Ryan and the Technicolor Wardrobe
Short Stories and Essays

When my family moved to San Diego from Brooklyn Park, we moved to an area that was in the midst of being developed, an “up and coming” community, if you will.  While we didn’t know it at the time, Brooklyn Park was starting to slowly deteriorate.  It never boasted itself as “America’s finest city” (ironically, unlike San Diego), but from my visits there over the past few years, I’ve noticed that it is merely a shadow of what it once was.  When I first started school in San Diego, I would tell kids that we left Minnesota to get out of the ghetto, since they wouldn’t be able to confirm or deny whatever I said.  It turns out that what I had said wasn’t too far from the truth.  I’m not exactly sure what caused the decay of my hometown and I guess it’s not really important in the context of this story.  I’m not ashamed of where I’m from, or where I’ve moved to, and  why should I be?  While Brooklyn Park, San Diego, and Orange County all seem like pretty different places, they all share the a common bond: good local beer.

When I grew up in Brooklyn Park, I remember a lot of Pabst Blue Ribbon and Budweiser beers in my house.  Once, as a kid, I accidentally grabbed my Dad’s can of beer while reaching for my Pepsi, and immediately spit it out in the sink.  (This is probably part of the reason that I didn’t really experiment with alcohol until I got to college.) In the times I’ve been back, Bruce and his brothers have introduced me to a beer from a local brewery called Surly.  It came in a can and it was pretty wonderful.  To my surprise, this brewery set up shop in 2005 in my hometown, which is pretty much the only reason to go back to that part of town (and arguably the only good things to come out of that town, period. Just kidding, Pat Neshek and Krissy Wendall).

Living my adolescent years in North County San Diego was difficult.  It’s too hilly to get around via bike or by foot and for years it was still in the middle of development.  By the time there were any shops around the area (not that there’s anything all that exciting), I was already off to college.  Being away from San Diego has given me a greater appreciation for the city, as well as having a car to transport myself around all those hills.  There’s also this wonderful brewery that has been built about 10 miles north of where my parents live that has wonderful scenery to chew on as well as wonderful beer and food.  The Stone Brewery is becoming that once place that I always want to go to when I’m visiting my parents, which is becoming kind of problematic since it’s not the cheapest place to hang out at.  Luckily my parents love it there and my brother-in-laws all want to check it out the next time they’re in town, so I’ll never need to go there alone.

Ever since I’ve been in Orange County (first for college, then for work, and now for?), I’ve constantly heard various friend complain about the lack of character or the area.  I’m not much of an Orange County apologist, so I haven’t really refuted that.  I have found that North Orange seems to vibe a little bit better with me, and recently I’ve stumbled upon a local brewery in Fullerton.  I tried their beer at a local bar and when I found out they were located close by, I looked them up and decided to go to their tasting room.  Their beers are great and the people that run the place are extremely friendly.  It’s a very small operation and part of the charm of drinking there is that you’re literally drinking in a garage.  It’s a bit of a contrast from the Stone Brewery in San Diego and there’s no food, but since I’m in Fullerton so much these days, it’s nice to know that I can stop at Bootlegger’s Brewery and kick back a couple of pints in between stops.

I’m sure wherever life leads me, there will be a decent craft brewery not too far away and while I definitely enjoy beer, I don’t think I’ll start planning trips around all the different breweries that I enjoy.  Finding good beers has become a hobby of mine, just like finding the best restaurants in an area.  All these places have more to offer than just beer; beautiful lakes, the beach, theme parks, restaurants and good friends, but beer makes each and every one of these things better.  Looking at everything through a local beer colored lens just makes that local color all the more delightful.

A few weeks ago, I received an issue of Maxim Magazine in my mailbox.  I’ve never subscribed to Maxim, so my first thought was that it must be my neighbor’s, or that it had been misplaced in my mailbox, but it was clearly addressed to me and it was the correct address.  I guess this is a common practice nowadays, but I was pretty irritated, mostly because Maxim thought that I would be the type of person that would subscribe to their magazine.  To be honest, I’ve never really gone a full issue of Maxim, but just by seeing what they typically cover/write about it, it is safe to say that Maxim Magazine is not my cup of tea.  I do know the kind of guy that does read Maxim, or at least I knew him for a year, he was my room mate from freshmen year of college, Steve.

I moved in a couple of days after the official move-in day, and I walked into my room seeing that his stuff was sprawled out over my side of the room, I believe he had his TV sitting on my bed for whatever reason.  I didn’t take it too personally.  We were 18 year old kids who had never lived outside of home and things like this were bound to come up.  We initially got along.  We both liked sushi… and that was about it, and so since we were very different and immature people, things quickly started to go south.

Steve wanted to make our room a cool place to hang out, and I actually didn’t have a problem with this, but our definitions of what made our place cool definitely clashed.  I was cool with just keeping the place relatively clean and putting up a couple of posters, but Steve had a very specific definition of what was cool, or what he referred to as “pimp”.  He thought the only posters/calendars we should have in our room should consist of “girls and golf” and the more things that had cheetah print, the better.  I’m not sure where he got this definition of “pimp”, I can only assume he read about it in a magazine, like Maxim.  He also wanted to get a neon sign that he put in our window (he moved in first, so he got the window) that read “Open”, and of course he wanted me to pay for half  (I didn’t).

To mess with him, I bought a Power Puff Girls calendar and put it up on my side of the room.  It really upset him.  “I wanted hot girls, not a cartoon!” to which i replied “she can shoot LASERS OUT OF HER EYES AND LIGHT THINGS ON FIRE”.  I thought it was really funny, predictably he did not.  I continually ignored his requests because it was my side of the room and I thought his ideas were ridiculous, so eventually I got my Monet print and my Trainspotting monologue poster and he had to accept that only half of the room was going to be “pimp”.  We hung out a little at the beginning of the year.  I tried to be nice to him and be his friend.  I went to his orchestra performance (though I don’t remember what he played), we went to get sushi a couple of times, but we quickly realized that we were just going to be just roommates, not friends.

Since we were 18 year olds, we were not equipped with the skills to make our situation amicable.  There was a week where we didn’t talk.  We didn’t exchange information to stay in touch after we moved out.  The last I heard about him is when my friend met him at a party.  After saying some not-so-nice things about how I would manipulate girls to hang out with me, my friend (also a girl) asked if maybe girls like to hang out with me because I’m a nice guy.  Steve fired back with “Are you on your period or something?” and that was the end of that conversation.

It’s been almost 10 years since I’ve had to see Steve or hear about him so I have no idea where he is now or what he’s done with his life.  He may very well be living in a “pimp” apartment with cheetah print everything, a neon “Open” sign and all those other bizarre requests he wanted when he was 18 or he may have outgrown those ideas.  If were to show up at my door today, I would actually be nice and ask him how he’s been doing.  Though I know that instead of  actually having this hypothetical chat with him, I could just ask him if he wanted my copy of Maxim Magazine and that would answer all my questions about whether he was still pretty much the same guy as he was 10 years ago.

In one of my many failed attempts to get in shape, I decided to take up playing roller hockey.  I thought that playing a team sport would be an easier way for me to burn calories since I would be having fun, so I convinced my friend to join up with me because he was also looking to shed some pounds.  I’ve wanted to play hockey ever since I was a little boy growing up in Minnesota but my parents weren’t too keen on it since it would’ve given a bunch of white kids a valid reason to hit me.  While that fear was probably unfounded, it was probably for the best.  I learned to ice skate around the age of 8 and that would’ve put me way behind the curve of most hockey playing Minnesota kids.

So since I’m now an adult and I’m in Southern California, my friend and I signed up for a beginner’s roller hockey league.  This was a no-hitting league, but unfortunately the skill level of people in the league varied.  No one would be mistaken for a professional hockey player, but there was definitely a considerable difference between the skill level of the best guys on our team, and real beginners like my friend and me.  This didn’t sit well with our team captain, John.  He did very little to show his contempt for two actual beginners, but he needed more warm bodies on his team and that’s pretty much all we were to him.  He would scream and swear at us constantly, whether he was on the bench or on the rink with us.  My friend received the brunt of the punishment since he was less skilled and more out of shape than me and he quit soon after that (I later found out that my friend cannot take any sort of criticism and that is why we are no longer friends.)

I decided to keep playing, because even though this guy was a jerk, my main goal was to exercise and get in better shape.  Occasionally, I would have other friends play on the team, taking over my other friend’s spot, but for the most part I was pretty much an outsider, other than this other new guy who was also a beginner.  Most of the guys were pretty nice, but they were also much older so we didn’t get to know each other that well.  Through random talk in the locker room or on the bench, I found out our captain was pretty much the stereotypical jock.  He played minor league baseball part time, played rec-league hockey at night, and his only hobbies seemed to be staring at women like a creep and getting drunk.  It’s probably a safe assumption to say that he probably didn’t listen to Sufjan Stevens and Belle and Sebastian.

Our team was pretty terrible.  I think we only won one game during the eight game season.  It would be unfair to place the blame on me, or the other new guy, or my friend who quit after one game, we just lacked players.  We surely could’ve used more skilled players, but we just didn’t have enough players to keep our team fresh and we would wear down with fatigue as the game went along.  After our last game, the captain actually told me that I had improved a lot over the course of the season.  It was nice to know that in the midst of all his rage that he actually noticed that I was getting better.  It was a pleasant surprise, but it didn’t make up for all the verbal abuse I had taken all season long.  I was asked if I was going to come back the next season and I said “I don’t know”, which was the honest truth at the time.  Playing hockey was fun, but it was expensive, and since we played these games on weeknights, it made it really hard for wake up for work the next morning.

My decision whether I would continue playing hockey was made for me a couple of weeks later at a pickup game. I took a slapshot to the only unprotected part of my skate, right where the laces are.  My foot immediately began to swell and I could barely walk on it.  I was scared that I had broken it, but after about a day, my foot was back normal.  Even though I didn’t need any medical attention for it, I thought about how difficult my life would’ve been if I had broken my right foot.  I wouldn’t be able to drive to work, it would be a pain to get around the campus of the school I work at, and I would probably need assistance at the grocery store.  While I realize that sometimes injuries will happen if you’re careful or not, I thought it would be better to stop throwing myself in harm’s way, where hard rubber discs fly at me at 70mph on a regular basis.

So after one season, I retired from rec-league roller hockey, and while I didn’t lose a lot of weight from playing, I proved that I was tough and resilient, not just physically but emotionally as well.  While I can’t say that I went out on top, or as a champion, I can at least say that I didn’t quit because Captain Jerkface yelled at me.  Even though I probably will never see him again, and I probably wouldn’t say much if I did, I gained his respect, and for some strange reason that is somewhat satisfying.

A couple of years ago, I was introduced to someone who, after exchanging names and pleasantries, asked me what my personality type was.  After telling them that I was an INFP, they told me “I don’t get along with INFPs.”  We eventually became friends and we eventually he hit a point where we had trouble getting along.  I don’t think our personality types caused our conflicts, because they don’t seem to get along with pretty much anyone.  I won’t deny that personality types can give us a general idea of people, but it would be foolish to completely write people off or consider them your best friends just because of four simple letters.

A lot of people are surprised that I’m introverted and that I’m extremely introverted to boot.  They’re probably confused because they see me run around on stage like a maniac.  I’m fine with entertaining a big crowd but I don’t like having to socialize with a huge group.  It makes me tired, so I like small groups at best.  Unfortunately, I have to kind of prepare myself for social situations so when a situation changes, it’s hard for me to be flexible.  So when people show up uninvited, or when a small group turns into a party, I tend to be in a pretty bad mood, even if all the people in the room are people that I like.  It’s something that took me a while to figure out, and now it’s taking me a long time to deal with it.  Unfortunately I don’t think this irritation is going to go away any time soon.

Last week, I was going to go grab a late night meal with my friend and his girlfriend, so I showed up at his place and got in his car so we could carpool to the restaurant.  As I sat down in the car, he said “Okay, now we’re going to pick up my friends”.  It’s not that I didn’t like his friends or that I was particularly hungry, but I got noticeably irritated.  At the end of the night, I ended up having a good time.  I just know that I wouldn’t have been in a bad mood if my friend had told me we were going with others, opposed to surprising me with the situation at the last minute.  As much as I try not to be anal about this, the order of events are important to me. I like to be able to emotionally prepare myself for situations, which sounds silly, and it is, but that’s how I work.

I wonder if this hang up will end up sabotaging any chance I have at “success” as an artist.  I’m a bit of a paradox.  I’m a performer that doesn’t like to socialize with the groups that I entertain.  I plan events but I like to keep the invite list low.  My gifts seem to conflict with my personality, but I think that’s why I’ve been able to grow a lot as a person.  I’ve had to reconcile the two over the years and, while I’m not there yet, I feel like I’ve come a long way.  Obviously, last week was a reminder that simple surprises can still get a pretty dramatic response out of me, but I eventually came around and I didn’t pout and shut down, and I consider that great progress for me.

It makes me wonder how I would act if I were ever given fortune and fame.  Would I tell people that they can’t make eye contact with me?  Would I end up snapping and living in a secluded cabin in the middle of nowhere?  I would like to think that these are only the actions of crazy people, but I can’t rule them out for me either.  Does this mean that I’m going to give up now to prevent myself from reaching anything close to these levels of success?  No, I’ve come too far.  I’m not necessarily saying I want to bite off more than I can chew, but I think I just need to let things run their course and take what opportunities life throws at me.  To try to deny that would truly make me a crazy person.

So, maybe if I will have some sort of infamous meltdown one day, and I’ll make a complete fool of myself in a very public setting.  I’m willing to take that risk and maybe my friend can tell all the people they know, “I knew he was going to do this one day because he’s an INFP.”

My friend once told me a story about how she was watching this baby try to get his mom’s attention at a party when she was talking to some of her friends.  After his first couple of attempts were deemed fruitless, he decided to take drastic measures, so he dumped his plate of food all over the place, including himself.  After the damgage was done, all the the tupperware had finished rattling against the floor, everyone kind of stopped what they were doing and let out a collective “Ohhhhh!”, so this child had accomplished his mission of getting his mom’s attention, and ended up receiving the attention of the entire room.  Sadly, grown ups cannot get away with the same antics to get attention, so we resort to other ways that are just as messy.

The last time I saw Molly in person was at happy hour, but this wasn’t the last time I had interacted with her.  Many months after our last exciting encounter, I received a notification in my inbox about how she wanted to be friends on Facebook.  I wasn’t at home at the time, so I decided that I would wait until I got home whether to deal with whether I should accept or decline her friend request.  It wasn’t because I have strict standards for who is allowed to be my Facebook friend, or that regularly cleanse my friends list based on who does or does not interact with me, I just wasn’t sure if I wanted to give Molly more access to my life.  I’m not someone that posts extremely confidential information on Facebook, but Molly has always had the gift for making a big deal out of irrelevant things.

I got home an hour or two after receiving the notification and I logged into Facebook to either confirm or ignore her request, but it was a moot point, the request was gone, which was a relief.  I briefly tried to look her up to see if there was some sort of glitch in the Facebook system, but she was nowhere to be found, so apparently she had de-activated or hidden her account.  I found the chain of events kind of strange but quickly moved on with my life, content to forget that she wanted to find me on Facebook in the first place, but a few months later, she made a request for my friendship once again, and once again it was rescinded, and again she had disappeared.

There was a third request a couple of months after that, and this time she didn’t decide to de-activate her account or rescind her request.  So, after a couple of days of letting the request sit in my inbox, I decided to officially ignore it, to decline her friendship.  The fact that it took her 3 attempts to finally let me decide whether we would be Facebook buddies gave me the impression that she was still the hurricane of drama that I’d experienced before, and I would be best staying away from her, even in this cyber world.  I could’ve easily limited her access or ignored to see her feed, but I decided it was in my best interest to just cut the cord.

Perhaps, it was also in her best interest for me to put an end to things, and not just because it will bring my stories about her to an end.  She obviously put a lot of thought into requesting my friendship, and it’s probably because she wanted to talk to me, to share about her life, and I’m not in a place where I can be a friend to her.  I can’t overlook her flaws, tolerate her social inadequacies, or lovingly encourage her when she’s wounded.  I understand enough about her past to know that she’s not some evil succubus whose sole purpose in life is to make my life uncomfortable and miserable.  She’s just a girl who has unfortunately been a product of a vicious cycle, and one that’s amassed a whole lot of baggage.  She’s a girl who puts her guard down way too quickly and it’s probably why I find her to be so crazy and it’s why guys find her to be easy pickings.  I wish her well and perhaps one day, we’ll cross paths and I won’t find her to be so unbearable, though I honestly don’t think that day will come anytime soon.  I’ve heard that she’s moved to Chicago because of some guy, and I can only hope that this one actually cares about her and will help her sort through all the issues she’s piled up over the years, because no one deserves to be victimized over and over again.

I probably will never know what becomes of her life and I’m okay with that.  I would like to have some sort of hope for her.  I’d like to think that she’ll eventually realize that her antics on Facebook were the equivalent of her dumping food all over herself at a party and that she eventually caught the attention of that person, or group of friends, that will clean her up and make her feel cared for.