I have a lot of rituals and little traditions I've created for myself, and I think most of them are centered around the end of summer and the entire autumn. I switch back to hot coffee after Labor Day since I don't really care all that much for the cold version unless it's really good. There's just so much shit iced coffee out there. I read The Turn of the Screw every year towards the end of September, and treat pulling out the sweaters and jackets like Christmas Day. I give myself a date, and swear by it, looking over the calendar and waiting for the holiday I've created. If it's premature then so what? If it gets unseasonably cold then I have a few sweatshirts and light jackets in my closet –– I'll be fine. I won't skip songs like Yo La Tengo's "Autumn Sweater," "The Summer Ends" by American Football, or "Autumn in New York" by Billie Holiday like I'm prone to do when it's warmer. They're all great songs, but I feel strange listening to them in June. Autumn is, by nature, a time for rituals, I find the transition seasons are good times for getting your eggs all into one basket, to do familiar things, and to feel some comfort for the heat or cold that's a few months away.
For the many reasons you can easily find by reading the Times or scrolling Twitter, these last days of summer have been stressful, I think we all feel that. You can get buried under the avalanche of daily horrors, and take a lot of time clawing your way out, only to be trapped beneath another pile of rubble. I've been trying to cut down my time on social media, trying to get a good feel on a daily basis for what's happening, but not trying to let it overtake me. I try to find my own time, I attempt to breathe, incorporating tricks from my morning meditation routine into the rest of the day. I want my own space where I can get away from things.
All this has led me to rediscover my love of getting lost in things, mostly books, music, and films. I've been diving into everything and anything, reading and re-reading novels from Ragtime to Goodbye, Vitamin by Rachel Khong. I can now say I've seen every Hitchcock film since I finally bothered to get The Family Plot from Netflix, and I took a long hike through some trails in Connecticut last weekend with Sandy Bull's "Blend" on repeat in my ears. There is nothing wrong with escapism, I think, if you're also willing to let in reality. It's all about doses of each. Try not to let yourself rot.
Another autumn tradition is I am more willing to hike up to upper Manhattan to revisit museums I've been to a dozen times or more. And while you can't beat the real thing – up close and personal – I've also been admiring a lot of work online, specifically Fei Wang, who goes by the name Mr. Slowboy. He's one of my current obsessions.
I like whimsical, I can't lie. Whimsy is the best way to escape, it's why I'll always go to bat for Whit Stillman or Wes Anderson films or why I have a handful of books filled with works by Fairfield Porter or David Hockeny. I love fanciful and a little strange, but also lots of color. Those things almost always tend to draw me in.
That probably explains why I'm so drawn to autumn: it's full of color and whimsey. Sure, I love it when I start seeing people gripe about pumpkin spice everything, when they start saying they're "Mr. Autumn Man," or that it's decorative gourd season, motherfuckers, but there's more to it. I love the feeling of shedding off the skin of the previous season and slowly turning into a new one. Autumn gives me plenty of reasons to just stop and look around, and these days we could use more of those.