My Neighborhood Is Obsessed with Pumpkins, and the Great Pumpkin’s Delighted

For reasons unknown, a fad in my neighborhood during fall and culminating on Halloween is pumpkins. Multiple pumpkins. Large, small, lumpy, smooth, often orange, punctuated with white, green, sage, multi-colored. On my walks I started counting numbers of pumpkins on porches. Very few have only one (I myself have two), and the winner so far is 16.

I don’t know why. Granted I’m in a family-heavy neighborhood where children are cherished and indulged as if they were tiny royals. Also an area with no poverty, whose residents can choose to dispose of their disposable income as they wish. I shouldn’t quibble, indeed, I’m not even sure what “quibbling” is, because I adore seeing the variety and the panache with which the home owners place their harvest bounty. Some stack several orbs on top of one another, some group colors and textures with care. Many set off large pumpkins with several miniature ones. Others combine real produce with the man-made variety. One home with front stairs positioned a pumpkin at the end of each step all the way up to the top. Another, with a short brick retaining wall, marched the produce all along the top, as if presenting the front entry to the world.

Squirrels treat outdoor decorative pumpkins as their personal grocery store. In my old neighborhood, which seemed to have ten squirrels for every resident, a pumpkin was fortunate if it survived overnight on the porch without a gnaw. My new neighborhood has fewer critters. Still last year only a few days passed before the golden fruit (yes, pumpkins are technically fruit) was attacked.

I’ve collected suggestions on squirrel repellents. The silliest one was to place several pumpkins together, as if propitiating the squirrel god by providing one sacrificial sphere. This only drives the critters into an eating frenzy. The defense that seems to succeed is to combine two techniques. I sprayed the pumpkins with hairspray, then sprinkled them with liberal doses of cayenne pepper.

I wonder if the proliferation of decorative pumpkins is another indication of our surfeit of consumerism. Surely no one other than pie makers NEEDS sixteen pumpkins. Still this is one glut I don’t object to. I tell myself we’re helping out the pumpkin farmers as well as delighting children and passersby, then give myself permission to simply enjoy the symbol of harvest bounty. Maybe I’ll dig out the seeds to roast and nibble on. That will justify my permissive attitude.

 

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Feet of Clay, Example #1: Did Bob Dylan Sell Out in His Super Bowl Ad? Or What Is “True Cool?”

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“You can’t fake true cool,” said the Super Bowl ad starring Bob Dylan. No, but you can fake sincerity.

When I strolled by the television on Super Bowl Sunday, my biggest surprise was not the winning team. I was floored when I spotted Dylan extolling the virtues of the American auto industry. Here was a hero of my youth, hard-core counter-culture leader, patron saint of individualism and liberal politics, shilling for the business poster-child of America’s hyper-consumerism and waste.

I had heard his music as audio for ads, but I figured he didn’t have much control over that in the welter of copyrights and legalities. This was different. His music wasn’t featured. He appeared on camera praising Chrysler as a product worthy of purchase, superior to other cars because it’s American-made.

Discussions about his spot cover the gamut of opinion. Some people feel artists don’t have many options nowadays to make a living unless they include advertising. Or they think performing artists expand their audiences and fan bases in this manner. Others are puzzled and confused by this decision apparently in contradiction to his long-standing persona. The one says Dylan is just changing as he matures. Another that “Dylan stands as an image of integrity, independence, and authenticity,” so it’s good business sense to relate him to a produce.

Sorry. Not to me. Seems to me to be part and parcel of the traditional American attitude—make as much money as you can by any means possible so you can consume excessive amounts of everything. The ad also asks. “Is there anything more American than America?” and continues to eulogize our supposed virtues. An appeal to an unfortunate human value run rampant in many nations—xenophobic and parochial jingoism. Thinking your country is always the best and eternally right.

What’s the importance of “cool” anyhow, touted in the ad. The judgment about attitude, behavior, and style is a knee-jerk opinion important only to advertising copywriters and adolescents up to the age of thirty. “Cool” has no relationship to essential worth of a person or even a product or service, when compared to honest, intelligent, humorous, caring, beautiful, courteous, any number of qualities.

Also interesting, Chrysler isn’t even an American company any more. It is a consolidated subsidiary of Italian multinational automaker  I have no problem with that. I do have a problem with hypocrisy in advertising.

It looks like my high school social studies teacher came closer to predicting the future than others, including Bob Dylan or Chrysler. Mr. Balliat’s evidently revolutionary theory was that eventually all arguments pro and con about trade and manufacturing and business will shake themselves out, and those countries and groups of people who WANT to work in a particular industry and who are BEST SUITED for the responsibility will do so.

As for me, I own a Toyota.