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The Guy Chronicles

Best of Fall: October Is the Manliest Month of All

October 18, 2000|Chris Erskine

Scenes from an autumn day:

I throw open the kitchen windows and let October into the house, remembering that Canada is always sending us two things that we cannot live without: cool air and comedians.

"What are you doing, Dad?" one of the kids asks as I open the windows.

"I'm letting in the comedians," I say.


"Don't get him started," their mother warns.

Cold like beer this air, it heralds the arrival of October, our best and most-American month. The most male month.

Every time you turn on the TV, there's a ballgame. Whistles fill the air. Guys dressed like gladiators are trying to destroy each other. Young women cheer them on, ripe and wiggly in their sweaters. Human Jell-O.

"Can you close the windows?" someone asks.


"It's cold," he says.

Yep, it's cold. It might be in the upper 50s, which is the perfect temperature for a mid-October weekend like this. Cheeks flush. Fireplaces glow. The dog sleeps on my feet like a pair of winter slippers. I can feel his heartbeat through my socks. On the couch I sit, comatose and happy.

One channel has a championship baseball game. Another has a college football game. Upstate, in Northern California, there's this football game between two old rivals. For some strange reason, it is not being televised. There are reruns of "Charlie's Angels" but no UCLA-Cal game.

"I'm keeping a very low profile," Jaclyn Smith is saying on "Charlie's Angels."

"Where are you staying?" asks Farrah.

"In a motel in Burbank," Jaclyn says.

"You can't keep a lower profile than that," Farrah says.

Do Saturdays get any better than this?


In the late afternoon, we go in search of pumpkins, substantial pumpkins, thick and meaty as a politician's head.

"Are they good eating?" I ask the teenager working at the pumpkin lot.

"Mostly, people use them for decorations," he says.

"How strange," I say.

The kids pick out pumpkins, then set them on nearby bales of straw, where they look at them from every angle.

Size is important. Shape is important. So is complexion.

Apparently, so is firmness. Texture. Posture. Poise. After 30 minutes of this, I realize that they're not picking out a pumpkin, they're picking out a spouse.

"It's just a pumpkin," I say.

"What about that one?" the boy says.

"That one's beautiful," the little girl says.

"It's just a pumpkin," I say.

"Twenty bucks," says the attendant.

It's a fact of life that nobody looks good carrying a pumpkin. It's an awkward thing, even in my strong and capable hands--with fingers made strong from years of writing out checks and scratching my forehead. Mighty hands. Hands that are all business. If you're a pumpkin, you long to be carried to the car by a guy like me.

"Careful, Dad."

"I've got it," I lie.

"You're all sweaty," she says.

"Thanks," I say.


In almost every yard, there's a campaign sign. Forget the trees. In L.A., they won't turn till November. For now, it's the campaign signs that decorate our yards. Fall's true colors.

They are everywhere, these signs. Rogan. Schiff. Bush. Gore. All in that same sickly airline blue.

"I like Schiff," says the little girl.

"Shows what you know," I say.

"I'm for Rogan," says the boy.

"Shows what you know," I say.

I tell them that what America ought to do is return to a monarchy, an idea first suggested by this guy Jon at work, who edits obituaries for a living and knows dead stuff when he sees it.

Under a monarchy, he reasons, we wouldn't have to go through this kind of nonsense every four years.

"In Europe, monarchies worked for hundreds of years," I tell the kids.

"They did?"

"Thousands, even."

"They did?"

I tell them that restoring a monarchy to America would be fairly simple. We'd just have to find a capable king or queen, preferably with some crazy and irresponsible children, then turn them loose. Politics would be simpler. Best of all, we'd never have to hear about campaign finance reform again.

Sure, there are a few pitfalls to a monarchy. Palace coups. Errant pregnancies. A certain amount of insanity. But thanks to the Kennedys, we've already been exposed to a lot of that stuff.

"Where would the king live?" the boy asks.

"Aaron Spelling's house," I say.

The boy seems excited by the idea of a monarchy in America, if only because he hopes to marry into the new royal family and never have to clean his room again.

"You'd make a good prince," I say.

"Really?" he says.

"The standards are pretty low," I explain.

"How low?"

"Well, basically, there are no standards," I say.

"That's for me," he says.

Back home, America's newest prince carries the $20 pumpkin to the front porch, where he sets it down too hard. It bounces like a basketball but doesn't break. Which just goes to show what charmed lives young princes lead.

"Nice job," I say.

"Thanks," he says.

"Now go mow the lawn," I say.


Chris Erskine's column is published on Wednesdays. His e-mail address is

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