July 8, 2016, was a day of anticipation because it was the day of the concert. What concert? You ask. The John Carpenter concert. When I relayed this news to a fellow co-worker, his first reaction was not of excitement, much like my own, but, instead, he blurted out with what seemed like great enthusiasm, “Who?!” I did not fault him for if you are not a horror fan, you may not be familiar with John Carpenter. For those of you not in the know, he is considered one of the more prolific horror directors of my time – my time being the 1980s. With such films such as the classic Halloween, The Thing (1982), Christine, The Fog, Big Trouble in Little China, Escape From New York, Prince of Darkness and many, many others, John Carpenter’s horror filmography was one to marvel! On top of being a director, he is also known as a film composer scoring most, if not all, of his films. I was beyond excited to finally get to see him perform, live and in the flesh playing themes from many of his film music. Also, he was slated to play a few tracks from his more recent albums, Lost Themes I & II.
The concert took place in the heart of NYC, Times Square, at the Playstation Theater which meant I had two options: make the one hour drive into the city and fend to find parking, or, take the metro north train into Grand Central Station and rely on the good ol’ subway system. I opted for the latter so that I won’t have to stress myself out finding parking, being stuck in traffic and having to drive back home after the concert. No, I opted to take the train, slip on my headphones, kick back and relax while the silver horse escorted me into Gotham. I’d say this was the wiser of the two choices.
I found a seat near the exit. It was a two-seater, and often, unless there is a mad rush into the city, one seat is left unoccupied as was the case on this trip. Behind me was a woman with a large dog in tow that seemed to be popular among the other passengers, especially the kids. Across the aisle from her, three-seaters were three elderly passengers who were traveling together and appeared to be in good spirits. I pulled out my headphones from my pocket, plugged them into my phone and put on a podcast favorite that I frequent, The Faculty of Horror. As the train doors were about to shut, a strange man entered the car and proceeded down the aisle in my direction. Secretly, I hoped he didn’t sit in the seat beside me. Not because he was “strange,” but because I could always use the extra leg room. As one might expect, the odd man stopped beside my seat and sat across the aisle in the vacant three-seater. I glanced over at him and sized him up… just in case. I could take him, I thought. Let me explain my thought process at this time. Things have been a little crazy as of late as reported by the media.
July 8, 2016, was the day after five police officers were shot and killed by a sniper in Dallas, Texas so I would say that a vast majority of people were on their toes – at least I was! Things seemed to be crazy out there and being in public did not necessarily feel safe. Meanwhile, here I am here, taking a train into Times Square – the mecca of NYC. But hey, I was gong to see John Carpenter! Still, I was on my toes and cautious.
The stranger next to me had a green tank top, long, disheveled hair and a large, bright orange duffel bag. After a few minutes of beginning the trek towards the city, the stranger gets up, walks down the aisle and into the next car. I look over to his seat and see that he left his orange bag on his seat. I look at the other passengers on the train and try to decipher any looks of suspicion or curiosity such as mine. No one reacted, or, they just failed to realize anything “suspicious.” This reminded me of a short story I wrote some time ago which I’ll share another time.
Ahead of me, on the wall of the car was a poster that brandished an NYPD officer and a sniffing dog of some sort, a German Shepherd perhaps? On the poster, in big, black bold lettering were the words, If You See Something, Say Something! Was I in such a predicament? No one around me seemed to be alarmed. Besides, who do I alert? Do I look for a train conductor or do I call the police from the train? Seriously, in a situation like this, who does one call or are they relying on the vigilance of people?
Again, here I am, not knowing what to do and a strange, large orange bag just beside me. Morbid thoughts raced across my mind. What if this thing goes off?! I’m well within the blast radius. My wife and my daughter, what will they do? Will they be OK? I looked at the poster again. The officer on the poster spoke to me – not literally as that would be a little freaky, but figuratively. And I knew I had to do something. And so, I turned to one of the elderly gentlemen sitting nearby and asked if he noticed where the stranger had gone as it had been more than a few minutes since I had last seen him. The elderly gentleman looked at me with a look of confusion and asked what I had said. I repeated myself and expressed my concern. He got up and looked at the empty seat in front of him and noticed the orange bag. “Gee, I didn’t notice” was his response. Does that mean that people are typically unaware or oblivious? Or does that just mean I’m paranoid? Batman’s mentor Ra’s al Ghul says in Batman Begins, always mind your surroundings – and I was! Was I the only one paying attention?
The elderly gentleman brought my concern to his friends beside him as well as to the woman with the dog sitting across from him. I noted which direction I saw him go and she mentioned that there was a bathroom in the car ahead and he may have excused himself to use it. And that was it! All the while, the large duffel sat comfortable awaiting its owner who could have been making his villainous escape through the roof of a train car where a helicopter waited to receive him! There was no more talk of it after that, but my eyes continued to survey the car as well as the orange bag.
The bathroom “theory” provided me some comfort but I did not let the paranoia within subside! That is until the stranger came straddling in from the other car and situated himself in his seat, throwing the orange bag to the ground with no care or thought. Well, that settles that! I have to say, I felt a little awkward as the chap took his place in his seat, you know, after I was semi-accusing him of something suspicious and downright frightening. I felt a little foolish, but then again, I saw something, and I said something! In some other reality, I was a hero! In this reality, I was relieved.
Finally, I arrived in the city and met two of my best buds on West 79th Street, had a bite to eat, caught up and chit-chatted about the current state of the nation, some politics and the ups and downs that are life and parenthood. Afterward, we walked down to Times Square which was probably a bad idea considering how hot it was that day. The congestion of the city doesn’t help either what with a variety of the many different aromas of body order that loomed in the air. We had some time to kill and hopped into a bar, grabbed a drink and again, chatted some more. We got to the Playstation Theater early, and already there was a line forming. Good thing because there were no assigned seats so where you stood depended heavily on whether or not you were able to claim a vacant space before someone else did.
Fortunately, we were able to get a good spot – not too close but not too far either. Shortly after that, the concert commenced, and John Carpenter made his presence on the stage. It was quite a moment! I always wanted to meet the man as he truly was an inspiration to me and my love for both film and horror. It was to my dismay to learn that there was an actual meet and greet but knew nothing of it as my friend was the one who procured the tickets. I was certainly bummed, without a doubt, as this would have been a ‘check’ off the old bucket list. The first track he played was the theme to Escape from New York – a fitting start and introduction to the concert. Everyone in the audience shouted and applauded. Behind Carpenter and his band, a large screen displayed clips from the movie while the music shook the place. He played many hits from his film library, all with excellent brilliance and energy.
The music was fantastic! One of my friends’ was not too familiar with the cinematic music of Carpenter, but I could see that he was really digging it. Assault on Precinct 13, They Live, The Fog – I was in heaven! Then, it came; the song that started it all for me. It was the song from the movie that solidified my induction into the realms of the horror genre – the central theme to John Carpenter’s Halloween. The hairs on my body stood, and I could hardly contain the goosebumps. Again, we all roared! It was very emotional for me to see the man playing this theme song, live and only a mere 50 feet or so away from me. It was incredible! Truly, something I will never forget. After about an hour and a half, Carpenter and the band retreated from the stage and bade all of his loyal “followers” a safe and good evening. But, before doing so, he warned us to be careful because there was a killer car named Christine, on the prowl. More roars from the crowd as the band played music from the film.
And just like that, the concert was over. I scurried through the crowd to make my way to the train and catch the 10:40 PM train back north to my quiet little suburb. NYC, it was great, but my wife and daughter await. Until next time.