For the Man Who Has Everything

Bloggified by Jake on Thursday, January 5, 2012

It's hard to explain my friendship with Ryno. There's nothing particularly bizarre about it, but trying to explain it is difficult because most people never had and never will have a friend like him. I assume it's the way Harrison Schmitt must feel when talking about being an astronaut with anyone other than Buzz Aldrin or Charles Duke or the only other nine guys who have ever set foot on the moon.

To oversimplify, Ryno is generous beyond reason. I couldn't begin to guess the number of times he's bought me lunch or dinner, but it's a strong three-figured one. He's had to have dropped well over $1000 on sushi alone. And if you offer to pay your share, he usually waves your money back into your wallet dismissively. When he doesn't, you can't help but feel he's only letting you give him cash to boost your self esteem. After all, odds are he's going to use that $20 you slip him to buy your kid something she mentioned she was passingly interested in the last time she was at his house.

He bankrolled my first year of curling, something I'd been wanting to try since I was in high school, including buying our team shirts and getting me my own broom for my birthday.

And lest you think his generosity to merely a product of the well-to-do financial status that comes when a bank executive marries a doctor, he has spent literally days of his life listening to me swing manically from one extreme to another while deciding--or not deciding--how to handle breaking up/separating/working on things with my ex, and calmly listened to me whine about a sex life that's--not to brag--better than any of my other friends' by light years. The last time I got a flat tire on the freeway, he drove across town, let me use his spare tire (because mine is [still] flat), followed me to Sam's Club, and bought me a new tire since I'm not a member. He also thought to bring a bottle of water. Back in October, he set up for my kids to join his trick or treating in Ryne Sandberg and Todd McFarlane's neighborhood.

And I hate to think of where we would be if his wife, our pediatrician, hadn't provided free medical care for my family during all my unemployed and uninsured years, but I'm pretty sure at least one of my kids would be dead, the other would have polio, and I'd be hobbling around on one foot.

He takes us to Vegas at least twice a year--always for the opening two rounds of the NCAA basketball tournament in March and for our fantasy football draft in August and usually once or twice more when he gets free room offers--and when I say "we," our fantasy football league has ten owners. In each of my last five trips to Vegas with Ryno, I have eaten a steak that cost more than I'd spend on a weekly grocery trip. Last year, we're stayed in the Beatles Suite at the Sahara. The year before that, we were in a suite at the Bellagio.
Already I fear this has become a bragging list, so I'll avoid further bullet points of Ryno's generosity (for three or four paragraphs). It was not my intention to brag, but rather to stress the biggest problem with having a friend like Ryno.

Buying him a present for Christmas.

As you might guess, if Ryno wants something, he buys it for himself on a whim. Afterall, if you want something, there's a good chance he's bought it for you on a whim. If there's something he wants but hasn't bought for himself, it's not something I can afford. Our friend, Hollywood, and I were discussing this two weeks before Christmas, and as the conversation went on, we got downright surly.

"How dare he shower us with vacations to Tampa and Penn & Teller shows and tickets to the Diamondbacks game in Friday's Front Row on Garden Gnome night and opportunities to be on Fox NFL broadcasts and zamboni rides at Coyotes games where we happen to meet childhood idols and tickets to every Buccaneers game in Phoenix in the past 15 years?" I grumbled.

"If he's going to make it this difficult to get him a good gift," Hollywood said, "we shouldn't even try. We should get him a terrible gift. That would teach him a lesson!"

It was a stroke of genius. "What do you get the man who has everything he wants?" I cackled. "Something he doesn't want!"

Hollywood then suggested we book a sitting at a Sears portrait studio and get an awful portrait of ourselves in one of their classic cheesy poses. You know, like one of us sitting down while the other on stands with his hands on the first one's shoulder...

But instead of going to Sears, I called my old friend Tate Hemlock. He's shot my author bio photos and thousands of shots of women in various stages of undress. He loved the idea and admitted to a strange obsession with bad family portraits from the 1970's and 80's. We set up a session for Thursday.

Hollywood drove two hours up from Tucson. We had dinner with Ryno and Teacher Dave, and then drove another hour north to Tate's home. We were introduced to Kennedy, who was hanging out and staying with him for a few days. As we discussed what we wanted to do, Tate showed us some stuff from his most recent shoots, which made Hollywood's eyes go buggy as he realized he was looking at the same girl who'd just shook our hands in the living room.

We set up a backdrop in what would normally be a dining room. The shoot was temporarily delayed, however, because the backdrop had an ice cream stain on it from a previous shoot. Tate sliced off the ice creamy portion and we went to work, starting with the aforementioned pose.
As you may have noticed from some the above accounts of Ryno's generosity, the three of us are longtime Tampa Bay Buccaneers fans. So Hollywood and I decided (since we couldn't get the wardrobe or wigs to pull off a 1978 look) to give our photoshoot a Bucs theme. And from there, the cheesy, Olan Mills-esque poses poured forth.
And it was about this time we realized that if you have an accomplished artiste in the realm of slinky, sexy photos like Tate Hemlock shooting you, it would really be a waste not to show a little skin.
My original plan of hiring Tate to save us some money went out the window as we doubled his asking price when we paid him because we hadn't laughed so hard in months.

Obviously, we couldn't pick just one image to be our portrait, so I got on Photoshop and created two collages, which we then printed at Costco in 16x20 and 14x18 sizes.
In case you are wondering, no, when I walked up to the counter of the Costco Photo Center, I did not have to tell the guy what I was there to pick up. Somehow, he figured it out for himself.

We framed them, but, unfortunately, our plan of buying the same size frame that holds all of Ryno and his wife's wedding photos, taking that down, hiding it in the garage, replacing it with mildly erotic images of ourselves, and seeing how long it took before someone noticed was ruined by the fact said frame is massive and would have cost about $150-200.

In the end, I spent more time, money, and effort to get a terrible gift for someone who has been nothing but good to me and my family for the better part of two decades than I did on any of the "good" presents I got for anyone else this year. So let that be a warning to anyone planning to be my friend!

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