RL217 - Dick... AND!

This week, Merlin and John talk about:

The problem: Squires lived on hot case, referring to John's bandmate Mike Squires who went through a phase where he decided that he was only going to eat food from the hot case in gas stations.

The show title refers to Merlin talking about improv class where dick jokes were the easiest thing to get laughs.

John is fighting California ants right now. He is legend for his experience with Northwest ants, but the ants in Southern California do not kid around.

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

Agreeing to the Terms of Service (RL217)

Apple updated their terms of service and John agreed, because what choice did he have? You wouldn’t believe what happened! You have to be a millennial to understand this breakup story! You have to be a 90s-kid to know how to use iOS 10. John hasn’t upgraded yet, but he keeps hearing about it. They shortly talk about iOS 2. John asked if they increased the resolution. Merlin says it is a lot of fun and it is a fantastic, very solid upgrade. John has always been confused about how to make and save and store GIFs, he doesn’t even know where to begin.

Going to a strip club (RL217)

John and Merlin have been in a strip club together once, but it was not Merlin’s thing. Merlin should have been the one who got dollars put in his underpants, because it was quite a show to watch how manifestly uncomfortable he was and he couldn't even begin to hide it. He sat there with his knees pressed together, a briefcase standing up on his lap, his hands on the lock, looking through the gloom for an exit sign. It was a lot like the posture from his early days of going to amateur improv shows where he had a rictus of a smile on his face as he gently rocked back and forth. ”I need something you find in a bathroom and pizza topping” Dick jokes are funny, just do dick jokes, but don’t try to make that improv! Poop and dick jokes. Dick… AND!

Merlin's dreams (RL217)

Merlin does remember his dreams when he wakes up in the morning, parts of them even clearly. There is an entire episode of his other podcast Reconcilable Differences with John Siracusa who cannot understand why anybody would pay attention to this brain garbage. Merlin is intrigued by dreams, even though he doesn’t find them meaningful. Sometimes he has very intense dreams for a long time and in case he wakes up in the middle of it he has practiced a methodology for going back into the dream. Merlin’s memory of his dreams does fade through the day, which can be the phenomenon of primacy and recency, and sometimes when he goes to sleep he remembers dreams from the day before. Sometimes he writes them down and they are mainly silly. Merlin continues to talk about his dreams.

Sorting LEGO (RL217)

Merlin did work jobs where he would file things. John is very good at this and he could always find the Maisy Glotz file (see story in RL163) and this is one way where Merlin and John are probably more alike than different: There are certain kinds of what other people consider mindless tasks that Merlin really enjoys, like sorting LEGOs. There are so many ways you could sort LEGOs! John agrees and he feels an emptiness because he doesn’t have a bin of LEGOs right now and he does not have a tackle box (”tackle box lego storage”).

John has several tackle-box style boxes full of political pins and other things that many of their friends would consider garbage. Those are larger boxes that are not meant for tied flies, but they are cut differently from somebody’s little wall decoration where they keep a menagerie of all their thimbles. In the 1970s people would put their thimbles or bells you would get in truck stops for the different states on display and you need a box for that stuff! John’s collections are not contained in those, but in a similar structure that has a glass lid so you can see the stuff, but it is under glass. John also doesn’t mount them on the wall, but he keeps them stacked on a modified miniature little map rack full of pins.

John desperately wants LEGOs in his life again, which was 70% of the excitement of having a kid: Trains and LEGOs! But when he goes to the store to shop for LEGOs, even the LEGO-store, or when he makes pilgrimages for LEGO places, he becomes confused, baffled and dismayed by what he finds. Those things are fucking shit-tastic expensive and they are all built around a kit. John doesn’t want to build an Eiffel tower, but he wants a box of LEGOs. You can go to these places where they have the LEGOs independently in bins, but they are $14 a piece and so John doesn’t know where to begin.

He wanders around the LEGO store for 2,5 hours, wonders if he could make other things if he took apart that princess castle and then he leaves empty-handed. He had previously gone online and asked people to sell him their 1979 washtub full of LEGOs, but he has never pulled the trigger on one of those. Merlin will gift John with something through the Amazon. John is only interested in a whole-bunch of classic 8-nubbin LEGO bricks and not a lot of flibbidy-jibbidy. There is the LEGO classic large creative brick box with 790 pieces and a box shaped like a LEGO.

John’s daughter did get into duplo and she has built several princess castles. She likes to build rooms, like bedrooms and kitchens and garages and bridges, but the duplos don’t have the necessary precision because they are made for little hands. Then people started giving her LEGO gifts like a little diorama with a cool motorcycle mama with a dirt bike, a palm tree, a tent, a motorcycle and 50 tiny little chokeable-upon things, like her matchbook and her magnifying glass. The cool thing about duplo is that with accommodatingly sized pieces, you can use duplo and LEGO together! You can make the base of your castle out of duplo and then sexy it up with turrets.

Merlin’s house got professionally cleaned last Friday and his entire living room table is currently covered of LEGOs. There is nothing a kid loves to mess up more than a professionally cleaned room. Merlin is a retired productivity guru. One big part of success in one’s career is to figure out what about one’s occupation is necessarily hard, because that is the reason you get the big bucks and that is the reason why not everybody else can or will do it. Then you have to figure out the part of your job that is not necessarily difficult, but that you find difficult and the question is if you can improve it.

Part of success is figuring out how much you can tolerate the stuff that is difficult and not making your job good, and how much of the stuff that is difficult you can fix. If you just happen to be a person who likes sorting LEGOs, but you don’t mind that it won’t matter 10 minutes later, you are good to go. The problem is if you think that the flower and light nubbins should always stay in this drawer because pretty soon you are like the guy in the LEGO movie. Like all things involving parenting, or all things John does all day, it is a Sisyphean task.

John establishing his mobile podcasting rig (RL217)

John has evolved into a different species because of evolution. He has naturally selected within himself. It is the will of something that wants to evolve into its next generation that wills the evolution to happen and wills the natural selection to take place in a certain way by virtue of choosing.

A lobster hasn’t evolved to that yet, because a lobster is just a mosquito that evolved into a lobster, like a tasty sea-roach. Some bug landed on the water and was like ”Nice!” and they hoped that their kids could swim, and then those kids were swimmers and the swimmer kids were like ”What’s on the bottom?” and they hoped that their kids could swim to the bottom. Somewhere along the lines, John doesn’t know if it was intentional and they went to the bottom because they were looking for pearls and then realized that the cold water kept them alive longer, or whether the post-skito-proto-lobster on the surface said ”I want to live longer, I know that cold produces longer life. I’m going down!” One ping only!

John is broadcasting from California. He has established a mobile podcasting rig that allows his entire podcasting operation to fit into his small shoulder bag that goes into the overhead compartment of the airplane. One of the inner bags that is in the small bag is an old padded laptop bag that Merlin gave him one time back in the day when laptops needed to be ensconced in their own special bags and were thick like a trade paperback book from Russia in 1890. That bag contains the microphone and the headphones in their own small bag and that small bag goes into the other small bag. It is a bag in a bag in a bag!

Everything that is wrong with Los Angeles (RL217)

The number of opportunities to feel like Sisyphus in the Los Angeles area of California is exponentially higher because John has to correct so many people who are profoundly doing it wrong. If you tied a thin copper wire around the first man-bun you saw and every time you saw another bun you would wrap the wire around the next bun and you let those people keep going while continuing to spool the wire and wrapping it around every bun for an hour, kind of trying to make a loop, you could run back into the first person, wrap that copper wire around their bun one more time and you would have made a Tesla coil.

It was Tesla’s dream right there and it is happening in LA right now, but nobody is doing it. There are so many man-bun circles of different things that people could be taking advantage of but they are not. They continue to fantasize about making a Tesla-coil out of man buns later in the show. Obviously John made a big to-do about how California coffee culture drives him crazy, but there are so many things to be insane about down there that John can’t even worry about the coffee people.

John went to a Whole Foods, which was a very interesting experience because there was a lot more shouting. Everybody is very angry and impatient. Some people were just shouting at first, which seemed normal, then there were other people shouting at each other and it was became very tense situation. Just chill the fuck out! You are paying $14.99 a pound for the salad bar, why are you upset? At the hot bar they will sell you a box of Macaroni and Cheese for $25 to take home, how can you be mad about that? Merlin says that two nice slabs of meat loaf and some Macaroni at the hot bar are like $60.

Mike Squires living on hot case (RL217)

Back in the touring days, Mike Squires went through a phase where he decided that he was only going to eat food that was from the hot case in gas stations. They would pull into a gas station and everybody would jump out to get a bottle of water or go to the bathroom and get a coffee. Merlin suggests cheddar and sour cream ruffles that the New York Times suggested and that he discovered is possibly the greatest food in the world, but John is barfing at the thought.

There are known things you can get and you don’t need to explore the spinny meats. There are obviously JoJos (?) everywhere, which is what ties hot cases together, but every JoJo is different. Then you have your enchiladas, but it is not clear what they are. They are like taquitos. Sometimes there are egg rolls, there is fried chicken, sometimes you have a German sausage, and there are all the things you can put into a deep fried bun, the hot-wrapped sandwiches in tin foil, like chicken sandwich and sausage sandwich.

Mike Squires lived on hot case for a while and none of the rest of them supported it at all: "Just stop doing this!" It was like that guy who ate at McDonalds every day for a year, except it happened way faster. All the color went out of his face except red blotches and he both gained weight and lost definition. He became a shmoo!

Getting regular food in China (RL217)

A lot of the Asian food served in America is heavily Americanized to our palates and tastes. There is also the kind of food you would eat every 5 years at a wedding on a tiny plate. You would not have all-you-can-eat of anything of what gets served at those kinds of places. John’s girlfriend lived in China as a vegetarian and they would serve her a big platter of meat parts. She would say ”Do you have any vegetables and rice?”, which is what she would prefer, but they would never serve an honored guest the food that they eat every day. It is like asking to sleep on the dog bed, but that was what she wanted, just the food they normally eat. Fat chance, American tourist! You are going to get our once-a-year meal!

John and his mom stopped playing Christmas, the House of Hong (RL217)

Every Christmas Eve for the last dozen years John and his mom would go to House of Hong to get some almond-fried chicken before they would go to the 10pm movies. They had made a pact a long time ago that they weren’t going to play Christmas anymore. On Christmas Eve you would find all your jewish friends at House of Hong and everybody who is not celebrating Christmas, which is a pretty fun time. House of Hong is the reliably bad Chinese restaurant. You wouldn’t take your friends there from out of town and it is not a thing you go to on a regular basis, but if you want almond-fried chicken on Christmas Eve at 8:30pm there is no other place to go.

The other night they went to House of Hong because it was John’s birthday and his sister wanted to take him there. It has recently changed hands and everything about it is now different. The old menu had 400 things on it, the new menu has 40 things on it, but none of them were good. You end up marking the passage of time by the little things that go away like that. Remember House of Hong?

John’s perfect breakfast in Torrey’s Eggcetera (RL217)

One time John was walking down the streets and somebody he vaguely knew bumped into him and invited him to have breakfast with him at Torrey’s Eggcetera. They were meeting two friends, both of whom were very charming, pretty young girls, John was a young man at the time, he was hung-over and he had that halo of magic that can sometimes be upon a person when they are hung-over. They sat down at the table and John actually charmed the clothes off of all three of these people while they were in that the restaurant.

By the end it was clear that John could take those three people anywhere and have them do anything. Instead he stood up, said ”This has been lovely! Todeloo!”, and although they didn’t want him to go he waltzed away and has always thought back how his life would have gone differently if he had either taken them or gone with them. Sliding Doors! Instead that moment was perfect and John didn’t want them to know that he is not this perfect all the time.

Before he says the dumb thing that he is surely about to say, before he ruins this, before his hangover wears off and all of a sudden he is talking to them about WWI, he is going to float off and they will hopefully always look at the drinking fountain and remember him (see water-fountain story in RL268). If John keeps talking he is eventually going to lose his cool. Eventually they will look up at the cool barometer and the winds will have changed and a depression will have moved in and their joints will hurt all of a sudden, because this guy they thought was amazing has been talking about the Battle of the Somme for 45 minutes.

Pizza parlor dance party (RL217)

In 1995 John was walking along with some friends and for some reason he was in a suit while his friends were not. There was a pizza-parlor that was also an art gallery and it was closed, but the lights were on and the music was playing. They waltzed in and half a dozen girls who worked at the pizza parlor were just playing some music while they were wiping down tables. As they came in the girls said ”We are closed!”, but John and his friends had just heard the music and thought they would pop in. Somehow right away they were all dancing.

John was in a pin-stripe suit, but he had some crazy dance-moves! He was backing that ass up right and left, the music was loud and his friends were into it, too, while they normally were like "We can all agree on cheese!” and were not into this kind of spontaneous dance party with girls working at the punk rock pizza place. Nobody in the room knew what was happening!

It was an instant dance party like in a 1990s film! They played some music that John would never ever have danced to, like Moby or something, but one of the girls was someone John had seen for years and been intrigued by in the neighborhood. She played bass and her hair was wild, tangled and teased up in a way that gave the impression that she had never combed it or ever worked on it for a second. She looked like Lori Petty, except with big hair.

She was dancing with John and had separated him from the herd a little bit. It was no longer 7 people dancing with each other, but now she and John were dancing. At a certain point she leaned in and over the loud music she whispered in John’s ear ”Who are you?” and John put on a super-chill face shrugged and was about to say ”I don’t know myself!”. Ahe stepped back, waiting for the answer to her question, she saw him prepare to say ”I don’t even know. Who am I?” and her face fell. Before John could even say it, she mouths to him with a super-contemptuous face ”I don’t even know, right?” Like that’s your dude-bro answer?

John’s pants basically fell to the floor. The spell was broken! John had fucked up because he paused. She could see that corny reply form on John’s lips that he was not the person that she thought he was. He had waltzed into this pizza parlor, started a dance party in a 3-piece suit, he was an excellent dancer and a fucking sorcerer, but in that one little moment the answer to that question would have been ”Hi, I’m John!”

You don’t have to say ”I’m the wizard from the North!”, but ”Hi, I’m John! What’s your name? Should we be married now?” They could be living on a fucking dirigible with her hair still being wild, just turning a little grey, she could be fucking tank girl and they could be having a pizza parlor dance party on a dirigible around the world and she would look like Brita Frankenstein (?) now. In that one moment John’s insecurity got revealed. He wasn’t actually that cool, because he was corny.

John losing his glasses in the alley (RL217)

(see also in RW119)

John never blacked out when he was drinking and he very seldom vomited. Every alcoholic is different and John was a battleship! You could put all the booze in him and he would still be like a D9 Caterpillar and would never black out and never forget a thing. He was at every horrible bachelor party where everybody was a bachelor and no-one was getting married anywhere, it was just awful times. Instead of being blessed with waking up the next morning and asking ”What happened last night?”, John just never went to sleep.

One time in the middle of the day at 2pm John laid down in an alley because he couldn’t walk any further. It was full of rats and it was probably the one place where people had pissed the most often during the last 120 years. John curled up there, but he was aware enough that he took his glasses off, folded them and put them on his night table, which was a pile of garbage. When he woke up an hour or two later in this hot, garbage-strewn, piss-strewn alley, still absolutely shit-faced, off he went down the street, but he forgot his glasses on the night stand.

His vision was blurred enough already that it was not obvious immediately and he didn’t notice until he was at the next place. He turned around and went back to the alley, but his glasses were gone. These were glasses that John had made because a friend of his worked as an orderly at the hospital and there was a program at the hospital where they made glasses for free for poor people, so John went and had his glasses made and they were amazing.

It was an era somewhere in the 1990s where all of the shop glasses and government-issued glasses that they made in proliferation back in 1961 were just $0.25 a piece. This government program had these incredible 1950s black-on-top-clear-on-the-bottom glasses. They were fashionable because they were cheap and John lost them in that alley. Who would pick up a pair of glasses from that piss-hole?

Alec Baldwin (RL217)

The shortly talk about the movie Adventures in Babysitting and about Alec Baldwin vs Vincent D’Onofrio. John likes Alec Baldwin despite all the reasons not to like him. The movie came out in 1987, the same year as Full Metal Jacket. Merlin explains how Thor became Thor and something about the Avengers. Merlin watched the movie ”Deceptive Practice: The Mysteries and Mentors of Ricky Jay” for the 4th or 5th, a movie that John also has seen many times.

Stoner Burners (RL217)

Merlin has a problem with the willful unusualness in Venice Beach. The Kumquats are thick on the ground there. There was a time in 1982 when a Wasteoid or Burnout was a valid job and something to aspire to. Some of the Valley speak and certain kinds of surf-talk has antecedents in Loadies or Burnouts. Those people had Judas Priest drawn on their folder, they wore a flannel shirt, they would fall asleep in class and they were always in the smoking area, because High Schools used to have smoking areas. They were like Wayne and Garth, except that those were too Canadian.

Later they called them Heshers, but in Anchorage they called them Stoners. A Stoner was a blanket term for any kind of Burner. There was a tremendous element of defiance and they would look at you and tell you that they had chosen nothingness and that it was a valid life choice. We have all stood at the crossroads and looked down one path as far as we could until it bent into the undergrowth.

There was a moment where Spicoli was seen as the coolest character in Fast Times at Ridgemont High (mentioned in RW119) and people thought that his coolness might be available to them as well. Spicoli had made a life choice and he was on a path. They continue to talk about that movie. John was walking down Venice Beach recently and he could see Stoner Burnouts from his time, people who had come to that Spicoli crossroads and took the other choice as just as fair. They tried to hitch a ride, they saw the devil and they asked him to take them to the other side. They are sitting and walking around everywhere, not just the guy who looks like Jimmy Hendrix on roller skates. Just as John was talking about them, a stoner burnout walked by the front, they are that close! He seriously was The Dude (from the movie The Dude), but missing the sweater because it is 82 degrees (28°C).

Arguments about 1980s basketball (RL217)

John sat down at a basketball court the other day and there were maybe 10 black guys his age sitting around on the stands, arguing loud about basketball teams from the 1980s and who was the best. John knew every name they were saying and they were really up in each other’s faces. These guys probably have a version of this argument every day and part of the loudness is a performance of the Venice Beach middle aged guys who sit around the basketball court who argue loudly about things from their childhood. Young people will just roll their eyes at them, because there have been 4 or 5 iterations of basketball culture since Michael Jordan.

In their world there was never a better moment in history of the Lakers vs the Celtics and there would never be a bigger moment in sports than this rivalry that was so profound. It is cast in iron also in John’s own mind, but he didn’t care about it. He felt like turning around and asking ”What about the Utah Jazz?” John Stockton played for the Jazz and he went to Gonzaga where John also went and where basketball is the big sport. Merlin learned about Detlef Schrempf because he is on several episodes of Parks & Rec and he used to play for the Sonics. These guys also got into the Sonics who had their heyday in the early 1990s. John sat there and listened. He was loving it! They were yelling at each other about 1980s and early 1990s basketball and John could follow along.

John getting a bicycle in Venice Beach (RL217)

John bought a bicycle from a guy in Venice Beach who had an old British 3-speed Rally from 1966. John offered him $100 for it and he said ”Okay!” Now John is in the process of cleaning and fixing up this vintage ding-ding bicycle with a rack in the back and he wants to put a front bastic [sic] on it where you could put a bunch of stuff in, like a gallon of milk, a loaf of bread and a stick of butter, which is kind of a delivery guy basket, but John is still trying to find the right one and hasn’t committed to it yet. Now John is a local, this isn’t some dumb beach bike that he rented from somebody, but this is his quirky 1960s 3-speed British bike and John is already wondering what his quirk is. Is he going to get a bowler?

Motorcycle-sidecar-bulldog-guy and Jimmy-Hendrix-on-roller-skates-guy (RL217)

John has been waltzing around in Venice Beach looking at the culture. The real muscle beach is in Santa Monica, but there might be another one in Venice Beach. John has been to Venice Beach 1000 times, driving down Abbot Kinney, going to the beach, walking around, but there is nothing there for him and then he leaves. He came back and did it again, but there was nothing there for him this time around either.

They would stop and get coffee at Intelligentsia, but John doesn’t like this either. For years John has been going there, saying that there is nothing that interests him, but now he is here more as a local, spending the days here, finding that there are levels upon levels. Merlin would frequently just go to the Mall and walk around for 3 hours, even without a nickel (5 cents) in your pocket, because it was its own thing. People would just go to the mall, it was their third place.

Yesterday John was having breakfast in Venice Beach and a guy rolled up with a motorcycle and a sidecar with a bulldog in it wearing a pair of goggles and a handkerchief around the neck. It is like a platonic form of a bulldog. He pulled up in front of this sidewalk café, he talked to some people, and they took his picture with the dog. He looked like a normal guy, he was not wearing a sunflower costume, he was not Peter Gabriel, but he was just wearing a jeans jacket and a normal haircut.

He did not come into the restaurant, but he was just talking to people out front. It was not clear if he was there to meet somebody he knew before he drove off again. Is he just touring all the restaurants? This guy is a platonic form, he has chosen to be that guy, the motorcycle with the bulldog with the sidecar and the goggles guy. He didn’t invent this, but he is an avatar, a Mark Twain impersonator, and right now he may be the only one in Venice California. He might be the guy! What would he do if he rode up in Venice Beach and there was another guy with a motorcycle with a sidecar with a bulldog with goggles?

What if you are the Jimmy Hendrix on roller skates guy? There has been a Jimmy Hendrix on roller skates in Venice Beach for 40 years who is playing guitar while he is skating. He has an amplifier on his back and he is a good-enough guitar player that you identify the guitar parts as Jimmy Hendrixian, but is it always the same guy? Does he anoint the next guy? Do you try out for that job when the guy is ready to retire?

Which element of the motorcycle guy came first? Did he have the bulldog and then said he was going to put goggles on it and it felt right to him and then he bought a motorcycle with a sidecar? Or did he have a motorcycle and then he felt like he always wanted a sidecar? John was a motorcycle person and he wanted a sidecar! Merlin guesses he had a motorcycle for a long time, bulldog for some time and then you strap on a sidecar and at that point it is just a trip to the flea market to deck out your animal. Merlin can’t see how it goes backwards, it would be very sad if he had started with a pair of goggles. John felt like the whole thing must have come to him in a fever dream, like: ”Today I am myself, tomorrow I will set in motion a chain of events that will transform me into motorcycle-side-bulldog-guy”

The guy was wearing a sand-colored denim jacket and John hadn’t seen one of those in a long time. It seems a little bit like a dad jacket, like a classic Levi’s, but it was in nice shape and not rady. The guy also looked like Tom Hanks, which is an interesting wrinkle. Merlin had thought he was like one of the biker-guys in Pee-wee’s Big Adventure or somebody like the Malachi Brothers or somebody on an episode of The Monkees, but he looked like Tom Hanks top to bottom: Skinny butt, sand-colored Levi’s jacket, and John hasn’t seen his shoes, but they were surely in the larger Boat Shoe family.

Maybe the whole thing was the dog’s idea and he is just catching up? The dog submitted to the goggles! They came on and off 3 or 4 times, but every time they went on, the dog didn’t bat an eye. He had probably seen a movie and he had the money to accomplish this task. He didn’t seem at all like a roller-skate Jimmie Hendrix, but he seemed like a guy who works on the admin-side of film on a show where the on-camera people are quirky and the writers are quirky. He is in the game, but he is the second assistant accountant person who felt like he had to up his quirk game to play with the big boys in Santa Monica.

John not remembering his dreams anymore (RL217)

John does not remember his dreams anymore. He knows he has them, but he doesn’t remember them. He never has nightmares, he never has bad dreams, but his dream land is this wonderful landscape that he can’t wait to get to. He loves staying there, but the moment he wakes up the dream is there and then it is completely gone with no residue. There is no death to it where it turns into crumbled bone, but it is just gone!

John always remembered his dreams! He loved them and he tried to do lucid dreaming, which he accomplished two times. Those were wonderful nights he wishes he could go back to and live there all the time. John didn’t have a nightmare since the 1980s! At some point in the last 10 years, he just stopped bringing his dreams into his waking life and he feels a sense of loss, but he also knows that his dream life is still ongoing and very pleasant and he has to kind of surrender.

Maybe your dream life is like 14 chimpanzees in a bank throwing files in the air, but every morning you wake up, the vault door closes and all you see is the last glimpse through the door at the chimpanzees throwing files. Then the door is closed and you don’t know the combination.

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