Ryan and the Technicolor Wardrobe
Short Stories and Essays

In 8th grade, I went to the local record store to pick up a CD.  I couldn’t go to a big chain store like Tower Records to get it because it was by a local band that was on a small label.  Perhaps, it’s because of the limited availability, but it seemed like a lot of kids in my classes were excited that I bought it.  Lots of kids wanted to borrow it, and since I had just bought it, they knew that they would need to let me borrow something in return.  This is not a story to boast about being one of the first kids at my school to own the debut album by Blink 182 (I’m sure I wasn’t), this is a story about how I used that album to find something even better.

In middle school, they pulled me out of the gifted english and history classes, because I was pretty ambivalent about my studies in 6th grade.  This allowed me to get good grades in 7th and 8th grade, while still being ambivalent about my studies.  So, in 8th grade English, I talked about music a lot with a kid named Billy, who was really into exploring punk rock, so I knew he’d want to borrow the Blink album.  (Later that year he’d end up going to one of those radio station sanctioned concerts that was headlined by Blink 182 and some band called Radiohead – the mid 90s were a weird time)  In exchange for Blink 182’s Cheshire Cat, he let me borrow Red Medicine by Fugazi.

I’m not sure if he decided to let me borrow Red Medicine on a whim, or if he gave me a few options and that’s what I picked.  Red Medicine was obviously a much more difficult listen that Cheshire Cat. The production was more raw, the guitars weren’t always exactly in tune, and the vocals were a little harsh, but I immediately loved the album.  It was what punk rock is supposed to be, passionate and fiery.  While I still enjoy Cheshire Cat, it’s not a punk album, and Blink 182 is not a punk band.  Fugazi opened my eyes to what punk was at the exact same time that San Diego was becoming known as the punk/ska capital of the music world.

Eventually, Billy and I had to return the CDs to each other and after that year in middle school, we kind of lost touch.  I was placed back into the gifted english and history classes for high school, Billy stayed in the regular classes, and I didn’t really see him again until prom where he showed up in a purple pimp suit.  I don’t think I talked to him directly that night but I remember him being particularly obnoxious.  It saddened me a little that I felt that way.  I should’ve been proud of him that he was going against the grain and being edgy, but I don’t think he was trying to be punk rock that night.  At least, not in the Fugazi way, maybe in the Blink 182 way.  Even though I was wearing a tux, complete with a boutineer, I didn’t feel like I had sold out.

It would’ve been nice to lie and talk about how Billy’s appearance at prom had reminded me of how un-punk rock I had become, but it hadn’t.  It actually made me wonder if the CD exchange from 4 years earlier, had altered both of our life journeys.  Billy went down the road of dick and fart jokes with Blink 182, while I raged with indifference against the ridiculous and unforgiving social fabric of high school society.  While I’m far from what Ian Mackaye would want me to be, he’d probably appreciate that I understand that I’m not very punk rock opposed to thinking that being juvenile and obnoxious were the ideals.

We were young, and hopefully that was the last time that Billy ever wore that outfit.  I may never see him again, but I do wish him well.  I did really like talking to him in class in 8th grade and I’ll never forget that he introduced me to a band that was much much better than Blink 18s, and for that, I will always be thankful.

I grew up with a girl whose parents worked together.  They didn’t own their own business, they just happened to both be employed by the same company.  I’m not sure if they worked in the same department, I’m not even sure what they did, I just know they arrived at work together and they left work together.  They’ve done this for roughly 30 or so years, and even though I don’t know what they do, I find the whole premise kind of romantic.  For some reason, I find it more romantic that they don’t have their own business, and that they both choose to work together for someone else.  From what I can recollect, they were married before they started to work together, so there was never the “dating someone from work” dilemma.

I’m not hoping to find someone that I work with or will eventually work with.  I think my friend’s parents have a unique situation.  I also think that there’s a huge difference between how our parents prioritized things and how we now prioritize things.  Working at one place for over 30 years is unheard of these days, especially when it’s not a business that you can call your own, or a job that you can’t consider as your “dream job”. Like I mentioned before, I don’t remember what they do for a living, but I’m betting that if they were actually passionate about their jobs, I would have some sort of memory of what it was.  I did see them a few years ago.  I do remember them still being at the same place.  I just forgot to ask what they did after all these years.

It probably doesn’t matter to them that I don’t remember.  They’re just happy that they live comfortably and that they were able to raise their one daughter off of their income.  As far as I can tell they have passions outside their job, but they’ve been fine just making a living.  I think my parents were the same way.  I think a lot of parents in that generation had this mentality as well.  It’s something I kind of envy.

I’ve been drawn to art ever since my adolescent years. I’ve always wanted to do something artistic.  Whether it be playing in a band, being a screenwriter/director, and now as some sort of essayist/short story writer, I’ve always felt that it’s what I should be doing for a living.  My expectations aren’t as grand as one might expect.  I don’t expect to ever be flying around in leer jets while swimming around in a money bin full of money, but I’ve always felt like making art for a living was what I’m supposed to be doing, even though I’m able to find steady, stable, employment elsewhere.

In college my first goal was to record some music, which I was able to do before the end of my sophomore year.  Later, my goal became to finish a full length screenplay before I graduated.  Once again, I was able to accomplish my goal, and I was pretty satisfied with myself.  I completed my goals, and I didn’t embarrass myself in the process.  I didn’t care that I didn’t get a record deal out of my EP or that I didn’t sell a bunch of copies of it.  I just cared that people liked it.  For some reason, starting with that screenplay, I’ve needed my penchant for writing to become a sustainable job for me and unfortunately that hasn’t happened yet.

I feel like I’m dawdling.  I had a friend in college who told me that he smoked a lot of weed in high school.  After freshmen year in college, he had an epiphany and stopped smoking so he could focus on his studies.  He got into grad school and is now doing research that he’s really passionate about.  I really wonder if I’ll ever have a similar epiphany where I’ll stop complaining in my mind about my stable, reasonably stressful job that I currently have.  I don’t think it’s bad to look for better opportunities, but I wish I could be happier with what I have.

Perhaps I haven’t found the trigger for my epiphany to appreciate “normal work” yet.  Perhaps it’ll be something profound like having my first kid, or maybe it’ll be something that barely seems related to the future of my life.  Maybe in 30 years, I’ll look back at these times and laugh at how foolish I was for thinking that I needed to create art for a living and that I could never picture myself working at one place for 30 years or maybe I’ll look back and smile at the struggle to finally get to where I wanted to go.  Either way, I hope I’ll finally be able to find that peace.