Ryan and the Technicolor Wardrobe
Short Stories and Essays

So, near the end of high school (I think), and definitely during college, my friend Mike and I got into the habit of buying each other gifts for Christmas and our birthdays.  With our tight college student budgets, it was quite an accomplishment to do this consistently.  I don’t know if we had set a price ceiling, but I’m pretty sure no gift ever exceeded $30 after tax, but it didn’t matter.  We knew each other well so that it was easy to get something meaningful AND affordable.  Our gifts were often of the geeky variety so to the non-geek, it seemed like we were giving each other random junk.  What is one man’s junk is another man’s treasure, I suppose.

My mom was bemused by these gift exchanges because my mom is not a nerd, or at least not a nerd of our generation, so when Mike would buy me a sock monkey or a poster version of Jay and Silent Bob’s blueprints from the movie Mallrats, my mom would complain at the lack of quality gifts that Mike would give me.  I, on the other-hand, would buy Mike books, and while these books were kind of geeky (David Sedaris – though Mike thought I was using this book to out him since Sedaris is also gay), my mom thought books were more practical.  She didn’t mean it to be critical, and when I told Mike about her criticisms, he was really amused and not offended at all.  In fact, for my 21st birthday, inspired to prove my mother wrong, Mike bought me a martini set, complete with a shaker.  Not only was it a practical gift, it was kind of classy.  My mom really thought Mike had finally come around and what took the cake was the fact that my mom doesn’t actually know what a martini is; she thought that he bought me really cute dessert cups for ice cream.

I don’t think my gift exchanges with Mike back then have taught me any lessons about gift giving that I use today.  I’ve always tried to avoid the gift giving faux pas of thoughtless gift card giving and have avoided the other major no-no of gift giving (buying girls clothes/clothing accessories without them picking it out and trying it on).  Gift giving isn’t particularly a science, but I take a certain pride in getting people original gifts that they would really like.  If I can’t figure out something that’s perfect for someone, I prefer to take them out for a good meal so I can assure them some sort of satisfaction.

Charis and Allison perform for the local community theater a few times year outside of the duties with the Technicolor show.  I haven’t been able to see them in all their different performances, and I’ve only seen them once since our last show, but I made sure that they remembered I was there.  I came out to watch them on opening night as part of a sold out crowd.  I missed them walking down the red carpet because I had to stop by the Fullerton Farmer’s Market so I could pick up some gifts for the girls.  I couldn’t just stop anywhere to get the gifts, it had to be the Farmer’s Market.  There’s a man who comes down from Gillroy to the Market every Thursday, and I needed to buy some garlic for Charis.

Charis is a very unique 10 year old child.  For one, she’s a leap year baby (2/29), and two, she loves garlic, raw garlic. One of my first conversations with Charis consisted of her asking me two questions: Do I like raw garlic? (yes) and How much can you eat at one time? (I have no idea).  She then proceeded to tell me how much she can eat at one time, and the fact that the number was greater than 0 was pretty surprising to me.  So, I decided that as her gift for opening night, I was only going to get Allison flowers and I was going to get Charis a braid of famous Gillroy garlic.

I had asked her about this possibility before and she told me that she would rather have garlic than flowers, so it wasn’t a total surprise when I gave it to her, but she was still kind of shocked that I followed through with my plan.  She wasn’t at all embarrassed to be walking around the courtyard of the theater carrying around a bag of garlic.  She even stopped to smell it a couple of times.  Allison seemed perfectly content with the more traditional gift of flowers and complained that the garlic made the bottom of her bouquet stink.

I’m sure that if I had pitched this plan to my mom, she would’ve told me that I was being foolish for wanting to buy a kid a bag of garlic, and I’m sure other people would’ve told me the same thing as well, but when a gift is given, (as I knew back in college with Mike) as long as it makes sense to the giver and the receiver, that’s all that matters.

“As you sleep with electric guitars / Range rovin’ with the cinema stars” – Elevate Me Later (Ell Ess Two)

Irvine is a planned community.  It is a city owned by the Irvine Company and takes great pride in being considered the “Safest City in America”.  It’s located in sunny Southern California and borders Newport Beach in Orange County, widely recognized as one of the richest counties in America.  For some reason, they decided to stick a public university there and didn’t build a “college town” around it (if I’m not mistaken, the college was one of the first things built there).  I went to said college and stuck around for about a decade.  At first I enjoyed being there because things were so convenient.  There was almost literally a Target on every corner (or at least off of each major street), which was a drastic change from living in North County San Diego, which is still somewhat still under development.

Unfortunately, we missed out on the college town atmosphere and we didn’t have a football team.  The only thing that my roommate Phil and I could really find redeeming about the place (other than it being Will Ferrel’s original stomping grounds) was realizing that Pavement shot one of their music videos not only in the city of Irvine, but at the University shopping center across the street.  Sure it is kind of an irrelevant detail in the grand scheme of life, but we took any victory that could.  Besides, Pavement, and perhaps the Replacements are the only bands that I can confidently say, shaped my personality as we know it.

My friends, especially Phil, always wondered why I stuck around for so long.  I really don’t have an answer.  At first, I think I stuck around because I really liked my church, then it was because I still had some close friends around from college, and then eventually I guess I stuck around out of convenience.  I’d be foolish to say that Irvine hasn’t shaped me in some way or another but I can’t say how at this point.  Some people probably assume that it’s shaped my appetite for fashion, but that was actually caused by my trip to New York a couple of years back.  I do feel compelled to at least look decent when I go to the malls here, but that also might be because I’m 28 and single.

“So drunk in the August sun and you’re the kind of girl I like because you’re empty and I’m empty” – Gold Soundz

I’ve always assumed that the longer you date someone, the bigger the fallout becomes when you break up.  Sadly, the girl that did the most damage to me… I can’t even say that we actually dated.  There was some stringing along, some mixed messages, some feelings shared including the dreaded “I like you but…”  In hindsight, I should’ve bolted instead of sticking around for the drama, so I will be fair and assume my share of the blame.  She was a couple of years older, so maybe I thought she would be above these shenanigans (naive move on my end).  It was a situation that ugly.  People got involved (no retraining orders or violence, just a lot of politics, I guess), and right when I thought things were going to calm down, she told me she had started dating someone else with one minute left to go on my lunch break, which led to a pretty ugly breakdown at work.  For some reason she kept telling me that she wanted to be friends and I believed her.  Then on my birthday, she apparently had forgotten that she “had a date” and that she couldn’t tell me personally, so she sent me the message through our unassuming mutual friend, who I basically yelled at.  It was the beginning of the end for me, both at that job and to be honestly, at church as well.  It was the first time in my life where I understood what “needing a change of scenery” really meant.

” Was a distant voice/ Made me make a choice/ That I had to get the fuck out of this town” – Box Elder

One day I had left my laptop at my friend’s apartment and I needed it to do some work.  I called him but he wasn’t home but he told to swing by and pick it up because his roommate was home so I shouldn’t have a problem.  So I knocked on the door and after waiting a few seconds, I turned the knob and walked in and grabbed my laptop from the living room.  As I turned to leave, I heard a gun cock back and then saw it pointed at me.  I guess my friend didn’t tell his roommate I was on my way over to get the laptop, so I explained to him why I was there and calmly told him “you can put your gun away”.  He disarmed the gun, stopped pointing it at me and gave me some sort of explanation about how he was training to be a cop and some people in the complex knew about it and he was paranoid about them or something that didn’t exactly make any sense.  (I don’t think he passed his psychological exam – true story) While he didn’t actually fire the gun at me, it was an experience that has definitely stuck with me.  I never felt like I was in any inherent danger, but my friend’s apartment in the “safest city in America” was the last place that I ever imagined having a civilian pull a gun on me.  While I’m pretty sure this happened before the fiasco with the girl, perhaps I should’ve taken this moment as a realization that I didn’t belong here.  It was a moment that didn’t make sense on so many different levels, and usually when this happens in a dream, I wake up because I know I’m in a dream.  It was a moment where I should’ve realized that me being in Irvine didn’t make sense, and that I just needed to “get the fuck out of this town”.