Fall is here at last, with its fresh mornings, clear, bright days and cool nights. In terms of comfort and freedom, fall is our spring, the season when we're newly able to open the windows wide, get out of the house before dusk, keep the covers on at night and generally relax into temperate weather. Even here, spring is a richer and more gratifying time--everything begins to bloom and breed and go about the real business of life then--but behind the delights of the Sonoran spring loom the ferocity of summer.
Fall, though, means a half-year, at least, of mild days, even if they're awfully short and occasionally cold and (we fervently hope) wet. It's a relief, even after an easy summer like this last one, to be able to let down our defenses and enjoy the natural world again. You can bundle up against the cold and still get out, but there's no comfort in the big heat except inside.
With the change of season come gusts of memory--not so much specific memories as restless fragments of mood and thought carried by fresh breezes, slanted light and cool tile underfoot. The weather changes, and we awaken to the world, and to the past. Every year, fall reminds us why we live here.
With all its pleasures, autumn still turns our thoughts to the constantly accelerating passage of time, and our place in the forward sweep of things. I've been thinking lately about how the world has changed since I was born. The novelist John Updike has complained that he and his generation were uniquely disadvantaged, oppressed by the awesome authority of World War II-era parents, but unable to enjoy the same sort of respect as adults because of the '60s. I must say that this makes me want to, like, cry.
Of course, I was one of those snotty '60s kids, and my middle-aged self-pity has different poles: I'm sad that I was born too soon for Jello shots and too late for a stable planetary climate. On the other hand, I can cheer myself up thinking about the revolution in product availability that's taken place in my lifetime. I may worry about the methane bubbling up from under the melting permafrost and fret about the polar bears, but I'm still not one to underrate the importance of being able to get iPods in designer colors and asparagus in December.
Fall is also election time, unfortunately, that time when watching the evening news can make you loathe and despise your fellow man--not because of what's going on in the world, but on account of the political ads. My current favorite is the paranoid-redneck Kyl ad with the bevy of county sheriffs standing out in a cholla patch talking about the alien threat. Can you imagine how thrilled these guys were to be invited? "Hey, Luanne! I'm gonna be on TV, and I get to wear my hat!"
And speaking of surreality in advertising, have you seen the new Lute Olson billboards advertising a pest-control company and Bible-beater radio? (No, not on the same billboard, although that might have saved time and money.) Both have Olson standing against a pastel background in pure, unshadowed white light, like a god on a Tiepolo ceiling, and both cast him as the supreme defender of all that's sacred: On the extermination billboard, he says of the company, "They protect my family," while the radio board quotes him as saying that the station is "Safe for the whole family." Oddly enough, the two billboards were up last week within three blocks of each other on First Avenue, near Grant Road, creating an odd and somehow sinister effect. (Both companies should be asking their advertising agencies some hard questions about now.)
As a gravely sports-impaired person, I find the idea of the deified coach/spokesperson absolutely fascinating, and I've followed Olson's career in marketing carefully. The dry-cleaning gig made sense: He's sooo clean. But Family Life Radio? Apparently it really is a short leap from cleanliness to godliness in the public mind.
Dear Lute, protect and save us from spiders and National Public Radio. And, please, Lute, you can never be rich enough, so don't ever stop shilling for local business.
Well, it feels good to have gotten that bit of sacrilege off my chest. I don't know what I'll do in the future, because I've given into the siren song of health insurance and a regular paycheck and have gotten an honest job, so I won't be doing this column anymore. My sarcastic shoes will be more than filled, though, by Catherine O'Sullivan, who's taking over my biweekly slot.
It's been a blast, and I thank those of you who've written to me over the years from the bottom of my heart.
Best wishes. Over and out.