Before I turn you over to the capable and kind hands of our guest writer, Alvin Park, I wanted to say a few things. This week has been in many many ways horrific. I don’t feel like I need to recount everything, but I did think it would feel strange for us not to say anything. If you’re feeling scared, furious, anxious, we’re here with you. (And you can always respond to this message if you need someone to talk to!) Personally for me, when I feel lost, the only way to feel remotely like the world is going to be OK is for me to help others, to rededicate myself to kindness. If I have extra money, I give to different charities (this week and every week, it’s a great time to donate to the Transgender Law Center, the ACLU, The Anti-Defamation League, among many others) or try to find ways to help the people in my communities or my friends and family. It sounds so simple and childish typing it out, but I think the only way the world can stay livable is if we keep doing small things to make the world the way it should be.
I do also firmly believe that you need to take care of yourselves too! Be kind and patient with yourselves today and in the coming weeks.
AND NOW: Let’s escape for a little while into a land of really getting into the autumn spirit. The list below is by Alvin Park, whose short story “Dobson Unit” is going to be published in Forward. Alvin’s work is highly imaginative, set in a world different than our own and he balances these new worlds with heartfelt emotions and complex situations.
(artist rendering of Alvin Park by @milkbarista)
In his words: Alvin Park (@chipmnk) lives and writes in Portland. He’s associate fiction editor at Little Fiction. His work has been featured in The Rumpus, The Mojave River Review, Wyvern Lit, Synaesthesia Magazine, Wildness, and more. His parents are Korean. He has a long way to go.
I feel like I’ve only recently been more of an “autumn person,” which I blame mostly on growing up in a generally season-less SoCal. Anyway, here are ten things that help me get into the fall mood, and I hope they’ll work for you, too!
1. A warm scarf
Comically large so that you can wrap it around your neck and head and hide as much of yourself as you want. Preferably one knit by your mother or someone else who loves you enough to find the softest yarn that is the perfect mix of autumn colors: yellow, orange, rust. You won’t know how to wash it or if you’re supposed to wash it, but it always smells nice and feels good.
2. Over the Garden Wall
This one-off miniseries from Cartoon Network is truly something special. Over the Garden Wall is filled with autumn vibes, from the forest of the Unknown to the ghosts and general eeriness, along with so many visual references to classic cartoons. It has so many good goofs, including bassoon-loving frogs, and the music throughout is so damn charming and catchy. That all culminates in this really beautiful, sweet story about siblings, family, and growing up as a real dork.
3. Warm drinks
‘Tis the season for apple cider! My tummy can’t handle much of it myself, which I thought was a Consequence of Turning 30, but I’m realizing my body always had a little trouble with apples in liquid form even when I was little.
But that’s okay! There’s so much more warm stuff to drink in the fall! My go-to is a nice cup of coffee, black, no sugar or cream (though I’ve also recently been ordering more decaf Americanos). If coffee isn’t your thing, there’s all kinds of tea. Have the dang pumpkin spice latte and don’t apologize for it! Who am I to judge? Sip your drink, sit by a window, and watch the rain or the leaves or the people walking by and try not to think about all your past heartaches.
4. Trick ‘R Treat
Trick ‘R Treat is a horror anthology movie comprising four stories that all take place in one small town during Halloween night. It’s one of my favorites in the genre because it is just so purely fun. It’s not without its tense moment, some creeps, some scares, but it is so full of heart and humor and never heavy or dour. It mixes genres within its own structure, pulling from slashers, ghost stories, and zombie flicks. The stories interconnect in such a satisfying way, and the characters are so rich. You have Anna Paquin playing a girl trying to find the right guy, veteran character actor Dylan Baker playing a sadistic school principal, and Brian Cox as a surly, get-off-my-lawn neighbor, among many others. I highly recommend it, even if you’re not a horror fan. Especially if you’re not a horror fan.
5. The Early November – “Ever So Sweet”
Look, I’ve been running with this inside joke for a few years now (Twitter can apparently only go back so far), and by “inside joke,” I mean I’m the only one on the inside and that it’s not a particularly good or even subtle joke. But hey, there’s no better way to ring in early November like listening to The Early November’s “Ever So Sweet”. And now that you know, you’re all on the inside, too.
Also, I really don’t know why there’s an acoustic version of a song that is already acoustic. Please don’t @ me.
6. Ddeokk (rice cakes)
Chuseok is the mid-autumn holiday in Korean culture (essentially Korean Thanksgiving). There are all kinds of foods served. Ddeok just refers to rice cakes in general. It is just ubiquitous in Korea and not really relegated to any single season, but in my head, there’s something about it that makes me feel cozy and autumnal.
The main one for Chuseok is songpyeon, which has regional variations of its own, but they all tend to comprise a sticky rice cake with some sort of sweet filling in the center. I’m most used to songpyeon that is green, white, or pink and filled with red bean, sesame and honey, and some kind of sweet yellow filling that has the consistency of an overdone yolk in a hard-boiled egg. As I write this, I’m realizing I don’t know what that last filling is, and I never bothered to ask my mom, but I promise it’s all great.
I get that “green onion pancake” is not the most appealing phrase to some people, to which I respond, “Please open your heart and mind.” I’m not sure if this is a seasonal food in Korea, but I feel like it was more common during the colder seasons in my household. In its simplest form, it’s just green onions (which I learned are the same thing as scallions because regional terms exist) and batter, fried crisp and flat. Some soy sauce on the side for dipping and you’re basically set. You can find other versions with seafood or other things in it, but I like to keep it simple.
This I know for sure is an autumn-specific Korean food (though enjoyed all year-round). It’s a sweet rice flour pancake with a syrup filling. Basically, your traditional Western pancake but inside-out. I have only ever had it piping hot, such that it’s nearly impossible to hold and the filling is nuclear.
You can find them frozen in Korean grocery stores, and these are…fine? Satisfactory? The better option: Maangchi has a really great, really easy recipe for hotteok that uses ingredients that you should already have in your pantry.
Look, the NBA is the best television drama around. We’re only a couple weeks into the season and every game has been unbelievably fun and wild. It’s honestly the easiest and best time to get into basketball. Just choose a team and have a game on in the background.
10. tree rot
I don’t really have any stories actually set in fall, but I think this one gets pretty close. The vibe is very much my experience of a Southern California autumn. The way that the trees and leaves turn to dust.
Thanks for reading! In the coming weeks we’re going to feature more of our awesome contributors, reveal our cover, and drop some pre-order links! Stay well!