Ryan and the Technicolor Wardrobe
Short Stories and Essays

I had a huge crush on a girl during my senior year of college.  We had a class together and even though it wasn’t a huge lecture hall, she always seemed out of reach, either a couple of seats too far, or a couple of rows in front or behind me.  She ended up joining myself and some of my friends for a group project, but even then, she was kind of in and out, barely there at all.  None of us in the group were upset at her.  She was responsive, she got her work done, and she probably felt like an outsider since the rest of us were already friends, she just did her work independently of the group.  Naturally, I was disappointed that I wasn’t able to capitalize on  this group project to get to know her better, but one of the girls from the group did get her number when we started the project, so it wasn’t a total loss.  Now, I wasn’t going to take the number and ask her out, since that would be an invasion of privacy, but I was able to plead with my friend to contact her about my upcoming birthday that the rest of the group was invited to.

It was expected that she would politely decline, but instead of that being the end of the conversation, she asked my friend for my number.  She felt so honored that she was invited, that she wanted to get dinner with me at some later date to  make it up to me.  This was probably the best outcome that I could have hoped for, and it wasn’t even a scenario that I had accounted for.  Instead of trying to get to know her in front of all my friends at my birthday party, I would have the chance to get to know her in a more intimate setting.

She made good on her word and she called me a few days shortly after my birthday.  She apologized profusely for not making it to the party.  At this point I didn’t even care, but she wanted to explain, and unfortunately, that explanation took all the wind out of my sails.  It turns out that her boyfriend, who was out at sea, was in town for that weekend so he understandably was the higher priority.  I didn’t know she had a boyfriend, but I tried my best to not express any visible disappointment.  She still wanted to get dinner with me so I obliged and we set a date.  I figured that I might as well turn this girl who was a mystery to me for so long into an actual person, whether she was attainable or not.

I assume that we chose TGI Fridays as our dinner destination because we had just gotten out of college and not because it was either of our favorite restaurant.  She gave me a hug when she walked in, and we waited for our table.  I tried my best to keep my composure and make the conversation as smooth as possible, but I was extremely nervous.  When it came time to place our orders, I decided to order a steak, even though I’d never ordered a steak at TGI Fridays before.  It wasn’t incredibly expensive, but in retrospect, it’s weird that I ordered that, especially knowing how nerve wracked I was.

We talked about college and where we were headed now that we had graduated.  Her plan was to become a lawyer, and my plan was to become the next great filmmaker.  She was going to move back in to her mother’s house while she studied for the LSAT, and I was going to stick around Irvine, writing scripts, and hopefully making short films.  She mentioned how her boyfriend was in the military and that he wanted to be a doctor when he was  done with his service.  They had already planned it all out.  She would become a lawyer and she would support him while he went to school, until he could support her.  It was a very noble plan, and I had no intention of trying to get in their way.

Finally, the food arrived and I started to eat my steak.  After a few bites, I shoved a rather large chunk of steak into my mouth, chewed it a few times, and tried to swallow it.  It wasn’t working.  I tried to wash it down with some coke, but to no avail, I was choking.  I didn’t want to try to give myself the Heimlich Maneuver, or at least, not in front of her.  I wanted to excuse myself from the table but I couldn’t speak, and I didn’t want to interrupt her in the middle of whatever she was saying.  I was stuck, and I was terrified.  While I knew that we weren’t going to ride happily ever after into the sunset, I still didn’t want to look like a complete idiot in front of her, and here I was, not able to eat a steak without almost killing myself.

I ended up forcing it out on to the floor without giving myself the Heimlich, but at this point she was aware that I was choking.  She was obviously startled, but she tried to casually brush it off to save me from any more embarrassment than I was already feeling.  We were able to continue our conversation and enjoy the rest of the night.  We started to hang out regularly after that incident but things never aligned for us to start dating, even though she had friends who definitely preferred me to some of the other guys that she would date later.  I should’ve learned from this instance that I shouldn’t put so much stock in to that first encounter with a girl, but it’s I can’t help it because I’m such a dreamer.  I’d like for whatever girl I’m seeing to think I’d kill myself to be there with them that night, because it almost happened once, but I also hope that it never happens again.

I don’t exactly have a reputation for “getting my hands dirty”.  I’m not a “take it apart and put it back together” kind of guy.  It’s not that I’m totally against the idea or that I’m disinterested.  I’ve actually thought about buying a decent guitar and swapping out the pick ups and the tuning pegs, but I just haven’t had the stars align to where I’ve had the time/resources to embark on that journey.  I enjoy a lot of things in life, and I like to understand as much about those things as I can. My friends definitely understand that about me, which is why they’re surprised that I haven’t tried brewing beer yet, since tasting different kinds of beers has been my M.O. lately.

Bruce decided to buy me a beer brewing kit for my birthday and while it arrived a couple week ago, I haven’t tried my hand at brewing beer.  It’s not that I don’t have any interest in it, it’s because it’s been busy and extremely hot outside.  I don’t know a whole lot about brewing, but I know that most beers need to be brewed in a semi-cool temperature, so I’ve been hesitant to start brewing in the summer.  Brewing takes a long time – 3 weeks to ferment and then another 3 weeks to bottle, so I don’t want to screw it up.  If I have to wait 6 weeks to see the fruits of my labor, I want to make sure I’ve done everything in my power to make sure its done right.  I don’t have all the time in the world.  It’s not like I’m in college anymore.

During my freshmen year, I lived next door to a guy named Sheldon.  He was a Biology major and while he was the same age as me, he looked a lot older since he had a full blown goatee.  He would take advantage of his “older” appearance by going to the grocery store to buy alcohol without getting carded.  He would usually buy a bottle of wine, a baguette of french bread, and a couple of other things, so he would seem less suspicious than if he were to show up to the cashier with a handle of Jack Daniels and a 2 liter bottle of coke.    Eventually they started to ask him for his ID, and he would tell them he left it in his car and he’d leave.  He knew he couldn’t go to the cashiers that carded him previously so after about a month, his options all dried up and we no longer had access to booze.

Instead of giving up, Sheldon decided to get creative about accessing wine.  He decided that if he couldn’t buy it, he would try to make it.  So here we were, in a freshmen dormitory, with carafes filled with grape juice, yeast and whatever else he thought went into wine.  While he did some research on the internet, and while I’m sure his science background helped, I’m pretty sure the ingredients he needed to make wine weren’t available in the grocery store. I’m absolutely positive that’s where he was getting his goods, since I don’t remember him getting anything shipped to him as far as grapes were concerned.  I didn’t say anything about it.  I was just a lowly film major and if it all ended up working out, I didn’t want to get cut out of any wine with my negative attitude.

Eventually the day came where the wine was ready and Sheldon had his over in his room for a tasting.  I will give him credit for buying french bread and oil/vinegar to “classy” up the event, but all in all, his wine was a failure.  I didn’t drink enough of it to confirm whether it had become alcoholic or not since it tasted like barbecue sauce and not like wine.  We appreciated his valiant effort but in the end, it was all for naught.  He wasted a lot of time and money trying to make his own wine in his dorm room, and had nothing to show for it.  He ended up dumping it all, since it was undrinkable and he decided to give up on his dream of turning his dorm room into a winery.

Obviously, with my home brewing kit, I’ve been given detailed instructions, and ingredients that have been tested, so I probably won’t end up making beer that tastes like barbeque sauce.  I can look at Sheldon’s failure as a cautionary tale, but I can also look back on his experience with envy.  He threw caution in the wind, and swung for the fences at at time in our lives where there was little recourse (he ended up getting kicked out of school, but that’s because he was playing too much Everquest).  In my home brewing process, I won’t have that same thrill, but at the same time, I probably won’t fail, and at this point in my life, that’s probably a healthy thing for me.

 

When we moved into our first apartment in college, we thought it would be best to divide up the responsibility of setting up utilities.  I was in charge of the setting up the electricity, Phil was in charge of setting up the cable/internet package and so on.  This was a good idea since we had no to very little credit history (we all could build credit) and many of these companies forced us to put up deposits (since we had no credit history).  We ended up getting a cable/internet/landline package because somehow it was cheaper than simple cable/internet package, Phil informed us.  He also told us that the phone number for our apartment was ###-7825, or ###-SUCK.  He specifically picked it out so it’d be easy to remember even though we all knew that we would rarely use it, since we all had cell phones.  We would occasionally use it if we ordered a pizza, and we registered the number at our local grocery store to gain discounts, but it was never used to regularly make calls.

I ended up leaving the apartment after a year and started my journey of bouncing around Orange County.  First, I moved closer to campus, then to the beach, then back towards campus, before finally touching down in the city of Orange.  I didn’t have a particular affinity for any of these places, but I stuck around anyways.  Going back to San Diego seemed like a retreat, not just because I would most likely live with my parents again, but because I wanted to eventually make it as a screenwriter in LA, and San Diego was in the opposite direction.  I never moved to LA because I could never find that right combination of finding a job there and people to live with.  I could write from Irvine, or Orange, and then make trips up to LA whenever the studios started calling, but they never did.  After a while, it occurred to me, that proximity to LA probably shouldn’t be my only reason for staying in Orange, so I embarked on a little “tour”.  I made a list of places that I might see myself settling down in and went to visit them.  Fortunately, I had friends that lived at all these specific stops.  Unfortunately, none of the places inspired me to pick up all of my belongings.

I’m not necessarily restless to get out of here, but the fact that all my roommates have picked up their things and left- well… it makes me feel uneasy, like I was somehow left behind.  I know everyone’s timing is different, and perhaps I’m supposed to be here for a while longer and there’s some special purpose for that.  I’m wondering if the dreams that I’m pursuing are the ones I’m supposed to be pursuing and if I’m honestly in the right place at the right time.  Is this just a pit stop before I head towards bigger and better things, or is this it?  I, by no means, live a miserable life and if this is all it’s cracked up to be, I would like to try to appreciate it more for what it is than what I would like to be.  I mean, I should probably do that anyways, but right now I have goals and dreams that I haven’t attained, and it definitely puts a damper on my current reality.

While my roommates have dispersed across the country, I’m still here.  In fact, I work within a few miles of where we went to school.  When I go to the market, I enter our old landline phone number ###-SUCK and it still works.  I don’t even know if any of the roommates still remember it or the story of how Phil chose that for us.  I wouldn’t say college was the best time of my life or any of our lives, but we all keep in touch more or less, so the friendships that were formed in that apartment were definitely not superficial.  We haven’t had a set reunion or anything – that’s not our style, and our lives have spread us pretty far apart.  We’ve been out of college for seven years now, but it seems much shorter than that.  I’m not sure if I feel that way because I haven’t felt like I’ve accomplished much or that I haven’t made a crazy cross-country move, but I think staying in an area for 7 years is an accomplishment in itself.  I’ve managed, with plenty of mistakes and growing pains, to live on my own, and I think when I first got out of college, that was my main goal anyway, and it’s a goal that I’m glad I achieved.

When I go to visit my parents in San Diego, I usually stay for less than 24 hours. I’ll arrive Friday night or Saturday morning and head back to Orange County Saturday night. If I stay until Sunday, I’ll have to argue about why I’m not going to church with my parents, which seems odd since I attend church regularly in Fullerton. So why will I go to one church and not the other? The answer on the surface is simple: I don’t want to wear a suit.

My parents go to a 0 generation Korean church (at least that’s what my friend calls it). The main service is in Korean, the hymns, the readings, the sermon, everything is in Korean. There’s also a smaller English service and the youth group is in English as well, but these are ancillary things. The ethnocentricity of the church doesn’t really bother me, but since it’s a 0 generation church, it’s definitely old fashioned, hence my father demanding I wear a suit if I’m to go now that I’m “grown up”.

The suit is definitely an issue for me, but it’s more of what the suit represents: image. I’m well liked by the parents at this church and I’m doing pretty well for myself, but my parents want these other parents to see that I’m doing well or at least that I dress like I’m an adult who knows what “doing well” is. It’s something I try not to blame on my parents, it’s very generational, but like I said, it’s not the suit that keeps me away.

There was a kid, we’ll call him Joel. He’s 4 years younger than me and I, for a lack of a better word, mentored him. He wanted to learn how to play guitar for the youth group worship team so for the majority of my senior year of high school, we’d hang out, play guitar, and I’d beat his ego down. He was a bright kid, who had just tested into a gifted program at school. This coupled with him joining this worship team at “such a young age” (the words of others, not mine) was a recipe for disaster, but for some reason I was the only person who could see it coming. I referred to him as my Anakin Skywalker and I knew that he definitely had the ability to bring things to the dark side.

I went to college and came back to see my parents every month and a half or so, and eventually I started to go back to Irvine, on Saturdays, much like I do now. This church was no longer part of my life, but I tried to check up on Joel every now and then. During my 4th year of college, I actually came down to San Diego every weekend because my Mom was in Korea and I figured my Dad could use some company. The first weekend I was there, I decided to see how Joel was doing, and there I saw Darth Vader destroying everything in his path.

Joel started to date this girl from the youth group. I’ve known them both for a very long time so I didn’t really think too much of it. The families didn’t like each other very much but this wasn’t a Romeo and Juliet generational feud. They didn’t like their kid dating the other families’ kid, and Joel decided to throw a tanker of gasoline onto the fire. Joel disclosed to me that he thought his girlfriend was pregnant, and he was turning to me for advice. Since I’m not well versed on after school specials, I decided to ask some questions.

I skipped the obligatory “Don’t you know premarital sex is forbidden by the Bible?” question but still found myself really disappointed with his answers even though I was trying to not be judgmental about the situation.

“‘How many times did you have unprotected sex?”
“Three.”
“Why didn’t you ever use protection?”
“I figured she could always get an abortion.”

I don’t want to open up a pro-choice/pro-life debate. I think either side will agree that these answers are ignorant, despicable, and absolutely appalling. For some reason, I didn’t punch him in the face and leave, I listened to him drone on about how he loved her and how his parents didn’t understand and blah blah blah blah blah. I heard him out and he asked me what he should do. I told him that he’d been really irresponsible about everything. I then proceeded to tell him to stop pissing everyone off and that he had done enough damage. He needed to graduate from high school (4 months away) and then move/ let his parents kick him out of the house and if he wanted to be with the girl and live happily ever after, but the key was to lay low until then.

I guess he wasn’t expecting this. I guess he was expecting me to tell him that he was right and that everyone should leave them alone since they were in love. The next day I was supposed to have lunch with him but he didn’t pick up his cell phone. I darted over to her apartment and found him there, trying to convince her to pack up her things and run away with him. I couldn’t put up with him anymore. He lied to me and I realized he didn’t want my advice, he wanted a “yes man”. I saw him a week later, he told me she wasn’t actually pregnant, and acted like all was well. That was the last time we spoke. I ran into his dad a week later at church. His dad didn’t know I knew what I knew about his and he openly mocked me for wanting to be “a movie producer”. Now I was completely fine cutting ties with this family and this church.

Eventually the truth came out about the kids and the pregnancy scare. My mom told me to stop talking to those kids, and I told her I was way ahead of her, but that’s the unfortunate thing about this. The church was not a place where these families could find support in their time of crisis, it was a place that shunned them and forced them to leave in disgrace. I found out later that Joel’s relationship with the girl ended because he couldn’t control his drinking. My relationship with this church ended because I was the only one trying to save Joel from himself.

When I was a kid, I abhorred my parents’ comparisons to my best friend.  They would ask me why I couldn’t be better behaved like him (for the record: he was just quiet).  It would drive me up the wall, since, I wasn’t a particularly rowdy kid.  Of course, when I would compare myself to someone who was much worse than me, my parents would tell me “don’t compare”.  I hated the double standard and even as a kid, I thought it was unfair that my parents were comparing me with a kid that was going to private school (not a dig at Bruce, just the facts) when I was going to a public school.  Oddly enough, Bruce felt like he was a total brat as a kid compared to me, citing how he always demanded that we go and get “Happy Meals with a toy” whenever he was over at our house.  This nugget of shame wasn’t revealed me to me until recently (I don’t even remember this happy meal nonsense), so basically we’ve been harboring all this comparison related shame for years.

Of course, the comparisons didn’t end when we were kids and they didn’t stop at our parents.  Whenever he’s in town to visit me, or when I’m in town to visit him, our collective groups of friends will come up with their own judgments.  Sometimes the comparisons are bland (“you guys seem a lot alike!”) and sometimes they’re downright hilarious. (“At first, I thought you were the mean one because you’re really sarcastic and Bruce is really quiet, but then I realized you’re the nice one and Bruce is the jerk.”)  Since we’ve been friends for so long, we’re so comfortable in our skin regarding our friendship, any sort of judgement barely affects us.  Of course, not all my friendships have 25+ years of security that I can lean on.

I went to a concert with my friend Paul and a few of his friends.  I’ve known Paul since my sophomore year of college and I think we’d both agree that we’ve become good friends, but for some reason he told his friends beforehand that when he first met me, he thought I was weird and a bad person because I had blue hair and listened to rock music.  It’s true that Paul felt that way when he first met me and was my next door neighbor in the dorms, but it seemed peculiar to me that this was the impression that he wanted to impart on his friends.  Obviously, Paul thought it was funny but for me, it was weird to have to rehash the old days where I had blue hair for a month to a bunch of conservative Korean christians that I had never met before (I might’ve had a class in college with one of them).  I think Paul wanted to warn them that I was a little eccentric, but I think I was pretty well behaved that night, and I eventually won them over by dishing out some entertaining stories about Paul, like when I was unemployed and he told me to go work at The Games Workshop (for minimum wage) primarily so I could get him discounts on board games and Warhammer figurines.

Misguided selfish schemes and judgmental first impressions aside, Paul’s done a lot of good things in my life.  From taking me to the hospital in college when my stress headaches were getting bad, to telling me about the church that I currently attend, he’s had a pretty major impact on me.  I’m not sure if he would say that I’ve returned the favor as far as things I’ve said to him or done for him, but as I’ve learned with Bruce, there’s a good chance that he probably feels the same way to some extent.  No one would ever say that Paul and I are alike (except for our common affinity for the Venture Brothers), but we’ve managed to hash out a pretty worthwhile friendship since he got over the fact that I am not inherently evil, or at least not any more evil than my fellow man.  While it would be nice to hear that his friends think that he’s the mean one even though I’m the sarcastic one, it’s probably smart not to compare this friendship to any of my others.  I just know that even though there’s plenty of teasing in this one (and there always will be), especially the fact that he still loves to play D&D, there’s a lot of substance beneath the surface of my once blue hair and secular music.

So, near the end of high school (I think), and definitely during college, my friend Mike and I got into the habit of buying each other gifts for Christmas and our birthdays.  With our tight college student budgets, it was quite an accomplishment to do this consistently.  I don’t know if we had set a price ceiling, but I’m pretty sure no gift ever exceeded $30 after tax, but it didn’t matter.  We knew each other well so that it was easy to get something meaningful AND affordable.  Our gifts were often of the geeky variety so to the non-geek, it seemed like we were giving each other random junk.  What is one man’s junk is another man’s treasure, I suppose.

My mom was bemused by these gift exchanges because my mom is not a nerd, or at least not a nerd of our generation, so when Mike would buy me a sock monkey or a poster version of Jay and Silent Bob’s blueprints from the movie Mallrats, my mom would complain at the lack of quality gifts that Mike would give me.  I, on the other-hand, would buy Mike books, and while these books were kind of geeky (David Sedaris – though Mike thought I was using this book to out him since Sedaris is also gay), my mom thought books were more practical.  She didn’t mean it to be critical, and when I told Mike about her criticisms, he was really amused and not offended at all.  In fact, for my 21st birthday, inspired to prove my mother wrong, Mike bought me a martini set, complete with a shaker.  Not only was it a practical gift, it was kind of classy.  My mom really thought Mike had finally come around and what took the cake was the fact that my mom doesn’t actually know what a martini is; she thought that he bought me really cute dessert cups for ice cream.

I don’t think my gift exchanges with Mike back then have taught me any lessons about gift giving that I use today.  I’ve always tried to avoid the gift giving faux pas of thoughtless gift card giving and have avoided the other major no-no of gift giving (buying girls clothes/clothing accessories without them picking it out and trying it on).  Gift giving isn’t particularly a science, but I take a certain pride in getting people original gifts that they would really like.  If I can’t figure out something that’s perfect for someone, I prefer to take them out for a good meal so I can assure them some sort of satisfaction.

Charis and Allison perform for the local community theater a few times year outside of the duties with the Technicolor show.  I haven’t been able to see them in all their different performances, and I’ve only seen them once since our last show, but I made sure that they remembered I was there.  I came out to watch them on opening night as part of a sold out crowd.  I missed them walking down the red carpet because I had to stop by the Fullerton Farmer’s Market so I could pick up some gifts for the girls.  I couldn’t just stop anywhere to get the gifts, it had to be the Farmer’s Market.  There’s a man who comes down from Gillroy to the Market every Thursday, and I needed to buy some garlic for Charis.

Charis is a very unique 10 year old child.  For one, she’s a leap year baby (2/29), and two, she loves garlic, raw garlic. One of my first conversations with Charis consisted of her asking me two questions: Do I like raw garlic? (yes) and How much can you eat at one time? (I have no idea).  She then proceeded to tell me how much she can eat at one time, and the fact that the number was greater than 0 was pretty surprising to me.  So, I decided that as her gift for opening night, I was only going to get Allison flowers and I was going to get Charis a braid of famous Gillroy garlic.

I had asked her about this possibility before and she told me that she would rather have garlic than flowers, so it wasn’t a total surprise when I gave it to her, but she was still kind of shocked that I followed through with my plan.  She wasn’t at all embarrassed to be walking around the courtyard of the theater carrying around a bag of garlic.  She even stopped to smell it a couple of times.  Allison seemed perfectly content with the more traditional gift of flowers and complained that the garlic made the bottom of her bouquet stink.

I’m sure that if I had pitched this plan to my mom, she would’ve told me that I was being foolish for wanting to buy a kid a bag of garlic, and I’m sure other people would’ve told me the same thing as well, but when a gift is given, (as I knew back in college with Mike) as long as it makes sense to the giver and the receiver, that’s all that matters.

A few weeks ago, I received an issue of Maxim Magazine in my mailbox.  I’ve never subscribed to Maxim, so my first thought was that it must be my neighbor’s, or that it had been misplaced in my mailbox, but it was clearly addressed to me and it was the correct address.  I guess this is a common practice nowadays, but I was pretty irritated, mostly because Maxim thought that I would be the type of person that would subscribe to their magazine.  To be honest, I’ve never really gone a full issue of Maxim, but just by seeing what they typically cover/write about it, it is safe to say that Maxim Magazine is not my cup of tea.  I do know the kind of guy that does read Maxim, or at least I knew him for a year, he was my room mate from freshmen year of college, Steve.

I moved in a couple of days after the official move-in day, and I walked into my room seeing that his stuff was sprawled out over my side of the room, I believe he had his TV sitting on my bed for whatever reason.  I didn’t take it too personally.  We were 18 year old kids who had never lived outside of home and things like this were bound to come up.  We initially got along.  We both liked sushi… and that was about it, and so since we were very different and immature people, things quickly started to go south.

Steve wanted to make our room a cool place to hang out, and I actually didn’t have a problem with this, but our definitions of what made our place cool definitely clashed.  I was cool with just keeping the place relatively clean and putting up a couple of posters, but Steve had a very specific definition of what was cool, or what he referred to as “pimp”.  He thought the only posters/calendars we should have in our room should consist of “girls and golf” and the more things that had cheetah print, the better.  I’m not sure where he got this definition of “pimp”, I can only assume he read about it in a magazine, like Maxim.  He also wanted to get a neon sign that he put in our window (he moved in first, so he got the window) that read “Open”, and of course he wanted me to pay for half  (I didn’t).

To mess with him, I bought a Power Puff Girls calendar and put it up on my side of the room.  It really upset him.  “I wanted hot girls, not a cartoon!” to which i replied “she can shoot LASERS OUT OF HER EYES AND LIGHT THINGS ON FIRE”.  I thought it was really funny, predictably he did not.  I continually ignored his requests because it was my side of the room and I thought his ideas were ridiculous, so eventually I got my Monet print and my Trainspotting monologue poster and he had to accept that only half of the room was going to be “pimp”.  We hung out a little at the beginning of the year.  I tried to be nice to him and be his friend.  I went to his orchestra performance (though I don’t remember what he played), we went to get sushi a couple of times, but we quickly realized that we were just going to be just roommates, not friends.

Since we were 18 year olds, we were not equipped with the skills to make our situation amicable.  There was a week where we didn’t talk.  We didn’t exchange information to stay in touch after we moved out.  The last I heard about him is when my friend met him at a party.  After saying some not-so-nice things about how I would manipulate girls to hang out with me, my friend (also a girl) asked if maybe girls like to hang out with me because I’m a nice guy.  Steve fired back with “Are you on your period or something?” and that was the end of that conversation.

It’s been almost 10 years since I’ve had to see Steve or hear about him so I have no idea where he is now or what he’s done with his life.  He may very well be living in a “pimp” apartment with cheetah print everything, a neon “Open” sign and all those other bizarre requests he wanted when he was 18 or he may have outgrown those ideas.  If were to show up at my door today, I would actually be nice and ask him how he’s been doing.  Though I know that instead of  actually having this hypothetical chat with him, I could just ask him if he wanted my copy of Maxim Magazine and that would answer all my questions about whether he was still pretty much the same guy as he was 10 years ago.

Back in the times where cell phone companies charged local roaming fees, there was very little reason to take your phone on trips with you, unless you were willing to be charged ridiculous fees per minute.  I was a poor college student, but I brought my phone everywhere with me just in case there was a family emergency that I needed to attend to.  It’s kind of a paranoid thought to have and it probably shows my over-reliance on technology, but I actually did need it when I was on my way back from Minnesota back in 2004.  My sister was going into labor with her first child back in LA and she needed me to get ahold of my parents to tell them to head for the hospital.  I racked up a pretty hefty cell phone bill that day, but it didn’t matter to me.  My sister needed me and I came through even though I knew I was going to get hit hard with some serious roaming fees.

A few months later I was at my apartment in Irvine.  I was working during Spring Break (I cannot explain why I chose this), and my roommates were mostly gone for the week.  Alan, in particular, was in Chicago on a Habitat for Humanity trip, or something like that.  I remember at one point I walked by his room and saw that he had left his keys and phone on his desk.  Even though I knew that they don’t allow the use of cell phones on these Habitat type trips, I thought it was odd that he decided not to bring it or his keys at all.  (Obviously he didn’t have a pregnant sister at the time) I saw him at the end of the week at church, on Sunday, welcomed him back home and then, without thinking, went off to a meeting.  I had forgotten about the fact he didn’t have his keys or phone, but I guess so did he.

When I got home from the meeting, I was really tired. I just wanted to take a nap and play some video games.  As I walked up the stairs (we lived on the 2nd floor), I saw Alan with his bags sitting at the front door.  This is when I remembered he didn’t have his phone and keys. Upon further inspection, Alan appeared to be extremely pale.  I told him “You don’t look so good.” He quickly replied “You need to take me to the hospital.”

Here is what had happened between the time I saw him at church to the time I saw him at the front door: Alan arrived at the apartment and found that the door was locked, he proceeded to climb up our balcony to try to get in through our screen door which was also locked, and then he decided to jump down from the balcony and proceeded to break his ankle in the process.  To this day, I do not understand why he decided to come down from the balcony or why he thought some empty cardboard boxes would cushion his fall, but I wasn’t there to talk these things out with him, and that’s why Alan was lying the backseat of my car in total panic while I was trying to maneuver my way on the freeway.  I had a general idea of how to get to the hospital, but I had never been there before, so I had to call my friend Tom to get directions.  Naturally, this kind of freaked Alan out, since any sort of stress was going to exponentially add to his woes.  Alan would tell me his ankle was turning purple and then I would yell at him to stop looking at it and to keep it elevated. (Why I knew it should be elevated, I have no idea.  I guess TV and movies have taught me well.) I felt really bad that I was yelling at him and that I didn’t exactly know where I was going but driving people to the hospital was a new experience for me.  We were both stressed and really scared.

We finally arrived at the emergency room and had a doctor take a look at his ankle.  We were there for awhile, and I stayed knowing the last thing Alan would’ve wanted was to be left alone in the emergency room.  After being there for 5+ hours, we finally left and Alan now had crutches and a cast.  I’m not sure if they put a screw in his ankle that night or if was a procedure done at a later time, but that’s how severe the break was.  After months of being in a cast/with crutches, Alan was finally able to live his life normally again.

I’ve known him for over 10 years now, and while lots of friendships in that time have faded out, ours has managed to survive the test of time, and since he no longer lives in Irvine, I can safely say that it’s not out of convenience.  We no longer live in the same city or go to the same church, but he’s really good at letting me know when he’s in town, which I really appreciate, and that’s a skill that surprisingly few amount of people have these days.  He hasn’t broken any more limbs since that fateful day back in college, but I can safely say that Alan will continue to perplex me from time to time.  I just hope that if he’s learned anything from me in our friendship, it’s that he should have his phone on him at all times, because you never know when it could come in handy.

This was going to be the first time that I’d be meeting Bruce’s girlfriend.

This was going to the first time that Bruce and his girlfriend would be meeting each other’s parents.

Bruce’s brothers were not going to be there.

You would think that Bruce would’ve given me the head’s up about these things (like when he told me about the weather for the weekend), but other than knowing that I’d be meeting Christina, I had no idea what was in store for me once I touched down in Pittsburgh – it was kind of a rude awakening. I already knew it was going to be a fast paced weekend since I was in town for graduation, but if I had known the weekend was going to be this intense, I probably would’ve tried harder to fall asleep on my red eye flight than sitting through the abomination known as National Treasure.

I found out Bruce’s brothers weren’t in Pittsburgh as I got off the bus from the airport. He told me as I was being rushed pretty much straight to the ceremony. He didn’t divulge the part about the families meeting until after the ceremony. I felt perpetually in a state of motion the entire day so I don’t even think I really reacted when he told me. I felt like I was watching Black Hawk Down, where at the beginning, the view just gets dropped in the middle of battle with no backstory preceding it. Not to say that there punches thrown or people yelling at each other in this meeting of families, but to say things were a little tense would be a gross understatement. If Bruce’s brothers had been there, it would’ve made things a lot more comfortable for me. I would’ve had friends to talk to, since I knew that Bruce was very preoccupied dealing with the anxiety of getting to know his girlfriend’s parents. Bruce’s brothers being there would’ve also made my presence seem normal, but since his siblings weren’t there and his best friend from across the country was, it seemed a little odd, I suppose. (Insert Brokeback Mountain joke here).

While Bruce’s brothers weren’t present, Christina’s siblings were. The oldest of Christina’s siblings was her sister who I believe was 16. This gave me someone to talk to so I could distract myself from the scene at hand, but at the same time there was a new level of discomfort. It’s not easy to make small talk at a lunch with a teenager you’ve just met when you’re 22 and their whole family is at the table, but it sure beats having to be part of the other conversation. “Ryan, do you have any stories about Bruce?” “Yeah, he didn’t tell me that this lunch was going to happen and this is super uncomfortable. That’s the kind of stand up guy that he is.”

Awkward conversations aside, it seemed like the families were getting along and there wasn’t going to be any drama.  That was, until, Bruce’s nose started to bleed.  While I’m positive that there was no judgment passed on Bruce for this (no one thought he had a cocaine addiction), I’m sure Bruce was freaking out by this unwelcome little event.  Ever since Bruce was a child, when his nose would bleed, it wouldn’t clot as quickly as most nose bleeds, so it’s not like he could run to the bathroom for a few minutes and be fine.  Obviously, Christina’s parents weren’t going to hold this against him, but when anyone is in the middle of a situation like this, anything that goes wrong will undoubtedly make them feel like the whole world is crumbling to the ground.

Fortunately that was the only hiccup that we encountered at lunch.  The check came and parents from both sides playfully argued over who was going to foot the bill.  It was a relatively tame argument compared to the ones that my mom and his mom would get into back when we were kids living in Minnesota.  Those arguments would often spill into the parking lot with one mom trying to stuff mom into the other’s pocket, purse, and whatnot.  While those arguments were never heated, they were embarrassing and drew way too much attention to us.  I took the gentle sparring over the bill at lunch as a positive sign that the two families liked each other.

I would be asked throughout the weekend how I thought things went.  While I knew this weekend was going to be a momentous occasion for Bruce, I didn’t know the half of it.  I knew Bruce would be taking his first step into the “real world” that weekend but Bruce had plans to take a much bigger leap that weekend.  Though Bruce did shed some blood, he survived, and now he can share this story about how courageous he was at his college graduation.  He’s got a witness and on that day, he made a believer out of me.

The 80s was full of wacky college movies and maybe, since I was just a child, I don’t seem to get the appeal of them. There was Animal House,St. Elmo’s Fire and Revenge of the Nerds. Then Van Wilder, and I guess to a certain extent, the American Pie series, decided to “reach out” to my generation. I’ve seen very few of these, not because of their inaccuracy, but because of their lack of appeal. Though their inaccuracies may be part of the reason these movies seem pretty lame. The premises are mostly the same. Drink, get laid, don’t get kicked out of school, repeat. So basically they’re like high school movies, except there’s drinking every day and not at a end of the year party, so I guess in that regard, these movies are relatively kind of accurate.

I never had the idealized version of college that these movies presented, mostly because I had no interest in joining a frat, and a lot of these movies center around getting in a frat, being in a frat, or waging war on another frat. I just wanted college to be a lot better than high school, and that hope was definitely fulfilled. There were no crazy parties (there were parties), there were no Girls Gone Wild moments, no crazy drug freak outs, but I definitely matured as a person and became less sheltered. I really didn’t know what to expect going into college other than it was going to be different than high school, and it didn’t take very long for that to become a reality.

I moved into the dorms a couple days into Welcome Week because I wanted to catch a concert in San Diego before I moved in. Once I got my stuff in the dorms, and got my parents to finally leave, I went to go see all my friends that I had made at summer orientation (sadly I keep in touch with 0 of them now). This was before I had a cell phone (back in the year 2000…) so I would occasionally find myself knocking on a door with nobody home. The one person I really wanted to see was my friend Gwen, who I had bonded over Radiohead with during the aforementioned summer orientation program. We had kept in touch over the summer, and I had found the Kid A leak on Napster. Her dorm wasn’t too far from mine so I decided I needed to tell her of my awesome find immediately.

Over our e-mails during the summer, I knew a few things about her: she had a boyfriend who went to a college up north, she was getting a single room (no roommate), and we liked a lot of the same music (Radiohead aside). What I didn’t know was that these three facts were going to make my introduction to college extremely uncomfortable. See, when I knocked on her door, I could hear music and I could hear Gwen giggling, so I was pretty sure she was there (no roommate). When she opened the door she was in a towel, so I felt kind of embarassed, that I was catching her on her way to her shower, or that she had just finished her shower. She was happy to see me and asked for a second so she could change and of course, I obliged. So she opened the door, full clothed, and invited me in, only for me to find a corpse in her bed. She introduced the corpse to me as her boyfriend, who got up and shook my hand. He was a nice guy, I told her about my Kid A find, and she was excited. She invited me to brunch with her and her boyfriend and I told her I’d get her a copy of the leak then. I left the room and immediately started to process everything: she wasn’t going for a shower and there was a reason that music was playing in her room… and I almost started to hyperventilate.

I suppose if we were in a movie, I guess I would’ve approached the situation differently. Instead of freaking out in my mind, I probably would have apologized to her boyfriend since I inadvertently cock blocked him or I would give him a high five since he was about to get some, or he would’ve thrown me out the window instead of having brunch with me the next day.  He was perfectly pleasant at brunch the next day.  It was an honest mistake, and he understood that.  There was no rage towards me about my interruption the day before, nor did he feel a need to lean over to tell me “Yo, after you left, I got some anyways. High five!”

A couple of months ago, a peculiar thing happened to Sherlan at his apartment.  He awoke in the middle of the night and found a girl in his room telling him to “move over” as she tried to get into bed with him.  This girl was a stranger, not anyone he knew, not anyone that his roommate knew, just a girl who wandered through their front door which had accidentally been left unlocked.  Sherlan was able to get her to leave without too much resistance but it was a pretty jarring and bizarre experience for him.  If he was in a movie, he’d probably wouldn’t have asked her to leave and would’ve hastily posted this experience on Facebook or Twitter.  It’s supposedly a guy’s fantasy but in reality it’s nothing but a rude awakening.  Instead of excitement, there’s a feeling of violation.  Instead of a spontaneous night of passion, it’s a morning after of filing a police report and reminding your roommate to lock the door when they come home.  I know movies aren’t supposed to reflect reality and are a mean of escape, but to experience these situations in real life has proven to be anything but a happy ending.  Not that this has deterred me from writing screenplays and sitcom pilots that work within the conventional Hollywood structure, but if I ever write a movie about college, you’ll be sure to NOT see anything resembling any of these scenes in my screenplay.  While I don’t have to be necessarily realistic in these screenplays, it doesn’t mean that I should be selling lies either.

I wouldn’t say that I’m a huge Minnesota Timberwolves fan. Yes, I consider them “my team”, but mostly because of obligation. I mean, I’m a Twins fan, a Wild fan, a Gopher fan, how can I just say ‘no’ to the Timberwolves, as terrible as they’ve been? I can’t, especially since they symbolize the growing pains of adulthood. They’re like the guy at your high school reunion that still lives with his parents and works at Target, but isn’t a manager. They’ve just run out of excuses on why they’re so incompetent.

The 2003-2004 playoffs was the only time in the existence of the franchise that warranted any hope and pride and I wasn’t going to miss out on this opportunity. I visited Bruce in Minnesota that year and we went to a T-Wolves game and watched them win. I wanted to watch as many of their games on TV because they were actually good. This wouldn’t have been a problem if I was still in high school, getting out at 2:10pm, but unfortunately I had a class between 7pm-10pm on Thursdays, I believe, a Race in TV and Film class.

I really didn’t have a problem with my professor, or the subject matter of this class, I just wanted to see my team bask in the spotlight for perhaps the only time ever. They were the #1 seed and they had just beaten Denver to get out of the first round for the FIRST TIME EVER. While the class was fine and all, it was inconveniencing me from experiencing winning, and I wasn’t going to put up with it. Of course I needed this class to graduate, so I was kind of between a rock and a hard place.

This is when I turned my dilemma over to this girl in my class, lets call her Sally (this may actually be her name, I don’t remember, which makes me a very very terrible person). I didn’t know anyone in the class, so she was the closest I had to a friend, so I’d ask her to sign in for me while I went to the on campus pub to watch the games. She seemed pretty disappointed in my lack of work ethic but I’m also pretty sure she also signed in for me . She didn’t seem to understand my investment in this team that was halfway across the country, but perhaps she thought that us both liking Belle and Sebastian could possibly lead to a date down the line (it didn’t). Maybe she thought I’d need to study with her at some point to get through the class, why she tolerated this was never explained to me. All I know is that when Kevin Garnett hit that 3 in the 4th Quarter while being double teamed and with the shot clock winding down, I knew that I had made the right decision. That shot validated it all. When he jumped up on the scorer’s table at the end of the game and screamed, I wanted to do the same.

The Wolves got eliminated in the next round by the Lakers, but that wasn’t important to me. I finally saw my team overcome their futility. After 7 years of getting knocked out in the first round, they had gotten over the hump. I returned to going to class regularly and aced out my final presentation. I talked about how Long-Duk Dong from 16 Candles has single handedly made Asian American men the laughing stock of the American dating world (I actually don’t believe this because I not a fan of self-pity). I passed the class, I graduated college, but life was not happily ever after. I bounced around jobs and lived from paycheck to paycheck for a few years until I hit a wall. I got out of a relationship and lost my job in a span of 48 hours, and while I don’t feel like I hit rock bottom then (it gave me ample time to play and beat Super Mario Galaxy), I finally felt like I needed to grow up and get on with my life.

I needed to make adjustments, I didn’t necessarily need to start over. I didn’t need to go back to school (though I did ponder it), or change my career path (IT by day, writer by night), I just needed to refine myself. I needed to do some re-prioritizing, and learn to start setting some practical goals for myself. I realized I though living paycheck to paycheck would keep me from being too comfortable, that it would push me to finally get a screenplay sold, or what have you, but in the end, it was just keeping me paranoid about my finances. The free time I had after work was not going to productive for writing if I had bills to pay – I love good food too much. While the starving artist way of life works for some people, it was obviously not working for me. I got a new job, found a church where I wasn’t just twittling my thumbs during service all day, and get some friends who actually enjoyed their lives. I know I’d love to say “then I got a book/TV deal, got an amazing girlfriend and bought a house”, but I should be realistic and take things one step at a time.

After 7 years of post high-school life, I finally felt like I got over the hump. I was finally ready to jump up on the scorer’s table and scream from the top of my lungs that I was a winner.

Chris takes a lot of pride that he’s on the top of my favorites list on my phone’s speed dial. Maybe “pride” isn’t the right word, but he definitely likes to hold that over Jessica’s head (who is #2), and he takes even greater pleasure to see Bruce is #3. Honestly, Chris is at the top of my favorites because I typically communicate with Jessica via text and Bruce via google-chat more than I do via phone, but why should I steal his thunder?

Obviously, Chris isn’t actually so petty (I don’t think so at least) that he seriously takes pride in being on the top of my call list. He just likes to play his part in this fake feud that he and Bruce are kind of, but not really involved in. It’s been well established (in these writings even) that Chris and Bruce are my two best friends. They’ve never actually met each other and the fact that Bruce went to college in Pittsburgh (where Chris grew up) a year after I met Chris kind of makes things very coincidental.

I believe this feud started in college when Chris told me that living apart from my best friend for the past [15 years now and counting] should disqualify him from being my best friend. I wouldn’t say that this upset Bruce or even really affected him, but it kind of started the quasi-feud which has culminated into some trash talking during some Halo games mostly.

All this absurdity ended about half a year ago, when Chris and I went to the hardware store to pickup an iron skillet so we could make some steaks. Bruce had previously raved to me about iron skillets and I had decided to finally take the plunge. On the way to the store, Chris asked me what brand of skillet I was thinking about buying and I quickly replied “Lodge” because that’s the brand that Bruce had recommended to me. Chris agreed that Lodge was the brand that he would also recommend but he then accused Bruce of recommending Lodge because they were based out of Pittsburgh and that Bruce was trying to aid the local economy. I quickly shot down the accusation because Bruce was no longer in Pittsburgh and rarely said anything positive about it, but Chris was insistent about it and decided to use his Blackberry to prove that Lodge was based out of Pittsburgh. (Probably the most absurd part of the accusation was that if anyone was from Pittsburgh, it was Chris who had lived there for about 10 years.)

I waited in line and paid for the skillet as Chris typed away. I wasn’t sure what the basis for all this was.  Even if Lodge was based in Pittsburgh, he still needed to prove that Bruce was secretly some sort of Pittsburgh-centric nationalist.  His case was extremely flimsy whether he was right or wrong. Bruce left Pittsburgh right after graduating from Carnegie Mellon and has only been back there for functions to reunite with friends.  He didn’t take any extra semesters (also, probably because it’s so expensive), so there really wasn’t any reason to believe that he had an affinity for the local area.

Chris finally found the Lodge web page and he looked defeated. Lodge was indeed based in Pittsburgh.  Pittsburgh, Tennessee. Chris conceded, his already flimsy case had been reduced to rubble.  I teased him, but rather than pour salt in his wounds, I poured some salt over our steaks.  I imagine one day Chris and Bruce will meet, and I’ll even make the guess that they’ll get along fine when they do.  Maybe they’ll make some jokes at my expense to break the ice, or maybe they’ll just share about their individual experiences, living in Pittsburgh.