RL373 - An Unannounced Friend

This week, Merlin and John talk about:

The Problem: John has a bastik of bits, referring to John having a lot of small bits about Star Wars that he deploys strategically.

The show title refers to John entering the JoCo Cruise last year 2019 in the last minute as an unannounced friend.

John is reporting from Coronavirus Ground Zero. Wash your hands! Stop picking your nose and eating it! John picked the wrong week to stop sniffing glue.

This episode was sponsored by the Western State Hurricanes record on Bandcamp.

Raw notes
The segments below are raw notes that have not been edited for language, structure, references, or readability. Please do not quote these texts directly without applying your own editing first! These notes were not planned to be released in this form, but time constraints have caused a shift in priorities and have delayed editing draft-quality versions to a later point.

Merlin not looking forward to an possible quarantine (RL373)

Merlin has a lot of selfish concerns about travels he has planned. He is not looking forward to a situation where all three of them have to be in the house for an unknown amount of time because the key to happiness in any relationship is knowing when certain parts of the experience will end. Some people have to get out of the house sometimes and Merlin has his office and can go down there. He gets miffed every time people are abusing his area at the house. You don’t put things in the area where Merlin’s Seltzer goes in the fridge and daddy’s seat on the couch is always daddy’s seat on the couch, don’t put your iPad there! Merlin is the Capt. Kirk of that room.

John going on the JoCo Cruise (RL373)

John is leaving for the JoCo Cruise in 6 days, but maybe he is not going to get into the Dominican Republic. After that he was supposed to go to Japan, but his host wrote that everything is closed now, like Tokyo Disney, and they won’t let them out on the streets.

Last year John was not planning to go on the cruise, but in the last minute he went anyway as an unannounced friend and played some bits and bobs, picked up this, did a little that, toted that barge, lifted that bale, and it was good and John had a lot of Aloha at that point that he could take with him on the cruise, a place where he had always been Aloha-challenged, and it was wonderful, maybe the best year, and now John is going to really test it because he has about 12% Aloha right now. Merlin looks at the website and goes through the guest list. Every year John gets to bring one co-host and this year they got lucky because Ken Jennings agreed to come before he won all the championships and he would have been able to write his own ticket.

Ken is not done making money and this is the time of the season for loving and also for talking to people how much they are willing to pay. It is nice to be in that position!

Coronavirus (cont)

Nobody expected the state of Washington to be the place where the first Americans would contract Coronavirus onto death. It puts them on the map! They are known for Space Needle, Boeing, and Coronavirus, Grey’s Anatomy, Fraisure Craine, Daphne, Starbucks, the fish-throwing men, Amazon, going down to Tier 2, Costco, Weyerhaeuser (?), and Microsoft, Grunge, Quincy Jones went to school in Seattle in Garfield High School, Jimi Hendrix.

A few years ago John was traveling internationally during one of these epidemics and they have these temperature guns to measure your forehead. When Merlin was a kid he got a Mercury-filled glass tube in his butt, but John’s mom never put anything in his butthole because the one under the tongue seemed to do the job well enough. When Merlin’s daughter was sick a couple weeks ago he went to Walgreens and got a forehead thermometer that is virtually instant. It is incredible how you can point a thing at somebody standing in an airport and register if they have a fever. It is Jedi technology!

John recently saw two nice pre-owned light sabers, but they were $450 each, which seemed like a honey trap. It was a Luke one and a Dark Vader one and they were still in the box.

John doesn’t like getting sick and he doesn’t want to be part of a pandemic. He was 90 days worth of food in case of a devastating earthquake. But in terms of going on the cruise John feels like: ”Roll the dice!” What is going to happen? Somebody dressed as a Pokemon is going to come on the boat, having a sniffle, and i turns into a full-blown Coronavirus, but it is not an old-folks home and everybody on there is fairly healthy. Merlin’s mom used to say, which at the time sounded like bullshit, but it was true, that when Merlin wanted to get a driver’s license she said that would be too costly for their insurance if they have a 16-year old kid driving, but she was not worried about Merlin, but about the other people.

John’s way of teasing people (RL373)

Jim Boggia, who is also on the cruise, was instrumental in picking the right Ukulele for Merlin’s daughter when she started playing that in school, some guitar-lele. He is a wonderful guitar player and a wonderful musician. He has a comedic competition with John based on teasing John about needing to tune his instrument longer than most people. John takes his time tuning because he cares about the audience. Jim has not perfect pitch, but very attuned pitch and he will just reach up and do a little micro-tune on one of the strings in the middle of playing. For John it is also a little bit of a bit, and he will tease him back because he is a pretty good teaser.

What struck Merlin from the beginning of knowing John is John’s ability to clock somebody’s vulnerability and the beauty part is that John is one of those slow animals that waits for a fast animal to come to the watering hole and then he slashes it behind the knee. He doesn’t go ”Your shirt collar is too small!”, but he waits until he deploys it and then that vulnerability becomes something they are self-conscious about. John doesn’t deploy it unless it is absolutely necessary and he wouldn’t deploy unless you are teasing John how long he takes to tune.

Coronavirus (cont)

Somebody said, maybe Donald Rumsfeld, that when it comes to homeland security we have to be right every time and they only need to be right once. John is not worried about being stuck on this big boat. He learned from his sister who is very fond of telling you what to do,…

John’s sister getting a tweet reply from Mark Hamill (RL373)

John’s sister just got a tweet from Mark Hamill. They were at breakdast [sic] and John’s little girl right now is very into Star Wars and John has a lot of very small bits that he deploys, a whole bastic of them. Her birthday is coming up and she is very excited telling everyone it is going to be Star Wars themed and John said he is going to be Han Solo (pronounced like ”man”), which drives his daughter crazy. Early on Luke called him Han, but then started to call him Han (pronounced like ”dawn”) somewhere in the middle.

John’s daughter was pounding her fist on the table because John had been building this up in her for months. He also says Sasquatch wrong, which drives a lot of people crazy. They continue to talk about other common mispronunciations like Nike and Spokane.

Then John’s sister said that Mark Hamill will reply to almost any tweet, especially if you ask him how to pronounce Han Solo, and so she tweeted him from the table and he replied and said it is Han Solo (like ”dawn”) which was cool, but put John at a disadvantage. Also John was teaching her some come-backs lately because she didn’t know any come-backs, for example if somebody says something you don’t like, say: ”Get a job!”, without explaining why that would be a good come-back, and the first time she said it to somebody close to them it brought the house down! Things like ”Talk to the hand!”, ”Is this your first day?”, ”Sit on it, Potsie!” (from Happy Days, see here) pretty easy stuff! He also taught her ”Eat snakes!”

John has been told to get a job lately and she got in his face and dropped a couple of pretty good burns while John was sitting there, trying to recover from the Han business. Up your nose with a rubber hose is very good!

Coronavirus (cont)

Jonathan Coulton asked John this morning for the Coronavirus breakdown. Last night, Ariella (John’s daughter’s mother), who is vice president at her company and who is the boss through however many layers of corporate malfeasance. Merlin still doesn’t know what his wife does at work, he just knows where and how she works, which is very embarrassing sometimes. John doesn’t know exactly what Ariella’s company does and doesn’t fully understand it. She starting to get messages from her employees, asking if they should come into work today.

There are only two possible frames of mind where a person could create that question: 1) they understand the situation so little that they think if they stay home from work for a week the danger will have passed, or 2) they are prepared to not come to work today and for 90 more days. It is not really a job where you need to be there because it happens mostly on the Internet, but they have a job and they are supposed to be there because who would attend the meetings otherwise?

Merlin thinks that telecommuting is very productive because you get so much stuff done when you are away from all that Meh of the job. 1-3 days a week it is so productive, but management doesn’t like that a lot of the time because that makes their management of things less transparent.

The result was that yes, they were supposed to come into work tomorrow, what are you talking about? John is somebody who would abuse a work-from-home policy, but he does believe that for instance Ariella does not abuse it and she works hard from home. You don’t get in that corner office by slacking. If she decided to move to Luxemburg, she could do her job from there and John would be hard-pressed to come up with a reason not to follow them to Luxemburg! It is wonderful there, it is like living in a train set! They speak German-French-ish.

Coronavirus is the new hit fad that is sweeping the nation, but what it is is the flu and you should wash your hands and stop licking doorknobs and that is all you need to do! Coughing at somebody on a crowded train is not acceptable even under normal circumstances. Also: Keep your shoes on on the plane! On many airplanes there is an elevator that goes downstairs where there is more stuff. You can pet the doggos in their little doggo houses, and there is also a place down there where you could put someone in a shipping container and gradually change the dimensions of the walls while you drip acid into their water. It is a black site that can’t be traced. Get ready, Dick Chaney, get that small bag packed! If you are in pajamas or bare-feeted up on the bulk head, then someone should come along and tell you to come back here with them and take them down the elevator.

John is very worried about pandemics and he doesn’t want to die in a massive flu that sweeps the world and kills 400 million people. John is ready to go to the mattresses, but we are not quite there yet. There is a moment where you waited too long and think that you are not going to be one of the people who gets it, but then you waited too long and now you got it. John wants to be ahead of that curve, but it is not keeping him from going on the cruise, but it is keeping him from going to Japan, although against his will and he would probably go.

John planning to go to Japan (RL373)

John never went to Japan before and one of the reasons is that it seems very overwhelming. Lost in Translation was a very interesting movie and you don’t know what he said to her at the end. John was super-worried about going to Japan, not for getting a disease, but for being in an environment that he would be overstimulated, that he would fully not understand and that he would be a figure of curiosity in a way he does not like to be. He doesn’t like people pretending to like him. It is complicated because John doesn’t like people not to like him either.

John almost buying a table to make two people happy (RL373)

John went into a place the other day where there was a table and chairs and a guy with a hat that said Vietnam Veteran on it and a jacket that said San Francisco 49ers said he bought that table in 1967 in San Luis Obispo and it was his table and chairs and now he is selling it as a collector’s item. It was a little bit thrashed and also: It is worth what someone is going to pay for it. John later researched this table and chairs and found that these were not that rare, but when you find them on the Internet you find them in Olathe Kansas and Augusta Georgia, Allentown Pennsylvania in places where you are not.

At one point John made the mistake of giving his phone number to the woman who works the desk at the place where the guy in the 49ers jacket was and they started talking and she started texting John: ”Hey, it is Linda! Over at the place, just wandering if you are still interested in that table!” Normally John would write back and say: ”Linda, never text me again!”, but he liked Linda because they had talked about a television for a while and she was just trying to grease the wheels and keep it all moving, so he said he had done some research and that table and chairs was too knackered for what he was asking and she said he chopped the price in half just for John.

John went down there and looked it again and the guy and Linda were standing there, she had a black eye for some reason and she said that the bungee cord won, which must have hurt. The table and chairs were totally knackered and John could chop the guy even further. It was right on the edge of being too knackered and John would always look at it and say that there is a better one out there that he wished he had and John does not need it right now. The problem is that John doesn’t want to disappoint these people, although he will never see them again after this. John wants these people to have a good day!

What John wants (”What I want”) in this situation is to get out of this store and not talk to these people anymore and he does not want this table, but he does not want to say that he is going to pass. He as on the cusp of buying the thing, knowing that he didn’t want it or need it, in order not to disappoint the two people, and that desire to go through life and have everybody be fine is a real handikap that has really hurt John over the years.

The problem according to Merlin is that you are doing this for selfish reasons because you want this person to like you. She is doing sales and you are doing personal relationships and you can’t turbo out of that situation without revealing a lie and seeming like a jerk. Wanting someone to like you is one thing, but John doesn’t really care if they like him, he just wants them to be happy. They don’t even know John by name and he will never see them again.

Merlin is telling his daughter that kindness and brushing our teeth is something we don’t do for others, but for ourselves. It is not some codex about human behavior we are following, but being nice is just who we want to be because we believe it is going to make the world better for everybody when we leave a place better than we found it. Also, having that kindness not be reciprocated doesn’t mean you stop doing it, although it has been said that there is a reverse paying-forward that when somebody is unkind to you, you are more likely going to be unkind to somebody else.

The point at which John was going to give those people $1200 in order to have this transaction not be one where they are going to feel bad, he actually had to say to himself to man up and disappoint these people and they both did the thing of: ”Oh, really?” - ”I got to go! See you later!”

Going to Japan (cont)

John’s worry about Japan is that his expectation for a long time has been that he would walk around Japan, making grave errors at every turn, offending people, being in the way, standing there looking at menus uncomprehending, the beds would be the wrong size, but in every instance, no matter what he did or said, the people around him would be unfailingly polite, although people who have been in Japan a lot told him that people there are plenty rude and not everybody is going to be obsequious, but there is a lot of punching in the nuts if you are standing in the way, which is great and John can handle that.

John wants to be liked and create good in the world, but he would much rather be treated rudely than fake nice, but he is against the world here because so many people would prefer to be treated fake nice than to be treated in a way that is more in line with how the other person actually feels.

John has not watched that many movies about Japan and basing your feeling about Japan on having watched some movies is probably not the way to go anyway. For example when somebody hands you their business card with two hands and bows, you are supposed to take it with two hands and bow and then check it out and admire it. Although John thinks people in Japan are going to recognize that he is a big dumb moose and they are not going to be offended if he will just stuff it in his back pocket.

John has decided recently that he can no longer go through life being afraid going to Asia, but it is time for him to overcome his phobia of being an exaggerated thing that everybody is going to look at and that he is going to be conspicuous, which he prefers not to be. John has also talked to a lot of people that in 1986 there were not very many gaijin in Japan and now there are a lot more and John won’t be as conspicuous as he may have once felt he would be.

John’s attitude towards disasters (RL373)

As far as disasters go, every time there is an earthquake John will think that he wished it had been a bigger earthquake, whenever there is a tornado or a tidal wave or a landslide, John is a climactic accelerationist, like: Is this the best the world can do? Really? What is the biggest volcano ever? Krakatoa? Why have there not been any Krakatoa lately? Give us a real disaster, not those where just 200 people died. There are 6 billion people in the world! John does feel a little bit like every disaster is a better disaster waiting to happen.

Sorry about the Coronavirus, but two people in Kirkland died. When is the stock market going to plummet? Merlin wants it to go to something like 7. In 2008 when the economy was collapsing they were saying that the dollar is going to be worth nothing and the economy is going to collapse, but bring it, then! Shake it up, what would that be for a little while? John has 90 days worth of food there.

There are many bridges people don’t know about (RL373)

John’s mom’s thing is assuming all the bridges are down. They like running scenarios. But the other thing people don’t know is that when John was running for city council and was talking a lot about transit he talked to quite a few city engineers who are working on those things, and they said that people don’t understand how many bridges there are. A lot of them you don’t notice or see because it just looks like the road, but it is in fact a bridge over a hole. Every overpass is a bridge!

If Merlin is at his office and is going up to the Walgreens, when that was all sand dunes they were not flat and even sanddunes and when the road was built they had to fill up the parts that were down with the things that were up and sometimes they had to build a secret bridge over a thing and you now think the world is flat, but there are bridges under the roads, especially in Seattle. If you are going to put a trolley up this road that to you looks like a flat road, in order to build a trolley track they are going to have to reinforce six bridges between here and there.

Not all of those bridges are going to collapse in an earthquake because some of them are just big culverts, but some of them will and John’s mom who already had every bridge mapped out, John introduced the idea of hidden bridges to her and she wanted to assume that 30% of the hidden bridges also fall, we are not going to get from hither to dither unless we are prepared to walk, and that is why John has a 1979 Suburban because it has no computer and won’t be destroyed by an Electromagnetic Pulse and when everybody else’s wiring harness has melted into a rat king, John’s 100% mechanical machine will continue to be able to be started and run and it has the low 4-wheel drive and can make it down and up over many broken bridges.

Disasters (cont)

These are things that John is conscious of and if you have a hammer every problem looks like a nail. If you have 90 days worth of Hershey bars, every problem looks like a disaster that could have been bigger.

Going to the Apple Store, but not getting a new phone (RL373)

Yesterday John went to the Apple Store because Coronavirus is sweeping the nation so John wanted to go to a mall and walk around. At the Apple Store he said that he bought this phone with the upgrade program, but then he never upgraded it because he is lazy and he is not even sure he wants the latest thing, and the girl said that past a certain point you will just have paid for your phone, so now you own your phone and you are in a different category and you don’t just bring it in and get the upgrade. Of course, it is also worth only $170. John ended up walking out of there, feeling like he had paid for insurance he didn’t use, he felt a little ripped off (we don’t say jibbed anymore, and the Ramani people also don’t rip you off and saying being ramanied is also a slur).

John talked to a person with a mustache about it and he said the photos are really nice, but are they worth it for the other stuff and he was like ”Ahhh…” He was slightly disabled in one of his hands and he likes the fact that it turns on when it looks at his face. His hand seemed like it was in a Bob Doule (?) posture. Then he did the real Apple thing and said that maybe 6 months from now the iPhone 12 comes out and is really good and John is not going to want to be the one with an 11 plus. Time is a flat circle! John walked out of there with the same old phone.

John going to the LensCrafters optometrist (RL373)

Then he stopped by the LensCrafters (at the Northgate Mall), a place he avoids like the plague because it is against his Weltanschauung and has been for years. His Rock’n’Roll optometrist from Yakima provided him with very strange glasses frames over the years and would often send him nice glasses, but he has gone quiet lately because he is a human being who has life stuff going on. All of John’s glasses have gone missing because there is a ferret or opossum that goes through the house and takes them to build nests out of them.

When he was outside of this LensCrafters he was with someone who said: ”Why don’t we go into this LensCrafters and get you a new pair of glasses?” - ”It is going to take 3 weeks and all their glasses are dumb!” - ”Just walk into the LensCrafters!” - ”I don’t want to go into a LensCrafters! It is like a professional sport person going into a mall sports place! It is like buying a Decemberists record at Sam Goody!” John went in there against his will and better judgement and a man with a coat and tie came over who had a name tag that said ”Regional manager”

He said he can turn a paid of glasses around in an hour although he is legally prohibited by Washington state law from making a pair of glasses that is older than two years. John told him he was going to call his mom and see what she says about that and she confirms that it is true and thought even it was only a year. But it was not a problem because they even had an in-sore ophthalmologist, or whichever one can make an eye-test in a store. There was a door to an optometrists office with ferns, dramatic lighting, a front desk to check you in like an opt. office you would find in a brick building in a suburban shopping center, but it was through a portal in the center of a LensCrafters in a mall.

Merlin mentioned that in South Carolina you couldn’t sell spirits and beer/wine in the same store. Washington used to do that, too, even with the bars. So they would have a building with two doors, pretending those were two different stores. When Merlin was last in South Carolina in a previous relationship, if you go to a bar you have to buy an airplane bottle, they didn’t have big-old bottles, but the amount of alcohol in those is bigger than a shot. Merlin doesn’t like the mustard barbecue, he doesn’t hate it, but he doesn’t love it.

James Lipton passed away today (March 2nd).

Buying an amplifier in South Carolina (RL373)

John once bought an amplifier in South Carolina, a Vox AC30. He had been looking for one of a certain kind which was the last one of the ones, buy you couldn’t find them anywhere. The Beatles used that amp, but no-one in South Carolina cares about The Beatles and makes this kind of music here, so nobody wanted that kind of amp here. There was a wall of Mesa Boogie Triple Rectifier and Marshall amps with 50 switches for country music or metal music, but nobody wants to make Brit Pop, so he got the amp at a bargain price.

It was a wonderful amplifier and John was with his Rock group at the time and while John was closing this transaction his Rock group asked: Where do you think that amplifier is going to go? There was no place in the van and John wasn’t about to get rid of one of his other amps, but the amp salesman offered to ship it to John and when he got home it was there and he plugged it in and it didn’t work.

He took it to the amp store and they said that even though it is several years old, because John just purchased it from an authorized Vox retail environment it technically is a new amp that is still under warranty and they replaced everything about it that didn’t work and made it basically perfect for free. The reason it was new that it had been sitting on the show room floor in this South Carolina music store for however long while guys with chew-stained baseball hat walked past it and asked if they had anything louder.

Merlin’s band playing in South Carolina (RL373)

Merlin didn’t understand South Carolina because it was neither fish nor fowl. He like Savanna and his band played there once at SCAD, the art school there. Merlin never opened for Jimmie’s Chicken Shack, they only ever played two out-of-town shows, one in Gainesville and one in Savanna because everybody had jobs and wives and stuff. Merlin booked that show via a guy who used to be a DJ at WVFS, one of the greatest college radio stations in America in Tallahassee, the voice of Florida State, who had taken a job at SCAD.

Merlin on the busy streets in Chinatown (RL373)

One time a friend of Merlin was visiting in town. He is only realizing right now how important this experience was for him and what prepared him so much for their shared message of Keep Moving and Get Out Of The Way. He was in Chinatown in San Francisco with this friend who was very winded and who used to drive from place to place in a Minivan, he was not used to walking, and in Chinatown there is a lot going on and a lot of movement. At one point Merlin’s friend was having trouble keeping up and Merlin didn’t want to lose him on the busy streets ,so he paused and turned to locate his friend and an extremely exasperated 4-foot tall Chinese woman said to Merlin: ”You walk to slow! I don’t like it!” and Merlin apologized.

Cruise (cont)

What John should do is immediately upon boarding the ship hoarding non-perishable food that can sit in your room for a long time, you fill up your room refrigerator with fruit and cheese and crackers, pizza, some coffee, but you don’t put the cream in it. You have to do it subtly, like Steve McQueen, you fill up your pockets with sand, except it is gravy. You also want to do it in a way so that your room steward doesn’t get suspicious because your apple basket has 50 apples in it. If you are in a situation where you are hoarding enough crackers and cheese that when… and you are not doing this for when stuff first goes haywire because the cruise company is going to try to keep you supplied in that case, but a lot of that is going to sort itself out like the rats in a barrel eating each other, but it is only later when disease has spread rampantly and when other people are forced out of the safety of their room in order to forage for any kind of sustenance, that is when John is going to be able to keep his door closed and live on cheese and crackers, presumably until everyone else is dead.

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