A Completely Unnecessary Vow

Let’s face it, writing is difficult. It takes a lot of self discipline and motivation to consistently sit at a blank page and say, “Hey, I’m gonna turn a bunch of crazy brain thoughts into literature.” Especially when it comes to long-form fiction where fatigue can often derail a project long before its truly done. But those truly dedicated to their craft always find ways to keep their head in the game in order to complete their projects. For example, during my sophomore year of high school I took a vow of silence until I finished writing the play I was working on.

Now I don’t know how a 15 year-old stumbles onto the idea of taking a vow of silence and I especially don’t know why I would think this would be a good idea. But needless to say on one random Thursday, in the middle of school mind you, I decided, “Hey, this stupid play I’m writing is way more important than the ability to verbally communicate with my peers.”

Two things to know: 1.) I don’t remember what play I was writing. I’m not sure I even have it anymore. So this story won’t go down in my official biography as the breakthrough moment on my way to a Nobel Prize. 2.) I was very quiet during high school, particularly during sophomore year when I had very very few friends, but it is 95% impossible to survive a day in a public high school once you’ve voluntarily and inexplicably gone mute.

I was able to get through half a day of silence with no problems. My vow was taken some time during my final period of the day on Thursday. I couldn’t stand the den of chaos that was my Spanish II class, so there was no reason for me to talk during that class and the evening bus ride home was always spent with my headphones deeply implanted in my ears and staring at Kelsey Snavely with wide, unblinking eyes.

My parents worked late that night so the vow of silence at least kept me from talking to myself which was an unexpected godsend.

Day two was a little harder.

I don’t know how I managed to get through the morning drive to school with my dad without saying a word, but I know it was done somehow. Maybe I wrote a note that was like, “In the pursuit of fulfilling my dreams as a playwright, I am currently engaging in a vow of silence until my masterpiece has been completed. I regret to inform you that our usually scheduled awkward banter must be postponed until further notice.” Or he could have just thought I was being a dick because I was 15 and that’s kind of what I did. I mean, I didn’t have a rebellious phase. I was just sort of a moody prick sometimes.

My first period was Biology. That was easy enough to get through. I usually just kept my head down and stared, unblinkingly, at Trina Baker. Honestly, I was able to get through most of the day because I was the quiet kid that just wrote in his notebook all the time. Everyone just hoped I was writing elaborate murder plots.

But there were hairier moments that were harder to get around. In classes like Journalism and Geometry I actually had a handful of acquaintances and small talk was somewhat expected. I had a tiny little flip notebook that I would scribble vague apologies and half-assed attempts to explain what it was that I was actually doing. It was met with a lot eye rolling and some judgey-laughter but mostly they were pretty cool with it. Which was good because I needed allies for when teachers would call on me in class.

Out of seven classes, I was forced to answer questions during lectures. I would quietly scream inside and then scribble down the answer (most of the time, the wrong answer) into my notebook and my friend would have to stand in front of the class and explain why they were the one reading my wrong answer. It mostly went, “Chase is doing some dumb writer thing so he’s not talking, but he thinks X is 72, but its not. Sorry Mrs. O.” And people the whole class would laugh at me and say dumb things and I would have to have to grit my teeth and know that this was in the pursuit of art.

I could limp my through most of the day, but then I had an unexpected quiz during seventh period. The kids at my table had asked why I wasn’t talking and I went through the, now tired exercise of explaining what was happening. They were oddly supportive, which would be helpful for when I had a question mid-quiz.

We all had our heads down deliberating over the subtler points of conjugation when I reached a  point that I simply could not get passed. I looked around frantically. Hoping to cheat, maybe. Anything but having to raise my hand and figure out how to talk to Ms. Rivera, who still terrifies me to this day.

But I couldn’t figure it out and so I had to raise my hand. She was on the other side of the room and when she saw my hand in the air, she simply said, “Yes? What is it?” I tried to wave her over but she was reluctant to move. “What is it?”

Then one of my table mate spoke up, “Chase isn’t talking today.”

She walked over with a huff and stood next to me. “What do you mean you’re not talking today?” I shrugged. “What does that mean?” I wrote on the side of my quiz. “I’m trying to finish my play.” But for some reason that wasn’t enough of an answer for her.

I tried to ignore her questions and write the question that I had on the side of the paper, but she was not interested in reading it or playing along with my insane theater of dorkiness. After a few minutes of squirming, I finally whispered the first words I’d spoken aloud in 24 hours. She quickly and dismissively answered my question and I went on to stumble my way to a C on the quiz. But the magic and the vow were broken.

So my challenge only lasted for about a day. It was as valiant an endeavor as it was stupid. But hey, I think I finished the play, I seriously don’t remember. Even if I did finish the play, I certainly did not finish it in that microscopic timeframe.

Any writer has moments where they struggle to get themselves through a piece. Discipline is one of the most valuable tools in their toolbox. As I sit down to my work everyday and stare and the ever expanding list of stories and novels that I desperately want to write, I pray that I quickly find that miracle mixture of determination and patience that will allow me to start, lot less finish, these projects.

A vow of silence may not have been the answer, but I will find it soon enough.

Advertisements

My Rivalry with Poseidon

I am habitually non-adventurous. I go camping and spend most of my time running from bugs. I go to the beach and sit on the sand, scowling at the hidden dangers of the sea. When I was little my dad was getting tickets to see the Cubs play the Cardinals in Chicago, Sosa vs. McGuire, the biggest showdown in baseball but I didn’t go because I was scared to leave my mommy. But for one blessed week when I was eight, I stared adventure in the face and dove right in. And then I was promptly dragged out to sea.

My parents and I took a trip to Costa Rica with a couple of their friends back in 2001. While I had spent most of my life up to that point bouncing from state to state, it was the first time that I had actually left the country. The plan was to rent some rugged SUV and just drive across the country. Why they thought this would be a fool-proof adventure is a mystery to me. We got lost in the parking lot of a supermarket within an hour of landing.

Move over, Magellan. Got some new explorers in town.

Move over, Magellan. Got some new explorers in town.

I don’t have a linear memory of that vacation. I can’t prod along and tell you what happened when and in which order. There are a great deal of highlights. I know that our hotel flooded on our first night. I know that we traversed a river in our rental car, Helga, and that river was way deeper than we thought. I got into a yelling match with a tree full of howler monkeys and developed a pineapple soda addiction that continues to this day. We passed through towns where iguanas ran the streets like stray cats and visited friends in a house on a mountain top. We pulled off a forest road to watch a sloth cross the street. I stared at a bolt on a stair for an hour because in the dark of night I thought it was a poison dart frog. I also geeked out like a maniac when I finally saw a real poison dart frog on a rainforest hike.

There was a lot of stuff going on in that trip. But there’s one night that sticks out in my mind clearer than the others. We were staying at some little hotel on the beach called like Iguana Cove or something. We had returned to the room for the night and the adults got their drink on pretty hardcore. I don’t really remember what I was doing. Probably looking at some book about native animals and seeing what I could cross off my list next. (Capuchin Monkey? Check. Macaw? Check. Coati? Check.) Next thing I know, my dad and his friend Matt are taking me out to fetch some body boards they saw by the beach and we’re gonna go surf around in the ocean.

Note it was pitch black outside accept for the light coming from the moon and the flashes of lightning striking a little ways off shore. If I had seen Jaws at this point or even been allowed to watch Shark Week, there was no way this was going down. That’s prime conditions to be shark murdered. But I was dumb and they seemed super confident that this was gonna go swell and so I blindly followed them into the ocean.

I couldn't even take a bath without thinking a shark was gonna eat me once I saw this flick.

I couldn’t even take a bath without thinking a shark was gonna eat me once I saw this flick.

We’re the only ones out there because I guess you would have had to be drunk or something to think it was a good idea to go out into the water that night. Luckily 2/3 of us were.

The wind blew heavily and waves crashed around us as we ran out into the black water. I’d never seen a body-board lot less ridden one, but I jumped into the surf with reckless abandon. There was nothing graceful about that evening. Their legs were wobbly enough without walls of water smashing into their drunk asses every other second. But still we soldiered on, occasionally riding a wave with some level of balance but mostly falling around and kind of sort of drowning in a fun way. We stared at the storm in the distance and laughed in its face as we rode the water back towards the shore each time.

I don’t know how long we were out there, but I know I didn’t want it to end. We pulled ourselves out of the water, somehow with all of our limbs intact, and I made my dad promise that we could do it again the next day.

And that was the rest of my trip, me searching for a body-board anytime I saw the coastline. It’s a weird thing I do on vacations. I find one thing that I really like and that’s the only thing I focus on for the rest of the trip. I discovered churros in San Diego and then proceeded to eat close to 3,000 over the next two days. I drank more Fanta Pina in that one week in Costa Rica than anyone should ever drink. And I learned how to flail around in the water and call it surfing.

If you haven't had one of these, fix your life.

If you haven’t had one of these, fix your life.

This new obsession was going smoothly for the next few days until we went to Lookout Point. It was this gorgeous hilltop hotel sticking out of the rainforest. There were monkeys and natural springs and that bolt that looked like a frog. Most importantly it looked out over the ocean and I had a hankering for some inept bodyboarding.

The five of us talked one of the hotel guides whom we bonded with into walking us down to the beach, our boards in tow. Once again we stared out over a largely empty beach, the perks of our secluded little hideaway. I grabbed more board and took off for the water when we realized that our guide was walking back toward the hotel. They called out to him and asked him to stay but he politely shook his head with a look in his eyes that clearly said, “You white people are fucking crazy.”

We turned back to the water and saw that it looked particularly rough that day. The waves crashed in hard and pulled back out strong. But we’d surfed in a storm. We were seasoned veterans by now. Blue Crush-style.

I am clearly the Kate Bosworth of the group.

I am clearly the Kate Bosworth of the group.

I readied myself to get to boarding when my mom stopped me and told me to let my dad and Matt test the waters first. So I stood impatiently as they walked down the shore and were immediately met with an angry sea. The undercurrent was apparently ridiculously strong. They’d wade out and then they’d struggle mightily as they pulled themselves back to shore. The process was repeated a handful of times before it became pretty certain that our guide had left us for good reason and that the waters were not fit for humans today.

But I kept inching toward the water all the same. Fascinated by its push and pull, anxious to ride my board, Poseidon be damned. We were laughing at Matt and then the surf spat him back onto shore and he collided dangerously with a huge piece of driftwood. Everyone rushed over to make sure he was okay. Everyone but me who had no made it to the water.

I was maybe shin deep when a wave came in and knocked me on my face in the sand. I laughed for a moment, “Haha, okay, you win Poseidon. I will not tempt you today.” But the laughter quickly turned to panicked screams as the undercurrent latched onto me and began to tug my body back toward the ocean like jungle cat pulling its kill away to eat later.

"Ocean Tiger!" Back off me, Spielberg!

“Ocean Tiger!” Back off me, Spielberg!

Salt water smashed into me again and again as I felt myself get dragged away. Everyone stampeded toward me, yelling for me to get to my feet, to get out of there. I tried to get up but I couldn’t find the strength to battle the water. I’d get to my feet and immediately be pulled back down to my back or my stomach. My mom and her friend Terri pulled at my arms and I felt like I was going to be ripped in two like some sort of medieval torture device.

No matter how much the two women tried, my tubby little ass was too much for them. I could hear the God of the Ocean laughing at me in the distance as I cried, desperately not wanting to die over a stupid activity I wasn’t even good at. I clawed at the sand. I cried. I promised my mom that I would do the dishes for like a month if she saved my life.

It could have been two minutes but it felt like five hours. Eventually, I think through the combined might of four grown adults, I was pulled from the clutches of the ocean and onto the relative safety of the beach. We limped our way back to the hotel and cursed our guide for not talking us out of our own hubris.

And thus ended my adventurous streak. It was a glorious week long capping itself off in the brutal murder of a young man’s sense of whimsy. Now when I visit the beach, I sit in sand and offer my pasty skin to be painfully burned by the sun. An offering for the time that vengeful sea god let me live.

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.

My Imaginary Imaginary Friend

I never had an imaginary friend growing up but for about a week in fifth grade I pretended that I did.

One night I was just hanging out at home alone, because that’s what I did when I was ten. In between eating microwaved tv dinners and playing indoor baseball with balls of aluminum foil, I watched the Disney Channel Original Movie “Don’t Look under the Bed.”

Giving five-year-olds nightmares since 1999.

Giving five-year-olds nightmares since 1999.

The movie itself is a horribly terrifying story about a teenager and her little brother’s imaginary friend doing battle with a Boogeyman that is terrorizing her town. Apparently the movie was so disturbing to children that the Disney Channel was only allowed to air it during Halloween and slowly it just kind of disappeared. But the nightmares never went away.

Seriously Disney. WTF? I'm a grown man and I'm still terrified to turn out the lights after seeing this.

Seriously, Disney. WTF? I’m a grown man and I’m still terrified to turn out the lights after seeing this.

But while the people who ran the Disney Channel were drunk at the wheel, I was home alone watching this movie. Sure I slept with a bat by my bed for the next four years, but I was also noticing how large a role imaginary friends played in the movie. They were these fun-loving symbols of innocence, always there to protect and entertain little kids. They were these secret friends that only you could see and they cared about no one else but you. And for a ten-year-old sitting at home alone that was a really awesome idea.

The only problem was that I didn’t have an imaginary friend. Heck I didn’t have a real life friend either, but I’ll save that story for my much sadder memoir: “If Only My Hips Didn’t Lie -The Life and Trials of Shakira’s Number One Fan.”

So that night while I was fortifying my bedroom for the oncoming Boogeyman siege, I started creating my imaginary friend. I knew it was silly from the get-go. I had always thought that imaginary friends didn’t require so much active creation. They just kind of existed in children’s minds like adventure seeking hallucinations that loved to play hide and seek and didn’t require weekly visits to a child psychologist. I thought that if I had to actively create this person in my head that it was kind of cheating.

So over the course of the night, my imaginary friend went through about seventeen different revisions. I don’t remember any of the stupid names I created for these “people,” but it was either something ridiculous like Orbstutroth the Soul Crusher or like Jeff. But anyway, there were versions of Orbstutroth that liked skateboarding and had a pink mohawk and would rock out to Nickleback with me. Then I scrapped that idea and he became Kimberly and she was supposed to be my dream girl. She was the first female second baseman of the Atlanta Braves. She liked to mix Sprite with Diet Dr. Pepper and we were going to get married in the Death Star. But then that diddn’t stick either and I created someone new.

I never told my parents that I had an imaginary friend because I could barely keep up the charade on my own time. Every time I sat down to play Monopoly with Joey the Five-Star Grilled Cheese Chef or Rebecca the Exiled Princess of Candy Mountain I knew that I was really just talking to a chair. I didn’t really feel the need to bring my mom into that three ring circus of crazy.

But I still totally played entire games of Monopoly by myself.

But I still totally played entire games of monopoly by myself.

Eventually it just became to hard to pretend and I gave up on the whole idea of having an imaginary friend. As rewarding as it was to let my imagination run wild for a while, it wasn’t the fulfilling friendship I was wanting. I never really believed there was someone listening when I talked about my Dragon Ball Z theories or retold a classic Stephanie Tanner one-liner from a Full House re-run. At the end of the day I was just a bored kid who didn’t want to do his math homework.

But I would eventually make friends with kids from around the apartment complex where I lived. Sure they weren’t battle-tested Viking Warriors or secret werewolves, but they liked playing hide and seek and thought “How You Remind Me” was the defining song of our generation. They were real tangible kids who answered when you talked to them and laughed at the hilarious antics of 90’s sitcoms. Sure I don’t remember any of their names either, but, for a time, they were there. And that was enough for me.

Sissa Busted My Nose

My sister threw a soft ball at my face when I was three and broke my nose. OK, maybe she didn’t break it but sometimes when I stare at my face in the mirror I swear that my nose is crooked and I blame her.

It was a bright day in Minnesota and my sister (13 at the time) was outside throwing the ball around, practicing for a game she had later that week. My dad was off at work and my mom was busy cleaning up around the house so my sister was forced to bring out the pitch back net.

Baseball-Pitchback-PTH001-

This thing would prove to be the bane of my existence.

I was fascinated by this thing. She would throw the ball at the net, the springs would catch it and send it flying back to her. But I didn’t really know how it worked. I just saw her throwing the ball and having it come back to her like it was a work of magic. You know, because I was three.

So because I am a scientist, I decided that the proper way to watch this feat of wizardry was from inside the pitch back net. I waited until my sister took a break and climbed in between the posts, inside the upside down V.

When she came back she told me to get out from under there, but I didn’t because I was determined to see my experiment out.

“Just throw it, Brandi. It’s not gonna hit me,” I egged her on.

“Yes it is, Chase. Now move.”

Obviously she didn’t understand how glorious this magical piece of technology was.

“Nuh uh! Throw it!”

“I swear, I’m gonna hit you if you don’t move.”

“Throw it. It’s gonna be cool.”

“Alright then.”

And then she threw it. Really. She did. Like wound up and pelted me in the face like she was Cat freakin’ Osterman or something.

catostermansportswoman

When I close my eyes, I still see this.

The pitch back net was not magic in the end. It was cheap nylon rope tied to springy hooks. The ball came back and smacked me in the nose. Blood gushed and I cried and my mom yelled and my simply just stood there shocked  that she was actually getting punished. “He told me to throw it!”

We joke  about it now. Every time we hang out, it has to get brought up at least once and we always devolve into the same argument. She insists that she told me to move. And I always say that I didn’t know how it worked, that I thought magic would save my face. Disclaimer: magic never saves your face.

But in the end, I got the last laugh because I got to go and watch Power Rangers while my sister was grounded for god knows how long.

the-power-rangers-tv-series105-1-g

Totally worth it.

 

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.

nsync-live-madison-square-garden

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.

BwitchedCD

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?”

nsync_57

“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.

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.

nba_all-star_game-primary-2013

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.

super-bowl-vince-lombardi-trophyJunior-Football-Trophies-with-Column-Choice

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.

i-17c88e35d55c9abddf91dbac0e136357-0314_large

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.

xin_231201220926947200572

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.