Sunday, June 15, 2008

Rock A Life

Two years ago, at the age of 22, I received a schedule planner from a girl. Last time I felt disappointment from a gift, I had to exchange cargo shorts at the girl’s section at a department store.

“What am I going to do with this?” I asked.

“You can schedule your days out like me,” she said.

“What are you doing Friday night?” I asked.

She flipped over to Friday. “Nothing,” she said.

“We’re going to the Suns, Lakers game,” I said.

She wrote down, ‘Suns, Lakers game,’ in the Friday space. “What time?” she asked.

“I really don’t know. Let’s say six or something,” I said.

She wrote down, ‘6:30.’

I had never owned a schedule planner. I don’t plan things. I keep important obligations, such as work and school, free, but activities, such as weekend plans and vacations, I go based on feeling and whim.

I tried the schedule planner. I wrote down plans for every day that week. For Monday, I wrote down study session with Italian classmates. For Tuesday, I wrote down happy hour sushi and sake bombers. For Wednesday, I wrote down karaoke at the club. For Thursday, I wrote down fifty-cent coronas. For Friday, I wrote down Suns game. For Saturday, I wrote down party in Tempe. For Sunday, I wrote down TBS movies starring Martin Lawrence.

I did not do a single thing I wrote down in my schedule book. I had sushi that week, but not on Tuesday. On Wednesday, I didn’t expect one of my classmates to throw a huge party at his house. I did go to the basketball game Friday night but not with her. She broke up with me the night before. I didn’t have ‘girl breaks up with me’ written down on the Thursday space.
* * *
“Who’s ready to rock and roll, man?” I shouted into a dangling croquet mallet hanging from a patio overtop.

I stood tall. My four feet nothing body towered on top of a big patio table. I started young. I played concerts at the age of seven. I dressed well. Black corduroy pants and a white Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles t-shirt represented trend and punk rock star.

I had a plastic croquet set, for which I never actually used for its original intent. I never faired well in sports. My imagination envisioned the mallet as a makeshift microphone. I threw the plastic croquet balls into the audience when I felt completely rowdy. I had a fake plastic toy guitar that played music from the prerecorded buttons.

My audience consisted of orange trees and grapefruit trees. The gulf Florida winds swayed the trees left to right. I pretended that the trees rocked out to the music I gave them.

My mom’s friend gave her access to her beach home for a week if she took care of the daily pet feedings. I spent each night with her watching MTV music videos. I saw Bon Jovi rockin’ out to a concert in their music video for Livin’ on a Prayer. I saw David Lee Roth jump with gymnastic leg kicks to the video, Jump.

“Might as well jump,” Roth sang.

I might as well.

I saw these rock stars and the music videos, and I knew that the rock star lifestyle fit my personality. I played to my backyard trees because I had no other option at the time. I was seven. But I knew that eventually, I could practice and move on to the bigger stage and feel the rush I saw from the rock stars on the music videos.

“I call this song, ‘New Kid With Lego Blocks,’” I said.

“Ryan, time for dinner,” my grandma called.
* * *
In 1994, I read in a magazine that purple was the color of the year. That year, at 11, I went from rock superstar to rap megastar.

“I think the hook should be the ‘yeaaaaah’ after our main verse,” I said.

“So the lyric should read, ‘purple is the color of the year, yeaaaaah?’” my friend Stan asked.

“Yeaaaaah,” I said.

We recorded the song at my grandma’s house. She had a Casio keyboard. DJ Stan brought his turntable with him. I tested each prerecorded beat. We agreed on a beat that we knew we could dance to for our music video. We could have gotten the same beat from a metronome.

“This is totally going to blow away Hip Hop Hooray,” I said.

“Are you ready?” he asked.

“Wait. We need a tape. Do you got one?” I asked.

“Right here,” he said.

He placed the cassette tape into the tape recorder. We began rapping.

“Yeah, yeah. I got me a car. The car is purple. Wanna know why? Because purple is the color of the year, yeaaaaah. Purple is the color of the year, yeaaaaah,” I rapped.

“Yeah, yeah. I like to write. The ink is purple. Wanna know why? Because purple is the color of the year, yeaaaaah. Purple is the color of the year, yeaaaaah,” DJ Stan rapped.

I stopped the tape. “That was so awesome.”

“Now we need pictures,” he said.

We looked through my photo album and found a picture of us standing outside his above ground swimming pool.

“I need to work out,” I said.

“I like your sunglasses,” he said.

I agreed with him. The plastic framed sunglasses overshadowed the lack of muscles and conveyed a tough image my fifth grade audience wanted in a rap megastar.
* * *
Christmas morning, I received an acoustic guitar. By then, my rap career had ended with my move to Houston. I knew I wanted to be a rock star again. I practiced hard. I even took lessons. I studied charts. I did anything and everything. I even followed the lessons from Phoebe to Joey on an episode of Friends. Phoebe made Joey practice without the guitar. I practiced without the guitar. Phoebe came up with names, like the bear claw, for cord arrangements. I arranged my hands into the bear claw. Even with the help of a TV show, I was horrible. My bear claw looked like Captain Hook’s iron hook. I had a hard time holding on to the pick. My tone-deaf ears hindered my ability to even tune the guitar.

I joined my junior high band that year. I still played my guitar in my free time, but I needed more musical exposure. I auditioned for the coronet, a trumpet looking instrument, but rented a clarinet, a completely different instrument. Pronunciation got the better of me at the music store. The band teacher arranged our seating based on rank. The best clarinet player sat in the number one chair and the worst clarinet player sat in the number twenty chair. I sat in the number eighteen chair. I noticed the flawless play from the seventeen enemy classmates. I desired to make the top ten, as that meant an upgrade to the top row, but the squeaks that came from my clarinet prevented me from any promotion.

The following year, I played the bass clarinet. The “easy A” class turned into an “at least I got a B minus” class. I stopped playing at concerts. I moved my fingers to each note without blowing into the instrument. Over a hundred students performed in band that I figured my teacher wouldn’t even notice my lack of participation. At this point, I finally mastered On Top of Old Smokey on my guitar. Not exactly rock and roll.
* * *
I attempted acoustic rock and roll because On Top of Old Smokey did not give me the rock star vibe. I performed Green Day’s Good Riddance for my friends inside my garage. I had at least a second delay for each cord change. The song sounded like a scratched CD that skips every other second played on a stereo with treble and bass knobs skewed to sound opposite of its original intent.

“I hope you had the time of. God.”

I threw my guitar pick to the floor, and I took my guitar and smashed it against the ground like The Who guitarist, Pete Townshend. The guitar body splintered into halves. I learned that “rock star” doesn’t involve music.
* * *
I thought rock star entailed singing into a plastic croquet mallet. I thought rock star dealt with coming up with a catchy hook to a rap song. I thought rock star was learning the guitar or playing for my junior high band.

Rock star is the rush, the attitude, and the inner joy from living in the moment. Rock stars do not keep schedule planners. When a rock star takes the stage, the rock star feels the rush from the crowd cheering. Real rock stars jump around on stage. I, the musically ungifted one, get the same feeling when I go out and do crazy stuff.

I am a rock star when I skate and fall. I am a rock star when I do shots of hot sauce. I am a rock star when I improvise a funky dance move at a club. I was a rock star the moment I smashed my guitar.
* * *
“Did you see that security guard try and stop the mosh pit?” my friend Mike asked.

“Yeah, I accidentally pushed the guy. Like we’re all pushing and having a good time and stuff. And I see this little guy wearing purple, and I push him. And he turns around and says, ‘Don’t push me.’ And I’m like, ‘what?’ And then I noticed that he was security,” I said.

“He’s like five foot five. There’s no way he’s stopping that,” he said.

“Hey, you want to go back in?” I asked.

“Why do you even ask?” he said.
* * *
“Are you drunk?” the Mexico cop asked me.

“No, no, I’m not drunk,” I said.

“You’re drunk, aren’t you?” he asked.

“No, I’m not drunk. I swear,” I said.

“Bend over,” he said.

I bent over the hood of his car. He felt all around trying to find a wallet. I had nothing.

The other officer opened up the back door.

“Get in,” he said.

“No, I’m waiting for my friend at his van,” I said.

They didn’t comprehend, so I spoke Italian to them.

“Aspetto per il mio amico alla van,” I said.

“Get in,” he said.

I jumped into the backseat. I was cold. I was confused. I’m in Rocky Point, and I can’t speak any Spanish. I have no internal compass.

I ended up in Mexico based on a bad joke with my friend ten hours earlier. We had just left Chandler mall. To get to his house, my friend had to go south first and then make a u-turn north onto the highway.

As he drove south, I said, “Where are you going? Mexico?”

He paused, “That’s a good idea.”

Ten minutes later, we MapQuested directions to Rocky Point because neither of us had ever traveled to Mexico.

A whim, a bad joke, and then I sat in the backseat of a federales car.

The officer sped off.

“Alto! Alto!” I shouted. I recalled the stop sign read ‘Alto.’

They officer alto’ed.

“Van! Van!” I said.

They let me go.

I sat by the van hoping my friend would make it to the van. Three minutes later, a convertible with four locals pulled up next to me.

“What’s wrong with you?” one of them asked.

“I was at the Pink Cadillac with my friend, and these girls that we had met at Manny’s wanted to go back to Manny’s. I couldn’t find my friend to tell him, so I just left for Manny’s without thinking that our cell phones don’t work. So we separated. And on my way to the van, two cops jump out of a cop car and question me. It was just crazy,” I said.

“We saw a guy walking this way. He was wearing a black jacket,” he said.

“That’s him. That’s my friend,” I said.

Five minutes later, I saw him stumbling towards the van.

“Dude, I was in the backseat of a cop car,” I said.

“Two cops stopped me too. They were looking for money,” he said.

“No way,” I said.
* * *

“Is that your cousin?” I asked.

My friend Mike looked at me and raised his index finger.

A few moments later he said, “No, that was his girlfriend. We can get into their suite if we can find a way into the stadium.”

A couple overheard us from the table to our right. “We have two tickets,” the man said.

Mike and my friend Cyrus jumped at the opportunity. They purchased tickets for the Holiday Bowl for ten dollars total.

“We’re going to put the camcorder away. Good luck finding tickets,” Mike said.

I sat at the table inside a restaurant across the street from the stadium with Maddux and Zehrbach.

“We have to find a way inside the stadium, right?” I asked.

“Yeah, let’s just go and see if we can get tickets from people leaving,” Zehrbach said.

Arizona State played University of Texas in the 2007 college football Holiday Bowl game. The game meant a chance to party in San Diego with our fellow Arizona State classmates and our friends from another school.

We left that morning after planning the trip the previous night. The six hour trip contained plenty of jokes inside the car. We did not anticipate going to the game. We wanted to tailgate with strangers in the parking lot at the stadium. We wanted to hang out with people at restaurants near the stadium. We wanted to party with the winning team, hopefully Arizona State, after the game. All of our wants dashed when we found out that Mike’s cousin had a suite. We wanted to party in a suite inside the stadium.

Maddux, Zehrbach, and I walked to the stadium. University of Texas led at halftime. The bands took over the field and some fans left for some early partying. We walked by the will-call area and overheard a group of three girls talking with a security guard.

“My man, over here, will take care of you guys,” the security guard.

“Thank you so much,” one of the girls said.

The three girls stood in front of the will-call window. “He said you could hook us up with tickets,” she said.

Three minutes later, the girls walked away with three tickets. We walked to the will-call window. “Hey, do you think you could hook us up with some tickets,” I said.

“Yeah, let me see what I can do,” the will-call guy said.

He came back with three tickets.

“Here’s some money for your efforts,” Maddux said with twenty dollars in his hand.

“It’s cool. I can’t take that,” he said.

“Really? Thanks. Good karma for you tonight,” Maddux said.

We paid zero dollars for three tickets. Mike and Cyrus paid ten dollars for two tickets. Mike majored in economics. Even he could realize that he got ripped off. Though, anybody who paid face value, fifty dollars, at least, got the worst deal.

We walked inside the stadium and met up with Mike and Cyrus at his cousin’s suite. The suite, for which we imagined big buffets and lots of drinks, contained a big room with a TV and bathroom and another area with stadium seats to watch the game in action.

“Where are the drinks at?” Zehrbach asked around.

“There are no drinks, but if you go upstairs to the suite directly above us and tell them my name, they’ll hook you up with drinks,” a man said.

“What is your name?” he asked.

“Bubba,” Bubba said.

Zehrbach and I went to the suite upstairs. We walked inside, and a stadium employee greeted us. She stood behind a row of top-shelf liquor. A buffet of meats and breads sat on a table to her right.

“Bubba sent us up here for drinks,” Zehrbach said.

“Bubba sent you,” a man interrupted. “We know Bubba. We don’t know you.”

“We’re really good friends with Bubba,” I said.

“Oh? Well, we paid top dollar for this suite. Bubba can have drinks. We know Bubba. We don’t know you,” he said.

“Is there anything you can do?” Zehrback said to the stadium employee.

“They paid for this suite, so if they don’t want you hanging out, then you’re going to have to leave,” she said.

She handed us two water bottles, and we walked out of the suite.

We walked toward the Wells Fargo suite, as indicated from the sign above the door. We stepped inside and saw food everywhere. One grill had hot dogs, another grill had hamburgers, and a platter contained lunch meats.

“Who are you guys?” a short man asked.

“We were sent up from my dad to the Wells Fargo suite,” Zehrbach said.

“Does your dad work here?” he asked.

“Yeah, he’s the head of the Phoenix district division,” Zehrbach said.

He pulled out a small electronic device. “What’s your dad’s last name?”

“Zehrbach. Z-E-H-R-B-A-C-H.”

The man typed the name into his device. “There is no Zehrbach. You guys can leave.”

“No, wait. They’re just college kids looking to have a good time,” a woman in her mid 30s interrupted.

“Who are you?” he asked us.

“We’re just a couple of college kids. We came from Phoenix today. We’re just looking for food and stuff,” Zehrbach said.

“Yeah, we’re poor and hungry,” I said.

“Go ahead. Help yourself. We have hot dogs and waters. We don’t have any alcohol, but you can get yourself some food,” the lady said.

The man stared at her and walked away.

I grabbed a hot dog and topped it with onions and relish. Zehrbach grabbed a water bottle. We faded into the background and watched the game. We started some mild taunting after an ASU touchdown, though we were still losing. The lady, our suite friend, left the suite fifteen minutes after having our back.

“Okay, now get out,” the man said to us. “You got some food, you got some water, now leave.”

We went back to Mike’s cousin’s suite. “Where did you get the hot dog?” Mike asked.

“We crashed the Wells Fargo suite,” I said.

“We were good until this lady, who had our back, left. Then this guy kicked us out,” Zehrbach said.

“Well, we’re down big. This game’s almost over. Wanna go party with the Texas fans?” Mike asked.
* * *
The mosh pit is the human cage of happy rock star rush. I jumped into people, I pushed people, I bounced off friends, and I hammered the security guard. Every rhythm bouncing moment inside the mosh pit created the inner joy. I felt the scary rock star rush of uncertainty in the backseat of the cop car in Mexico. I conjured up ways of how to free myself from the situation. Every silent moment inside the cop car created the inner joy. I felt the spontaneous rock star rush on the trip to San Diego. Within the trip, our plans changed from partying outside the stadium to partying inside the stadium. Getting the free tickets, raiding the suites created the inner joy. The mosh pit was the opening act. The Mexico cop car was the main act. The San Diego trip was the encore. These stories and not keeping a schedule planner is all the same. Not knowing what comes tonight, tomorrow, or next week creates the inner joy or the rock star rush of something. Rock star situations arise from unexpectedness.

According to the unofficial life timeline:

I should have graduated college two years ago at 22.

I will have my career by 23.

I will be married at 26.

I will have my first son at 28.

I will have my first daughter at 30.

I might be divorced at 34, but that is only fifty percent likely.

If divorced, I will be remarried at 38.

I will be promoted at 42.

I will be promoted again at 52.

I will celebrate my retirement at 65.

My grandkids will make fun of me for not getting it at 70.

My kids will send me to a retirement home at 75.

I will be reincarnated and repeat the timeline.

I have friends living this timeline. They work from nine to five. They come home from dinner and talk about work. They watch “must see tv.” They go to bed at ten. They repeat this pattern five days a week. This will continue for a solid forty years.

I think most of those things will happen in my life. I can’t force it. I can’t know for sure that it will happen. I have no control over the future. I know I have complete control over the now. I know that now is fun. If I can’t plan a week, how can I plan my life?

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