Nightlights Are Now Required

I’m a big ol’ scardey-cat. I flee from bugs, I jump at sudden noises, I scream when someone sneaks up on me. It’s an involuntary reaction, but a spectacular one. An eruption of high pitched squeals and a dorky flailing of limbs. But my fears are not limited to sudden surprises and creepy crawlies.

Now if I was attacked by an army of gummi worms, that'd be a way to go out.

Now if I was attacked by an army of gummi worms, that’d be a way to go out.

My imagination has a horrible habit of running away with itself. In the darkness of night I have this phobia about looking at windows. Spooky stuff is always lurking in my mind, some madman or demon is always just in the next room. Most nights I can shut it down after some time but there was one night when I was younger that my imagination got so out of hand that I can’t help but laugh about it now.

I moved to Houston, Texas when I was about 14. We moved into this house that was way too big for our family that has always been fairly compact. It had five bedrooms, four baths, two stories, two living rooms and tons of empty space that I would practice my sweet karate moves in when I was home alone.

I was home alone quite a bit growing up, my parents worked a lot and I got used to spending most of my evenings alone. But for the most part since moving to Houston, my parents always came home at night. But one Saturday, my parents decided they were going to spend the night downtown, leaving me home alone for the first time in this way too big house.

I didn’t think anything of it. I’d stayed home alone for the night before. I ordered a pizza early that afternoon and set up shop on the computer. The office was upstairs and off to the side, overlooking the empty foyer area. We moved around a lot and simply didn’t have enough stuff to fill every inch of the house.

I sat at the computer and went to town on some Buffy the Vampire Slayer trivia quizzes. For hours. Just question after question. “What is the name of Adam Busch’s (actor who played Warren Meers) band?” “Common Rotation.” “Which cast member originally started acting when they were young in order to overcome their stuttering problem?” “Nicholas Brendon.” I was a machine.

With the years of watching Buffy, you'd think I'd have a few strategies for dealing with bumps in the night.

With the years of watching Buffy, you’d think I’d have a few strategies for dealing with bumps in the night.

Next thing I know, I look up and the sun had gone down. Not just a little down, not oh look at the sunset. Like pitch black. The only light in the entire house that is on is my computer screen because I had not realized that it was now one in the morning.

I looked out over the silent blackness of the house and succinctly powered down the computer and proceeded to turn every light in the house on. I was hungry so I ran downstairs, cranked the TV on to cut through that stomach churning quiet and set the oven to reheat my pizza.

Once I got to the kitchen was the first time my imagination really got flared up. I casually looked at the back door as I watched the heat rise and I noticed the lock. When it is locked, it is completely horizontal. I habitually lock doors, a trait that used to annoy my parents, so it was odd that when I looked at the lock it was sitting diagonally. About half way between being completely locked and unlocked.

My stomach dropped. I was sure for some reason that I had completely locked the door, would have made sure it was tight. And the longer I stared at it, the more I could swear that I saw it move. Tiny movements. I rushed into the living room and turned the TV up even louder, to apparently let the murderer know that there was definitely someone to murder inside. I mean if it was a burglar, I guess that could scare him off but if it was some murderer he was probably all, “Jackpot! Some loser watching The Real World! The Real World Slasher strikes again!”

It's the Axe Body Spray.

It’s the Axe Body Spray.

I tried to distract myself with the show but I could still see the lock and I kept imagining all sorts of sounds. The clicking of the lock. Clattering. Someone softly singing “Oh Imma Do Some Murdering.”

Eventually I turned the oven off, my appetite suddenly gone. I cranked up the TV even louder. That is my go to defense. Lots of lights and a loud TV, so I can see him coming but I can’t hear him, which sounds like an awful plan.

I streak upstairs to my room and slam the door behind me. I dig through my closet searching for these swords that my uncle used to give me and my dad every Christmas. I had like six swords in that closet and I took every one of them to my bed. I guess I thought my killer was a pirate of some sort and that I would apparently grow four extra arms in the heat of the moment.

My bed was just a mattress on the floor at the time. I thought I was super cool at the time but that night it proved to be very stupid. Because I had the lights on outside my door, light was showing through the crack at the bottom of the door. Due to my angle however, every time I shifted the shadow of the door itself would kind of shift along that light, making it appear that someone was pacing outside my door.

At that point I couldn’t take it anymore. I knew this was all in my head. There was no one trying to break into our house, there was definitely no one pacing outside my door like a velociraptor in a Jurasic Park movie, just taunting me and being a dick. I turned on a rerun of Friends and cranked it up. Maybe the killer would give away his position by laughing at one of Chandler’s hilarious quips and I could stab him with five swords.

Who has time to be scared when you're hanging out with these lovable dorks?

Who has time to be scared when you’re hanging out with these lovable dorks?

No laughter. Not even my own, because quite frankly a bunch of white people’s pseudo-problems are not as amusing when certain death hangs over your head. At about two o’clock I was still all wound up so I called my friend Sal. I’m convinced that Sal was some sort of vampire because he picked up the phone like it was nothing. He was just sitting around bored and unable to sleep. Because he sleeps during the day. Like a vampire.

I told him my story of the night and we laughed about how ridiculous it all was, but I kept an iron grip on my sword because I ain’t no chump. We talked for hours. First about how freaked out I was but then about random things. He was my best friend for the last few years in Louisiana before the move and we had stuff to catch up on. We talked until five a.m. Long after Friends had faded from the airwaves and just as the birds were starting to stir again.

I thanked him for keeping me company and calming me down. It was safe now to go to bed because it was five o’clock and people were waking up somewhere and bad things don’t happen when other people are awake. I don’t know where the logic in this came from but it’s something I hold fast to. No matter how freaked out I get, if I can last to five a.m. I suddenly feel better.

Nothing bad has ever happened during the day. Ever.

Nothing bad has ever happened during the day. Ever.

The next morning I walk around the house and turn out all the lights and hope my parents won’t receive in spikes in the electric bill. I put my pizza away that I just left on the counter. I turn off the TV downstairs and note that nothing in the house seems to be disturbed. The lock is still in that weird diagonal position. I had survived a night alone with Chase’s brain. It’s a big feat.

As I look more and more at getting a place of my own, I keep thinking about incidents like this. They’re not uncommon for me even though this is the most extreme. Bumps in the night keep me on high alert for hours, often until the five a.m. bell calls it off. I mean what is the appropriate amount of time to wait for something to kill you in the night before falling back asleep?

I wish I had more chill. That my thoughts didn’t mess with my head to such an extent or better yet, never went to such unnerving places in the first place. But the overactive imagination, good or bad, is a side effect with my chosen line of work. To constantly have the brain firing, creating stories out of thin air, eventually its gonna grab a hold of some unpleasant things. So we laugh. Say, “Chase, you so crazy” and move on.

Eventually that imagination is gonna help me live more dreams than all the nightmares I created in the dead of night. Until then, I’ve got my nightlight armed and ready to go.

Unfortunate Crowd Work Scenarios

You may have guessed by now that I’m a pretty big fan of stand-up comedy. Stand-up informs a lot of what I do here on this blog and in my writing as a whole. So you can imagine how much of an honor it was to be able to see Louis C.K. a couple years ago while I was at school in Savannah.

There was a surprising amount of comedians that passed through town during my time there.  I actually got to see comedians such as Daniel Tosh, Kyle Kinane and the late Robin Williams on separate occasions. But when a friend of mine told me that Louis C.K. was passing through, I dropped everything and hopped online to buy tickets. Apparently we were the only people in Georgia who knew this was going on because I was lucky enough to nab a ticket that was front row center.

Oh to bask in the sweaty glow of greatness.

Oh to bask in the sweaty glow of greatness.

Needless to say I spent the next three months in a giddy little tizzy. I’d been to stand-up shows before and since, but I’d never had the privilege to be that close to the performer. This was some serious closeness. “Put your feet up on the stage” closeness, “security might restrain me if I take another step” closeness, “prime ‘crowd work’ area” closeness.

Crowd work is a timed honored tradition of the performer interacting with the crowd directly, usually in the form of questions or funny quips about your clothes. I spent weeks daydreaming about what it would be like to have Louis C.K., the biggest/most important comedian of that specific time, look down from his mic and say something to me. Anything. From “Hey, how you doing?” to  “Please stop staring at me like that.” I prepped for witty banter in the mirror before school. Working on my reflexes, answering questions without a moments hesitation. Everything from “Where do you go to school?” to “Are you married, kid?” Anything I could do to lend a hand to his art.

Maybe he might say something about my beard. I am very fond of my beard, he has similarly distinct facial hair. We could be buddies. On an album I once heard a comedian comment on someone’s distinctive laugh and so I desperately wanted him to notice my laugh. If you haven’t heard my laugh in person, you are missing out. It is a sound that should not come out of a grown man of my size. It’s a laugh with the power to shut down entire class schedules by starting a chain reaction of laughter. During the show, I actually forced myself to project my laugh just to try to be noticed, but to no avail.

The day of the show finally came and I made my way to the Johnny Mercer Theater with my friends. They were lame and lacked my lightning fast reflexes and had to sit several rows behind me, so I walked to the front of the auditorium alone.

Right there. That middle bit, that's where I was!

Right there. That middle bit, that’s where I was!

I sat restlessly as I waited for the show to start. I looked back and made eye contact with my roommate to gloat but also to plea for someone to talk to. No one else had arrived on my row yet so I snapped awkward photos of the stage to show my dad how close I was. I stretched my legs out to confirm that I could indeed put my feet up on the stage (and then quickly took them down so I would not be thrown out before things started).

Suddenly, my seat neighbors came rolling in, tripping over themselves and me, struggling to hold the massive cans of Bud Light they were carrying. They plopped down in the two seats to my left, gave me a friendly “‘what’s up’ nod,” and then proceeded to bro out until the lights began to dim.

Louis’ opening act was comedian Todd Barry. A very talented and accomplished comedian, if slightly lesser known than the headliner. I didn’t know who I was expecting to open, usually someone relatively unknown, but I was surprised and excited to see Barry take the stage. I’d spent the summer before going through his entire discography, listening to every bit he put to tape. It was a little more star-power than I was expecting, even if I was the only one on the row who seemed to know who he was.

I think there's a correlation between baldiness and humor.

I think there’s a correlation between baldiness and humor.

Barry began his set and the crowd instantly climbed on board with his dry sense of humor. I watched in but awe and anxiousness as he singled out people from the front section of the audience. I looked over to my right and saw a young woman answering questions, mere feet away from me. He’d toss questions to the left. He’s the opening act, he’s supposed to get the crowd lose, engaged. I don’t know why this surprised me.

I had spent so much time preparing for Louis to ask me how long I’d been growing my beard, that I was caught off guard when Barry asked the crowd, “Where do you go to school?” I looked up to see his finger pointing lazily down at the front row. It pointed somewhere in the middle of me and the Bud Light bro to my left. My eyes met with my seatmate’s and we both shared a brief moment of “Is he pointing at me?” A silent infinity. Then I graciously extended my hand, bowed my head and let my neighbor answer the question.

Why the fuck did I do that?! To this day, I have no idea what went through my head. Here it was, my moment! The one I’d been practicing for for months, but instead I was all “I don’t speak to the opening act. You field this one.” Like some kind of idiot!

I instantly knew I had made a mistake, but it was too late. The damage was done. Bud Light Bro answered confidently, “SCAD” and they were off. A beautiful back and forth. Barry asking, “What’s that?” and then cracking jokes about the fact that it was an art school. He’d throw a clever insult and follow it with a trade mark “destroyed him.” I sat there, sinking into my seat, wanting to laugh, but I knew that it was me that should be getting “destroyed.” That he should be making fun of me and not this stupid jerk beside me.

My one chance to have a professional make fun of my school choice instead of just my high school counselor.

My one chance to have a professional make fun of my school choice instead of just my everyone I knew in high school.

But hey, me and this guy both went to SCAD. Barry never asked for a name. I could tell everyone that it was me he was talking to all along. Sure I’d be living a lie, but there was a part of me that needed this. Then Barry asked what the guy was studying. “Film.” I do not study film. Everyone that matters knows that and there were plenty of people I knew in the audience who could now refute my claim that I was the one bantering with the stars.

The interaction lasted for about a minute, but the rest of that set lay slightly tainted. Barry continued to bounce around, but I knew his interactions were like lightning strikes, never to return to the same row a second time. As he bowed and exited the stage, I hoped for redemption from the man of the hour. But Louis rarely looked at the front section, instead spending most of his time engaging the farther rows, making sure everyone was having a good time.

The whole show was great. Most of Louis’ material would go on to make it to his HBO special, “Oh My God” and it was great to see it live. But there’s a lesson in there about seizing the moment. Who knows man. I stare at this WordPress page, I wonder what if Todd Barry had asked me, “What do you study?” and I got to say, “Writing.” Would he have asked, “What do you write about?” Maybe I could have plugged the blog. Maybe I could have made a fan and be working on projects with Louis C.K. I could have missed out on a life of riches and fame all so Bud Light Bro could have a moment in the spotlight.