RL13 - Then There Was Pump Chili

This week Merlin and John talk about:

  • Merlin suggesting to use Long Winters songs in advertising (The Long Winters)
  • John playing on Jonathan Coulton’s harmonica (Currents)
  • The Ronettes, Phil Spector, best Christmas album (Music)
  • How John imagines Merlin’s office, using index cards (Merlin Mann)
  • The Decemberists, Colin Meloy (Music)
  • John living in a house called Amityville
  • Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, The Yardbirds (Music)
  • Ronnie James Dio (Music)
  • Merlin’s drug years (Merlin Mann)
  • Metal bands in Alaska, Ozzy at West High, The Scorpions (Music)
  • Merlin saying that people ”passed” instead of ”died” (Merlin Mann)
  • Saying things by not saying them (Factoids)
  • Hot food and pump chili from 7-Eleven and Arby’s (Food and Drink)
  • Reading books called Synchronicity and Diversity (Early Days)
  • Truckers peeing on pop cans (Conspiracy)
  • Playing catch vs having a catch (Factoids)
  • Conspiracy theories and keeping secrets (Conspiracy)
  • Ted Stevens’ 40-years in the senate party (Stories)
  • Bohemian Club (Stories)
  • John having bought a sailor suit (Style)
  • History of a jacket at the thrift store (Style)
  • Phone numbers and license plates (Factoids)
  • Judas Priest (Music)
  • John getting into the podcast business (Podcasting)

The Problems:

  • John’s commercial opportunities; °
  • Dio’s “Oh, Holy (Diver) Night”; °
  • the steer’s troubled path from dandelion field to doily thingee; °
  • ★★★★ men, kneeling to be all they can-can be; °
  • dialing down the ping-pong talk; °
  • harmonica convergence with Blind “Melon” Jefferson; °
  • directing John towards the third hole; °
  • Spokane’s Amityville Horror; °
  • Clapton and Beck concerns; °
  • a natural assumption of Englishness; °
  • bad judgement re: Merlin’s sailor suit; °
  • band-to-drug preferences; °
  • many metal memories; °
  • finding consolation in an orange flight suit; °
  • benefitting from Scorpions’ hop to Asia; °
  • John bist rocken mit Matthias Jabs; °
  • again with The Cold War; °
  • speculation on J. Edgar Hoover’s head games; °
  • Locke v. Hobbes and kayfabe v. omertà; °
  • what goes unsaid in the South; °
  • backronymous Arby’s and their liquid meats (yes, sir!); °
  • John’s complex relationship with BMs and BMI; °
  • return of The Simple Butcher; °
  • the exponential problems of dander; °
  • locavore fistfights hit the PNW; °
  • a more plausible explanation for how truckers probably pee; °
  • regional penetration on the Trail of Steers; °
  • the Patty Hearst place near the Phở; °
  • Synchronicity and Diversity; °
  • the real secret behind conspiracy theories; °
  • yet more talk about dander, pee, and steer; °
  • John struggles with a bespoke jacket from the Blitz; °
  • leathery Grinder on trial; °
  • John formally falls back on this lucrative podcast racket; °
  • at length, John’s intimacy with the corridors of power; °
  • and, just really so much talk about “Pump Chili.” °

The show title refers to John filling up the paper tray of his $0.99 chili dog at 7-Eleven with pump chili and an extensive discussion about disgusting cheap meat. A lot happens between the cow and that pump.

They have five listeners now, but it might also be someone downloading twice, once from their room and once from their mom’s room.

Merlin asks John if he is using ASCAP or BMI and the answer is BMI. Then he starts singing ”Roderick on the Line”, borrowing a melody from The Long Winters.

Merlin likes John’s bell and he usually talks too loud and over the bell and when John gets home Merlin wants John to use the bell more.

Merlin visited his in-laws last night for his mother-in-law’s birthday and the TV was on like it always is. There is a show called ”on the red carpet” that is just about people literally being photographed on the red carpet.

They talked about Murmur last time and Merlin mentioned a friend who was not out of the closet yet and who called it a Country and Western album.

Draft version
The segments below are drafts that will be incorporated into the rest of the Wiki as time permits.

Merlin suggesting to use Long Winters songs in advertising (RL13)

Because John doesn’t drink and Merlin does, Merlin has to explained to John which of his songs should be in which commercial, but John was probably not listening because Merlin was drinking. Merlin hasn’t worked out the exact instrumentation, obviously it would be John. The advertisers would just be paying BMI or Josh (Rosenfeld, from John's label Barsuk) or John’s mom or whoever owns John’s music. Merlin suggests an Indian company, the kind that gets intoxicated or the kind that answers phones, no ping pong! The dot, not the whoowhoo. Merlin acts this slogan out: ”Completely redesigned for a new generation, integrated MP3 players and air conditioning, Jetta 2012. More than… shapes”

There is one song that would be really good for a Miller Beer commercial, but Merlin can’t remember which one. John was addressing the audience saying that if anybody from Miller was listening, any one of John’s songs would be great to license for a nation-wide beer campaign, even though he doesn’t drink beer. Some songs really get used a lot in those commercials and in movies, but they are all by Bob Seger.

John playing on Jonathan Coulton’s harmonica (RL13)

John was recording this episode at Jonathan Coulton’s home studio and he interrupted Merlin by blowing into a Bass Pro Shops branded harmonica that is in they key of C and that tasted like baby powder. Blind Lemon Jefferson (Merlin says Blind Melon Jefferson) used to do that. Merlin can’t play along with John’s C-harmonica because he can only play his riff in E and he doesn’t have a capo. He does know the Marine Corps theme song (Marines’ Hymn), which is a very useful piece of music to know when living in San Francisco, and he asks John to start around the third hole, but that is what she said - no easy ping pong! John is trying to play the theme on the harmonica, but what comes out is not it. Jonathan Coulton was not in the room while John was sitting in his grandfather’s Yale chair.

The Ronettes, Phil Spector, best Christmas album (RL13)

Merlin has been listening to The Ronettes, he almost said Ramones, but that would be the Billy Joel guy. He has not been listening to Jerry Lee Lewis (nickname The Killer), but to Phil Spector who did probably the greatest Christmas album of all time (A Christmas Gift for You from Phil Spector by Blue Jeans and The Ronettes). John thinks that the greatest Christmas album of all time is Mannheim Steamroller’s first Christmas record. Merlin learned about their background and was very surprised. They are not from Mannheim and there is no steamroller, but it is a service market and they should call BMI.

How John imagines Merlin’s office, using index cards (RL13)

Merlin just ate a pear tart and feels a little goofy. He only has two 3x5 cards left and writes on them really small, which is the opposite of their original purpose. John doesn’t understand Merlin’s system and Merlin offers to send a picture of his desk. John hasn’t been in Merlin’s office yet because Merlin got it after the last time John was in San Francisco, he can imagine very well what it is like: There are chew spit cups all around, but Merlin hasn’t done that since 1999, there is a poster on the wall of a white Lamborghini with a bikini girl leaning on it or a poster with 10 garages and a different kind of supercar in front of each one. There is also a picture of Farrah Fawcett that Merlin has drawn a vagina on, and a little coal stove. Merlin says it is like a fucking Dickens in there, with his assistant wearing a scarf and a top hat and warming his hands over the coal stove.

The Decemberists, Colin Meloy (RL13)

John is pretty sure Colin Meloy from The Decemberists has a song with a Barrows myth in it. He used to tease him a lot about all his songs being about pirates (see RL26) and at one point he told John that they don’t have a single song about pirates. His songs are about secret pirates with Masters Degrees who have written a thesis and haven’t lost a fucking limb.

Merlin likes to discuss the toilet paper issue at some point (which as it seems has something to do with Colin Meloy, see RL0), but John has a lot of strong feelings about toilet paper. He once told an anecdote and the parlance he used had Merlin literally laughing out loud. That anecdote has now born further fruit. There is a character in Wildwood (see also RL26) named after John and his name is derived from that toilet paper incident.

John living in a house called Amityville (RL13)

John lived in Spokane, Washington for a couple of years while he was in college, and during one of those years he lived in a house that they called Amityville because it was barn-shaped like the Amityville Horror house. As you do when you are a Sophomore in college, they tried hard to popularize around campus that it was a party house that people should call Amityville and even after John stopped living there it was still called like that. In the 1980s you could have ten guys living in a Victorian house and everybody was paying $25 a month in rent, but those days are gone now and there is surely a family of yuppies living there who have no idea about the terrible things that happened there. The blood on the walls was all splatter blood from youthful hijinks and none of it seeped out of the wall.

Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, The Yardbirds (RL13)

One of Merlin’s least favorite things that Eric Clapton has ever done is his commercial for Michelob (Merlin said Miller Beer), and he has done a lot of bad things. Jeff Beck is important because he helped us get Eddie Van Halen but Merlin thinks he is a little overrated. John is not going to defend Jeff Beck, but he is a good guitar player while Eric Clapton is indefensible.

When Merlin grew up he thought he should be really into Beck-Ola and Blow by Blow, but maybe it skipped a generation because he just could not get into that. None of the music that he was supposed to like was likable. The Yardbirds did not age well and they are no Led Zeppelin III. You can make a lot of dough and he was on a Budweiser commercial. For a while Budweiser hired the actual talent behind a lot of famous songs and they had them do their songs to the tune of that one Budweiser song. Ronnie James Dio did one to the tune of Rainbow In The Dark.

Ronnie James Dio (RL13)

Yesterday John was walking through JFK where they were playing rocking Christmas carols, turned up a little bit louder than what you normally get in public spaces. There was a familiar voice over the general PA that sounded like ”Like a Rainbow in the Dark” and it was Ronnie James Dio singing a Christmas carol, which can’t be true! John hadn’t had a chance to google whether it was him, but his voice is unmistakable. It was not Rainbow in the Dark, but it was him singing in his Rainbow in the Dark voice from that era, the production cues were from that era.

It was like Rudolph’s Rocking Christmas (maybe it was God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen) and there were three things about it that were terrible which made think John at first, before he could quite place his voice that it has to be David Coverdale, who is the only Metal vocalist with so little taste, but it turned out to be Dio because there is no other voice that sounds like that. Merlin says that in interviews he seems really cool, but he is dead now.

In 2004 when everybody was crazy with Howard Dean, Merlin’s friend Matt started a site called Dio for America, a whole fake website about James Dio running for president, everybody going horribly awry, he threw a priest in a river. You have to be born in America to run for president and John thought Dio was English, but Merlin was positive he was from New York. He is actually American from New Hampshire, the granite state. What about Vivian Campbell (He is from Ireland)?

John assumes that people who wear a lot of chainmail are from England where you can literally find chainmail with short sleeves, leather gauntlets and stuff, and Dio wore a lot of gauntlets. He was a very small guy and was in a band called Elf because of that. John is so embarrassed and his Metal credibility just went through the floor. Merlin thought the same thing for a long time because all he had ever heard was Rainbow, Black Sabbath and Dio, he doesn’t know Elf. Black Sabbath is Birmingham’s finest! Of course John listens to Heaven & Hell, which Merlin thinks is one of the most underrated records ever and easily one of the best Black Sabbath albums.

Merlin’s drug years (RL13)

Merlin didn’t smoke a ton of pot and he didn't sit around dark dingy places with metalheads getting all dark. He was never a Melvins stoner, but John was a Melvin stoner for quite a while. He liked to sit there without chatting, just everybody staring at a wet spot on the floor. Those drugs were not for happy, but for sad. When he first smoked pot he got all giddy and let’s live in a tree house together, but later it was more that the world was coming to and end, the apocalypse was happening and it was just going to be them sitting and watching some guy play World of Warcraft.

Merlin did have different bands for different drugs. For hash it was Joy Division, for whip-its it was Siouxsie and the Banshees and he will always associate an Amyl Nitrate rush in the locker room with Yngwie Malmsteen and AC/DC. It is a gay sex drug called Rush, a cheap high you can buy at the sex store, but Merlin didn’t know that before it was too late. You walk past the dildos, eyes front, and Merlin should not have been wearing an extremely tight sailor suit because he had been working out a lot. Merlin paid for it with a roll of silver dollars that he pulled out of his zipper. One time Merlin was snorting Rush at an AC/DC concert and he though he was in an unobtrusive place high up in the stands, but he was just a few feet away from the canons and you get a whang headache with this stuff. They were there to see Yngwie. His videos on YouTube are so worth watching.

Metal bands in Alaska, Ozzy at West High, The Scorpions (RL13)

People in the United States don't understand what it was like to be a kid in Alaska in the 1970s and 1980s. Everyone loved Heavy Metal, but no Heavy Metal band except the Scorpions deemed Alaska worth a stop on their tour. They were starved for AC/DC or Van Halen to come through, but all they got were the 3rd tier Metal bands like Dokken or Ratt. Those were great at the time, they scratched the itch, but now John talks to people his age who have seen AC/DC seven times and who could drive for 20 minutes to see Van Halen on his World Invasion Tour.

The one exception was that Ozzy Osbourne and Randy Rhoads played a concert in the West High School auditorium in 1980. It was the biggest event and people still talk about Ozzy at West High! John was in 7th grade and he missed it because his mom didn't allow him to go to a Heavy Metal concert. They didn’t officially broadcast the concert, but the DJs from the local album-oriented Rock station just live-broadcast from the parking lot. John sat at home in his orange Air Force flight suit that he wore any time he wasn’t in school clothes and he listened to the Ozzy concert on the radio, which was like broadcasting from a strip club ”You should see the bosoms on these ladies! These girls are totally naked!” and then reading jokes from Playboy. A lot of John’s friends went and if they sat and talked for an hour they will say ”Dude, you totally missed it!”

The Scorpions are the working men of Heavy Metal Rock and they came through Alaska every single time on their way to Japan to play a sold-out show at the Sullivan Arena. There are some Alaska recordings on World Wide Live, their famous 1980s live album, with the screaming audience added in. Merlin couldn’t finish reading The Canterbury Tales, and he can’t tell you how much time he spent with the guitar for the Practicing Musician article on No One Like You and on Bohemian Rhapsody, massacring both.

John saw the Scorpions in Spokane a few years later. He was a big kid even when he was 17/18 years old and he used to get right up on the wall, right to the front with all the tough guys. At one moment the guitar player Matthias Jabs (John couldn’t remember his name at first) looked right at him (see also RL48), like ”Du bist rockin!”

Their Wikipedia page has a colored timeline with all the band members. They kept trying to make Michael Schenker the lead guitar player and he kept screwing up and couldn’t stay off the drugs, so they got Matthias Jabs in there who is a workhorse. Merlin was a big Scorpions fan, and how could you not be? They were the greatest at the time, but they were also a little weird.

There was a time when Merlin did one hour practice in a church basement. Their band didn’t even have a name. Merlin can’t sing, but he was singing Still Loving You and rehearsed it once. It was an awesome song! John and Merlin sing it in a mocking way during the show. Herman Rarebell (their drummer) has a great name! Udo Dirkschneider from Accept looked a little bit like Lars Ulrich’s dad. The reason that this music was so resonant at the time is that those were really heavy Cold War years and the fact that these bands were German gave their Heavy Metal a deeper impact.

There was more frission to their apocalyptic scenarios and their big power ballads because they were facing annihilation of the Red Army. 99 Luftballons was a great Pop song! Merlin thinks that feeling really came through in the music of Falco who put it well in ”Amadeus! Amadeus!” He is also dead. Merlin had a Maxell XLII, one side of it was Falco III by Falco and the other side was Robert Palmer’s Riptide, the one with Addicted to Love. That was an outlier for Merlin in 1985 or whenever that was.

Merlin saying that people ”passed” instead of ”died” (RL13)

John remarks that Merlin says that somebody passed when they have died, just as they say in the Souths where Jesus is the only one who dies, an anachronism that has come up a lot recently because John’s mom was going through a phase talking about the baby (John's daughter) saying that the baby was having BMs. John wanted her to stop that because it is okay to say poo and saying that the baby had three BMs today makes John very uncomfortable, like he was in some kind of insane asylum where you would talk about people’s BMs in the sense of adults pooing in their pants. It is like talking about menses, a word that is just a little too technical. Merlin saying ”passed” sounds like a doctor talking about your aunt. John will say that somebody died. It might very well be a Southern thing that Merlin has picked up and it is very euphemistic.

Saying things by not saying them (RL13)

In the South almost everything is communicated by what is not said, which sounds ridiculous, and as somebody who literally never stops talking Merlin had trouble communicating with people. There is a certain kind of code, not just about race and class, and so much is based on what you never say. Merlin always kept talking right through that! It is not even just the super-easy passive-aggressive suburban stuff, but certain kinds of stuff that nobody needs to say. The fact nobody says it makes it powerful.

The things that don’t need to be said in Alaska are ”You are a fucking faggot!”, like ”Shut up and get out of my way!” There is no cultural milieu that needs to be navigated, but it is just ”Are you going to bulldoze that acre of land or should I? Are we going to use your bulldozer or my bulldozer?” In New York 10 million people are all trying to use one public restroom at the same time and you have to say what is on your mind because you have other people to navigate. In Alaska you have the opposite problem: Everyone has one square mile of land (2.5 sq km) that could be theirs alone and the question is much more like: ”Why are you breathing my air? If you don’t have a reason, why don’t you move on?”

In Seattle people have to stand on the same corner of the sidewalk at the same time. Both of those kinds of living seem very stressful to Merlin, but it depends on what your threshold is for other people, which for Merlin is none. He is constantly anxious about things like that! In Alaska he would get along fine because he would never have to see another person if he didn’t want to, except the person at the General Store. At a suburban 7-Eleven in Florida he felt much more sense of danger and menace than he felt like walking through really sketchy parts of San Francisco. It feels much more random.

Hot food and pump chili from 7-Eleven and Arby’s (RL13)

Merlin doesn’t get hot food from 7-Eleven anymore, but he used to be really into the Big'Un with an implied apostrophe before the ”u”, which is a microwavable Cheeseburger with chili on it. It was at a time when Merlin and his friend Sam would hang out and talk to the guy at 7-Eleven because he was from New York and he had stories.

John used to get two chili dogs for $0.99 on one of those paper trays and he could put as much chili and cheese out of a pump as he could fit. Pump Chili sounds like a German porn movie or an Aerosmith record! You could fill this paper boat up so that the chili dogs were not just covered in chili, but floating in chili, like a New Yorker cartoon of a desert island except that there was a hot dog in the middle. Then you could put melted nacho cheese over the whole top of it.

For $0.99 you could avail yourself of any of the condiments and if you didn’t float those hot dogs in a chili sea and cover them with nacho cheese you were not exploiting the opportunity, but you were leaving money on the table. You could get 6000 calories of cheap ground something. That pump chili was far away from any cow who once upon a time lived in a field and ate grass. Whatever happened between that cow and that pump on the counter of an Anchorage 7-Eleven, whatever distance that cow had to travel to become pump chili, there were a few steps in there that John doesn’t want to think about (Merlin is losing it while John is telling this story). This goes back to John’s simple butcher who knew the cow and handed you the steaks. John is getting to know his butcher now.

When machine-masticating this cow down into a form where it could be pumped out with a pump, there are many opportunities for rats to fall into the grinder. There are not many edible animals who are more solid than a cow. A steer is hard to move! To get it to a point where it could be pumped in a suburb requires a lot of abstraction. It has to be chewed and chewed again, buried in the ground for a year, reconstituted and chewed again, like Kimchi. Pump Chili is the Kimchi of cow. Merlin begs John to stop saying it because it makes him want to go there just to see what it looks like. The chili was scoldingly hot, like 180 degrees (80 °C) when it came out of the pump and you had to stand there to put the cheese on it and stuff. Then you were carrying it in a paper doily, trying to eat it while your friend was driving because there was no place to sit and eat at a 7-Eleven.

Merlin occasionally gets a hot dog for $0.99 at 7-Eleven, a quarter or half pounder, which is a very large hot dog. Merlin was wearing an extremely tight sailor suit and he was snorting Amyl Nitrates in front of the 7-Eleven while he shoved a half pound Weiner in his mouth. He was also wearing a dog collar connected to a boom box playing Giorgio Moroder.

John’s willingness to eat things that were pumped to him really dropped off after he left Alaska. Somebody who worked at an Arby’s once told him that if you take the big plastic-encased roast beef that they micro-slice and then fry on a little hot frier, out of the freezer at an Arby’s and leave it on the counter to thaw over night, in the morning it is just a bag of liquid.

Arby’s is a backronym that means ”America’s Roast Beef, Yes sir!” Merlin had a friend who was the assistant manager at the Arby's where Merlin’s girlfriend worked. He told him that there are three stinks how food can stink: The food stink of seafood-based Italian restaurant, the dumpster at a KFC and anybody who has ever worked in an Arby’s. Merlin has been told that their ”roast beef” is not even Steak-umm quality, but it is compressed awful variety meats.

That cow in a field eating Dandelions had to go through a pump. The pump they are using at Arby’s is the same pump you would use to drain a swimming pool. You have to get the cow through the aperture into the hopper and then it has to go three or four pump types. As a little kid you hear stories that hot dogs have fingers in them because they don’t stop the line when somebody’s nose goes in. Whether or not that is true, there is certainly a lot going on with the processing of food that is horrifying at every level, but what freaks Merlin out is the number of people between that cow and the pump and the number of part in that process. It would be one thing if it was some kind of Chuck Jones Wile E. Coyote machine with a funnel at the top and a 7-Eleven chili pump at the bottom. Somebody would drop in a steer and a little bit of cayenne and cinnamon, and if some tail or eyelash gets in there it is fine because you saw it all happen. It is chili and your standards should not be super-high with chili to begin with.

There are too many people in the production process who have lost the relationship between what they are doing and the fact that at a certain point somebody is going to eat it. John sees this happening when he is making a salad at his house and stuff falls on the floor. The distance between the counter where he is making it and the table where he is going to serve it to other people is far enough, about 6.5 feet (2m) and he goes ”Ah, that’s fine, it is my dirt, it came off of me, it is my dander”

A certain amount of dander makes it into all food, but the more people there are between the cow eating Dandelions and the pump chili, the more different kinds of dander you will get. Dander in food follows an exponential process: The second guy’s dander doesn’t double the first guy’s dander, but it is a times-ten factor until that pump chili probably is just dander and cayenne pepper. Dander is the binding agent.

John instinctively hates people who are precious about their food, particularly urban people, the locavores, who want to talk about where their food comes from, and he wants to get into a fistfight with every locavore he meets, which makes him a real Northwesterner. He gets into arguments with people all the time because although on one level he is a Lockean (after John Locke) thinker in the sense that he believes that man is basically good, ultimately he is Hobbesian in the sense that he knows that people have sex with dead things.

John knows that this is true, he has seen enough programs about that, it is a thing that bad people do, and there are surely people on the Internet right now who are thinking about it. Merlin says: "Germans!" The Pacific Northwest was home to a lot of serial killers like Ted Bundy or the Green River Killer, and every one of them would sneak off and have sex with these people after they were dead. John has to think that somewhere between that cow eating Dandelions and the pump chili somebody was having sex with the dead cow or some part of the dead cow.

At every point in that value chain, CRM or SLA (the Symbionese Liberation Army), they lock the cow in the closet and call its grandfather for money. That is not funny and was pretty bad, too soon! Merlin lives down the street from the bank she robbed (in 1974, see this article). First it was a bank, then it was a video store and now it is just a place that used to be a video store, an ex-Hollywood Video next to a Pho place, which sounds like Merlin is writing a Talking Heads song. John wants Merlin to take him there to stand outside of it and talk about it.

Merlin does not want to make this classist, steerist or pumpist, but in his reckoning of synchronicity there will be at least one person in the value chain who is probably not averse and it goes through their mind to have sex with the dead cow in the same way you would say that you could totally get some of the Tom’s Chips out of that machine or you could say that when she leaves you could probably get her panties out of the dryer, you could say that the steer is not moving and you got a break in 10 minutes and although you are not gay it is a crime of opportunity. John and Merlin talk about different names for male and female animals.

Steerfucking probably emanated out from a central steerfucking place and was independently invented in many different places. You would already have to have the term ”fucking” and "steers". It probably comes from that trail from Texas to Montana where they ran the cows up and down, the trail of chili pump tears. You could call it steer piercing, or Arby penetration. Steer piercing is way more Castro, though. John maybe fucked things that were spiritually dead.

Reading books called Synchronicity and Diversity (RL13)

John’s two reading books in 5th and 6th grade were Synchronicity and Diversity and both of those words were alien to them in grade school. It was before The Police song. Was The Police good before Synchronicity? None of them knew what it meant and it seemed like a very advanced book. Even when they asked what it meant the adults struggled to explain. It was at the beginning of when school started to talk about things that weren’t just cat and dog. If you were reading above the level of other 5th-graders, they would give you these books that were at the 7th grade reading level. Diversity was at the 9th grade reading level, but John didn’t even know what that level meant. In Florida Merlin had to take a civics class and their book was called Uppity.

Truckers peeing on pop cans (RL13)

John always wipes a can of pop on his shirt tail before he opens it because some adult once told him that truck drivers go into the back of their trucks and pee all over the pop cans. For a kid that makes perfect sense! Of course you would go back and pee on the pop cans! Speaking as someone who has driven many long miles, they are not going to go back there, climb up in the thing and pee, but they are going to pee at the side of the road. There are many opportunities to pee and there is a lot of work involved in opening the doors and getting back up into that truck. There is no chance that a guy would go back there just to pee, but he might go back there to pee if he is actually trying to get his pee in a lot of people’s mouths.

When a truck pulls up outside of an Arby’s, it has probably both the bags of liquid beef and the syrup for the different kinds of pop. One resourceful pee-fetish truck driver could probably get his pee on the salad greens and the whole thing! He could stand there and really hose it all. Their Horsey Sauce is probably 15% pee. Merlin says it looks like the other thing that comes out of that hole. John can’t even call it Horsey Sauce because then he just thinks of Sarah Jessica Parker. Merlin thinks of it as something you would use to inseminate a lady horse.

Playing catch vs having a catch (RL13)

Two people playing a ball back and forth are normally called playing catch, but yesterday a group of New Yorkers were saying that they were having a catch. If Colin Meloy brought his carriage and his barosmith (?) to the arena to see the baseball play, he would probably call that having a catch. As John was sitting there, berating this room full of people, and everybody in the room agreed that they were having a catch because they were all from Connecticut and whatever, the character on TV said that they were having a catch and John felt like he was in an alternate universe like the Truman show. He had been toyed with his whole life and everybody else was actually speaking a completely different language!

Conspiracy theories and keeping secrets (RL13)

There is a conspiracy theory that J. Edgar Hoover skull-fucked JFK, which is a terrible thing to say. There is a conspiracy theory about the exit wound.

John has been going through an extraterrestrial encounter phase, as you do. He doesn’t believe in probing, but his interest in conspiracy theories lies purely in the giant cover-up about the extraterrestrial secret overlord government. He is not interested in the conspiracy theories about the Kennedy assassination, but that could switch and six months from now he could be all about that instead. John doesn’t think that their government was ever capable of a conspiracy theory, there is nobody smart enough! Two people can’t keep a secret, only one person can keep a secret, really!

When you walk around during the course of a day and interact with other people, do you ever meet anybody who you think is smarter than you? Merlin says it doesn’t happen that often, not as often as he thinks that the other person has better social skills or shoes. How easy do you find it to keep a real juicy secret that you secretly feel other people should know? Merlin would probably feel like he had to tell people.

John’s exposure to the corridors of power is a little bit more intimate than your average person because his father was a politician who knew more than two US Senators and they have known John on the level of family. One of them in particular was a very powerful US Senator who wielded a lot of influence, and they are not any different than you and I, they are not any more capable of keeping juicy secrets, they are not any smarter.

They are charged by their duty to keep more secrets than you or I in a typical week, but John can say from first-hand experience that no-one in the quarters of power is any more capable of keeping things hidden than you or I. One of those senators John knew well, senator Ted Stevens, was John’s uncle Jack’s law partner in the 1960s until the Alaskan senator died in a plane crash and Ted Stevens was appointed to the seat to fill out the remainder of his term. He was then elected in the next election and every election until he also died in a plane crash, which is how Alaskan senators want to go and there was no better way for him to go out. He was the chairman of the committee for the black budget and the chairman of the armed services committee.

Ted Stevens’ 40-years in the senate party (RL13)

John and his dad went to Ted Stevens' 40-years in the senate party. At one point out on stage came four different 4-star generals: An Air Force general, a Marine Corps general, an Army general and a Navy admiral, all in full dress fucking gold. You were blinded by the light coming off of their medals! The band started playing and these four generals put their arms around each other and started a CanCan while singing a song about Ted Stevens and how they will get down on their knees and do whatever he asked because he controlled the strings for the armed forces.

Every other person in the room was shit-faced drunk. Everybody was either at the C-level at an oil company, part of the military industrial complex, or somebody wearing $180.000 worth of raw gold. These people were literally cannibals and for the appetizer course they would saw off the top of somebody’s head and everybody would take a spoon full of their brains. This was right at the center of the real monsters and John was there because in a certain way these people are John’s people. He was 19 years old or something. Most of these guys were not wearing ties, but Bolo Ties made out of jade, which is the fuck-you tie. If you see a guy working for an oil company or sitting in any kind of government corridor of power and he is wearing a bolo tie, you know! You can also look at their watches and realize they have a $200.000 watch band of solid gold.

These guys were terrifying, they were laughing, and their humor was the kind of humor like ”Yeah, suck it! Suck it!” Everybody in there knew who was in charge and these generals were making light of the fact that they basically had to suck off this US senator to get their new $80 billion submarine platform. They were making a joke out of it because the only people who were invited to this party were the people who were there. There were no outsiders and they didn’t see John because he was a kid who was there with his dad. He was the only person under the age of 60 and his eyes were as big as saucers. Whatever conspiracy theory you think is happening: This is what was really happening!

These guys thought it was hilarious, they were talking about billions of dollars and they were at Ted Stevens’ senate party to yuck it up, fuzzball! It was one of the greatest things John has ever seen in his life! You want to know how it is done? That is how it is done! It sounds like a made-up thing by Hunter S Thompson, except that he wasn’t making it up either. Hunter was talking about that scene as a convention of state troopers, but John has seen it as a convention of 4-star generals. Their sense of humor is at the same level as a gathering of state troopers. ”Hey boy, come over here and freshen up my drink!”, holding the drink in front of his unzipped fly.

These guys were dancing a CanCan about blowing a senator and they knew which side their bread was buttered on. Each one of them had flown up to Alaska in their own C-141, every one of them somehow budgeted a $500.000 flight in an Air Force transport to come to this party. Somebody had to coordinate their schedules, they surely had to cancel other things, and they had to rehearse. There are not a lot of 4-star generals, but what John can’t convey was how many 3-star generals that were in the room who weren’t invited onto the stage.

John was also wearing a bolo tie because he knew what drag to wear to a thing like that. He has a small collection of bolo ties, he grew up in Alaska, he knew that there are certain times when you are on the outside if you show up in a real tie because they are going to ask you to go back to the kitchen and get them another tray of canapés. The other brass at this event were full-bird colonels and 1- and 2-star generals who were just milling around, trying to look busy and to get in front of a 4-star general who has a 1-star general as his Aide-De-Camp. There was a real scene!There were generals who’s only job it was to stand there with a spit bucket for when the guy wants to hauk a big wad of chew on the floor. It was insane! Also, the CEO of BP was there.

At a certain level in the 1950s and 1960s there was actual red-baiting and communism was a thing that people were really afraid of, but behind the real curtain nobody gave a fuck, everybody knew what threat communism really played, and it was all for show. John’s dad was a red and in these quarters of power he was the token. You would walk through these events with him and guys would come up with fat fingers and hands you could stick between gears to stop a machine, big fat scarred hands, and they put them on John’s dad’s shoulder, like ”Dave Roderick! How the hell are you? How is the communist party?” - ”Hahaha, fuck you!” Night after night, he would just elbow his way through these things and he was the token pinko.

Bohemian Club (RL13)

John's uncle who recently died, not the same uncle who was Ted Stevens’ law partner, but a different uncle, was a member of the Bohemian Club San Francisco institution, the Grove people. It was like the scene in the Matt Damon movie where he is a CIA spook and they are talking about the Skull & Bones retreat up in the lake country and they are all wear hula skirts. These guys all turned down Skull & Bones because they were The Whiffenpoofs, the top of A-Cappella singing at Yale.

John has photographs from events at the Bohemian Club and sometimes, especially when you are family, they forget to censor some of the pictures and there are pictures with George Shultz and Henry Kissinger pretend-making out around a campfire. That stuff is all happening there! One big part of the Bohemian Grove is that everybody should be able to just pee wherever they want and guys who are occupying the highest corridors of power are peeing over each others shoulder. They are really into gathering out in the forest doing water-sports and they will forget that somebody’s young nephew is going to be looking through these photographs and scalding his eyeballs with these shots. Later on he is going to be revealing all the secrets on his podcast and it will finally blow the lid off of this thing.

John having bought a sailor suit (RL13)

John bought a blue wool sailor suit of a model that has been discontinued as the official sailor outfit. It belonged to a Chief Petty Officer First Class and John was wearing it around the house and was proud of himself that he finally had a sailor suit. He caught a glimpse of himself dressed as a sailor and realized that he was 43 years old and looked like the worst kind. When his ship would dock in Tokyo and he would come rolling through the streets, all the Geishas would run for cover, shutter their little paper doors as John is coming ”Arrrrr”. He bought this suit because he thought that this was great and cute, but there is just nothing cute about John anymore. He needs to not have a sailor suit because it is just terrifying.

History of a jacket at the thrift store (RL13)

Merlin wonders how John finds the time, the inclination, and the storage space. He has apparently owned an orange flight suit and he has cowboy boots. John needs to have an eBay yard sale, but even the idea of that is exhausting. He has at least two paragraphs of exegesis on every single thing he owns and he needs to tell you the provenance of this thing, why it is important and why this particular pair of cowboy boots matters. It is not that John is trying to sell it, but he wants you to know.

John gets into this all the time at thrift stores. Inside the inner pockets of jackets, particularly old jackets, you can sometimes find tags buried in the liner that tell you a lot about the jacket. John found one jacket that was $15 and he knew right away that it was really old. It was too small and John is not buying things that don’t fit because he is not running a store or a museum, but he searched it for clues and found a tag that talked about how it was hand-made for a guy in London on November 14th of 1939.

The jacket was in a thrift store in Bellevue Washington, and it had been made for a guy during the early days of the Blitz when World War II had just started. He wore it through the Blitz and through whatever else, he ended up emigrating to America where he died, and his jacket went to his son or something and somehow it ended up in this thrift store. The next person that this thing will fit is probably going to buy it and isn’t even going to look in there and look at this tag.

John was thinking that it was his responsibility to get out to the car, get a piece of paper, write the story of this jacket as he imagines it, and tuck it in this jacket so that the next person who buys it won't be ignorant. It had bakelite buttons! If the right person finds it, then the story continues, but if some High School kid who needs a Halloween costume comes in and gets this thing? John had to leave it because there is no more room in his head for this kind of thing and he can’t go out to the car and spend 20 minutes telling the story of a coat in a thrift store with 800 coats in it. John is not going to say that his time is worth more than that, but if it isn’t, he is doing something wrong. It is basically putting a note in a bottle and throwing it into the water. Why does John care anything about this coat? But he does!

If John picked up everything he found that had a story that was part of a larger interesting story, he would have to have a warehouse. How did this jacket get here and what has it seen? John just wanted to stand there for 5 minutes with his hands in its pockets. His imagination started jumping off right away. The guy joined the OSS and parachuted behind enemy lines wearing this jacket. He was taking supplies to the French resistance and that is why he ended up in America. He was part of the intelligence community, standing watch over the Berlin wall yeas later. All this stuff!

In fact, this guy was probably an insurance adjustor, and actuary. Also, the Germans would have know English tailoring and would have taken that tag out. Like the Viet Cong and the shaving cream: They can smell it! Merlin thinks that this is the kind of thing that John should write a book about. Maybe nobody would buy it, but John should act like his dad and write his Christie’s catalog, like Elizabeth Taylor and her underpants. John should write his own Christie’s catalog, he and Bruce Vilanch having peppered up with some little… eBay is probably not the right place, though, because the keyword search is probably a little complicated for all the things that John is going to want to discuss.

John just wants people to look more carefully at stuff. The people at this thrift store are looking at the tags when they are pricing things. Ralph Loren and Abercrombie & Fitch is worth $14, that is good stuff! What they are not doing is taking that extra second to dig in and see that this thing actually kind of belongs into a museum.

Merlin has kept everything he has ever found in the pocket of a thing from the thrift store. He got an old cigar box that he bought in Florida, but that is from some bar in Covington where the airport is, in Kentucky near Cincinnati, and somebody had written a phone number with one of these exchanges inside the matchbook in this old soft thick pencil. You don’t throw that away! What is the least interesting story that can be? It could be hiding a body, it could be a fast girl fellatio, it could be Hillbilly mortgage. That number might still be operable and Merlin should dig it up, maybe he could get some cheap property near the airport in Covington!

Phone numbers and license plates (RL13)

John’s mom still talks about phone numbers like "That is Federal-7312" There is a website where you can find out what your phone number used to be. Fax machines and mobile phones screwed it all up and they had to make up all these new phoney numbers. Merlin’s family had the same phone number his whole life, they had all custom license plates that were not weird vanity plates but they were all in order. His grandparents had CA1111, his uncle had CA2222 and they had CA3333. They might have been part of some kind of a program, they sound like government plates.

Merlin’s uncle worked for P&G (Procter and Gamble) in the kind of job that if he was going to have a front for somebody who was doing something with pump chili or dancing generals, he would put him in the paper department at P&G. They had the devil worshiping logo, that was rough on them. It was supposedly the Unification Church, Sun Myung Moon. It was during the era where people were having recovered memories of all the child abuse that they supposedly suffered.

Judas Priest (RL13)

Merlin is about half-way through the autobiography of Bob Mould from Hüsker Düe. In the late 1980s / early 1990s people took Satanism very seriously and the whole band of Judas Priest went to trial because they supposedly caused some kid to commit suicide, not even by backmasking, but they had lyrics in a song that said ”Listen, do it!” They also said ”Grinder looking for meat” and ”Electric eye in the sky” How did they not see it? It was right in front of them the whole time! A guy with dye blond hair in a black leather motorcycle outfit singing ”Grinder looking for meat”, wearing chaffs? No!

When he came out, all the metal guys John knew said that they always knew he was gay, which was the biggest load of bullshit. John was a huge Judas Priest fan and he had no idea he was gay because it just didn’t occur to him. Merlin has seen a lot of Metal bands, but he never saw Judas Priest. It is like the George Bush thing, the George Lakoff ”Don’t think of an elephant” stuff. They liked George W Bush because they liked the man, but they didn’t want him to be smart, they wanted him to be that way. In this case, evidence to the contrary coming out of the sky, we chose not to see it that way.

John saw Judas Priest recently, but they were terrible. He had seen them before with K. K. Downing, but K. K. is not playing with them anymore and Rob (Halford) came out instead. He had a cane, he limped around the stage, and he didn’t really hit any of the high notes. They played a lot of songs from the new record, and did everything that you don’t want to have happen at a metal concert. A lot of songs from the new record, come on! With some young guy playing the K.K. parts.

John getting into the podcast business (RL13)

It is hard to make dough in the music business, which is why John is now getting into that lucrative podcast business. He needs to have a fallback and he heard people are making a lot of money at this. That guy from 5by5 is just raking it in and there is so much gold to be mined from that. Audible books are books on tape. Arby’s has a lot of rehabilitation to do with their image. John is afraid that if they are doing podcast endorsements they might have just blown a shot at it with their Arby’s conversation. 7-Eleven at least are not putting the dander in that pump chili.

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