Homeless in Vancouver: Some of the late great pumpkins of Halloween 2017

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      Halloween 2017 is long gone but, as usual, many of this year’s crop of carved pumpkins remained for days and weeks afterwards to haunt yards, gate posts, verandas, and entrance-ways across Vancouver.

      Still face-to-face with the pumpkin off the east side of Cambie Street.
      Stanley Q. Woodvine

      Given the sheer size of the city it is impossible to get one’s fill of creatively carved pumpkins in the mere handful of days between when the pumpkins first appear, to the night of Halloween itself.

      So the persistence of Halloween pumpkins is a very gourd good thing; it means that more of them can be seen by more of us.

      A belated taste of Halloween pumpkin spice

      A post-Halloween pumpkin sighting in a Fairview Dumpster on November 3. The speech balloon appeared to read: “I am Groot.”
      Stanley Q. Woodvine

      It has been my pleasure these last two weeks (as I have binned for returnable beverage containers) to seek out surviving Halloween pumpkins still on display in the Fairview and Mount Pleasant neighbourhoods.

      Two pumpkins from November 8—the one on the left may have suffered a buckshot wound.
      Stanley Q. Woodvine

      Admittedly, the pumpkins that I found still loitering in front yards were not the same fresh-faced jack-o-lanterns that greeted trick-or-treaters on October 31st. More than a few looked beat up and none were still lit up.

      But it has to be said that time brings with it a certain maturity.

      To be blunt, it is only in the days and weeks after Halloween (as rot and decay visibly sets in) that Halloween pumpkins even begin to look scary.

      Like Christmas trees—only more convenient

      Three pumpkins near Tupper Street honouring those classic movie monsters: the Creature from the Black Lagoon, Frankenstein and Dracula.
      Stanley Q. Woodvine

      Carved pumpkins are, when you stop and think about it, the Christmas trees of Halloween. The similarities between the two are obvious.

      Two more pumpkins seen November 8 off Cambie, both a little worse for wear.
      Stanley Q. Woodvine

      Both evergreens and orange pumpkins tend to make their appearance days before the celebrations they herald. Likewise, both trees and squash traditionally features a degree of original hand decoration—from the desultory to the downright elaborate. And both are usually left to linger until long after the candy is eaten, the presents are unwrapped and the lights are extinguished.

      In the end, both are left for compost.

      Three pumpkins seen November 9 in Fairview that I wouldn’t want to meet in a dark alley.
      Stanley Q. Woodvine

      Pumpkins, when they do go in the trash, go away the quickest because they have been slowly decomposing into mush practically since the day they were picked.

      A rare, ah, jacqueline-o-lantern seen November 9 near West 16th Avenue and Heather Street.
      Stanley Q. Woodvine

      Christmas trees, on the other hand, will stubbornly litter the back alleys of Vancouver for exactly as long as it takes to persuade them otherwise with a wood chipper.

      The couple of pumpkins I nearly tripped over in a dark alley off Broadway Avenue on November 10.
      Stanley Q. Woodvine

      One other way in which the two differ is that you are not likely to see me posting photos of leftover Christmas trees, unless, that is, to complain about them piling up.

      And the smashingest pumpkin of 2017 is…

      Hello pumpkin! Wonder where the “makers” managed to scare up those stick-on eyes?
      Stanley Q. Woodvine
      Hello pumpkin! Wonder where the “makers” managed to scare up those stick-on eyes?
      Stanley Q. Woodvine

      In my post-Halloween travels this November I encountered dozens of fun-looking pumpkins—some of them very excellently executed—the pumpkin that leads this post for example; that’s not just a carving, that’s a full-blown sculpture!

      I would like to thank everyone who got creative this Halloween and turned the Vancouver neighbourhoods into artful pumpkin patches.

      This last-minute thing of beauty seen off Cambie on November 9 is a joy forever (to paraphrase some poet or other).
      Stanley Q. Woodvine

      But there can be only one winner and hard work will have to be its its own reward this year. My favourite Halloween pumpkin of 2017 is arguably not the product of any sustained effort but possibly of laziness and last-minute inspired thinking. And do I not detect a Japanese design esthetic?

      In any case, the result is simplicity itself and a work of sheer genius! I hope that it serves as an inspiration to others.

      Some random pumpkin facts to close:

      • Pumpkins belong to the Cucurbitaceae family, along with squash, cucumbers and watermelons.
      • Pumpkins are seed-bearing and therefore are closer to the definition of a fruit than a vegetable.
      • The name for a pumpkin expert is a cucurbitologist. 
      Stanley Q. Woodvine is a homeless resident of Vancouver who has worked in the past as an illustrator, graphic designer, and writer. Follow Stanley on Twitter at @sqwabb.

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