Ryan and the Technicolor Wardrobe
Short Stories and Essays
I’m not big on New Years resolutions, but I remember thinking that 2010 was going to be a big year for me. It was, by all accounts, but not in a way that I was expecting. I had an inkling that I’d find the person that I was going to settle down with, but instead, I ended up finding the place I was going to settle down in. So, I technically fulfilled my resolution, it was just not in the way I intended to. It’s just another one of many reminders of how the majority of what happens in life is out of my control.
2010 actually ended up being kind of a tumultuous year for me in the emotional arena. There wasn’t necessarily any major drama during the year, but there was a consistent stream of minor turbulence. I’ve definitely had worse years in the past, but nothing in 2010 made me feel like 2011 was going to be a big year in the relationship department, not that I was expecting a sign from the cosmos.
Of course, stranger things have happened.
2011  barely started, but by all accounts it has been promising, or at least there wasn’t any drama from New Years Eve 2010, which was low key and and pleasant enough.  I woke up on New Years Day like it was any other Saturday morning. My goal for the day was modest: find some friends to enjoy dinner with. It was a cold day so I wanted something soupy, and since my friends, Nate and Alyssa had just gotten back from an even colder place, Michigan, I was sure that they were probably craving something similar.
The restaurant I ended up choosing was a Shabu Shabu restaurant that was just a few miles from my place. I found it one day when I was driving to the theater to fill out paperwork for my show. I had just discovered with a friend right before the holidays. I liked the place so much that I actually opened up a Yelp account so I could give them a positive review and to capitalize on the discounts they were offering. Nate and Alyssa had never had Shabu Shabu cuisine before and were interested in trying it.
When we arrived at the restaurant, it was pretty busy. We were told that there would be a 30 minute wait. Nate and Alyssa grabbed a menu and flipped through the pages, while I chatted with them about the different dishes the place had to offer. After thumbing through the food menu, they switched to the sake menu, and while they busied themselves with that, one of the waitresses caught my eye.
Now, I’m sure that she’s not the first cute waitress that I’ve ever noticed and she surely won’t be the last, but the green and blue streaks in her bangs particularly piqued my interest because it reminded me of Ramona Flowers from the Scott Pilgrim universe, and just like Ramona Flowers in the comic books/ movie, she had come out of nowhere and captured my imagination. Unfortunately, she wasn’t destined to be our server, but we were seated close enough where asking her to refill my water wouldn’t seem out of the ordinary.
I’d never really attempted to pick up a waitress, it’s never really been my style, so I didn’t initially put a lot of stock into the idea of it. I would ask for refills of my water, which she did graciously. In my head, this is where I expected the story to end, but the reality in my head and the reality of life aren’t always on the same page. She later returned, and to my surprise, she returned to chat.
“Are you Korean?” she asked. I got a little defensive.
“Why do you ask? What are you?”
“I’m Korean.”
“Oh, okay. Yeah, I’m Korean too.” I finally admitted.
“I could tell. You look Korean.”
“Thanks?” I’ve been told I look Korean a lot and have never known how to respond to that.
We ended up chatting about New Years and whether I did any of the Korean New Years traditions with my family, which I didn’t because I didn’t see my family that day. As far as I remember, my family never really did that stuff and I explained to her that it was probably because we lived in Minnesota, which is an explanation I use far too often. She asked me if I was a Vikings fan, so I told her “no, they always break my heart.”.  She told me that she had a friend who had lived in the Twin Cities that still loved the Vikings and that I should maybe reconsider. She left to go serve the other customers at the bar and occasionally I’d catch her or she’d drop by to chat some more. In a way, she kind of took over as being our server, though we would still see our original server from time to time.
Eventually the bill came, and I knew that my time with my Ramona Flowers was coming to an end. Nate and I put down our credit cards and explained to her how we wanted to split the bill, then I headed for the restroom. When I returned, she was chatting with Nate and Alyssa, and when I sat in my seat, she decided to greet my by my name which she had discovered from my credit card.  This gave me the perfect opening to ask what her name was, and I was amazed at how everything had been working splendidly.  Not only did I get attention of the cute waitress, but we were actually getting to know each other.
She’d occasionally tease me during the night and while we had built a very superficial camaraderie with each other, I was kind of surprised that she felt so comfortable around me right away.  I know that waitresses need to be able to fake friendliness as part of their job, but she seemed genuinely interested to chat with my friends and me.  In the span of this one dinner, where she was also preoccupied with serving other customers, she was able to befriend me and disarm me. Girls that I’m attracted to usually heighten the awareness of my insecurities but this girl was somehow making me more comfortable in my skin, while showing some playful spunk.

Of course it helps that her jests were about inconsequential subjects, like why it took me so long to expose Nate and Alyssa to Korean food. I left without asking for her number because I didn’t want to start the year on a note of humiliation. I ended up going back a couple of weeks later and asking for her number in the middle of the restaurant, in front of a bunch of strangers, and she actually gave it to me.  The restaurant would end up being the place where I’d perform most of my romantic gestures: I’d bring her a bottle of her favorite wine, which we’d enjoy while I ate there, or I’d torch up some homemade creme bruleé for her.
While things between us didn’t up working out in the end, I learned a lot about myself and how romantic I could be.  For once in my life, I felt like I was the lead in a romantic movie, and while I didn’t get the girl at the end of this story, I’ll can always look back at that beginning.

My parents were never in the PTA at Palmer Lake Elementary School.  I’m sure the Korean/English language barrier was the biggest factor in their absence, or perhaps they found the PTA superfluous.  They might’ve been too busy with work when my sisters were in school, but they weren’t while I was in school, so that’s not much of an excuse.  I don’t know what was discussed at the meetings and why these meetings took place at all.  Since my adult life seems normal enough, I’ll assume that it wasn’t a big loss that my parents didn’t get involved, and I’ll also assume that it means my parents weren’t crazy after seeing a lot of crazy parents in the news throwing tantrums about their kids’ grades.
I’d think that the idea of a PTA is so that parents know what’s going on at school, what’s expected of the kids, ways they can help, etc.  That sounds useful enough, but I’ve realized that no matter how much “guidance” the PTA will give me, I will be a terrible parent at helping my kid excel.  It won’t be for a lack of trying, but artsy, sarcastic Ryan should not help his kids with anything outside of math, and possibly science, but I was never particularly good with science, and perhaps english, since I’m obviously running on with this sentence and I realize that switched from talking in the third person to the first – this is quite a train wreck.
I was in Oregon a couple of years ago to see my nieces and school had just started for them.  My niece, Jamie, had just come home and started doing a work sheet that her teacher had given her.  It was a questionnaire on one side and it was a table on the other side where she was supposed to put various subjects/tasks in three categories:  “like a lot”, “am okay with”, “don’t like”, or something in that nature.  I sat at the table with her while she worked on it, intrigued, since I usually see my nieces during holidays or summer, therefore they never have any school work to worry about.  So this was something new for their uncle to experience.
As far as the questionnaire went, a lot of her answers were pretty common for a 9 year-old.  Person you’d like to meet: Selena Gomez (Disney Channel actress), place you’d like to visit: Florida (Disney World), etc.  It surprised me that she was skipping a lot of the questions.  To me, these weren’t necessarily things that required a lot of thought.  She wrote “I’d like to be a rich person” for the question of “What do you want be when you grow up?” and this angered my sister.  My sister told her to write something like “you want to be a pet doctor”, but my niece refused.  I offered a bunch of more interesting options like “you want to be the head of FEMA, but you’re going to do a good job”, but those suggestions fell on deaf ears.
Honestly, I had no problem with my niece’s answer.  It’s not admirable, but it’s honest.  It’s not like she wrote “marry a rich guy”, or something less than noble.  My sister was telling her to lie and this made me wonder about the ethics of being a parent.  I understood my sister’s case because you don’t want your kid to look like they have a lack of morals, but at the same time, ordering your kid to lie on homework is pretty hypocritical.  Of course, as the hip 26 year old uncle, I was merely there to play Wii games with the kids, buy them ice cream, and threaten to make them smell my armpits. These more important decisions were not part of my job description – they’re not my kids.  When I finally have my own, I highly doubt that I will force then to lie on their homework.
Not that I’m calling my sister a bad parent.  She’s just trying to prevent her child from getting on the teacher’s crap list.  She’s involved, she’s helping, and she’s trying to guide her kid towards a more fruitful goal than just being rich.  It’s all commendable, and perhaps it’s what the PTA preaches to my sister.  I just wonder if teachers can read through these answers and pin down the kids who are being fed answers from their parents.  At least when I have kids, the teachers won’t have any doubt, because they’ll see the answer “I want to be the head of FEMA.”