Ryan and the Technicolor Wardrobe
Short Stories and Essays

There was a brief time in high school where I would wake up early every Saturday morning and go to soccer practice, which is odd since I never had more than a casual interest in the sport.  The only times I could remember playing soccer were during recess during elementary school, and even then, it was just because it was the thing to do.  I played Little League baseball as a kid, I would play in a roller hockey league for a summer as an adult, and in the time between, I played badminton.  This practice wasn’t part of an organized league, it would be a group of mostly older guys from a few different Korean churches in the area.  In fact, there was only one guy at these practices that was my age, we’ll call him Walter.  We would carpool to practice together with a couple of the older men.

Walter went to a different church but he seemed to be quite at home in anyone’s car.  Walter was one of those kids who demanded that he always sit shotgun and he always had to be in charge of what music was playing in the car.  He would blast nothing but K-Pop to my chagrin. When he found out I didn’t care for it, he decided he would get on my case about how I liked “white music” (perhaps he didn’t know I listened to hip hop since he probably didn’t know who The Roots were).  It apparently became his calling in life to be an ambassador on the behalf of the Korean music industry and that he should educate me on K-Pop on how I could be a better Korean.  He definitely looked the part with his bleached (more like orange) hair  and über long bangs.  This “education” caused a lot of tension between us, since I never agreed to it, and since he was so condescending about it.  I never took to his teachings, and since we didn’t go to the same school or the same church, I thought that I wouldn’t have to deal with him after soccer was over, but that wasn’t the case.

Little did I know that Walter and I would end up enrolling at the same college.  Even though we went to a really big school, I kept on running into him.  I tried to avoid him, but we had friends that lived in the same dorm, so it was unavoidable.  He thought we were friends, so while I tried to avoid him, he kept on trying to get through to me.  He wasn’t the only Korean person on campus trying to show me the error of my ways, so I just started trying to tune any person out who started any introduction to me with “Are you Korean?  Do you speak Korean?”  While these questions seem innocent enough, they were usually followed by “Are you parents ashamed of you?  Why do you hate being Korean?” and hearing those questions definitely got under my skin.  My parents weren’t ashamed of me, I wasn’t ashamed of being Korean, but there was an assumption made that since I didn’t grow up speaking Korean, that there was some sort of negative story behind it.  I would explain that I grew up in the Midwest with very few Korean kids to talk to in my neighborhood, but my words would just fall on deaf ears.

It seemed like this stuff mattered more with Koreans than other Asian ethnicities (I could be wrong), which frustrated me even more.  It would take me a couple of years, but eventually I got over it, and surprisingly, one day, Walter got over it too.  After we moved out of the dorms after freshmen year, I didn’t see him for a while, and when I did, he was a lot more pleasant to be around.  He still had the bleached bangs, but he was no longer getting on my case about my lack of Koreaness.  In fact, there was an instance where one of his non-Korean friends asked why there were so many adopted Korean children.  Walter gave a predictable answer: “Because Korean babies are the best looking.”  I gave a more self-deprecating and cynical answer: “I guess Koreans don’t know how to use birth control.”  At a younger age, my response would’ve caused a lot of animosity between us, but Walter actually laughed at my comment.  I’m not sure what had happened to make him change his Korean pride way of life, but I’m glad that something did.  Maybe he finally became more comfortable in his skin, which allowed him to accept me for who I was, or perhaps he realized that being a Korean pride zealot wasn’t fun for him anymore and that he didn’t want to make being Korean a career.

In 8th grade, I went to the local record store to pick up a CD.  I couldn’t go to a big chain store like Tower Records to get it because it was by a local band that was on a small label.  Perhaps, it’s because of the limited availability, but it seemed like a lot of kids in my classes were excited that I bought it.  Lots of kids wanted to borrow it, and since I had just bought it, they knew that they would need to let me borrow something in return.  This is not a story to boast about being one of the first kids at my school to own the debut album by Blink 182 (I’m sure I wasn’t), this is a story about how I used that album to find something even better.

In middle school, they pulled me out of the gifted english and history classes, because I was pretty ambivalent about my studies in 6th grade.  This allowed me to get good grades in 7th and 8th grade, while still being ambivalent about my studies.  So, in 8th grade English, I talked about music a lot with a kid named Billy, who was really into exploring punk rock, so I knew he’d want to borrow the Blink album.  (Later that year he’d end up going to one of those radio station sanctioned concerts that was headlined by Blink 182 and some band called Radiohead – the mid 90s were a weird time)  In exchange for Blink 182’s Cheshire Cat, he let me borrow Red Medicine by Fugazi.

I’m not sure if he decided to let me borrow Red Medicine on a whim, or if he gave me a few options and that’s what I picked.  Red Medicine was obviously a much more difficult listen that Cheshire Cat. The production was more raw, the guitars weren’t always exactly in tune, and the vocals were a little harsh, but I immediately loved the album.  It was what punk rock is supposed to be, passionate and fiery.  While I still enjoy Cheshire Cat, it’s not a punk album, and Blink 182 is not a punk band.  Fugazi opened my eyes to what punk was at the exact same time that San Diego was becoming known as the punk/ska capital of the music world.

Eventually, Billy and I had to return the CDs to each other and after that year in middle school, we kind of lost touch.  I was placed back into the gifted english and history classes for high school, Billy stayed in the regular classes, and I didn’t really see him again until prom where he showed up in a purple pimp suit.  I don’t think I talked to him directly that night but I remember him being particularly obnoxious.  It saddened me a little that I felt that way.  I should’ve been proud of him that he was going against the grain and being edgy, but I don’t think he was trying to be punk rock that night.  At least, not in the Fugazi way, maybe in the Blink 182 way.  Even though I was wearing a tux, complete with a boutineer, I didn’t feel like I had sold out.

It would’ve been nice to lie and talk about how Billy’s appearance at prom had reminded me of how un-punk rock I had become, but it hadn’t.  It actually made me wonder if the CD exchange from 4 years earlier, had altered both of our life journeys.  Billy went down the road of dick and fart jokes with Blink 182, while I raged with indifference against the ridiculous and unforgiving social fabric of high school society.  While I’m far from what Ian Mackaye would want me to be, he’d probably appreciate that I understand that I’m not very punk rock opposed to thinking that being juvenile and obnoxious were the ideals.

We were young, and hopefully that was the last time that Billy ever wore that outfit.  I may never see him again, but I do wish him well.  I did really like talking to him in class in 8th grade and I’ll never forget that he introduced me to a band that was much much better than Blink 18s, and for that, I will always be thankful.

I only remember one of my substitute teachers from high school and I draw the ire of my teacher friends whenever I reminisce about her in front of them.  They’re not annoyed about her faux British accent or the fact that she wore a Looney Toons sweatshirt every day she subbed at our school, they’re annoyed by the fact that she would placate us by turning on the Food Network and letting us watch Emeril Live with her instead of actually trying to teach us from a lesson plan.  Back in high school, this was the best thing ever, and as a student, I never really considered how annoyed my teachers might be when they came back and found out that we learned more about jerk chicken than anything else when we had our substitute teacher.  I didn’t know any better, I just went with the flow, and honestly I didn’t care.

High school also saw the release of one of my favorite albums of all time, Weezer’s Pinkerton.  I immediately loved it on the first listen.  The music was loud, sloppy, and goofy, but in a more sophisticated and thoughtful way than a blink 182 album.  To me, it sounded like Weezer. (even though the Blue Album is super polished and not sloppy at all) I was really surprised to see that it wasn’t doing well critically or commercially and I was really surprised to find out that some publications and DJs really hated it (yes, not just Rolling Stone‘s reader’s poll).  I wasn’t the most cerebral kid (and I’m not particularly cerebral now), so perhaps I didn’t care that the lyrics were emotionally raw, kind of creepy, and really immature, since it was released when I was 14, I was also kind of creepy, and really immature.  I thought a song like “Tired of Sex” was clever because it sort of went against the grain of being a rock star.  I didn’t know that it would become an album with a cultish following, but I totally admit that I’m one of the members.

In college, we had to read Puccini’s Madama Butterfly and when I saw it on the syllabus, I was really excited since Pinkerton‘s concept is loosely based on it.  I saw some of the connections while reading it, but I wouldn’t say that it made me enjoy Pinkerton more or less.  It was what it was.  I saw Weezer in concert later that year, I bought their next album on the day it was released, and then I eventually stopped caring about the band until they did a re-release deluxe edition of Pinkerton.

I’ve read a lot of press clippings about the re-release and how it was probably hated when it originally came out because it was an album being looked at through the lens of adult reviewers and they probably frowned upon the unfiltered sexual frustration of the lyrics.  Back in 1996, this was apparently frowned upon.  That sounds so weird to me.  I didn’t find anything particularly jarring about it as 14 year old.  It was fun loud rock music and the lyrics were kind of goofy.  Upon re-listening to it as a 28 year old adult, I can kind of see how this album could make reviewers back in the 90s uncomfortable.  It’s all about the context.

As a 14 year old, hearing a 25 year old vent about sexual frustration seemed normal – it was almost empathetic, and hearing a 25 year old sing about writing love letters with a 18 year old school girl in Japan seemed romantic, but now hearing these songs again as a 28 year make me feel a bit differently about it (not enough to change my view – I still love this album).  Obviously, at 14, I could only understand so much about it and at 28 I understand so much more.  Luckily, I heard it when I was younger so now when I look at it, I view the creepiness of it all as a piece of art.  There was nothing criminal about it, it’s just kind of tasteless at times, and that’s okay.

It’s just a reminder that how I view things change with age and perspective.  I can now understand why Pinkerton was derided back then, I can admit that Kevin Smith’s films no longer have the same impact on me as they did in college, and now I realize that my favorite substitute teacher in high school pretty much embodies all the traits of a bad sub, but the choice is still mine of how I want to remember these things.  I can still view Pinkerton as one of my favorite albums of all time, I can say that the View Askew universe has had an impact on my humor, and I can still love that sub who let us watch Food Network all those days, even though I know she would drive my friends nuts.

I casually throw out the phrase “I’m going to punch <insert name> in the face!” a lot but it’s usually said out of minor frustration and mostly as a joke.  I can only count two times in my life where I put that phrase into practice and I feel pretty justified in both instances.  The first time was when I was in 2nd grade, and a couple of kids had stolen my beanie and were playing keep away with it.  It was a cold Minnesota Day, so it was in my best interest to get my beanie back as soon as possible.  After pleading with the kids that they give it back, they refused, so I just went up to one of the kids and punched him in the face.  He got angry and tripped me and I hit the concrete pretty hard.  I got my beanie back, he got detention or suspended, and I wasn’t given much more than a warning since I was kind of fighting out of self defense.  The 2nd time I punched someone in the face isn’t as cut and dry as far as the story goes.  Did he deserve it?  I can’t say that he did.  Did he have it coming?  I at least think he did.

When we moved to San Diego, my piano lessons were right after the lessons of a kid named Kurt.  I didn’t see him much, just after his lessons and at recitals at our teacher’s house, but I thought he was a jerk.  He was arrogant and liked to make himself feel big by verbally bullying people.  He eventually quit playing piano and a couple of years later, I ended up going to the same church as him.  He wasn’t as big of a jerk at this point, but I still wasn’t his biggest fan.  I wasn’t a big fan of a lot of the kids I grew up with at church, but I definitely wasn’t excited when I found out that I’d have to see him every Sunday.  We sort of became friends out of necessity because our parents became friends.  I didn’t think he was unbearable but we were very different people.  We both started learning guitar around the same time, but quickly I realized he just wanted to learn songs to impress girls like “More Than Words”, “You Were Meant for Me” and “This Gift”, while I wanted to write my own songs and start a band.  At church, we would occasionally wrestle around because we were about the same height (I think he was a inch taller maybe, and one night), and one night I just decided that I had enough of his smack talk and overall jerkiness, so i pinned him down on the ground and pummeled his face.  Yes, I am exactly the kind of person that punches someone in the face AT CHURCH.  I’m not exactly sure if he said anything especially offensive that night, at least it was not offensive enough for me to remember.

After a barrage of punches, I let him go and he stormed out of the room.  Needless to say, he wasn’t happy.  He was gone for about 20 minutes, and I will freely take artistic liberty here to say he was gone for 20 minutes to cry, but that’s probably not the case.  I didn’t break anything or make him bleed, I’m sure I just damaged his pride.  After the incident, neither of us ever mentioned it, and our “friendship” continued like it never happened.  After high school, we went our separate ways.  I would periodically see him around when I was home for weekend in college but that eventually stopped as well. My parents would periodically give me updates on how he was doing even though I never really asked about him.  The updates mostly had to do with him trying to run one of his family’s many businesses and eventually running them into the ground.  A few months ago, they told me he was dating a girl that his parents liked, but were forbidding him to marry, because they thought she was too short.  I told my parents that if this girl was as nice and virtuous as they say she is, then his parents are fools, because he typically has terrible taste in women.  (See above about learning guitar) For the first time in my life, I felt bad for the guy.  There are valid reasons to be against a marriage, and this was definitely not one of them.  They’ve since relented and I’m happy for him.  I don’t know if he went toe to toe with his parents on the issue or if they just realized they were being silly.  I know it would be difficult for anyone to disagree with his father, a man whose reputation as a successful business man is known, not just in San Diego, but in all of Southern California, so I wouldn’t blame him if he just wilted like a flower every time he wanted to stick up for himself.  His father has casted a shadow that Kurt can’t escape, and has perhaps never tried to escape since it’s always been there.  He’s always been told that he’s going to be a businessman like his father and I don’t know if he’s ever tried to see if his passions lie elsewhere.  He’s been handed a posh life that he never asked for and was never taught to make independent choices.  Maybe that’s why, even though I’m definitely not a tough guy, I was able to pin him down and wail on his face. He was never taught to fight for anything in his life.

I went to a high school that had very few Koreans.  It had a fair amount of asians, but like I said, very few Koreans, and of those few, I believe a good amount of them were adopted Koreans who had Caucasian parents.  So, in short, the environment I grew up in for high school in San Diego was not substantially different from the environment I grew up in for elementary school in Minnesota.  There were some obvious differences of course, like I had never met a Filipino person until I moved to San Diego and I was ridiculed for saying the word “pop”.

During my senior year of high school, I ended up going to Winter Formal with one of the few Korean girls at our school.  I wasn’t on the prowl for Koreans or anything, it just kind of happened that way.  She was a junior and I didn’t know her that well, so I had never met her parents prior to picking her up for the dance.  I knew both her parents were doctors, and while that might strike fear into most 17 year olds, I actually showed up at the house quite confident.  I’ve always had a pretty good report with Korean parents even though I can’t speak the language very fluently.  I attribute this mostly to my innocent looks.  Also, since our high school had such a small population of Korean kids, I figured just the novelty of a Korean boy taking their daughter to a dance would bring them great joy.  I told my friends “I bet from this point on in her life, every time she goes to a dance/date/ or gets married to a non-Korean guy, they will ask her “what ever happened to that Ryan Pak kid?  We really liked him.”  My friends didn’t believe me.

The girl and I had a nice time at the dance but we didn’t end up dating or really hanging out after that.  I went to college and we ended up losing touch, not that we were ever particularly close to begin with.  The following summer I came home and took a summer job at Target (I had worked there the previous summer).  I was a cashier and my job was to get people out of that line as soon as possible, so I met a lot of people but most of them have been condensed into a huge blur.  So when a customer said “Well, if it isn’t Ryan Park.  It’s nice to see you again.” I was pretty confused.  I looked up and saw an older Korean woman.  She looked kind of familiar but I couldn’t put my finger on where I knew her from.  At first I assumed, that she went to my parents’ church and was friends with my Mom and Dad, but then I ruled that out, just because I would’ve been able to realize that right away.  She asked me how college was and while we made small talk, I slowly started to realize who this woman was.  She was the girl’s mother.  A year and a half after my only time meeting her (and for 5 minutes, and that’s probably an overestimation), she had remembered me.  I won’t jump to the conclusion that 10 years later, that she’d still remember me, but obviously I had made some sort of impression on her and as silly as that may seem, I can totally relate.

The previous summer at Target, I worked as the “operator”, so my duties included answering the phones and sorting clothes, since the phones are back in the fitting room area (weird, I know).  A lot of people came and went, and I would say less than 10% of people who actually tried on clothes actually bought anything.  I’d have to clean up after them after they left and sort the clothes to be re-deployed onto their clothing racks or tables.  I don’t have any horror stories from working back there, though I’m sure if I had worked there for longer than a summer, I’d probably have some.  I just remember this one customer who brought her two kids and her friend.  The customer and her friend went to the fitting room with a ton of clothes and left the 2 year old daughter in the shopping cart while her 3-4 year old brother was just standing around.  The two ladies were super loud and obnoxious while trying in their fitting room, so I tried to divert my attention to the kids, who were being absolutely neglected.

The kids were pretty well behaved, there wasn’t a crying kid that I needed to console.  The boy was pretty involved with playing with his toy but the girl looked pretty bored in the cart when she wasn’t stuffing her face with popcorn.  (She was also the most adorable kid that I had ever seen.) First I waved to her and she returned a wave to me.  Then I asked her for her name, and she said it was “Kylie”.  I think I asked her how old she was and basic questions to help pass the time until her (I presume) Mom and friend were done trying on clothes (they didn’t buy anything).  They finished and they started to whisk Kylie away, but not before she tried to offer me some of her popcorn.  I declined the offer and her mom was pretty amused that her kid had become so comfortable with me in such a short amount of time.  Kylie waved “goodbye” to me and that was the last I ever saw of her.  Ever since that chance encounter, I’ve always felt that when/if I have a daughter, I’d like to name her Kylie.  It’s probably really silly that this kid that I met once and just for a few minutes could be forever etched in my memory, but certain things stick with me and I’ve just come to accept that.  Just like that mother who remembers that Korean boy who took her Korean daughter to winter formal, I remember this little kid who offered me popcorn.  The only thing weird about these memories is that they happened at the same Target, during two different two different years, and with me working different jobs.

I’ll be the first to admit that I was pretty weird in high school, but I’m sure a lot of people will say they were weird too.  Of course, those people will talk about how much they’ve grown up and found themselves since then.  I realize I’m still pretty weird.  I really don’t think I’m that different.  I’m more mature, wiser, and more refined, sure, but I don’t think I’m a much different person from the one that I was 10 years ago, I just think my wackiness is much more appreciated now.

During my senior year of high school, I took AP Biology.  I wasn’t so much interested in biology or gaining college credits as I was about keeping my GPA high (AP classes were “weighted”, so an A = 5 points, B = 4 points, C = 3 points, etc).  I got paired up with a junior named Mike (but not the same Mike as in this story).  We were kind of an odd couple at first glance.  I was fighting senioritis, while Mike was still trying to be the best student he could be.  We actually had a lot in common though.  We were both heavily involved with our respective youth groups and both loved sports.  I think he respected my dedication to my Minnesota teams and he was a fan of anything Sacramento (which I guess is just the Kings).  So, Mike and I had a lot to talk about during classes and we generally enjoyed working together, even though I was on the lazy and unfocussed side.

I like to think that I contributed the entertainment to our lab partnership, thought I’m not sure Mike will agree with this in hindsight.  I remember making him laugh a lot in class, sometimes with wit, sometimes with absurdity.  I think the pinnacle of our time in AP Biology was when we had different microscope stations set up and I found a rolling chair.  This was during a time where the Goo Goo Dolls were at their peak and the video for “Iris” was in heavy rotation.  I never really liked the Goo Goo Dolls and their brand of inoffensive acoustic pop rock or for Johnny Reznik’s haircut, but I do vividly remember the video for “Iris” and how Reznik was in a watch tower going from telescope to telescope looking a different scenes from the movie City of Angels.  I did my best to replicate this video for Mike in class, wheeling myself from microscope singing “AND I DON’T WANT THE WORLD TO SEE ME/ ‘CUZ I DON’T THINK THAT THEY’D UNDERSTAND/ THAT EVERYTHING IS MADE TO BE BROKEN/ I JUST WANT TO KNOW WHO I AMMMMM” in a pirate voice over and over again.  My only guess on why I chose a pirate voice is because I didn’t want people to mistake me for someone who actually liked the song.  I don’t know if Mike enjoyed my rendition, but like everything else I did, I know he tolerated it.

I will in no way ever say that Mike is/was as weird as I was, and maybe he did this as a really passive aggressive gesture, but the summer after he graduated (and I finished my freshmen year of college), Mike called me and told me he was selling knives door to door as a summer job and asked if he could drop by for an hour and give me his spiel.  I was familiar with this job and I knew that he would get paid by the company whether I bought any knives or not so I told him he could drop by and we could catch up.  Unfortunately, Mike actually sincerely tried to sell me the knives and seemed disappointed when I wasn’t having any of it.  We did get to catch up so I wouldn’t say it was a wasted visit, but I remembered being pretty annoyed that he actually thought he could sell a poor 19 year old a set of pricey knives.  My diet at school was Shin Ramen and In-N-Out.  I had no needs for knives, I just needed a pot and chopsticks.  So my final answer was ‘no’ and we chatted it up for a little bit.

I found out that Mike and I have a mutual friend and I recently shared these stories about him with them.  While they aren’t shocked that I would replicate the “Iris” video while serenading Mike, they were surprised and amused to find out that their dear friend was a door to door knife salesmen for a summer, which leads me to wonder how weird I actually am if people find my behavior to be pretty consistent, or “typical”.  Isn’t it weirder when someone drastically changes or has unbelievable stories about how they used to be than to be someone who’s been the same all along?

I was at my friend’s apartment over the weekend and he had a vocoder.  I spent a good 5 minutes screaming “PA-PA-PA-PA-POKERFACE” over and over again into the mic while my friend hit random keys.  I could hear my friends laughing and I was enjoying myself as well.  I have a feeling that if Mike was there, he’d still be shaking his head in disapproval, but being amused at the same time just like he was back in high school, because I’d like to think that my serenading of people is pretty universally hilarious.  I’d like to see Mike again sometime, not just to see how much we’ve changed or to make fun of how we were in high school, but because there was definitely substance to our friendship.  If we could put up with our teen weirdnesses, songs and sales pitches, it seems like continuing our friendship as mature adults should be a walk in the park.

Growing up, I took a lot of things for granted. There’d always be toilet paper, I’d always have a laundry basket, there’d always be (unexpired) milk in the fridge. These are things that are pretty necessary (maybe not the milk) to live and are a pain when you are without them. I kind of groan when toilet paper needs to be purchased, and I was pretty infuriated when someone decided to steal my laundry basket from the laundry room a couple of months ago. While cheap, replacing some sort of laundry transport device is seriously frustrating, especially when you’re in the middle of doing your laundry.

My friend Mike grew up as a navy brat. He spent the first couple years of life in Spain and his recollection of Spain was less than glamorous. He doesn’t speak about tapas or the beautiful view. He talks about how the TV only had a couple of channels in English and how the highlight of his day was being able to watch Thundercats. (I forget whether he had to watch it in Spanish or not.)

He moved to the States and went to school. His family was financially in good shape, they were a pretty American household. 4 bedrooms, 3 kids, a couple of cars, they were middle class, if not upper middle class. They had cable TV, computers, video games, all the things a teenage boy would want, except one thing: a microwave.

We were probably 13 or 14 years old at the time when Mike told me about how his family was researching various microwaves. He was absolutely giddy about it, like if a kid were to get a new bike, or a new video game. I’m not sure why this family had been sans microwave for so long; they could definitely afford it. I don’t recall any stories about how the old one crapped out, or how they had a toaster oven instead, they just didn’t have a microwave but now for some reason felt that they needed one. How they were able to manage without one for so long never really popped up in my adolecent brain, but now that I think about it, is pretty impressive.

So on one glorious fateful day, I came over to Mike’s house and there was a microwave, and Mike wanted to make me something using said microwave. Sounds weird, I know, but since I knew how much the microwave meant to him, I obliged and told him that I would like some nachos. It was something easy, and something that would ideally be made in a microwave. So he piled a bunch of chips on a plate and put some cheese (those weird liquidy Velveeta cheese slices, which probably barely qualify as cheese) on top, threw the plate in the microwave and let his new prized possession do the rest.

We sat down to watch some TV and Mike beamed with excitement. The microwave had made him into a new man. The microwave beeped to let us know it was done and Mike brought me back my nachos. Unfortunately, the microwave’s nacho auto-cooking auto setting didn’t know how to handle Velveeta cheese and ended up burning my nachos. I had never encountered burnt nachos before then, so I chose to ridicule Mike. He blamed his failure on his inexperience with microwaves and vowed to do a better job in the future.

I think we both learned a valuable lesson that day. No matter how high tech the device, common sense will always be needed and that should never be taken for granted.

(This Story Was Originally Written On 8/28/08)

I hated high school even before I enrolled in high school. Part of my hatred stemmed from the angst that I had from my move to San Diego in 6th grade, and part of it was my sister telling me that high school was full of back stabbing insecure idiots. The fact that I was going to school with a bunch of affluent kids probably certainly didn’t help matters, and this was long before I realized that I actually didn’t come from a poor family, my parents just liked to make me think that was the case.

Whenever I tell someone that grew up in California that I moved from Minnesota, they tend to think that I must be ecstatic that I’m here, and that’d I’d be insane if I ever wanted to leave. Perhaps I’d agree with them if I didn’t move to the community of San Diego that I moved to, where it was just beginning to be developed and where everything was built on a hill. So pretty much, the deck was stacked against me and I was stuck to toil for 4 years before I was, more or less saved by Orange County (which I’ve since realized is full of its own faults).

I tend to think I’d be happier going to high school in Minnesota even though the suburb I grew up in was starting to unravel as we left. I figured that at some point, I would’ve been sent to the same private school as Bruce, but my sister points out I would’ve gone to the same private school that she went to, which is one I didn’t want to go to (her graduating class had 7 people in it), if I didn’t go to the local public school. It was moot, but it was something I contemplated while I sat around this brand spanking new high school (7 years old when I enrolled in it).

I had absolutely no school spirit. I didn’t goto football games, tried to ditch pep rallys, and didn’t try to help fund raise for our class. But my list of extra curriculars, on the other hand, is pretty embarrassing: Academic Decathlon, Academic League, Science Olympiad, Key Club, History Club, and probably a few more that I can’t remember. The only thing that was missing was the Bombardment Society. How I was able to balance these while ditching school to goto Jack in the Box is pretty impressive, in my humble opinion. I attended every meeting that I could, even though I couldn’t make them all since they often overlapped. Still these activities were not enough for me. I felt like I needed something to put me over the top, and I finally found something, a music reviewing site.

My friend Ted and I decided to make an online “zine” where we’d review music and book interviews. He designed a nice looking site and it was able to land us an interview with Low, a band that I was (and still am) a big fan of. After landing Low, we’d e-mail other bands about interviews, name dropping Low to give us some credibility, and surprisingly it worked. Elf Power, Super Furry Animals, Creeper Lagoon, Mike Watt, Jets to Brazil and Sense Field eventually said “yes” to us, and we ended up wrapping up our site with an interview with Death Cab for Cutie.

I’m pretty sure the ‘zine didn’t get me far (or at least into Cornell or Northwestern, which is what I was aiming for) and I burned out on the music ‘zine sometime into my 2nd year of college. I felt like I couldn’t enjoy music as much as a reviewer, and I couldn’t enjoy concerts because I’d be so stressed thinking of how I was going to write up the interview. (Perhaps this is why Pitchfork seems so grouchy all the time.) I don’t regret giving it a shot, especially since there was barely any financial investment on my end. From learning about Alan and Mimi of Low going to their high school homecoming dance together, to Mike Watt telling me about his Dad thinking that being in a punk band made Mike a communist, I learned a lot behind these people that I admired so dearly. I still to this day see the fingerprints of these artists over my life. I even realize that a screenplay I’ve written pretty much embodies the principles of a song that Blake Schwarzenbach wrote (Boxcar, yeah I know it’s the popular Jawbreaker song, but whatevs). (Writer’s note: don’t know who Blake is? Look up “underrated” in the dictionary. He was also the lead singer of Jawbreaker and Jets to Brazil). I’m glad to see that a lot of them have found success and hopefully one day will know that their stories have inspired me to tell mine.