Ryan and the Technicolor Wardrobe
Short Stories and Essays

“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’m a pretty religious man, while Chris is pretty much on the agnostic side. Well, Chris is just kind of apathetic towards life in general, so I’m not quite sure he believes anything exists these days, but what I am sure about, is that he would agree with me that God has quite a sense of humor. If he didn’t, why would The Wiltern be smack in the middle of what is now known as Korea Town?

The Wiltern is a historic theater, and even if it wasn’t surrounded by all things Korean, would still be one of my favorite places to see a show.  Everyone from Brian Wilson to The Streets has performed there and it’s always been a great experience.  What enhances the experience even more for Chris and myself is the fact that we get to eat a pretty delicious meal beforehand.  In a way, I feel like the Wiltern was made for us, a couple on Korean-American indie rock loving kids, and since we don’t live in Los Angeles, don’t get tired of either The Wiltern or the Korean food that Korea Town has to offer.  It’s our home away from home.

Now Chris and I are far from fluent in Korean, but we know how to order food, and we definitely know what food is good.  Unfortunately for the hipster crowd, Korean food isn’t really in vogue (with the exception of the BBQ, which is always in vogue for the gluttons) so unless you know someone who is an expert on Korean food (most likely a Korean), it can be rather intimidating.  So when they arrive to the Wiltern early, they’re usually searching for the nearest Subway or McDonalds, or a place that seems friendly to those who only speak and understand English.  They’re easy to spot with their confused looks, unkempt hair, and skinny jeans.  It’s understandable.  I’d never go into a place where I or anyone in my party, couldn’t read the signs or the menus.    Plus with all the smelly cabbage and spicy tofu, I’m not sure that what a Korean food virgin wants to eat right before bouncing up and down to Animal Collective.

Chris and I usually eat at BCD Tofu house (spicy Korean tofu soup) and now there’s Mr. Pizza Factory, a Korean pizza place.  What’s makes the pizza Korean?  Sweet potato paste in the outer crust and some gourmet combonations (seafood, baked potato theme, etc). It’s definitely not for the health conscious, though probably healthier than eating pounds of short ribs in one sitting.  It can give you a pretty serious case of food coma, but that’s a story for another time.

The last time Chris and I were at the Wiltern for a show was for Death Cab for Cutie on the Transatlanticism “victory lap” tour.  We went to BCD and ate tofu with a side of short ribs.  This was the 2nd time I had seen Death Cab for Cutie, but the first time at The Wiltern.  This was almost 5 years ago, we barely still qualified as student (Chris was finishing up, I had one class to complete), and Death Cab for Cutie was just starting their ascent to the mainstream.  This wasn’t the last time that I saw the band in concert (Bridge School, 2006), but it’s the last time that I’ve been to the Wiltern. Coincidentally enough, the first time I caught the band, they played at the El Rey, which is also in Korean Town, and guess what I had that night?  Korean food!  Too bad Chris Walla is a vegetarian.  I bet he’d really like Korean short ribs.

Chris and I will be going back to The Wiltern tonight to see Grizzly Bear for the first time.  I can’t promise that we’ll be blown away by the band tonight (but I’m sure we will), but I can promise that after 5 years, we will go through the same routine of eating a hearty Korean meal before heading to the show, and it will feel just like it did 5 years ago, and it’ll feel eerily familiar.  Perhaps we’re more in tune with our culture than we like to let on.  I guess Korea Town really is kind of a home away from home for Korean, even ones like Chris and me.

So the story goes, on the third day, Jesus rose again from the dead, and this marked history’s first reunion tour. Like many of his ideas, they were ahead of his time, so it wasn’t really until Coachella started paying bands boatloads of cash to get back together that people realized that you’re usually more popular when you get back together than when you were in your prime. The Pixies played small clubs broke up and when they got back together, started playing filled amphitheaters. Other than licensing “Where is My Mind?” for the Fight Club soundtrack, they did very little directly to make themselves popular. Like a chia pet, they just let their legend grow.

The Pixies aren’t the first band to cash in on the reunion circuit, but they’re probably the first band that saw their fan base exponentially grow the second time around. Groups like Simon and Garfunkel and Fleetwood Mac have been cashing in for years, but they had huge followings, the Pixies did not. So recently a lot of not-so-popular bands have been cashing in, like My Bloody Valentine, Dinosaur Jr. and… The Get Up Kids.

If we were playing a game of “One of These Things is Not Like the Other” with a hipster douche bag, and I listed The Pixies, My Bloody Valentine, Dinosaur Jr., and The Get Up Kids, the hipster would immediately single out The Get Up Kids. The Pixies influenced Nirvana, and Nirvana in turn changed the modern rock landscape. My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless has inspired everyone from Radiohead to the Smashing Pumpkins. J. Mascis of Dinosaur Jr. is revered as one of the great guitarists of this generation and Nike gave him his own shoe. Unfortunately, The Get Up Kids don’t have a glorious resume. Fall Out Boy seems to love them, but I’m not sure that this is something the band is proud of. See, The Get Up Kids unknowingly helped usher in the emo craze even though they themselves weren’t a big fan of the genre. When they tried to become more artsy, all but two of their fans revolted. Those two fans were Chris and I. (Actually it’s 3, my old roommate Patrick also didn’t mind the new direction, but it’s a better story if it’s just Chris and I). We caught them on their last tour (they unfortunately played their last show the day before my birthday) and we begrudgingly moved on.

Then they decided to get back together 5 years later. Was their rejoicing? Not really.

I didn’t even check on the dates of the tour. I wasn’t upset, I just felt like I had closure with the band. It wasn’t until Chris called me asking me if I wanted to head up to LA to try to catch them, that I even considered trying to catch them. I was on my way down to San Diego to see my parents, and it was reported that the LA show was sold out, so I told Chris we should try to catch them the next day at the Bamboozle Fest in Irvine. They would be playing a shorter set but the LA show was sold out, which in my mind made a potential trip to LA not worth it. Also, the added fact that Chris could get us into Bamboozle for free pretty much sealed the deal.

Chris gave me the set times Saturday afternoon, and luckily, The Get Up Kids weren’t scheduled to hit the stage until 8:30pm, so I had plenty of time to make it to Irvine from San Diego. When I arrived, Chris and I started our trek out to the stages, which were side by side. A band by the name of Metro Station was in the middle of their set while The Get Up Kids were setting up on their stage. There were about 30 people already waiting for The Get Up Kids. I would say they were in their mid to late twenties and even possibly their early 30s, and much better dressed than the fans on the other side, dancing to Metro Station in their Hot Topic clothes, spiked belts and skinny jeans. Also while The Get Up Kids fans had rimmed glasses, they were not wearing any mascara.

Have you heard of Metro Station, the band that is fronted by Hannah Montana’s brother and her co-star’s brother? They even say they’re from Hollywood, not from LA. Classy. After dropping a slew of F-bombs, they ripped into their Myspace hit “17 Again”. While this train wreck was going on, we saw Matt Prior take pictures of the fans waiting from the stage, and we saw the rest of the Midwestern rock outfit, The Get Up Kids, get ready for action.

They came out in t-shirts, flannel shirts, jeans, just like they did 5 years ago, looking like normal people, probably a little shocked by what “emo” looked like today.  (Side note: my friend Barrett, age 21, tells me I’m from an older generation even though I’m only 6 years older than him.  If this is true, Barrett, this is your generation.  I call it the “Hot Topic and Mascara generation”.)  Bassist, Rob Pope, was the best dressed out of the bunch, Chris and I attribute that to him now being in Spoon, a much more profitable band. Actually, Chris attributes this to Britt Daniel dressing Rob, but as of now, this cannot by confirmed by the band’s publicist at press time.

The band opened with “Holiday” and the set went according to plan. They played the fan favorites, they told the Fall Out Boy fans to shove it, and us older fans sang along, as did most of the people watching from the side of the stage. Their set was a bit shorter than if they were playing a club (about an hour opposed to an hour and a half), but they played long enough to make us remember why we loved them so dearly. The band seemed to be enjoying themselves even though knowing that a lot of the kids at the festival had no idea who they were, and were perhaps amused that they indirectly were responsible for this emo explosion. They probably didn’t really win over any new fans, but they reminded the few and faithful fans that had come out, why everyone thought they were going to be the next big thing around the turn of the millennium. I would use the cliché that they brought us back to a better time, but that would be false. Adolescence was a very bizarre time.

I’m not sure if we ended up getting that nostaligic rush that a Simon and Garfunkel, or a Van Halen would bring to long time fans.  Perhaps it’s because we weren’t watching them in some massive amphitheatre or because it had only been 5 years since the break up opposed to 20.  Or maybe it’s because there wasn’t some huge drama with the band.  No one was really fired, no weren’t any massive ego trips, the break up wasn’t announced over a fax.  The lead singer quit because he wanted to be home with his kid(s).  Maybe that’s what’s wrong with the music industry these days.  There’s not enough drama.  While it’s good for the emotional health of these bands that they’re not publically crucifiying each other, it’s going to hurt their pocketbooks in the end.  People love a huge spectacle before they see a resurrection.  Just ask Jesus.

I’ve never been on a blind date. I’ve been rejected more times than I’d like to admit, but none of my rejections have come via a blind date or by being setup via a friend or family member. I’m not sure if I would take the opportunity if it ever came up, not because I think it’s weird or because I look down on it, I just think that it’s not the best environment for me to showcase myself as an interesting person to be in a relationship with. There’s a weird expectation that comes with being setup with someone you’ve never met, whether it be via a close friend or eHarmony, that would stress me out, like if I’m not compatible with the person, that would make me believe that something was wrong with me. “eHarmony said we’re compatible but I’m pretty sure she thinks I’m a dick!” Being set up is kind of weird because if you fail, you feel like you’re failing your friend, or you feel like your friend doesn’t know you at all, or is a total prick playing a prank on you, and perhaps all of the above.

Plus, I kind of like to find out that I have common interests with people organically so I find them as a pleasant surprises. I like the exercise of seeing how many times I can say “me too!” in a conversation and be sincere about it. In all honesty, there’s something really rewarding when you finally “click” with someone that cannot be replicated by anything else.  Being set up or using a dating service seems to take away that feeling.  “Yeah I know we have that in common.  It was on your profile” or “Of course I know that, our mutual friend told me that’s why I should go on this date with you” just don’t do it for me.  I prefer to figure these commonalities out on my own, but I must admit watching a blind date from a distance is WAY fun.

In sophomore year of college, I ate out a lot with my friend Phil, (now of Percolator fame). We didn’t veer off to many exotic places, usually settling for the cheap and the convenient (ignorance on our part). One place we often ate at was a Thai restaurant, Thai Spice, which wasn’t exactly fast food, but not fancy either, so we were surprised to be sitting next to a couple on their first (blind) date on a Friday night.  We didn’t want to be rude, but there weren’t any other places to sit at and we didn’t know they were on a first date, or a date at all, and certainly didn’t care. We had other things to talk about (nothing of incredible importance that I can remember) and we were very good at entertaining ourselves, but at one point we grew silent, not because we didn’t have things to talk about, but because the conversation next to us became so entertainingly painful.

“So I like to go to concerts.”
“Oh cool.”
“So there’s the band you go to see, and then there’s a band before that.”
“That’s called an opening act.”
“So the opening act goes on for like half an hour before the main band goes on.”

And at one point the girl had a really awkward realization and said to him “I think you’ve been talking this entire time.” and I’m not sure how Phil and I were able to keep our composure and return to our conversation. Obviously going on a date is difficult and I’m sure most guys look like asses when they’re the one in the middle of it, I’m sure I’m no better.  When you’re looking for that one thing to make the conversation flow, you feel like you’re treading water, and inside you’re panicking.  You start to look for a clever story you can share or you just start throwing things at the wall, hoping for something to stick.  Unfortunately, this girl did not want to throw him the life raft, and he floundered right in front of an audience of two.  I’m not saying he deserved to be saved, but at least he didn’t ask her about her favorite color.

It made me feel  for the guy and made me wonder why humans have to be so complex, why we need dating services and our friends to set us up with their friends. Why can’t we just be like the animals and smell each others’ butts and have the females present themselves when they’re ready? Wait, that’s called a dive bar. Nevermind. I’m signing up for eHarmony right now.

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

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