Currents

2014-September: Playing Threes (RL125)

Over the course of the weekend of XOXO, John was playing Threes quite a bit, the diabolical cellphone game that Merlin bought for him, because that is what his brain wants now. Multiple people had walked by and looked him over the shoulder, which now seems to be an acceptable thing to do, and gave him two thumbs up and "Threes! Am I right?". The other day John was sitting outside of the venue at a street corner at 01:00am, playing Threes. Matt Haughey walked over and said "You are playing Threes! That makes me so happy!" and John thought that he is doing the right thing, he is making Matt Haughey happy! You get the game right away, but it takes you about three hours to see the big picture and then you feel that you are cooking it, and John got around 8000. By the second day he couldn't even get close to 8000 because he was overthinking it and now he has settled into a comfortable 7000, Merlin and Matt Haughey are angry at John for his high score!

2015-May: Getting out of bed (RL153)

Lately, John is undergoing a forced program of energy. If you have stuff to do, you find reservoirs of energy that would prior have seemed inaccessible, like when you are cresting a mountain range above the tree line, you know there is a little lake over that ridge, you just have to get there, you are really tired and you just have to find that energy to push up over where it will be downhill to the little lake. Merlin calls it the "Time Buffalo" when you need to stop thinking about how to get through the rest of your life, but just think about getting through this morning. When living John's type of life, you always see a false horizon or a false summit, you climb up and think you see the end of the tunnel, but then you realize it was just a ridge. It was always hard for John to get up in the morning, but these days he has things to do. You quickly notice that it is not harder for you to get up in the morning than it is for anybody else, but you will have trouble getting up if you are the only one who motivates you to do your work.

2015-June: Father’s day (RL159)

John’s daughter just dissed him all day during Father's Day of 2015. John himself had been a pretty dutiful kid about that stuff and on father’s day he understood that his job was to celebrate it with a cheery face. He fell on his sword a lot as a kid in order to grease the wheels and keep the machine running smoothly. His sister would tell you exactly what she thought about you, even on your birthday, but John wasn’t that kind of guy. He understood that this was a special day and you had to act like it was the 1950s, like on Thanksgiving or Valentine’s Day. You were supposed to shape up, spit-comb your hair and be a good kid for a day. You bring your father his slippers and if he doesn’t have some, you make some out of paper. Merlin had a great day! His family killed it and he didn’t deserve any of it. They went out to Merlin’s favorite Brazilian steak place and he got Headbangers and Mash.

2015-June: Being constantly tired (RL159)

John is always tired and doesn’t know what to do about it. There is one version of being tired all the time that you are trying to counteract with Go-fast-pills. A lot of people get addicted to various kinds of speed because they think that they just need this little boost. John often feels like he was made by a somewhat neglectful craftsman who did not carburate him correctly and there is some Turbo-lag like in an early Turbo: It takes a while to spool up, but then all of a sudden the power is there. What John needs is a little shot of ether in his carbs just to get going at a normal level. He doesn't want to be an Übermensch or go disco-dancing, but that little thing would get him over the hump. Coffee doesn’t quite perform this role and because John is a non-drug-user, he is fortunate enough not to be able to consider all the many different options of super-person-drugs that all the other people in the world resort to. Instead he has to consider this one post-it note that says ”Eat less, exercise and meditate”. Last night John had a Root Beer Float which is the opposite of eating better, exercising and meditating, although there is a meditative quality to a Root Beer Float.

2015-June: Creating a to-do list (RL159)

The other day, John made a list of the things he needed to do. Sometimes he would be in a state of momentary relaxed reflection when all of a sudden the Kool-Aid man would bash down the door and go ”Oh yeah, your Vespas need repairing!”, which John hadn’t thought of in six months. ”Oh yeah, your water pressure is low, you have to call a plumber!” Yes, for the last two years John thought about calling a plumber and getting his water pressure looked at, but that is not a thing he wants to be interrupted by right now. ”Oh yeah, your barn is going to collapse!” This Kool-Aid man just keeps crushing into his reverie and John doesn’t have much time anymore to sit and just like be appease. Anxiety brings more anxiety and this Kool-Aid pitcher full of free-range anxiety keeps kicking down his door when he doesn’t need it. ”Oh year, there is a possum in your roof, still!” John put a list of those things on a piece of paper.

What about dry rot, after that awful thing where the balcony broke off in Berkley? John got two major dry-rod spots in his house. All the engineers are coming out of the woodwork, saying that this was not properly vented or there was too much moisture there, and that it would be a classic engineering problem. Merlin spends too much time wondering about what classic engineering problem is going to eventually get him. Something that would have been a $5 repair for a new bolt and now he needs a new house. Remember when the guy said that your car needed new bushings and you said ”Bushings?” or the time Merlin’s wife told him to get that timing belt looked at and he said it will be fine, because Jerry would have told them if it were really important, which Jerry apparently just did to Merlin’s wife. It was $750!

2015-July: Finding an orange broom handle (RL161)

John found an bright orange handle on the ground, like a broom handle, threaded on one end, but only about 18 inches long and meant to go into a squeegee. It appealed to him and he was carrying it around. It is exactly the right heft for you to spin it between your fingers. It has broom handle weight and just before Merlin called to record the podcast, John was whacking his leg with it. It scratches the itch of the tire thumper, the riding crop, the walking stick, and the baton. It is giving his fingers something to do and it is just dangerous enough to keep him a little bit on an edge and keep his head in the game in order not to whack himself wrongly at some point.

2015-July: Hiking up to a mountain lake: "Less talking, more walking!" (RL161)

John was hiking with his family up to a mountain lake. It was truly mountainous: they were sort of the only people there, there was some kind of dead critter and they heard coyotes. The ladies in his party jumped into this freezing mountain lake, while John took off his shoes and waded in up to the point where he was comfortable. It was a cold mountain lake and John was being watchful because you don't know what is going to happen. This felt exactly where he needed to be right now. It you can get that once a day, you are triumphing a little bit at least. John's daughter had been on forced marches with them before and John's long term goal is to get her to think that hiking in the mountains is normal. It is starting to take effect. She is a narrator and she is narrating all the time. She will get into a word storm and because she will forget about where she is and what she is doing, she will slip and fall. Yesterday she fell face first into a stream, which was actually quite priceless to watch. John was being a dad and said "Less talking, more walking!", which became his dad-mantra for the day that he heard himself say some more times. Every time he said it, his daughter would think about it for a while and stop falling for a while. There were even a couple of addenda to the rule: She could always ask questions if she had any. Also, they were playing a game: Who is the locomotive, who is the hopper car and who is the caboose? If she stops in order to look at something, they will all stop and look, but if she is the caboose and lagging too much, she better remember that she is 4 years old and this is a mountain forest! You don't want to lag too far behind because the coyotes will get you! Merlin and John suggested they should start to collect dad quotes: Things that nobody plans on saying, but which you still find yourself saying, like "less talking, more walking" or "well, you just have to cry in the car".

2015-November: Rain in Seattle (RL177)

It is raining in both Seattle and San Francisco. Whenever it starts to rain in Seattle, it scares the living daylight out of all the people who arrived during the last 9 months, because all through summer they thought that Seattle was amazing and now the cold icy death grip hand of winter arrives, and it just arrives one day. Something similar happened to Merlin in Tallahassee as they wanted to offer him a job and brought him to town in the midst of a festival called Springtime Tallahassee, which is the one week per year when it is really nice there: Flowers, children making daisy chains and a maypole. The week later it is 95 degrees and the witches are building stick-figures out in the swamps. They start early there.

As John was driving in he went past the Methadone clinic and everybody there was running for cover: all the people who have built camps under the freeway are getting their blue tarps out, All of the Amazon young guys in their J. Crew suits and all of the tight jeans people and all of the Macklemore haircut people who are making $180.000 a year are saying: "No dollars a year can compensate me for this feeling that my bones are cold!" Then John goes "Muhahaha…", because his bones have no feelings.

2015-December: Happy donkey show at a Christmas party (RL184)

John went to a Christmas party thrown by his good friend Cal. The year before he had a ranger come with a camel and a donkey for the kids to play with. They got donkey and camel rides, so the adults could just get drunk and eat chilly and forget about their kids who were patiently standing in line for the happy donkey show. But in the intervening year the camel died and you can't just go to PetSmart to get a new camel. So the ranger shows up with the donkey, two wallabies and a cavy. A cavy is a giant guinea pig that looks like you crossed a guinea pig with a deer. The cavy is the size of a little dog. Everybody was playing with the wallaby and nobody was paying attention to the cavy, so John started petting him and they got this symbiosis going. John went into the enclosure and didn't want anybody to take the cavy away from him. The cavy was bottle-fed and normally lives in the ranger's house, like a cuddly little pal. It's like a hoppy cat. You can't have them outside, because they can dig 14 feet below a fence. They are vegetarians and monogamous like swans. They are the swans of guinea pigs. The cavy is right the pet for John. He still takes his bipolar medication, and he hasn't made a bad decision since, so now he is thinking about getting a cavy.

2016-August: John sending his Uber-driver to an Adele-concert (RW39)

The other day, John spoke to his Uber-driver in Los Angeles and asked him about his kids. He had a 10-year old son who likes Broadway-style musicals, while he himself is a sports-guy. Still, he sees those musicals together with his son in order to be able to understand that world. John found that wonderful, because having a high level of sensitivity and esthetic availability as a 10-year old makes it very hard to be a kid. If you are a ball player, it is much simpler to be a 10-year-old boy, but if you like musicals it is much harder. As life goes on and if you accept it and let it cultivate in you, you will end up being able to make a much larger contribution to the world. A tear came to the driver's eye, because nobody had ever said that to him. John continued that he is a sensitive guy and it was hard for him to be 10, but it was much better to be 30 having been that 10-year old. By taking his kid to see those shows, he is doing him a tremendous favor, just by letting him be him. He doesn't have an easy time at school talking about what he likes. None of the other kids have ever seen Miss Saigon.

The conversation with his driver could have gone to baseball right away and there would have been a lot more things than John and his driver could have talked about, like The Angels. John would have gotten out of that cab as it happened so often before, feeling really schooled by somebody about something that he didn't know. But in this case they stumbled into a conversaition where the driver was honest about the thing he does with his kid. The next thing John said was: He had just been at an Adele concert and it was amazing. He recommended the driver to take his son to an Adele concert if he ever got the chance. His eyes got wide and he said that Adele was playing the same night in LA and he was torn about whether he should take his kid to see her. John was strongly urging him to do whatever it takes to take his son to Adele that night. It could be a huge bonding experience and the kid could be transformed by it! The driver said "I think you got into my car for a reason!" Those little moments! Does John believe in magic? He doesn't know. But you have to do that kind of work for other people.

2017-March: Visiting the Weyerhaeuser headquarters (RL239)

John visited the former Weyerhaeuser headquarters in Seattle, a pioneering building regarding his sustainable construction. Weyerhaeuser moved to a new building in the center of the city (Article) without tearing down a single building. The old headquarter is now completely empty and would be an excellent set for a science fiction movie. It is empty because there are few companies that need that much square footage and the trend are urban campuses, not out in the woods in a "space building", but startups will surely soon discover it and rent it. The company owning it is a facility management company buying old offices and making them into new offices.

2017-March: Feeling Sick (RW60)

John is feeling sick, like on the cusp of a cold. He is feeling acidic, like if he had some kind of pH imbalance and he feels that it will be the kind of things where he does not know what direction it will take. John’s ear has been plugged for a long time, but he is not sure if this is a related issue. He talks about Japanese ear picks (Factoids). Dan recommends him to take it easy and John says this would be the perfect time for cable television, which he does not have. In those situations he is always a bit envy of other people’s home entertainment systems, because he only has a bunch of ukuleles and harmonicas. This time he even had taken apart a guitar and has pieces all around the living room.

2017-May: John is tripple-booked for lunch (RL243)

John was supposed to meet his good friend and former mayor Mike McGinn up for lunch. The problem was that he had made three different lunch dates for noon at the same day. They were all going to come back to him later and as they all did and all proposed Monday May 1st at 12:30, John was like: Great! Last night, as John was sitting and stewing if he had anything to do tomorrow, there was nothing in his calendar. "I think I have lunch with the major, but don't I also have lunch with Brian and Scott? Oh shit, I'm having lunch with Kate!" John felt like such a dunce. He was briefly thinking about consolidating them into a big table at the Olive Garden, but all of these conversations were supposed to be confidential. Then he got a text on his phone from Brian and Scott that they were already in the restaurant, an hour and a half earlier, waiting for him, the check already on the table and a thumb of coffee left in the cup, so John is not taking that lunch date seriously anymore. He will just swing by, which Merlin thinks is a passive aggressive move. He asked Kate to reschedule and managed to push lunch with the mayor back until 14:00, meaning he is all set! Just another day in the life, woke up, fell out of bed, didn't even drag a comb across his hair, didn't even find his way upstairs and have a cup (his cups are downstairs), and when he looked up, did he know he was late to record the podcast with Merlin? Both Merlin and John were late because they made coffee.

2017-May: The Alaskan Lifestyle (RL244)

John played a show where three guys from his High School showed up who had never seen him play before, one of them from the downhill ski team that John had been a part of. Within Anchorage, you would initially be on the Alyeska Mighty Mites and ultimately the Alyeska Junior Racers. You would not race against other ski teams, but it was more of a club where you would compete against each other. The great students would then compete nationally and eventually internationally. One of the guys looked exactly like when he was 16 and was immediately identifiable. He has created the stereotypical Alaska life for himself. He is a doctor and has an airplane (that he can use both as a ski plane and a float plane) which he uses to hunt or to fly somewhere where they would catch giant king salmon. He also puts skis on it and fly way up on the side of mountains, let everybody jump out and ski down the mountain where he picks them up again. Then he returns to the top of the glacier to do it all over again. This is the life he is providing to his children. It is so fantastically Alaskan that it blows John away, but it is exactly the environment John has grown up in. One of John's friends was an alpine guide until she had her daughter, and at that point she transitioned into being a bush pilot to fly climbers up and land them in the mountain. Every day she can go home and sleep in her own bed. This is another version of the same weird Alaskan life.

2017-June: John's neighbor exploding sticks of dynamite (RL249)

There is someone in John's neighborhood who walks around late at night setting off sticks of dynamite. Those are not just cherry bombs! Some nights when John is up late, he can hear it all across the neighborhood. It is loud, but also very distant. Other times he will hear it nearby and the windows will rattle. Some nights he heared two or once even three of these explosions moving at a distance. One time John was sitting in his bedroom at 3am sorting his cufflinks into boxes and a stick of dynamite went off in the street directly in front of his house. He saw the flash in front of the windows and it rattled the entire house. John leaped downstairs in his underpants and didn't even have the foresight to take a fencing sabre with him.

He went out the front door and the entire street was full of black powder smoke 30 feet high. There was a big black spot in the pavement, but no one in sight. At the corner two blocks down there was a solitary figure dressed in black. Just before he turns, he stops and looks back at John, standing in his underwear in the middle of the smoke cloud. This bomb must have been on a long fuse, some kind of timer or remote detonator. To set this up in a neighborhood street is one thing, but to light it and walk away when you don't know who will come along is another! They looked at each other at this long distance and John wanted to sprint at him, but it wasn't doable. Later he could not find anything on the Internet about the mad bomber of South Seattle. Did no one else hear these massive explosions? He could never hear a police car either, and doesn't think calling the police would help because it is a fait accompli. The thing went off, there is a guy in a black hoodie, and from where does he get these amazing bombs?

2017-June: John making his own English garden (RL250)

John was spending a whole day mowing the lawn with a manual lawn mower. Vacuuming and lawn mowing had been his job since he was 7 years old, but his mom did not trust him with motor vehicles and gave him rotary knives on a handle instead. This year, he wanted to try something new and wanted to let his grass grow tall and go up to seed, cutting paths through the yard like an English garden. He had made little roads through the grass that he had maintained for a while which was very fun and the little roads would come to little intersections that were headed over hill and dale. The paths were of course curvy, because he learned from the US Interstate Highway System that people will fall asleep and drive off the road if you make a road too straight for too long.

2017-July: Getting into a bar fight (RW75)

In July of 2017 John was having tacos with two ladies, one of them was his date for the evening and the other one was an ex-girlfriend. His ex-girlfriend is a very lively person and they hadn't seen each other in a long time, so they were chatting and she had a lot to say. John's new solid lady friend with whom he had been talking almost non-stop for the past 5 days, was just sitting and listening. She is not a chatter anyway.

A drunk guy from a neighboring table came over and started talking to her like he wanted to cull her from their herd. John told him to move along, but he wouldn't cut it immediately and would start to whisper in her ear, so John had a visceral reaction, put his hand on the guy's head and pushed him hard. He was standing up at this point with the guy having another one of his friends at his side. John's lady friend was laughing and told John that she would be able to kick the guy's ass if he needs his ass kicked, while John's ex was paying the bill, meaning that they were having a relaxed and unproblematic moment. The dunk was maybe 25 years old and was at this point trying to figure out if he was going to square up on John. John didn't want to get into a fist fight with this guy and his friend, because it is just not appropriate for a 48,5 year old who is out for some late night tacos with a lady friend and an ex lady friend. The drunk guy started antagonizing John verbally in ways that - at other times in his life - would have made John to take a step forward and put his taco up the guy's nose, but he cannot do that anymore! It would not only ruin the evening, but he had come past the point where this would even be in John's quiver of responses to a young drunk white dude who is not behaving himself. The only people John has ever punched in the nose were almost universally white dudes in their mid 20:s who were drunk and not behaving themselves!

In every single autobiography by a SEAL team member there is a story from a bar where somebody is messing with them and there is always some vignette where they say to the person in a low voice that they don't want to fight, but if they keep this up, they are going to get very hurt and they don't want to be the one who hurts them, so they suggest that they and their mates safe face right now. They are going to act like the other person had won, but they will leave before they are put in the hospital altogether. The intimation / implication is that they are able to communicate with their thousand-yard stare and their low, gravelly voice to these drunk nincompoops that they are straight-up killing machines. The nincompoops always get it, feel their blood run cold and realize they better go out of there before they are karate-chopped to death. For years John would read that kind of thing and be completely credulous of it when in fact those stories are almost always lies and inflation of things. Drunks in a bar overestimate their own power and have lost their ability to pick up subtlety from other people. There is no real physical indicator of a Navy Seal. Some of those guys are big, some of them are little and that whole speech might have worked sometimes with a sober guy in a parking lot, but with a drunk in a bar? No! It is just part of the seal mythology.

At the age of 48 or 49, having been through the things John has been through in life, he just wants a little card he can hand people in this situation, saying "I'll go there if you want to go there and I will get hurt, too. Please stop doing this!" Edging into 50 years old as John was doing at the time, there is no pretending as if you are in your late/mid 30:s. All of his friends are 50! In our youth-oriented culture, nobody wants to be 50 and John hasn't been to any of those guy's 50th birthday party, because they were all celebrating it alone in a chicken restaurant. There is a lot of stuff that John has stacked up for his own 50th birthday party. He could open his college diploma, for example, but instead he is going to walk around Seattle in a crown, a cape and Burger King pyjamas, so he doesn't feel like he has matured to an elder statesman with a lot of gravitas. He is literally wearing a crown around Seattle! John feels like a goofball inside, but he is trying to match that with what people see in order to avoid incongruity, because in his own youth he didn't respect older guys who were inkongruent and had Manic Panic in their hairs either. It always appeared unseemly, like that guy should grow up! John never wanted be one of those older guys, lurking around with trousers with too many zippers on them, but being here close to 50, every once in a while a voice says that he has never colored his hair. What if he went pink? Then another voice says "Stop it! You should be wearing a tie every day, you are 50 years old!"

2017-August: 10 ideas for John (RW76)

Listener feedback from Torrey, a professional idea guy

Torrey claims he writes 10 ideas a day and as an excuse to talk to Dan and John, he wrote down 10 ideas for John. They stopped reading the letter after the first 3 ideas because John knew exactly what Torrey was getting at and needed no more further examples. The first ideas were:

  • Write a coone (inscrutable poem) a day for 100 days, record them, give them to Dan and you will have a 100 episode podcast. John already had one of those, which was his Twitter account.
  • Have Dan Benjamin redo The Long Winters website. Dan is not willing to do that.
  • Sell merch besides John's mug, capitalizing on being Seattle's third sexiest man of 2006. This seems reasonable, but that requires hiring an assistant, which John tried a couple of years ago with varied level of success.

2017-August: Fancy freezer Yeti-bags (RL255)

John went to a beach party the other day. It was a party behind a door on the beach, not a 1% or 99%, but more like a 10% area, where people can have a beach that is behind a door. The owner of the beach is not the guy whom's house Merlin had previously insulted (which was 120% justified). Instead he is one of John's friends who is in "a" business that is show-business-adjacent. It is a creative business and he is a creative in a way that there are instances where he would actually describe himself as a creative and everybody would nod, because that's how they talk in that room, but he also knows not to use the word "creative" in a place with John. He is not one of those people who live a double life, but he knows not to talk that way in certain groups of people. You don't open the Kimono in a room where nobody is wearing a Kimono! He is a member, he is business, he is a creative and he feels like he needs to be a member of a lot of things, because: Networking! This is the world that John is always talking about that he has a toe in.

The cook at the BBQ was making hamburgers with chopped onions scrunched in the burger (Merlin has done that, but he will sauté them first until they are soft and he will chop them small enough so his daughter can't see them. That way they will provide flavour without objection). The size of the burgers at the beach party had been just right to be a big fat burger, but not too much to eat. They had a Yeti bag, an amazing freezer bag that the host had ordered via Amazon and got from some shady place in Alabama. You put some dry ice in there and you can keep ice cream in this thing. You have to zip it and at the end you have to yank it, or pop it! That way it locks in the flavor and the cold. If you don't yank it at the end, it will look like the zipper is misaligned and it does not work. Since John's friend did not read the instructions, he thought it was broken, sent it back and got a new one. When it came out that it had been his own fault, he got a little Alabama razzmatazz from the vendor, and the vendor threw him some shade because the big smart city guy can't use a zipper. Curiously, the first bag came back to John's friend a month later with a note that nobody ever picked it up from the post office, probably because the vendor went to jail, and now John's friend has two Yeti bags and can walk up to his beach club like Mr Conspicuous Yeti Bag.

After his friend had told this story, John was looking around the country club and was seeing those bags everywhere, because within this tiny little subculture of 12%:ers, that's the bag! John doesn't need one, because he never packs things to take anywhere else where he cares if they are hot or cold later. He wants everything at room temperature. If he takes some meat to a cookout he assumes that he will get there in time without it being a problem. He also doesn't drink beer which seems to be the number one thing that people want to keep cool. He never uses a freezer bag. They had one in the van on tour once, which felt like a very Vanderslice thing to do, like: "Now we are living!" But when you are on tour, it is so freaking boring and when you are thirsty you pull over because you want a chance to go into the truck stop and look at all the commemorative spoons even during the 5 minutes it takes to fill up the gas and get a pop. The idea to put a cooler in there like you are on a camping trip is not John's thing and they ended up not using it that much. A cooler is doing things for you, but it is also a job and you have to maintain it.

This is also why John stopped buying records in the late 80:s, because if you maintain records, you also have to maintain a stereo and if you maintain a stereo, you have to maintain an address. Even if you have a Walkman and tapes, you need to have batteries and you can just as well have an address if you are going to buy batteries. John stopped buying new music and stopped listening to new music, because that required a lifestyle that John couldn't maintain. Later he never re-gained the habit of buying music, because as soon as he had a place that could accommodate this lifestyle, he was in his early 40:s and it was too late to start buying music. He doesn't only procrastinate the creation of music, but also the consumption it.

Having a cooler feels like the same thing: You have to keep the cooler coolant in the freezer freezing to cool the cooler, then you got to store the cooler somewhere. Our late great friend Leslie Harpold used to say this: "I hate buying toys for my toys", which gets into John Roderick's eel problem: It is one thing to get stuff, but then it is a whole different thing to find a job for the stuff. It is like a Tamagotchi. Then you will also need stuff for your stuff, like dongles for your computer, subscriptions for your computer, a case for your computer… The first time John got a case for his phone, he felt like he had really been duped, because it was $75. First of all, make the phone so it doesn't need a case! Why do they not make the whole airplane out of black box? Am I right? And what's the deal with airplane food?

Anyway, John doesn't want a Yeti bag. People already keep telling him that he has too many bags! They also say he has too many drum major jackets. They don't know him! People say a lot of things! John now definitely has a big bag full of little bags.

2017-August: John is not sleeping enough (RL256)

John realized that he doesn't get enough sleep. The last text John sent last night was at 3:37am and he got a text at 3:43 which he did not receive until he woke up, which means he must have fallen asleep between those two times. He woke up at 8:37 to his new alarm tone "Accross the Universe" by The Beatles, which gives him 5 solid hours of sleep.

John is not measuring nor recording his sleep and he can’t tell if he sleeps better on Sundays, or even if today is Sunday or Monday. Merlin only got 6:38 hours of sleep last light, while his average is 7:10. He tries really hard to go to sleep before 11pm and to wake up before 7am. In an ideal world he would be in bed at 10:30 and go up at 6:30. The problem is that he likes to watch TV in the evening and sleep a little longer in the morning, but he has stuff to do like to brush his daughter’s hair and make her lunch.

2017-September Vespas and Lambrettas (RL257)

John's carpenter Sahm (see: House) was admiring the two Vespas that John keeps in his barn, because in Cambodia you had to be very very rich to own on of those. Neither one of the two scooters were in tip-top shape, but John had just met a guy on his daughter's play date with a girl called Harper. This situation had been set up by a busybody mom at the elementary school who suggested that first-graders should be mentoring kindergarteners. John agreed and set up a play date between his daughter and this very self-possessed young girl who was about to begin Kindergarten. They went over to her house and started to play together. It turned out the kids were only 6 months apart. John was chatting with the mom and at some point Harper came over telling her mother that she was done playing, she had now met this girl and she felt like they had completed their mission. The mom told her that she had to go back and play some more with John’s daughter who was still up in her room happily playing with Harper's toys. Later John’s daughter came down and was ready to go. When John asked her about her favorite part of the play date, she answered ”her toys” and John told her to go back and do some more playing. After that they crossed some little girl Rubicon and became inseparable friends. From that moment on they were at war with Rome (being John) and could play together for 14 hours.

John liked Harper's parents very much. As they were about to leave, they put the pink, battery powered Mercedes Benz back into a garage that was full of gorgeous Lambrettas. They were both quick to apologize for the pink Mercedes Benz and pointed out that the grandparents had bought it for her. When you see a Lambretta, you know everything about the owner: You know they are meticulous, you know they like to tinker and you know all kinds of things. They are a Mad, while John is more like a Rocker, a mud duck, a dirty rider. His bike is intentionally rusty and fucked up and has a sticker on it that says ”Aviation gasoline only”. Harper's father told John that his uncle in law wanted to give him a 1966 Porsche 911S that he doesn’t want anymore, but if he was going to put it in the garage, he doesn’t know what to do with all these Lambrettas. He doesn’t want to get a storage space! John offered him to keep his 5 Lambrettas in John’s barn and in return he could fix up John's two Vespas to the same standard. John would then have a very cool barn that is a freaking Lambretta show room, and Harper's dad could come and not only tinker on his Lambrettas, but also on John’s Vespas.

2017-September People like a project (RL257)

A lot of people like a project! John has a friend who loves to come over to his house and immediately begins knolling all of his belongings, which is wonderful because she does not want him around for it. She is like that shrimp in Finding Nemo: She can’t stop cleaning and organizing. She has for example put all the business cards from the last two years that were on top of John’s piano into little piles. Hilariously, weeks after she left, John realized that she had moved a very heavy vintage desk from one part of the house to another and he probably couldn’t have moved that desk himself. There is another friend, the lady motorcycle gang mistress who wants to come and spend a week at John’s house just getting rid of stuff. There are women who turn John into their project and there are women who turn John’s projects their projects.

2017-September: John’s birthday (RL258)

John's mom made Swedish meatballs for his birthday dinner, which was exactly what he would have wanted. This time she even asked him what kind of cake she should get him although she already knew the answer. Every time there is a cake event, John goes pre-loaded to be disappointed about the cake, but he nonetheless told her that he wanted the six-layer chocolate cake from Safeway that you can’t buy, but they only sell it in slices. None of the presents that any of you are going to get me are anything other than things you found on the remainder table at Costco, because you are a man in your 40:s! John asked for the six layer supercake, that’s what he wants, Vaya con dios, good luck and godspeed! His mom went to Safeway and went up the chain until she found a person who would sell her one of those cakes. The person told her it would be more expensive than just buying that many slices, but it didn’t matter because her son had challenged her to show up with one of those cakes.

As John arrived at this Swedish meatball birthday party, all of the presents were just delightful things that people had grabbed from the table at the Fireworks store at the mall with the Sale tag still on it, which is great! One of the family members bought him a coffee table book about famous guitars that made America great. It quickly became clear that there was a bit of a cultural divide in his family and they didn't know enough about guitars to have recognized that this was a book about the famous jam band guitars. There were 250 pictures of 250 guitarists in this book and John didn’t know any of them.

Then there was this six-layer chocolate tower of babel sitting on the table. His mom had accomplished it, but at the end of the party she said ”Get that thing out of my house, I never want to see it again!”. You can only eat 4 bites of this cake until you are going to have a diabetic emergency. John was allotting himself half a normal slice because it was his birthday, but at 4am he was lying in bed with his feet playing double kick-drum on the foot-board because he was so jacked on chocolate and sugar. If you eat any of this cake after 6pm, you will be flying! John also ate half of a normal slice for breakfast the next day and he was jacked the whole day. Now he has this world’s greatest cake in his refrigerator and he doesn’t know how to approach it. Every time he opens the refrigerator he looks at it and he wants it, but he feels it is going to fuck him over big time. Maybe he should just eat a little sliver at a time? It would take him 6 months to get through it. Still, John is very proud of his mom for accomplishing it!

2017-September: John going to the doctor (RL258)

John hadn’t seen a doctor for many years, but since he had his little heart-scare a while back, he had started seeing a scatterbrained hippie doctor at the cooperative. Whenever John would ask him a question, he would say ”Well, yeah, but there is no point in worrying about it!”, which seems more like a bartender than a doctor. One time he said ”You know, we don’t really have the ability to test people for cancer. If you have symptoms of cancer, then we can go in and do a battery of tests, but you can’t just come in and say that you are worried about cancer and ask to be tested if you have it". For most of the things John came in with ”I don’t know about this”, the doctor's reply was ”it’s probably fine”. On one hand that is reassuring, but on the other hand he felt that he wanted a little bit more hand-holding.

As his insurance changed, John could no longer go to the coop and went back to his normal state of affairs which is: No doctor. People continued to tell him that he needs a doctor because he is in his late 40:s and so John was looking at some of them, but how was he supposed to pick one out? He liked the faces of some of them, others looked like they were cross-country runners which John does not want, and still others looked like they were hot cheese and John does absolutely not want to go to someone who thinks they are hot cheese! Another one seemed like he would never look John in the eyes, which he also does not want. So he picked one who looked like Kevin Seal from MTV, but as he called him up it turned out that this doctor is a surgeon and doesn’t do internal medicine. Trust us with your health, we don’t know how to update a phone number!

Then John remembered the ”I didn’t come to see you”-doctor from New York that he visited during his campaign and thought about seeing her again, although as a grouchy gramps John wants to have a doctor who is older and more grouchy than himself. This woman was not older than him, but she really grabbed his attention with this ”I didn’t come to see you”-line. Her impatience with him really resonated with him because he is also impatient with himself. He made an appointment with her and is going to see her next week.

2017-September: John losing his trailer hitch (RW80)

John went to the dump yesterday, because he had finally decided that the hot-tub he had lying around in his backyard was bumming him out. He sawzalled it into pieces and borrowed his neighbor's trailer, but someone had misplaced his trailer hitch and he had to go to the Auto part store to buy a new one. Earlier he had made the mistake of buying a bike rack at U-Haul which he put in place of the trailer hitch. The trailer hitch most certainly went into the back of the truck and when the truck got cleaned out it probably went on the porch and when it was time to clean the porch, it probably went into the barn.

The problem is that a trailer hitch looks precicely like any and every tool and also like any and every piece of scrap junk because it is just a piece of black-painted metal with some rust on it. If you are standing in the barn, even if it is clean and things are organized onto shelves (which John’s barn increasingly is) it is impossible to scan for the trailer hitch. Over there you have wood carving planes that look like it and over here you have pipe-wrenches that have the same color. He just could not pick it out and because they are not expensive, he went to the Autopart store, had a great time there and bought a new trailer hitch.

2017-September: New dump system in Seattle (RW80)

John hooked up his neighbor's trailer and went to the dump together with his friend Peter to dispose of his old hot tub. He felt that this would go into the direction of Alice's Restaurant because they had built a new dump! The old dump was built like a dump should be built: You would drive your car up to a rope at the edge of a garbage pit. There were bulldozers all day long churning and pushing the garbage around until it became some kind of garbage mush. Then they bulldozed it into trucks and the trucks would drive the garbage away into miracle land where it turned into rainbows. Some dumps in Seattle were huge enclosed buildings that still had these garbage pits in them and it smelled terrible! As the years went by, they installed misters that would mist the garbage to keep the steam off of it and to keep the particles down. Since that time they have rebuilt all the Seattle dumps using a completely new concept, because Seattle is very far out in front in terms of a city-wide recycling program. For decades they had three different kinds of waste bins in all of their homes. The biggest bin is recycling, while the trash can is minuscule. They also have food waste and natural waste garbage with special garbage bags that are bio-degradable. Besides the obvious food, coffee-grounds and egg-shells, you also have to dispose food containers there, because years ago they decided that all the take-out restaurants must have bio-degradable food containers. The food recycling goes to a separate place and is turned into fertilizer, which means that it doesn't really smell at the dump anymore, because it doesn't have anything rotting in it. There are spots for wood and furniture and metal which are getting recycled in their own way, meaning that the amount of actual garbage like plastic bags or just shitty crap is a fairly limited amount these days.

At the new dump you no longer drive up to a hole with bulldozers in it, but you drive into this enormous hall where a guy is asking you what you have. You are directed around the corner to another guy who is then going to direct you to slot number 9, all the way down at the end. You are in this huge hall where the bulldozers and the city dump trucks are just racing around like in a game of Frogger. John has a pretty big truck and he had a trailer full of hot tub, so he felt pretty confident on the road being one of the bigger items, but that is different in this room with garbage trucks and giant front-end loaders, the big ones they use at a mine where the driver has to climb up a full story of a house just to get into the cab and with tires taller than John himself. They are in their territory and they are spinning those trucks around like it is a ballet, throwing couches around. There is no pit anymore, but slot number 9 is just a number on the wall that you aim for and you dump your stuff on the ground.

At one point one of these giant loaders went by at 25 mph while he was chasing a soccer ball which he kept hitting with the bucket of his thing and the ball was bouncing across this giant concrete field. This is certainly the greatest job in the world for a guy driving a dozer, but John was scared! It was surprising how much Peter and John both wanted there to be a pit, because garbage goes into a hole, that's what you do! You are not seeing it all the way to completion if you are just putting it on a concrete floor! For time immemorial, people have taken their garbage out to the cliff and have thrown it off the cliff. You want to watch it go down and land somewhere deep down below. It is in the hole and it is safe in the hole, but in this new dump John was just throwing it out on the ground.

John’s trailer was a dumper with hydraulics that can tip and dump, which he hadn’t realized until the guy at the dump was showing it to him. Maybe that was why John had been sent over to the big shots. Had he just had a station wagon, he probably would have been with the people dumping off Christmas trees. As John was rattling his truck to get the stuff at the top of the trailer out, the soccer-playing guy parks, walks over and says: "Look, when you leave you probably want to go down that ramp! Don't do it, because you are going to get stuck and you will have to back all the way up with this trailer", which would have been the ultimate thing you don't want: All those garbage dump drivers dancing ballet with their trucks all day watching you back a trailer up a ramp! John would get out and hand them the keys and tell them to keep the truck and he would just walk on. John is pretty good at backing a trailer, but not in front of 30 garbage-men. Instead, John was supposed to take a hidden exit behind that wall. John thanked the guy for the advice and the guy replied that he could tell that this was all new to John, just based on his performance of driving up here and looking confused.

John agreed that the new dump is really confusing and the driver replied "I know, I miss the pit! The pit was great, but this is insane, somebody is going to get killed up here!" It was a lesson to us all and it is important to know all this. The garbage dump is now called the transfer station, transferring garbage from trucks into trains that go into the middle distance, probably into Oregon! Out in Eastern Oregon there is nothing else but Bend, Pendleton and Madras, except that there is a giant garbage dump that no one talks about.

2017-October: John being hard to reach (RL259)

Merlin has a process to figure out whether or not he will be recording a podcast with John on a given day. It involves texting him and asking members of his family and circle ”Is John okay?”, which is quite a popular text in general. Sometimes John is ghosting Merlin, but at the time Merlin hadn’t heard from John in a long time and was getting a bit frantic as he had do a little bit of rescheduling and he was getting worried. He texted John’s baby-mama and was looking at John’s Instagram. Sometimes Merlin can be like Sherlock Holmes and gather the facts, like it might be a clue if he sees John on the East Coast on a Sunday night, but he likes to get confirmation from the source, as they say in journalism.

This time, John had an extra wrinkle, because his phone was broken. It probably saved him considerable injury when he fell from a trailer at the dump, because the amount of energy that it absorbed would otherwise have been absorbed by his body. John dodged a bullet here, because he is a middle-aged guy. In his youth he did falls like that as sport, but particularly landing on his butt and his back would have been really terrible. His phone crushed and bent in a way John had never seen before. Watching people use a broken phone causes Merlin quite some anxiety. When the person has a spider web screen on an iPhone 4 and it has been like that for 3 years, it makes him so uncomfortable. Merlin treats his phone like a Eucharist and has never broken a phone or a screen.

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