RL28 - The Sheriff of Twisp

This week, Merlin and John talk about:

  • John getting sick easily, having five Achilles heels (Aging)
  • Reading the Bible and other literature like Shakespeare (Humanities)
  • John’s first armed robbery in New York City (Stories)
  • John becoming the Sheriff of Twisp (Dreams and Fantasies)
  • Starting a new university with his professor (Dreams and Fantasies)
  • John’s sister not wanting to go to museums (Family)
  • John trying to do the right thing as a teenager (Early Days)
  • John opening some guy's cigarettes in a soup kitchen line (Early Days)
  • Writers who imitate alcoholics to be like them (Humanities)
  • Teenagers as a thought technology, the start of Rock'n'Roll (Humanities)
  • Not understanding video games or Hip Hop (Technology)
  • John selling hugs for $5 (Dreams and Fantasies)
  • Live plastic surgery on TV (Movies)
  • Tattoos and scars (Attitude and Opinion)
  • John’s dad stumbling at a football game (Parents)

The Problems:

  • John’s compromised immune system; °
  • Achilles’ lung; °
  • octogenarian barrel rolls;
  • compulsory camps for teens;
  • a cup of hobo cigarettes;
  • getting schooled by The Jesuit; °
  • a hurried snapshot in Harlem; °
  • why Merlin blames Joni Mitchell; °
  • John’s potential as a reluctant, no-nonsense lawman. °

The show title refers to John imagining that he would one day be the sheriff of a small town like Twisp.

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

John getting sick easily, having five Achilles heels (RL28)

The fact that John is even here is a labor of love! He is ill, which is not an uncommon thing for him, but lately he has been better sick-wise than he has ever been in his life. He used to get super-sick all the time although he is preternaturally strong, but maybe Merlin is using that word wrong. He is disturbingly, irresponsibly and supernaturally strong in so many ways, but when it comes to getting sick he is a total pussy. Because he is six-legged he probably has five Achilles heels and one heel that works, a bad immune system being one of them. John has always been quick to catch the bug.

Merlin is the same way! He gets cold sores, he gets Psoriasis, he should be dead by now! In the Northwest they call cold sores for stress bumps because nobody wants to admit that they have Herpes. In Bellingham they call them Agreement Helix! John’s lungs are Achilles lungs. In one scene in the Iliad Achilles is leaping over a wall and gets a wheeze. His wheezing is how they know where he is and then they shoot him in the heel.

The reason for Achilles’ weakness is that when Moses’ mother dipped him into the basket she held him by his lung. Merlin thinks he read the book or at least he has seen the movie. He also saw Exodus! Moses puts Achilles in the mud bath and she held him by his lung and that is why his heel never grew! Then she brings him some cucumber water and a lucky magazine. It is all in the Bible, it is all in there!

Reading the Bible and other literature like Shakespeare (RL28)

John went to Jesuit school and read a lot of the Bible. He showed up there with a real chip on his shoulder! He had an Old Testament class in his first quarter and the professor was an overweight priest in an all-black priestly garb, but from the accumulated dander on the shirt you can tell that he had just left a wedding where they didn’t have rice to throw so they threw salt. He was covered in dander and he never changed his clothes, but he was a brilliant guy! The first thing out of his mouth was: ”How much of the Bible should we take as fact?”

John was sitting there with his feet on the desk, smug and presumptuous, he was just such a turd, and he raised his hand all sardonically, like ”I don’t know! All of it?” The professor made John feel even more like the tool he was, saying: ”No! The Bible is a collection of stories told over generations by people wandering the desert and here is how we are going to take this class!” John sat up in his chair, leaned forward and thought: ”OMG, this seems really smart!”

John was thrilled to read the Old Testament with a priest who was going to walk him through it like is was a history lesson. He should go back, find that priest, and give him a dandruff brush as a gift. He has to be still alive, he was a pretty young guy and those guys live pretty long because they have free food, free healthcare, free hand-jobs, and they all live together there in the priest house where they don’t need money.

The Old Testament is a bit of a slog. There is a lot of repetition and a lot of extraneous stuff and it could really have stood a second read-through before it went to press. Every one of those people who tell you they have read the Koran is a lying sack of shit! No-one has read the Koran because like the Old Testament it is so boring! It took John a year to read the first four pages of the Old Testament (John said Koran), but this professor walked him through it and knew all the good parts. He had studied enough priestly stuff to be a Jesuit, he knew where all the sex was, where all the turning points were, and he skipped by the genealogy and all of this stuff and got right to the heart of the matter.

John wishes he knew enough of it to do that for someone else and to give somebody a syllabus about the Old Testament. He can take people to the interesting parts of Seattle where the sewers connect to the power station and he likes to take people there to kill them. As a student of literature you would never think that you are a learned man by reading through Where I’m Calling From (by Raymond Carver) once. You have to read a lot more than that and you probably have to read it several times. Considering yourself as somebody who really knows a lot about somebody or who knows enough about something to judge their life and afterlife is hubris!

You want to learn your times tables until you know them really well, but if you drop a reference to the Bible, to Shakespeare, or to the Constitution that you have heard somewhere you suddenly sound like a learned person although that is not even the beginning of the learned part! There are so many references to those things throughout the rest of literature that if you get just a grasp of what the original text says you will pick it out and see it all the time. You actually can get a pretty good grip on the Iliad and the Old Testament just by doing a Cliff’s Notes reading of it and then being aware when you see it appear in other books because people do refer to it.

For instance, although Where I’m Calling From is a great work, you won’t see allusions to it in all the other books you read, but you are going to see the Iliad come up over and over. You can hear the phrase Achilles heel your whole life and not realize it is from the Iliad, or ”pound of flesh” or ”blood on my hands” Neither Merlin nor John have read the whole Hamlet all the way through. The Hamlet that we usually read is the short Hamlet. When Kenneth Branagh did that version in the 1990s (1996) it was beautiful, but it was 4 hours long (242 minutes) and even that was a little bit abridged.

By the time John was first driving around Hollywood he had never been to Southern California, but he knew it! Every street sign, every street corner! You have heard about Hollywood & Vine your whole life! The first time you go to New York City you realize that every street corner is from a movie or you have read about it in a book, and you have a familiarity not just with the place names, but you know what happened here. It is the place where the thing happened! It makes New York City, Los Angeles and Paris seem like we all own a little bit of them.

Merlin has a photograph of him that is really blurry where he is wearing a mullet and a mustache and an Army jacket from the great era of Merlin Mann which made it seem like Merlin traversed the world. ESOP (?): "Slow and Steady Wins the Kebab!" (?) In the limited number of days Merlin had in Manhattan in 1988 pre-Giuliani he told his girlfriend he wanted to go to this place and she was supposed to take his picture.

They got on a subway and the more they went North the more they got scared. He had her take his picture at Lexington / 125th, but he is literally in motion and only stopped long enough to say: ”Sharon, take the picture!” before he was running back into the subway. You can see a professionally made sign from a restaurant or store with misspellings in the background and there were giant pieces of steel on the streets from when they were repairing the streets and just put a 4-inch piece of steel there and left. Merlin can’t believe John guessed that so quickly!

John’s first armed robbery in New York City (RL28)

In the summer of 2001 John was living at 118th and Lexington (see RL122 and RW55) in Spanish Harlem, called El Bario, It was the one time in his life where he actually had a gun pointed at him when it wasn’t just some Alaskan guy pointing a gun at him. It wasn’t: ”Alright, you got a gun, I got a gun! Right!”, but it was an armed robbery. John and two other people were walking up the East River in Spanish Harlem at 10pm, which was stupid. By 98th you are still on the Upper Eastside, but they were chatting and didn’t realize they had walked into a shooting gallery area where junkies were lying in stacks like cordwood all around.

As they walked over a bridge, a guy in a hooded sweatshirt was standing there real casually, leaning up against a pole with his pistol out. John was in the lead of the three of them, he walked 10 feet (3 m) past him without seeing the gun before the girl screamed after she saw the gun, stopping dead in her tracks. John turned around, saw that the guy had his gun on the girl, and he had to walk back to get in front of this gun. He didn’t hear what the guy was saying because if you are walking in the dark in Spanish Harlem, being oblivious is your greatest strength. If some guy goes: ”Stick them up!” and you just go: ”Great! Nice to see you!” and keep walking, he is not going to shoot you, but he is going to see it as a misunderstanding and he is going to hold up the next person. Running around in front of you to force you would look stupid and he has his own dignity.

John had to drag his ass back there and was all indignant about it and he said to the girl: ”Throw your wallets on the ground!” John pulled his wallet out, but he had stuff in the wallet he wanted to keep, so he took his $21 out and threw it on the ground. The guy wanted the wallet, but John said: ”No! You don’t need the wallet!” John had to grab the girl by the arm and pull her down the road. She was like a deer in the headlights, but just Keep Moving and Get Out of The Way! Don’t stand there! All this guy wanted was money. Now they were on the great adventure to go to the El Bario police station and try to pick this masked gunman out of a book of mugshots, which was the ultimate example of eyewitness accounts being useless because all three of them picked a different person out of the book. They guy John picked out had been in jail for the last three years.

Those cops were great! They even got in a cop car and drove around all the dark spots with their spotlight, looking for the guy. The New York City police are some of the best in the world! Having been accosted by many police in many cities, New York police are just regular Joes. Los Angeles, San Francisco or Seattle cops act like they are real special people who are charged with a special mission to keep the peace, working on behalf of the mayor and the governor. They carry themselves with the attitude that every single person on the street is a perpetrator. In New York City the cops are like: ”Ey! Smoke a bowl!” They are there to keep bears from running down the middle of the street, but beyond that, let people do what they are going to do. If you wanted to bust every infraction in New York City nothing would get done.

The school Merlin went to, the University of South Florida and its smaller, developmentally disabled daughter New College was really small and there were four campus cops. They were there to keep bears away, but at least three of them were retired from being actual cops and two of them were former New York City cops. One in particular was the friendliest, tubbiest, funniest, nicest guy there who could beat your head in if he had to. He used to work on a boat that would drag the river for bodies.

He had dealt with dead, bleached out bodies and he had seen a lot of shit, and it sounds like a cliché, but he was really nice and he had the correct trigger for when to go ape-shit on stuff and when not. One guy whom they called Shorty seemed like a professionally security guard who had come to the big game, he was the Barney Fife guy, always waiting to pull his bullet out of the pocket. Merlin would have been the screaming lady in John's story because he wasn’t used to dealing with situations like that. John kept his head above him, like that one cop was, and he was more effective.

John becoming the Sheriff of Twisp (RL28)

John always imagined that he would end up being the sheriff of a small town in Northern Washington like Twisp. He would retire as the Sheriff of Twisp and whenever some bad shit happened, like a multiple killing or a drug deal gone bad where a bunch of people all shot each other and then a local hunter found a bag of money, he would be the kind of hard-bitten sheriff who says: ”Man, what has gone wrong with the world today? I’ve been in the shit, I’ve seen it all, but if this ain’t a mess, it will do till one gets here!”

John will have seen stuff he didn’t want to see, maybe he was back from the Civil War or Vietnam, or maybe from a place where there were a lot of body parts like the Indie Rock trenches. It is amazing what a man like John can see despite his steely eyes and the twigs (see story about his broken backpack from RL14 in The Big Walk)! John was maybe not looking for a simpler life, but he had it with the body parts and he still wanted to help people. By now he was imperturbable and the town of Twisp, as with Andy Griffith, will be able to rest easy, knowing that John is there to mostly talk people out of things.

You don’t need a gun there although you will have one in the truck. John didn’t move to Twisp in order to be the sheriff, but he moved up there to get away. Then the people of Twisp called on him to be the sheriff because something had happened to the old sheriff and there wasn’t anybody else to fill his shoes. He was providing a service to his town’s people, but at first he resisted a little bit: ”I am not the guy! You don’t want me! I’ve been in the shit! I just came out here to listen to the wind whistle through the pines!”, but they said: ”But sheriff…!” They were calling John sheriff and that is when it started. They were calling John for sheriff even before, just because he walks around, carrying himself like a sheriff.

Twisp is close to the Canadian border and the Hells Angels motorcycle gangs are bringing BC Bud (Cannabis), which is exactly the kind of thing that would have Twisp calling upon John. It is like 7 Samurai, but with just one John. Whenever a motorcycle gang terrorizes the town Chuck Norris would just karate-chop all those guys, but John comes from a different school and he is not going to karate-chop anybody, but he is going to be freezing them in their shoes with his steely gaze and his mind-bullets!

Merlin looked up Twisp on Wikipedia and discovered that between 2000 and 2010 the population dropped from 938 to 919. Young people in Twisp don’t see the opportunity that their fathers and grandfathers used to find up there! They are moving to Seattle, the big city, to join a Raver group. Maybe they couldn’t find jobs? John saw all this in a dream! Twisp is a beautiful little town with clapboard houses like an Old West town. It was a mining town at the turn of the century and it is exactly the place that John would end up being the sheriff of if he was going to do that.

Starting a new university with his professor (RL28)

There are a couple of different turns in John's life he could take. He could be a tweedy professor sitting in his crammed office, but teachers have to go to a lot of meetings and deal with the university hierarchy. It is the same as getting a job at IBM, if not worse! Everybody at a university is like an HR person at a company and every person you are dealing with including the other professors are talking to you like an HR person: Conservative, nervous and easily replaced. They are concerned about you and what is going on in your mind, whether you did your TPS reports or whatever. It sounds like a horrible environment for John!

John had a mentor at the University of Washington named Jim Claus (see RL269) who had the vision that he and a few of the other teachers and students from the Comparative History of Ideas program were going to find an abandoned Boy Scout camp up in the mountains and they were going to start a new university called The University of the Cascades.

They talked about this over and over, it was a beacon in the future of that small group. Later he changed it to the University of the Olympics because he liked those mountains better. Seattle is situated between the Olympic mountains and the Cascade mountains and he figured there were more Boy Scout camps in the Olympics and so he switched his focus to these mountains which is even better because it is harder to get to the Olympics.

Then he got the cancer really quickly, which was terrible. John used to meet with him weekly at a hot dog place called Schultz’s on University Avenue and they were supposed to meet there on Tuesday, but he called John and said that they couldn’t meet because he had just found out he had pancreatic cancer. He died within a couple of months. It was a terrible thing for John because he was the one guy in his whole life who ever showed him the way. He was a pedagog in every sense of the word!

At least John had a chance to tell him what he meant to him. On the final days John went to his bedside and he said: ”You need to graduate from college without worrying about all these fantasies that you have where someone was going to put a laurel crown on your head and they are going to pronounce you the king of all colleges! Just graduate from college like a normal person!” John still had to do this, that, and the other!

Even though he was there dying he was trying to help John and John was being a pain in his ass. John said that when he was going to graduate from college everybody was going to realize that from that day forth all colleges are meaningless and people just needed to listen to John from here on out. With some of his last breath he told John to just not do that and to just be a normal person and graduate from college, but John still hasn’t done it.

He was the motivating factor of this university they were going to start out in the trees and without him no-one else had the complete vision. He was a PhD while the rest of them were just satellites, and he had burned like a hot sun. Merlin completely lost interest when John said it was going to be called University of the Olympics. University of the Cascades was one of the coolest names he had ever heard! Gonzaga is also a pretty fruity name for a school, especially because people mistakenly call it Gonzága, which Merlin did until he heard John’s dad pronounce it in front of him once.

John’s sister not wanting to go to museums (RL28)

Gonzaga is named after some guy, or some dead rich guy from the past as John’s sister would say. Why would she want to go to these castles and museums? It is just a bunch of stuff from dead rich people! That was her going through Rome. There are discotheques everywhere, why would we go to these old places full of musty dirt? Traveling with her is like traveling with an untamed she-wolf held back with a piece of dental floss. John was holding on to this mint-flavored floss and she was just like: ”Roarrr!” John was not going to go to some Roman disco, but he didn’t know how to live!

John trying to do the right thing as a teenager (RL28)

When John was coming up he was tortured by other people because he kept trying to do the right thing in his interactions with other people. That invariably sets you on the course for doom and destruction if you at the same time are trying to be a normal teen which does not include thinking about doing the right thing. A normal teen is just trying to do anything at any opportunity, they are not flying up above the scenario trying to discern what the best course of action for everyone involved would be.

John spent his whole young life watching people go about their living while standing in the middle of it like in a stop motion scene in a movie where everyone is moving really fast and the person in the center is moving super-slow. People were getting on with it while John was in a constant cloud of thinking that we could just figure out what the right thing to do is about all the petty little problems people were getting into and just do that.

That is why he later on dove into drugs and doing bad things: None of that trying to do good produced anything but sadness in him and everyone he touched. He was just going to be bad and do all the bad stuff and maybe that way he would come out the other side and it would have evened out somehow. That didn’t work either and he was overthinking it, doing bad things for their own sake: Doing bad things for the sake of doing bad? You are thinking too much! If you want to be with the girl, just be with the girl! It doesn’t have to be an epic poem! Just try and be with the girl!

John was not alone in this, but there is a world of people thinking this. Everybody thinks there is a secret to life, and John kept thinking that once he figured it out he was going to share it with everybody. If John went back to talk to his 17-year-old self and grabbed him by his stupid plaid patchwork shirt that he thought was hilarious and cool, lifted himself up the ground and said all this, he would just be like: ”Whatever, old man!”

John thought for a long time that street drunks and Hobos had the wisdom of the Sages. Merlin called this his Tom Waits face, the Bukowski years! The schools teach you nothing, it is just Blah Blah, because none of those teachers have actually lived! You need to go down to Skid Row and find the guys who literally have tire tracks on their face, lay down next to them in the piss-filled gutter, and ask: ”Tell me, man! What is the fucking secret?” and these guys are going to say: ”I will let you finger me for a quarter!”

John opening some guy's cigarettes in a soup kitchen line (RL28)

One time John was at a soup kitchen line when some guy with one arm walked over to him with a pack of Camel straights in his hand, saying: ”Hey brother, can you help me out?” He held up the pack of cigarettes and John was standing there really cool and really street, not knowing what the guy was asking. He had only one arm and couldn’t open his pack of cigarettes. Six other guys were just making guttural noises, it was raining, they were standing in the soup kitchen line, and he had came over to John because he was the one guy who was not going to run off with his cigarettes. John was 17 years old and had never opened a pack of cigarettes in his life, so he opened it across the top like a bag of chips.

This guy was expecting John to open it like a guy, take the cellophane and rip the one side of the foil two different ways and fold it back so that you can tap out one cigarette at the time, but John ripped this thing open like a bag of Fritos and this one-armed guy went ballistic: ”What the fuck are you doing, man? Why did you fuck up my cigarette pack? God, you dumb guy! Asshole! Stupid bullshit!” He grabbed the cigarettes out of John’s hand, basically a paper-cup full of cigarettes that he had to figure out how to keep out of the rain. He stormed off, screaming at John from across the Pioneer Square while John was looking around at these other guys for some support, but they were all just: ”Roarrrrr”

John was humiliated and he was new. He was still wearing that patchwork plaid shirt that he thought was so cool, he had a peach fuzz beard, and he might even have had a bandana tied around his neck. These kind of things really kill your Hobo cred! These guys were drinking Sterno and John was just like: ”Fellows! Can I help you with that? So, how did you lose the arm?” John spent a couple of years of his life down there, like ”Gee wiz, fellows! How was Vietnam like?” If being like them is what you are looking for, it doesn’t take you long! A lot of street people, particularly alcoholics, have legitimate mental problems, but if you want to get to be just strictly an alcoholic drug addict you can get there surprisingly fast.

Plenty of people die of alcoholism in their early 30s, drinking themselves to death by the time they are 33. When you are 22 you think that you are playing a game and you have 1000 years to figure it out, but you make a couple of bad turns and it only takes a couple of oopsies to lose your job and your apartment in the same week and now you have nowhere to go. Then you get an infection on your toe and you don’t have a place to get dry shoes. It is just a couple of things and all of a sudden you are in real trouble. It was funny how quickly John went from a 17 year old who didn’t know how to open a pack of cigarettes to being somebody who didn’t see any good way that this was going to turn out. It wasn’t funny anymore!

Writers who imitate alcoholics to be like them (RL28)

Merlin was a suburban kid who on one hand wanted to be like somebody he perceived from a Tom Waits song or maybe Mickey Rourke in Barfly or something, elegantly wasted, but then he also wanted his mom to pick him up because he didn’t feel like walking home from the mall. These were two completely irreconcilable things! If you spent enough time with (Charles) Bukowski or (Jack) Kerouac or any of the great drunks, you will see that they all want their mom to pick them up. They blow through a lot of moms! Bukowski was such a little cry baby, a little brat! They all are!

You could talk yourself into being a Hobo in the same way! Merlin read a letter by Hunter S. Thompson and a couple of things from Bukowski who was a very good writer and not a deranged man, but it was the same old
thing: ”Hemingway drank a lot, so I am going to drink a lot and I will be able to write The Old Man and the Sea!” That is not that far off of a lot of people. They have read a bit of (Charles) Baudelaire and now they want consumption or syphilis. Bukowski thought he could drink himself into being Hemingway and he turned out to be pretty good at the drinking to death part and at being Hemingway. His poetry is great! His books are all the same, but his poetry is some of the best!

Bukowski, Hunter S. Thompson, Joney Mitchell, Neil Young, and Bob Dylan spawned so many horrible imitators that you almost wish they hadn’t existed! Merlin likes Hunter S. Thompson’s writing a lot, but he only likes his writing. Many people tried to ape his persona and half-assed their way through this style of writing, but they didn’t have the same editorial care as he did. He was a really good writer, he meant every word to sound that way, and he wasn’t just a deranged guy at the airport, but he created that feeling and that tone!

Bukowski wrote Barfly. You have to have your senses, that is your problem! William Faulkner drank when he wasn’t writing, but he did not sit down to get drunk in order to write. It is a cop-out and it seems romantic when you are younger. Merlin was sitting there with a hat and a manual typewriter he got at a Goodwill, thinking he was going to be anybody that has a manual typewriter and a hat, it was ridiculous!

Teenagers as a thought technology, the start of Rock'n'Roll (RL28)

Kids are so fucking stupid and while we can’t put them in camps yet we are getting closer all the time. People are fed up! Merlin has been talking to people and he is not the only one. The sympathy for teenagers in particular is plummeting. There was no such thing as a teenager in any other century before the 20th century! It is a modern thought technology!

When John’s mom was a teenager in the 1950s there was absolutely no interest among her peers in being anything other than adult as soon as they possibly could. She turned 21 in 1955 at the birth of Rock’n’Roll and she was living in Ohio where Rock’n’Roll really caught fire, working at a television station. She was friends with radio DJs and Elvis and Jerry Lee Lewis and Fats Domino and all this stuff was happening right there.

Right now we think of 21 years as our prime years and if there was a new Rock music scene happening you would be in the heart of it. Those are the beginning of your Rock appreciation years! John's mom on the other hand said that this was music and culture for little children. She was 21 and she was wearing white gloves and a pillbox hat, listening to smooth jazz, which is what adults did. She wasn’t sitting in a crowd of little girls, screaming at some greaser. The concept of being a teenager didn’t exist before World War II really and was invented right then. The idea that you could be a 27 year old teenager is only 15-20 years old.

This was Southern Ohio, which has the Indiana influence and could as well have been Appalachia. It is Dixie! Merlin has heard the phrase Race Music and it was considered déclassé, or as John’s pal Colin Meloy would say: It was gosh! It was not the kind of thing that an adult would listen to. They were really into Nat King Cole, which was the coolest thing after the trio, they were into Mantovani and into beautiful music.

Yesterday was the song by The Beatles that converted a whole generation of adults and made them realize that these teeny boppers were actually capable of writing beautiful music. It appealed across generations and class and even John’s dad who was 45 years old appreciated that song. Frank Sinatra appreciated it, and that was the moment when The Beatles grew up and you could appreciate them as something other than just for children. That always stuck with John because he thinks of Yesterday as just one of many great Beatles songs, but it was a watershed moment in their career where they became a grown-up band. It is also the most-covered song of all time because every single person in the world looks back at their past and wishes they had done it differently.

When John was 16 years old he had a friend called Eric Spurlock's. Eric called his parents by their first name Dean and Ede, not because they were hippies, but John never understood their family dynamic. One time John was over at their house and as he and Eric were on their way out the door Eric's mom said: ”Listen, boys! Your peers don’t think you are handsome, but you are both very handsome men and you just haven’t grown into it yet. Rest assured that from an adult perspective you are both going to be very handsome men. Just relax! Don’t worry that you are awkward ugly unappealing teenagers, because you are clearly going to grow up and be handsome men!”

John is always careful not to talk to teenagers this way because every once in a while some well-meaning adult would say this type of thing to him and his mind would work on it for years afterwards. They got into his car and looked at each other and Eric said: ”Sorry, my mom sometimes!” They were both churning in their minds that they were handsome men, but also unappealing teenagers.

That was the moment when John realized that he was an old fogey! She had planted the idea in his mind that his best years were always going to be in front of him and that he was going to be one of these people who become beautiful as they become grey. John has never been worried about being hip, but now as he gets older he is noticing that he has to resist the fatalism that comes with that, the: ”Oh well, fuck it! Old people get fat, so why not just let it happen?", or: ”Ah, you kids go run and play while I’m just going to sit here and sort rusty nails into different jars!”

Not understanding video games or Hip Hop (RL28)

Merlin worries about becoming calcified or inflexible. He doesn't know the secret to the fact: ”I really don’t understand video games that require tremendous investment of time and practice!” John was there at the birth of video games and as a little kid he was their target audience, but he never made the transition to first-person shooter games. Immersive video games are simply a thing in the culture that he doesn’t understand and he is not in a position to make a value judgement about them because he does not understand them. For a while where he would have said that they were bullshit, but that is coming from the same voice as saying that Elvis is jungle music. It is the same ignorance and the only way you can express your ignorance is angry contempt.

John has completely stepped away from the conversation about Hip Hop in American culture. Up to a point he was very invested in Hip Hop, but then it lost him and went into a realm where he can't relate to it and there is very little Hip Hop that he relates to at all. The only thing he can say with authority is: ”I don’t understand it! Good luck! God bless!” He cannot make a value judgement about modern HipHop because he has not invested the time to understand it. That is also where Merlin is with video games.

As John was searching the Internet and came to watching a YouTube video of somebody getting pranked he followed a chain of recommendations at the side until he came to a YouTube video of a guy who screen-captured himself playing a video game. The point of the video was that he is a pirate and other people are playing this multiplayer civilization game out in space where they have battleships and they are sailing to different planets and collecting resources and all this type of thing. He screen-captured himself stealing somebody else’s battleship and them realizing it while they were all talking to each other.

What was on the screen was just gibberish to John, but those people had been playing this game for years and they are completely invested in their identities in this alternate reality. It filled John with a deep sorrow in the sense that humankind is not actually exploring outer space and no matter how hard we work we cannot actually have a fleet of battle ships by the Tannhauser gate and watch the C-Beams glitter (reference to Tears in rain monologue).

We are not there yet, but these people playing this game are living in this future world in their imagination. When they log off their computer and have to go downstairs to eat their macaroni and cheese or when they have to go to work at their job, it reality cannot possibly compare to the intrigue and the dynamism of this online world. John finally grasped the littlest bit of what being a gamer is and it chilled him!

Some games figure out ways to have the resources in the game be worth real money in the outside world and there are people who are millionaires in the real world for having stolen other people’s battleships in fake outer space and they can buy nicer macaroni and cheese for it! That is already happening! Now all their listeners with green hair and nose piercings will be: ”Come on, granddad!” They will be cashing their Bitcoins right now to hire somebody on the Deep Web or on the silk road to come kill Merlin and John with some kind of poisoned dart.

John selling hugs for $5 (RL28)

John will sell you a hug for $5 and can make a bank on hugs. He is a big fellow and can do 2, 3, or 4 at once, his big arms have economy of scale. The problem is that there is always someone coming by who will ask: ”Do I really have to pay $5 for a hug?” and John feels like a jerk saying: ”Yes!” If you don’t want to pay $5 for a hug, then John is going to give you the hug of his choice, the hug John wants to give, not the hug you want, which is going to dissuade some people.

John would need a merch girl to sell tickets for $5. If people wanted a hug for less than $5 and John got to grope them inappropriately for his own amusement, he would be getting his $5 worth. If they knowingly came in under the new rules that John got to do whatever he wanted, that would be worth $5. They opened it to negotiations, not John! Part of his hug will be grabbing the back of their underpants and pulling real hard, which he wouldn’t have done if they had paid $5, but they wanted to wrangle!

Live plastic surgery on TV (RL28)

Yesterday Merlin got his hair cut and somebody else there was watching a little tiny TV with the volume turned up really loud. He couldn’t see what was on the screen, but figured they were watching a TV program showing plastic surgeries. Merlin is not usually super-creeped out by stuff, but he was getting a procedure with somebody with scissors cutting part of his body while they were describing in detail what they were doing. It fucking blew his mind that there is a TV show where they show plastic surgery! John hasn’t seen it, but he knows that everybody has the fantasy that with a little nipping and tuck they will go from hideous to beautiful and he understands why it is popular. Now Merlin keeps thinking about fat pads!

Tattoos and scars (RL28)

John spends a lot of time on the Internet looking at blogs about shitty tattoos. Merlin lets his friends curate them for him, but he enjoys them when he finds them. John is never going to get a tattoo, his ship has sailed on that, but he doesn't know why he takes so much pleasure looking at other people’s Tumblr-pages of people’s ill-advised tattoos, a misspelling in a tattoo, or the person didn’t have a complete grasp of perspective.

The other day John saw one of an American flag flying in the wind, but the folds in the flag would make it 15 feet (5m) long and the first curve had 11 stripes and then it had 14 stripes and then it had 12 stripes. It only had 9 stars. It expressed perfectly that the tattoo artist began the tattoo with no forethought and said: ”I know an American flag and this is going to turn out awesome!” and they just drew it freehand. That says a lot! Merlin hates tattoos! He is happy he can undo something he did and always having that option there for almost everything is a great consolation. It is probably the reason why he doesn’t have a Thompson twins album on his back.

Merlin has two scars that he knows of. A very small one under his nose where his mom accidentally nicked him with her finger nail when he was a kid, and a really cool scar from when he jumped a ramp on a bike and got a foot and a half long cut on his leg. John is covered with scars from head to toe, some of them are gruesome and they are like tattoos because they are things he cannot take back and he wishes he could do it over again. Not that the scar itself is unsightly, but it represents a physical point of weakness, a physical disability in the making, the last outward sign of some internal damage. When John was a young person he put his physical self through the paces and now that he is in his 40s he feels those things, not just when the barometer is changing, but there are parts of him that will fail before other parts because they have been compromised.

John’s dad stumbling at a football game (RL28)

John’s dad also wore out his body in the pursuit of physical thrill. When he was 80 years old they went to an University of Washington football game one time. The University of Washington football stadium is on a grassy hill, overlooking Washington, with cars parked on the grass. Their tickets were always way up in the nose-bleed seats because John’s dad wouldn't pull on some strings and felt like being way up in the bleachers with all the undergrads was the only way to watch University of Washington football.

After the game they walked down five flights of stairs in the November wind and as they were walking across the grassy field John's dad all of a sudden tripped on a root or something and went face first down the hill. To John it happened in super slow motion and his dad was too far for John to get under him or in front of him and take the brunt of the fall. He headed down the hill face first in a swan dive, but he somehow tucked a shoulder, rolled, did a full-on barrel roll and came out on his feet. John was standing there: ”Huh?” while his dad just kept walking!

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