Ryan and the Technicolor Wardrobe
Short Stories and Essays

My wife and I were awoken to a loud banging on our door. Upon answering it, we were given a piece of paper that instructed us to gather our belongings and to head to the lobby for evacuation. Literally overnight, a Class 5 hurricane had formed, and it was headed straight in our direction. We grabbed our things, raided our mini-fridge, took our blankets, and proceeded to head down six congested flights of stairs. Officially, our honeymoon in Puerto Vallerta was over.

While our honeymoon was far from perfect, we had just started enjoying the fruits of what the area had to offer. We had a beautiful dinner on a small island, we swam with dolphins, and took in a show. While we had some minor hiccups throughout our trip, we were content to spend our last day relaxing, not being be on the run from Hurricane Patricia on our last day.

The night before we had an activity canceled because the weather was forecasting an incoming storm. We thought the cancelation and the customer service fiasco that followed would’ve been the low point of the trip, but it proved to be a red herring, because the incoming storm wasn’t just a storm, but the greatest hurricane of all time in the Western Hemisphere.

The lobby was jam packed with people and there was no actual evacuating being done, which made things even more confusing, so I did what others were doing, and I ran down to pick up whatever food I could fit on a plate and ran it back up to the lobby knowing that this could be our last meal.

Finally, some buses pulled up, but we were informed that they weren’t buses for everyone, but only for people who booked their stay with a certain Canadian travel agency.  This went on for hours.  At this point, people were starting to get agitated as we rode a rollercoaster of emotional despair. Bus after bus would pull up, refuse us, allow others, and then subsequently leave.  Time was running out. The hurricane was coming. People were starting to cry. We needed to get out of there, so my wife and I started to push towards the front of the lobby.

Among this seemingly endless line of buses, a van drove up to the resort.  The driver called out for people who had booked their stay through Orbitz and a handful of people got in the van.  After a few more calls, he let it be known that he had room for 2 more people.  Before I could even react, my wife had pushed me forward and we got into the van.  We didn’t know we were going, but to my wife and me, it didn’t matter.

Our driver, Tomas, was a local, and he was actually not a part of Orbitz, but that was the easiest way for him to track down Erin, and Trevor, a couple from Vancouver, who had access to a relative’s villa in the hills. Tomas took care of those properties, and was planning to take them to the villa after he dropped us off at an evacuation point. We were glad he knew where a shelter was, because we were unclear on those details, even after hours of sitting around waiting to be evacuated. There were conflicting rumors of going to the Puerto Vallerta Convention Center, or to a University in the hills, and that uncertainty kept us tense.

I tried to bond with Erin and Trevor to keep my spirits up. In an attempt to not offend our new Canadian friends, I decided not to bring up hockey as my icebreaker topic, but I instead asked them about the general chaos of Vanouver hosting the 2010 Winter Olympics. This gave me an opening to mention hockey, specifically how my friend loves Ryan Kessler, a former Vancouver player. Erin immediately responded with “Who doesn’t?”, and immediately recognized that I could get along with them. How long would that be for, I had no idea, but soon enough we pulled up to a horticultural university.

As the van stopped, we were greeted by a man in uniform. Tomas rolled down his window and there was a quick conversation in Spanish, which consisted mostly of the man doing a lot of hand gestures while speaking. It ended with Tomas rolling down his window and turning to us to tell us that the university was already at capacity and that we were being turned away. Collectively, our hearts sank. What were we going to do? Were we going to be brought back to the resort? Would he just drop us off on the side of the road? He had no reason to take us any further.

He may as well have been a saint.

Tomas turned his attention to Erin and Trevor and explained that there was plenty of room for all of us in the villa. Without a moment of hesitation, Erin agreed to let us stay with them and all of a sudden, for a moment, hope was restored. We still needed food, so we rushed to the nearest market, only to find it boarded up and closed. We headed to a 2nd store, only to find it also abandoned and boarded up.  With the clock ticking and our options dwindling, we finally found an open market near the villa. The market was clearly low on supplies since everyone was preparing for the worst but we were able to get our hands on some tortillas and cheese to hopefully hold us over until Hurricane Patricia had finished passing through.

The villa itself was beautiful and spacious, and most importantly, above sea level. There was a kitchen, a living room, and a bedroom for each couple. It was a stark contrast to being confined to a gymnasium with hundred of strangers. We were fortunate that our strangers all spoke English and we were even more fortunate that they were easy to get along with. Along with our new friends from the North, we were also with a couple from Northern California. The husband worked as a brewer for Budweiser. He and I immediately hit it off, talking about our favorite beers, and as a collective we talked about a wide range of topics from our experience at the resort to how Canadians view American football. Between topics, someone would check to see if there was a weather update, and we would continue talking.

My wife and I cooked dinner with whatever we could find. We ended up making chorizo fried rice. We were able to find a half bottle of tequila lying around the house. We ate together, we drank together, and we enjoyed each other’s company. As the hours went by, and the rain started to pour down, we decided to call it a night. We didn’t know if this would be our last night on earth, but if it was, at least we were in the presence of our new friends.

We woke up the next morning to another loud banging on our door. This time it was Trevor, and he was alerting us of good news. The hurricane had re-directed itself and petered out. We were safe. Actually, everyone was safe. The hurricane took no casualties, and Tomas was ready to drop us off at the airport.

As we drove through the streets, we saw many of the shops still boarded up. Puerto Vallerta looked like a ghost town. To our surprise, the airport was fully staffed and fully operational, in fact, our flight was even scheduled to be on time. As we walked through the Duty Free shop and took free samples of tequila from vendors, it’s almost as if nothing had happened.  Somehow, in a mere matter of hours we went from facing impending doom to being safe enough to board an airplane. We sat down, waiting for our flight, and we checked the weather one last time. We had officially survived the hurricane. While no passengers in the airport seemed to be acknowledging what we had all gone through, I decided that I needed to, so I turned to my wife and quietly sang her the words “Here I am, rock you like a hurricane.”

 

So, near the end of high school (I think), and definitely during college, my friend Mike and I got into the habit of buying each other gifts for Christmas and our birthdays.  With our tight college student budgets, it was quite an accomplishment to do this consistently.  I don’t know if we had set a price ceiling, but I’m pretty sure no gift ever exceeded $30 after tax, but it didn’t matter.  We knew each other well so that it was easy to get something meaningful AND affordable.  Our gifts were often of the geeky variety so to the non-geek, it seemed like we were giving each other random junk.  What is one man’s junk is another man’s treasure, I suppose.

My mom was bemused by these gift exchanges because my mom is not a nerd, or at least not a nerd of our generation, so when Mike would buy me a sock monkey or a poster version of Jay and Silent Bob’s blueprints from the movie Mallrats, my mom would complain at the lack of quality gifts that Mike would give me.  I, on the other-hand, would buy Mike books, and while these books were kind of geeky (David Sedaris – though Mike thought I was using this book to out him since Sedaris is also gay), my mom thought books were more practical.  She didn’t mean it to be critical, and when I told Mike about her criticisms, he was really amused and not offended at all.  In fact, for my 21st birthday, inspired to prove my mother wrong, Mike bought me a martini set, complete with a shaker.  Not only was it a practical gift, it was kind of classy.  My mom really thought Mike had finally come around and what took the cake was the fact that my mom doesn’t actually know what a martini is; she thought that he bought me really cute dessert cups for ice cream.

I don’t think my gift exchanges with Mike back then have taught me any lessons about gift giving that I use today.  I’ve always tried to avoid the gift giving faux pas of thoughtless gift card giving and have avoided the other major no-no of gift giving (buying girls clothes/clothing accessories without them picking it out and trying it on).  Gift giving isn’t particularly a science, but I take a certain pride in getting people original gifts that they would really like.  If I can’t figure out something that’s perfect for someone, I prefer to take them out for a good meal so I can assure them some sort of satisfaction.

Charis and Allison perform for the local community theater a few times year outside of the duties with the Technicolor show.  I haven’t been able to see them in all their different performances, and I’ve only seen them once since our last show, but I made sure that they remembered I was there.  I came out to watch them on opening night as part of a sold out crowd.  I missed them walking down the red carpet because I had to stop by the Fullerton Farmer’s Market so I could pick up some gifts for the girls.  I couldn’t just stop anywhere to get the gifts, it had to be the Farmer’s Market.  There’s a man who comes down from Gillroy to the Market every Thursday, and I needed to buy some garlic for Charis.

Charis is a very unique 10 year old child.  For one, she’s a leap year baby (2/29), and two, she loves garlic, raw garlic. One of my first conversations with Charis consisted of her asking me two questions: Do I like raw garlic? (yes) and How much can you eat at one time? (I have no idea).  She then proceeded to tell me how much she can eat at one time, and the fact that the number was greater than 0 was pretty surprising to me.  So, I decided that as her gift for opening night, I was only going to get Allison flowers and I was going to get Charis a braid of famous Gillroy garlic.

I had asked her about this possibility before and she told me that she would rather have garlic than flowers, so it wasn’t a total surprise when I gave it to her, but she was still kind of shocked that I followed through with my plan.  She wasn’t at all embarrassed to be walking around the courtyard of the theater carrying around a bag of garlic.  She even stopped to smell it a couple of times.  Allison seemed perfectly content with the more traditional gift of flowers and complained that the garlic made the bottom of her bouquet stink.

I’m sure that if I had pitched this plan to my mom, she would’ve told me that I was being foolish for wanting to buy a kid a bag of garlic, and I’m sure other people would’ve told me the same thing as well, but when a gift is given, (as I knew back in college with Mike) as long as it makes sense to the giver and the receiver, that’s all that matters.

“As you sleep with electric guitars / Range rovin’ with the cinema stars” – Elevate Me Later (Ell Ess Two)

Irvine is a planned community.  It is a city owned by the Irvine Company and takes great pride in being considered the “Safest City in America”.  It’s located in sunny Southern California and borders Newport Beach in Orange County, widely recognized as one of the richest counties in America.  For some reason, they decided to stick a public university there and didn’t build a “college town” around it (if I’m not mistaken, the college was one of the first things built there).  I went to said college and stuck around for about a decade.  At first I enjoyed being there because things were so convenient.  There was almost literally a Target on every corner (or at least off of each major street), which was a drastic change from living in North County San Diego, which is still somewhat still under development.

Unfortunately, we missed out on the college town atmosphere and we didn’t have a football team.  The only thing that my roommate Phil and I could really find redeeming about the place (other than it being Will Ferrel’s original stomping grounds) was realizing that Pavement shot one of their music videos not only in the city of Irvine, but at the University shopping center across the street.  Sure it is kind of an irrelevant detail in the grand scheme of life, but we took any victory that could.  Besides, Pavement, and perhaps the Replacements are the only bands that I can confidently say, shaped my personality as we know it.

My friends, especially Phil, always wondered why I stuck around for so long.  I really don’t have an answer.  At first, I think I stuck around because I really liked my church, then it was because I still had some close friends around from college, and then eventually I guess I stuck around out of convenience.  I’d be foolish to say that Irvine hasn’t shaped me in some way or another but I can’t say how at this point.  Some people probably assume that it’s shaped my appetite for fashion, but that was actually caused by my trip to New York a couple of years back.  I do feel compelled to at least look decent when I go to the malls here, but that also might be because I’m 28 and single.

“So drunk in the August sun and you’re the kind of girl I like because you’re empty and I’m empty” – Gold Soundz

I’ve always assumed that the longer you date someone, the bigger the fallout becomes when you break up.  Sadly, the girl that did the most damage to me… I can’t even say that we actually dated.  There was some stringing along, some mixed messages, some feelings shared including the dreaded “I like you but…”  In hindsight, I should’ve bolted instead of sticking around for the drama, so I will be fair and assume my share of the blame.  She was a couple of years older, so maybe I thought she would be above these shenanigans (naive move on my end).  It was a situation that ugly.  People got involved (no retraining orders or violence, just a lot of politics, I guess), and right when I thought things were going to calm down, she told me she had started dating someone else with one minute left to go on my lunch break, which led to a pretty ugly breakdown at work.  For some reason she kept telling me that she wanted to be friends and I believed her.  Then on my birthday, she apparently had forgotten that she “had a date” and that she couldn’t tell me personally, so she sent me the message through our unassuming mutual friend, who I basically yelled at.  It was the beginning of the end for me, both at that job and to be honestly, at church as well.  It was the first time in my life where I understood what “needing a change of scenery” really meant.

” Was a distant voice/ Made me make a choice/ That I had to get the fuck out of this town” – Box Elder

One day I had left my laptop at my friend’s apartment and I needed it to do some work.  I called him but he wasn’t home but he told to swing by and pick it up because his roommate was home so I shouldn’t have a problem.  So I knocked on the door and after waiting a few seconds, I turned the knob and walked in and grabbed my laptop from the living room.  As I turned to leave, I heard a gun cock back and then saw it pointed at me.  I guess my friend didn’t tell his roommate I was on my way over to get the laptop, so I explained to him why I was there and calmly told him “you can put your gun away”.  He disarmed the gun, stopped pointing it at me and gave me some sort of explanation about how he was training to be a cop and some people in the complex knew about it and he was paranoid about them or something that didn’t exactly make any sense.  (I don’t think he passed his psychological exam – true story) While he didn’t actually fire the gun at me, it was an experience that has definitely stuck with me.  I never felt like I was in any inherent danger, but my friend’s apartment in the “safest city in America” was the last place that I ever imagined having a civilian pull a gun on me.  While I’m pretty sure this happened before the fiasco with the girl, perhaps I should’ve taken this moment as a realization that I didn’t belong here.  It was a moment that didn’t make sense on so many different levels, and usually when this happens in a dream, I wake up because I know I’m in a dream.  It was a moment where I should’ve realized that me being in Irvine didn’t make sense, and that I just needed to “get the fuck out of this town”.

In one of my many failed attempts to get in shape, I decided to take up playing roller hockey.  I thought that playing a team sport would be an easier way for me to burn calories since I would be having fun, so I convinced my friend to join up with me because he was also looking to shed some pounds.  I’ve wanted to play hockey ever since I was a little boy growing up in Minnesota but my parents weren’t too keen on it since it would’ve given a bunch of white kids a valid reason to hit me.  While that fear was probably unfounded, it was probably for the best.  I learned to ice skate around the age of 8 and that would’ve put me way behind the curve of most hockey playing Minnesota kids.

So since I’m now an adult and I’m in Southern California, my friend and I signed up for a beginner’s roller hockey league.  This was a no-hitting league, but unfortunately the skill level of people in the league varied.  No one would be mistaken for a professional hockey player, but there was definitely a considerable difference between the skill level of the best guys on our team, and real beginners like my friend and me.  This didn’t sit well with our team captain, John.  He did very little to show his contempt for two actual beginners, but he needed more warm bodies on his team and that’s pretty much all we were to him.  He would scream and swear at us constantly, whether he was on the bench or on the rink with us.  My friend received the brunt of the punishment since he was less skilled and more out of shape than me and he quit soon after that (I later found out that my friend cannot take any sort of criticism and that is why we are no longer friends.)

I decided to keep playing, because even though this guy was a jerk, my main goal was to exercise and get in better shape.  Occasionally, I would have other friends play on the team, taking over my other friend’s spot, but for the most part I was pretty much an outsider, other than this other new guy who was also a beginner.  Most of the guys were pretty nice, but they were also much older so we didn’t get to know each other that well.  Through random talk in the locker room or on the bench, I found out our captain was pretty much the stereotypical jock.  He played minor league baseball part time, played rec-league hockey at night, and his only hobbies seemed to be staring at women like a creep and getting drunk.  It’s probably a safe assumption to say that he probably didn’t listen to Sufjan Stevens and Belle and Sebastian.

Our team was pretty terrible.  I think we only won one game during the eight game season.  It would be unfair to place the blame on me, or the other new guy, or my friend who quit after one game, we just lacked players.  We surely could’ve used more skilled players, but we just didn’t have enough players to keep our team fresh and we would wear down with fatigue as the game went along.  After our last game, the captain actually told me that I had improved a lot over the course of the season.  It was nice to know that in the midst of all his rage that he actually noticed that I was getting better.  It was a pleasant surprise, but it didn’t make up for all the verbal abuse I had taken all season long.  I was asked if I was going to come back the next season and I said “I don’t know”, which was the honest truth at the time.  Playing hockey was fun, but it was expensive, and since we played these games on weeknights, it made it really hard for wake up for work the next morning.

My decision whether I would continue playing hockey was made for me a couple of weeks later at a pickup game. I took a slapshot to the only unprotected part of my skate, right where the laces are.  My foot immediately began to swell and I could barely walk on it.  I was scared that I had broken it, but after about a day, my foot was back normal.  Even though I didn’t need any medical attention for it, I thought about how difficult my life would’ve been if I had broken my right foot.  I wouldn’t be able to drive to work, it would be a pain to get around the campus of the school I work at, and I would probably need assistance at the grocery store.  While I realize that sometimes injuries will happen if you’re careful or not, I thought it would be better to stop throwing myself in harm’s way, where hard rubber discs fly at me at 70mph on a regular basis.

So after one season, I retired from rec-league roller hockey, and while I didn’t lose a lot of weight from playing, I proved that I was tough and resilient, not just physically but emotionally as well.  While I can’t say that I went out on top, or as a champion, I can at least say that I didn’t quit because Captain Jerkface yelled at me.  Even though I probably will never see him again, and I probably wouldn’t say much if I did, I gained his respect, and for some strange reason that is somewhat satisfying.

A couple of years ago, I was introduced to someone who, after exchanging names and pleasantries, asked me what my personality type was.  After telling them that I was an INFP, they told me “I don’t get along with INFPs.”  We eventually became friends and we eventually he hit a point where we had trouble getting along.  I don’t think our personality types caused our conflicts, because they don’t seem to get along with pretty much anyone.  I won’t deny that personality types can give us a general idea of people, but it would be foolish to completely write people off or consider them your best friends just because of four simple letters.

A lot of people are surprised that I’m introverted and that I’m extremely introverted to boot.  They’re probably confused because they see me run around on stage like a maniac.  I’m fine with entertaining a big crowd but I don’t like having to socialize with a huge group.  It makes me tired, so I like small groups at best.  Unfortunately, I have to kind of prepare myself for social situations so when a situation changes, it’s hard for me to be flexible.  So when people show up uninvited, or when a small group turns into a party, I tend to be in a pretty bad mood, even if all the people in the room are people that I like.  It’s something that took me a while to figure out, and now it’s taking me a long time to deal with it.  Unfortunately I don’t think this irritation is going to go away any time soon.

Last week, I was going to go grab a late night meal with my friend and his girlfriend, so I showed up at his place and got in his car so we could carpool to the restaurant.  As I sat down in the car, he said “Okay, now we’re going to pick up my friends”.  It’s not that I didn’t like his friends or that I was particularly hungry, but I got noticeably irritated.  At the end of the night, I ended up having a good time.  I just know that I wouldn’t have been in a bad mood if my friend had told me we were going with others, opposed to surprising me with the situation at the last minute.  As much as I try not to be anal about this, the order of events are important to me. I like to be able to emotionally prepare myself for situations, which sounds silly, and it is, but that’s how I work.

I wonder if this hang up will end up sabotaging any chance I have at “success” as an artist.  I’m a bit of a paradox.  I’m a performer that doesn’t like to socialize with the groups that I entertain.  I plan events but I like to keep the invite list low.  My gifts seem to conflict with my personality, but I think that’s why I’ve been able to grow a lot as a person.  I’ve had to reconcile the two over the years and, while I’m not there yet, I feel like I’ve come a long way.  Obviously, last week was a reminder that simple surprises can still get a pretty dramatic response out of me, but I eventually came around and I didn’t pout and shut down, and I consider that great progress for me.

It makes me wonder how I would act if I were ever given fortune and fame.  Would I tell people that they can’t make eye contact with me?  Would I end up snapping and living in a secluded cabin in the middle of nowhere?  I would like to think that these are only the actions of crazy people, but I can’t rule them out for me either.  Does this mean that I’m going to give up now to prevent myself from reaching anything close to these levels of success?  No, I’ve come too far.  I’m not necessarily saying I want to bite off more than I can chew, but I think I just need to let things run their course and take what opportunities life throws at me.  To try to deny that would truly make me a crazy person.

So, maybe if I will have some sort of infamous meltdown one day, and I’ll make a complete fool of myself in a very public setting.  I’m willing to take that risk and maybe my friend can tell all the people they know, “I knew he was going to do this one day because he’s an INFP.”

I casually throw out the phrase “I’m going to punch <insert name> in the face!” a lot but it’s usually said out of minor frustration and mostly as a joke.  I can only count two times in my life where I put that phrase into practice and I feel pretty justified in both instances.  The first time was when I was in 2nd grade, and a couple of kids had stolen my beanie and were playing keep away with it.  It was a cold Minnesota Day, so it was in my best interest to get my beanie back as soon as possible.  After pleading with the kids that they give it back, they refused, so I just went up to one of the kids and punched him in the face.  He got angry and tripped me and I hit the concrete pretty hard.  I got my beanie back, he got detention or suspended, and I wasn’t given much more than a warning since I was kind of fighting out of self defense.  The 2nd time I punched someone in the face isn’t as cut and dry as far as the story goes.  Did he deserve it?  I can’t say that he did.  Did he have it coming?  I at least think he did.

When we moved to San Diego, my piano lessons were right after the lessons of a kid named Kurt.  I didn’t see him much, just after his lessons and at recitals at our teacher’s house, but I thought he was a jerk.  He was arrogant and liked to make himself feel big by verbally bullying people.  He eventually quit playing piano and a couple of years later, I ended up going to the same church as him.  He wasn’t as big of a jerk at this point, but I still wasn’t his biggest fan.  I wasn’t a big fan of a lot of the kids I grew up with at church, but I definitely wasn’t excited when I found out that I’d have to see him every Sunday.  We sort of became friends out of necessity because our parents became friends.  I didn’t think he was unbearable but we were very different people.  We both started learning guitar around the same time, but quickly I realized he just wanted to learn songs to impress girls like “More Than Words”, “You Were Meant for Me” and “This Gift”, while I wanted to write my own songs and start a band.  At church, we would occasionally wrestle around because we were about the same height (I think he was a inch taller maybe, and one night), and one night I just decided that I had enough of his smack talk and overall jerkiness, so i pinned him down on the ground and pummeled his face.  Yes, I am exactly the kind of person that punches someone in the face AT CHURCH.  I’m not exactly sure if he said anything especially offensive that night, at least it was not offensive enough for me to remember.

After a barrage of punches, I let him go and he stormed out of the room.  Needless to say, he wasn’t happy.  He was gone for about 20 minutes, and I will freely take artistic liberty here to say he was gone for 20 minutes to cry, but that’s probably not the case.  I didn’t break anything or make him bleed, I’m sure I just damaged his pride.  After the incident, neither of us ever mentioned it, and our “friendship” continued like it never happened.  After high school, we went our separate ways.  I would periodically see him around when I was home for weekend in college but that eventually stopped as well. My parents would periodically give me updates on how he was doing even though I never really asked about him.  The updates mostly had to do with him trying to run one of his family’s many businesses and eventually running them into the ground.  A few months ago, they told me he was dating a girl that his parents liked, but were forbidding him to marry, because they thought she was too short.  I told my parents that if this girl was as nice and virtuous as they say she is, then his parents are fools, because he typically has terrible taste in women.  (See above about learning guitar) For the first time in my life, I felt bad for the guy.  There are valid reasons to be against a marriage, and this was definitely not one of them.  They’ve since relented and I’m happy for him.  I don’t know if he went toe to toe with his parents on the issue or if they just realized they were being silly.  I know it would be difficult for anyone to disagree with his father, a man whose reputation as a successful business man is known, not just in San Diego, but in all of Southern California, so I wouldn’t blame him if he just wilted like a flower every time he wanted to stick up for himself.  His father has casted a shadow that Kurt can’t escape, and has perhaps never tried to escape since it’s always been there.  He’s always been told that he’s going to be a businessman like his father and I don’t know if he’s ever tried to see if his passions lie elsewhere.  He’s been handed a posh life that he never asked for and was never taught to make independent choices.  Maybe that’s why, even though I’m definitely not a tough guy, I was able to pin him down and wail on his face. He was never taught to fight for anything in his life.

Some time ago, I wrote a story about my mother and her shopping habits and I promised that I would run an experiment to see if I could curb those habits.  I came up with an experiment to see if I’ll ever be able to put up with my mom at the mall.  I announced this experiment in public, in front of about 100 people, including my parents.  Because the general busy-ness of life, I’ve yet to complete the entire experiment but I was able to get some research done.   I’ve recently taken my mom to South Coast Plaza, and my findings from this trip are quite interesting.

I was with both of my parents when we went to Macys, and my mom decided that she wanted to look for a new hat.  As she looked through some hats, I would bring her the most ridiculous hat I could fine.  She would put it on, take a look in the mirror, and then take it off.  This routine continued for a few more hats until she realized that I was intentionally bringing her gross looking hats.  She wasn’t upset at me, she thought it was pretty funny, but my dad wasn’t amused at all by it.  He told us to hurry up and leave (my dad is not a fan of the mall, especially when my mom is there – he once told me to marry a girl who’s not as short as my mom so it’ll be easier for me to pick her out of a crowd at a mall). I wasn’t able to derive much from this visit to the mall as far as finding away to keep my mom in check but I found something out about myself.  I am the ultimate enabler.

While my mom didn’t buy a hat that day, I was very much encouraging her to try on as many hats as possible.  If it wasn’t for my dad’s intervention, we could’ve wasted a lot of time in the hat department. (Which in a way, would be a success since I wouldn’t have to wonder where my mom disappeared to.) I’ve realized that over the past couple of years, I’ve been present when my friend’s have made some very expensive purchases, purchases that are out of the ordinary for them.  If it had happened once, I would’ve  chalked it up to coincidence, but now I feel I must look to see if there’s something about me that makes people comfortable about spending large amounts of money.

I do have a background in retail sales, but I never was known to be a “used car salesman”; someone that tries to weasel as much money out of his/her customers, so I’m not sure how much that has to do with anything.  I’ve also wondered if some of my past purchases have sparked the interest for my friends to make purchases.  That would make sense for my friends who’ve recently splurged on music equipment.  I’ve bought a lot of pedals and a couple of guitars the last couple of years so maybe it’s inspired them to go and get their own stuff.  Also, it’s not out of the question that I had subconscious ulterior motives.  When my friends buy new gear, that means there’s a chance that I might get to borrow said new gear.  Of course that theory doesn’t seem to work for every case.

Recently my friend bought a new purse.  It was a name brand purse and it’s very nice, if I may say so myself.  This was a big purchase for my friend and they admitted that if they didn’t buy it that day, that they would probably convince themselves not to buy it at all.  They had recently gone through some annoying situations over the past couple of weeks and felt like they wanted to get themselves a present for having to put up with that nonsense.  The main reason I came alone, was not to convince her or dissuade her, but to grab dinner afterwards.  Obviously, I’m not looking to borrow my friend’s purse and there are no romantic interests between us.  I was just along for the ride because there was a promise of food at the end of the trip.

None of my friends spent beyond their means when they made these purchases, so it’s not like these instances are things I should feel guilty about.  I used to tell people that we needed to go out and stimulate and save the economy by splurging, but I’m pretty sure everyone understood it was a joke.  None of my friends seriously blame me for their once in a lifetime carefree spending sprees, but I’ve been teased about it.  I guess I can conclude that people have a good time spending money when I’m around and perhaps that’s why my mom likes going shopping so much.  Maybe I’m the problem, after all, or maybe it’s because the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.  I guess we’ll find out as I conduct the rest of the experiment.

Back in the times where cell phone companies charged local roaming fees, there was very little reason to take your phone on trips with you, unless you were willing to be charged ridiculous fees per minute.  I was a poor college student, but I brought my phone everywhere with me just in case there was a family emergency that I needed to attend to.  It’s kind of a paranoid thought to have and it probably shows my over-reliance on technology, but I actually did need it when I was on my way back from Minnesota back in 2004.  My sister was going into labor with her first child back in LA and she needed me to get ahold of my parents to tell them to head for the hospital.  I racked up a pretty hefty cell phone bill that day, but it didn’t matter to me.  My sister needed me and I came through even though I knew I was going to get hit hard with some serious roaming fees.

A few months later I was at my apartment in Irvine.  I was working during Spring Break (I cannot explain why I chose this), and my roommates were mostly gone for the week.  Alan, in particular, was in Chicago on a Habitat for Humanity trip, or something like that.  I remember at one point I walked by his room and saw that he had left his keys and phone on his desk.  Even though I knew that they don’t allow the use of cell phones on these Habitat type trips, I thought it was odd that he decided not to bring it or his keys at all.  (Obviously he didn’t have a pregnant sister at the time) I saw him at the end of the week at church, on Sunday, welcomed him back home and then, without thinking, went off to a meeting.  I had forgotten about the fact he didn’t have his keys or phone, but I guess so did he.

When I got home from the meeting, I was really tired. I just wanted to take a nap and play some video games.  As I walked up the stairs (we lived on the 2nd floor), I saw Alan with his bags sitting at the front door.  This is when I remembered he didn’t have his phone and keys. Upon further inspection, Alan appeared to be extremely pale.  I told him “You don’t look so good.” He quickly replied “You need to take me to the hospital.”

Here is what had happened between the time I saw him at church to the time I saw him at the front door: Alan arrived at the apartment and found that the door was locked, he proceeded to climb up our balcony to try to get in through our screen door which was also locked, and then he decided to jump down from the balcony and proceeded to break his ankle in the process.  To this day, I do not understand why he decided to come down from the balcony or why he thought some empty cardboard boxes would cushion his fall, but I wasn’t there to talk these things out with him, and that’s why Alan was lying the backseat of my car in total panic while I was trying to maneuver my way on the freeway.  I had a general idea of how to get to the hospital, but I had never been there before, so I had to call my friend Tom to get directions.  Naturally, this kind of freaked Alan out, since any sort of stress was going to exponentially add to his woes.  Alan would tell me his ankle was turning purple and then I would yell at him to stop looking at it and to keep it elevated. (Why I knew it should be elevated, I have no idea.  I guess TV and movies have taught me well.) I felt really bad that I was yelling at him and that I didn’t exactly know where I was going but driving people to the hospital was a new experience for me.  We were both stressed and really scared.

We finally arrived at the emergency room and had a doctor take a look at his ankle.  We were there for awhile, and I stayed knowing the last thing Alan would’ve wanted was to be left alone in the emergency room.  After being there for 5+ hours, we finally left and Alan now had crutches and a cast.  I’m not sure if they put a screw in his ankle that night or if was a procedure done at a later time, but that’s how severe the break was.  After months of being in a cast/with crutches, Alan was finally able to live his life normally again.

I’ve known him for over 10 years now, and while lots of friendships in that time have faded out, ours has managed to survive the test of time, and since he no longer lives in Irvine, I can safely say that it’s not out of convenience.  We no longer live in the same city or go to the same church, but he’s really good at letting me know when he’s in town, which I really appreciate, and that’s a skill that surprisingly few amount of people have these days.  He hasn’t broken any more limbs since that fateful day back in college, but I can safely say that Alan will continue to perplex me from time to time.  I just hope that if he’s learned anything from me in our friendship, it’s that he should have his phone on him at all times, because you never know when it could come in handy.

During Welcome Week of my freshmen year of college, I was invited to a party by a girl I had a crush on that I met during summer orientation.  She was a year older (she was paid to help with the orientation), so she and her roommates were having a party at their apartment.  I didn’t party in high school so this was pretty much my first time drinking, and after numerous jello shots, mixed drinks, and beers, I made a pretty big fool of myself as expected.  I didn’t do anything too inappropriate, I just gave her a hug, but that was enough for her to realize that I was pretty trashed.  I’m still amazed that I didn’t throw up at any point of the night and that a hug (and it wasn’t the most affectionate hug), is the only stupid thing I did.  I remember my typing skills were still pretty good (I got bored and jumped on a computer and chatted with people, yeah I’m a drunk nerd).  I also remember wearing a sweater to the party and coincidentally, the next few times I had ingested a “few too many”, I was wearing that same sweater.  My friend dubbed it my “drunk sweater” and I have since retired it.  Well, I just don’t really wear it anymore, period.

After I got out of college, I went the starving artist route and tried to fundraise so I could make a feature film.  After realizing that people didn’t want to give me hundreds of thousands of dollars, I tried to pitch a sitcom pilot.  I was working with a couple of people on getting a pitch meeting with a network, and one day I received a call from my associates telling me we needed to huddle up and get ready for our meeting that they were scheduling with a certain network.  So I drove up to Culver City on a weekday, and decided to hang out at a mall with a friend from college, while I waited for my sitcom business associates to get off work for our dinner meeting.  While hanging out at the mall, one of my associates called me and told me we were going to get Korean BBQ for dinner.  Since I knew I was going to have a meeting that night, I had come dressed in a nice buttoned down shirt (dressed for business).  But because the grill is at your table, Korean BBQ can and will make your clothes smell.  Upon hearing the dinner plans, I decided to buy a different shirt to wear since I was at the mall and I didn’t want to have to Febreze the heck out my nice dress shirt.  I ended up buying a t-shirt (t-shirts = cheaper than dress shirts) at the Puma store and wore that to my meeting.  Wearing this shirt didn’t cost me my sitcom or anything, things just fell through, which is typically the story when it comes to the entertainment industry.

When I bought the t-shirt, it was for the purpose of not stinking up my dress shirt, but it’s not a bad t-shirt, it’s pretty fashionable.  I wear it as part of my regular wardrobe ensemble and because it gets washed, nobody realizes that I bought it for the sole purpose of being a Korean BBQ shirt.  Of course whenever I do go to Korean BBQ or have a BBQ of any kind, I wear this shirt.  I’m not sure if I wear it for sentimental reasons or because I “trust” that it won’t smell bad.  I just know that I have a lot of love for my shirt.  Obviously, it would have more value to me if I ended up being able to pitch my pilot and I ended up living happily ever after, but this shirt doesn’t remind me of bad times or failure.  It reminds me of how I only stumbled upon it because of a change in the dinner plans and how I wouldn’t have found it on sale otherwise.  It was a slight detour and a pleasant surprise.  While my screenwriting days are definitely on some sort of definite hiatus right now, I don’t see myself as a failure.  The plans have slightly changed and I can say that I haven’t been disappointed by the results though I’m not exactly sure what they are at the moment.  The BBQ Shirt isn’t like the Drunk Sweater; it hasn’t brought me shame and embarrassment.  I don’t expect it to bring me luck but I do expect it to continue to remind me that my journey will be full of detours and pleasant surprises.

When I was a kid, I was a sucker for baseball game promotions.  Whenever they were giving away free stuff at a game, I wanted to be there.  I wanted the free baseball cards, the hats, and whatever other junk they were peddling.  Looking back, I probably drove my parents nuts.  We went to lots of Twins games back when we lived in Minneapolis, but I only remember one time where they relented and actually took me to one of these promotion games, and unfortunately we got there too late for me to actually collect my prize.  I was a little disappointed that I didn’t get my mini-bat (not to be confused with an actual useful full sized bat), but we stayed for the game and we definitely got our money’s worth.  The game went 14 or 15 innings and by the time the last inning hit, we had moved down from our nose bleed seats to seats right along the field level.  We ended up over by the visiting team’s bullpen and when they sent their closer in at the end, I yelled to him that he sucked.  He ended up blowing the game, and a couple of other games after that, so as a kid, I seriously thought I had jinxed him.

As an adult now, I realize that for the most part, a lot of this stuff that they give away is junk.  I would never tell a kid that this stuff is junk, but outside of bobble head dolls, most of the stuff that I get at these games ends up in the trash or it’ll go to my friend’s kids when I move.  It’s not that I think I’m above this stuff, I just don’t want to put up a picture of the 2007 Angels team with some company’s corporate logo plastered all over the poster.  As an adult, I find all this sponsorship stuff kind of tacky.  I mean, I understand it works and that it has value.  I would just rather not have posters or clothes that tell people to eat at Dairy Queen.  It’s a personal preference.

I wouldn’t say that I’m adverse to receiving anything at the ballpark for free.  I’ll take any sort of free food or beer no matter how gross or bad it is, because at the ballpark I like to lower the bar when it comes to my foodie and beer-snob ways.  I don’t care how greasy or fattening my food is, and I don’t mind if I have to drink Bud Light as long as it comes in that cup that has glowing lights on the bottom of it.  It’s all part of the experience and I need at least one place in my life where it’s okay to enjoy liquid processed cheese.

Of course, I still go to games because I enjoy the sport.  I haven’t outgrown my love of baseball.  I don’t like watching it on TV as much as I did when I was a kid when I had all the time in the world, but I still love watching it in person.  I love watching the ball jump off the bat.  It’s just so much more impressive live than on TV, especially when the ball is headed towards your section via a home run or a foul ball.   I’ve been fortunate enough to get one.  I didn’t catch it, it rolled into the (company) suite that we were in and my co-worker gave it to me since it was a Twins v Angels game.  The next day I showed up to the park early and headed over to the seats by the Twins dugout to get the ball signed. Justin Morneau (2006 American League MVP) was doing an interview with Hockey Night in Canada’s Don Cherry (I believe it was around the time that the Ducks and Canucks were playing each other in the playoffs, and Mourneau is a big Canucks fan).  I waited for the interview to be over and I yelled “Hey MVP” and Mourneau turned his attention towards me.  I tossed him my foul ball from the night before, and my sharpie and he signed the ball and tossed the ball and marker back to me.  It was a surreal moment for me as I basically played toss and catch with one of my favorite baseball players.  I was no longer an adult, I was back to being that little kid who wanted to go to all those games to get the free souvenirs.

I was at an Anaheim Ducks game a few weeks ago.  I went with Jessica, who I hadn’t seen in a while.  We were both exhausted from trying (and succeeding) to snag Thom Yorke tickets from earlier that morning.  The Ducks had blown the lead but we were probably too tired to really care, and then a puck flew into the stands about a row in front of us.  The people in front of us were feverishly looking for the puck but after a minute they threw their hands up in the air, confused.  I was so out of it that Jessica had to motion to me that the puck was directly in front of me, right behind the row, so I just instinctively lunged down and grabbed it.  I was told by the usher to stand up and hold the puck up high so everyone could see that I grabbed it.  People cheered for me except for the people in the row in front, they just kind of grumbled.  It dawned on me then that I was in sports fan heaven.  I had received a foul ball and an out of play puck in the same lifetime.  Most people would be lucky to have gotten one of these and here in my room, I have both.  Maybe it’s because I didn’t get the puck signed, of maybe it’s because I was taught to share as a child, but I think I’m going to give the puck to Jessica since she paid for the tickets.  I’m definitely not giving it to her because I don’t want it.  It’s something that I actually considered buying a display case for (my autographed baseball is already in one).  Souvenirs like these have helped me see past the corporate sponsorships that plague sports today and perhaps since I already have one thing to remind me of my pure love of these sports (and will be a great story for my future kids), I’m okay to part with the other.

I recently found out the my ex-girlfriend go married.  I found out via social networking; but not through Facebook or Twitter, or Myspace, but through Linked In, a business social networking site.  After the breakup, we decided not to keep in touch and she is pretty anti-social networking.  I haven’t really updated my Linked In account for a couple of years, I just tend to add people when I get requests, so I forgot to delete her.  One day I was e-mailed “updates” from people we were connected to and when I opened the e-mail I saw a name that I didn’t recognize.  It was her first name but a different last name, and then I finally put two and two together.  “What?  Oh.  OHHHHHHHH.”

Finding out your ex got married is one of those landmark signs of adulthood.  (The first, I believe, is being genuinely happy for your friends when you hear they got engaged, opposed to wondering if pregnancy is involved with the engagement.)  It’s always kind of a weird feeling.  Even though I never had any ideas about getting back together with her, I will be honest and say that it threw me for a loop.  We had been broken up for over 2 years so it made logical sense that in that time, she could’ve found someone, dated them, and gotten married to them, so I can’t say that the timing was a huge shock or anything like that.  Perhaps it’s because in the time it took her to get married, I’ve been on a grand total of 0 dates.

Now I know that getting married isn’t a race, so it’s silly to think of my dating life in those terms.  I also realize that going on a bunch of dates with a bunch of different people isn’t going to make me feel anymore successful about my personal life if I’m not finding any people that I can have a worthwhile connection with.  I understand that finding the right person can take some time and doesn’t mean that it’s a reflection of how people view you when you’ve been on a bit of a dry spell.

I was at a sushi bar last week with my roommate.  We sat at the bar, and there was a seat between this woman and me.  She was asian, much older, and had already been drinking by the time we had gotten there.  I just wanted to enjoy my sushi in relative peace while making small talk with my roommate, but this woman forced herself into our conversation when my roommate asked me if I was going to take my parents out for Korean food the next time they were in town.  She proceeded to ask me if I was Korean and then told me about how the person that was on Deal or No Deal that day was a Korean man who was on the show so he could win some money to fly his parents back to the motherland and that he ended up winning $38,000.  After trying to humor her for the duration of her story, I tried to shift back into sushi eating privacy mode.

I tend to wear very interesting t-shirts.  I know they draw a lot of attention so I’ve grown used to people asking me what they mean, or what brand I’m wearing.  It comes with the territory.  On this particular night, I was wearing a t-shirt that Bruce had gotten me for Christmas a couple of years earlier.  On the back of this t-shirt, a man in a banana suit is chasing his friend with a knife.  If you don’t understand why there’s this image, don’t worry, it’s kind of an inside joke.  Unfortunately this woman decided to make the worst possible interpretation of this shirt ever:

“Is there a banana on a shirt because you’re a banana?”

“Excuse me?”

“You know a banana, yellow on the outside, white on the inside!”

I politely tried to explain that my friend got me the shirt and I didn’t know what it meant (a lie – I just wanted to keep the conversation short). She asked me if she had offended me and told me that she would stop talking to me if she did.  She said she wouldn’t take it personally but then said she really would (the train of though of a crazy person), and my discomfort level was off the charts at this point.  She got the hint that I didn’t want to talk to her and then she started telling the sushi chef that she was in her own league and that she was 44 and single and awesome.  She was pretty wasted at this point and she was kind of ruining my dinner.  She finally stumbled out of the restaurant after being surprised that her credit card didn’t get declined and that was the last that we saw of her.

On the ride home, my roommate teased me about the whole incident and how he was scared that the woman was going to try to sit on my lap or do something crazy during the night.  I honestly felt bad for her.  At 44, she was desperately seeking connection but she was shut out.  Drunk or sober, I was probably not the right person for the job.  It reaffirmed that I’m probably happier going on 0 dates than going on a bunch of dates where either myself or the women were just desperate for some sort of connection.  My ex might’ve found that certain someone and I’m happy for her.  I’m happy and resigned to the fact that one day, I’ll also have that certain someone, and that it’s okay that it’s just not today.

I went to a high school that had very few Koreans.  It had a fair amount of asians, but like I said, very few Koreans, and of those few, I believe a good amount of them were adopted Koreans who had Caucasian parents.  So, in short, the environment I grew up in for high school in San Diego was not substantially different from the environment I grew up in for elementary school in Minnesota.  There were some obvious differences of course, like I had never met a Filipino person until I moved to San Diego and I was ridiculed for saying the word “pop”.

During my senior year of high school, I ended up going to Winter Formal with one of the few Korean girls at our school.  I wasn’t on the prowl for Koreans or anything, it just kind of happened that way.  She was a junior and I didn’t know her that well, so I had never met her parents prior to picking her up for the dance.  I knew both her parents were doctors, and while that might strike fear into most 17 year olds, I actually showed up at the house quite confident.  I’ve always had a pretty good report with Korean parents even though I can’t speak the language very fluently.  I attribute this mostly to my innocent looks.  Also, since our high school had such a small population of Korean kids, I figured just the novelty of a Korean boy taking their daughter to a dance would bring them great joy.  I told my friends “I bet from this point on in her life, every time she goes to a dance/date/ or gets married to a non-Korean guy, they will ask her “what ever happened to that Ryan Pak kid?  We really liked him.”  My friends didn’t believe me.

The girl and I had a nice time at the dance but we didn’t end up dating or really hanging out after that.  I went to college and we ended up losing touch, not that we were ever particularly close to begin with.  The following summer I came home and took a summer job at Target (I had worked there the previous summer).  I was a cashier and my job was to get people out of that line as soon as possible, so I met a lot of people but most of them have been condensed into a huge blur.  So when a customer said “Well, if it isn’t Ryan Park.  It’s nice to see you again.” I was pretty confused.  I looked up and saw an older Korean woman.  She looked kind of familiar but I couldn’t put my finger on where I knew her from.  At first I assumed, that she went to my parents’ church and was friends with my Mom and Dad, but then I ruled that out, just because I would’ve been able to realize that right away.  She asked me how college was and while we made small talk, I slowly started to realize who this woman was.  She was the girl’s mother.  A year and a half after my only time meeting her (and for 5 minutes, and that’s probably an overestimation), she had remembered me.  I won’t jump to the conclusion that 10 years later, that she’d still remember me, but obviously I had made some sort of impression on her and as silly as that may seem, I can totally relate.

The previous summer at Target, I worked as the “operator”, so my duties included answering the phones and sorting clothes, since the phones are back in the fitting room area (weird, I know).  A lot of people came and went, and I would say less than 10% of people who actually tried on clothes actually bought anything.  I’d have to clean up after them after they left and sort the clothes to be re-deployed onto their clothing racks or tables.  I don’t have any horror stories from working back there, though I’m sure if I had worked there for longer than a summer, I’d probably have some.  I just remember this one customer who brought her two kids and her friend.  The customer and her friend went to the fitting room with a ton of clothes and left the 2 year old daughter in the shopping cart while her 3-4 year old brother was just standing around.  The two ladies were super loud and obnoxious while trying in their fitting room, so I tried to divert my attention to the kids, who were being absolutely neglected.

The kids were pretty well behaved, there wasn’t a crying kid that I needed to console.  The boy was pretty involved with playing with his toy but the girl looked pretty bored in the cart when she wasn’t stuffing her face with popcorn.  (She was also the most adorable kid that I had ever seen.) First I waved to her and she returned a wave to me.  Then I asked her for her name, and she said it was “Kylie”.  I think I asked her how old she was and basic questions to help pass the time until her (I presume) Mom and friend were done trying on clothes (they didn’t buy anything).  They finished and they started to whisk Kylie away, but not before she tried to offer me some of her popcorn.  I declined the offer and her mom was pretty amused that her kid had become so comfortable with me in such a short amount of time.  Kylie waved “goodbye” to me and that was the last I ever saw of her.  Ever since that chance encounter, I’ve always felt that when/if I have a daughter, I’d like to name her Kylie.  It’s probably really silly that this kid that I met once and just for a few minutes could be forever etched in my memory, but certain things stick with me and I’ve just come to accept that.  Just like that mother who remembers that Korean boy who took her Korean daughter to winter formal, I remember this little kid who offered me popcorn.  The only thing weird about these memories is that they happened at the same Target, during two different two different years, and with me working different jobs.

I’ll be the first to admit that I was pretty weird in high school, but I’m sure a lot of people will say they were weird too.  Of course, those people will talk about how much they’ve grown up and found themselves since then.  I realize I’m still pretty weird.  I really don’t think I’m that different.  I’m more mature, wiser, and more refined, sure, but I don’t think I’m a much different person from the one that I was 10 years ago, I just think my wackiness is much more appreciated now.

During my senior year of high school, I took AP Biology.  I wasn’t so much interested in biology or gaining college credits as I was about keeping my GPA high (AP classes were “weighted”, so an A = 5 points, B = 4 points, C = 3 points, etc).  I got paired up with a junior named Mike (but not the same Mike as in this story).  We were kind of an odd couple at first glance.  I was fighting senioritis, while Mike was still trying to be the best student he could be.  We actually had a lot in common though.  We were both heavily involved with our respective youth groups and both loved sports.  I think he respected my dedication to my Minnesota teams and he was a fan of anything Sacramento (which I guess is just the Kings).  So, Mike and I had a lot to talk about during classes and we generally enjoyed working together, even though I was on the lazy and unfocussed side.

I like to think that I contributed the entertainment to our lab partnership, thought I’m not sure Mike will agree with this in hindsight.  I remember making him laugh a lot in class, sometimes with wit, sometimes with absurdity.  I think the pinnacle of our time in AP Biology was when we had different microscope stations set up and I found a rolling chair.  This was during a time where the Goo Goo Dolls were at their peak and the video for “Iris” was in heavy rotation.  I never really liked the Goo Goo Dolls and their brand of inoffensive acoustic pop rock or for Johnny Reznik’s haircut, but I do vividly remember the video for “Iris” and how Reznik was in a watch tower going from telescope to telescope looking a different scenes from the movie City of Angels.  I did my best to replicate this video for Mike in class, wheeling myself from microscope singing “AND I DON’T WANT THE WORLD TO SEE ME/ ‘CUZ I DON’T THINK THAT THEY’D UNDERSTAND/ THAT EVERYTHING IS MADE TO BE BROKEN/ I JUST WANT TO KNOW WHO I AMMMMM” in a pirate voice over and over again.  My only guess on why I chose a pirate voice is because I didn’t want people to mistake me for someone who actually liked the song.  I don’t know if Mike enjoyed my rendition, but like everything else I did, I know he tolerated it.

I will in no way ever say that Mike is/was as weird as I was, and maybe he did this as a really passive aggressive gesture, but the summer after he graduated (and I finished my freshmen year of college), Mike called me and told me he was selling knives door to door as a summer job and asked if he could drop by for an hour and give me his spiel.  I was familiar with this job and I knew that he would get paid by the company whether I bought any knives or not so I told him he could drop by and we could catch up.  Unfortunately, Mike actually sincerely tried to sell me the knives and seemed disappointed when I wasn’t having any of it.  We did get to catch up so I wouldn’t say it was a wasted visit, but I remembered being pretty annoyed that he actually thought he could sell a poor 19 year old a set of pricey knives.  My diet at school was Shin Ramen and In-N-Out.  I had no needs for knives, I just needed a pot and chopsticks.  So my final answer was ‘no’ and we chatted it up for a little bit.

I found out that Mike and I have a mutual friend and I recently shared these stories about him with them.  While they aren’t shocked that I would replicate the “Iris” video while serenading Mike, they were surprised and amused to find out that their dear friend was a door to door knife salesmen for a summer, which leads me to wonder how weird I actually am if people find my behavior to be pretty consistent, or “typical”.  Isn’t it weirder when someone drastically changes or has unbelievable stories about how they used to be than to be someone who’s been the same all along?

I was at my friend’s apartment over the weekend and he had a vocoder.  I spent a good 5 minutes screaming “PA-PA-PA-PA-POKERFACE” over and over again into the mic while my friend hit random keys.  I could hear my friends laughing and I was enjoying myself as well.  I have a feeling that if Mike was there, he’d still be shaking his head in disapproval, but being amused at the same time just like he was back in high school, because I’d like to think that my serenading of people is pretty universally hilarious.  I’d like to see Mike again sometime, not just to see how much we’ve changed or to make fun of how we were in high school, but because there was definitely substance to our friendship.  If we could put up with our teen weirdnesses, songs and sales pitches, it seems like continuing our friendship as mature adults should be a walk in the park.

I wouldn’t say I have “interpersonal conflicts” (aka friends pissing me off) all that often, but even if I did, they are somewhat inevitable.  Sometimes I can brush them off, but sometimes there has to be some confrontation.  When that happens, I try to cool off as much as possible and I try to get some advice from someone I respect, like a pastor, which is probably a really good thing since they usually give me a level headed response.  I’m waiting for the day that a pastor will tell me to “seek retribution against all those who’ve sinned against you”, so I can let my inner gangster rapper out and spout threats like “I’ll cock back the mag and pop one in your ribs” (Ghostface “Biscuits), but I don’t think that’ll ever be the case. (Perhaps I should just get an 808 machine and record dis tracks and e-mail them to my friends?) So I have to let cooler heads prevail, tell my friends how I feel, and then deal with whether they take what I said to heart or not.  Unfortunately, even if my friends don’t find my claims to be off base, they don’t always “do” anything about how they’ve hurt or angered me.  I can keep huffing and puffing until my face turns blue, but you can’t really change how someone is.  I know this but sometimes I forget it.  Sometimes I wonder why they can’t understand simple things, but you know what?  I’m absolutely guilty of this as well.

I gained the Freshmen 15, or possibly just 10, I’m not sure on the particulars.  My weight didn’t fluctuate, it spiked up another 10-15 pounds.  I wasn’t exactly fine with the weight gain, but at times I just assumed it was inevitable.  It happens.  I worked out on a regular basis, I stopped eating fast food, and I decided that if these things weren’t enough to bring me back to lighter place, I would just have to live with that.  I wasn’t in denial that I was at an acceptable weight.  It’s just that it had been 10 years since I was at a place where I was happy with my weight, and maybe I just needed to accept that I was going to have a little gut for the rest of my life.

Bruce started losing weight about 6 months ago.  He didn’t start an intense workout regiment.  He just started eating smaller portions (we call this portion control, or p-control now).  He’s lost about 20-25 to this day and isn’t in any danger of gaining it all back.  When he first started his p-control diet, I was skeptical of it and then horrified when he would tell me things like all he had for dinner was a single chicken thigh.  He told me that he allowed himself to eat whatever he wanted to on the weekends, and that’s what kept him going for his portion control diet during the week.  I still balked at giving the diet a shot.

Over the holidays, I was able to spend a lot of time with some of my nieces and nephews.  A phrase that gets thrown around a lot when I’m around the kids is a korean word “tegi” (teh-jee) which means “pig”.  We would use it in a very fun and teasing way.  When we went bowling, all the kids put their names in the queue as Tegi 1, Tegi 2, and so on.  It was all fun and games until one day when my nephew said “you’re the only one that should be called tegi because you’re chubby.”  I know it probably sounds really silly that 5 year old’s brutal honesty could make that light bulb go off in my head but it did, and after the holidays were over, I started the p-control diet.

(Warning: If you’re frustrated with weight loss, you might not want to continue reading this)

With some guidance and support of a couple of friends that have done p-control or are in the middle of it, I started my diet.  The first week was brutally painful as I would usually go to sleep hungry.  After a couple of weeks, my stomach started to shrink, and while it wasn’t necessarily enjoyable for me, I started to get used to it.  I’ve been able to go all out and eat what I’ve wanted to on the weekends without looking at portions or counting calories.  After about 2 months, I’ve lost about 20 pounds and hopefully I will still continue to drop a little bit more.  I don’t want to sound insensitive, but this hasn’t been that hard.  I know that weight loss is not easy for everyone, so I’m not taking it for granted, but I realized that I made weight loss appear much more difficult for me than the reality of what it really was.  All I needed to do was make small adjustments to my diet.  All it took me was 10 years to figure this out and apply it.  I definitely feel silly that I’ve been carrying around this extra weight for so long when I realized how easy it has been for me to shed it.  Fortunately, I have a little nephew who can set me straight.  For my friends, I hope they can find something that will help the light bulb go off for them and they can shed all this weight (baggage) that they’re placing on my shoulders.

We are currently in a very anxious time for the entire state of Minnesota.  At stake is the well-being of every person in the state.  Who’s holding them for ransom?  A 26 year old professional baseball player named Joe Mauer.  If you don’t know who Joe Mauer is, ask any Minnesotan over the age of 5 and they will probably be able to recite you his Wikipedia page ver batim: born and raised in St Paul, Minnesota, was the highest rated quarterback and baseball player coming out of high school, drafted first overall by his hometown Twins in 2001, has won two batting titles and an MVP award by the age of 26 and will hopefully be signing the richest contract for a catcher in baseball history (somewhere in the ballpark of 200 million dollars over the next ten years) for the hometown team.  If you don’t know or follow baseball, all you need to know is that there is few greater joys for small market sports fan than watching a hometown kid (or ONE OF US as Minnesota hockey fans like to say) become a star for the hometown team.  Mauer in on track to become the best catcher to ever play baseball and is perhaps the best player playing today.  If he doesn’t sign his contract before it expires, there is a huge fear that he will leave for New York or Boston for probably $10 million dollars more a year.   This fear is probably unwarranted since Joe Mauer is the Jay-Z of the Twin Cities.  He runs this town.

I’m not sure if I’m exaggerating when I say that there will be a riot in the Twin Cities in Mauer ends up leaving the only place he’s lived for the East Coast.  There are some sports fans who are far too emotionally invested in their teams, where they can be hostile when told critical things about their teams/players, even when they are absolute facts.  These people are referred to as “homers”.  These people can be difficult to deal with because you can’t use logic or facts on them.  They’re loyal to a fault, and typically are too far invested in their teams/sports that they are hard to have normal conversations with.  There was a movie that was made about this last year called Big Fan, starring Patton Oswalt.  While I don’t know of any homers that have followed their favorite athlete (and entourage) to a strip club, I’m pretty sure that there are some homers that will vandalize the newly minted Target Field (which ironically they paid for via their taxes) if Mauer doesn’t sign his contract.

I’ll be honest, in some ways I’m very much a homer.  I usually know which players have Minnesota ties, like the 2010 olympic team (about 1/3 of the team is either from Minnesota, went to a prep school in Minnesota or went to college there).  I can usually admit when my teams are bad and I try not to overrate players I have special ties to (I probably played little league baseball against Pat Neshek or his brother).  I’m a bit of a homer when it comes to Minnesota music as well.  I’m a huge fan of Low, (Bob Dylan and Prince are universally beloved so we can skip them), I will defend Semisonic as being far better than a one-hit wonder, and I love Tapes ‘n Tapes, though I will admit Walk it Off is a huge letdown after their amazing debut, The Loon.

There’s a new “kid” on the block from Minnesota that I just can’t get behind and it’s not because they’re not from the Twin Cities (neither is Low or Team USA captain Jamie Langenbrunner).  It’s because this kid is just terrible.  I, of course, speak of Owl City whose hit “Fireflies” was the number one song in the COUNTRY not too long ago.  I’m not one of those people who gets annoyed when an artist becomes too mainstream.  I never liked Owl City, even with their inspirational unsigned artist with a Myspace account to chart topper story.  I won’t touch the whole “they sound like Postal Service” debate because my friends’ heads will explode, but I must say this.  As a Minnesota native who is supremely proud of it, how do I reconcile being ashamed of this particular Minnesota artist?

This is probably anti-climactic but the only way I’ve thought of is just to not mention that Owl City (which is really just one guy, I don’t even know why I know this) is from Minnesota.  It’s like when a movie comes out, the trailers and posters only point out the “good” things affiliated with the movie, not the bad.  The next Halle Berry movie trailer will most likely NOT mention she was in Catwoman but it WILL most likely mention her Oscar win.  The next Danny Boyle film will mention that he directed Slumdog Millionaire and Trainspotting but will most likely leave out A Life Less Ordinary and The Beach (maybe).  So lets let this be the last time we discuss the origins of Owl City.  Adam Young, I wish you the best of luck in your musical career, but Minnesota only has room for one native son to cherish and his name is Joe Mauer.

December 4th is Jay-Z’s birthday.  Even if things like Wikipedia never existed, I would still know that December 4th is Jay-Z’s birthday?  How?  He wrote a song about it.  His mom is even a narrator on that song.  December 4th, 2009, was Jay-Z’s 40th birthday so I decided to round up some friends and go do some Jay-Z karaoke in Hova’s honor.  We met up and had some Baileys and hot cocoa before we started, opposed to the usual rum and Slurpee since it was pretty cold (by Southern California standards).  We headed in, rocked the mic, had a good time, and everyone headed their separate ways.  Since none of know Jay-Z personally, I assumed at one point we would all forget about this “celebration” and that it’d just become one of the many fun events in our very full lives.  While it marked the end of Jay-Z’s 30s, it really held no personal significance to us, except for Sherlan, because little did he know, it was the end of an era for him as well.

The next day, Sherlan had started tweeting about his foot being in pain.  At first, I assumed he accidentally kicked something or that he dropped something on said foot, but after a couple of days, I decided to give him a call to see how he was doing.  His pain didn’t stem from any action he committed, it was something far more serious.  He hadn’t seen a doctor yet, but the unofficial verdict was that he had gout.  The initial diagnosis was made by his roommate who recalled a King of the Hill episode where Bobby gets gout from eating too much paté.  A board licensed physician later confirmed this diagnosis and Sherlan was given a list of foods that he could eat, and a list of foods that he should stay away from.  The list of “don’t eat” foods consisted of red meat, wheats, and beer, and while some fish and chicken was deemed as “okay”, he was discouraged from eating them often.

That week, I was supposed to hang out with with Sherlan along with my friends Mark and Susan, and we were supposed to eat burgers and drink beer.  Since beer and burgers were no longer an option for Sherlan, we slightly altered our plans to eat somewhere a little more “gout friendly”.  After dinner, we headed to the super market to get some drinks.  Mark and I wanted beer, Susan wanted some wine/champagne.  Sadly, Sherlan had to follow us around on crutches and grocery stores tend to have pretty slick floors.  When we got to the cashier, Mark and I paid for the beer, and as Susan was paying for her champagne, the cashier asked us a question:

“So are you guys christening a boat or something?”

“Huh?”

There was a pause.  Then I spoke.

“Yeah, we’re christening the S.S. Gout.”

The cashier looked confused, we took our belongings and left the market.  I was pretty amused at my quick witted joke and I knew that Sherlan took it in stride.  We talked about how regal his name sounded and we started calling him “Prince Sherlan” and talked about his ” royal yacht”, the S.S. Gout.  Throughout the following weeks, Mark and I started coming up with gout jokes, more specifically gout puns, such as “pigging gout”. “in-n-gout”, “you’re gout of line”, etc.  I know this sounds really mean, and at first Mark felt really guilty that he was participating and having a lot of fun.  He was scared that if Sherlan found out, that his feelings would be really hurt.

To assuage his fears, I told Sherlan.  I told him it was my idea, but like I predicted earlier, Sherlan didn’t care.  I wouldn’t make these jokes if I had any doubt that they would be bringing the guy down.  I especially wouldn’t drive up to LA on a weeknight to make sure to hang out and make sure he’s doing okay, only to turn around and say mean spirited things that would make him feel bad about himself.  Sherlan has even become the grader of jokes, telling me which ones are especially clever.

His foot is a lot better now, but he’s not reverting to his old diet, which I applaud him for.  Just because the gout is gone, it doesn’t mean that it won’t come back if he’s not careful about how he eats.  This has also given Mark and I permission to continue our onslaught of gout puns, not just to remind Sherlan of the pain, but to remind ourselves that we need to be smarter about our own lives and diets.  We’re not invincible and the things we eat and the physical activities we do have more apparent consequences than they did when we were younger. There’s also the ugly truth that the older we get, the harder the consequences are going to hit.  The way we’ve been dealing with this is with gallows humor; we’re not laughing at Sherlan, we’re realizing that this could’ve happened to any of us.  Sherlan’s fight with gout has led us all to take a serious look at our mortality and that is why Prince Sherlan is the captain of the S.S. Gout and we’re just members of his crew.

The first thing I got from a mail order catalog was The Lounge Ax Compilation, a benefit CD to keep a club in Chicago in business.  I was maybe 14 or 15 years old.  Had I ever been to this club?  No.  Did I really care about the fate of this club that I wanted to help?  Kind of, but not really.  I was more interested in the fact that I would be getting previously unreleased tracks from Sebadoh, Superchunk, Seam, Yo La Tengo, Guided by Voices and Archers of Loaf.  I don’t think the CD sold enough money to keep Lounge Ax in business, but at least I could say I did my part as a 15 year old living in San Diego.

Every time you mail order something from a record label, they send you an updated catalog with your purchase.  Being new to this mail order world, receiving the catalog was a pretty exciting thing.  I would take it to school and my friends and I would look through it to see what we would be ordering next.  We were young and were curious to see what great bands we’d missed out on because of our youth.  So, going through the Touch and Go, Sub Pop, and Matador Records catalogs were expeditions for us.  “The Jesus Lizard did a split cassette with Nirvana?  They must be great, right?”

Honestly, I don’t know how I waited for my orders to come.  I know it sounds foolish, but I would send cash to these record labels through the mail.  I don’t think I ever stuck change in the envelopes, and i would wrap my bills in the piece of paper my order was on to prevent people from recognizing there was cash in the envelope, but obviously it was a huge risk.  I was completely vulnerable.  Fortunately, every order I made safely made it to each label and I received all but one shipment, and for that one shipment I didn’t receive, I was lucky enough to have my sister, who was working in “the biz” at the time, stand up for me and make some calls to make sure I got what was rightfully mine.

I didn’t just order CDs from these labels.  I started to order vinyl, mostly 7″ singles.  Sadly, I missed the boat on the first run of the Sub Pop Singles Club and when I went to college, I missed the boat on the 2nd run because I was poor or flakey, or both.  There was no room in the dorms for a vinyl record player and then Amoeba Records in Hollywood opened, and iTunes started releasing “exclusive material” so my mail order adventures came to a halt.

It wasn’t until the last year or so where I’ve re-committed to my love of mail order (I blame Sub Pop records with all their reissues – and the fact they give you a digital download with each vinyl purchase).  It’s obviously a lot different now than it was in the late 90s.  Now it’s online, you get tracking numbers, and I have credit cards/debit cards to make sure that my orders get to where they need to go.  I could make the pretentious argument that it’s not the same as it used to be because of all the “technology” involved, but I’m not going to.  I’ve never really considered myself a record collector, but I love the fact that I get the same feeling when I get my records in the mail now that I got over 10 years ago and that I’ll do the same nerdy things like lay out all my colored vinyl as if I were putting together some sort of brilliant artwork (I have white, yellow, pink, blue, red, purple, sea green, orange and of course black – I know you don’t care, I just wanted to brag).

Music has always been a big part of my life.  From the piano lessons I took when I was 7, to the countless hours of walking around with my walkman/discman/ipod and headphones,  I really have no clue where I’d be without it.  I’m just glad to know that as I get older, I still have the same crazy passion for it that I had when I first discovered it.  I know that my spending on shows and vinyl will be curbed over time as the priorities in my life change, but I am confident that the few times that I am able to order something, I’m going to still have that same excitement that I had when that Lounge Ax compilation was at my front door.

This was going to be the first time that I’d be meeting Bruce’s girlfriend.

This was going to the first time that Bruce and his girlfriend would be meeting each other’s parents.

Bruce’s brothers were not going to be there.

You would think that Bruce would’ve given me the head’s up about these things (like when he told me about the weather for the weekend), but other than knowing that I’d be meeting Christina, I had no idea what was in store for me once I touched down in Pittsburgh – it was kind of a rude awakening. I already knew it was going to be a fast paced weekend since I was in town for graduation, but if I had known the weekend was going to be this intense, I probably would’ve tried harder to fall asleep on my red eye flight than sitting through the abomination known as National Treasure.

I found out Bruce’s brothers weren’t in Pittsburgh as I got off the bus from the airport. He told me as I was being rushed pretty much straight to the ceremony. He didn’t divulge the part about the families meeting until after the ceremony. I felt perpetually in a state of motion the entire day so I don’t even think I really reacted when he told me. I felt like I was watching Black Hawk Down, where at the beginning, the view just gets dropped in the middle of battle with no backstory preceding it. Not to say that there punches thrown or people yelling at each other in this meeting of families, but to say things were a little tense would be a gross understatement. If Bruce’s brothers had been there, it would’ve made things a lot more comfortable for me. I would’ve had friends to talk to, since I knew that Bruce was very preoccupied dealing with the anxiety of getting to know his girlfriend’s parents. Bruce’s brothers being there would’ve also made my presence seem normal, but since his siblings weren’t there and his best friend from across the country was, it seemed a little odd, I suppose. (Insert Brokeback Mountain joke here).

While Bruce’s brothers weren’t present, Christina’s siblings were. The oldest of Christina’s siblings was her sister who I believe was 16. This gave me someone to talk to so I could distract myself from the scene at hand, but at the same time there was a new level of discomfort. It’s not easy to make small talk at a lunch with a teenager you’ve just met when you’re 22 and their whole family is at the table, but it sure beats having to be part of the other conversation. “Ryan, do you have any stories about Bruce?” “Yeah, he didn’t tell me that this lunch was going to happen and this is super uncomfortable. That’s the kind of stand up guy that he is.”

Awkward conversations aside, it seemed like the families were getting along and there wasn’t going to be any drama.  That was, until, Bruce’s nose started to bleed.  While I’m positive that there was no judgment passed on Bruce for this (no one thought he had a cocaine addiction), I’m sure Bruce was freaking out by this unwelcome little event.  Ever since Bruce was a child, when his nose would bleed, it wouldn’t clot as quickly as most nose bleeds, so it’s not like he could run to the bathroom for a few minutes and be fine.  Obviously, Christina’s parents weren’t going to hold this against him, but when anyone is in the middle of a situation like this, anything that goes wrong will undoubtedly make them feel like the whole world is crumbling to the ground.

Fortunately that was the only hiccup that we encountered at lunch.  The check came and parents from both sides playfully argued over who was going to foot the bill.  It was a relatively tame argument compared to the ones that my mom and his mom would get into back when we were kids living in Minnesota.  Those arguments would often spill into the parking lot with one mom trying to stuff mom into the other’s pocket, purse, and whatnot.  While those arguments were never heated, they were embarrassing and drew way too much attention to us.  I took the gentle sparring over the bill at lunch as a positive sign that the two families liked each other.

I would be asked throughout the weekend how I thought things went.  While I knew this weekend was going to be a momentous occasion for Bruce, I didn’t know the half of it.  I knew Bruce would be taking his first step into the “real world” that weekend but Bruce had plans to take a much bigger leap that weekend.  Though Bruce did shed some blood, he survived, and now he can share this story about how courageous he was at his college graduation.  He’s got a witness and on that day, he made a believer out of me.

In college, I had a friend tell me about how they and their significant other had this huge plan on how they were going to support each other through med school and law school respectively (after the significant other finished community college, which would be after they got back from serving their country), and get married when it was all said and done. I’m a hopeless romantic, but I gave this elaborate and convoluted plan a 0% chance of success (not that I shared this hypothesis with my friend). There were just too many variables and too many things that could change over a 5-10 year block of time, especially in anyone’s volatile 20s. About a year later, my friend’s grand plan came to an unfortunate halt when their relationship ended.

Sadly, things didn’t work out for my friend. I didn’t gloat that I was right. In fact, being able to recollect this conversation probably shows how little I’ve done in the last five years – at least they had a plan.  My first 4-5 years after college were a rollercoaster ride of hope, failure and humiliation, not necessarily in that order.  There was heartbreak, betrayal, a break up followed by losing my job a couple of days later, you know, just your standard mid-20s fare.  After year three or so, I decided to kind of “reboot” my life after hitting sort of a rock bottom, and perhaps it was finally then, that I decided to finally transition into “the real world” and being a responsible adult.

While rebooting, I kind of forgot about keeping the creative gears turning, so about a year ago, when I was asked questions regarding creativity and spirituality on a panel in front of my entire church, I felt kind of awkward.  I indeed considered myself a creative being, a few of my friends will argue against that, but since I had been creatively dormant for so long, I felt like a bit of a fraud.  It’s not that I believe that you can stop being a creative person; it just felt weird knowing that I hadn’t worked on anything in so long.  At the time, I hadn’t written a screenplay in two years, I hadn’t recorded a song in 5, and the short stories I was writing on a blog weren’t ready (by my standards) for public consumption just yet.

Now it’s a year later, and all of a sudden I’m back in the thick of things on a creative level.  Hopefully it will be able to stay consistent now that I have a fulltime stable job.  Last year, my blog went public, I did my first theater show (readings from the blog + playing songs with friends), and I’m looking to possibly record some music for the first time since 2003 or so.  (This was not a reaction to being on the panel, or at least not consciously.) It’s definitely a far cry from where I was a year ago, and I’m honestly surprised by the amount creative output over the last year.  I’m not working at a breakneck pace, but it’s nice to see I still have ideas and songs left in the tank, and hopefully there will be more theaters shows in the near future.

This will be my 5th full year out of college, and hopefully the last year has been a setup for greater things to come in 2010 and all this failure and humiliation has helped guide me to where I’m at now.  It’d be really nice to not have to reboot for a very long time.  Like a real computer, it makes you feel you’re wasting your time.  I’m not a big new years resolution person so I’m not bestowing any crazy expectations on year 5 of post-college life, I’m just hoping to ride the momentum of the last couple of years.

So maybe my friend was onto something after all with this whole 5-year plan thing, but maybe the 5-year plan is something you can’t be particularly cognizant about, it’s just something that you have to realize in hindsight.  Perhaps I’m just trying to justify the lack of success I’ve had since college and trying to convince myself that the future is bright, or perhaps I’m just realizing something that everyone else in the room already knows.  I feel like I’m finally hitting my prime, and just in time.  I just hope that in the next 5 years, I’ll be so busy living life and being productive, that I won’t notice that five years have passed at all.

When I was in 5th grade, I had to be lab partners with a guy named Colin. He was a bigger, taller kid who had red hair that wasn’t quite wild enough to be a mullet. We didn’t hang out during recess or at lunch but it’s not like either of us were disgusted by our pairing, at least not until he told me that his favorite band was Metallica. Like the good Christian boy I was, I told him “I don’t listen to devil worshipping music”. Not that I listened to Christian music as a kid, but Metallica seemed to be the opposite of Kris Kross, and that’s what I was listening to at the time, so Metallica and Colin had to be evil. After all, Colin did pour vinegar into his test vial of sugar to ensure that whoever his lab partner was, they wouldn’t want to sneak a taste.

Little did I know that Kris Kross would not withstand the test of time and that Metallica was the horse to bet on, but fortunately Colin and I never kept in touch after I moved to San Diego so he can’t point that out to me. He also can’t make fun of me that my first metal show ever was just a couple of weeks ago, at the ripe age of 27 years old.

You might expect a fascinating story of how I went from “Metallica is satanic” to “I’m going to a metal show”, but honestly it’s not much of a story at all. In fact, I still don’t like Metallica. I like two metal bands, Mastodon and Dethklok and Mastodon is considered “metal for people who don’t like metal” while Dethklok is a cartoon, though their music is actually well respected by the metal community. (Dethklok consists of Metalocalypse creator Brandon Small – who went to the Berkelee School of Music, Steve Vai’s bassist, Frank Zappa’s guitarist and a drummer known as the “Atomic Clock.)

No one can really take credit for getting me into either of these two bands. No one made me listen to these bands in the car, or slipped me a burned CD. For Mastodon, it was the critical buzz and the fact that they had Josh Homme (Queens of the Stone Age) sing on their song “Colony of Birchmen” on their album Blood Mountain. For Metalocalypse, I had been a fan of Brandon Small’s previous (and super underrated) cartoon, Home Movies (remember I’m a film major), so checking out Metalocalypse was a no brainer for me. When I found out that both these bands were going tour together, it was clear to me that this was a sign to go see my very first metal show.

I found out about this show on a bus trip from Minneapolis to Chicago. Surprisingly this isn’t the only concert I ended up getting tickets to on this trip (Jon Brion + Nels Cline = mind explosion). I didn’t have wireless for my laptop on the bus, so I called Sherlan and he happily picked up the tickets for what would be both the first metal show for the both of us.

A couple of friends voiced their concern about my safety regarding this show. I didn’t really think it was warranted since these two bands don’t have a typical metal following. Sure, since they’re metal bands, they’ll have some metal fans, but they’re also two bands that reach non-metal audiences, with Mastodon reaching the hipsters and Dethklok reaching cartoon-loving nerds. Of course, that didn’t prepare me to see a guy wearing a Bathing Ape button down shirt when we got to the show. (Also we parked next to a car with a license plate that read M. Bison)

The show itself wasn’t a disappointment, but I would say that it was pretty much the same as a regular concert except for the fact that kick drum is mic’ed to be intentionally ear drum shattering loud and that the bands take little break after a few songs from all the intense shredding and drum beating that they do. Also, the Dethklok soundcheck might’ve been the only soundcheck ever that has amused me, as their roadie went up to each mic and growled a monstrous “HEYYY!” into each mic before walking off stage. Check one two, one two, this surely was not.

There was a mosh pit, there was some crowd surfing, but all in all, it wouldn’t be that different than going to a Foo Fighters show. There were no animal sacrifices or prayers to Satan. Nothing was harmed during the concert (except in cartoon form, lots of things die in the world of Dethklok, including mermaids), but more importantly my ears weren’t ringing and no one made me bleed with their spiked bracelets or whatnot. I know that while this was not a typical metal show, metal shows in general aren’t as violent and grotesque as I was led to believe as a child. So while I do feel bad for being so judgmental as a child, what happened happened and I can’t change that, nor can Colin change the fact that he put vinegar in the sugar. Dick.

I don’t watch Project Runway, or Pimp My Pride, or Cribs, but I’m still pretty superficial, and I’m okay with that, since everyone is. It starts at birth with your parents dangling shiny objects in front of you and continues on for the rest of your life. Perhaps you’re not stereotypically superficial (fancy clothes, fancy car) but your superficiality manifests itself in many other ways. There will always be things that are pleasing to your eye, it’s just human nature, and it doesn’t make you any better or any worse than anyone else, even though you probably would like to think otherwise. My friend Mary claims that she “doesn’t see ugly” but we can’t all be like her.

I don’t necessarily try to stand out too much with the clothes I wear, but I like to think that I dress nicely. I used to be a little more lazy about things in college because 1) I didn’t have a lot of money to burn. 2) I felt like people should like me for me, and that me dressing up should make them feel special. I also quickly realized that college is the last time that walking around in public in your pajamas is socially acceptable.

Since I don’t have deep pockets, decking myself in designer clothes is difficult. I don’t have enough clothes to last me for months and I don’t want people to always thing I’m wearing the same thing (like that Simpsons episode with Marge and the Chanel dress). It’s like an epidemic, you get one piece of fancy clothing, and all of a sudden you need to revamp your entire wardrobe. Once you get a nice pair of jeans, you need to get shoes to match and you might as well get some shirts while you’re at it. It’s maddening.

I like to think I dress within my limits, not just financially. I think I wear clothes that fit me, suit me, and make me look fashionable, which I believe is the point. I WILL NOT just buy something because of it’s brand name or because it’s “in”, and I think that is the problem with a lot of the “superficial” people today. They spend money on things that don’t even make them look good, which defeats the purpose. Fashion is supposed to enhance your appearance. This is why you don’t wear just white t-shirts and khakis everyday.

Unfortunately this is where some people go wrong, and I mean ridiculously wrong. I was in Hollywood over the weekend and while at a stop light, my friend had a terrified look on his face. Curious, I wanted to see what triggered the reaction and soon enough, I saw a lady walking away from our view, wearing a shirt that kind of rode up on her, revealing a pale section of back flab. It was disgusting, and I feel terrible that my reaction to seeing this back flab was repeating “Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God” for about a minute, until we made our turn and went home. Honestly, if this lady was wearing clothes that didn’t reveal this pasty flab, there wouldn’t have been any reaction. She would’ve been just another pedestrian. It wasn’t her weight or appearance that was garnering our ridicule, it was the lack of foresight on her part. Unfortunately this happens all the time, like at clubs or bars.

I realize people of all sizes and body types look ridiculous in certain clothing. Super short shorts, showing off a really bad farmer’s tan, wearing a fedora when you’re kind of white trash, pig tails while wearing a trucker hat; these are all fashion faux pas that people should realize they should avoid but they don’t. And it really goes beyond clothes, it’s knowing your strengths, weaknesses, and gifts. If you want to be a writer and you think a good beginning for a story is “There was an Aunt Tiny, who was quite large.” and you’re not writing a children’s book or a gross limerick, you should probably look into another profession.

I believe that knowing what looks good on you is more attractive than wearing clothes that just “look good”. It shows that you know what you’re all about. You seem comfortable and you aren’t trying to be something that you’re not. You might not be gracing any fashion magazines or wearing designer clothes, but you’re definitely not playing to your weaknesses. You know how to make yourself look good rather than making other people look good. I can understand the logic behind wanting to wear clothes that make you look more attractive but attractiveness is not based on what clothes you’re wearing, but how you wear the clothes. The cliche is correct. It’s what’s beneath the clothes that count. And that’s even true for the muffin tops.

If my life were a sitcom, Chris would be a reoccurring character that would show up a couple of times each season when there was a need for some laughs.  You can tell that there’s a relationship between this his character and my character, but you aren’t given the whole back story on it.  Also this reoccurring character doesn’t usually seem to move the story along, the episode is usually in a vacuum.   Not to say, Chris’ only purpose in my life is to serve up laughs, but it may appear that way to people on the outside.  He and I are definitely close (as I’ve documented in previous adventures), but he often “falls off the map”.  At one point in college, I hadn’t seen him or talked to him in a year or so.  We didn’t have a heated arguments or anything, my life just got busy and I forgot to call him.  I ended up running into him at an Islands that he was working at (I had no idea he worked at an Islands), and we picked up where we had left off a year earlier.  Since then, we’ve been better at making sure we don’t go a whole year without checking in with each other, though we’ve missed some birthdays and whatnot, which is kind of sad since neither of us have left the country or even the state for extended periods of time.  I talk to Bruce almost every day and he’s on the other side of the country.  I’ll be lucky to talk to Chris once a week.

But like I said, we’re still close.  We have traditions and inside jokes and we can jump from one conversation to another without wondering “Umm, what should we talk about now?”  We once had a 15 minute conversation about the different textures and flavors of Cheetos.  I prefer my Flaming Hot Cheetos crunchy and my White Cheddar Cheetos fluffy, while Chris prefers his Flaming Hots fluffy, and his White Cheddars crunchy.  These aren’t forced conversations, they somehow happen naturally and this is why you might think he’s just around for some comic relief.

Most of our conversations revolve around music, movies, and the minutia of day to day life.  Our sensibilities are pretty similar: we both love the Coen Brothers’ films, Radiohead, Pavement, and of course, The Get Up Kids, who we’ve been able to consistently catch on their tours since Chris and I became friends.  We’ve seen them 4 times since 2005, which is kind of weird since they broke up in 2005.  I’ve written about how weird it was to see them play at the Bamboozle Festival earlier this year, in front of a bunch of kids who didn’t know who the Get Up Kids were, in a lineup where all the bands playing were influenced by the band.  Chris and I were able to catch them on a headlining tour, and while we didn’t have to deal with the weirdness of being around kids have our age, we had to deal with the fact that we were starting to feel too old for these club shows.

If it wasn’t for the fact that Chris had a friend who could get us into the show for free, I don’t know if I would’ve considered going to the show, which shows how terrible of a fan I am.  We also showed up with hopes of missing the opening acts, which is a far cry from how we were in college where we would try to get as close to the stage as soon as possible.  When we arrived at the venue, we got our wristbands for alcohol, and I waited for Chris to get our tickets from the will call window.  He returned from the window with the tickets and different wristbands.  While I put on this second wristband, I asked him what they were for and he had no idea.  So we walked in, and I went to the bathroom.  When I returned, Chris informed me that the wristbands got us access to the “lounge”, which is basically an area with couches and tables behind the floor.  We grabbed a couch, ordered some drinks from a waitress and watched as one of the opening bands tore through a terrible cover of “Forever Young”.

The couches were comfortable and we had a pretty good view of the stage in the venue which I believe held 1200 people.  The Get Up Kids hit the stage and we decided to stay in the lounge.  As people crowd surfed and moshed, he stood at a railing in front of our couch and watched the show unfold.  As the mosh pit grew, we were relieved to be away from the floor, and that we had a comfortable couch to sit on if we were starting to get tired of standing.  I know this sounds like we’re total wimps, but we are.  This is not to say that we will never try to get close to a stage again, but we’re starting to get more selective about who we choose to stand and show up early for.  I attribute this new discernment to me trying to conserve energy for the work week (this was a Thursday show), but it could just be that I’m getting old.  So in this episode of the sitcom of my life, while this cameo from Chris doesn’t really move my life story along, it does surprisingly show some character development.  Perhaps we should all give him some credit here, or at the very least, we should be very excited when he shows up during sweeps week.

I remember where I was on 9/11. I was at student staff training at my alma mater, and when I woke up that morning, I was scared because I had slept in. One of our staff trainers had knocked on my door and I was pretty sure I was going to get chewed out, but I was instead informed that training for the day was canceled and that I might want to call family and friends to see if they were okay. I got a brief run down of what had happened, watched it on the news and couldn’t believe my own eyes.  It just… didn’t look real.  My sister lived in Brooklyn and Bruce was attending Carnegie Melon in Pennsylvania, and since I was fuzzy on the details, I quickly called them/found them online. They were fine, and finally it was time to start processing everything else associated with the day.

It’s been almost a decade since the attacks, and perhaps Rudy Guliani and Alan Jackson are to blame for why I feel desensitized to all the events that transpired that day, but I don’t think I’m alone. I believe the poor reception to Oliver Stone;s World Trade Center film had a lot to do with the fact that people don’t want to think about it, and I think for those of us fortunate to not lose a loved one, we only really think about the aftermath of 9/11 on the anniversary and when we’re at the airport and we have to take off our shoes to get through the security checkpoint.

So on 9/12/2008, Jessica, Kirsten, Makenna, and I headed to the Hollywood Bowl to catch Brian Wilson perform with the LA Philharmonic. I’d seen him a couple of years before at the Bridge School Benefit and was excited he’d be playing his famous Beach Boys songs at Bowl with fireworks.  We didn’t share stories about how 9/11 affected us or where we were on the day.  Jessica just told us a story where she was at a bar the previous night and how there was a moment of silence, and how after the moment of silence, Neil Young’s “Keep on Rocking in the Free World” came on the radio and how she thought the coincidence was hilarious. After that, we went back to our normally scheduled activities: filling our ice chest with cheese, crackers, and other snacks to go along with our two bottles of wine, as we headed to watch Brian Wilson and his band perform.  It just seemed like a coincidence that he was playing the day after (it was closing weekend at the Hollywood Bowl, which he does every couple of years or so), but perhaps it wasn’t.

We were fortunate to be in the last row of our section and at the end of the bench because we were going to stand up for all of Brian Wilson’s set. We were by far the youngest people at the show that didn’t accompany their parents. We didn’t care we were out of place, we were intent on being shameless and loud.  The lady sitting next to me told me that we “were too young to like the Beach Boys” but that she “loved our energy” as we got tipsy and danced for the duration of the show. (I think she tried to dance with me at some point and all I could think in my head was “half your age + 7, lady, get away from me”, but whatever.) We heard “California Girls”, “Wouldn’t it be Nice”, “God Only Knows” and “Surfer Girl”. He didn’t have a lot to say between songs, not that Brian Wilson is known for his witty between song banter.  He wisely let the music speak for itself.  He then broke out the encore of “I Get Around” and “Surfing USA” as the fireworks went off.  It was an amazing climax to a beautiful evening. Not only were we having a great time, we found ourselves with a great deal of pride in our country. Brian Wilson’s love of California is unparalleled, and honestly it’s quite infectious. We left the Bowl seeing what he saw, the beach, the freeways, everything in a different light.  If everyone could see Brian Wilson perform with fireworks going off in the background, everyone would be in love with this country, full of pride, full of the American spirit and ready to show the world that we are not going to live in fear. He may not be able to bring back the loved ones we lost on that tragic day, or end the economic woes that we face, but he can help us remember how to love our country and for that, for everyone at the Bowl that night, Brian Wilson won the war on terrorism.

A few years ago, I went to a(n) (Los Angeles) Angels (of Anaheim) game with my friends. We got cheap seats, since it was a pretty last minute idea. They were playing the Oakland A’s that night and since I’m not originally from California, I didn’t really care about the outcome of the game. I especially didn’t participate in the Nor-Cal vs So-Cal debate between the hometown Angel fans and the Oakland (or just Bay Area, in general) fans. My friends and I were stuck in between the two groups of feuding fans, and to throw a monkey wrench into the whole discussion, I screamed “May the better team win!”

The game was entertaining enough but not very memorable. It was a September game, and one of the two teams (my guess, the Angels) had already clinched the division. Neither team was really playing for anything. They were just trotting out their September call ups to get some big league experience, but this game will always have a place in my heart. Why? Because it was my first baseball game in an outdoor park (not including playing Little League baseball games out in Brooklyn Park/Center).

I’ve been to many baseball games before, but they were all in the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Domes aren’t very popular these days, but they looked really cool back in the 1980s (but didn’t age well, much like Tomorrow Land at Disney Land). The Twins played there and used all of the Dome’s quirks to their advantage. There was the super bouncy astro turf, the “Big Baggie” in right field, the speakers that hung over the field, and the whiteness of the dome itself which replaced the sky, day or night. Looking back, it was unnatural as baseball could be, but it’s really all I knew, as far as professional baseball was concerned. It was almost like a perk of being a professional. Instead of having to play baseball in the gross Minnesota humidity with gnats and mosquitoes buzzing about, a professional gets to play in a nice temperature controlled dome.

My family later moved to San Diego, and I never went to a Padres game at Jack Murphy/Qualcomm Stadium. (I’ve been to Petco, to watch the Twins whoop on the Padres.) There was a huge sports void in my life when we moved to San Diego. Actually, it was a giant void, period. I stopped playing baseball, playing piano, going to church, and I stopped begging my parents to go to games. After a couple of years, the piano playing and the church going started up again, but baseball was kind of dead to me. Then the lockout happened, but I still loved my Twins even though they were so terrible that they were almost contracted.  Luckily they started to become competitive again and eventually found their funding for a brand new OUTDOOR stadium.  I went to a game at the Dome on my last trip back to the Twin Cities.  It was my first game in the Dome in 16 or 17 years.  It would be a gross understatement to say that it’s not a very charming place to watch a baseball game.  We drove by Target Field, which is set to open in 2010 and that places looks marvelous.  It’s a piece of art, and not one of those pieces of futuristic pieces of art that end up looking like a joke.  The Twins made sure that they got their new stadium (the native Minnesota limestone in the exterior of the building used is both a classy and a beautiful choice).

I’ll always identify with the Twins. They were such a huge part of my childhood. I got to live during a time where they won 2 World Series’. I have the Homer Hankies to prove it. Actually my childhood in Minnesota was all kinds of awesomeness. The North Stars went to the finals in ’91, the Superbowl was hosted at the Metrodome in January of 92. The Mighty Ducks was released, which is basically a celebration of youth hockey in Minnesota. It was a good time to be growing up as a sports fan. I definitely miss the ice skating, the sledding, the snowmen building and biking around lakes, but I believe I left at a good time. The North Stars left (but were eventually replaced by the Wild, whom I love), academic scandal broke out with University of Minnesota Men’s Basketball team, the Twins were futile for about a decade, and more importantly, the suburb that I grew up in started to quickly decay. My Minnesota childhood was a pretty amazing experience, and for me to think that moving back one day will provide the same experience is pretty naive. It’s not that I believe Minnesota has lost its luster, it’s just that I’m not prepared to experience it full time as an adult yet. As a child, I didn’t have to deal with warming up my car engine for a half hour before being able to drive the car, or driving through ice roads, or just not wanting to go out because the weather is so cold outside.  I know those thoughts are a far cry from what I thought as a child, and there’s still a good chance I could love living back there anyways.  I do know one thing for sure, as a child or as as an adult, I may not be able to root root root for my Twins as the home team, but I’ll still root for them wherever I end up.

I’ve heard of crazy things that have happened at Radiohead concerts: people bawling their eyes out as the band has come on stage, people fainting the second Thom Yorke speaks, pretty much the run of the mill rock star stuff that started with The Beetles and Elvis and continues on today with… umm, The Jonas Brothers.

Of course, I’ve only heard about these accounts from friends or by watching them on TV, which means I haven’t really “experienced” the weirdness. I just kind of shrug my shoulders and accept the fact that they happen. Of course, there was a good chance I was going to experience something since I had tickets to see Radiohead at the Hollywood Bowl, (and as we all know, Hollywood brings out the weirdos anyways,) but there was an even better chance that this “experience” was going to come from someone standing right next to me.

My friend Jessica claims that there are certain songs that will make her “crygasm” if they are performed live. The list of songs intrigued me more than trying to figure out what a “crygasm” is, which is probably what makes me a weirdo. The list of songs weren’t the most obvious (Fake Plastic Trees, High and Dry, Motion Picture Soundtrack, etc) but made sense, I mean, for Radiohead they made sense (Thom Yorke is not Lou Barlow). They were all beautiful songs that had some sort of romantic mention in them (“Climing Up the Walls”, “Talk Show Host”, and “True Love Waits”), and she was on the fence if “Reckoner” might do it, since she hadn’t heard the song live previously.

So the day of the show was pretty hectic for me. I had to leave my parents’ house in San Diego and head to Fullerton for church (and I had to make sure I had the tickets with me). From there, I was supposed to meet up at Chris’ house after lunch but lunch took a bit longer than expected so Chris and Jessica came to me, which I find endearing, except for the fact that they are afraid to meet any of my friends from church for fear of being converted. From there, we headed up to LA, hit up some stores, had dinner and walked over to the Bowl. Susan would meet us just as Radiohead walked on stage – talk about impeccable timing.  This is where the anticipation started to mount, not just for Radiohead, but for the much hyped “crygasm”.

For the previous week, I had been sifting through the Radiohead set lists on the ateaseweb.com message boards to see what songs we were likely to see at our show. Both “Climbing Up the Walls” and “Talk Show Host” were showing up pretty consistently and “Reckoner” was showing up every night, so it seemed that whether Chris and I wanted to experience it or not, a “crygasm” was headed our way.

The show started with “15 Step” and we were on our way. The Bowl was packed but no one in our immediate area fainted or started immediately crying to my amazement/disappointment. So, now it was up to Jessica, who wasn’t feeling especially great (she had a cold, she wasn’t depressed or anything). I wasn’t sure if I wanted to see her crygasm with a cold, since I still hadn’t determined what a crygasm actually is. Would it induce vomiting? Is it contagious when the crygasmer is sick?

These thoughts were just a passing fancy, since it’s pretty hard to ignore the awesomeness that is Radiohead and if you find a way to distract yourself during “How to Disappear Completely”, you my friend, have no soul. The band was at the top of their game and everything in the night started to come together. The day was rushed and a little stressed, but none of it mattered anymore. We were experiencing something magical, and while Jessica never crygasmed during “Climing Up the Walls”, it was far from a disappointment. Besides, we have pit tickets for Sigur Ros next month, so maybe those Icelandic kids will get a crygasm out of her or at least cause someone in the pit to faint. One can only hope.

(Jessica didn’t crygasm at Sigur Ros, but a girl who was next to me in the pit fainted – mission accomplished.)

Sherlan and I were walking into a See’s Candies to redeem a gift certificate I had gotten from a co-worker for the holidays. The mall was pretty busy, even though it was New Years Eve, but we had time to kill and I was getting antsy to use the gift certificate before I lost it or put it through the wash. As we walked towards See’s, we passed by a Brookstone, and while Brookstone usually has really interesting (but useless) stuff, I never see anything in a Brookstone that ever really registers in my brain. Except on this fateful, New Years Eve, we saw something that will be etched in our brains until the end of time.

As we walked by Brookstone, we saw a child on a mechanical bull, and while that by itself is not necessarily noteworthy, believe me, it was. First of all, this was not the mechanical bull that you see at bars or restaurants, this was a Brookstone mechanical bull: sleek, metallic, and post modern. (It didn’t look like mechanical bull because it wasn’t, it’s some sort of machine that is supposed to help sculpt your abs, but you don’t have to do any of the work apparently.) Second of all, the kid on the bull did not look like he was enjoying it at all, but at the same time did not look like he wanted to get off or was going to get off.  He was on it before we had gone into Sees, and was still on it after we had finished out business at Sees.  There was no change in the child’s enthusiasm, but he was still there.  It was a depressing and confusing sight, it was an unsettling portrait of mediocrity.

A couple of weeks later, we stumbled into a different mall, but we witnessed a similar result. This time we were at an outdoor mall and the first thing we saw walking in were these trampoline-harness devices. I had seen these devices before, but never at this mall. The object of these devices is simple: you strap yourself in, jump on the trampolines and start doing flips until your crotch can take no more. It looks pretty cool if you aren’t the one in the harness, but it’s pretty painful for you in you’re the one strapped in, especially for guys.  (I participated in one of these devices when I was about 12 and immediately regretted it. I was scared that that I would never have children after my experience.) Once again, we saw a child, kind of bored, kind of miserable, but not bothered enough to get out of their situation.  I’m not sure if this child had begged their parents to try or if their parents had forced them to give it a shot.  They just bounced up and down, never gaining momentum, totally limp in the harness.  They weren’t crying or begging their parents to get them down, nor were they flipping around with glee.  I think their parents were taking pictures of them, thought it didn’t appear like this was one memory that this kid would be happy to reflect on in the future.

Recently, we went to go see a performance of the musical, The Music Man, where we witnessed a young child, probably no older than 4, trying to keep up with rest of the cast. He looked lost and maybe a little frustrated. It was a community theater performance, so it’s not like the kid was going to get chewed out between scenes.  He didn’t have any lines, but you could tell he was invested in keeping up with the rest of the cast.  If he weren’t an adorable little chubby child, we probably wouldn’t have cared much, but he was, and he kind of stole the show (not being sarcastic at all). We rooted for him being the underdog that he was and in all honesty, he delivered.

To see the children at the Brookstone, in the trampoline, and at the theater, it was alarming to see a person to look so defeated, but at the same time, not looking for a way out. I hope for these children, that these situations are isolated and this is not a sign of things to come. To say that your child like faith was lost one fateful day at a Brookstone would just be a travesty.

(This is fiction.  Trust me.)

“Do you want to take my hand?” and the girl said, “Take it where?”. And although he afterwards thought he should have said, “Everywhere”, he only just mumbled. – Looper “Impossible Things #2”

It was a Friday when David called me. I was surprised when I saw his name come up on the caller ID of my cell phone. We had kept in touch sporadically since college but we hadn’t actually intentionally hung out in years. He had recently been trying to get me to intern at the company he was interning at, but I had to decline since I couldn’t fit an unpaid internship in LA into my schedule. He asked me if I was willing to help out with a shoot on Saturday in Orange County. He needed me to shoot some stills for a gallery opening and the idea was met with a great deal of resistance. Operating a camera wasn’t one of my strong suits, especially a still camera, and working for free on a weekend wasn’t a very appealing idea either. He told me that the shoot was going to be in Irvine and since I was going to be there anyways, I decided to help my friend out.

David told me I was going to be working with his co-worker Cynthia and that he’d be passing my phone number along to her. While I knew that I’d be working with her on this Saturday, I didn’t know that David wasn’t going to be there. That made this shoot that much more nerve racking for two reasons. 1) I had never met this girl before, let alone seen her. 2) We were filming a live event which means that there’s no chances for re-shoots. This was a total recipe for disaster and that is exactly what we got.

Cynthia was very nice to me throughout the shoot, probably seeing that I was totally stressed out the entire time. She told me that she had heard stories of how creative I was from David and praised my choice of shots. At the end of the shoot, she told me that even though it didn’t go according to plan that she believed that we had met that day for a reason and that we should keep in touch. I wasn’t quite sure why she said that.  I was definitely not on the top of my game that day, and I wasn’t padding the time in between shots with witty anecdotes.  Somewhere during the shoot, she had misplaced her phone which pretty much was the cherry on top of this “crappiest shoot ever” sundae.

I didn’t hear from Cynthia again until a couple of weeks ago. I was down in San Diego visiting my parents. I was pleasantly surprised to see that I was receiving a call from her and was even more surprised by the fact that she didn’t know she was calling me. She knew she was talking to a “Ryan”, but then asked me who I was. I had to explain that I was “the Ryan that shot those pictures for you in Irvine” before she was able to identify me. Instead of apologizing for calling the wrong person and hanging up, she asked me how I was doing, what projects I was working on, and proposed that she, David, and I grab lunch sometime. Some of my friends think this was not an accident and that she was looking for a reason to call me. I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt for now.

On Saturday, a couple of friends and I went to a show that David’s company had organized. He had asked me to go even though he wasn’t going to be there. When we arrived, I took a quick peek to see if Cynthia was there (the staff were wearing t-shirts) and she was nowhere to be found. During the intermission, as I walked to the doorway, there she was (she wasn’t wearing one of the staff t-shirts). She was happy to see me (opposed to not knowing who I was), and stuck out her hand for a handshake. We shook hands, but there was something odd about her handshake. It’s not that I noticed her hand being hot, cold or her handshake being limp, or firm. It was just a long handshake, kind of in the same way that Irvine has long yellow lights. It’s just long enough where your brain goes out of “auto pilot” mode and you start to think about what’s going on but not long enough where it’s super awkward. When driving in Irvine, you can actually think “Should I go? I’m kind of in a hurry, so I’ll go” and still make it through. In the case of Cynthia’s handshake, I started to think “So when is she going to let go?”, not that I necessarily was bothered by it.

We chatted for a bit and I returned to my seat for the second half of the show. After the show was over, my friends and I headed for the door to leave. Cynthia was there, once again, and I said goodbye and we shook hands again. This time around, the handshake wasn’t as long, but there was still something about it. I couldn’t explain to my friends until the next day where I finally found the words to describe it. Her handshake was affectionate and I’ve never felt affection through a handshake before. While I don’t remember any of the small talk that we had that night, there was another conversation that was happening simultaneously between her hand and mine.

She asked “Do you want to take my hand?” I asked “Take it where?” with the anticipation that the answer was “Everywhere”.

Sometimes I’ll go to the mall and see a group of teens and wonder if the kids these are days are getting uglier or if just looking ugly is the new trend.  I definitely didn’t look like that and neither did anyone I went to high school with.  From the hair style to the make up to the clothes, if these kids weren’t actually ugly, they were trying their hardest to look ugly.  I never thought I would lose touch with what’s cool with kiddies so quickly, if at all.  I was not going to grow old, I was going to age gracefully and still be hip.

This was my plan for the future and it seemed completely feasible, but then I found out, that at the age of 26, I’m already out of touch. My dreams of being super cool dad on day went down the toilet at a rave.
Now to clarify, if someone asked me “Do you want to go to a rave?” I wouldn’t even need a second to think about my answer, which would be an emphatic “No!” So how did I end up at a rave? Easy. You call this “rave” a festival, and you advertise that The Roots, Reflection Eternal, and Chromeo are all performing. I’ve seen The Roots live more than any other artist and tend to catch them whenever I can.
So this festival is called Audiotistic, and I did know beforehand that it was considered a rave, but I figured that if we stayed in the hip-hop room (which was actually an outdoor stage, which was a very pleasant surprise – hip hop shows are notorious for reeking of weed), we wouldn’t really have to deal with the raver kids. Not that I expected any trouble from anyone, I’m just not part of the scene. They could enjoy their techno and glow sticks, and I could enjoy The Roots.
So my friend Beverly and I arrived in San Bernardino and saw a flock of people heading toward the venue. Some of the kids were dressed pretty normally (for going to a concert) and then there were some kids, who were dressed a little more festively, which is a gross understatement. I thought I kind of knew what to expect wardrobe wise from these raver kids. Bright colored clothing, perhaps some colorful jewelry, (you know, things that I wear on an daily basis). To my surprise, ravers these days (guys and girls) prefer to wear as little clothing as possible, except for the boots with the fur (minus the apple bottom jeans).

To be more specific, girls would show up in bikinis, with huge pink furry boots, and Hello Kitty backpacks, along with the aforementioned glow sticks and jewelry. Guys, likewise, would show up in nothing but speedos, backpacks, but without boots. Now, I’ve never been to a rave before, but I’ve been told this new wardrobe ensemble is a fairly new thing to rave culture. These people looked young, like in the 16-20 year old range, so it wasn’t exciting for me to see these scantily clad girls prancing around, it just made me feel creepy and dirty.  Obviously these kids didn’t leave the house looking like that, or least I hope not.  No sane parent would be okay with their kid dressing like that and heading out to the boonies for a “concert”, right?

Honestly, I shouldn’t care.  What these teens were doing was none of my business.  They weren’t ruining my experience when I was watching the actual performances and they weren’t really ruining my time there in between performances.   I’m sure they were doing illegal things, but it none of my concern and honestly not anything unusual (probably a lot less ecstacy though).  I was starting to see things through the eyes of a parent, which was something I was not expecting at all.  For the first time, I felt there was a huge divide at a concert and I didn’t like that feeling at all.  Concerts were supposed to a safe haven of sorts, where people of all ages could experience music and feel connected, but this night you only seemed connected if you were rolling.  The rest of us were horrified on the outside looking in.

I went to DC a couple of years ago for St. Patrick’s Day.  I was single, had a green shirt, and I had a place to crash.  If I was making more than your typical retail salary, it would be the ideal situation.  Other than Bruce, who’s place I was crashing at, I had no ties to anyone there and during St. Patrick’s Day, everyone there was ready to party.  What happens in DC, stays in DC, no?

Bruce knows me better than anyone else, but all that basically means is that there are very few things I could do that would surprise him.  So if I decided to be someone else this weekend, he probably wouldn’t of even thought twice about it.  I didn’t really have a set plan when he picked me up from the airport.  I just planned to have a lot of fun.  I asked him what he had planned for St. Patty’s Day, he didn’t really have a plan, just to grab a bit to eat and perhaps drink at his place.  His two single and female roommates decided otherwise when we got to his apartment after dinner.
So the two girls, (lets name them Barbara Ann and Rhonda because of their ties to Beach Boys song titles), brought us to a bar where Barbara Ann was supposed to meet with this guy who she thought liked her.  She didn’t seem too enthused by the idea but was willing to meet with him.  We’ll name him Mike Love.  Mike Love brought his friend who had also flown out from California.  This guy was in total “wing man” mode.  While I had no interest in Barbara Ann (especially since it’s not a good idea to try to hook up with your best friend’s roommate while in town), I decided who I was going to be for the weekend.  Mike Love’s cock blocker.
Mike Love would buy us a round of shots, presumably to get Barb pretty plastered.  His douchey friend would try to have interesting conversations with Bruce, Rhonda and I.  By interesting, I mean “Oh you flew out from California too?  That’s cool.”  But whenever Mike Love muttered anything about going to his place, I would enter the conversation with some sort of alternative idea.
“Hey Barbara, if we go back to the apartment, I’ll play you a Brittany Spears song on guitar!”
“Ooh really?  That’d be sooooo coooool!”
<Mike Love goes to grab another round of drinks.>
After seeing how easily distracted she could be, I was able to find my groove.   I would dance with her and find ways to make her laugh. I would tell her jokes, I would mock him.  I knew what was going on and I wanted to make Mike Love pay for it.  See, what was going to happen was inevitable.  She was going to go home with him.  It sounds callous, but this was just her way, but since I wasn’t informed of this until the hours into this, I reveled in playing the role of the spoiler.  I was doing the right thing and was being rewarded with drinks that I couldn’t afford.
I never at any point feared that a fight was going to break out, because a fight would just ruin all of Mike Love’s “hard work” with Barbara.  It was St. Patrick’s Day so I’m sure that there was extra security around, and that any sort of confrontation was going to get dealt with before any major escalation.  Throwing a punch was likely going to get you thrown in a holding cell for the night, and since Mike Love and I were both Asian, we’d be easily identified in the clubs and bars we had hit up through out the night.  Plus, I wasn’t intimidated by him.  I’m not afraid to punch a guy with glasses on, especially one who needs a wing man and tons of booze to get laid.
On this trip to DC, I decided that out of all the personas I could’ve chosen for the weekend, I wanted to be the hero and I failed.  Unfortunately you can not save those who do not want to be saved.  I could’ve turned a blind eye to everything.  It was a vacation for me, and I had never met Barbara Ann before.  Even though Bruce and Rhonda kept on assuring me “she’ll be fine”, I kept on wanting to spoil this guy’s fun.  Just the idea that he had his friend fly across country to wing man for him seemed a bit ridiculous.  Not that I condone this behavior, but shouldn’t you be trying to get your guest laid, instead of forcing your guest to help you get laid?  That just sounds like poor hospitality.
I think Barbara ended up dating this guy, which puzzles me, and is probably a worthy of a story in its own right, but I will never be able to tell it, because the second I stepped on that plane going back to California, I was no longer the hero, I was just me, and what happened in DC was going to stay there, as far as my conscience was concerned.

I’m a pretty religious man, while Chris is pretty much on the agnostic side. Well, Chris is just kind of apathetic towards life in general, so I’m not quite sure he believes anything exists these days, but what I am sure about, is that he would agree with me that God has quite a sense of humor. If he didn’t, why would The Wiltern be smack in the middle of what is now known as Korea Town?

The Wiltern is a historic theater, and even if it wasn’t surrounded by all things Korean, would still be one of my favorite places to see a show.  Everyone from Brian Wilson to The Streets has performed there and it’s always been a great experience.  What enhances the experience even more for Chris and myself is the fact that we get to eat a pretty delicious meal beforehand.  In a way, I feel like the Wiltern was made for us, a couple on Korean-American indie rock loving kids, and since we don’t live in Los Angeles, don’t get tired of either The Wiltern or the Korean food that Korea Town has to offer.  It’s our home away from home.

Now Chris and I are far from fluent in Korean, but we know how to order food, and we definitely know what food is good.  Unfortunately for the hipster crowd, Korean food isn’t really in vogue (with the exception of the BBQ, which is always in vogue for the gluttons) so unless you know someone who is an expert on Korean food (most likely a Korean), it can be rather intimidating.  So when they arrive to the Wiltern early, they’re usually searching for the nearest Subway or McDonalds, or a place that seems friendly to those who only speak and understand English.  They’re easy to spot with their confused looks, unkempt hair, and skinny jeans.  It’s understandable.  I’d never go into a place where I or anyone in my party, couldn’t read the signs or the menus.    Plus with all the smelly cabbage and spicy tofu, I’m not sure that what a Korean food virgin wants to eat right before bouncing up and down to Animal Collective.

Chris and I usually eat at BCD Tofu house (spicy Korean tofu soup) and now there’s Mr. Pizza Factory, a Korean pizza place.  What’s makes the pizza Korean?  Sweet potato paste in the outer crust and some gourmet combonations (seafood, baked potato theme, etc). It’s definitely not for the health conscious, though probably healthier than eating pounds of short ribs in one sitting.  It can give you a pretty serious case of food coma, but that’s a story for another time.

The last time Chris and I were at the Wiltern for a show was for Death Cab for Cutie on the Transatlanticism “victory lap” tour.  We went to BCD and ate tofu with a side of short ribs.  This was the 2nd time I had seen Death Cab for Cutie, but the first time at The Wiltern.  This was almost 5 years ago, we barely still qualified as student (Chris was finishing up, I had one class to complete), and Death Cab for Cutie was just starting their ascent to the mainstream.  This wasn’t the last time that I saw the band in concert (Bridge School, 2006), but it’s the last time that I’ve been to the Wiltern. Coincidentally enough, the first time I caught the band, they played at the El Rey, which is also in Korean Town, and guess what I had that night?  Korean food!  Too bad Chris Walla is a vegetarian.  I bet he’d really like Korean short ribs.

Chris and I will be going back to The Wiltern tonight to see Grizzly Bear for the first time.  I can’t promise that we’ll be blown away by the band tonight (but I’m sure we will), but I can promise that after 5 years, we will go through the same routine of eating a hearty Korean meal before heading to the show, and it will feel just like it did 5 years ago, and it’ll feel eerily familiar.  Perhaps we’re more in tune with our culture than we like to let on.  I guess Korea Town really is kind of a home away from home for Korean, even ones like Chris and me.