What is your most memorable teenage Halloween experience?

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Answered by: Eric, An Expert in the Ages and Phases Category
What is your most memorable teenage Halloween experience?

Spring, 1973. The first rock band I was in practiced at our drummer's house because his drums wouldn't fit through the door: their rhythm was nontransferable.

At 14, I didn't really have a clue about rocking on electric guitar, having learned my guitarmanship from books and folk guitar lessons.

Fortunately for the dozens that our band was to eventually entertain, a good Samaritan found us and took pity. He was a gnome-like individual who was somebody's cousin and a real "professional musician."

This benefactor initiated us into the world of 1-4-5 blues progressions, barre chords, and taught us to play what we heard, not what we read.

His knowledge seemed boundless, his patience less so. His recurring refrain was, "No, no, no. You're doing it the hard way. Let me show you." His voice was edged with irritation but supported with benevolence.

Our guru would disappear for weeks at a time, then materialize unannounced at critical moments to dispense his rocking revelations. After one particularly contentious session, he didn't reappear for several weeks, which stretched into months.

Finally, seeking guidance and alternate C#7 fingerings, we pursued our Yoda's vapory trail, which very sadly led to the cemetery - he had not survived an afternoon on the road with a bottle of grain alcohol.

Halloween, 1974. Our band now had an impressively cool place to play. Someone's mother ran the local art center and the basement was our semi-permanent rehearsal space.

The bomb shelter ambiance was patently unappealing to adults, but was a palace to we would-be rock 'n' roll stars. We had a monster party planned for the night. It was Halloween and the choicest girl flesh was coming over in an hour. We quickly ran through our repertoire: Stones, Mott the Hoople, Bowie, Skynyrd, Zeppelin, and we still did "Sunshine of Your Love."

The night was cold and didn't pretend to be fall. The first round of girls sashayed in, resplendent in their winter finery; and soon the room was full of witches, football players, transvestites, and cartoon figures.

We began to play and the dungeon became a swirling miasmic din of smoke, bobbing heads, hormones, and beer.

Midnight, next up was "Sunshine of your Love," featuring yours truly on vocals and lead guitar. Particles of musical emotion danced before me. I hunted them down and smote them. White fire consumed the carnage and chased the ashes skyward into the orange and black night.

While the others droned on, I maneuvered around with my back to the crowd and took an edifying gulp of warm beer. I placed my guitar pick, a thin triangular wedge of plastic, between my teeth and leaned over my amp to check my tuning amongst the continuing groove. I felt a satisfied yawn welling within me. I opened wide and stretched my arms high when everything stopped dead.

I tried to cough.


I tried to inhale, exhale, Nathan Hale - anything.


I had swallowed my pick and its edges were wedged painfully and emphatically into my windpipe. I whirled around to find faraway faces thinking faraway thoughts behind makeup and masks.

I waved, I pointed at my constipated larynx. No one paid the slightest bit of attention.

I began to feel lightheaded. I tried to scream, but nothing came out except a tiny spray of red droplets that sparkled and vanished as they fell.

I fell to my knees and plunged my fingers into my mouth again.

I touched the pick. It turned sideways and allowed a zephyr of fresh air to enter my pleading lungs, but the same air betrayed me immediately, turning the pick flat again like a carburetor shutting off my air and my hope.

I saw large patterns moving around my sweating, expiring face. I could no longer stand and my knees gave way. Everything got fuzzy and I drifted off. Then, suddenly, out of nowhere, someone pounded me hard on the back and a rush of air brought me back into the here and now.

I sat up gagging, reeling. A sharp pain gripped my throat, but the pick lay upon the carpet glistening with red slime in the gloom and I rejoiced.

"I, I can breathe!" I shouted triumphantly into the din, finally silencing it.

"Congratulations," deadpanned the drummer.

"I couldn't breathe! I almost died! I swallowed my pick. Who hit me on the back?"

I yammered.

"No one. We've been playing, in case you hadn't noticed," replied the other guitar player.

"Well who…?"

My voice trailed off as a cold ammonia sweat erupted from a thousand pores and a voice just behind my ear whispered, "No, no, no. You're doing it the hard way. Let me show you...."

That was a teenage Halloween experience for the ages.

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