RL295 - Big Mike

This week, Merlin and John talk about:

The problem: "They don’t know how to be", referring to people in the restaurant John’s sister worked in, who just didn’t know how to be, because they had never been in a restaurant before and they didn’t know how much to tip and so on.

The show title refers to the husband of John’s neighbors across the street, the ones from the Grand Slam.

It is going good. The jack hammer from this morning stopped jackhammering recently because there is not that much pavement by John’s house. He isn’t sure what they did because the city doesn’t really care about this neighborhood and does hardly any maintenance. Maybe they were looking for pirate gold?

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

How to order donuts and pizza for many people (RL295)

John just had a chocolate donut. The only kind he likes are old-fashioned cake donuts. Merlin and his daughter both like the glazed one with frosting on top. If you say you want chocolate glazed at Dunkin' Donuts, they will give you a very caky all-chocolate donut with a real jizzy sugar-coating on it, which is what John likes. Typically if somebody will bring some donuts and John tells them to make sure to get lots of cake donuts, they are like ”Yeah, sure, whatever!” and they give him some donitide.

When people get a dozen donuts, it will have 2 cake-donuts in it, which is fine, but then they open the box and they eat one and then there is one left among 10 other donuts. Three is two, two is one, one is none. One boy does the work of one boy, two boys do the work of half a boy and three boys do the work of no boy at all. Merlin learned from the MBMBAM that two horses are more than the sum of two horses, it is a Horsegestalt.

There are a lot of people who don’t take home leftovers and there are those who do. John is a take-home-the-leftovers kind of person. If there are less than 4 people, but somebody was buying a dozen donuts, there are going to be leftover donuts every time and typically John is going to want those later. He doesn’t want to throw these away! Merlin will either eat no donut or six donuts. John’s daughter will sit right in front of him and eat six donuts.

John will ask for cake donuts, but people will get a thing with a couple of cake donuts and then there will be six donuts left because nobody wanted the 4 maple-bars. If those 4 maple-bars had been cake-donuts, John would take them home, but they are not and he doesn’t want those. They say they are not going to get cake donuts because nobody likes them, and then they get a couple which immediately get eaten. They are getting these maple bars thinking they are doing the world a favor by ordering maple bars. Right at this very moment John has a box of maple bars in his kitchen because everybody ate the good donuts out of the dozen donuts and all you are left with is maple bars. You have to be a truck-driver to eat a maple-bar or you have to be there to fix the copier.

People are buying what is going to look good on a big platter, but just get two dozen glazed donuts and they will go! Merlin used to work for a guy who would like to go out to Crispy Cream on the weekends to get donuts for his family and he would buy two dozen donuts and he would eat a dozen crispy cream donuts on the way home. They opened a store in Seattle with great fanfare. People lined up to go to this thing. John waited for the hullabaloo to die down, but not so far down that standards begin to slide and he went there and it was fine, because what he likes is a cake donut. Had he gone to the supermarket and gotten a donut that had been sitting there the whole day, he would have enjoyed it just as much, because this isn’t the kind of donut he likes. Microwaving donuts for 5 seconds is pretty magic!

When you are asking somebody for their opinion and you know they actually have an opinion, then them not giving you their opinion is very frustrating. It occurs as the ”What do you want for dinner?”-problem. Merlin is asking them because he wants their help. There is also the We can all agree on cheese-problem.

Merlin recommends to not get cute when ordering donuts or pizza. Half of the donuts you get should be something that almost anybody likes! Always get more cheese-pizza than you think! Don’t get clever! Don’t get the vegan margarita deep dish! Get a bunch of fucking cheese pizza, because anybody can eat cheese pizza! The difference between that and ”I refuse to agree on cheese” is that ”We can all agree on cheese”, which was a conversation between three adult men where one of them had a plan and was trying to make it seem that his plan was the best plan. He did not want to put his neck out there and offer his choice, but to phrase his choice as though it were the inevitable solution. Behold the centrist voter! You are not helping fucking anybody, buddy! Ordering more cheese than you want is ordering pizza for the table. Merlin likes large pepperoni for the table, because you can pluck off the pepperoni pieces unless you are an ardent anti-pepperoni-person. If it is a multi-pizza setup, there should always be a cheese pizza!

John was at an event not that long ago with like 10 paid performers and the promoter got pizza for everyone backstage. All the pizza was vegetarian: Vegi-combo, vegi-medley, and there was one cheese-pizza. Every single person took one slice of cheese and then there were 4 untouched vegetarian pizzas because nobody wants vegetarian pizza, not even vegetarians. Some kinds of food are a little bit hoity-toity, but no matter how hoity-toity they get, they can only get so good. Then there are other kinds of food like a stew that are pretty hard to fuck up. The worst meatball you ever had is still better than a lot of the fancier food you ever had. Be careful where you are ordering from! Pizzas are available in different sizes and if you are getting multiple pizzas and you want to get the real crazy ass pizza, maybe get a small or medium one of that!

The ultimate expression of ordering pizza for the table is ordering pancakes for the table. If you go to breakfast with a group of people of any size bigger than 3, everybody wants pancakes, but nobody wants to blow their order on pancakes. You think you want pancakes, but then you get this 6-inch stack of flapjacks and all of a sudden you are headed for nap-country, but what you really wanted was a benedict or even a veggi-omelet or something a little savory.

Just order a large set of pancakes for the table, which costs nothing! Pancakes are very sharable, everybody cuts off as much or as little as they want. At the little diner near Merlin’s house he orders his own bespoke savory breakfast while his daughter wants the Breakfast Special, which is two pancakes, scrambled eggs and two Link sausages. She likes the sausage, but not the bacon. Merlin will get two eggs, over easy with home-fries, not hash-browns and usually a ham-steak. For the table he will get the corn beef hash.

2018-July: Exploding grilled cheese sandwich (RL295)

Yesterday John made a cascading series of mistakes when he was trying to make grilled cheese sandwiches in the microwave.

Getting White Bread

At one point during the school year, John's daughter said that she doesn’t like his peanutbutter sandwiches, although he makes the best peanutbutter sandwiches in the country, but his bread has too many seeds and nuts and stuff in it, which is true, because John likes a substantial bread that has everything you can put it. When she is at school, she will look over and see some kid with Wonderbread with the crust cut off and she thinks that is deluxe. John was the same way when he was her age.

John immediately doubted his parenthood because he works weird hours and he never taught her how to shoot a crossbow, so he got a loaf of white bread for her and made her a sandwich with that. Then the bread sat out on the counter for a while because nobody wants it, he put it in the refrigerator and it eventually ended up in the freezer and sat there for a long long time. This weekend, John was out of seedy bread, but he never made it to the store.

John’s neighbors from the Grand Slam

John’s across-the-street neighbors who moved into Jamaika’s house are extremely wonderful people. They are back living there now and it turns out that they have what they call family dinner on Sundays. This is the African-American family where the cars were parked all over everywhere on Sundays and John originally thought it was a church thing. As he gotten to know them and became good friends with them, he learned that it is not a church thing, but a come-one-come-all Sunday dinner. The husband, Big Mike, says that he sometimes looks around and wonders about a certain person ”Who are you? Why are you in my house?”, but people come, it is fun and he likes to cook. Recently Big Mike had decided that he was going vegan. He used to do big barbecue, fish fry, there was a lot going on, but now things have taken a dramatic turn. His wife Casey has decided that she was going to try to be vegetarian since Big Mike is going vegan.

John and his daughter showed up to family dinner a couple of weeks ago and Casey was telling them that they were getting a little pushback from the family because they were not really making any barbecue this time. John asked her a couple of times how the vegetarianism was going and she admitted she had slipped in a little hot dog, but she was back on it. John doesn’t know how sincere this project is.

Yesterday afternoon, John and the baby were out in the garden doing an art project when she asked if they were going to family dinner at Casey and Big Mike’s which she loves doing, and they decided to go across the street to see what was cooking over there. Casey opened the door and said that Mike was not here and she forgot to tell John that family dinner was cancelled. Her little boy was on a rugged tear, but she hated to leave them stranded, although she was not responsible for feeding them and they didn’t expect anything because they live across the street.

She offered to make a chicken pot pie, although she was vegetarian and they went back and forth, standing on the porch for an hour talking about what they could possibly feed their kids. Her kids refuse to eat Macaroni and Cheese, which is one of those alternate universe situations. John and Marlo came back across the street a little disappointed, wondering what was there to eat at daddy’s house. They went through the refrigerator looking at things, and it was really pretty bleak because John went too far before going to the grocery store.

John's Microwave Mistake

John pulled the white bread out of the freezer, asked his daughter if she would like grilled cheese sandwiches and she said ”Great!” At the same time he was going through the cupboards and found some clam chowder and she was like ”Amazing!” Those two things together are disgusting, but she was ”I’m in!” John regretted it later because it is a terrible meal. John tried to dress it up a little bit by toasting the frozen white bread first, then buttering the toast and then making a grilled cheese sandwich by frying the toasted bread. He almost pulled it off! The bread was stale and had the consistency of cardboard because the freezer had sucked out whatever moisture had been left in it, but with enough butter and toasted twice, she was super-happy with it. She is a kid! At least there was no salad!

John made one for himself and took a bite out of it, but the bread was still lifeless and he thought it needed just 10 seconds in the microwave: The final level of reanimating this dead bread. The problem was that 10 seconds was too long and when John turned his back on it for a second the cheese which was already melted from the pan exploded in the microwave. He took it to the dining room table, put it in front of himself and she asked if he had made pancakes. They both had each their half can of clam chowder, she had a good sandwich, daddy ate his with knife and fork and they both survived the night and they are still alive today.

John is doing a great job as a parent! She would eat just pasta, it works all the time. What they basically eat is bread and cheese, like cheese quesadilla, or pasta, which is all bread and cheese. They have to add just one other thing and she will say: ”Beans!” and they have beans, bread and cheese, so now they are up to prison food! Let’s push the envelope with one other thing, and she said ”Sour cream!”, but that is also cheese. It is a constant struggle! She will eat broccoli and green beans.

Sending food back, John’s sister worked as a waiter (RL295)

John will not usually send things back in a restaurant, although Merlin has seen it when he was out with John and his millennial girlfriend. Often he will just ask for an extra plate and put the potatoes on it.

John’s sister sent back a Benedict the other day in one of those restaurants that wasn’t doing a very good job. It was cold and the sauce was basically out of the fridge. Merlin says that a Benedict has to mitigate three food serving problems: It has toast, which gets cold quickly, it has eggs which are easy to overdo and get cold very quickly, and then it has this disgusting jizzy sauce that can get really gross if it is not served right and the sauce breaks. It is a lot to manage if you are not used to making a Benedict. It is one of those things where you want to tell the restaurant that you know it is hard and if you can’t do it, just take it off the menu.

Susan sent this back and said that she couldn't eat it because it was cold, "Can you do this better?" It was one of these fancy breakfast places and they were there for brunch, but it was not busy enough to justify this. They all ate their entire meal while John’s sister was sitting there waiting for her Benedict and it arrived after everyone else had pushed their plates away. John walked out of that experience, thinking: "You don’t want fancy for breakfast or brunch!" Susan was fine with it, because she has a very good sense of calibrating when a person in a service industry is overwhelmed or above their pay grade.

If the person is super-shitty in their job, she will destroy them, but if a person is just too dumb for their job or understaffed or there is some kind of jerky situation where it is not their fault, she saves her ire for the place where it belongs. She will find the manager and let them have it, but she is not just going to be mean to a server if she feels like the server is completely under water. She was a waitress for a long time and worked in all of the service industries.

Merlin was a bus boy for a couple of years in high school and he was a waiter for less than a year in college and it sucked because he worked breakfast in a tourist area where there were tons of Germans. He doesn't want to be insensitive about other cultures, but German tourists are not big tippers and it was a tough gig! The place started as a bakery and became a café/bistro kind of place.

Tipping (RL295)

Susan used to work at the Ivar’s on the Waterfront, which has a couple of disadvantages: People who go there don’t normally eat out, but they save up for a special occasion and have never been to a restaurant otherwise. It is a big restaurant that turns over a lot of tables during the course of the night. It is also the place where the German and Dutch tourists come. Susan spent a couple of years working there, dealing with how a server acts when a table of nine people tips her $1, either because they are German or because there is some Rebel Rouser in the bunch who wants to send a message. Even if there is only a .0001% chance that your server will be John’s sister, John disabuses you of trying to teach her a lesson. because she will take the skin off your face! The tricky ones are the American people who just don’t know how to be. They have never been to a restaurant before and they just don’t know that you tip when you are in a city. Later Seattle implemented 20% gratuity automatically on everything and the problem went away.

A friend visiting from Australia sent John a picture of her bill that said gratuity was included. She had asked him before if tipping really was a thing. People do write John on their way to America because he is the fatherly voice they can trust and they want him to walk them through this. You definitely tip if someone makes you a coffee, and you never tip less than $1 because she is putting her kids to school, nobody will pump your gas unless you are in Oregon or New Jersey, so don’t worry about that and you don’t need to tip them. John just takes 25% of the bill and then rounds up. If Merlin gets a coffee, he will give between 50%-100%.

Making less stronger coffee (RL295)

John doesn’t really get fancy coffees. He will get an Americano and he can’t justify anything fancier than that, but he will get a pastry. They continue to talk about different kinds of coffee, like Folgers or low-acid coffee. Both Merlin and John sometimes are not really in the mood for coffee and are kind of sick of it. John realized that he keeps making his coffee stronger and stronger over time, but now he started to take much less, which feels like he is regulating and deescalating it. He is also enjoying the coffee much more because it got more flavor to it.

Keurig (RL295)

When John moved out of his office in June of 2018, he brought his Keurig back home and put it on the counter, jammed between the coffee maker that Merlin bought him and the soda stream. He still gets swag bag coffee all the time and so he can’t throw the coffee maker out, because what is he going to do? He is not going to say No to seven pounds of free coffee.

John was at Target for some other reason as an accompanist, he was the first violin on this trip to Target. He saw this big box of Keurig pouches and got some dark roast because he had this machine sitting around at home. John is the dad who buys 40 rolls of toilet paper and therefore he got the package with the biggest value. He did the math and there was one on sale with a per-item price of $0.70 a cup, which was lower than the bulk one. He hooked up the Keurig and has been going through these pouches for the last week. Every time he makes a cup he does 2 pouches and he feels like he should probably de-escalate a little bit and just live on one. The thing produces so much waste!

The Keurig is a workplace thing because it solves a lot of the problems with having a coffee maker at work, like burned-off coffee cookies and a stinky coffee pot because nobody is paying attention to it. Merlin’s wife's office Keurig has a dedicated bespoke water line and she doesn’t even have to pour water in. You just go: "Slam! Bam! Thank you! Wham!" Merlin made some Keurig in the hotel on Rhode Island and he didn’t feel great about it, because at a hotel room this thing is a cum receptor. It is the law of large numbers: Somebody put on some pay-per-view and came in the Keurig. Merlin had mechanical problems with his Keurig and he left it on the curb and went back to the drip.

Fancy and convenient are antithetical to each other. Because a Keurig is convenient, how can it be fancy? Every time John uses it he thinks of his friends who do a 45-minute pour-over on an apparatus to make their coffee. They got a scale to weigh their coffee, there are apps for that, and they have more glass than a bio-chemist. The fancy coffee people usually like a lighter roast and they like to talk about it. Merlin is generally happy as long as the coffee is fresh. John doesn’t even need that and he will let it sit around for 3 or 4 days.

2018-July: John moving out of his office (RL295)

see Packages

Selling expensive wine at festivals (RL295)

John has a buddy who has the concessions contract for one of the big outdoor festivals in Seattle over the summer. He doesn’t actually touch any food himself, but he somehow sub-contracts it to food-trucks. It is one of those classic jobs where he is skimming because he is the guy in Seattle you got to know for everything. He just bathes in other people’s money! John was hanging out with him the other day when he went to see Salt & Pepper and Vanilla Ice. He was talking about his food concession contract and his recent innovation was selling fancier bottles of wine.

They used to just sell wine in a cup, but he tried if he can sell a $100 bottle of wine at these events and now they are selling 60 bottles of $100 wine every time they are having one of those big shows. People are drinking it on their blanket on the grass. It is the wine and the coffee and the fancy! John didn’t have a wine in 23 years, but he remembers how it tastes like. His uncle owned a vineyard with good wine and they would sit and talk about wine. He also drank a lot of shitty Thunderbird-wine like MD20/20 by the gallon. When you are sitting on a blanket at a Salt & Pepper concert, it doesn't matter if your bottle of wine costs $4 or $40 or $400 and John doesn’t see how it could be a good value!

Getting out of this world for a while (RL295)

Like everybody in the world, John wants to be off this planet. He doesn’t mind coming back, but sometimes he just wants to step through the curtain and be in an off-world somewhere. There is so much of what drives us. Imagine prehistoric Merlin and John sitting on the dirt bank of a little stream, pounding nuts with a rock, chatting, waiting for a wilderbeast to come along that would give them something to do today, something to chase. They would be constantly in trouble with their spouses and the other people in their tribe because they are difficult to deal with and it would be nice to just take a little vacation from banging nuts all the time.

Much of modernity is just a variation on giving us a little opportunity to go behind the curtain. A lot of people are getting a little drunk or getting high and it is what a lot of it is about. For most people, the vacation cabin is not about thinking and being chill, but it is about drinking and being chill. John discovered a few years ago that playing the guitar into his little 3-track recorder was better than television. What a great relieve! John has a fantasy of it being productive, because he has made many of these tracks.

When John dies, the flood gates will open and he will put in his will that all these tracks are made open source and put all out there. Maybe kids will be making records from John’s riffs for thousands of years? John is telling himself that he is doing stuff, because he is composing music, but what he is really doing is that he is getting out of his head. If he had pot or wine in his life, we wouldn’t be having this conversation right now because he would have fucked this all up somehow.

Having a bar in your mid-century home (RL295)

see Mid-century modern

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