RL452 - Among the Scumbags

This week, Merlin and John talk about:

  • John being on Facebook late at night again (Internet and Social Media)
  • Merlin getting weed delivered (Merlin Mann)
  • John’s friend Jeff who was bartender at The Off-Ramp contacting him 25 years later via LinkedIn (Stories)
  • Fred Astaire’s early career with his sister (Movies)
  • Facebook group about The Off-Ramp in the early 1990s (Stories)
  • The other people from The Off-Ramp Val, Bobby, Sage (Stories)
  • John being on Facebook again, looking at Gary’s Van (Internet and Social Media)
  • John missing his window where he was supposed to go to bed, not sleeping much last night (Sleep)
  • John spending the day on Capitol Hill, realizing it might be time for a war (Currents)
  • Merlin watching a lot of World War II documentaries (Merlin Mann)

The Problem: Davey always should have been famous, referring to Punk Rock Davey who recently passed away and who John once had as a guest for Roderick’s Rendezvous.

The show title refers to John having been a known person among the Scumbags in Seattle before he later became a known commodity.

John had a little hot plug situation, but he fixed it. He assumes it is daemon running scripts in the background.

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 Please do not quote these texts directly without applying your own editing first!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.

John being on Facebook late at night again (RL452)

John’s sleep is all screwed up again (see RL450), but only last night. He had turned a corner and started sleeping like a regular person, but the other day against all better judgment he was on Facebook because he had a friend die, a local guy Punk Rock Davey (not spelled Davie, see RL103). He would have said he never thought he would live to be 52 and John would have agreed with him. When he was 19 he had said he was going to die at 40 and now he outlived it.

Merlin getting weed delivered (RL452)

Merlin says he told the Weed Delivery guy that he has lots of levels of filtering on his phone, so they should just send it through the dingus, and if they call him he is probably not going to get it or at least not immediately, and he got a stern lecture from them because they were trying to call him for half an hour. It is probably a form of 2-factor authentication. In Merlin’s part of town every street is named alphabetically, all the avenues are named numerically, and all the buildings have numbers on them.

John’s friend Jeff who was bartender at The Off-Ramp contacting him 25 years later via LinkedIn (RL452)

One of John’s friends he hadn’t heard about for 25 years wrote him through LinkedIn. He was processing his Inbox like a Merlin Mann with 53 folders, zeroing it out, deleting another newsletter from Wayfarer although he had unsubscribed 40 times, and although he had set up every filter against LinkedIn there was still a mail there that was mentioning a guy John knew as P. Jeff and they always just called him Jeff, but in the mail it said Paul Jeff. John hates going to LinkedIn, but he clicked on it anyway.

John first thought it was a solicitation and they were going to offer him a great job in the mining industry, but there was Paul Jeff, one of the fellows that John never thought would have a straight job ever, his sideburns had 17 layers, he was listening to Skinny Puppy when the rest of them didn’t even know they existed. He had a utility belt, and one of the things in it looked like a flashlight, but it was a telescoping baton that came out 5 feet. Merlin always wanted one of those. People in Seattle always say that they had such a nice city that now has all gone to shit, but in the early 1990s Seattle was a shitty and scary place!

Jeff is not the tallest dude, but he is a formidable guy and he was the head bartender. After John got fired from the job where they worked together where John wasn’t drinking, The Off-Ramp, there was a time he decided that alcohol was bad for him, but drugs were not and had still lots to offer, so he quit drinking for 18 months and just pursued drugs, it was a very fruitful time, but at the end of it he had gone from being addicted to alcohol and dabbling in drugs to being addicted to drugs. He had thought he had so much to learn, but by the end of it he wondered why he was just on drugs when he could be on alcohol, too, which was a lot cheaper, and he went back to drinking, about a year after he had been fired from The Off-Ramp.

John started showing up in the bar. He and Jeff were friends and John asked him to serve ’em up, which was bad, but this was the times, the bar was a zoo and people were climbing on the walls. John was much older and wiser now, he was 23-25, ages where he thought that he now really understood. One day when he was drinking in there, Jeff was running John’s credit card from a bank that was sending him a lot of letters to different addresses that he didn’t live at anymore. Jeff wore a Pork Pie hat with the brim turned up, a long soul-patch that went all the way down, he had sideburns, he had the whole thing! One day Jeff came back and snipped John’s credit card in half in front of the whole bar, that was the end of that, it was the last money John was ever going to see and he owed it to the US Bank now, and the US Bank pursued him for 15 years for those drinks.

Then John would come in, sit at the bar, and go: ”Come on! Come on!” and Jeff would give him a drink, but at some point he would get the soda gun, leaned over like he wanted to talk to John, and hit him right in the face with soda water, which was the cost of every once in a while getting a free drink. Everybody in the bar liked it and John loved it! John had started doing meth and at one point he started to freebase it and later the guys who were running meth in town were also in the bar and it started to get really seedy in there because the meth guys started to take over.

John was exacerbating it because he was also one of the guys in the bar and he was also over in shady situations with these shady dudes, and he didn’t have any money, so it was even shadier. Jeff is the one kind of bartender who just wasn’t going to have it, and out came the baton: ”You all go!” and John replied: ”But not me, right?” - ”You too, fucker!” and John was out and he didn’t see Jeff for a long time. This was in the 1993/94 timeframe. Later when John was already sober Jeff opened his own bar and when John later became a known commodity in Seattle he felt Jeff was cheering him on from behind his bar.

Now Jeff is the GM of a big restaurant, which of course he is! John could absolutely picture that. He said something like ”Davey didn’t make it” and they were going to have an event for him at some point because somebody who knew him had called Val to get all the people together who knew him, and Val doesn’t know when, but maybe Sue will be there. John was communication with him through LinkedIn, although he might still have his number in his phone.

When John started doing Roderick’s Rendezvous at The Rendezvous, an hour a week, always with a guest, with some music, some bits, they read reader mail, and over the course of the year John tried to put everybody up on there who came through town like Hodgman. When John first showed up at The Rendezvous to do the show and he was walking through the bar he saw Punk Rock Davie and it turned out that The Rendezvous was his bar now. John hadn’t seen him in a long time, but all of a sudden they saw each other every week and they reacquainted, sat and talked, having a good old time. John always loved him.

One time John invited Davie to be they guest because he thought Davie always should have been famous, he had a lot of charisma, and they talked about some stuff and Davie had a lot of wisdom to impart on everybody.

Fred Astaire’s early career with his sister (RL452)

Fred Astaire had a whole career with his sister in Vaudeville, they were a dancing team in the years before movies and they were massively famous in Vaudeville and they were Broadway superstars so much so that his sister retired and married a duke, an English lord (Lord Charles Arthur Francis Cavendish), when she was 35 or something, while her brother went into pictures and he couldn’t keep dancing with his sister in romantic films. John was reading about the Duke and he had died of alcoholism at 39.

Merlin says that also the Marx Brothers had a career before the one that everybody knows and they had to start over.

Facebook group about The Off-Ramp in the early 1990s (RL452)

All of this drew John to Facebook because there is a group about The Off-Ramp in the early 1990s where all the people who worked there in the early 1990s can share their blurry photos taken with disposable cameras of one another totally shit-faced, fallen down, a group just for the staff. It does feel like a High School reunion page, and there were maybe only 35 people who ever worked there, it is always the same people posting.

The first straight person to get a job at The Off-Ramp was Sue. Before that it was a gay bar, it was right by an Off-Ramp, and Lee Rea decided that this Grunge thing was happening and he had a big theater there with drag shows and lesbian night every Wednesday, and the leather community coming in every Saturday while the other clubs in town were selling out with this Rock music, so he was going to also have Rock music there. Merlin’s New Wave nights in Florida were also usually gay bars.

He was trying it out on slow Tuesday nights and ended up selling 600 tickets and $10.000 worth of booze and decided to have it on Thursday, too. The problem with lesbian night is that they get 1000 people there, but they all nurse one drink all night long, while on Grunge Rock night more drinks get spilled than they sell in all the lesbian nights in a month. By the time John got hired he wanted to get some straight kids in there because he needed staff that was like those Grunge kids.

John had never worked in a bar before, the didn’t know how to do anything, he didn’t have a home, he had just arrived in Seattle, and the way he got the job was that his High School girlfriend Kelly’s sister Peggy was spending a year and a half as a lesbian in 1990/91 and she was leaving Seattle and moving back to Anchorage and she told John to get in touch with her boss Lee Rea who wanted to hire a straight guy. John was the second person who got hired and the third person was Davie.

He was from San Diego and he wore tight denim which was very cute and everybody fell in love with him including John. He had worked there for 4 months before Lee Rea asked him for his ID and it turned out he was 20, and then he had to sit in the restaurant for 1.5 months, he couldn’t work, but he didn’t have anywhere else to go, so he would come in for his shift time and was made to sit in the restaurant with a black X on his hand, and the day he turned 21 he was rehired and went back to doing his old job. By that time the staff was 90% straight Grungers and only the real die-hard 10% was still from the old days.

The other people from The Off-Ramp Val, Bobby, Sage (RL452)

John looked at the pictures in the Facebook group, a lot of them taken right after he was fired. This was all the people John knew and worked with, all of his friends, the people he met when he first came to Seattle, and they were all doing stuff with each other, laughing, Robert was holding Davie up and Davie is pretending to bonk him on the head and Jeff is there with a pork pie had and elaborate side burns and John was not in any of those pictures. Sue was there, Sage, but not John. They hired Sage to replace John and Sage was in every picture. Sage was there for 6 years, then he went to work at The Rock Candy (RKCNDY) for another 6 years.

The last time John saw Sage in person was at Val’s bar. Val is from Bulgaria, showed up at The Off-Ramp, didn’t speak a word of English, had left Bulgaria with his best friend, they had been in a Rock band in Bulgaria, and they were leaving Bulgaria to go to Germany, Val learned German, and his friend Bobby learned English just in case, somehow they made it to America, all the way to Seattle, showed up at the bar, and even Bobby only spoke three words of English. They showed up as a team and at this point John was assistant manager at the bar and wasn’t sure about them, but Lee Rea told him to hire them, so Bobby became a bar back, Val became something else, and 3 years later Val spoke fluent English and was managing the bar.

Bobby got a job as a graphic artist at Starbucks and now he is Vice President of Graphic Arts there and lives in a helicopter that is hovering over Sweden somewhere.

Val went on to own his own bar. John was there one time just a few years ago, Sage walked in, it was a birthday party for a high muckamuck in Seattle, and Sage had been hired as the magician and he did 40 minutes of comedy and magic that was not funny or magical, but he is a beloved character in Seattle and it was a birthday party, so what are you going to do.

John being on Facebook again, looking at Gary’s Van (RL452)

While John was on the Facebook anyway, then why not go over and see what people are saying?

They are going to have a ceremony for Davie, they are all going to be there, they are all going to pour one out, Sage might do some magic, Sue might be there, it is all very exciting. John learned the first time he went to a High School reunion that even though he hasn’t seen you for 30 years we have known each other for 30 years, and we know each other intimately. Richard is probably not going to come, but maybe? Who knows! The other Richard died a long time ago. He was the first guy to stick his tongue up John’s nose.

John was looking up at the top bar with all the little red notifications flashing, and he decided to have a look, which is always a risk, and he ended up at Gary’s Van where our friends collect. One of the things that defines that group is that they speak truth to power. They don’t mess around, and if they say something on the show they don’t like they are going to call it out. It is dangerous because some people over there are friends and long-time supporters and sometimes they can say things that hurt his feelings. Somebody in the comments of some post somewhere said: ”John didn’t want to start sleeping better because he was afraid that normal sleep would make him normal!”, which was a very concise way of putting it. John has been normal for the last month and a half and it had been awesome.

John missing his window where he was supposed to go to bed, not sleeping much last night (RL452)

Last night at his house he put his little girl to sleep at 9:30pm, they had been hanging out down at the beach and had been playing cards. She is very good when the hammer comes down and when he tells her it is 9:30pm she goes right to the bathroom, brushes her teeth, and goes into bed and the lights are off. But if John’s daughter goes to sleep at 9:30pm and he is normal-man, then there is only an hour before he needs to start feathering his own nest. He was doing some laundry downstairs, and then he ate two little Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups from Trader Joe’s sized for a Barbie head.

It was time for bed, he planned to read a little David Copperfield, it was a reasonable hour at 10:45pm, he had the virtue of a prince, he was reading in bed, not looking at his phone, but then he just wanted to look at his phone for a second and when he looked up it was 1am. He is now on the whole Wordle thing with all the adjunct and subsidiary Wordles.

Randall Munroe last week posted an XKCD comic panel with two stick figures saying: ”Are you playing Wordle?” - ”No, I am in the control group!” You can also say: ”I don’t even have a TV!” or ”I am a ceramicist!”, which Merlin says if somebody pretends that they want to know what he does, but they actually want to guess how much money he makes. It started with other parents.

Randall Munroe (from XKCD) sent Ken Jennings a link to wikitrivia.tomjwatson.com, a thing where they throw up a picture of something in history and you are supposed to drag it onto the timeline in the correct order. Merlin interjects that Jon Kimball from Election Profit Makers does this with looking at a picture and trying to identify where it is, John used to play that and it used to drive him absolutely crazy because 98% of the pictures of the world are a dirt road in the middle of nowhere, and they blur out all the signs that tell you where you are (probably GeoGuessr).

Anyway, John maxed out at 21 correct answers on the history timeline, which beats both Ken and Randall’s top score, which infuriates them both!

John didn’t look at the time and it was 1am and he had a very narrow window, he had to stick the landing, but because it was 1am he was able to do next day’s Wordle and the GuessMyWord and because it was late he got his worst score on either. John laid down in bed and these Peanut Butter Cups had his foot going. He tried to do his normal sleep routine where he imagines all the members of the Bush administration in a shipping container buried in a desert and John is slightly gaslighting them by changing the walls. There is always somebody new who can be introduced to the gang, like Tucker Carlson.

Merlin was watching a lot of Hitler stuff lately. He suggests John should have Dick Cheney see a lot of his impersonators in the mess-hall to make him wonder.

At this point John was listening to the advice of his psychologist: If he can’t sleep, don’t stay in bed, but get up! He went up, wandered around the house, was too tired to do anything, his foot was bouncing he couldn’t get to sleep, and so he didn’t get a lot of sleep last night, but he is not going to let this throw him off but he is going to use that 9:30-10:30pm window to get the house ready for the night and go to bed. He has gained too much ground already and he is not going to lose it to despair that would propel him into further screw-ups!

Merlin recommends John to not punish himself and instead adopt a lightness about this because he is going to be fine. John is trying really hard and the thing that is motivating is is: It is not that some door opened and happiness and light flooded in, but he was removing suffering and eliminating things that were causing him suffering, and he was not in a state of newfound happiness and enthusiasm, he didn’t go sign up for a gym, but in the space of a couple of weeks he eliminated four of the main things that caused him massive grief.

There was a lightness and - in the Gary’s Van lexicon - a normalness that he had not experienced and that he did not find objectionable. John was about to say that he would listen to a Buddhist podcast with Merlin and Dan, but the truth is he wouldn’t, but he would be glad if it was there, it would let the steam off for everybody, and all of Merlin’s fans would be glad it is there because they were waiting for it, like the Beatles podcast and the Hitler podcast that they keep promising people. Merlin says he will start preparing a curriculum of all the things he has been watching recently.

John spending the day on Capitol Hill, realizing it might be time for a war (RL452)

Yesterday on Sunday in the middle of the afternoon John turned a corner: He went to town and spent the day on Capitol Hill, he walked around, saw Jason Finn, Seattle’s luminary Gen-X drummer, they hung out a little bit, he was with his little girl, they watched a softball game, they went to a Rock concert featuring one of her little friends that was specifically on Capitol Hill to give the kids a taste of what Rock is really all about. Capitol Hill was the gay, Rock and theater, the arts neighborhood. He was looking at the people who live there and he realized that this was his neighborhood and now it is theirs, which is the way of nature. He could bore the shit out of them what this Kentucky Fried Chicken used to be!

John had a few interactions with people and was feeling the general vibe and he thought that it could be a lot easier if there would just be a couple of generally accepted revelations or realizations about how to get along with other people and how the world is like, endure a bit of suffering before you write a letter, and he had a sudden feeling of: ”Maybe it is time for a war!” Every six years people up there feel like they want a war and over the last 20 years John was always countering: ”No, no, no, that is not what you want!” And John means a literal war on Capitol Hill, not just a neighborhood stick fight.

At the time of the George Floyd protests they had the CHOP (see RW188) and it is no back to being a baseball field, but this was the place where they actually drove the police out of the East Precinct building and established an autonomous zone in the center of the town where the cops weren’t allowed, it was a free marketplace of ideas, like a Capitol Hill Checkpoint Charlie. It lasted about as long as you would expect before it became a hazardous and dangerous place.

It was like John with the meth guys at Jeff’s bar: It was all fun and games and John was getting some spritz in there until pretty soon the meth guys were in there and pretty soon John was part of the problem - although he was always part of the problem, but the problem got more serious.

It feels like all the people on Capitol Hill want a war, but they think they are going to war with Arkansas. John was in Arkansas recently and those people think they are going to war with Capitol Hill in Seattle, but that is not how it is going to play out! The people on Capitol Hill are going to go to war with each other and the people in Arkansas are going to go to war with each other. We are getting closer, that is just the vibe on the street. It is a sunny day, upscale restaurants all around up, everybody is traipsing around in their pink roller-skates, but there is a blanket of violent negativity just on the side.

Merlin has experienced a similar think when going past the bars where the 49ers fans were out screaming at each other, he imagines this is a little bit what 1968 felt like. Something is not quite right and this could break bad any time! In retrospect the Boomers made it seem like a hopeful time, it was exciting because the enemy was clear, but now it just feels like all against all. To the people who are manning the barricades it might not feel like that because to them the enemy is clear.

John does not think this is how it is going to play out, it is closer to French Revolution where the end-result is going to be Robespierre or Napoleon, but we are going to have 20 years of this. 5 years ago John was still saying that punching Nazis is wrong, that is their language, and we need to talk to them in our language of liberal humanism (see RW128, RW129). If you punch them, then they have all the reason to punch you, and they are much better at punching than you are and they are the nuts who are hoarding guns and shit!

Over time John agreed to punching Nazis, and now it is about the first time he ever felt this way: ”Fuck it! Every once in a while you need to go to the mattresses!", ”Today is the day I settled all our family affairs!” (references to The Godfather) People don’t remember the last time blood was spilled, and everybody has a plan until they get punched in the nose. It is not that John feels hopeless, but he thinks: ”May you live in interesting times!”

Merlin watching a lot of World War II documentaries (RL452)

Merlin finally broke down on the World War II in Color series on Netflix. The Stalingrad episode is really Choice! The footage has been colorized, but it look terrific. It is a story Merlin knew roughly, but he had no idea how crazy and resistant such a small group of Soviets were. John watched that Jude Law movie Enemy at the Gates. They continue talking a bit more about things in World War II that they have seen in various documentaries, like the Hitler pills that Merlin read about in a book called ”Blitzed: Drugs in the Third Reich” Merlin also watched one about liberating the labor camps that was pretty rough, and Band of Brothers is so good, it came out two days before 9/11.

John was on some 10-hour International flight, and as he was flipping through the entertainment system in the back of the seat he came upon the first episode of Band of Brothers, he had never seen it, and he decided to watch it and ended up watching six episodes of it back-to-back on this flight (see RL76, RL211), it was the greatest experience of his life. It is like taking Saving Private Ryan and taking out the dumb parts and adding 15 more people you cared about. It has fucking Michael Fassbender and Tom Hardy, how can’t it be the greatest TV! John wonders why the show The Pacific is not as good.

Outro banter (RL452)

With the movie Suicide Squad Merlin didn’t think beforehand it was good, but then it turned out that he loved it. Not the recent one with Angelina Jolie, that is Eternals, don’t watch that! In Suicide Squad Sylvester Stallone plays a shark that thinks he is smart, but isn’t. A fish? No, a shark is a mammal, technically. No, a shark is a fish. ”Big fish! Y’all know me. Know how I earn a livin’. I’ll catch them fish for you! … or catch that bird!” (reference to the movie Jaws) - ”I was the only one who caught a fish. Nobody else could catch one except me […] every time I said a Hail Mary” (from The Godfather: Part II) - ”It was all real proud of you, John!” (from The Godfather: ”We was all proud of you. Being a hero and all.”) - ”That’ll do, pig!” (ending to Babe)

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License