RL41 - In Lieu of a Laundromat

This week, Merlin and John talk about:

  • John’s orange bell (Stories)
  • Merlin’s grandmother and John’s dad getting old (Parents)
  • John’s dad buying a time share and John’s sister handling it (Parents)
  • John taking his dad’s car away (Parents)
  • John’s tweet storm with the Firestone company and the Hilton hotel (Tweetstorm)
  • The Blue Angels are in town (Seafair)
  • 1980s pop music (Music)
  • Hitchhiking (Dreams and Fantasies)
  • Seeing a show with Dale Bozzio and Tommy Tutone (Music)
  • The strange place of New England (Geography)

The problem: Standing on a carpet of nails, referring to John collecting his powers when he is about to unleash on a company that didn’t give him the service he has paid for.

The show title refers to John’s dad not having a laundromat or a Pontiac dealership to hand down to John as his heritage.

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

John’s orange bell (RL41)

John made a squeaking noise with his chair at the beginning of the show and Merlin smirked at him because it sounded like John was falling off his chair like old people usually do. Then they do the kick to get out. John’s dad didn’t do the kick, but later on in life he just fell on the floor and worked his way up the wall. He was an athlete, he knew how to find his center of gravity and get up. John’s problem was that he was looking at something else as Merlin called and as he reached for his headphones he instead grabbed his coffee cup and almost poured it on top of his head. Everything on John’s desk is black: Black phone, black headphones, black coffee cup, except for his bell, which is orange. It is from an old board game that involved a bell and John doesn’t remember which board game it was (it was probably Pit, see bell here) or ever playing it, but he got it for Christmas and it came with the type of bell that would sit at the check-in of an old-fashioned hotel. He had this bell since he was 5 years old.

Merlin’s grandmother and John’s dad getting old (RL41)

Merlin’s grandmother got quite senile, long before it was even called that. It was a slow go while she would still do things in her yard and go to the store, but over a period of 5-8 years, weirder and weirder shit started happening. At first she would have small dents in her car that she was not aware of. As she saw them, she scoffed it off like it was a pimple or something. It could have been hail! Whenever they took her to task on this, she always had a reason. At one point she did actually complain about the size and clarity of Stop-signs, which we should start writing our congress-people about. John’s solution in the Supertrain-world are traffic-circles instead of Stop-signs. John’s dad did not go senile at all, he was sharp as a tack, but he began to drive his car up on the sidewalk with a concerning regularity because he just stopped giving a fuck, which could also be the reason for the problem with Merlin’s grandmother. John's dad would make a corner at an intersection at a speed that he felt was appropriate and he just cut the angle, went up on the sidewalk and when John inherited his dad’s car (hoopty #2), it had a broken axle and the entire front-end was wrecked. John would tell his dad that his car got a weird shimmy, but he would just say that it has always been like that. John disagreed because it was not tracking the road and felt like driving on a Dyson vacuum cleaner. Eventually he was one small stroke away from driving through a farmer’s market at 65 mph (105 km/h).

As you get older, you should have to take more frequent driver’s exams and it should be more and more difficult for you to drive a car by yourself when you are 85 years old. These rules will be part of the Supertrain paternalistic society where people in the prime of their life are free to do whatever they want, but when you are old or young, you will be monitored more closely because you do not have the cognitive faculty to make good choices. All utopia visions are ultimately truly dystopian and Hitler thought he was helping a lot of German people. Merlin’s grandmother would respond to every notice that came in the mail. When they sent out those fake FedEx-envelopes about mortgage refinance, she filled out all of the Publisher’s Clearing House where you had to put the green sticker if you wanted the green car and use a Quarter to scrape off the code number. Depending on how much of that shit you do, you get on different sucker lists. John’s dad was on every single one of them, because at a certain point he would find these guys to be very nice because the letter said ”Hey Dave!” and he wrote them a long thing back.

John’s dad buying a time share and John’s sister handling it (RL41)

John's dad was a liberal politician his whole life who didn’t make a lot of money, while a lot of his friends from college became capitalists or were born capitalists. After John’s aunt passed away, he advised his brother in law to get a little tootsie, telling him that he was a millionaire who should get a girlfriend. John's dad was an old guy and when he reflected back, it was hard for him to remember all the amazing things he had done in his life. All he could think about was that he didn’t have any business to hand down to John as his heir. He wasn’t able to give John the keys to their family laundromat or Pontiac dealership or whatever, something you can give your son to set him up in life. His only bequest to John was that John used English properly and that he could walk into a cocktail party and immediately establish that he was the biggest cheese in the place. Those were the things he gave John in lieu of a Pontiac dealership or a laundromat.

It got to the point where John's dad was getting 300 phone calls a day from really nice women in their mid-twenties who wanted to sell him a time share and as he was 87 years old, he eventually bought a vacation house in Tahiti, or Bahamas, or somewhere. John wondered that his dad wouldn't have the resources to get a vacation house and asked if he bought a time share, but his dad didn’t know what that was. In fact, he had bought a time share after many conversations with this delightful young woman. They had set him up with a direct deposit and would take $800 out of his account every month. Whatever your capitalist enterprise is that is preying on old people, you and everyone involved in the business must have convinced yourself that you are not doing a terrible thing, but you are just trying to make a living, or you are just selling things that people want, or whatever it is that people have to tell themselves. John could not wish a more virulent pox on their house!

A lot of these old people hold on to those records pretty well and Merlin is thinking that if John would be doing an estate sales in advance of Supertrain officially being launched, he could start gathering all the time shares. The NRA says that Hitler found all the guns, because they had lists, so without conflating Supertrain with Hitler, but it is like Stalin where there is a little bit of governmental nudging. Or maybe Mao nudged, while Stalin was much more of a knock in the middle of the night kind of guy, but Mao gave people plenty of opportunity to get onboard his Supertrain. If you have a barbecue grill sitting out back, there is no reason you can’t be making fucking steel! Mao had people trying to make steel in their backyard (See The Omnibus). The best thing about Supertrain is the amount of new steel they are going to be producing, because they are going to be recycling rust all across America. John is going to be like the Greatest Hits of the 1940s, like Pennsylvania 6-5000, Merlin’s favorite scene in that Jimmy Stewart movie.

John eventually sent his sister on this timeshare woman, which was a sight to behold. It was a beautiful thing and John insisted to be there when she called them. She explained to them patiently that she was a lawyer, which she is not, and her dad was a lawyer, and that they were going to sue everyone 1000 times if they didn’t return all of the money, send a written apology and the whole nine yards. Susan demanded a level of satisfaction that even John was in awe of. She is able to get people on the phone who are trained to deal with hostile customers and she is able to skeletonize them like a cow that unknowingly walked into an Amazonian stream. They come out the other side as a skeleton, but they are happy to be a skeleton and they are apologizing for any inconvenience their meat may have caused as Susan consumed it. Deferential, deep bow, happy smile apology, not only ”Here is a refund”, but ”Here is interest on it” Sending Susan on someone is like unleashing the curse of the mummy: If you have an idea what you are going to unleash the curse of the mummy on, you may bend it to your will for that immediate purpose, but then the curse of the mummy is lose on the world. John does not invoke his sister unless he has a scorched earth policy like ”If I turn Susan lose, then everything in this 45 degree angle is potentially going to be salted earth”.

She gets satisfaction and everyone is hugging at the end. When John walked out of that Northface store, they probably turned the sign to ”Closed” and spent the rest of the day at the back having an employee meeting, but had he sent his sister, they would be exchanging phone numbers because they would be going snowboarding later. John has watched her at a train station in Europe have an exchange with gipsy pickpockets where the gipsy pickpockets returned the goods and there were hugs all around. They prefer to be called Roma, but for the sake of clarity. Once it gets happening, it is a viral sensation and when you let her lose, you better also have a stack of bills to contest, because you need to turn that power in some direction, otherwise she will just keep calling customer service agents for the thrill of hearing their fear. She is like dark phoenix who can’t stop and she is going to keep settling things for the rest of the day. Everybody needs a person like that!

Merlin’s friend Pete Baller from back in Tallahassee was called Action Line by Merlin’s friend Dave. If you ever needed anything done and you had exhausted all your other options, he was the ombudsman. He was real civil at first and gave you a chance to do this like gentlemen. We can do this the easy way or the hard way! Of course you are dealing with scoundrels who spend all day trying to destroy people. When Merlin was a telemarketer, he was a horrible human being and took a certain amount of joy in the awfulness of his job, because that is how you survive. If you told Merlin’s grandmother that you were a Christian, she would do anything for you. She would refinance her house in order to have it painted. You would call somebody like Pete and Action Line comes in.

John taking his dad’s car away (RL41)

When John finally took his dad’s car away, he wondered what he needed a car for at 87 years old. His reply was that he was running a lot of errants, like going to the drug store and going to the car mechanic once a week. The mechanic was some local guy who had figured out he had a live one and John’s dad was just going down there to talk to him about the news of the day or about baseball. He would put the car up on the jack, he surely saw that it had a broken axel, he would put fresh air into the tires and charge him $400.

John’s tweet storm with the Firestone company and the Hilton hotel (RL41)

//see this page

The Blue Angels are in town (RL41)

John is sitting on pins and needles in his chair because the Blue Angles are here and John is a fan of them because he likes the technology of super-fast jets and he likes the experience of being strafed in the safety and security of your own home, which is a feeling that every American should have once a year: sitting there and all of a sudden you are under attack by a billion dollar airplane. There are people all over the world sitting in their little mud house and American jets are flying really low right over them and maybe unleashing some machine gun fire. If it hurts your feelings and spills your water glass, you should just let it be a reminder. At one point or another, the Navy comes to every coastal town to have Navy days. In John’s case it is Seafair, where the Navy takes over the town and goes through all the bars. Then the jets fly over real low and it is like having being occupied by an invading army, but it only lasts for a little while and all the chamber of commerce guys are thrilled because the businesses are profitable for a month. We should all keep in mind how much we spend on this stuff, because it is very expensive to build these things and we should have a first hand experience of what they are there for, which is to fly really low over people’s houses and have them shit their pants and scare their little babies.

The Blue Angels have a C130 Hercules, a 4-engine turbo-prop transport plane with a very distinctive sound that is full of their crew. It flies the course that the F18s are going to fly, about 150 feet over John’s house which is right by the airport. They woke him up this morning in the C130. Usually when the C130 flies over, 3 minutes later there are F18s, basically touching their landing gear on John’s chimney. They fly over his house so low, John can read their driver’s licenses. John was alone with his 16-months old baby in the house, and he jumped out of bed, ran downstairs, got her out of her crib and told her that today was airplane day. She pointed to the sky and he continued ”Today is different! Big airplane day! Loud airplane!” and she was looking at him ”Why are you talking to me like this? I have a dirty diaper! Can I have a banana?” and John was like ”Banana in a second! Airplane!”, because he knows when the airplanes come, she is going to shit her pants, so he talked about airplanes the whole morning. They give you no warning at all, they are really fast and why would you fly a $30 million jet over a populated city and make a boom? Because they are showing off! They can rattle all your little Hummel figurines right off the shelves, just by flying over and hitting the gas.

All day long John knew that these fucking birds were here. He went down to the airport last night and they were all lined up on the flight deck. They never miss a chance, and John was in this kind of pregnancy of ”When are they going to fly over the house?” all day long. He knew it was going to happen, probably in the middle of his podcast, and yet, it is deadly quiet. The birds are not tweeting, the insects are not buzzing, everyone knows that the storm is coming, and yet there are no planes in the sky and it is driving John crazy why they are not striving his house, but pulling some psy-ops this year only. Yeah, we are here, it is a beautiful sunny day, we could be flying, but we don't! It is like John’s personal WWI. He is just sitting there, dug in, he knows they are out there, but he doesn’t know where and when they are going to come running over the hill. It is Christmas day. Are we going to play soccer or are they going to snipe him as soon as he sticks his head above the trench?

1980s pop music (RL41)

Merlin talks about Paul McCartney in the video to Pipes of Peace from the Give My Regards to Broad Street era. Sometimes between 1977 and the present, John only looked out of the corner of his eye at everything Paul did, because he could not look directly at it. That acoustic record was really great and John enjoyed it very much. John looks at everything, but particularly when he makes music videos where he is both characters, it will burn onto your retina and you can never see past it. It is a very Phil Collins thing to do who's face is on the cover of all his albums. He is 5 feet tall (150 cm), he is bald, he looks like someone carved a face into an apple and left it sitting in the sun, but in spite of all that he succeeded at the very hight of the era where we were all claiming that music video had made it impossible for bands like Fog Head to succeed. They had existed in a pre-music video era where they were all stupid looking. Scorpions are no bargain either: Klaus Meine is a classic example at 5 feet tall who looks like Ghalager without a mustache. Phil Collins was the biggest star in the world and not only that: his face was his brand. He was in every music video, he was a massive sex symbol, like that guy from Simply Red, Mick Mucknall, who has supposedly bedded every famous starlet of the 1980s, that creepy little ginger midget.

There is surely a whole contingent of their listeners who are not only Bronies, but also ginger, and they are trying to decide right now whether they should send a tweet. Mick Mucknall was at that famous Sex Pistols show with the Buzzcocks and everybody. He was sleeping with super-models that he literally had to stand on a stack of phonebooks just to insert himself into them, he was a very famous and popular person, yet you could not look at him without feeling like he was like the model on which Cabbage Patch Dolls were designed. He looks like a mix between Alannah Currie (Merlin says Alannah Myles) from Thompson Twins and maybe Alison Moyet. She cut off her eyebrows and had floppy hair, and what was the deal with their hats? Merlin saw Thompson Twins with Berlin in 1984 with his girlfriend. It was the time when Punk Rock people would still go to these shows and try to look tough. Merlin's girlfriend saw somebody take a Thompson Twins pin and pierce themselves with it and passed out. The Thompson Twins were not as good as you would expect and their music has not aged well. Scritti Politti still works because it is amazing and such a distinctive vocal style. Talk Talk were really good and even had albums in the 1990s.

The original Talk Talk was a certain kind of early 1980s pop, but the later Talk Talk was this amazing music! The Color of Spring is one of the great 1980s albums. Merlin has done throw-away likes of Talk Talk and Scritti Politti and he has been corrected and sent back to his room to go and listen to them. They are really good! In his head, Talk Talk is like The Psychedelic Furs which has one or two good songs per record and like Icicle Works, who did Whisper to a Scream. Real Life did Send Me an Angel, which is also pretty good. Big Country is better than people think, like their alum Steeltown. Merlin is having a little 1980s Pop Tourette’s moment now. The thing about The Psychedelic Furs is that they had a couple of good songs but the rest were shitty songs. Cheap Trick have one or two amazing things per record, but for the rest they could have done an EP. It is Rock’n’Roll and the shitty songs on Cheap Trick’s records won’t hurt your feelings, but if you buy a Psychedelic Furs, even their greatest hits, you get 5 songs in and then you are disappointed. Merlin bought it two weeks ago!

There is Love My Way, the original Pretty in Pink. President Gas is a terrible song. INXS is an example of a band who had two great songs per record and the rest were just fine. Talk Talk is a band where the singles are very very good, but even throughout the record the level of quality remains very high. Although the production is very 1980s sounding, you can put on the Talk Talk records as a whole and go about your business and the records will not hurt your feelings. There is no surprise Reggae tune or throwaway Techno clash. Roddy Frame of Aztec Camera was like the Scottish Ben Lee. Now they are getting deep into som tourettes and if Merlin will start talking about Mitch Easter, John is going to have to ring the bell. Not without talking about Don Dixon with ”Most of the Girls Like to Dance but Only Some of the Boys do”. They need to do an REM episode! John does not want to talk about Let’s Active now.

Between Cat Woman and ZZ Top, Merlin’s sexual cosmology is so permanently fucked up. Sharp Dressed Man is a great song and John was talking about it on a public radio show. The music video has a Ford Eliminator and all the ZZ Top fans are like: "It is all Tres Hombres", back when they were wearing dirty blue jeans. It is all done to drum machines with samplers and keyboards, but it is still such an amazing album and if you hate it because of its 1980s production, you are a fool and you are depriving yourself of great guitar playing and great songwriting. Merlin was going to ask John about Stealers Wheel after John had recommended him a Gerry Rafferty album, which is really great. We can’t throw out the baby with the bath and Merlin also wants to talk about Missing Persons.

Hitchhiking (RL41)

John is not sure if any of their listeners under 40 have ever hitchhiked. It is not really done anymore because it is not regarded as safe, but when John was a teenager, it was fairly common practice and he did quite a bit. He hitchhiked across America a couple of times and across Europe a couple of times. He hitchhiked from the Southern coast of Portugal to Amsterdam in 3 days and he challenges anybody to do that today. One time he was hitchhiking in San Francisco and if you have stood at the side of the road with your thumb out for a long time and cars are just going by and nobody is picking you up, your mind starts to daydream if you are a person like John. You start to imagine that the next car over the hill is going to be a red Jaguar convertible, driven by a slightly older Christie Brinkley in her mid-40s with a sense of humor who has just left her husband. John was 20 years old at this point and this is version 1 of his fantasy. He would just throw his bag in the back and ask ”Where are we going?”

Version 2 is three hippie girls in mini skirts in a Volkswagen Bus or a 1932 Ford Coupe. Before watching the music videos by ZZ Top with the Ford Eliminator (like ”Sharp Dressed Man”), John did not realize that he had any interest in a girl in pink pumps with frilly ankle socks in a mini skirt. When she climbs out of that 1932 Ford, John though ”Wait a minute? Is there another kind of girl?” Those girls aren’t going to pick John up at the side of the road. They won't be hippie girls with nose rings and dread lock, not gross hippie girls, but kind of like hippie punks. This was in an era before tattoos, and they are just 3 girls in a Volkswagen Bus who had decided to drive across America and they pull over and pick him up.

At one point in 1988, John was standing in Marin County outside of San Francisco with this thumb out to get up to the Northwest. Cars were going by, he was fantasizing who was going to pick him up and over pulled a black VW Jetta, the door opened, and it was a saftig girl John’s age, meaning a full-figured girl. She was a dark, jewish-hispanic girl who was New Wave, like from the Hernandez Brothers comics. She had some stuff at her rear view mirror, she had an extra earring or two, and they drove from San Francisco all the way up to Olympia, Washington. She played the new Berlin album that came out in 1988. John went into that car pretty convinced that he had no interest in Berlin or Missing Persons, but she played Berlin and Missing Persons basically the entire way. It was a deeply shaping experience for him and their music will now send John into a reverie where he floats and is transported on a cloud shaped like a black Jetta. It just floats him up the Pacific coast and he will not hear a bad word spoken about either of those two bands.

Seeing a show with Dale Bozzio and Tommy Tutone (RL41)

At 01:15:00, when John imitates Dale Bozzio, Merlin is just loosing it and laughing as never before.

John met Dale Bozzio from Missing Persons in 2001. He was riding his bike down the street, because only a nobody walks in Seattle, he was driving through Pioneer Square, past this club that doesn’t exist anymore and there was this tiny little girl with blue hair standing in front of the club. They looked at each other, John remembered and exclaimed her name and she replied ”Jaaaa, haaaa, hi, who are you?” and John jumped off his bike and introduced himself. She was standing there with a roadie and her bass player at the stage door. John said he was actually a massive fan and she asked in a very East Coast way if John was coming to the show tonight. John didn’t know they were playing a show, but as she told him that Tommy Tutone was opening, he said he will most definitely be coming and she put him on the list. She is like 4’3” tall (130 cm) and looked exactly as she did in her MTV days. She had all kinds of crazy makeup, but it wasn’t pancake-y. Tommy Tutone played for an hour and 45 minutes as the opener and there were 40 people in this 700-people-club. He played 867-5309 and then he played 867-5309 revisited, the new version from his latest album. It was the song that made him great, but he basically rewrote the tune. It was an example of how not to do the casino circuit.

Then Dale Bozzio came on stage with the Missing Persons: 5 guys in their 20s who all looked like they had auditioned for Marilyn Manson’s band but didn’t have an interesting enough serial killer name. There was so much eyeliner and so many weird piercings! The guitar player’s name was something like Roselyn Geen. Then she came out on stage and it was such a tragedy because she was so on cocaine. John was 33 and she couldn’t have been much more than 48 (actually 46). She was still a very handsome woman although a little bit road-worn. When John talked to her at the stage door, she was a very reasonable, normal-seeming, Rock’n’Roll person, but when she walked on stage, she was so full of cocaine that she could not focus. She was walking around, adjusting people’s amps, talking to the guitar player while he was playing a song, she was yelling at the sound man, but not into her microphone, while the band was cranking away on some tune. She would sing a verse and forget to go to the chorus, she was wandering around the stage like a bag lady, and it was so depressing that John didn’t even stay to see them play Destination Unknown. It was terrible and all was coming apart. He could not watch it!

The problem with getting old is that women like Dale Bozzio and Wendy O Williams, the girl who wore electrical tape on her nipples, had a profound effect of John’s burgeoning early teen sexuality. They were comfortable with their bosoms, they were some of the first bosoms he had seen, and you just didn’t see a lot of ladies with bosoms out and a chain saw. These were conservative times back before Madonna made it even popular to wear a shirt that exposed your belly button. Those were certainly the first boobs John saw in motion. John was hoping that he was going to be a teenager again and that she was going to be a young woman in her 20s, and that he could redo his whole life and she would call him on to the tour bus and off they would go, and it would be 1983 again, he would put a lot of gel in his hair, he wouldn’t have all these experiences in college he wishes he could forget, but instead she was on cocaine and John was in his 30s, riding a bike. There is a mugshot of Dale Bozzio online from when she was put in jail for her animal cruelty conviction. She is a cat lady from New Hampshire who neglected her cats while she was touring.

The strange place of New England (RL41)

People out West think of New Hampshire as an idyllic place where Bob Newhart owns a hotel, with a lot of picket fences and a library with a bell tower in every town. You think that the biggest problem they have is that there is still a Soviet spy waiting to be activated as a Manchurian Candidate. But in fact: People in most of New Hampshire have Corvettes up on blocks in front of their trailer homes. New England is some of the craziest, meth-y, weird America you can possibly find! When John first came to New England from the West Coast, he thought the biggest problem he could have was dealing with headless horsemen and he was prepared for that. He knew not to walk down any country lanes in the middle of the night, although he did do that and he was accosted by horsemen, but he was not prepared for the fact that they were just going to be weird, trashy drug-dealer-y people wandering around towns where the shops were all boarded up.

It felt like some towns from Southern Arizona had been relocated to a kind of woodsy, colonial-looking place. New England is a very strange part of the world. Vermont is the place where they are all Bellingham-y and New Hampshire has the motto ”Live free or die!” The big granite-faced guy called The Old Man of the Mountain in New Hampshire that is on the quarter broke on May 3rd 2003. In the state of Alaska, there are probably 15.000 Rock formations who look like somebody you can identify, like Herbert Hoover or Allan Alda, and you could put every one of them on a quarter, but in New Hampshire they are really proud about their weird little Man of the Mountain. John had one of those in their back yard in Alaska, it was 4000 feet (1200m) taller than that one, nobody cared about it, and it looked kind of like Ed Asner.

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