Ryan and the Technicolor Wardrobe
Short Stories and Essays

If my life were a sitcom, Chris would be a reoccurring character that would show up a couple of times each season when there was a need for some laughs.  You can tell that there’s a relationship between this his character and my character, but you aren’t given the whole back story on it.  Also this reoccurring character doesn’t usually seem to move the story along, the episode is usually in a vacuum.   Not to say, Chris’ only purpose in my life is to serve up laughs, but it may appear that way to people on the outside.  He and I are definitely close (as I’ve documented in previous adventures), but he often “falls off the map”.  At one point in college, I hadn’t seen him or talked to him in a year or so.  We didn’t have a heated arguments or anything, my life just got busy and I forgot to call him.  I ended up running into him at an Islands that he was working at (I had no idea he worked at an Islands), and we picked up where we had left off a year earlier.  Since then, we’ve been better at making sure we don’t go a whole year without checking in with each other, though we’ve missed some birthdays and whatnot, which is kind of sad since neither of us have left the country or even the state for extended periods of time.  I talk to Bruce almost every day and he’s on the other side of the country.  I’ll be lucky to talk to Chris once a week.

But like I said, we’re still close.  We have traditions and inside jokes and we can jump from one conversation to another without wondering “Umm, what should we talk about now?”  We once had a 15 minute conversation about the different textures and flavors of Cheetos.  I prefer my Flaming Hot Cheetos crunchy and my White Cheddar Cheetos fluffy, while Chris prefers his Flaming Hots fluffy, and his White Cheddars crunchy.  These aren’t forced conversations, they somehow happen naturally and this is why you might think he’s just around for some comic relief.

Most of our conversations revolve around music, movies, and the minutia of day to day life.  Our sensibilities are pretty similar: we both love the Coen Brothers’ films, Radiohead, Pavement, and of course, The Get Up Kids, who we’ve been able to consistently catch on their tours since Chris and I became friends.  We’ve seen them 4 times since 2005, which is kind of weird since they broke up in 2005.  I’ve written about how weird it was to see them play at the Bamboozle Festival earlier this year, in front of a bunch of kids who didn’t know who the Get Up Kids were, in a lineup where all the bands playing were influenced by the band.  Chris and I were able to catch them on a headlining tour, and while we didn’t have to deal with the weirdness of being around kids have our age, we had to deal with the fact that we were starting to feel too old for these club shows.

If it wasn’t for the fact that Chris had a friend who could get us into the show for free, I don’t know if I would’ve considered going to the show, which shows how terrible of a fan I am.  We also showed up with hopes of missing the opening acts, which is a far cry from how we were in college where we would try to get as close to the stage as soon as possible.  When we arrived at the venue, we got our wristbands for alcohol, and I waited for Chris to get our tickets from the will call window.  He returned from the window with the tickets and different wristbands.  While I put on this second wristband, I asked him what they were for and he had no idea.  So we walked in, and I went to the bathroom.  When I returned, Chris informed me that the wristbands got us access to the “lounge”, which is basically an area with couches and tables behind the floor.  We grabbed a couch, ordered some drinks from a waitress and watched as one of the opening bands tore through a terrible cover of “Forever Young”.

The couches were comfortable and we had a pretty good view of the stage in the venue which I believe held 1200 people.  The Get Up Kids hit the stage and we decided to stay in the lounge.  As people crowd surfed and moshed, he stood at a railing in front of our couch and watched the show unfold.  As the mosh pit grew, we were relieved to be away from the floor, and that we had a comfortable couch to sit on if we were starting to get tired of standing.  I know this sounds like we’re total wimps, but we are.  This is not to say that we will never try to get close to a stage again, but we’re starting to get more selective about who we choose to stand and show up early for.  I attribute this new discernment to me trying to conserve energy for the work week (this was a Thursday show), but it could just be that I’m getting old.  So in this episode of the sitcom of my life, while this cameo from Chris doesn’t really move my life story along, it does surprisingly show some character development.  Perhaps we should all give him some credit here, or at the very least, we should be very excited when he shows up during sweeps week.

During freshmen year of college, a lot of my high school friends became devastated that a lot of their “friends” from high school weren’t keeping in touch with them. I tried to explain to them that sitting next to someone in a class and getting along with them does not count as a friendship. This would usually get my friends pretty bent out of shape. “Are you saying that this friendship was fake?! We had so many deep conversations!” I would respond by telling them that if they weren’t having these deep conversations outside of class, they were merely acquaintances, or (gasp) just classmates. This usually just added to the betrayal that my friends felt, but I thought it’d be better that they hear it from me than waste hours trying to hunt down people that were just “classmates”. People just lose touch. It’s a fact of life. I wasn’t trying to be a downer. I even suffered this same betrayal after college. Even with the technological advancements in recent years like Facebook, Twitter, cell phones, and e-mail, people have still found a way to not keep in touch. It’s almost harder not to keep in contact with someone than it is to keep in contact with them.

My friendship with Bruce is bit of an anomaly. Not only have we kept in contact despite being in different states for the past 16 years (California for me, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, New Jersey for him), we didn’t live that close to each other when we both lived in Minnesota. We didn’t live in the same neighborhood, not even the same school district. So while most kids see their friends every day at school, and often after school as well, I saw Bruce on Sundays at church and sometimes that was it. Occasionally I would go to his house after church or vice versa but there were never any spontaneous “Hey are you done with your homework? Come on over!” phone calls since it wasn’t worth it to our parents to drive us over and pick us up after only a couple of hours.
When we did get to go over to someone’s house, we usually got a pretty substantial amount of time to wreak havoc. Usually this consisted of a lot of video game playing. There were other toys (train sets, Transformers), but typically we were more interested in Tetris and Rampage. Occasionally we’d wander outside but once the sun went down, we were usually crowded around the Nintendo. Dinner would be served and then the parents would come to pick us up. We learned that we could buy a couple extra hours of play time if we could convince the arriving parents to stay for tea. This was a gesture offered every time, and almost without fail, we were able to get our couple of extra hours.
At one point, my Nintendo started acting up to the point where it was kind of hit or miss whether it would work. This caused me to later “upgrade” to a Sega Genesis (hindsight doesn’t necessarily agree with that). This problem caused us to be creative and come up with an alternate activity that we could do if the Nintendo wasn’t working. We came up with something that we called Human Canonball. It was an activity that consisted of jumping off a ledge in my room, trampolining onto my bed, and then into a pile of pillows onto the ground. Bruce recalls this as being terrifying, but if he was truly terrified, he definitely wasn’t against participating. Not once did someone get hurt, which is probably quite incredible with the amount of danger involved. We were like 8, so we didn’t really think about any potential ramifications.  His younger brothers would eventually join the fray, and everyone would end up a winner.
For some reason, I never introduced Human Canonball to any of my other friends. Perhaps it’s because my other friends and I would play sports and wouldn’t need to find some mindlessly dangerous activity to kill time. All I know is that I never invented anything like Human Canonball with any of my friends from school. This is not to say that they weren’t as smart as Bruce or that I didn’t have fun with them. I had a lot of fun with my neighborhood chums, but some reason I just slowly started losing touch with them when I left Minnesota. It definitely stung, these people that I used to see everyday, were no longer in my life at all, not even by snail mail. I’m not even sure many of them would remember who I was if I showed up at their door and introduced myself. I probably spent a lot more time with them but perhaps Bruce and I were just much more efficient. We had inside jokes (tea!), a game we invented, and we shared many many meals of great Korean cooking together. Maybe the cliché is right. It’s not about quantity of time as it is quality of time. We’ve had plenty of great memories, and luckily at we both remember most of them.

I remember where I was on 9/11. I was at student staff training at my alma mater, and when I woke up that morning, I was scared because I had slept in. One of our staff trainers had knocked on my door and I was pretty sure I was going to get chewed out, but I was instead informed that training for the day was canceled and that I might want to call family and friends to see if they were okay. I got a brief run down of what had happened, watched it on the news and couldn’t believe my own eyes.  It just… didn’t look real.  My sister lived in Brooklyn and Bruce was attending Carnegie Melon in Pennsylvania, and since I was fuzzy on the details, I quickly called them/found them online. They were fine, and finally it was time to start processing everything else associated with the day.

It’s been almost a decade since the attacks, and perhaps Rudy Guliani and Alan Jackson are to blame for why I feel desensitized to all the events that transpired that day, but I don’t think I’m alone. I believe the poor reception to Oliver Stone;s World Trade Center film had a lot to do with the fact that people don’t want to think about it, and I think for those of us fortunate to not lose a loved one, we only really think about the aftermath of 9/11 on the anniversary and when we’re at the airport and we have to take off our shoes to get through the security checkpoint.

So on 9/12/2008, Jessica, Kirsten, Makenna, and I headed to the Hollywood Bowl to catch Brian Wilson perform with the LA Philharmonic. I’d seen him a couple of years before at the Bridge School Benefit and was excited he’d be playing his famous Beach Boys songs at Bowl with fireworks.  We didn’t share stories about how 9/11 affected us or where we were on the day.  Jessica just told us a story where she was at a bar the previous night and how there was a moment of silence, and how after the moment of silence, Neil Young’s “Keep on Rocking in the Free World” came on the radio and how she thought the coincidence was hilarious. After that, we went back to our normally scheduled activities: filling our ice chest with cheese, crackers, and other snacks to go along with our two bottles of wine, as we headed to watch Brian Wilson and his band perform.  It just seemed like a coincidence that he was playing the day after (it was closing weekend at the Hollywood Bowl, which he does every couple of years or so), but perhaps it wasn’t.

We were fortunate to be in the last row of our section and at the end of the bench because we were going to stand up for all of Brian Wilson’s set. We were by far the youngest people at the show that didn’t accompany their parents. We didn’t care we were out of place, we were intent on being shameless and loud.  The lady sitting next to me told me that we “were too young to like the Beach Boys” but that she “loved our energy” as we got tipsy and danced for the duration of the show. (I think she tried to dance with me at some point and all I could think in my head was “half your age + 7, lady, get away from me”, but whatever.) We heard “California Girls”, “Wouldn’t it be Nice”, “God Only Knows” and “Surfer Girl”. He didn’t have a lot to say between songs, not that Brian Wilson is known for his witty between song banter.  He wisely let the music speak for itself.  He then broke out the encore of “I Get Around” and “Surfing USA” as the fireworks went off.  It was an amazing climax to a beautiful evening. Not only were we having a great time, we found ourselves with a great deal of pride in our country. Brian Wilson’s love of California is unparalleled, and honestly it’s quite infectious. We left the Bowl seeing what he saw, the beach, the freeways, everything in a different light.  If everyone could see Brian Wilson perform with fireworks going off in the background, everyone would be in love with this country, full of pride, full of the American spirit and ready to show the world that we are not going to live in fear. He may not be able to bring back the loved ones we lost on that tragic day, or end the economic woes that we face, but he can help us remember how to love our country and for that, for everyone at the Bowl that night, Brian Wilson won the war on terrorism.

A few years ago, I went to a(n) (Los Angeles) Angels (of Anaheim) game with my friends. We got cheap seats, since it was a pretty last minute idea. They were playing the Oakland A’s that night and since I’m not originally from California, I didn’t really care about the outcome of the game. I especially didn’t participate in the Nor-Cal vs So-Cal debate between the hometown Angel fans and the Oakland (or just Bay Area, in general) fans. My friends and I were stuck in between the two groups of feuding fans, and to throw a monkey wrench into the whole discussion, I screamed “May the better team win!”

The game was entertaining enough but not very memorable. It was a September game, and one of the two teams (my guess, the Angels) had already clinched the division. Neither team was really playing for anything. They were just trotting out their September call ups to get some big league experience, but this game will always have a place in my heart. Why? Because it was my first baseball game in an outdoor park (not including playing Little League baseball games out in Brooklyn Park/Center).

I’ve been to many baseball games before, but they were all in the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Domes aren’t very popular these days, but they looked really cool back in the 1980s (but didn’t age well, much like Tomorrow Land at Disney Land). The Twins played there and used all of the Dome’s quirks to their advantage. There was the super bouncy astro turf, the “Big Baggie” in right field, the speakers that hung over the field, and the whiteness of the dome itself which replaced the sky, day or night. Looking back, it was unnatural as baseball could be, but it’s really all I knew, as far as professional baseball was concerned. It was almost like a perk of being a professional. Instead of having to play baseball in the gross Minnesota humidity with gnats and mosquitoes buzzing about, a professional gets to play in a nice temperature controlled dome.

My family later moved to San Diego, and I never went to a Padres game at Jack Murphy/Qualcomm Stadium. (I’ve been to Petco, to watch the Twins whoop on the Padres.) There was a huge sports void in my life when we moved to San Diego. Actually, it was a giant void, period. I stopped playing baseball, playing piano, going to church, and I stopped begging my parents to go to games. After a couple of years, the piano playing and the church going started up again, but baseball was kind of dead to me. Then the lockout happened, but I still loved my Twins even though they were so terrible that they were almost contracted.  Luckily they started to become competitive again and eventually found their funding for a brand new OUTDOOR stadium.  I went to a game at the Dome on my last trip back to the Twin Cities.  It was my first game in the Dome in 16 or 17 years.  It would be a gross understatement to say that it’s not a very charming place to watch a baseball game.  We drove by Target Field, which is set to open in 2010 and that places looks marvelous.  It’s a piece of art, and not one of those pieces of futuristic pieces of art that end up looking like a joke.  The Twins made sure that they got their new stadium (the native Minnesota limestone in the exterior of the building used is both a classy and a beautiful choice).

I’ll always identify with the Twins. They were such a huge part of my childhood. I got to live during a time where they won 2 World Series’. I have the Homer Hankies to prove it. Actually my childhood in Minnesota was all kinds of awesomeness. The North Stars went to the finals in ’91, the Superbowl was hosted at the Metrodome in January of 92. The Mighty Ducks was released, which is basically a celebration of youth hockey in Minnesota. It was a good time to be growing up as a sports fan. I definitely miss the ice skating, the sledding, the snowmen building and biking around lakes, but I believe I left at a good time. The North Stars left (but were eventually replaced by the Wild, whom I love), academic scandal broke out with University of Minnesota Men’s Basketball team, the Twins were futile for about a decade, and more importantly, the suburb that I grew up in started to quickly decay. My Minnesota childhood was a pretty amazing experience, and for me to think that moving back one day will provide the same experience is pretty naive. It’s not that I believe Minnesota has lost its luster, it’s just that I’m not prepared to experience it full time as an adult yet. As a child, I didn’t have to deal with warming up my car engine for a half hour before being able to drive the car, or driving through ice roads, or just not wanting to go out because the weather is so cold outside.  I know those thoughts are a far cry from what I thought as a child, and there’s still a good chance I could love living back there anyways.  I do know one thing for sure, as a child or as as an adult, I may not be able to root root root for my Twins as the home team, but I’ll still root for them wherever I end up.