All Work and No Play Makes Mark a Dull Boy

Happy Halloween!

I keep forgetting that today’s the big day, to be honest. It’s been nearly a month since the kids and I went to the pumpkin patch, and the gourds we picked out that day are still sitting here, uncarved. Now that they’re back at their mom’s house for the week (the kids – not the pumpkins), there won’t be any slicing and dicing and removal of slimy innards happening (again, just in case you’re thinking serial killer, I’m referring to the pumpkins). This is the first time we haven’t carved pumpkins in…well, forever. It’s not that I’m feeling all “bah, humbug” over the holiday. I love Halloween! Time just sort of got away from me this year. I’ve been so focused on the job search and our incredible trip to Seattle that anything else seems almost inconsequential. Plus, the kids haven’t gone trick-or-treating in years, and I have never had a single costumed person show up at my townhouse door. At least when I was working I had an excuse to dress up for the day. When you’re alone and have no plans, it’s harder to get into the spirit of the holiday.

Speaking of, last night was the first time in nearly two weeks that I was alone for the evening. I didn’t expect this to bother me; after all, it’s the life I’m used to. One week with the kids, one week just me. I always sort of relished the peace and solitude. But while talking to Tara last night, I started to feel overwhelmingly lonely. “Once you get a taste of something, it’s hard to let it go,” she said, and that sums it all up perfectly. Life feels so good when we are together, and not just when we’re exploring caves or attending rock concerts…even the ordinary, day-to-day stuff is more meaningful. The Saturday evening we stayed at her mom’s house, playing cards and drinking wine and laughing over the fact that I was getting my ass kicked so badly, was (despite the ass-kicking) a highlight of the weekend. When Tara and I are together, I feel full and complete in a way that is hard to describe. And now that I’ve had a glimpse of this other life that’s out there and waiting for me, it’s hard to go back to what has been my reality for years. I’m no longer satisfied with being on my own, not when there’s a fantastic person in my life I can share things with. I’m content knowing that our long-distance relationship is a temporary thing and we’ll be together someday (hopefully) soon, but that doesn’t help with my impatience. Life is too short as it is!

Anyway. I didn’t mean to go off on a tangent there. Bottom line is, I haven’t been this happy in a long time…if ever. All the pieces are falling into place. I’m even getting calls for job interviews – and yes, that’s plural. Knock on wood, but I believe a change is brewin’…and it’s about time!

Here's Johnny!!! (Courtesy of

And even though those pumpkins we scored from Sauvie Island are, as Rusty called them, nothing but “props” this year – we didn’t completely ignore the fact that it’s Halloween. Saturday night I made a batch of stovetop popcorn and we had a mini chocolate bar or two (I always buy a couple of bags just in case, and we had to try them – for quality control purposes, you know?) and we watched my favorite horror movie of all time, The Shining. It’s become an annual tradition to put that on sometime around Halloween. I never tire of Jack Nicholson’s performance – he was born to play Jack Torrance! This time, Rusty and I started to notice all the symbolism in the movie. Symmetry, the use of mirrors, the color red – Stanley Kubrick put a lot of thought into his film adaptation of Stephen King’s novel, and while the author has famously declared his dislike for the movie, I think it rocks. I get that it doesn’t stay exactly true to the source material, but it’s a compelling and scary masterpiece in its own right, and thickly layered with metaphor. When Lloyd the bartender is serving Jack a drink and he mutters “white man’s burden,” for instance, this signifies a racist persona that I had never picked up on before. I actually paused the DVD at that point and did a little Googling on my smart phone. Learned that the scene where Jack kills Dick Hallorann with the axe is especially representative of this; we have a black man whose crumpled and bloodied body comes to rest upon a Native American tapestry (never noticed that before!), a visually symbolic clue to Jack’s racial intolerance. Like I said – deep, man! And just so ominously frightening, the way the tension builds up slowly. The howling wind, the beating heart. The Shining is the perfect Halloween film.

Hope your day is boo-tiful!


Published by Mark Petruska

I'm a professional writer and editor living my best life in south central Wisconsin.

20 thoughts on “All Work and No Play Makes Mark a Dull Boy

  1. Lots of good things on the horizon, but you are right…it makes the time apart that much harder.

    I’ve been so preoccupied with other things, I totally spaced buying any candy for tonight. Guess that means I’ll be at the bar for Monday Night Football so as to not disappoint the neighborhood kids. 😉

    Happy Halloween, Kathy!


    1. I can’t wait for the horizon to get closer, that’s all!

      And I love your thoughtfulness. Drinking beer and watching football so you won’t hurt the feelings of the children…how sweet of you! 🙂


  2. I went out to pick up something for dinner tonight, and when in line, was shocked to see a ghoul packing my groceries and a Princess Leia taking my money. I’m jealous you have pumpkins to carve… I couldn’t find any. ( Well, I didn’t look hard enough.)


  3. Oh Mark, I loved this post as well as the comments. I was (and still am) extremely touched by your sentimental tangent as it were. Not that I think it was a tangent but the truth that needs to be let out for the whole world to see. I can’t wait for you and Tara to get back together which is why I’m so looking forward to the weekend after Thanksgiving. It’s going to be so much fun!!!! (I’m kinda hoping for no football so we can spend more of the day here at the house and enjoy more of the fabulous company as well as the fabulous breakfast I’m going to make!)

    I have felt that over-whelming loneliness and it’s hard. I’m just happy that you two talk on the phone every night and that you have Skype so you can at least visit each other. Imagine how awful it was when none of that stuff existed. Talk about heartache…jeeze!

    I’m still not going to watch The Shining… but I will agree that Jack Nicholson is the “only” one that could play Jack Torrance! ’nuff said!!


    1. Thanks, Tracy. The loneliness is hard, but only because the togetherness is so good. I’m thankful for that, of course, but I did tell Tara that it’s a shame she is that awesome. It doesn’t help when it comes to missing her!

      I think we’ve pretty much eighty-sixed the football idea. We’d rather go to a Broncos game – in Denver – next year. So, I’m sure we’ll have lots of quality time up there that weekend. Looking forward to it!


  4. “Once you get a taste of something, it’s hard to let it go.”

    Oh god, I know what you mean because I’ve felt that same thing before. When I first got together with my partner in NYC, and would go back to Florida each summer for TWO months, I HATED the time apart. It seemed as if the summer would never end.

    But I’ll tell ya what, it really made made getting back together ‘extra special’ – if you know what I mean.


    OMG…I LOVE The Shinning! One of the BEST scary films EVER. And not only do I love the movie, but I’m a HUGE Nicholson fan!!!!

    Another one of my favs is Halloween. But only the first one, because all the other ones SUCK!

    Anyway, HAPPY HALLOWEEN, buddy!


    Did I scary ya?


  5. Fewer and fewer of us seem to have that “normal” or traditional family life style. Sometimes I am envious but when I see the hassles that go with it-no way. Weekend family or weekend girlfriend is just fine with me.


  6. Excellent film choice for the evening. We went old school and watched Pet Semetary and Leprechaun. Strange picks I know. LOL. Last night I watched the Karloff version of Bride of Frankenstein. I couldn’t get over how gorgeous Elsa Lancaster looked.

    Happy late halloween!


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