RL299 - Mas Libros

This week, Merlin and John talk about:

The problem: John was a Harvey Man, which is an unknown reference right now.

The show title refers to a visitor from Spain who thought John would have more books, but he does have a lot of book, mas libros in Spanish.

It is early, both here, there and everywhere. Merlin had okay good sleep last night, but John was up late as usual because he has some projects going on.

John got a bookshelf that is 100 miles long. It twists around and turns and goes up and down for multiple levels. He was hiding behind it, pushing books out, trying to communicate with people in the past. It is fun, but also super-frustrating because you can’t really move the book as much as you would want.

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

Comic books (RL299)

At the end of July of 2018, John was going through his eclectic collection of comic books that probably doesn’t qualify as a collection to anyone else because it has no theme and no through-line. Nothing in it is valuable, but it is just a bunch of weird comic books. John makes a lot of JimJam about comic books and nerds, but he got an entire 4-shelf book case of comic books, some early versions of trade paper backs and graphic novels.

There were some comic book artists in Seattle who went off to fame and fortune and John has some of their early works, like Jason Lutz, but also a lot of Ghost Tank comic books (actually called Haunted Tank), a few Dirty Plotte by Julie Doucet, and lots and lots of old MAD Magazines and National Lampoons. There were even stand-alone Fat Freddy’s Cat comics that weren’t just Sergio Aragonés sidebars. John has 4 of those half-size comics and he doesn’t even know where they came from. There are a lot of underground comics, like ZAPs and he has ZAP #1 which is worth a lot of money.

John got interested in comics in the 1980s and back then most of the good stuff was from the 1970s. Everybody at the time agreed that the kind of underground comedy he liked was on its last legs and not as good as it used to be. John liked all those guys from The Harvard Lampoon, which had also boobies in it, or Tros & Bonnie. John contacted the woman who drew it (Shary Flenniken) and asked for to sell him an original artwork, but she never replied to him, probably because there was a market for original comic art.

He also wrote a letter to Lynn Johnston, the author of For Better or For Worse where her characters were aging and she sent him a nice drawing. They talk about people putting comics in plastic bags, but John never interacted with comics culture in that way. Some of his stuff came that way and when he is done reading it he puts it back in its little folder because he doesn’t want to get yelled at.

John was working at a News Stand between 1995/6-1999 after the big crash of the comic book market and he remembers McSweeney’s #1 sitting in his hot little hands. John saw the first Grand Royal come in and he saw Might come and go. It was the era of raw art and new art magazines about raw vision and outside artists. All the British pop magazines were blowing up, it went from a time where there ware just Mojo and Q to where Uncut had arrived. John read 40 magazines a day and he should have kept some of that stuff rather than just reading it, but then he would have so many more bookshelves.

John’s brother David (RL299)

John’s oldest brother David who is still alive and lived a very checkered life, was sitting in John’s living room at one point, which is a rare occurrence. He had really long fingernails and really long hair and when he was young everyone in the family thought he was a genius and the most brilliant of them all, obviously before John was born. John read some of his homework assignments from Junior High and David was indeed very talented, but he is a Baby Boomer and went through the Baby Boom period which destroyed a lot of people with Baby Boomerisms.

It was David's original National Lampoons that comprised John’s very early exposure to that sense of humor when he found them in the basement of his other brother Bart's house in Yakima. Bart just said that those were David’s and they had been down there for 25 years, but for John they were the greatest things!

John has a beautiful giant coffee table book called Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead about Doug Kenney, which is now also a movie on Netflix. John showed it to David and "Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead" are 3 of the 4 things you would use to describe David, but he didn’t get that it was about Doug Kenney and and they just looked at each other awkwardly, like ”Anyway!”

John getting books from his friend Peter’s mom (RL299)

John had a friend Peter who’s mother was teaching college literature at the University of Alaska while Peter was pre-law somewhere. His dad was a lawyer and she was kind of eclectic and flamboyant. She wore her hair short and wore scarfs and stuff and John had a crush on her. She would give Peter all these books and he would send them through to John. It was at a time when he had zero money, no job, and was crashing on people’s couches and he was in touch with his friends through the mail.

They would send each other letters and John's friends would sent their replies to a café, like Café Roma and Café Septieme who would accept mail for him. Through Peter, John had this steady stream of really great eclectic books from this circuitous path and some of these books are still some of John’s favorite books. It just hit him at exactly the right time, because he was just laying around when these novels would show up. It was the pre-internet age and you only had what you had. Even in the 1980s and 1990s you didn’t have that much exposure. If you wanted to learn about Bob the Supermasochist or Betty Page, you had to go out and do your research on your own.

John still has a little shelf of phone books from different places. His mom used to carry a phone book in her glove box. It was such a big deal, because you could look yourself up and you could look your friends up. The first time John appeared in a phone book, his name was John Ignatius Roderick. He put that in there because he wanted people to know how special he was.

John does have some passive aggressive books, he has a great one for Merlin, it is actually a whole set of encyclopedias.

John got a couple of old research books from the time when some of his friends were really into not just vivisection photographs, but really gory crime scene suicide photos of people who killed themselves by laying on the train tracks. John didn’t really get into that and he didn’t want any John Wayne Gacy paintings, but he did have other interesting things peripheral to that, like Survival Research Laboratories.

John culling his books (RL299)

In the end of July of 2018, John was going through his books because he was planning to sell his house and move. He has room after room of books. At one point, a girl from Spain came to visit him and after she was walking around she said she thought there would be more books and she had always imagined John's house would have more books, but there are books everywhere! Mas Libros! Where would you put more books? All these walls could all be books! She thought John had 40 cats and lived in a used book store. All the people in Spain have been living in the same apartment for 400 years.

John is going to cull and he found a bunch of books he wanted to get rid of, but he can’t get rid of this, he can get rid of this and he has to get rid of this, putting them into piles. The problem is that if you take those books down to the thrift store, nobody cares and they will just sit on the shelves. This is the type of project that John doesn’t need to add to the things he is already doing: He has a bunch of these Ex Libris bookplates and he is going to put those bookplates in those books and put them places, post a picture of it in the place and then his followers can go get them if they want. Here is the autobiography of Henry Kissinger the size of a shoe box, there is a Special Forces Manual, and there is the first edition of The Gulag Archipelago in three volumes. John doesn’t want to carry these things with him anymore, but maybe somebody is going to want them.

The problem is that John will post a picture of Kissinger’s autobiography in a phone booth and there will be a bunch of people who say that they are from Australia, but they really want that and they want John do send it to them, which he won’t. It is just going to be sowing disappointment and there is probably going to be one person in Seattle who drives around and picks them all up and John could just have taken them to that person in a box instead of making it into an adventure. John doesn’t just want to get rid of stuff, but he wants there to be some kind of ceremony, because every one of these books interested John at one point. They made an impact on him and maybe they will help someone else.

Someone asked John in a tweet the other day if he could recommend a history book, which happens quite a lot. He ended up recommending Wager with the Wind, the Don Sheldon Story about an Alaskan bush pilot who was the first guy to land an airplane on Mount McKinley, not what you would think of when you ask for ”a history book”. It certainly is about history, about something that happened in the past.

John wants his books to find a good home. If you don’t want an autobiography of Henry Kissinger you don’t have to go find it. If nobody goes to find it, then it becomes an autobiography of Henry Kissinger that is in a phone booth. It is like finding porn in the woods! Maybe somebody is bopping along that day, wondering why the universe is sending him a sign and then ”Why is there still a phone booth?” Now John has 4 stacks: Must keep, can keep, should give away and phone booth.

Merlin’s trash pickup concept (RL299)

Merlin’s garage is a regrets-sink. It certainly has a lot of empty cans of fizzy water. He just had a pickup this week where men come with their truck and take things away, like a lot of cardboard. Merlin’s family is on the brink of a purge and clean-up because the house is getting smaller and his daughter’s stuff is making an extra Sudetenland. She expands and her projects expand. The things in Merlin's garage are some combination of known junk and garbage stuff, to the point where the little carriage for the doll, the little perambulator is getting mildewy and his daughter is not going to play with it ever again.

Merlin likes the idea of pickup, when the big burly men with the big burly truck come to visit him. It usually is preceded by a period of angst and frustration that there is no room anymore. It starts with a situation where you have to make room to make room. Usually Merlin wakes up one morning and the itch is too strong to not scratch anymore. That is when he calls and makes an appointment for that day or the day after. He needs to get out of the thinking mode and into the things-leave-my-house mode, which is why it helps to do it the same day. He knows that there is a large amount of stuff that is no-brainer garbage and it needs to go. Then it becomes a game: How big can I make this pile with 3 hours notice? All of a sudden everything is potential garbage and it changes your POW. If Merlin had scheduled that appointment for 3 weeks from now, he would just procrastinate and get a system to get organized.

Breakfast for the table (RL299)

John has expanded his pancakes-for-the-table-thing and started ordering a whole separate breakfast entree for the table, because who doesn’t want a little bacon, and if you don’t, then just don’t eat it! There are four of them and five entrees arrive, one of which goes in the middle. It got 2 pancakes, 4 slices of bacon and a couple of scrambled eggs. Now you can get your Eggs Benedikt or Reuben sandwich or you could get spaghetti for breakfast, but you can still have a little pancake.

Chicken sandwich (RL299)

Merlin is on a chicken sandwich bender to a point where he has become an embarrassment to his family. He doesn’t know why, but he wakes up in the morning wanting a zesty fried chicken sandwich. If they had a Chick-fil-A near him, he would be in trouble. A fried chicken breast on a soft bun with some kind of zestyness like Sriracha and some pickles on. John likes to reach into the refrigerator and bite a pickle. Merlin gets those little sweet ones called Bread and Butter.

If you go to Katz’s Deli, they give you the one pickle and the other pickle if you ask, the sweet and the sour pickle. Merlin was at a barbecue place yesterday where he got some pickle on the side. He had a sample platter with Pulled Pork, Brisket and Ribs. It ended up being for the table, because his daughter dug into his bonus Mac & Cheese side. Merlin enjoyed the greens with peppery vinegar on it. Beans and Greens and Mac & Cheese.

Sometimes Merlin buys 2 chicken sandwiches and saves one for the next morning. John would eat both. Last night he made chicken Cordon Bleu for dinner and had to resist eating them all. Merlin wishes he could just deploy chicken sandwich the way you can get a 12-pack of Seltzer, like if there was an automat across the street from his house.

Merlin’s wife has a few signature dishes that everybody enjoys. She is a specialist in air-dried whole-roast chicken or she will turn Thai meat into Teriyaki chicken. Merlin is glad she is the one who shops for that because he would order 2-3 times as much of the protein as she choses. They never had left-overs! Merlin treads lightly because that is her project and he wants to be really careful not to seem ”Meh, you did it wrong!”

John doesn’t want a pickle on his chicken sandwich. He takes it off and there will be a little bit of flavor left, which is okay. He doesn’t mind a vinegar. John is a chicken-sandwich with mayonnaise guy.

Fast Food restaurants (RL299)

One time John went to a place in Des Moines that had unlimited Fish & Chips, which John thought was his dream meal, but after you eat two helpings you are pretty cashed. When Merlin was in Brighton, he made a point of having Fish & Chips and he is still digesting it. It came in a cone of newspaper that was absolutely soaked all the way through and it was so good! Unlimited though? Bottomless salad and bread, like in an Olive Garden is a different thing. Red Robin gives you bottomless fries, which is like giving people bottomless rice. John used to work at Red Robin.

Seattle has made a point to not have any fast-food restaurant in the entirety of the city. They just ran them out one after another and there is only one Denny’s left. John’s mom loves a Red Lobster and they have to drive 45 minutes to get to a Red Lobster because the nearest one is in Tacoma.

Recently, John was driving around out in the sticks, he looked over and there was a Wendy’s. He asked his passenger if they remember the last time they ate at a Wendy’s and they did not, so John immediately pulled over into the Wendy’s. John’s dad loved Wendy’s! If you were going to go to a fancy fast food restaurant in the 1980s, Wendy’s was a cut above.

John’s compatriot ordered a single and a medium Frosty and John got a double with cheese and a large Frosty, because: Come on! You didn’t come here to get a small frosty, we are not fucking Ichiro here just singling into the infield, building up our stats. When John was just about to close the order, he added a chicken sandwich. It is fast food and got a lot cheaper so the whole thing was $10 or something and John doesn’t want to know about what happened between the farm and the table. It was a great chicken sandwich and so Daddy is going to stop at a Wendy’s once in a while for a large Frosty and a chicken sandwich.

Merlin could imagine a platter with 6 different kinds of chicken sandwich. He is not generally a fan of sliders, because that is a little cute, but a flight of 6 small chicken sandwiches? Chicken salad sandwich on the other hand is not even a fair comparison. It can be good, but Merlin is not much of a salad sandwich person. He used to like Underwood Deviled Ham on white bread when he was a youth and he will eat a Chipped Beef on toast. He used to have a Stouffer’s version of it.

Merlin’s dad used to call it Shit on a Shingle. When he came back from Korea where there was a police action, he couldn’t eat chicken or rice ever again, because he had to kill fucking chickens and eat them. He also didn’t like fireworks. Police action, Harry Truman, hear what I’m saying? John’s mom has killed a lot of chickens. Her grandpa would take a chicken down into the root cellar, chop off its head and run and then the chicken would run around with the blood shooting all over the place while they would sit at the top of the stairs and laugh.

Rhein Haus, Seattle (RL299)

There is a restaurant in Seattle that was called Von Trapps, but they got sued by Austrians from Vermont and now they changed their name to Rhein Haus. It is built in John’s old neighborhood in an old warehouse that used to be a band practice space and that they blew out and made this enormous restaurant. It has Bocce courts in it and it is really fratty in there on weekend nights.

They also have big spaces that are for example reserved for the X-box team, like a company will take their 25 employees there for a meeting. Everything about it would suggest that John would not go there. It is pretty bro-y, a drinking place with a corporate feeling, but it is right in the heart of John’s old neighborhood and it serves sausages of every stripe. There are like 15 kinds and there is a sampler platter with one of each and it comes on something like a garbage can lid. ”White sauce? Not a problem! Extra meat for $1”

There is probably a guy in the back who is dipping his catcher’s mitt into Sauerkraut, because there is also a catcher’s mitt sized blob of Sauerkraut alongside the 15 sausages (see menu here) which are not small, but sized like a lighthouse for a green army men army. They also have a phenomenal goulash there and John challenges you to find a goulash anywhere!

John’s nuclear family loves going to the Rhein Haus and his daughter likes to watch people play Bocce. She wants to play it but they won’t let her. You have to be this high to ride this ride. The Bocce area is in the bar area, so the little girl can’t go in, but she can stand outside and watch people play it. Every once in a while John is going to ask a waitress and they will let them go in and watch for a minute.

John’s gang loves to go to the Rhein Haus because at 5pm there are no bros there, just a smattering of people who work at X-box. There are many other things on the menu, but John always gets the 15 sausage platter. Normally John will get a different thing every time, but 15 sausages are the definition of variety. He never gotten a Schnitzel there or a Spätzle or a Sachertorte, he doesn’t even know if they have one because he never reads that far down and his desert at this place is another sausage. He will take some home and eats them three more days.

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