Everyone that wanted to grow up to be a vampire raise your hand. Yeah, it’s a small group, especially if you dressed in all black prior to the early 1980′s. You see, the goth subculture is credited to our British friends during the first part of that decade. In particular, credit for the term is given to Tony Wilson, the producer for a little known band called Joy Division, previously known as Warsaw and later as New Order. You can Google them if you like; it is an interesting story.
Wilson was asked during a BBC interview if he thought this type of music should be allowed on the radio, and he replied, “Because it’s unsettling, and slightly sinister and gothic, it won’t be played. It’s such a shame.”
So, to recap, the goth subculture developed around a post-punk band in England. During the eighties. We could stretch it and say September 15, 1979 to be exact, as that was the date Wilson gave his interview.
Now, I told you all of that to tell you this.
One of my earliest memories is of a big wooden toy box that had a picture of a cowboy on a horse with a lasso in his hands. I believe it had the name Red Ryder stenciled on it, but I can’t be sure…I couldn’t read back then. All I knew for sure was, if I took all the toys out of the box, I could fit inside of it.
I didn’t use it as a place to hide. At least I don’t remember doing so. I used it as a bed. With my blanket tied around my neck like a cape, this is where I would take my afternoon naps. Yes, I may have been too young to read, but I wasn’t too young to watch a Dracula movie. Obviously my parents would have had a conniption fit if they had known I was awake. But they didn’t, and I remember watching my first vampire movie before I turned four.
My fascination with vampires didn’t diminish as I became older. Two of my favorite television shows were The Munsters and The Addams Family. Eventually my parents banned both of these from our home, so I watched them at a friend’s house or while they were at work. One of my first acts of rebellion.
Another rebellious moment came the day I started picking out my own clothes. Everyone has a favorite shirt or pair of jeans, and I was no exception. My Mother called it, The Uniform. Black dress pants with a solid black t-shirt and a pair of white sneakers. And a cape. Okay, technically it was a jacket, but it was a cape in my mind. That was The Uniform, and it’s what I wore to school, almost every day, from eighth grade onward.
I know what you’re going to ask, and the answer is no. I had a closet full of black pants and shirts. In fact, I still do. Doubly in fact, I’m wearing all black right now. My point is, vampire stories hold a special place in my heart, and they have for a long time.
Now, I told you all of that to tell you this.
The goth subculture did not originate in England during the 80′s. It may have been popularized then, but I assure you it did not begin there. Remember The Addams Family and The Munsters? Add the hundreds of movies to this pre-1980 list, not to mention the tombs of literature that gave us mysterious, dark characters, capable of the cruelest abuses of humanity and you have the ingredients for a gothic timeline. Again, I wore a cape and slept in a casket before 1970. (Okay, it was a blanket and a toy box, but I dare you to argue with me.)
You may think I’m a little nuts, and there’s probably some truth on your side if you do. Most writers are a bit off the wall, wacky, screwed up, or just don’t fit the mold that society tries to put us in. We are creative, and most of us march to our own beat. Many of us are quite happy taking a nap in our toy boxes while the rest of the world does whatever it is that they do.
It’s this creative spark I had as a child, my fascination with “things not normal” that drew me to writing. As a pre-teen, up until my early twenties, I explored this out of sync world, just beyond the shadows of time. Poems, short stories and even a few song lyrics were all packed away when I got married. Then the kids came, followed by more “normal” life. The creative part of myself has been dormant for many years. Too many.
As I come up on the 1st year anniversary of this blog next month, I’m trying to remember what it was like before I made the commitment to finally follow my dream. This time last year I was in a state of depression. It felt as if I were dying. Not physically, but on the inside. There should not have been any reason to feel the way I did. I had a great job, a loving wife and four children that I adored. And yet, it wasn’t enough.
I fought through this depression as best I could. For a month I asked myself each time before going to sleep, and again when I woke up, “What would make me happy?”
We won’t talk about all the virtual lottery money I spent in my dreams. But honestly, even though a lot of money would be nice, it still wasn’t the answer I was looking for. That answer finally came on a Saturday afternoon while cleaning the garage. My wife and I purchased some shelving and I needed to move things around, put the shelves up, and then stack it all back nice and neat like. She expected nothing less.
My wife has a few nicknames for me, one of which is “Monk”. We were at a restaurant a few years ago and I saw that one of their paintings was hung crooked. It was across the room, above a table occupied by another couple. About halfway through the meal I couldn’t take it anymore. I got up, walked across the room, introduced myself with apologies, then straightened the painting. The love of my life decided this was something the character, Monk, would have done. Thus, a new nickname was born.
I was in this Monk frame of mind while trying to sort all the boxes in the garage. I wanted to make sure the heavy boxes of books ended up on the bottom shelf, but I wanted to keep them all together if possible. While going through some of these boxes I found old notebooks from my early teens. I’m not sure what happened to most of them, but the few I still have are priceless to me. I stopped working and read some of the stories and poems I had written nearly thirty years before. And something magical happened. I remembered the dream of writing my own novel some day.
Eventually all the boxes found their proper place on the new shelf, minus a few old notebooks. For the next week I kept debating with myself on whether writing was something I was ready to pursue, again. It had been years since I had even attempted fiction. After reading through the notebooks a few times, I came to the same conclusion after every read. I can do better than this, now. What finally made up my mind to pursue my writing journey was the depression. Or, I should say, lack thereof.
There hasn’t been a single day in the past year that I’ve felt the way I did back then. I could thank my notebooks for that, but I won’t. It wasn’t my stories that made me feel better. It was recapturing a piece of my childhood dream. For that, I have Bela Lugosi to thank. He is my original goth hero. I bet he even took naps in a large wooden toy box as a child.