Ryan and the Technicolor Wardrobe
Short Stories and Essays

If you are a male that is even remotely interested in sports, I think it’s inevitable that you will be asked by another male the question of “If you could be any professional athlete, who would you be?” It’s like a guy to guy ice breaker. Unfortunately, more often to not, the response to the question gives you very little insight into the other person, so it’s actually a terrible ice breaker. Usually the guy picks an elite athlete from his favorite sport and that’s the only criteria he uses. It doesn’t really tell you much about how they think other than the fact that they think a guy is really good.

Living in Southern California, I would expect most guys to say Kobe Bryant, which is honestly a really boring answer. He’s an elite basketball player for the local Los Angeles Lakers basketball team, but other than his little run in with the law in Colorado, there’s not much to Kobe other than the fact that he’s really good at putting an orange ball through a hoop. LeBron James is another boring answer. He’s younger and has the potential to be better than Kobe. He makes Tiger Woods-esque endorsement money, which is really impressive, but moot at the same time since any elite pro athlete you choose probably makes more money than you could possibly spend (unless you decide to buy a lot of crack).

Sometimes you’ll get a response that actually *might* give you insight into a person. If a guy picks Tom Brady, who has quarterbacked the New England Patriots to multiple championships, he may also want to be Tom Brady because it is a known fact that Tom Brady has slept with multiple super models (so he’s horny). If a guy picks David Beckham, it might be because he’s married to Posh Spice or because David Beckham is the only soccer player that the typical American can recognize (he’s starved for attention and kind of a poseur).

So when this question comes around to me, I’m sure most guys expect this answer out of me: Joe Mauer. Joe Mauer was born and raised in Minnesota, was a two-sport star in high school, got drafted 1st overall by the Minnesota Twins, won a batting title and could very well be on his way to the hall of fame. If you lived in Minnesota and he slept with your wife, you’d almost have to feel honored. His career was my childhood dream, so it makes perfect sense that people would think that this is how I would think .

Unfortunately it’s not. Perhaps it’s because of the indepedent rock/hip-hop I listen to, but I tend to eschew from the obvious, even for something as trivial as this. My answer is simply this: I’d want to be Shane Lechler. If you do not know who Shane Lechler is, it is not because he is a mediocre professional athlete. On the contrary, he is an all-pro. His wikipedia site says he’s been the best at what he does since he entered the NFL in 2000. Shane Lechler is an all-pro punter.

Most guys will assume I’m joking. Being a punter is a pretty thankless job, there’s no glory to it. Fans hate it when their punter comes on the field because it means that the offense failed in moving the ball down the field and won’t be scoring any points. The punter coming onto the field is like getting notice that you’re going to be audited by the IRS. It’s just bad news.

But when thinking about who I’d want to be, it’s not what you think as a fan, or at least it shouldn’t be. I wouldn’t want to be Kobe because he has been branded a cheater and I’m sure his marriage is really awkward. I wouldn’t want to be LeBron because he has to spend so much time promoting Sprite and the five million other things he endorses. At least as Shane Lechler, I could probably walk into the market and be left alone.

No one wants a punter’s autograph and you never see a punter on a billboard. And don’t for a second think the the guy is hurting for money. He gets paid 1.5 million per season AND he gets a paid trip to Hawaii every year for being a pro-bowl punter. How sweet is that? Not to mention the fact that he can walk around downtown San Francisco totally anonymous and enjoy some amazing clam chowder in a bread bowl on the pier. Sure he doesn’t make Kobe money, but he also doesn’t have to constantly deal with being under the microscope.

I don’t want this to sound like I want to be a punter because it’s easy. It’s not, but as a punter, there are rules in place to prevent you from getting injured. This is very important to me. While punting the ball, opposing players will be penalized if they run into or tackle you. While it’s completely fine for them to hit a running back so hard that his helmet pops off, or hit a wide receiver while he’s in the air causing him to flip and land on his head, it’s not okay to hit a punter or a kicker while he’s in the kicking motion. Not to say that you’ll never get hurt, but it seems less likely. Many football players will suffer injuries that will stay with them the rest of their lives. This is also true of a lot of sports. Do you want to live the rest of your life with a metal plate in your hip or a rod in your leg? Do you want have to ice your knees constantly?

As a punter you also don’t have to deal with injuring your ego. Kickers have the pressure of winning games. Punters don’t win games (directly) and usually don’t lose games (directly), but kickers week in and week out are being blamed for a win or a loss, and because of this, kickiers are usually on a short leesh. Miss a big kick in a big game? Find a new employer. While Kobe and LeBron have job security if they miss a big shot, it must suck to turn on ESPN and see guys talking about how you choked 24/7.

I must admit being Shane Lechler is kind of a guilty pleasure. Punters aren’t typically expected to make tackles but if they do, they totally emasculate the guy they tackled. If you tackle a guy, he is immediately a pussy. How many jobs give you the ability to emasculate your opponent? If you find one, let me know, but until then, I’ll be dreaming of punting and the 1.5 million amazing perks that come with it.

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.

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.

When I was 9 years old, I fell and needed stitches in my forehead. The fall was somewhere between 5-10 feet off the ground and I was knocked unconscious. I’m not sure how long I was out, I just know I came to while being carried to my parents’ car. I never opened my eyes because I knew something bad had happened and didn’t think seeing the aftermath would’ve helped my psyche. So actually, I never saw what required stitches, but since I never had stitches before, I assumed it was pretty grisly.

It was probably for the best that a 9 year old me never saw my head split open. Obviously the scar was a reminder that *something* happened but since I was unconscious/had my eyes closed/, I luckily don’t have recurring nightmares about the incident. The scar hasn’t gone away but it doesn’t stick out like an eye sore. My parents would like me to get it removed via plastic surgery but I haven’t had the time or the money to do it , plus chicks dig scars.

Honestly, the scar is kind of an afterthought for me and so when it’s brought up, it’s usually not a big deal. Usually…

Occasionally someone who I’ve known for sometime will freak out and say “Oh my God, where did you get that?!” or “What happened to you?!” and I will have no idea what they’re talking about. If they were someone I had never met before, I might have a better understanding that they’re talking about my scar. But since I will occasionally get this response from someone that I’d previously known, I will panic, since it doesn’t register in my brain that they might be talking about the scar. I don’t blame them for not seeing the scar (it’s not that big), I just wish they would temper their reaction or be more specific in what they’re talking about. “What’s happened to your head?!” can easily be taken the wrong way, like if I had just gotten a haircut.

Of course when an ex-girlfriend of mine sees the scar for the first time a year after our breakup, that brings up some serious questions. Now, I must say, we dated for a very short time, but the fact that she never noticed my scar in that short time is quite alarming. It’d be understandable if she had forgotten about the scar, but it’s another thing to completely to act like I had gotten the scar sometime after the breakup. It’s okay if colleagues and acquaintances don’t realize you have braces, but it’s not okay if your ex-girlfriend doesn’t realize you have a pretty noticeable scar on your head. Perhaps my expectations are too high for girlfriends, but I think it’s fair to think she’d notice something pretty unique on my forehead.

I found this out when Bruce flew into town for a visit. I hadn’t seen him in 6-7 years and I decided to call up the ex to see if she wanted to meet my best friend who lived across the country. So we decided to grab lunch with my friend Phil, and at this lunch she decided to freak out about the scar. Upon hearing this revelation, Bruce gave me a look. I can’t replicate this look (I don’t think he can either), but I clearly read “so this is your ex-girlfriend?” and immediately became embarrassed. So on a whim, I bitterly muttered, “Bruce cut me. That’s what happened.” Bruce decided to play along and quickly retorted “You deserved it.” and we quickly turned the story of the scar into a soap opera and at one point my ex pleaded for us to forgive each other since we had not seen each other in seven years.

After a few hours of bickering, we finally let her know we never engaged in a knife fight with each other and she was upset that we had been toying with her. I think she chased me around Borders for a while screaming. In the end, she let bygones be bygones and I finally told her the real story behind the scar. I don’t remember her reaction to the truth, but I imagine it was pretty unsatisfying. I haven’t talked to her for a while and she’s kind of notorious for having a bad memory so it’s possible that one day, I might run into her somewhere and she might ask me if someone busted my head open since the last time she saw me, and I’d tell her “my best friend cut me in a knife fight.” because I think we’d both be happier with the lie.