John's neighborhood in Normandy Park

This page is about John's current neighborhood in Normandy Park. There is a separate page for his old neighborhood on Rainier View when he was living at the farm. The story about John selling his farm and buying his new house is found under Mid-century Modern.

The history of John’s neighborhood (RL362)

Normandy Park started out as a suburb close enough into town that was first platted right before the great depression. They were looking at those 1000 acres of forest in the 1920s, they platted it, they were selling lots, and then the market crashed and nobody bought any property or was building houses. Then World War II came and it was still empty, but it had a fantasy map of what it was.

Right after the war at the beginning of the migration to the suburbs in the 1950s people realized that this area was already completely mapped out and they started to buy pieces of property and built their mid-century architect dreams. If you came up with a radical little house as a young architect in Seattle in the 1950s/60s you would put it down there and you would sell it to a Boeing engineer because it is right by the airport.

Originally Normandy Park had its own beach on Puget Sound and the whole front of the neighborhood is a cliff that drops down to the ocean. A lot of the property was ocean front, some of them 300 feet high. There are a couple of rivers running through it and some beaches were collectively owned by everyone in the neighborhood, which is super-unusual, and if you buy a piece of property in this area it comes with ownership of the beach and there are associations that you are automatically a member of.

They built a couple of public swimming pools, tennis court type clubs, and you had to join at a nominal fee, but sometimes in the early 1950s the county said that a neighborhood can’t just claim that this beach belongs to them, although when they built that neighborhood that was the deal, and they were going to take it back and build a sewage treatment plant there.

The neighbors formed the plan that if they incorporated as a town they could do something else, and the did and incorporated as Normandy Park. It doesn’t have a center of town, although there is a supermarket, but they have a mayor, a city council, their own police department, and once they had incorporated the original lots all were grandfathered in with this collective ownership of the beach.

They started building other new houses that don’t have that original ownership, but a lot of the houses do have it. John's new house wasn’t built until the 1950s, but it was on one of the lots that were platted in the 1920s. They have an old guy who sits down at the beach on the hood of his car and when you drive down the little road he looks at you and you say: ”I live on 14972 207th!” - ”Ah hey, come on in!” Basically he is just down there profiling people.

John playing the harmonica for the turkeys in the neighborhood (RL362)

John's quiet little neighborhood of olds is a town full of weirdos and at Thanksgiving time in 2019 they built a big cage on the corner of some lot and put two live full-sized comfort turkeys in the cage, a boy turkey and a girl turkey as big as a fucking chair, and put two big garbage cans out front, one of them says: ”Eat” and one of them says: ”Pardon”

If you think that they should kill the turkeys you put a can of food in the eat barrel, and if you think they should save the turkeys you put them in the pardon barrel. It is a canned food drive, the turkeys become a neighborhood attraction, and all the little kids want to go visit them.

The turkeys put on a good show, giving you value for the money. John describes in more detail how those turkeys behave and what they do. They are there 24 hours a day and all day long people are putting canned food in the buckets and right now the vote is 1500:900 cans to pardon the turkeys.

Merlin thinks it is a self-selecting bias, like a reverse lottery where people want to let this one live so they can feel okay about eating all the other ones. Also: Where are these freaking turkeys going to live out their lives? On a farm? It is like the Republicans: They care a lot about fetuses, but they don’t like babies.

Playing the harmonica for the turkeys

John was walking around the neighborhood playing his harmonica in order to practice for his Neil Young benefit show and he owes some of his new harmonica skills to the turkeys because they were a captive audience. There are children literally rattling the cages all day long, but in the middle of the night they don’t have much stimulus and they are sleeping part of the time.

John's experience of playing music for birds is that birds are very curious about music and all animals are interested if you are making sounds in a range that is interesting to them. Turkeys are extremely dumb!

Over the course of the last couple of weeks John really wanted to communicate with God and was talking to God all the time, like on his walk across Europe, but God never ever said a word back, not even a peep, there wasn’t even a smoldering bush.

John really wanted his harmonica playing to change those turkey’s lives a little bit by introducing some mystery. They could hear him coming and going, and he would herald his arrives with the sound because you can hear a harmonica from a little ways. Sometimes the nights would be foggy and the scene was really established for the ghost of a Hobo coming through.

Through the end when he knew his song better and better he had a relationship with these turkeys, and he really was searching their little faces for some feeling that they knew one another, and the turkeys definitely knew that John was a feature in their world. Merlin has so much Aloha for this idea, it is a little like wanting to animate an orb or introduce magic to a cube, but we all have these things.

Merlin’s wife just keeps waiting for the cat to show some appreciation and wants the cat to say: ”Wow!” (she was in the studio and said it into the microphone) It is so close to what the cat already says all the time and you hold out hope! John thinks that if the cat could say one sentence, it would be: ”Please kill me!”

Merlin’s wife handed him a note partway through that says: ”Is this what every episode is like?” - ”Yes, of course” and she made a dismissive sound as Merlin said that.

A third turkey appearing

One night, talk about the ghost of a Hobo, there was a third turkey outside of the cage, a white spotted turkey with a display of plumage and the tail feathers of a Tom, but smaller and less pronounced and its body shape was closer to the girl turkey. There was a woman standing there and John asked her what the deal was, but she didn’t know and had wondered the same thing and she had called the cops.

Nobody in the neighborhood is completely clear on who is doing this turkey thing or where they came from. It is a canned food drive, and you don’t need a license for doing something like that and the county can’t do anything because it is its own town and they have to stop at the border. The women didn’t just want to start ringing doorbells because it was the middle of the night, but where does a turkey come from? She was probably thinking that the police would come and she could hand it off to them, she didn’t want this on her.

If John had come along and the turkey had been there, he also would have gotten involved. He would probably not have taken the turkey because his turkey-nabbing days are over, but there was a time when he would have done that, he has stolen big birds before, he has seen a man kiss a parrot (see RL21), and he had a lot of exposure to winged wildlife.

John could have cradled the turkey, made it feel secure and kept it from harm. One time Merlin called county extension because they had a corn snake in his room and didn’t know what to do to get it out. He didn’t even know it was a corn snake, but it was just a snake and it would have been nice if a big strong man had come in an got the corn snake from behind Merlin’s bed.

John thinks it was a suburban thing where people want as little responsibility for things as they can get away with and she wanted to hand this problem over to the Normandy Park police because that is what her tax dollars are for. John would not have called the police, but he also didn’t want to intrude into her narrative arc.

A lot of the time in life he would have stayed because he really wanted to see a cop put a turkey in his car, but he had somewhere to be and things were under control there. Now he regrets not staying to see the end of that vignette. He had expected it to have gotten out somewhere and reappear the next day, but he never did.

John visiting city hall with a land use question (RL362)

One time John went down to the small city hall of Normandy Park, an old elementary school that had been decommissioned because it was too full of asbestos and they put their city hall there instead. John told the women at the counter that he wanted to talk to somebody about land use because he owns a property now and wants to make some modifications to it.

There is a wetland component and John doesn’t want to get in dutch with those guys because the stream that runs through it plays a role in the hydrology of the region. The woman at the counter stepped back and another women came around the corner, a young 35 year old blonde lady who said: ”I’ll take it from here! Give me the address of the property!” John was just stopping by, wanting to see if there were some forms and he said to her like a fool: ”I don’t want to get all into that yet, we are just talking here, I don’t want to get you guys up there already, I haven’t even got a shovel out yet!”

She replied: ”The first thing when someone asks a question like that is that we want to know the address!” and then they were in a situation because John could not just tip-toe out. This woman was the brand-new city manager of the city of Normandy Park after her predecessor was ousted for embezzlement. She is the reformer, there is a new sheriff in town, and she got some college degrees, she knows a thing or two about the hydrology of the area.

John had also taken his little girl with him who was watching this interaction and now he was caught between a rock and a hard-place because his daughter is very law-abiding, kicking his ankle, like: ”Give her your address, dad! What is the problem?” - ”I don’t need the FEDs swarming my property, looking for salamanders!” or find his buried decoy gold.

A little bit of John’s property seemed unmapped, or the city doesn’t really have a grasp. There are some very important streams in the town with salmons in them who swim upstream and make baby-salmons. They even spray-painted on the sewer drains: ”This drain drains to the Sound”, like: ”Don’t put any paint down this drain!”

John reluctantly gave her his address because he wanted to be friends and wanted to make her think he is nice. He didn’t want to do anything, he didn’t want to get any permits. Merlin wonders why everybody in authority has to act like they are an authority all the time? ”It doesn’t make you weak to be helpful!”

John gave her his real address, because he didn’t want to come back in a month with his real address and she would be like: ”Oh, you!” because the permitting or approval is down to whether or not this individual person likes you. John knew the city can’t recommend anything, but he was looking for an hydrologist, the right engineer that is not the one that the guys in the city don’t like, and she looked at John with her sheriff eyes and said: ”I can’t recommend anybody, but I can show you the public records so you can see which of this kind of project got approved the fastest!”

It has to be cloak & dagger like that because when it comes to wetlands in Washington nobody wants their finger prints on anything having to do with it because of the salmon. There are 40 different water jurisdictions and what if a duck met a salmon coming through the rye? It has to be a pristine environment, they can’t see any 50 gallon drums from where they are interacting!

An abandoned house in John's neighborhood getting fixed up (RL392)

There was an abandoned house down in John's neighborhood that had been bought by one of the elderly couples on the block. They wanted their son to restore the house and move in there because their backyards would connect, but then the son didn’t want it.

The man of that couple is always circulating petitions because the Chamber of Commerce has decided they were going to put a pot dispensery in the place where the old Haberdasher was and he wants the community to rally together and keep the pot dispensery out. He claims it generates a lot of traffic, although out there you only see a car every hour, and he also thinks it is not going to be good for property values.

He is a natural born activist, a classic Nimby (”not in my back yard”), but when it came to his actual back yard he sold the plot of land with the abandoned house on it and he subdivided the property so he could sell the other half to somebody who is going to build another house there. He doesn’t want a pot dispensery three miles away, but the things he does literally in his back yard are not going to be great for the neighborhood.

The abandoned house is all fixed up and nice now, but the guy who bought it also bought a COVID-19 boredom low chopper minibike. Merlin didn’t know they were still around. They predated mopeds and were very popular among Hillbillies in Ohio. John’s mom’s boyfriend Bobby had bought one for John (see Parents).

It is a stretched-out thing that is not cool, but there are so many motor-vehicles now that John can’t keep them straight. The problem is its exhaust note (John makes farting-noises to illustrate how it sounds) and this neighbor rides around in circles in his yard, which means it is not just annoying like a motorcycle that drives by on the road, but it is an ongoing shit show.

John having workers with chainsaws outside (RL392)

While John was recording the episode there were some chainsaw people outside, the kind that come in the night and make the toilet seat cold, called he tweeters and the woofers. Somebody is developing a piece of property down the hill from where John is, and they hired some guys to clear the trees. They were out there last Friday and again today on Monday. They were obviously a slap-dash organization and the guy in charge had the look that Skeeter (see RL124) used to have: A guy who has an all-alcohol lunch.

He is probably no stranger to the recovery community, but he might be exploiting it from within. John doesn’t see any contrition in him, but if he was no longer drinking a liquid lunch it would only be temporary. He has not turned his life and his will over to God, but he is still tilting against windmills. John knew he was a Skeeter through a Malcolm Gladwell Blink thing.

The second guy had light-blonde hair and might have thought he had a career in professional wakeboarding 25 years ago, like the oldest possible Tyler (Higham). He looked like a competent guy who can get things done, but the wakeboarding thing didn’t turn out, he probably did some commercial fishing time and now he is working on this crew because he might have had a little trouble, but he seems like someone who can do a job.

The third and youngest guy was like a Chris (Rogers) and looks like a really brow-beaten 30-year old who may be a veteran that fell out the bottom and his wife left him. He looks like a really bedraggled 30-year old and the others yell at him all the time while he keeps his eyes to the ground, beaten down. He is Merlin's favorite character in this story, and Merlin wonders if it is possible that these are all people who are going through some sort of family tumult right now.

These three fellows resemble folks who work for a Goodwill-type organization that helps people who are recovering from things, but they are still in the wild and have yet to find a safe harbor. Skeeter 2 runs a tight ship, as tight as can be run by a man who is drinking alcohol out of a soup bowl at lunch. Chris is a good name for the third guy because he looks like a guy who might die in a school bus that has been parked on a lot.

John was watching them doing dangerous work up in the tree and he was noticing how much they take the time to get their ropes straight instead of just say: ”Fuck it!” The guy could lean out a little bit and hit that rogue branch with the chain saw and there would be a 92% chance that it would just fall where he wants it to, but instead he puts the chainsaw down and hikes up the ropes to get himself into a slightly better position. At first glance John wouldn’t have thought that he was Mr. Safetly, but that might be why he is still working in the tree business.

They had 3 trucks with a healthy-looking dog in the cab of one of them, and an industrial sized wood chipper. A lot of things could go wrong in this particular occupation, and the guys on this crew are also the type of people who could have been commercial fishermen on crabbing ships, which are probably crab boats, in the off-season. John has too many pals who did that.

John having hired workers with too small chainsaws (RL392)

When John was getting ready to move from his farm, a guy came by and asked if John would like him to clean up some brush around here. John replied: ”Yeah, sure! I don’t have a ton of money, but I can pay you in cash!” The guy had a team of 4 or 5 really young people, which felt like a sober work party with a group of people who were in crisis.

There was a halfway-house vibe about the group, but it wasn’t clear what the house was halfway between, what two things it was in the middle of. Maybe he had gone to some youth center where incredibly vulnerable kids had just been released from juvenile hall or they had a real tenuous hold on civilization.

It is the Fagin scenario of exploiting kids, like when The Long Winters had the School of Rock kids be their band for a big Showbox show. It was a situation where 15 kids under the age of 12 had learned 25 Long Winters songs and did a pretty darn good job with them, but their parents were paying tuition for them to do that and at the end of the night John gave each one a $50 bill.

John was working with Sahm on some kind of window sill (see House, RL257) and when he came back around the guys had chopped a bunch of branches off. They all had a brow-beaten staring at the ground and the guy who was running the operation looked like a Skeeter (see RL124), a guy who was drinking alcohol with a soup spoon and his chainsaw was too small.

He had done a bad job and when John went to pay him he realized that he didn't have any cash except some rolled coins and he gave him $80 worth of rolled dimes and nickels, a shoebox full of money, and he definitely was mad about that, but he did a bad job, so this was a fair exchange and John still feels like he is owed something from him.

Furthermore, they didn’t take away the wood that they cut, so then John had to put an ad in Craigslist that said: ”Free firewood!” and he met a lot of interesting people that day because people who come to get free firewood in August are some real preppers. One of them was a lady in a Honda hatchback and John helped her load these giant logs into the back of her Honda. She said that you could heat your house all winter with this stuff. All afternoon people came by until the wood was finally gone and afterwards three more people came, asking for the wood.

One year later when John's neighbords had tree workers taking down some trees John noticed that their chainsaws were too small and it reminded him of the guy from the year before. When one of the guys was lopping branches off of an Alder Tree of course he was going to use a little chainsaw, but later they were down on the ground chopping down whole trees, but they were still using little lopper chainsaws, and that is working harder, not smarter.

John went down there and started talking to the chief, the old back-and-forth, playing the dozens, and he was sure it was the same guy. He is in better shape, maybe he cut his hair, and he got some gear now. Maybe last year he had gotten out of prison and got a bunch of kids to help him and then put that money into buying some equipment.

John getting wood chips for free (RL392)

The thing about wood chips is that some people in the game have more wood chips than they need while over here there are people who are looking for wood chips. It is the definition of an inefficient market because there is not a good clearing house for connecting chip-havers and chip-needers.

John actually had a use for some wood chips to do some mulching because having grass in your yard is not a very good use of land. You don’t want a big lawn because they use a lot of resources and they don’t give back. When there were tree workers in his neighborhood John went down to the oldest Tyler and asked him what he was going to do with all those wood chips when he was done.

Skeeter 2 was up in the tree and did not like John standing there because he has that natural instinct of somebody who is up to no good of: ”What are you looking at?” He was probably wondering if John was a neighbor who had a problem or somebody from the county who was there to see if he got his paperwork right, but he was too far up in the tree to deal with it and he didn’t seem to be very good at delegating. He didn’t say to Tyler: ”Go figure out what that guy’s problem is!”, and John was just standing there because he is not intimidated by a guy up in the tree with a chainsaw eyeballing him.

You can tell that Skeeter 2 is mean, but he was chewing his cheeks up in the tree and he was looking down and as soon as Tyler was talking to John he was really interested in what was going on. Tyler is a wakeboarder with a friendly face and he is not in charge of anybody, he is just trying to get down the ropes. He is about John’s age, while Skeeter 2 is a little older.

Tyler was shouting at John over the sound of their chainsaws: ”I don’t know, you want them?” Then Tyler turned around, Skeeter 2 was looking at him, and Tyler made a series of semaphore hand gestures specific to the trade, like a Hobo code, where he imitated a dump truck with his arms, and Skeeter 2 gave from way up in the tree a shrug like: ”Yeah, sure, he can have the chips!”

All of a sudden John felt like he was getting payback. If Skeeter had been on the ground with his chainsaw off he would probably have said: ”Yeah, for $50!” John doesn’t think Skeeter recognized him as the guy with the shoebox full of nickels.

They followed John to his house and dumped a big huge pile of steaming wood chips in the front yard, which is going to help him mulch, get rid of the grass and turn his front yard into a garden. Then Tyler didn’t know where he was and John had to drive him back. Not everybody can find their way back! Merlin is also perma-lost and is discovering new things he has been to many times. In a way that is a wonderful life.

Tree workers throwing a tree on a swimming pool (RL392)

The people next to the property in John's neighborhood where there were tree workers have a full-sized swimming pool underneath a prefab airplane hanger, made out of corrugated plastic rather than corrugated metal and they heat it with a wood-burning stove, so whenever you smell the smell of firewood it means they are heating their swimming pool.

This morning they continued cutting down trees, and they should not be cutting down a full-sized 100 foot tall fur tree because they don’t have the equipment and the mental muscle for it. In a densely populated area you can’t just drop a 100 foot tree because there are houses all around, so you have to climb way up there and cut the top of it out, but you also can’t just be hanging off of the side of a tree where the top-half is falling any which way and you need to have all kinds of ropes and pulleys. It is technical, and you need a bigger chainsaw!

John thinks that just before they started recording this episode the guys have felled a tree and it has landed on the roof of the swimming pool and the chainsaws have stopped and not started again. Merlin is very curious if that is true, but if John will show up down there and take a picture of the fact that he felled a tree and it landed on top of the wood-fired swimming pool, he is not going to be happy about that, but if John will just be like: ”Hey, just looking for some more wood chips!”, and he will stand around with them all, looking at the tree from 7 different angles, trying to figure out how to get it out of there.

John is going to go down and try to get a photograph of the situation with the tree on the swimming pool, but he is not sure he is going to be able to fully tell the story in photos. Skeeter 2 might not be fully bonded in his shirt (?), which is exactly why John feels like there has been a "Stop work!" over here because he is probably saying to somebody not to call so-and-so.

In a situation like Skeeter 2 is in, he thinks probably half the time that his shoddy work is going to get over on people, and he can run this scam, cut their trees down for half the regular price, but he is going to do a shit job of it and then he gets paid in nickels or his tree falls on a swimming pool and he ends up having to do i for half the money and he is going to be dealing with the consequences. He is surely on a national registry of some kind.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License