RL30 - Cement Gravy Boat of Suffering

This week, Merlin and John talk about:

  • John visited Merlin, not closing the bathroom door (Currents)
  • Having many international listeners (Podcasting)
  • Winchester Mystery House, having sex in Cinderella’s Castle (Factoids)
  • John being spooked by ghosts (Attitude and Opinion)
  • Sleeping on the beach in the Netherlands realizing the infinity of the universe (Early Days)
  • Discovering primal feelings by walking through Europe (Personality)
  • Becoming over-sensitive to impressions (Personality)
  • Learning magic tricks to impress local kids (Stories)
  • Classifying the podcast as Philosophy (Podcasting)
  • Girls in windows in Amsterdam (Early Days)
  • Merlin falling in love with a woman he saw for 30 seconds (Merlin Mann)

The Problems:

  • gripping at sand in Noordwijk; °
  • handcuffs on the rear-view mirror;
  • dancing for children in a public square;
  • how to stock up for John;
  • trying to outsmart ghosts; °
  • learning why we stopped sleeping outside; °
  • how much for that dream girl in the window?;
  • the night John finally realized what The Light Dome was doing.

The show title refers to John one time sleeping outside on the beach in the Netherlands when the sand looked very soft and turned into a cement gravy boat of suffering.

Merlin started the show eating. Then they sing each other’s name again and John did not complain about Merlin’s version this time because Merlin sounded like he was invested and he owned it. When Merlin does invest himself in something he really does go all the way. When he invested himself in baking bacon it changed everybody’s lives.

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

John visited Merlin, not closing the bathroom door (RL30)

When John comes to visit Merlin's house Merlin is always like a lady. His wife is like a lady all the time and wants John to be comfortable. Last time John stayed at their house they went shopping for him at Lucky, formerly Albertsons, and filled a grocery cart with food. Not that John is always going to eat and drink everything, but they have learned that it pays to prepare and they want John to have enough flexibility to make at least three kinds of Fruity Pleasers (see RL0) of his choosing. They were rolling along with his daughter in the cart, eating her goldfish crackers, and she said: ”Daddy, why are we buying so much stuff?” - ”Because we love uncle John and any time uncle John is not talking, he is eating!”

John found it confusing that Merlin had covered everything in his house with Saran Wrap, which was a new development. It is actually a poly plastic like an industrial grade Saran Wrap that is rated for people from Alaska. Merlin knew that John had a silicone allergy and he didn’t want to make John cough more than he has to. Merlin has embraced the idea that being a modern man means being sensitive to other people. John is still practicing the older style of being a man, which is to be unaware of other people. If he is eating something and a bit of it falls on the floor he is a considerate person in that he puts his foot on it right away so you don’t even have to think about it. Merlin likes that about John.

When John is at Merlin's house Merlin makes him sleep on an inflatable taco and he didn’t realize how bad it was until Elenor started jumping on it after John left and it would just deflate. It starts off as a nice inflated bed that is delightful and as time goes on it becomes a plastic tortilla.

John still has trouble closing the door when he urinates, which is not trouble, but Merlin is not sure if his daughter needs to see that. When you close Merlin’s bathroom door 98% of the way it appears to be 98% closed, which is about as much as John wants to close a bathroom door, but as you are standing at the toilet it starts to swing open right at the point in a urination when you are fully committed.

A 20 year old man could stop and close the door, but that could be a week in bed for John because he hasn’t been doing his Kegel exercises. Then you hear the door knob slamming into the wall, you turn around, and you are just there in front of God and everybody and there is a four year old holding an Iron Man comic book and some goldfish crackers wondering: ”What am I seeing?” - "Elenor, when uncle John is not eating or talking, he is urinating prodigiously."

Having many international listeners (RL30)

They have listeners from all around the world, like Germany, Hungary, Sweden, all of Scandihoovia [sic], but John is not aware of anyone in Romania. There is surely someone in Latvia who got turned on to this podcast by a German friend and they are sitting up there in their artist’s garret, listening on their HAM Radio set to ”Keep moving and get out of the way” in a very crackly sound.

John guesses there are people listening in Africa, but he suspects they are working for an NGO or they are in the Peace Corps and this podcast is literally the only source of sanity in America that they have. Every week they go into their little inner sanctum that they made out of 5 gallon (20 l) gas cans and sand bags and they say: ”Take me to America, Roderick on the Line! Take me back to America!” Merlin welcomes all their overseas listeners with ”Welcome! Bienvenue! Willkommen!” John adds ”alsjeblieft”, which is the Dutch word for ”please” and ”thank you!”, but Merlin doesn’t want John to get him started on the Dutch. He hopes that their listeners are very cosy and well ventilated inside their Various Drums and Buckets, which was a great XTC record in Chris Walla’s production style.

Winchester Mystery House, having sex in Cinderella’s Castle (RL30)

Merlin’s house might have once been owned by German expressionists because parts of it feel a bit like The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. There are lot of very subtle non-right-angles like the Winchester Mystery House (John said Remington Mystery House), or the Kalashnikov Condo (which does not exist) John has been to the Winchester Mystery House, looked up the staircases to nowhere, and went into rooms of many mysteries. He opened doors that lead to other doors, but he was nonplussed. Either there were not enough mysteries or they weren’t being allowed into all the mysteries because they had not paid the higher admission price to see them all.

At Versailles you can pay the normal fee and walk around, going ”Mhmm!”, you do a little bit of Griswold (from National Lampoon’s Vacation) as you walk through the places, or you can pay the exorbitant fee and they let you have sex in Louis Catorce’s bed and you can actually take a shit behind he curtains like they used to do in the old days. You can really have the full Versailles experience!

There are a lot of secret places like that at Disney World, for example there is a honeymoon suite inside of Cinderella’s Castle. While people outside are trying to enjoy a Mickey Mouse popsicle, there are people shagging in Cinderella’s castle, which in a way is the same as enjoying a Mickey Mouse popsicle. There are probably not a lot of straight men in the world who are thinking: ”Finally I get to sleep in Cinderella’s Castle!” because there are a lot of trade-offs for that. Maybe he is banging her in the behind for the first time because she can be in fucking Cinderella’s Castle. Quid pro quo! He gets to be Prince Charming!

The Winchester Mystery House is in San Jose or one of those places in California where all the Freeways intersect. Leonard Bernstein said: ”No-one is obligated to appreciate cities outside of San Francisco, not during their lifetime!” and that is how the San Franciscans deal with everything. The same is true with New York and there is this New Yorker cover of how New York people see the rest of the United States (called View of the World from 9th Avenue).

Winchester was a Firearms Baron, but not a baron in the sense of being a member of the European Aristocracy or being unable to have children (spelled ”barren”). His womb was a fecund and rocky place where his seed could find no purchase. He had no way of knowing how the guns he made were going to be used. Merlin wonders if Winchester had money like Jesus, but contrary to popular believe Jesus was not a wealthy man. Winchester was not as rich as William Randolph Hearst, but he was a rich man from having made the guns that killed the Indians. Jesus did, as a way of paving the way for the Mormons. Merlin fake-scribbled on his 3x5 cards to get John to stop talking about it.

Winchester rifles were key to opening the West, which is a euphemism for killing buffalo and Native Americans. He did go great with guns and when he died he left a great fortune. Mrs. Winchester was very interested in mediums / media and she was receptive to the idea that if she would ever stop completing the Winchester mansion something bad would happen. She believed that the souls of all the people that were killed by her husband’s rifles were haunting her and chasing her around the house. She used the money to build a house with false stairways that went up to no place and she had workers around the clock building whatever to fool the ghosts that were walking around her house looking for her.

Like most old ladies she was probably living in one room with a hot plate and some cats, watching her stories somewhere in a room off the kitchen, while this house that went for 15 blocks was full of ghosts, all wandering around, like: ”Did you go up that staircase? There is nothing there!” Some doorways open with nothing on the other side, like from a Monty Python thing, and they were deliberate subterfuge. Merlin says he can cut this out of this podcast like all the other things he has cut out previously. He has cut out three things to date and that is how the show gets so good: Merlin takes out anything that is not really good, like all three instances where John has said: ”N-word, N-word, N-word!”

John visited the Winchester Mystery House in the 1970s when he was a boy. By that point she was long dead. You pay $3 to go visit the house, but this was during the era of the TV show ”In search of…” when the Bermuda Triangle, Bigfoot, Project Bluebook, and the Loch Ness Monster were a really big deal. There were a lot of supernatural events in the 1970s that captured the imagination of young boys all across America.

When John went to this house and was told that it had many secret passages to fool all the ghosts of the American Indians who talked like Mel Brooks, he went into this place thinking he was going to get spooked and he will have something haunting happening, but some girl from Stanford wearing a vest like somebody who worked at Home Depot was guiding them around this place, like: ”Look, this is a doorknob, but there is no door, it is just a doorknob in a wall!” - ”That is going to fool a ghost?”

John being spooked by ghosts (RL339)

John has a very active mind that can imagine worlds, he has seen the C-Beams at the Tannhäuser Gate and he has watched Attack Ships burn off the shoulder of Orion (from Tears in Rain Monologue) But although John is a science-minded person he has a weak spot, an Achilles heel: He gets spooked by ghosts and sometimes his pillows turn to owls (see RL26). If he is home alone, watching a television program about aliens grabbing people off of a desert road, he occasionally can become convinced that the aliens are also on the roof of his house, waiting for him to go to sleep.

John doesn’t know why he is made this way. He has spent many sleepless nights in a strange house, being haunted by haunts, and when he bought his house he walked through while it was still empty and laid down in every room before he signed the deed, laid his head down in every corner, he was quiet, closed his eyes, and said aloud: ”Are there any spooks here? Anyone spooking me?” He got convinced that there were no spooks in his house and all he got back from the universe were good vibes. Later he learned that an old man had died in his house of oldness and because John had gone around the house and checked that there were no spooks he was fine with the fact that someone had died there because he clearly died peacefully and well.

When John’s mom bought her house 15 years ago John did the exact same thing: He laid down in all the corners and said: ”Any spooks here? Anyone got a problem? Anyone have something they would like to say before I commit to being here?” It was a spook-free house and John told his mom: ”You can safely buy this house!”, but he didn’t tell her what he had done, he just said he had taken a look at this house. He checked the pipes, he rattled the furnace, and it should rattle in the correct way and you will see if any spooks get out. They spent a lot of time on that house, gutted it and rebuilt it and made it a beautiful place. You can gut a house full of spooks and you will not get the spooks out of there. You don’t want to move a load-bearing spook if it is the only thing holding the roof up!

John and his mom have lived in their respective homes for many years and have never been troubled by spooks, which is not to say that sometimes John’s pillows turn to owls, but that is probably unrelated and he is not spooked by the owls because he literally grabbed an owl and went back to sleep. There is that one house in Vermont (see RL2) where the people put John in the spook room and they thought it was funny and they were wondering if he was going to feel the spook, which is like putting an epileptic in the strobe light room. John spent that night crouched with a knife between his teeth, waiting for whatever spook it was that was going to come, and a fake door knob on the wall of the closet would not have fooled that spook at all. You can probably not fool a ghost at all!

Like Loki with the Avengers, the ghost has already been in there and knows what it going on (reference to Norse Mythology). Loki, the God of mischief and lying, is Thor’s brother. He wants to become the God when Odin takes over, but Thor is the one and so Loki fucks things up. That is why they had to start the Avengers, it is not that complicated! John wonders if that is something Merlin learned during his church-burning phase when Merlin was in a Swedish Death Metal band? A lot of that stuff is terrible, but some of it is really good. It is a musical genre John has not really given full attention. These guys are wearing King Diamond makeup. Merlin explains that there is the Norwegian Black Metal and the Swedish Death Meal, but you want to go with the Swedish Death Metal because the Norwegian Black Metal is very silly and they look like pro-wrestlers.

One time John slept in the van in his altogether in Merlin’s front yard and was attacked out of the park by Civil War Soldiers (see RL2), which didn’t make any sense because there were no Civil War battles fought in San Francisco. In Seattle there is a Civil War cemetery where all of the veterans of the Civil War are buried, but Merlin doesn’t think that counts. He has been reading the Civil War book April 1865 (by Jay Winik) and he doesn’t think that fits in. The book is really good, it is a non-fiction Civil War book while Merlin normally reads Harlequin Romances about the period. They had a lot of troubles in Richmond, they ate dogs and literal shit, going through horse dung to find what they could.

You can learn about this in the song The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down (by The Band). Levon Helm died a week before John and Merlin recorded this episode, God bless him! Merlin saw a performance at the Fillmore from The Last Waltz and put that on his Internet website, it is great! They did so much cocaine these guys! Everybody in The Last Waltz is high on cocaine. Rick Danko got really puffy and then he died, he was such a good-looking man when he was young, and almost all of them are dead now. Merlin asks John if he likes The Band and he was unsure. When as he asked him about Kiss (see RL29) John didn’t like them! The difference between Kiss and The Band is that Kiss are terrible and The Band are amazing and is one of the most important groups of their generation. Merlin could make a little file card or tattoo that on his thumb.

There might have been one occasion when aliens were rattling John’s door (see RL10) and on one occasion fairly recently all of John’s pillows turned to owls (see RL26) In several of these instances John attempted to communicate with the spirits and in each instance so far they have been mute. They do not ever materialize to the point where John is able to confidently communicate with them directly, but they remain a suspicion. The owls were a different thing and there was no question about them. They were clearly visitors, but they took a physical form, where normally just the hair goes up at the back of your neck.

Sleeping on the beach in the Netherlands realizing the infinity of the universe (RL30)

During one night John was sleeping on the beach outside of a town called Noordwijk on the Dutch coast, outside of Oegstgeest by Scheveningen. It had been a long time since he had slept outside and he was getting his sleeping-outside feedback on. It was a beautiful spring night and John decided to just sleep on the beach because he used to sleep outside all the time when he would get drunk and pass out under a bush. He wanted to start sleeping outside again because is free and it was beautiful. He laid down on the sand, dug himself a little bed, the sun came down, the stars came out, and the wind picked up.

Suddenly John felt like there was absolutely nothing keeping him from falling into the sky and forever into infinity, except for gravity, but gravity did not have as powerful a hold on him at that moment as it normally does! He was looking up at the infinitude of the universe and he was literally grabbing onto the sand because he was terrified that he was going to just start falling up! The feeling did not pass and John spent an eternity on this beach, not being able to convince himself that if he let go, and most of it was a psychological letting go, or if he just surrendered, he would not have fallen off that beach into space. It was nuts!

The sand looks very soft when you are walking on the beach in the late afternoon, but when you are lying on the sand, trying to get comfortable in the night, sand turns to cement and is not soft at all. As time went on, the little bed that John had made for himself in the sand turned into a cement gravy boat of suffering, like a curved autopsy table.

John realized that the electric lights of a city form a protective dome over the cities we live in that shields us from full awareness of how deep and infinite space is. We sit in our cities and our electric lights have blanked out the sky for us and we no longer have first-hand experience of the existential terror that is available to you at any point in time if you just try to spend one night outside on the beach or in the forest, something human beings knew intimately throughout the whole course of human history. This is why we made houses, circled the wagons, made friends with each other, and made fires at night!

If Merlin told John that God was a big purple dinosaur, John would have said: ”Fucking whatever you say!” The terror that is waiting for us when we truly contemplate the scale and scope of the universe is not a terror that John is racing out to experience every night. We have done ourselves both a disservice and a tremendous service by blanking out the big unknown. We are not conscious of it when we turn on the lights at night!

John did not feel comfort when he understood the ontological umbrella that protects us from the terrible infinity, but he despised it! He didn’t want to retreat into some blanket of light because once he had a sense of it, of course he wanted to face it! He started sleeping outside every night at that point, which is much more complicated in Amsterdam or Cologne than in Noordwijk. You can sleep in a cement gravy boat of suffering for 50 EUR at the Palais du Gravy Boat in Amsterdam.

Merlin has never been to Amsterdam, but he spent his youth being self-conscious and playing Mrs. Packman somewhere instead. There is no Mrs. Packman! Merlin doesn’t understand when John had the time to be in bands like in Harvey Danger because he has so many travel stories. It feels like John is Mr. Peabody to Merlin’s Sherman on Bullwinkle (J. Moose).

Merlin showed his daughter her first Bullwinkle, that is how he spent his youth. He has also recently started fucking with his daughter about the idea of infinity because he remembers sitting around thinking about infinity and getting dizzy. He is fucking with her very lightly, like ”Hey Elenor, what is the highest number?” and the number she always pulls out is 132 and then he asks her about 133. He gets confused after 260 and so she usually wins and Merlin lets her watch TV.

Merlin thinks that John is very close to linking several probably unrelated things together in a way that could be very gratifying to everyone. John is probably the most ridiculously rational man Merlin has ever met except for the many ways that he is completely off his fucking nut and there might be a thread here between some of these things that John had access to with his rational visions. John was not thinking about any of those things while he was lying on the beach, but he was caught in the cold grip of terror as he contemplated it. Where did it come from? It is probably prehistoric in us, lying dormant like a sleeper cell.

Merlin talks about the Mystery Spot in Santa Cruz where mysterious things happen that defy gravity. There is a spot like that in Oregon where it looks like your car is pointed uphill, but it actually rolls on its own.

Discovering primal feelings by walking through Europe (RL30)

Part of why John walked from Amsterdam to Istanbul is that he was trying to activate a thing that is the one commonality over the course of human history between all groups of people of all races and cultures: At some point they were somewhere as a group of people and they marched out of what they knew and to somewhere new. It seems like a story that is deeply ingrained in us, especially in America. We marched from hither to dither!

John was trying to use it as an activator and by starting at one place and just walking in one direction day after day, he hoped to bring this deeply dormant thing out of himself so he would be able to connect to something that he was not able to connect to intellectually. He was hoping to find a pureness, a priorness, by doing this type of thing and he wasn’t able to successfully shed all of the modernity by just willing it away. He couldn’t just walk around without ID and drink in bars and fully get back to what he would have been as a human being if he had not been raised in a culture. We are raised with a lot of abstractions that become indelible and most of them we have developed to solve a problem that we have created with a prior abstraction.

When Scott Simpson and his wife were in Ulaanbaatar (Mongolia) some dude was slipping his fingers into his lady’s fanny pack. Scott, who might as well have labia, dove onto this guy and shoved him, although he does not have a lot of Taekwondo training, with his short-sleeved Cadre button-down shirts, his torso so small he can barely breathe, and wearing his Cardigans the way most men wear pride! He had not gotten on that train in Ulaanbaatar planning to accidentally tap into something much more primal than: ”I wonder when we can smoke next!”, but he got sudden access to something, the ”eating the red meat” thing, the ”protecting the castle” thing. These things are in us!

John was sober when he slept on that beach in the Netherlands and if he used to drink 8 hours a day and not anymore the remaining hours, that still left him with a lot of time. His mind had been doing a lot of catching-up and after he mastered Origami there were only so many things he could do with his hands. John folded 1000 cranes, which is why we have peace now. Sometimes Merlin has a day when he gets a lot done, sometimes he is sad all day, Scott Simpson had a day where he fucking dove on some Tuvan.

John had plenty of instances where he had a brief or explosive access to the people in him that he otherwise doesn't have daily contact with. It happens occasionally at will, but more often he has the Scott Simpson phenomenon where he was walking around, dressed like a frat boy from 1961, and all of a sudden he was in full-on combat mode, which he doesn't want, but he wants constant conscious access to that person.

Hilariously John later described that as an animal reflex and he made the mistake of describing it that way to a friend who now plays in Duff McKagan’s band who is not a person you can say something like ”animal reflexes” around without then hearing it from him 1000 times. Now John regrets ever saying it because he will say ”Why don’t you use your animal reflexes to get us some more fucking nachos?” (maybe Mike Squires)

Becoming over-sensitive to impressions (RL30)

After John had been walking in one direction for many months there was a time when he would walk through a little village and somebody crossed his path 25 feet (7.5 m) in front of him, headed perpendicular to where John was going, and as John would walk through their jet stream he could smell them, even though they were far away.

John had arrived at a place where his senses were more acute and they weren’t being dulled like they normally are. He was hoping to find that throughout himself, not just that he could smell more acutely and see and hear stuff better, but to find whatever existential thing had dulled him and made him lose his fear of the universe, not because he had mastered his fear of the universe, but because he had blinded himself to the universe.

John wanted that dullness to be off him because he had assumed if would be replaced by acuity and his sharpness would come back, but if you get to the point where you can smell somebody from 20 feet away, you can not live in a city very well. It is maladaptive to living with a lot of other people because as you are walking around in the city you are picking up way more information than you want. If you are sleeping out in the woods by yourself the ability to smell somebody or hear something from far off is very useful, but by living in a city you get a bad signal-to-noise ratio for threats and you are not separating the wheat from the chaff very well.

When John was in the Czech republic for the first time he was approaching Prague as a jet airplane flew over him. It had been a week since he had been under airplane traffic although he was in the middle of Europe and not out in Sudan, but because he was traveling on foot he became aware of those times when he just wasn’t under jet traffic. If there were jets, then they were flying at 35.000 feet and not right overhead or on approach.

When John heard that plane he couldn’t believe the noise that jets make. It was rattling the whole country site, it was deafening! You can’t live like that! If John would feel like that right now in his house that is a scant mile from an airport he would go crazy. Scott Simpson lives right next to an airport, too, and he keeps inviting John. He has two hot tubs at a place where you can smell the jet fuel come off of SFO (San Francisco Airport).

Merlin brings up the example of having an office job and somebody at the next desk driving you nuts, like listens to the radio just a little bit too low, and: ”Where is my stapler?”, but once Merlin starts noticing a certain way that someone chews or drinks, he can’t stop noticing it and he can’t stop thinking about it. His stepfather, who was the worst person who has ever lived and who is dead now, thank God, was drinking his coffee in a very annoying way that Merlin demonstrates. Merlin was 12, he got straight As, he was a scout, he played little league, he met Pete Rose twice, he met Steve Garvey and the 79 Dodgers, he met Temple Grandin, and he should be able to put that out of his mind, but instead it is now deafening to him and he can’t stop hearing it.

It sounded like he was gleeking, but Merlin can’t do it as well as he used to. He could shoot fluids out of his body so much more efficiently when he was 17, but John has never been able to gleek. Merlin would shed it and spent a lot of time practicing, it was called snaking where he is from. Most people recognize it as the thing they accidentally did on their dentist’s face when they are in the chair. John’s little girl gleeks all the time and doesn’t even know what she is doing. She doesn’t realize what a skill that is! Merlin is going to look it up at Urban Dictionary.

Learning magic tricks to impress local kids (RL30)

John had a friend who would stand in the hallway of his grandmother’s house and flick guitar picks at the mirror down at the end of the hall for hours at a time, like Rick Nielsen, just flicking guitar picks at himself. John never did a thing like that. After Merlin had seen the episode of Happy Days where they had a contest for snatching quarters off your elbow, both Merlin and his lady did that for six weeks. You stack up pennies on your 90° straight out arm, you whip it and you grab the stack of pennies. Fonzie was really good at that, but John never worked on a skill like that.

John taught himself to juggle because he was always looking for a thing that would amaze village children. If you spend any time outside of the place where you were born, you realize that entertaining groups of children becomes a very crucial skill because little packs of kids are the main feature of most of the world.

If you walk into a small town as a stranger, the adults will pretend that they have seen the likes of you a million times and they will go back to drinking their coffee while looking at you over the tops of their newspapers. You are not coming to town with the idea of delighting young children, but you are just looking for a refreshment and maybe a chance to sleep in the hayloft, but the kids in different places do not have that shyness and they are not trying to be cool, so they gather at the square and point and the gawk, like: ”Look at this long-haired, blond, extremely large monster who has come from a far-away place!”

The kids are not always friendly initially, but suspicious and scared. If you spook them while all the adults are watching you, you will loose everyone’s friendship. You need to have something like a magic trick for when you are surrounded by kids. You can’t just pretend they are not there because they are going to watch you very intently. You have to be able to pull something out of your bag or perform some kind of thing to win the kids over because then everybody relaxes and goes back to drinking their coffee.

You can feel the collective exhale when the whole town realizes that this guy is not a threat, although he looks like a freak, but he just juggled three rocks he picked up off the square and the kids all jump behind him. At this point in time you can sell everybody in town on having a marching band and you can sell them musical instruments. You can pipe the rats out of Ireland, you can do whatever you want!

Even though David Blaine is a terrible monster of a human being, John always admired his ability with those tricks, to go to foreign places and do magic, which is the universal language. Those tricks are totally set-up bits because he is terrible and that show is terrible. A lot of the Penn & Teller tricks are pretty mind-blowing until you realize they are bits. If John had worked up 3 or 4 card/dice tricks he would be better off as a human being. Juggling stuff you picked off the ground is always a winning strategy!

Another thing that holds John in good stead with people around the world is that he is not embarrassed to break into a spontaneous interpretive dance. If he is surrounded by kids and he can not either find three rocks or if they are not impressed by John juggling three rocks, because in some cultures everybody can juggle three rocks, John will start off slowly with a white-guy shuffle, a white-guy head bob, and everybody will look at him very suspiciously. Then he will pick up the pace a little bit with a little bit of butt moving and side-to-side foot shuffle and move the shoulders back and forth and until everybody is thinking: ”Okay, what is he selling here?”

Then he will go into full-on swan lake ballet with arched back, one foot way up in the air, hands out, making a wing like a swan, he spins, he leaps, and there is no village square in the world that is not immediately won over by this performance. Nobody is expecting it and it is not anything anyone has ever seen. Your typical two German guys on BMW off-road bikes, dressed head to toe in leather, are not going to do that, your Americans working for the NSA who come through and adjust the radio frequencies on the dish outside of town are not going to it, but dancing John comes to town! It requires a certain amount of shamelessness.

Human beings across the world carry around so much shame all the time, walking around with a common desire not to be embarrassed, not to look like an asshole, and if you leave that shame behind and are willing to say: ”I am going to be a complete fool for you right now and I am going to show you what a clown looks like!”, it is the Jerry Lewis phenomenon: No-one hates him until you get to know him.

This thing says not only that you are harmless, but to a certain degree you are also fun and shameless, which is very disarming. If you were there to capture and kill and eat their children, you would not be dancing the slow white buttocks dance. ”Go ahead kids, enjoy the candy!” - ”There is a reason why I am in your town: I was run out of the last town and the one before it and the town where I was raised, but I am here now!” It has worked for John many times.

Classifying the podcast as Philosophy (RL30)

Merlin just moved the podcast from Personal Journals to Philosophy in the iTunes catalog because he had the feeling that a man like John didn’t like having a journal. It made John feel like he was wearing a blouse. Merlin is a little short on cards and he has to urinate.

Girls in windows in Amsterdam (RL30)

In the many nights John has spent in Amsterdam he has seen a lot of girls in windows, but he has only ever fallen in love with two.

Houses in old towns in the Netherlands are skinny and very tall because back in Ye Olden Times they were taxed based on their width along the street. Some of them are comically narrow and seven stories high with really steep stairs like on a ship. The front windows are tall because the houses are tall and they were built during a time when people understood that you need 15 foot (4.5 m) ceilings in order to feel human in a house, not like now where they put 7 foot (2.1 m) ceilings in a place and staple it together and act like that is a house.

The girls are generally not on the ground floor, but the second floor above the street, looking down at you. They built a large closet or boudoir with a chair for them to sit and velvet curtains meant to evoke a joke version of luxury. The girls are standing each in their own full-length window, which is probably uncomfortable. They are semi-naked, wearing only a teddy and maybe some thigh-high stockings with a garter belt and they try to gauge the interest of the men walking past by how they are looking at the ladies and they decide in very quick assessments about the most seductive posture to strike.

They don’t want to give away too much either because there are also a lot of creeps standing on the sidewalk in Amsterdam, just looking at girls in a window. They are not going to turn around and give you some kind of ass-play. Merlin suggests she could put on some high Dock Martin’s, some big glasses, sit down, start reading a book and look a lot more Jewish for example, and this is what happened to John.

The first time he saw them he was injured and he was hobbling very slowly, not moving at the same pace of other people on the sidewalk, but he was limping along. The girls in the windows with red lights and their comical lingerie were looking down on him, giving him the Hooker Sympathy, the ”Naw, look at the poor guy!” and half of the time when you engage the services of a hooker you are just looking for female sympathy.

These girls took a break from their vamping and got a little human while looking at John through the glass. John was not moving fast enough to do what he normally does, which is ”Hello, nice to see you!” and then keep going. He looked up at them, he limped a little bit further, and they were like: ”Ah, sweetheart!”, petting John’s hair through the window glass, doing the: ”You should come in!” move, but not trying to be sexy.

John was limping past these girls who were all beckoning. Most of the time he is not susceptible to this kind of fake thing because he does not like red teddies, red lingerie, too much make-up, or the look of a woman trying to be a prostitute, but there was this one girl in the window who did not make a big show, but she was just looking John in the eyes, communicating with her eyes: ”Hey, come on in! Let me take care of you!” and John was frozen in his tracks. He had a primordial feeling of: ”I want you to take care of me!” because he was alone in a strange place with an injury, he was cold, his socks were damp, and he wanted to be cared for in this way that she was suggesting with her eyes.

All the other girls in the windows next to her just disappeared and John had a tunnel vision of this one girl. Of course his response was to shyly look away and hobble off the street. A part of him was thinking that she would chase after him although she was in her underwear, but he imagined she would put on a trench coat and come running after him and they would go on a steam ship to America.

The other time, the much worse time, was when John was in Amsterdam and had gone out of his youth hostel late at night to get some ice cream. He was walking through a twisty narrow street in the red-light district, it was a crowded night, and ice cream is harder to find in a red-light district in the middle of the night than you might think! If John was running a red-light district, he would have the hookers, sure, but there would also be ice cream parlors that would serve the guys who are roaming the street with an insatiable desire they can’t quench, maybe they want a fancy little treat, but they are not ready yet for the commitment.

The streets were full of creeps from all over the world and every person you see would be the creepiest guy in the town where he grew up, leering and slobbering. They were bad men with dander and stains on their pants, pausing in front of the windows. On these narrow streets the girls are not a flight up, looking down at you from their tall windows, but they are in little cubbies right at eye level. Because the streets are narrow you are not even standing 10 feet (3m) back, but you are looking at her right through the glass, pushing your way through a crowd of people milling around.

The women are trying to project that they are very much in control of the situation and they keep the doors locked. In a lot of cases it is not even a window, but a door with a window in it and they are standing in a glass doorway. You will see guys walk up to these glass doors, knocking on the glass, and the woman would look him up and down and if they don’t have too many stains on their pants and there was not too much slobber on them, they let them in, close the curtain and just do it right there.

John was walking through this alley, looking for ice cream, and he was just looking at the girls out of the corner of his eyes, as you do, but he was not shopping for a girl. It was one girl in a red teddy after another until he saw this girl who was his platonic ideal. He was surrounded by men who were a foot (30 cm) shorter, not from the Netherlands, but they were the creeps from the other places. John was looking at her out of the corner of his eye, which he is an expert on, and she was looking right at him. Despite all his training he blushed and ran!

When he came to the end of the alley he stopped and asked himself if he had just run and what kind of a man that made him. ”This will not stand!” and he went back around. As he got within eyesight of her little doorway she was looking at him already like she was looking for him, and she gave John a very knowing look. He couldn’t breathe, he was choking on his own Adam’s apple, and he tried to give her a gentlemanly nod, which ended up being some spastic head motion, and then he literally ran away.

John continued to walk through the red light district, covered in sweat, thinking that she was the most beautiful girl he had ever seen in his life. The problem with being a romantic is that it causes nothing but pain and now he had seen the most beautiful girl in the world in a doorway in a red-light district, but what was he supposed to do? He was not Richard Gere, he was not going to make her an honest woman, and she was probably from Belarus! John was thinking about spending 50 Guilders just to be next to this girl, but he didn’t think he could do it. He walked around the block, still looking for ice cream, but he couldn’t get her face out of his mind and he was increasingly drawn back to her alley.

As he reached the entrance to the alley he could see the light coming out of her door and he tip-toed into this alley together with 500 other guys. As soon as he came in sight of her door she saw him as though she had been looking for him. She had a very knowing look on her face, unperturbable and perfectly calm, not putting on a show for the other men in the alley, and she made a very subtle gesture that said: ”Hey, come here!”, which told John that he in fact was her Richard Gere and they both knew it was inevitable. John absolutely lost it and he ran again!

This was 20 years ago and since then he has never stopped thinking about this girl. Who knows where she is now! She is probably working in a travel agency in Belarus. Merlin thinks John is Forest Gump, but John disagrees because life is not a box of chocolate, it is a box of sand. The lesson is: Don’t fall in love with prostitutes.

Merlin falling in love with a woman he saw for 30 seconds (RL30)

In 1986 Merlin fell in love with a woman he saw for 30 seconds at a Little General Store, which is like an adorable 7-Eleven up in the Midwest, like Wisconsin-land. They have these little convenience stores called Kum & Go and they spelled it ”Kum”, which is a terrible name that is surely going to keep Merlin from visiting the pump chili (see RL13)

The Little General Stores later all got bought up by Circle-K. Little General is John’s nickname for his little toy soldier. Merlin can’t talk about this woman because it is too painful. He saw her going in, she bought a pack of cigarettes and some paper towels and he couldn’t get her out of his mind until two years ago. She smoked, she is probably smoking right now, wiping up some spill. She had handcuffs hanging from her rear-view mirror, which John’s room-mate in college also had, but he was a boy.

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