Ryan and the Technicolor Wardrobe
Short Stories and Essays

It’s weird to go to the same church for 8 years and then one day decide “Maybe I should just stop going here.” There was no life changing event, no epiphany, I was just bored. I was showing up late, if at all, and was leaving the minute service was dismissed. I realized that if this was going to be my routine for Sunday mornings, I would be better off sleeping in or watching TV.

So I decided I would check out a couple of different churches and then I would decide if I should find something better to do on my Sunday mornings. I didn’t feel like I owed it to anyone (or to God) to check out some churches, but since I’ve been going to church since I was born, I wanted to make sure I wasn’t making any rash decisions. So I called my friend, Paul, and asked him if he knew of any places in the area. He gave me a couple of suggestions and I decided that these would be the churches that would tell me where I was going to be on Sundays, if I would be going anywhere at all.

I wasn’t going to set the bar too high. I didn’t expect to be speaking in tongues or have a spiritual awakening. I just wanted to go to church for more than the need to satisfy a routine or keep myself from feeling guilty. My sisters have stopped going to church and they seem happy enough without it. So I went to one church, and while the people were friendly enough, something just didn’t click with me. I liked it, but wasn’t sure if I liked enough to want to return every Sunday morning. So the next week I headed off to the next suggestion, which Paul thought was ideal for me even though he had only been there once and the only person he knew that went there was his cousin’s best friend who was also an “artsy fool like [me]”.

I went with a couple of friends to this recommended church in Fullerton, which is about 20-25 minutes north of where I live. When I saw that it was a 20-25 minute commute on Google Maps, I secretly hoped I would hate it. (Un)Fortunately I enjoyed it and decided that I would give it a shot and that I’d re-evaluate later. I wanted to throw myself into the fray to get a good feel for the people and the place, but also didn’t want to act like I owned the place. So after a couple of months, I started to integrate, and then I decided to test the mettle of the people in my age group. I didn’t want to go to a church where I didn’t have to alter my interests to fit in. I wanted to talk about my artsy film, indie rock, and under the radar comedians. I didn’t want to debate whether Michelle Branch was a Christian so people wouldn’t feel guilty that they liked listening to her music.

About a month before I showed up at this church, my friend Phil had informed me that he went to a Zaireeka Party on Record Store Day (Approx the 3rd Saturday in April) in Chicago.Zaireeka is a 4 CD set by the flaming lips where you are instructed to play all 4 CDs at the same time and to spread out the 4 CD players you are using so you can discern what sounds are coming from where. I was fascinated by this concept in high school, except when I had learned about it, the box set was out of print. Fortunately it was back in print and my friend telling me about the party inspired me to grab a copy so I could have a party of my own. This would be my formal introduction to this church.

I partnered up with a couple of other church Flaming Lips friends (who conveniently were roommates) and we sent out an e-mail about the party. We had a decent amount of people show up (none, who had heard of the Flaming Lips previously) and we had a good time. After it was over, we grabbed dinner and went to go see Burn After Reading. While it’s is not the greatest Coen Brothers film, it’s still a Coen Brothers film, and I was satisfied with how the night turned out. There wasn’t any sort of spiritual pretext for the party. It was pretty self-indulgent, if anything. I was inviting people who I’d only known for a couple of months into my world and was unapologetic about it. Luckily, people thought the Zaireeka idea was cool and appreciated being invited.

From that point on, I felt a lot of freedom at church, which is probably how church should be, but I’ve never felt that way. At the last church I was at, there was a lot of clearances you needed to receive since that’s how things work at big churches (organizations). Here, it’s much smaller and relaxed. For once, at a church, I didn’t feel like I needed to compromise my interests. Whether it be planning events or playing guitar, I’ve been kind of left alone, and I mean that in the best way possible. I grew up in a church where there was a debate if the electric guitar was evil. Now I’m encouraged to make evil sounds with my electric guitar.

I’ve been at this church for about a year and a half now. My friend told me “At the 18 month mark is where you get sick of something or not.” As it stands right now, so far so good. I haven’t found myself bored of this place nor have I thought about leaving. A couple of months ago, I saw the Flaming Lips in concert with a couple of friends and my pastor. I invited him to the show and he really enjoyed it. As we watched Wayne Coyne come out in his plastic bubble into the crowd, it confirmed the notion that I’m in the right place, and I definitely have to thank the Flaming Lips for making sure I stuck around.

The 80s was full of wacky college movies and maybe, since I was just a child, I don’t seem to get the appeal of them. There was Animal House,St. Elmo’s Fire and Revenge of the Nerds. Then Van Wilder, and I guess to a certain extent, the American Pie series, decided to “reach out” to my generation. I’ve seen very few of these, not because of their inaccuracy, but because of their lack of appeal. Though their inaccuracies may be part of the reason these movies seem pretty lame. The premises are mostly the same. Drink, get laid, don’t get kicked out of school, repeat. So basically they’re like high school movies, except there’s drinking every day and not at a end of the year party, so I guess in that regard, these movies are relatively kind of accurate.

I never had the idealized version of college that these movies presented, mostly because I had no interest in joining a frat, and a lot of these movies center around getting in a frat, being in a frat, or waging war on another frat. I just wanted college to be a lot better than high school, and that hope was definitely fulfilled. There were no crazy parties (there were parties), there were no Girls Gone Wild moments, no crazy drug freak outs, but I definitely matured as a person and became less sheltered. I really didn’t know what to expect going into college other than it was going to be different than high school, and it didn’t take very long for that to become a reality.

I moved into the dorms a couple days into Welcome Week because I wanted to catch a concert in San Diego before I moved in. Once I got my stuff in the dorms, and got my parents to finally leave, I went to go see all my friends that I had made at summer orientation (sadly I keep in touch with 0 of them now). This was before I had a cell phone (back in the year 2000…) so I would occasionally find myself knocking on a door with nobody home. The one person I really wanted to see was my friend Gwen, who I had bonded over Radiohead with during the aforementioned summer orientation program. We had kept in touch over the summer, and I had found the Kid A leak on Napster. Her dorm wasn’t too far from mine so I decided I needed to tell her of my awesome find immediately.

Over our e-mails during the summer, I knew a few things about her: she had a boyfriend who went to a college up north, she was getting a single room (no roommate), and we liked a lot of the same music (Radiohead aside). What I didn’t know was that these three facts were going to make my introduction to college extremely uncomfortable. See, when I knocked on her door, I could hear music and I could hear Gwen giggling, so I was pretty sure she was there (no roommate). When she opened the door she was in a towel, so I felt kind of embarassed, that I was catching her on her way to her shower, or that she had just finished her shower. She was happy to see me and asked for a second so she could change and of course, I obliged. So she opened the door, full clothed, and invited me in, only for me to find a corpse in her bed. She introduced the corpse to me as her boyfriend, who got up and shook my hand. He was a nice guy, I told her about my Kid A find, and she was excited. She invited me to brunch with her and her boyfriend and I told her I’d get her a copy of the leak then. I left the room and immediately started to process everything: she wasn’t going for a shower and there was a reason that music was playing in her room… and I almost started to hyperventilate.

I suppose if we were in a movie, I guess I would’ve approached the situation differently. Instead of freaking out in my mind, I probably would have apologized to her boyfriend since I inadvertently cock blocked him or I would give him a high five since he was about to get some, or he would’ve thrown me out the window instead of having brunch with me the next day.  He was perfectly pleasant at brunch the next day.  It was an honest mistake, and he understood that.  There was no rage towards me about my interruption the day before, nor did he feel a need to lean over to tell me “Yo, after you left, I got some anyways. High five!”

A couple of months ago, a peculiar thing happened to Sherlan at his apartment.  He awoke in the middle of the night and found a girl in his room telling him to “move over” as she tried to get into bed with him.  This girl was a stranger, not anyone he knew, not anyone that his roommate knew, just a girl who wandered through their front door which had accidentally been left unlocked.  Sherlan was able to get her to leave without too much resistance but it was a pretty jarring and bizarre experience for him.  If he was in a movie, he’d probably wouldn’t have asked her to leave and would’ve hastily posted this experience on Facebook or Twitter.  It’s supposedly a guy’s fantasy but in reality it’s nothing but a rude awakening.  Instead of excitement, there’s a feeling of violation.  Instead of a spontaneous night of passion, it’s a morning after of filing a police report and reminding your roommate to lock the door when they come home.  I know movies aren’t supposed to reflect reality and are a mean of escape, but to experience these situations in real life has proven to be anything but a happy ending.  Not that this has deterred me from writing screenplays and sitcom pilots that work within the conventional Hollywood structure, but if I ever write a movie about college, you’ll be sure to NOT see anything resembling any of these scenes in my screenplay.  While I don’t have to be necessarily realistic in these screenplays, it doesn’t mean that I should be selling lies either.

I wouldn’t say that I’m a huge Minnesota Timberwolves fan. Yes, I consider them “my team”, but mostly because of obligation. I mean, I’m a Twins fan, a Wild fan, a Gopher fan, how can I just say ‘no’ to the Timberwolves, as terrible as they’ve been? I can’t, especially since they symbolize the growing pains of adulthood. They’re like the guy at your high school reunion that still lives with his parents and works at Target, but isn’t a manager. They’ve just run out of excuses on why they’re so incompetent.

The 2003-2004 playoffs was the only time in the existence of the franchise that warranted any hope and pride and I wasn’t going to miss out on this opportunity. I visited Bruce in Minnesota that year and we went to a T-Wolves game and watched them win. I wanted to watch as many of their games on TV because they were actually good. This wouldn’t have been a problem if I was still in high school, getting out at 2:10pm, but unfortunately I had a class between 7pm-10pm on Thursdays, I believe, a Race in TV and Film class.

I really didn’t have a problem with my professor, or the subject matter of this class, I just wanted to see my team bask in the spotlight for perhaps the only time ever. They were the #1 seed and they had just beaten Denver to get out of the first round for the FIRST TIME EVER. While the class was fine and all, it was inconveniencing me from experiencing winning, and I wasn’t going to put up with it. Of course I needed this class to graduate, so I was kind of between a rock and a hard place.

This is when I turned my dilemma over to this girl in my class, lets call her Sally (this may actually be her name, I don’t remember, which makes me a very very terrible person). I didn’t know anyone in the class, so she was the closest I had to a friend, so I’d ask her to sign in for me while I went to the on campus pub to watch the games. She seemed pretty disappointed in my lack of work ethic but I’m also pretty sure she also signed in for me . She didn’t seem to understand my investment in this team that was halfway across the country, but perhaps she thought that us both liking Belle and Sebastian could possibly lead to a date down the line (it didn’t). Maybe she thought I’d need to study with her at some point to get through the class, why she tolerated this was never explained to me. All I know is that when Kevin Garnett hit that 3 in the 4th Quarter while being double teamed and with the shot clock winding down, I knew that I had made the right decision. That shot validated it all. When he jumped up on the scorer’s table at the end of the game and screamed, I wanted to do the same.

The Wolves got eliminated in the next round by the Lakers, but that wasn’t important to me. I finally saw my team overcome their futility. After 7 years of getting knocked out in the first round, they had gotten over the hump. I returned to going to class regularly and aced out my final presentation. I talked about how Long-Duk Dong from 16 Candles has single handedly made Asian American men the laughing stock of the American dating world (I actually don’t believe this because I not a fan of self-pity). I passed the class, I graduated college, but life was not happily ever after. I bounced around jobs and lived from paycheck to paycheck for a few years until I hit a wall. I got out of a relationship and lost my job in a span of 48 hours, and while I don’t feel like I hit rock bottom then (it gave me ample time to play and beat Super Mario Galaxy), I finally felt like I needed to grow up and get on with my life.

I needed to make adjustments, I didn’t necessarily need to start over. I didn’t need to go back to school (though I did ponder it), or change my career path (IT by day, writer by night), I just needed to refine myself. I needed to do some re-prioritizing, and learn to start setting some practical goals for myself. I realized I though living paycheck to paycheck would keep me from being too comfortable, that it would push me to finally get a screenplay sold, or what have you, but in the end, it was just keeping me paranoid about my finances. The free time I had after work was not going to productive for writing if I had bills to pay – I love good food too much. While the starving artist way of life works for some people, it was obviously not working for me. I got a new job, found a church where I wasn’t just twittling my thumbs during service all day, and get some friends who actually enjoyed their lives. I know I’d love to say “then I got a book/TV deal, got an amazing girlfriend and bought a house”, but I should be realistic and take things one step at a time.

After 7 years of post high-school life, I finally felt like I got over the hump. I was finally ready to jump up on the scorer’s table and scream from the top of my lungs that I was a winner.