Ryan and the Technicolor Wardrobe
Short Stories and Essays

I casually throw out the phrase “I’m going to punch <insert name> in the face!” a lot but it’s usually said out of minor frustration and mostly as a joke.  I can only count two times in my life where I put that phrase into practice and I feel pretty justified in both instances.  The first time was when I was in 2nd grade, and a couple of kids had stolen my beanie and were playing keep away with it.  It was a cold Minnesota Day, so it was in my best interest to get my beanie back as soon as possible.  After pleading with the kids that they give it back, they refused, so I just went up to one of the kids and punched him in the face.  He got angry and tripped me and I hit the concrete pretty hard.  I got my beanie back, he got detention or suspended, and I wasn’t given much more than a warning since I was kind of fighting out of self defense.  The 2nd time I punched someone in the face isn’t as cut and dry as far as the story goes.  Did he deserve it?  I can’t say that he did.  Did he have it coming?  I at least think he did.

When we moved to San Diego, my piano lessons were right after the lessons of a kid named Kurt.  I didn’t see him much, just after his lessons and at recitals at our teacher’s house, but I thought he was a jerk.  He was arrogant and liked to make himself feel big by verbally bullying people.  He eventually quit playing piano and a couple of years later, I ended up going to the same church as him.  He wasn’t as big of a jerk at this point, but I still wasn’t his biggest fan.  I wasn’t a big fan of a lot of the kids I grew up with at church, but I definitely wasn’t excited when I found out that I’d have to see him every Sunday.  We sort of became friends out of necessity because our parents became friends.  I didn’t think he was unbearable but we were very different people.  We both started learning guitar around the same time, but quickly I realized he just wanted to learn songs to impress girls like “More Than Words”, “You Were Meant for Me” and “This Gift”, while I wanted to write my own songs and start a band.  At church, we would occasionally wrestle around because we were about the same height (I think he was a inch taller maybe, and one night), and one night I just decided that I had enough of his smack talk and overall jerkiness, so i pinned him down on the ground and pummeled his face.  Yes, I am exactly the kind of person that punches someone in the face AT CHURCH.  I’m not exactly sure if he said anything especially offensive that night, at least it was not offensive enough for me to remember.

After a barrage of punches, I let him go and he stormed out of the room.  Needless to say, he wasn’t happy.  He was gone for about 20 minutes, and I will freely take artistic liberty here to say he was gone for 20 minutes to cry, but that’s probably not the case.  I didn’t break anything or make him bleed, I’m sure I just damaged his pride.  After the incident, neither of us ever mentioned it, and our “friendship” continued like it never happened.  After high school, we went our separate ways.  I would periodically see him around when I was home for weekend in college but that eventually stopped as well. My parents would periodically give me updates on how he was doing even though I never really asked about him.  The updates mostly had to do with him trying to run one of his family’s many businesses and eventually running them into the ground.  A few months ago, they told me he was dating a girl that his parents liked, but were forbidding him to marry, because they thought she was too short.  I told my parents that if this girl was as nice and virtuous as they say she is, then his parents are fools, because he typically has terrible taste in women.  (See above about learning guitar) For the first time in my life, I felt bad for the guy.  There are valid reasons to be against a marriage, and this was definitely not one of them.  They’ve since relented and I’m happy for him.  I don’t know if he went toe to toe with his parents on the issue or if they just realized they were being silly.  I know it would be difficult for anyone to disagree with his father, a man whose reputation as a successful business man is known, not just in San Diego, but in all of Southern California, so I wouldn’t blame him if he just wilted like a flower every time he wanted to stick up for himself.  His father has casted a shadow that Kurt can’t escape, and has perhaps never tried to escape since it’s always been there.  He’s always been told that he’s going to be a businessman like his father and I don’t know if he’s ever tried to see if his passions lie elsewhere.  He’s been handed a posh life that he never asked for and was never taught to make independent choices.  Maybe that’s why, even though I’m definitely not a tough guy, I was able to pin him down and wail on his face. He was never taught to fight for anything in his life.

Some time ago, I wrote a story about my mother and her shopping habits and I promised that I would run an experiment to see if I could curb those habits.  I came up with an experiment to see if I’ll ever be able to put up with my mom at the mall.  I announced this experiment in public, in front of about 100 people, including my parents.  Because the general busy-ness of life, I’ve yet to complete the entire experiment but I was able to get some research done.   I’ve recently taken my mom to South Coast Plaza, and my findings from this trip are quite interesting.

I was with both of my parents when we went to Macys, and my mom decided that she wanted to look for a new hat.  As she looked through some hats, I would bring her the most ridiculous hat I could fine.  She would put it on, take a look in the mirror, and then take it off.  This routine continued for a few more hats until she realized that I was intentionally bringing her gross looking hats.  She wasn’t upset at me, she thought it was pretty funny, but my dad wasn’t amused at all by it.  He told us to hurry up and leave (my dad is not a fan of the mall, especially when my mom is there – he once told me to marry a girl who’s not as short as my mom so it’ll be easier for me to pick her out of a crowd at a mall). I wasn’t able to derive much from this visit to the mall as far as finding away to keep my mom in check but I found something out about myself.  I am the ultimate enabler.

While my mom didn’t buy a hat that day, I was very much encouraging her to try on as many hats as possible.  If it wasn’t for my dad’s intervention, we could’ve wasted a lot of time in the hat department. (Which in a way, would be a success since I wouldn’t have to wonder where my mom disappeared to.) I’ve realized that over the past couple of years, I’ve been present when my friend’s have made some very expensive purchases, purchases that are out of the ordinary for them.  If it had happened once, I would’ve  chalked it up to coincidence, but now I feel I must look to see if there’s something about me that makes people comfortable about spending large amounts of money.

I do have a background in retail sales, but I never was known to be a “used car salesman”; someone that tries to weasel as much money out of his/her customers, so I’m not sure how much that has to do with anything.  I’ve also wondered if some of my past purchases have sparked the interest for my friends to make purchases.  That would make sense for my friends who’ve recently splurged on music equipment.  I’ve bought a lot of pedals and a couple of guitars the last couple of years so maybe it’s inspired them to go and get their own stuff.  Also, it’s not out of the question that I had subconscious ulterior motives.  When my friends buy new gear, that means there’s a chance that I might get to borrow said new gear.  Of course that theory doesn’t seem to work for every case.

Recently my friend bought a new purse.  It was a name brand purse and it’s very nice, if I may say so myself.  This was a big purchase for my friend and they admitted that if they didn’t buy it that day, that they would probably convince themselves not to buy it at all.  They had recently gone through some annoying situations over the past couple of weeks and felt like they wanted to get themselves a present for having to put up with that nonsense.  The main reason I came alone, was not to convince her or dissuade her, but to grab dinner afterwards.  Obviously, I’m not looking to borrow my friend’s purse and there are no romantic interests between us.  I was just along for the ride because there was a promise of food at the end of the trip.

None of my friends spent beyond their means when they made these purchases, so it’s not like these instances are things I should feel guilty about.  I used to tell people that we needed to go out and stimulate and save the economy by splurging, but I’m pretty sure everyone understood it was a joke.  None of my friends seriously blame me for their once in a lifetime carefree spending sprees, but I’ve been teased about it.  I guess I can conclude that people have a good time spending money when I’m around and perhaps that’s why my mom likes going shopping so much.  Maybe I’m the problem, after all, or maybe it’s because the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.  I guess we’ll find out as I conduct the rest of the experiment.

Back in the times where cell phone companies charged local roaming fees, there was very little reason to take your phone on trips with you, unless you were willing to be charged ridiculous fees per minute.  I was a poor college student, but I brought my phone everywhere with me just in case there was a family emergency that I needed to attend to.  It’s kind of a paranoid thought to have and it probably shows my over-reliance on technology, but I actually did need it when I was on my way back from Minnesota back in 2004.  My sister was going into labor with her first child back in LA and she needed me to get ahold of my parents to tell them to head for the hospital.  I racked up a pretty hefty cell phone bill that day, but it didn’t matter to me.  My sister needed me and I came through even though I knew I was going to get hit hard with some serious roaming fees.

A few months later I was at my apartment in Irvine.  I was working during Spring Break (I cannot explain why I chose this), and my roommates were mostly gone for the week.  Alan, in particular, was in Chicago on a Habitat for Humanity trip, or something like that.  I remember at one point I walked by his room and saw that he had left his keys and phone on his desk.  Even though I knew that they don’t allow the use of cell phones on these Habitat type trips, I thought it was odd that he decided not to bring it or his keys at all.  (Obviously he didn’t have a pregnant sister at the time) I saw him at the end of the week at church, on Sunday, welcomed him back home and then, without thinking, went off to a meeting.  I had forgotten about the fact he didn’t have his keys or phone, but I guess so did he.

When I got home from the meeting, I was really tired. I just wanted to take a nap and play some video games.  As I walked up the stairs (we lived on the 2nd floor), I saw Alan with his bags sitting at the front door.  This is when I remembered he didn’t have his phone and keys. Upon further inspection, Alan appeared to be extremely pale.  I told him “You don’t look so good.” He quickly replied “You need to take me to the hospital.”

Here is what had happened between the time I saw him at church to the time I saw him at the front door: Alan arrived at the apartment and found that the door was locked, he proceeded to climb up our balcony to try to get in through our screen door which was also locked, and then he decided to jump down from the balcony and proceeded to break his ankle in the process.  To this day, I do not understand why he decided to come down from the balcony or why he thought some empty cardboard boxes would cushion his fall, but I wasn’t there to talk these things out with him, and that’s why Alan was lying the backseat of my car in total panic while I was trying to maneuver my way on the freeway.  I had a general idea of how to get to the hospital, but I had never been there before, so I had to call my friend Tom to get directions.  Naturally, this kind of freaked Alan out, since any sort of stress was going to exponentially add to his woes.  Alan would tell me his ankle was turning purple and then I would yell at him to stop looking at it and to keep it elevated. (Why I knew it should be elevated, I have no idea.  I guess TV and movies have taught me well.) I felt really bad that I was yelling at him and that I didn’t exactly know where I was going but driving people to the hospital was a new experience for me.  We were both stressed and really scared.

We finally arrived at the emergency room and had a doctor take a look at his ankle.  We were there for awhile, and I stayed knowing the last thing Alan would’ve wanted was to be left alone in the emergency room.  After being there for 5+ hours, we finally left and Alan now had crutches and a cast.  I’m not sure if they put a screw in his ankle that night or if was a procedure done at a later time, but that’s how severe the break was.  After months of being in a cast/with crutches, Alan was finally able to live his life normally again.

I’ve known him for over 10 years now, and while lots of friendships in that time have faded out, ours has managed to survive the test of time, and since he no longer lives in Irvine, I can safely say that it’s not out of convenience.  We no longer live in the same city or go to the same church, but he’s really good at letting me know when he’s in town, which I really appreciate, and that’s a skill that surprisingly few amount of people have these days.  He hasn’t broken any more limbs since that fateful day back in college, but I can safely say that Alan will continue to perplex me from time to time.  I just hope that if he’s learned anything from me in our friendship, it’s that he should have his phone on him at all times, because you never know when it could come in handy.

Some bands/artists are really intimidating to get into. Sometimes it’s because of their extensive back catalog (like Bob Dylan), others is because of the amount of musical ground they cover (Bowie), and perhaps because an artist has put out some sketchy albums (The Kinks, Brian Wilson). These are artists that usually can’t be confined to a 1 Disc best of, and who wants to buy a best of collection anyways? Personally, it makes me feel really lame, and it’s usually the record label’s idea of what “the hits” are so it’s usually less than satisfying. (Side note: I would think that iTunes and Amazon would make best ofs obsolete by now, but with these NOW compilations still selling millions of albums, most of America does not agree with me.)

The one band that I had a lot trouble getting into is Sigur Ros. They don’t have the most extensive catalog and they’re not genre jumpers, they’re just Icelandic. I’m not racist towards people of Icelandic descent or their music (still loving Bjork). Sigur Ros doesn’t sing in English ( or it’s very rare) and only one of their song titles are in English, which makes it extremely hard to identify their songs. They actually sing in hopelandic, which is basically a tweaked version of icelandic, aka, they sing in a language that is basically made up.  I had tickets for their show and I wanted to be familiar with what they were going to play beforehand, like I would for any concert. It’s not that I wanted to know the set list verbatim, but I wanted to make sure I knew where one song ended and another song started.  I think with a band like Sigur Ros, with their 10 minute opuses, it’s an extremely smart move.

I perused the band’s message board and found some of their setlists for this tour. Because I am not privvy to the Icelandic/Hopelandic language, I could not tell off the top of my head if I had a good majority of these songs in my musical library so deducing what songs I needed to buy from iTunes became a difficult chore: copy song title from message board, paste song title into my iTunes library to see if I already had it, if not, copy song title to iTunes store to buy song. Usually this process is much more basic. It’s looking at the song titles and knowing if I had them or not, there wouldn’t be a need to copy, paste, or even look in my library. Luckily for me, the songs I didn’t have all came from one album, saving me money, but not really saving me any time.

It’s not that I had never heard of the band before. I just usually don’t pay attention to their track names when I listen to their stuff, but I know that after I go to a show, I like to know exactly what was played.  This probably makes me sound like a very casual fan.  I know this band is so amazing live that they’ve made my sister cry (or possibly crygasm), and actually at the show, the girl standing next to me fainted. I had liked what I’ve heard from them, I just hadn’t learned their language and all their song titles (long song titles don’t stick in my brain very long, I’m looking at you Sufjan Stevens). I’m sorry  if I don’t remember Viðrar Vel Til Loftárása off the top of my head or that I have no idea what that means. To look like less of a poseur, I oraganized a playlist on my iPhone with the songs they’d been playing throughout the tour and got really familiar with them. I might even be able to tell you now what song is playing in a really butchered way, like “ooh they’re playing Sagglepuss” (Sæglópur).

I ended up really enjoying the show and I was able to successfully differentiate the songs from each other.  They truly are a band that could bring people to tears and they indeed live up to their reputation.  I still to this day can’t tell you what any of their songs mean, or recite any lyrics for you, but I can probably tell you which album each song is from and I can definitely tell you that I ama fan.