Ryan and the Technicolor Wardrobe
Short Stories and Essays

A few years ago, I had a birthday dinner at a sushi restaurant that I frequented quite often.  At the end of the meal, the waitress brought me some tempura fried ice cream as my birthday dessert, and I followed the birthday dessert protocol by taking a bite and passing the dessert down so everyone at the table could have a taste.  Unfortunately, a friend of mine who will not be named, didn’t understand the protocol, and interpreted the passing down of my dessert as a request to finish the dessert for me.  I was too busy socializing with others to notice that this was transpiring, until our waitress approached me, completely puzzled.

“You didn’t like the dessert?”

“Why would you say that?” I asked, before looking around the table and seeing that my friend was nearly finished usurping my ice cream.  Conjuring up my best Mr. Wilson impression, I yelled my friend’s name as if he were Dennis the Menace, but it was too late.  He had finished the last bite.

Luckily, I was given a replacement dessert, free of charge, but I still look back at that birthday as a near disaster.  Fortunately for this friend, and unfortunately for me, this was not even close to the most catastrophic birthday that I ever had.  (There are two definitely worse than that: 1. In my mid-20s  a girl who had just crushed my heart decided to tell me that she couldn’t go to my party through her friend because she “forgot” that she had a date that night.  2. I had to work huge amounts of overtime in the days leading to my 30th birthday and I had to have my birthday lunch at work exhausted and all by myself.)

It’s always been difficult to celebrate my birthday, especially since my birthday falls around the 4th of July and that’s a perfect time for friends to get married or go out of town.  For previous years, I’ve countered that issue by celebrating weeks before or after the date to ensure that people would be around. Even then, it can be particularly disheartening when my plans, which are never particularly grand, get torpedoed.

After hearing the horror stories, my girlfriend decided that this year would be the year where I could feel like my birthday was actually celebrated.  We planned a trip to Northern California for a weekend where it would basically be the two of us, and if any of our friends who lived up there wanted to join us, they were more than welcome, but they certainly weren’t obligated to.  A handful of my friends and a friend of hers joined us for a variety of activities such as a birthday dinner at a fantastic italian restaurant, wine and beer tastings, a visit to a cartoon art museum and going to a baseball game in downtown San Francisco.  While we did a lot, we gave ourselves plenty of time to just relax as well.  Even by a normal person’s standards, this birthday would be a considered a success.

Not that I’m expecting every birthday in the future to be as exquisite as this one, but it’s nice to get such a definitive victory after so many suffering so many defeats.  Instead of dreading every birthday, I can now look forward to the next one, and even if that one doesn’t turn out to be great, at least I know that some years things won’t work out, and other years will be much better.  It’s an attitude I could apply to life as a whole, after realizing that no matter how hard I try, not every expectation I set will be fulfilled, and even when they do get fulfilled, it’s never as perfect as you imagined.

This birthday was the absolutely best one I’ve had in recent memory, and while we got to do all the things we had set out to do, there’s one inconsequential, hilarious, little blemish, and it happened before the trip.  My girlfriend decided to give me my birthday gift a few days early, and while I loved the gift, the card I received could’ve been an ominous sign of upcoming disaster.  Now, to her credit, my girlfriend had warned me that the card selection at the store wasn’t great, but when I opened it, I wasn’t exactly sure what she was referring to.  She was referring to the fact that the card was for a 3 year old so she had to manually draw in the 2nd digit.  Unfortunately, she had drawn in the incorrect 2nd digit.   She thought I was a year older than I really was.

I wasn’t angry with her about her error, I was more amused than anything.  It wasn’t a sign of things to come, it was just an isolated harmless mistake that kicked off a fantastic week for me.  I celebrated my birthday in style.  I don’t expect to top it next year – I haven’t even thought about what we could possibly, but I’m sure of one thing.  Next year, my girlfriend will definitely get my age right.

A lot of my friends are perplexed about the fact that I’m a fan of R. Kelly.  I assume this is, in part, because I’m Asian (and those confused friends are Asian or Caucasian), but mostly because of his very public and disturbing indiscretions.  While I definitely don’t condone what has come out about his private life, I still enjoy his music, even if his hit to miss ratio isn’t what it used to be.  Besides, even after after his scandalous private life became public, he was able to bounce back into the spotlight, with the focus back on his musical talent.  A petition to the US Government to change the national anthem from “The Star Spangled Banner” to his “Igntion (Remix)” was created, comedian, Aziz Ansari, is known for recounting his various R. Kelly experiences at his stand up shows, and there have been many organized Trapped in the Closet related viewing parties.  Even though his star was back on the rise, when I decided to finally see the man in concert, it was basically on a lark.

About 5 years ago, when I met my friend Beverly, one of the things we bonded over was karaoke, and we’ve been on a quest to find “Ignition (Remix)” at a karaoke studio.  We’ve found it at karaoke bars but we’d like to be able to sing it within the comfort of a private room with friends instead of in a room of tipsy strangers.  We haven’t found a place yet, but our quest has taken us to many different parts of Southern California, and karaoke still remains one of our favorite “go to” activities.  A love of “Ignition (Remix)” has also bonded Beverly and my friend, Jessica, so when R. Kelly announced a tour, Beverly immediately decided that the three of us needed to go.

Unfortunately, by the time we found out there was a show, the show was sold out.  In what Beverly describes as an act of divine intervention, a second show was added a few days after our initial disappointment.  I’m not exaggerating Beverly’s excitement about this added show, in fact, her exact text to me was “It’s a sign from Jesus that we must GO”.  I wasn’t going to argue with that.  I texted Jessica if she wanted to go to the show, and there we were, back on course to see the man known as R.  We were going to get the full R. Kelly experience, but none of us knew what that meant until it was too late.

We all had an idea of what was going to happen at the show, whether it be from checking out various message boards on the net, or going through Aziz’s live tweets from the show the night before, but somehow, we found ourselves constantly surprised.  Perhaps, this had to do with the fact that we procured and demolished a bottle of 100 proof rum and a bottle of Coke at the beginning of the night so we could pay tribute to the song that we all love so much.  I thought we were going to drink in the parking lot but Jessica decided to quietly open the bottle of rum and drink from it in the back of the car while Beverly and I chatted.  As we got closer to the venue, we started to mix the rum and Coke into the Coke bottle so we could drink and walk to the venue, incognito.

So, by the time that we got to the venue, we were all tipsy.  We walked in to the Nokia Theater, and everything looked as it would on any other night, upon first inspection.  That was until Beverly and Jessica walked into the bathroom and overheard some girls talking about how they were glad “their mans [weren’t] here.”  Soon after, we found the R. Kelly Chicken Wings table where I promptly dropped $7 for some wings when I wasn’t even particularly hungry.  Beverly proceeded by buy a t-shirt that had an enlarged black and white photo of R. Kelly’s face on the front and we proceeded to go find our seats.

On our way to the seats, I realized that our casual dress attire wasn’t the norm for this show.  Not that people were decked out in formal wear, but they were definitely dressed differently.  To put it as succinctly as possible, that was the most leopard print clothing per square foot I had seen in my life.  Once we found our seats, I came up with idea of taking pictures with the R. Kelly t-shirt while Beverly went to the bathroom.  I wasn’t able to keep myself from bursting out in laughter while holding up the shirt, so I decided to get more alcohol, and this is where I found the cart that sold rum lemonade out of a keg.  Since this was something else that was unique to this show, I had to buy one, even though my tipsy self could even tell it was probably not of the highest quality.  I brought it back to our seats, we drank some more, and finally the show started. This was The Single Ladies Tour, and you could even buy tickets in a “single ladies” section but we had regular seats because Beverly decided to spare me whatever embarrassment I would receiving being a single man sitting in a “single ladies” section.

I couldn’t tell you what was special about the “single ladies” section but I do know that R. Kelly had two bartenders on stage making drinks for girls from the pit.  Drunk Beverly was pining to be in the “single ladies section” and Drunk Jessica was someone that I hadn’t seen in about 5 and a half years.  Drunk Jessica doesn’t show up very often for a reason.

After a highly entertaining and over the top set (Aziz does not exaggerate, Beverly points out), we headed out the doors back to our lives, or so I thought.  Jessica and Beverly had gotten ahead of me and I ended up losing them.  Beverly tells me that Jessica ended up accidentally knocking over a trash can and yelled “Lets go drink some more!” before Beverly lost sight of her.  I was able to easily track down Beverly through text messages.  Jessica, on the other hand, wasn’t responding to texts or phone calls right away.  We were obviously concerned that our friend was running around the streets of Downtown Los Angeles drunk and alone.  Finally, Jessica called me and told me that she was waiting for us at the car… but she wasn’t.

It took Beverly and I a while to find the car, and when we finally did, Jessica was nowhere to be found.  I called her again and informed her that she might in fact be standing next to a totally random car in a totally random parking lot.  This was completely terrifying to Beverly and me.  Jessica could be anywhere.  After telling her that we were in different lots, Jessica handed her phone to the parking lot attendent who somehow was able to guide us to Jessica even though I think we were all sort of lost.  Jessica finally got in the car and we were finally able to head back to Orange County, not before Jessica told us that she was sitting in the parking attendent’s chair and when he told her that she couldn’t sit there, she told him that she was Mexican.  Then she told us that she was going to sleep in the car, and proceeded to throw up in the car somewhere between Los Angeles and Orange County.

While I couldn’t have predicted any of these events before the show, they all sort of made sense.  We went to go see an artist who’s notorious for excess and self-indulgence and we decided to mimic those impulses.  We ate too much, we drank too much, and then all hell broke loose.  It was a fitting end to a memorable night.  We all just wish Jessica was able to hold her liquor for just a little longer.

 

I know it’s unrealistic to think that racism will one day go away.  I try not to worry about it too much.  I don’t try to make it a battle that I fight everyday, like others do. (which is a very commendable thing.)  I just try to rise above it and I think I succeed in that regard, most of the time.  As a kid, I used to get into fights over it, and I’m not much of a fighter.  I thought those days were over, but in actuality those days are just less common.  I didn’t realize this until I was 30, when I threw my glass of wine in the face of a guy who had made a unflattering remark about asian people (he thought it was okay since he was part asian) and then proceeded to throw a punch at him that missed him completely.  No one was hurt, but my friend’s girlfriend got splashed with a healthy amount of wine from the crossfire of my walk-by-dousing.  In my head, I was trying to be a hero, but in reality, I was being quite an asshole.  Racism 1, Ryan 0.

That was probably the last dramatic flare up since I was a kid back in Minnesota.  I did have to have to have a little chat with a co-worker at a store I was working at when I was in my mid-20s because he told me “all you asians look the same”, but that conversation was instigated by a store manager who overheard that remark and not because I complained about it.  Even though I had nothing to feel bad about, that conversation was unbelievably uncomfortable.  “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, it was just a bad joke.” was all he could say and whenever I would tell him “It’s not just a bad joke, it’s a racist joke.”, he would get defensive, and he’d tell me he wasn’t a bad person, and we’d just go on and on, endlessly.  After school specials made this sort of thing seem so much more simple.  Honestly, our little chat did not make me feel much better about things at all.  Racism 2, Ryan 0, co-worker reconciliation: Incomplete.

The only time that I ever confronted racism head on, and felt victorious about it was when my friend Marco jokingly asked me whether I had ever eaten dog before.  He knew I hadn’t, but he just wanted to get a reaction out of me.  I knew that out of my options, being upset or annoyed by the question was going to be poorest possible response, so I hatched a plan:  I was going to fight fire with fire.  His question was meant to be ridiculous so my answer to him was going to be the same.  I just needed to play it the right way, so delicately, because I was only going to have one chance in the lifespan of our friendship to get away with this.

“I haven’t had dog, but the dogs that Koreans eat aren’t like the dogs that we would recognize here in America.” I calmly stated.  “Well what kind of dogs do they eat?” he asked impatiently, probably surprised that I bothered to dignify his question with a respons.  “They eat a breed of dog called the updog.”  I held my breath, and waited for what seemed like an eternity.  “What the hell is updog?” he responded.

“Not much.  What’s up with you?”  I quickly muttered.  Checkmate.

Marco ran after me for a while and when we were both out of breath, he conceded.  “You got me, you got me clean, too.”  I did and I couldn’t believe it.  Racism 2, Ryan 1.

It was a small victory, but it was a victory against racism (I’m not claiming Marco is a racist, he in fact, is very much the opposite).  It’s how I should be dealing with these instances, rather than trying to be a hero and throwing down some fisticuffs, or trying to teach some 18 year old kid some life lessons.  I’m better off using humor, harmless humor to be exact, rather than trying to combat racist jokes with racist jokes.

Since I’ve only gone 1 for 3 in adult situations with this, I have to find a way to master this newfound method.  Unfortunately, I’m not exactly into trying to find situations to try to this new method out, with fear that I’ll revert to earlier, less pleasant tactics.  (also, pure laziness)  I rather spare random bystanders the threat of getting hit by wine, or for parties to be ruined by my pathetic attempts at fisticuffs for every missed attempt at a joke to diffuse a situation.

What is more likely to happen is that I won’t do anything even though it could be more than being beneficial, or even profitable, to hone this craft.  I could even be considered a hero, but alas, that will never happen, not just because it’s unrealistic, but mostly because I’m unwilling.  Fighting this fight has never been for me, for better or worse, and while someone else will probably eventually come up with some great way to diffuse these little racist confrontations, we’ll have to wait for that someone else to come around and for that method to be invented.  Meanwhile, I’ll be sitting around, thinking of that one awesome time that I tricked Marco with the up dog joke.

“Well, I met her in a bar, like I always say” – The Replacements “Message to the Boys”

While Paul Westerberg’s music a huge influence on my life, I’ve never looked at his lyrics as any kind of guide on what decisions I should make.  Living by his rules, I would probably have crazier stories to tell, but I’m probably more stable and happy from taking his lyrics as entertainment and not much more.  I’ve never been interested in meeting a girl in a bar, I’ve never been comfortable chatting it up with a random stranger in that setting, and it just doesn’t seem like the place you would meet someone looking for a relationship.  I know it happens, but it’s just not for me.  I watched my friend, Taylor, try to make it happen, and it only reinforced the fact that meeting people at a bar, or at least particularly, this bar, is a bad idea.

One night, we went to a bar that we refer to as “The Goat”, a lovable little local dive bar.  We went with Steve, another one of our co-workers, after watching a football game and having a couple of drinks at the office.  Little did I know that Taylor was already on the verge of being tipsy when we arrived at the bar, and Steve was drinking on an empty stomach.  So after a few rounds of beer,  Taylor was eyeing a girl at the next table, Steve was literally eating peanuts for dinner, and I was there with a court side view to watch the hilarity unfold.

I will not fault Taylor for his choice in this particular girl, she was indeed cute, but I will fault him for deciding to make a move, after the girl had left the the bar.  By the time he had gathered enough liquid courage, she had left, but he proceeded to ask her friends if they would deliver his number to their friend.  To be more specific, he  didn’t refer to her as “your friend”, he referred to her as “the brunette with the hammer pants”.  They turned down his offer to pass along his number because the girl had a boyfriend, she was in a 3+ year long term relationship in fact, so, hopefully that took some of the sting out of the rejection.

We drank another round of beers and Taylor tried not to wallow in any humiliation.  At this point, Taylor had hit a wall and he decided to take a cab to his brothers so she could sleep.  That left Steve and I at the bar, and Steve honorably notified me that he was not in any shape to drive.  I suggested that we get some food, not because I was hungry, but because Steve was basically drinking on an empty stomach, save for the peanuts that he ate at the bar.  I decided that we should get the greasiest fast food that was nearby, Del Taco, but at first Steve was against the idea and informed me that he was on the Paleo diet, so he could not eat tortillas since they were not part of the normal caveman diet.  Desperate times called for desperate measures, and I ignored his plea for a more paleo-friendly dining area at 12am on a Thursday night.

Upon arriving at Del Taco, Steve ran into a friend from the past, and I’m sure he was pretty embarrassed to be seen by anyone familiar due to his drunken state.  After a first order of food, I asked Steve if he was okay, and almost on cue, he dropped his plastic cup of water in the ground, ice cubes spilling everywhere to basically tell me “no”.  After a second helping, Steve was finally coherent, and we called it a night.

While I’d like to think that I’m too old for these antics, it was only a couple of months ago that a friend of mine had convinced me, against my better judgment, to climb a ladder that took us to the roof of the building next to the bar.  Despite my fear of heights, I followed him up the roof, and then I was told we would be taking a less than death defying jump over to the bar.. His jump was much more graceful than mine since:

1) My friend isn’t afraid of heights and

2) He was wearing a dress that he found on the top of the other building, so he definitely won the battle of “style points.”

I didn’t exactly land on my feet and I ended up scraping up my hand, though the pain wasn’t what was on my mind. All I could think about was getting arrested, at the age of 30, because I didn’t have the common sense to bail on a plan that I didn’t even enjoy being a part of.  Even looking back, knowing their weren’t any real consequences, it does make me raise question about how often I want to frequent this bar.  Not that I look down on the patrons of the bar, I just think there have been too many strange events that have occurred in a pretty brief amount of time.  Perhaps, on the surface, Taylor, Steve and myself have committed acts that are common, and our stories are ones that every group of friends have. I can see it with Taylor and Steve,  but I can only attribute my rooftop experience with my other friend in a dress, as an experience that only happens at The Goat.

My mom like to freely suggest to me that I should have some strict rules about my car and who should be allowed to ride in it.  These suggestions have good intentions behind them, and often have incidents to back them up, but they sound kind of crazy, like the suggestion that I should refuse to drive people in my car or to let them bring food or drinks inside.  While I’ve had friends spill drinks or leave trash in my car, I don’t think I should start making a list of people or items that are banned from my vehicle.  It’s even funnier to think about the fact that, even with these rules, she would tell me to give a ride to drunk man that I’ve never before just because he’s related to me.

I was playing video games at a friend’s house when my mom called me.  I was supposed to visit my parents down in San Diego that day, so I assumed she was calling me to ask me if I had started my way down there, and then to ask me why I hadn’t left yet.  I was partially correct.  She wanted to know if I had already left for San Diego, but was actually relieved that I was still in Orange County.  She wanted me to pick up my cousin from a hotel in Irvine and to bring him with me.  It sounded like a simple enough request until I found out that the cousin I was to pick up, was a cousin from Korea that I had never met before.  It’s already weird enough when you know you have to spend an hour plus car ride with a complete stranger who’s actually related to you, but it’s worse when your sister informs you “I don’t think his English is very good”.

I drove to the hotel and peeked around the lobby, trying to find my cousin.  I had no idea what he looked like.  I just knew that he was in town because of work, so I had some simple parameters to work from.  I needed to find a Korean man who wasn’t wearing a Hawaiian shirt or any attire that would make him look like he was on vacation.  I thought I had spotted a man who could fit that description in the lobby, but as I approached him, his wife and child had walked out of the elevator, so I eliminated him as a possible suspect.  As much as she is forgetful, I was sure my mom would’ve mentioned his wife and child needing a ride as well if they were hypothetically also in town.

After a few more  futile passes around the lobby, I headed back to my car to tell my mom that I couldn’t find him.  She gave me the room number that he was staying in and told me she’d give him a call to see if he was there.  As I got off the phone, a man knocked on the passenger side door of my car, and it was him.  I unlocked the door for him and upon opening the door, I immediately caught a huge whiff of beer.  My cousin, who I had never met before, was drunk, which exponentially heightened the chances of this being a super uncomfortable car ride.  He introduced himself to me and his English didn’t seem to be as bad as my sister had advertised.  He told me that he was a little late because he had just gotten back from a business dinner, which explained why he reeked off beer, but I was still a little worried, not because I’ve never driven a drunk person around, but because I had no idea what kind of drunk my cousin was.  If he was a happy drunk or a sleepy drunk, I could manage, but if he was an angry drunk or a depressed drunk, I wasn’t sure how I would be able to survive being in a car with him for over an hour.

Luckily for me, he was pretty tame.  I asked him what he was working on and what company brought him into town for business.  He asked me what I did for a living and we basically covered that basics as far as two long lost cousins getting to know each other.  Things didn’t get awkward outside of him asking me about who I was dating, and then advising me to find a Korean girl to make my parents happy opposed to the Chinese girl that I was currently in a serious relationship with.  I brushed it off as quickly as I could and tried to not be offended by his suggestion since he wasn’t from the States.  We eventually made it to my parent’s house, and after spending a day in San Diego, I drove him back to Irvine.  It was a pretty drama-free trip.

He was a nice guy and I’m glad that I finally got to meet him (not that I knew that he existed before that weekend).  I especially appreciate the fact that he didn’t throw up in my car, but even if he had, my mom would’ve helped clean it up, because that’s what family does.  Family is about having a higher tolerance and a greater faith in each other than is recommended.  That’s why I turned the other cheek when my cousin suggested I break up with girlfriend on the basis of ethnicity instead of punching him in the face.  Besides, I don’t need my mom to make a new rule about me physically attacking people in my car.

My parents were never in the PTA at Palmer Lake Elementary School.  I’m sure the Korean/English language barrier was the biggest factor in their absence, or perhaps they found the PTA superfluous.  They might’ve been too busy with work when my sisters were in school, but they weren’t while I was in school, so that’s not much of an excuse.  I don’t know what was discussed at the meetings and why these meetings took place at all.  Since my adult life seems normal enough, I’ll assume that it wasn’t a big loss that my parents didn’t get involved, and I’ll also assume that it means my parents weren’t crazy after seeing a lot of crazy parents in the news throwing tantrums about their kids’ grades.
I’d think that the idea of a PTA is so that parents know what’s going on at school, what’s expected of the kids, ways they can help, etc.  That sounds useful enough, but I’ve realized that no matter how much “guidance” the PTA will give me, I will be a terrible parent at helping my kid excel.  It won’t be for a lack of trying, but artsy, sarcastic Ryan should not help his kids with anything outside of math, and possibly science, but I was never particularly good with science, and perhaps english, since I’m obviously running on with this sentence and I realize that switched from talking in the third person to the first – this is quite a train wreck.
I was in Oregon a couple of years ago to see my nieces and school had just started for them.  My niece, Jamie, had just come home and started doing a work sheet that her teacher had given her.  It was a questionnaire on one side and it was a table on the other side where she was supposed to put various subjects/tasks in three categories:  “like a lot”, “am okay with”, “don’t like”, or something in that nature.  I sat at the table with her while she worked on it, intrigued, since I usually see my nieces during holidays or summer, therefore they never have any school work to worry about.  So this was something new for their uncle to experience.
As far as the questionnaire went, a lot of her answers were pretty common for a 9 year-old.  Person you’d like to meet: Selena Gomez (Disney Channel actress), place you’d like to visit: Florida (Disney World), etc.  It surprised me that she was skipping a lot of the questions.  To me, these weren’t necessarily things that required a lot of thought.  She wrote “I’d like to be a rich person” for the question of “What do you want be when you grow up?” and this angered my sister.  My sister told her to write something like “you want to be a pet doctor”, but my niece refused.  I offered a bunch of more interesting options like “you want to be the head of FEMA, but you’re going to do a good job”, but those suggestions fell on deaf ears.
Honestly, I had no problem with my niece’s answer.  It’s not admirable, but it’s honest.  It’s not like she wrote “marry a rich guy”, or something less than noble.  My sister was telling her to lie and this made me wonder about the ethics of being a parent.  I understood my sister’s case because you don’t want your kid to look like they have a lack of morals, but at the same time, ordering your kid to lie on homework is pretty hypocritical.  Of course, as the hip 26 year old uncle, I was merely there to play Wii games with the kids, buy them ice cream, and threaten to make them smell my armpits. These more important decisions were not part of my job description – they’re not my kids.  When I finally have my own, I highly doubt that I will force then to lie on their homework.
Not that I’m calling my sister a bad parent.  She’s just trying to prevent her child from getting on the teacher’s crap list.  She’s involved, she’s helping, and she’s trying to guide her kid towards a more fruitful goal than just being rich.  It’s all commendable, and perhaps it’s what the PTA preaches to my sister.  I just wonder if teachers can read through these answers and pin down the kids who are being fed answers from their parents.  At least when I have kids, the teachers won’t have any doubt, because they’ll see the answer “I want to be the head of FEMA.”

I grew up with a girl whose parents worked together.  They didn’t own their own business, they just happened to both be employed by the same company.  I’m not sure if they worked in the same department, I’m not even sure what they did, I just know they arrived at work together and they left work together.  They’ve done this for roughly 30 or so years, and even though I don’t know what they do, I find the whole premise kind of romantic.  For some reason, I find it more romantic that they don’t have their own business, and that they both choose to work together for someone else.  From what I can recollect, they were married before they started to work together, so there was never the “dating someone from work” dilemma.

I’m not hoping to find someone that I work with or will eventually work with.  I think my friend’s parents have a unique situation.  I also think that there’s a huge difference between how our parents prioritized things and how we now prioritize things.  Working at one place for over 30 years is unheard of these days, especially when it’s not a business that you can call your own, or a job that you can’t consider as your “dream job”. Like I mentioned before, I don’t remember what they do for a living, but I’m betting that if they were actually passionate about their jobs, I would have some sort of memory of what it was.  I did see them a few years ago.  I do remember them still being at the same place.  I just forgot to ask what they did after all these years.

It probably doesn’t matter to them that I don’t remember.  They’re just happy that they live comfortably and that they were able to raise their one daughter off of their income.  As far as I can tell they have passions outside their job, but they’ve been fine just making a living.  I think my parents were the same way.  I think a lot of parents in that generation had this mentality as well.  It’s something I kind of envy.

I’ve been drawn to art ever since my adolescent years. I’ve always wanted to do something artistic.  Whether it be playing in a band, being a screenwriter/director, and now as some sort of essayist/short story writer, I’ve always felt that it’s what I should be doing for a living.  My expectations aren’t as grand as one might expect.  I don’t expect to ever be flying around in leer jets while swimming around in a money bin full of money, but I’ve always felt like making art for a living was what I’m supposed to be doing, even though I’m able to find steady, stable, employment elsewhere.

In college my first goal was to record some music, which I was able to do before the end of my sophomore year.  Later, my goal became to finish a full length screenplay before I graduated.  Once again, I was able to accomplish my goal, and I was pretty satisfied with myself.  I completed my goals, and I didn’t embarrass myself in the process.  I didn’t care that I didn’t get a record deal out of my EP or that I didn’t sell a bunch of copies of it.  I just cared that people liked it.  For some reason, starting with that screenplay, I’ve needed my penchant for writing to become a sustainable job for me and unfortunately that hasn’t happened yet.

I feel like I’m dawdling.  I had a friend in college who told me that he smoked a lot of weed in high school.  After freshmen year in college, he had an epiphany and stopped smoking so he could focus on his studies.  He got into grad school and is now doing research that he’s really passionate about.  I really wonder if I’ll ever have a similar epiphany where I’ll stop complaining in my mind about my stable, reasonably stressful job that I currently have.  I don’t think it’s bad to look for better opportunities, but I wish I could be happier with what I have.

Perhaps I haven’t found the trigger for my epiphany to appreciate “normal work” yet.  Perhaps it’ll be something profound like having my first kid, or maybe it’ll be something that barely seems related to the future of my life.  Maybe in 30 years, I’ll look back at these times and laugh at how foolish I was for thinking that I needed to create art for a living and that I could never picture myself working at one place for 30 years or maybe I’ll look back and smile at the struggle to finally get to where I wanted to go.  Either way, I hope I’ll finally be able to find that peace.

 

Back in college, I would volunteer at church by teaching 5th and 6th grade kids.  For the few years I was there, there were 4 or 5 consistent volunteers that I worked with, and then there were a few others who would drop in every few months.  One of the people who made more than a couple of guest appearances was a girl that I will refer to as “Working Girl” because her nickname for me was “College Kid”, since for most of my tenure, I was the only volunteer who was still in college (aka I was the youngest).  She would pat me on my head or pinch my cheeks as a form of teasing/endearment.  She was really pretty so I let her get away with it, I guess.  I had a bit of a crush on her, but I was never going to seriously act on it.  She was probably at least 5-6 years older than me, I never asked.  A few months after I graduated from college, I was eating dinner with a friend at a Red Robin, and I happened to see her.  She walked over and greeted me with “Hey College Kid!” and I told her that calling me that would no longer be accurate and that she’d have to finally learn my name.  She congratulated me for graduating college and made some small talk before she returned to her table.  Not that I planned on asking her out, but all of a sudden, a cold ugly reality hit me.  I started thinking about what kind of car I drove (and still drive to this day), how I was on the bottom of the career ladder, and things of that nature.  Basically, I had an epiphany about what it meant to no longer be “College Kid”.  I was on the bottom of the “working adult” totem pole and it was a sad and lonely place.

When I met Barrett, he was one of the few college students who attended our church.  He wasn’t from around the area and he had just transferred from a community college.  We didn’t have a college group or anything like that, so my friend was trying to meet up with him to make him feel more connected.  My friend is 5-6 years older than me, which means that he’s 10-11 years older than Barrett.  Not that the age gap really means anything.  Barrett listens to classic rock.  My friend doesn’t.  So, in a decision that would be mutually beneficial to everyone involved, I told my friend that I would hang out with Barrett since I easily had a lot more in common with him.  It was a good move.

So every couple of weeks, Barrett and I would grab dinner and we’d just chat about life.  We were only 6 years apart, so I thought that I would seem less like of an authority figure to him, and more like a friend, and that happened to be the case for the most part.  Barrett still thought I was old.  In fact, he would regularly ask me things like “Did your generation have X-Men the Cartoon?”  While it’s not necessarily silly to ask if a TV show was on 6 years prior (that’s a long time in TV land), it is kind of silly to pose the question as generational thing.  He was also adamantly against the kids at church calling him “Uncle Barrett” because he was young and was, in his opinion, more of a cousin.  (Charis and Allison now refer to him as “Uncle Bar-It”.) We were born in the same decade.  We were only 6 years apart, and if we were in different generations, I was much more in tune with his generation than he was.  After he came back from his hometown after the summer, he told me that he realized that I wasn’t that old, which is probably the nicest thing he’s ever told me.  He would still bring up our “generational” differences, but mostly as an antagonistic joke.  I would still have silly debates with him, (like how he swore that The Mighty Ducks 3 takes place during college, because he argued that a prep-school is a like a junior college) but for the most part, he tried not to frustrate me.

I definitely don’t look at hanging out with Barrett as a chore or as someone that I have to look after, and while at first glance, I definitely find his “generation” talk silly, I know I wasn’t that much different when I was about to graduate.  The journey from 22 to 28 does seem like a long one, and there’s a lot of self-realization that I had to learn on the way.  I’m pretty amazed that I’ve been out of high school for over 10 years and that I’ll be 30 in no time.  “Working Girl” seemed so unattainable to me and she was probably only 5-6 years older than me, but she just seemed that much older (not in a negative light – she dressed well and seemed to have her life more or less together).  I wouldn’t say that I thought she was part of a different generation, but she was in a different life stage, one that I thought I’d never be a part of at 22.

A couple of years ago, I thought of a really cool Christmas gift for my nieces.  Since they always love to watch The Simpsons with me, I would get them these limited edition Kid Robot vinyl Ralph Wiggum dolls.  I’d bought them Kid Robot blind box toys before, but this one was easily bigger, better, and much cooler than any of the others.  I called the Kid Robot store to reserve a couple (they were going fast), and then hopped in my car, drove through OC/LA traffic and made my way to West Hollywood during rush hour to get the best Christmas presents that Uncle Ryan could find.

Upon opening the boxes, my nieces were ecstatic.  My sister and brother-in-law were impressed, and I was obviously happy that everyone was pleased.  I could continue my reign as “best uncle ever” for at least another year because I was so thoughtful and creative.  I really milked it as I told the dramatic story of weaving through rush hour traffic on Melrose Avenue and how I got the last two boxes that the store had.  My brother-in-law later pulled me aside to disclose to me a secret:  whatever Uncle Ryan buys the girls is automatically their favorite gift, so it doesn’t really matter what I buy them.  It was very touching to hear this, but in a petty way, it was also disappointing.  I understand that I achieved my goal in buying gifts that the nieces loved, but I also wanted them to understand why they were the best gifts EVER.  I understand that they’re kids (or pre-teens, to be more specific), but I just want them to know how much I truly care.

I’ve given cool and thoughtful gifts to my friends as well.  For just a few bucks extra, I added a joke gift of the Owl City “Fireflies 7” to Sherlan’s already awesome Mastodon – Blood Mountain vinyl record birthday present.  While Sherlan would’ve appreciated the Mastodon record by itself, the joke gift will make the gift an even fonder memory for years to come, even if he never listens to “Fireflies” for the rest of his life.  With just a little extra thought, and an extra $7, we turned a great gift into a gift that will be remembered for the rest of his life.

I know that I’m a pretty thoughtful person and while I understand it’s a pretty good trait to have, sometimes I wish I could turn it off, and I’m not saying this because I’m bitter towards my nieces.  I just understand that it’s kind of dangerous to be thoughtful towards all people and in all situations, because sometimes thoughtfulness can often be misinterpreted to be creepy or it can broadcast the wrong signals.  Like I said, I wish there was a switch that I could turn off when I first meet someone so I could prevent this possible weird situation, but I have yet to find a solution.  It’s definitely gotten better, but I’m not sure if that has to do with age or new anti-social tendencies.

My oldest sister claims that my thoughtfulness is part natural ability and part trained ability.  I’m sure growing up with four older sisters definitely has attributed to my ability to be sensitive to the needs of people around me, but I don’t know if they can necessarily take any credit for “training” me.  If there’s any visible legacy of my sisters “training” me, it’s the fact that I instinctively push down my finger nail cuticles every couple of weeks, and that I always put the toilet seat down.  They also taught me to squeeze from the bottom of the toothpaste tube opposed from the middle, I later found out that this is not necessarily a “girl thing” but something that might be specific to our family.

I appreciate all the influence that my sisters tried to exert on me, and I hope they’re happy to know that at least some of it stuck.  Whether I’m thoughtful because of my sisters is debatable.  What is clear is that either way, it benefits them and their kids and even though it doesn’t inadvertently get me in trouble from time to time, I’m probably lucky that I don’t have to try to learn it now.  Perhaps one day, I will find that switch and provide the world a perfect balance of thoughtfulness, but I guess until then, the world is going to be stuck with too much of a good thing.

I’ve never been able to find my niche with New Years Eve. It sounds silly, but I don’t think I’ve ever spent it with the same people or doing the same thing. Sure, there’s a countdown at some point but that’s it (and on the west coast, it’s on a tape delay). I don’t even sing Auld Lang Syne or come up with crazy resolutions that I will forget about after a couple of months, I just go through the motions and that kind of makes me sad.  Spending New Years alone wouldn’t be as depressing as say, spending Thanksgiving for Christmas alone, but it’s definitely a day you’re supposed to be with friends and like a lot of people in their 20s, I guess I have a revolving door of friends.

So a couple of years ago on New Years Eve, I decided that I’d make an honest effort to find some sort of tradition that I can carry with me in my single years. I can’t say I’ll be spending New Years Eve ’10 with the same people that I spent New Years Eve ’09 or 08 with but I think it’ll be safe to say that this year, like the others, I will be able to find someone to enjoy some scotch with.

I’ve started getting into scotch a couple of years ago and it’s been an exciting journey. I haven’t been drinking alone, I’ve been mostly drinking scotch with friends, or while chatting with a friend online. In 2008, I decided to cap 2008 with a bottle of Johnny Walker Green at a friend’s apartment. While perhaps not a “high roller” bottle of scotch, it was more “higher end” than anything I’d previously experienced and I found it fitting to end the year with something new, and since we ended 2008 with something new, 2009  ended up with something likewise, a bottle of Johnny Walker Gold. (*Disclaimer, we didn’t drink the entire bottle of Green that night nor did we drink the entire bottle of Gold.  Scotch is not meant to be downed or shot.)

It would be nice to have some sort of tradition where the bottle of scotch would be upgraded every year to signify prosperity.  Unfortunately that would be a tradition that might be too difficult to uphold.  The price jump from a bottle of green to gold is about 20-30 dollars which is manageable, but but the jump from a bottle of Johnny Walker Blue is almost double the price of a bottle of Gold.  I could always switch to a different label of Scotch, but that just opens up a whole new can of worms.  Whatever direction I go, I’m probably going to hit a price point that I can’t justify, at least for the foreseeable future.

Traditions aren’t necessarily supposed to be easy, so it’ll be interesting to see how much longer I can keep this tradition for, and if I have to say “goodbye” to this one, hopefully I will fine a new and better tradition that I can try carry on for the rest of my life.  Either way, I just hope that I’ve found a group of friends that I’ll be spending New Years Eve with for many more years to come, because as my 20s start to wind down, finding that special group of people seems to be like the one thing that I’ve been missing all along.

(This references this story, which referenced this earlier story – call it a trilogy, if you will)

While I’ve written 2 stories about the impact that Chloe has had on my life, I must be honest, I’ve never actually had a conversation with the kid.  That’s not to say that I’ve never met her or talked to her (she’s given me plenty of high fives).  I distinctly remember the first time, I interacted with Chloe: I was walking back in to church while she was leaving with her dad, I waved to her  and said “Bye Chloe.”, she returned the wave and did sort of a double take.  I don’t think she really knew who I was (in fictional or non-fictional sense), but at the same time, waved to me regardless because I seemed familiar.  I wasn’t a stranger even though I actually was.  This added to the crazy future-child mythology.

I knew that if I ever wanted to read these stories in front of audience (and especially to an audience of people who might not know who Chloe is), I knew that I would need some visual assistance, which would mean I would need to talk to her parents, which upon a cursory glance, doesn’t seem like a big deal, but under much more thought, it is actually a very delicate situation.  I didn’t know them very well and since they didn’t live in the area anymore, I could understand if they found it a bit odd that I wanted to visit them and take pictures with their child, so when I wrote them an e-mail about the idea, I actually was very nervous about their response.  Fortunately they knew who I was, and eventually the shoot happened.  When we got there, I was scared that she wouldn’t cooperate since I assumed she didn’t really remember me, but she was fine, and for the first time ever, we actually talked.

Not to get too caught up in my only fake story, but my conversation with Chloe had a different feel than the conversations I’ve had with other kids.  I talk to Charis and Allison all the time (they’re both older than Chloe), and typically they talk about typical “kid” things (their friends, their favorite tv shows, etc).  Not to say that Chloe is more mature than they are, but in my short time with her, Chloe decided she wanted to jump straight to deeper matters.  When she questioned why I felt like I needed to change my shirt in private when I was already wearing an undershirt, I knew that we wouldn’t be talking about Spongebob Squarepants that day.  She didn’t want to ask me what my favorite color was or what I do for a living, I think she wanted to know if I was ready to be a real father.

While she didn’t talk to me about being a dad specifically, she asked me a lot of questions that made me feel I was being prepped to be a parent.  “Do you love us?” (referring to her and her brother, and then asking me “Why?  You’re not in our family.” after I replied “yes”) “Do you love your wife?”  and “Are you sad that you aren’t married yet?”,  (all which came within the first 5 minutes of our shoot) could easily be substituted with “Do you love us” (your kids), “Do you love Mommy?” and “Are you happy that you married Mommy?”  She then proceeded to talk to me about how much she missed living in Fullerton and how she’s had difficulty fitting in to her new neighborhood, school, and church.  At 6, she was articulating a lot of the same things that I felt when we left Minneapolis at the age of 11, so our frank and honest conversation had a hint of melancholy hovering over us.

We went outside for a little while and she taught me some games, all of which I was either terrible at, or she was making up as the games went along.  We went back inside and finished up our shoot of mostly candid photos.  She asked me if I knew how to write in cursive and then asked me to write something, so I wrote her a letter thanking her for helping me out and that she was so much fun to work with.  I told her that she could read it when she’s older so she could remember how helpful she was to her Uncle Ryan, but she told me to keep it.  I asked her why, and she told me that she “wanted [me] to keep it so [I] would remember [her] forever.” Obviously, I wasn’t going to forget her, but I also wasn’t going to argue with a 6 year old about keeping a piece of paper.

The shoot was over, I said my good byes and gave her and her brother a hug.  I told them I’d visit them again soon.  She told me she had a lot of fun.  I sat in the car exhausted, not just because we had been running around for two hours, but also because of the emotional weight of what we had talked about that day.  She wanted me to reach a little deeper than I was anticipating, and while I wouldn’t say I found that unwelcome, it was definitely a little jarring that a 6 year old could make me search my soul.  While I joke about the impact she’s had on me (ruining my online dating life), this time it wasn’t a joke, it was real.  She did what many adults haven’t been able to do: she made me question why emotionally I’m always hiding in private, even when I’m not in danger of being naked.

“As you sleep with electric guitars / Range rovin’ with the cinema stars” – Elevate Me Later (Ell Ess Two)

Irvine is a planned community.  It is a city owned by the Irvine Company and takes great pride in being considered the “Safest City in America”.  It’s located in sunny Southern California and borders Newport Beach in Orange County, widely recognized as one of the richest counties in America.  For some reason, they decided to stick a public university there and didn’t build a “college town” around it (if I’m not mistaken, the college was one of the first things built there).  I went to said college and stuck around for about a decade.  At first I enjoyed being there because things were so convenient.  There was almost literally a Target on every corner (or at least off of each major street), which was a drastic change from living in North County San Diego, which is still somewhat still under development.

Unfortunately, we missed out on the college town atmosphere and we didn’t have a football team.  The only thing that my roommate Phil and I could really find redeeming about the place (other than it being Will Ferrel’s original stomping grounds) was realizing that Pavement shot one of their music videos not only in the city of Irvine, but at the University shopping center across the street.  Sure it is kind of an irrelevant detail in the grand scheme of life, but we took any victory that could.  Besides, Pavement, and perhaps the Replacements are the only bands that I can confidently say, shaped my personality as we know it.

My friends, especially Phil, always wondered why I stuck around for so long.  I really don’t have an answer.  At first, I think I stuck around because I really liked my church, then it was because I still had some close friends around from college, and then eventually I guess I stuck around out of convenience.  I’d be foolish to say that Irvine hasn’t shaped me in some way or another but I can’t say how at this point.  Some people probably assume that it’s shaped my appetite for fashion, but that was actually caused by my trip to New York a couple of years back.  I do feel compelled to at least look decent when I go to the malls here, but that also might be because I’m 28 and single.

“So drunk in the August sun and you’re the kind of girl I like because you’re empty and I’m empty” – Gold Soundz

I’ve always assumed that the longer you date someone, the bigger the fallout becomes when you break up.  Sadly, the girl that did the most damage to me… I can’t even say that we actually dated.  There was some stringing along, some mixed messages, some feelings shared including the dreaded “I like you but…”  In hindsight, I should’ve bolted instead of sticking around for the drama, so I will be fair and assume my share of the blame.  She was a couple of years older, so maybe I thought she would be above these shenanigans (naive move on my end).  It was a situation that ugly.  People got involved (no retraining orders or violence, just a lot of politics, I guess), and right when I thought things were going to calm down, she told me she had started dating someone else with one minute left to go on my lunch break, which led to a pretty ugly breakdown at work.  For some reason she kept telling me that she wanted to be friends and I believed her.  Then on my birthday, she apparently had forgotten that she “had a date” and that she couldn’t tell me personally, so she sent me the message through our unassuming mutual friend, who I basically yelled at.  It was the beginning of the end for me, both at that job and to be honestly, at church as well.  It was the first time in my life where I understood what “needing a change of scenery” really meant.

” Was a distant voice/ Made me make a choice/ That I had to get the fuck out of this town” – Box Elder

One day I had left my laptop at my friend’s apartment and I needed it to do some work.  I called him but he wasn’t home but he told to swing by and pick it up because his roommate was home so I shouldn’t have a problem.  So I knocked on the door and after waiting a few seconds, I turned the knob and walked in and grabbed my laptop from the living room.  As I turned to leave, I heard a gun cock back and then saw it pointed at me.  I guess my friend didn’t tell his roommate I was on my way over to get the laptop, so I explained to him why I was there and calmly told him “you can put your gun away”.  He disarmed the gun, stopped pointing it at me and gave me some sort of explanation about how he was training to be a cop and some people in the complex knew about it and he was paranoid about them or something that didn’t exactly make any sense.  (I don’t think he passed his psychological exam – true story) While he didn’t actually fire the gun at me, it was an experience that has definitely stuck with me.  I never felt like I was in any inherent danger, but my friend’s apartment in the “safest city in America” was the last place that I ever imagined having a civilian pull a gun on me.  While I’m pretty sure this happened before the fiasco with the girl, perhaps I should’ve taken this moment as a realization that I didn’t belong here.  It was a moment that didn’t make sense on so many different levels, and usually when this happens in a dream, I wake up because I know I’m in a dream.  It was a moment where I should’ve realized that me being in Irvine didn’t make sense, and that I just needed to “get the fuck out of this town”.

When I was a kid, I went through a phase where I had friendship bracelets.  Sadly, I do not remember what friends I shared those bracelets with.  I’m pretty sure we got them at the local arcade (or the equivalent to a Chuck E. Cheese) and wore them until they got faded and never replaced them.  As I got older, I started to sport other accessories such as watches and rhinestone rings, but I never returned to bracelets (and never did I sport a WWJD or Lance Armstrong bracelet).

My 28th birthday has been a bit of a bittersweet affair.  My birthday was overlooked at work, so I didn’t get the birthday cake in the conference room.  While I wouldn’t consider it heart breaking, and I know most work-purchased birthday cakes are subpar, I would like to get a cake, knowing that my co-workers have gotten cakes for their birthdays.  I also wouldn’t mind being paid on the clock to eat cake and to chit chat.  If I was working at an office that didn’t celebrate anyone’s birthday, I wouldn’t be feeling so weird about it, and I’ll fully admit that I’m being kind of petty about it.  If they get cake, I want cake too.

Moving around my 28th birthday has been difficult as well.  No matter how close or far a move is, and no matter how much or little you own, moving is never fun, it’s never easy, and you’re never too prepared.  I wouldn’t say that the move was dramatic and full or surprises, but it was exhausting both physically and mentally (thank you Time Warner Cable), and throughout the move, I’ve had a lot less friend interaction than I’m used to.  Couple that with no internet (for the time being), and all of a sudden I’ve been feeling completely isolated.  Couple that with the lack of birthday cake at work and… I’m just kidding… or bitter… or both.

It took a couple of weeks to have an actual birthday party because of my friend’s wedding and the move, but it was actually worth the wait.  About 23 of us piled into the a shuttle with a bunch of food and alcohol and headed to the Hollywood Bowl to watch Bugs Bunny and the Symphony.  I had friends from the present and a couple of friends from my college days join me in what was a fun filled night that ended with fireworks.  This is what I love about birthday parties, it is one of the few occasions that you can different groups of friends together to hang out with you.  So, while I was drinking beer with Chris, I was sharing rice crispy treats with Allison and Charis, and and getting passed along food from Allison’s parents.  While the Bowl doesn’t really encourage mingling with a large group, it was enjoyable for everyone, except for the people who tried to park at the Bowl (but they had a good time once they got in).  I was handed birthday cupcakes (I couldn’t eat them all) and that more than made up for my lack of workplace cake.

Before we got on the shuttle, I was given an envelope from Charis and Allison and they told me that there was a present inside.  There was a handwritten card from the two girls.  It had an apology for its sloppiness and an explanation for it (they made it in the car).  It also contained two friendship bracelets in it.  Apparently, there are conflicting sources on the prices of these bracelets.  Charis says they’re normally 25 cents, Allison says they’re a dollar, but mine were free.  Allison quickly tied them around my wrist and told me that I’m not allowed to take them off (but later told me if the colors get too faded, she’ll make me new ones).  It’s the first time I’ve had friendship bracelets since I was probably around their age, and while I’m not going to try tug on the heart strings by saying their friendships is the greatest gift of all or that they went from being my show assistants to being my friends, I will say this: by sacrificing $1.25 our of their own pockets, Allison and Charis made me stop worrying about how stressful and crummy I’ve felt over the last couple of weeks for at least a little while.

When my family moved to San Diego from Brooklyn Park, we moved to an area that was in the midst of being developed, an “up and coming” community, if you will.  While we didn’t know it at the time, Brooklyn Park was starting to slowly deteriorate.  It never boasted itself as “America’s finest city” (ironically, unlike San Diego), but from my visits there over the past few years, I’ve noticed that it is merely a shadow of what it once was.  When I first started school in San Diego, I would tell kids that we left Minnesota to get out of the ghetto, since they wouldn’t be able to confirm or deny whatever I said.  It turns out that what I had said wasn’t too far from the truth.  I’m not exactly sure what caused the decay of my hometown and I guess it’s not really important in the context of this story.  I’m not ashamed of where I’m from, or where I’ve moved to, and  why should I be?  While Brooklyn Park, San Diego, and Orange County all seem like pretty different places, they all share the a common bond: good local beer.

When I grew up in Brooklyn Park, I remember a lot of Pabst Blue Ribbon and Budweiser beers in my house.  Once, as a kid, I accidentally grabbed my Dad’s can of beer while reaching for my Pepsi, and immediately spit it out in the sink.  (This is probably part of the reason that I didn’t really experiment with alcohol until I got to college.) In the times I’ve been back, Bruce and his brothers have introduced me to a beer from a local brewery called Surly.  It came in a can and it was pretty wonderful.  To my surprise, this brewery set up shop in 2005 in my hometown, which is pretty much the only reason to go back to that part of town (and arguably the only good things to come out of that town, period. Just kidding, Pat Neshek and Krissy Wendall).

Living my adolescent years in North County San Diego was difficult.  It’s too hilly to get around via bike or by foot and for years it was still in the middle of development.  By the time there were any shops around the area (not that there’s anything all that exciting), I was already off to college.  Being away from San Diego has given me a greater appreciation for the city, as well as having a car to transport myself around all those hills.  There’s also this wonderful brewery that has been built about 10 miles north of where my parents live that has wonderful scenery to chew on as well as wonderful beer and food.  The Stone Brewery is becoming that once place that I always want to go to when I’m visiting my parents, which is becoming kind of problematic since it’s not the cheapest place to hang out at.  Luckily my parents love it there and my brother-in-laws all want to check it out the next time they’re in town, so I’ll never need to go there alone.

Ever since I’ve been in Orange County (first for college, then for work, and now for?), I’ve constantly heard various friend complain about the lack of character or the area.  I’m not much of an Orange County apologist, so I haven’t really refuted that.  I have found that North Orange seems to vibe a little bit better with me, and recently I’ve stumbled upon a local brewery in Fullerton.  I tried their beer at a local bar and when I found out they were located close by, I looked them up and decided to go to their tasting room.  Their beers are great and the people that run the place are extremely friendly.  It’s a very small operation and part of the charm of drinking there is that you’re literally drinking in a garage.  It’s a bit of a contrast from the Stone Brewery in San Diego and there’s no food, but since I’m in Fullerton so much these days, it’s nice to know that I can stop at Bootlegger’s Brewery and kick back a couple of pints in between stops.

I’m sure wherever life leads me, there will be a decent craft brewery not too far away and while I definitely enjoy beer, I don’t think I’ll start planning trips around all the different breweries that I enjoy.  Finding good beers has become a hobby of mine, just like finding the best restaurants in an area.  All these places have more to offer than just beer; beautiful lakes, the beach, theme parks, restaurants and good friends, but beer makes each and every one of these things better.  Looking at everything through a local beer colored lens just makes that local color all the more delightful.

My friend once told me a story about how she was watching this baby try to get his mom’s attention at a party when she was talking to some of her friends.  After his first couple of attempts were deemed fruitless, he decided to take drastic measures, so he dumped his plate of food all over the place, including himself.  After the damgage was done, all the the tupperware had finished rattling against the floor, everyone kind of stopped what they were doing and let out a collective “Ohhhhh!”, so this child had accomplished his mission of getting his mom’s attention, and ended up receiving the attention of the entire room.  Sadly, grown ups cannot get away with the same antics to get attention, so we resort to other ways that are just as messy.

The last time I saw Molly in person was at happy hour, but this wasn’t the last time I had interacted with her.  Many months after our last exciting encounter, I received a notification in my inbox about how she wanted to be friends on Facebook.  I wasn’t at home at the time, so I decided that I would wait until I got home whether to deal with whether I should accept or decline her friend request.  It wasn’t because I have strict standards for who is allowed to be my Facebook friend, or that regularly cleanse my friends list based on who does or does not interact with me, I just wasn’t sure if I wanted to give Molly more access to my life.  I’m not someone that posts extremely confidential information on Facebook, but Molly has always had the gift for making a big deal out of irrelevant things.

I got home an hour or two after receiving the notification and I logged into Facebook to either confirm or ignore her request, but it was a moot point, the request was gone, which was a relief.  I briefly tried to look her up to see if there was some sort of glitch in the Facebook system, but she was nowhere to be found, so apparently she had de-activated or hidden her account.  I found the chain of events kind of strange but quickly moved on with my life, content to forget that she wanted to find me on Facebook in the first place, but a few months later, she made a request for my friendship once again, and once again it was rescinded, and again she had disappeared.

There was a third request a couple of months after that, and this time she didn’t decide to de-activate her account or rescind her request.  So, after a couple of days of letting the request sit in my inbox, I decided to officially ignore it, to decline her friendship.  The fact that it took her 3 attempts to finally let me decide whether we would be Facebook buddies gave me the impression that she was still the hurricane of drama that I’d experienced before, and I would be best staying away from her, even in this cyber world.  I could’ve easily limited her access or ignored to see her feed, but I decided it was in my best interest to just cut the cord.

Perhaps, it was also in her best interest for me to put an end to things, and not just because it will bring my stories about her to an end.  She obviously put a lot of thought into requesting my friendship, and it’s probably because she wanted to talk to me, to share about her life, and I’m not in a place where I can be a friend to her.  I can’t overlook her flaws, tolerate her social inadequacies, or lovingly encourage her when she’s wounded.  I understand enough about her past to know that she’s not some evil succubus whose sole purpose in life is to make my life uncomfortable and miserable.  She’s just a girl who has unfortunately been a product of a vicious cycle, and one that’s amassed a whole lot of baggage.  She’s a girl who puts her guard down way too quickly and it’s probably why I find her to be so crazy and it’s why guys find her to be easy pickings.  I wish her well and perhaps one day, we’ll cross paths and I won’t find her to be so unbearable, though I honestly don’t think that day will come anytime soon.  I’ve heard that she’s moved to Chicago because of some guy, and I can only hope that this one actually cares about her and will help her sort through all the issues she’s piled up over the years, because no one deserves to be victimized over and over again.

I probably will never know what becomes of her life and I’m okay with that.  I would like to have some sort of hope for her.  I’d like to think that she’ll eventually realize that her antics on Facebook were the equivalent of her dumping food all over herself at a party and that she eventually caught the attention of that person, or group of friends, that will clean her up and make her feel cared for.

During Welcome Week of my freshmen year of college, I was invited to a party by a girl I had a crush on that I met during summer orientation.  She was a year older (she was paid to help with the orientation), so she and her roommates were having a party at their apartment.  I didn’t party in high school so this was pretty much my first time drinking, and after numerous jello shots, mixed drinks, and beers, I made a pretty big fool of myself as expected.  I didn’t do anything too inappropriate, I just gave her a hug, but that was enough for her to realize that I was pretty trashed.  I’m still amazed that I didn’t throw up at any point of the night and that a hug (and it wasn’t the most affectionate hug), is the only stupid thing I did.  I remember my typing skills were still pretty good (I got bored and jumped on a computer and chatted with people, yeah I’m a drunk nerd).  I also remember wearing a sweater to the party and coincidentally, the next few times I had ingested a “few too many”, I was wearing that same sweater.  My friend dubbed it my “drunk sweater” and I have since retired it.  Well, I just don’t really wear it anymore, period.

After I got out of college, I went the starving artist route and tried to fundraise so I could make a feature film.  After realizing that people didn’t want to give me hundreds of thousands of dollars, I tried to pitch a sitcom pilot.  I was working with a couple of people on getting a pitch meeting with a network, and one day I received a call from my associates telling me we needed to huddle up and get ready for our meeting that they were scheduling with a certain network.  So I drove up to Culver City on a weekday, and decided to hang out at a mall with a friend from college, while I waited for my sitcom business associates to get off work for our dinner meeting.  While hanging out at the mall, one of my associates called me and told me we were going to get Korean BBQ for dinner.  Since I knew I was going to have a meeting that night, I had come dressed in a nice buttoned down shirt (dressed for business).  But because the grill is at your table, Korean BBQ can and will make your clothes smell.  Upon hearing the dinner plans, I decided to buy a different shirt to wear since I was at the mall and I didn’t want to have to Febreze the heck out my nice dress shirt.  I ended up buying a t-shirt (t-shirts = cheaper than dress shirts) at the Puma store and wore that to my meeting.  Wearing this shirt didn’t cost me my sitcom or anything, things just fell through, which is typically the story when it comes to the entertainment industry.

When I bought the t-shirt, it was for the purpose of not stinking up my dress shirt, but it’s not a bad t-shirt, it’s pretty fashionable.  I wear it as part of my regular wardrobe ensemble and because it gets washed, nobody realizes that I bought it for the sole purpose of being a Korean BBQ shirt.  Of course whenever I do go to Korean BBQ or have a BBQ of any kind, I wear this shirt.  I’m not sure if I wear it for sentimental reasons or because I “trust” that it won’t smell bad.  I just know that I have a lot of love for my shirt.  Obviously, it would have more value to me if I ended up being able to pitch my pilot and I ended up living happily ever after, but this shirt doesn’t remind me of bad times or failure.  It reminds me of how I only stumbled upon it because of a change in the dinner plans and how I wouldn’t have found it on sale otherwise.  It was a slight detour and a pleasant surprise.  While my screenwriting days are definitely on some sort of definite hiatus right now, I don’t see myself as a failure.  The plans have slightly changed and I can say that I haven’t been disappointed by the results though I’m not exactly sure what they are at the moment.  The BBQ Shirt isn’t like the Drunk Sweater; it hasn’t brought me shame and embarrassment.  I don’t expect it to bring me luck but I do expect it to continue to remind me that my journey will be full of detours and pleasant surprises.

I wouldn’t say I have “interpersonal conflicts” (aka friends pissing me off) all that often, but even if I did, they are somewhat inevitable.  Sometimes I can brush them off, but sometimes there has to be some confrontation.  When that happens, I try to cool off as much as possible and I try to get some advice from someone I respect, like a pastor, which is probably a really good thing since they usually give me a level headed response.  I’m waiting for the day that a pastor will tell me to “seek retribution against all those who’ve sinned against you”, so I can let my inner gangster rapper out and spout threats like “I’ll cock back the mag and pop one in your ribs” (Ghostface “Biscuits), but I don’t think that’ll ever be the case. (Perhaps I should just get an 808 machine and record dis tracks and e-mail them to my friends?) So I have to let cooler heads prevail, tell my friends how I feel, and then deal with whether they take what I said to heart or not.  Unfortunately, even if my friends don’t find my claims to be off base, they don’t always “do” anything about how they’ve hurt or angered me.  I can keep huffing and puffing until my face turns blue, but you can’t really change how someone is.  I know this but sometimes I forget it.  Sometimes I wonder why they can’t understand simple things, but you know what?  I’m absolutely guilty of this as well.

I gained the Freshmen 15, or possibly just 10, I’m not sure on the particulars.  My weight didn’t fluctuate, it spiked up another 10-15 pounds.  I wasn’t exactly fine with the weight gain, but at times I just assumed it was inevitable.  It happens.  I worked out on a regular basis, I stopped eating fast food, and I decided that if these things weren’t enough to bring me back to lighter place, I would just have to live with that.  I wasn’t in denial that I was at an acceptable weight.  It’s just that it had been 10 years since I was at a place where I was happy with my weight, and maybe I just needed to accept that I was going to have a little gut for the rest of my life.

Bruce started losing weight about 6 months ago.  He didn’t start an intense workout regiment.  He just started eating smaller portions (we call this portion control, or p-control now).  He’s lost about 20-25 to this day and isn’t in any danger of gaining it all back.  When he first started his p-control diet, I was skeptical of it and then horrified when he would tell me things like all he had for dinner was a single chicken thigh.  He told me that he allowed himself to eat whatever he wanted to on the weekends, and that’s what kept him going for his portion control diet during the week.  I still balked at giving the diet a shot.

Over the holidays, I was able to spend a lot of time with some of my nieces and nephews.  A phrase that gets thrown around a lot when I’m around the kids is a korean word “tegi” (teh-jee) which means “pig”.  We would use it in a very fun and teasing way.  When we went bowling, all the kids put their names in the queue as Tegi 1, Tegi 2, and so on.  It was all fun and games until one day when my nephew said “you’re the only one that should be called tegi because you’re chubby.”  I know it probably sounds really silly that 5 year old’s brutal honesty could make that light bulb go off in my head but it did, and after the holidays were over, I started the p-control diet.

(Warning: If you’re frustrated with weight loss, you might not want to continue reading this)

With some guidance and support of a couple of friends that have done p-control or are in the middle of it, I started my diet.  The first week was brutally painful as I would usually go to sleep hungry.  After a couple of weeks, my stomach started to shrink, and while it wasn’t necessarily enjoyable for me, I started to get used to it.  I’ve been able to go all out and eat what I’ve wanted to on the weekends without looking at portions or counting calories.  After about 2 months, I’ve lost about 20 pounds and hopefully I will still continue to drop a little bit more.  I don’t want to sound insensitive, but this hasn’t been that hard.  I know that weight loss is not easy for everyone, so I’m not taking it for granted, but I realized that I made weight loss appear much more difficult for me than the reality of what it really was.  All I needed to do was make small adjustments to my diet.  All it took me was 10 years to figure this out and apply it.  I definitely feel silly that I’ve been carrying around this extra weight for so long when I realized how easy it has been for me to shed it.  Fortunately, I have a little nephew who can set me straight.  For my friends, I hope they can find something that will help the light bulb go off for them and they can shed all this weight (baggage) that they’re placing on my shoulders.

December 4th is Jay-Z’s birthday.  Even if things like Wikipedia never existed, I would still know that December 4th is Jay-Z’s birthday?  How?  He wrote a song about it.  His mom is even a narrator on that song.  December 4th, 2009, was Jay-Z’s 40th birthday so I decided to round up some friends and go do some Jay-Z karaoke in Hova’s honor.  We met up and had some Baileys and hot cocoa before we started, opposed to the usual rum and Slurpee since it was pretty cold (by Southern California standards).  We headed in, rocked the mic, had a good time, and everyone headed their separate ways.  Since none of know Jay-Z personally, I assumed at one point we would all forget about this “celebration” and that it’d just become one of the many fun events in our very full lives.  While it marked the end of Jay-Z’s 30s, it really held no personal significance to us, except for Sherlan, because little did he know, it was the end of an era for him as well.

The next day, Sherlan had started tweeting about his foot being in pain.  At first, I assumed he accidentally kicked something or that he dropped something on said foot, but after a couple of days, I decided to give him a call to see how he was doing.  His pain didn’t stem from any action he committed, it was something far more serious.  He hadn’t seen a doctor yet, but the unofficial verdict was that he had gout.  The initial diagnosis was made by his roommate who recalled a King of the Hill episode where Bobby gets gout from eating too much paté.  A board licensed physician later confirmed this diagnosis and Sherlan was given a list of foods that he could eat, and a list of foods that he should stay away from.  The list of “don’t eat” foods consisted of red meat, wheats, and beer, and while some fish and chicken was deemed as “okay”, he was discouraged from eating them often.

That week, I was supposed to hang out with with Sherlan along with my friends Mark and Susan, and we were supposed to eat burgers and drink beer.  Since beer and burgers were no longer an option for Sherlan, we slightly altered our plans to eat somewhere a little more “gout friendly”.  After dinner, we headed to the super market to get some drinks.  Mark and I wanted beer, Susan wanted some wine/champagne.  Sadly, Sherlan had to follow us around on crutches and grocery stores tend to have pretty slick floors.  When we got to the cashier, Mark and I paid for the beer, and as Susan was paying for her champagne, the cashier asked us a question:

“So are you guys christening a boat or something?”

“Huh?”

There was a pause.  Then I spoke.

“Yeah, we’re christening the S.S. Gout.”

The cashier looked confused, we took our belongings and left the market.  I was pretty amused at my quick witted joke and I knew that Sherlan took it in stride.  We talked about how regal his name sounded and we started calling him “Prince Sherlan” and talked about his ” royal yacht”, the S.S. Gout.  Throughout the following weeks, Mark and I started coming up with gout jokes, more specifically gout puns, such as “pigging gout”. “in-n-gout”, “you’re gout of line”, etc.  I know this sounds really mean, and at first Mark felt really guilty that he was participating and having a lot of fun.  He was scared that if Sherlan found out, that his feelings would be really hurt.

To assuage his fears, I told Sherlan.  I told him it was my idea, but like I predicted earlier, Sherlan didn’t care.  I wouldn’t make these jokes if I had any doubt that they would be bringing the guy down.  I especially wouldn’t drive up to LA on a weeknight to make sure to hang out and make sure he’s doing okay, only to turn around and say mean spirited things that would make him feel bad about himself.  Sherlan has even become the grader of jokes, telling me which ones are especially clever.

His foot is a lot better now, but he’s not reverting to his old diet, which I applaud him for.  Just because the gout is gone, it doesn’t mean that it won’t come back if he’s not careful about how he eats.  This has also given Mark and I permission to continue our onslaught of gout puns, not just to remind Sherlan of the pain, but to remind ourselves that we need to be smarter about our own lives and diets.  We’re not invincible and the things we eat and the physical activities we do have more apparent consequences than they did when we were younger. There’s also the ugly truth that the older we get, the harder the consequences are going to hit.  The way we’ve been dealing with this is with gallows humor; we’re not laughing at Sherlan, we’re realizing that this could’ve happened to any of us.  Sherlan’s fight with gout has led us all to take a serious look at our mortality and that is why Prince Sherlan is the captain of the S.S. Gout and we’re just members of his crew.

In college, I had a friend tell me about how they and their significant other had this huge plan on how they were going to support each other through med school and law school respectively (after the significant other finished community college, which would be after they got back from serving their country), and get married when it was all said and done. I’m a hopeless romantic, but I gave this elaborate and convoluted plan a 0% chance of success (not that I shared this hypothesis with my friend). There were just too many variables and too many things that could change over a 5-10 year block of time, especially in anyone’s volatile 20s. About a year later, my friend’s grand plan came to an unfortunate halt when their relationship ended.

Sadly, things didn’t work out for my friend. I didn’t gloat that I was right. In fact, being able to recollect this conversation probably shows how little I’ve done in the last five years – at least they had a plan.  My first 4-5 years after college were a rollercoaster ride of hope, failure and humiliation, not necessarily in that order.  There was heartbreak, betrayal, a break up followed by losing my job a couple of days later, you know, just your standard mid-20s fare.  After year three or so, I decided to kind of “reboot” my life after hitting sort of a rock bottom, and perhaps it was finally then, that I decided to finally transition into “the real world” and being a responsible adult.

While rebooting, I kind of forgot about keeping the creative gears turning, so about a year ago, when I was asked questions regarding creativity and spirituality on a panel in front of my entire church, I felt kind of awkward.  I indeed considered myself a creative being, a few of my friends will argue against that, but since I had been creatively dormant for so long, I felt like a bit of a fraud.  It’s not that I believe that you can stop being a creative person; it just felt weird knowing that I hadn’t worked on anything in so long.  At the time, I hadn’t written a screenplay in two years, I hadn’t recorded a song in 5, and the short stories I was writing on a blog weren’t ready (by my standards) for public consumption just yet.

Now it’s a year later, and all of a sudden I’m back in the thick of things on a creative level.  Hopefully it will be able to stay consistent now that I have a fulltime stable job.  Last year, my blog went public, I did my first theater show (readings from the blog + playing songs with friends), and I’m looking to possibly record some music for the first time since 2003 or so.  (This was not a reaction to being on the panel, or at least not consciously.) It’s definitely a far cry from where I was a year ago, and I’m honestly surprised by the amount creative output over the last year.  I’m not working at a breakneck pace, but it’s nice to see I still have ideas and songs left in the tank, and hopefully there will be more theaters shows in the near future.

This will be my 5th full year out of college, and hopefully the last year has been a setup for greater things to come in 2010 and all this failure and humiliation has helped guide me to where I’m at now.  It’d be really nice to not have to reboot for a very long time.  Like a real computer, it makes you feel you’re wasting your time.  I’m not a big new years resolution person so I’m not bestowing any crazy expectations on year 5 of post-college life, I’m just hoping to ride the momentum of the last couple of years.

So maybe my friend was onto something after all with this whole 5-year plan thing, but maybe the 5-year plan is something you can’t be particularly cognizant about, it’s just something that you have to realize in hindsight.  Perhaps I’m just trying to justify the lack of success I’ve had since college and trying to convince myself that the future is bright, or perhaps I’m just realizing something that everyone else in the room already knows.  I feel like I’m finally hitting my prime, and just in time.  I just hope that in the next 5 years, I’ll be so busy living life and being productive, that I won’t notice that five years have passed at all.

I don’t remember many Thanksgivings from my childhood. In fact, the earliest Thanksgiving I remember was from freshmen year of college. The plan was to spend Thanksgiving at my sister’s place in LA. I was having a hard time reaching my parents and finally when I did, I was informed that I would have to find a way to get to my sister’s place since they were taking care of my grandmother in LA and wouldn’t be able to swing by to pick me up since they weren’t coming from San Diego. I scrambled to find a ride and was finally able to find one via a dorm mate of mine named Fred.

Fred was a foreign exchange student from France but his English was pretty good despite his accent. Fred was studying music at school, I often would seem him playing the piano in the dorm. He was also a Rastafarian so he, his room, and his car always reeked of weed. There was also the one time where he tried to fit himself into the dorm fridge, but I think that was a result of alcohol, not marijuana. I liked Fred a lot and we got along really well, he and his friend once opened a show I was playing by rapping in French. Having previously established a friendship prevented the following conversation from sounding as hostile as it probably reads:

“So Fred, I know you’re French, but are you going to celebrate Thanksgiving since you’re here in the States?”
“I don’t celebrate cultural genocide, man.”
“So what are you going to do for the time off?”
“Party. I’m going to LA and I’m going to party.”

So, that is the earliest Thanksgiving I remember, and I remember it because of my car ride with Fred, not because of the food or the people I actually spent the day with. Perhaps, that’s why, since then, my parents and I have quickly bypassed the traditional turkey meal for whatever we feel like eating that day. We’ve gone from having Thanksgiving meals with a family of 8 down to a family of 3 since my sisters have married/dispersed throughout the United States.

A couple of years ago, Bruce’s mom had a brain aneurysm in the Spring. I remember getting the news from Bruce and then relaying it, first to my mom, and then to all my sisters. The relationship between Bruce’s family and my family doesn’t end and begin with the boys (Bruce, his brothers and me). Bruce’s mom and my mom are very close, my mom says they are “like sisters”. On my first trip back to Minnesota in 2004, Bruce’s mom welcomed me back by saying that “one of my sons has finally come home” (NOT in reference to the prodigal song story). We’re as close to family as can be without actually being related by blood.

This is why, later that year, my parents and I jumped on a plane and flew to Minneapolis to spend Thanksgiving with the Lee’s. I was unemployed at the time but that wasn’t going to stop me from making the trip. Not to compare my situation with the level of tragedy that Bruce’s family was facing, but I must say it had been a pretty crappy year for me as well. I lost my job and got out of a long-term relationship in a 48 hour span. I wouldn’t say I was really stressed out at the time, but just being in Minneapolis helped put my mind at ease and helped me focus on what was more important, and that was being there for Bruce and his family.
We kept our visit low key. We didn’t tell a lot of people we were making our triumphant return to Minnesota (first time I was going back with my parents). My parents did end up visiting a couple of friends (once dragging me along), but for the most part, we kept the focus on spending time with the family. I went to a hockey game with the boys, my parents went to lunch withe Bruce’s dad, and there was time spent at the nursing home. Thanksgiving itself was a nice low key affair; some people from church dropped by and ate with us, but no one that knew my parents or me. It was definitely a bittersweet time for all of us but we were glad to be there.
On the night we left back for San Diego, we made one last visit to the nursing home to say goodbye to Bruce’s mom. My mom sat beside her bed and held her hand, and while she couldn’t speak, I know that she knew what was going on in the room. My mom started to get emotional, which immediately started getting me emotional, while my dad did his best to be a calming presence in the room. Finally, it was time to leave the nursing home and to leave Minnesota.
By no means did we want this to be the circumstance that finally brought us back to Minnesota, but it did redefine Thanksgiving for our family. I don’t expect this holiday to have this impact on us every year but it is a reminder that it’s about togetherness, even if Fred is right about the cultural genocide aspect of the mythology. When I have kids and they ask me about Thanksgiving, I’ll have to initially tell them the lie about the Pilgrims and the Indians, but eventually I’ll tell them about the time the Paks left California to break bread with the Lees in Minnesota during a tumultuous time and how that’s the true meaning of Thanksgiving for our families.

It’s weird to go to the same church for 8 years and then one day decide “Maybe I should just stop going here.” There was no life changing event, no epiphany, I was just bored. I was showing up late, if at all, and was leaving the minute service was dismissed. I realized that if this was going to be my routine for Sunday mornings, I would be better off sleeping in or watching TV.

So I decided I would check out a couple of different churches and then I would decide if I should find something better to do on my Sunday mornings. I didn’t feel like I owed it to anyone (or to God) to check out some churches, but since I’ve been going to church since I was born, I wanted to make sure I wasn’t making any rash decisions. So I called my friend, Paul, and asked him if he knew of any places in the area. He gave me a couple of suggestions and I decided that these would be the churches that would tell me where I was going to be on Sundays, if I would be going anywhere at all.

I wasn’t going to set the bar too high. I didn’t expect to be speaking in tongues or have a spiritual awakening. I just wanted to go to church for more than the need to satisfy a routine or keep myself from feeling guilty. My sisters have stopped going to church and they seem happy enough without it. So I went to one church, and while the people were friendly enough, something just didn’t click with me. I liked it, but wasn’t sure if I liked enough to want to return every Sunday morning. So the next week I headed off to the next suggestion, which Paul thought was ideal for me even though he had only been there once and the only person he knew that went there was his cousin’s best friend who was also an “artsy fool like [me]”.

I went with a couple of friends to this recommended church in Fullerton, which is about 20-25 minutes north of where I live. When I saw that it was a 20-25 minute commute on Google Maps, I secretly hoped I would hate it. (Un)Fortunately I enjoyed it and decided that I would give it a shot and that I’d re-evaluate later. I wanted to throw myself into the fray to get a good feel for the people and the place, but also didn’t want to act like I owned the place. So after a couple of months, I started to integrate, and then I decided to test the mettle of the people in my age group. I didn’t want to go to a church where I didn’t have to alter my interests to fit in. I wanted to talk about my artsy film, indie rock, and under the radar comedians. I didn’t want to debate whether Michelle Branch was a Christian so people wouldn’t feel guilty that they liked listening to her music.

About a month before I showed up at this church, my friend Phil had informed me that he went to a Zaireeka Party on Record Store Day (Approx the 3rd Saturday in April) in Chicago.Zaireeka is a 4 CD set by the flaming lips where you are instructed to play all 4 CDs at the same time and to spread out the 4 CD players you are using so you can discern what sounds are coming from where. I was fascinated by this concept in high school, except when I had learned about it, the box set was out of print. Fortunately it was back in print and my friend telling me about the party inspired me to grab a copy so I could have a party of my own. This would be my formal introduction to this church.

I partnered up with a couple of other church Flaming Lips friends (who conveniently were roommates) and we sent out an e-mail about the party. We had a decent amount of people show up (none, who had heard of the Flaming Lips previously) and we had a good time. After it was over, we grabbed dinner and went to go see Burn After Reading. While it’s is not the greatest Coen Brothers film, it’s still a Coen Brothers film, and I was satisfied with how the night turned out. There wasn’t any sort of spiritual pretext for the party. It was pretty self-indulgent, if anything. I was inviting people who I’d only known for a couple of months into my world and was unapologetic about it. Luckily, people thought the Zaireeka idea was cool and appreciated being invited.

From that point on, I felt a lot of freedom at church, which is probably how church should be, but I’ve never felt that way. At the last church I was at, there was a lot of clearances you needed to receive since that’s how things work at big churches (organizations). Here, it’s much smaller and relaxed. For once, at a church, I didn’t feel like I needed to compromise my interests. Whether it be planning events or playing guitar, I’ve been kind of left alone, and I mean that in the best way possible. I grew up in a church where there was a debate if the electric guitar was evil. Now I’m encouraged to make evil sounds with my electric guitar.

I’ve been at this church for about a year and a half now. My friend told me “At the 18 month mark is where you get sick of something or not.” As it stands right now, so far so good. I haven’t found myself bored of this place nor have I thought about leaving. A couple of months ago, I saw the Flaming Lips in concert with a couple of friends and my pastor. I invited him to the show and he really enjoyed it. As we watched Wayne Coyne come out in his plastic bubble into the crowd, it confirmed the notion that I’m in the right place, and I definitely have to thank the Flaming Lips for making sure I stuck around.

I’m occasionally forced to hang out with Molly a couple of times a year because we have a mutual friend, a mutual friend who I think was trying to hook us up at some point, probably since we both consider ourselves writers.  Alas, we are not Dave Eggers and Vendela Vida, unless Dave Eggers’ feelings for his wife fall somewhere between contempt and pity. I don’t blame my friend for thinking it was a good idea, eHarmony thought the same thing (which is another story for another day).
The last time the three of us hung out, we went to a restaurant for happy hour. It was sometime after my trip to New York, where I came back with the first pieces of what is now known as my technicolor wardrobe. So I was sporting one of my pastel hoodies and wearing a couple of shiny rhinestone rings to match my hoodie. These rings don’t look like real jewelry but I still wear them unapologetically.
I never thought a $5 ring, which was bought for me as a silly gift, could stir up so much controversy but it did. Molly would just go on and on about how “gay” it made me look. It definitely was worn to grab attention and I was and am still clearly aware of that. I dismissed the teasing initially, but it was Molly’s crudeness that took things way too far. Perhaps, I shouldn’t have been surprised since most of my interactions with her have been unpleasant at best, but I figure at some point I’m going to have to see something positive in her since my friend obviously enjoys her company.
Molly decided to really cross the line when she flagged down our waiter to ask him his opinion if my ring was “gay”. He looked at me, looked at the ring, and said “no, it matches his hoodie.” Instead of thanking him for his time and letting him go back to his job, she persisted by once again asking “are you sure that you don’t think that it looks gay? It looks so gay!” He was confused and I just felt embarrassed, not because of self doubt, but because I had some sort of affiliation with this girl. This girl, who didn’t understand that she wasn’t going to get the answer she wanted to hear no matter how many times she asked, who didn’t realize that this waiter was not going to risk getting in trouble by discussing the sexual orientation of one of his customers. She had turned the restaurant into a school yard and was doing her best to bully her way to being right but no one was biting.
I didn’t see or talk to Molly for a very long time after that, not because I was avoiding her or angry about her little episode, she just has a tendency to disappear for months at a time. She usually reappears after she’s been mistreated by some guy and then subsequently dumped. Then, she finds me and tells me that she’s going to write some sort of masterpiece. This has been her cycle for as long as I’ve known her, and it’s a cycle that I even recognize even though I don’t know her very well.
First, there was the screenplay she wanted to write and then it was a book. The screenplay was going to be “like Garden State” and then the book was going to be “like Life of Pi, because [she] think[s] [her] style is like the author of that book”. After realizing that she always wanted to write something like something else, I told her to find her own voice. I told her that it didn’t matter how well she wrote, she needed to have a voice. She would counter my argument by telling me things she learned about writing. “A lot of stories are pretty much the same, but they’re just told differently” was her big epiphany that I subsequently deflated, since that’s what kids learn in English class freshmen year of high school*.
I tried to help her without discouraging her too much. It wasn’t my place to tell her whether I thought she should pursue writing or not. It would be a moot point since she lacks any sense of self-awareness. Her problem with my rings didn’t stem from homophobia or because she thought she had encountered a fashion faux paux, her problem was her inability to accept someone being so comfortable in their own skin. This is not to say that I don’t have any or that I’ve conquered more of my hang ups than anyone else, but perhaps it magnified how insecure she was, because I wasn’t trying to dress like anyone, I was just being me.
*(http://changingminds.org/disciplines/storytelling/plots/conflicts.htm)

Posted by Ryan at 8:31 AM

“I think the girl in the story should be cute and quirky like ME!”

Without thinking, I got up from my chair and stared Molly in the eye. “This is a waste of my time.” There was no wink, no chuckle, not a hint of irony. I was offended by her idea on so many levels that it didn’t matter to me that she had just had her heart trampled on by her ex-boyfriend just days earlier. I didn’t care that she wanted to write a screenplay to validate herself from the pain she was going through. I cared only about two things: my name being attached to this terrible idea and her misunderstanding of the word “quirky”. Basically I was being an insensitive ass, and I was doing so in the middle of a cafe after the lunch rush. Bravo.

I got into this mess on accident. I ran into Molly at the grocery store earlier that week and shot her an IM a few days later just to say ‘hi’, since I hadn’t seen or talked to her in months. I didn’t know her that well, but thought that I should be polite and ask her how she was doing. I was expecting the conversation to be short and superficial, but instead, I set Molly off for about half an hour about her crumbling personal life. I quickly went from barely knowing Molly to knowing too much about Molly, including the fact that she went away from her keyboard for about ten minutes to cry. In the middle of uncomfortable confessional, she told me she wanted me to write a screenplay with her and I begrudingly agreed. It’s hard to turn down a girl who’s telling you she’s crying and not eating on a regular basis.

Unfortunately, turning her down would’ve absolutely been the right thing to do. This “great” screenplay that she had in mind for us to write was just a vessel to vent  about what had just happened in her life and I couldn’t fathom this idea on a couple of fronts. One, and most importantly, I didn’t think it was healthy for her to be focusing all her attention on her heartbreak, not even two weeks removed from it. Two, I honestly didn’t think it made a compelling story, at least from hearing her side of it.  He was a jerk who used her and broke her heart, and while I definitely sympathized with her, there weren’t a whole lot of twists and turns for us to work with.

Then there’s the idea of her quirkiness. Molly isn’t as quirky as she thinks she is, which is devastating, because she bases her worth entirely on this non-existent quality. She believes that saying phrases like “bad news bears” when she thinks a guy is sketchy equates as quirkiness. It wouldn’t be an absurd opinion if Molly was a movie character, like Juno MacGuff, but Molly has to live for longer than an hour and a half. Juno’s quirkiness is dependent on being frozen in time. You don’t get to find out that later in life she will speak like a regular person and wears pants suits to work. Quirkiness isn’t something that is constructed, it’s not premeditated, like my mom’s fear of getting onto an escalator. It’s not about a catch phrases or slang.

So not only did Molly want to make a thinly veiled screenplay about her extremely recent failed relationship, she was insistent to tweak it in such a way where the lead character be just like her. I tried to explain how writing a screenplay about her recent breakup would be counter-productive for her emotionally and she didn’t seem to understand. I asked her if she had seen Purple Rain and she told me she hadn’t. I was trying to explain that one of the film’s messages is that you should leave your personal life out of your professional life, but she seemed to be only fixated on the fact that Purple Rain stars Prince. “You mean Prince was in a movie? That guy that dresses like a girl?” I might’ve tolerated her offensive ignorance if she made some sort of reference to Dave Chappelle’s impression of Prince, but nope, not from Molly.

At this point, I just tried to teach her the basics of screenwriting. I talked to her a little bit about structure, and a little bit about formatting. Every time I brought up a new concept, she would connect the concept to the movie Garden State. “So the inciting incident in Garden State is when…” “So the scene at the pool in Garden State would be written ‘EXT. HOUSE’…?” No offense to Zach Braff, but Garden State is hardly a movie that should be held on a pedestal for an aspiring screenwriter. She then proceeded to whip out a Screenwriting for Dummies book and Garden State aside, it seemed like we were making some progress. Then she told me how easy she thought screenwriting was and how she didn’t understand why I thought writing a screenplay is a long process. She didn’t understand she was being arrogant, that she was being offensive to someone who has been trying to hone their craft of writing screenplays for the last five years and was desperately trying to do it for a living. Now I have no idea whether I’m a good screenwriter, but I think it’s safe to say that I’m better than someone who hasn’t even tried. I wouldn’t go into my doctor’s office with a stethoscope on and tell him “You know what? I’m going to give myself a physical. I saw a tutorial about it on the internet.”

Then I realized I was quick to judge and that Molly does have a quirk. She has the uncanny ability to make me have absolutely no sympathy for her.

I went to DC a couple of years ago for St. Patrick’s Day.  I was single, had a green shirt, and I had a place to crash.  If I was making more than your typical retail salary, it would be the ideal situation.  Other than Bruce, who’s place I was crashing at, I had no ties to anyone there and during St. Patrick’s Day, everyone there was ready to party.  What happens in DC, stays in DC, no?

Bruce knows me better than anyone else, but all that basically means is that there are very few things I could do that would surprise him.  So if I decided to be someone else this weekend, he probably wouldn’t of even thought twice about it.  I didn’t really have a set plan when he picked me up from the airport.  I just planned to have a lot of fun.  I asked him what he had planned for St. Patty’s Day, he didn’t really have a plan, just to grab a bit to eat and perhaps drink at his place.  His two single and female roommates decided otherwise when we got to his apartment after dinner.
So the two girls, (lets name them Barbara Ann and Rhonda because of their ties to Beach Boys song titles), brought us to a bar where Barbara Ann was supposed to meet with this guy who she thought liked her.  She didn’t seem too enthused by the idea but was willing to meet with him.  We’ll name him Mike Love.  Mike Love brought his friend who had also flown out from California.  This guy was in total “wing man” mode.  While I had no interest in Barbara Ann (especially since it’s not a good idea to try to hook up with your best friend’s roommate while in town), I decided who I was going to be for the weekend.  Mike Love’s cock blocker.
Mike Love would buy us a round of shots, presumably to get Barb pretty plastered.  His douchey friend would try to have interesting conversations with Bruce, Rhonda and I.  By interesting, I mean “Oh you flew out from California too?  That’s cool.”  But whenever Mike Love muttered anything about going to his place, I would enter the conversation with some sort of alternative idea.
“Hey Barbara, if we go back to the apartment, I’ll play you a Brittany Spears song on guitar!”
“Ooh really?  That’d be sooooo coooool!”
<Mike Love goes to grab another round of drinks.>
After seeing how easily distracted she could be, I was able to find my groove.   I would dance with her and find ways to make her laugh. I would tell her jokes, I would mock him.  I knew what was going on and I wanted to make Mike Love pay for it.  See, what was going to happen was inevitable.  She was going to go home with him.  It sounds callous, but this was just her way, but since I wasn’t informed of this until the hours into this, I reveled in playing the role of the spoiler.  I was doing the right thing and was being rewarded with drinks that I couldn’t afford.
I never at any point feared that a fight was going to break out, because a fight would just ruin all of Mike Love’s “hard work” with Barbara.  It was St. Patrick’s Day so I’m sure that there was extra security around, and that any sort of confrontation was going to get dealt with before any major escalation.  Throwing a punch was likely going to get you thrown in a holding cell for the night, and since Mike Love and I were both Asian, we’d be easily identified in the clubs and bars we had hit up through out the night.  Plus, I wasn’t intimidated by him.  I’m not afraid to punch a guy with glasses on, especially one who needs a wing man and tons of booze to get laid.
On this trip to DC, I decided that out of all the personas I could’ve chosen for the weekend, I wanted to be the hero and I failed.  Unfortunately you can not save those who do not want to be saved.  I could’ve turned a blind eye to everything.  It was a vacation for me, and I had never met Barbara Ann before.  Even though Bruce and Rhonda kept on assuring me “she’ll be fine”, I kept on wanting to spoil this guy’s fun.  Just the idea that he had his friend fly across country to wing man for him seemed a bit ridiculous.  Not that I condone this behavior, but shouldn’t you be trying to get your guest laid, instead of forcing your guest to help you get laid?  That just sounds like poor hospitality.
I think Barbara ended up dating this guy, which puzzles me, and is probably a worthy of a story in its own right, but I will never be able to tell it, because the second I stepped on that plane going back to California, I was no longer the hero, I was just me, and what happened in DC was going to stay there, as far as my conscience was concerned.

I know that you can’t really have a best friend when you’re an infant, but just to kind of make things simple, I tell people that I’ve been best friends with Bruce since we were babies, circa 1983. My mom and his mom were (still are) really good friends (if not best friends) and realized that having sons that are roughly the same age meant that they could hang out and have the kids play together. Then in November of 1993, my parents and I left Minnesota for  San Diego, and we stopped by Bruce’s house, that morning, one last time before we headed out.  

So 1993 was the last year I went to one of Bruce’s birthdays. He turned 10 that year.  We went to the Mall of America, went on some roller coasters, hit up the arcade and beat the X-Men Arcade Game from beginning to end. It was just Bruce, his brothers, myself, and our moms. So it probably sounds really weird that I haven’t been to my best friend’s birthday in 15 years, but that’s just how it’s worked out.

So this year, 2008, I headed out to New York to hang out with him on his birthday. I mean, I had other people to visit in New York as well (1 sister in Brooklyn whose birthday is a day before Bruce’s, another in New Jersey), but I was pretty much going to New York to hang out with Bruce. The itinerary for the birthday bash sounded awfully familiar: eat dinner, go to a place called Barcade (booze + arcade games), etc. It seemed like in 15 years, the only thing that had changed was the ability to consume alcohol, and large amounts of it at that. That was a very terrible assumption on my part.

We met up for lunch that day at Grimaldi’s Pizza. It was Bruce, my sister and me. It might seem odd that my sister would join us, but like I said, our families are close. After lunch, my sister ran errands while Bruce and I hit up the Murakami exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum and then headed to SoHo because I made a joke about how Brooklyn made me want to buy Rock-A-Wear clothing. He totally ran with it and we ended up at Bathing Ape (Bape) and Kid Robot, because you know, that’s what the rappers today wear. I ended up spending a lot more money that I planned and had a designer hoodie. I bring up this fact, not to boast, but because it had a great effect on the rest of the night.

We hit up dinner, Bruce had a steady diet of scotch, I had had a steady diet of Stella, and then we hit Barcade. There was some Rampage, some Contra, some Dig Dug, along side of some IPAs. Bruce wanted to head to this bar down the street that gives you a free personal pizza with the purchase of a pint. This is plastered all over the bar, it’s something they’re famous for, I guess. So we walk in, already pretty out it, get some beer and head to the back room. I immediately see a juke box and started flipping around in it. There were some pretty interesting selections in the jukebox: the new Spoon album, Deltron 3000, and some other indie stuff, enough intriguing picks for me to call Bruce over to the machine. We put in a dollar and put on some Deltron (*which was out of print at the time*, which explains our excitement). This is where the night turned ugly.

I know this is going to sound really dumb, but we didn’t realize that there was a DJ in the back room spinning music at the time. Like I said, there had already been a lot of alcohol consumed at this point, and also more importantly, this DJ wasn’t doing anything to distinguish himself from music you would just hear on a house mix CD. I remember this very clearly. The song he was spinning when we walked into the room was “My Sharona” by the Knack. I’m not a big fan of the song, but as a DJ, I don’t think you’re making much of a name for yourself if you’re spinning that at 1am in a bar as is. If you want to scratch with it, fine, that’s being bold. If you want to mash Lil’ Wayne on top of it, awesome (Greg Gillis, you’re free to take this idea and run with it), but don’t spin the song as is, and expect people to say “man, is there an awesome DJ in here or what?!”

So the DJ takes offense to the fact that we’re dancing to Deltron on the jukebox and not “My Sharona”, and I admit, we’re not looking good here. Of course, the bar could’ve prevented this situation by unplugging the jukebox at the beginning of the night, but they didn’t have the foresight, so here we are with this skinny ass hipster looking DJ screaming at my best friend for disrespecting him.

The first thing I wanted to do was to tap the guy on the shoulder and punch him back into the year where it’s actually cool to spin “My Sharona” but then two thoughts came into my mind: 1) I don’t want to get arrested in New York and 2) I really don’t want to get my hoodie messed up. I felt really terrible that my best friend was getting chewed out by this guy over a simple misunderstanding but this is New York and things escalate quickly. Also we’re all drunk so there’s no way the cops are going to take our side AT ALL.

At one point the DJ asked “how would you like it if I went to your work and messed up your work station?!” after finding out that Bruce is a programmer. Honestly, if Bruce Lee is blasting “My Sharona” at his work station, I give you full permission to take a sledgehammer to it and to throw his keyboard and mouse out the window, but alas we finally left the room in a terrible mood and finally we called it a night.  I hope that this incident didn’t ruin the birthday,but if it did, perhaps in another 15 years, we’ll find a way to redeem this one.

There’s a debate about the Korean American identity. The issue is that there really isn’t one. There’s a Korean identity and there’s an American identity and then there’s a bunch of people who argue about what is the right balance of the two. I’ve consistently been the target of “not being Korean” enough by these people, and that’s a huge part of why I’m a self-deprecating Korean. (Good job guys!) I’m not ashamed of being Korean and I cheer for Korea during the World Cup and the Olympics (we so do not cheat at short track speed skating!). I just don’t really keep up with Korean pop culture and I usually don’t try speaking the language, because honestly I’m really terrible at it (I took it for 2 years in college and am still terrible). My  gift and my curse is that I’m easily identified as being Korean.  I’ve often been told that I’m the poster boy for what Korean boys look like, which I guess in a round about way is a compliment.

During my freshmen year of college, I met Chris Kim (legal name: Christopher) in the dorms and we found out we had a lot in common: a love of Ash, The Get Up Kids, Coen Brothers films, and Clerks. We also had a similar trajectory when it came to growing up. I grew up in Minnesota until I was 11, Chris grew up in a town outside Pittsburgh until he was 10. I moved to San Diego and Chris moved to Fullerton. I don’t know if this is why we’re so similar, but it kind of makes sense to me. We’re both not “very Korean”, but Chris tends to hide it a lot better since he went to Sunny Hills High School, so he can at least claim to have a lot of Korean friends.  I went to a high school with very few Korean kids, and of that very few, a lot of them were adopted.

He’s definitely a fraud though. I’ve heard him have a conversation in Korean over the phone once. It even made me cringe. In his defense, he was talking to “his mommy”. I, on the other hand, like to keep the bar low and it saves me a lot of trouble.  I primarily speak to my parents in English, because it’s easier for the both of us if I speak in English opposed to botching up phrases and saying offensive things unintentionally. There’s the added bonus of course, that every time I call home and try to speak Korean to my Dad, he doesn’t realize that it’s me, which is pretty golden in itself (this was pre-caller ID installation at home.  Dad’s no fun).

Chris claims the whitest thing he’s ever done is getting drunk in a parking lot before going to watch a movie. We were in the South Coast Plaza (on the largest, ritziest malls in the United States) parking lot to be more exact.  Unsurprisingly, this was my idea, and in an ironic twist, we were doing this “white” thing before going to watch Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay, starring John Cho, the most famous Korean American actor of our generation (don’t even for a second think it’s Sandra Oh, She’s Korean-Canadian). Besides, we were drinking Fat Tire, not Bud Light, because we’re classy like that.  We’ve done weird cultural hybrid activities before, like eating Korean food in K-town before hitting up the Wiltern (a block away) to see Death Cab for Cutie, but I think this was by far the most obvious hybrid to date, and it was purely unintentional (though I look forward to Mr. Pizza before Grizzly Bear at the Wiltern soon).

I believe drinking before a movie you’re not sure you’ll enjoy is a great idea, regardless of the fact that you might be setting this Korean-American identity debate back ten years. If anything, this event in our lives is a metaphor of the Korean-American identity. Part of us wants to embrace the culture we live in, while paying respect to the culture of our forefathers. Now if only all us Korean-Americans could  get drunk before Harold and Kumar, maybe we’d have this identity crisis figured out.

A few months back, Jessica asked me what my weekend plans were. I reminded her that I was going to the Of Montreal/Health concert on Saturday. “Oh, that’s right, you’re going with your boyfriend” she replied. I was confused, not because I didn’t understand that she was making a joke, I was confused by who she was “implying” was my boyfriend. I wasn’t going with Chris, or Long, I was going with Sherlan. Then I realized, she was indeed implying Sherlan.

As much as I enjoy the playful mocking of my female friends and the actual man-dates that I go on (not to be confused with mandates, wordplay!), I, and I’m pretty sure every guy I “man-date” with, would prefer to go on a date with someone of the opposite sex, with romantic intentions, long term implications, and all those other idealistic good stuff. Not to say that there’s a shortage of quality women out there, there’s just a shortage of quality women that want to date us.

These man-dates are therapeutic. Misery loves company. No one wants to be alone. You could say they’re beneficial because it forces guys to socialize, perhaps not on an intimate level, but you’d be surprised how many guys could use some help on the ground floor. Unfortunately, these “dates” don’t necessarily give guys any insight on how to act during a real date, since interacting with a guy is much different than a girl. If anything, these “dates” are just exercises in arrested development, activities that guys miss when they’re monogamous and committed, like eating shrimp by the pound and going to the batting cages afterwards.

I’ve found that many singles, both male and female, fall into one of five categories: never been in a relationship, have unrealistic expectations, “my clock is ticking”, “I’m never going to find someone”, and all of the above. Regardless of how many categories you fall into, one thing is clear. It’s nice to have a support group that feels your pain. I’m not the leader of my support group, and I’m pretty sure he would prefer I not use his name, so we’ll just call him Graham.

Graham is older than myself and most of the guys that we hang out with. I respect him and I guess you could even say that I find him wise. Of course, you could also make the joke that he isn’t wise enough, or he wouldn’t be single (or does that make him more wise?) We’ve established a pretty good friendship over many meals (the only foundation for a friendship, in my opinion). Probably the most important thing he’s taught me, is not about girls at all, but about a street in Garden Grove named Bolsa Ave.

I’ve lived in Orange County for 5 years now (9, if you count college), and it wasn’t until last year that I started to frequent this little niche, also known as Little Saigon. I’d previously known Little Saigon existed, I just didn’t really know anyone who frequented the area much, and it’s not really an area that you want to frequent alone, especially if you’re not Vietnamese. It’s like any ethnic area; if you can’t read the signs, it’s really intimidating.

So I have Graham as a guide, and fortunately he’s a foodie. So we’ve hit a lot of the “hidden gems” within this area. From some of the best pho I’ve ever had, to delicious soft shell crab, we’ve pretty much had it all. I’ve had some things that you can’t get anywhere else, like sugarcane juice and have enjoyed the adventure, going from place to place, not being able to read some of the menus, and wondering about the hygeine of these small hole in the walls. One night we met up with some friends at a French Vietnamese restaurant.

Forunately, I’m not the jealous type. Unfortunately for Graham, some of the other guys we know are. While reminicing about this restaurant, it was discovered that Graham has taken many a man-date here. I believe one of the guys (who’s in a long term relationship) said “I thought this was OUR place” and a couple of guys argued whether their first time was before some other guy’s first time. Since I was new to the group, or brotherhood, if you will, I didn’t really care, and didn’t feel any particular attachment to the restuarant. The food was great, the service was ample, but like I said, I’m not the jealous type. I didn’t need to have a “special place” with Graham since I know that the second I find that special someone, Graham will be left in the dust. We will still hang out, just not as frequently, and I know he won’t take it personally because he’d do the same thing to me.

He provides a great service for us younger single men. He keeps us from wallowing in self pity and keeps us from overdosing on XBox 360 online. He shows us the places that we will take our girlfriends in the future to and hears us out on our gripes about the girls we’re chasing. Hopefully he’ll find that girl that takes him out of this brotherhood. He will be missed and I’m sure some guys will even regret never getting to go on a man-date with Graham, but if you really think about it, the instant you enter the brotherhood, you start to immediately think about how you’re going to get out.

I was once on a public elementary school field trip to the Science Museum of Minnesota and I saw Bruce there with his mom (he went to a private school).  They weren’t there with anyone else, no classmates, no teachers, just the two of them.  It was a treat to see my best friend on a weekday, since I would only see Bruce on Sundays at church (his family lived about 15-20 minutes away via car).  As cool as my classmates were, nothing was better than getting permission from my teacher to ditch the group during our lunch hour and hang out with my best friend. The prospect of leaving your public school field trip group is pretty unheard of these days, so I’m not exactly sure how I pulled it off. Regardless, it was good times.

I’ve always loved going to museums, maybe not as much as the arcade or the baseball stadium (or Metrodome, if you will), but it was something I was excited about. Especially since the Science Museum of Minnesota is pretty top notch and perhaps this is why moving to San Diego was kind of underwhelming. I wasn’t a big fan of the museums and since San Diego seemed like a big deal (population and popularity wise) compared to my beloved Twin Cities, I expected bigger and better museums.

As enriching as I find museums, they can also be pretty draining. Perhaps it’s my lack of attention span, but I can only take so much learning in one day. My trip to the Museum of Modern Art in New York almost overwhelmed me to the point where I needed to call someone before my head exploded. After seeing so many famous paintings and absorbing all those vibrant colors just sent far too much information to my brain to process.  It was stimulation overload and sometimes I need something a little low-brow to bring myself some balance.
Usually museums have something to provide me with some sort of “break”. At the Science Museum of Minnesota, it was the musical stairs. At the Getty, I usually talk a walk in the garden and throw coins into the pond, at LACMA it was that giant metal balloon dog, and at the Brooklyn Museum, it was watching Murakami cartoons and music videos before hitting up the rest of the exhibit.  Maybe I just need to go to museums more often to build endurance, much like training for a marathon.  Maybe I’m just getting the equivalent of “side stitches” when I feel like i need to jump around the musical stairs.
Occasionally I’ll get a break just by observing my other spectators, like the occasional asian teenage girl next to her mom mad dogging while her dad takes the picture. Or I’ll get the confused toddler putting on 3D glasses in the gift shop. Of course none of this matters if you’re the only one to see it. It’s in the same vein as a film or a good book, a discussion is the second half of the museum experience. Obviously there is a certain amount of pleasure taken in seeing something, but there’s something special about discussing it as well. Like most places, museums are often best enjoyed in good company.

So whether you’re discussing the latest masterpiece, or the little child that’s wading into the fountain, make sure you know someone nearby because there’s always going to be something to talk about.