RL282 - The Grand Slam

This week, Merlin and John talk about:

  • John’s neighbors doing the Grand Slam (Grand Slam)
  • The leaf blower controversy (Stories)
  • Millennials on a trail (Currents)

The problem: There were between 13 and 30 cars, referring to the number of cars parked at John’s neighbors curb who have a side business restoring cars.

The show title refers to a bunch of teenagers driving up to John's neighbor’s house, slamming their car doors at the same time and turning their multiple car door slams into a grand slam.

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

John’s neighbors doing the grand slam (RL282)

New neighbors in Jamaika's house

John has a little bit of a situation in his neighborhood. Over the last year, Skeeter died of cirrhosis of the liver and we lost Randy (his name is Gary and John didn’t remember until 38:20 into the show) who lived in his van down by the river. Then Jamaika’s old house across the street got sold to flippers who worked on it for a long time and spent a lot of money on it, expecting to sell it at an instant, but they didn’t. Part of it was that the street John lives on didn’t have a lot of curb appeal. His next door neighbor Patrick works in the Underground Sewer Installation department of a company that works with the city and he has got a working man’s truck parked up front. His son in law wrecked a car and they brought it over to Patrick’s to put it under a tarp. John has an RV that is presently hidden under a huge bushel basket. The guys across the street have a side business working on cars and sometimes there are between 13 and 30 cars over there. The flippers did a very nice job fixing up the house and eventually it did sell.

The new owners were a delightful African-American couple with young children, 5 and 3. She was a long-time Seattleite and he was from Brooklyn. John had an extremely pleasant exchange with them on the street when they were moving in on Christmas eve. How amazing, getting to spend your first Christmas in the new house! John was just leaving to spend Christmas with his family in a little house in the snow and during January and February he travelled a lot and didn’t see his new neighbors on the street at all. The last time they talked she asked if John would take Gary's van into his yard for a couple of weeks while Gary got his stuff figured out, but John declined because this van is not an asset and you need to stop thinking about like it like that. Gary thought that his retirement was in this van, but it is garbage. It needs to go to the crusher. It is not restorable or salvageable as a piece of metal, but it is rusted and full of rats. It is not just not a nice truck, very but it is tetanus on wheels.

Cars parking on the streets and not seeing his new neighbors

They drove nice new SUV-style cars and every once in a while, somebody would drive up in a pearlescent SUV. John does not know what brand it is because they all look the same now. There are no sidewalks in this neighborhood and the areas in front of people’s houses sort of belong to the house. If there were sidewalks, then you would just park on the sidewalk in any spot that wouldn't belong to anybody specific, but the gravel in front of John’s house is an extension of John’s yard and you would park your car in your own area and not bleed over into somebody else’s area. John’s neighbor next to him on the other side will bring the front bumper of their car right over to the fence line, but they would never go even 2 inches over that fence line with their bumper.

When John came home on a Sunday night, a whole bunch of cars were parked on his side of the street and there was no place for him to park. He talked to his mom about it, but she said that those were public roads and asking them not to park in front of your house would make you a very bad person. No matter the social conventions, you do not mess with public roads! It was a temporary thing, but it made John realize that they were church people and they were inviting people over on Sunday evenings after church, which made it even harder to tell them ”I know you are having this church event, but don’t park in front of my house!” Then it got real quiet over there and by the end of February John had become curious. He had never seen or heard the kids. The garage has a door that closes, but John could always tell when Jamaika or Gary were there, because the garage was full of garbage and they couldn’t park inside. Their car was either there or not. Now his neighbors could have the two cars inside and John is out at odd hours, so he never saw them come and go. The house was very neatly kept, it was put into neat zone in order to sell and it still looks like it is a house for sale.

The Grand Slam begins

In the beginning of March 2018, cars started coming and going from his neighbor's house. A car would pull up and John would hear a dozen door slams, it felt like the mafia just drove up. There were 3 cars, all arriving at the same time and between 9 and 13 white kids in their early 20s, all pretty clean cut and fresh faced, were getting out of the car at the same time, which was obvious from the multiple slams, or the Grand Slam, as John likes to call it. They were not going through the front door, but through the gate into the backyard. John thought those could be missionaries, because this young African-American family had already established that they have Sunday evening events and now there were a bunch of college-age coming and going as a group. This guy might be a pastor who has a youth group of some kind and these might be the leaders getting some extra training.

At some point, a sign appeared on the fence next to the garage. It was the kind of sign that you would get at Target saying ”This is Janet’s room. Keep out!”, or one that is made to look like a street sign saying ”Keep calm and carry on!”, ”Volkswagen Bug parking only” or ”Parking for world’s greatest peepaw”. This sign was shaped like a city sign and it said something like ”Parking for Guests Only!”, worded strangely like something you would find in front of the Royal Hawaiian hotel. It was the first expression of their personality that the family had put on the house. They didn’t put two white lions on either side of the driveway as you see in John’s neighborhood a lot, they didn’t put a Buddha next to the front door, no wind chime, but they put this charming ”Parking for Guests Only” sign on the fence.

John was hearing the Grand Slam a lot: In the morning, at noon, in the afternoon, at 11:30pm at night. He did a little bit of reconnoitering, went over and looked at the cars. There was a 2010 Toyota 4Runner with Montana plates, "Big Sky Country" and a sticker of a blue whale with no other writing on it. It was the type of blue whale you would get at an aquarium, but it didn't say ”Rhode Island Aquarium” or anything on it. There was also a little sticker at the bottom corner of the window that John later deciphered as a parking sticker for Boise State College in Boise, Idaho. The second car was a 2009 Infinity with Washington plates, no stickers, no other sign of life, and nothing inside. The third car, which always parked in the Guest-only-spot was a brand-new car with temporary expired Washington plates. Next time John would see the kids, he would be prepared to say ”I’m your neighbor! What are you guys doing?”, but during the week that John was trying to put himself into that situation, he was never able to get to them between hearing the Grand Slam and them all disappearing behind the gate. There was still no sign of the African American family at all: You could hear no kids or any darn thing at all and at night none of the lights were on.

John tried to anticipate when the Grand Slam of white millennials was going to show up again and move very quickly through what is just one fence gate. One time John was driving up as they arrived, but as he got out of the car, they reflexively looked down and away from him, suggesting that they were young people who didn’t ever want to look at an adult or be addressed by one.

The most diverse neighborhood in town

The house had been fixed up by flipper Dan and John had toured it many times. The downstairs, which had been a kind of slapdash mother in law, got turned into a proper 3-bedroom apartment, even though the zoning would not allow you to describe it as that. There was a nice big living room, a full bath, a large legal bedroom, an office and another bedroom, so you could have 3 people living down there comfortably. It also had its own entrance because flipper Dan had been thinking ahead. Some of the people who were looking at the house when it was for sale were thinking about having their mother live in the basement.

The young family who did buy it did not show any signs of having a mother-in-law-plan, but they were an affluent young family, so John assumed they would fill up that house with toys and excitement. He thought they would have kids over who could play with John’s daughter, they could have a lemonade stand and they were part of the kind of gentrification that John was waiting for. This neighborhood is the most diverse ZIP-code in America and they want to keep that true. They don’t want to see displacement, but they want the standard of living to rise while maintaining a diverse community. The new neighbors were decidedly a middle class family who would increase the tax base so the schools could get better, while at the same time not changing the fact that John is the only white person in his neighborhood. He is the anchor baby and they need him to keep it diverse.

The Mexican family with the rooster and the dog

For several years, the Mexican family living on the corner with between 13 and 30 cars parked out front had a rooster. They have chickens running around the neighborhood and everybody thinks that is charming, but having a rooster is technically against Seattle city regulations, because roosters are a pain in the ass. This rooster was a fucking dumb-ass as they all are and from the first inkling of light he started cockadoodling all morning and all the time. Within the Mexican culture, a rooster is a very important character and plays a cultural role within the whole pantheon. A rooster is a guy! Alright, keep a rooster around, because it is a diverse neighborhood! John claims the ravens and the raccoons, you got your rooster and somebody is going to want the possum and we all got the rats. John wasn’t thrilled about the rooster, but he was fine with it.

At some point along the way, they also bought a dog which they kept in a pen right at the fence at the far end of their property, pretty far from the house, but very close to flipper Dan’s house. The pen of the dog was probably closer to John’s bedroom window than it was to the house to which it belonged. John has been conscious of the dog for a long time because it barked a few times a day and another dog in the neighborhood often enough answered to that, but he took that for what it was, just like the rooster. There used to be a dog down the road that would bark just all day long. Merlin’s neighbors upstairs had a sweet little dog called Linus and they would keep it in a kennel literally right over Merlin’s head where he worked all day, and it would do ”Happ, happ, happ!” In terms of tape measures, that dog was maybe 8 feet from Merlin’s ear, which will make a person a little bit crazy after a while. They were gone all day, which was why sweet little Linus was in his little basket.

The whole situation with the dog and the rooster was a problem for John. It was an extended family, meaning there were between 3 and 5 families living in this big house with a lot of daughters and at least one quinceañera per year for the last 8 years, but John loved them as neighbors because they were extremely conscientious. In the morning, the girls were going to school in a big gaggle, then they would come home in the afternoon, there were moms around, there were cars coming and going, and everybody tipped their hat over there when you drove by.

Asking the Mexicans

The members of the Grand Slam were sitting on the back porch of the house in a way John could not see, but the penned dog right on the other side of the fence was very aware of them, barking relentlessly from 10pm-2am. For a few days John didn’t make the connection, but all of a sudden he was conscious of this dog that had been around for 1-11 years barking all night. This wasn’t how things go around here! There were those fucking kids across the street and where was the family that John though he was going to be friends with? What the hell was going on around here? John thought they would be getting stability when Jamaica and Gary went away! He was traveling a lot and was home at unusual times, so it wasn’t unusual that he would not see his neighbors. The Grand Slam could just as well have happened every Sunday and John just hadn't noticed.

John was also missing a tooth at the time, so if you did have the option of driving up to your house, pushing a button to open the garage door, driving in and the garage door closing, and if John was standing there with a pitch fork in one hand and a Romanian flag in the other, like ”Hi neighbors”, he could understand why you would go straight in, but that was not what was happening. Only in March when all of that started to happen all at once did John realize that he hadn’t seen his neighbors in a long time. It got so bad that he went down the block to ring the doorbell at the Mexican’s house and ask what was going on. John has been friends with them for a long time, but their dog was all the way down by flipper Dan’s house, which is further away from them than it is from John. Between their house and the house in question was a big area where they do all the mechanical work on those between 13 and 30 cars, where they would have all the quinceañera, and where they had a basketball hoop. You could be living in their house and the dog could just sound like a dog in the distance. You can’t see into Flipper Dan’s yard either.

In the different layers of languages that are happening in John’s neighborhood, English is between 2nd and 5th place of the languages that are regularly spoken. Because there was a lot of activity in the Mexican's house, there was a guy standing out in the yard at 11:30pm and John asked him ”Hi! Let’s talk about this dog” His reply was ”What did he do?”, while the dog was barking like crazy, and John said ”It is 11:30pm and the dog is barking like this all night. It is barking like this now all the time! I don’t know what happened and what changed, but this has to stop!” and he nodded ”Well, I’ll talk to the guy who owns the dog”, which made sense because there were a lot of people living in this house and different things were owned by different people. They were not just all in co-ownership of this dog or the Volkswagen GTI or the plastic 4-foot tall illuminated Christmas-ornament of Jesus that was up all year. ”Thank you!” and John listened to the dog continue to signal for the rest of the night. It is frustrating when you talk to somebody and the problem doesn’t go away immediately, but John has some faith that they were going to work it out.

The generational gulf between John and millennials

One day there was a big 12 or 13 person Grand Slam, but they all went through the fence before John could get his shoes on and go outside. It was in the afternoon and this time John could see them through the fence, sitting together, some of them up on Rock wall, sitting in a semi-circle, having a meeting and not a culty thing. This was an opportunity to go over, go through the gate and ”Hey, since we are all here”, but John was reluctant. Every exchange in this neighborhood has a racial component because everybody is a different ethnicity, so anytime one person from one house goes over to another house, language is possibly not the only problem. For example, the neighbors who always park 2-inches to John’s fence line are Vietnamese and they have been cutting his bamboo for some reason.

The house in question was owned by an affluent African American family, but there were a dozen white millennials coming and going. If it were Christian, they would probably have been inclined to answer politely, but there was also a cultural separation between them and John and he was not sure exactly what he was asking for. At that point John also made the connection that the dog was barking at the kids. It had been there for years and had just barked once in a while when a sketchy person went by. It did not bark at Gary, and when Gary was out at 2am talking on the phone, he was the problem and not the dog. John did not feel 100% secure in walking across the street, ringing the doorbell and demanding answers, particularly because his mom had told him that he had no right to yell at them about their parking. What were his rights here? This is America! They can do whatever they want in their own house! He can’t just go over and say ”Can you 11 people not all close your car doors at the same time?” Because they are millennials, they are not conscious of the dog. They don’t even hear the dog, because to them the dog is always barking when they are out there, so that is just what it is and they were not conscious of themselves being the source of the dog barking. It took John four days to figure it out himself.

While John definitely felt secure to go over to the people he knew and ask about the dog, he didn’t feel secure to go over, ring the door bell and ask ”Who are you and why are you in my neighborhood all of a sudden? What the fuck is going on? Is this a Jesus thing? That is fine, but I want to know!” He was right at the point of: "Okay, I can’t live like this!" The dog all night, kids coming and going, his curiosity was going crazy, what was the story here? Did those guys kill the family that was living there? In this situation, John was dealing with white 22-year olds who have a blue whale sticker on the back of their Toyota Xterra, a group of people he can address in a shared language, except for the millennium Generation cultural gulf. The language barrier with millennials is sometimes greater than with any hispanics. John doesn’t know which way to go!

The Grand Slam stopps without an explanation

Two days before they recorded the episode, John heard a Grand Slam in the morning, off they went and they have not returned since. The house was empty and there was no sign of life there at all. From the first Grand Slam on there had been a Grand Slam 4 times a day through the entire Grand Slam period. They were never not coming and going. Now there have not been a Grand Slam for 48 hours, no sign of life, nor has the dog barked. It is back to silence, emptiness, and complete lack of motion.

The entire reason John brought this story up was that the family who owns flipper Dan’s house hired landscapers who came once a week with gas-powered leaf-blowers to walk around blowing leafs and dirt. Confusingly, the dog wouldn't care about the leaf blower, but leaf blowers drive John crazy just in principle. Right before Merlin called, John was sitting in his chair looking out the window at the gas-powered leaf-blower guy walking around the driveway and John thought ”Merlin is going to call and there is this leaf-blower guy”, but as the phone rang, the leaf-blower-guy miraculously turned his motor off almost simultaneously and John started to tell this story to prep Merlin for the fact that there might be gas-powered leaf-blower noise, but the guy is gone, the sun is out, and there is not even a rooster! Either everything has gone quiet because they were feeling some electromagnetic pulse and Mount Rainier is about to explode, or John doesn’t know what happened. Maybe everybody got raptured?

Merlin had written his guess of what was going on over there on a 3x5 card and he guessed it was a startup. John was laughing out loud when he heard that at the end of the show

The leaf blower controversy (RL282)

There was an article in The Atlantic about some rich neighborhood in some Santa Barbara valley, a beautiful liberal oasis where everybody had a beautiful home and the trees rustle in the wind, it was always 75 degrees and it was the perfect incubator of middle-aged liberal culture because there were no problems, but at some point a rich white person broke the social convention and hired landscapers who used gas-powered leaf blowers. It became a huge issue in the community, because some people had decided that the civil rights movement was already tied up with a bow and their neighbor with the gas-powered leaf-blower was the new cause to fight. They were hanging up posters, but the guy with the leaf-blowers was one degree more libertarian and said ”You can’t tell me what to do!” until somebody acknowledged that all the landscapers were hispanic and it became a race issue because you were asking them to do their work with a broom. All those articles like that John has read in his entire life are always on John’s mind in every situation, it is part of being as woke as he is and he doesn't walk down the street without being conscious of everything always.

Millennials on a trail (RL282)

In March of 2018, John and his daughter were going down a wide hiking trail, when 5 millennials were coming up walking 5 abreast. John’s daughter turned to him when they were about 100 feet away and, because that his the type of little person she is, she asked with some anxiousness ”Daddy, how are we going to get by?” and John thought that was a very interesting thing for her to be thinking about already and he replied in a loud conversational voice ”When we get closer to them, I have to assume they would give way for other people using the trail and they are going to move to let us walk by because we are just 2 people” As he was saying this, they came right up to them 5 abreast, 2 guys and 3 women. The two people who were in the area of the trail where John and his daughter should be allowed to be were both women and they just walked straight on them, became aware of their existence in the very last second, and sort of shrugged their shoulders over to the side as though they were passing through a very confined and narrow space and one them actually brushed past John, while his daughter had gone over to the grass where she was scared of the ditch. John didn’t know how to deal with that. There is clearly a cultural and a generational difference, because something like that would never ever have happened before, especially in a hiking situation where you would say ”Hi!” to each other. It is in the culture of hiking that you share the trail, that you say ”Hello” when you pass, and you don’t go for a hike unless you know these things. Walking up the trail like they own the world is just crazy!

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