December 1998. The Great Lakes Mall. While working at Electronics Boutique – back before it was GameStop or, even, EB Games – and forced to wait, as usual, for the punctuality-challenged manager to roll his ass out of bed, I was stuck on a bench in front of the store, surrounded by Christmas sale signs and decorations and the ubiquitous mall walkers (who, incidentally, like all of their elderly brethren, never ceased to stop staring at a scruffy, long-haired kid). It was a frustrating experience, compounded by the persistent tardiness of those who called themselves my bosses, but, while waiting there, stuck in that environment, something happened. Irritation dissolved into… something else. Wonderment. Appreciation. Contentment.
You see, contrary to popular belief, fall is the most wonderful time of the year. Changing leaves, the smell of the air, the hints of Christmas and beautiful snow landscapes just around the corner – it’s a wonderful, magical time.
Of course, it also doesn’t hurt that fall is the most holiday-saturated period of the year; it’s a celebratory condensing of epic proportions. Chief among these, before the anniversary of my wife’s and my first date, before, even, my birthday, is Halloween, that mischievous and mysterious day on which children dress up as adults and adults act like kids. It's always been my favorite holiday – well, it’s just behind Christmas, to have full candor – and it’s one that my wife and I have always looked forward to celebrating (except for the year we lived in Japan; the only celebrations to be had there, beyond some generic store sales, were in the form of a bunch of gaijin getting drunk while riding the various subway lines of Osaka [and getting hauled off by the police]).
The only problem with Halloween, in specific, and fall, in general, is… well, it goes by too quickly. One waits some nine or ten months to start the festivities – only to have it shoot by in the blink of an eye. It’s the quintessential dilemma of the human condition: to be aware of the passage of time, and to be aware that our awareness of it affects the dynamics of its speed.
The lamentation of the season passing so quickly was one that I made year after year, and, indeed, was one that I was in the process of muttering back in 1998. But that year, sitting there alone and cursing my outcast state on that cheap mall bench, I was forced – just for a few minutes – to just sit, to simply stop. I had nowhere to go, nothing to do, no one to be. I just was. And as the Christmas music seeped into my subconscious, a realization bubbled up. I started to smile. I was at peace. Call it a seasonal zatori.
It was a magical moment.
And it’s one that I’ve endeavored to faithfully recreate every year since. That was the first Christmas that I was acutely conscious of contemplating, enjoying, experiencing. It’s a lesson that I’ve tried to apply to other aspects of my life, most especially other occasions – holidays, weddings, gatherings of any sort or stripe. As my good friend from Australia is wont to say, it’s the moments of our lives that matter the most, for, at the end of the day, it’s all that we have left.
Which turns the wheel back to Halloween, my (second) favorite day of the year. And another period which seems to rocket by without much time to pause, to reflect, to enjoy. Five years ago, I decided to fix that, to force myself to sit back in that bench and to let the environment, the sights and sounds, smells and wonders, seep into my psyche. I also decided that I would use the opportunity to honor one of the most important stories in my life, one of the pieces of artwork that has touched me the most profoundly on a personal level and shaped my sensibilities on a professional one.
This is how the X-Files Halloween marathon started. Every year, starting on 10.13 (“I made this!”) and running for nine consecutive nights, we watch one episode from one season of the series (the first night’s episode is from the first season; the second night’s, from the second season; etc.), specially selected by yours truly based on considerations of story, atmospherics, isolation from the show’s overarching mythology – there are a number of people who come to the marathon every year that have never seen The X-Files or, at the very least, have never seen the whole story through – and, of course, scare factor.
Is it silly? Sure. Is it nerdy? Definitely yes (in fact, one of this year’s guests insists on referring to it as Dorkfest 2008). But it’s also fun, and a great excuse to have friends and family over for nine nights in a row, wearing costumes and eating candy and enjoying one another’s company. It’s also a great way to sneak some clever writing and wonderful production values down the throats of those who have never before experienced the joy that is Chris Carter.
This year’s marathon starts tonight at 8:00 and, just in case you’re curious, I’m providing the full selection of episodes below. Feel free to join along at home or to furnish your own selection of Halloween-worthy material; either way, just sit and be. Make a moment of it.
In the end, it’s all that we’ll have left.
Monday, October 13th: "Miracle Man"
Tuesday, October 14th: "Fearful Symmetry"
Wednesday, October 15th: "Jose Chung’s 'From Outer Space'”
Thursday, October 16th: "Kaddish"
Friday, October 17th: "The Post-modern Prometheus"
Saturday, October 18th: "Field Trip"
Sunday, October 19th: "The Amazing Maleeni"
Monday, October 20th: "Redrum"
Tuesday, October 21st: "John Doe"