Samhain 2003 was truly horrific. It’s the Samhain I almost died.
It was my third year at a small town community college in central Texas. I was a Theatre major, busting my rump to launch a career for myself in show business. I had three plays under my belt; I helped build and paint the sets for two of them, and I acted in all three. My professor really loved me, and I enjoyed working with our theatre troupe immensely. We were now preparing our fourth production together, a production of Arthur Miller’s The Archbishop’s Ceiling. (I was cast as the character named Sigmund, a writer who embarrasses the totalitarian regime of the Eastern European country in which the play takes place. I had to learn how to speak with a Russian accent.) We were getting ready to open the show in November.
It was a few nights before Halloween, when I returned home from rehearsal, that it happened. I had to go to the bathroom really bad, and I started feeling dizzy while I did. When I got up, the toilet was full of blood – and I mean up to the toilet seat. I fainted at the sight of that, and I slept in a pool of my own blood until morning. I was living alone at the time, and it’s lucky for me that my mother stopped by the next day to drop off some groceries; otherwise, I might never have woken up. I’m still embarrassed that she found me the way she did, but I’m thankful she was there to take me to the emergency room. I don’t remember much after that, aside from being hooked to an IV and getting pumped full of Demerol and laxatives.
I think it was on Halloween itself that the doctors finally figured out what the problem was, as well as what they needed to do. Apparently, a blood vessel had somehow ruptured inside my colon, and the only way to stop the bleeding was to remove that part of my colon altogether. But none of the doctors had performed this kind of procedure on someone my age (I was going on 21 at the time) and with quite this amount of blood loss. My family and I were told in no uncertain terms that I might actually die during the procedure. On the other hand, I would definitely die without it, so there was simply no option; the only way out was through.
I know it’s great we have them and all, but I don’t care for hospitals much.
The night before the procedure, I kept waking up from my Demerol-induced sleep. I remember crying in the dark, scared shitless that I’d be dead in only a few short hours. Let me tell you something; there is no horror movie I’ve ever seen that’s scared me as badly as I was scared then. But something reassuring happened; at some point in the middle of the night, I received a visitor in my room. It looked like a shadow standing over the head of my hospital bed, peering down at me with glowing eyes. I suppose the sight of it might have frightened most other people, but when I noticed those big funny ears poking up from its head, I knew exactly who it was.
Yeah, that’s right; Great Set was in the hospital with me that night. Granted, I was on a lot of drugs at the time, so I know what some of you reading this are probably thinking. But I don’t care; I know what I saw. I don’t think He was actually physically there, occupying three-dimensional space; I’m pretty sure He was just reaching into my mind’s eye. But He was there all the same, appearing to me and giving me comfort in my darkest time of need. He didn’t say anything, but He didn’t have to. Just seeing Him was enough for me to know I was in good hands, no matter what happened. I was still scared of dying, but at least I could fall back asleep and stay that way until it was time for the nurses to move me to the surgical wing.
As far as I’m concerned, anyone who tries to tell me that Set has no mercy or kindness in Him is full of shit. Yeah, He’s a badass and a rowdy motherfucker; He’s the kind of God who’ll break your legs to force you into learning how to walk all over again. But even He will reciprocate compassion; even He will stoke a dying flame in the darkest hours before dawn. If someone has told you that He’s “evil,” that He’s no good, and that trucking with Him can only lead to disaster, take it from this priest of His: that person doesn’t know jack shit about the Holy Jackass. It could have been anyone who showed up in that hospital that night; it could have been Buddha, Jesus, Krishna or Osiris. But it wasn’t either of Them; it was Seth-Typhon alone. And that is why Big Red will have my undying loyalty for the rest of my life and beyond.
I remember being taken to the operating room the next morning, and then I blacked out. I woke up several hours later, with a row of thick staples running down my stomach. It was horrific, and I was in so much pain; I also had a mild upper respiratory infection, and whenever I coughed, I felt like my belly was going to split wide open. But at least I was alive. The hospital kept me for another week or so, until they were absolutely sure my guts were all in working order. Then I was taken to my family’s house, since it was too risky for me to stay by myself at my own place.
During my first weekend back in the world of the living, Joe Bob Briggs, the great drive-in movie critic, was doing a show at the Alamo Drafthouse in Austin. My mother decided to take me, knowing that I loved Joe Bob and thinking that meeting him would give me some extra pep in my recovery. At the show, Joe Bob gave a fascinating lecture on some of the most disturbing films in history, as well as how they influenced the film industry. He also showed clips from some of the films, including The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) and Deep Throat (1972). I have to admit, it was surreal seeing Linda Lovelace give some guy a blow job on that theater screen while my mother was sitting right next to me; but Mom was pretty good-humored about it. While the clips played, Joe Bob sat next to us (we were in the front row), and I almost lost my shit, I was so excited. Then, after the show, we stood in line to buy a copy of Joe Bob’s new book, Profoundly Disturbing, and have him autograph it.
“Mr. Briggs,” I said to the man when it was our turn to approach him, “I just want you to know that I love you so much, I crawled out of my death bed to come see you. TNT was crazy to cancel MonsterVision; the night you showed They Live and interviewed Roddy Piper was your best episode; and dammit, sir, the Drive-In will never die!” Then Joe Bob laughed, signed my copy of his book, and shook my hand.
I’m sure Joe Bob meets all kinds of weirdos in his travels, and I doubt he’d remember me from that night. But I’ll tell you one thing: I didn’t wash my hand for days.
Joe Bob Briggs is one of the things I love most about Texas.
My teachers at school all offered to let me finish my classes for that semester during the following year, but I insisted on going back to class as soon as possible and toughing it out. I also insisted on continuing with the play, and I ended up giving the best performance I ever gave in my time as an actor. I was sad that I missed out on Halloween, but reflecting on these things today, I reckon Samhain 2003 really wasn’t that bad. Sure, the part about almost dying wasn’t so great; but considering that I survived, that Set visited me in the hospital, that I got to meet Joe Bob Briggs, and that I totally ruled the stage that semester, it was definitely one of the most important Samhains in my entire life so far.
And later that following December, my best friend Tony asked if he could join me in a ritual to Set. The LV-426 Tradition became more than just a one-man show after that…but that’s a story for another day.