RL15 - Covered in Sauce

This week, Merlin and John talk about:

The Problems:

  • little things and Erma Bombeck syndrome; °
  • relaxing with a couple meatball subs; °
  • the high line’s cyrogenic prolongation; °
  • still no luck dialing down the ping-pong; °
  • Merlin suffers a moist or missing Times; °
  • enjoying Michigan’s passing sandwiches; °
  • why marijuana sometimes makes sense; °
  • extra meat for a dollar; °
  • speculation on the genesis of bathrooms; °
  • skirting the waiting period for goats; °
  • four twenty, amirite?; °
  • adding value with Xfinity, Fahrvergnügen and/or Hospitaliano!; °
  • freeing the dragons of causality; °
  • raging boners from a black and blue sheep; °
  • an impromptu delta Skype jam; °
  • Welcome to McIntosh; °
  • the disappointing corduroy of underwater sex; °
  • rugby balls at the Double Musky; °
  • our generation’s inexorable menarche of music; °
  • California’s inexcusable Mucinex crackdown;
  • the waitron’s worst nightmare; °
  • some tertiary problems of pre–27 greatness; °
  • remembering the rust belt’s two or three great rivers; °
  • why Mussolini dared illness in the rain; °
  • karaoke as busman’s holiday; °
  • the piano sounds like a carnival; °
  • the atavistic import of knee-to-eyebrow sauce; °
  • how an honest man devours a family lobster; °
  • stoney multitasking from the road; °
  • The Boss’s ostrich, llama, and video game estate; °
  • ZZ Top blows the Afterburner—hard; °
  • pitting “Private Eyes” against Ms. Jackson; °
  • BIG portions over at Load Jammerz;
  • finally remastering “The Swab”; °
  • times we ’hoid the 10- and 14-bar blues;
  • when Bill Evans repeatedly saw a man about some horse; °
  • that whole Columbia House racket; °
  • and, why John’s life, lover, and lady registers as the sea.

The show title refers to John and his friends cooking a whole sheep in a hole in the ground and John taking it apart afterwards, getting covered in sauce from the sheep.

John has not slept very much and has not had enough coffee.

Merlin has been told by numerous people including his friend Dr. Donald Shaffner that when John sings the Janet Jackson version of Merlin’s name (to the tune of Private Eyes), he should continue ”They are watching you!”

Merlin does not miss marijuana.

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

Emma Bombeck (RL15)

There are just a bunch of little things to talk about because John doesn’t have any big things left. Merlin wrote some things down on a card and he is not going to tell John any of them, because they are all little things and they all either sound like an 1980s comic or like Erma Bombeck. Merlin does remind John of Erma Bombeck in a positive way because he tries not to prepare for anything too much and he learns just by just listening to the other person. You just say ”Yes”, you never say ”No”. Erma Bombeck died (in 1996) from being old. John says that she was 80.000 years old, but Merlin disagrees. Merlin’s sense is that she was probably 67, 62 or 80 and she was 69. The grass is always greener over the 80-year old woman. They have been talking for 4:20 minutes, just as John said 420 (Cannabis culture).

Merlin's index cards, Mythbusters (RL15)

Earlier today Merlin put a photo on the Internet of his archive of index cards. He did a quick count by taking half and half of that. You can take a 3x5 card and fold it again and again, but you can only fold it 7 times. The Mythbusters guys did that, but they also put a canon ball through somebody’s house. When Merlin first read that story he thought it was in a green and loamy part of the UK, but it was in Michigan or somewhere (It was in California and happened just [https://www.cnet.com/news/mythbusters-cannonball-busts-through-house/ three weeks before this episode was released).

Michigan is the Ireland of the Upper Midwest, like Warren Zevon used to say, who has passed (in 2003). Everybody dies prematurely if you read (Robert A.) Heinlein and think that we should all be living in cryogenic prolongation. John is going to run up the geek flagpole because he calls him ”Heinlin”, but it is ”Heinlein”. The train in New York is the High Line, which sounds a little bit ping pong, like a little speech impediment. If you put your hands up in the air and someone else hits it, it is a High Five.

Masturbating in the bathtub (RL15)

Marijuana makes sense sometimes, for instance if you want to sit in the bathtub and masturbate all day, but John doesn’t do that anymore and hasn’t done so in years. There was water in it back in the old days because he wasn’t just go sit in his bathtub in his clothes and masturbate because you don’t want to get it on anything, particularly when you don’t have a lot of resources and you are sharing a living arrangement with other people. Maybe you are crashing at somebody's place and yet there are times you need to masturbate, which is an important physical thing you need to do, and there aren’t that many places you can get away. Maybe you don’t have your own bedroom, or maybe you are sleeping on their couch and they are all standing around, staring at you, wondering.

That is why bathrooms became popular. Merlin has seen John urinate in really exotic places and, more disturbingly, in some very mundane places, but there is no mundane place to urinate if you really have to go. Every one of them is the Taj Mahal of urination, each one is little fucking magic kingdom. No guy is sitting around, going ”Oh, I need to close the door to blast a tinky" and as you get older you get more comfortable and you can drop a deuce anywhere.

You still want to have a little bit of privacy because you don’t want to have to share the dander and you don’t want to sit on the toilet and masturbate like some kind of animal. Merlin would rather do that than being in the bathtub. If you are high and you are sitting in somebody else’s bathtub, eating some grilled cheese sandwiches that you may or may not have made, it is a fantastic place to masturbate. Just don’t fill the tub all the way with water, but make it a half-tub.

M: You are eating grilled cheese and masturbate in half a tub of water?
J: This was a long time ago and I was very high!

As a young guy you think that sex underwater would be amazing because it has everything you want. The parents of the girl with the pool are out of town and it is going to be awesome! You feel lightweight, you are bouncing around, you are on the surface of the moon, you are in the swimming pool, but having sex under water is terrible, as everyone who has done it knows. It is not how it is meant to be done and we have evolved from being fish or turtles to have sex on land.

Being stoned as a person who has to make decisions (RL15)

Merlin was thinking the other day how stupid high people are. In the same way that drunk people shouldn’t decide whether they are going to drive, high people have a lot of confidence about the possibilities in the world, which is really stupid. Merlin used to believe it is a myth that drugs have permanently fucked us up, but he increasingly thinks that it may be a distinct possibility. He is glad we have an electoral system where you can release the dragons.

Marijuana above all other drugs absolutely interferes with your sense of the causality of things. You lose your capacity to think in a linear fashion, which is why the myth of pot being a mellow drug is so insidious. It isn’t mellow and the most stressed-out people John has ever met are pot stoners, but the reason that they are stressed out is that they can’t remember how they got here. They can’t remember the series of things that they did to arrive at their current situation and they cannot fathom what series of things they can do to move on.

Not only do you not understand why you are sitting in a car, but it could really also be why a goat can’t be in the congress. When you are stoned, everything becomes atomized and everything looks like a discrete little moment, like ”Whoa, dude! Did you see that flower?” You see phones and notice that there are no cords plugged into them. Stoners are those people who are ”I’m so mellow, I’m so mellow, DUDE! WHY THE FUCK!” and then they lose their shit. Merlin hates being that high, which is one reason why he doesn’t do it anymore: It is not fun, it hurts his immune system, it makes him paranoid, and he really hates being that high.

Smoking a lot of pot as a roadie is fine because nobody is asking you to do the big picture. You move the amps on stage, you hook them up, it is the same every night, and you can mechanize that process, but when a road manager is a stoner, when people who are running clubs are stoners, that is where money goes missing. ”Oh, we got to cancel the show because… oh, I think I saw some snow!” They are make bad decisions. Road manager is the job that requires most access to multitasking of any job! If you got a flat, you should know within seconds which people to call in what order. Some people are fast at that, know exactly, and they are already doing it.

John counters that those are skills that even an interstate highway driver can master, not to cast dispersions on anyone who is driving an interstate truck because some of that work is God’s work. John is still scared of the Teamsters, it got still a lot of lumber. John once drove across America in a single night. There are a lot of trucks out there, all without Ephedrine.

It is not enough for road managers and people in the entertainment business who have to deal with artists and personalities to know the order that the states are in, but they also have to tend to some weeping little Rock star who’s Playstation 3 can’t boot up. Those are very separate skillsets and not many people are good at both things. A lot of people in Hollywood have a job where they have to minister to these flamboyant and completely untethered personalities and also know how electricity works.

Getting rich too soon (RL15)

Anybody who gets famous before the age of 27 can’t possibly have amassed the skillset necessary to not be a total horse’s ass for the rest of their life. If you have already become a decent person by then you are an anomaly. There are so many things that Merlin wished for but is glad he never got. Being born rich? Well, it would be nice! Being 45 is the perfect age to find out that your family is actually extremely rich.

Merlin is emotionally a child even today. Imagine if the Ford Agency suddenly gets you a gig on some Disney show at an age between 3 and 27 where you are surrounded by people telling you that you are great and that everything is great? They are giving you terrible advice and making decisions about your life before you are old enough to appreciate it.

Part of getting older is realizing that greatness in all its forms, just like tremendous creativity, artistic talent, and beauty, is not worth that much in the grand scheme of things. There are so many people in the world that even your greatness is just a hill of beans. If you are told that you are great at a young age and your natural inclination as a person is to think that greatness transcends somehow, we all have this believe that we arrive at a certain age and it is going to be coasting from then on. If you can just turn 14, it will all be downhill. John is 43 now and he still falls for that!

In John’s own mind there is still some room in the very center of the house where you open the door, there is a red light bulb in the room, and there is a little boy, sitting Indian style, playing with a combination of the Guns of Navarone Play Set, some LEGOs and some Hot Wheels. You look at him and ask him what he got and he will say that he hopes by the time he is 45 he doesn’t have to deal with any of this shit anymore, but that moment never arrives. If you are told that you are fantastic, that greatness matters, and that your particular greatness is unique, then every new day and every new frustration has to be a double-slap in the face to you. ”Why do I have to deal with this shit? Don’t you realize? I’m one of the greatest!”

Merlin agrees with John except that false greatness is an important but somewhat tertiary point. That is true for anybody who got a fucking BMW before they had a job. Merlin is not even envious, but actually jealous of those people, which is a fine distinction unless you are a dicktard like all these guys with their fucking BMWs.

Merlin has a 16-year-old black German car, one of those tiny little things that fits in a San Francisco garage. It has been the official car of the guy who never made any money in the Dot Com revolution. Everybody had a late-1990s black Jetta! Merlin hopes that he is not a total douche and he is constantly astounded by how many complete dicks drive BMWs. The BMW drivers are missing out on the Fahrvergnügen, the joy of driving.

Being sick (RL15)

Merlin tries to get off the anti-bacterial soap because he thinks that all he is doing is making it worse. Did you ever not finish Penicillin or antibiotics? John doesn’t take any of those! When he gets sick, he goes to sit out in the rain and says ”All right, bacteria, you think you are tough? How do you like this cold rain?” This is what all the great men have done! Voltaire and Mussolini sat in the rain. Mussolini and Pol Pot are on Merlin’s list of all the great men. Pol Pot sat in the rain and he was a snappy dresser!

Xfinity from Comcast (RL15)

Merlin talks about Xfinity from Comcast. He couldn’t have done this show with John two years ago because he didn’t have Xfinity back then. He has exactly the same fucking branded copper coaxial cable coming into the house, but now it is called Xfinity and has changed everything. John thinks he has Xfinity, too, but doesn't know how to tell if he has it ”Do you generally consider yourself a happy and well-adjusted person?” - ”No!” - ”Fuck you! Then you don’t have Xfinity, you asshole!” John gets things in the mail all the time that say Xfinity, but he throws them in the garbage.

Fast Food restaurants (RL15)

When John is laying there, trying to sleep while the aliens are knocking, when was the last time he felt a really profound sense of Hospitaliano!, the combination of hospitality and Italian food? John has never heard of the term, but he has been to an Olive Garden. Like Dr Seuss’ books (How the Grinch stole Christmas!) it ends with an unnecessary exclamation mark. John has been to an Olive Garden and also to a Cheese Cake Factory, or the Texas Cheesecake Depository, which is a farcical restaurant. John has never been to a Claim Jumper, but he went to an Outback Steakhouse for the same reason he started going on 4Chan: He doesn’t want to be living in a world where he doesn’t understand what people are talking about.

They opened a Cheesecake Factory in the center of Downtown Seattle which is a fucking abortion! There was a line around the block for weeks on end and John thought that this place must have the most fantastic Cheesecake in the world. Their catch phrase should be: $23 to show the world why they are right! Inside are a bunch of fucking selfish, insane, diabetic, fat-assed Americans, eating giant portions of really unhealthy food. It was the first time John saw a Blooming Onion, which is probably a copyrighted name. Those are a lot of added value. You see all onion and no bloom and you don’t understand that all the value is in the bloom, like the Tequila Shooters, the Jalapeño Poppers, or the Amyl Nitrate Poppers.

Even before Olive Garden put it on the menu, Merlin and his friends already knew about the unlimited salad and bread sticks for $6. You do not want a group of giddy college students high on Coke refills to know about the salad and breadsticks, it is a waiter’s worst nightmare.

New York Times, first-world problems (Rl15)

The Sunset area is a very large part of San Francisco, but John can’t think of a single mall. Wasn't it in the PNW (Pacific Northwest) where probably the word Nimby (Not in my backyard) was invented? It was a really popular sentiment up there at least until people realized that being called a Nimby was exactly the same as having the phrase ”First world problem” shouted at you by somebody who still has a rat tail or a dread lock. Merlin just read about first world problem in the New York Times. His copy was a little wet.

John was subscribed to the New York Times and he felt obligated to read every word. It comes every day and even the thin ones take 3 hours to read. He would sit and just read this thing, this march through history. Somebody was stealing Merlin’s paper basically every day and even when they dialed it down to just weekends they got it maybe one out of three days. John was wondering about somebody stealing Merlin’s paper because you have to go up a long flight of stairs to get to Merlin’s door. They asked the delivery to go up the stairs, but they wouldn’t do that. For a while Merlin had signed up for the introductory offer where you got the New York Times every day. He guiltily sat there and read the equivalent of a short book every day, but here is the thing: Merlin got it under one of those special deals and when the deal went away, he realized he was spending $100 a month on a newspaper and that just made him angry.

Subway meatball sandwich, extra meat for a dollar (RL15)

The Subway meatball sandwich was Merlin’s original go-to Subway. The price has gone up since they were in college and John doesn’t think you can get two meatball sandwiches for $7 anymore.

Early on in the touring life of the Long Winters, Extra meat for a dollar was a joke among the other guys in the band. John was always the last one to sit down because he was parking the van and when he would walk up to the table they would all be looking at the menu and would have searched it to see if it said ”Extra meat for a dollar” anywhere on it. They would be like ”Hey, John! Extra meat for a dollar!” - ”Double it up! Double it up!”

When John was in college he used to get super-baked and eat meatball sandwiches in the bathtub. You don’t even need a napkin! He used the bathtub like other people had friends, covered in meatball sandwich from his eyebrows to his knees. It would have been more efficient with a drain catch in there, one of those lose screens that an archeologist has. He was not going to have a problem, because if he was getting a little more ballier or meatier than he wanted, he could just hit the shower. Fill that tub halfway up, spark a doughy and jerk your gherkin, just like the ancient people: When the ancient people had a meal, they were covered in sauce, let’s just call it sauce, because they had to get all the way inside the boar.

John being elbow-deep in a sheep cooked in a hole in the ground (RL15)

One time many years ago John and a group of people went down to the Pike Place Market where they throw the fish, just down the block of the original Starbucks. They went to the old-fashioned butcher and asked for a goat because they were hippies and they wanted a whole goat to eat. The guy didn’t have goat and it would have taken 8 days to get one because he would have had to special order it. Nobody eats goat in America, but he could get them a sheep. Nowadays you can probably go down there and some guy with a tattoo on his neck and a faux hawk will ask you ”What kind of goat do you want? A San Francisco goat or a mountain goat?”, a guy who will always mention that he used to be in a Ska band. They have any kind of artisanal goat you can buy now, but at the time in 1993 they weren’t throwing goats at you.

They were stoners and they wanted it today because they couldn’t think 8 days in advance, so they bought this entire sheep and brought it back to their house right in the center of town. They had no experience in goat cooking and it had probably been one of the girls who had said that they should eat a goat and off they went. They dug a pit in the backyard, they filled it with coals, they wrapped the sheep in aluminum foil, threw it in the pit and covered it with dirt. Then they sat there for the afternoon waiting for this sheep to cook underground. By mid-afternoon they dug it up and it caught on fire for a while as the fat got exposed to air. They got it out from the ground, but it was covered in dirt where the foil had fallen apart, and everybody backed away from it because it was this whole carcass that was now black and nobody wanted to come close to it.

John walked over, started to poke at it, and said ”Get me some plates” He started to take this sheep apart bit by bit, he found the meat, separated it, and put it on a tray. Pretty soon he was covered in sheep sauce, which is also where Lanolin comes from. He was up to his elbows in this sheep and everybody was standing around, panting. They were hippies, so there were dogs all around, but they were well-trained attentive dogs, standing there also panting. They also had a keg and people started showing up. John was pulling this sheep apart and pretty soon he was taking big handfuls of it and eating while he continued his work. Other people joined in and pretty soon everybody was up to their elbows in this sheep, all covered with grease. It was the most bacchanalian experience of John’s whole life!

They had been extremely timid about approaching this thing at first, but pretty soon they were all just diving into it and by the end of the evening there was not a bit of that sheep left. The dogs had eaten all the bones, completely eaten them, they had devoured it, and people were licking the trays. They all had raging boners, it was bonkers! John still thinks about that time whenever he needs a boost of confidence, when he got his tie on Downtown, about to see some magistrate about some trumped-up charges that they have got to keep him down so that his wisdom doesn’t spread. As he is about to walk into the magistrate’s office he thinks ”Right, I was once in a sheep. I know what it is like. I’m a man! Arrrgh!” If you can devour a goat, you can beat that rat!

That was an experience that not a lot of people have. Later John realized that this was a proto-experience for a meatball sandwich in a bathtub. He understood that feeling of being covered in sauce. Initially he approached that meatball sandwich with timidity because most people sit down at a table and say that they have to eat this meatball sandwich without getting dirty, but then that sandwich starts with shame and fear, which is wrong!

You throw a live sea animal in a hot pot and it makes a little screamy noise which is actually the flesh tearing away from the shell. It starts out black and ends up red. But you are not going to throw a live mammal in a pot! The only way to have this sea animal be really tasty is to have the water super-hot and the lobster be very alive. You throw a lobster into boiling water and cook it, then somebody takes some butter from a cow, heats it up and puts it next to you, somebody takes the fucking lobster that was alive a few minutes ago and puts it on your plate. What is the first thing you do? You put a napkin on, a plastic bib with a drawing of a lobster on it.

At that point you are divorced from your animal nature because your meal begins with an apology. Instead when they put that lobster in front of you, you should take off your fucking shirt, take the lobster’s wife that is still alive, attach it to your head with the rubber band so it can see what you are doing, you cut off its lobster eyelids and eat them with her husband, maybe you take the baby lobsters and gaffer-tape them to the top of the mom. Here you go, kids! Take your seats! And you fucking dig in until you are covered with lobster sauce, but that might be a ping pong thing.

Having steaks in Pittsburgh style (RL15)

John is a medium rare guy and likes a rare if it is really burned on the outside, like Pittsburgh style. John had a baseball steak in Sun Valley one time, but he was so stoned he couldn’t finish it. The other thing about being stoned is that halfway into your steak you get super-grossed out because you are high and you are thinking about it too much. Try that with Sushi! When it gets warm Merlin gets real humane.

There was a place way out in the forest in Alaska called the Double Musky that had a Michelin star or something because nobody knew how to take it away from them. They had gigantic and gorgeous steaks the size of Rugby balls and they throw them in a fireplace and that got them a Michelin star. Pittsburgh style is the origin of that! Merlin has not been to Pittsburgh, but he is from Ohio so he knows enough to not go there.

Burned-on-the-outside-rare-on-the-inside steak is an appropriate metaphor for the city. There are three rivers: the Allegheny, the Ohio and the Monongahela. Detroit is 1000 times worse than Pittsburgh because Pittsburgh isn’t even really bad anymore. They tore down all the abandoned factories and replaced them with predictable malls and baseball stadiums. John first went to Pittsburgh in the 1980s when they were still struggling to get away from the rust belt.

Billy Joel (RL15)

John started to sing Allentown by Billy Joel. On the album Nylon Curtain there are just a bunch of fucking fake Bruce Springsteen songs like Goodnight Saigon. There was a certain point in the canon of Billy Joel, which John locates somewhere around the first note that Billy Joel ever sang, where he stopped paying attention to his music. He is really terrible! Merlin finds that so reductive, he is still stinging over the Kiss thing, but he is not going to take that with Billy Joel.

He could say Stranger or Glass Houses. John does not like Piano Man at all. It is a waltz and it is a perfect example of how the American listening public has no clue. People respond to this guy sitting up there with his horse shit story and they are so sad because the piano man is dead. It sucks! That said, John thinks that Allentown is a kick-ass jam. Merlin says that it is weird that some of Billy Joel's strongest songs like Hall and Oats are mid-tempo while America is afraid of a good mid-tempo song.

The reason that Allentown is such a great jam is that it uses that same ”shink” synthesizer sound that is meant to symbolize a sledge hammer hitting an ingot, but that is the same exact sound that is in ZZ Top’s Sleeping Bag.

ZZ Top (RL15)

ZZ Top’s Sleeping Bag is the last good ZZ Top song. Eliminator was one of the classic records of the 1980s, but the record after that, after they became cartoons? John talked about it on that crackpot Jesse Thorn thing (see CL111006) and Merlin thinks John made a really good case for it and described it extremely well, as well as you can articulate an album that is not really that good. Afterburner, the record right after Eliminator, used all the same formula, but it was a steaming plate of horse shit. It was terrible! Not just the synthesizer, but also the Synsonics Drums, those fake sounds, and they forgot that there needs to be a long guitar solo in the center of every tune. You can’t have a ZZ Top tune and not have a solo!

AC/DC never forgot that the center of the tune has to be a guitar solo where you modulate up half a step. Not that you sing the chorus again half a step up, but you modulate up for the guitar solo and then you come back down and no-one even notices it happened. Merlin’s band Bacon Ray did that on a couple of songs. John has been seeing Bacon Ray a lot lately because somebody remastered their good record (The Swab) using technology they did not have in 1999 and it is completely different. It was a friend of Tom Dowd's, a really good producer in Florida. The separation he added to the drums is crazy, he must have the equalizer from hell!

Sean Nelson pointed out to John that there is a kind of Southern accent that ZZ Top and also CCR (Creedence Clearwater Revival) resorts to sometimes. Like with Jacky Gleeson, the sheriff in Smokey and the Bandit, the Southern accent takes on characters of a Queens or Bronx accent, like ”I hojt it through the grapevine” Merlin thinks it comes from something that is not quite Robert Johnson era Blues and not quite Chicago blues. Apart from the musical aspect it is the way people actually talk down there. Both John and Merlin got their guitars out and jam for a little while. Merlin needs to get back in a fucking band because he got the blues. John got the Blues so bad that he forgot to play the Blues. If that doesn’t give a person the Blues, then what does?

Jazz (RL15)

Sometimes Merlin accidentally does 10-bar Blues or 14-bar Blues and he doesn’t think that is right. There is no right in Blues, or there is no wrong i Blues, which is ping pong talk, just as there is no wrong in Jazz, but that is such a misconception. You can throw anything in a Blues song! If you play a wrong note in Jazz, you just play it again three more times and it becomes a motif. That works for (Thelonious) Monk and for Miles Davis, but most other people are just not practicing enough, or you get your teeth kicked out like Chet Baker. There is a lot of tremendously bad jazz.

John’s dad’s premise about jazz was that ”When it stopped being eight saxophones and there was only one guy soloing the whole time, that is not jazz!” He stopped listening to new music in 1950 and he listened to Big Band jazz with a passion until the day he died. His appreciation of music didn’t trail off, he just listened to the same Benny Goodman, Count Basie and Duke Ellington records. He had a friend who owned a record store and who would make him 8-tracks of live cuts or unreleased tracks, original cuts of tunes where they released a better one but somehow the original would survive. Bill Evans’ best known record (Sunday at the Village Vanguard) is 3 takes of each song and sounds like hipster jazz to John.

Long before Grateful Dead and Phish there were the reel-to-reel people, and there are people to this day, John Vanderslice will slide into that at some point probably, thinking that vinyl just isn’t audiophile enough and he needs to get all his music on reel-to-reel. That is a real commitment and was even at the time. Those are the guys with McIntosh stereos. If John’s dad had $400 and he was looking at a McIntosh receiver that was $400, or an apple crate with ten $40 stereos in it, he would absolutely buy the apple crate and think he had gotten a hell of a deal. He was from a certain time! He would come home and ”Look at all these stereos I got!” and John would pick through them and be ”Those are all garbage!” - ”What are you talking about, I got 10 of them!” and then there would be these little shitty stereos all over the house, all of them sounding like you were listening to music through a phone, but he would still say ”It’s great! I got 10 of these!”

Everything Merlin’s family ever got, and there was no-one whiter than his family, came from some kind of special offer. It started with S&H Green Stamps or Columbia House. John never saw Green Stamps on the West Coast. There were two kinds and they battled like Penneys and Sears. Merlin has an important story from the day when he got somebody else’s package from Columbia House and it changed everything (this story is somewhere, he got some CDs) This was a huge racket! Merlin just read about a guy who had signed up via fake PO boxes 1000 times and got the 10 records for a penny. There was a wonderful article about the decline of Columbia House, about people ripping them off, and also just the change of everything and of the menarche of music. John asks what was in the packages, but Merlin dodges the question and goes through his list of things on his cards that they haven’t talked about yet.

One of the first records John ever bought was an 8-track of the greatest hits of Studio 54, like 1977. He bought that off the television, one of these ”Get it now! The greatest hits of Studio 54 on 8-track and cassette!” Merlin had one from K-Tel that was called Solid Gold (actually Pure Gold Collection, or this one) that still has some of his favorite tracks, like Renegade and Dr. Give me the News. It sounds so much like Born to be Wild and that whole fake working guy thing.

Bruce Springsteen (RL15)

They talk quickly about if Bruce Springsteen is rich or not. In the morning he rides a Llama out to his giant novelty-sized mailbox that holds his novelty-sized cheques. He has a whole bunch of little people who ride Llamas around his estate on his behalf, all dressed like him, like The Island of Dr. Moreau. He has ostriches roaming his estate and people riding them, jousting each other, because Joust is his favorite video game. Buy 25 ostriches! I want to see it in real life! Imagine the horror!

Karaoke (RL15)

John hates karaoke because it is such a busman’s holiday for him, but he does have a karaoke song: Brandy (by Looking Glass). It is a great tune and the reason it is John’s karaoke song is because it falls right in the register, which is the second key to karaoke, the first being that you must have the slightest clue how the song goes. It is in the register between the two places where John is comfortable singing, so he can either sing it an octave up where he is really straining and it is too high if he is really feeling it, or he sings it an octave down and it is too low. This is why John hates karaoke because his karaoke song is not in a comfortable range for him.

This is the first thing John hates that Merlin has any fucking sympathy for. When they first met in 2002, John was a completely unsympathetic character, but John just accidentally showed a little bit of himself, not when he talked about masturbating with a submarine [sic] sandwich, but when he brought it out that there was a register. Masturbating with a meatball sandwich? John is not a monster!

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