The prince of satanic death metal was directly in front of me. I worked my eyes from the ground up. Black Hi-Tec combat boots. Black pants and shirt. Black fur-felt Stetson covering a waterfall of long, oily black hair. On his right elbow, the giant pentagram tattoo I’d seen in photos tucked into Morbid Angel’s album sleeves. On accompanying pages, those lyrics that forever haunted me: “Ghouls attack the church, crush the holy priest, turn the cross towards hell, writhe in satan’s flames.”
I would have been, had I not been in line at Starbucks.
But more realistically, I would have been had I not, over the years, come to realize that the satanism that plagued Tampa was a growing pain. A youth, bored, relishing the scare tactics of what we all believed to be ultimate evil.
Waiting for a cup of coffee, with David Vincent at arms length, I reminisced on the days when Tampa hailed as the satanic death metal capital of the world. Those days when, much younger, everything posed a diabolical threat. Where each event played out on the strings of Satan’s puppet show. His minions, blasting their cacophonous guitar riffs of possession, in hopes to drag every last kid, especially myself, into the pits of hell.
It always happened late on a Saturday night. The same five heshers under the old oak tree, their weed smoke billowing through the Spanish moss, lifting high above into the clouds. Metal cranked loud on their portable radio.They knew I was coming. They knew I had to get from one end of the graveyard to the other. On several occasions the Carrollwood newspaper would announce the discovery of another dog heart. With multiple puncture holes, the hearts were placed carefully in a felt bag, draw strings taught, and hung from that tree. I knew it was them, those five greasy metal heads. And they were after me because somehow, they knew, that I knew their secret. Every Saturday night, on the ride home from Mike’s, I feared for my life.
Pedaling as fast as I could, I’d whip through the middle of the graveyard. Each “burnout” scaling the low fence, falling in behind me. With sticks, rocks, or whatever else lay dormant next to rows of tomb stones, I was pelted. Heart pounding, I’d somehow leave those shitty “long hairs” behind. It was the music that did it to them. They were possessed.
The main post office was right up the road from my Grandma’s house. On Friday’s she’d send me up to buy stamps. There, the lines were long and winding, often doubling back twice, sometimes three times. I was always the shortest in line. Each adult towering above me. And once I’d made it deep enough into the mix of customers, I felt sealed in. Claustrophobic. It was here, on those Fridays, that the same two members of the band Acheron would stop by to use the postal service. Each member dressed in a Catholic priest’s outfit. Instead of white, each wore a black clerical collar. They stood in line, arms to their sides, military like in mannerism, never uttering a word. I would try my hardest to not sneak glances. But I was stuck in the cue, my line of vision always ending upon them. I knew what they were doing. I knew what was in their brief case. Tomes of satanic literature seeking postage. Mailed off to homes of those devout followers of the black mass.
Glen Benton had attended my high school. Benton was the front man for the most extreme of the lot: “Deicide.” As if his music wasn’t scary enough, he branded an inverted crucifix into his forehead. All ready skittish, for me the thought of Benton once roaming the halls was paralysing. From Benton’s presence, anything could have been under Satan’s spell. My locker? My textbooks? To me, it was no coincidence that my first class of the semester was American History. Starting in the late 17th century, my teacher, Ms. Morris, began with the Salem witch trials. Those nineteen “innocents” as she called them. Each suffering a skewed trial. Each going to the gallows. Ms. Morris defended those witches and I, in turn, was certain she was part of this whole scheme of evil enveloping our institution.
David Vincent was next in line to be served. I’d never heard him speak, just listened to his demonic growls through the catalogue of Morbid Angel’s albums. I would, quite often, see him out in the neighborhood. I’d pass his house where he and his wife mowed their grass. I’d see them at the local grocery store, in booths at the local restaurants. They were domesticated.
Since my high school days, I’ve seen Deicide play. Glen Benton on stage, his scarification healed and only slightly noticeable. “Who’s got a beer?” he yelled between those songs promoting “Satan’s apocalypse.”
Harmless, and more interested in the party after the show, he and his band continued to grind away into the night.
Looking back, those burnouts in the graveyard were high and most definitely bored. Chasing me, I’m certain, was the highlight of their night.
And those two members of Acheron? They were probably posting their electric bill.
And here today was David Vincent.
“Can I get a bag of Sumatra coffee and a blueberry muffin?” I heard David ask, audible over the upbeat, classic jazz playing over the loud speakers.
On this afternoon, he was not out to sacrifice the innocent. He was not attempting to convert followers through the psalms of Satan.
Instead, he was just another civilized tax payer minding his business.
He came to this local Starbucks on a bright and sunny afternoon to relieve a caffeine headache. But more importantly, he came to subdue, not the pains of eternal damnation, but an unrelenting sweet tooth.