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Saturday, November 27, 2010


I know, the time of year for this has passed—or has it? Zombies today are season-less, rather like basic black, especially to what used to be called “the youth of today.” I haven’t met a kid out of diapers who doesn’t know what a Zombie is, but back in the ‘50’s, this wasn’t so.

Although it might seem amazing to today’s sophisticated mini-consumers of entertainment, Zombies were something I lived without until I was nine. My parents took us on a trip to Bermuda that April, when it was still snowing relentlessly in Upstate NY where we lived. In this vacation spot, I met lots of little city slickers from New York, sophisticated in the darker things, who told me all about Zombies. I think they had more exotic TV in the city, and had perhaps been treated to a Saturday afternoon showing of the Hollywood classic, I Walked with a Zombie, which, beyond the black and white horror film aspect, is a pretty good compendium of basic Zombie lore.

After they’d filled my head with these stories, I had an awful time going to sleep. In those days, some emotion or new concept would get into my head, and I’d experience a freezing, terrifying something akin to a panic attack. I was extremely glad we were on the third floor in that hotel. From what I’d just learned, Zombies weren’t too bright, and so I reasoned they would probably find enough prey to sate their unnatural needs on the two floors below mine.

I was glad I had learned about Zombies when my parents began to travel even farther afield, pretty far, actually for the 1950’s. The winter we spent in Grenada—the stated reason was that my mother had chronic bronchitis—we stayed in a guest house on a point overlooking the bay. There were kids living there with their hotelier parents, a family of four. We played when they got home from school every day. Being proper little West Indians, they knew all about Zombies. I might have lost face worse than I did otherwise if I hadn’t known about them. The creatures the little Grenadians were surprised I’d never heard of were werewolves, which they called Loupe Garou. (I think this is a Haitian expression.) At any rate, they believed that Loupe Garou had first appeared on Haiti, along with the Zombie. It was from that dark birthplace that they’d spread all over the world.

Undeadness is the Zombie’s most repulsive, hackles-raising attribute. As omnivores we should probably forgive their fondness for brains, which are a great source of nutrition. Americans don’t eat them much, but our frugal ancestors did, and most carnivorous animals certainly do. Whenever our well-fed Katter Bob catches a mouse or whatever unlucky rodent, he always begins at the head.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Pumpkins, etc.

Pumpkins—it’s that time of year again. I’ve been carving them since I was pretty little. In those days, the Mom’s job was to fuss about stuff like learning to use knives, but the Dad usually was the one who showed you how to do it in the typical early 20th Century brusque guy way. I appreciated it though. Instead of lots of cautions, I was told to hold the knife this way—NOT LIKE THAT—After an admonition to “be careful” when pumpkin guts made the handle slippery, I was on my own, out on the porch steps in a chilly upstate New York afternoon. I remember finally gripping the pumpkin between my denim clad knees, as the best way to hold it still.

These days getting the kids ready to pumpkin carve can resemble the planning of an expedition to the North Pole. You must use ‘specially scary store-bought patterns, and you certainly must employ one-use carving knives, bought from the Halloween displays in the mega-mart or supermarket. Of course, cutting pumpkins is still big fun, and gives expression to the desire to create something charmingly gruesome—my particular favorite being the one in which the pumpkin appears to be vomiting its own guts. Artistry and/or marketing aside, as a child, the test of getting acquainted with my own hands and that lethally sharp old meat knife, and to experience a large squashes’ slimy sticky insides up close and personal, to inhale that acid-sweet big squash fragrance, couldn’t be beat.

I don’t have any grandkids handy to have fun with, but sometimes I still get a knife out and attack one of my pumpkins. I always buy them, even this year, when we had so many squirrels that I couldn’t display them on our porch. As soon as I tried, some fat, lazy tree rat of other would try nibbling away a patch of orange skin. So for the last 4 weeks, my beautiful, carefully chosen pumpkins have been on display only for me and my husband, sitting in the fireplace.

By the way, B0B doesn’t seem as inclined to catch such dangerous prey as squirrels now that he has a reliable, comfortable crash pad. He did bring me three tails this summer—he lays his trophies, like scalps, out on the porch—but that was nowhere near sufficient to stem the tide. If we were a little farther out in the country, I swear we’d be regularly eating Brunswick stew!