John's House

John’s neighborhood (RW40, RW80)

John’s neighborhood consists mostly of old farms that have been annexed into the city of Seattle in 1916, but for a long time after that it was not the direction the city was growing in. The area is very close to the Boeing Airplane Factory where they built the B17 bombers during WWII. At that time they built lots of saltbox homes for their factory workers. The population of formerly Italian and Irish farmers quadrupled and it became a very mixed working-class neighborhood. There are a lot of remnants of the olden days like weird big farm houses halfway up the block which make you realize that it was actually a 1915 farm area. That is the time John’s house is from.(RW40)

There has been zero gentrification in John's current neighborhood during the 10 years he has been living there. When he moved in 2007, all the neighbors raised an eyebrow because John was not a normal element in the demographic distribution of this neighborhood, but later they realized that he was not a normal element in any demographic anywhere and he was just an outlier and not a herald of things to come. Everybody relaxed because they could deal with this one guy who was out swinging swords in the middle of the night. Previously you had never seen a dumpster in front of anybody's house, but now many of the houses in John's neighborhood are going for sale, are being bought by intermediaries who fix them up and who will sell them further. Nobody in the neighborhood knows who the final buyers will be because most of the houses are still in that middle place at the moment and are currently being fixed up. The presumption is that there is an audience for them. Are they upwardly mobile young professionals? Are they going to be people in retirement who are just moving from one place to another? It is going to be very interesting to see. The house across the street from John is for sale right now and the guy selling it said that a former professor is thinking about making an offer, but John replied that he is already a former professor living here and they need some fun and action instead! They even asked him to move this GMC RV to a place where it is not so prominent and when John asked if they don't want to show an accurate picture of the neighborhood to prospect buyers about who their neighbors are, he said straight up "No!" (RW80)

John's house (RL257, RW80)

John lives at 10824 53rd Ave S, you can see the decaying swimming pool on the map and his RV in front of his house.

John's house is surrounded by a fairly large piece of property. John bought his house while he was sitting around at his mom's house and it suddenly occurred to him that he was of an age where it was appropriate for him to own his own house. He had money enough in order to make a downpayment on a house, but it had never really gone into his head before that he actually could own a house if he wanted. He had never been in a long-term relationship that he gave much hope to surviving and a relationship is one of the things that propels people into thinking in those terms, like "What's next? Oh, we should buy a house!". For John is was more like "What's next? Tacos?" He had never even thought about buying a car either, but suddenly those thoughts came to him and started to look for a house. It was too expensive around the neighborhood where his mom lived and farther afield the only places he could afford were on tiny narrow lots with junk cars in the alley. Finally he found this house on a large piece of property. It has a barn and a derelict swimming pool which is still there. It never has any standing waters in it, because the soil is very sandy and just soaks up the rain. (RW80)

The old windows in John's house have not been replaced by new vinyl windows, which means that the glass is all wavy (because glass is a liquid) and the windows are handmade instead of manufactured. They were built by a bunch of old-fashioned carpenters who knew how to make things. One of the guys was driving the team of horses. There was a guy with goggles on, running the steam-powered spaceship. There was a glazier who made custom panes of glass into the custom holes cut by the carpenters who had been eyeballing it. There were like 9 guys dressed like locomotive engineers. When John had some repair work done in late 2017, his guy Sahm thought he would have to rebuild some of the windows if they were going to do this right. (RL257)

John’s buckets of rocks (RW80)

John has some buckets sitting around with rocks he had pulled out of the garden. They fill with water when it rains and mosquitoes will grow in them. John has enough of a plan for them that he hasn't dumped them out, but not enough of a plan that he has done something with them. It is a bad deal all around. The house isn't swarming with mosquitoes, but he is also conscious that he is growing mosquitoes. Sometimes he dumps one of the buckets into the potholes that form in his neighbor's driveway. For whatever reason, potholes form in the dirt of his neighbor's driveway and his neighbor is even more inclined to just let it ride than John is. The neighbor is not aware of those buckets of rocks. Because of the sandy soil one can probably pour rocks into these holes for eternity and they will just go down through the sand and eventually into the ocean where they spawn.

John's hot tub and decrepit swimming pool (RW80)

In September of 2017, John got rid of the hot tub in his backyard. There is a certain type of person that is going to get a lot of good use out of a hot tub, like married couples who like to drink wine after work. They like to hang out with each other, they like to drink wine, they like each other and they want to be in a hot tub with one another, all the time. Then there is the sleazy version for the scammy sex operator, a little bit like a bait-n-switch or a waterbed. John loves to take a bath and he seems to be a natural audience for a hot tub, but even though he would love to have a bath tub in the yard, that bath tub should not be a hot tub. The greatest thing about a bath is that you are alone in it. While you can do that in a hot tub, there is an awful lot of stuff involved to just sit alone in a tub. The second best thing about taking a bath is that you pull the plug at the end, the water goes away and you don't need to think about it. John always wanted to get his bath tub drain and sink drain hooked up to an irrigation system for the garden. There is no reason why an entire bath tub full of water should just go down the drain. Over time, his entire property would become a single organism because all his DNA would be out there under the roots of the vegetables. It seems that this is just one of the 80 things John needs to get done around his house.

Another one of those things to get done is to hire a guy with one of those big backhoe loaders and pull the big swimming pool down upon itself, crush it up under the bulldozer tracks, munch it and then dump 15 dump truck loads of crushed gravel, sand and top soil onto it. This would turn John's derelict swimming pool where he has been throwing logs into for 10 years (the first thing he'll do is having a big bonfire) into a fantastic lawn where he could play Polo. He could also have a competitive Croquet tournament, build a little Yoga studio or do whatever he wanted. It wouldn't just be this 1/4 acre (1000 sqm) of cement hole in the ground. These are reasonable things that have been done before. What's missing is not someone to do it, but a project manager, a contractor or an executive assistant who leads the charge, a person who takes the plan and turns it into phone calls. You could do almost anything with a phone call!

As John talks about tearing up that hot tub, Dan remembers being a 3-year old boy. At one point they decided to get rid of a shed in their backyard and were left with a 8x8-foot square (6 sqm) where there was no grass. Dan found that to be the coolest thing, because they had this whole lawn full of grass with this one blank square. In Philadelphia they could just throw some seeds down to grow back the grass in a short period of time. John now has a hot tub sized space in his back yard. His whole property is maybe 1/3 or an acre (1350 sqm), which is a lot of property to have in the middle of the city and it is only possible because until the beginning of 2017 the area was not considered to be treasured by the people of the city of Seattle. Now Seattle has become very expensive.

John getting his front porch remodeled (RL257)

During summer of 2017, John wanted to fix the front porch of his house. He felt that his carpentry was equal to the task, but as he got to the point where he had to tear some stuff apart, he got a little zealous and tore the whole porch apart. John sat down on the little park bench in the front yard (that also needs repair) and surveyed the damage he had done. He had gotten some lumber form a sale at the lumber yard and he spent a couple of days working with the chop saw to get his mitered edge technique down. John had also dug a trench around the porch, almost like a moat, in order to add further remediation against the elements and to build a walkway. John doesn’t like a porch that has just lattice on it, but he wants it solid and connected to the earth. Therefore he needed to dig a trench to get beneath ground level and put some Hardie boards down there, a kind of cement board. He then needed to back-fill the earth and put up some wooden belly board and the mitered lumber.

As John was in the middle of all of that, he had to go out of town and was leaving the porch in its current state. It wasn’t really possible for the mail delivery and UPS people to transit through his yard without it being a hazard. As he came back from his long trip and continued to study the porch, his friend Peter happened along and recommended a Cambodian guy named Sahm who had been doing some nice carpentry work on this house. After several weeks John finally gave Sahm a call in order to hear what he had to say.

Hiring Sahm to fix the damage John had done (RL257)

The first thing Sahm asked was ”Did you dig this trench?” Could this turn into a situation where John’s house is Brian Wilson and Sahm is Dr. Eugene Landy? Because John had torn the house apart, Sahm found it impossible to know how long this would take to fix and how to bid this job. He recommended to just go at it and they would work it out later, which might sound troubling but John had a fairly good feeling about Sahm. He is taking what they are giving, because he is working for a living! So John asked Sahm to do what he sees fit and they would figure out what it would cost later. John would only pop in and nod as the home owner from time to time. Sahm estimated that this could cost all between $300 and $30.000, but he was going to hack this thing together and he was not going to rip John off. Afterwards John could come in with a nail file and trim the edges.

The next day John woke up to the sound of a circular saw and to the sound of Sahm hammering on the other side of the house. Sahm worked alone and the circular saw sounded like the person using it didn't know how. John popped out of bed, stumbled down the stairs into the kitchen, poured himself a cup of ambition and yawn, stretched, and tried to come to life. Sahm was out on the porch working away and explained the sound of the chop saw with ”the Thai people” living behind John’s house. He gave John a look that only a Cambodian carpenter can give when he is suggesting that the Thai people don’t know how to use a chop saw. He gave them some Cambodian shade! Those neighbors had just recently moved in and usually have some evening parties where they sit around laughing, which is not a thing that the former neighbors did. It gives John a new sonic signature in the evenings of people having a lively porch party behind him where formerly there was just silence. This complicates things, because John sometimes moves from bedroom to bedroom. He cannot record the podcast from that room anymore, either. Sahm later suggested that the house needs to be painted and he was going to make John a one-time deal on the whole project, because he was about to finish up with the porch the same day. John hadn’t looked at it yet because he had a podcast to record.

Just as John was getting ready for the podcat, he heard the sound of a portable transistor radio the size of a pack of cigarettes, one that you might get in Phnom Penh in 1971. It was battery powered with only two knobs: Tune and Volume, playing out of its 5-cents speaker. Sahm carried it on his belt and it was playing an inscrutable mixture of music and talking. As John started to hear it, he noticed that Sahm was on the roof outside of John’s bedroom window talking to himself like ”Oh, this doesn’t look too bad, well wait a minute” He talks to himself in English because although he is Cambodian, he has lived in America for a long time, not as a DREAMer, but as a first-gen immigrant. He had been around John’s house for a little while at this point and they have been interacting quite a bit. Sahm would sometimes say ”See you tomorrow”, but at 9 in the morning he would text John that he was not coming today, which John respects enormously because Sahm and John are very much alike in this regard. He does end up coming eventually, though. Sahm talking to himself without noticing John at one end of the house and the bad chop-saw at the other end of the house made the sonic posture very complicated. John does not know why and for how long Sahm was on the roof, but for the length of this podcast, John is willing to let things roll and let the chips fall. Although John does have a lot of rooms in his house where he could be in, Southeast Asian construction techniques were exhibited in every corner.

Having a flexible scope agreement with Sahm (RL257)

Right now Sahm could be repairing John’s bedroom window for what he knows, which is not a thing they had initially agreed upon. They have certainly come over the $300 floor, but they are not yet at $3000. While Merlin would be a little bit worried of suddenly receiving an invoice over $27.000 because they hadn’t talked about a budget, John had a good idea of where they were standing. The doctor who send him to the psychiatrist once said: ”I didn’t come to you! You are sitting in here bagging on doctors, but it is not that I came to you for help” and John was ”Touché doctor lady!” In a situation like this where John might call it a bit of mission creep and might ask Sahm why he was on John’s roof, Sahm could reasonably say ”I’m not the one who tore apart your porch!” John knew what needed fixing up there! If Sahm was poking at the window seeing things he could get done, John knew exactly what he was seeing, because he had been sitting on a broken park bench on his own roof before!

Sahm likes to be around John's house and John likes Sahm to be around his house. Sahm had been working for about 3 days over the course of 10 days. Your typical guy would come, look at it, say ”Oh boy” and tell you it is $6000 or less, but couldn't know until he would get in there. Then he would find a way to make it cost $6000. What the Duke-boys didn’t know is that Roscoe had already blown out the bridge (see this video). John had already been under the porch for several weeks! While tearing it apart he had cut out all the dry rot and replaced it with good wood. This means that Sahm couldn’t just go under there and tell John that there is a lot of dry rot, because John knew there wasn’t! He also couldn't say ”Johnny Fixit tore his porch apart!”, but rather ”Oh, Johnny Fixit did some structural work, he did the work that makes the rest of it possible!”

John wants is to live in a house

  • where Sahm with his transistor radio is walking around on the roof,
  • where a small girl is knolling things on the piano,
  • where a motorcycle girl is throwing things away (look at Instagram for picture of her!!),
  • where there is somebody with a clipboard and their hair in a bun, telling him what he has to do that day,
  • where a rich guy out in the barn is fixing Lambrettas and
  • John’s job is just to find the room in the house that is quiet enough to do his radio show.

They will all be part of the new Roderick group, like an new Factory of Andy Warhol where people are coming in and out of the scene. The Velvet Underground is going to play some tunes, there is somebody with body paint doing a go-go dance and there is Sahm with his radio on the roof, tapping on the windows.

Sahm’s backstory from Cambodia (RL258)

John's carpenter Sahm went to the state house in Olympia, trying to raise awareness about the bad government of Cambodia which no one seems to know about. As John asked if they were like old Khmer Rouge, Sahm was very surprised that John knew about them. They are still around and had retreated into the mountains, including Pol Pot and the entire group of commanders who had committed all that genocide. They had been setting up a government in exile near the border of Thailand where they continue to be a regional power. The North Vietnamese army took over Cambodia for a long time and tried to absorb it. There were civil wars and getting Pol Pot and America out of that region did not calm things down. Cambodia is not a big country with a somewhat democratic government in Phnom Penh while the Khmer Rouge who had killed millions are just up there in a tree house not far away. It had been in all the newspapers and John knew about the situation.

Sahm had not met very many people outside his own community who got his references, so they started talking about the government in Cambodia. Sahm is not that much younger than John and it turns out that he was there as a 7-year old boy when the genocide happened, although he doesn’t remember the US bombing of Cambodia. He had been one of the lucky ones because they had given him the job of cow herder and he had been herding the cows while they killed everybody he knew. All the bombing only killed farmers, it never killed any of the Viet Cong. He told John those heroing stories about what happened to people and he said that the movie The Killing Fields did not register the scope of it: It happened everywhere! Everybody was starving! A woman he knew once caught a frog and brought it home to add to the dinner pot. Her 8-year old son denounced her to the local cadre as a Bourgeoisie because she had caught this frog and kept it, so they had a frog in their pot while others did not. They killed her! After telling these stories, the dynamic between John and Sahm has definitely changed. Sahm’s experience is so astronomically different than anything John could know, and yet, the trajectories of their lives have put them both in the same place at the same time. Merlin and John talk shortly about the Vietnam war documentary by Ken Burns and about Myanmar.

John doesn’t feel that going to the Washington Capitol is getting the word out as much as they might think. No one is paying attention! John is the type of American who would know if anybody was, but it is not getting publicized and there are bigger problems just in the immediate region. Sahm was telling the story how he got out of Cambodia during the late 1970:s with his mother and his siblings. They went over the border to Thailand, just as anybody was trying to, and they were put into a refugee camp with 150.000 people and no food. Nobody had any money and they weren’t given any food. Starvation is the worst, it lets the war pale in comparison! Sahm was 8 years old and he slipped through the fence into the forest, trying to find whatever they could eat. It doesn’t take much imagination - he was not out hunting deer. Somehow by hook or by crook they made it to America and it was part of what John saw in the news when he was a kid, a giant sea lift that managed to attract the attention of some Americans who made a place for them here. Sahm really loves America and is a total booster of it. He thinks it is the greatest place in the world! As he realized how America was, he just wished that Cambodia would be left alone by its own people. Just let everybody live! He had made a decision as a young person never to harm anyone and now he is just doing his life. At this point John really knew that Sahm wasn’t going to screw him over about the carpentering.

After hearing Sahm's story, all John could do for the rest of the day was walk around chewing on his exposure to Sahm and Sahm's first-hand experience of all this, his continued desire to be useful to his home country and also his take on America. It was a lot to consider. Sahm turned into a resource for John somehow, although he doesn’t want to start off every day talking about Indochina.

Sahm's body control (RL258)

Sahm had worked at John’s house for a week, but he had never come in to use the bathroom. He almost treated it like a church & state kind of thing, but John insisted that he would come in whenever he needed to use the bathroom. It seemed like he had the ability to somehow control his usage of the bathroom and he was apparently going whenever he went to lunch. He wasn’t cold jugging or using a milk carton. Merlin can’t understand how people do this! It is the same as when you work in a construction crane or fly in a Cessna. Those small planes actually don’t last as long as you might think and you should be able to sit still in a spot for 5 hours without having an emergency.

Organizing things and projects around the house (RL258)

Any new project that is begun later than midnight is almost certainly going to evolve into a problem of mission creep (that’s why this time of the day is called the Ambition Hour). For example, if you have a mason jar with 30 pens in it, people would typically say you should take the whole thing and throw it in the garbage. Alternatively you could build a trebuchet to send the mason jar over the roof tops and let it find a new home somewhere. What John sees in that mason jar after midnight (or sometimes even after 4am) is that the pens need to get sorted and before he is done sorting a mason jar full of pens, he will almost certainly have made a grilled cheese sandwich, re-strung a guitar and started fixing the plunger in the toilet before realizing he doesn’t have the right tools and then left the toilet half disassembled. This is power-puttering around the house!

John could point out 50 projects in progress, up to and including some major ones like building a podcast studio and refurbishing the basement. Then there are small projects like a mason jar in the process of being reduced, which means testing all the pens, figuring out which ones work and put the mason jar into the recycling in order to have ”less” when the project is finished. What ends up happening is that it all gets spread out and it all creates more! All the red pens are going into this smaller jar and these things that aren’t pens like chop sticks and ear picks go somewhere else. Then John ends up being Mr. McFeely, making deliveries all around the house, which feels very great because he is distributing the problem.

Recently he cleaned up a 2x2 section between the fridge and the wall that he hadn’t touched for 7 years. What happened in reality was that he took the material and spread it all over the kitchen. Now he has little jars of tacks and picture hangers, like an exploded parts diagram, but unlike Doctor Manhattan, he can’t easily put it back together mentally. John is occupying so many worlds and so many realms. He is building this, he is taking that apart. He is envisioning a new government of Cambodia which requires him to get some reference books out. There is going to be a lot of overlap in his plan for the government of Cambodia that he had already been working on for the American schools.

John rebuilding the basement of his house (RW84)

John posted a picture of the inside of his house in a transition state while he was rebuilding the basement. The basement is not really habitable, but it can be made more useful than what it was for a long time. John had used it for carpentry and it was not a space he cared for keeping clean. Now he fixed it up, painted the floor, sealed the walls and built shelves to stack all his archives. Even before the shelves were ready, he started another project taking all his shit out and strewing it all around. The plan is to move most of it down there and get another big table to spread out the ongoing projects. He will put a little space heater in the basement, maybe he will have a green visor, and it will be the beginning of a new chapter.

John missing a dining room table and not submitting to other people (RW84)

In the beginning of 2017, his at the time millennial girlfriend had moved in with him. She was very proud of the dining room table she had in Venice Beach while John’s table was the one he found in the barn when he moved in. She told him to get rid of his table so she could fit hers in and John agreed with her. It was part of his 1,5-year-project to agree with people when they tell him what he needed to do. Over the years a lot of people have attributed all of John’s problems to the fact that he just didn’t go along with their plan for him. This had been a source of contention especially with lady friends who had a plan for him that he refused to go along with. He was just not doing it and he really got beaten down by the general vibe from people saying that he had blown it that time and he blew it again. People didn’t seem to ask things of him that were natural to him, but rather things that served their interest, but okay, maybe that is the secret?

The dining room table was one of many things during the last two years where John did not have a dog in the race. He agreed to get it out of there and get the rustic one in. John didn’t want to deal with selling it, but he offered it for free and some guy in his Honda Civic figured out a way to strap it on the roof of his car along with half of the chairs. He then packed the rest of the chairs inside and off he drove like The Beverly Hillbillies. The table wasn’t even the big deal, but the big deal was that his girlfriend moved into his house although John had never lived with a lady friend before. It wasn’t even about submitting to it, it was about embracing it. When she moved in, her stuff was ”in shipment”, so for a month they lived together without a dining room table, eating cross-legged on the floor like two lovebirds in their new house, which was actually John’s old house. Through a series of unfortunate events she did not stay with John as a permanent resident. She never even unloaded the shipping container, but turned around, packed her stuff in John’s luggage and decamped at night. As John assumes she called the shipping company to send the container right back to Santa Monica. This means that John was alone in his house without a dining room table and also without a girlfriend. He still has plenty of luggage, but confusingly she did abscond with one particular bag along with various other things. Each person has their own path through life and John is sure that part of the problem was that he did not submit fully enough. There is no bottom to the process of doing what other people tell you and you do never succeed at it! Just keep doing it, because you are still not doing it well enough and you cannot have your own will!

After that experience, John didn’t have a dining room table for a long time, which wasn’t a problem for him, but his daughter told him that his house is the only place she knows without a dining room table. She was right! Civilization had started with a table long before the wheel! She was coloring on the floor and eating her dinner on the floor and soon she realized that this was just one more example of her dad being intolerable. He was not submitting to her either! Fortunately there were two dining room tables in the barn when John moved in. The second one had just been used as the barn table and all he had to do was move the barn table down to the house. He found some chairs for it and off they went!

The problem is that not only plates, forks, knifes and food go on the dining room table, but in John’s case everything goes on the dining room table. Boxes, jars, newspapers, boxes of photographs, swords, electronics in the process of being fixed and notepads with lyrics. He is like his dad: When you want to sit down at the dining room table, you first have to clear a space for your placemat. John is not proud of that. He is cleaning up all the time and will get this dining room table spick and span, but it is a gradual process.

Sahm power-puttering around John's House with his Mexican friend (RL258, RL260)

Sahm really kicked it into high gear at a certain point and he had everything going at once: He was power-washing the paint off the house and he was rebuilding the porch that John had torn apart. He was also doing kind of a magical thing that you always want but can never know how to ask for: He was just walking around the house, noticing broken things and fixing them without being asked, a phenomenon called power-puttering: The ability to move through a space and accomplishing things while you are noting what else needs to be accomplished. It is a very powerful concept! For example, Sahm had replaced all the broken shingles at the back of the house, which they hadn’t even talked about. John found that pretty astonishing! (RL260)

Then Sahm's friend from Mexico arrived. They did not have a common language, but they had been working together for years. Sahm was throwing some Pigeon-Spanish at him and they were communicating just by a common understanding of what needs to be done. The friend was Sahm’s painter and all of a sudden he was on the roof doing things, too! (RL260) As he started pressure-washing the house, it looked like the mother of all bombs went off. He stripped all the paint off the house and it looked like exfoliated, (RL258) but within the space of two days, it went from a stripped bomb-crater to a completely painted house. (RL260)

This was right at the time when the neighbors across the street were trying to have open houses. All these people who John was hoping would filter down into his new neighbors were coming by while John had a couple of guys on the roof yelling at each other in a patois. The real estate agent thought this was good because it communicated that the neighborhood was really coming up, but when you combine it with John’s GMC RV, it becomes a third element that people have to accept: Two guys on the roof, the owner appears to have dug a trench around his house and he has a vintage RV. That is a lot to take in! (RL260)

John's friend Peter working in the basement (RL257, RL260)

While Sahm was fixing the outside of the house, John's friend Peter was down in the basement (RL258) with a compressor, finishing a basement that was never intended to be finished. There had been some goth graffiti down there from the 1970:s when one of the 12 kids who grew up in John’s house had some sort of Newcastle Brown Ale era heavy rock band (RL260) and used the basement as their practice space (RL257). There were some quasi-satanic pentagram at the walls. (RL260) At some point the basement was a root cellar and there is still a coal hopper from the time when the house was heated with coal, which still has some coal in it. Peter is building beadboard walls in the basement while Sahm is building a Monitor and Merrimack out of the front porch. (RL257)

When Sahm and Peter see each other in the yard, when a body meets a body passing in the rye, they are nodding at each other, because if it weren’t for Peter there were no Sahm, but they don’t interact with each other. Peter works very quietly, he is not part of the sonic signature. Sahm’s scope might expand or transmogrify in such way that he might bump up against Peter in a way where they need to work some things out. Peter is going to start working up the basement stairs. Like John, he is too meticulous and he is going to spend too much time making things perfect in the basement. Sahm is going to come down from the roof and start working on the side of the house and there is a place at the basement door that needs some siding work to get done. It is right where Peter is going to be arriving at the top of the stairs. He is going to be working on that door from one side while Sahm is going to be working on that door from the other side which is the thing that ties the whole project together and it will be completed until Sahm shows up and claims that he has to paint the whole house because he can’t leave it like this and he is going to give John one deal on the whole thing, excluding the basement. (RL257)

Reaching the finish line of the house renovation project (RL260)

Sahm and his partner were kicking ass, but there was one disappointment: As they went within sight of the finish line, they chucked it all in and were gone. They were just like ”We’re done. Bye!” You would think that somebody who does this professionally would not just be excited to be done on the last day, because they had done so much strangely meticulous work around the place. It all came together, Sahm fixed stuff all around the house that no-one had asked him to do, but at the eleventh hour he just painted all the windows shut. Now John has to go around the house with an x-acto knife and a pry-bar and he will have to fix the paint afterwards. John wanted the house to be painted white because it is a farmhouse and has always been white, so Sahm was a little disappointed that he couldn’t make it fancier. In addition John had always wanted black lacquer window sashes, which is very subtle and you don’t notice it as much as you feel it. While doing that, Sahm and his best friend did not tape properly and there is a little bit of bleed, so John had to paint over those little dabs of black that are on the other side. This is certainly work John is capable of doing without too much complaint, but it hadn’t been done 100% right. Everything else Sahm did was great!

When they finally talked about money, Sahm told John a number and John had no interest in negotiating him down because the quality and amount of work Sahm had done around the property was well in excess of what he was asking for. John tipped him, but there was this additional problem of having to finish the paint job himself. Sahm’s painter guy apparently did not have the same pride in his work and Sahm had to instruct him several times as it seemed. John wanted to tell him ”Sahm, you are welcome here any time!” Every 6-14 weeks when it suits him, he could just drive by and notice things that need fixing. For example, John wants a weather vane in the style of a sailing ship that points in the direction of the wind on top of the barn. Also, his current mailbox is screwed to the phone pole, which is not up to code. When it started to fall off, John had to find some hell of a screw because the phone pole was porous and rotten inside. Even now, when the garbage truck goes by too fast, the mailbox sort of rattles. It is prime to get mailbox baseballed, but kids today don’t even know what that is.

Peter has done a pretty good in the basement, which now has a constant temperature of 65 degrees (18°C), whereas before it used to go from 90 degrees to 9 degrees (32°C to -12 °C), depending on what was going on outside, which is not a place you want to store your precious old The Western State Hurricanes posters.

Workmen around the house while John is away (RW82)

John will leave his house in the care of his workmen while he was going to Washington DC. He will trust them that their communication had been clear enough so he will not find a tower that he didn’t approve of. Hopefully the house won’t be painted electric pink, although if that decision would have made for him by someone else, he might be thrilled about it. John’s current schedule makes for some contrast to those days when he looked at his calendar and it was either empty or it had one thing to do somewhere in the middle of the day. John is very good at scheduling things for 1pm which gives him plenty of time on either side to float on.

The basement situation of John’s house (RW89)

Back in the early 20th century, a lot of houses in Seattle did not have basements. They just threw some cement blocks down or in case of John’s barn, they threw some wood on the ground. John’s barn is built on 8x8 beams that are 30 feet long. They just took an old-growth fir tree or a cedar, chopped it down, shaved off the sides, threw it in the dirt and built a barn on it. Also John’s house is just sitting on dirt. There is a basement that someone has built later, but it is only a quarter of the house which drives John crazy! Why would you not just build a whole basement? The rest of the house is just sitting up on pilings. There is an enormous chimney for the old-fashioned fireplace with a foundation made of brick.

At some point in the late 1930s or early 1940s someone built a big addition on the side of the house. They just slammed it on the side of the house right behind the chimney is. Before that, the chimney used to be outside of the house, but because they put a building there, the chimney now goes up the middle. They built a wall on the other side to hide the chimney, which creates is a scenario where all a rat has to do is to dig under the little fascia, get under the house, crawl over to the chimney and climb up to the attic. It is impossible to rat-proof this house, John has tried! He dug trenches all around it and he put fencing under the ground, but the rats just dug deeper. He would have to dig a trench 6 feet down which means he would need to build a basement under there, but that would cost $60.000. You can’t just lift your house and put a basement under it without a considerable amount of bugaboos and rigmaroles.

Fighting with rats (RW89)

Some rats that live on the fruit trees around John's house managed to tunnel under all of his rat barriers. It is like living his life in asshole country! John doesn’t like rats and he doesn’t like vermin at all. There are no native rats in America, the native rats are called squirrels! Because Seattle is a seaport town, big rats have been brought in from Norway on those stupid fishing boats. Norwegians are blond, stoic and don’t show their emotions. When somebody runs over their foot with a plough they don’t even yell! Norwegian rats are the brown rats, or just plain rats. Everything that is complicated in Seattle has been brought in by the Norwegians. They brought all their weird reddisons, their strained friendliness that isn’t really friendly, and their super-northern passive aggression. Then the Swedes came and didn’t make anything any better. It is okay to be racist against Scandinavians. It is the last acceptable racism because there aren’t very many of them and it is not their nature to defend themselves culturally. Although they are fighters and will fight you, they are so trump that they don’t know what they are swinging at.

From the Wikipedia page about the brown rat:

Rats are known to burrow extensively if given access to a suitable substrate. Rats generally begin a new burrow adjacent to an object or structure, as this provides a sturdy ”roof” for the section of the burrow nearest to the ground’s surface. Burrows usually develop to eventually include multiple levels of tunnels, as well as a secondary entrance.

John’s friend Peter went up on a top shelf in John’s barn the other day and found a big roll of carpet which he dropped on the floor 12 feet down. As he climbed down the ladder, a big giant rat ran out of the center of it where it had been nesting. Who knows how many rats are in there still! Peter dragged the carpet out into the yard and now John has this big roll of rat-urine stained carpet sitting out there.

John is generally sleeping well except when he hears rats climbing up the walls in the middle of the night just to taunt him. He still has PTSD about the time he got robbed when he rolled over and went back to sleep because he thought what he had heard was a rat or a possum in the wall. There is no food for the rats in the attic, but they just want to screw around up there, thinking they are going to be up there all year. John used to put up rat traps with peanut butter on them. They weren’t smart enough to fight peanut butter and he would get them like that tailor who killed 17 giants in one blow except he was talking about flies. One time John actually managed to kill two rats in one trap and he felt like Charlton Heston (interview). Now the rats don’t care about the peanut butter anymore and John has them all over the house! He put some salmon skin in the traps, but the rats are not falling for the salmon skin either and he doesn’t know what is going on. They seem smarter than other rats! John doesn’t care about the rats in the barn, because that is where they belong.

The best way to get rid of rats is to have a big cat. Not all cats are killers, though, and a lot of cats will just sit around and watch a mouse walk right over its paws, famously: Garfield would rather be friends with mice than kill them. John’s mom once wanted to get a Siberian forest cat, because they are really big and they are supposedly hypoallergenic. The problem is that they are a special breed and cost $1000. You would not put a cat like that in a barn, but you would brush it with a silver comb!

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