Packages

Requesting artisanal items from listeners (RL182, RW16)

In Episode 11 of Roadwork, John received a couple of unsolicited, but lovely packages, containing some socks, a hat with a horse on it, a nice letter, some Saudi Arabian money and some stamps. That precipitated the idea that people who make stuff out there could send it to John and he will tell them what he thinks about it. (RW16) The address to his office, the former United States Immigrant Station and Assay Office, erected in 1932 and turned into an art space called the Inscape Arts Center in 2005 is the following: (RW11)

Mr. John Roderick
815 Seattle Blvd
Office 332
Seattle, WA 98134

Right after that episode, John left town on a debut tour with his new GMC RV and no clear return date. A month later, he talks to Merlin about the topic on Episode 182 of Roderick on the Line while he visited him in San Francisco. John had gotten an email telling him that more than a dozen packages have piled up in front of John's door (RL182) and are starting to impede on people's progress down the hallway (RW16). John asked the building manager to put the boxes inside. The office is an art space and John is the one guy who doesn't routinely spray Freon into the halls, or push several mannequins that have been made into very awful art into the hall that will just sit there for several months, so he does not expect a lot of pushback when he comes home. (RL182) Now an enormous stack of boxes is covering his small couch, staring at him forlornly and making him feel that he is already a month behind (RW16) Some of the boxes are just from Amazon, maybe somebody had their stuff available on Amazon and was just going to order it for John. He does not have a wishlist there. There are a lot of priority mailboxes, there is a FedEx box, a ton of envelopes, maybe Christmas cards? John likes to open them by size, biggest to smallest. (RW16)

If John will find 12 new poorly made wallets in those boxes, then he might find this story to be a weird experiment, but if he will find salt & pepper shakers carved out of precious rocks, custom underwear saying "look who's talking too", a seven-sided lighthouse out of dreams, popsicle stick Lincoln Logs, or an Eiffel-tower made of tooth picks, he'll be psyched. Then his office will look cool and not just have a bunch of sad Vote Roderick paraphernalia. And if there are a couple of wallets, he will put them in rotation. (RL182)

Failing delivery services (RL183)

Upon his arrival to the office, John has received about 25 boxes, not counting the envelopes. There were also three UPS-stickers at the door. One of the packages had been sent back to Fargo and broke John's heart. They continue to banter about the white wine of delivery services, because sometimes you literally wait behind the door and when you look away for a second you find a notice that the package couldn't be delivered. Recently, Merlin ordered 6 new 5-packs of Ramen-noodles from Amazon and when they got handed off to USPS, his heart dropped a bit. The package took a few turns from California to the East Coast and back to San Francisco where it sat for a while, because sometimes it feels they get to it when they get to it, then it was out for delivery and then it had been delivered to the final destination in Chino, California. Amazon resent it, but not in time for Christmas.

The process of opening packages (RW16)

John has a special switchblade knife that he had bought in Italy many years ago after he had lost his Spyderco knife on the beach during the Cannes Film Festival. It was the Spyderco Police Model, a great knife that he had for years and years. Later on he found this wonderful switchblade in Italy. Those knifes are legal in Italy and are one of their major exports: olive oil and switchblades. Embarrasingly, that knife is now at home while John is at his office and all he has available is a pair of scissors from IKEA. They are probably an unfit implement for this job, but they have previously stodd him in good stead. They have remained sharp and he is not going to diss them just because they are from IKEA.

Lindsey Nolan, Whitehorse, Yukon, Canada (RW14)

This little bag comes from from Whitehorse in the Yukon territories of Canada, which is an exciting place where John had been several times. On the customs label it says "Ballcap, Postcard". Inside there is bubble wrap and a postcard gratulating him to the great news about his coach. The sender encourages John to drive it to Alaska and stop at Whitehorse where he could get free parking at the Walmart or at a hidden driveway at a cabin. They are indebted to John and Merlin and Dan for so many years of entertainment. If John wears the enclosed baseball cap in Whitehorse, he would avoid parking tickets. It is an official cap that would be used by a city employee, saying Whitehorse the "Wilderness City". It is flame orange and has a piece of reflective stripe around the entire back. Above the slogan there is a river boat, like a stern paddle wheel steamer, which appears to be the logo of Whitehorse, because the city is located at the Yukon River, a river that goes all the way through Alaska and which in the Canada portion is still navigated by actual old-fashioned steam boats. It is a beautiful hat that will save John from hunters and from parking tickets. Luckily, the back of the cap is connected with plastic dots. Velcro and leather belt loops are garbage. Every time John sees velcro on a garment, it doesn't feel good to him, which is also a reason why he likes Filson Jackets so much, because they reject velcro. In the past, ski coats had buttons, snap wrist closures or elasic wool sleeve ends, and the Gore-Tex often just had a snap enclosure. But at some point in the 1990s it switched over to velcro and John didn't want that. People have no taste and they were glad about it, but those guys are idiots! The postcard in the package is old-fashioned with a very nice picture of an old car, like a Chevrolet from the 1930:s, but a Canadian model, made in Windsor, pulling behind it a handmade camper trailer. Travelling the Alaska highway when it was still a rodded mudroad in this old-fashioned wire-wheeled 1930s Chevvy with a home-made trailer must be wonderful!

Patty King, Huntsville, Texas (RW16)

The package from Patty King from Huntsville cost $18.77 just to mail it. It was inexpertly wrapped in skyblue packing tape with little leaves on it, sealed by the overlapping flaps method, meaning that the box has been repurposed. It contained a handknit pillow of an owl that looked like a lose-knit big sweater, but when you turn it over, it turned out to be an enourmous fat owl with big owl eyes, an owl beak and little owl wings, the corners knitted in the form of owl ears, but in the shape of a pillow you would have on your bed where John will put this immediately. It is so beautiful, he can not even describe it in words! There is also a copy of the book "A beautiful question: Finding nature's deep design" by Frank Wilczek. Inside the book is a card with a little silver seal that has a checkmark on it, saying "The owl is guaranteed to be friendly, 100% free of feathers (the person knows that John is allergic to feathers), free of weaponized pathogens, voodoo curses, hidden cameras and gluten."

John remembers the macramé owl era, but he had no particular connection to that style of craft. There was an owl living in the tree behind their house when John was little, but then John had a famously unusal experience (see RL26) where he woke up in the middle of the night in his room and all of his many bed pillows had turned into owls. It was not a lucid dream, he was surely awake! John recognized that this was pretty unusual, but there was nothing more to do for him than roll over, go back to sleep and trust that these owls had it under control. He would not shoo them away. He grabbed the nearest owl and cuddled up to it and went back to sleep. At the time he had never heard that owls actually represent ufos in the ufo-abduction community.

The Walter-family, Decatur, Alabama (RW16)

This light blue box from Tiffany's, a little bigger than a shoe box, is very well packed. It comes from Decatur, Alabama together with a photo style Christmas chard. They have misspelled John's name with an extra D, but there is no crime in that. A ton of plastic grocery bags from Publix and Walmart fulfilled the role of foam peanuts, taped closed with 10 little pieces of Scotch tape up and down all across the front of the box. Bubble wrap! They couldn't have possibly packed this better, but still the shippers from USPS managed to break it. Inside was a very delicate glass sphere that was broken, and a little weird piece of folk art woodsman that was intact. His head is a walnut, his legs and arms are dried prunes, wearing a German mountain villager custom, a felt hat, a beer stein of Löwnbräu and on the other side a hook for a hand that conclusively must have contained a pretzel. He is on top of a little felt stand containing a music box. This type of figurine is called a Zwetschgenmännla.

Over the years, John has spoken at length about the German tendency to be outwardly Christian, but secretly pagan. There is this weird tree worship in the forests of Germany, but it is less about druids and more about the wolk (?)

There is a letter enclosed in the package: They had picked up the item at a yard sale and it could very well be an original hand-made one-of-a-kind item. It is not home-made, but they still felt they should forward this to John for his collection. They lovingly call him prune man. Because John mentioned earlier he was writing lyrics again, maybe he could be an inspiration. This is one of the weirdest items they have ever seen or owned, he has been in the house for many years and they do not believe him cursed, but your mileage may vary. The Walter-family.

Dan thinks John should have thrown the package right in the trash, because his name was misspelled. The background why he didn't: John has performed live on his local radio station KEXP many times. They are all good friends, they have done immeasurable things for The Long Winters and they know who John is, but somewhere along the way during their pledge drives, he gave them $50 and the person who took down his information got his name wrong, spelled with two "D":s. KEXP will send him stuff from time to time that is addressed properly, but all their fundraising material comes with two "D":s, so every time something comes in the mail with two Ds, he does just throw it in the garbage, but this package deserved better. (RW17)

Jennifer Braun, Bethel Park, Pennsylvania (RW16)

This packages comes from Jennifer Braun from Bethel Park, Pennsylvania. At the size of a shoe box, it looks like it was once served another life, fairly well-taped with professional seeming air poppy bags, and inside is not a handmade thing, but a Stanley Thermos in a very large 64oz Growler size. John went skiing recently, they had forgotten their hot chocolate in a Stanley thermos in the car and when they came back late at night, it was still too hot to drink.

The enclosed letter thanks John for the podcasts. The sender is absorbed in the conversation and laughs a lot. If John likes to return it, the person has given John her R.E.I. Employee number, she was on John's trivia team on MaxFunCon East (June 12-14, 2015 at the UCLA Lake Arrowhead Conference Center). John remembers her! He is normally not into this kind of trivia games, but he somehow even became team captain and in the end, he felt he could go into battle with those guys. Sadly, they didn't even come third in the end. They had a lot of giftedness, but it didn't match the pop culture trivia questions they got that day.

John is not sure what to put in that thermos, 64oz is a lot of coffee! If back in the days he had seen all the cigarettes he smoked in a week on one pile, he would have been appalled by himself. But when you only have 4 left in your pack, it keeps you rolling along and creates a sense of urgency, because you don't want to run out. So if John would put a whole pot of coffee into this thermos, knowing that this is all the coffe he is going to drink today, he would be committing to 64oz of coffee! Maybe soup seems like a good idea? John is super-thrilled about this gift!

Troy Reimink, Grand Rapids, Michigan (RW16)

This package from Grand Rapids, Michigan is a square box, and contains six small boxes, all pretty light. It has been sent as a USPS priority mailbox, packed with newspaper, and there is a letter right on the top. The letter is dated November 14th, 2015, sealed with one piece of scotch tape and four stickers, all saying

"That's unfortunate. The original artisan fortune cookie. Our signature collection. Handmade cookies. Accurate fortunes. Authentic ingrediends. Artisenal happiness. #blessed" That's unfortunate, Fortune: "You made Ryan Cossling very angry yesterday." Twitter: @thatsunfortuna.

The enclosed letter comes from Troy Reimink, typed on an electric Typewriter, probably an IBM Selectric. His company is the leader in small-batch fortune cookies, a unique farm-to-stomach recipe, crafted with love, etc. Troy has really trunk the fortune cookie water of the whole marketing plan. He is making a weird thing. The six little chinese food containers contain two gorgeous cookies each, individually wrapped in tissue. They look like little grapes. John is gluten free again since New Year's eve, so he won't eat them. His daugther finds fortune cookies the best cookie, but they don't let her eat chocolate, so maybe in the absense of chocolate that is actually true? The problem is just that the company might not have forseen that their fortune cookies might be eaten by a 4-year old and the fortunes might be, if not blue, then at least snarky.

Dan feels a little bit marketed to, compared to the other boxes, but John says that he requested artisanal products and that what he got. Troy did not break the law. He has an artisanal fortune cookie company and those are certainly not wealthy people, even if he sells them for $5 a pop. It seems like a labour of love.

The company's website is a Squarespace site and that was a perfect segue to the sponsor of the show. Even www.johnroderick.com is a Squarespace site.

Amazon-box, North Las Vegas, Nevada (RW16)

This package from North Las Vegas seems to have come straight from Amazon. Inside is another box, very heavy relative to it's size, with no markings on the outside. It was professionally taped by someone who has taped thousands of boxes before, had a wave of peppermint smell, and inside were 6 little secondary boxes, each of them 2 boxes taped together, making a total of 12 boxes. It says: "Stop wasting soap!" Stack infinity soap, innovative waste-free design. The name on the envelope is written in tiny letters.

Hi John, I designed these soap bars that never wear down into unusable pieces, because they nest. Made in Vermont, shipped through Canada via Las Vegas.

Sean O'Connor from New York, New York (RW16)

This medium flat rate box from the USPS comes from New York City and the adress indicates that the sender works for bit.ly, the URL-shortener that John read alound at the Rendezvous series when they published the link to the next ticket buying. Dan thinks bit.ly is the big IBM of URL shorteners. They are still really small, but they have some bigger partners like Adobe. They are probably at the peak of success for URL-shortening companies.

Inside the box is a tote bag, saying "Bit.ly, the power of the link". It has a little blowfish on it, the happiest puffer fish he ever saw. Enclosed was a letter written on bit.ly stationary by the Director of Application Engineering at bit.ly (yl.tib|naes#yl.tib|naes) who knew about the link att the Rendezvous shows and heard in Episode 11 that John likes to receive packages from his listeners. He included some bit.ly schwag, people also spell it "swag", but the official Roadwork-approved version is now "schwag". Schwag is the free stuff you get, swag is fancy bling. Furthermore there is a XXL shirt, strangely covered with cat hair, alternatively everyone passed the shirt around and rubbed their head on it, a ton of little bit.ly stickers, some orange wayfarer style sunglasses. When John buys a new garment in the store, it always goes into the washer first, because nobody knows what chemicals it went through during the manufacturing process. John will wash this shirt hot to try and shrink it a little bit.

Victoria Hurd (now Victoria Russell), Pasadena, California (RW16)

This package from Pasadena comes from the company SAFCell Inc in a priority mailbox with a sealed airbag, called "sealed air, product care". Inside a bubble wrap packing bag there is a giftwrapped present with a hand-tied orange/red/green plaid bow and a Christmas style blue/red box with a Christmas tree. Inside of that is lots of tissue paper, wrapping a mounted animal head from a very small goat, like a piece of taxidermy, except the goat is knitted out of wool and mounted on a drink coaster sized slice of a tree branch, complete with bark on the outside that has been shellacked. The horns of the goat are gold-painted sticks that kind of resemble pretzel sticks. It has little teeny buttons for eyes and a little pink thread nose. It is spectacular! This kind of thing is called crochet taxidermy. The tag says "Handmade by @VickyTickyTavi", a person John knows very well from the Internet. It is lovely! Similar to the owl pillow it is knitted out of raw wool and the way it is mounted on the tree branch with the bark is exactly what the little prune man is standing on, except the prune man is on a piece of birch and the goat is on what appears to be pine. The enclosed large postcard pictures a B-47 Stratojet. The sender is not promoting a product. On the tag there is an engraving of a mongoose, the Rikki Tikki Tavi.

Ed Plocher, St.Louis, Missouri PostCard (RW16)

This postcard from Ed shows a picture of the Eads bridge in St. Louis, a steel bridge with brick pillars from 1874. The card is written in someones distinctive cursive handwriting, probably from a male person, with very long tails that interfere with the words below and make it hard to read. The sender enjoys hearing John discuss why cities were founded in certain locations on Roderick on the Line.

Gabriel Piller, St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada (RW16)

This purple envelope by Gabriel Piller from Newfoundland with a full-color photograph of Bettie Page down on one knee, in a purple bra and panty set with thigh-high black sheer stockings, matching black above-the-elbow sheer gloves, black pumps, facing the camera while teasing her hair with her two gloved hands and maybe the most genuine smile John has ever seen in a Bettie Page photo. On the back of the envelope, the sender has drawn a ballpoint-pen X accross the seal so you know if it was tampered with. The letter inside is on Bettie Page Stationery, with her kneeling down (one of her famous poses), wearing a white lace bra and panty set and white above the elbow gloves, the same black sheer stockings, teasing her hair with one hand whilst appearing to slap her own bottom, looking over her shoulder seductively with friendly eyes, but not quite the genuine laughing smile of the envelope. The back of the letter is chiffon green, but the front is in different shades of pink candy stripe, like an ice cream parlour. Enclosed were some nazi stamps. How many times have nazi stamps been delivered in a Bettie Page themed envelope? Maybe more than once, but it can't be that many times! John does not have any nazi paraphernalia at all. According to the sender, these stamps are intended for historical study / professional curiosity and for no other purpose. The stamps are in an envelope that seems to come from an auction. There are 4 stamps, very interestingly 3 were part of a sheet and still have a portion of the sheet, all in perfect condition.

Vicky and Rick, North Holliwood, California (RW16)

This letter from North Hollywood comes in a silver envelope from Heard & Shaw. It is truly a Christmas card, depicting a man and a woman dressed in original Star Trek uniforms, sitting cross-legged on a duvet. He is wearing red-tinted sunglasses, beard and shaggy head, making the live long and prosper hand sign. The female character is wearing a blue Spock shirt, pants, Vulcan ears and eyebrows in Vulcan style, rocking a Bettie Page haircut, holding a sign saying "live long and prosper". Under the picture, there is an epigram:

"Whatever I have given, I have gained" - Leonard Nimoy

John recognizes those people, and the woman in the photograph is VickyTickiTavi. The card says "Peace be with you, Merry Christmas, Vicky and Rick".

There are now 11 packages left (RW16). Dan wants John to open packages that look suspicious. We are no longer in the realm of large boxes, but we are opening small boxes now. (RW17)

Joel Housman, Warrenton, Virginia (RW17)

This package from Warrenton, Virginia is small, but heavy for its size. John has been in Virginia a lot, but can't remember having been in Warrenton. The package has a powerful smell of popcorn and soap. It is from Joel Housman, a long time 5by5 listener. Joel menioned to his wife Steffanie that John was seeking crafty items. She had started a side business while stuck at home for 3 months recovering from brain surgery. She makes hand-made beer- or wine-soap and the package contains 6 soaps, 3 beer, 2 vine and 1 normal. The long letter references the Hilton in Crystal City. John remembers having met Joel after a show at The Birchmere and they bumped into each other again in the streets of Alexandria. The flavors were Pumpkin Lager, Alexandria Beer, Dark Wood Flip, Southern Gent, and John's favorites Pinot and Champagne. John typically prefers a floral scent over musky essential oils.

Once there was a store on Broadway with essential oils and John always knew the person working there. It was either a girl he was dating or it was the gay best friend of the girl he was dating, so he spent way too much time in that store and realized that sandy, woody, patchouli scents were a real problem for him. Every time one of his lady friends would show up with an earthy scent he would be repulsed. He always liked floral scents or citrusy scents. A musky scent communicates animalia to people, but John is a civilized Louis Catours (??) kind of guy.

Linus Boman, London, England (RW17)

This envelope by Linus Boman is from London, England. John's name is written i a Y'old English calligraphy kind of way. It is quite rigid and says "Do not bend" on it. The envelope is full of artisanal greeting cards written in a very ornate, florid type. They are beautiful, heavy cards with little clipped corners and matching envelopes. The company is called Calligraphuck. The cards say for example "Happy birthday, fuckface!", "Thank you for your help, motherfucker!", "I fucking love you!", "Merry fucking Christmas", or "Congratu-fucking-lations!". There is also a notebook saying "Fucking genius", wrapping paper, saying "Merry fucking Christmas!", or "Bitch!", a sign suitable for framing saying "Home sweet fucking home!" and a journal saying "Getting shit done!" Those are all very profane, but also very beautiful. Swearing is much more casual for people in England because there is not that presbyterian moralizing. There is a letter saying "You magnificent bastard!" and the sender thanks him for the many hours of entertainment. John has a lot of friends that he could use those cards for.

Gregory Mackay, Melbourne, Australia (RW17)

Boxes from overseas are a bit different than the standard USPS-boxes. This one has a stamp on it saying "ID recorded" and is sent by Gregory Mackay from Australia. It is pretty well taped with black duct tape, the good kind that John uses himself. There is a letter on nice stock with a logo depicting a little red factory building at the top with a custom designed typeface saying "Gregory Mackay, Cartoonist". Is it a font or a typeface? Dan says that a typeface is the set of characters regardless of the size, the font is the implementation of that in a certain size on the screen. John cannot tell if this is a hand-done font used in a typewritten letter or whether he has such meticulous handwriting that he has actually written this by hand with a pen. He must have used a straightedge or he is a robot or UFO. He has written a very elegant form of letter in an Australian style with the date at the top, then John's name and address and then his own name and address. Gregory is responding to John's callout for listener concoctions. Enclosed are two books: One is a children's comic called "Anders and the Comet", the other book is featuring comics made for the website part of vice.com.

Carlos Alberto, Miami, Florida (RW17)

This package by Carlos Alberto from Miami, Florida is sent in a box from Staples Copy & Print that got a little munched in transit because it is not a very sturdy box. It is wrapped in an aviation navigation map of the Jacksonville, Florida region. John had once wallpapered his dorm room with this very beautiful style of map containing altitudes of all the mountains and a lot of details about all the airports. The package contains a selection of aviation maps, some are from Jacksonville, some from Miami. It contains even a business card from the Flying Academy in Miami. They have met at John Hodgman's show in Portland. Carlos is a flight instructor and wants to give John an hour of free flight instruction next time John is in the area. John has now several invitations to go down to Florida, a couple of friends in Orlando invited him to visit, but it is a long way down there. Dan agrees. When he was living in Orlando, coming to RailsConf in Portland was always a drag.

Andrew Crusoe, Reedsburg (RW64)

This package from Andrew Crusoe from Reedsburg (a person that both Dan and John recognize from the Internet) had been sitting on John's piano for quite a few weeks. Andrew sent him one of his own books called "The Truth Beyond the Sky", the first part of a "mythic science fiction" book series. Mythic fiction is themed like fairy tales or legends. Mythic science fiction might be about elves in Spaceships or orcs with light sabres. Andrew wants John to remember him when the giant claw of Supertrain is deployed! The book is for readers from 11-111 years, but John's daughter is 6 years old, so it is not for her yet. John will put it on his bookshelf of friend's books. Dan wonders if this gift is self-promotional, and if Andrew just wants 10:s of thousands of people to hear about it, but John finds that okay, because listeners of this program are members of an extended family of shared affection. If you enjoy this program long term you need some commonality, not only like a shared interest for muscle cars, but more like sharing a world of ideas. Until now John did not receive anything overly opportunistic.

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