October is one of my favorite months, and many years ago, it used to be my favorite month of all. The time of Halloween, of changing leaves. A time for light jackets and pumpkin picking, fresh apple cider, and recollections of the summers passed. Yes, for me, October means all that and more. Let’s do a little time traveling, shall we?
FLASHBACK: OCTOBER, 1993. I was a freshman at Weehawken High School, writing poems during homeroom, skipping out on gym class after stretches, and listening to Meat Loaf’s recently released Bat Out of Hell II: Back Into Hell album 24/7. I had also just reconnected with some friends I’d known since kindergarten. Now they wore leather motorcycle jackets, Levis jeans, and Steel Toe boots. They’d grown out their hair. They hung out in back of the school and never spoke with the baggy-pantsed hip hoppers from the Heights. On their chests they bull-horned album covers of their favorite bands like Obituary, Cannibal Corpse, and Slayer, and to top it off, chains carrying pewter logos of those bands dangled round their necks. In short, these guys looked like trouble, and these troublemakers wanted me to hang out with them.
So I did.
On that first October night of many more to come, I put on my best attire: chinos, my best (and only) pair of Payless sneakers, and my Bat out of Hell II T-shirt. I was so afraid these guys would poke fun at me for proudly displaying my well-seasoned Meat Loaf pride in the midst of what I deemed would be a night of Satanic music tartare. Surprisingly, they didn’t so much as chuckle. They accepted me for who I was. Then Brian, the eldest and thus the crew’s leader, pulled me aside and showed me a spellbinding sight: one of his dad’s motorcycles, and on its fuel tank a beautiful rendition of the original Bat Out of Hell album cover. Immediately I was put at ease and felt like one of the boys.
That night, we sat in that basement and listened to music. That’s all we did, and it seems that was all they ever did. Brian and the crew introduced me to all sorts of heavy metal music. No Death or Deicide, but what I heard was definitely harder core than the Meat and potatoes I’d immersed myself in. They played Danzig’s self-titled album, and his iconic “Mother” stuck in my head all through the night. Then Type O Negative’s debut album Bloody Kisses queued up and I was hooked. They changed up the pace with some more Brooklyn natives –– the boys behind Biohazard, and I can’t recall how many times I listened to “Punishment” with Dolph Lundgren speaking a line as the Punisher from that terrible 1989 movie.
After a few hours, we ascended from the basement and went out for some quarter juices and chips at the corner store, then sat on Brian’s steps while we ate and drank. Then we went back down into the basement and listened as Brian rocked out some riffs on his B.C. Rich Warlock before calling it a night. After all, tomorrow was a school day.
NOVEMBER, 1993 – SEPTEMBER, 1996. It wasn’t long after that first night before I started listening to Megadeth, Iron Maiden, and other (slightly) more heavy metal bands, though it wouldn’t be until college when I’d finally be able to appreciate death and black metal bands like Sepultura and Cradle of Filth. I bought a $100 leather motorcycle jacket, stocked up on T-shirts of all my new favorite bands, though I never discarded my Meat Loaf Tees. I picked up a Guns N’ Roses chain to wear around my neck. I hung out at the back of the school. My hair grew past my shoulders. I wore Steel Toe boots (Doc Martens were too expensive), and I started learning the electric guitar.
One thing I noticed even then was that these guys I was spending my time with were good kids. Yes, we had long hair and blocked off the B-side steps of our high school, but in those years between 1993 – 1996, there was never an altercation with a crew of hip hoppers (we carried knives, just in case), no issues with drugs, and only an occasional night of passing a 40oz bottle of Bud between us in the yard of the grammar school we all went to or tagging up trailers in North Bergen. Maybe there were a couple mischief nights egging houses and TPing the trees, too, but most of our time was spent listening to music and eventually learning to play it as well. Many a night we would stand on a corner when the steps grew weary of our chatter and the autumn breeze would try to freeze out our discussions about everything from songwriters to science fiction, or our marveling over photos of our favorite musical personalities in the latest issue of Hit Parader Magazine. Seattle Grunge was riding the waves out East, too, and by the time Kurt Cobain had shot himself, we were all mixing a little Pearl Jam and Nirvana into our daily repertoire of head-banging goodness; teen angst seemed a natural progression.
BACK TO BLOG: OCTOBER, 2012. October always conjures up those critical days in my youth when I discovered a little smidgen of the person I wanted to be, a taste of my identity to come, because despite my black leather appearance and Alice in Chains outlook on life, I was never much of a man in the box. Even then I knew I’d never keep myself cornered, listening to only one kind of music, reading just one book genre. October has always been the time of Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicket This Way Comes or The Halloween Tree, Stephen King’s Pet Cemetery and Salem’s Lot, Dean R. Koontz’s The Voice of the Night and Shattered; the time of year to populate my Netflix queue with classic horror films for 30 days of blood and gore; the time to drink obscure German beers and like it. And why? The trees are decked in a mélange of color and become more beautiful due to the diversity of their leaves. The older they get, the more gorgeous they become, if only for a brief moment in time before they crisp and fall. And shouldn’t it be similar with us? With every story we endure, shouldn’t we become something more beautiful with each passing October?
These days, October breeds an appreciation of all the ghosts of Octobers come and gone, pulling out the Misfits and mixing in a pinch of Tom Waits while enjoying a chill breeze that’s kind of cold, yet helps keep in my mind all the stories that continue to push me onwards and upwards toward new heights without boundaries of boxes, days, or decades. So this Halloween, treat those little Avengers and tiny Dark Knights with chocolate, but every day, give yourself a treat and remember all those moments that have brought about change, but never stop haunting who you were, are, and will one day become.
* * *
And because I just couldn’t not include it, here’s the music video for Danzig’s “Mother,” which I remember being fascinated with and must have watched over a hundred times.
* * *
What months have helped make YOU the person you are today? And if there are any specific stories you can share, please do so in the Comments section. I’d love to read ’em!