5 ways to make the most of the horrors of fall

This week’s blog post is by The Paternity Test co-host Matt Boresi, who lives in the Edgewater Glen neighborhood of Chicago with his wife (“Professor Foster”) and their 6-year old daughter Viva, who tasted candy corn and learned that mankind is inherently evil.

“All the leaves are brown/and the sky is gray/I went for a walk/and I began to pray.” Those filthy hippies got it right, this lyric describes me every day in autumn — the season so horrible, one name won’t even hold it. I walk through the neighborhood past football pennants and chalk signs heralding pumpkin slurry treats and pray for deliverance from this second worst time of year. 

Sure, September 2017 has thus far been an apocalyptic aberration of 90 degree days and sun, and I appreciate that (minus the constant hurricanes and earthquakes and melting permafrost ooze portentous of humanity’s demise), but it’s officially fall now and officially getting darker, darker, darker.

“But, Matt,” you cry. “Summer is so vulgar with its Mungo Jerry and its Corona with lime. You must appreciate the mellow sophistication of autumn?” 

Look, I can get down with fall for one moment. That first time you put on a plush charcoal sweater with a shawl collar and grab a latte with a little wiggle leaf design on top and a plateful of venison and späetzle and spin a Vernon Duke tune on vinyl, you say, “Hello, autumn, old friend, let me spoon you.” Then about one second later you realize you look like a zaftig little raccoon in your sweater, that späetzle is a dour Teutonic chore of a noodle, and that you’ve nothing to look forward to but three months of rotting mulch and the promise of winter. You wake from your cinnamon scented daze to find yourself spooning with a monster.

My sidewalk is covered in dead cicadas — the ground has literally opened up and let out a buzzing Biblical plague to leave exoskeletal tidings on tree trunks. School district e-mails pummel my inbox by the score. Blueberries are expensive again. Everything is terrible.

Still, we must carry on through this drab nightmare, and we must carry our families through as well. Many of my colleagues here at Chicago Parent embrace the fall. They are, of course, wrong. But they have given some lovely things to do while suffering through. Here are five of my own top picks for ways to keep your head down until … well, May.

See some shows

Everyone should take in theater, and if you do it in the fall you’ll feel less guilty that you aren’t running through a field or swimming with the kids. Keely’s full review is here, but my daughter Viva’s pick to click is “A Year with Frog and Toad at Chicago Children’s Theatre. The Lobel’s classic stories are performed by a cracker-jack (and refreshingly diverse) cast, and there’s even a song about raking leaves. It only runs through Oct. 29, so get your tickets now.

The Station, Pritzker Family Studio – 100 S. Racine Ave.

Get ready for Halloween

There are Halloween pop-up stores everywhere for your Iron Man and Pinkie Pie costumes, and all the garish yard inflatables you could want at Target, but if you’re looking outside the (big) box for decorations and costumes, you might want to take the kids to second hand shops ahead of the thousands of Halloween events you’ll be attending. In Rogers Park, try Lost Eras for a disorganized and charming deep dive.

1511 W Howard St., b/t Greenview Ave. and Clark St. 

Eat, eat, eat

You need to fatten up for the winter. One place to do it with the family is at Candlelight Chicago. A classic place marked by a spectacular mid-century kitsch neon sign featuring incredible pizza, a thorough craft beer list, cookie skillets and a neighborhood vibe. 

7452 N. Western Ave.

Check out the fests

Apples are the worst. They taste of disappointment and mediocrity, and if you get within five feet of one you’re inexplicably sticky. Throw them into crusts and breads and cover them in sugar, though, and they can be the start of something. One of my favorite activities of fall (though I’ll get to trick-or-treating events in October) is Lincoln Square Apple Fest, not so much because of apples (perhaps even in spite of them), but because you can’t really go wrong in Lincoln Square. It’s Sept. 30 and Oct. 1, so get ready.

Lincoln Ave. between Lawrence and Eastwood ($5 suggested donation)    

Drink, drink, drink

There are plenty of family friendly ways to taste the grapes and hops of fall; St. Alphonsus Oktoberfest is one – with both a Kinderfest and a Craft Beer night. There are lots of local breweries, just shy away from some of that gourd flavored stuff. Sept. 29-30 and Oct. 1.

Lincoln, Wellington, and Southport in South Lakeview ($5 before 5 p.m., $10 after 10 p.m., free with military ID)

After this heat wave we likely won’t be “safe and warm like/I was in L.A.” until spring, but grab a pizza and a fritter and a brown ale and we’ll get through this together.

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