Ryan and the Technicolor Wardrobe
Short Stories and Essays

I don’t watch Project Runway, or Pimp My Pride, or Cribs, but I’m still pretty superficial, and I’m okay with that, since everyone is. It starts at birth with your parents dangling shiny objects in front of you and continues on for the rest of your life. Perhaps you’re not stereotypically superficial (fancy clothes, fancy car) but your superficiality manifests itself in many other ways. There will always be things that are pleasing to your eye, it’s just human nature, and it doesn’t make you any better or any worse than anyone else, even though you probably would like to think otherwise. My friend Mary claims that she “doesn’t see ugly” but we can’t all be like her.

I don’t necessarily try to stand out too much with the clothes I wear, but I like to think that I dress nicely. I used to be a little more lazy about things in college because 1) I didn’t have a lot of money to burn. 2) I felt like people should like me for me, and that me dressing up should make them feel special. I also quickly realized that college is the last time that walking around in public in your pajamas is socially acceptable.

Since I don’t have deep pockets, decking myself in designer clothes is difficult. I don’t have enough clothes to last me for months and I don’t want people to always thing I’m wearing the same thing (like that Simpsons episode with Marge and the Chanel dress). It’s like an epidemic, you get one piece of fancy clothing, and all of a sudden you need to revamp your entire wardrobe. Once you get a nice pair of jeans, you need to get shoes to match and you might as well get some shirts while you’re at it. It’s maddening.

I like to think I dress within my limits, not just financially. I think I wear clothes that fit me, suit me, and make me look fashionable, which I believe is the point. I WILL NOT just buy something because of it’s brand name or because it’s “in”, and I think that is the problem with a lot of the “superficial” people today. They spend money on things that don’t even make them look good, which defeats the purpose. Fashion is supposed to enhance your appearance. This is why you don’t wear just white t-shirts and khakis everyday.

Unfortunately this is where some people go wrong, and I mean ridiculously wrong. I was in Hollywood over the weekend and while at a stop light, my friend had a terrified look on his face. Curious, I wanted to see what triggered the reaction and soon enough, I saw a lady walking away from our view, wearing a shirt that kind of rode up on her, revealing a pale section of back flab. It was disgusting, and I feel terrible that my reaction to seeing this back flab was repeating “Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God” for about a minute, until we made our turn and went home. Honestly, if this lady was wearing clothes that didn’t reveal this pasty flab, there wouldn’t have been any reaction. She would’ve been just another pedestrian. It wasn’t her weight or appearance that was garnering our ridicule, it was the lack of foresight on her part. Unfortunately this happens all the time, like at clubs or bars.

I realize people of all sizes and body types look ridiculous in certain clothing. Super short shorts, showing off a really bad farmer’s tan, wearing a fedora when you’re kind of white trash, pig tails while wearing a trucker hat; these are all fashion faux pas that people should realize they should avoid but they don’t. And it really goes beyond clothes, it’s knowing your strengths, weaknesses, and gifts. If you want to be a writer and you think a good beginning for a story is “There was an Aunt Tiny, who was quite large.” and you’re not writing a children’s book or a gross limerick, you should probably look into another profession.

I believe that knowing what looks good on you is more attractive than wearing clothes that just “look good”. It shows that you know what you’re all about. You seem comfortable and you aren’t trying to be something that you’re not. You might not be gracing any fashion magazines or wearing designer clothes, but you’re definitely not playing to your weaknesses. You know how to make yourself look good rather than making other people look good. I can understand the logic behind wanting to wear clothes that make you look more attractive but attractiveness is not based on what clothes you’re wearing, but how you wear the clothes. The cliche is correct. It’s what’s beneath the clothes that count. And that’s even true for the muffin tops.

Sherlan and I were walking into a See’s Candies to redeem a gift certificate I had gotten from a co-worker for the holidays. The mall was pretty busy, even though it was New Years Eve, but we had time to kill and I was getting antsy to use the gift certificate before I lost it or put it through the wash. As we walked towards See’s, we passed by a Brookstone, and while Brookstone usually has really interesting (but useless) stuff, I never see anything in a Brookstone that ever really registers in my brain. Except on this fateful, New Years Eve, we saw something that will be etched in our brains until the end of time.

As we walked by Brookstone, we saw a child on a mechanical bull, and while that by itself is not necessarily noteworthy, believe me, it was. First of all, this was not the mechanical bull that you see at bars or restaurants, this was a Brookstone mechanical bull: sleek, metallic, and post modern. (It didn’t look like mechanical bull because it wasn’t, it’s some sort of machine that is supposed to help sculpt your abs, but you don’t have to do any of the work apparently.) Second of all, the kid on the bull did not look like he was enjoying it at all, but at the same time did not look like he wanted to get off or was going to get off.  He was on it before we had gone into Sees, and was still on it after we had finished out business at Sees.  There was no change in the child’s enthusiasm, but he was still there.  It was a depressing and confusing sight, it was an unsettling portrait of mediocrity.

A couple of weeks later, we stumbled into a different mall, but we witnessed a similar result. This time we were at an outdoor mall and the first thing we saw walking in were these trampoline-harness devices. I had seen these devices before, but never at this mall. The object of these devices is simple: you strap yourself in, jump on the trampolines and start doing flips until your crotch can take no more. It looks pretty cool if you aren’t the one in the harness, but it’s pretty painful for you in you’re the one strapped in, especially for guys.  (I participated in one of these devices when I was about 12 and immediately regretted it. I was scared that that I would never have children after my experience.) Once again, we saw a child, kind of bored, kind of miserable, but not bothered enough to get out of their situation.  I’m not sure if this child had begged their parents to try or if their parents had forced them to give it a shot.  They just bounced up and down, never gaining momentum, totally limp in the harness.  They weren’t crying or begging their parents to get them down, nor were they flipping around with glee.  I think their parents were taking pictures of them, thought it didn’t appear like this was one memory that this kid would be happy to reflect on in the future.

Recently, we went to go see a performance of the musical, The Music Man, where we witnessed a young child, probably no older than 4, trying to keep up with rest of the cast. He looked lost and maybe a little frustrated. It was a community theater performance, so it’s not like the kid was going to get chewed out between scenes.  He didn’t have any lines, but you could tell he was invested in keeping up with the rest of the cast.  If he weren’t an adorable little chubby child, we probably wouldn’t have cared much, but he was, and he kind of stole the show (not being sarcastic at all). We rooted for him being the underdog that he was and in all honesty, he delivered.

To see the children at the Brookstone, in the trampoline, and at the theater, it was alarming to see a person to look so defeated, but at the same time, not looking for a way out. I hope for these children, that these situations are isolated and this is not a sign of things to come. To say that your child like faith was lost one fateful day at a Brookstone would just be a travesty.

So one day after rocking out at church, I was hit with a revelation. My worship leader Becky came up to me and told me that Chloé looked like she could be my child, like she came from my seed. I took this revelation as a compliment since Chloé is pretty much the epitome of adorable. She’s a Korean kid so it’d make sense that their might be similarities between her and I, but that is not where the similarities end. She also has a flare for fashion, or at least I’ve been able to derive that from her pink shoes. Sure, it might be her “mom” who’s dressing her, but I’m sure she has plenty of input on the matter since she seems to be quite the diva, just like me.

I’ve yet to talk to her “parents” about it because I don’t know them very well and it’d just be a very creepy conversation. Saying something like “Becky says that Chloé looks she could be my kid” just screams out “I’m going to a be a prime suspect if your kid gets kidnapped” and makes for a terrible first impression. I’m sure they’re nice people and they’d probably find some humor in it, but it’s just kind of an unnecessary conversation to have, since they probably don’t understand that she’s my child that’s been sent from the future. I mean, it’s the only way this all makes sense.
Obviously there’s a lot that I’m still figuring out about all of this, so I’ve written a letter to my wife in the future to get this all squared away.
Dear Wife in the Future,
How are you? I hope you’re doing well. I apologize for not knowing your name, or what pet names we go by. It’s possible that I haven’t met you yet, though it’s also possible that I already know you. I can’t be sure since our daughter who you sent to the past (or for me, the present), looks EXACTLY like me. I’m not sure how time travel works, since it hasn’t been invented yet, and I also have a very poor knowledge of how the Terminator universe works, so excuse me for not knowing how I should react to all of this.
I’m actually not sure if Chloé knows what she’s supposed to do either. From my understanding, she should be sent to the past to save me, her father, right? She seems quite pre-occupied with protecting this baby Cole, who she claims is her “brother”. I realize she’s a very bright kid so I assume that maybe something got messed up during the time travel or that she was supposed to get sent back farther into the past when I was a baby. I’m not sure. I haven’t seen an episode of Quantum Leap in ages. Would it have been too much to ask to have sent Chloé to the past with a note taped to her back or something? Also, while I know I’ve been broke since getting out of college, I think I’d appreciate taking care of my daughter instead of tricking some couple to take care of her, but perhaps she and I are not supposed to interact or be cognizant of each other. I was pretty in the dark about the whole deal until Becky (I don’t know if you know Becky, but I play electric guitar for her in the present) told me about the similarities between us. Don’t worry, I haven’t told Chloé about that. She’s obviously on some sort of mission from the future and I don’t want to confuse her.
Of course, I’m very very confused about everything that’s going on right now. Is she supposed to stop someone else from the future from assassinating me? How many years away is this event? Isn’t she a little young for this? Is just going to tell me to stop eating so much Korean fried chicken?  Believe me, I’m trying to stop and I’m trying to exercise more.  Do they still sell Bathing Ape clothes in the future? I always want to yell at the other kids when they play too rough, but I still keep my distance from her. There’s too many movies and shows about time travel so I’m not sure what rules I need to adhere to. I’m just going to assume that we’re not abiding by Time Cop‘s rules, or we might be royally screwed.
Also, when you write me back, can you tell me when we start dating? While I have friends who are “happy to be single”, I’m quite miserable. Also, please tell me that I finally found a way to get out of Irvine. Thanks.
Love,
Ryan

I can understand why sports video games leave certain things out.  We don’t need to see play stopped because some fan threw a beach ball into the outfield or watch some guy mop up the floor after a guy takes a charge on the basketball court.  Do these things happen?  Yes.  Do they happen pretty often?  Yup.  Do I miss them when I’m playing a video game?  Not at all.  These are things that only a hardcore sports fan thinks about, but I think the majority of us (yes, I love my sports, but not too much…) are fine with these omissions.  These are artificial things that don’t really affect the players, physically, emotionally, or psychologically.  Unfortunately, there are things that are omitted from the games that do effect players on the emotional and psychological level.  Do I feel like they need to be in the game?  Yes.  Why?  Because it definitely effects the people playing the game, as it would in real life.

I was playing Mario Baseball against my friend, who owned the game and the Game Cube.  I realize this is a very unrealistic version of baseball, but it’s still grounded in the rules and strategies of baseball.   I know there are special trick pitches and “star” swings that automatically hit home runs if you hit the ball, but you can still use hit and runs, and more importantly play mind games with the opposing manager (my friend).
For some reason my friend would always pick at least one of the Baby Mario characters and one of the female characters (Daisy or Peach).  I say this not because I think women and children are terrible at baseball, I say it because I care my friend never seems to learn his lesson.  I would always pick Waluigi (because I value pitching over hitting, like a real baseball fan) and a bunch of adult male baddies.  If my friend would gain some momentum while batting (getting a couple of guys on base), and one of the aforementioned characters would come up to bat (Peach, Daisy, Toadette, Baby Mario, Baby Luigi), I’d immediately bean them with a fastball on the first pitch of the at bat.  While this gives the batter a free base (like a walk), it really would infuriate my friend.  He would be so filled with rage that he wouldn’t be able to concentrate, and I’d be able to strike a couple of his batters out, if not all of them.  Am I playing “dirty”?  Sure.  But what do I care?  I’m the bad guys anyways.  And even if I wasn’t, this is baseball and this is what happens.  When a guy hits a home run, you bean him the next time he’s up.  You send a message.
The basketball equivalent to beaning a batter is to commit a “hard foul” or a flagrant foul.  Either way you’re looking to send a message.  In video games, there is no way to differentiate a hard foul from a regular one (not sure about flagrant).  So in basketball video games, I use the Hack-a-Shaq technique on my friends when one of their players seems to be on some sort of hot streak.  If you’re not familiar with this strategy, it became famous in the earlier part of this decade when teams would foul Shaquille O’Neal every time he touched the ball (in the fourth quarter especially), forcing him to shoot free throws.  O’Neal was a terrible free throw shooter so it often was a better alternative than letting him score at will.  In a video game, I don’t need to be playing a friend that has Shaq on his team.  I will foul whoever their best player is and force them to shoot free throws, not because they’re less likely to score, but because it’ll cause my friends to get frustrated.  Either they’ll start missing free throws because of its tedious nature, or they’ll start launching terrible shots trying to beat my foul.  Either way, it gives me a chance to get back into the game.
Of course there are times where I don’t get to play against friends, so that means I’m playing against the computer or someone who doesn’t understand the hilarity of my mind games.  Honestly, my friends don’t care too much when I do it, they’re as angry as they are serious about the trash they talk.  Unfortunately,  I’ve met people (usually kids) who like to play games with the sole intention of whaling on their opponent.  They refuse to play other games and they’re just brats in general.  They take any enjoyment out of the game with their piss poor attitudes and they really like to rub it in.  They think winning 10-0 is more entertaining than being in a tight game with both players on edge of their seat.  This is why I’m sad that the Mutant League Franchise of the mid 90s failed.  In a Mutant League video game, if a kid was running up the score on you, you could just try destroying his team to make him forfeit.  Getting frustrated? Take out the ref.  No matter how far behind you are, there’s always a way to win or do at least go down swinging.  Maybe the games of today could learn something from that defunct franchise to teach the children of today.  It’s not if you win or lose, it’s literally how you play the game.

(This story was originally written on 8/27/2008)

I think naming a child is a special time in a parent’s life. I think it’s also something that should be taken seriously because of the long term implications it can have on the child for the rest of his/her life. Naming a child is not like naming a pet. A pet will act the same way whether its name is Nathaniel or Spot. A person on the other hand, I’m not so sure. I don’t think it’d be fair to name your son Spot and expect him to be a rocket scientist. There’s nothing about the name Spot that screams out “honor student”, but there’s definitely something about naming your kid Spot that says Spot is coming from a shallow gene pool.

Now I hope there aren’t parents in this country that actually name their kids Spot, and it’s not because I’m afraid of offending anyone, it’s a bad name. You don’t necessarily have to give a kid a special or unique name, or even a unique spelling, just don’t give them a bad one. If you’re going to be one of those beauty pageant moms, don’t name your daughter Gertrude. If you want your son to be an intellectual, don’t name him Butch. If you don’t want your son to be a NASCAR junkie, don’t name him Billy Joe Bob. It’s pretty simple. If you’re not sure what you want, name your kid a stock name like Mike or Kristen. Sure they could go in any direction with a normal name, but at least it’s not YOUR fault. See, certain names lead to certain assumptions, and while it may not be fair, this is something that a parent can control. It’s unfortunate how often I’ve seen parents fail at this important responsibility.

I met a girl named Charity, and she’s pretty much a walking punchline. I don’t really know anything about her but I did find out later that her reputation is pretty much on point with her name. Am I saying she wouldn’t be promiscuous if her name WASN’T Charity. Absolutely not. Do I think her name being Charity pretty much made it inevitable? Pretty much.

I think people get their name changed because they want to change their fate. My friend Chris divulged to me the information that he was born Chris, but when he was 5, demanded his parents change his name to Christopher because it should be his choice to decide if the name should be shortened or not. Surprisingly, he’s not an anal retentive bastard, but I’m sure if he made everyone call him Christopher, he would be. Would just being Chris have led him down another path in life? Apparently at the age of 5, he thought it would.

Probably the most practical name change I’ve heard about came from a guy named Mike. His legal name was Richard, which is a fine name, but his last name made things problematic. See, his full name was Richard Hancock which translates to Dick Hancock. It’s really one of those cases where you wonder what his parents were thinking, if they were thinking at all.

My best friend was born Jang-Soo Lee. Jang-Soo is a Korean name and it was the name that I knew him by until he turned 18. It’s not that turning 18 made him want to change his name, it’s that turning 18 meant he was going to go to college. Now, he’s not one of those weird kids who think that going to a new place means they can be someone different, with a new identity, but he’s one of those kids who has to teach people how to pronounce his name correctly and gets frustrated when the International Students department starts sending him e-mails assuming he’s not from the States (born and raised in Minnesota). See, Jang-Soo went to a private school from 1st grade to 12th, so his name was not an issue since he was at the same school with a lot of the same kids, so when he hit college and found out he had to teach people his name, he became Bruce. Bruce Lee.

I went to visit Bruce in Fairfax, Virginia a couple of years ago. We went to karaoke with his roommates a couple of his friends. I was told that someone was coming by the name of Harry. Harry Wang. To be fair, he was from China and “Wang” is actually pronounced “Wong”, but you know, that’s not going to stop Bruce and I from giggling uncontrollably. Harry was a nice guy but obviously did not understand why Bruce and I were in such good spirits over the course of the night. Songs were sung, much fun was had, and the car ride back was kind of a surreal experience as I realized I was sitting next to a Bruce Lee and a Harry Wang.