RL300 - The airplane doesn’t care

This week, Merlin and John talk about:

The problem: John had a motorcycle ride with himself, referring to John being on a motorcycle trip for 6 days where he was mostly riding by himself because the others were professionals and were way ahead.

The show title refers to a guy stealing an airplane from SeaTac and doing maneuvers that the plane was not made to do, but as long as the wings can handle the stress, the airplane doesn’t care.

John sounds good today, but it is a little bit early. Merlin sounds loud. John went to the potty and got a coffee, but he is out of cream and used milk.

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

John’s mom getting an Apple Watch (RL300)

John's mom was in his house and as John was walking around, she saw that he had a big bruise on his leg and was concerned about it and wanted him to call his doctor. Just as they started recording, she was talking to John in the background, telling him that she was going down to Apple. It had just been her birthday and they got her an Apple Watch, but it didn’t have all the functionality she was looking for. Now she wants the cell one with the red dot and is headed down to red-dot it up with those people.

Merlin’s Apple Watch broke, but he still has his Fitbit and his very old shitty Apple Watch. It can’t be repaired and at the time of recording it was too close to announcing the next one, so Merlin was roundly talked out of buying a new red dot. Instead he should wait like a big boy for the next one, but it sucks, because it takes forever for Siri to hear him.

There might be a pretty good chance that there is a new one next month and John called his mom back to tell him that Merlin might advise her to wait. She spoke directly to Merlin on the microphone for a while and was therefore the first real guest on the show. John's building manager was on once in the background (it was in RL183) and his daughter might have squeaked something at one point.

In the end Merlin said that life is short and she should probably get the red dot today instead of waiting, because it is a very good watch. John's mom said that she is not the bleeding edge type, but John would never get one of these things and she is the tech-savvy one in the family. She is also decisive and it sounded like she knew what she wanted.

By talking about this topic, they validated their placement in iTunes as a Mac Podcast. ”Welcome to watch talk with horologist John Roderick” Merlin hates the word ”Horologist”

John’s mom always gets the most expensive Apple Care for everything, because she talks with them and she has probably gotten $200.000 worth of consultation from them. She asks them to help solve her functionality, not just ”I can't get this to boot up”, but questions about Excel and they do it. She had them go through her entire music catalog!

When John transfers a thing and all his music is gone, he is like ”Well, what you are going to do?”, but she grabs on like a rat terrier and just walks them through, like ”I used to have every Creed record!” Merlin goes out of his way not to tangle with her. He learned in military school that there are only three potential answers to every formal question: ”Yes, sir!" , "No, sir!" and "No excuse, sir!”

Going to the Apple Store (RL300)

Going to the Apple store is not nearly as fun anymore as it used to be because it is very crowded these days! There used to be time where you could just stroll in there with your Hot Sam or your Orange Julius and get some help with something. Now you really want to get an appointment! For example when Merlin’s sweet sweet daughter broke her iPad a few months ago (see story in RL291), they were going out on a trip and Merlin called from the road as they were headed toward their destination. The first available appointment was a week out!

John has a friend who manages an Apple store and he does have the ability to send him a text and say ”I'm down here at the mall and I need to talk to somebody at the Apple Store” and then somebody comes out with a mustache, some extraordinary tattoos, a flat top haircut, really big glasses or even with suspenders, and they say ”Are you John?” They are always the person that while they're talking to John, 40 other Apple employees will come up and whisper questions to them.

John always feels both good that he can meet the person that everyone is consulting, but they are also in high demand and sometimes John is like ”Hey, my eyes are over here!”, but the only reason the guy is seeing John is because somebody made a phone call and said that John was important. This is what important looks like at the Apple Store!

The last time John got a phone, they put on the protective cover for him and they ported everything and did all the stuff, even the little stuff. John’s person at the Apple Store who makes the call is also an important person, like a Buck Lieutenant. Merlin used to have a guy at the mall down the street, a very handsome guy utility-kilt guy, but he got called up to the bigs and ended up working at the spaceship in Cupertino. Nobody knows Merlin anymore down there, although he used to be well-known in the Mac and Apple community, but when Merlin was Merlin Mann, a lot of those kids were still in High School.

Death Cab for Cutie and Built to Spill (RL300)

Merlin was just reading the writings of one Benjamin Gibbard who was running down his list of force ranked Death Cab records. John read that, too, and it was pretty good! Merlin liked that Transatlanticism was number one, but he would have liked to see Something about Airplanes higher (it was number 6). Merlin never got the whole Built to Spill Jr. thing out of them, but John absolutely confirms it.

At the time in 1997 any good band in Seattle was trying to sound like Built to Spill. Modest Mouse sounded exactly like Built to Spill, but the two weird things with Modest Mouse was that Isaac Brock had a lisp, which did not sound like Doug Martsch, and he didn't have a whammy bar. He would buy the cheapest guitars that he could find, like these Heavy Metal pointy horn Kramers and stuff that nobody wanted at the time. They all had tremolos, but he would take the bar off, keep the heel of his hand on the counter piece (?) or almost under it and push and pull his hand on the Floyd Rose Tremolo System. Merlin saw them once and they were really high on something, because it was a really bad show. John happens to know for a fact that they were Huffers.

John was playing 50 to 75 shows with Death Cab in the period between the recording of Something about Airplanes (released 1998) and the recording of We have the Facts (released 2000). During those years the band got harder and harder, and adapted loud, expressive, and big rock show gestures. They were around 21/22 years old while John was 28 and he was extremely susceptible to the blowing winds of musical fashion.

Around that time, Death Cab were soaring as a rock act and they were really in their moment in that strange little era of Quiet is the new Loud, Anti-Punk, Emo, and The American Analog Set, which is don't-yell-at-me-music. They would get tours with bands that they really admired, like the Dismemberment Plan tour. They did a tour with a band that was super duper Quiet is the new Loud and as they came back from that tour, all of the energy had gone out of their set. They were trying to be really precise, the volumes had come down, there was no jumping around anymore, and it was super gentle. That is when they recorded We have the Facts.

Some of the songs on We have the Facts are some of the greatest Death Cab songs, but John was expecting this record to be the same Stadium Rock that they had been playing three months before and that they are playing now. They had to walk themselves back up to this massive sound after they had artificially restarted themselves at We have the Facts. Had they made that record before going on that one tour, it would have been a different record, a different band, and a different career. Sonically they would have been 100% closer to what they ended up doing later. Songwriting-wise they always and very consistently put out amazing song.

John's missing tooth (RL300)

John has trouble talking because of his missing tooth. He had lost it 1000 times before, but this time in particular his tongue did not have any articulation and he kept stumbling over words.

What is a stream? (RL300)

Merlin was thinking about water, googling about different definitions, and ended up at the Wikipedia page for Stream. You can jump over a brook, you can wade through a creek, and you can swim across a river. All that varies heavily and Merlin was excited to learn that much detail about the taxonomy of waterlines. What is a Knickpoint? What is a Thalweg? What is a Gill?

Merlin said Creek, not "Crick", which is a touchy subject because he is from Cincinnati and a lot of his family is from Kentucky and West Virginia. There are a lot of people in Alaska who call it a crick and John has been in situations like when he was working at the gold mine, he had to call things cricks, because otherwise you would have been trying to be a dick. Slews are major features of the Northwest and Alaska, but also San Francisco! Everything in the East Bay is a slew, basically.

There was a thing on KQED this morning where they talked to a 75 year old guy who had worked with river stuff and with the environment for a really long time. Supposably there is only one large river in California that is not dammed in any way and that is governed by the Johnson-era Wilderness Act. Dams are great for lots of reasons: We can build shitty housing there and we can get some power out of it.

They continue to talk about different rivers. People in California enviously look at the Rogue in Southern Oregon. They need water in California while Oregon just dumps all this incredible wonderful clean mountain water straight into the ocean. California wants to divert this delicious water and turn it into soap-tasting dreck to serve their millions and millions of huddled masses who are yearning to drink it for free, but Oregon is worried about their salmons and the wildness of the river.

The Monkey Wrench Gang: Earth First! No compromise in defense of Mother Earth! Did you ever wish that schools would get all the money they wanted and you wouldn't have to hold a bake sale to buy a piece of military equipment? Have you ever seen a grown man naked? Do you like gladiator movies?

Being an environmentalist (RL300)

There was quite a while in John’s early 20s where he felt like being an environmental vigilante might be where his life was headed. He was profoundly affected by the logging- and clear cut culture, partly because his family was in timber, and partly because it is in his nature to look at the world as a system. You can push a system only so far before it collapses.

People talk about this now in terms of global warming. They didn't have that terminology then, but even when John was a teenager, they definitely understood that ecosystems were delicate and that the dams had killed the salmon runs and overfishing was destroying the East Coast fisheries.

This was the spotted owl era where they were chopping down the forests and it wasn't a question of some dumb little owl, but it was a question like ”Where are the deer going to live?” If they are taking all the wood, there is no place for anything to live, forget about the spotted owl! The spotted owl was just a thing that the ecological community could point to and say ”This bird will be gone if we don't do something!” and it became comical because the loggers were like ”Who cares?”

This all started with Silent Spring, a great book about DDT and Eagle eggs. Merlin had an environmental ethics class that was very upsetting. The Snail Darter thing started in 1973.

John felt very radicalized about environmental issues as a young person and he felt like the bulldozers and the chainsaws were marching in such lockstep across the West that he was moved as a Western person, but never to chain himself to a tree or to climb up into a giant Redwood and build a tent up there.

One time when John was in his 20s, he was flying with his dad in a little plane over the Cascade Mountains. He looked out and surveyed as far as the eye could see from 5000 feet or higher. John’s dad came from an era where the loggers were the pinnacle of the Western man and they were arguing about environmentalism. John pointed from one end of the horizon to the other and said ”Where are the fucking animals going to live, dad?” The forest was fucking gone, and his dad finally saw it through those eyes.

After that they were at John’s uncle Cal’s, who was the President of McMillan Blow Dell at the time. Cal and John's dad were sitting there, and dad told Cal that he was flying with John and saw that the forests were all gone, like ”What the fuck have you guys been doing? You took all the forests!”, but Cal replied ”Oh, that explains a lot. More people are flying!” He said that the problem was that people are noticing too much.

He was a timber baron of that era when they realized that if they leave a buffer of about 100 feet of trees on either side of the road, they would stop getting phone calls from people. It is a Ceausescu-type situation, but It is still true: You will still see those buffers around the road anywhere in the West! Cal realized like ”Oh that explains why we are getting so many letters! People can see it from the air!" He sees the problem differently. How do we black out the windows of airplanes? What if we spray painted the ground green?

98% of the old growth forest in the West had been cut down by 1850 when the number of pockets of actual old growth forest that was 1000 years old was already a small area. Now they are harvesting third or fourth growth trees, because they cut all those trees down by 1850 and replanted them. By 1890 those trees were ready to be harvested again and they cut them all down again and replanted them again until 1945.

They have been managing these forests for a century or more and that is just how the timber people think. To you those are mountains full of deer and stuff, but to them they are farms. Have you figured out a better way to build a house? John's uncle Cal definitely felt that environmentalism was a form of hysteria that was politically motivated and a symptom of an anti industrial, anti corporate, anti capitalist movement that was ill-informed. He disparaged it and was pro industrial, port corporate, and pro capitalist.

Cal thought those were movements of children who did not understand economics, who did not understand how things were made or built, and who did not understand where their parents’ money came from. They had expensive college educations and were now out yelling and screaming about the birds. They were doing a good enough job of it because they were attractive and they were Jane Fondas or whatever. The risk to uncle Cal and his business was that popular opinion might turn because the pretty people felt this way.

The thing about companies like Weyerhaeuser is that over the years they really managed the optical switcheroo to become stewards of the land. Weyerhaeuser is now a major property development company. From our standpoint within the parade made up of evil Papier-mâché capitalist marionettes we think they are greenwashing themselves, but from their standpoint they are the ones who are doing the right thing.

They are the ones helping people who are building things and who are making the world better. They have to greenwash things in order to sideline this yell-y brat-y bunch of powders with their own agenda and their hands aren’t clean either. They are trying to accomplish some kind of social engineering that just gets in the way of the good natural American progress.

As a 22 year old John was on both sides of it because he was having dinner at Uncle Cal’s, eating the roast beef that the death of the spotted owl had paid for, but at night although he wasn't putting a black mask on and pouring sugar in the gas tanks of bulldozers, he was not far from it. Part of John’s self-education came as a result of trying to reconcile those two worlds he knew intimately. Uncle Cal is was very confusing man, he was very hard to get off to the side at a party and ask him a real question, because he resisted that. If you tried and guide him away, he would guide himself, like ”Have you met Rajneesh?”, but he does it with himself.

The Monkey Wrench Gang is a novel written about a ragtag group of people who all banded together in the desert Southwest to stop the construction of a dam. It is written like an adventure novel and John is astonished that it never got made into a movie. In the mid-1980s it was still really transgressive because it was effectively advocating a form of domestic terrorism in defense of a larger principle. In order to save Mother Earth we are going to have to periodically destroy a dam. This book felt like a piece of contraband and it was in that same family of Ecotopia books that were prognosticating a future world in which the North West or the West ceded from the United States and formed an ecological socialist utopia. There is a whole new generation of mostly Portland Timbers fans who imagine this might be possible.

John’s motorcycle trip (RL300)

John just came back from a week-long motorcycle trip riding the logging roads in the mountains of Oregon. He had a pup tent that fit in a backpack, while Merlin at the same time went camping with a six person REI tent with a wall in the middle and an add-on garage. They had rented an SUV to carry the tent and the big husky boxes for all their stuff like a new FyreCadet Coleman grill. John's baggage fit on the back of a motorcycle. Merlin apparently didn’t know that John knows how to ride a motorcycle although John has told many stories about it.

The logging companies figured out a long time ago that they were going to be taking a lot of timber out of these mountains and rather than just build some rutted shit gravel road, they might as well build roads. Those are no two lane divided highways with sidewalks, but still proper roads, and they were running a bunch of trucks, bulldozers, men and equipment in and out. The coastal mountains of Oregon are mostly unpopulated and covered with forest and these capillaries of roads go all the way up to the summit. They curve, they wind, and they are like twisty turny little snakes.

John was riding in a group of seven people, six of which were either professional motorcyclists, former professional motorcyclists or life-long seasoned racers or dirt bikers. Those people grew up on motorcycles, live on them, or ride on them every day. Then there are people who think Punk Rock is bullshit (referring to John's article). At either the top or the very bottom of the pyramid there was one complete and utter novice rider and that was John.

John’s first motor vehicle when he was 17 years old was a Vespa that had 4 gears. He later bought a Honda CB 650 and rode it from Yakima to Oakley Kansas in an attempt to ride a motorcycle across America and he got as far as Kansas before he rode it off the road and crashed (see story in RL250), but it is not an inconsiderable distance from Washington to Kansas and that was a lot of time on a 650. John didn't ever own a motorcycle after that and the only time he would ride one was when somebody would throw him the keys and ask him to go get some beer.

This group had been talking to John for a while about going on this epic motorcycle trip, but John hesitated because he was a little intimidated. He doesn’t have a motorcycle, he doesn’t ride motorcycles normally and those guys were not only all professional motorcyclists, but also good at everything around motorcycling. John thought he would be a real drag, but they told him not to worry about it and he would be fine. It got to the point where John was telling himself that he doesn’t just want to do something because somebody was telling him that if he didn't do it he was a puss or implying it, but this was the kind of adventure that he had staked his whole life on! This is exactly what he does!

Somebody would say ”Hey, I'm building a rocket in my backyard out of plywood, would you like to go to the moon?” and John would reply ”Is there room for my dog?” or ”How many S'mores are you bringing?” A lot of this is spearheaded by friend of the show Ben King, an architect in Portland who is a motorcycle enthusiast, his pal Gregor, and their motley crew of motorcycle people.

They were offering to give John a motorcycle, a motorcycle costume that is like an armored suit, a helmet and gloves, and they will tell him what to do every day. He wouldn't need to think about anything and they would just go motorcycle around for six days. John said ”I’m very afraid!” and they said ”It’s good! You should be afraid! That's good!”, which is a great trick to do when someone is afraid, because if being afraid is the key, then it is no longer an excuse.

John agreed to do it it the very last minute and called Merlin and said he couldn’t do the show next week. He also called everybody else he had an obligation with, telling them he is going to be gone for an entire week. Thanks to the way John’s life is structured he can do that and everybody goes: ”Oh, alright, see you next week, then!” He didn't have the excuse that he couldn't go on the trip because he had to do something. It is clear to everybody that he doesn’t. He can cancel everything he has to with one phone call.

One of the guys was from Naples Italy who owns an Italian restaurant in New York City. There was a hedge fund guy with a custom built $50.000 Ducati motorcycle that had just recently appeared in all the motorcycle magazines and now he was taking it out on a shakedown tour. There was a kid in blue jeans and a backward baseball hat who had built a motorcycle out of parts he found at a thrift store, but who was a genius motorcyclist that everybody else really respected because he had zero fear and had a just a natural way of riding a motorcycle, but they all did!

Gregor had been a GP motorcycle racer and builds motorcycles for a living. John was right in the thick of it. They like talking about motorcycles and these people are fascinating! This was also the first time in 20 years John stood around with with seven men and stared into a camp fire, which was pretty amazing! John used to do this all the time and it is it's own thing to do that. You can't replace that with standing around a greenroom with some podcasters, looking at a TV.

John knows how to build a campfire. The first thing they did when they pulled into a campsite was that one of the guys decided they needed to take their motorcycle apart and one of the other ones would get their tools out and pretty soon the motorcycles were all taken apart. John couldn't take that motorcycle apart in a surgery in a hospital with a YouTube video and people helping him, but they were just tearing it apart, so John said he would go build a fire. At least he could do a thing!

The best piece of advice for John came from his friend and motorcyclist Andrew McKeag, the guitar player in the Presidents of the United States of America. Andrew is a great guitar player and a very handsome and also garrulous person. He told John that he was on a ride with six professional motorcycle people and the way to do this and not die is to not follow them! Do not try to keep up with them! Do not play with them! Guaranteed they are all super macho about motorcycling, that is how it is.

You get on a motorcycle and immediately you're trying to go slightly faster than the guy next to you on the other motorcycle and if John would try to keep up with them, they will be way better than John, do things he can't do and he will end up in the trees. John will be on a ride with these six guys, they will all start at the same time and then John will immediately lose sight of them and must not try to ever see them again until they get to the crossroads where they are waiting for him. In the meantime, just be on a motorcycle ride with yourself! Ride a motorcycle in the country, practice your turns, think about what you are doing and enjoying the air and your life. When you come to a stop sign you will see the other six guys who have been waiting there for however long, but you don't care! Fuck those guys! This will happen six times every day!

John would pull up and they would all be sitting there with their engines off and their helmets off, asking ”Hey man, having a fun time?” and John would say he had an amazing time and ”Great!” and off they went in a huge cloud of blue smoke. John had an incredible week! He knew that ahead of him there were X-Wing fighters trying to kill womp rats with the dollar or whatever, and John was just on his motorcycle ride.

John had a KTM 990, which is the biggest bike he had ever seen. It is as big as a pony and incredibly powerful. When they were on dirt roads, the tires were spinning and things were going sideways, but by spending six straight days on a motorcycle you learn a lot. John would still put himself in the category of totally novice rider, but at least he is a rider and as time went on he got smoother and smoother and could go faster and faster. He never had that feeling he used to have on motorcycles before: Every corner he went into he wasn't sure if he was going to come out of it. Now he goes into a corner and knows how to come out of it.

These guys are philosophical about motorcycle riding, too, and a big part of why they do it is that it consumed so much of your attention. There is the technical aspect of doing it, and you are always scanning if there is a tractor or if there is a bird going to fly out and hit you in the helmet. There are so many ways to die on a motorcycle! All that has to happen is anything! Therefore you are super attentive and there is not a lot of room to think about other stuff. Your mind is not going to drift off to some insult that somebody paid you 42 years ago where you're like ”That kid stole my bullet that I had!”, but you are just driving and you are really in between the turns, looking at everything and smelling the air.

It was an experience that John is still processing. A big part of it was being in Oregon, because although John fucking knows Oregon like the fucking back of his hand, he had never been quite this immersed in Oregon. He has been more in Oregon than most people in Oregon are right now, even though he is not in Oregon right now, but Oregon is in him. John rode over 1000 miles on a motorcycle that a week ago he had never even seen.

Merlin bought the REI co-op Kingdom 6 tent with the garage, a tent that John had been coveting for several years. The problem with REI tents, and this is not a Northface bag situation (see the story about [John's backpack in RL14), is that these tents are like fucking Honda Civics. They are great and Merlin doesn’t go camping that often. They are relatively easy to put up, spacious, and dependable.

Merlin's family goes on car camping but they have never been in a lightning storm or something. Merlin’s daughter wants to get like a 12 person tent, but his wife said right out that there is no way! Merlin wants the most expansive tentage that you could have! He wants rooms, a stately pleasure dome, a fucking balls out baller tent.

The last 3 tents they had were great. They had one of those orange hobby tats that was perfect for his wife and him, and when their family grew a little bit they got the next larger size. The one they have now is not the prettiest thing in the world, but you can see from the photos that it is pretty capacious. You can stand up in it, you can add a garage to it, and you are zipped up in your own environment. It took like 2/3 of Merlin’s campsite and it was fucking amazing! John wants one for the backyard to go out there and do yoga!

Wildfire Management (RL300)

One of the things you did in Alaska if you didn't do commercial fishing was you did smoke jumping or firefighting. Merlin was reading about the history of controlled burns and firebreaks and how they do all that kind of stuff over time and everybody thought it was crazy. There was all this fuel that had built up because they haven't had a fire in a while and they can easily burn off this fuel and it will not affect the redwoods. There are a lot of fires going on in California right now, John has seen it in the papers.

Somebody stole an airplane from SeaTac (RL300)

Over the weekend, a fella named Richard Russell who worked at SeaTac stole a Horizon Air Q400 twin engine turbo prop. It looks like it was a suicide (news article). The monkey balls part is that the guy was a baggage handler who according to an article on CNBC did "incredible maneuvers", but his only training appeared to be ”video games”. He had never flown a plane before, but he was doing tricks. This happened in John’s neck of the woods in John’s industry. What the fuck happened?

Every once in a while you get one of these events like the deaths of Chris Cornell and the guy from the Frightened Rabbit (news article) that resonate in John and don't go away immediately. He stole this airplane, took it on a joy ride and crashed, which is really affecting people in John’s aviation adjacent world. John grew up flying planes and he actually has stolen an airplane before.

Richard Russell grew up in Alaska and worked for Alaska Airlines, not just handling baggage, but those guys do all kinds of stuff, they move the planes around on the ground and they are in their little trucks. He is next to airplanes with gas in them, he knows how to get in them and move them around and he just got in one and started it up.

SeaTac is an incredibly big and busy airport with three active runways going all the time. He ran that thing out on a taxiway, everybody wondered ”What is this guy?”, they shut the airport down really quickly, but Richard just got out on a runway, ran it down and got it up in the air. All the planes coming and going on SeaTac don't leave a lot of space open for a guy to throw another big airplane in the air, but he got it up there and then he was just joyriding around the Northwest.

He was talking to air traffic control on the mic and the recordings are available! He was such an Alaskan! John’s sister got very emotional listening to the recordings because although this guy was 20 years younger than John you can just hear exactly who he was and where he was coming from. It was too bad that all he had to talk to was air traffic control. The raw air traffic control feed for SeaTac is available on YouTube and his voice pops in every once in a while. You can listen to straight 45 minutes of people talking in code language, which air traffic control does all day long. They have 500 moving objects in their minds and on their screens.

This kid wanted somebody to talk to, basically! ”Hey man! You can see all the way to the mounts from here!” and the guy that had been charged with talking to him was like ”Yeah, Rich! You can see the mountains. Anyway, I'd like you to start executing a left hand turn” - ”Yeah yeah ok. Left hand turn. Hey do you think there are any whales?” Air traffic control, no slight against them, are not in the business of talking.

No one in the system managed to get Rich over on a frequency way up at the end of the dial where somebody was talking to him, like ”Hey Rich! That's amazing! You stole an airplane! Dude! High five!” because Rich just wanted a high five or two. Merlin and John have talked a lot about mental illness and a whole subset of Internet concern trolls is now on the mental illness beat, a lot of it structured around the idea that people need help and that we need to get people help. A lot of people understand that you can't understand and they are now tweeting about how you can't understand. It has gotten everybody on the Internet aggressive and people are mental illness shaming each other, saying the wrong thing.

People are immediately turning this whole event into a tragedy about how this kid needed help and couldn't get it, or that he had untreated depression, diagnosing him at a distance, which is very hard for John to read. Something motivated Richard to decide that today was the day where he was just going to throw it all in the fire, but instead of sitting in a garage somewhere with the motor running or whatever, he stole a fucking passenger jet! He was not trying to hurt anybody or trying to make a political statement by flying it into a building, but he just went out and did some loop-di-loops in a plane that you should not be able to do that with.

He shouldn't have been able to get it off the ground, he should not have been able to keep it in the air and he absolutely should not have been able to do a barrel roll and not pass out from the G forces, let alone pull it off! All airplanes are rated for more stress than they normally handle and you should be able to pretty much roll any airplane, because it's just an aeronautical maneuver. The airplane doesn't care and as long as the wings can handle the stress of the maneuver, the plane can do it. John is pretty sure that this Q400 has never been looped before, not even during testing, although they are powerful turboprops!

Part of the thrill was that Richard didn't care if he crashed, so why not try it? They got some F15s up here to shadow him around and make sure he wasn't going to go crash into a building, but those guys were like an honor guard, they just kind of flew back behind him watching him do his thing. Nobody ever got on the horn with him and said ”Rich, bro! You are legend! You are going to go to jail, buddy, but you pulled it off and you gave your life some meaning or some color or some framework. For all the ways in which this was a complete violation of the social contract, you made a difference today or you did an extraordinary thing, which is going to result in some jail time and you should think about this long and hard, we do not want other people doing this typically, but Good job!"

Richard sounded like basically anybody around where John grew up with. If this idea had occurred to half of John’s friends like Cal McCarrell, they absolutely would have done this and maybe halfway through would have been like ”You know, there is no way out of this, I have to crash! I can never face anybody again after doing this”, but at the same time John can't look at it and say that this is a failure of our mental health system or that there is no way to talk about this other than as a mental illness event.

Life is short and full of pain, people die all the time and sometimes there is no one way. This kid did this thing where you go ”Huh!”, but 10 days from now we won't think about him anymore. There will be a marker for him somewhere and his family and friends are sad that he is gone, but he really affected John. It is hard to look at this and say ”Good job!”, but at the same time John is agog with wonder at the whole event and that is the reaction he is seeing from people in aviation: ”He did what? From a video game?” A big part of those maneuvers is tactile, which is not a thing that you would learn from a video game. You pull on those controls and the plane moves underneath you, but it requires force and it requires a kind of ballet to fly an airplane like that. You are dancing with a big powerful animal and Richard did it! He did a thing John couldn't have done, although he is not a pilot and a lot of pilots are impressed.

Like with a lot of the people who died recently and made an impact on John he wished he could have sat down with Richard. He wished he could have been the one on the other end of the radio, because he would have said ”Don't worry about all that now, but what is going on bro? This is pretty cool actually, but what is going on?" Even if the end result would have been the same, just give him 10 minutes to to spell it out! He made a passing comment about being white and there are a lot of people that are jumping on it because people like to jump on things, but John didn't see anything political about what he did. It just felt like a kid from Alaska who reached an endpoint.

John had reached 100 of those endpoints and the people John knows have reached 100 of them. At 29 years old they should have all this stuff figured out, but they have zero figured out and they feel like a complete fucking loser. They are capable of stuff and today they stole this airplane and do some loop-di-loops over Puget Sound and crash it into an island.

John never felt suicidal, not even in the darkest darkest depression, but it is an impulse that a lot of people close to him wrestle with all the time and the ease of it makes it feel like a form of rest. John can't limit this event to just being a suicide, because however Chris Cornell or Robin Williams died, it was not just a small thing. How do you address the idea that lives have beginnings, middles and ends? They don't all have to go to 90 years.

We don’t know what happened with Scott Hutchison from Frightened Rabbit, but it feels similar. He struggled with this stuff for a long time, he was out in a bar and he had a bad night! Maybe he had a conversation that bummed him out or he had some bad thoughts. A lot of these suicides don't happen on the worst day of their life. They just have a bad day, but it is the day when the stars line and they are going to jump off the bridge. Forget it! They made it through thousands of worse things and this is the thing that throws them off the bridge? This is the thing that caused him to steal that airplane? Who knows!

In a way, John almost can't lament it, but it is also hard to salute it. He tweeted something about it, his sister listened to it as well and Richard really feels like somebody they could know. Somebody tweeted John and said ”It may be someone you know because depression is silent.” Someone felt like John needed to be coached.

There is a lot about this event where you kind of want to laugh. At one moment Richard said something and John could see in front of his inner eye what he was doing in the air and John put both of his fists up in the air in a gesture of triumph and started to cry. ”Oh my fucking God, you did it! Champion!” Then he was saying ”I’m going to nose it in and call it a night!” What the fuck? What a line! What a feeling! What a thought!

Air traffic control have less sense of humor than a German motorcycle gang and was just like ”Okay, you pulled it off. Let's try and get you back in that left hand turn and get you lined up!” Really? Those guys have so little joy in the way that they look at aviation, because this kid is just one of 500 airplanes they have to deal with right now and they just want him out of their mind. They are like ”Kid, you are on a joy ride, planes crash all the time, figure your shit out, please just stay out of our airspace”

They were being gentle with him! At one point Richard said ”In all honesty, I didn't think I was going to pull that off. I thought that was it. I thought I was going to pull that maneuver and that would be the end and I would be dead now. I would have gone out making that maneuver, but I actually pulled it off and now I don't know what else to do. I didn't have a Plan B” and you want to say ”Wow, okay, try another one! Do a corkscrew or something!”

What he never did was go and buzz Seattle. He didn't fly over his girlfriend's work or anything. He was on a ride with himself and he was talking to these guys because it seemed like he was an extrovert who wanted somebody to talk to and he didn't get much pushback. If John had been on the phone with him, he would probably not have come back either. John couldn’t have talked him into landing, because he had decided what he was going to do, but at least they would have had a pretty fun hour, like ”Why don't you go over the water and see what this baby can do?” Part of why it is emotional has to do with that basic basic stuff of ”What are we doing? What is the point of anything?”

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