The Leaves They Are a-Changin’

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Starbucks is always jumping the gun. They’re that guy who aggressively starts rocking shorts in March. Easy does it, fella. It’s 53 degrees out. If there’s an approaching equinox or solstice, Starbucks is going to remind you well in advance. It’s a smart move by the coffee giant and it makes a lot of sense. They blew up because they championed the understanding that coffee was an emotionally tied ritual people would certainly pay extra for. Sure, it is a highly popular stimulant served for convenience in an increasingly fast-paced world, but you paid $5 for hot water over beans. It’s obviously so much more than that. So when the seasons change Starbucks upholds their ability to sell you on something before you realize the entirety of why you’re buying it. Yes, it’s weird, and for some a little off-putting to see them advertising their famous pumpkin spice lattes on Labor Day, but I bet it got those autumn juices going.

There are significant emotional ties to coffee the same way there are emotional ties to the seasons. When people say why they like coffee they don’t say, “I like water through roasted beans” the same way you don’t answer why you like summer with, “I like when our hemisphere is pointed more directly to the sun.” A change in season for a person is less about being closer to the sun and more about being closer to the chest. However, avoiding logic makes explaining why you love something much more difficult. It’s also far more nauseating for anyone to have to listen to. It’s like in a romantic comedy when a B-list fill in the blank tries to tell you he loves Jennifer Aniston for how she dips her toast in – get this – milk! Oh really? That’s why you love your banging hot bodied cool girlfriend? I’m sure you go to bed with her laughing about the silliness of her toast. But in reality these types of stupid descriptions are found in our explanations for why we’re looking forward to a season, especially when we get to our favorite one. And it’s here. Break out the chili ladles and leaf blowers. Its fall, bitches.

For those of us who didn’t ask for our last few weeks of summer to be pumpkin spiced, fall officially kicked off last week. Like most adults, I’m happy about it. Once you enter the working world fall is by far the best season of the year. Ask someone why and you’ll get an illogical assortment of nouns. Explaining fall admiration results in a mixed bag of things that by themselves don’t seem very cool, but when grouped together is very comforting. There’s also a readiness to turn the page without re-writing the book. We all love change when it’s explicitly external: Wait, so a change in season means I’ll wear different clothes and get to do different things without changing anything that requires real effort, consequence, or sacrifice? Hell yeah, sounds good. I love change that doesn’t require me to change.

This current seasonal transition is almost always welcomed. Summer is a terrific time, but it’s mainly because the longer days and warmer weather encourages you to inhale as much fun as you can. Summer is an amplified schedule of grandiose leaving you highly entertained and ultimately exhausted. Fall on the other hand amplifies the enjoyment of the mundane. Summer happiness is vacations, big weddings, and water toys. Fall happiness is a crock pot of chili and a case of Oktoberfest. Which is easier? Fall is great for a lot of reasons that carry anticipation, but it’s also summer’s much needed exhale.

There are certain character traits that get elevated and suppressed during this transition. For instance, my level of douche rises with the temperature. I’m far more immature than a man my age should be during all the seasons, but I really sell you on it in the summer. I’m a walking Bud Light commercial actor. I wear tank tops in public, listen to sticky pop music, and am far more likely to be up for whatever. Fall’s arrival is met with a much needed dose of maturity that relaxes me a bit. I start dressing my age (I think?), I fall back in love with music that doesn’t have a version of it on Kidz Bop, and I realize only a child is up for whatever. No I’m not up for whatever. Whatever could be a lot of things. What if I said yes and you turned on season 3 of Roseanne, or only slightly worse, smashed my face with a shovel? It would be my fault since I’m the asshole who didn’t outline any reservations.

This kind of character upgrade from summer to fall is everywhere. Movies go from terrible popcorn fun to Oscar buzz. You start attending parties where the first thought is “what food should I make?” You stop requiring that everyone bring a case of beer and exchange it with a seasonal 6-pack or a bottle of wine and pair it with a finger food. I spent the summer ogling at girls in bikinis (they don’t notice 5% of the time), but come fall I applaud their effort for being a giant sandwich for Halloween. “Oh I get it, you’re a midnight snack. That is too cute.” If someone suggested spending an afternoon in a muddy field picking out giant vegetables to take home and carve I would have told you, “I got a better idea. No fucking way!” In the fall that actually sounds nostalgic and lovely, provided there are several beers involved in this foray. I need a social lubricant when I go places that have a lot of kids around looking at me with that “what are you doing here, doo-doo head?” face. You see, I’m not that great with kids. When toddlers wave to me I panic and don’t know what to do. It ends in me giving them a dollar and telling them “milk is good for bones.” Just walk away, Mike. Walk away.

It seems like I’m saying we become lamer in the fall. I’m not, at least not on purpose. Maturity and lameness are often mistakenly linked. Maybe what these changes in behavior are hinting at is that summer gives us a narrower focus and fall opens it back up. My douchey summer behavior is easy because douche bags are simple and narrow minded. The fall has more complexity to it. Everyone loves it, but for very different and indefinable reasons. Even the weather is described with more ambiguity. Summer is simply “hot.” Fall is “crisp.” If you can succinctly and universally define what crisp weather is better than hot weather you win, but you have to beat “hot is hot.” Good luck. Summer is incredible, don’t get me wrong, but it’s like a vacation. Eventually everyone wants to return to a relaxed, less concentrated lifestyle. I loved the last four months. It got me off my ass and summer does that better than any other season. But this is America; 1st place in obesity. It doesn’t take long before we’re happy to find a chair. Fall is a nice cushiony recliner with the game on. And here we are. The essential element to the fall season: Football.

I struggle to articulate my affinity for fall like the rest of us, but its primary ecstasy is assuredly found in the return of football and everything that comes with it. Sundays actually feel like a day off rather than a day of anxiety. You wake up on both days of the weekend with anticipation rather than one morning having plans and the other, regret. You attend tailgates or go to bars and parties filled with people cheering for your hometown team. There’s a sense of community that football gives you more than any other sport. And I beg you to argue that with me. You will lose.

Fall also enhances what is best known as morning time. Morning time is an incredible routine and as much as I enjoy my friends and our endeavors, my morning time is deeply sacred to me. I like to get up early and run the gamut of fresh coffee, news, music, and serenity. The weather has that chill to it, but it’s not bitter. I’ll have my window open to the outside landscape of a blue sky up top and burnt orange and yellow on the way down. I’m not remotely embarrassed to admit the pumpkin spice candle on my coffee table. It’s there because I went into the Yankee Candle store and bought it myself, while also smelling other jars at the recommendation of a much older woman helping me, usually named Judy. She finds me adorable and appreciates a man conscious of scent. I hear your scoffs. If you’re not comfortable enough in your manhood to admit pumpkin spice candles make a room smell good, well then Judy and I say get fucked. This is morning time done right. And with any luck, a little determination, and a noticeably still evident blood alcohol level, it repeats itself on Sunday (except the pregame football coverage is much worse). A few hours and a vicious coffee dump later, It’s Who Dey! time.

These are only two of my reasons for Autumn adoration.  A lot of people may not appreciate these even with an equal respect for the season, and that’s great. Fall’s appeal is universally acknowledged, but like a lot of good things it is so much harder to simplify. And it proceeds the season that conversely is very easy to simplify.

It’s possible there is no coincidence that a hot grill is likened to summer and a slow-cooker dominates the fall. Both create universally delicious meals, but they operate on very different standards. A grill cooks big food fast, simple, and separate from each other. It’s fairly basic. That’s what summer is: Simplicity on a plate. A slow-cooker doesn’t provide the jolts of flavor as discernibly or efficiently as a grill, but it can handle far greater complexity. It calmly combines flavors from an impressive list of smaller ingredients all cooking together that when you eat it, you can’t pinpoint or decipher everything in there. It’s just delicious. That’s fall: calm complexity in a bowl.

I don’t need to stop at food (yeah, but can you?). Drinks are as much a part of the seasons as anything. Summer is a shot of tequila. Fall is a bourbon cocktail. Both are great, but only one of them isn’t concerned with longevity. Anyone who can sustain summer activity longer than a few months at our age is probably a lot of fun, but likely a little reckless. Tequila is a great start to a party, but you let it dominate your night and you won’t party very long. Bourbon is for sipping. It’s more relaxed. A lot of people come home from a long day of work and put their feet up with bourbon. You don’t put your feet up with tequila (unless you had a really good time, hey-ohhh!). Tequila lets you rage. Bourbon lets you unwind. After four months of raging in the summer, we all just want to relax.

So grab your jacket, plan your Sundays, and start thinking about that Halloween costume you’re going to wear before waking up the next morning and trying to find answers to where your shoes are, why your face is sticky and what you’re doing with your life, not necessarily in that order. It’s here, guys! A fun, hot, whirlwind summer is over. It’s time to embrace the pumpkin spiced, football loaded, chili eating, pumpkin carving, vest wearing, tailgate partying, leaf raking, fire-pit roasting, tree gazing, horror movie watching, heavy craft beer drinking, blanket carrying, GAP shopping, nostalgic craving, less gym going, your baby-sitting-on-a-pumpkin instagram posting, soccer game morning, apple picking, more frequent shit taking, colder bed sheet sleeping, cider making, darker commuting, token ‘blackout before kickoff’ tailgate attending (“where’s Kelly!? Have you seen my friend, Kelly? What’s your name?”), candy corn accepting, scenic driving, trick or treating, Friday night light missing (we shoulda gone to state), “why is the World Series on so late?” brooding, hot hands buying, child waving, child scaring, child crying, brown food dominating, socks-on-carpet light switch shocking, turkey pardoning, nap taking, complex and clearly impossible to sensibly define beauty that is…fall.

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