RL174 - Infuntainment

This week, Merlin and John talk about:

The Problem: What is the DEAL with Methadone?, referring to John driving past a methadone clinic on his way to the studio and Merlin wanting to talk about it, wondering how heroin addicts get onto methadone and if they like it and what is the general deal about it.

The show title refers to the service Merlin and John provide to their listeners, a word created around a thermos bottle for kids called Funtainer.

They start the show making funny noises and Merlin says: ”Red leather, yellow leather” and John replies: ”Narrow stairs! Narrow stairs!” The problem with podcasts is that people talk to much, this one in particular. They don’t just pause and think and reflect. It is nice to just take a moment and breath. Maybe it makes people uncomfortable. John likes to reflect in those moments on how much this podcast means to him. Driving to his office to record this podcast in particular is different than other drives.

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 Please do not quote these texts directly without applying your own editing first!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.

John driving past a methadone clinic on his way to the studio (RL174)

John is so grateful for this podcast that gives him the opportunity to take this drive from where he was to where he is going to be and there is something about the scheduling of this podcast in particular. Somewhere along the route John drives by a very large industrial-scale Methadone clinic that accommodates he burgeoning population of heroin junkies in the Northwest. It is a large facility that has appropriated an old building and has made no accommodation for the fact that what was once probably a nut-and-bolt-factory now has 700 people in various stages of recovery, trying to make it in the front door at specific times.

It is like you have come upon the scene of the defense of the Polish post office in Danzig (September 1st 1939). People are scrambling across the street, cars are parked at seven different diagonal angles to one another, parked on the sidewalk, people pushing their friend across the street in a shopping cart, there are fireworks going off, and everybody has to break, and none of the people who are on their way to or from the Methadone clinic look either way, they are unconscious of there being traffic.

Heroin junkies do not practice the principle of Keep moving and get out of the way and the ones that are moving are not getting out of the way and the ones that are maybe a little bit out of the way are not moving. To really make sure to not get into a calamity you have to slow down to 3 mph and it throws John out of his reverie. His problems are small beans compared to the desire of someone who is on a heroin product to not feel like spiders are crawling underneath their skin, but it does often then send him in the last 10 minutes of his drive thinking of different things, not just tabula rasa, but tabula light grey, a tabula covered with scribbles.

Seattle was built with the premise that there should be as few alternate routes as possible. They have a lot of water ways, bridges, surprisingly few tunnels, and everything has to get around something else and it has to just funnel down to the one road. If you live one place, then you know your one road.

The defense of the post office in Danzig (RL174)

Danzig is a free city, but there are a lot of Germans there and the Polish post office in Danzig was like an embassy that was considered a sovereign part of Poland. Post offices used to really matter! Gdansk is the Polish names. They have a lot of diacriticals in Polish! The Czechs do that, too! Just decide how to pronounce the letter ”c” or make some more letters! The barricaded themselves in their post office and fought the Germans for a long time, but then they were sentenced to death as illegal combatants over a month later. This is also how America keeps all these people in Guantanamo: They decide they are illegal and hey did not have a legal right to fight us.

One of the features of the Wikipedia page is the details of the battle and Merlin reads some of it and they talk some more about the unequal battle between Nazi Germany and Poland. A lot of the Poles got executed, both by the Nazis and the Soviets because people on both sides were afraid of the valiant Poles who were part of the Prussian idea that the office class was derived from the first families of the region. It wasn’t a meritocracy in principle, but the rich families and the royal families also produced the best military minds.

Some of the best generalship of the war came from guys whose fathers, grandfathers and great-grandfathers were generals. Imagine growing up in a family where it is presumed not only that you are going to go into the Army, but that you one day will be a general and lead your men into battle. You are sitting in the front yard, playing with swords made out of sticks and the staff carriage pulls up and the tsar gets out, marching around with their plumes in their hats, it is a lot of pressure and a big deal, but a lot of really good and also shitty generals came out of it.

Methadone clinic (cont)

When John goes past the methadone clinic he is thinking about his take. He doesn’t want to talk about it because there is a lot going on there for himself and for all of them, but it has struck him repeatedly that we are doing it wrong somehow and he doesn’t know how to do it better, but our current approach for the last 30 years (is bad).

Merlin’s daddy-daughter-day (RL174)

Merlin is trying not to become a one-issue person about the utter desolation and crumbling of the city in which he lives because it is bad and he had a little miniature rant on Back To Work (Merlin’s show with Dan Benjamin). It is really awful what is happening there. Sunday is daughter-daddy day and they often go into town to have lunch and see a movie and buy a book or a thermos and stuff.

Thermos bottles, children losing all their stuff at school (RL174)

Merlin has a daughter in school who is a wonderful human being, but she is very forgetful. The days of having a water bottle for her that she takes to school are over, but they now have approximately 6 water bottles of which 2-4 maybe available in the house at any given time. Merlin’s wife is not a big icer, but Merlin puts a lot of ice in a thermos because whatever is in there will get to get warm and when ice gets warm it tends into water and there is a benefit of putting mostly a ton of ice in there and some water and with your average water-conveyance that will just turn into cool water by the end of the day.

There is a thermos-brand called Funtainer that is insulated aluminum for kids with a Batman-theme and the first day Merlin had it he put way too much ice in it, miraculously at the end of the first day of school she still had it and when Merlin was unloading her backpack it was still half-full of ice after 6 hours.

John and Merlin have struggled to describe the service they provide people and John would call it Infuntainment. What is the podcast if not a Funtainer for their Infuntainment.

The reality of it is that as your child gets more into places where neither of the parents are, everything disappears that is not interesting or fun. Everything you buy goes away and the child has no idea that it ever existed. One day she will come home and has 4 water bottles that she found.

John sends his daughter to school with the water bottles that they have collected from the XOXO festival and that brand of water containment vehicle is solid for him and he is not worried about leakage. Merlin thinks the brand is called Klean Kanteen. John is most ashamed of the fact that he is so bad of remembering brands. A close friend the other day showed up with a new Stanley brand thermos, the big green classic. The thing is 3 feet tall, it looks like a Howitzer shell, and she thought John might appreciated and John was just trying to contain the covetousness he felt for this giant thermos and as soon as she left the room he was just all over it.

The life hack is to fill a thermos with boiling water and let it sit there for several minutes before you fill your coffee in it. Merlin would even do that before he went to bed at night and then throw in his piping hot coffee in the morning and you are going to have coffee until 8pm. Old-school thermos is old-school technology!

daddy-daughter-day (cont), The Iron Giant

They saw the re-release of Iron Giant with new scenes (The Iron Giant: Signature Edition), it was outstanding and Merlin cried and they had popcorn. There are two new scenes, one of which you will hardly notice unless you are very familiar with the film, and another one which your theory and reckons of the movie and in particular about the origins of the giant can change a lot. It clarifies what is up with the giant. Merlin continues to talk about that scene. Merlin used to bitch about the ending because it feels tacked on and the movie should stop earlier, but when he actually sees the ending every intellectual bone in his body just melts and he balls and thinks it is perfect. Merlin is literally at war with himself.

The went downtown and just getting from Powell Street Station to the Metreon, on the trip there there was a clearly schizophrenic man who sat right next to Merlin’s daughter cross-legged on the floor, pulling his hair, and making a high-pitched noise while he put his fingers in his ear, clearly a schizophrenic episode right next to Merlin’s kid, but she is super-mellow about it. After they got off there was another guy trying to break a window with his elbow, screaming at nobody. They see another guy who was screaming at tourists at the corner of Mission and 5th, and as they made their way past that and were about to make the turn over to Target there was an African-American man sobbing as he walked down in the middle of 5th Street, like he was having some kind of Old Testament experience. You remember seeing something like that once when you were a kid, but Merlin’s daughter saw 4 things like that in about 15 minutes, which is what happening at the street level right now.

Welcome to San Francisco! We have a lot of start-ups, it is a hell of a place! Then the poop is literally everywhere. Billions of dollars are poured into San Francisco every hour, but it is poured into buckets that some people never see and it has invisible ramifications within weeks and months. Now white people are being evicted and that has changed everything. There are notices going up everywhere, and rents are tripled and they have to pay $17.000 a month now and that is just a thing. Merlin just saw a notice on a place down the street from where he is, a 3-day-or-quit notice for a guy who owes $343.000 in back rent on a place.

How we approach drug addicts in our society (RL174)

People who have not faced with direness or duress tend to think digitally, like haves and have-nots, or people who are criminals or citizens, but Merlin thinks of the ladder of desperation and it is probably not just a ladder, but more than one axis. Merlin is very interested in Methadone because most of us who are on the good side of all those things look down at the heroin addict we saw in the health books in 8th grade and over here there is the guy who wrote the best-selling book about how he got off heroin. Methadone seems to be on one of he lower rungs of the ladder of desperation, but how does it get introduced into a person’s life? Do they want it? Are they glad they are having it? Are they happy that they are off the heroin? What is the deal with methadone?

How Methadone works

Methadone is a synthetic opioid. On heroin you are getting high and then you are getting low. You develop a tolerance for the drug and are not getting as high anymore, but you are getting lower and lower. Then you want to get off the heroin, but when you take it away then you have bad withdrawals, you see a robot baby walking on the ceiling, it is terrible and also physical you can die from those withdrawals.

Methadone goes in there and is a slow steady… it fills up the sickness and keeps the sickness at bay, but you are not all the way to euphoria, but it fills in the low spots and lets you get on with getting on. You are not clean by any means, but you are not on the crazy up-and-down cycle anymore and the premise is that you can slowly reduce the amount of methadone until you are off it, while you can’t wean yourself off of heroin quite the same way.

A lot of people get on methadone and stay on it for years because they don’t actually want to coast all the way to the ground. There are a lot of schools of thought on this. Some people chain themselves to a bed somewhere and say: ”No matter what you hear come through this door, don’t unlock it no matter what I say!” That happens to a lot of people who get sent to jail. They come down the hard way. The other way is that under the supervision of a clinic you are getting a slow coast, but for it to work you have to be doing all this other work!

You can just take your methadone and still do living the life. Maybe you are not shooting up, but you are also not on the straight and narrow. John wonders what about us makes people to want to be on the straight and narrow? Why do we as a collective approach it from such a binary idea? The amount of money and emotional effort we pour into the notion that we want people to get clean, and in the meantime if they are not clean we are not going to provide any services to them and we are going to exclude them from life, we are going to push them onto the street, we are going to insist that they are kept out and be forced to rob to support their habit, living in squalor, spreading disease among themselves. We absolutely exclude them if they are getting high.

This isn’t addressing the mental health problem, which we approach in a similar vein. You are not taking your medication, you are not undergoing treatment, therefore you are absolutely excluded! We seem to be content, although we tisk-tisk, to see people living absolutely torturous lives in squalor, covered with sores of complete hygiene failure where you are scratching yourself and get sores, almost medieval-looking, a person who comes from a plague-ridden time.

Our calvinist culture thinking that drug addicts deserve it

It all comes back to the idea that we have culturally a very calvinist premise or a Catholic one, even. We have all this new 20th century energy, all these people who have decided they are atheists or agnostics, who are living in a world unburdened by mythology and what they imagine is this prehistoric dumbness. They have read Nitzsche, they went to college, worked at a software place for a while and they are above all this and can see with clarity. But none of use is saying: Can we eliminate this binary notion that successful people deserve their success because they worked hard and the ones that don’t hard deserve their squalor.

There are all these people that if they can’t get up in the morning and make it to their minimum wage job, then: ”Fuck them!” It is too bad that atheism has attached itself to libertarianism so closely, although maybe they are philosophical brethren and so it makes sense, but you might hope that there would be a compassionate version of this humanistic thought that we spent the last 100 years working on.

Merlin thinks that does go back to the ideas of religious fundamentalism of various sorts from another time. There is a basic tribalism and those people that are others are marked in some way or deserve it to be this way, but there is always a reason and i may be God’s reason that we don’t always understand. Merlin wonders why we have to put those people in jail instead of helping them? People claim that those outsiders have chosen their path and it sounds like something from the 1600s. We are still Charlemagne, taking the Saxons down to the river and cutting off their heads if they don’t do the one right version of life that we have in mind. Secular humanism has not done away with that idea.

The idea of building a free facility where people can drink and take drugs

As John drives past this methadone clinic he starts to imaging a world in which we say that it is fine if you want to do heroin because we have determined that the amount of money we spend on this whole problem is dispersed among thousands of organizations that don’t communicate with each other and we are not able to say that the cost of the War on Drugs is not just the amount of money that we pay the coast guard to go out and interdict boats that are coming in from the Bahamas and the cost for the C-130s that are flying over Central America with their downward-looking radar, but the cost of the War on Drugs is actually all those ambulances schlepping people back and forth between emergency room, the jail time, the cops focused on drug problems, all of the cost of breaking and entering and purse-snatching and there is no way to look at what the real costs are.

This is bleeding us in a way and also not solving the problem. So you want to do heroin because you have discovered it and it feels good. The first problem is that we don’t want people to feel good, so we have a big beautiful farm that encompasses hundreds of acres, we built lots of buildings there, and it is the heroin farm and you can go there and be on heroin there and we don’t ask you to pay any money, we don’t require that you do anything, but you are a living person and you can go to this place and be on heroin. There is enough of a medical staff there that we don’t let you die, and this is a form of being away.

The cost of maintaining this for the pretty small proportion of people who want to be on heroin is worth it for us! You are not going to cause any problems in the town anymore and you are going to be on heroin anyway, if you are living in a tent under the freeway or in this hotel down in the woods. It is a bit like Hamsterdam from The Wire. Drug addicts and alcoholics do share a lot of characteristics with one another. They are selfish and egotistical people, which is why Alcoholics Anonymous works because they have identified the fact that every single alcoholic and drug addict feels like they are a special person, which makes it seem like a spiritual disease.

This is why we despise them so much: Very seldom does a person of true humility become a raging alcoholic. Either the alcohol turns them into an asshole or they were an asshole to begin with. Like douchebags and business development: It seems like one was invented for the other. This is part of the reason why we can’t imagine just caring for them somewhere, because they infuriate us. Each individual alcoholic comes from a family that they have infuriated to the point that they have been kicked out. Every junkie was already infuriating before they became a junkie.

If you build this farm where you can sit on a couch all day and nod off, there will be TVs there, 3 squares a day, it will cost the town money to sustain you there, and it is very hard for some people in the town to imagine that you guys are out there, eating 3 squares a day, it is going to be intolerable and drive them to absolute distraction: ”What did you do to deserve this? There are people working hard! Why can’t I be addicted to heroin?” - ”You can! It is open enrollment!” and what you discover is that 99.9% of people don’t want to be addicted to heroin, sitting on a couch, nodding off, they just don’t.

If you said it is free and you can do, most people wouldn’t, including some junkies who would live there for a year and it would be amazing, but then they too would say you take away the thrill of persecution, all the energy of the hunt and the feeling of being hunted, and that is a feeling that is very hard to talk about: The feeling John had as an alcoholic and that was propelling him toward a life on the street, which was a big part of John’s early 20s, he was dancing with the idea of being a street person, he spent a lot of time seeking out the wisdom of the alley and wondering whether or not he belonged there.

The connection between addiction and mental illness

At what point do these ideas trend over into mental illness? There isn’t a clear line between Bipolar 2 and Bipolar 1. Schizophrenia is clear, but the bass player of Rage against the Machine so much that he is willing to confront Buzz Aldrin in the public square and yell at him about the fact that we faked the moon landing. He then also has to believe in a whole castle of prior notions about how the world is actually transaction, that we faked the moon landing. Then he also believes that there is a secret government that is enthralled to who knows what. He does sound like a schizophrenic, but he is the bass player of Rage against the Machine and he lives in a house and has money and where is the line between him and a guy on the street corner pulling his hair?

Drug facility (cont)

Junkies aside, there is a housing complex in Seattle for chronic alcoholics where they are allowed to drink. These guys go from the emergency room immediately to the first package store and buy a bottle of MD-2020 and then they are passed out in a dumpster again and are back in the emergency room in 24 hours. Let’s just put them all in a building! We did and it has been an amazing success, but there is a waiting list of 1000 years for this thing!

Take over some old Catholic retreat or some High School and turn it into a place where people can just go, the downstairs is going to be a beer stube and it is not going to be squalid, but we are clean it up, there are going to be TVs that are playing sports-ball and there is just free beer there. Beer is cheap to make and there is lots of shitty beer that beer companies would donate. All the outcry: ”I would like to just sit around and drink beer!”, but then: ”Fine! Here it is! Go for it!” You don’t need to fill out a form to go to the soup kitchen, but you would probably prefer to go somewhere else.

Merlin says it is like a sunk-cost fallacy that it would be a dishonor to all the people who died in Iraq and Afghanistan if we got out of Iraq and Afghanistan and we have to show them honor by having more people die in this horrible war. What if we hadn’t made this into a criminal enterprise? Heroin is illegal because we don’t like Chinese people and a whole bunch of stuff is illegal because white guys didn’t like the people who were doing it.

Pot is now legal in Washington

Pot is legal in Washington now and there are clean and beautiful pot stores that have more different pots than you can imagine and because pot technology has had 40 years of people cross-breeding pots, the level of stoniness in the pots is ludicrous. Even when John was in high school and college there were shakes and you can roll a joint out of some shake and smoke pot all afternoon and get a hazy cool buzz. It was like drinking light beer.

John looks at people who are baked and knows how baked they are and he has been that baked, but he is not even sure he has. Back 20 years ago when John quit smoking pot he had smoked all the crazy University of Washington laboratory pot, he had smoked the Alaskan Thunder Fuck, the top shelf shit in Amsterdam, the Northern Lights, he had sought out and found the gnarliest shit, including some black hash he smoked in Tarifa, Spain.

It literally made him feel like he was levitating above his own body in a hotel room in Tarifa he had this experience and could not believe it. He was speaking to mother Mary and she was speaking back to him. You can probably get that high off a pot that you just buy in a store now, it is too chronic, it has become insane and they have to scale it back and breed some pot for olds and for chill people who just want to smoke some weed.

One of the crucial rules about the pot stores is: No smoking pot at the pot store. It is not a pot café, but a pot store. They used to have liquor store in Washington that were not bars and obviously if you buy liquor at a grocery store you can’t drink it there, but there are also buys where you buy liquor and drink them because you want to do it with other people and not just take your bottle back to your SRO.

For pot we don’t have that because we have made it illegal to smoke in public and pot is smoke like tobacco, but 90% of the people who are buying pot want to open it right there, sit down at a picnic table in a dark place, order a coffee, roll a joint, smoke it, and watch the music video for Division Bell Live, Pink Floyd mega light show guitar solo wank fest, and trip out, but not at home. But that is illegal, you cannot chill, but why?

The people serving coffee in this place would be exposed to second-hand smoke and that violates the municipal codes that we have established and John agrees with those. When they took cigarettes out of Rock clubs, it improved John’s life 1000% as a performing artists when you stand up on stage and people are not blowing Winstons in your face. But in this process we also have made it illegal for people to go to a bar that is called smoking bar where everybody in there just wants to smoke including the bar tender.

Merlin says it is possible in San Francisco if the place is owner-operated. There is a place called Amber in the Castro, a really fun bar that was a smoking place, but it is still pretty rare. You can smoke weed before you can smoke a cigarette in a bar and you smell weed everywhere now.

Drug facility (cont)

We should buy a giant 40.000 sqft beer stube, a giant hall like a beer hall in Munich, except instead of pretzels we are going to serve pieces of wedding cake or whatever stoners want, some chocolate pudding and some Mountain Dew, John doesn’t even remember what you want. SpaghettiOs? There will be psychedelic music playing or Reggae even and you can just get baked and there will be couches and stuff, that place would be jammed! But we just can’t picture it. Then you amp that up to shitty free booze. There should just be a free beer farm.

What if a billionaire like Elon Musk would step up?

If a billionaire, for example Elon Musk, who is working on a Hyperloop train and on a space ship. John saw a Tesla today with a baton with a football team flag that you put on the back window of your car (called Sports Fan Car Flags on Amazon), usually you see them on a Blazer with 26” rims (Chevy SUV), but John saw them flying on a Tesla today. The Seahawks branded one.

Elon Musk is sitting in his office, trying to make the world better by building Mega Technology, he probably has an IV in with a Vitamin B complex and some Hitler speed. Merlin sees him eating a very tiny salad from the future that none of us have heard about, with environmental chop sticks made of recovered Titanium that light up and also convert sea water to fresh water. He is talking to a model of Scarlett Johansson on the computer and he says: ”Scarlett, I am making all these big projects, I am sending drones all around that fulfill the roll of a bee in the almond industry so we don’t need bees anymore, my chopsticks are making water, so we don’t need water. What is my next project?”

And she says: ”Why don’t you build a pleasure farm out in the desert, an extra-territorial space where we are not violating any laws, a beer stube with big picnic tables and free beer where you can smoke some Ganj and across he campus there is a place where you can shoot up and nod off” The problem is that it would become a destination for people around the world. It would have to be a movement where every town would have a place like that, a new idea in the culture instead of rehab facilities

If you want to get off heroin and you are at one of these sin farms we would also locate our methadone clinic there and if you wanted to re-enter society, those facilities would be there, too. If you want to get sober, if you want to go to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. They encourage it, but it is your choice and you can go back down to the lounge. We are going to stop trying to get you to get clean by making you inhuman, but we are going to offer you the opportunity to get clean if that is what you want. This is past Elon Musk, but we have to go back to introducing this conversation into the public sphere.

We have excluded certain people from society

We have tried everything, nothing has worked, it is 2015 and we are still dealing with drugs and alcohol although it is a moral crisis. We no longer provide for people who cannot live within ”normal” culture and we have eliminated all services for them, we don’t house them anymore, we don’t care for the people who just need to be maintained. The Kennedy sister lived in an institution her whole life, but if you can’t afford in a for-pay institution we will just let you go out on the street and fend for yourself and too bad for you.

We let the religious people and the compassion industry deal with caring for people, but they are made up of religious people with a very strong sense of judgement, and all the methadone clinic people who have a medical approach to it, but still premised on he idea to get you from there to here and that there is a success and failure rate. If John were Elon Musk, maybe he would go to the state of Nebraska where no-one wants to live anymore and which largely should be returned to a prairie state, where all the fences are taken down and the buffalo are allowed to roam free, and there are still some old people in Bausch + Lomb horn-rimmed glasses who are standing in the center of their empty town, rallying against the federal government, continuing to farm soy beans even as the giant robot combines that have a glitch in their GPS and combine right over their farm house and the operator is somewhere in Chicago. Merlin thinks John’s story has turned into Beat Poem, but he likes where it is going.

Building a White Home Land and a Sin City somewhere in Nebraska

There are a lot of people who want to go up to North Dakota or Nebraska and buy up a town and turn it into a white homeland, you hear about those guys all the time. Once you get good Internet in those places, more of them are going to be taking over by nuts. This town will be for whites only, but the FEDs will be fine with that, because he more angry, vindictive and probably insane whites you can get into this era, their job will get easier. That is great! They will all keep their guns and inevitably they are going to get in gunfights with each other over minute problems in the doctrine and little by little they will just eliminate each other. They continue to spin ideas about such a place.

Somewhere a little bit further south where the air is clean we draw a big circle of about 500 square miles and we just say: ”Sin City” and anything goes. You sign a disclaimer walking through the gates that you are not going to have any recourse to the law in there and that there are definitely going to be people who have decided that they are the law and that is your problem. It is just like being in a fun prison with gangs and bad men and a lot of you think you can have fun in there and come out at the end of the weekend and probably 89% of you will come out unscathed and it will be a blast. Somebody after a few years is going to appoint themselves mayor of Sin City.

A lot of those frat boys would have to decide if they should go to White Home Land or Sin City because it will only be a 6 hour drive. There will be a lot more churches in White Home Land. There are gates at Sin City and you can’t just traffic a bunch of 14 year old Thai girls in there and each person walks into a room, the door closes behind them, and the person at the desk asks: ”Are you under duress in anyway? Are you here with somebody who is holding your arm a little too tightly?”

If yes, they will have the money to fly them anywhere in the United States and they never will have to walk through that door that they just came through, but they can go out this special door, they will never know what happened to you. Of course there is going to be an airstrip, it is going to be the biggest airport in the world, and the letters on their luggage is just SIN. John wants to have the Cinnabon (sin a bun) concession at Sin City airport.

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