So, it’s been awhile. If you think the best of me, you might guess that I’ve been working feverishly on my manuscript.
But no. I haven’t, really. Not beyond the working that takes the form of constructing multi-layered characters and plot lines in my mind as I stare out of windows. Then I sit down in front of my computer and am instantly overwhelmed by the sheer amount of research and information I need to do in order to actually put words on screen.
Your expectations of my work ethic are probably too high. I know mine are.
I can’t be bothered to apologize, though. My life is full of really important things like making my own chicken stock, drinking Irish Car Bombs whilst playing Settlers of Catan with friends, snorkeling in Oahu with family, cracking cascarones on the heads of small children, and typing prayer bulletins.
And then the bathroom needs to be scrubbed after I finish obsessively reading Mockingjay for the fourteenth time. Oh, and two of my friends have welcomed a new baby, so he obviously needs to be snuggled.
And then someone rips the handle off of my car door and steals my GPS, so, you know, that whole situation takes time to resolve. (I’m really good at crawling sideways into the driver’s seat from the passenger’s seat now, by the way.) And then there are always the daffodils on the street that beg to be collected and displayed in a vase, so I oblige.
Life is full of life right now. And you know what? I don’t mind. It’s rather nice, actually.
Oh, and this happened.
Please excuse the overwhelmingly ecstatic expression on my face. I was sandwiched between Donald Miller and Marshall Allman and they were being hands-y behind my back.
St. Patrick’s Day 2012 found me with both fists glued to the steering wheel as I picked my way through the worst thunderstorm I have ever seen in St. Louis. My husband Ted was in the seat beside me and our friend Michael was in the back, directing me toward Covenant Theological Seminary. Michael had cleverly hacked ‘the system’ and discovered that Blue Like Jazz was being screened there later that night. With no tickets, no plan, and no clue, we set out to find the movie.
When we pulled up behind a giant blue trailer stopped in the middle of the street outside the seminary, we figured we had found it.
“What do I do?” I asked them, half giddy, half aghast. “Just follow them? Use a 30 foot tail?”
“Sure,” they said, so we did. We stalked the Blue Like Jazz trailer for 10 minutes before realizing that they had no idea where they were going.
“Do we go knock on the window and tell them where the chapel is?” asked Ted, only kind of kidding.
“What if Don Miller thinks we’re stalking him?” I said, suddenly horrified.
“I think they’re stuck,” said Michael.
So they were. The giant trailer was stuck in the mud of a person’s front yard. So we did the logical, helpful thing.
We turned around and drove away.
I know. We should have stayed. We should have been good Samaritans. We should have used our giant muscles and pushed the behemoth out of the muck. But I’m a chicken, so we drove to the chapel and very helpfully informed the head honcho that the crew were stuck in the multi million dollar neighborhood next door. They headed over and called a tow truck.
Half an hour later, I was sitting by myself in a lounge, clutching Michael’s copy of A Million Miles In A Thousand Years. Ted had taken him to pick up Emily, his girlfriend, who had been in a car accident, but was thankfully unharmed.
“Just do me one thing,” he had said before he left. “Get it signed?”
“Sure,” I said.
Which left me alone in the slightly creepy lounge when Steve Taylor and Don Miller walked in, soaking wet.
“Are you one of my volunteers?” asked Steve.
“Uhh. No.” I’m just the girl who has no clear idea of how she got here, or where she is, or what to say. And may or may not have been creepily following your trailer earlier and failed to render aid. And I am now the girl who is shoving this book in my purse and running away. Again.
“What on earth are you supposed to say to Don Miller when no one else is around?!” I texted to my friend Mallory as I very intelligently hid in a bathroom stall.
“Hi, I love your stuff and you’re brilliant?” she helpfully offered.
“I only got as far as ‘awkward stare.’”
“Just go ask him his favorite color or something.”
“Hell no. I’m staying in this bathroom until Ted gets back.”
Thunder clapped overhead. I counted the cracks in the ceiling tiles and started four games of Words With Friends.
Knock knock knock. “Maintenance.”
Now ousted from my hiding spot, I pulled the hood of my rain jacket up around my face and loitered around outside, wondering why on earth I thought that day had been shorts-and-sandals weather. Ted came back and laughed himself sick at me.
“They’re normal people, Chelsey,” he said.
“I know that.”
“I don’t think you do.”
He convinced me to walk back inside the lounge to wait for the meet and greet event. A middle-aged man wearing a trucker cap and a beer gut sat down next to us.
“So’s this thing ’bout music?”
I laughed at his joke. It wasn’t one. I realized after several awkward, legitimately speechless moments that I had no idea how to articulate exactly what Blue Like Jazz was about (and Ted was very helpfully smirking and averting his eyes from the entire conversation), so I handed him my battered copy to thumb through. When he started chuckling, I remembered how I had treated that book like a journal during my freshman year of college.
Please, please, please don’t be reading the awful things I wrote about the ex who broke my heart, I thought, squeezing my eyes shut in anxiety. Good Lord, I’m not cut out for this day.
I managed to make it to the beginning of the meet and greet event. Ted nosed his way to the front of the crowd and I lurked behind him, thoroughly disgusted with myself.
Steve Taylor handed me a Twizzler. I shook Don Miller’s hand and he signed the books. Marshall Allman introduced himself and I blindly reached for the first topic of conversation that came to my mind.
“So, did y’all enjoy Austin last week? South By Southwest?”
Bless Marshall Allman’s soul.
“Yeah! Austin is my hometown, so it was great to be back.”
Me, now extremely relieved and babbling: “No way! It’s my hometown, too. Well, actually, I’m from this small town outside of Austin. Liberty Hill. No one knows where it is.”
The Blessed Marshall Allman: “You’re kidding. My family owns a ranch in Liberty Hill. Right past Seward Junction. We have pictures of me in diapers standing in the Blanco River. Blonk-o? Is that how you say it?”
It’s not. It’s ‘blank-o.’ But it’s impolite to correct movie stars, right?
A couple pictures, a free Snickers bar, and two hours later, however, I wasn’t thinking about Marshall’s mispronunciation or my complete lack of social skills. I didn’t care about anything else except for the scene unfolding before me, in which two guys in pope outfits sat in a makeshift confession booth, crying. I cried with them, knowing exactly how both of them felt.
“God’s not like that,” said one of them.
And it’s true. He’s not. God’s not a rapist. He doesn’t make mistakes. He’s not a bully or a hypocrite or a fool. He doesn’t laugh at the angry things I write in a paperback. And He never, ever abandons me when I get stuck in a millionaire’s muddy yard.
God’s not like me. Which is a good thing, as you can clearly see.
And I’m so thankful that Blue Like Jazz is out there to help others see it, too.
Blue Like Jazz opens this Friday, April 13th. To find a participating theater near you, go here.