Ryan and the Technicolor Wardrobe
Short Stories and Essays

Lets start with a simple SAT exercise.

Marge Simpson: Casinos :: My mother: ________
A) The Farmers Market
B) Garage Sales
C) The Mall
D) Church

In Season 5 of The Simpsons (don’t ask me the episode number, I am too lazy to research this, and not a big enough nerd to know this off the top of my head), Mr. Burns opens a casino and Marge becomes addicted to gambling. Homer explains to Lisa that “The only monster here is the gambling monster that has enslaved your mother! I call him Gamblor, and it’s time to snatch your mother from his neon claws!” While this monster is obviously supposed to be an exageration, I do believe that there is something that takes over my mother the instant she walks into the mall. Once she enters those doors, you cannot be sure whether she’ll ever walk out and if you are foolish enough to follow her, your life will also be in danger.

Now I know what you’re thinking, “you hate shopping with your mom because you’re a boy and you’re exagerating.” Not true. I have four sisters, all whom love to shop. They all can’t stand shopping with my mom. They all have horror stories of losing her, my mom not meeting them at specified times (my mom wears a watch, by the way, so she really has no excuses), and my mom not answering her cell phone. It’s really the thing that my sisters loathe the most when they’re back home for the holidays.

Not that they’ve ever had it bad as me. At least they’ve never been told to stay in the car for “ten minutes” while my mom walked into Brookdale mall for about half an hour (would’ve been longer if it wasn’t closing time) in the freezing Minnesota cold without a heater. I was probably five at the time and while this sounds totally barbaric, I think times were a bit different back then, so please don’t call Social Services. I would never accuse my mom of being negligent, in fact, she’s pretty much the opposite but that’s another story (my first day of college).

So my sisters have all tried to devise ways to make shopping with my mom into an enjoyable experience. As far as I know, they’ve failed. When my mom was in Oregon (writers note: 0% sales tax is pretty sweet) visiting my sister, my sister lost her at the mall while going with her kids to pay for some earings. It turns out that my mom slipped in to a fitting room while my sister was gone, and you know, didn’t call her to let her know or anything. My mom is a department store ninja.

What has made this more difficult in recent years is the addition of grandchildren to the equation.  Now my mother has more options than just shopping for herself (petites), men (my father and myself), women (my sisters) and jewelry (herself).  Now she has grandchildren between the ages of 1 and 12 years old to shop for.  Instead of being confined to just a few different sections in the department store, my mother could conceivably be anywhere.  It also means she has more stores to check out when she hits the mall, which means she has more “hiding places” to sneak in and out of.

My other sister has decided to accept my mother for who she is, with alterior motives. She goes shopping with Mom with full knowledge that the scene will play out like this: they will arrive at the mall, my mom will promise my sister they will only be there for a short while, my mom will say she’s almost done when she’s totally not, my sister will get frustrated and angry, and then my mom will buy her something to calm her down. My sister is thirty four years old.

I, on the otherhand, have decided to be creative about this dilemma. My theory is that you have to take my mom shopping somewhere that is foreign to her, and I don’t just mean that you should take her to a mall she’s never been to before. A lot of malls are designed pretty similarly (like if they’re designed by the Westfield Company), it doesn’t matter if they’re indoor or outdoor, they have the same stores, and they all come with a map to help you find your way. They’ve designed to be convenient, to trap people like my mom, but not the shops on Melrose.

The shops on Melrose Ave. are just that, shops that are spread out on a street on Hollywood. there’s no map, and this street stretches out for miles. There’s no elevator or escalator (of course my mom is kind of scared of these), and no map. Heck, there’s a good chance you don’t know what half these stores sell until you walk inside. The stores are all one floor and they’re much smaller than the a typical store in the mall. There are no department stores and usually these places charge you an arm and a leg because these are mostly speciality boutiques.  At one point the Bathing Ape store sold toilet paper at $35 a roll.  I didn’t buy one, but I’m sure there were plenty of people who did.

So my plan is to take my mom to these shops on Melrose and to take her to some stores that I know she’d enjoy browsing at like the Marc Jacobs store. My mom is pretty afraid of Los Angeles in general so I don’t think she’ll wander off too far without me and since the shops are small, I should be able to recognize if she’s making a break for the door. The tempo of the day should be controlled by the small amount of stock in the stores, and by the fact that we’ll have to drive around a little bit. I think my plan will be successful though my sisters think that like all our other plans, this one will fail. I hope not, but if it does, I guess my mom will be buying me some new stuff to calm down so it’s a win-win situation for me.

Sometimes I’ll go to the mall and see a group of teens and wonder if the kids these are days are getting uglier or if just looking ugly is the new trend.  I definitely didn’t look like that and neither did anyone I went to high school with.  From the hair style to the make up to the clothes, if these kids weren’t actually ugly, they were trying their hardest to look ugly.  I never thought I would lose touch with what’s cool with kiddies so quickly, if at all.  I was not going to grow old, I was going to age gracefully and still be hip.

This was my plan for the future and it seemed completely feasible, but then I found out, that at the age of 26, I’m already out of touch. My dreams of being super cool dad on day went down the toilet at a rave.
Now to clarify, if someone asked me “Do you want to go to a rave?” I wouldn’t even need a second to think about my answer, which would be an emphatic “No!” So how did I end up at a rave? Easy. You call this “rave” a festival, and you advertise that The Roots, Reflection Eternal, and Chromeo are all performing. I’ve seen The Roots live more than any other artist and tend to catch them whenever I can.
So this festival is called Audiotistic, and I did know beforehand that it was considered a rave, but I figured that if we stayed in the hip-hop room (which was actually an outdoor stage, which was a very pleasant surprise – hip hop shows are notorious for reeking of weed), we wouldn’t really have to deal with the raver kids. Not that I expected any trouble from anyone, I’m just not part of the scene. They could enjoy their techno and glow sticks, and I could enjoy The Roots.
So my friend Beverly and I arrived in San Bernardino and saw a flock of people heading toward the venue. Some of the kids were dressed pretty normally (for going to a concert) and then there were some kids, who were dressed a little more festively, which is a gross understatement. I thought I kind of knew what to expect wardrobe wise from these raver kids. Bright colored clothing, perhaps some colorful jewelry, (you know, things that I wear on an daily basis). To my surprise, ravers these days (guys and girls) prefer to wear as little clothing as possible, except for the boots with the fur (minus the apple bottom jeans).

To be more specific, girls would show up in bikinis, with huge pink furry boots, and Hello Kitty backpacks, along with the aforementioned glow sticks and jewelry. Guys, likewise, would show up in nothing but speedos, backpacks, but without boots. Now, I’ve never been to a rave before, but I’ve been told this new wardrobe ensemble is a fairly new thing to rave culture. These people looked young, like in the 16-20 year old range, so it wasn’t exciting for me to see these scantily clad girls prancing around, it just made me feel creepy and dirty.  Obviously these kids didn’t leave the house looking like that, or least I hope not.  No sane parent would be okay with their kid dressing like that and heading out to the boonies for a “concert”, right?

Honestly, I shouldn’t care.  What these teens were doing was none of my business.  They weren’t ruining my experience when I was watching the actual performances and they weren’t really ruining my time there in between performances.   I’m sure they were doing illegal things, but it none of my concern and honestly not anything unusual (probably a lot less ecstacy though).  I was starting to see things through the eyes of a parent, which was something I was not expecting at all.  For the first time, I felt there was a huge divide at a concert and I didn’t like that feeling at all.  Concerts were supposed to a safe haven of sorts, where people of all ages could experience music and feel connected, but this night you only seemed connected if you were rolling.  The rest of us were horrified on the outside looking in.

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

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

I spent my childhood in Minnesota, which has the nickname, The State of Hockey. I grew up a Gopher/North Stars/High School Hockey fan. It was a great time to be a hockey fan. The North Stars played in the Stanley Cup Finals in ’91 (unfortunately they relocated a couple of years later), we were still basking in the glow of Herb Brooks’ victory over the Russians in 1980, and I was part of some sort of hockey marketing revolution known as The Mighty Ducks. The first film takes place in Minnesota and the kids go to a Minnesota North Stars game. It was a complete coincidence that I was there with my parents.  We saw cameras and lighting crews in a different section an later found out that Disney was filming a movie there were going to call  Bombay. (Terrible right?)

I moved to San Diego at the end of ’93. San Diego had a hockey team known as the Gulls. I don’t think they exist anymore and I think calling them a minor league team would be giving them too much credit. So basically, I was resigned to watching hockey on TV until I moved up to Orange County for college (and for some reason I haven’t left). So guess who plays in Orange County? That’s right! The Ducks (no longer Mighty). It’s the circle of life.

I’ve been going to a lot of games the last couple of seasons because my friend Jessica has season tickets. We watch them fight, and fight, and fight and fight and fight, and sometimes a hockey game breaks out. The games are entertaining, but what we find more entertaining is introducing people new to hockey what the Ducks experience is all about. See, if you go to enough games, you realize some things, like it’s the same people singing the national anthem before the games over and over again. There’s also the “goal” song. Whenever the Ducks score, you hear the chorus of “Bro Hymn” by Pennywise, which they use even though it’s a tribute to friends who have died in the past. (I just looked this up) The song features a wordless chorus, unless you consider “Whoa whoa oh oh, whoa oh, whoa oh oh” actual lyrics.  From children who were probably born after “Bro Hymn” was recorded, to the old man who screams “Lets go Duck!” at the top of his lungs while wearing a NoFX shirt over his jersey, people are standing up belting out this chorus over and over again at the top of their lungs.

There’s also the phenomenon that is the DiPenta Lady (Lets use DL for short). The last couple of seasons the Ducks have had a player named Joe DiPenta. He’s known to most Ducks fans as the worst player on the team who must have blackmail worthy pictures of their coach to be on the team. Not too flattering, to say the least. There’s this lady (an older lady, in her 40s at least) in this section that we used to sit in, that would wear a DiPenta jersey and would look through a scrapbook of DiPenta pictures with the aid of a magnifying glass. She’s there every game, even this season though he’s not on the team anymore, but she still has her scrapbook and DiPenta jersey. Apparently Joe plays here now and apparently DL has purchased his jersey from that team and wears it occasionally (Jessica has seen it, I have not).

Ducks fans are a rowdy bunch.  I’ve been cussed at in the bathroom for wearing my Minnesota Wild jersey at a regular season game when nothing was on the line.  When the refs enter the rink, they enter through a tunnel constructed to keep fans from pelting them with various objects.  So since the refs are protected, the fans choose to verbally abuse the refs with boos and various expletives.  Referees are pretty unpopular in any sport and with any crowd so I thought the the booing and the tunnel were pretty standard at any arena around the country.  I was wrong.  I recently caught an LA Kings game at the Staples Center and there was no tunnel to be found.  What was even more strange was the fact that there was no tunnel needed.  At the game, it was announced that one of the referees that day was retiring at the end of the season.  Was he showered with boos or mocking cheers?  No.  He was given a standing ovation.

I guess the difference in arena atmosphere wasn’t a huge surprise (the Ducks are typically the most penalized team in the league), but I guess the contrast was magnified since these two arenas are within a 45 mile radius of each other.  The Ducks have come along way since dropping the “Mighty” from their title as well as their squeaky clean image, culminating in a Stanley Cup championship in 2006.  The Kings haven’t been to the finals since ’93 (where they lost to Montreal, the last time a Canadian team has won it all), and are currently in a rebuilding phase.  There are two kinds of hockey fans: the ones that love crisp passing and smooth skating and the ones that love the blood and the guts.  Luckily for Southern California fans, when it’s hockey night in California, you can have you choice with either the rough and tumble Ducks, or up and coming Kings.