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.

Anti-Social Butterfly

Every time I am at a party, I like to play a game called, “How Long Will You Politely Stand Next to Me Until You Figure Out I’m Not Going To Keep Talking To You?” It’s never a game I intend to play. I don’t get all hyped up on the car ride over saying to myself, “Aw yeah! I can’t wait to be a dick to some nice person I’ve never met!” I never want to be some morose buzz-kill. I’m just terrible at concealing how uncomfortable parties and gatherings of any kind make me.

I’m not good at socializing. I like to say that I have a three person max when it comes to social interactions. And that’s with my friends. With strangers it’s like a negative one person max. The simple thought of talking to someone I don’t know in a casual setting fills me with terror.

I stutter and stammer and sweat. My mind is constantly racing and bumbling over each new thought whenever I’m stuck in situations where I have to interact with others. At parties, I tend to latch onto the one person I know and follow them around with my head bowed like some kind of scared puppy. I avoid eye contact and speak in disjointed whispers. Too uncomfortable to relax even with my friend. Always making sure I’m not drawing attention to myself and our conversation.

But if something happens and the people I know are somehow occupied, well that becomes so much worse. I tend to stiffen up. I prefer to stand somewhere, my belly is less likely to do embarrassing bunching things when I’m standing. I keep my arms crossed in front of me or buried in my pockets. Something that shows how inconvenient it would be for me to shake hands or wave. I survey the room constantly with erratic unblinking eyes. A terrifying sentry keeping watch from some quiet corner.

My dad’s always telling me to smile. Growing up it was always, “Pretend like you’re having fun. Smile.” But I’ve never been able to take that advice. When I’m in these situations, I get very tight lipped, like I spent sometime in my car before exiting gluing my mouth shut. A long-time fan of heavy mouth breathing, when I’m at a party I tend to forget that you can receive oxygen from your mouth. Instead my nostrils flare desperately, trying to catch as much air as it can to fill my lungs with each quick, shallow breath.

I always look like I’m either itching to pick a fight or on the verge of tears. It really depends on the scenario. If I don’t want to be there out of some spite or dislike of the situation, I default to murder face. A stern, unblinking mask of displeasure. My jaw is probably clenched and I’m probably flexing as I hold my arms tight across my chest. I sit there and curse the insensitivity of whoever it was who dragged me to such an occasion. I mean, don’t they know that I don’t like social events. Don’t that know how uncomfortable it makes me. I sit there with this self-righteous mantra in my head. How people don’t understand what its like to feel like this. And I brood and scowl at anyone who dares glance at me until I can leave and breathe once again in my car as I drive home and cry a little.

But that’s the easy one to deal with. I mean, no one ever wants to be mad and uncomfortable, but that’s sort of me throwing in the towel early. Shutting down as a form of self preservation. What’s harder is when I get all cry-face. I get all jittery and restless, my jaw trembles and it always looks like I’m on the verge of tears. That usually happens when I’m actually trying. My breath quickens and I nervously hover somewhere, desperately trying to find the courage to say hi to someone. Some nice girl or a group of people that look like they’re having fun. My brain just gets stuck on this vicious loop of critical self-analysis and inability to form words. This constant back and forth of ambitious courage followed by crushing defeat when I eventually convince myself that whatever thought I had was stupid.

I wander around the outside of the party. Hoping to catch someone alone. To peak someone’s interest to engage with me. “Ooo who is this brooding hunk of handsome? That’s totally cool still, right? He’s probably some tortured artist and will totally be interesting to talk to.” That rarely happens. No one’s like “Hell yeah, party time! I’m gonna get totally wasted and talk to the sad man!”

But every once in a while someone does try and we enter the game. I’m not a small talk guy. I’m terrible at small talk with my own friends. I need to create some overblown narrative to every little thing or I feel like I can’t function properly. “Oh what band is that on your shirt?” “Oh its Iron and Wine. Let me tell you about my entire history with listening to this band starting with the first time I watched Garden State in eighth grade.” It’s a bit daunting to say the least. But I’m not that open with the casual party-goer and so I find myself in the awkward stand off of wanting their company but not knowing how to actually make us of it.

I’m very good at answering questions from strangers. You come over and say “So what do you do?” I can tell you about my job. I can tell you some peripheral stuff about my writing. Ask me where I’m from and I can tell you the abridged story of how I moved around a lot growing up. But I’m not good at asking questions. I may be interested in getting to know you, but if I can’t follow up my answer with a simple, “What about you?” forget about it. For some reason, I get stuck in that vicious loop of “This is a good question. No its a stupid question. You should ask this. No you shouldn’t. Wait for them to say something else. Oh they’re not saying anything. Look off into the distance until they walk away.”

It’s not pleasant at all. To sit there and struggle to just reach out in any basic human way. I mean, with creepy people, its fine. “Yes go, I did not want to talk to you.” But more times than not, I genuinely want to interact with you but I can’t break free from this cycle of constant self-critique to function. Always too scared of saying the wrong thing. Always too scared of coming on too strong or too soft. I tend to just remain neutral and noncommittal. More like a hat rack than a party guest.

I always say, “Give me three meetings and I’ll finally get comfortable enough to talk to you.” I may interact with you before that but I rarely show my true face (whatever the hell that is) before that. For most people, I don’t get three chances. I get maybe half of one.

But I like to think that for those who are patient, it’s a good payoff. That at some point I become engaging and funny and nice. I say that hopefully because I’m still skeptical that I do have those good qualities. Even with friends I’ve had for months now or even years, I constantly play that game in my head. That vicious self-critique that won’t shut up. “Oh you’re too loud, Chase. Reel it in.” “Oh that was rude. Apologize.” “That was weird. Apologize.” “They’re not laughing. Apologize.” I’m stuck in trying to always say the right thing. Never really relaxed enough to have a good time.

I’m trying. I’m going out more and trying to break free of my comfort zone. A lot of times though, I wonder if I had a comfort zone to begin with. There’s no happy ending to wrap into a bow here because the story continues to rage on. I feel like I’ll always fight this fight with myself. Maybe one day I’ll relax, but probably not. Just know that I do care. That I’m not unhappy, that I’m genuinely trying. It’s hard sometimes but I am grateful for those who stuck it out. Those who I call my friends. They make me fight that much harder.

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.

Mustachioed Weak – An Experiment in Facial Hair Reconstruction

I’m a beard man. I don’t like to make a lot of show about it, but my beard has been as much a part  of my identity for the past five or so years as my eyes or my nose. It’s just a part that always seemed to have been there. But every once in a while, I yearn for a change. To do something radical to shake up the way people see me. I’ve played with a goatee, I’ve tried several variations from clean and trim to shaggy and long. On my darkest days I even go clean shaven and expose my baby face and nonexistent jawline to the world.

A little over a week ago, I shaved down to a mustache for the first time in my life. I have lived with this awkward lip garnish since then. This is my story.

For reference: This me in my natural habitat. Bearded, proud, sexy.

For reference: This me in my natural habitat. Bearded, proud, sexy.

This whole debacle started at the gym. While I was sitting on the bench pretending like I was talking myself up for another set, I stared at myself in the mirror wall for entirely too long. I like to make funny faces anytime I’m in front of the mirror and I was in the middle of some solid gems when I just became focused on my mustache.

I had always flirted with the idea of a mustache. When shaving I’d leave the mustache long enough for a few selfies before sending it down the drain with everything else. The mustache never left the bathroom. But on this fateful day, I decided to go for it. I mean, what did I have to lose? At best I’d have a solid Ron Swanson from Parks and Recreation vibe, at worst it’d be pure Paul Blart.

I have been told many times that I look like Kevin James. I have yet to decide if I should be offended.

I have been told many times that I look like Kevin James. I have yet to decide if I should be offended.

I rushed home that night giddy for this ridiculous transformation. I told myself that I’d leave it for a week. An entire week. I anticipated ridicule and awkward stares, but I tried to push that from my mind by saying, “If people ask just say you’re doing it for your blog.”

I played fast and lose with the beard trimmer that night. I had already been rockin’ the goatee, so I was half way there already. I sheered the chin bush with reckless abandon, quickly leaving myself with the ultimate question: Stubble or clean cheeks? Stubble kind of makes you look dirty, but clean shaven has a very “I meant to do this” feel to it and that could be worse.

The decision was made for me when I accidentally shaved too close and finally decided that I was going bald cheeked. This soup strainer would be on full display. I shaved, dried my face, and threw on a beanie for a selfie.

I was going for more of an "Austin hipster" look than "creepy predator" vibe.

I was going for more of an “Austin hipster” look than “creepy predator” vibe.

I threw it out to the internet and let my friends decide my fate. Then I locked the razors away so that I could not go back on my word. This would stay for a full week. The mustache will know the light of day.

The next morning I woke with aspirations of having a nice relaxing Saturday out. I was going to go to my favorite area of Austin. Hit up the bookstore and see a movie. But first I needed to figure out what to do with my hair that did not make me look like a trendy soccer dad. I don’t think I was particularly successful in that regard, but I had a flannel so I at least looked earthy.

Every time I looked at myself in the mirror I just giggled like a dork. I couldn’t get over the way I looked, how would anyone else possibly take me seriously. The entire drive I was just in my head, trying to imagine what passersby and cashiers would do or say. Would I look like a creeper in the comic book section or would I finally look like I belonged?

I have this chronic desire to not stand out. I am very quiet and reserved. I apologize habitually and avoid eye contact. Anything I could possibly do to not cause a scene. But here I was walking around with a target for humiliation directly plastered on my face. Immersion therapy at its finest.

This week on Fear Factor, Chase must order a cup of coffee without stuttering and dropping things.

This week on Fear Factor, Chase must order a cup of coffee without stuttering and dropping things.

What I quickly realized was that no one really cared all that much. I mean, strangers did not stop and stare. Parents did not whisk their children away from me. No one said anything. I was just as faceless as I had been at any other time. I mean, that sounds like a terrible thing to think to yourself. But when you constantly feel like the entire world is constantly searching for some little screw up or silly embarrassment to hold over you forever, it’s kind of refreshing to realize that people don’t care one way or the other. I mean, as long as you’re a middle class white guy. Let’s not forget that I’ve already been dealt a pretty solid hand.

My friends have tended to have a little more fun with it. My gym buddies all yelled in excitement, cycling through different mustachioed characters I looked like. “Oh you look like Anchorman!” “Oh no, that mall cop. Paul Blart!” I went to dinner with my friends Colin, Steph and Mark as well as Colin and Steph’s kids and I realized that my mustache is the furthest thing from the weirdest part about me.

If you have a cute hat, I will wear it. I don't care if its for a three year old. I don't care if its several hats stacked on top of each other.

If you have a cute hat, I will wear it. I don’t care if its for a three year old or if its several hats.

The mustache even had to face the frightening world of dating. I’d been trying to settle on a date to get dinner with this nice young lady and of course we finally landed on a day during the mustachioed week. But I sent a fair warning, “Just to let you know, I kind of have a mustache right now. If that changes things, I totally understand.” It didn’t. It was a fine evening. She assured me that the fullness of it kept it free from creepy territory. She said it looked very Ron Swanson. #Swansoning.

#living the dream

#living the dream

Now I want to say that the entire week was full of fun and games and celebrity impressions. But ultimately halfway through the week my father and I had to steal away on an emergency trip to Louisiana. My great grandmother’s health had been in a slow decline for months. We visited her in January when she was in the hospital, but this trip seemed to have more finality to it. This wasn’t a happy ending kind of visit.

I was really quiet on the drive to New Orleans. I just kept beating myself up. This was probably going to be the last time she got to see me and I had this stupid thing on my face. I was a walking joke. She wouldn’t see me the way I was meant to be seen and for some reason that bothered me to no end.

She would pass while were there. She was non-responsive once we got there and never came back to us. She never saw the mustache. But at the end of the day, that didn’t really matter much, did it?

I finished the mustachioed week in Louisiana, hunkered in a nursing home room with my dad’s family. There were the jokes. I explained that the whole mustache thing was “a joke that seems very inopportune right about now.” But I did get to see a few old photos of my uncles rockin’ some classic ‘stache work. A moment of solidarity in a somber weekend.

The mustache is still kicking even now. While the cheek fuzz is coming back in, I hold out to show a few friends who missed it while I was away. At the end of the day, this was a silly experiment that wasn’t much of an experiment. I mean, it was refreshing to find that I could do something unusual and survive the consequences, even if it were minor. It was nice to know that I could stand out or at the least attempt to without the world shattering. That its ok to just be yourself, because at the end of the day the world isn’t watching you hoping you’d fall.

It was fun to be a dork for a week, because sadly I think I’m stuck being one for the rest of my life.

Understated selfie with the awkward lighting. #killin'it #mustaches will never die

Understated selfie with the awkward lighting. #killin’it #mustaches will never die

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.

Chase Hits the Gym, The Gym Hits Back

I am 300 lbs. Well I am not 300 lbs., I weigh 300 lbs. I am Chase, a person who likes silly things and is not a number. But either way, its jarring to see when you look down at a scale.

Now I wish that I could proudly proclaim that this was all beautifully sculpted man-meat. That I was some towering viking god of merriment. But it is not. Some of it is quality bicep beef, but most of it is All-American flab and Taco Belly.

"Meet my college sweetheart, the Briefcase of Tacos."

“Meet my college sweetheart, the Briefcase of Tacos.”

While weight issues aren’t exactly a new playground for me, batting 300 on the scale has put me back in the gym with renewed vigor. Since early January I’ve been hitting up the rec center gym with my friends Mark, Bailey and Keegan. I’m supposed to be training for the Tough Mudder run that’s happening in May. I think that’s why I was first invited. But mud is gross and running is hard, so I’ve chosen to focus on the more practical goal of not having a stroke by the time I’m 25.

I’ve been rocking the fitness life five days a week for a few months now. Showing up in my Wonder Woman t-shirt with my inner Katy Perry roaring, ready to throw down while wearing unnecessarily colorful socks. Most days, one of two things happens. One: I throw around some iron like I’m late for a Superman audition. Or two: I see how many things I can move around the gym until they realize that Chase is daydreaming about nachos instead of participating in Back Day.

Let’s face it, even though I am showing up to the gym most days, I often leave the eye of the tiger back in the car. I’m not one for pushing boundaries. I know my comfort level and I stick to it. I like lifting heavy things with my chest. I’ll go to town on the bench press like I’m getting sponsored by protein itself. But once we venture into the territory of a lunge or a crunch or the barren hell scape that is the cardio room, Chase is ready to curl up on couch with a martini class full of gummi bears.

"This is decadence."

“This is decadence.”

I like to over-worry about little league baseball injuries or the fact that I only ate two hours before coming into the gym. Squats are always threatening to hurt my knees and I have bad form not because I don’t know better but because I am lazy. The gym is hard and I’m not making it any easier.

If you’ve read any of this blog before, you know that I like to obsess over silly things. Inane stupid fears keep me up at night, but I’m often oblivious to the real things worth being scared of. Things like hypertension and a lifetime of blood pressure medication. The number 300 used to bring to mind pictures of ab-riddled Greeks lopping off heads and Gerard Butler kicking dudes down wells. Now it reminds me that I should have been running instead of watching crappy Zach Snyder movies.

"300: Rise of the Risk of Heart Disease."

“300: Rise of the Risk of Heart Disease.”

The first obstacle has been overcome. I have a burning desire to be in the gym most days. I’m setting goals and meeting them. (I recently benched 205 lbs. That’s, like, an entire person.) But I also know that just standing in the gym won’t make me any healthier. Not when I’m eating three meals for lunch (It was an accident.) or stopping myself the moment something gets tough.

When I’m looking like Blake Griffin and dunking over high school kids at the park, we’ll all have a good laugh about how silly it was that I was once 300 lbs. I’ve just gotta do some work first.

"The dream is real."

“The dream is real.”

Misadventures with Famous People: Part 1

I have talked about my love of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” on this blog before and much more extensively if you’ve ever met me in person. Probably too much. No, definitely too much. I can’t help it though. I’m hopelessly addicted to that show even though it hasn’t been on the air in over ten years.

So last November when I had the chance to go to the Austin, TX Comic-Con and meet James Marsters, the actor who played fan-favorite vampire Spike, I ran around the house squealing like a three-year-old for several hours. All that enthusiasm was before I realized that I shouldn’t be allowed near famous people.

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Be prepared for me to shake your hand your hand way too many times.

The Comic-Con started the day I got home from school for the winter break. My dad had somehow scored me a couple of three day passes. I never know exactly how he does these things. He says he has connections, but I think that connection is to the Dark Lord because he has nabbed tickets to events that certainly required some kind of sacrifice and incantation.

I missed out on the Friday event because of my late flight, but I woke up early on Saturday morning, ready to get my nerd on. It was the first time I had ever driven to downtown Austin on my own before. I had always been deeply terrified of driving in big cities, but there are very few things that would keep me away from TV vampires.

I said TV vampires, Sparkleface.

I said TV vampires, Sparkleface.

I found my way to the Austin Convention Center after half an hour of white knuckling my steering wheel. I have never been to a convention like that before so I strolled in an hour before the doors opened thinking I was super ahead of the game only to walk into an intimidating sea of excited costumed fans. Wolverines and Jokers and Thors as far as the eye could see.

I found the booth that held my pass and made my way onto the convention floor an hour early with the rest of the VIPs. (Witchcraft. I’m convinced of it.) I walked around looking at all the booths and admiring the beautiful artwork I could never afford. Great framed works by Alex Ross that left me in awe, in equal parts by the beautiful depictions of the Justice League of America and the multi-thousand dollar price tags.

Justice-League-Alex-Ross

Some people want Picassos. I want this on my walls.

I bought myself a few trinkets. And then stood in line at James Marster’s autograph booth which I was assured he would make an appearance at by 11:30. I was third in line and shaking with anticipation as I waited for the next hour. I flipped through the convention schedule, making note of the events I wanted to see: The Doctor Who 50th anniversary episode screening, a talk on 75 years of Batman, and James Marster’s Q&A.

I stood quietly, scanning the faces of everyone who came even close to the autograph booth in hopes that it would be Mr. Marsters, but it never was. I marveled at the fact that I was as tall as Lou Ferrigno who stood a few booths over. I felt pretty cool. Sure he had biceps the size of my head, but I was as tall as the freaking Hulk, man.

Let's go, punk. You aint got nothing on me.

Let’s go, punk. You aint got nothing on me.

The autograph line filled up to bursting right before 11:30 and then stayed that way for twenty more minutes. Excited chatter about favorite “Buffy” episodes or “Torchwood” memories turned to questions of would he make it in time. His photo booth started in ten minutes and his Q&A was twenty minutes after that. Slowly people slipped away to go to his photobooth or shake hands with the Karate Kid at a different booth.

I stubbornly waited, hoping he’d show, but he never did.

But in the booth next to his sat Erica Durance, “Smallville’s” Lois Lane and my future wife, and my heart kind of exploded in my chest. I didn’t know she was going to be there, lot less twenty feet away from me.

smallvilleseason8ericaduranceasloislane2-thumb

Do you have a piece of kryptonite in your purse? Because my knees just got weak.

I walked over with the sweaty palms of a seventh grader asking his crush to dance at the spring fling. I practiced what I would say, deciding not to recite to her the poems I wrote for her when I was fifteen. I figured I wanted to at least wait until the end of the weekend before we started breaking out the restraining orders.

I bought a photo of her for her to sign and slid down the line until we were face to face. She smiled and I cried a little bit. I tried to say some words. I didn’t care if they were sentences or not. I just wanted words out there. Hopefully something more eloquent than, “You. Pretty. Me. Lonely.” But I just made sounds at her face.

We shook hands and I laughed at myself, apologizing for my awkwardness saying, “Man, I really thought I’d get a full sentence out before I started speaking gibberish.” To which she replied, “Oh that’s ok. I speak gibberish all the time.”

And then we ran away together and got married and she would call me her Superman every time I made chicken alfredo pizzas for dinner. Or I blushed so hard that my knees got weak and I had to run away. Probably the second one.

That could have been me.

That could have been me.

Check in next week for more mishaps from my Austin Comic-Con adventures.