It is autumn and the trees are flaming red and gold. How do I know? Because people talk about it. They say words like "burnished" which they do not say ordinarily. No one announces in the kitchen: "That’s a burnished piece of French Toast." But the leaves are burnished gold. This is because Jack Frost sends out his minions by night, little copper smiths who buff every leaf. But don’t take my word for it. Listen to the neighbors. "Hey, Joey, did you see the miniscule copper smiths burnishing your ash tree last night? It was better than Monday Night Football, I’m tellin’ ya!"
It is a beautiful fall day in Iowa. The little copper smiths have been working all night.
Others also work by night. The pre-Halloween toilet paper nymphs have been at work, festooning the burnished trees with bathroom tissue. And since this is Iowa City, people from Namibia and the Czech Republic inquire earnestly as to why American teenagers festoon the trees and houses with toilet paper by night. "This is how we express our love," I tell them.
It is autumn in the Midwest.
I can hear the local high school’s marching band through the toilet papered trees.
I wonder, if they had had toilet paper in the 18th century, if early American teens would have done this? Can you picture Thomas Jefferson sneaking out to cover the trees of the Custiss family of Albemarle County with Charmin?
All I can say is thank God we’re still a silly nation.
When I was a teenager in Geneva, New York we used to put a brassiere on the Virgin Mary who sat resplendent above a fountain. This was a seasonal ritual.
We also used to make relatively innocent prank phone calls to a relatively nice man named Donald W. Duck. This was also a seasonal ritual.
We discovered Mr. Duck because his name was in the phone book. We actually used to read the phone book for fun in those days.
We were looking for people with names like "Outhouse" and "Shickelgruber"—names we were assured could be found in any fair sized town.
I never did find the Outhouse family, though once, on a plane flight to Finland I heard the flight attendant paging a "Mr. Magnus Crapper."
What the flight attendant actually said was: "Mr. Crapper. Mr. Magnus Crapper. Please ring your call button."