Ryan and the Technicolor Wardrobe
Short Stories and Essays

When we moved into our first apartment in college, we thought it would be best to divide up the responsibility of setting up utilities.  I was in charge of the setting up the electricity, Phil was in charge of setting up the cable/internet package and so on.  This was a good idea since we had no to very little credit history (we all could build credit) and many of these companies forced us to put up deposits (since we had no credit history).  We ended up getting a cable/internet/landline package because somehow it was cheaper than simple cable/internet package, Phil informed us.  He also told us that the phone number for our apartment was ###-7825, or ###-SUCK.  He specifically picked it out so it’d be easy to remember even though we all knew that we would rarely use it, since we all had cell phones.  We would occasionally use it if we ordered a pizza, and we registered the number at our local grocery store to gain discounts, but it was never used to regularly make calls.

I ended up leaving the apartment after a year and started my journey of bouncing around Orange County.  First, I moved closer to campus, then to the beach, then back towards campus, before finally touching down in the city of Orange.  I didn’t have a particular affinity for any of these places, but I stuck around anyways.  Going back to San Diego seemed like a retreat, not just because I would most likely live with my parents again, but because I wanted to eventually make it as a screenwriter in LA, and San Diego was in the opposite direction.  I never moved to LA because I could never find that right combination of finding a job there and people to live with.  I could write from Irvine, or Orange, and then make trips up to LA whenever the studios started calling, but they never did.  After a while, it occurred to me, that proximity to LA probably shouldn’t be my only reason for staying in Orange, so I embarked on a little “tour”.  I made a list of places that I might see myself settling down in and went to visit them.  Fortunately, I had friends that lived at all these specific stops.  Unfortunately, none of the places inspired me to pick up all of my belongings.

I’m not necessarily restless to get out of here, but the fact that all my roommates have picked up their things and left- well… it makes me feel uneasy, like I was somehow left behind.  I know everyone’s timing is different, and perhaps I’m supposed to be here for a while longer and there’s some special purpose for that.  I’m wondering if the dreams that I’m pursuing are the ones I’m supposed to be pursuing and if I’m honestly in the right place at the right time.  Is this just a pit stop before I head towards bigger and better things, or is this it?  I, by no means, live a miserable life and if this is all it’s cracked up to be, I would like to try to appreciate it more for what it is than what I would like to be.  I mean, I should probably do that anyways, but right now I have goals and dreams that I haven’t attained, and it definitely puts a damper on my current reality.

While my roommates have dispersed across the country, I’m still here.  In fact, I work within a few miles of where we went to school.  When I go to the market, I enter our old landline phone number ###-SUCK and it still works.  I don’t even know if any of the roommates still remember it or the story of how Phil chose that for us.  I wouldn’t say college was the best time of my life or any of our lives, but we all keep in touch more or less, so the friendships that were formed in that apartment were definitely not superficial.  We haven’t had a set reunion or anything – that’s not our style, and our lives have spread us pretty far apart.  We’ve been out of college for seven years now, but it seems much shorter than that.  I’m not sure if I feel that way because I haven’t felt like I’ve accomplished much or that I haven’t made a crazy cross-country move, but I think staying in an area for 7 years is an accomplishment in itself.  I’ve managed, with plenty of mistakes and growing pains, to live on my own, and I think when I first got out of college, that was my main goal anyway, and it’s a goal that I’m glad I achieved.

Back in college, I would volunteer at church by teaching 5th and 6th grade kids.  For the few years I was there, there were 4 or 5 consistent volunteers that I worked with, and then there were a few others who would drop in every few months.  One of the people who made more than a couple of guest appearances was a girl that I will refer to as “Working Girl” because her nickname for me was “College Kid”, since for most of my tenure, I was the only volunteer who was still in college (aka I was the youngest).  She would pat me on my head or pinch my cheeks as a form of teasing/endearment.  She was really pretty so I let her get away with it, I guess.  I had a bit of a crush on her, but I was never going to seriously act on it.  She was probably at least 5-6 years older than me, I never asked.  A few months after I graduated from college, I was eating dinner with a friend at a Red Robin, and I happened to see her.  She walked over and greeted me with “Hey College Kid!” and I told her that calling me that would no longer be accurate and that she’d have to finally learn my name.  She congratulated me for graduating college and made some small talk before she returned to her table.  Not that I planned on asking her out, but all of a sudden, a cold ugly reality hit me.  I started thinking about what kind of car I drove (and still drive to this day), how I was on the bottom of the career ladder, and things of that nature.  Basically, I had an epiphany about what it meant to no longer be “College Kid”.  I was on the bottom of the “working adult” totem pole and it was a sad and lonely place.

When I met Barrett, he was one of the few college students who attended our church.  He wasn’t from around the area and he had just transferred from a community college.  We didn’t have a college group or anything like that, so my friend was trying to meet up with him to make him feel more connected.  My friend is 5-6 years older than me, which means that he’s 10-11 years older than Barrett.  Not that the age gap really means anything.  Barrett listens to classic rock.  My friend doesn’t.  So, in a decision that would be mutually beneficial to everyone involved, I told my friend that I would hang out with Barrett since I easily had a lot more in common with him.  It was a good move.

So every couple of weeks, Barrett and I would grab dinner and we’d just chat about life.  We were only 6 years apart, so I thought that I would seem less like of an authority figure to him, and more like a friend, and that happened to be the case for the most part.  Barrett still thought I was old.  In fact, he would regularly ask me things like “Did your generation have X-Men the Cartoon?”  While it’s not necessarily silly to ask if a TV show was on 6 years prior (that’s a long time in TV land), it is kind of silly to pose the question as generational thing.  He was also adamantly against the kids at church calling him “Uncle Barrett” because he was young and was, in his opinion, more of a cousin.  (Charis and Allison now refer to him as “Uncle Bar-It”.) We were born in the same decade.  We were only 6 years apart, and if we were in different generations, I was much more in tune with his generation than he was.  After he came back from his hometown after the summer, he told me that he realized that I wasn’t that old, which is probably the nicest thing he’s ever told me.  He would still bring up our “generational” differences, but mostly as an antagonistic joke.  I would still have silly debates with him, (like how he swore that The Mighty Ducks 3 takes place during college, because he argued that a prep-school is a like a junior college) but for the most part, he tried not to frustrate me.

I definitely don’t look at hanging out with Barrett as a chore or as someone that I have to look after, and while at first glance, I definitely find his “generation” talk silly, I know I wasn’t that much different when I was about to graduate.  The journey from 22 to 28 does seem like a long one, and there’s a lot of self-realization that I had to learn on the way.  I’m pretty amazed that I’ve been out of high school for over 10 years and that I’ll be 30 in no time.  “Working Girl” seemed so unattainable to me and she was probably only 5-6 years older than me, but she just seemed that much older (not in a negative light – she dressed well and seemed to have her life more or less together).  I wouldn’t say that I thought she was part of a different generation, but she was in a different life stage, one that I thought I’d never be a part of at 22.

It has been well documented in my writings that Chris and I have very similar tastes in music, film, and humor.  It’s something that we’ve both acknowledged from the beginning of our friendship and over the past 11 years, if our tastes have evolved, they’ve continued to evolve down those shared paths.  So when Rob Pope of The Get Up Kids (broken up at the time) joined Spoon a few years ago, I was excited, and I knew that Chris would be excited, while my girlfriend at the time couldn’t have cared less.  I remember telling Chris the news and he was shocked.  He couldn’t believe it and I knew that he wouldn’t be able to believe it.  After finally accepting the news, he said “Wow.  Going from The Get Up Kids to Spoon.  Good career move.”  I couldn’t agree more.

It’s pretty amazing that from the start, I’ve been able to predict Chris’ reactions.  Even during a game of Rock-Paper-Scissors, I remember guessing his move.  I recalled a Simpsons episode where Lisa and Bart were playing Rock-Paper-Scissors, and Lisa’s voice in her head said “Poor predictable Bart, always picks rock.”  I substituted “Bart” for “Chris”, put down paper, and surely enough, Chris had picked rock.  “Good old rock, nothing beats rock.” was Bart’s thought, and it was probably Chris’ as well.  I told him about that afterwards and he wasn’t mad at me at all.  He actually had a good laugh about it.  He couldn’t accuse me of cheating, I just knew better.

I’m not saying that we have a crazy telepathic connection or anything like that.  We’re just really similar and that’s why I enjoy his friendship so much.  I don’t have to cater to his interests, our interests are pretty much the same.  The bands we like, the films we love, the TV shows we watch – all pretty similar.  I don’t have to worry about making a joke that he won’t get.  The only problem with this is that there are often times where Chris and I are the only two people in a room that are in on a joke or a reference.  Sometimes it’s fine when it’s inside joke, but sometimes it’s awkward when it’s something really dark that we think is hilarious while the rest of the movie theater is shocked and horrified.

This happened when we went to the No Country for Old Men at the local movie theater in Irvine.  It was in the middle of award’s season and Chris and I were really excited to see the latest offering from our favorite movie directors, The Coen Brothers.  Since we were devoted fans of the Coens, we were used to seeing guys getting disposed of in wood chippers and a guy named Weezy Joe putting a gun in his mouth and pulling the trigger when he mistakenly thinks it’s his inhaler.  So when Josh Brolin is getting chased by a dog and he has to shoot it with a sawed off shotgun, Chris and I erupted with laughter.  Unfortunately we were the only two people in the theater that thought it was funny.  It’s not because Chris and I hate animals (I especially love dogs), we understood this as a “release point” for all the tension that had been building prior to this scene.  It’s a staple of their filmmaking.  Build up the tension, then release the tension with something really uncomfortable and darkly comical.  Rinse and repeat.

We’ve tried to explain this scene throughout the years to many people and usually we get horrified looks.  We’ll giggle about it and Chris will say “Come on!  He shot the dog!”, like it’s somehow supposed to make people understand our point of view.  Perhaps one day, people will revere us for the film aficionados that we are and we can teach a class on release points in modern film.  I’m not holding my breath though.  Chris is far from the perfect friend, and I’m sure many people could submit a resume on why they think they should be considered a better friend to me than him.  I’m sure their points would be valid, their cases solid.  Unfortunately for them, they probably can’t geek out about The Get Up Kids and the comedy of shooting dogs, and for some reason that gets weighted really heavily on my friend grading rubric.  I’m not saying that all my best friends should be exactly like me, but it’s always nice to know that there’s someone out there that’s laughing at the same terrible thing as you.