RL48 - Wherever Trail need to be built

This week, Merlin and John talk about:

The Problems: There needs to be a lot more exhaustion in this country; we were really tearing through popes there for a while; one hickie, and suddenly you’re out-of-uniform; Billy Corgan: The Seriousest Kid on Earth; retirees and toddlers should NOT be sharing a classroom; why John could never be a full Grateful Dead person; pull up those goddamned pants—like a gentleman; when ganking, you can’t stab your fish until the new shivs arrive; guys, you gotta stay away from the heroin; you get that Trotsky tattoo, and you’re stuck with that Trotsky tattoo; Merlin’s morbid fear of Judas Priest; passing on that Orthodox stress bump? “Tradition!”; history clearly mitigates against the group shower; Paul Shaffer just keeps playing along; crafting an artisanal air guitar; how your “fitness regimen” is literally killing the environment; Jonathan Cain, last of a generation; pondering England’s functional pussies; introducing awkward sharing and constant uncertainty; startling new statistics on what 70% of New York’s men “have”; up to pie on katie bars of kitchen signs—but not me in; John shares how to properly blouse a pant; how did you get this number?; Merlin gives Hodgman a fresh pair of GoldToe®s; introducing new yokes to usefulness; Dave Grohl seems like a pretty nice guy; no skylarking; the little red-haired witch that flew over the moon; an abrupt change of plans for little Tyler Heraclitus; The Varieties of Wangus Experience; debating the indignity of the keytar; silent instruments of the holocaust; now it’s HALF a golf pencil, and you’ll like it; the category of things that are never funny; no excuse, sir; yeah, but, Rimbaud and Mozart were corner cases; functional data points on The Liberty Bell Curve; how come only the keyboard guys ever die?; and that is what you get for wearing a plastic faucet on your head for nine hours; “Shower down to get an ‘A!’”; only takes one shortcut to ruin the rugby photo for everyone; crisscross applesauce; entering Washington’s carnival worm hole; why Merlin may be better at guitar than he lets on; gaslighting the shit out of these kids; one day love will find you; more on helping Gibson find his duck; and, John’s important new plan for helping our young people.

The show title refers to John’s vision of letting 7th and 8th graders build trails for two years in order to contribute something useful to society.

Merlin never sounded so clear. It is almost as if he was sitting in John’s lap which would be awkward considering John is in the altogether. It would be very sad if Merlin were sitting there right now, because it would cause him to rethink all the questions that he thought he had already figured out. Like: Do I want to be on a naked man’s lap?

Merlin woke up 3 or 4 hours ago and he had a lot of questions. He went into the room with that chair and he didn’t even go to that chair.

When John was in Harvey Danger, they were on the Craig Kilborn TV show, another nice guy, but kind of a douche who seems like a homemade dick. Merlin thinks he is going to Mike Lovecamp (?), a tall guy.

Grover Cleveland was president of the United States two non-consecutive times. It was not the one who was killed by the Eastern European guy, that was McKinley. More presidents come from Ohio than any other state.

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

Paper towels and washable towels (RL48)

John lives in the Northwest and he conserves paper towels. He uses washable towels as an intermediary layer between him and everything. Don’t bring up Howard Hughes, he puts paper towels and toilet paper on everything! There could be a lot of disease carried in washable towels, but John would just be carrying his own disease down to the washing machine. It is your disease, as far as you know, which started to sound like Billy Corgan lyrics. Who cares about the drummer of the Smashing Pumpkins! They were so serious!

Crashing on the same couch without being roommates (RL48)

There was a guy named David who lived in the same house and crashed on the same couch as John for a long time although they weren’t actually roommates. The two guys who did live in that house would surely curse if they would listen to this podcast. At that time in the early 1990s John had just started playing music and one day David was playing Gish by the Smashing Pumpkins when John walked in to the room and was like ”This music? I don’t know! Not very good!” and David replied ”Never in your life will you ever make a thing as wonderful and as true as Gish by the Smashing Pumpkins” John took that as a challenge, but he is still not sure if he has. Merlin likes this one part of this one song.

Billy Corgan and The Smashing Pumpkins (RL48)

Billy Corgan is a classic example of a 1980s/1990s singer. Michael Stipe is another one who made his career by having unintelligible vocals mixed really low. As he got famous and people started telling him how great he was, he went into the studio and told them to mix his vocals up. At the same time he shaved his head. All of a sudden, the fans realized that he wasn’t actually saying anything but he was just reading the ingredients off the back of a cereal box. It was meaningless! Throughout the 1980s, Michael Stipe’s lyrics were enigmatic to John, but as soon as he could hear them, they turned out to be dumbass and not be enigmatic at all. Speaking of REM, didn’t they briefly have an undead keyboard player?

Billy Corgan was never enigmatic to John, but as soon as John could hear him better, he realized that Billy was a bad singer. Merlin doesn’t like to speak ill about somebody from Illinois, but he points out that Billy really appeals to a certain type. He had that shirt that said ”Zero” and he had a star. He became like Charlie Brown, because in addition to being bald he always wore the same shirt and was always a little bit sad.

There is a great story about Billy Corgan when he was auditioning famous drummers in the studio. They were sitting at their kit ready to audition when Billy came into the room and refered to them as ”drummer”, like ”Drummer, can you play that one more time” It sounds really inappropriate. When somebody is painting your house, you don’t go out and go ”Painter! I want you to…” There are a couple of people in Northwest bands who might do that. ”Waterboarder, my flight boards in 35 minutes, just give me a light boarding!”

Dying Keyboard Players of the Grateful Dead (RL48)

In 1996, the keyboardist of the Smashing Pumpkins died of heroin. Unless it is the primary instrumentalist of the band like the great Billy Joel, the keyboardist is almost never a real member of the band after Jonathan Cain from Journey. In this one music video where they had sleeveless shirts and were shaking their fists at the camera, they had literally tied the keyboardist to the wall of a warehouse. It was tough to watch. Jonathan Cain has a big writing credit on Open Arms. John thinks he is a great musician.

The Grateful Dead had a lot of dead keyboard players. Ron ”Pigpen” McKernan did not make it all the way and their keyboard player from the 1970s and 1980s, Brent Mydland, also died of heroin in the summer of 1990. It was right at the time when John had a brief period of socializing with Grateful Dead people while he was living in Washington DC working for Ralph Nader, because lot of Nader's volunteers were Grateful Dead fans. John had understood the Grateful Dead for many years, but Brent Mydland was not a canonical member of the band for John. As he died, all those girls that John though he could maybe have a thing with, like a long motorcycle ride, were all crying real tears of sorrow and John realized that he could never be a full Grateful Dead person because his feelings about noodly keyboard parts were not that strong. He had never said a word in interviews, he was just cipher.

It seems to Merlin that their songs have never ended, but they are always going on somewhere. It is an old joke that the keyboard players are usually the ones who die, just like drummers are dumb is an old joke. Richard Manuel from The Band: Dead by suicide in Floria! Springsteen’s keyboard player: Dead! Of all the members of a band, it always seems to be the keyboard player who dies. You are sitting behind the desk and there is really nothing else to do than doing heroin. There are a lot of times when you are just vamping. By the time you become the keyboard player in a successful band, you are probably a great pianist and could be sitting at a Grand Piano in one of the elevator lobbies of a Nordstrom somewhere and yet you are back there and twice in a set the singer points at you and you get to do a solo, change the envelope or change the filter.

If you are in Heart or the Steve Miller Band, you get to play the Moog for a second or you get to turn up your arp-chord on the quiet part before the last chorus. The rest of the time you are just sitting there and you could do crossword puzzles or some heroin. Think about how much is done via triggering and Sequencers nowadays! Merlin is not saying that there is no role for these folks out there, but it is not like you are Howard Jones, a one man band with the cymbals between your knees. That hair!

Paul Young had hair, too! His version of Love will tear us apart was the version Merlin had heard before he heard Joy Division’s version. Isn’t it odd how you can do that now because people instantly have all the music from all of time? It is easier than ever to be over something. At the time when you went down to the Albertsons and spent $5.69 on a record, you were going to listen to Cheap Trick’s One On One until you loved it!

The Grateful Dead had a lot of keyboard players including Bruce Hornsby, who is still alive. John was the keyboard player in Harvey Danger and it is a thankless job with nothing exciting about it. Even at the band’s peak moment at the top of the set when you are just flying and playing your number one hit, you are basically sitting behind a desk. There is no other way to look at it!

All the attempts the keyboard player might make like standing up, kicking over his chair like Billy Joel, or fastening their keyboard to the side of a warehouse, none of these things can take away the incontrovertible truth that you are a man behind a desk. John saw the Queens of the Stone Age when they had their female keyboard player Natasha Shneider. She had worked up a keyboard stand where the keyboard was actually teetering forward so you could see her licks. It was the weirdest looking keyboard stand and she was a cute gothy girl in a hard-rock band, but she was still standing at a desk.

What about drummers? A drum-kit is a desk of cans. Even if you have a Keytar, it is more a Desktar. Merlin doesn’t understand the indignity of a Keytar, it must be like tar and feathering when if comes to being in a band. How do you ask the others to hand you the Keytar? Jan Hammer was big on the Keytar! Imagine If Merlin and John were younger, maybe 23 years old, John would be wearing white Vuarnets and Merlin would be wearing some sunglasses that he got for free from a bank. If they were starting a band that was a pastiche of 1980s Disco Pop and 1990s Indie Rock and Hip Hop, there would be one Keytar and they would have to flip for who would play it. John thinks that the person who didn’t get the Keytar would be disappointed.

Merlin’s guitar skills (RL48)

Merlin does this thing called the Wolverine chord. He can play almost all major, minor or suspended fourth chord with his three fingers on his right hand, as long as it is in C. Like anyone, Merlin prefers a D suspended fourth, but he would need to concert-tune down to D or drop-D. Jonathan Coulton explained that tuning to Merlin, but he still doesn’t understand it. John thinks that Merlin is a much better guitar player than he lets on because he has that rare quality where a person with an artistic impulse picks up an instrument, teaches it to themselves and comes up with something that no-one else would have thought of, like playing his Ds backwards because he learned from fake books, or his general approach to the instrument.

John’s first guitar neck (RL48)

John started his guitar career playing on Tennis Rackets to British Steel. Then he went to a Punk Rock show in Anchorage in the early 1980s where there were 5 bands on the bill. Between those 5 bands there was maybe one person who had seen an instrument before or could do anything with it. It was at the Youth Center, it was just a pure racket and the guitar player of one of the bands smashed his guitar all over the place. John ran up after the set and grabbed the neck of this guitar. It was like Eric Clapton was giving him his prized black Stratocaster, that was how much John prized this broken neck from an Arbor Explorer copy. Now he had a guitar neck and it was the first guitar-anything he had.

For a while he tried to air-guitar just with the neck, but found it insufficient. It is like masturbating with just your balls. At one point John found an old chess board in the garage and attached the guitar-neck to it at an angle so the guitar was diamond-shaped. In the early 1980s, checkerboard was a very popular motif! With that, John had a home-made air guitar which was better than a tennis racket and no-one else had one that looked like it! He had made his first instrument and even though it wasn’t actually an instrument, he still made an instrument! It had heft, it had a real neck where he could run his hands up and down and feel the frets on it. It felt really individual! John air-guitared to many ZZ Top-songs before he eventually decided it was time to learn how to play the guitar.

John's top air-guitar records were:

  • Lynyrd Skynyrd - Gold & Platinum, their greatest hits double album
  • Billy Squier - Emotions in Motion
  • Van Halen - Women and Children First and the
  • Scorpions - World Wide Live

Merlin’s air guitar records were

  • Scorpions - Breakout (probably Blackout), which he got through the Columbia Music organization
  • Ozzy Osbourne - Blizzard of Ozz

The Scorpions are the great working men of metal. They are Germans to boot! When they came to Alaska, they gave Matthias Jabs the eye: ”Du bist rockin!” Merlin was scared of Judas Priest, because that is what the bad kids in denim jackets would write on their folders. John met the guitar tech for Iron Maiden during Bumbershoot in Seattle. Merlin wonders if they are playing eights or nines. They are pretty small but they have hands like oak trees and are probably playing thirteens. Merlin loves Steve Harris and could listen to him play bass all day, he is amazing! John has met a lot of English touring sound men and guitar techs and they all share a similar character, which is that they are very working class and very no-nonsense. They give off the air that they are tough guys, but when you really get to meet them, you realize that they are probably gentle with a girl. Because they live in this rough and tumble world, they adapt a manner of Interstate truckers. In fact, they are just tuning guitars all day and there are no knife fights.

Herpes in New York City (RL48)

Merlin has learned from 42% of all AC/DC songs that it is very hard to be in a touring Rock band because they were getting new and more virulent strains of Herpes every night. If you get a stress bump on your wankers, as they call it in Australia, it opens you up to another infection which makes it a meta-wound!

John heard from a source that in certain orthodox Jewish communities, the Rabbi who performs the circumcision uses a knife to cut the foreskin and then he performs the last portion of the ceremony with his mouth. (Merlin: Are you sure this isn’t one of these making babies in a Maze bread things? This could cause us a lot of trouble! John: Are you saying that this is a protocol of the elders of zion-problem?) They are trying to outlaw this practice because 70% of all men in New York City have Herpes and those Rabbis are given newborn babies Herpes from their mouth bumps. This is the problem with contagion: Contagion is contagious! It is also the problem of hearing stuff from somebody and then saying it on the Interwebs.

People are still getting Herpes. They are riding in subways all close to each other and the disease is probably going through there like electricity through a Tesla coil. That’s miserable! Are the ladies in the Metropolitan Area aware of this and are they taking precautions by staying off the subways? John got the sense that girls in New York City don’t make themselves available for sex. Women can get Herpes, but it is much easier to get pregnant than it is to get Herpes.

70% is a lot of percent! It is more than a plurality and it is enough to overcome a Filibuster. Filibuster would be a great new name for Cold Sores, because you got to say that you want to break this Filibuster. John made the joke the other day that Storming your embassy would be his new euphemism for having sex with someone and then somebody on Facebook gave him a lecture of American heroes dying overseas.

John visiting the Washington State Fair 2012 (RL48)

John went to the Washington State Fair the other day and everywhere he went, at all the different games where you had to throw darts at balloons or hoops at bottles, they were all playing different Ozzy tracks. They already did that when John was at a state fair in 1980, so is Ozzy just state fair music?

It is a funny thing that everything that happens at those traveling fairs feels like it happens between 1972 and 1981. Carnies are stuck there forever! What did they give away before Coke mirrors? You got stuffed animals that were extremely hard. They were not really cushy, but they seemed to be stuffed with sawdust and counterfeit money, a lot of them probably have drugs that people have forgotten about. John doesn’t think that there are drugs inside, but there are definitely drugs on the fur.

John saw a Coke bottle that was heated up and pulled so it was 4 feet tall. He saw the invisible dog, which is a dog leash and a harness with no dog in it. He saw his first Coke mirror and his first feathered Roach Clip earring. These are before you could buy Dreamcatchers on the open market. The Venn diagram when it comes to Dreamcatchers is really exhaustive. You move straight from feathered Roach Clip into Dreamcatchers. Merlin thinks that Dreamcatchers don’t work. They are supposed to catch your dreams and let the bad thoughts go through.

Hickeys and suction cup marks (RL48)

When Merlin was about 13 or 14, at an age when this was entirely inappropriate, he went to Disneyland with his best friend John. They had matching airbrushed shirts with the cover of Wolverine Number 1 on it. They were two awkward guys who each went to the magic shop and bought a plastic faucet with a suction cup on it and wore it on their forehead for the rest of the day. John also had that, but he never wore it on his forehead. If you wear a very powerful suction cup on your forehead, you will look like somebody hit you on the head with extreme precision and made an exact circle of purple on your head for the next three days.

At this exact same age, John sat in a lunchroom and put a plastic cup around his mouth, sucking all the air out of it to create a vacuum. Afterwards he had a black and blue circle around his face that was the equivalent to sticking your tongue to a frozen pole. He felt like such a tool for the next four days and there is nothing you can do, because you can’t stay home from school!

If somebody gives you a hickey, you could hide it by running a comb over it. Merlin was a pretty good hickey-giver and might not even have noticed that he was doing it. He might have been possessed or something. John has never given a hickey and he wouldn’t allow anybody to give him one! To this day, he will stop them immediately if somebody starts sucking on his neck.

Around 1981, John was at a two-week co-ed Civil Air Patrol encampment at Eielson Airforce Base in Fairbanks, Alaska, staying in the old barracks that were built during WWII. There were not that many girls, but there were some. At one point, one of the guys got a hickey from one of the girls and it looked like a terrible purple welt. There was no disguising it because they were wearing their dress-blue uniforms and you couldn't accessorize that with a scarf, because they weren’t in Queen Elisabeth I camp. The guy had to stand there at inspection in his fatigues with this giant pulsating mess on his neck and the Sergeant who of course also was 13 years old just dressed him down in front of everybody because he was unprofessional and out of uniform.

Uniforms and military camps (RL48)

Realizing that you are out of uniform if you have a hickey left a lasting impression on John. They don’t let you get neck-tattoos in the Navy, because that would put you out of uniform as well. It is a distraction to esprit de corps and that rule stuck with John to this day! He doesn’t like to be out of uniform, Merlin knows that about him! John has an innate sense of what the uniform of the day is. They would announce it every day at Merlin’s school and although it was almost always the same, you would have to be ready because you might have to put your blues on just because they said so.

John also listens to the uniform of the day announcement every day. Sometimes it says Space Cowboy, sometimes it says Preppy Asshole, and sometimes it says Coke Fiend. Merlin picked up some things in military school that he is really glad he has kept with him and that he thinks about a lot. When somebody says About Face, he still knows how to do that. He was on the drill team and he was pretty good at the rifle drill. In Merlin’s military school, most of the time you were in a pseudo-official environment and you had to be in uniform. There are all those tacit rules like no skylarking, no smoking, and no spitting when you are a para-military teenager.

You were in the official capacity when you were not at ease, but either way, you still couldn’t turn you hat on backwards and your belt-buckle better be polished, just like your shoes. Don’t use Mop & Glo because it was going to be pretty obvious and you might get a demerit.

At Merlin's school they didn’t blouse their pants and tuck the bottom part of the pants into the boots, because it would have been a little tactical for what they were doing. At John's camp, the fatigue uniform, even for PT, had bloused pants. They weren’t kidding around in the Alaskan Civil Air Patrol! Merlin had dress blues and one of his favorite uniforms was salt & pepper where you had a white shirt with epaulettes with your rank on it and black pants, which is a sharp look! They had khaki pants and a short-sleeve khaki shirt for their every-day. Sometimes they had to wear their hat, which kind of sucked. Then they had a slightly more informal one like a white T-shirt with khakis, like Tom of Finland. Even their gym uniforms were highly prescribed. When they would dress out, they would wear the Admiral Farragut Academy Shorts with either the white AFA shirt or the shirt for your company. Merlin was in 4th company and had a purple shirt.

John learned how to short-sheet beds at that camp. One day at Christian camp, Merlin got the skunk bunk, which is when they announced the worst bed in the whole camp. Merlin had never been this humiliated by a man in his whole life. When he finally moved on from Christianity to Paramilitary gear, he made the fuck out of a bed in military school! Quarters bounce off that bed, you can bounce a pound off of that!

One thing that Merlin didn’t like in military school at the time, but he is starting to understand the appeal, is that if you were in an official formation during something like an inspection. There were exactly three permissible answers to any questions: Yes, sir! No, sir! or No excuse, sir! The whole point of military school is not to help you bloom as a special flower, but it is to take you at the point where it is most possible that you would become an interesting person and then try to make you a miserable braindead. It is a very interesting idea! Merlin is a bit of a talker and because of his extensive liberal arts background he got a reason for everything.

There is literally only one thing worse than Junior High and that is middle school. Junior High is disgusting because some of the kids look like retirees and others look like toddlers, but 6th, 7th and 8th grade in middle school is even worse! 6th-graders belong in elementary school! Merlin didn’t have middle school, but it gave him the shakes when he learned about it. Some of the girls in 6th grade looked like supermodels, other ones looked like they probably still needed to change their nappy. Then you got the real stinky guys with the weird mustaches in 7th grade who didn’t know how awkward they were. Poor bastards! You get those guys who grow really fast and are really uncoordinated.

When John was playing rugby for Gonzaga University (he was there for two years before he was escorted off the campus for the last time), pro rugby shirts were very expensive and John had to come to college with his own selection of rugby shirts. It was the 1980s and rugby shirts was what guys like him wore. Gonzaga’s colors were navy blue and white and John had a sky blue and pale yellow rugby shirt, which is off by more than a quarter tone, or your G-string was just a little bit flat. The other guys did not approve and looked askance at it. His eternal shame was when he showed up wearing this shirt for their group picture.

There is still a picture hanging in hallway of the main building of Gonzaga University, the hall of fame or whatever, of that 1987 Gonzaga Rugby Squad with John in an off-color light-yellow shirt. It is a real Billy Corgan move! John will be dead 100 years and somebody will be walking through Gonzaga University, looking at the dusty photographs and wondering who this jackass was. The picture is an accurate record of the moment, because John was a jackass. And Trotzky was never in any photos! A big part of Supertrain should be making things right retroactively, which is the beauty part. The beauty part of Stalin was that he was able, capable and willing to change things over and over.

You need to look no further than our friend Mao: he was always changing his mind and when he changed his mind, everybody changed their mind with him. It was like the captain in Wall-E who woke up late and made it be breakfast time again, same deal! Stalin would paint a guy out of the picture and three years later he would paint another guy out of the picture and pretty soon he had painted all the guys out of the picture and somebody had to paint a horizon line in it. That’s the problem with tattoos: You have to live with that shit forever, you put Trotsky on your ass and have to spend the rest of your life sitting on Leon.

John feels that when he and Merlin are starting to talk about tattoos, they are alienating a great number of their listeners who are right now looking at their tattoos and feeling very proud of the choices that they have made, particularly when they got a My Little Pony tattoo or a tattoo of themselves as a civil war re-enactor. But by being so critical about tattoos, somebody who is two days away from getting a tattoo might think twice about it and that is why it is still worth saying. If Merlin can make you feel bad about your tattoo, then it should be a T-shirt. You can wear it for one year and not take it off even if you are going to a wedding. If you still like it after a year, maybe you get a tattoo then!

John’s High School girlfriend (RL48)

John’s High School girlfriend was a Mulatto-Irish red-headed girl. After High School in 1986 it was the very dawn of people who were not active sailors or carving scrimshaw getting tattooed. She got a tattoo of a little red-haired witch riding a broom in her bikini area, like the witch jumped over the bush. It was probably her spirit animal and she actually was a witch, but not casting spells, just a terrible girl. She was so proud of it like it was for all the world to see, but it was not for all the world to see! It was just for people who got her panties off to see and by the time someone got her panties off, they already knew what a little witch she was.

Group Showers (RL48)

Group showers! Didn’t we learn enough from history? Don’t go in a room where everybody takes a shower! It is a bad idea. In John’s Wendler Junior High, the coach would stand at the door of the shower with a clipboard and checked your name off if he saw you take a shower. If you didn’t go past him standing at the door, take your towel off and take a shower so he could see that you have wetted yourself from top to bottom, it was impossible to get an A in gym. It was super-psychological! In 7th grade there are kids who are already men and there are the little skinny kids who are still very much boys and the coach was standing there at the doorway, chanting ”Shower Down to get an A!” in his weird Oklahoma accent.

No-one learns anything in Junior High. Not a single useful piece of information is communicated or retained! Nothing will be taught and nothing will be permitted to be learned. It is impossible to learn and it is an un-learning-able environment.

Sending 7th and 8th graders out to building trail (RL48)

You will come to Supertrain Junior High as an empty vessel and you will leave potentially even more empty than how you came in. Kids in 7th and 8th grades will be building trail in National Parks! This will be a national program because we have a lot of national parks and a lot of those trails need a tremendous amount if upkeep, some of them are in treacherous locations for older people. Going up there and haul logs and fix that trail is a lot of work and young people and particularly 7th and 8th graders who are incapable of learning anything and who are useless to society in any other way except that they are just old enough for dragging logs should be employed as donkeys throughout our national park system.

In 6th grade you are still learning stuff and you are still engaged. You learn about art, music, and all the bones in the body, but then you graduate from 6th grade and are immediately sent to a Works Progress Administration style camp on the side of Mount Rainier or out in Death Valley, California or wherever it is that trail needs to be built. You will be employed in this capacity for two straight years and you come out the other side with clear skin, a clear sense of purpose and a strong body. Your youth will have been employed in the service of our great country and you enter 9th grade to learn things from books again.

At night these kids will all sleep like babies in their depression-era bunk-houses. They will be allowed to read for 30 minutes by lantern light and on weekends, someone will perhaps tell them a ghost story. They will be contributing to America in a way that there is no substitute for! 7th and 8th graders are terrible people. Right now we are placating them and they are dressing like Bratz dolls. They are listening to HipHop music and they are joining gangs or whatever it is that young people do these days. They are wearing white Verniers, they are being Lolitas for their next door neighbors. They are causing problems for their families and they have terrible skin.

The primary problem of middle school is the terrible bell curves of differences, but when you are building trail there is work for everybody. You want to be an artist? Here is a sign, here is a little wood-carving kit, this sign needs to say ”The upper loop is 2.4 km, the lower loop is 1.8 km”, now get busy on the sign! To each their ability!

Yesterday Merlin’s daughter had half a day off school and went directly to ballet afterwards where Melin joined her. She tore ass in ballet for 45 minutes. She is 4 years old and she ran at school and went to ballet. She mostly runs with a scarf, but you know what? She is good and tired when it is time for bed. Part of the problem is that we are not tiring out our children enough! It is like Gibson: He could only be happier if the world would allow him to be exhausted. When is the last time Gibson was satisfyingly exhausted? If there were rabbits who needed to be chased, he would have a job and find his duck. When John drives around the city of Seattle he can look through plain glass windows at and see perfectly healthy adult people on treadmills, elliptical machines and stationary bicycles everywhere. They are creating heat which then needs to be dissipated by more air-conditioning and fans instead of using that heat to power their buildings or to lift logs. They are just burning food!

If you would launch this program and you would say that all kids have to do this, you are going to hear from both sides, both from the people who think that their kid is special and such a little flower, and from the people who are homeschooling their people and who believe that God made the universe in 4,5 days. Every kid is a fucking special flower in this country and what you need is somebody with the will to say that your kids are stupid useless little fucks just like every other kid and they need to be yoked to a water-wheel! Kids want limits, they just don’t know it.

For the first three weeks, there will be so much crying, whimpering and whining. The kids will be asking for their Playstation, but you will reply ”Lights out in 15 minutes!” At first they would be rapping to each other and talking to each other in their youthful patois, but by the end of the first year they will all be speaking like Walt Whitman, they would have woodsman skills and they would be so strong! They will stare into the distance and would seem wiser than they were. Then they would start 9th grade with US history. They would open their books with their pencils at the ready, hungry for history!

When they start at their first month at the national park, their pants would still be hanging down so you could see their underpants, but the first time a Wolverine came out of the woods, they would realize that this was not some Downtown thing and they would pull their fucking pants up. They will make a belt out of rope that they wove themselves to hold their pants up. At the end of every one of the bunk-houses there will be a tin-can full of baby-powder and a little bit of hydrogen peroxide. That will be the entirety of their medical kit. You want to go to violin camp? We worry about that when you come back from the trail!

You can’t even tell 5 things that anybody in that age has done useful to society, maybe Mozart, but he could have made some trail too! It is debatable whether Rambaud actually helped or hurt the progression of society, but John would put him in the class of people that were exceptions. He was able to write some books and he ruined some people’s lives. Even he could write in his 15 minutes at the end of the day on his yellow legal pad they handed him. Every kid would get a legal pad and a gold pencil and they would keep it in their foot locker. They could write their memoirs or teary letters to home, but after the first month or two, those teary letters would stop and they would start writing letters like ”Dear Mother and Father, today we summited Mount Adams and while we were there, we improved the trail. Love, your son Shanequa”. Merlin thinks this WPA project should require a lot of awkward sharing and constant uncertainty. If you want continuity in your life, enjoy 9th grade. You should gaslight the shit out of these kids! John thinks that sounds a lot like Terrordome, but we want to get good solid work out of these kids and not terrorize them.

The extend of their media should be 16 mm films that were produced between 1950 and 1965, for example about what to do in the event of a nuclear attack or the dangers of marijuana. There will be no electricity except from a coal-burning generator or maybe from Tyler Heraclitus on a treadmill that he had to make out of chutt (?). They will learn ganking and how to stab a fish. All of a sudden, John feels like Paul Shaffer. Merlin is giving these young people too much credit, because in 6th grade, most minds are still malleable enough that you can create an entire reality in which the idea of escape does not even occur to them, because this is their new life.

For that first month they are trying to make it over the wire and get back to their Bratz dolls. There will be are fun activities at first, like jumping into the mud or making a bed out of straw, but a lot of people will be grousing. The food will be pretty good at first and it will not be like a bootcamp in the military where they try and break you, but a free and fun summer camp. Come and have some fun! Get outdoors and have some fresh air! It is going to be good for the kids as a weight reducer or of help them if they are depressed or have ADD and Asperger. These camps will nurture our children with very organic food!

Until people in our culture and society embrace what this is bringing to our wider Weltanschauung, this will remain a void. After a certain time, they will be getting out for the log toss, the log carry, or the log drag. Our national parks are actually very fun and when you are in 9th grade you will bring your parents there and show them the zip-line you built and you will show them your report about William Henry Harrison that you wrote by lamp-light. He was the 30-day president, the Pope John Paul I of American Presidents. Back in Cincinnati, Ohio, Merlin’s friends went to William Henry Harrison High-School for a month, then they were killed.

The Foo Fighters playing on Letterman (RL48)

Merlin's friend Stephen Fox who he played in a 1980s cover band with, once tried out for the Foo Fighters. Stephen was a very gifted guitar player and was the only one in the band who would ever learn his parts. Like Coulton or Mozart, he could play almost anything by ear.

Merlin has been watching the recording of the Foo Fighers on Letterman that had aired in 2000 right when Letterman came back from surgery. The Foo Fighters are a great band and their drummer Taylor Hawkins was mind-blowing, but he overdosed a year after that performance. Then Dave Grohl sat by his bed until he got better. Dave is one of the nicest people in the Rock Music business. He seems really weird, but he is a real guy. He got super-rich and recognized that he is weird, but he also didn’t seem to make an attempt to cover it up. He isn’t deliberately peculiar like Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth. Rusty Brown (?). Rusty Trombone!

David Letterman had almost died from super-duper heart surgery with a quintuple bypass and when he came back to do his first show again, he had one request: He wanted the Foo Fighters, his favorite band to play his favorite song on the show. The Story goes that the Foo Fighters were in Brazil at that time, but they came back to play Everlong on Letterman's show. It is really, really good, but there is that awesome tense part with all the voices 3/4 of the way through where you can hear Paul Shaffer who insisted to play on every god-damn song.

They Might Be Giants playing on Johnny Carson (RL48)

They Might Be Giants were playing along with Johnny Carson’s band, a recording that Merlin can highly recommend. They played Birdhouse in your Soul with a very underrehearsed Doc Severinsen orchestra, but it is still glorious! You could see Flansburgh’s eyes lit up because he was playing with this giant band on TV. John’s understanding is that Paul and the band would always play with you unless you had enough authority to say ”No, thank you!” Nowadays Paul and the band are probably checking Twitter on their phones and John doesn’t get the sense that they play with young bands.

It always used to grade on Merlin’s nerves when Robyn Hitchcock was on there doing Madonna of the Wasps and the world’s most dangerous band was jamming along. They are good and the guy with the yellow guitar is great, but then Paul Shaffer's keyboards are so fucking loud! How is he as a keyboard player still alive? He is Canadian, which exempts him from a lot of the ways people die. Thunder Bay is an Elton John song. Paul Shaffer was a Blues Brother, but Merlin thinks he was an adjunct Blues Brother, because he was actually the musical director. Who knows, Paul Shaffer probably has an aluminum heart!

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