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The first thing that comes to my mind when I think about October is its colors – or, rather, whether we’ll have the wonderful fall colors that the American Midwest is famous for. (We usually do, but I’m worried about that every year. ) And the second October thing I think about is Oktoberfest.
Of course, unlike fall colors, Oktoberfest is not “native” to the Midwest. It originated in Munich, Germany, in 1810, and has been celebrated there ever since (except during wars and cholera epidemics) with large quantities of beer. To give you an idea of these quantities, during Oktoberfest 2014, 6.5 million two-pint mugs of beer were consumed. This resulted, among other things, in at least one attempted heist of a trolley full of beer mugs and a number of lost items – including 230 pairs of eyeglasses, two wedding rings, a set of dentures (!) and a French horn.
My husband and I were in Munich at the end of August, and beer tents were already going up. We also noticed that many old buildings were being thoroughly cleaned – although that could have had nothing to do with the festival but with the fact that Germany has money to spare . In any case, we both decided that there is more to Munich than its Oktoberfest celebrations: impressive medieval churches, neoclassical buildings and theaters and crowds of tourists from all over the globe. We had a pleasant stay there, but we didn’t drink much – my husband doesn’t drink and I prefer wine. Instead, we enjoyed German desserts: plum and strawberry cakes, sweet pretzels and such.
Back home, Oktoberfest finally caught up with us. Of course, Oktoberfest in Missouri is not as big as in Munich, where some six million people attend every year, but it is just as festive – especially if you like wine. Yes, unlike the one in Munich, our Oktoberfest is mostly about wine, although the people who brought it to this country did come from Germany.
I’ve been growing my own garlic for roughly 14 years, thanks to a master gardener friend of mine who got me started. He gave me some of his “seed” stock and loaned me one of his 3’ x 25’ garden beds. I’ve been borrowing his garden bed and growing garlic ever since. Of the two garlic varieties he gifted me, I’m especially fond of the German extra hardy hardneck and now grow it almost exclusively. I like it best for several reasons: the cloves are large, so fewer cloves have to be peeled when cooking; it stores well; and most importantly, it has a good, strong flavor.
I’ve gardened itinerantly for years and still am no expert, but I do know that garlic (the deer don’t bother it, hallelujah) is my favorite crop to grow. That’s because it’s easy – so easy that I don’t really feel like a real gardener, since not much toiling is involved. I just punch a hole in the earth about four inches deep with a dibber, drop a clove of garlic into it and then fill the hole back in with dirt. In mid-October I can plant 120 cloves of garlic in the above mentioned bed in about an hour and then cover it up with a thick layer of leaves for mulch, leaving it until May or June before I have to do any tending.
There should be a word for the feeling one gets when wooed by an artist from beyond the grave. After several seconds of consideration, I propose “melanarsabsentia.” Graham Joyce gave me a severe case of melanarsabsentia. He died on September 9th, and I didn’t read him until a few days later. The first thing I read by him, a blog post in part concerning his impending death and the beauty of living, made clear his large heart, fine wordsmanship and my need to read his novels. Of course, it’s not like if I’d have read him while he was living that we would’ve gathered for snacks shared over a tedious board game, though I can’t rule it out. Regardless, there will be no yogurt-covered pretzels and monopoly for us, unless he comes back to haunt me and/or my ability to communicate with the spirit world finally manifests. If I were a character from his novels, I might very well have such a haunting, or at least my sanity might bend in such a way as to believe I’m being haunted. But as I’m a character from some other novel with no perceptible ghosts and a narrative that can’t be bothered to skip a single bathroom break or dull moment, I guess I’ll never meet Mr. Joyce. But melanarsabsentia is only just barely about the elimination of the unlikely possibility of meeting the artist; it’s more about an artist whose work deserves to be appreciated by everyone inclined to appreciate their sort of work being robbed of having such persons appreciate them while they’re still alive to appreciate it, even though the appreciation directed the artist’s way almost certainly won’t be perceivable.
“Some Kind of Fairy Tale” is sort of a kind of tale about fairies, but mostly about a family of humans. Joyce needs only a few hundred words to deeply invest you in his characters so you feel their shock when, during the novel’s opening scene, a man answers the door to find his daughter, gone missing 20 years ago, returned and not aged a day.
Thirty-five years ago this October, the Missouri State Genealogical Association (MoSGA) began its grass roots efforts to protect old family cemeteries, preserve precious records and help people discover their own roots.
This work began after the popular television mini-series “Roots,” based on the book by Alex Haley, and its sequel were aired in 1977 and 1979, respectively. Today, the organization is still going strong, holding a state conference that includes a nationally known speaker and several support speakers. MoSGA also helped pass a state law that protects many family cemeteries that dot the countryside throughout Missouri. This organization has funded several causes related to genealogy: collecting money to give to the National Archives Trust Fund to save documents in the National Archives; contributing to a 21st Century Fund to give money to local historical and genealogical societies where manpower to preserve some of their records is available, but not monies; and providing the funding to purchase thousands of dollars worth of books written about Missouri that are historical and/or genealogical in nature. These books are housed in the Midwest Genealogy Center in Independence, Missouri, but they are available to all DBRL users via interlibrary loan (ILL).
Is autumn supposed to be this soggy? My chrysanthemums are struggling in my swampy flower beds. I’m thinking of designing water-proof Halloween costumes for my kiddos. All of this rain has me feeling a little down, and I thought our readers might be having a similar case of the weather-induced blues. My cure? Let’s give away some free stuff!
Register to win one of following audiobooks on CD by filling out our short online form. We’ll notify winners after November 5.
One entry per person. Good luck!
“Jack the Ripper Murders Solved!” “Identity of Jack the Ripper Proven by DNA Evidence!” For a couple of days, I saw headline after headline proclaiming the serial murder case that has befuddled investigators for more than 120 years had finally been cracked by modern forensics. This flurry of discussion was prompted by the publication of a new book, “Naming Jack the Ripper” by Russell Edwards, a London history buff who came into possession of a shawl worn by one of the victims. He claims some DNA left on the material matches the DNA of a descendant of Aaron Kosminski, a London hairdresser and long-time resident on the suspect list. Additionally, Edwards quotes a detective who worked the case as saying he believed Kosminski was the culprit. Case closed. Right?
Soon enough articles started popping up, saying, in essence: “Not so fast.” They point out that even if the DNA is Kosminski’s, it doesn’t mean he killed the owner of the shawl, only that he had some contact with it. Maybe he sneezed on it while standing next to her. Then, too, the garment has changed hands many times. A lot of people have handled it over the years. And Edwards is not the first person to have “named” the killer.