The fall is officially upon San Francisco. The red maple tree outside my window now sports the colors of a sunset but not one leaf has fallen to the ground just yet. While I often argue the West coast seasons pale in comparison to the East coast, I am coming around to the idea that while it is nice to have snow in the winter and heat in the summer, the seasons are what you make of them. And so, I’ve come up with five surefire ways to celebrate this subtle onset of a changing time.
1. Make a leaf-themed mix CD for your friends.
I associate the season not with death as many might, but more so ennui and in the most exciting sense of term. Oh, what music can accompany this listlessness! The minor chords of possibility! I suggest starting the mix with something warm but bold, to set the tone for the rest of the album. For example, if your theme was music to listen to as a leaf floats gently to the ground, you might then begin with Karen Dalton’s “Something on Your Mind,” a tune that begins accessibly and then that deep ungendered voice enters with one word: yesterday. (Alternate intro song: Nico’s “These Days”). And then from there, those synesthetically orange-colored musicians can take the reigns. Simon and Garfunkel, Real Estate, Cat Power, old Bruce Springsteen, Nina Simone, Laura Nyro. And of course, the charming Jens Lekman whose song “Maple Leaves” is a heartbreaking ode to the misunderstandings of love set to the strings of Mamas and the Papas’ “Do You Wanna Dance,” another band whose harmonies could lift a pile of leaves into a swirl.
2. Talk to spirits through a Ouija board.
According to legend, the board began as an intended parlor game but then the spirits simply took over, using it as a portal to the living. A small heart-shaped piece of wood known as a planchette is used to contact the other side for answers to age-old questions such as: “Will I find my dream man?”; “Are you here to kill me?” and “Will my mom let me go on the ski trip?” You might suspect your friends are moving the planchette around and this suspicion might stem from your skepticism but that’s all part of the fun. Gather a few close friends, light some votives and get your scary on. And if you’re lucky, the spirits will talk to you first without even a prompting question. Once, when I was little, this girl down the street was by herself in her room and the Ouija board just happened to be out. The planchette started moving and she watched it spell out: M-A-K-E-M-E-A-S-A-N-D-W-I-C-H. Now that’s some pretty spooky stuff.
3. Watch The Craft and channel your inner Faruiza Balk.
There are thousands of horror movies out there and even more scary ones, but none can quite compare the terror that is the 1996 teen drama starring Robin Tunney, Neve Campbell, Rachel True and the crowd favorite, Fairuza Balk. A cult classic about the occult, this film has everything you need to satisfy your autumnal desires: wicca, snakes, gossip, diving boards, butterflies and Connie Francis. Speaking of crooners, the soundtrack is killer, jam-packed with ’90s staples like Matthew Sweet, Jewel, Juliana Hatfield, Elastica, and my personal favorite Love Spit Love’s cover of The Smiths’ “How Soon is Now.” When Sarah Bailey—played by Robin Tunney—moves into town, she has a hard time fitting in (didn’t we all!). A group of loner girls who dance to their own beat take Sarah in and she finds herself caught up in a strange world of black magic. But no one steals the scenes quite like Faruiza Balk’s character, Nancy Downs, whose desire to become greater than their god Manon, was the Oscar-winning performance that nobody saw.
4. Drink like you would on Thanksgiving.
And I definitely mean the amount you take in, which is usually a lot on that day. The last two Thanksgivings I was pretty intoxicated on vodka and apple cider, which my boyfriend’s cousin dubbed “George Washingtons” and which I’m totally down with. I attempted to research this seemingly obvious combination of beverages but the closest I found was Applejack, a concentrated cider drink for which George Washington allegedly wanted the recipe. Close enough! You can even take it a step further and prepare your own apple cider by simply buying delicious apples from that farmer you know, slicing them, pureeing them, and straining all the juice through cheesecloth. Voila! The crisp and brilliant taste of fall foliage bottled and in your refrigerator. If you’re interested in the difference between cider and juice, here’s a great explanation. Otherwise, you’re all set. Final step: just add vodka and you’ll be dancing on the pool table with a jack-o-lantern on your head in no time.
5. Visit one of your old schools.
It’s inevitable the fall season is associated with back to school everything. From raincoats to pencils to lunchboxes to notebooks to sneakers. Every year when you were young you did your best to enjoy those Indian summers (which many parts of the country are currently withstanding), clinging to every bit of sunshine you could before your bedtime moved up two hours. And even in college, it was back to the dorm life, the all-nighters, the jam bands, the 3am pizza inhalations. I suggest a return to any of these schools because that’s exactly what I did and it was awesome. I was home recently in upstate New York and took the hour and a half car ride up from Buffalo to the State University of New York at Geneseo; the same back road route I took countless times. The college itself sits upon a hill surrounded by vast farmlands. Although it was summer and the leaves had yet to change color, I could see it happening anyways because fall is the season I associate so closely with school. The reds and oranges just taking over. While you might not have gone to school on what was basically a farm, and while it might be impossible to travel thousands of miles just to feel a warm sense of nostalgia, there’s always another way, a more simple way. Just take a walk on cool day. By yourself or with a loved one. If there’s a tree on your way, that’s great. And if there’s a leaf falling from that tree, well, even better.