October 20, 2012

What I Love Most About October.

If you noticed the banner to your right, I am once again participating in the annual OPG over at my friend Vincent's.  As such, I have to blog about something related to Halloween, horror, or October in general.  You might recall, last year I compiled my own personal list of scariest movies ever.  This year, for lack of a creative brain and seeing as time is running out, I'm keeping it simple.  Here are the things I love most about October.  Brace yourself.  This is gripping stuff.

1.  Weather.  This is probably a given, but I can't leave it off the list because of its importance.  As a summer-hater, October signifies the official transition into winter.  September is up and down with some freakishly warm days thrown into the mix.  October, on the other hand, is usually solidly perfect temps, with a few freakishly cool days thrown into the mix.  The first frost arrives at some point.  Oh, and low humidity, which means more good hair days.  Guess who did a little dance a few weeks ago when she was forced to turn on the heat?  Yep, it was me.  I even had my first official glove-wearing already.  It was superb.  After surviving the hottest summer on record here, I've never been so happy to get out my fall/winter gear.

2.  Trees.  Sure, everyone loves some good fall foliage.  But you might not know that I also happen to have a thing for trees that I can't really put into words.  Something changed in regard to my relationship with trees around 2003.  At that time I commuted to my job daily by cutting through a park near my house.  A huge, sprawling, gorgeous, historic city park that I love with every ounce of my being.  Although I had spent a lot of time in that park and thought I knew it like the back of my hand, something happened as I drove through there 2 times a day, 5 days a week, for 6 years.  I began looking at trees differently.  I noticed trees I'd never noticed before.  I started paying more attention to how they changed each season, and how much they grew.  I became alarmed when a tree became sickly and diseased.  I surveyed the destruction after a storm with intensity.  I developed a tree-crush on several favorites.  I admit I sometimes spoke to them.  They had become my friends, in the sense that I felt love for them and their individuality, and I worried about their well being.  This era sparked a tree photography project that I continue to this day.

Anyway, back to the foliage.  Fall colors are the epitome of fall, plain and simple.  Unfortunately, thanks to the searing summer and extreme drought, the fall color here isn't so great.  It's improved in the last week, but overall color is lacking and most trees that survived the drought are going straight to brown.  But here are a few favorite pics from a year or two ago, taken in the aforementioned park.

One of my all time favorite trees.
3.  Baseball.  October means playoffs.  Typically some of the best baseball to watch, even if it involves teams you loathe, because after a very long season, testosterone is high as the contenders go for all the marbles.  Last year saw phenomenal playoff baseball, from the division match-ups to the championship match-ups to the actual Series.  Game 6, anyone?  I still get goosebumps thinking about it.  It was the most exciting moment in baseball that I've experienced in my lifetime.

The playoffs are well underway now, and this year has not disappointed thus far.  The first year with an extra wild card slot, winner to go to the division series and determined by a one-game death match.  A change that many were against to begin with, only to be turned into full-blown controversy after what some feel was a bad call that looked to work in the Cardinals favor against Atlanta.  I'm not going to get into that debacle too much here.  But I will say this.  It appeared to be a valid call based on the wording of the infield fly rule, which I probably read about 15 times.  Was it the best call, though?  No, it wasn't.  In my opinion, anyway.  Certain judgements come into play in making such a call, and that is where the issue lies.  If I would've been that ump, I probably would not have made that call.  More importantly than all that, though, is the argument that it cost Atlanta the game.  It did not, plain and simple.  Their crappy playing, errors, and inability to score both before and after The Call were what lost them the game.  Atlanta fans should be glad they lost in the way they did vs. by forfeit, which very well could've happened after their ridiculous behavior.  Regardless, it made for an interesting start to the playoffs.  People were pissed about the game, the call, the new wild card situation, and everybody hated Bud Selig all over again.  The Cards had their work cut out for them against the Nationals and all but lost the division series.  They were down 6-0 going into the 4th, and the crowd quickly began celebrating their upcoming trip to the NLCS.  I can't blame them.  But wait!  These are the Cardinals.  A team who loves drama and roller coaster rides.  Did I mention Game 6?  So they do it again, in a very similar fashion.  One run here, a few runs there, and all of the sudden the Nats lead was down to 1.  It seemed swift and sudden and I'm sure horrifically painful to all of the Nationals fans and players.  They were deflated.  But wait!  The Nats get an RBI in the bottom of the 8th, they are now up by 2, and you can almost hear a collective sigh of relief in that stadium.  And then the Cardinals turned on their magical, playoff juice.  A utility player and a rookie from the minors, essentially two unknowns in a lineup filled with big names, pull off a miracle in the 9th.  Of course it would be 2 unknowns.  Of course it would be at the last possible minute when it's do or die.  Because that's how this team operates.  It was baseball at its best, and it's why I love this game that some call "boring".  So the Cards left the Nats in the dust and headed to San Fran.  Another series that has had its own share of drama.  Great pitching, bad pitching, errors, rain delays, broken bats left and right (what's up with that?), and now a series that stands at 3-2 Cardinals.  Of course the Cards couldn't just wrap this series up in 5 at home last night, give their bodies and their fans some rest.  Not complicated enough.  They must do things the hard way.  Now the series goes back to San Fran, where the Giants have a very good chance to come back and win this series.  Let's not forget that the Giants were down by 2 games to the Reds in the NLDS, until they marched into Cincinnati and showed them what's up by winning 3 games on the road, as well as the series.  Well done, San Fran, although I was rooting for the Reds.  Sunday night should be quite a game.  Hopefully there will be no game 7, but it wouldn't put it past these 2 teams. 

Let's not forget about the other wild card death match, where another shocker took place when the Baltimore Orioles beat the Texas Rangers for the remaining AL playoff spot.  Like the Cardinals, no one thought the Orioles had a chance.  I'm not sure why, but I've always rooted for the Orioles (along with the Indians).  They are the only 2 AL teams I give two craps about.  I have no explanation for this, but was thrilled to see the Orioles get to the playoffs.  It's been a long ass time.  And since I hate all things Texas, I was glad to see the Rangers go.  Baltimore, unfortunately, was booted after losing the division series to the fucking Yankees.  Who then proceeded to suck it up (I'm talking to you, A-Rod), break ankles (sorry Jeter, that is never good), and get their asses handed to them in a 4-0 game sweep by the Detroit Tigers!  Well done, Tigers.  You made it look like you are a force to be reckoned with.  I wouldn't know, because I pay little to no attention to your league until this time of year.  We shall see in the World Series, and I just might root for you if you end up playing San Fran, because I never, ever root from teams from Cali.  I just don't have it in me.  Plus, Detroit could use some happiness.

Playoff baseball, I thank ye for making October even more superb than it already is.  I look forward to the remaining heart attacks and roller coaster rides that you have yet to provide.

4.  Winery Trips.  You might be surprised to know that despite my location in the Midwest, there are a shit-ton of wineries in the vicinity.  Far enough out from the city that one can partake in quiet, breathtaking landscapes while sipping one's mediocre Midwest vino, but close enough that you only have to endure a 1-2 hour car/bus ride, depending on where you go.  For several years until most of my clan was in our very early 30's, we rented a bus for a winery trip every October.  It was complete insanity.  The wineries were packed with people.  I'm talking PACKED, with people who, for the most part, are not wine drinkers and proceed to drink their wine as if it were beer.  Then they get really fucked up, and do stupid things.  We had our share of that in my group, especially in the early years.  We've lost people and had to leave them there- 2+ hours from home, there was one arrest (not me, and it was for public drunkenness), two or three relationships ended, one marriage ended, one ankle was broken, and there was a rainy year that saw a playful, yet ugly mud fight.  I'm talking people literally covered in mud, just drunk and laughing their asses off.  Good pics from that trip.  We ultimately stopped the winery trips because we matured a tad and got tired of the debauchery and the crowds that seemed to grow larger every year.  Plus, the town we used to go to stopped letting buses in during October.  It got that crazy.  In the years since then, I continued to go to the wineries nearly every fall, but did so with less people, in a car with a designated driver, and not in October unless it was a Sunday, which is always much less crowded.  I also switched winery locales, to a spot only an hour from home that is usually not so crazy and crowded.  A few years ago some friends of mine moved to a new house where they befriended a bunch of cool neighbors around our age.  One of them rents a bus and organizes a winery trip every fall, and today will be my 3rd year partaking in that trip.  It's been great to do bus trips again, but not have to be the organizer anymore.  The last few years we went on the first Sunday in November, which was nice because it wasn't crowded and the weather was cool.  This year we are braving a Saturday, however we are going to a completely new locale that I wasn't even aware had wineries.  A place that has beautiful scenery, is right on the river, and is a known haunt for bald eagles.  I would imagine that it will be busy, but not a scene, as it's not yet known as a winery hot spot.  Good for us old folks.  Here are a few pics of the Midwest wine country:

Enjoy October folks, 'cause we only get one.  And head on over to Vincent's to get your fuzzy skeletonion fix.  'Cause it's OPG time!  Holla!

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