Trying to Dispose of the Deerly Departed

I had never seen a real life deer until a few years ago. I’d seen their heads mounted on the walls my grandfather’s office, but I’d never seen them when they were like breathing and junk. That was until a few years ago when I moved out to Bastrop. A life spent in suburbs hadn’t yielded more than a raccoon sighting and suddenly I was living in the woods and had whole herds of deer passing through my yard every evening.

My dad would always wake me up early when I was home from school to stare in awe as a handful of does wandered around in the morning dew before he left for work. My whole family would routinely stare for hours in quiet reverence anytime we saw even the hint of a deer. Most people who routinely deal with deer grow to see them as sort of a nuisance over time, but we have yet to outgrow the magic.

Which is why it was so heartbreaking to drive up to my house one evening and find a fully grown deer literally dead on my doorstep.

Admittedly I did not really know what to do. I made a list of any mob bosses I may have pissed off who would be sending me some sort of message, but I haven’t really gambled since LSU baseball camp when I was 12 and I know I owed Derrick some Snickers but this was a bit excessive and several years too late. No this proofed to be just some random occurrence. No blood, no signs of struggle. Just a dead deer, half in the grass, half on the concrete porch.

Once the initial shock passed, I may have cried for a bit and read a Robert Frost poem on the deer’s behalf. But then I just stood their, looking at this majestic creature and it dawned on me that I had to figure out what to do with her. I’ve never disposed of a body that was larger than a cockroach and even then my practices aren’t efficient in any way.

To make matters worse, I was home alone of course. My parents were both at work. I called my mom first. She grew up on farms and it was her dad who was the prolific deer hunter. But she wasn’t very helpful. She just sounded like she wanted nothing to do with it. So she told me to call my dad.

Now I’ve never known my dad to so much as pet a dog lot less know how to get rid of unwanted large game. But I called him anyway because that’s what I do in a crisis. And the longer this deer sat outside and I started to thing of the unwanted coyote action that was sure to come, this event was turning into a crisis.

His suggestion was to call the game warden. So I looked it up and of course they were away from the office because it was six o’clock and I did not alert them that I would be having a dead deer problem during office hours. So I called my dad back after much useless searching and struggling for loopholes and lucky breaks.

His next suggestion would be to call 911. I think he meant the non-emergency line, if there is a thing, but whatever, he said call 911 and tell them what was up.

I’d never called 911 in my life. I was afraid of any phone number that had a 1 follow a 9 for fear of accidentally calling the cops and being arrested for pranking the emergency line. You could tell I was desperate to get rid of this rotting animal, because as a rule I sort of don’t do about 98% of what my dad tells me to do. “Law school? Nah, I’m gonna make a living writing stories that make fun of you.” But when he said, “Call 911” I hesitated for a record three seconds before sighing and dialing those dreaded numbers.

The phone barely made it through one ring before a woman hastily answered it. “What is your emergency,” she asked, in a crisp, authoritative voice.

Did “dead deer in my yard” qualify as an emergency? Unless you shot the deer as some sort of revenge for it killing a close family member that evening, I highly doubted it. So I just sort of laughed. Which is not the way to make a good impression with an emergency professional.

“Well, no, it’s not really an emergency,” I stammered, but tried to make it sound like some quirky mix-up. Like if she could see the delightfully puzzled expression on my face, she would have totally understood. “It’s just that we have a deer that died on my porch and I called my dad and he said to call 911 and I thought it was sort of silly but I was hoping you could help me.”

I could hear in her voice that she hated everything about me in that moment. “You have to leave this line open to actual emergencies,” she said in a brutally short fashion. “Call the non-emergency line.” She quickly rattled off a phone number that I did not catch at all and hung up the phone without a further word. I’m sure if she could have told me to fuck off before hanging up, she totally would have.

So I was out of ideas and my mom was now coming up the driveway. I met her at the door as she tiptoed around the corpse. After much deliberating we knew that we had to at least drag the deer away from the house because I was in no way prepared to fight a bobcat, although I spend a lot of time thinking that of all the predators out their, I could probably punch a bobcat the easiest. The only problem was that neither of us were willing to touch the deer.

My mom finally decided to call work to see if she could get one of those hearty Texas men or women to come and help us city folk out of our dilemma. They just laughed at us. Apparently they all found it quite silly that we could not simply drag a deer corpse away. Like that was just a normal thing.

Finally one of her coworkers took pity on us and came and collected the deer. I don’t want to theorize to what he did before he worked for a car dealership, but the way he effortlessly gathered the deer in a sheet, threw it in his trunk, and dropped it somewhere in the woods, made me think that he’d done that before.

I’ve never been a hunter and I have no desire to be. That was the closest I ever wish to be to a dead deer that was not being served to me on a plate.

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.

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.

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.

Maybe An Apocalypse Sounds Good After All

The more people ask me what I’m going to do now that I’ve graduated college, the more I realize just how much I was banking on that whole 2012 apocalypse thing.I don’t think I did the best planning for life after turning 20.

I’m not saying that I believed in the whole Mayan prophecy thing, but part of me totally believed the whole Mayan prophecy. This was not the rational or even coherent part of me. This was the part of me that also often battles the fear of ghosts and enjoys watching “Pawn Stars.”

I'm not sure which creeps me out  more: ghosts or those chins.

I’m not sure which creeps me out more: ghosts, the end of the world, or those chins. I think they’re all connected, to be honest.

When I was in high school, I would laugh at the doomsday prophets, but deep down I was doing the math. I’d be cleaning the bathroom when I would get that glazy eyed thousand yard stare and wonder, “If the world really does end in 2012, how old will I be?” 20 years old. So I started planning for what I could accomplish by the time I turned twenty and subconsciously forgetting that, “hey, maybe you should figure out what’s going to happen when you turn 21 or 25. Because you know, the world was not going to end you dumbass.”

Even on December 20, 2012 I kept walking around thinking, “The world might end today.” I wasn’t quaking in my boots or anything. I was stocking up my End of Days bunker although I did happen to have a ton of cans of tuna at home. Just in case. I kind of felt like I should do the whole “Last day on Earth” hoopla. Carpe that diem. Do all the things I’d always wanted to do. You know, just in case. But I looked around my room and realized that I did have a bitchin’ Buffy the Vampire Slayer collection so I felt accomplished enough to take a nap.

I was a little surprised to wake up on December 21. The new year came and it felt weird to see dates that said 2013. I mean, John Cusak made a movie about how I was going to die. It takes some time to recover from that. But after a day or two the shock of living in this world that shouldn’t exist wore off and I went on being a normal person who wasn’t crazy. And it was refreshing.

Damn you, Cusack! Didn't you hurt me enough with "Must Love Dogs?"

Damn you, Cusack! Didn’t you hurt me enough with “Must Love Dogs?”

Until I graduated college and realized that those decisions I made when I thought I was gonna die at twenty had to carry to being an adult. I mean, it’s not like I went on some crazy meth bender or robbed seventeen banks in Missouri. To be honest, for someone who kind of thought the world was ending, I lived a remarkably boring life. I ate a lot of pizza. Probably should have done a few more push-ups.But now it seems that I have to make my little foray into art school actually payoff and that fact has a tendency to stop me in my tracks.

Every once in a while I’ll just stare off into the distance as I do the dishes and think, “I spent how much money getting a writing degree?! Why would I do that?!”

It’s hard coming back home and being showered with questions like “So what are you going to do now?” and “What does one do with a writing degree?” I sit at home and read Aquaman comic books. That’s what I do with a writing degree.

Who needs a plan for the future when you can spend all day pretending to be the king of the ocean?

Who needs a plan for the future when you can spend all day pretending to be the king of the ocean?

I want to come up with grand, oddball plans when I get these questions. “Oh, I’m moving to Spain to become a bull fighter.” Or, “I’m going to reshoot the film ‘Free Willy’ on my iPhone with my neighbor’s cat.” But then I just feel bad in comparison when the real answer is much less exciting. “I’m just kind of seeing what comes my way. I tell people I’m writing a book but I’ve been stuck on chapter 16 since February.”

But the funny thing is that I haven’t stopped fearing the end of the world. I just think I’m living in it now. I keep worrying that my world is falling apart around me, because I don’t have a plan for what comes next. It’s not the end of the world, though, no matter how much easier that would make things. It’s the exact opposite actually. It’s just the start. And it’s time to no longer be content with just having a bitchin’ Buffy the Vampire Slayer collection.

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.