Tuesday, June 28, 2011

First Memory

I remember learning to walk.

I know this seems hard to believe, but I do. It is too vivid a memory to just be something my family told me about. I really remember it.

My great-grandmother and all my grandparents were there. My parents and a couple sets of aunts and uncles were there. They were all sitting or kneeling in a circle and I was crawling around in the middle of them. One of them would call my name and I would push or pull myself up onto my feet and I would start to walk to them, but then I would fall down. Immediately there was a bunch of "ohh"s and then someone else would call my name and I would be helped onto my feet and I would start to wobble over to them.

"Come over here Charlie... you can do it!"
"Over here, Charlie!"
"Almost, Charlie... there you go!"

My parents' shag carpet was a rusty orange color. The wall-paper had huge cartoon-like flowers on it of similar colors. Is that why my favorite color is orange? Is your first memory directly responsible for your likes and dislikes? Is this memory the reason why I don't pay attention (as well as I should) to when people call me or want me to do something for them?

I did eventually get the hang of the whole walking thing. And according to my mom, I never stopped. I wanted to walk everywhere. I didn't want to ride in the stroller anymore. I didn't want to be carried. I didn't even want to hold anyone's hand when we went places. I yelled and screamed when an adult would grab my hand to cross the street.

I still have that go-go-go mentality. I don't like staying in one place for very long. I don't know why I've stayed in Buffalo for as long as I have. I need to pick myself up and go.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Nothing To Say

I swear to God I have nothing to say.

I have no idea why people even read this blog. Not that I'm telling those few that do read it to stop. But I really don't have anything to say today. But I want to try and stay in practice and I want to write a few times a week, so I'm putting up a post.

Maybe I can write about how my day went yesterday.

It started out like every other weekday has: I woke up an hour before my alarm and forced myself to get ready for work. I worked a half day teaching Math Remediation to my students. I wish I still worked full days during the summer, but the lack of enrollment has forced me into Part Time status. One of my students watches as I model the problems on the board, then just as I'm about to erase the board, he says, "I need to write that down. Hold on." What are you waiting for? Just write it down as I'm doing the modeling. Why are you wasting everyone's time by making us wait for you to write it down? Maybe I'm just being nit-picky?

After work I headed over to the college and spoke to my boss about possibly getting more hours. I stopped at the president's office and picked something up for my brother. I swung by my brother's workplace, dropped the stuff off, and talked about baseball for a while. Then I headed down to see my mom. She was pretty busy at work, so I had to hang out and pretend I was looking at jewelry while I waited. It was around this time that I started to not feel so good. I noticed a little dizziness when I was teaching, but I just figured it was because I didn't really have much for breakfast other than a chocolate chip Quaker bar. Sometimes florescent lights make me feel dizzy too, so I just shrugged it off as nothing. While I was waiting for my mom to finish up with her customer I just tried to use some mind-over-matter to convince myself that I was fine. I chatted with my mom for a bit, then took off to find something to eat.

Instead I stopped at a small market and bought a pop. It helped for a while. I just needed sugar, I guess. I stopped by the bar and had a couple drinks. I went to a Denny's in a hotel down near Niagara Falls. I always think that the food there is good until i actually eat the stuff. Why is it that I always forget how crappy the food is there? Why can't chain restaurant food taste as good as the pictures look?

By the time I finished eating it was time to head down to my director's house to have our meeting. In my last post I mentioned that I'm working as Propmaster for a local theater group. This was the first meeting for the show. The Assistant Director and the Tech Director joined my director and me and it was nice and relaxed. It was a little bitter-sweet though. It turns out that this will be the last summer musical that this group will be doing. After eighteen years of producing musicals, the group is putting all of that on hold. There is just a lack of money and there's really not a strong theater community anymore in Niagara Falls. It's kind of sad, really.

So needless to say everyone involved is trying to make this show the best it can be. I still remember working on my first show with this group. I was sixteen or seventeen years old and I worked hand-in-hand with a student from Niagara University who worked both as the Tech Director and one of the supporting roles in the show. I just assumed that this was how all musicals were put on: Everyone in the show also had a part to play behind the scenes. That's definitely not the way it is anymore. The cast members are hard-pressed to do anything other than rest their voices and do stretches. They don't hammer nails or move set pieces or paint flats. They don't transport props in their vehicles. They don't worry about anyone but themselves. It's sad really. I am one hundred percent positive this is why the production company is putting musicals on hold. It costs money to put these shows on and when everyone is doing one job and one job only, it's hard to save money on stuff.

I kind of went off on a tangent there.

After the meeting I drove straight home and crashed. I was hoping that I would sleep amazingly after the long, busy day I had, but that was not the case.

I woke up an hour before my alarm this morning. Again.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Memories. A Photo.

I remember when this place used to be a 7-11.

Now it's a Laundry Lounge, whatever that is.

My friend used to live around the corner and his step-dad used to send us over to pick him up cartons of cigarettes or six-packs of beer. We were thirteen. We used to buy Super Big Gulps with the change and chug them down before we got home so he didn't know we were spending his money on non essential items like a 64 ounce slushy.

A few years later, after my friend's mother left his step-dad, we would hang out in front and ask "old guys" to buy us six-packs of Red Dog.

Now this place is a Laundry Lounge. I wonder if kids hang out in front trying to get "old" people to buy them fabric softener.

I bet the Laundry Lounge doesn't have a Big Gulp machine.
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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

A Life In The Theater

I've worked in the theater for over twenty years. And by "worked" I don't mean "get paid to perform duties." I've never gotten paid to do what I've done. Not in money at least.

It all started because of a girl. That's the way it always works, it seems. A girl I had a crush on asked me to come to Drama Club my freshman year of high school and from that day on I was hooked. I loved everything about theater. The prop room, the light booth, the backstage area. I also loved the history of it all. I would go to rehearsal early and look at all the old photographs of casts past and wonder how many of them became part of Drama Club because of a girl. I would check out the set pieces from old shows and imagine moving them on and off the stage. Then I would stare at the backstage wall. It was a wall that couldn't be seen from the audience, just outside the tech room that had different colored hand prints and painted messages and signatures from everyone who had ever been a part of the theater at my school. It was like an unburied time capsule. By the end of my first show my hand print was up on that wall in dark green with a simple "chaz, 1992." written below it in chicken scratch.

My first job in Drama Club was to help with lights. It was mostly just flipping switches when the vocal cue came. It was an easy job as long as I paid attention. Actually, now that I think about it, my first job was untangling all the light cords. It took my friend and me over eight hours to untangle about thirty miles of dusty orange cords. It was quite a bonding experience. She and I became great friends after that. We're still great friends all due to those damned cords. And to this day I always wind any cords I use very neatly so that they don't get tangled.

I worked my way up the ranks in Drama Club. I helped build and paint set pieces. I ran the spot light. I ran the curtain. I moved set pieces on and off stage. I controlled the flies. This last job was my favorite. The flies are the different banners or set pieces or small curtains that "fly" in and out from above the stage. These are all controlled by a set of ropes off stage.

I didn't just work in my high school theater productions. I also helped out with a summer theater group that was started by my old band director. It was in collaboration with Niagara University, which is a huge theater school here in Western New York. I was sixteen years old and hanging out with college kids (they seemed so old!) who knew so much more than me about building sets and tuning the lights and running the flies. I learned so much about theater and drinking and college life. I hung out with them in their apartments and on campus and it was just such a great time.

Looking back I can't believe these people in their early twenties wanted to hang out with a little kid like me. But I remembered that time. I remembered all the things they taught me and all the beers they snuck me and the times we had. And when I was in my early twenties, I paid it forward.

Now I'm in my mid-thirties. I'm still helping out with that summer theater group. It's so much bigger now and the productions we do now are huge compared to that first production of Lil' Abner. I was actually mentioned in the program last summer as the Assistant Technical Director. I built sets and I had a hand in how things should look and what we should do to make them look that way. I had a few high school kids working under me painting and drilling and cutting wood when needed. I didn't think I would ever get my name in the program for that. I never thought, "oh yeah, this is the year I'll see my name in the program." It honestly never crossed my mind. Working behind the scenes all these years in the theater, you don't ever imagine your name will be mentioned in the program. It's enough to just see your sets built and your lights tuned just perfectly.

This year I'll be working as Prop Master. It may not seem like a huge thing to someone who has never worked in the theater, but to me it is. last year's Prop Master didn't do a great job (from the whispers I overheard backstage) so I have to do this well. It's a lot more work and more responsibility. And it's also one step closer to being the director's assistant. In order to do a great job I've done research online and at the library. I'm pretty psyched about this gig. I will never be the director (she's married to the producer, my old band director), but I want to learn as much as I can from as many people as I can.

If I was smart back when I was graduating from high school I would have just gone to college for theater, but then again I always did take the long way around to get to where I wanted to go.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Thinking About Writing After Attending A Reading

The hippie and I attended a reading yesterday evening at Talking Leaves. I'm always nervous about going to readings because there is always the potential for them to become awkward. Either there are very few people there so the author is reading and talking directly to you, or the author shows up and there's very few people there and he or she takes it out on everyone there (or the host bookstore). Either way, when there's a reading at a bookstore from a not-very-famous author, I'm always on edge.

The first time I attended a reading at a bookstore was back in 1996. My friend wanted me to see this new up and coming author named David Sedaris at a Barnes & Noble in Rochester. WE WERE THE ONLY ONES THERE. He didn't read anything, instead the three of us took turns taking pictures with my Poloroid camera until I ran out of film. Years later, when I attended a sold-out reading at the University of Buffalo featuring Sedaris, I showed him the picture my friend took of the author and me. He still remembered that Rochester reading. He told me that is one of the reasons he doesn't ever visit Rochester.

Yesterday's reading was attended by maybe eight or nine people. Most of them knew Heather Holland Wheaton (the author) from when she lived here in Buffalo. I sat in the back just in case it got weird. It never did. She read a few stories and seemed generally pleased to see everyone who showed up. The stories she read were works of fiction that all took place in or around New York City. In one story she replaced the name of a small town with "Buffalo" for effect. The stories were funny and serious and the characters were real and believable and the whole scene just made me wish it was me up there reading. She invited everyone to go to "The Flamingo" for drinks after the reading. Most Buffalonians know that bar as The Old Pink now. I wanted so much to go to the bar with her and pick her brain and talk about writing and show her my stories and get some feedback.

But that didn't happen. I had to work the next morning. I didn't have any copies of any of my writing. I was hungry. I was tired. I was full of excuses. She was here on vacation and she could stay out all night drinking at The Pink. I was a grown up with a job. But I am still kicking myself. I wish I had more writer friends I could talk to about writing. I wish I had more time to concentrate on my writing. I wish I had more. Period.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011


I was sitting in on a lecture of the Five Stages of Guilt this morning and something hit me:

I'm not sure if I'm ready to die.

Now before you start sending sympathy cards and condolences just know this: I'm not sick or dying any more than the normal, run-of-the-mill person is dying. I mean, we're all dying a little bit each day, aren't we? Or do I have that wrong? I thought I remember hearing once that as soon as we are born the dying process begins. Maybe I made that up. Or maybe I over heard a crazy person saying that. Either way, I am not dying out-right. As far as I know.

But still, I could die at any minute. I could get hit by lightning or I could lose control of my car as I'm driving over the Grand Island Bridge and drown. I could get caught in the middle of a turf war and get gunned down. I could fall asleep one day and just not wake up. These things are not out of the realm of possibilities for someone. Even me.

As you may (or may not) know, the final stage of grief is Acceptance. This usually occurs after denial and anger and bargaining and depression. It is at this point where a person says, "you know what, I've lived a good life. I'm okay with dying." As the guy at the front of the room was describing this stage, I was trying to figure out if I could ever get to that stage. I don't think I could. Right now. And to be honest, I don't think I want to.

When I was a teenager I had my palm read on the beach in Florida. The woman told me I wouldn't live to see my 40th birthday. When I was sixteen, it didn't really freak me out. I was cool with it. I was a little happy about it, to be honest. I hope I die before I get old! I didn't see myself being an adult, so being forty was no big thing to me. But now that I'm in my mid-thirties, I can sorta-kinda see myself living to be forty. Maybe. If this woman was right (and many many people have told me that she couldn't possibly see my death day in my palm), I won't live to be 40. And I'm not sure I'm ready to not be alive anymore.

Have I had a good life? Sure, I guess. But it's a good life compared to whom? Compared to Bill Clinton? Compared to Jim Morrison? Compared to Hunter S. Thompson? I would have no answer "no" to all three of those guys. I haven't fulfilled all my dreams yet. I haven't really traveled to Europe and the United Kingdom. I haven't seen the Yankees play in New York City. I haven't written the Great American Novel or a moving and emotional stage production. I have so many more things I want to do with my life, but it feels as though my time is running out.

Or worse yet, it feels as though I may have all the time in the world, but no means to do the things I've always wanted to do. That would be the worst thing ever.

And to be honest, I really don't see any of my dreams coming true. I have to work to pay my bills and I don't have savings and I don't have vacation time (or the money to go on vacation if I did have the time) and I have a car that constantly needs attention and I have a hard enough time seeing myself ever moving out of my apartment, let alone going somewhere exciting or exotic.

And it's so damn sad.

Monday, June 6, 2011


I have a hard time trusting people.

I think I always have. I'm not sure why.

I don't lend out books or CDs or movies because I'm afraid I'll never get them back. And before you tell me I'm just being paranoid, let me just tell you that I've been burned before. I used to lend out books or movies to friends who wanted to borrow them "just for the weekend." Needless to say a month later I still haven't seen the item I lent out and six months later I'm spending money on something I already owned. Nine times out of ten I lent something out that was a gift, so I am spending money on something that was free to me. And as I am standing in the check out line, I am rearranging my friends in order of importance and those who have not returned my stuff are rightfully at the bottom of my very short list.

I don't even want to know you if you don't return something of mine. But my trust issues go beyond just lending things out. I had the hardest time when I went to film school for undergrad. Not because I wasn't smart enough or because I didn't know what I was doing, but because I had to rely on other people to show up on time and show up period to be my cast and crew. Even after the promise of free food and beer, people would still "forget" that they told me they would show up and help me. Many times I would have to do most of the jobs myself (including acting in my films, which made my film even worse). Suffice it to say this was one of the reason I switched from Production to Writing at the end of my sophomore year of undergrad.

These trust issues trickled into my personal life too. Relationships were always short and difficult because I didn't trust girls. I would follow them around or check up on them just to make sure they didn't have some other guy on the side. Most of the time they didn't, and they didn't enjoy being checked up on, so the relationship would usually end before it really began. If I was to look back at all the amazing (potential) relationships I could have had that were ruined because of my trust issues, I might just kill myself. So I just move on and try and forget all the problems my trust issues have caused.

Maybe you don't trust people because you are untrustworthy, chaz.

Hmm. That could very well be. I was a bit of a dirtbag when I was younger. I would cheat on and lie to my girlfriends. I would steal. I would forget important dates and appointments. I would think about only myself.

Thinking about it now, I'm surprised anyone would talk to me, let alone hang out with me or date me. But then again, I was pretty cool back in the day. And my eyes were mesmerizing. It was hard not to want to be close to me. Oh, did I mention I was full of myself too?

I'd like to believe I am over all these trust issues. But I'm really not. I try really hard to push these feelings down and convince myself that I'm being foolish. But still, to this day, I refuse to lend out any of my DVDs, books or CDs. If you want to watch, read or listen to them, you can come over.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Spring Has Sprung. Finally.

Now that the April showers are done (although they occurred through the entire month of May-- I think Mother Nature is a month behind this year), it's time to enjoy Springtime. It's warm and sunny and there's just enough of a breeze to fight off the slight humidity in the air. It's the best time of the year in Western New York, in my opinion. It's not cold and snowy or rainy, it's not so thick outside that you can't breathe. It's like Goldilocks out there-- just right!

There is one thing that hits me every spring. And to be honest I really feel guilty about it. I'm in a great relationship. Have been for over ten years. But every spring I miss the excitement of a new relationship. You know what I mean: Meeting someone new and exploring their brains, their likes and dislikes. Talking for hours and hours with them. Figuring out all their habits. Trying to figure out their scent. Sharing everything with them. Showing them all of your oddities to see if they'll stick around.

Isn't that just the best thing ever?

Of course when I was in high school, I took it further. I wrote long love letters, most of which were plagiarized from favorite song lyrics, and I would stand outside their house waiting for them to come home or leave to go somewhere. It sounds slightly stalker-like, now that I think about it.

What are you talking about slightly stalker-like, chaz??

I would also make mix-tapes. I was awesome at making mix tapes. Nick Hornby has a great quote in High Fidelity about mix-tapes, and the first time I read it, I was like, "Oh my God, yes!" Here's the quote:

"A good compilation tape, like breaking up, is hard to do and takes ages longer than it might seem. You've got to kick off with a killer, to grab the attention. Then you've got to take it up a notch, or cool it off a notch…oh, there are a lot of rules."  

Am I right? Well, maybe you weren't as obsessed with creating mix-tapes as I was. I would make a draft of the playlist before I even started recording them. I needed them to be perfect. I needed them to express exactly how I felt. I wanted the person I was giving the tape to to be blown away. I imagined them driving around or hanging out in their room listening to the tape over and over again just falling deeper and deeper in love with me. I'm sure that never happened, but still. A boy can dream.

I don't make mix-tapes anymore. I don't think I even have a dual tape deck that works anymore. I guess I could make a mix-CD, but it's not the same. There's no emotion in making a CD. And people don't write letters anymore. They send texts or emails. And it's so easy to get caught plagiarizing song lyrics now. Kids today don't know how great they DON'T have it. Technology has ruined everything good in the world.

Here I am talking about spring and new relationships and I go off on a technology is bad tangent. Where was I?

Oh right.

I always fell for girls so quickly. I was too generous with the word "love." I became infatuated with them. I wanted to spend every waking moment with them. And soon, usually before summer arrived, I was single again. Too much too quick. I can't tell you how many times I got the "I really like you a lot chaz, but not as much as you seem to like me. I think we need to take a break" speech. Too many times to remember. No, that's not right. I remember them all, but I'd just rather not remember them. I have notebooks filled with all of these memories. I get heart-broken all over again when I think of all the girls I've been dumped by.

But I still love spring.