Where’s the Band?!

I saw *N Sync live. Yes, I know you are all very jealous, but calm yourselves.

I was six years old when my sister (16 at the time) and I both got tickets to see them in concert at the Baton Rouge River Center from our parents for Christmas. Needless to say I have yet to as impressed by a single Christmas present since then. Step it up, Dad!

I am kind of very embarrassed to admit how big of an *N Sync fan I was growing up.

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I watched this VHS so much that I broke the freaking VCR.

I knew all the words to all the songs. I tried to learn the dances. I was a cool kid. But what else do you expect when you spend all your time with your teenage sister. What she listened to, I listened to. We bonded and it was lovely. I’m not ashamed to admit that every once in a while I’ll YouTube an old music video, just for nostalgia’s sake, and end up falling into a three hour music video marathon. (I lied. I am very, very, very ashamed of that fact.) And I did kinda spend money on that new Justin Timberlake song.

Anyway, I am talking about the concert. It was a pretty awesome deal! It wasn’t just *N Sync. Oh no, it was *N Sync and Britney Spears. That’s right. I know, it’s wrong to brag, I’m sorry. Plus there was that opening act B*Witched.

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Oh, how time has forgotten you all.

So here I am, in this giant arena, this menu of megastars (minus four sad girls named after a sitcom), my pop-saturated brain is going nuts. Except there is one problem. I have no idea where the stage is. I know. That sounds silly, doesn’t it? But I kid you not, to this day I have absolutely no recollection of physically seeing *N Sync or Britney Spears or whatever weirdos came before them.

I know that I was really young and my memory could just be foggy, but I distinctly remember leaning over to Ms. Kelly (our parents’ friend that took us to the concert) and asking where the band was. I think the conversation went something like,

“Ms. Kelly, I can’t see the band.”

“There right over there,” she said, pointing to the area of the stage where they were dancing.

“I can’t see them.”

“Then look at the screen.”

“What screen?”

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“That giant freaking screen right in front of your eyes!”

I tried so hard to find them. I looked all over the place. I  got out of my seat, made binoculars with my hands. But no luck. I couldn’t find the screen. I couldn’t see *N Sync. I genuinely don’t know how. I’m relatively certain that my brain is just being stupid or maybe it knew that I would never see another moment as glorious as this so it blocked it out of my memory so as not to ruin the rest of my earthly experiences. Who knows?

In the end, I just sat quietly, bobbing my head to the largest radio I have ever listened to. And that was fine by me.

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I Promise That This Was Not an Elaborate Scheme to Hurt You

Whenever I am walking alone at night I always try not to look creepy, but it never works. Literally minutes ago I had a delightfully horrifying encounter.

So I am walking to the library down Oglethorpe. It’s all dark and whatnot and there’s really no one walking about, but I get this feeling that there is someone walking behind me. So naturally I look over my shoulder and discover that there is indeed a curly headed young woman walking alone several paces behind me. Cool enough. She’s clearly not a large ax-wielding maniac. So I keep on walking, rocking out to Julia Nunes in my headphones (I am learning that I am never listening to particularly manly music in these stories).

But there was something about that curly mass of hair behind me. Did I know the owner of said curly mass? I know several girls whose silhouette would fit the one walking behind me. So I take another look over my shoulder. Nothing too weird or lingering, but a definite turn to look. No, I did not know her. But now there is this lingering fact that this perfectly innocent girl, walking alone in the dark has seen me, a rather large man, deliberately turn around twice to look at her.

Then I came to a crosswalk right as it changed to the Do Not Walk signal. I stop to let the cars go. There are only a few so they go quickly, way faster than the Do Not Walk signal can change.

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These are to be obeyed. It’s a law and stuff.

Now I don’t like to jaywalk. I’m never in much of a hurry so I will wait at an intersection even though there are no cars simply to make the walk take longer. So that is what I do.The only problem is that the curly haired girl is gaining on me. I stand there awkwardly, fearing the encounter that may occur if she reaches me while I am just awkwardly standing at an empty street.

Just cross the street. That’s all I have to do. Cross the street, no interaction, everything’s fine.

I don’t move. I stand and wait for the crossing signal to change. She walks up beside me and stops because I am stopped. She looks at the road and then at me. I look at her, probably a little too long. I smile to reassure her that I am not a creep. I want to say something like “I don’t like to jaywalk.” Put her at ease. But sadly, I just stand there silent and smiling. Towering over her in the darkness.

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That’s comforting.

So naturally she doesn’t stick around and crosses the street, signals be damned. That’s when I realize that if I were some creep from a horror movie that this would be the go to move for any whack-job-street-assailant. Spot someone walking behind you, wait at a traffic stop for him or her to pass you, and then pounce. And I suddenly feel so much guilt for now putting this innocent woman in this position.

The crossing signal changes and I cross the street. Unfortunately she’s not very far ahead of me so I’m closing in fast. I want to slow down, give her time to get a good lead on me, but that would be weird. I put my head down so that she doesn’t turn and see me staring at her, but once again that’s not a great image to put out there.

I wrestle with what to do what to do, when suddenly I see her trying to open the gate to the courtyard to the church on the corner of Bull Street. I think “Hey, that’s odd. What’s she trying to get in there for?” Then I realize, “Oh man, she’s trying to get away from me.”

I want to call out to her. Say something reassuring like “Hey, I didn’t let you pass me so that I could hurt you or anything.” Or maybe run up to her and laugh out this whole misunderstanding. But luckily I bite my tongue because all of those options really only end with a face full of pepper spray.

Luckily she turned on to Bull Street once she reached it and I was able to walk passed her, hopefully letting her know that I was not an attacker. I hope she actually had to go down that street and wasn’t simply using it as an escape route.

As someone who scares easily, I genuinely feel bad every time I stumble into these awkward situations. If only there was a way to signal out to everyone that I mean them no harm. Maybe walk with a litter of puppies and a big sign that says “Nice Person.”

Charged with Possession of Root Beer with the Intent to Smile

Don’t walk down the street carrying a bottle of Virgil’s Root Beer. No matter how delicious and enticing it may be to take a leisurely stroll down the sidewalk at night sipping on that magical cola, resist it. It’s a trap. The police in Savannah, GA look down on drinking root beer in public.

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They’ll never understand our love.

OK, I understand that it looks like a beer bottle, but when I walked past the police station on Bull Street on my way to the bus stop at Arnold Hall I found it hard not to laugh as the tough guy policeman barked at me “Pour it out, dude.”

I’ve never been in a situation where a police officer seemed angry with me. Our exchanges have always been pleasant. Mostly revolving around me holding the door open for him/her at Starbucks.

Mr. Tough Guy Policeman, however, did not understand my peaceful relationship with the law and decided to really crack down on me for possession of a cola that looks vaguely like an alcoholic beverage.  Sadly, I could not obey his demands. The bottle was empty long before our run-in and I was only carrying it while I searched for a trash can and to protect myself from imaginary muggers.

I calmly tipped the bottle to the side to show that it was empty and informed him that it was only root beer. To which this crack detective responded, “It doesn’t look like root beer.”

“Yeah well you look more like a frat boy with a badge than a cop,” I wanted to say, but decided against it. A billy-club to the head is not worth the two dollars I paid for that stupid drink. So instead I just sort of stammered, “But…um…it is root beer.”

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Come for the parties. Stay for the Criminal Justice Degree.

“Whatever, man. Just get rid of it.”

I kinda laughed at that point. Once again a dangerous move. Why should I get rid of my soft drink just because you had the hunch that it was an actual beer?

“I’m just looking for a trash can,” I said.

He pointed rather threateningly at the wall of the police station where a small trash can sat. “There. Throw it away.”

“Yes sir. Thank you for your help.” I smiled and threw the bottle away, slightly sad that I now had no line of defense against my imaginary attackers.

Mr. Tough Guy Policeman turned back to his frat-cop friends with a smug look of victory that I resented. Yeah, you showed me. I found it funny that he didn’t stop me for being underage and seemingly in the possession of alcohol. It was either a nice little boost to the ego (yay I don’t look like a child!) or crack detective work on his part.

I left Mr. Tough Guy Policeman to reminisce about that wicked kegger at the Sigma Chi House and went on my way, sad and disillusioned. My innocence torn away. You just can’t enjoy a cola in peace these days.

Sorta, Kinda, Maybe a Little Tiny Bit Like Mike

In honor of the NBA All-Star Game playing tonight, I have decided to talk about my exciting career in sports. Well as much of a career as you can have when you’re twelve.

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I never played sports in high school, mostly because my theater department was a starkly All or Nothing type environment (you were in theater or you were in sports, there was no room for both), so all my glory days stories hail back from pee-wee leagues. You think it’s sad to hear the old guy at the bar talk about his game winning touchdowns to win the state championship, but it’s nothing compared to the guy who holds the tiny plastic participation trophy of his on par with the Lombardi Trophy.

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Totally the same thing.

I have been watching the All-Star festivities. The dunk contest, the celebrity game, and all the hoopla around Michael Jordan‘s 50th birthday. Needless to say, I have been inspired to play basketball more than I have in quite a while. But then I try to reminisce on the glory days and…well I don’t really recall a whole lot glory.

I was always more of a baseball player growing up but in junior high I thought I’d give basketball a shot.

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We call that the Reverse Jordan.

I had to learn everything the hard way. When I first played when I was five, they were surprised if you could dribble down the court without knocking yourself out with the ball. So by the time I re-entered the game, I wasn’t really up to date on the rules. I was constantly tossing it back-court, not knowing that that was a thing you couldn’t do, forcing my teammate Winston to leap across the center line.

I wasn’t graced with the best shot in the world either. If I wasn’t standing directly below the basket when I got the ball, I didn’t know what to do. A teammate would get me the ball out by the three point line and I’d just stare at them confused. They’d yell “shoot the ball” but I just heard Greek and dribbled quietly until my opponent politely relieved me of my burden by stealing the ball.

I did attempt one three pointer once and ended up delaying the game for twelve minutes because I got the ball stuck in the support beams on top of the goal.

But that being said I do like to think that I was pretty good at playing the center position. Among my gawky thirteen year old white friends, I felt like Shaq, even though in the grand scheme of professional basketball I realize that my height doesn’t even come close to even being able to compete.

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Reality/Expectation

But I’d stand there in the post every game and fight off much smaller defenders for rebounds and feel like a flippin’ All-Star. I’d always have this intimidating game face on and would yell and scream like I was Tarzan or something. Knocking kids over and throwing elbows in faces.

This is funny when I contrast that outward ferocity to what was going on in my head. I have a habit of getting focused on a specific word or song while I play and repeating it endlessly to myself. Focusing on say the first few lines of a Linkin Park song allowed my instincts to take over.

So while I’m clubbing kids over the head, in my mind I’m singing Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer or repeating my Spanish vocabulary words over and over.

But all in all my basketball career petered out about as gracefully as it began. I went back to my rightful sport of baseball before slowly retiring from sport all together. Way before my time.

Bill Murray always gets my pain.

I Think I Can Watch You Dance

Let’s get one thing straight. I do not watch So You Think You Can Dance. It’s not on my TiVo. I don’t root for specific dancers or have a favorite judge. But that being said, my Youtube favorite page is absolutely full of the specific routines from the show. It’s pretty much the only reason I log on to Youtube lately.

I can’t watch videos like the one below and not wish that I could do things like that.

Sadly my body doesn’t want to move that way. We have many long conversations and it is stubborn. So I spend hours bouncing from video to video watching talented couple after talented couple do things that I can only dream about.

I’m not really learning anything, I don’t think. I haven’t learned the difference between a Contemporary routine and a Lyrical one. I just know that both routines use a John Mayer song and now I kinda like him. And I really can’t forgive them for the humiliation that comes from John Mayer popping up in my playlists. (Or for the fact that I now create playlists.)

I try to dance along sometimes. It’s infectious. I always end up bobbing my head or throwing a little extra lean into my walk. But my experiences with full blown dancing are usually one step short of a hospital visit. I’ve punched myself in the face while trying to krump. I’ve rolled my ankle trying out foot work far beyond my reach.

It’s like when I watch a foreign film and then talk in a French accent for a few hours afterward, whenever I watch SYTYCD I walk around thinking I’m Michael Flatley or at the very least Channing Tatum.

I feel silly most of the time, but then again I have found a way to somehow find a way to bring my little obsession with dancing into my own work as a writer. In most things that I work on, dancing finds its way in. The main characters share some romantic dance together or someone is dancing around to goof off. Heck even my poems are like mini-dances, each one is so tied to particular songs that it’s like my language is doing the movements that my body can’t.

In fact, watching SYTYCD videos became so inspirational that I wrote an entire full-length play based off of the routine below.

I’m usually really self-conscious about the things that I like, but for some reason I really revel in my love for dance. I don’t talk about it often, but I always get really excited when I watch really good dancing. It speaks to something that I really don’t understand, but I dig it.

I always say that I’m gonna get in shape so I can play sports like basketball or boxing and feel all macho. But in reality all I really want to do is be able to move like this. And oddly enough, I’m ok with that.

Humanity at the Roller Rink

When I was nine, St. Tammany Roller Rink was the place to be on the first Friday night of every month. The skating rink held a monthly lock-in for children of all ages (or at least through high school aged, when kids would ultimately discover the joys of a six pack and a parking lot). The doors locked at 10 p.m. and didn’t open again until 7 the next morning. In the small town of Covington, Louisiana, it was an exciting hub for kids to take in a night of skating, arcade games, and fast food – for about an hour.

Then boredom would set in and I would spend the night regretting my decision to blow all my money on soda and games of NFL Blitz while trying to convince my more fiscally responsible friend to share just one french-fry. He never did and I vowed to never forgive him.

Anyway, I remember one night the organizers of the event decided to hold a round of karaoke during one of these lock-ins and I decided to sign up. Now, I’ve never been a particularly skilled singer nor did I enjoy performing in front of people at that time, but I thought I was hot shit for knowing that the radio bleeped out the word “motherfucker” in Nelly’s song Country Grammar and I thought I would be cool if I sang the song, expletive intact.

I also thought that this little singing competition would be held in some obscure corner of the rink so as not to disturb the avid skate fans. I was wrong.

After about half an hour, the rink was cleared turning it into a stage and everyone was invited to line up on the outside of the walls to watch these, now surely terrified, performers. Suddenly, my funny little joke didn’t seem so fun. Two singers went before me only to be treated to polite applause and stale yawns. Then they asked for Chase Wilkinson to take the stage.

At this point I was content to believe that Chase Wilkinson didn’t exist. I sat quietly outside the wall, looking around innocently for this poor soul with the rest of the crowd. They called my name two, three, maybe four times before my friend Garrett (that spectacular Judas who would later withhold his french fries) said that he didn’t think they were going to stop calling my name and gently pushed me out onto the “stage”.

Wearing my roller blades, a shirt that was too tight, and jeans that were too loose, I rolled out into the center of the rink with my eyes planted firmly on the ground. Everyone gave an awkward laugh at the fat little white boy as the well-known rap song began.

I didn’t sing. I barely looked up from the ground as Nelly began to rap about lighting blunts and passing them around. I wanted to run, or skate away as it may be, but I stood there rocking uneasily and waiting for this experience to be over.

Then something spectacular happened. Three or four older boys, who I had never met, skated into the rink and began to dance around and sing. They put their arms around my shoulders as they got the crowd into the song. And after a moment, the embarrassment fell away and I danced. I still didn’t sing. I did not get my moment of saying “motherfucker” to a building full of middle-schoolers. To be honest, I don’t even think that word is in that song. But I did dance and revel in a horrible moment turned wonderful by the kindness of a few strangers.

The song ended, the crowd cheered, and we skated away. I thanked my nameless saviors and went back to watching other people make fools of themselves. Safe again behind the wall.