The transition to DayWalker from our performing jobs at Halloween is never an easy one- no one is looking forward to sunrise, because that’s hot bright burning sky-evidence that It’s Over. Our fun all-night jobs playing spooky monsters at the theme park is over and, like Senior Year of High School, my friends and I share a collective sense of sadness that this amazing time together has come to an end.
So I proposed a new tradition:
On October 31st, I carved a jack-o-lantern. I love these and the simple sweet glow from within the pumpkin has been a lifelong symbol of sugar-filled late nights and adventures with my fellow monsters. Even as children, trick-or-treating, the friendly faces on the pumpkins greeted us at every door when we played as miniature monsters.
It’s hard to know what to DO with the pumpkins when they start to rot and fade. Simply tossing them away seems cruel- almost disrespectful. My brother used to console me by telling me it was “going for a ride on the big green truck,” but I always felt sad to see it go- until I found The Field.
Back home, adjacent to a Seminary AND a Cemetery, this green field was filled with Brahma cattle. The priests would train and practice their prayers as they softly paced the ground which held their dead Bishops and Cardinals. The dead Men of Faith slowly decompose and become the earth. Grass grew from this spiritually enriched soil, and these gorgeous cows, the holiest and most revered of cattle, ate the grass.
So each November in Florida, when it was time to say goodbye to my pumpkin, I would place it between the rusty wires of the fence, on the border between the Church’s cemetery and the cow field. The jack-o-lantern became cattle food, the cows pooped, the poop became the earth, joining the bead bodies, over whom the priests would pray. I liked contributing to a natural cycle of faith and prayer and cows.
Now that I live in LA, I know of no such place. So I proposed to my friends that we use my jack-o-lantern, the symbol of our Season, as a conduit from this period in time to the next. We could charge it with our intentions, and maybe, perhaps, kind of, just a little, toss it into the Los Angeles river.
The LA River is actually an aqueduct, and seldom has water flowing through it. It’s polluted and filled with trash, scavengers, and the occasional desperate duck. It’s also been a popular body dump site for years, and is the setting for a recurring nightmare I’d experienced. I figured injecting something filled with positivity and love into this Shallow Vein of Death would be a great way to kick off the new year.
My friends were totally game, and after our last shift at the job ended, we piled into our cars and headed towards a bridge. It was 5am when we arrived, and oddly silent and still in a town typically filled with noise and chaos. We pulled the pumpkin from the plastic bag and discovered it had gotten pretty moldy just over the course of the day. Already soft and mushy, we set it on the ground where it slumped, exhausted.
Lexi produced some sharpie markers, and we wrote on the surface where we could find firm enough rind. We wrote goodbyes, and thank yous. We wrote hellos and welcomes. We wrote messages of love. In the predawn light, it was hard to see, but I still wanted to snap a picture as we hoisted the collapsing gourd to the top of the fence. The soggy rind began to slip out of our hands, but we managed, giggling and giddy as moldy pumpkin juice ran to our wrists.
“Everyone put a hand on the pumpkin,” Chelsea said.
I placed my hand on it.
“Jaime- your phone.”
Oh- I definitely was about to toss my camera phone into the LA River.
We all counted and tipped the dissolving jack-o-lantern over the spiked fence grate, where it fell faster than any of us expected.
Objects can only fall so quickly, but this orange blob seemed to blink through time itself and instantly hit the shallow stream of water with a delightfully sickening thud and splat. It exploded into a million wet pumpkin pieces, wetly shattering like a bag of guts. We were ecstatic as the river ran orange with our intentions, and I heard those desperate ducks quacking excitedly in the distance.
“They’re gonna get a great breakfast.”
Breakfast indeed- the sun was almost up!
We spent a little moment longer saying goodbye at the bridge, enjoying the last hour of darkness and The Familiar. Hugging, laughing hysterically over the nonsense that’s only funny in those magic hours when you’ve been up all night.
Lexi, who had driven her car, suddenly realized she’d found some shoes I’d “lost” months ago and returned them to me as we parted. I was again amazed at the reciprocity of nature, and how in Letting Go of one thing I enjoyed, I was given another. Like our Halloween Season, like the pumpkin itself, (somewhat) gracefully releasing something opens us up for the possibility of the New.
I returned my friends to their cars back at the Diner, and listened to a few more war stories in the parking lot before I realized I was so tired I could barely stand. I hugged them goodnight and drove west towards my home with the sunrise following close behind.
I could see it rising, pacing me in my rearview mirror, new and bluish-tinted in the early haze. And just like that, the night slipped away so fast- like a wet pumpkin through a river grate.
Welcome, What’s Next. I love you already.