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by Pete Justus
There's something about October,
Something that just came to mind,
Something that stands out about that month,
Something clear, stark and defined.
It's that change of seasons feeling,
That transition from hot to cold,
That end of summer, start of winter,
The year going from young to old.
But here in the Southland
It has its own unique hue,
Not the golden leaves like New England
But another kind of blue.
You can feel the days getting cooler
And the daylight getting short
But just when it seems Fall is here
The Santa Ana's bring in their own report.
The sky is clear bright blue
And it gets so hot you can't think.
There's no relief when the sun sets
And you just can't get enough to drink.
It brings back so many nights,
Crystal clear, blazing heat,
Fires burning in the hills,
Ashes falling all along the street.
And just when you can't take it,
Just when you grab for a gun,
Just when anger begins to boil over
The fog comes in to cover the sun.
It slips under the doorway
And slides down the drive
In a soggy gray cover
That brings relief to those blinded eyes.
There's something about October
That brings back so many times
That stand out unique in my memory,
Stand out in a clear, stark design.
There were those early Saturdays in the Fifties
In front of the black and white
Watching the World Series on the carpet,
Watching the Yankees win every title in sight.
Then it was so special,
Those series games that riveted us all,
Those games that brought roars from the playground,
Those legends that stood so tall.
Then everyone watched the series
Or listened through a secreted earphone in class,
One hand resting over that ear,
Pretending you were learning, trying to pass.
I had one of those teachers
Who knew all those World Series tricks,
Commandeered every radio,
Made us wonder if Big D had struck out the Mick.
All we heard was roars from the playground
And suffered not knowing why,
Watching the clock that wouldn't move
Desperate to know what brought out that cry.
I miss those long ago Octobers
When those games meant so much to me.
But now they don't really matter,
Now that there are so many and they're so easy to see.
I remember the hills of Bel Air blazing
In heat thick like the smoke
That towered over the horizon
Like some general's distant master stroke.
We drove up there a few days after the blaze,
Seeing smoldering rubble all around,
Looking at the ruins of millionaire's mansions
Only chimneys and swimming pools holding their ground.
There was that October afternoon,
Listening to JFK talk of missiles and such,
Talk of nuclear war and Cuba,
Talk of unreal fates that I just couldn't touch.
And I drove around the next evening
With war threats filling the radio scene,
Not knowing if anything mattered,
Not knowing if tomorrow was a nightmare or a dream.
Now I'm thinking about this month
Although I don't really know why it came to mind.
I'm thinking about how it's seems so different,
So special, so well defined.
I learned about real loss in October
When the Dodgers let a pennant fall,
When a sure thing wasn't so certain,
And I couldn't comprehend it had happened at all.
On that exact day eleven years earlier
The Bums had played out the same scene
But I was too young to remember it
Although I had heard replays of Russ Hodges screams.
They echoed as I watched my Dodgers falter,
As I watched my boyhood heroes fall,
I could hear “The Giants win the pennant"
As Bobby Thompson's homer slipped over the wall.
And now history was repeating itself
And for the first time I felt real pain.
I learned that nothing is really certain,
And that sometimes it takes loss to appreciate gain.
But a couple weeks later it paled
As Kennedy stepped to the brink,
As bombers carried their nuclear cargo,
As we wondered if the other fellow would blink.
When it was over we sighed,
Talked about the future looking so clear,
Talked about how close we had come,
About how the Dodgers would wait ‘til next year.
And then, a year later, the boys in blue
Swept the hated Yankees four straight,
Left the Giants lying in the rubble,
Left me feeling so great.
That was a wonderful autumn
Full of dreams and futures come true,
Full of brown leaves and promises of love,
Clear Santa Ana winds blowing so blue.
But there were still lessons
Just beyond October's touch,
That Fall that glistened so brightly
Ended with pain that was too much.
That boyhood that shuddered the previous October
Ended on a Friday November clear,
Ended in a news flash from Dallas
With school halls writhing in disbelief and fear.
No cries of "Wait 'til next year" this time,
No way ahead but grief and loss.
This was death final and certain,
My first experience with its lingering cost.
And now when I look back at all of it,
Fading away in the mist
I see Octobers differently,
More like I remember a fading kiss.
And now I understand October
As a season of my life today,
That the summer of my life is over,
That I'm heading down winter's cold way.
The leaves are changing colors,
The lessons are long ago learned,
The pain of loss becomes part of life,
Those bridges are long ago burned.
I'm watching that transition
In the mirror tinged with gathering gray
And although the Santa Ana's still burn in me
They become a little cooler every day.
It's winter that's waiting out there
Although I still feel that summer bold
But I'm a long way from being that boy
And I'm not very far from being old.
So I'm savoring this October,
Relishing in it's changing hues
Because life is something you only go through once,
And time is something you can only lose.
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