Ryan and the Technicolor Wardrobe
Short Stories and Essays

I’ve never been able to find my niche with New Years Eve. It sounds silly, but I don’t think I’ve ever spent it with the same people or doing the same thing. Sure, there’s a countdown at some point but that’s it (and on the west coast, it’s on a tape delay). I don’t even sing Auld Lang Syne or come up with crazy resolutions that I will forget about after a couple of months, I just go through the motions and that kind of makes me sad.  Spending New Years alone wouldn’t be as depressing as say, spending Thanksgiving for Christmas alone, but it’s definitely a day you’re supposed to be with friends and like a lot of people in their 20s, I guess I have a revolving door of friends.

So a couple of years ago on New Years Eve, I decided that I’d make an honest effort to find some sort of tradition that I can carry with me in my single years. I can’t say I’ll be spending New Years Eve ’10 with the same people that I spent New Years Eve ’09 or 08 with but I think it’ll be safe to say that this year, like the others, I will be able to find someone to enjoy some scotch with.

I’ve started getting into scotch a couple of years ago and it’s been an exciting journey. I haven’t been drinking alone, I’ve been mostly drinking scotch with friends, or while chatting with a friend online. In 2008, I decided to cap 2008 with a bottle of Johnny Walker Green at a friend’s apartment. While perhaps not a “high roller” bottle of scotch, it was more “higher end” than anything I’d previously experienced and I found it fitting to end the year with something new, and since we ended 2008 with something new, 2009  ended up with something likewise, a bottle of Johnny Walker Gold. (*Disclaimer, we didn’t drink the entire bottle of Green that night nor did we drink the entire bottle of Gold.  Scotch is not meant to be downed or shot.)

It would be nice to have some sort of tradition where the bottle of scotch would be upgraded every year to signify prosperity.  Unfortunately that would be a tradition that might be too difficult to uphold.  The price jump from a bottle of green to gold is about 20-30 dollars which is manageable, but but the jump from a bottle of Johnny Walker Blue is almost double the price of a bottle of Gold.  I could always switch to a different label of Scotch, but that just opens up a whole new can of worms.  Whatever direction I go, I’m probably going to hit a price point that I can’t justify, at least for the foreseeable future.

Traditions aren’t necessarily supposed to be easy, so it’ll be interesting to see how much longer I can keep this tradition for, and if I have to say “goodbye” to this one, hopefully I will fine a new and better tradition that I can try carry on for the rest of my life.  Either way, I just hope that I’ve found a group of friends that I’ll be spending New Years Eve with for many more years to come, because as my 20s start to wind down, finding that special group of people seems to be like the one thing that I’ve been missing all along.

We went to a small Korean Church in Minnesota.  According to Bruce, this was one of two Korean churches in the state (Google says there now at least 8).  As you might expect in the state of Minnesota, our Korean church didn’t have the largest congregation, but I would say it’s safe to estimate that we did have at least a couple hundred people, children included.    A decent percentage of that population consisted of my family (8 people, including my grandmother), my aunt’s family (herself, my uncle, and three kids), and Bruce’s family (his mom, dad, him and his 2 brothers – no relation, but close enough).  So while we probably couldn’t stage a coup de etat of the church on our own, we were pretty visible and probably had a decent amount of influence at the church.  My sisters seem to be pretty involved during their high school years, but they pretty much stopped going to our church, or any church after they graduated from high school.

Since my sisters have stopped going to church for years now, it is always very entertaining to see how uncomfortable they are when they’re home for the holidays and my parents beg them to go to church.  I understand that part of their discomfort stems from my parents introducing them to a bunch of people that my sisters don’t know (they had all moved out and stopped going to church before my parents and I moved to San diego), and it probably doesn’t help the matter that I usually don’t go with (to deflect attention, I suppose).  I know it probably sounds ironic that I attend church regularly but I sit out Christmas service at my parents’ church, but I really can do without my parents’ friends telling me how much weight I’ve gained since high school and how chubby my face has gotten (complete with visual illustration).  So my sisters go, they sit through it, they meet some people that they barely remember / never met before, and head home to ask my why I’m not forced to go (and that everyone asks about me so my parents have to spin a lie about why I’m not there).

The meals at Christmas time are also really amusing because not only have my sisters stopped going to church, but they’ve also stopped praying on a regular basis so when my dad asks someone to pray for the entire table, there’s a lot of awkward silence and finger pointing.  My sisters tend to volunteer me every time this happens, and I’m never especially happy to be handed this “honorable” duty.  As I’ve gotten older, and have become more comfortable with interacting with my much older sisters (between 8-15 years older), I’ve tried to turn the tables on them when they’ve forced me to pray out loud in front of the whole family.  I can’t say that it’s stopped them from pressuring me, but at least I feel like I do achieve a small victory now in the process.

When my sisters force me to pray, I try to make the most uncomfortable scene that I can.  I tend to stand up, I raise my hands over everyone, and I try to speak like a charismatic tele-evangelist.  I pray for my sisters’ disobedient sinful souls, and I try to draw the prayer out for as long as I can.  If I can stay in character, I’ll try to perform an exorcism, but usually there’s a lot of laughing at that point.  I’m sure my christian friends don’t approve of this method.  They’d probably recommend that I take the prayer seriously so I may help my sisters remember the importance and power of prayer, and I think that is a valid argument, but I’m just not wired that way, and humiliating my sisters is just so irresistible.

A few months ago, my sister was in town, and since I was her ride to the airport, she had to go to church with me, since I had to play guitar that day.  It actually wasn’t too uncomfortable for her to be there.  I’m guessing it probably helped that everyone in my church speaks English and no one wears a suit.  Whatever the reason, I’m glad she didn’t accuse me of forcing her to go and that she didn’t complain about the service afterwards.  I’m to get all my family back in to church so we can return to old days but in a way it was some sort of a small victory for me.  I’m in no way trying to be the family evangelist, but it would be nice if we could finally get to a place where my sisters were finally comfortable with going to church with my parents once a year and I wasn’t forced to pray at every family dinner.

I only remember one of my substitute teachers from high school and I draw the ire of my teacher friends whenever I reminisce about her in front of them.  They’re not annoyed about her faux British accent or the fact that she wore a Looney Toons sweatshirt every day she subbed at our school, they’re annoyed by the fact that she would placate us by turning on the Food Network and letting us watch Emeril Live with her instead of actually trying to teach us from a lesson plan.  Back in high school, this was the best thing ever, and as a student, I never really considered how annoyed my teachers might be when they came back and found out that we learned more about jerk chicken than anything else when we had our substitute teacher.  I didn’t know any better, I just went with the flow, and honestly I didn’t care.

High school also saw the release of one of my favorite albums of all time, Weezer’s Pinkerton.  I immediately loved it on the first listen.  The music was loud, sloppy, and goofy, but in a more sophisticated and thoughtful way than a blink 182 album.  To me, it sounded like Weezer. (even though the Blue Album is super polished and not sloppy at all) I was really surprised to see that it wasn’t doing well critically or commercially and I was really surprised to find out that some publications and DJs really hated it (yes, not just Rolling Stone‘s reader’s poll).  I wasn’t the most cerebral kid (and I’m not particularly cerebral now), so perhaps I didn’t care that the lyrics were emotionally raw, kind of creepy, and really immature, since it was released when I was 14, I was also kind of creepy, and really immature.  I thought a song like “Tired of Sex” was clever because it sort of went against the grain of being a rock star.  I didn’t know that it would become an album with a cultish following, but I totally admit that I’m one of the members.

In college, we had to read Puccini’s Madama Butterfly and when I saw it on the syllabus, I was really excited since Pinkerton‘s concept is loosely based on it.  I saw some of the connections while reading it, but I wouldn’t say that it made me enjoy Pinkerton more or less.  It was what it was.  I saw Weezer in concert later that year, I bought their next album on the day it was released, and then I eventually stopped caring about the band until they did a re-release deluxe edition of Pinkerton.

I’ve read a lot of press clippings about the re-release and how it was probably hated when it originally came out because it was an album being looked at through the lens of adult reviewers and they probably frowned upon the unfiltered sexual frustration of the lyrics.  Back in 1996, this was apparently frowned upon.  That sounds so weird to me.  I didn’t find anything particularly jarring about it as 14 year old.  It was fun loud rock music and the lyrics were kind of goofy.  Upon re-listening to it as a 28 year old adult, I can kind of see how this album could make reviewers back in the 90s uncomfortable.  It’s all about the context.

As a 14 year old, hearing a 25 year old vent about sexual frustration seemed normal – it was almost empathetic, and hearing a 25 year old sing about writing love letters with a 18 year old school girl in Japan seemed romantic, but now hearing these songs again as a 28 year make me feel a bit differently about it (not enough to change my view – I still love this album).  Obviously, at 14, I could only understand so much about it and at 28 I understand so much more.  Luckily, I heard it when I was younger so now when I look at it, I view the creepiness of it all as a piece of art.  There was nothing criminal about it, it’s just kind of tasteless at times, and that’s okay.

It’s just a reminder that how I view things change with age and perspective.  I can now understand why Pinkerton was derided back then, I can admit that Kevin Smith’s films no longer have the same impact on me as they did in college, and now I realize that my favorite substitute teacher in high school pretty much embodies all the traits of a bad sub, but the choice is still mine of how I want to remember these things.  I can still view Pinkerton as one of my favorite albums of all time, I can say that the View Askew universe has had an impact on my humor, and I can still love that sub who let us watch Food Network all those days, even though I know she would drive my friends nuts.