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When I was seven, I moved out of the room I shared with my older brother and into my own room. I don’t recall what caused my parents to decide this — perhaps it was a birthday present for my brother turning ten — but for me it was nothing if not a mixed blessing. I mean, I loved getting my own desk and new wallpaper that I picked out and my own bed, all the trappings of a room to grow up in. But without my brother there with me, there was something truly terrifying about being alone at night in the dark.

Not that my brother was much of a protector. More often he’d attack me in my sleep, steal and break my toys, and “dead-arm” me over and over again for his sadistic pleasure. But in my room alone, all alone, I felt susceptible to all the forces of darkness — the monsters under the bed, the prowlers lurking at the window, the creepers in the closet waiting to kidnap me. I had no protection at all. Leaving the safety in numbers of my brother’s room and the comfort of our New York Giants’ helmet night light filled me with imaginings of untold peril.
More… “Halloween is Cancelled”

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If Christmas is the great holiday for sounds — think of all of the masterworks and the centuries of carols — then surely Halloween is the bushel holiday harvest for sights. The very plumage of the landscape itself morphs from pastel verdure to vermillion explosions of the sorts of colors that we think of as having tongues, lapping across expanses as if summoning your gaze. The boogeymen come out, too, much as the ghosts do at Christmas, but whereas the latter have a subtle ease to them, the Halloween haunts rarely do. Part of that may have to do with Washington Irving and his Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon from 1820, a work that, in one vignette, helped inspire a visual schema that still colors the season.

Most people don’t read the Sketch Book in full anymore, focusing instead on its two most famous tales: “Rip Van Winkle” and, of course, the object of our purpose, “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.” These are bumper crop works that repay and repay, but that’s the gist of the thirty-four essays, stories, anecdotes, and musings that comprise the Sketch Book itself, a weird piece of Americana by turns folksy, Gothic, chatty, and terrifying which also happens to be exceedingly accessible. And, wouldn’t you know, entirely modern, as if Irving’s words have piggy-backed atop the Horseman’s mount and rode into the latest age, ready to gallop off with a willing reader.
More… “Getting to the Bridge”

Colin Fleming’s fiction appears in Harper’s, Commentary, Virginia Quarterly Review, AGNI, and Boulevard, with other work running in The Atlantic, Salon, Rolling Stone, The New York Times, and JazzTimes. He is a regular guest on NPR’s Weekend Edition and Downtown with Rich Kimball, in addition to various radio programs and podcasts. His last book was The Anglerfish Comedy Troupe: Stories from the Abyss, and he has two books forthcoming in 2018: Buried on the Beaches: Cape Stories for Hooked Hearts and Driftwood Souls, and a volume examining the 1951 movie Scrooge as a horror film for the ages. Find him on the web at colinfleminglit.com.

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Today, the damp wind outside the Smart Set office has a not-so-summery edge. It’s got us all talking about fall food and fashions (soups and sweaters, respectively) and looking forward to October days with a little less rain and a little more sunshine. To best take advantage of those days, let Jesse Smith be your guide to a little-known branch of the autumn tourist industry.

Not everyone sees fall as so gloomy, or fall foliage viewing as so formless an activity — state tourism and environmental agencies, for instance. Where you see red and orange and yellow, they see green, and they’re all scrambling to grab as much as they can from what are affectionately known in New England as leaf peepers. It sounds like a pretty dog-eat-dog industry. •

Read It: Peepin’ Ain’t Easy by Jesse Smith

Get in touch with The Smart Set at editor@thesmartset.com.

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What is it about autumn and the dedication of major engineering projects in the American Southwest? Seventy-five years ago, on September 30, 1935, Franklin Roosevelt traveled to the Colorado River just south of Las Vegas to dedicate the Boulder Dam, better known as the Hoover Dam. On October 16, 2010, dignitaries and public spectators will gather 1,500 feet downstream to dedicate the Mike O’Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge, better known as the Hoover Dam Bypass.

Colossus: Hoover Dam and the Making of the American Century by Michael Hiltzik. 512 pages. Free Press. $30.

The Bypass dedication ceremony is going by the name Bridging America. Its website warns attendees to expect high temperatures, dry and windy weather, little shade, minimal refreshments, long waits, and “walking on dirt.” One hopes that with such adverse conditions, spectators don’t fail to note the irony of marking the 75th anniversary of an engineering… More…

Late fall is kind to us in Boston, partly cloudy and near 60 degrees. Everything is supposed to be dead, the foliage succumbing to the arriving winter, but life hangs on, the trees still with multi-colored leaves, the green grass, a few blooming roses in the garden. This morning I am running on a course around the Boston Fens, a large park with a community garden, a soccer and softball field, a basketball court, and arching bridges going up and over the small bodies of run-off water from the Charles River. The weather is breathtaking on this, my fourth birthday in New England and the only one on which I have been able to run outside. I was going to write an essay similar to this one last year, but it was far too cold to run outside and running on the treadmill beneath the overhead TVs displaying news about… More…

 

Toward the end of every summer, I start telling myself that this will be the year I’m finally taking that trip to view fall foliage. The prospect of an autumnal jaunt is really about getting through the despondence of that season’s end, I think, because I never do make such a trip, and I honestly don’t even know what it would mean to go on a fall foliage trip. Do you stick to roads? Hike? New England sounds nice, but that’s awfully general. How much time should one allot for looking at changing leaves? Would three days fly by, or would an hour feel like a lifetime?

Not everyone sees fall as so gloomy, or fall foliage viewing as so formless an activity — state tourism and environmental agencies, for instance. Where you see red and orange and… More…