Month: March 2015

Exit 48. I can’t please everyone.

Hosting an event at my house is always tricky for an introvert like me.

I’m not 100% on the introvert side of the spectrum, that’s for sure.  I enjoy having a bunch of friends over.  I’m thankful that I have a house that I can share with my friends for events like this.  And being that I am the only homeowner among my closest group of friends, I often volunteer my house to host friends’ birthday parties and the like.  It’s the least I can do.  However, because I am an introvert by nature, I can’t do this every day, or even every week.  Once every month or two is enough for me.

As I’ve said before, every few months I invite people over to hang out and play retro video games from the 80s and 90s, while listening to 80s and 90s music.  If this sounds like fun to you, and you live within day trip distance of Sacramento or plan to visit Sacramento at some point, let me know.  We’ll talk.  But anyway, I had 22 people over last night, plus me.  While not quite a record, this was the largest crowd I’ve had in quite a while.  And whenever the crowd gets big, I always feel like I’m spread thin.  I can’t possibly spend significant time with all 22 people.  I can’t participate in every game that gets played.  And sometimes that makes me feel like a bad host.

I think my friends understand, though.  I’m certainly not ignoring them on purpose.  And I would understand if the tables were turned.  I’ve been to big parties before in which I didn’t get to spend a lot of time with the host, because there were so many people there, and yet I’ve still had fun.  And I’m sure my friends did too.

It’s been on my mind a lot lately that I don’t feel like I fit in with adults socially, and activities like this certainly contribute to that feeling.  Video games are not a so-called adult activity.  But I don’t see anything wrong with what I’m doing.  I don’t play games often enough for it to take over my life, and most of my games go untouched in between these events.

Regarding not fitting in socially with adults, for example, I know a lot of adults whose entire social lives seem to revolve around drinking.  I’m not being judgmental, and I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with a night at the bar, wine tasting, or a beer festival, as long as you’re doing everything in moderation and not making reckless decisions that will leave you dead, injured, or infected.  If that’s what you like, go for it.  But I really have no interest in that.  Believe me, I’m not uncomfortable being around people who are drinking, so if you’re considering whether or not to invite me to your birthday party where most if not all of the guests will be drinking, please go ahead.  I want to see you even if I’m not drinking myself.  But I just don’t feel like I should be changing my interests and activities just to fit in.  I’m willing to try new things, I’m willing to change to improve myself.  But if you can’t relate to me because I don’t drink, then I just can’t make myself see that as my problem.  (To clarify, I’ve never been told this to my face, but I kind of get the impression sometimes from some conversations I’ve had and the way some people act around me.)  I hope no one sees me that way, because some people I know whose social lives revolve around drinking seem like pretty cool people in some ways, but maybe they aren’t so cool after all if they can’t include me.  And I just have to understand that I can’t please everyone.  Not everyone is going to be a lifelong friend, and that’s just a sad fact of life.  All I can do is be who I am.

Exit 47. I’ve got the same combination on my luggage!

Yesterday, I had two hours to kill away from my own neighborhood.  And when I say kill, I don’t mean this in a negative way, I mean I was looking forward to the peace and quiet.  The last week or so, I’ve been having a craving for a certain major national restaurant chain that I hadn’t been to since August, if I’m remembering right.  (In case you’re wondering, It’s the one that doesn’t rhyme with “bottle” and requires a Rectum of the Gods to eat there safely.)  Anyway, I knew of a location of this particular dining establishment that was on the way to where I needed to be next, so I went in and headed for the bathroom, only to find that the bathroom had a keypad lock on it.  Presumably this is there to keep non-customers from using the bathroom.  I got in line, made my order, and asked about the bathroom, if she had to unlock it from there or if customers could have the combination.  “1-2-3-4-5,” she said.

Of course, I replied with what should be the automatic standard reply from most people my age who appreciate science fiction and off-the-wall comedy: “That’s amazing!  I’ve got the same combination on my luggage!

Then I paused and asked her, “Did you get that reference?”

“No,” she replied, as I expected.  So I told her briefly about the movie Spaceballs, a comedy satirizing Star Wars and the science fiction blockbusters of that era and style, how the bad guys are trying to force the good guys into giving up a combination that ends up being 1-2-3-4-5.  (Click the link above to see the scene.)  “Is it an old movie?” she asked.

“1987,” I said.

“Yeah, I wasn’t even born yet,” she replied.

Of course, as I’ve gotten older, moments like this have happened more and more to the point of just making me laugh now.  I’ve gotten used to being older than many of the people I come in contact with.  It’s important to realize that younger people grew up in a different world than me, and this has much deeper implications than not getting my movie references, but that is another topic for another time.

What I can do is offer to share my cultural references without being condescending toward the other individual, as I did with the girl from the restaurant above.  This is also why I invite people over for classic retro video games.  Some of my friends are younger than some of the consoles and computers I have, but we all have a lot of fun with it.  After all, this really isn’t all that different from students in school reading classic literature as part of their education.  Of course, there is a very legitimate argument that Spaceballs and Super Mario Bros. are not exactly on the level of culture as Shakespeare, but some of the creative works that are considered part of the canon of Western culture today were not taken seriously in their own time.

I used to coach Academic Decathlon.  Each year’s events are arranged around a central theme, with the topics of study all connected to some subject, part of the world, or era in history.  A few years ago, the theme was World War I, and among the topics were the art and music of that time period.  Some of the works students were required to study were not exactly considered high class at the time, such as Take Me Out To The Ball Game, Scott Joplin’s Maple Leaf Rag, and Duchamp’s Fountain.  It got me thinking… what if Academic Decathlon students 100 years from now are studying our time in history?  Will the music section of the curriculum include timeless classics like Gangnam Style and The Fox?  Will the students learn about priceless works of art like the photograph of Grumpy Cat and Lady Gaga’s meat dress?  Will Go The F*** To Sleep be one of the literature selections?  It certainly will be interesting to see what history will have to say about this generation, but I’m sure every generation has said the same kind of thing about themselves.  All I can do now is keep finding that balance, passing on the memories of the past without anchoring my life to them, acknowledging that the past made me who I am while freeing myself of its chains.

Exit 46. Baby, don’t treat me bad.

Fans of the so-called hair bands that were popular in my childhood will recognize the title of this article as a quote from a two-hit wonder called Firehouse (one hit, two hits).  I don’t really know a whole lot about this band other than those two songs and what I’ve read in their Wikipedia article, but I discovered something interesting in there: Firehouse won “Favorite Hard Rock New Artist” at the 19th American Music Awards, held in early 1992.  Firehouse didn’t really leave much of a legacy in the quarter-century since they first approached stardom.  Firehouse isn’t really very well remembered these days, other than people in their 30s commenting “Hey, I remember that song! I haven’t heard it in years!” whenever one of their friends shares it on Facebook.  You never see kids who weren’t born yet when Firehouse was popular wearing Firehouse T-shirts, for example.

What’s interesting about all this, though, is one of the bands that lost to Firehouse in that year’s Favorite Hard Rock New Artist category, a trio that perhaps you’ve heard of called Nirvana (one hit, two hits, three hits, four hits, five hits, six hits, seven hits, and probably more if not for the lead singer joining the 27 Club in 1994).  So did Firehouse deserve the award over Nirvana?  That’s a bit of a subjective matter.  While researching this post, I discovered that Firehouse actually did have a third song to crack the top 20, one I don’t personally remember, and the seven big hits from Nirvana that I remember most didn’t all perform as well on the charts as I’d have thought considering how often I heard them back then.  (Both Nevermind and In Utero were #1 albums, though.)  But I don’t think anyone would doubt that Nirvana had a much greater influence on the history of rock music than Firehouse did.  To me, it seems like whoever was in charge of selecting the Favorite Hard Rock New Artist at the American Music Awards was more comfortable with a band that sounded like all the other biggest hard rock bands of the last decade rather than a band that signaled a fundamental shift in popular music.  They wanted to stick to the old ways, even though the world was changing.

That last sentence, that is my problem right now.

This is not the same world that rejected me and bullied me in 1985, this is not the same world in which I finally learned to have friends in 1993, and this is not the same world that taught me about Jesus and how to form romantic relationships God’s way in 1997.  While some core principles and beliefs should never change, I can’t apply those the same way that I did, or that I wanted to, in the past.

This causes a lot of tension because I don’t like the way the world has changed.  In order to socialize, I have to go to bars and blow a ton of money on bad-tasting judgment-impairing drinks only to have a hard time hearing anyone because it’s so loud in there.  In order to pursue a relationship with a woman, I have to ask her out right as soon as I meet her, follow all these rules about how long to wait before I call her back, and go to bed with her after a couple weeks, which will usher in a period of awkward tension in which we aren’t sure if we’re a couple or not.  Those things don’t make sense to me.  I’d rather find somewhere to talk to people where you can actually listen to each other, but if I talk to strangers anywhere else it’s creepy.  I’d rather get to know a woman on a platonic level, slowly, and spend time together with our clothes on before establishing clearly if we are in a serious relationship.  But getting to know a woman on a platonic level sends the message that I’m not interested.  I feel like I don’t fit in at church.  I can keep looking for a church that has a group like the one I was in when I was in college, where the room is full of people in the same place in life as me, and after the singing and the Bible lesson, we socialize and hang out together.  But the honest truth is that I’m not going to find a group like that.  Adults don’t do that.  They go home and go to bed early, because they have jobs and children to worry about.

I can’t change the ways of the world, unfortunately.  I can change myself, and I can change my attitude, and I’m going to have to do a bit of both.  Maybe I’ll have to stop clinging to some of the old ways.  Maybe I’ll have to get a smartphone.  Maybe I’ll have to let go of the wistful hope that I’ll ever experience the kind of unrestrained puppy love that teenage couples experience, with the all night last minute road trips and bonfires and stargazing.  But I’ll also have to figure out which core values not to change.  A woman who expects to sleep with a guy before even establishing if we’re a couple or not obviously isn’t the one.  If I stay true to myself, but keep a positive attitude and stay open to new things, then hopefully I’ll be able to find my place in this world without having to sell out.  I’m not going to fit in everywhere, and not everyone is going to like me, and life isn’t going to look like what I wanted my ideal life at age 22 to look like.  But it’s okay to be a little different.  It’s okay to be me and have a lot of different interests and connections that don’t usually go together.

After all, all three artists I linked to in this post are in my music collection, and they represent very different styles of music.

(And by the way, I didn’t post anything for Pi Day because I was attending the birthday party of my cousin’s little guys.  Family is important.  All the kids at school asking me if Pi Day was going to be the most amazing day of my life… well, it’s fun to point that out, but it’s really not that big of a deal in the long run.)

Exit 45. Who is this guy, and why am I taking my picture with him?

I recently attended the Sacramento Kings Team Breakfast, an event for season ticket holders.  In addition to the free food that gave the event its name, there was a raffle, face painting for the kids, and locker room tours.  Fans also had the opportunity to line up in several spots to take pictures with one or two players and a team dancer, and kids had the opportunity to line up and shoot baskets with players and coaches.  The event ended with radio announcer Gary Gerould hosting a question-and-answer session with new coach George Karl and most of the players.

The players involved in the photo opportunities rotated every few minutes, probably to avoid a situation where everyone would line up at the same spot to take their picture with the big names, but that had the side effect that fans didn’t know who they would get to meet when they lined up.  I stood in line for about 20-30 minutes, and when I first got far enough in line to see who was posing for pictures on the court, it was Nik Stauskas and Derrick Williams.  Then after a few minutes, Ben McLemore and Ray McCallum rotated in for pictures.  They were both draft picks from the year I became a season ticket holder, I’ve been watching them for their whole careers, so I was excited about that opportunity.  They rotated out before I got to the front of the line, but Rudy Gay took their spot.  I was excited about that; he is one of the team’s big scoring threats, and he is a two-time FIBA World Cup gold medalist with Team USA.  I was next in line to get my picture taken with Rudy Gay when something happened.

In order to get through the line more quickly, they opened up a second spot to take photos on the court, with people alternating between the two.  An arena staff member pushed me to the second photo station to get my picture taken with some other guy I didn’t recognize.  The person waiting behind me got to meet Rudy Gay instead.  Who is this guy, and why am I taking my picture with him?

“How are you doing?” the guy said.  “Good,” I replied, but I was so stunned at what happened that he could probably feel the disappointment in my voice.  I asked three staff members who he was once I was out of earshot, and none of them knew either.

I found out later, during the question-and-answer session when they introduced all the players participating, that the guy I was photographed with was Eric Moreland.  Eric Moreland is an undrafted rookie who the Kings signed this year.  He had gone back and forth several times between the Kings active roster and their D-League team, the Reno Bighorns (for you who don’t follow basketball, that’s basically the minor league team for players who are still developing their skills), until he got hurt a couple months into the season.  He had surgery in January and will miss the rest of the season.

Once my mind finished processing everything that had happened, I realized that I had acted like kind of a jerk.  I felt bad for not recognizing Eric Moreland, and I felt bad for not being more excited at the chance to take my picture with him.  Being an undrafted rookie dealing with an injury, he probably doesn’t get many opportunities like this to be in the spotlight.  I was the first fan in that line who got to meet him, and I acted disappointed.  How would I feel if I were in his situation?  I finally get to take pictures with fans, and the first one to come along acts like he wants to be photographed with the other guy instead.  I sure wouldn’t like that.  If I ever again get the chance to meet Eric Moreland, I’m going to apologize.  And if he heals from this injury and plays for the Kings again, I’m going to cheer for him like crazy.

I’ve also learned that if they ever do this event again, if I want to be photographed with players, I should get in that line early, so I have time to get more than one picture with a player.  In fact, I’ll skip the food entirely and eat what’s left on the way out.