Whenever I find myself at a store that has a seasonal section right now, I make a point to walk by it. Back to school is the thing now, of course. But in a weird way that only I would acknowledge, I have started to associate the back to school aisle with what always comes after it…
I love seeing the first hints of Halloween season slowly starting to appear. July and August are so absurdly early for pumpkins to start showing up, especially because it’s so unreasonably hot outside in Phoenix. But appear they do, and although I try to contain the celebration aspect of Halloween to September and October only, I also feel I have an obligation to document these pre-season moments.
Costco is always first out of the gate, with their Halloween section (such as it is) appearing in early July typically. Unfortunately that pattern extends to an even further degree to Christmas, and by mid-October – prime Halloween time for all others – this stuff cedes its territory to Santa and his minions. But this year Costco upped their Halloween game with the two items above. Their usual M.O. is one scary decoration and one cutesy decoration. Not only did they stock two decorations I’d consider buying myself, they went ahead and added in one of those skeleton dogs that are becoming… disturbingly popular in recent years.
Then there’s At Home Decor, a newish place to Phoenix (used to be called Garden Ridge) that’s like a Costco-scale home decor place. They have a permanent installation of Christmas stuff, because they’ve got ample space for it, but they also get their Halloween kickin’ pretty early, and it doesn’t start vanishing before October 31st.
That’s what I’m talkin’ about… Pure potential. This aisle represents a Halloween that can do nothing but grow. If I come to this store again, I can be sure to find only more Halloween there. It may be “too early”, but that’s the beauty of it. Too early means anticipation is building. Too late means it’s all over.
Here’s a confession: I like September a little better than October. Granted, October is when all the big events happen. October contains literally all the reasons I do this stuff. But it’s also my busiest and most exhausting month. There’s so much to cram in, it becomes a source of continuous pressure. September for me is now like October was when I was younger. I’m surrounded by the growing Halloween spirit but I have the freedom to just bask in it, to think about the insanity to come with glee and excitement, before I’m on that speeding rollercoaster just trying to hang on.
What would Halloween be without pumpkin beer? I had a conversation with a friend this morning about the recent explosion of popularity for pumpkin beer. I love it, because it means every year there are more and more new varieties of the stuff for me to try, whereas in the beginning I was lucky to find five different types total. If a single new one appeared it was cause for celebration. Last year alone, I think I discovered eight new varieties.
But there’s a downside to this windfall, and the hipster side of me cocks an eyebrow at it. We are a fickle people, and anything that explodes in popularity reaches a sort of event horizon where society starts backlashing on it. Sure enough, last year the snarky Facebook comments started. “Enough with the pumpkin already”, “Brace yourselves, pumpkin everything is coming”, and the most egregious of all, “Pumpkin spice is the yoga pants of flavors”. Suddenly, I find myself accused of being “basic” because of my love of pumpkin, which (hipster alert) has been true LONG before any of this started happening.
Anyway, I’m ignoring the snark, and choosing to simply enjoy the upside of it. If you look closely at the picture above, you’ll see that most of my favorites are already back on the shelves at Total Wine, and that Pumking is now available in 4 packs of 12 oz bottles, along with the imperial pints. If my math is right, it doesn’t save you any money, but it does make it easier to share.
As much as it pained me to do so, I opted to hold off on buying any of these. This is something I’d like to save for September, if I can. The arrival of Phase I has to carry SOME kind of distinction.