Take Pains, Be Perfect

Nine years ago I lost a close friend.  I cannot list the specifics of what I did on most days nearly a decade ago, but I can vividly remember the details of that day.  I was sitting on a porch in Shaler, PA getting ready to play a show at the now defunct Aspinwall Grille when I got the call.  Without saying a word my state of instant shock provided the necessary context clues to my band mates who instantly offered to cancel the show. Given Chase’s passion for performance I made the decision that the show must go on.

That night All About You played the best show of their existence.  While my band mates basked in the positive feedback I asked for a ride home where I spent the rest of the night staring straight forward.

For the better part of the past decade I was very upset that my friend was no longer with us.  However in recent years my mindset has changed and I now feel lucky to have spent the limited time that I did with Chase.

From day one I was in awe of his undeniable talent.  I had never met someone with such quick wit.  I am thankful for the creative projects I got to work on with Chase.  At a time when I was attempting to learn the basics of a craft he had nearly mastered them.  He was far ahead of his peers and his natural gift of performance SHINED through at all times.

The specific memory I have that portrays the true extent of Chase’s talent was when we made an incredible video sketch in nearly real-time.

At one point in our second year at Slippery Rock we were bored and got our hands on a video camera and started making sketches to pass the time.  The highlight of these sketches was an afterschool special about high school wrestlers who found themselves faced with the dangers of taking diet pills in order to make-weight.  To this day it is possibly the piece I am proudest of in my life.

In the role of “wrestling coach” Chase was amazing.  However the true extent of his talent SHINED through during the creative process.  We sat and prepared for what would become a 20 minute sketch in about 10 minutes.  We got started shooting in the bathroom of Sentinel Hall and Chase and I, but mostly Chase, proceeded to write the sketch in real-time.  His ability to take a given concept and immediately understand it, expand upon it, and streamline it into an amazing product is something I have never encountered in another individual that I have worked with.  His ability to steal the show in a supporting role while simultaneously making everyone around him better was a testament to the ridiculous amount of talent he was born with.

Yet, despite this natural talent, Chase was beyond humble.  He was truly dedicated to his craft.  He was a very legitimate artist.

Beyond his talent Chase was an incredible friend and one of the closest things I have ever had to a brother.  We both experienced the difficulties of adapting to college life together and without him there in those early days it is unlikely that I would have ever found my way.

Looking back at college, as fun as it was, I have very few moments where I wish I could go back because for me a big part of college was being broke in a small town in a weird part of Pennsylvania.  I am thankful for the parties and the nights out with friends, but the thing I miss most were weeknights watching movies with Chase getting our change together so we could each buy a beer.  There were times when we laughed so hard that we lost our breath.  As funny as our jokes were it was the small inside jokes that made us laugh the hardest, specifically because our connection on a deeper level allowed us insight into why the other thought those jokes were funny.  

Of all the great one liners that came out of my mouth in that period Chase thought the funniest thing in the world is that when I fell into a fit of laugh induced hysteria I would place both hands on top of my head.  When he asked me why I did it I told him that it was to keep myself from exploding.  He seriously thought it was the best thing I ever said.


One Halloween we decided to dress as our favorite 80’s WWF tag team The Rockers.  After a long debate over who would play who, which was interesting because we both wanted to be the second fiddle Marty Jannetty, we finally chose on my grounds that “I’m just you know Marty and you are just, like, Shawn.”

We made our costumes and stopped by Sheetz to grab some supplies before we left for the party we were going to.  Someone stopped us and asked if we were the Rockers and we said yes.  The random stranger informed us it was one of the best costumes he had ever seen.  I specifically remember the sense of accomplishment that Chase felt.

There were so many great nights and great memories and as much as I wish Chase could attend my life’s milestones and I could attend his what I wish for most is one more random night watching movies, making each other laugh, and enjoying each others company.

Very few times in life are we lucky enough to make the type of connection that I made with my friend Chase.  Throughout the grieving process that is still ongoing I have been thankful for it and have made it a point to acknowledge how special that type of connection is to the few people in life I have also had it with.  I feel very guilty for the part of the grieving process I spent upset at Chase, for wasting his talent, for making such a dumb mistake.  I feel really horrible that those thoughts ever crossed my mind.  I know it is a natural step that we all take in these situations, but if in some way he can see what is happening in life I truly want to apologize.  I’m sorry I felt that way and I am sorry I couldn’t have done more to prevent what happened.  It is unbearable to accept that it was simply an accident, brought forward by a bad decision.  However that is exactly what happened.

Life is short and we don’t get very many chances to prove ourselves.  The main thing that has come from my friend’s death is an overwhelming sense of responsibility to enjoy life’s great moments.

The day after what happened I sat with Spencer at his parents house and talked about what we would do next.  The three of us had gone through college doing everything together.  At the time I said the best way to honor Chase’s memory was to work hard to do something successful in life so that when I received accolades for it I could dedicate it to Chase and let the world know there was someone way more talented than I that had inspired what inspired them.  I haven’t gotten to that point yet, but I honestly feel that I am on the right path and am closer than ever to achieving that goal.

In Chase’s friendship I found confidence.  If someone as talented as he thought I was talented also maybe there was a chance.  In his death I found determination to not waste my potential and to move forward for the both of us, so that he would be proud of me if we ever meet again.

Shakespeare wrote tens of thousands of words but Chase took specific intrigue in the line “Take pains, be perfect” from A midsummer Night’s Dream.  I have often wondered what it was about those words that touched him in the way it did.  It has been a cryptic puzzle I have wrestled with for a decade and I am still nowhere closer to the answer.

However my personal take on those words, written on the back of my guitar along with Chase’s initials, is that perhaps if we work hard enough we can have one or two moments of perfection in life.  A few fleeting moments where everyone can see what it means to work hard and respect your craft.  A few seconds in which we inspire others to be better by example.

On November 1st I will be getting married and Chase will not physically be there, but on a deeper more spiritual level he is with me everyday because he made my life better simply by being in it.  I will never forget that.

Part of our deeper connection was that we both sometimes felt entrapped by the potential that others saw in us.  We often times put undue pressure on ourselves to be perfect, all though we were painfully aware that it was an impossible task.  While for most people getting a solid job, paying the bills, and being nice to others would be an accomplishment it would have been a failure for us.  We had to rise above and do something bigger and better.  Simply because we knew others thought we could and we desperately wanted to prove them right.  Now I know we learn more from our failures.  However at that point in life I wasn’t aware of this fact.

As shallow as it seems potential can often be unbearable to those who have it if they are humble, because there is this part of your mind that wonders why anyone thinks you are good at anything at all. Even if the pressure is placed on you by only yourself it can become overwhelming.  It can get in the way of happiness.  It can make you think perfection is a legitimate option.

My biggest hope is that somewhere along the way of his cosmic journey Chase found peace.  I hope he realizes that the way we thought and the pressures we faced were actually positive and having unachieveable goals is a good thing, because even if you fail you will still achieve positive accomplishments.  Even if it is only showing others that having big dreams is worthwhile, no matter the trials and tribulations that come with holding yourself to a higher standard.


5 Replies to “Take Pains, Be Perfect”

  1. Hi Chaz I work with your Dad at the Shaler north Hills Library…. I was an educator and would like to think that I continue to be one here at the library and to my own kids…but I always wanted to write. I marvel at the way writers can bring their emotions to paper with such perfection that it brings tears of laughter, sorrow or joy….Take pain, Be Perfect did just that….you have a gift, well done…..thank you

    1. In many ways your writing reminds me of a fellow New Yorker of yours, Anna Quindlen….I’m a real fan of hers…Pulitzer prize winner, published in countless publications but more importantly….ignites emotion with her written word….

      1. thank you, Anna Quindlen is an amazing writer so I very much appreciate the compliment. I am a labor beat writer by trade so most of my work is emotionless. This specific piece was actually meant for Chase’s mother. When i was studying writing at Upright Citizens Brigade i developed a knack for adding emotional elements into comedic scenes, so maybe someday i will actually get to use those skills. I always appreciate compliments so thank you again and make sure my dad isn’t sneaking to many trips to Burger King, we need to have him in top shape for the wedding.

  2. Chaz, I am one of Chase’s other mom’s. He was our child in this neighborhood, we miss him alot. Thank you for your gift of prose and for letting the world know that grief over a lost loved one isn’t over in a year or two. You brought tears to my eyes and gratitude to my heart. I can see that you are a good friend to Chase and that’s what we all want for him, is to have deep friendships. Betty Petrella

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