Ryan and the Technicolor Wardrobe
Short Stories and Essays

My mom like to freely suggest to me that I should have some strict rules about my car and who should be allowed to ride in it.  These suggestions have good intentions behind them, and often have incidents to back them up, but they sound kind of crazy, like the suggestion that I should refuse to drive people in my car or to let them bring food or drinks inside.  While I’ve had friends spill drinks or leave trash in my car, I don’t think I should start making a list of people or items that are banned from my vehicle.  It’s even funnier to think about the fact that, even with these rules, she would tell me to give a ride to drunk man that I’ve never before just because he’s related to me.

I was playing video games at a friend’s house when my mom called me.  I was supposed to visit my parents down in San Diego that day, so I assumed she was calling me to ask me if I had started my way down there, and then to ask me why I hadn’t left yet.  I was partially correct.  She wanted to know if I had already left for San Diego, but was actually relieved that I was still in Orange County.  She wanted me to pick up my cousin from a hotel in Irvine and to bring him with me.  It sounded like a simple enough request until I found out that the cousin I was to pick up, was a cousin from Korea that I had never met before.  It’s already weird enough when you know you have to spend an hour plus car ride with a complete stranger who’s actually related to you, but it’s worse when your sister informs you “I don’t think his English is very good”.

I drove to the hotel and peeked around the lobby, trying to find my cousin.  I had no idea what he looked like.  I just knew that he was in town because of work, so I had some simple parameters to work from.  I needed to find a Korean man who wasn’t wearing a Hawaiian shirt or any attire that would make him look like he was on vacation.  I thought I had spotted a man who could fit that description in the lobby, but as I approached him, his wife and child had walked out of the elevator, so I eliminated him as a possible suspect.  As much as she is forgetful, I was sure my mom would’ve mentioned his wife and child needing a ride as well if they were hypothetically also in town.

After a few more  futile passes around the lobby, I headed back to my car to tell my mom that I couldn’t find him.  She gave me the room number that he was staying in and told me she’d give him a call to see if he was there.  As I got off the phone, a man knocked on the passenger side door of my car, and it was him.  I unlocked the door for him and upon opening the door, I immediately caught a huge whiff of beer.  My cousin, who I had never met before, was drunk, which exponentially heightened the chances of this being a super uncomfortable car ride.  He introduced himself to me and his English didn’t seem to be as bad as my sister had advertised.  He told me that he was a little late because he had just gotten back from a business dinner, which explained why he reeked off beer, but I was still a little worried, not because I’ve never driven a drunk person around, but because I had no idea what kind of drunk my cousin was.  If he was a happy drunk or a sleepy drunk, I could manage, but if he was an angry drunk or a depressed drunk, I wasn’t sure how I would be able to survive being in a car with him for over an hour.

Luckily for me, he was pretty tame.  I asked him what he was working on and what company brought him into town for business.  He asked me what I did for a living and we basically covered that basics as far as two long lost cousins getting to know each other.  Things didn’t get awkward outside of him asking me about who I was dating, and then advising me to find a Korean girl to make my parents happy opposed to the Chinese girl that I was currently in a serious relationship with.  I brushed it off as quickly as I could and tried to not be offended by his suggestion since he wasn’t from the States.  We eventually made it to my parent’s house, and after spending a day in San Diego, I drove him back to Irvine.  It was a pretty drama-free trip.

He was a nice guy and I’m glad that I finally got to meet him (not that I knew that he existed before that weekend).  I especially appreciate the fact that he didn’t throw up in my car, but even if he had, my mom would’ve helped clean it up, because that’s what family does.  Family is about having a higher tolerance and a greater faith in each other than is recommended.  That’s why I turned the other cheek when my cousin suggested I break up with girlfriend on the basis of ethnicity instead of punching him in the face.  Besides, I don’t need my mom to make a new rule about me physically attacking people in my car.

I don’t exactly have a reputation for “getting my hands dirty”.  I’m not a “take it apart and put it back together” kind of guy.  It’s not that I’m totally against the idea or that I’m disinterested.  I’ve actually thought about buying a decent guitar and swapping out the pick ups and the tuning pegs, but I just haven’t had the stars align to where I’ve had the time/resources to embark on that journey.  I enjoy a lot of things in life, and I like to understand as much about those things as I can. My friends definitely understand that about me, which is why they’re surprised that I haven’t tried brewing beer yet, since tasting different kinds of beers has been my M.O. lately.

Bruce decided to buy me a beer brewing kit for my birthday and while it arrived a couple week ago, I haven’t tried my hand at brewing beer.  It’s not that I don’t have any interest in it, it’s because it’s been busy and extremely hot outside.  I don’t know a whole lot about brewing, but I know that most beers need to be brewed in a semi-cool temperature, so I’ve been hesitant to start brewing in the summer.  Brewing takes a long time – 3 weeks to ferment and then another 3 weeks to bottle, so I don’t want to screw it up.  If I have to wait 6 weeks to see the fruits of my labor, I want to make sure I’ve done everything in my power to make sure its done right.  I don’t have all the time in the world.  It’s not like I’m in college anymore.

During my freshmen year, I lived next door to a guy named Sheldon.  He was a Biology major and while he was the same age as me, he looked a lot older since he had a full blown goatee.  He would take advantage of his “older” appearance by going to the grocery store to buy alcohol without getting carded.  He would usually buy a bottle of wine, a baguette of french bread, and a couple of other things, so he would seem less suspicious than if he were to show up to the cashier with a handle of Jack Daniels and a 2 liter bottle of coke.    Eventually they started to ask him for his ID, and he would tell them he left it in his car and he’d leave.  He knew he couldn’t go to the cashiers that carded him previously so after about a month, his options all dried up and we no longer had access to booze.

Instead of giving up, Sheldon decided to get creative about accessing wine.  He decided that if he couldn’t buy it, he would try to make it.  So here we were, in a freshmen dormitory, with carafes filled with grape juice, yeast and whatever else he thought went into wine.  While he did some research on the internet, and while I’m sure his science background helped, I’m pretty sure the ingredients he needed to make wine weren’t available in the grocery store. I’m absolutely positive that’s where he was getting his goods, since I don’t remember him getting anything shipped to him as far as grapes were concerned.  I didn’t say anything about it.  I was just a lowly film major and if it all ended up working out, I didn’t want to get cut out of any wine with my negative attitude.

Eventually the day came where the wine was ready and Sheldon had his over in his room for a tasting.  I will give him credit for buying french bread and oil/vinegar to “classy” up the event, but all in all, his wine was a failure.  I didn’t drink enough of it to confirm whether it had become alcoholic or not since it tasted like barbecue sauce and not like wine.  We appreciated his valiant effort but in the end, it was all for naught.  He wasted a lot of time and money trying to make his own wine in his dorm room, and had nothing to show for it.  He ended up dumping it all, since it was undrinkable and he decided to give up on his dream of turning his dorm room into a winery.

Obviously, with my home brewing kit, I’ve been given detailed instructions, and ingredients that have been tested, so I probably won’t end up making beer that tastes like barbeque sauce.  I can look at Sheldon’s failure as a cautionary tale, but I can also look back on his experience with envy.  He threw caution in the wind, and swung for the fences at at time in our lives where there was little recourse (he ended up getting kicked out of school, but that’s because he was playing too much Everquest).  In my home brewing process, I won’t have that same thrill, but at the same time, I probably won’t fail, and at this point in my life, that’s probably a healthy thing for me.