John's daughter and her mother can be found here (currently locked for privacy reasons).
John's mom and dad can be found here.
John's friends/girlfriends can be found here.

John has 2 brothers and 3 sisters.

John's sister: Susan Roderick (*1970)


John's sister Susan was born in 1970 (RL234) or at least she was 46 years old in February of 2017. She went to college in Durango, Colorado (RW118).

Random facts

Susan is amazing with kids and dogs. (RW47) Susan has a problem with unruly eyebrows. She can whip a pair of scissors out of nowhere and start snipping away. (RL238) John's sister is very grouchy in the morning, angry at you and at the sun for a while. If you would throw a bucket of water on her (like John's mother did with him), she would turn into a Tasmanian devil. Telling her to wake up is like throwing a grenade into a barrel: After you did it, you just run! (RW67)

She went from a teenage girl in her knee-high stripy socks playing soccer to somebody who had platinum hair, wearing the coolest thrift store dresses and working in the coolest record store in town. Both his sister and his daughter have a lot of moxy. At first John was afraid his sister would corrupt his daughter by teaching her a lot of hip hop terminology and encouraging her to become a skater. But she turned out to be one of the chief disciplinarians in his daughter's life, she brooks no monkey business. They have a close relationship and all those tête-à-têtes, and his daughter is listening very closely to her aunt. (RL184)


John's sister is a music appreciator just like her father. Music is a constant companion. When John was in High school, his sister worked in a record store and was a heavy consumer of European New Wave releases. (OJR) John's sister listened compulsively to Duran Duran and The Smiths. He heard that music mostly through the wall. She was one of those Almost Famous-type of children who was working at the coolest record store in Anchorage when she was 13. She just waltzed in and said "I am working here now" and the rest of the staff who was in their 20s adopted her. (RL184)

Being a nationally ranked skier (RW73)

At one time, John's sister was a nationally ranked skier. In 1984, John was briefly on the list as well because the ranking went all the way to 500 and John was something like 483. His sister on the other hand was way up, but skiing wasn't what she wanted to do with her life. She was truly gifted and very driven, but she didn't recognize that turning stuff to gold by merely touching it would not work forever. John knew a lot of people with a bushel of gifts who didn't pursue them. His sister's Achilles' heel was her defiance. She was successful, she was lauded, people were telling her that she would be going to the Olympics, but she was defying. She loved to win and beat the other girls.

Downhill ski racing is worse than any country club sport except maybe competitive sailing in that it attracts people with tremendous feelings of entitlement. It is a rich kid's sport like in the 1980:s movies by John Cusack. John's family wasn't rich. His sister is a complicated person, but she is not a snob or a fashion-driven exclusivity-powered person. She loved handing it to those girls and she just trounced them. With the wave of her hand, she brushed off any amount of hate those girls poured at her and it was gratifying for John to watch from the sidelines. The coaches, often former ski-racers in their 30:s, were really great to her, but Susan was standing in the center of this circus, wanting to be left alone and do what she wanted to do on a Saturday morning. Turning the back on this thing that was the center of so many people's lives gave her great satisfaction: She could kill them but she had already proven that she can, so what's next?

Tommy Moe was one of the kids from their ski club who became an Olympic gold medalist. John's sister is not defeatist and does not really express defeat, but years later when she was in her 30:s she realized that skiing maybe was what she was meant to do. If you get put on the earth with the ability to go to the Olympics, maybe you should follow that call? Tommy Moe did go to the Olympics and won a bunch of medals. There is a Tommy Moe Drive in Wasilla. With that achievement under your belt, you can just kind of dine out on being an Olympian for the rest of your life. At first you endorse a brand of peanut butter and open a Pontiac dealership, then you do whatever you want for a few years, and then you can start a ski school with your Olympic medal.

John has one little toe in the world of Downtown Seattle and he sometimes goes to events with people who work in business, not those people hustling to give you their card, but the chamber of commerce Downtown city property owning tourism class of booster city people who donate money to museums. They are super-uncool as a class, but they are massive drivers of what goes down. Their little choices affect a lot of people. They are not impressed by musicians of any kind, unless it is Yo-Yo Ma. Every once in a while a musician will come up into the classical world in a pop context, but that is the extend to which music penetrates them.

There are still people in Seattle who have been living in town the whole time and will ask if you have heard of Nirvana. Actors matter to those people, but they don't know about them or care about them. If Brad Pitt comes, everybody knows, but when they shake Brad Pitt's hand they are mostly thinking how this is going to make them money. An Olympic medal skier on the other hand is a person who is able to impress that class of people. Everybody understands an Olympian as impressive and can grasp it without having to have seen their movie first. Having an Olympic medal will open doors for you forever. It is kind of a lower level of being an astronaut: it is never going to wear off.

Living in Nepal

John’s sister had a boyfriend in Nepal and lived there for a year. He was Nepalese and owned a Whitewater Rapid guide company in Nepal and she said that she was a Whitewater guide in Nepal now. John said ”Sure, of course you are, darling Sister! See you when I see you!” (RW42)

John’s sister: Susan, his mother’s early daughter

John’s mother has another daughter born in the 1950s. They are closer now, but John didn’t know her growing up and only met her as an adult. (RW47) Her name must be Susan because John said in OM55 that he has two sisters named Susan and John's dad's oldest daughter is called Laura. John's sister Susan lives in Ohio as a certified public accountant and takes care of John's books and tax paperwork. (RW59)

John’s sister: Laura Roderick (*1952)

John's dad’s oldest daughter Laura is probably born in 1952 because she was 36 when John was 20 (RL280). Her mom is John's dad's first wife Jean Gordner.

Laura had been an anesthesiologist for many years, but is a potter now. When John was 20, she lived in a very nice area of Olympia right at the ocean, but still close to town. It was at a time and in a place where you could have a waterfront home and also a neighboring forest. In Washington you can buy ocean-front property for not much money, because there is so much ocean and it is the last part of the country that got settled. Her house was a ramshackle hippie mansion that had maybe one or two extra stories above what seemed normal. It was not very wide and looked like it was 7 stories tall, built on top of the water in the middle of the forest. It looked like a Harry Potter house with a chimney that stuck out and then went up. It looked like you had stacked 40 school buses on top of each other, like a Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers house. (RL280)

Laura's husband was a lawyer, just as his dad who was a contemporary of John’s dad. John’s dad thought that Laura's husband's dad was a danger and a menace. They were competitors for who was the real nut on the scene and they had butted heads. Then his son married Laura. He was a cigar guy with a room full of cigars. He definitely was a proto-douche, but he wasn’t ”that guy” yet, because it didn’t exist back then. (RL280)

At one point in the 1980s when John visited them, he wanted to show John his go-fast and they went out the back door and walked into the woods. They walked for a little while and he was chatting and smoking cigars while John was wondering what was next on their adventure. Eventually they came to a parking lot of freshly laid tarmac the size of one car with a brand-new driveway going up to the main road. In his one-stall parking lot was a 1986 Ford Taurus SHO sedan. It is not what you would think of, like having a Porsche or something if you are going to build a separate driveway for a secret car. It looked like a retired Lieutenant Colonel car, like a cop car, an invisible, generic 1980s car, except that the letters SHO made this a sleeper. It was very fast! (RL280)

They started driving through the twisties in the forestland of Olympia and over hills where the tires came off the ground. John was just holding on for dear life! This car was a secret from his wife, John’s sister. Either he had a secret acre of land or he secretly built a driveway in what his sister thought was an undeveloped acre of forest. He was a nut and they did not stay married, but they did have a child, John’s beloved nephew. If you are going to have a secret live like this, one would think that you would get a Hot Rod, but no: He wanted this! John has no idea of what the actual story was about this go-fast hidden in the forest. He told John that he couldn't tell Laura, whatever he did, don’t tell her! Well, it was not going to come up in conversation. (RL280)

John's brother: David Rochester Roderick (1949-2020)

John’s oldest brother David was born in 1949 and is named after their father. He isn’t called a junior, but in their family they always change the middle name instead. John's dad was David Morgan Roderick and John's brother is David Rochester Roderick. John's cousin Collin has named his third son Collin in the same way. (RW47)

David is not a nice person and by that virtue he is largely alone, disabled by resentment to the point that it incapacitates him. John's sister Susan is really good at being gentle with people like that, but John can’t be especially gentle with him because he doesn’t have a ton of patience with people who are being disabled by resentment, because it will hobble you and it will take a physical and a mental toll. (RW47)

David had really long fingernails and really long hair and when he was young everyone in the family thought he was a genius and the most brilliant of them all, obviously before John was born. John read some of his homework assignments from Junior High and David was indeed very talented, but he is a Baby Boomer and went through the Baby Boom period which destroyed a lot of people with Baby Boomerisms. (RL299)

After a few years of trying pretty hard to be friends as an adult, John realized that it was a bottomless situation and he wasn’t ever going to get to the feeling of being loved by David and the rest of his family. Seeking repair from somebody who is not very nice now for feelings that were created when they were not very nice then isn't a winning strategy and John just absent himself. (RW47)

John's brother David was the first person to ever get him drunk. John was 8 years old and David did it to spite their father. They were on a fishing trip and had flown in on a little bush plane out on the Alaska Peninsula, they got into some flat-bottomed boat and went out into a river delta. John cast his line right away and pulled an enormous Silver Carp out of the water while none of the others thought he would be able to catch anything. Everybody was astonished, except David who was mad. He and his buddy squirreled John away into some bushes and David asked John if he would like a beer. Then he just fed him beers until he was shitfaced, just to piss their dad off. That’s how that relationship panned out. (RW47)

David's original National Lampoons comprised John’s very early exposure to that sense of humor when he found them in the basement of his other brother Bart's house in Yakima. Bart told him that those were David’s and they had been down there for 25 years, but for John they were the greatest things! (RL299)

One time David was sitting in John’s living room, which is a rare occurrence. John has a beautiful giant coffee table book called Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead about Doug Kenney, which is now also a movie on Netflix. John showed it to David and "Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead" are 3 of the 4 things you would use to describe David, but he didn’t get that it was about Doug Kenney and and they just looked at each other awkwardly, like ”Anyway!” (RL299)

David died in February of 2020. It has been really interesting because John and David did not like each other and David was not a good older brother to John and got him drunk for the first time when he was eight. He was just a jerk. (RW178)

John's brother: Bartley "Bart" Roderick

Picture of Bart, YouTube channel

John's brother Bart lives in Yakima where he runs an orchard. When John left Alaska in the summer of 1986 Bart offered him a job harvesting apples and pears. Down at the bottom of the orchard there was an old little one-room shack with a kitchen and a bathroom and John's brother offered him to live there. (RW101, RW47) Bart was the nicest of John's older family. He is a gentle and dreamy guy. (RW47) Bart congratulated John to his position as King Neptune. (RL254)

Whenever Bart and John would meet somebody, Bart would introduce John as his ”half-brother John” until John one time told him that this was irrelevant and he is his ”brother”. Saying ”half” was unconsciously referring back to the early 1970s when it was very important to those kids that they distanced themselves from John’s dad and everyone. The place where they encountered the least resistance was John and Susan because they were little children and they could call them half-brother right to their face. The word they were supposed to hear was ”half” rather than ”brother”. It became institutionalized in the way he thought and spoke until John him to stop, at which point he did stop. (RW47)

Bart was a professional musician his whole life. In 1976 he was in a band called Northwest Passage. They were the house band of the Black Angus Steakhouses in the West, playing Steely Dan, Fleetwood Mac and other contemporary hits of the day. They were a great band, it was the 1970s, everybody was on drugs and it was very Rock ’n’ Roll. They wore matching suits and they were like Murph and the Magic Tones, but Rock, like Grand Funk Railroad. Bart developed respect for John as a musician and he likes John’s music. (RW47)

John’s dad would take John to see Bart play, because in the 1970s you could take a kid into a bar, even a titty bar, which John knows for a fact. There weren’t the same limits, particularly in the North. Watching Bart do his job was very influential on John. Bart wasn’t interacting with John specifically and was not very interested in John, but he was the gentlest with him and he reciprocated for them to be friends, which they became. (RW47)

John's grandmother: Mary Louise Rochester Roderick (1889-1970)

Picture of her grave

John's grandmother and grandfather met in France in World War I. She wrote an autobiography called A Nightingale in the Trenches. (RD2016, FF44)

John's uncle John Thomas "Jack" Roderick Sr. (1925-2020)

Picture from February 2019

John's uncle Jack Roderick had been mayor of Anchorage. (RL177)

John's uncle Jack was a football player in highschool and went to college on a football scholarship. He was a famous football player in the late 1940:s, and got recruited by the Chicago Bears in the 1950:s, but he declined because professional football was not the big money making thing it is now. Instead he went to be a lawyer. His football life created a back condition for him that he kept for the rest of his life and he had to do the inversion table where he would hang upside down by his ankles like Dabney Coleman. (RW65, RW71, RL267)

In RL178 John tells the story about uncle Jack knowing George HW Bush.
There is an extensive story in RL267 about uncle Jack getting tapped for Skull & Bones and about him making good money with his oil claims in Alaska.
In FF45 John talks about how uncle Jack went to Navy flight training, but did not complete it before the war was over.
In the beginning of 2019 John is living with uncle Jack for 18 days in his house in Hawaii.

Uncle Jack died on November 20th 2020 (Obituary).

John's uncle Alfred "Al" Caldwell Rochester (†1994)

John's great uncle Al was his father's brother in law. (RW63) John called him "Aberdaber" (RL272), because he did magic tricks with John, pulling coins out of John’s ear or pulling little bullets out of his cufflinks. He would say "Abracadabra" which John turned into "Aberdaber "and he called him that until he died when John was 25. (RW47)

He would sit John on his knee and tell him stories from WWI. He was already an old man and didn’t always know what the appropriate stories to tell from WWI were, but he was a Junior Officer in the American Expeditionary Forces and he had lots of tales of being in France with all the Can-Can-girls. Occasionally he had to throw some grenades over the top. (RL272)

Al was the consonant bastard of the family, but by the time John came along, all the monsters had been a little bit defanged already. John was one of Uncle Al's favorite people in the world because Al loved babies and he loved John as a baby. Everyone rolled their eyes because they knew that the moment that the child would develop enough autonomous responsibility that it could express defiance against Al Rochester, he would turn on him and he would have to suffer his wrath, but Al never turned on John. Al was like a grandfather to John and Susan because their own grandfather had died in the 1950s. Nobody knew why Al suddenly liked those kids. (RW47)

John's uncle Cal

John's uncle Cal was the kind of fancy that donated to the art museum enough that there was a room named after his wife. When John was 13, he told John that a proper young man does not walk around with a toothpick in his mouth and John was embarrassed and ashamed, because his uncle Cal did not say that much to him in general and it was probably the only thing he had said to John in months. (RW49)

Uncle Cal was on the board of regions of the University of Washington when John was looking for a college, but John had not mentioned to uncle Cal that he was applying to the university, because he wanted this to be his Horatio Alger moment and he did not want to just waltz in like his dad had always done. Eventually, uncle Cal got John into the school anyways. (RW90)

Uncle Cal was a good friend of Bill Gates Sr. (RW16)

He constantly whistled absentmindedly, tuneless, but not out of tune. That is how you knew he was around. (RW63)

John's uncle Cal lives in Palm Springs. He had a Scandinavian last name and exhibited the kind of casual antisemitism that used to be very popular among white Anglo-Saxons (RL239). He was the president of MacMillan Bloedel and they were stealing all the trees in the forest between Alaska and Seattle that you couldn't see from the road. A popular conversation topic was "If you clear-cut the forest, where do the animals live?". When he invited John, he didn't care too much about the company, but mostly liked to cook for people. (RL239) See also RL412.

John's uncle Junius

John's uncle Junius married the woman who was the heir to the Buster Brown shoe fortune. He lived in Greenwich, Connecticut in a big house on the water, the Buster Brown shoe fortune house. It gave him the ability to write pedantic, dictating letters to John’s grandmother about how she was conducting her life. (RW47)

John's great uncle Junius the elder has a gravestone with a long inscription about being a Raconteur, business man, ethicist, Paleobiologist, "East and West his worlds collide", which Al had written for him. East and West suggests to the reader that this was a man who bridged continents and who’s business interest took him to Japan and China, which was then affectionately called the Orient, but in reality it just means that he lived on the East Coast for a while and the West Coast for a while. (RW47)

John mentioned him in RL254.

John's aunt and the memorial park

John's father’s sister died suddenly when she was 65. She sat down to read a book, something happened in her heart and she just passed away. Nobody was ready for it! Her husband really adored her and bought a big abandoned lot as a memorial to her in what was then a pretty poor and run-down neighborhood in Seattle called the Madison Valley. He built a park for her in Italian style, which was an anomaly in the neighborhood because it was an elegant and formal park while most parks in Seattle are done in a naturalistic Olmsted style. It was not a city park, but he just paid to have it maintained. (RW47)

As the years have gone on and he died, his kids continued to maintain the park, but the neighborhood was becoming expensive. Little by little it became clear that they were going to donate the park to the city of Seattle because the Parks Department was more capable to keeping it up. In October of 2016 John's family had an event where they dedicated the park over to the city. The deputy mayor and some people from the city that John had met when he was running for office were there. (RW47)

John's niece: Elizabeth Roderick

While trying to finish the fourth album for The Long Winters, John produced a record for his niece Elizabeth Roderick. (OJR, RL269)

Nieces and Cousins

John is close with his niece, Bart’s daughter (Is he talking about Elizabeth here?). (RW47)

John’s daughter really likes his cousin Page and Page loves Marlo. He would never have thought they would bond, but there it is: Family! (RW47)

John is starting to get to know his cousins a little bit better and he is building relationships with several of them. They all have red hair, they are all interesting and successful business people. John’s aunt was a hard charger and she raised her kids to be successful in the world. The youngest of them is 10 years older than John and they were neither cruel to him nor interested in him because he was just a little kid. Now they realize that John is a man in his 40s and they are all becoming friends, which John is enjoying quite a bit. (RW47)

Their gathering in October of 2016 to donate John's aunt's memorial park to the city was the first time when John was alone with his 3 first cousins. They were all looking at each other in amazement. (RW47)

Family was very important to the older generation for some fucking reason. They were hard on each other, but it was important that they got together, that we remember, that we persist in a closeness that none of them felt. After they were all gone, everybody else felt released from a weird contract they had never signed. Now John’s cousins are the only people in the world who know what John is talking about when he is talking about his family. (RW47)

John’s cousin’s wedding

One of John’s cousins got married to a member of the McLaren racing family. It was a fancy wedding and there were a lot of men from the Formula One racing culture, not drivers and mechanics, but owners. It was a very exciting wedding for a 13 year old boy. These guys were hale and hearty, they were spilling drinks on each other, they adopted John and one of them would send John packages of fireworks for months afterwards. You could have sent him a box of money or a box of fireworks, and he would have taken the box of fireworks every time. They also gave him a bunch of stickers and other McLaren F1 swag. (RW49)

As John was walking around this wedding, he felt his oats and he had a toothpick sticking out of the corner of his mouth, like ”Z’up?” His uncle Cal was a different kind of fancy than these guys, because they had the amount of money where you just don’t care, with a lot of cars in the garage, but uncle Cal was the kind of fancy that donated to the art museum enough that there was a room named after his wife. He told John that a proper young man does not walk around with a toothpick in his mouth and John was embarrassed and ashamed, because his uncle Cal did not say that much to him in general and it was probably the only thing he had said to John in months. John took it out and threw it in the garbage can and since then he has never put a toothpick in his mouth where he didn’t picture uncle Cal appearing as the Ghost of Christmas Past, and John is telling him every time that he is not going to walk around with it, but he is just performing a service to himself, go away, uncle Cal! and he slowly fades away, but his words are still ringing in his ears. (RW49)

John’s family being late breeders

John’s people are late to breed. His grandmother was born in 1886, meaning he is just one or two leaps away from the Victorians. His great-grandfather was born before the Civil War, his great-great-grandfather was a major in the Confederate Army for Kentucky and his other great-great-grandfather was in the US Cavalry and they were the first company to arrive at Little Bighorn after the Massacre (in 1876). John is very few iterations away from historical generations. (RW47)

John's dad was 47 when John was born and his granddad and his great-granddad were both in their 40s when they had children. Even his people in 1750 had their children in their 40s. If you go back 50.000 years and look at a group of people who are breeding that much later, John is fewer generations removed from early humans than anyone else. His people are less evolved. He once dated a girl who’s mother was 22 when she was born and her grandmother and great-grandmother had been 22 as well. She was two generations ahead of John based on the number of relatives it took to get back to 1805. (RL261)

There are all those anachronisms, strange verbal ticks and weird preferences in John’s family. (RL261) While he doesn’t know most of the people, their little turns of phrase have been communicated to him. (RW47) He had a lot of exposure to Big Band music while Merlin had way more exposure to the comedy style of the 1930s than the 1960s. Merlin's dad was really into the Marx Brothers, the Ritz Brothers, Abbott and Costello and Jimmy Durante. That stuff was just always around to the point that Merlin did a Jimmy Durante impersonation in 1975 at a talent show when he was 8 years old. In 1980, John dressed as Groucho Marx for Halloween. (RL261)

Draft version
The segments below are mostly drafts that will be edited as time permits.

The family cemetery

John’s older generation practiced some kind of weird ancestor worship and spent a lot of time at Lake View cemetery, Seattle’s old cemetery where Bruce Lee and Brandon Lee are buried among other notaries. Close to a dozen of the Rochesters and the Knutsens are buried in a little cluster of graves. At every opportunity they got, John’s dad, uncle and aunt would go to the cemetery. Since John's dad died, uncle Jack is the only one left, but he lives in Alaska and all of a sudden they weren’t going to the cemetery anymore. (RW47)

By virtue of inheritance the control over the family grave plot had fallen to uncle Junius. It was very complicated talking to him about where anyone would go. His nature was to maintain hegemony over the areas of the plot just in case he would have 40 kids late in life, or something. Conversations about the family plot could potentially devolve into lots of legalistic talking with everybody staring over one another’s shoulders. (RW47)

John's older family members being awful to him

Baby Boomers are the most unforgivably bad generation in American history. They are the most narcissistic, short-sighted, self-aggrandizing group of humans to ever come down the pipe. The fact that the years between 1966 and 1970 were world-historical in a lot of ways has buied the self-image of Baby Boomers throughout the course of their entire lives. They feel a tremendous feeling of self-importance that in subsequent years has been proven to be unearned. The Boomers have made the biggest mess of all and John’s siblings are subject to those characteristics, too. (RW47)

All of John's older siblings are Baby Boomers, members of a different generation and raised in a different time. Because his family was connected to these olden days, there was a lot of violence in his family and a lot of unmitigated old-time notions about how things are done and life was led. The generation before John’s father’s generation was sitting around the dinner table drinking until someone pulled a saber out and then they had a sword-fight and somebody stuck a candle in somebody else’s eye. That was Friday night dinner! In the 1950s that generation was already pretty old when John's dad's first kids came along who were raised in an environment unrecognizable and incomprehensible to people of any generation born after 1980. It was just pure insanity! (RW47)

Everybody was talking about how awful it was at those dinners, but just having a big lunch and hiding in your room during dinner was not an option. The abuse flowed in every direction! It was awful, everybody was miserable all the time, people were angry, they were fighting, there were recriminations, accusations of infidelity, pistol-firing and overturned turkey-platters. That was just regular, normal dinner. (RW47)

John and Susan grew up not knowing what everybody else’s experience was. They were considered privileged in the modern sense of the word: They were unaware of their privilege because all the cruelty and all the insanity had been tempered by time and by the cultural explosion. John’s dad had quit drinking before John was born, but his older brothers and sisters grew up in an alcoholic household. Even though his dad was still insane when John grew up, he wasn’t so drunk he didn’t know what he was doing. (RW47)

When John was toddling around the house, the next oldest person was 20 and even they were young because they were all standing in a room full of 65 year olds with fencing scars. John’s parents and the 87-year-olds were all incredibly generous, welcoming and gentle to John, but everyone between 20 and 50 including John’s older brothers and sister went out of their way to make John feel awful. They didn’t set his shoes on fire, but they were resentful because by their estimation John appeared to be living a charmed life. Nobody was screaming at him or putting him in an ice-cold bathtub and so they resented John and weren’t very nice. (RW47)

They resented him because they were selfish and because they didn’t realize that a 5-year-old was not in charge of how well he was being treated. When John came into the room and somebody had made him a hat, his older brothers were grumbling because nobody had made them a hat when they were 5, which was not true, because they had a hat, but in 1968 they started to see it as some symbol of the war in Vietnam and they had burned their hat together with their draft card, which was not John’s fault. He was 5 years old! There was a lot of estrangement between them, because they thought that John was little boy blue and John recognized that they were just awful people. (RW47)

John’s siblings feeling injustice

John understands that his older siblings had a hard go when they were growing up, but their parent’s generation had it blisteringly harder. The things John’s parents endured in their homes are incomprehensible and that shit absolutely ran downhill, but each generation was exponentially less abusive. John’s older siblings characterized the abuse that they received as world-historical abuse that in David’s case justifies him destroying his own life. (RW47)

John can only guess what that abuse was like when John’s father, a man he knew better than anyone, was 30 years old. It was surely terrible, but that generation of people did not have any perspective and they felt that the crimes visited upon them were incomparable to those visited upon anybody else, but that isn’t true! John sees echos of that in contemporary society now where people are feeling very strongly that the insults they are being dealt in our time have no comps. (RW47)

Somehow they are missing key elements: The civil rights movement didn’t start in 2011 and people have been fighting a lot of these battles for a long time. People used to disappear in the night and not just get flamed on the Internet. Bad things happened but not so bad that it would cause you to speak ill of a man at his own funeral. There is no bad thing that precludes behaving with dignity, unless you wallowed to the point where you are no longer concerned with maintaining your dignity. You have a sense that the injustice you have been born with can never been righted. It is a form of entitlement. The injustice entitles you to be in a defensive crouch for the rest of your life. (RW47)

Put all the people who have ever lived on a ladder and on top of it is the single person who has suffered the greatest injustice of all humans in the history of time. You scroll down that list and John’s siblings are somewhat a long way down at a point when you got bored of scrolling. It is like the timeline of the history of the Earth that is 50 stories tall and the last 2 cm are since the dinosaurs, that is about where John ranks the injustices delivered to his brother, but his brother would put himself right up there with Mother Theresa. (RW47)

John was raised by the same people, but just a few years later, major changes became inextricable from their historical moment. John’s mom was the first generation of feminist and his dad was the first generation to benefit from Alcoholics Anonymous. Those two major social upheavals happened during the time of the civil rights movement. There had never been an anti-war movement before and they were living an atomic age. (RW47)

There aren’t any precedents for it and it does make that time miraculous. John came along in the immediate aftermath of it. He was born in 1968 when LBJ was still president. It had an effect on John’s parents. His dad didn’t do an Archie Bunker who maintained the believe system of 1939 for the rest of his life, but he evolved and became a different person. He didn’t make John sit in an ice-cold bathtub like his father made him. Nobody ever hit John! It is super-hard to imagine that the same guy was Vlad the Impaler only 15 years prior, because John knows he wasn’t. (RW47)

John doesn’t often refer to this part of his clan, because the influence they had on him was largely negative and inhibiting. John was a precocious kid, but fun to be around if you like kids. The one place in the world where he was not well received was his own clan and in particular his own brother, sister and cousins. The adults thought he was great, his aunt Judy Lee was pretty tough on him, she didn’t like his hair cut or his table manners, but all that was a proxy for the fact that she didn’t like John’s mother. (RW47)

It is okey if you are 7 or 8 years old and you wander into a room where a bunch of 60 year olds talk about Nixon, it is okey for them to say ”Hey kid, why don’t you run and play!”, but there was nowhere for him to run and play except into the arms of those 20 year old sadists. They were hanging out with the family a lot. There were closets under the stairs where John and Susan would play with some old toys from the 1950s that were left laying around. John does not think of his siblings as influential on him except in a negative sense. (RW47)

Family events

One of the great things about being in John's dad’s family and being John was that nobody even knew that he existed until he was a grown-up. John has three sets of siblings, the OGs, the middle ones and then John and Susan. The older kids were the ones that happened at a reasonable time when it was normal to have kids. His dad was 30 already when he had his first set of kids, he was in his late 40s when John was born, so all the family drama that revolved around grandmothers and grandfathers, drunk uncles, people arguing about property, who is going to get these candlesticks, or yelling about whether John F Kennedy was a papist. It had already happened way before John was born. By the time he was born, the family had established what everybody’s job was. The kids who were going to be bad ended up being bad, which was all of them. John’s older siblings were all Baby Boomers and they all ended up being bad in one way or another. The same is true for all of their cousins at varying degrees. It is hard to grow up in the 1960s and 1970s and not turn out bad, if you make it at all. (RL280)

John’s uncle Al was famous for having some drinks at the dinner table and starting a fight with his sister, John’s grandmother or with his own wife. Then John’s dad, who was the oldest of his generation, would jump in to the fight and take on Al in defense of his mother or his aunt. Al and John’s dad would be fighting like ”You don’t know what you are talking about, God damnit!” back and forth, until somebody, generally John's grandmother, would get up from the table in tears, throw down her napkin and storm off. Then somebody would knock over a wine glass. This was how it was in this clan in 1958. This is why a lot of people get eating disorders or alcoholism and it doesn’t stay dormant. Al was famously problematic. He was a Seattle City Councilman, but his wife was wealthy, glamorous, and above his pay-grade. When John was born, something clicked in Al. He was now like an older man in his 60s, which in 1968 was old, and he decided to never turn on John, although he did it on everybody else. Al cherished John and his sister. He picked up the mantel and became their grandfather and was never ugly to them at all. (RL280)

The others in the family didn’t know about this. They didn’t have the perception and they didn’t realize that John also knew all those people. Cousin George was alive until 1990, why would John not know him? There are some things John doesn’t remember: He doesn’t remember his grandmother. John was probably 2,5 years when she died, but he doesn’t have any clear memory of her. She was a legendary person! John met his mom’s dad once, and that is all contact he ever had with any grandparents, because his dad’s dad was dead for 15 years when John was born and his mom’s mom died in 1934. (RL280)

There was no love in Whoville for John as a kid. When they would show up at events, everyone else was an adult. Somebody would go find a bag of Raggedy Ann dolls and TinTin-comics in French that were in the bottom of a closet and they would hand him this box and ”Go to town, kid! Seen and not heard!” John was 11 and he would find some back staircase, sit on the servant stairs, and play with his Belgian TinTins and some toys that were knackered by 1960. He was listening in on the conversation downstairs, but nobody was caring about him. Because his dad liked to be the center of attention, he would briefly forget that John existed, too. Because everyone in the family loved John's dad, so he was holding court and everybody in the family loved him. (RL280)

John’s dysfunctional family

John desperately wanted to be accepted by the fancy part of his family. There were two sides to his father’s side: The fancy people and the not-fancy people. The fancy people told the story of the family to themselves in a way that supported and validated their retroactive anointment of people in their past. They used to be fancy and now they were fancy again. Half of his family can kind of convince themselves that there was never any not-fancy, just a continuous through-line of fancy. From governor John Page of Virginia, Thomas Jefferson’s room mate and best friend, all the way to John it is a continuous line of elegant people who have performed their duty. There was a little bit of a rough patch in there from 1869-1969 for about 100 years, but that is irrelevant, because they got back up on the horse and now they are just going to pretend that they were just bobbling along. Some people had some problems, there was a little bit of prison time, but some people thrive more than others. (RW49)

Then there is the other side of the family that does the exact thing in the opposite direction. They reject fancy as being illegitimate and unearned. They identify themselves as more real, authentic and of-the-people, because they are decidedly not-fancy. They walk around in dungarees and say that the fancy people are diluted and the implication is immoral, but they are not diluted because they are wearing blue jeans and they are working for a living. They have more of a sense of the truth. This was very confusing to John as a young person all the way to his 20s and 30s, maybe even now. (RW49)

John never knows which side to identify with more. He was conscious of the struggle. The fancy side of the family held the ”blue collar” in contempt, because they were walking around with toothpicks in their mouth and wearing dungarees, while the other side were holding the rich ones in contempt for their highfalutin manner and their failure to acknowledge the truth of those 100 problematic years in their history. John didn’t know which way to go! There was a great while when John wanted to join the fancies and stand around in a cocktail party in houses that have a lot of headroom. Cocktail parties feel different in a house with 25 foot ceilings (7.5m). (RW49)

On the fancy side John just felt wrong all the time. His thing was wrong, his face was wrong, his behavior was wrong, he was always standing in the wrong place, being judged by his own family for everything he did. He would lean on something and somebody would tell him that this was expensive and then he would lean over there, but that was a hidden door to a bar with all the bourbon, and then he would stand over by the piano and then he would kind of hide behind the piano and somebody would glare at him. He never knew where and how to stand. (RW49)

Then John would go over and hang with the un-fancy side of the family and they were judgy of the side of him that talked in big words. There was no place between those two clans although it was the same fucking people with the same exact grandparents, but somewhere in there was a little twist of fate where one side worked really hard to be in with the garden club from a very young age and one side did not. It is amazing that the revisionism between the two clans is such that if you look even one generation back, the two sides of the family have a very different perspective of who those people were. One side says ”Our great grandfather, the eminent judge” and the other side says ”Our great grandfather, the alcoholic justice of the peace” One of those guys sounds like more fun, but also way worse. (RW49)

When John ran for office it was the first time in a long time when he found himself suddenly with the garden-club people at all these events. The political donor class is there and John walked into the room and gasped because he had been at so many of these things as a kid. He never knew where to stand, but now he is at this thing as a grownup trying to introduce himself and say ”Hello! Here I am, simply one of you, American people!” Really terrible! (RW49)

In some ways, John’s family had a crucial identity crisis. Within the clan nobody knew what the fuck they were about and there was a tremendous amount of putting on aerosol on both sides. For whatever reason nobody could, and John traces it back a long way. This was a psychological problem within John’s people: They just didn’t know where they belonged and everything they did felt a little bit awkward and not right. They compensated for it by overthinking who they were all the time. If you want to be fancy, go for it, but that world is awful and John doesn’t know why you would chose it! If you want to work for a living, that is fine, too, but don’t stick it down everybody’s nose. (RW49)

One time John’s aunt invited John’s brother to dinner. She wanted him and his wife to come over from Yakima and they absolutely wanted to see them, but for some reason John’s brother and his wife hated to go over to the fancy people and have fancy dinner at their house. They created some situation where they now had to come over and sit at a table with candles and eat some chicken cooked in wine, but they just wanted to stay home, do their normal life and eat Macaroni and Cheese in front of the TV. Still, they packed their stuff, put on some nice clothes, drove over the mountains, showed up at John’s aunts house, which is a big house, they rang the doorbell, John’s aunt opened and ”Oh, how wonderful to see you! So lovely for you to come!” and she ushered them into the house. (RW49)

She and John’s uncle were both dressed very nicely, but inexplicably wearing overcoats, and John’s brother and his wife came in and their coats were taken from them and hung up in the closet and John’s aunt said: ”Dinner is on the table, we are going to the symphony, we will be back in a few hours, help yourself to whatever you need, Toodeloo!” and out they went. John’s brother and his wife came all the way to this dinner they didn’t want and it turned out that she had invited them because she thought they needed a good hot meal. John does not have trouble imagining that this story is true, but it is bizarre and doesn’t feel very respectful. (RW49)

Everyone has passed away now, but even 10 years ago he couldn’t have gone and asked what the deal was with that story because there was never a casual rapport. He could ask his dad, his brother or his mom, but as it emanates out, even in the immediate family, that rapport goes away fast. John looks at those Norman Rockwell pictures of a big family sitting around the table and the story you hear from people where everybody in the family shared a single universe at least. John’s family sat around the Thanksgiving table and he had an aunt with a lot of weird cats and everybody had a quirky story, but they did not ever feel cohered and John can’t explain it. He was at dinner with aliens all the time. If you had relatives who are living in a different universe where for example they were religious and you are not, or they are in a codependent relationship that no-one can call out, or they are sitting at the table with the husband who is clearly drunk but nobody can say: Every time you get together with a group of people it is weird. John likes his stories to be about how unique and special his world is and it is always difficult to hear that it is a mundane story. (RW49)

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