How To Get Your Autumn On In Under Six Hours

I love October! There’s so much to do. Each year at the beginning of the month I can’t wait to go apple picking and spend Sunday afternoons at German beer gardens and watch scary movies and visit haunted houses, all while wearing a woolly grey sweater that I knitted myself in front of a fire, or three custard-scented candles rather.

And each year by the end of the month, I have done exactly none of these things.

In fact I’m lucky if I spend an hour frantically running around a Ricky’s with eight hundred other slackers trying to put together a last minute costume the day before what I proclaim to be “my favorite holiday”. It’s pathetic and I should be ashamed. But not this year!

This year I actually got off my ass and went to Brooklyn to visit the Maniac Pumpkin Carvers studio, which for a Halloween enthusiast like myself is akin to a six-year-old visiting Santa’s workshop, only not as lame because carvers Chris and Marc slice the scariest, most beautiful pumpkins I have ever seen, instead of making shit nobody wants like wooden trains and soccer balls. But best of all, I got to knock out a month’s worth of festive activities I was never going to do anyway, in about six hours. Here’s how:

I got my own personal tour! Chris and Marc have an amazing space on Atlantic Avenue filled with all sorts of weird stuff like dismembered heads and a real human spine, as well as an inspiration wall with scary photos everywhere. The ambiance alone was enough to make me feel like I was in a haunted house, which was a score because then I didn’t have to feel like a loser for not actually going to one.

Obviously they also have a ton of pumpkins. Each year my mother and I have what we call our “fall day” where I spend an hour on the Metro-North to where she picks me up in Tarrytown, and then another ninety minutes in the car going some place like New Paltz, where we pick out our own pumpkins on a farm. We usually have a hot cider while we’re there as well and then spend another hour and a half driving around aimlessly looking for a corn maze to get lost in before ultimately giving up and making the two and a half hour trip back home. I love getting to spend time with my mother but that’s a half a season of Breaking Bad down the drain.

Being in the Maniac’s urban pumpkin oasis meant my mother and I could scratch the annual pumpkin pilgrimage and instead spend our fall day driving all the way out to eastern Connecticut to have a forty minute lunch with my brother at his college before turning around. I love you mom and Patrick! I also realize this is me getting jack shit for Christmas this year.

At any rate, here are all of the different kinds of pumpkins Chris and Marc work with. I especially liked the one that looked like it had leprosy.

The Maniacs do carvings for all kinds of businesses and events. Their work has even been on display at the Museum of Modern Art. Here’s Chris with some of their most recent designs.

Each year the Maniacs come out with cool new stuff to promote their business. They’ve got merchandise like T-shirts and stickers but in my opinion nothing beats this amazing video they produced featuring my friend Jeff White as four, somewhat hapless, monsters. I’d love to say they did an amazing job on the makeup, but really, was it much of a stretch? Haha! Suck it Jeff White. Anyway. I’m going to count watching this video as “going to a scary movie”.

As if getting to see their operation wasn’t enough of a treat, imagine my delight when Chris asked me if I wanted to hang out and carve my own pumpkin! This would be a big one off my list. Being that I am a complete dork, I immediately threw on a pair of safety goggles I found laying around, and got to work. I have no idea if these glasses are actually for sculpting vegetables, most likely they were used when sawing the special “gut holes” out of the middle of these carving tables, but that wasn’t going to stop me from looking like a professional.

The Maniacs empty their pumpkins from the back instead of the top so that they last longer.

This was definitely my favorite part of the day. If I had a second bedroom in my apartment I would totally make it an art studio, mostly just to house my solid gold collection of stamping materials, but I get really juiced when I have a proper work space. These tools alone nearly gave me a heart attack.

Chris drew my design for me and then I spent about three hours meticulously carving my magnum opus. Which I have to admit was a little awkward with this weirdo eyeballing me the whole time. But it was totally worth it, because check this shit out!

How awesome is that?!

By the end of my day, when I tallied up everything I had accomplished, I could easily say that the few hours I got to spend with the Maniacs made up for nearly a decade of broken fall promises to myself. Perhaps if I hadn’t been such a dick about Santa Claus earlier I might have secured a similar invitation come Christmas time and relieved myself of the pressure of having to make hot buttered rum, origami tree ornaments and go ice skating, but one step at a time.

So in closing, I’d like to express my most sincere gratitude to Chris and Marc for not only getting me out of the house and showing me an awesome Halloween time, but for getting me home at a reasonable hour as well. And while the Maniacs have no doubt created some of the most incredible artworks of our time via the face of a pumpkin, in my humble opinion, this one is their piece de resistance:

  • Gabriele, Kelly’s mom

    If you would have had more patience on our “Fall Day”excursions, I would have carved you a pumpkin of the above magnitude! Must admit, they did a great job on the pumpkin! Just love it!

  • Carmen Cortis

    I must admit I too have spectacular plans envisioned for excursions during the fall… and absolutely nothing gets done. I didn’t even carve a pumpkin this year. Both pumpkins look amazing. Wish we could preserve them forever…. especially the one of your gorgeous face. I figure when we are eighty and senile we could be reminded of how beautiful you were, while knitting sweaters and sitting on our rocking chairs at the nursing home……

  • Risa

    Love that! Love those kinds of pumpkins. My downstairs neighbor in Park Slope used to do those kinds of things with me in tow; we were always getting our stoop photographed.

    Hope you’re safe right now.

    • Kelly

      Risa! Thanks for having a look. Not surprised you could relate to this. I know you’re a Halloween connoisseur as well. This storm is lame so far. I bought about a hundred bucks worth of food yesterday and yet I just ordered bagels. Taking advantage of still being in the “delivery zone”.

      • Risa

        LOL same here! I went out dog walking at 6 pm and there were people eating in the italian place downstairs… plus the liquor store next door was still doing deliveries *whistle* Amelia didn’t appreciate the wind as she was trying to pee, tho.

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  • Gabriele

    Showed the Stupid things Monsters Say Video to Barbara & Paul (I showed Barbs the Stupid Things Girls Say video first to let her know what the Monster Video was all about). Tell Jeff White they were laughing! Just love that video!

  • Patty Montone

    WOW! this was something to howl about. Although I must say that pumpkin caving of you is amazing. cool that you took a pumpkin carving class. If you are looking for a good subject for future monster videos ,may I recommend Bob…….

    • Kelly

      That just made me laugh out loud :)))

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