© 2011 John Penny. All rights reserved.

Last Time We Spoke

I suppose it’s about time I wrote something new in this poor abandoned blog. It’s funny, I’ve spent innumerable hours completely redesigning this site three times over the years – in addition to all the necessary back-end tweaks required after being away for months at a time – but I can never manage to post consistently. I guess I never feel that my life is interesting enough to share with others (reality: I’m really lazy). Truth be told, a lot of interesting things have happened over the past six months, all culminating with my *gasp* thirtieth birthday a couple weeks ago. I’ll start at the beginning.

Better Homes and Kegerators

My brother and I were each paying ridiculous amounts of money in rent and getting virtually nothing in return, save for a roof (albeit a nice one) over our heads and, at least in my case, a very reliable air-conditioning unit. My apartment was nearly 1200 square feet and I had five total pieces of furniture. It goes without saying that a lot of our money was being wasted on housing. Our business provided us with an opportunity to put together enough cash for a down payment on a house, so we jumped on the chance and immediately started house shopping.

As children, we were dragged through an unending labyrinth (or so it seemed) of model homes by our mother and grandmother, who held a fascination with such places despite the fact that we always had a nice place of our own. Andy and I feigned interest by playing young prospective buyers: evaluating closet space to determine the level of hide-and-seek fun and testing the durability of staircases by sliding down them head first on our bellies. Somewhere along the line a strange thing happened. I actually began to enjoy my tours of those ghostly houses, carefully studying the placement of fake electronics and counting off the square footage of rooms with my feet to see if they could fit larger beds. I liked it so much, in fact, that I had designs (forgive the pun) to become an architect and even took two full years of drafting courses where I created blueprints of everything from condos to fire stations. When one of my teachers started paying me to build websites during class, I quickly abandoned my dreams of becoming William Pereira and the rest is history (the “rest” being me accomplishing precious little over the last fifteen years). Nevertheless, I still love home tours and the prospect of actually purchasing one was a really exciting idea.

I couldn’t have been more ignorant to just how miserable house shopping is. Invading the living spaces of imaginary people and sketching fantasy homes on vellum is a far cry from inserting yourself into the residences of real humans. The people and places we visited were awkward at best and unsettling at worst. Faded, framed pictures of Jesus, shrines to dead family members, and rooms piled high with junk are one thing, but when we met the elderly couple on Mardell, we nearly abandoned the search altogether. Both the husband and wife had to be in their 90s, with the former permanently confined to the sofa, unable to get a sentence out clearly, while his wife, the communicator, was sadly diamond-hard of hearing and overcompensated by threatening our own aural capacities. Her yelling and his guttural utterances were certainly off-putting, but the house they lived in was a perfect example of why finding the perfect house was so arduous.

The place looked great on paper: nice square footage, corner lot, large driveway, recent renovations, large kitchen. In reality, there was virtually no front or back yard and the square footage was wasted on the “renovations”. I want to meet the individual that did the remodel; a hallway led to a bathroom, which opened to an office, which opened to a laundry room, which opened to the backyard. So, if someone had just completed work in the office, they’d better hope no one was in the bathroom or they’d have to walk out back and around to the front door just to get to the rest of the house. And then the kitchen… it’s defining characteristic was a mail slot in the wall through which you could pass small bits of trash to an open bin outside. We were privileged enough to see this demonstrated by the lady of the house.

We actually put in an offer of a different house than the [better] one we ended up with. Both homes had some specific similar traits, not limited to the owners being hockey (GKG!) fans and having built-in kegerators. Yep, we based one of the biggest investments of our lives on beer and hockey. Well, mostly beer. The new place has been great despite a few headaches with broken appliances, etc., but that presumably goes with the territory. We have some remodels of our own to get done (so I can have a bedroom), but we’ll get to that eventually. I think we’re just so relieved to have a place and not to have to go through the shopping process anymore that it’ll be a year before it actually looks like people live here. We did get good use out of the kegerator at our housewarming party, however; a few kegs of Racer 5 were polished off in seemingly record time.

I should briefly add that our real estate agent, who is also the mother of one of my dearest friends, is an absolute saint. If it weren’t for her seemingly infinite patience and genuine concern for the needs of her clients, we might still be going broke in Irvine, trading vodka futures to stay alive.

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow

I had the pleasure of seeing several of my friends get married this summer. Brian and Jessica had a beautiful wedding at a winery and I had a blast meeting some new people and drinking the free-flowing wine and Stone beer. At this point, I’d been growing my hair since March 2009, with a few trims along the way. I’d become pretty hirsute with my hair the longest it had ever been – including my grunge/metal days as a 15-year-old – reaching well past my shoulders and down to my chest, and my beard disheveled and uneven (figure 1.1).

I had become used to looking like a member of Fleet Foxes, but the daily upkeep on hair that long is nearly unbearable. Every day I felt like I was brushing out handfuls of snarly hair and was afraid I’d be left bald if it continued much longer. With my best DDR Spencer’s wedding on the horizon and the fact that I had to have my picture taken and actually participate in a capacity beyond keeping a watchful eye on the bar’s gin supply, I decided to chop off my mane. The process itself was relatively painless and I was more relieved than anguished. In fact, I was almost like the anti-Samson; I seemed to be livelier and have more strength in the days following my “operation”. My hairdresser gave me the necessary tools to donate two ponytails of my hair to Locks of Love, so hopefully there’s some little girl out there rocking out to Elliott Smith, imbued with the spirit of survival. Wait, that doesn’t make sense.

I feel vain mentioning my friends’ weddings only to talk about my hair, so I suppose I should spend a few sentences singing the praises of their nuptials. One might think that my favorite part about a wedding is the open bar and one would be correct in thinking so. My second favorite part, however, is that weddings bring together large groups of friends that might not get to see each other very often. Spencer and Brian both scheduled their weddings away from home (Palm Springs and San Diego, respectively), so it was even more of an event to get away to beautiful places for a couple days, spend quality time with treasured friends, and celebrate our hosts’ love.

Speaking of love, I occasionally find myself missing the companionship of being in a relationship. But whenever I think about it too deeply, I remember that it’s not worth the hassle of all the other crap that goes along with being committed to someone. And when I really think about it, all I want is to foist my music, movie, etc., tastes onto someone who is forced to receive them. It’d also be nice to have a ready and willing model for my photography. The irony is that I have always been and remain a true romantic; I wholeheartedly believe in love, but want nothing to do with it. Yep, still vain.

Thirdly: Thirty

I’ve been mostly oblivious to my own aging, other than finding it increasingly easy to be a curmudgeon without excuse or remorse. Accordingly, I found myself stunned as I noticed how much my hair has thinned. It was a couple days before Independence Day and I was in Michigan visiting family. I’d just gotten my hair cut and the moment in question came just after one of my first showers with short hair. As I dried off, I noticed something shining a blinding white in the mirror – my own scalp! Perhaps my hair has been thinning for years and I just never noticed it because of the length. Or, perhaps, my daily hair-brushing had simply yanked a ton of hairs from their follicles. Either way, it was shocking.

I blankly stared at my head for a little while, my nose nearly nudging the mirror, before my eyes landed on another new imperfection. I seem to have developed a new crease line around my mouth. Instead of continuing to panic, I just started laughing uncontrollably. I’m not sure what prompted that response, but the aforementioned curmudgeon in me assumes I subconsciously processed the triviality and absurdity of life and reacted the only logical way. My appearance hasn’t troubled me since.

My actual birthday passed uneventfully; we drank some gin at Arun’s house and then I went home and watched a couple episodes of Star Trek: TNG on Netflix. Andy generously bought me dinner at our new favorite sushi restaurant, Sushi Ohshima, which is walking distance from our house (well, walking distance if we drank too many Asahis). The meal was another epic omakase exercise in gluttony. We were at the sushi bar for a good three and a half hours before Shige-san starting testing our will with a giant, broiled amberjack head and collar. We sucked out the eyeballs, devoured the cheeks, and stripped the bones like piranhas. Shige-san gave us some victory barracuda and we got out of there. Age will not temper my lust for raw fish.

Last week, my mom was kind enough to treat Hesam and I to a late birthday dinner at Hatfield’s. I’d visited the new Hatfield’s location shortly after it opened and was disappointed when the tasting menu didn’t compare to the original location’s impressive spread. After hearing some positive things from friends, I decided to give them another try and was pleasantly surprised with the plates we received. The hamachi croque-madame on brioche with prosciutto and quail egg (which has been on the menu since the original location) was still the star of the meal and is the kind of dish you dream about months after eating it. Hesam and I got the wine pairing, which we found to be adequate (nothing compares to wd~50’s wine pairing magic), and then proceeded to get blackout drunk around Hollywood.

When I say blackout drunk, I literally mean it. I woke up in my hotel room at the Roosevelt the next morning with five separate mini-bar bottles of water, all opened with a gulp taken out of each, and a text message from Hesam asking for help putting the pieces back together. We played Memento all morning, retracing our steps to no avail. We had cab receipts and valet tickets, but somehow the car teleported from one location to another over the course of the night. There are still unanswered questions, but I suppose I’m lucky that there were no strange people in my room with me when I woke up, aside from the giant photo of Roman Polanski and Sharon Tate.

I guess I’m getting too old to drink. Grumble, grumble, grumble.

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  1. Jonathan Hunter
    Posted 9 Sep ’11 at 7:44 am | Permalink

    Good post duder, well written and interesting the whole way through.

    I myself started writing a book a couple weeks ago, I am three chapters and twelve thousand words in.

    • John Penny
      Posted 9 Sep ’11 at 7:57 am | Permalink

      That’s impressive. What kind of novel is it?

  2. Jonathan Hunter
    Posted 9 Sep ’11 at 9:04 am | Permalink

    I am not sure if I clicked the correct reply button, haha.

    But it is the first book in a seven part series. I spent a good 2-3 weeks planning out the story as a whole, which is where I came up with the number seven. I also spent that time writing and drawing in a sketchpad to create a sort of “bible” for myself. The last thing I want is to constantly contradict myself on accident.

    I do not want to go into too many details just yet. But however I will say that it is aimed towards the “Harry Potter” and “Twilight” age group (I am in no way saying it has anything to do with those series, because it does not. It was just an example of target audience). If I ever find someone foolish enough to publish this I want some of that cash money, haha.

    Story wise it is a fantasy with some science fiction elements and is set in the near-future of the real world.

    I am currently polishing the first three chapters so I can have my pops read them. He now has five published works and two more deals coming to fruition. So hopefully this will not be too far-fetched of an idea for me to get published since he knows people and we have a family friend who is a higher up at Random House. But if all fails I am still enjoying this as a hobby while saving money for a truck. I have no real hope of it ever happening, but I may as well try since I am having fun.

    I am also vain enough to be writing this in an epic enough scope to make good movies, haha.

    Once the chapters are edited I can shoot them to your email if you want to read them sometime during a stint of boredom.

    • John Penny
      Posted 12 Sep ’11 at 8:31 am | Permalink

      I think I only have the blog set up for one tiered reply, due to the formatting. Anyway, I’d totally love to read what you’ve got. Send it my way whenever you’re ready.

      Also, there’s no shame in writing to the tween demographic or aspiring to the success of the books you mentioned. Everyone wants a piece of that cash cow.

  3. Jonathan Hunter
    Posted 9 Sep ’11 at 10:33 am | Permalink

    Weird, I wonder why there is no reply button on your response. I had to reply to myself, haha.

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