RL309 - ”Where’s the One?”

This week, Merlin and John talk about:

The problem: John stayed in the wrong boots, referring to John buying the wrong boots for his walk across Europe but then keeping them although they made his feet hurt.

The show title refers to counting songs with difficult time signatures and wondering where the first beat is.

It is going so good! John is feeling good today, he is feeling strong and he is back from being sick.

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

John eating too much before bed (RL309)

John made some mistakes last night: He went to the store and bought some good food as an excuse to also buy some bad food. He had a little bit of cake and decided it wasn’t that much cake and he could also have a bowl of ice cream. Right before he went to bed he opened a bag of Fritos and he actually took the Fritos to bed with him, this is part of #singlelife, and ate Fritos in bed until he literally couldn’t eat any more Fritos, getting only halfway through the bag. He fell asleep feeling like he really got some work done. It was a lot of corn on top of ice cream on top of cake.

Rustic apple pie (RL309)

Merlin had a quarter of an apple pie and a small bowl of ice cream with it. They have a local vendor that sells half a rustic apple pie and Saturday night Merlin had a quarter of a pie and Sunday night he had a quarter of a pie and now there is no pie left. Rustic probably means hearty and simple ingredients. John thinks it means they cut out the Xantham gum and the Red Dye No 4 (Carmine) and they use Magnesium as a binding agent instead or maybe laundry detergent. Some people are sensitive to corn and John is sensitive to corny television, but he is not sensitive to the vegetable corn. He likes corn and whenever he has gone on one of those low-carb diets, losing pasta was a big punishment. He can look at wheat pasta and recognize that it is garbage for your body and he will put it down as a sacrifice he has to make, but corn in the form of tortillas is very hard for John to put down. Merlin feels similarly about rice.

Getting Pho delivered in components (RL309)

As a big component of his diet these days, Merlin eats Pho (rice noodles) a couple of times a week, which feels like he is good to himself, even though our Paleo ancestors didn’t make Pho around the fire in their village of 150 people. John agrees that Pho should be an exception to any dietary restriction because it is one of the great foods. It is mostly broth with a giant monkey-brain sized glob of rice-noodles at the center of every great bowl of Pho.

Part of the beauty for Merlin is that he gets it delivered, which means that he receives separately packaged components: A delitainer of broth, sometimes with some half meat-balls, a little bowl with the rice-noodles and things like scallions in it and the meat on top (Merlin will not eat the tummy meats and pick that out), a little baggy with bean sprouts and cilantro or whatever those leaves are, and a little tiny delitainer with some sauce he never uses and little green pepper boys.

However Merlin feels that day, he can deploy that Pho according to his mood by mixing, matching, increasing, and reducing any number of those ingredients. Sometimes he will add his own aftermarket lime juice from home or some Sriracha, some soy sauce and some secret salt. Merlin keeps a regular 15 oz (450 ml) bottle of lime juice and uses it for adult beverages and for cooking. He likes lime juice more than lemon juice, because it gives more sass per cubic milliliter.

Sometimes he will get two Phos and marry them because he wants extra meat. He also has some frozen steak in the freezer that he can defrost just the tiniest bit and slice it to get some bonus rib-eye. Depending on the day of the week and who is open and who is delivering, Merlin chooses from 3 different Pho places. His preferred place has top-of-the-line Pho with raw rib-eye, brisket, and that disgusting greasy connected tissue meat which he will take out. He can't order it without it, because the app he uses to order it only allows him to add one meat. Who wants one meat in soup?

The app is limiting his options and changing his deployment technologies. Therefore he gets four meats plus meat balls and takes out two of them. The first time John ever had Pho a friend was asking him if he ever had this and when he said ”No” she asked him to scoot over, sat down next to him, prepared his Pho for him and explained that he wants the meat balls, which are not like the meat balls he knows, but they are spongy and crunchy. By ordering two Phos, Merlin can get the Pho he wants, but it gets costly and that is why he sometimes brings some bonus beef to it. Instead of ordering a second Pho to get 6 oz (170 g) of beef, he can just as well cut up his own steak at home like a grown man.

Here is the trick to make Cheerios: You put them in a bowl and you put in enough milk so they start to float. When you see the level of the Cheerios rise just a little bit, that is a good amount of milk to start with and you can always add more later. You can’t heat up cold bath water, but you can only cool off hot water, that is Physics, and something very similar is happening with Cheerios. Merlin's daughter will hold her hand under the tap and find it too hot, but she doesn’t account for the cold bath tub. Another thing that John finds to be Physics is that you can just order the Pho you want in most places without using an app. You can call them on the phone!

Difficult time signatures, Phil Collins (RL309)

They start to hum the song ”High Sharona” by The Knack. Merlin has heard that song for 30 years and he is still a little confused where the drums come in although he used to be in a cover band on the reg (regularly). Being confused about the rhythm is true for so much of the great Devo, like ”Where am I now? Where is the One?” John asked that question ”on the reg”. By the time you reach middle age, you are fully aware of this and ask yourself ”Where is the One?”

Maybe it is like Turn It On Again and you are not going to know for a pretty long time. The song is in 13/4, but he got the 2/4 going on the drums and you can go in anytime you want. Merlin reads from the song’s Wikipedia page. It is a beauty and it doesn’t sound janky and prog, but it sounds very natural and normal and satisfying and he doesn’t leave you hanging out. Prog is just like ”Check us out!”, like pointing at their package. It is hard to say that Phil Collins is under-appreciated because he is one of the best-selling artists. John broke Merlin and he has come around, plus Phil Collins seems like a generally nice guy. He is no Billy Joel. Everybody’s Got to Learn Sometime!

John’s way of covering songs, Frightened Rabbit show (RL309)

John did a couple of songs at a memorial service for the Frightened Rabbit this weekend (see RW127). One of the songs has not an extra beat, but an extra clang coming out of the first chorus and it feels like a 5 instead of a 1, but they are just subtracting it from the measure that follows. It is very smart and when they played it they really had to think about it until it became natural because it makes it sound complex when it is not, which is an interesting choice. John likes to make things sound simple when they are complex. It is interesting to learn somebody else’s songs, but John doesn’t do it very often. Merlin would learn the simple guitar version.

John is trying to make his cover sound like he wrote it and play it the way he plays it, because if he goes too far away from the way he plays it, then it will sound like he is trying to do something he doesn’t know how to do, like wearing somebody else’s pants. Whenever The Long Winters tried to do a cover, they always took that assignment very literally. When they covered In The Light by Led Zeppelin, they made their version be as close to the Led Zeppelin version as they could because that seemed fun. Then they listened to all the other songs on that album that were covered by all the other people and everybody was trying to do something smart and get all experimental with these Led Zeppelin tunes, which is probably fun for them, but nobody probably wants to hear that.

Like anything, the number of great re-imaginings of songs is pretty small, but when it is great, it is great! On the other hand, the songs they have done as note-for-note covers are also somewhat pointless because we already had that song and why do we need another version of it, like Brooks & Dunn doing a note-for-note-cover or somebody trying to replicate Landslide. The Long Winters did a John Flansburgh song and made it their own, but in all the years of their friendship, Flansbourgh has never mentioned that cover to John. He has never said ”Good job!” or ”Remember when you covered that song?”. That guy is a Specter, a Cipher, and he is hard to get. He is a very active mind!

Sinus problems, teeth and knees (RL309)

John Flansburgh DM:ed Merlin about a solution for his nasal problem and Merlin will be eternally grateful. He Dungeon Mastered him and recommended a Saline spray that worked a treat. It really gets in there. According to him, more of your head is sinus than you think and Merlin immediately understood what he meant. You probably got more sinus than brain and John has felt that for sure. Everybody got sinus problems now, it is a new thing like the new braces or the new autism.

One time John had a very bad sinus experience where his head probably had an extra 13 pounds (6 kg) of materiel in it and he didn’t know whether to suck it in, blow it out or shake his head. He was walking down the street with a girl, and although he was over the cold, he still had this glottal stop within his whole self, doing some patois of some African language. His head was like a cave system where some Thai Boy Scouts were trapped in a lower level and blocked by Slimer from Ghostbusters who had expanded to fill up an entire cave system. Then it all came unglued at once.

John could feel a release and a clearing and air was moving around the outside of it, but there was still a Cthulhu inside of his giant sinus cavern. Then it all just found a path. John stopped at the side of the road, turned away from this girl and something from an aquarium came out of John that had a personality at that point because it was representing 2,5 weeks of his life. Little tendrils were still holding on, but they pealed off and it came out of his mouth. John rejoices to this day because he has never since gotten over a cold so instantaneously from all the way bad to all the way fine in one glorious moment.

There should be an Alien Transport Reconstruction program where they break down all your cells, transport you and rebuilt you with just the good parts over here while leaving the pile of detritus at the bottom. Please, aliens, please! All the scar tissue would be gone and all the core puzzles that are clogging up John’s joints, things he wasn't even aware of until they become a thing. Every little pinched nerve, every caught elbow, all that stuff will all end up on the spaceship floor.

Merlin sometimes wants to sleep for 30 contiguous days because he thinks he would feel 20% better, like a system reboot! He misses the days of not realizing he has a body. A good day in your 50s is to get up and not feel like shit, because you are not focused on this or that or that. Merlin is in pretty good general health except for all his mental problems, but if he could have the aliens fix one thing, his sinuses would be up there. He just wants to breathe for a day, because if he had more oxygen he would also think better.

As Jobi Mitchell said, even though it is covered with keloids from the slings and arrows of an outrageous romance (lyrics from the song Talk To Me), which is an underrated Joni Mitchell record, the first thing that jumped to mind for John would be his teeth and his knees. He has had a bad knee for a long time and has crossed over to where he has favored his good knee for so long that now his good knee is starting to protest all the years John has relied on it, just as the bad knee is starting to really fail.

When John went to the chiropractor about his bad back (see story in RW107), he said that John’s left leg is 75% the size of his right leg. It is very damaged by years and years of bad behavior and John has to live with his choices. He is not looking for a solution, because he should be punished! His missing tooth (John is missing his tooth since around RL277 in February of 2018) and the other teeth that are damaged as a result of bad decisions in his youth, from all the blows that were delivered upon him and that he probably also deserved, he deserves un-enjoyment as Mike Squires once said to him. If John could chose between teeth or knees, they are both major disabilities, but they are not all the way to a disability where John can’t perform maximally.

Merlin has friends with chronic migraines and he knows that if he got migraines any more than once every couple of years, he damn sure would want the migraines to go away. John has a friend with chronic migraines where it is truly disabling. Merlin only had half a dozen in his life and they were truly not fun, and his mom had them, too.

Choosing between the knee and the mouth, you would think that you can get the mouth stuff fixed without extensive surgery, but when it comes to the knee, whatever they are going to replace it with is not going to be better than what you got, so get used to it. The mouth is very personal and there is rarely any mouth-stuff that doesn’t have knock-on effects. If you get one thing wrong with your mouth, you feel like everything is wrong with your mouth. Like when you get a Canker Sore or Cold Sore, you become one big mouth. Merlin thinks the knee is a contender.

For John, both of these things are not total problems right now. The knees are going to slow him down and 20 years from now he is going to be walking with a gait like his dad had. John’s dad was a jock, he played tennis until he was 80, but because of his knees he didn’t quite have bounce and he had to shuffle and was tentative, which slowed him down. How will John’s mouth be 20 years from now? It is tough!

Anxiety attacks (RL309)

Lately John is having anxiety attacks, but he never had them before in his life. The other night he had one in the middle of the night because he was starting to get sick and his ears and his sinuses started to clog. He could feel it happening and he knew this was the beginning of at least a week or 10 days where he wasn’t going to have access to his sinuses or his ears. He started to feel claustrophobic and it started to ramp up. John never had a single panic attack until the first one that was about a year ago and then another one after 6 or 9 months. Because he now has had a couple, he is afraid of them. In John’s case he is afraid from having a bag over his head in the back of a police car and his hands caught behind him (see reference in the last episode).

John is still missing his front tooth at the moment (John is missing his tooth since around RL277 in February of 2018) because he doesn’t want to deal with it because in order to deal with it he has to go to the dentist and in order to go to the dentist he has to be in a chair, not strapped down, but with a bunch of shit in his mouth and people hovering over him. He doesn’t want any of that and has been avoiding going to the dentist because of the panic that has descended upon him. Nothing is going to happen, but what if he is in the dentist chair and they put a bag over his head and throw him in a cop car? What if the UFOs could fix all the things so that John never has to go to the dentist again? He would take the shuffling gait of an old man over however many dozens of times he has to go to the dentist again before he finally shuffles off this mortal coil. Merlin thinks that John may have chosen well.

When John had this panic attack at 4am in the middle of the night, he was really panicking, pacing up and down, trying to think of someone he could call on the phone, but there is not a living soul who wants to hear ”I think I’m having a panic attack” at 4am. John went online and made the colossal mistake of googling ”panic attack” and every single result was just a description of how bad a panic attack can be, but that was not helping!

The first result should be ”Sssssshhhhh, you are going to be fine!”, but that is not what you find. You find a bunch of people on WebMD who say that when they are having a panic attack they sometimes shit their pants. John didn’t get to the bottom of any of those pages. In this situation Solitaire is John's friend: It doesn’t judge you and it does not want anything from you, but it is just there, and if you get to the end and didn’t solve it, you just play another one. John did that until he was so exhausted that he could just briefly lay down and feel ”Okay… Alright…” Panic attacks are not on brand for John!

John has always been claustrophobic. At one point along the way he said ”Nobody could ever throw me into an open grave!” because he was never going to get into a cave head first, he is not going to go out into a corn field with a bunch of mobsters and stand right on the edge of a grave and look down in there and ask ”Who is ending up down here?”, but here is the problem: Now John has a kid and if she would get stuck in a low cave, he would go in there, and what if he then also got stuck? What would happen if a mobster had his kid and would tell him to come over here and stand next to this open grave? John is going to do it because of his kid! Every one of those scenarios involves John in his imaginarium having to make a choice between protecting his daughter and being put into a claustrophobic situation.

With that John has given his brain the license to come up with 10.000 of those scenarios and play every one of them out where John is constricted, unable to breath, or unable to get his hands up to his face. Every one of them is terrible and freaks him out! This is the problem of the creative human mind: Once that door opens, it just gets bigger and bigger. One theory of Merlin is that because it is mostly an inchoate fear, you feel the need to make it more real by coming up with more scenarios, plausible and otherwise. John has talked about this with his psychiatrist and he gave him some blue pill that he is supposed to take when he feels a panic attack coming on, but that is not when he needs it, but he would have needed it half an hour before. Also: John doesn’t want to take drugs for things.

There is this whole thing of ”Let’s revisit all of your terrible decisions before we help you!”, but Merlin knows his terrible decisions and that is why he does not go to the dentist. The healthy people will just think that is silly. The example that comes to mind is people who don’t procrastinate vs people who do: Not having that is almost like a difference in the colors you are able to see in the world. You have the ability to perceive what this thing could be like. If you feel like you are the baseline or the norm, all you can see is the brokenness in other people who don’t have that moored sense of okayness.

John being self-hating (RL309)

John has been a little bit quick to anger lately because he is not only anxious in the form of being worried about somebody putting a bag over his head and putting him in the back of a cop car, but he also has a lot going on right now that is making him anxious and he is not dealing with anxiety very well. It is making him be quick to snap at people when people are lecturing him or picking at him. John snapped at his mom the other day and she replied with ”What is the matter with you?”

Years ago this has happened before and she really jumped on John when he snapped at her, like ”You better get your shit straight!” When she does that it makes an impact on John because she doesn’t usually read you the riot act. John judges himself too harshly and just like his Bipolar disorder had been a nightmare for 15 years before he finally did something about it, he now feels like his self-abnegation or self-hatred is right at the edge of him not being able to deal with it anymore. He cannot keep living like this! John is not just judging himself, but he also feels judged.

John decided years and years ago was that he was going to be generous with praise. When a friend of him or somebody close to him did something good, even small, he would say ”Hey, good job! I really liked what you did there!” He would try to congratulate people and say nice things to people all the time because it doesn’t cost anything and it is really nice. As the years have gone by, John has found that people don’t do it very much and he goes through phases where all he wants is an ”Attaboy!”

Merlin and John get it all the time on the Internet where people write in and and say ”Hey, I love your show, good job!” and that stuff is nice, but John wants it from his family, his friends, and his closest people! Most of the time everybody around is just trying to deal with problems and when problems don’t get dealt with, those are the things that people point out. ”We are late!” or ”The house is on fire again!” John in particular doesn't get a lot of praise because he projects so much internal confidence. He is not walking around asking ”Am I being a good boy?” but he is just getting stuff done and to other people he feels like he is fine.

John told his mom that he doesn’t get very many attaboys from her and from most of his friends, hardly any in fact, almost to zero. When he plays a show, his family will come up and tell him that he was great and it was a great song, which seems like something baked in. His family likes his music and they are genuine when they say it. But a lot of the work John does is work that seems like it is not work, but it seems fun and easy, and a lot of the things John is bad at are the things that everybody else feels like are markers of competence. Every morning he wakes up and comes downstairs, his house is a mess, all these projects are unfinished and he built a mountain out of mashed potatoes, but he doesn’t know what he is trying to get at. John feels that his incompetence is on display every minute of every day.

John’s mom is exactly the opposite: She has tremendous competence. Her taxes are done January 1st, no bill has ever gone to collections, never a single time, she got pulled over by a cop only once back in 1962, she is competence to the extreme. If you break a key in your lock, she will come over and change your locks for you. John can do things, too! If you asked him to build a house, he would build you a thing. He knows how to do those things, he just would never get around to it. He is working on this mashed potato thing and he will be working on the locks soon. Every time he gets something done that is in that vicinity, like running an extension cord out to that charger, he is like ”Yay me! I did that thing!”

John’s podcasting chairs (RL309)

John bought matching office chairs for his podcasting studio so that Ken and Adam can sit in a nice chair. Those are the exact same chairs they use on America’s got talent, but the problem is that they are rated at up to 250 pounds (115 kg), which was right on the line for John. Ken, Adam and most of the people John knows are probably in the 180-range (80 kg), but with 250, John better not have a lot of receipts in his wallet because that may tip him over. He should probably also take the Pendleton shirt off and put on a little blouse. John leans back in a chair and is hard on chairs. Sure enough, the chair starts to have a problem and doesn’t look like the other chair anymore from the side, but it has deformed.

John took the chair apart in the middle of the night and saw where his 250 pounds plus a wallet and a pencil made the actual metal bar bend. Once it bent it had metal fatigue. John thought about it because he does not have the metal working ability to put a steel bar support in there, but he went out to the barn, got 2 really big 3”-diameter metal washers, wrenched it all together and it was one of this projects where there was so much tension in the system that he had to lay on the floor, put both feet against one part of the chair, pull it all the way with his arms and then hold it while he stuck the bolt in and then ratchet it solid.

As he was done, it worked! The problem was solved and John had fortified the chair. Now John is sitting in it and is trying to squeak out another 6 months before the whole thing explodes underneath him like an ejection seat and sends him out through the roof of his DB5. It was 4am and John looked around, walked over to the hat rack that also has a jacket on it and looks like a person, he grabbed it from behind, shook it and went "Attaboy! Good job! Thanks dad!" John will call it Mr. Sweetums. John feels like his chair is like his knee: He is sitting on it, it does not feel 100% stable, he doesn’t want to lean all the way back and test it, so he sits in it kind of straight up and down now, but he only had it for 6 months.

John's mom is so good at everything and takes care of everything while he is fucking useless and can’t take care of anything. She walks through here every day with that look of disgust on her face, forget about ever saying "Attaboy!" It is not that his house is gross, he doesn’t leave bananas lying around, but there are just all these unfinished problems and the mashed potatoes are actually a problem, it is like a Devils Tower. John’s mom doesn’t understand that a bin full of XLR cables sometimes needs to be in the center of the room because John is trying to get those XLR cables from one mental space to another, not taking them from one shelf to another, but from one organizational state to another. You could replace every cable in that box for less than $100 and a lot of them are historic and have done a Yeoman’s Job.

But that is not how his mom thinks and he can see distain for his father on her face. It contributes to John’s feeling that he is a failure. He doesn’t even need any Attaboys, but he just doesn’t need to feel like he is some kind of failure to launch every minute of every day. She is not usually the one that is the most gentle, but she replied uncharacteristically sensitively ”Look! Don’t judge yourself against me! I am hyper-hyper-capable and you will never be as capable as I am, but that capability has always come at the expense to being able to do the things you do, which is make people feel good and entertain people, make them happy, give them things to think about. I don’t please people and so I make sure that all of the windows are square or that the oil in the car gets changed on a regular basis.”

John walked away from it remembering that Merlin and John say to each other all the time that the normals are never going to understand what they do, but it is a job and it is important. Hodgman knows what it is he is doing, because he has been fairly compensated for it in one sense, but he is also driven to make things a certain way. Then there are those of us with a lot of self-doubt and people say ”Come, do this for free because your job is fun!”

John doing a thing for NBC Universal for free (RL309)

Last week John did a thing for NBC Universal. They were filming a television show that is going to be broadcast on European television and they wanted to come to Seattle and talk to a local Seattle guy. John spent a day with them and took them all over town, giving them the full Seattle treatment. Merlin has gotten that treatment before and knows what that means. John knows it all and he leaves out the boring stuff.

They had a full camera crew with 10 people walking through the center of Pike Place Market in the middle of the day, they had people to part the crowds and lighting people and they were strolling at a pace while John was like ”The guys over here who look like they are throwing the fish are not just throwing the fish, but they are throwing the heart of Seattle” That is horse-shit, but it is the type of thing that when Germans watch a television program about Seattle, they are going to go ”Ach du lieber! Scheisse! Das ist Seattle!”

About halfway through the day they got down to the aquarium and they were having a good old time. It was misty and raining and the host of the program said ”It is hard to believe that we are able to live so well and have such a great life and get paid" and everybody was ”High Five!” The only person who was not getting paid was John because they said it is not in the budget to pay the local guy, but he is getting paid by the opportunity that maybe NBC Universal was going to use this guy with a missing front tooth. They did it again! John thought he had figured it out and was completely immune to this now, because John and Merlin had been through this a million times that they are not doing this for free anymore. John is like Charlie Brown and they are Lucy with the football.

This NBC thing sounded like fun because it came to John through a friend in the show business who said ”I know this is one of those things where you should be getting paid, but do this for me and it will end up being great" John got to the end of the day and felt like he just got ripped off. He did not only spend a full day of his life, but he gave them a better show than they could have gotten for any amount of money, even if they had hired somebody from the Seattle Tourism office. The entire production to get all these people there cost tens of thousands of dollars. There were three producers, there was an executive producer, they were all staying in a nice hotel and they were all flying from place to place. They could have given John $5000 and it would have been less than what they spent on craft services, but now John walked away once again thinking what he does and what he is good at is not considered as valuable as somebody who is just key-coding.

How can John get to a place where he will never take one of those jobs again unless he really wants to? He didn’t do it because he really believed in NBC Universal’s story. The host of the program is a really nice Irish guy who is also a Folk musician of some kind. John didn’t know him but that is never an indication. His CV is equivalent to John’s. He went on tour with Elton John, which is a bigger grab than John ever had and he is a jobbing musician. He is great looking with a beard and a floppy Irish-guy hat, he is smart and funny and somewhere along the line NBC Universal got him as the host of the program.

Now he is going around America talking to people to show him the real thing, like Pike Place Market, the Aquarium or the Space Needle, some gritty stuff where no-one else ever goes. He probably didn’t know that John was not getting paid, but somewhere along the line some producer said that they don’t have a budget for paying local talent, but they are having a budget for the producer standing there watching this happen and probably making $600.000 a year.

They wanted John for one day, but at the end of the day they told him that they want him to be here for day two as well. Now the whole show hinges on him because John is the friend they have here. They were paying him in exposure and tipping him in compliments. John was laying in bed at night and that was the night when he had his panic attack and was getting sick. He wrote them at 3am that they had spent all day out in the rain and that is probably not why he is getting sick, but he is still sick and cannot spend another day wandering around in the rain. The unspoken thing was ”If you were paying me $5000, I might put on a hat”, but as it was, John was not going to make himself double or triple sick.

John was grateful that his mom said a thing that he and Merlin used to say to each other in order to bolster their decisions. Merlin doesn’t do events at software companies anymore because even the amount of money they pay him isn’t worth it. You can not only count for the times where you got paid what you wanted in the time frame you wanted and the amount of work and preparation was minimal and non-disruptive because that is not how life works. Instead, people want to give you virtually no money to do huge amounts of work including the hidden work of an extra day here and there. They want you to prepare for it and they want you to make a workbook and some DVDs and that kind of shit, but how many of these things can you afford to even turn down?

People think that this is the amount this person gets every day, but you get that twice or three times a year and then you get 60 of those you turn down and guess how much time you spend on the ones you turn down: Hopefully as little as possible! You have to get good at saying "No!" to that stuff or you are going to lose your mind. You can sniff it out early by doing the orders of magnitude test with somebody: Ask them to estimate your pay between two orders of magnitude and you will not believe how often the conversation stops right there.

Merlin pioneered what John thought was the genius thing: He would go to a company and give a speech. They would call it a 20 minute talk, but then they would also walk you around the office and expect you to sit with the managers and spend your entire day participating. That can be fine, but Merlin finds it really galling, naive, stupid or dark when somebody would invite him to come to Boston for a 20 minute talk as though you are being paid a gazillion dollars for that.

It takes 3 days of Merlin’s life that he has to account, plus changes to the schedule, plus how long it will taken them to reimburse him for the flight. So many times you are expected to lay out money before they ever do. Merlin literally can’t afford to do that and he only wants to work with people who are really aggressive about wanting to work with him. When is the last time they had to wait 6 months to get paid, if at all? This is work and you should pay it like it is work! It is such a sham and you eventually get that Jesus in your life where you don’t. You will deal with so many bad people who on the surface seem to be nice, but they are scoundrels!

John was complementing Merlin that he, before he abandoned the whole style of speaking and making a living from that, would say right up front that he will come and spend an entire day with them, he will talk to their executive team, he will walk around, he will drink from every drinking fountain, he will sweep the hall and pull soft-serve if that is what they want, but they are going to pay him for the entire day. Let’s not pretend they are paying him for a 20 minute speech, but for a day and here is my day rate, which is different from what you think a 20 minute speech rate is. This worked for Merlin for a while and John found this to be a really smart way of looking at it.

A professional person who prepares speeches allocates 10 hours of prep-time for every hour they speak and they are going to have to pay for that, too! It is not a Bill Clinton thing where a Lear Jet is going to fly him in and out and he will walk away with $300.000. It is nice if you like repairing shoes for a living, but it can be a tough racket and how often do you have people come into your shoe repair place and say ”You should resole my shoes because I walk a lot and that is good exposure”? That is not how the world works or should work. If people compliment John on the soles of his shoes, he will make sure to always remember to mention their name.

The idea that John would do all these things in order to promote his band is additionally hilarious. If people in Europe listen to The Long Winters on Spotify it is not going to help him. Maybe he made $0.09 this quarter! They wouldn’t even use John’s music in the show, but they will mention the band at some point and that is the thing that should make him feel like he is on his way and he is finally going to be Tailor Swift one day!

Buying the wrong boots, Big Walk (RL309)

When John walked across Europe he went into REI and asked for a good pair of shoes. The kid that was working there was wearing a pair of boots that looked very good and he was recommending them to John because they were super-cool and bullet proof. They were mountaineering boots, but they would be perfect for this long walk. They were thick leather boots that were very Jodelehihoo, which is exactly what John thought when he thought of himself going on this walk across Europe and they were not inexpensive.

John got these boots and set off on his walk across Europe. Those boots really beat up John’s feet and his feet were just shredded, but he said that this is what happens: When you walk all this long way in your brand new boots you are going to have a period when you are breaking them in and you are breaking in your feet. John kept going and the boots continued to shred his feet for weeks, but he kept doubling down on them by wrapping his feet or trying different ways of lacing the boots.

For the first three weeks of his walk across Europe he was in constant super-pain of rubbing raw feet in hard-leather boots and it never got better. About a month in John realized that these were mountaineering boots and whatever they were made for, it isn’t this. They are either the wrong size or whatever they are, they were the wrong boot, because John should not still be suffering a month in. What he should have done at that point when he was in Germany was to put those boots at the side of the road and figure that although he had spent $175 on these boots it was not worth the agony and he should have just bought some hikers. Of course John blamed himself that he was doing it wrong and it wasn't the boots. This comes back to John deserving it because he made the wrong decision and bought these boots. John continued to walk in those boots for 7 months and they never ever felt good.

At any point along the way John could have abandoned that idea and could have gotten some K-Tech hikers for $100 and if he had worn them out he could have gotten a second pair. Instead he stayed in the wrong boots. He walked the whole way in the wrong boots and he can never go back and redo that walk where his feet weren’t in pain the whole time, which is a real exclamation point on everything John does. Good job! You really snagged defeat from the jaws of victory there! John didn’t even take them back to REI because all his energy went into that Northface bag. The boots were a Roderick-failure, but the Northface bag was a Northface failure (see story in RL14) and they were going to hear about it.

John still has those boots! He can’t get rid of them now because they symbolize the bad decision he made on his long walk. He takes them out every once in a while, he looks at them and he tries them on and walks around, because maybe they fit now? Are these cool now? Did something change? Maybe he should start wearing them as fashion boots, walking around his house and make his feet hurt after 10 minutes.

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