Ryan and the Technicolor Wardrobe
Short Stories and Essays

We are currently in a very anxious time for the entire state of Minnesota.  At stake is the well-being of every person in the state.  Who’s holding them for ransom?  A 26 year old professional baseball player named Joe Mauer.  If you don’t know who Joe Mauer is, ask any Minnesotan over the age of 5 and they will probably be able to recite you his Wikipedia page ver batim: born and raised in St Paul, Minnesota, was the highest rated quarterback and baseball player coming out of high school, drafted first overall by his hometown Twins in 2001, has won two batting titles and an MVP award by the age of 26 and will hopefully be signing the richest contract for a catcher in baseball history (somewhere in the ballpark of 200 million dollars over the next ten years) for the hometown team.  If you don’t know or follow baseball, all you need to know is that there is few greater joys for small market sports fan than watching a hometown kid (or ONE OF US as Minnesota hockey fans like to say) become a star for the hometown team.  Mauer in on track to become the best catcher to ever play baseball and is perhaps the best player playing today.  If he doesn’t sign his contract before it expires, there is a huge fear that he will leave for New York or Boston for probably $10 million dollars more a year.   This fear is probably unwarranted since Joe Mauer is the Jay-Z of the Twin Cities.  He runs this town.

I’m not sure if I’m exaggerating when I say that there will be a riot in the Twin Cities in Mauer ends up leaving the only place he’s lived for the East Coast.  There are some sports fans who are far too emotionally invested in their teams, where they can be hostile when told critical things about their teams/players, even when they are absolute facts.  These people are referred to as “homers”.  These people can be difficult to deal with because you can’t use logic or facts on them.  They’re loyal to a fault, and typically are too far invested in their teams/sports that they are hard to have normal conversations with.  There was a movie that was made about this last year called Big Fan, starring Patton Oswalt.  While I don’t know of any homers that have followed their favorite athlete (and entourage) to a strip club, I’m pretty sure that there are some homers that will vandalize the newly minted Target Field (which ironically they paid for via their taxes) if Mauer doesn’t sign his contract.

I’ll be honest, in some ways I’m very much a homer.  I usually know which players have Minnesota ties, like the 2010 olympic team (about 1/3 of the team is either from Minnesota, went to a prep school in Minnesota or went to college there).  I can usually admit when my teams are bad and I try not to overrate players I have special ties to (I probably played little league baseball against Pat Neshek or his brother).  I’m a bit of a homer when it comes to Minnesota music as well.  I’m a huge fan of Low, (Bob Dylan and Prince are universally beloved so we can skip them), I will defend Semisonic as being far better than a one-hit wonder, and I love Tapes ‘n Tapes, though I will admit Walk it Off is a huge letdown after their amazing debut, The Loon.

There’s a new “kid” on the block from Minnesota that I just can’t get behind and it’s not because they’re not from the Twin Cities (neither is Low or Team USA captain Jamie Langenbrunner).  It’s because this kid is just terrible.  I, of course, speak of Owl City whose hit “Fireflies” was the number one song in the COUNTRY not too long ago.  I’m not one of those people who gets annoyed when an artist becomes too mainstream.  I never liked Owl City, even with their inspirational unsigned artist with a Myspace account to chart topper story.  I won’t touch the whole “they sound like Postal Service” debate because my friends’ heads will explode, but I must say this.  As a Minnesota native who is supremely proud of it, how do I reconcile being ashamed of this particular Minnesota artist?

This is probably anti-climactic but the only way I’ve thought of is just to not mention that Owl City (which is really just one guy, I don’t even know why I know this) is from Minnesota.  It’s like when a movie comes out, the trailers and posters only point out the “good” things affiliated with the movie, not the bad.  The next Halle Berry movie trailer will most likely NOT mention she was in Catwoman but it WILL most likely mention her Oscar win.  The next Danny Boyle film will mention that he directed Slumdog Millionaire and Trainspotting but will most likely leave out A Life Less Ordinary and The Beach (maybe).  So lets let this be the last time we discuss the origins of Owl City.  Adam Young, I wish you the best of luck in your musical career, but Minnesota only has room for one native son to cherish and his name is Joe Mauer.

In college, my friend Haniel (he picked this name for this story, not me), was known as a girl hating cynic, but in reality, he once jokingly told me he pretended to hate all girls so he could secretly be in love with all of them.  So when he started dating his girlfriend, and now wife, I shouldn’t have been surprised that he was dating one of the girliest girls I’ve ever met, but I was.  It’s probably because we used to have these weird anti-Valentines Day celebrations on the weekend of February 14th where a bunch of the guys  would get together and splurge on sushi and watch whatever romantic comedy that was out in theaters at the time.  The two years we did it, we were fortunate with the movies we had to choose from.  Our first annual anti-V-Day dinner was concluded with 50 First Dates and our 2nd (and final dinner) was followed up by Hitch.  Sure they weren’t the greatest movies of all time, but for Valentine’s Day movies, they were probably as guy friendly as romantic comedies can get.

We tried to continue the tradition a year later but Haniel had started dating his wife and after sushi, no one wanted to watch Something New so things kind of died after that.  I guess we felt lost without our fearless leader or maybe it was just fitting to end it since he had gone from cynic to hopelessly in love.  A year later, I started dating, so I think that officially killed any chance of the tradition being continued, since no one wanted the torch passed to them.  I don’t blame them, passing the torch to someone is like saying “Hey, I don’t think you’ll find anyone anytime soon, so you should plan these things from now on.”  It’s more of an insult than an honor.

So after a couple of years of dormancy, I kind of retooled the anti-celebration.  Last year a bunch of my single friends (boys and girls) and I got together for a dinner in West Hollywood.  There was no movie afterwards, we just walked over to Milk for some dessert.  Sherlan and I got there earlier than everyone else and we decided to go get some rum and slurpees at 7-11 (and a liquor store).  As we were walking back to the restaurant, we passed by a Subway where we saw a couple of middle aged men were sitting at a table eating there sandwiches.  It’s possible that these guys were a couple, but we didn’t go inside to investigate.  It was a bizarre sight without having any context of who they were or why they were there.  We drew our own conclusions and continued on our way back.  As we approached the restaurant, Sherlan told me “Happy Valentine’s Day, Ryan.”, which caused the both of us to burst into laughter.  It was a throw away comment, he said out of obligation and mostly just to be ironic.  These events on the way back from the 7-11 were probably the only things that differentiated the night from the typical hang out in West Hollywood, because I honestly can’t remember much about the dinner or dessert, other than I know I enjoyed them.

I’ve only writing about these instances because they’re the only Valentines Days I remember (aside from actual dates – no need to bring those up).  As much as I’ve loathed the day in the past (aka when I’m not in a relationship), I’m pretty indifferent towards it now.  I don’t necessarily look forward to it, but it’s no longer a day where I want to lock myself in my room, eat a bucket of fried chicken and watch How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days. (<- Please understand this is a joke) I’ve got a good group of friends and enough single friends where I don’t feel like I’m being left behind.  There’s that fear lingering in the back of my mind that I will one day grow old with a lot of cats, but it doesn’t come out in full force on Valentine’s Day, like I’m sure it does for some of the lonelier folks.  I’m not necessarily in the mindset that 30 is the new 20 and that I don’t need to date anyone, I’m just not going to let a made up holiday dictate how I should feel about my tax filing status.

Plus, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that eating a whole bucket of fried chicken in one sitting is bad news.  I guess this all just part of growing up.  Happy Valetine’s Day!

December 4th is Jay-Z’s birthday.  Even if things like Wikipedia never existed, I would still know that December 4th is Jay-Z’s birthday?  How?  He wrote a song about it.  His mom is even a narrator on that song.  December 4th, 2009, was Jay-Z’s 40th birthday so I decided to round up some friends and go do some Jay-Z karaoke in Hova’s honor.  We met up and had some Baileys and hot cocoa before we started, opposed to the usual rum and Slurpee since it was pretty cold (by Southern California standards).  We headed in, rocked the mic, had a good time, and everyone headed their separate ways.  Since none of know Jay-Z personally, I assumed at one point we would all forget about this “celebration” and that it’d just become one of the many fun events in our very full lives.  While it marked the end of Jay-Z’s 30s, it really held no personal significance to us, except for Sherlan, because little did he know, it was the end of an era for him as well.

The next day, Sherlan had started tweeting about his foot being in pain.  At first, I assumed he accidentally kicked something or that he dropped something on said foot, but after a couple of days, I decided to give him a call to see how he was doing.  His pain didn’t stem from any action he committed, it was something far more serious.  He hadn’t seen a doctor yet, but the unofficial verdict was that he had gout.  The initial diagnosis was made by his roommate who recalled a King of the Hill episode where Bobby gets gout from eating too much paté.  A board licensed physician later confirmed this diagnosis and Sherlan was given a list of foods that he could eat, and a list of foods that he should stay away from.  The list of “don’t eat” foods consisted of red meat, wheats, and beer, and while some fish and chicken was deemed as “okay”, he was discouraged from eating them often.

That week, I was supposed to hang out with with Sherlan along with my friends Mark and Susan, and we were supposed to eat burgers and drink beer.  Since beer and burgers were no longer an option for Sherlan, we slightly altered our plans to eat somewhere a little more “gout friendly”.  After dinner, we headed to the super market to get some drinks.  Mark and I wanted beer, Susan wanted some wine/champagne.  Sadly, Sherlan had to follow us around on crutches and grocery stores tend to have pretty slick floors.  When we got to the cashier, Mark and I paid for the beer, and as Susan was paying for her champagne, the cashier asked us a question:

“So are you guys christening a boat or something?”

“Huh?”

There was a pause.  Then I spoke.

“Yeah, we’re christening the S.S. Gout.”

The cashier looked confused, we took our belongings and left the market.  I was pretty amused at my quick witted joke and I knew that Sherlan took it in stride.  We talked about how regal his name sounded and we started calling him “Prince Sherlan” and talked about his ” royal yacht”, the S.S. Gout.  Throughout the following weeks, Mark and I started coming up with gout jokes, more specifically gout puns, such as “pigging gout”. “in-n-gout”, “you’re gout of line”, etc.  I know this sounds really mean, and at first Mark felt really guilty that he was participating and having a lot of fun.  He was scared that if Sherlan found out, that his feelings would be really hurt.

To assuage his fears, I told Sherlan.  I told him it was my idea, but like I predicted earlier, Sherlan didn’t care.  I wouldn’t make these jokes if I had any doubt that they would be bringing the guy down.  I especially wouldn’t drive up to LA on a weeknight to make sure to hang out and make sure he’s doing okay, only to turn around and say mean spirited things that would make him feel bad about himself.  Sherlan has even become the grader of jokes, telling me which ones are especially clever.

His foot is a lot better now, but he’s not reverting to his old diet, which I applaud him for.  Just because the gout is gone, it doesn’t mean that it won’t come back if he’s not careful about how he eats.  This has also given Mark and I permission to continue our onslaught of gout puns, not just to remind Sherlan of the pain, but to remind ourselves that we need to be smarter about our own lives and diets.  We’re not invincible and the things we eat and the physical activities we do have more apparent consequences than they did when we were younger. There’s also the ugly truth that the older we get, the harder the consequences are going to hit.  The way we’ve been dealing with this is with gallows humor; we’re not laughing at Sherlan, we’re realizing that this could’ve happened to any of us.  Sherlan’s fight with gout has led us all to take a serious look at our mortality and that is why Prince Sherlan is the captain of the S.S. Gout and we’re just members of his crew.