Five Lies About Autumn in Pittsburgh

In a sad twist of irony on irony, my blog post about Pumpkin Spice Latte memes has now become the most read post in the history of this blog. Oh, the humanity.

In my defense, I don’t own yoga pants. I also only wear leggings or tights underneath other items of clothing.

In the spirit of debunking my own participation in the basic white girl meme (what does that really mean anyway?) #PSL loving (I had to tell Ledcat what that means, btw) – let me share a few other lies they told us about autumn in Pittsburgh. Yes, I think about this too much.

Temperature – It is typically still pretty warm in September so don’t put those shorts away just yet. October is often cool, but typically saves up its one blast of frigid weather for Trick-or-Treat to destroy your carefully planned costume dreams by the addition of a coat. Sigh. The days of crisp leaves and snug sweaters layered over jeans and boots typically do not overlap. Leaves are crisp on occasion, but usually they are just wet, soggy heaps on the streets clogging up the sewers and making your feet wet when you step out of the car. October is that month when you might wear a sweatshirt in the AM and shorts/tee shirts in the afternoon. And back again. Yoga pants are probably a good bet actually.

Autumn Things
I raked leaves from this tree for 18 years.

Leaves – I grew up with trees, including a huge red maple tree in the front yard. Raking wet leaves is a tedious task that offers no reward at the end. In fact, we were not allowed to jump in leaves because my father rightfully determined that the impact would just scatter the leaves and probably cause injury. Plus, have you ever raked leaves in a yard owned by a dog?  Uggghhh. My Dad made us rake the street and our neighbors driveway because they were our leaves. My brother once had the bright idea of using a hose to simply wash away the leaves. No one was pleased with that outcome. Sure the leaves were pretty, but its like owning a swimming pool – a lot more work than you really expect.

Festivals – When I was a kid in the 1970s and 1980s, there really weren’t a lot of festivals except church festivals. I spent my time living in a rural area with real picking adventures and bonfires and all that. So maybe I just have unrealistic expectations, but most autumn festivals are dull excuses to lure screaming children into inflatables and then eat sugar. One time, we went to a local farm to buy a pumpkin and some cider; we ended up lost in a ridiculous corn maze  filled with more screaming, overly sugared children. Who has a llama at a pumpkin picking event? All this does is distort kids’ perceptions of farming and nature in the interests of building up a new market sector. And to be honest with you, hay rides are pretty itchy. At least Oktoberfest involves things we actually do in Pittsburgh – drink beer and eat meat and fried things.

The Scent of Burning Wood – oh those lovely outdoor fires with the sizzling, cracking and lovely flames. I must admit it is pretty romantic and all. But also illegal in the City. And in fact a significant contributor to air pollution. Finally, there’s asthma. That’s a bit ironic – we reduce industrial air pollution and increase pseudo-woodsy type pollution.

Pumpkin Everything – again, growing up in the 70s/80s, we had a pumpkin at Halloween and pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving. Maybe the more industrious parents would roast pumpkin seeds. But other than that, pumpkins were decoration. If anything, apples ruled the food and beverage section – apples, not apple flavoring. Now I love pumpkin stuff, but when I found myself sipping a Pumpkin Latte in late August – I realized I had almost gone over to the dark side. It was delicious, but it is no more native to autumn in Pittsburgh than a Glade pumpkin scented candle.

Close runners up

The NFL – Thanks to Ray Rice, I was pretty much over football. Bringing back James Harrison to the Steelers pushed me over the edge. Hey, James Harrison, you owe the LGBTQ community an actual apology! <eye roll>

Trick or Treating – As a kid, that coat situation was always dicey. Planning a costume that would work with or without a coat was challenging. Remember when costumes came in a box with an itchy face mask and a piece of string? Fortunately, Trick-or-Treat on the adult side has its perks. If its nice,we sit on the stoop and enjoy the handful of kids navigating the “historic” sidewalk in their costumes. If its cold, we sit inside and admire them when they knock. Other than putting the candy bowl out of reach of the dogs, we are golden.

In short, we were duped by the fall edition of the JC Penney’s catalogue (this was the 1980s) and television shows that were filmed in California, but based in New England (Days of Our Lives, anyone?) Autumn has become a marketing gimmick built upon being an anti-season. It isn’t as commercial as Christmas and it is way less stressful that summer. Or at least that’s what they say.

Meanwhile, I hear spring fashions are arriving in the stores … can’t be ready for bikini season too soon, right? Ha ha.

autumn things
Ledcat waiting for the Trick-or-Treat to begin
Official Halloween shirt.
Official Halloween shirt.


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  • I solved the Halloween costume problem for my now adult son, realizing it would probably be snowing in our upstate New York community. Every year, I dressed him either as Batman or Superman, or a fireman. Superheroes wear boots. Firemen wear boots. I made sure the costumes were loose enough so I could fit several layers of sweaters underneath. I would watch the little girls dressed like princesses freeze. And, by the way, I don’t like pumpkin.

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