If you saw the SNL sketch where Kylo Ren appeared on Undercover Boss disguised as a radar technician named Matt, you’ll undoubtedly remember one of the Stormtroopers making the comment: “Dude, Matt straight-up sucks.”
Those are the words going through my head as I’m reading about Hurricane Matthew’s incredible death toll in Haiti and the havoc he’s (it’s?) wreaking up the East Coast. As someone whose hometown was ground zero for Hurricane Katrina back in 2005, I know firsthand how hurricanes can devastate families and property. My heart goes out to everyone in the storm’s path. If you’re reading this and know of a reputable relief organization where I can donate to the recovery, please let me know.
It’s kind of a tragic coincidence that Matthew made landfall on October 7th, a day that has both a personal and national history of being downright shitty.
On October 7th, 2005, my old dog Annie passed away from health complications caused by the above-mentioned Hurricane Katrina. (We believe she ingested some unclean water during the flooding.)
Four years before that – October 7, 2001 – was the day America fired its first shots in the War on Terror.
If you’re old enough to remember 9-11, you might also remember the climate of fear and paranoia that swept over the country in the months that followed. The world had completely changed in the course of a single morning, and suddenly we Americans found ourselves learning phrases like “sleeper cell,” “anthrax attack,” and “homeland security.” There was some debate at the time about whether the US should retaliate for the attacks using military force. It wasn’t as clear-cut as Pearl Harbor 60 years earlier. We hadn’t been attacked by a foreign military but by a terrorist organization (al-Queda). By going to war in Afghanistan we would run the risk of being sucked into an endless, bloody ground war (“like Russia”). There was also considerable fear that attacking a Middle Eastern country would only invite more attacks by sleeper cells already located inside the US.
I was a college student working at an independent video rental store (remember those?) when all of this was happening. Being an extrovert who was deeply troubled by the 9-11 attacks, I would frequently chat with customers about the state of the world and wonder what the near future might hold for all of us. “Do you think we’re going to war?” I asked a lady one Saturday morning.
“We just did,” she said. “Started dropping bombs on Afghanistan about an hour ago.”
It was one of those weird moments when you recognize the significance of something as soon as it happens. Even now I can remember feeling afraid and excited at the same time. After a month of fearful indecision, it was finally open season on those murderous bastards. But that meant it was open season on us too. My country just went to war, and it might last a really long time. I remember looking at the calendar next to the cash register. “October 7th,” I said.
The lady nodded and said we’d always remember this date.
Before we give in to the superstition that a certain day is somehow cursed, though, it’s important to remember that not everything that’s happened on October 7th has been bad.
After all, on October 7th, 1986, more than a decade before there was any such thing as 9-11 or the War on Terror or Hurricanes Katrina and Matthew, Slayer released their landmark album Reign in Blood – a permanent fixture on my list of things that really are as good as everyone says.
My introduction to this album came when I was 13 or so, several months after I’d first gotten into metal via Metallica’s black album. I didn’t really know the difference between good metal and shit metal back then, so I signed up for Columbia House’s “12 Tapes for a Penny” deal and ordered a bunch of Motley Crue, Poison, and Damn Yankees cassettes. A few of their songs were fairly catchy, but none of them packed the same punch as the songs I was listening to on Metallica’s earlier albums. Ride the Lightning. Master of Puppets. Where could I find more bands that sounded like that? I wondered. Where’s the heavy shit?
The answer came when an old buddy of mine named Chris Coleman showed up to school with a battered cassette copy of Reign in Blood and told me I could borrow it. I stared at the cover art for a while – it appeared to be some kind of goat-headed Satan figure surrounded by images of war – before flipping it over to look at the song titles.
“It’s a mini-album,” Chris explained. “Same songs on both sides.”
A mini-album. It sounded almost cute.
But that mini-album, I soon learned, was anything but cute. In just 28 minutes, Slayer ripped through 10 songs, both of my eardrums, and my previously unshakeable belief that Metallica was the heaviest band in the world. Seriously, listening to “Enter Sandman” after hearing “Angel of Death” was like smoking a joint after trying PCP. It just didn’t work anymore.
Having officially discovered the heavy shit, I then went on to discover even heavier bands and genres (i.e. death and black metal), but Reign in Blood still reigns. Do yourself a favor and listen to it now. It’s a great way to spend your October 7th.