Dancing Like A Graceful Little Bowling Ball

Ever since I saw Shakira’s music video for “Did It Again,” I’ve always wanted to learn to dance. Over the years I’d watch my friends who danced with a mix of envy and deep admiration. I’d watch endless clips of So You Think You Can Dance on YouTube, I’d write poems and plays devoted to dancers whom inspired me. I’d turn off all the lights at night, lock the doors and dance to Justin Timberlake like a madman, sweat dripping, limbs flailing awkwardly around. But I never pursued it in any way until the final quarter of my senior year of college when I signed up for Intro to Ballet.

Pictured: Chase's inner most dreams. Photoshop magic courtesy of Raine Blunk.

Pictured: Chase’s inner most dreams. Photoshop magic courtesy of Raine Blunk.

The problem was that I look like I am more suited to be giving guys concussions on a football field than to performing a skilled arabesque. Anyone I told that I was about to take a ballet class laughed in my face and immediately demanded to watch me attempt this. My mom questioned hard and long if this was the best use of my tuition. I even doubted they made tights large enough for my neanderthal-like body. But I remained undeterred. I was going to be a ballerina damnit and I was going to be graceful.

I’m not sure I was very successful on either front, but I definitely tried. Every Monday and Wednesday morning at 7 a.m. I made my trek across town from my dorm room to my class; my tights worn under my sweatpants. I definitely looked out of place in class. One of just two males, I was this large, hairy obelisk in a sea of dainty little dancers.

It took me some time to find my footing in both senses of the word. For years, I had struggled to merely touch my toes and now my legs were twisting and contorting and stretching into positions that I was certain would send me to the hospital. With every attempted plie in fifth position, I feared popping femurs, dislocating my hips and all around looking quite silly in front of all the pretty girls.

No. My legs don't work like that.

No. My legs don’t work like that.

They really don’t prepare you for just how physically demanding dancing is. Every time I watched someone dance on TV it looks so effortless and carefree. Their happy stupid smiles deceiving me into thinking that, “Sure, I can do that! I got winded walking up the steps this morning but I can totally do all those leapy-turny things.” But I guess that’s why it’s an art-form. Because it’s a lie.

I was always three steps behind everyone else. My feet dragged too long, my legs fatigued after mere moments in the air. Each swing of my leg nearly resulted in an innocent woman being punted across the room. I was a sweaty, uncoordinated, near-asthmatic mess and that was just the warm ups.

Rhythm always seemed to escape me. My friend Colin tried to teach me guitar a few times and he would have to keep reminding me that I was trying to play a song. I would simply just strum to notes like a stiff, mechanical baby. More focused on putting my fingers in the right places than having any sort of fun. I was the same way when it came to learning steps to a dance, except my professor didn’t go slow enough for me to even know the steps, lotless try to get them right.

"Look mom! I'm a real boy!"

“Look mom! I’m a real boy!”

I’d sway clumsily around the room, trying my best to follow those around me but looking more like I was on satellite delay. Always a step behind, always looking awkward and scared. There was a window that looked out at the hotel next door. Sometimes people would look up, expecting to see some beautiful ballerinas in their element, but instead they saw my Butterballing ass flopping around like a drunk toddler who is both mad and deeply sorry.

But in all this mess, I still managed to stay relatively optimistic. I’d oscillate between excited eager beaver, ready to jump into each new exercise and the deeply regretful realist who knew it was probably better to hide in the corner.

I struggled to find my identity in that class. Sometimes I was the overly self-aware guy, making self-deprecating comments about how ridiculous I looked when I tried to do those fancy ballet jumps. Sometimes I was the astute professional, focused, smiling and diligently trying to perfect my craft. Most times I was just the person crying at the barre when the professor would start yelling at people.

One time I tried to be the super enthusiastic guy. When it was time to work, I slapped the ground and jumped around, hooting and hollering like Ray Lewis on game day. Trying to amp everyone up, but realizing that ballet requires a very different style of hype than a Super Bowl. I never tried to get anyone amped in class again.

"Let's work on them sashays, mofos!"

“Let’s work on them sashays, mofos!”

But the most important thing was that I tried. Consistently and without fail. I didn’t complain, at loud anyway, when I felt like I was dying or when I couldn’t keep up. I didn’t let the crushing weight of my own awkwardness drive me out of class. When I stumbled in my exams, I quickly gathered myself and moved right along, my trademark apologies withheld. I know my professor respected me for it.

It wasn’t always a pretty sight and no I am not considering a career change, but it was a good way to spend my last ten weeks. With the steady ticking of that Doomsday Clock called adulthood driving me insane towards my impending graduation, it was nice to step aside from stacking mound of rejected job applications and do something fun. To do something I’d always wanted to do. It was a good reminder that even in the real world of bills and responsibilities, there is still some room to pursue dreams and take risks.

Sometimes you’ve got to be cool with looking a little silly to do the things you want. An awkward story is always better than no story at all.


My Washing Machine Tried to Kill Us

Pictured below is the monster currently on trial for attempted murder. Don’t let its cool exterior fool you. It is deadly and ruthless. And it’s probably going to get away with it too. Because its white. And we have a lot of dirty clothes.

When will we be free of the tyranny of white appliances?

When will we be free of the tyranny of white appliances?

Recently my parents and I moved into a new home. (Don’t worry, I have a job. It’s totally not lame.) We’ve spent the last few weeks getting settled in and making it pretty much the most ballin’ house I’ve ever lived in. The only problem was that for two or three weeks we did not have a washer or a dryer.

The clothes piled up. I gave the pile a name; Frank. We kept putting off getting the washer. “Oh we don’t need to buy a new one.” “Oh it’s too rainy to go pick it up.” “Oh there’s a re-run of Gilmore Girls on.”

I mean, I get it. You stop most things  when Lauren Graham is on TV.

I mean, I get it. You stop most things when Lauren Graham is on TV.

I went to friends’ houses to do laundry but I felt weird invading their space with my dirty underwear. When I ran out of dry towels, I just bought more towels.

Finally, Sunday was the day. My dad and I loaded into his Tundra and made our way to pick up our new washer/dryer combo from a shipping container in the middle of the woods. Loading it in was easy enough. Drive up to where it’s stored. Tip it into the back of the truck. Drive home.

Once we got it home we then faced the problem of getting it up two flights of stairs into the master bedroom. We got it in the grass easy enough. Then my dad started looking around for ways to prolong getting it inside. He suggested we might need backup. Maybe he could run to Walmart and find magical moving straps that made things super easy to carry. But I was defiant, cocky and in desperate need of clean socks.

I forced him to move on, thinking that my superhero shirts have granted me powers. I said things like, “Dude, we’re strong men. I bench press now. Read my blog.”

It took us 20 minutes to get it inside and onto the initial landing of the stairs.

Now, I’ve never climbed a mountain. I’m pretty afraid of heights, but I hear, it’s hard. That day 12 rickety ass steps became my Everest.

Totally applicable analogy.

Totally applicable analogy.

We assumed that it would be easier to lay it down on a blanket and simply slide it up the stairs. I climbed the stairs, guiding it over each step as my dad pushed. The first three were great. He was pushing, I was lifting, it was sliding along like gangbusters. Father/son bonding acquired.

Then the sweat kicked in. Then the blanket refused to move along with washer. Our grips slipped, his foot tripped and our delightful father/son day became a terrifying action thriller.

The first sign of serious trouble was when my dad put his foot through the wall.

Dad: "Good thing I know how to do sheet-rock."

Dad: “Good thing I know how to do sheet-rock.”

We forced the washer up a couple more stairs. There was no good place to grab a hold of this thing, so when my fat little finger started getting oiled up with man-sweat, I couldn’t really lift it that well anymore.

Then I lost my shoe. And never in my life have been more scared to lose a shoe.

I threw it to the side initially, because deep down I still believed I was Superman. “Screw it, I’ll move this bitch in my socks. Who cares?” I think my dad might have cared a little bit. Because now I could lift the washer at all. It clanked uselessly against the wooden step as my foot slipped and slid, robbing me of precious leverage.

I tried again and again in vain to lift the washer over a stupid inch of wood, but I couldn’t get it. Sweat poured down our faces and the washer started to slide down the stairs.

Now, I’ve never seen what it looks like the moment before a man dies, but if the look in my dad’s eyes was any indication, it’s freaking terrifying. I wanted to cry on the spot. Just throw my hands up. “Oops, I killed my dad. I thought I was strong, but I am weak and I let a washer/dryer combo crush him.”

Luckily, he’s super strong too and was able to hold the thing while I cried like a little baby at the top of the steps. He gathered the blanket and through it off the steps. I went back to trying to lift it. I sat down on the top step because I couldn’t stand without my stupid shoe.

Finally, through stiffled panic and tears, I told my dad that I was going to get my shoe. Cue heroic music.

Thank you Mr. Williams.

Thank you Mr. Williams.

I grabbed the shoe, slid it on my foot and rediscovered the gift of leverage. I lifted the washer up, sort of like the way mother’s lift cars to rescue their babies.

With a few more struggled pushes and pulls, we got the washer up to the landing and called for reinforcements to get it into the room.

It looks like it should have been so much easier than it was.

It looks like it should have been so much easier than it was.

Ultimately I’m proud what my father and I were able to accomplish. It was a large and stupid task, but we met it head on and showed that we are, in fact, a couple of big strong men. I’m also super happy to have pants again. So there’s that. Was it worth almost dying for? No. But at least there’s clean pants.