RL173 - My Afflicted Eyes

This week, Merlin and John talk about:

The Problem: We killed two ducks for you, referring to John’s girlfriend being a vegetarian and going to China for 6 months where they would give her all the meat because she was a special guest while she just wanted the normal food like rice and vegetables.

The show title refers to John wanting to go back to his High School and look at the fashion choices of the kids with today’s eyes instead of the afflicted eyes of teenage years.

The show started with an ad by Cards Against Humanity who invited Mike Laurence of Punkbot to help Merlin say ”Hi!” to John: ”Roderick on the Line! Talking oh so fine! Hello John! Hello Merlin!”

Raw notes
The segments below are raw notes that have not been edited for language, structure, references, or readability. Please do not quote these texts directly without applying your own editing first! These notes were not planned to be released in this form, but time constraints have caused a shift in priorities and have delayed editing draft-quality versions to a later point.

Breakfast (RL173)

It is a little early. Maybe people get a different side of them when it is early, a side that isn’t quite awake yet and has not had a complete breakfast, or as his daughter would say: breakdast [sic]. She says that so much that they now all say breakdast and when John sounds breakfast it doesn’t sound right anymore. What she doesn’t like to eat in the morning is a hard-boiled egg, some cheese and some cold-cuts, which is standard at a German bed & breakfast and that is exactly what John was trying to duplicate for her. Imagine every morning you wake up in Germany and breakfast is a hard-boiled egg, one piece of black bread, you don’t know what made it black and you don’t ask, some cold-cuts that have pistachios in them and other things like olives and a wide variety of some other cold cuts. Why would a little kid not like that?

In France, the kids menu is steak frites, which is a sirloin steak with french fries. The end. That is considered to be a child’s meal and the French kids don’t know any different and so that is what they get in restaurants. No-one gives them buttered spaghetti or grilled-cheese sandwich, chicken-fingers, fish-sticks, tater-tots, nothing of this, but they get steak frites. What can you say if you are a kid in Germany and you get pimento-loaf. You are lucky you didn’t get a beating! You get some kind of blood-sausage, an unsalted egg and a stern lecture.

Merlin blames himself or the household for option paralysis by asking if they want this or that. When people do that to him he will get overwhelmed and he is not 7 years old. John’s daughter has very clear preferences and if he gave he any option at all he would still be sitting at the kitchen table, talking about all the things that could be. He has to make sure there is some yoghurt-component because at a German breakfast you do get the option of yoghurt, but if there is yoghurt involved she will eat that and she never saw the egg. She only likes the white part of the egg or only the yellow part of the egg, which is totally normal, but a dad has to intervene and say that the best part of the egg is the part in between the white and the yellow part.

What do kids in Thailand have for breakfast? Merlin guesses rice or a soup, because in a lot of Asia there seems to be a lot of rice and soup. Part of his sense is that Asian-American food in general feels like you take the most outlandish celebration food anyway has once every 1-5 years and then make it even more celebratory and then call it Chinese food. Two pounds of Chow Mein with half a cup of oil in it is probably not the thing that people eat every day in China. Same for Thai food: Who is going to go through the trouble of having those beautiful little mushrooms in with the duck? Who is going to make that every day? That is banquet wedding food!

John’s girlfriend studying Chinese for no reason (RL173)

John’s girlfriend at the time in the 1990s went to China at one point because she had decided in true Punk Rock form that she was going to major in Chinese at the University and whenever she was quizzed by a curious person she wasn’t taking Chinese for any reason other than it was hard and obscure, and she stuck to her guns that she was never going to use it and it was never going to have an application. Now she sits and eves-drops on people and she doesn’t even help them if there two Chinese people with a map standing at a street corner. Much like a Chinese person or much like Black Flag would do. You are lucky Henry Rollins doesn’t piss on you.

At one point she went to China for 6 months. John has a lot of regrets about this because she would write him all the time back when people still wrote one another, and she would invite him to come to China as her boyfriend, this was his big chance, but at the time he was like: ”Eh, China. Seems like a lot of work!” John has been to Belgium, does he really have to go to China. This was back when all the buildings in Shanghai were still 5 stories tall and it doesn’t even resemble the Shanghai now.

She was a vegetarian, which is the great part. If you are going to be Punk Rock and you study Chinese for no reason, also when you go to China make sure that you are vegetarian and also chain-smoke. She didn’t wear combat-boots, but she did wear bright-red lipstick and dyed her hair black. Everywhere she went the local people would invite her to dinner at their apartment and they would lay out all these meats and she would say she can’t eat meat because she is a vegetarian, ”Do you have any rice and vegetables? That is what I am really excited about, what I imagine the vegetarian Chinese meal” and she got the same response everywhere: ”You are a special guest, we aren’t going to give you our normal food, the food that we actually eat. We put on a spread here!” and they have given her American Chinese food, which is a huge platter of meat pieces.

She wanted to be a regular normal vegetarian person in China, but there was no such thing and also she was their special guest and they had gone out and killed two ducks for her. She is not a vegetarian anymore today and John doesn’t know how to end this story.

Soft drinks, how times have changed for kids (RL173)

Merlin just talked about an incredibly large group of people as one entity and had a reckon of how half of Earth eats. If anybody ever said that about America, let alone Seattle, you can’t draw those kinds of broad conclusions! All Americans eat waffles, spaghetti-noodles and instant coffee every day! They are also famous for lots of soft drinks. There was an article in the New York times about the incredible precipitous drop in the amount of soft drinks that young people are drinking. John thought about the innumerable six-packs of Dr. Pepper that he consumed growing up. Soft drinks were the smoking of childhood when Merlin was a kid. There was a Coke machine in the hall at school!

In Ohio not only could you not wear shorts, but you were discouraged from wearing jeans and you were expected to wear pants to school. You were not in a million years allowed to chew gum. There was stuff you had to do and in 5th grade you had to learn the Recorder (?) Music is now half of a room over here, it is not a thing anymore. All of that has changed. You can have cookies and shit, but you would never have soft drinks at school now. In Florida in the mid-1980s they had one Coke machine at their school and that was partly revenue-based. Today at least in San Francisco… could you ever imagine that there would be an LGBTQ community dinner for the school district where children, teachers, and parents would come together at a picnic?

You are not supposed to bring sugar to school at all. It is not quite like smoking, but you are not supposed to bring sugary stuff and they tell you in the beginning of the year how they want you to celebrate a birthday. When Merlin was a kid there was sugar everywhere and everybody was always eating sugar all the time. The road to school was paved with sugar! Or you could just go to the convenience store and pound-for-pound stuff was cheaper back then. You could in your sub-$1 price range get a shit-ton of candy.

John and his sister having a different relationship to money (RL173)

John and his sister had a very different relationship to money. If each of them were given $0.50 she would immediately buy $0.50 worth of Smarties, which could fill the trunk of a car, and John would put it in a shoe box because he was a collector. Next time she would again get Smarties or Wax Lips, there were those wax Coke bottles that had tiny little sugar fluid in them, which is the worst of both worlds: Bad wax, bad Coke. It was before the bubble gum that had squirty liquid inside (called Freshen-Up), the only thing where you could bite into and got that sensation of squirting sugar liquid in your mouth, which is a great feeling.

At the end of their childhood John’s sister only had the experience of eating as much candy as she could get her hands on and John had a shoe box full of nickels, dimes and quarters. Who of them was living a fuller life?

John’s mom’s email habits, reacting to people who just have a sudden idea (RL173)

Getting email from John’s mom is a delight of Merlin’s life. She is such a thorough person! She wakes up in the middle of the night sometimes and sends emails and John is often up in the middle of the night, so one of the great surprises is to get an email from her in the middle of the night where she has some information on the hermitage in St. Petersburg and she wants more information and has done some research that has raised some questions, so she puts all that information in an email and has some questions for John to help her fill in the gaps. She will ask John to explain how the nations of Central America all ended up with their current borders.

She is not expecting a response right away, but she thinks that is going to greet John in his inbox when he wakes up in the morning, but she forgets that a) John doesn’t wake up in the morning unless he is under duress, and b) he is going to get this and reply to in, and so they will have these email conversations in the absolute middle of the night about these questions.

The other great thing she does is that she makes a decision, which is sometimes a normal-sounding decision, like: ”I am going to sell my car and buy a natural gas powered car and I need you to detail the hub caps for me!”, which sounds normal, but is motivated by some crazy 4-in-the-morning thing. Then there are others where she wakes up in the middle of the night and says she decided she will never go into a building made of brick again and here is why, and she will explain that there is something about brick that is offensive or untenable or she no longer supports brick because big brick is ruining the world. She doesn’t expect John’s support in this, but this is just an informational email. Sometimes these are very long. Then she will send him another email saying: ”I hope you read my last email!”

In general John will let them go without comment for the most part they solve themselves. It is like if somebody suddenly decides they are breaking up with their spouse, the last thing you want to do is say: ”Good, I never liked them!” Never do that! Or try and intervene in any way, you don’t even nod! Sometimes Merlin wishes ”Ack” were a standardized response to thing, like Bill the Cat’s signature line ”Ack!”, but without an exclamation point.

Radio communication speak (RL173)

On the last JoCo cruise somebody pulled up a chair and lectured John about something, an attempt on their part to make the story about them and get some attention. At the end John leaned forward and said: ”Thank you for your message!” Merlin wishes he could say ”God bless you!” and feel better about it!

John is allowing himself to get involved in fewer fracases and part of that is learning the ninja-way of ”Thank you for trusting me that I will value your comments!”, which is very much like ”Ack”, but John thinks of ”Ack!” as a Bill the Cat thing with the exclamation point. Some listeners might even think of Cathy and the question is which is the canonical Ack because those communicate totally different things.

Merlin reads a few different words that all mean things: 10-4: Message received, Affirmative: Yes, Come in: You can start speaking now, Roger: I have received all the last transmission, Wilco: I got your message and I will comply with it (the Roger is implied and you don’t have to say Roger Wilco). These are all different things that could help a lot in day-to-day conversation if we would all adopt the subtleness of it. The problem is that Roger has turned into ”Yes, I agree!” and 10-4 has turned into ”Yes, I agree!” Everything has become a Wilco!

John had a friend who used to say: ”Copy!”, which means ”I heard what you just said!”, which is similar to 10-4, but it retains a little bit of the ambiguity of ”I register your transmission, but I pass no judgement on it!” They continue to talk about those kind of communication terms, like ”Roger so far”, ”Go ahead”, ”Ready to copy” There is so much we could benefit from returning to the age of military radio. ”Long message”, like ”There is more to this tweet!” Tweets are very much like telegraph messages. There are no exclamation points in military radio and if you want to say something is urgent you might say ”On the double” or ”Schnell!” if your dad served in WWII. John’s dad was in the Pacific theater and did not ever say ”Schnell!”

John’s twin friends Thomas and Peter, tank tops (RL173)

When John was in grade school in Seattle he had two twin boy friends Thomas and Peter whose father had served in World War II with the Germans and was a doctor. Their house was very interesting. He was a distant man with a beard, which was unusual at the time. His wife was German, it was a very German family, and Thomas and Peter spoke fluent German and English and would go in and out of both unconsciously. They had a Märklin N-scale train set that maybe duplicated their father’s home town. It was the most incredible thing! It is the little one that fits inside of a walnut, a little bigger than Z-scale.

Their house was like a Brady Bunch house, but perched on a hill side covered with trees and moss and their father would give them old radios and old electronic stuff and they had a soldering gun and they would take apart electronic things and rebuild them into other things. As a 7/8 year old kid they seemed like miracle workers because they could speak multiple languages, they had these crazy little trains, they could rebuild radios and John was the same age and smart like them, but he was putting on his mother’s lipstick and was sitting in the sandbox, covering his head with sand. He was completely useless relative to them. They could have repaired a Jeep while John looked like a Bipolar person who was having an episode throughout his entire childhood and he had no useful skills unless you were doing an all-kid version of Rocky Horror Picture show where he could play any role.

John looked them up later and found them again when they were young adults. They were in a fraternity, wearing tank tops, it was so confusing! John had expected them to be in a laboratory, but they had made a transition in a different direction. Merlin came up at a time where it was much more acceptable for everyone to wear a tank top and did not call them wife beaters. This was not so long before the era of the half-shirt. Merlin wore one, his friend John did, they all wore tank tops, that is what you did and in the late 1970s that was a look.

How cool fashion has changed (RL173)

John enjoyed tank tops until he became husky and a tank top is not a good look on a husky kid. John had more a Philip Seymour Hoffman in Boogie Nights look and he didn’t want that. Up until that point he was very pro tank top and had some great tank tops, a yellow-striped one, one with a baseball player on it, and they were good. Merlin has a generalized problem with sleeveless shirts. He could get away with a tank top when he was 10 or 11, but as soon as he started to smell he benefited from shirts that had more cloth. Merlin was a sweater and when he wore his off-brand Joe Elliott, Def Leppard, British Flag shirt with no sleeves he would ruin that thing and had some big pit stains on those.

There was one kid in John’s school who wore a sleeveless British Flag T-shirt. His name is Earnie Demovsky. It was a bold choice because in Alaska the sleevelessness was right away… John was wearing boat shoes with no socks like a red-colored Top-Sider with no socks when it was -20 degrees outside and there was 5 feet of snow on the ground and John was wearing this Nantucket Style because those were the poor choices he was making. Earnie wearing a sleeveless British Flag T-Shirt was also a poor choice and a little culturally appropriative, but from John’s perspective it was: ”What exactly are you repping, Earnie?”

Both of them should have been in Sorels with Parkas on, but they were both repping some kind of other climate. The kids who came to school in Bunny Boots and US Military Foul Weather Gear were the only people who were dressed appropriately, but they heaped scorn on them because their fathers were based at Elmendorf and they were wearing military issue winter clothes. It was pretty sad from the perspective of somebody in red boat shoes with no socks. Who was the real fool?

What became the costume of the coolest kids later was unwashed dark denim rolled up at the cuffs, boots, hair that was long in front, short in back and dark-rimmed Buddy Holly glasses and some kind of black T-shirt or even a white Oxford shirt, that is an extremely cool look. By the time John was at the end of High School it was recognized as cool, but when he first started High School the fashion was super-tight jeans that had been bleached and if you showed up in unwashed Levi’s with cuffs? You could buy stuff that you could wash with your very cheap unwashed 501’s and get a really squirly-looking fake-faded look after a couple of washes. 501’s were $19 or something.

Merlin recently bought a new pair of 501s and it is virtually impossible to figure out which ones to get and even still they are $50. It is like Converse that used to be $10-20 a pair. John is so mad at Levi’s that he can’t even talk!

You looked like your mom dressed you and you were poor when you were just wearing unwashed Levi’s that were rolled up at the cuffs. It indicated that you lived in an unheated house and that is the way John was sent to school. Later on when that was the symbol of mega-cool he didn’t have to change anything and rolled right into the future, but young people today can’t even remember a time when the geek look, the nerd Rock’n’Roll crossover, none of that had happened and nerd was a shorthand for poor and it was a thing you tried to avoid at all cost.

In the mid-1980s John Hughes movies you can really see that played out. People who look like James Spader (who was Blaine in Pretty in Pink and who is on The Blacklist now), apart from looking like 30 years old, he looks the way that cool kids looked at the time and what would have been called Preppy: Heavily self-consciously branded sportswear was the way to go. For the girls there was a lot of Esprit wear, like the clam diggers, the striped shirts and the Candies shoes and the multiple bracelets and that was a whole thing. You wouldn’t want to look like a farmer!

John wished he could go back and stand in the student center of his school and watch the kids go by and see them with his current eyes rather than his afflicted eyes of teenage life, just: ”Looser! Cool kid! Looser! Stoner! Cool kid! Looser! I don’t even see that kid he is such a looser!” There was so much of that in John’s culture in High School and he was terrified he was a looser. He never succumbed to the brand thing, but his way of communicating that he wasn’t a looser was by carrying a copy of the Wall Street Journal tucked under his arm and nothing says ”Looser!” more than a High School kid with an unread copy of the Wall Street Journal tucked under his arm.

John looked up the last name of Thomas and Peter because it is entirely possible that those guys went on to own Microsoft or something, and one of the first links was to a German general in WWII who was part of the conspiracy to kill Hitler. It is a fairly uncommon name and John is wondering if the boys and their father are the son of this guy or the nephew of this guy who left the country and had been welcomed in America and started a new life here. He won the iron cross in WWI, one of those old Prussian guys who was never a Nazi.

John thinking about getting a model train set (RL173)

John decided not very long ago that he was going to go to the hobby-store and get re-interested in trains. He was going to build a Märklin train set this time, not some H0 garbage. Merlin’s daughter has expressed some interest in becoming a train person, but they don’t have a lot of square footage at the house. They went to Flacks (?), as you do, and they have a little spinner rack of packages with model corn stocks or trees and you get this little layouts to make stuff and you can use it for all kinds of different things. She was so thrilled to get a few of those and put it together and now she is coming to trains via set dressing.

If John had it all to go over again, although H0 is the standard, the smaller scales like N are perfect because it is big enough that you can still make very detailed things and in some way the detail looks more authentic because it is shrunken down. The continue to talk about different scales of model trains, all the way up to G where your cat could ride the train, but you would have to tape it into the train. Maybe a little dog that suffered from Ennui, that was depressed and not a skittish little dog, one that hadn’t found its duck, maybe that could ride around in a G-train. John has enough space for a train set in his place and he has not ruled it out.

With an N-scale you can get a table-top with enough set-dressing, because with an N-scale an oval is all you are going to get and the train is just going around in a circle. Train set is all about the switching. A lot of people get into it through the set-dressing, then you build an oval and your train is zooming around through the little town, but then when you think you need to get a switch and build it so the train can sometimes go on this other track, that is when the madness sets in. Also, you are never done and part of the fun is that you build it forever. John’s challenge was that in the town scenes how do you place the pretend cars on the pretend road so they look like actual traffic?

People’s collections at the state fair, the guy with the snare collection (RL173)

John went to the state fair this year and walked through the displays and there is a whole area where people put their little dioramas that they have made, while others also just display their collections. One guy had the temerity to display his collection of Pendleton shirts and he did a whole display of 20+ Pendleton, which was a great display, but John could have filled this barn! If the standard is that with 20 Pendletons you can go to the state fair and arrange them in a display, first of all John’s candle stick display would win first in show, his globe display? Look out! John could probably match that guy with the Pendleton display.

Another person had just collected butter jars that are shaped like pigs, little covered butter dishes shaped like two pigs in love, and they were able to fill up an entire display with butter dishes of different sizes and you think that is spectacular and monomaniacal and ”I give it to you!” Then the display with every kind of Betty Boop doll that you can find that is not weird enough? Two pigs in love is a theme, but then to limit it to butter dishes? You are on something or you are onto something. The line between those seems very small, but John is always trying to find where the breakpoint is there. If he was going to go to the state fair and put something down, what would it be and how would he blow their minds? How would he indicate that he was onto something and not just on something?

Around the corner there was a guy with a collection of snare drums that filled a wall. John was walking over and thought: ”What the fuck is this? Is this a bunch of junk or the most amazing thing I have ever seen?” and as he got closer he realized that it was amazing! He had old Black Beauties, 25 different Lucite snares of different rainbow colors from the Ludwig years. He has a snare drum from every era, it was snare drum porn and he had snares that are worth $80.000. His snare collection belongs not in a museum, but on top of the Empire State Building with a giant flag indicating his presence. It is a masterwork of craziness, because to have that many snares is insane, but they were beautiful and every single one of them was fantastic.

John was staring at this thing, people were walking by and John’s own family was tugging at his sleeve because there was so much more to see and they had to get burned corn that was covered with mayonnaise and find some deep-fried butter, while John was mesmerized not just by the beauty of these pieces, bu he was also trying to get inside this person’s mind. Some point early enough in the world that he could still acquire these snares without… you could tell he never paid $80.000 for a snare, but this is a lifetime pursuit and he recognizes these belong in a museum, but there is maybe not even a museum for snares, but it starts with this man. He has been collecting them for a long time and he has multiple versions of the 59 Les Paul of snares and he knows enough about it that he has little 3x5 cards typed with a typewriter that are talking about the difference in hardware.

The fair has been going to three weeks and probably 5 people have stopped and stared at this thing and the other 4 guys all had really long hair and were wearing a sleeveless T-shirt shaped like a British flag. A lot more people are going to stop at the pigs-in-love butter dishes. John was reading this little cards that said: ”Technically, this hardware shouldn’t be brass, but it is, and that poses several questions about the date of manufacture and my theory is that when they discontinued the model beforehand they had some hardware left over and built this!” He was talking from the standpoint of exactly the kind of crazy that John is. John continues to describe the snare collection.

John never talked to the drum collector, he always remained a mystery and John was just looking into them through this weirdness. The best part: This is a person who thought to bring it to the fair. This is the type of thing John would expect to see up above the counter in a store in New York City where when you walk in and ask the person behind the counter about something he yells at you. This is the type of thing you could see at Sam Ash Music in Midtown, except it was at the Puyallup fair in Washington and John doesn’t know where it is now. It got all boxed up and is now in this person’s living room? It is not in the attic, this is not a thing that just gets trotted out once a year, but it lives somewhere.

The Betty Boop person just buys all the Betty Boop and has no standard of selecting them. A lot of them were made in China, but what does that have to do with anything? John would not be interested in just buying every Betty Boop. If you had $500.000 and wanted to compile a collection of snare drums where your only story was ”I bought this because it was expensive!” you could do that, you could build any kind of collection if you just went and bought it, but the snare guy had looked at the threads of the screws and had something salient to say about it. They walked by a wall of Winnie the Poohs and it was the Betty Boop story. Maybe a dozen of them had something interesting to say, but John can’t tell because they are just trying to overwhelm you with quantity.

If John wanted to just overwhelm them, he would bring his collection of little Field Notes books that he has never written anything it. For the last 10 years every single event he goes to in swag bag there is a package of 3 Field Notes books that 25 years ago he would have compulsively filled with crazy ranting. Now he collects them because they still represent this opportunity. When John was 20 years old it was hard to get a little notebook that would fit in the pocket of your jeans that you could write your screeds on. John filled 1000 types of those before Field Notes were invented and when he gets them he is always pleased and gathers them to himself. He could do nothing else for the rest of his life but crazy scribble-rant in a Field Notes book and he would still not fill all the ones he has. He could be the guy in the movie Seven, but just with Field Notes books.

The last few years John has been very interested in wool blanket throws. They wouldn’t be out of place thrown across your legs at a football game. Some of them really pop! The guy with the Pendleton shirt collection: he unifying characteristic of them was that they were all Pendletons whereas John has Pendleton blankets, Hudson Bay blankets, blankets from the Faribault Mill, there are a lot of regional fabric mills and looms in the old days that made their signature American blankets and John has some from a lot of those, some from Scotland, some made out of Cashmere, and if you put them all together this is a something that you wouldn’t have noticed, but you are shown how little you knew.

The problem is that John is not sure if he is just on something. He has a few candle sticks, some globes, some historical atlases, a couple of switch blades, some blankets, a few different kinds of landjägers, some beer steins that are stained with coffee, all of the US presidents represented in dolls, some rocks at the beach that have a ring around them, called wish rocks, $20 in about 80 different currencies.

Merlin looked it up on the website and it is called the Hobby Hall where personal collections are displayed. There was a link at the bottom to learn how to enter your own item. John imagines the snare drum collector going to this website at one point and deciding to do it. John goes to the fair every year and he always walks through Hobby Hall, he sees a lot of crazy stuff, some stuff that really turns him on, some stuff that really turns him off, but the snare drum collection person has come out of the woodwork and John had never seen that before. Merlin continues to read from the fair website about what things you can enter.

Someone had a double-wide booth to display their Duran Duran memorabilia collection. John spent quite a bit of time studying it and a lot of that stuff was purchased post Seven and the Ragged Tiger, which is after the canonical era. It was not brand-new stuff, but stuff from 1994. Even though John was studying this stuff very carefully he was discounting a lot of it. A tour program from Indonesia in 2001 is not killing it for him. John has some pieced that this person didn’t have, like the velcro wallet that would be front and center in this collection.

Papering the walls with all that shit you bought off the Internet is not collecting, that is just buying things and having a room. You go into a thrift store now, they all have racks of more expensive clothes, or ”Better Brands” as they say, which back in the day they didn’t do but they had for a while, although now it is American Eagle and Old Navy. Who are you people? Better brand implies to John that it was made by hand by someone in America.

One guy did a display in honor of the F-4 Phantom. He had obviously built several models which were handsome, he did a good job, but then he had some photocopied boilerplate about the F-4 that anybody walking through there knows already. He was trying to fill up his booth because all he really had was 4 F-4s that he had built, which is a great start, but F-4 toys? That is more like a science fair project.

John thought for a while that he would collect letter openers that had been carved out of Mahogany and he has just enough letter openers… because the first few he got he thought: ”This is weird! Who would make a knife out of wood? I need to take this home and study it more closely!”, but then he realized that these weren’t combat knives, but they would sit on your desk for you to open letters with. John has just enough of those, but he hasn’t gone down the rabbit hole and sought out other letter opener collectors, compared notes with them.

One time John was collecting cool-ray sunglasses, which are cheap sunglasses from the old days made by Polaroid, and because they were cheap you could make them in a lot of crazy whacky styles and you can really make a very cool collection of them because there are so many of them and they are very cool looking, the perfect Etsy thing. John thought he had a pretty good collection and was a party one day talking to a Punk Rock photographer guy who might have had some Cool Rays hanging off of the pocket of his 1950s bowling shirt.

John was: ”Nice Cool Rays” - ”Oh, thanks!” - ”Yeah, I got a little collection of those!” - ”Oh, really?” and John already knew he was in trouble. ”So do I, do you want to compare?” - ”Fuck, I am on the ropes already!” John has hundreds of sunglasses, but not that many Cool Ray, but this guy had a pair hanging off the pocket of his shirt, which is a fishing lure for exactly the Largemouth Bass of John who wanders up and is like: ”Oh, yummy!” and now he got a live one! He is a true Cool Ray collector and he has hundreds of them. John was sending him pictures, which was like sexting between middle-aged collector dudes, like: ”Do you have this one?”, not even the best one that everybody has, and he sent back a picture of 15 of them.

After going back and forth a couple of times John took a picture of his entire glasses collection, and he wrote back: ”I noticed that you shot your collection from underneath, from the floor, you laid on the floor to take this picture to make your tower of glasses seem more impressive!” - ”Oh… I’m utterly defeated!” He didn’t even feel he needed to come back at John. All of his glasses wouldn’t even fit in a single frame and he had bigger fish to fry right now.

Merlin had a good collection of Zippo lighters at one point, but he doesn’t have any good collection right now anymore that isn’t just garbage. He doesn’t have anything rare or unusual, but it is more like he went to Target, filled a few bags and then happened to go to the fair and put it on the table. Merlin’s collection of ZIP and JAZZ drives would be very useful. Maybe there is a collection right under Merlin’s nose?

John’s role in life, and he is still trying to figure this out, maybe his duck is that he is an appreciater who should be a judge who should decide what they are going to bring in and who would help them curate what they are going to bring there. The thing is that John would be a pretty harsh mistress who would ask the Betty Boop lady for the spirit of her collection. He doesn’t need another theme, because the theme is ”Every Betty Boop”, but what is special here? Where is your first? Which one was the one that unleashed the dragon? You don’t just get one Betty Boop and say: ”You know what? I love this little thing!”, but there is the carpenter’s cup, the one that made you realize that you have become an insane person!

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