RL56 - We Paradise in Our Wake

This week, Merlin and John talk about:

  • Merlin's allergies (Merlin Mann)
  • Crackheads shouldn't be locksmiths (Factoids)
  • Code-names for jobs (Factoids)
  • John being allergic to cats (Pets)
  • The history of John’s mom’s neighborhood (Mom’s House)
  • Old guys hanging in a Rock club, age-appropriate fashion (Style)
  • The new state of outdoor clothes, REI, Filson (Style)
  • Levi’s 501, Taxi driver's wallet (Style)
  • Merlin’s web page building boots (Style)
  • Cargo pants (Style)
  • Merlin's backpack (Merlin Mann)
  • Chewing tobacco (Drugs)
  • The Suwannee River (Geography)
  • Apocalypse Now Redux (Movies)

The problem: Brokering a rapprochement with Terrence and the world’s angriest roof-dog, referring to the neighbor next to John’s mom’s house. He was being called Terrence and held a dog on the roof to protect the drugs he kept in the upstairs bedroom.

The show title refers to Supertrain having a Genesis bomb (Genesis Device from Star Trek) to paradise (used as a transitive verb) the places where they go that need a little touch-up.

John started off the show with throat clearing as a taste of lots of throat clearing to come. It is the season where clearing and coughing are part of John’s extra communication level.

John has never ironed a shirt.

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

Merlin's allergies (RL56)

Merlin never had an allergy in his life until he moved to this godforsaken state (California). In Florida he used to get sick about 3.5 times more often, but it wasn't until he moved to California that he started waking up in the middle of the night sneezing. Washington State is surely verdant and bucolic, which means it is sneezy, grumpy and dopey now. Many people own cats up in the wine country of Sausalito and that cat dander sweeps down over the bay, a lot of it invisible to the naked eye. To know that you are serious about living in wine country you have to show up with a cat on your shoulder with a little leash if you buy a house up there.

Crackheads shouldn't be locksmiths (RL56)

The thing John likes to hear the least is when someone is a crackhead and also a locksmith, which is a bad job for any drug addict to have. If there is one job where John wants to see a Christian fish on the wall or a Latter Day Saints, super-ethical, won’t copy a key that says ”Do not duplicate!”

Code-names for jobs (RL56)

From time to time Merlin considered himself a writer, while professional journalists and authors don't like the word ”writer” because it really doesn't tell you much about what that person does professionally. They look down their nose the same way that a physician thinks that somebody with a Ph.D. in medieval studies shouldn't call himself a doctor. A writer living in Marin County is Merlin’s version of videographer, which is the ultimate job that is not a job. When he meets people at a party in Los Angeles he will frequently tell them that he is working with ceramics and 7 out of 10 times the conversation ends.

Sometimes you meet somebody super-cool that goes ”What the fuck? You are obviously not a ceramicist” - ”I make dick jokes on the Internet" - ”Cool, me too!” and you can have a conversation with them. It is a great filter, like a cheese cloth that only lets through the best part of the wine, like employment decanting. In the 1990s Merlin used to tell people that he did stuff with computers and that was plenty to stop the conversation because nobody cared. He even said that to John who was like ”Hmm, next!” - ”But I love Sloan!” - ”Hmm, next!” - ”No, no, I really love Sloan! You guys remind me of Sloan!” - ”Oh boy” Merlin compared John to a lot of bands that he is not that crazy about. John is Sui Generous, which would be a much better name than Tre Buchet (see RL55).

John being allergic to cats (RL56)

John had a cat allergy as a child. He loves cats, they are really precious angels, but also: Every cat is a shit! John has known every kind of cat and if cats were 6’ (180 cm) tall we would be fucked. If you fell down and be crippled and couldn't get to a phone, most dogs would do everything in their power to help you. They would bring you a beverage, they would try to call for help with their little sweet paws, but cats are literally just waiting to nibble on your toes and eat your face. The more cats you get the more the dander accumulates and there is this business about the cat poop (toxoplasmosis). Merlin really hopes that this is not a turns-out because it really comports with his own experience.

John decided he could not have cats anymore. Once time a cat showed up on his porch and he fell madly in love with him, he was a wonderful guy, but later he was killed by a car, which was devastating. Trying to fill the void in his heart John got another cat who was a terrible person with a lot of issues. John is not one to forgive a person or cat being an asshole just because they have issues. ”Oh, the cat has issues! - ”We all have issues! Solve your fucking issues, cat!” He gave that cat a lot of opportunities to solve her issues.

People say that cats are independent or aloof. Those are great qualities, especially in a girlfriend, a manservant, or a grocery store cashier, but you want a little bit of love from a thing that you are feeding and cleaning up their shit. John is going through this with his daughter. He is cleaning up her shit still and he wants a little bit of love. Sometimes you just sit here and give daddy a hug, whether you like it or not. From a goldfish you don't get anything, but at least you know it is going to die pretty soon! You don't expect anything from it and there are machines to clean up their shit.

If there was a filter that John could put in his house to clean up the cat's shit and scrub the air of cat dander, he might have a better relationship with them. John gave his last cat away to a friend who has no problem at all with a cat that bites your face (John gave Lucy to Eric Corsan). He thinks it is hilarious. Great, those guys are a match made in heaven!

Many of the cats Merlin has known were dicks. His mom had a very dear friend and he always dreaded going to her house because she had a Siamese cat, not to be ping pong. There is no Siamese cat that is not a dick. Merlin doesn’t want to get into pit bulls because that upsets people and he is going to get letters from Wil Wheaton who writes bog posts about his pit bull.

The history of John’s mom’s neighborhood (RL56)

John's mom lives in a neighborhood with big 100-years-old houses that fell into decline in the 1940s and 1950s. There was some redlining where you couldn't get loans in that neighborhood because there were too many blacks and the neighborhood fell more into decline until people started calling it a ghetto. Then you really couldn't get a home improvement loan, which is the classic American story of how we make ghettos.

The Punk Rockers and the artists moved in and took over these houses to turn them into party houses. Finally the gays moved in and fixed up the houses enough that the White Liberals decided it was safe again. The gays are the real estate version of a canary in the coal mine. They are like the Genesis bomb (Genesis Device) in Star Trek II Wrath of Khan, which will be a component of the whole Supertrain project as well, although Supertrain is going to need more of a Genesis mortar.

They are recycling as they go. They are churning all the old dumps, they are churning and recycling other trains as they pass them. There are a lot of rusty old trains and that iron can be put to better use. They need to get all the precious metals and the cooking oil out of those rusty old trains. As they leave they will just lob a little Genesis mortar, like a Genesis grenade, to paradise in their wake. They come through, they are helping people, they are solving problems, and in their wake they are lobbing little Genesis grenades and they are paradising as they go, like a Supertrain Appleseed.

Merlin is only familiar with Kobayashi Maru and with Tribbles. The Genesis bomb was a colonizing bomb where the Star Treks would fly out, find dead planets, and drop the Genesis bomb on them to create an atmosphere and to have things start to grow within the atmosphere. It would happen very quickly because of magic. Instead of going to Mars, sitting there drinking your own pee for 1000 years until the mining pays for the construction of a habitat, you just fly over Mars, drop a Genesis bomb, and verdancy sweeps across, like if you drop food coloring in a water glass.

Gays are Genesis bombs for ghettos! You drop a couple of young handy crafty gays into a neighborhood and they will fix up their house and all of a sudden the house next door gets fixed up and then the house down the block gets fixed up and then people like John move in because this neighborhood seems really inexpensive for how cool these houses are.

They are all fixing up their houses and eight years later all the little black ladies who had lived there for 50 years can't pay their property taxes anymore because the neighborhood had become expensive and they are driven out by taxes to live in the suburbs that in the 1950s were for people who escaped the inner city. It is a constant American churning.

John’s mom’s next door neighbor was a legendary drug dealer. John and his mom were the first white people to move onto their block and people in the neighborhood were like ”Oh yeah, you are living next to Terrence, he is a bad actor!” He walked with a cane at the time because he had just been shot by the cops, but he was not much older than John and he lived in this house that his wife had inherited from her father who still lived in an attic room or something like that. He and John became good friends.

Terrence kept his stash in an upstairs bedroom that had a little covered porch out the window where he kept a female pit bull chained on a six foot (1.8 m) chain living on the roof. The roof was covered with shit because the dog never went off the roof and never wasn't on the six foot chain. This full-grown pit bull was furious and mad! John doesn’t know whether he periodically opened the window and threw a couple of cheeseburgers out there, but he kept his drugs in that room and this was his strategy to keep people from jumping up on the roof and breaking into the house.

The roof was eye-level and 15 feet (4.5 m) away from John’s kitchen and every time he would come to the sink to wash a cup, he was eyeball to eyeball with the world's angriest dog who definitely wanted to kill him, which probably the closest thing that this dog had to a relationship. John would try and speak soothingly to her. On the list of city agencies John was going to call about Terrence, the humane society was 6th down the list after the DEA and everything. John had a rapprochement with the guy because he was looking the other way while Terrance run a crack house here. He also had five kids living there with him who were great and John had a good relationship with them.

John’s trained eye never detected that he used drugs of any kind, he wasn't even stoned on pot. He was probably a pretty good businessman who kept the level of crack zombies in the neighborhood down to a dull roar. He did not run a crack house in the sense of zombies in and out, but it was a crack distribution center. Almost everything Merlin knows about urban America he learned from watching a television show and he learned from The Wire that you try and keep things compartmentalized at both a material level and a personnel level.

There are ghettos where all the original housing is replaced with housing projects and where none of the people feel any connection to the neighborhood or to where they lived. The word ghetto doesn't really apply in Seattle. These were single family homes where people had raised their children and had lived sometimes for two or three generations.

There was a tremendous amount of house-pride in the neighborhood, but the problem was that people were poor and couldn't get loans. They need a new roof, they need new sightings, they owned their home and they just needed a home improvement loan, but not in that neighborhood, sorry! The roofs would get shitty, the gutters would fall and the neighborhood started to look rough with lots of teenage boys standing on the street smoking cigarettes. This was not a ghetto, but is a poor neighborhood where the poorness was exacerbated by institutionalized racism.

The neighborhood was poorly monitored by the local police, but the little old ladies didn't let Terrence get out of hand because they all knew his mother and they all knew him when he was a little kid. He had grown up in that house as everybody did! This was the neighborhood Jimi Hendrix grew up in and everybody in the neighborhood who was 50 years old knew Jimmy and played kickball and music with him. Everybody had stories!

Terence knew his place in the neighborhood. Everybody was afraid of him, but he also knew that there were certain old ladies you didn't cross. John was stepping into this neighborhood as a guy who had lived in Seattle for many years and who had family in Seattle going back to 1880, but as he crossed Madison street and went three blocks into the Central District all of a sudden he was the new guy, the white kid. What was he doing there? He would try to explain his bona fides to everybody, like ”My people have been in Seattle since 1860!” - ”We don't care!”

It has been amazing to watch that neighborhood change! Now John’s mom is one of the little old ladies who lived there for 16/17 years and she is one of the enforcers. There are just a few houses left, except right across the street in an old mansion where the windows are covered with plywood the Universal Church of God in Christ Creation is rousing church services twice a week.

A real estate person would call that neighborhood "in transition", but boy had it transitioned! The first major transition happened when Terrance set his house on fire. He had a friend install an electronic security system and it shorted out and sent a fire up the stairwell. They installed a new security system on some knob and tube wiring and just put some Elmer's glue on it or whatever. The house did not burn down, but was damaged by fire. The dog was on the part that didn't burn. They got their insurance settlement and joined the exodus of people who were moving out of Seattle and down to Renton where rents were still cheap and property taxes were still low.

This core super-tight black neighborhood was originally formed around a very successful black hotelier who moved to Seattle at the very founding of the city and who built himself a beautiful house in this neighborhood. Blacks were encouraged to move into that area and at a certain point the city enforced that if you were moving to Seattle as a black person you had to move to that area. It was a gradual change and pretty soon blacks could not rent or buy outside of this incredibly vibrant neighborhood with an incredibly powerful culture where Quincy Jones and JimmieHendrix came from, and where Ray Charles got his start playing music.

Now the entire neighborhood has been culturally decimated by the influx of middle-class whites that found these houses to be pretty good and so cheap. Little by little everybody moved to Renton and places far beyond where John is living, too. The people who bought Terrence's house poured $500.000 into rebuilding the fire damage and they were the classic white Seattleite couple, he a psychiatrist and she a videographer, which is the ultimate job that is not a job. Whenever the Sunday supplement in the Seattle Times features some architectural house on the lake with modern green construction, super loft with heated poured concrete floors, either the husband or the wife is a videographer, which is code for rich parents.

Not too long ago the neighboring house became a flophouse with a lot of people coming in and out. The videographers sold it for $900.000 to a French guy who owns a restaurant and his wife who is a big-shot lawyer. When Terrence owned it only 10 years ago, this house was worth $80.000.

The House on the other side is the biggest house in the neighborhood owned by a Seattle cop who grew up in the house with his seven brothers and sisters. His father owned a local service station and bought houses in the neighborhood as they came up for sale. As late as 1995 you could buy a house there for $20.000 because real estate was just nothing there. The old man got crotchety, but as the houses around were selling he said that he was never going to sell his house, screw you! He wasn't putting any money into it, but he didn't want to sell it either.

There is a college nearby and they were renting the house to students. Little by little it was being rented by rinkier and rinkier groups of students because first one person moves in, then his five friends move in, and then four of them move to better places and the rinkiest guy stays. It is always going to move downward because moving out of that house is the way you move up. The group in the house got worse and worse and worse until it was the type of thing where they would be in the backyard at 4:00am banging on 50 gallon drums will mallets. You would say ”It's 4 the fuck o'clock in the fucking morning!” and they would turn around and look at you like you were crazy for coming over there.

Did they ever buy themselves a cup of Marcia (John’s mom)? John’s mom is really good at managing situations like that and they all loved her and would do anything she asked, but she has a white noise maker in the room and you could be landing a 747 on the street and she would not hear anything. John is not a white noise maker, but he is a ”Everybody in the neighborhood be fucking quiet after a certain hour!” He is here to help people and one of the things he likes to do with college students is teach them how to be members of society. He was over there regularly, right up in people's faces like ”Do you know what time it is? Do you know how little I care?” Was he wearing scuffs? He tried out a lot of different things! He would put on a wizard hat and sometimes he would dress as a Ringwraith.

”You understand that no one older than 18 years old cares that it is St. Patrick's Day? You understand that, right? Cinco de Mayo is not actually a holiday, not even like Valentine's Day, but it is just a shitty day! Only people who have lived in the United States celebrate Cinco de Mayo in Mexico. It is not the Mexican Independence Day, but it is commemorating the victory in one stupid battle against some French and no-one celebrates victories against the French except Agincourt, which was French against French!”

John was explaining this to people at 4:00am around a burning 50 gallon drum. A couple of times he had to grab a mallet out of someone's hand and say ”I'm going to put this up your ass!” They think that they are living in a part of the city where their modern primitive philosophy can really be put into action because they got three heritage chickens in the back which are going to last exactly as long as it takes the raccoons to figure out how to pull the stick out of the latch and get into the chicken coop. It is going to be a bloodbath and everybody is going to be sad because they named the chickens and they are their friends. John was trying to explain civics to them, like ”Do you see your college? We can see it from here! It is down the street here! Fuck you! You are not on the college campus now, you are in a town where people are living, me included. I'm the mayor here!”

One day Ken Stringfellow came over to the house and as some guy came out of that house, all hopped up on goofballs, Ken made some off-the-cuff waspy joke, like ”Oh I see you have some sink stoppers in your ears! That must be handy when you are trying to wash the dishes!” and this kid got right up in Ken's face and was screaming at him. A fight was averted, but it had a profound effect on Ken because nobody had been screaming in his face for years. Ken used to live in a world where a snarky comment on the side of your mouth was enough to devastate a room. Everybody would go home to think about their lives, wondering if they should give it all up.

Ken was used to owning his universe. He is a very smart and witty guy who travels the world in such a way that everywhere he goes he is surrounded by people who already love him. He was not used to confronting people in the world in this way and the kid was like ”What the fuck did you just say to me?” and was right in his face. By the time John got off his phone call and got over there the damage had been done and John was like ”Hey, this guy is a friend of mine, don't yell at him in front of my house! Go be on drugs in your front yard!” and Ken was visibly shellshocked. The kid never touched him, but Kent looked like he had been slapped with a kid glove.

It was a rough time in that neighborhood because the transition can go a lot of different ways, and in this case it was transitioning toward bad zone. That flophouse is now home to an entire bicycle polo team, a thing that was invented in Seattle by people who play Polo on old tennis courts on Fixie bikes. It is an amazing sport to watch and if it is not sweeping the nation it is only because the nation cannot handle the truth. It is a variation on bike messenger culture which has its own set of modern primitive / gear heads / vegan / Occupy Wall Street / Gutter Punk. Those are Gutter Punks who are not so committed to the cause that they actually want to live in a gutter, but they want running water. They are all in their 20s!

Old guys hanging in a Rock club, age-appropriate fashion (RL56)

All through John’s teens, 20s and 30s there were some friendly guys who haunted the outskirts of the music scene and who managed to insinuate themselves closer to the center of certain little adjunct Rock scenes. They were conspicuously too old to still be dying their hair or still be wearing bell bottoms, and all through John’s youth in Rock he felt a mixture of pity and contempt: ”Really? Are you serious? Shouldn't you be working in a bank or something? Shouldn't you be an adult somewhere?” It was clear that these people did not see themselves in the mirror, but they thought they were looking good.

John tweeted not that long ago that whenever he sees a man his age wearing a Paul Weller haircut, he is like ”No no no! You are not Mod! You are in your 40s, sir, stop having your hair done that way! That is not appropriate!” These are guys in a 19" neck, a Paul Weller haircut, and clothes that only fit on someone with a 29” waist. First of all, Paul Weller today looks super fucking cool! He looks great, he is like Nick Lowe, and he is a cool looking old guy. He looks like he is carved out a wood, but maybe some driftwood.

With his own body dysmorphia John thinks he looks like Paul Weller, but he doesn't realize he is actually closer to Elton John. He looks like a large clam that someone had pasted pubic hair on. At 44 years old he goes to Rock shows and stands there with the look of thinly veiled contempt for everybody. He cuts his own hair, he is wearing some dopey hipster glasses, and he doesn’t know if he looks like the coolest guy in the town, or whether he looks what he actually is, which is a big dumb dope 44 year old hanging out in a Rock club who should be working in a bank by now.

John is an elder statesman of that entire community of people look up to him for guidance and wisdom. He is there to have that look on his face and to make people really think about whether they should be on stage at all. These kids need leadership because they are two months away from being in a backyard banging on fucking drums. A lot of these people today have completely inexplicable haircuts that somebody in England could have for a little while before they wise up. Merlin got a big problem with frosting.

One of John’s jobs in Seattle is to demonstrate to younger people how to appropriately wear corduroy and tweed because a lot of young people get it all wrong. If you are properly wearing a corduroy blazer, the tips of your lapels should curl up a little bit from where the jacket has been rained on multiple times. If your lapels are lying flat we can see that you have never worn it in the rain. If you don't wear your corduroy and your tweed in the rain, you are not wearing it. Doesn't that make you smell like a St. Bernard? Absolutely! Absofuckinglutely! If you live in Seattle and you don't smell like a St. Bernard, then you are too precious and you are not doing it right.

Also, if you live in Seattle and wear suede of any kind, it had better look like you just escaped from a fire. Suede is not an appropriate fabric for the Northwest because at any moment a squall might knock you off the dock. The power goes out, mob rules and you are wearing a jacket that needs to be brushed? Give me a break! You can wear suede in Seattle, it just has to look like somebody cut the head off an ox with a machete like the scene in Apocalypse Now and cut sleeves in it and made you a suede jacket. That is the only way you can wear suede!

When Merlin was in Seattle a couple of weeks ago (see RL47) he bought some comfortable dad shoes. Everybody made fun of him because of his large toe box, but John thought they were perfectly appropriate. They didn't check out his feet with a Brannock Device, but they had him stand on a computer and the guy gave Merlin some notes on his posture. Merlin stood on this thing that looked like a functional MRI and the guy said Merlin tilts a little to the left, but he already knew that. Merlin dresses left, which is a little unconventional.

He also brought up some orthotics, which is like bringing a show lady some makeup and also giving her a card with a Botox person on it. Merlin ended up buying these dad shoes because they were supposedly good in the rain, but what he almost bought at first was John’s brand, the Clarks because his wife liked John’s shoes and was encouraging him. The guy came with desert boots called Chukka Boots when Merlin was a kid, but they don't fare so well in the rain.

In some cultures in America you wear white tennis shoes and you clean them with a toothbrush every night, but in Seattle if you are going to wear some Clarks that are made out of suede, they are going to look like shit after a while, albeit looking like shit is a wonderful way to look great. A large portion of what we consider American style, like Tommy Hilfiger and Ralph Lauren and all these classic men's stylists in America, are whole cloth stealing English men's style 100%, bringing it to America, making it a little more base and selling it to the masses.

People in America and Japan are dressing like English country gentleman, except the shit isn’t as good. They are dressing like people who are walking over their estate with a couple of golden retrievers following them, a double-barreled shotgun in the crook of their arm, waiting for a pheasant to take flight. American preppy is just a version of English country!

English country is a great jumping off point for fashion, but you have to actually look like you are walking across a muddy field with two golden retrievers behind you with the rain falling on you. If you try and look too groomed, if you try and protect your suede shoes against the rain, you are being a fop, and that is wrong by John’s standards.

The new state of outdoor clothes, REI, Filson (RL56)

A few years ago one of John's friends took his girlfriend out camping in the Olympic National Forest. She was a city girl and not used to this kind of experience, but he was trying to bring her into his way of thinking. ”I am an outdoorsy guy, I am a camper! Come with me! I'll show you what it is like!” He showed up at her house to pick her up and she had a suitcase, first of all. Okay, baby steps!

He put the suitcase in the trunk, they drove out to the forest, and he knew he would have to carry the suitcase to the campsite, but it was a gradual thing. They were almost car camping and were just going to drive into the parking lot and walk a little ways to their campsite, so he was okay with the suitcase. He carried the suitcase, they set up a tent, he builds a fire, she opened her suitcase and she had packed a hairdryer. That is how John feels about a clothes iron, even when living in a house. Using a clothes iron is like bringing a hairdryer on a camping trip.

It was incredibly sweet and those two are married now and have lived happily ever after as a wonderful example of opposites attract. Up until that point he had been catering to her desire to eat fancy meals and go dancing at the disco. This was one of these ”Let me show you what I like to do!” Merlin doesn’t like people who spend $1500 on gear at REI and open up her North Face bag that is full of brand new Patagonia and three different kinds of shoes. Obviously they realized they had one on the line.

John has been a member of REI since 1977 and his dad was a member of REI from the very beginning as one of the first handful of people. John feels like REI has become a place that he doesn't recognize anymore. He used to buy everything there, but now everything is supposed to wick sweat off of him, all that technical stuff, but he doesn’t want to be wicked, he wants to have a coat!

John wants a jacket with snaps, but they don't use snaps anymore, they use high tech polypropylene Velcro, which doesn't even make any sense. John wants a fucking button on his coat! They don't have that anymore because when you are summoning Everest after a triple marathon, you are going to be perspiring and they need to wick that sweat off of you, but that is not what John is wearing this jacket for. He is not going to summit Everest and no one who buys it is.

The people at REI are heavily trained to make you feel like you are fucking Edmund Hillary or Tenzing Norgay. Even now that there is a quad lift to the top of Everest for rich ladies, you still need to be a bad ass to get up there. The Sherpas go up and down that mountain without any wicking. It is like pole dancing: You are part of a transaction where both of you know what is going on even if you are not admitting it. They are dancing on a pole and you are throwing out the singles. You get to really feel like you have gone somewhere very rugged where carabiners are going to be very important, even though you mostly use it for the keys to your Volvo.

If John buys any new outdoor clothes now, he buys them at Filson, another company from Seattle. They were founded to provide outfitting gear for the original Chilkoot Charlies who were leaving at the turn of the century to mine gold in Canada. Filson made all their wool blankets, hats and jackets. Their flagship product is a pair of canvas pants that have been dipped in cold wax. You put these pants on and they feel like they are made out of wet galvanized tin, but the longer you wear them the more they conform to you and you can actually sit in a mud puddle.

You are sifting for gold, you got your pan and your sluice box and you are sitting in a mud puddle in these pants. You are not comfortable, the pants are impregnated with cold wax which does not feel good, and you feel not that great in a cold puddle, but you are as God intended. Nothing is wicking or flicking, and there is no ventilation of any kind.

Wax pants don't breathe! You are not meant to wash them. The care tag on the thing says ”Don't wash these! Don't put them in the dryer! Don't iron them! Leave them alone!” If they get dirty, the next time you wear them that dirt will provide an extra layer of protection. Filson has not succumbed yet. They used to make suitcases with this wax impregnated canvas and blankets. They also have wool, but they don't tip the wool in wax because wool already has wax in it, called lanolin.

In the Northwest when you see a telephone lineman or an electric lineman who is up a pole, or a guy whose job it is to stand knee-deep in water with a shovel in his hand all winter long, the young guys are all wearing Helly Hansen fishing gear or a bunch of North Face crapola, but the 57 year old black dude who has been a lineman for 30 years is wearing Filson head to toe. That is how you know they are hardcore and the real deal. When John sees older-than-him guys in Filson around here, he nods at them and tries to give them a fist bump but most of the time they won't accept it.

Levi’s 501, Taxi driver's wallet (RL56)

When Merlin came to Seattle (see RL47) he wanted to buy clothes and outfit himself for some reason. He is not a big clothes shopper, he owns five pairs of Levi's 501 and that is it. He should get some credit at the appropriate authenticity level about how he wears the fuck out of some 501 and doesn’t wash them for six months. He sleeps in them for the first five nights and doesn't take them off, but when he does and stands them in the corner you can see the outline of his space pen and his wallet where they have been worn into the denim. The pair he is wearing today is just shy of the crotch blowing out, the pocket on the right side has blown out.

Pants tell a story about your life. It will show you where you carry your iPhone, there is an outline of your wallet and you can actually see he has a taxi driver’s wallet with the little flap because you can see where the snap is. John has the same wallet because Merlin gave him one as a gift. He got rid of that big trucker wallet in which he used to keep $6000 in foreign currency because it was causing him back problems.

Merlin gave John’s mom one of these taxi wallets as a present one time for having stayed at her house and she came over to John the next day and said ”Merlin gave me this wallet. I am never going to use this, I don't use a wallet! You take it!” and John has been using it for the last 10 years. Merlin just replaced his wallet. Amazon showed his last order shipped on May 5th 2004 so he actually had this wallet for eight years and when it fell apart he just got a new one.

When John was growing up, Levi's 501 were the only pants you could possibly wear. He turned into a teenager right at the point when people started fucking with their jeans too much. You bleach your pants, you wanted them to look faded, it was after designer jeans had come and gone and we were back to the basics. You would buy weathered pants or you would throw something in the washer, all that stuff about how you were supposed to put your pants on and sit in a hot bathtub. Merlin does that, but he is a child of the 1980s, he keeps wearing them and goes to bed with them wet.

Merlin’s web page building boots (RL56)

Merlin’s first REI experience was during the dot.com days in 1999 when he was wearing a lot of tactical clothing, which you needed while sitting in a Aeron chair because you had to be able to zip off those legs in half a second in case you needed to commit some code real quick. You might need to unzip the bottoms of your pants in Menlo Park California.

Merlin went to the REI after probably a $200 lunch and he did have the presence of mind to laugh out loud for the entire time he was in there because it was obvious that this was farcical. It was only a slightly more sophisticated version of a morbidly obese man in a football jersey. You don't play football, what are you doing? Take that off! You get a canister of bear spray? When are you really going to confront a bear?

Merlin wanted some low-key hiking boots because it is just comfortable, something he could wear around that was water resistant, and the guy was like ”This one has great torsion control and wicks away harbor’s nuts. It has authentic artisanal laces. Maybe you want to walk around on this fake rock and see if they work?” and in the loudest voice he could without sounding like a sociopath Merlin said ”These are web page making shoes!” and the guy didn't know how to respond. There was no tab in the binder for how to respond to a guy who knew he was a poser. He was unprepared for a thin-boned man who knew he was a fraud.

At the same time Merlin was buying artisanal $60 cargo pants at Urban Outfitters that were really tactical. He was walking around like it was normal to have all these clips and shit on his pants. Maybe they didn’t know either what they were for and were just laughing and putting loops on things. Cargo pants are the modern equivalent of Malcolm McLaren's bondage pants: Plaid pants with bondage clasps all over them and some straps that would be useless for bondage. If you want to practice bondage with somebody, the first thing is to get the pants off! You are not going to fucking bondage somebody with pants on! This is just standard stuff.

Cargo pants (RL56)

One time John was at a youth hostel in Vienna that was located in a former Habsburg administrative building where people with clipboards walked around during the war, saying ”Oh yes, I gassed a lot of people today” John was walking up the big wide staircase in the middle of the day and because it was a very busy youth hostel there were probably 60 people on that staircase at one time. People going up, people coming down, it was a four flights big winding staircase and you could see people all the way up and all the way down. It felt like you were walking up the stairs of a grand hotel at the height of the Gilded Age.

People were talking in German, English, Swedish, it was an international group, and as John was halfway up this staircase some guy said in a very loud voice: ”Every single person on this staircase is wearing cargo pants!” Everybody on the stairs looked and sure enough: Everyone, including John, was wearing pants with cargo pockets. A sense of mutual shame descended on them all because everyone had giant pockets on the sides of their pants and not a single person had anything in those pockets. They were all wearing cargo pants which was how they each individually had elected to express that they were travelers.

It was like going to a Punk Rock show in Orange County California where every single person in a 700 person show was wearing Jack Purcell's. If you were wearing Chuck Taylor’s, it would be the black ones with the little smiley face on the toe. John was at a show down there at a place called the Crystal Palace and he had to actually drop to one knee to verify what he thought he was seeing. He looked at the shoes of a huge roomful of kids and there was not a single kid in the place that had a different pair of shoes on. They had all decided what the uniform is.

In this one instance at the Youth Hostel John was unfortunately not able to rip those cargo pants off his body and burn them on the staircase in an expression of how ashamed he was to be dressed like a sorority girl, but from that moment forth he stuffed his cargo pants pockets with things although it is really not a convenient place to carry things.

Merlin's backpack (RL56)

Merlin doesn’t understand his current backpack. He has an amazing Tom Binh backpack, one of the greatest backpacks in the world, and he still doesn’t understand what all the straps are for.

Chewing tobacco (RL56)

At a time before black Levi's there was a turning point moment when the coolest thing, the only way to properly wear a pair of Levi's was a pair of Levi's that had the ring of a chew can in the back right pocket. It was SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) where Merlin was from. Even if you didn't do it and were one of these pussies who would throw up when you had a little bit of fucking Skoal or Bandits, you would still walk around with it in your pocket. You would buy a can of a Big League Chew, which was Bubblegum, and carry it back there until you got that ring.

In 1983/84 in Anchorage Alaska you had a ring in the back of your jeans. Before Kodiak you chew Copenhagen or nothing. Kodiak is a longer cut with more sugar and the rumor was that they put a little bit of fiberglass insulation in it so it would cut your lip and you get more of an effect. You can cut your coke with glass! They talked about this like it was absolutely true, but John had no way of independently verifying it. You can't possibly put fiberglass insulation in chewing tobacco that can't be a thing! Merlin says you acn pour bourbon in there, which had never occurred to John.

Both Merlin and John chewed tobacco for a long time and really enjoyed it. It is the most addictive thing in the world, but John had to quit it when he quit all other tobacco. There were times when John would have a huge tip of Kodiak in his mouth and he would light a cigarette at the same time, which is basically like taking your stomach out and kicking it down the road. You do not feel good with that much nicotine in your body, you feel terrible, but you also feel great! Add some Red Man and a little bit of Bush beer: That is North Florida, buddy!

The Suwannee River (RL56)

One time John was driving in a car in North Florida and he came to a bridge with a sign that said Suwannee River. Whatever the hell else he was doing today, he was not going to do it now, but he was turning left and driving way down upon this river. He drove for miles and miles and miles down a weird swampy Florida place where the houses were all built on stilts until he got to the mouth of the Suwannee River. He parked the car and he walked until he was standing with his feet in the water and said to himself: ”Haha, yes! I am way down upon the Suwannee River. Next!” There was a shitty little community of people living in boats there Florida.

At any moment John expected Burt Reynolds to jump out of a boat or some revenuers chasing moonshiners, but he got out of there. There are a lot of things to be disappointed about in Florida. Anything to attract you off of a highway has a certain amount of snake oil to it. John was actually surprised that it was clear that no-one was interested in people coming down here to be way down upon the Suwannee River.

There was no place to park, there was no facility, there was no sign, there was not even a general store, just some people living in boats and some houses on stilts. His whole life John wanted to be saying ”Way down upon the Suwannee River! Here I am! I would like a flag. I would like to get a postcard!", but not a chance. There were people peeping out from behind their curtains, going ”What the hell is that? What the hell is he doing here? He looks like one of them hipsters!”

Apocalypse Now Redux (RL56)

In Apocalypse Now Redux there is a scene with French colonialists. John hates that scene and they could have left it out. John hates Apocalypse Now Redux! Apocalypse Now is a perfect thing that does not need any reduxing. They were supposed to leave all the scenes out like the scene where they are huddled with the Playboy bunnies in the rainstorm or the extra scenes with Robert Duvall. None of that needs to be there! All that needs to happen is that at some point Martin Sheen says ”Don't get out of the boat! Never get out of the boat!” Merlin also likes Harrison Ford's extreme prejudice. They shot that out of sequence.

John has seen Hearts of Darkness (A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse) and everyone should see it. It resonates with Merlin, the idea of having a project that seems pretty doable and then you start doing it and pretty soon you are sitting there covered with flies, writing on your manual typewriter every night and screaming. It becomes profoundly undoable and your actors are tripping.

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