former Syracuse University art major Michael Natiello, the creative director of the Blaze. I've always regretted that doctors have told me I am unable to have brainchildren.

     Some of the jack o' lanterns were intricately and cleverly sculpted, and others were carved in the more traditional style, two eyes and a mouth with a couple teeth. Pumpkins always have horrible dental work, I guess because of all that candy around. I wonder if when a dentist carves a pumpkin they do a little better job on the teeth.

     When I looked around at all these pumpkins, I started to feel sorry for the employees of Historic Hudson Valley that have to decorate these gourds, who probably start calling in sick around August. I felt sad empathy not because of the "carval"-tunnel syndrome they must suffer from, but because a human being can only eat so much pumpkin pie in three months.

     It turns out that there is a recipe out there that substitutes pumpkins for just about anything you can think of. There is pumpkin soup, pumpkin bread, pumpkin ravioli, pumpkin muffins and pumpkin tarts. I have even heard of pumpkin beer.

     There is a whole subculture of people who will make beer out of just about anything, and then gloat about it. These are the same people who use word "hoppy" more times than a kangaroo wrangler. If the only thing on Earth to make beer out of was pumpkins, I guess I would learn to like it. But as it is, we already have Rocky Mountain spring water, so there. By the way, I once read that Rocky Mountain spring water is the most polluted water there is, because of all the strip-mining that went on during the 1800s. So maybe I shouldn't be so hard on the pumpkins.

     As far as I know, tradition dictates that if there is a lit pumpkin outside your door, you explicitly enter into a contract that stipulates that when I ring your bell, you have to give me candy. As we ambled up to the Van Cortlandt Manor House I noticed that there were about 7,000 lit pumpkins outside the door. The amount of candy in there must be staggering, I thought. When I rang the bell this big dude in a VERY authentic security guard costume answered, and suffice it to say that this guy not only didn't have any candy, but could run pretty fast for someone who looked like he ate a whole lot of pumpkin pie.

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