RL8 - The Reptilian Behind the Long Pig Mask

This week, Merlin and John talk about:

  • Merlin using index cards (Merlin Mann)
  • American Beauty (Movies)
  • Finland, Iceland, Greenland, Seven wonders of the world (Geography)
  • Icelandic bands and Hagström guitars (Music)
  • Having your blood type tattooed under your arm (Stories)
  • John having been in an abattoir in Morocco (Travel)
  • Sniffing glue in Romania (Drugs)
  • $50 lunch-time hand-job places (Drugs)
  • Not being able to buy Ephedrine anymore (Drugs)
  • John as the potential drug counselor, taking Mushrooms (Drugs)
  • Eating a meatball sandwich in the bathtub (Eating in the bathtub)
  • Background checks (Attitude and Opinion)

The problems:

  • bad advice from cartoon cats °;
  • bad advice from guidance counselors °;
  • getting high in an urchin’s proto-hole °;
  • the curious ubiquity of Romanian adhesive °;
  • the hollandaise tulip hysteria °;
  • Alexandria’s perfect bibliographical storm °;
  • John’s dance with a Moorish stirrup-wrangler;
  • disarming goats in a Moroccan abattoir °;
  • the puckish naming quirks of Erik the Red °;
  • a substantive misunderstanding about ephedrine °;
  • remembering a wondrous and well-hung city °;
  • making connections by choosing the right colored yarn °;
  • Einar’s feelings on lobster °;
  • the refreshing nature of citrus huffing °;
  • why Al DiMeola can’t be in John’s band of Kims °;
  • some historical tattoos of “Northern Utah” °;
  • John’s offer to help in a yak vest °;
  • considering the erotics, edifice, and relative economics of the “$50 Lunchtime Handjob.” °

The show title refers to hallucinations when taking mushrooms where your friends turn into lizards or a reptilian behind a long pig mask.

The bar where the firemen drink has changed, now it is Asian kids with funny haircuts and it is really costly.

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

Merlin using index cards (RL8)

Merlin just opened a whole new packet of index cards and hasn’t written anything down for today. He should do more homework, he didn’t prepare. Somebody asked John if Merlin really uses index cards and he confirmed. Does Stephen Hawking really need to talk like that, or is that just to get laid? There must be a wall in Merlin’s office with 10.000 index cards taped to it, with post-it notes, a whiteboard, bits of different colored string that represent relationships, tin foil, and tinsel, which is very distracting because when you see it blowing through a park you have to chase it.

American Beauty (RL8)

John did see the American Beauty movie, although he resisted, but he had to cave because it was all everybody was talking about at the time. After having seen it John realized he had been right. Merlin saw it on a date and remembers thinking it was really good, but the more he thought about it, the less he thought it was really great. It is one of these movies Merlin saw in college and he doesn’t want to incur the wrath, but like some Bergman or Kenneth Anger films it seemed very important to watch at the time. Now when you go back you realize it was a little silly.

It felt like a Donny Darko to John, which he liked, but didn’t have Kevin Spacey in it. John finds it very hard to put a very important film and Kevin Spacey on the same 3x5 note card. It is not that John is not pro-Spacey, but Kevin Spacey is a movie star and not an ariste [sic] or arture [sic]. Isn’t that the techno band that plays PowerBooks? Ature is a guy who lives in Seattle and works as a sous-chef at a restaurant John goes to sometimes. Merlin thinks that John is thinking about the movie Aguirre, the Wrath of God. There is actually a band called Autechre.

Finland, Iceland, Greenland, Seven wonders of the world (RL8)

Bands from Iceland and Finland always have funny names, but the rest of us just weren’t aware of them. Did they know they were silly? What is the collective hysteria called when everybody thinks they have pox or believe in orgasms for women, but it turns out that it wasn’t real? When the collective unconscious is freaking us all out like it was with that whole tulip thing? Iceland does exist and the people there do believe in gnomes and even more than that, they believe in cute. When you meet them in real life, you can experience their Scandinavian stand-off-ishness that makes you think that these people are super-deep, but then they start talking about gnomes and you realize that they are just Scandinavian dopes. Merlin needs to get some more colored thread.

Erik the Red was going to fuck with everybody by calling the land that is nice for icy and the one that is icy for green. It totally worked and when John was a kid Greenland sounded nice and Iceland sounded terrible to him. It is like when the Dutch, the Holland people, the ones who speak Hollandaise, named it Nice York which used to be Nice Amsterdam. Now we can google it and see that Iceland is green and Greenland is ice, but back in the old days you were standing at the port in Manchester and had to go on one boat.

The only Wikipedia was at the library of Alexandria, which burned down, there was an earth quake and it sank into the ocean. The Hanging Gardens of Babylon are one of the seven ancient wonders of the world and John is pretty sure that they were real. The library in Alexandria was also real. The Arabs invented calculus and at the time the library was in Alexandria they were actually Greeks. The Greeks can’t even balance a cheque-book, but they think that cucumbers and tomatoes are an acceptable appetizer (Greek Cucumber Salad). You call that a dessert? It is just tissue paper and brown sugar, which ignores the whole concept of Logos.

The Hanging Gardens of Babylon were in the entire city where everybody had window boxes with flowers in them, which sounds like the country of Dutch where they also had the tulip hysteria, which is all very related if you have the right-colored yarn. It was the example everybody used during the Dot Com days: Suddenly tulip bulbs cost a lot of money which caused a hysteria in the same way like when people wanted sites with fake money in the late 1990s and that became a thing. It developed into a market panic and then everybody buys low and sells high.

Warren Buffet must have spent years telling people it is not pronounced Buffét and that must have just driven him nuts. Merlin would have changed his name at some point, but he was a rich man for a long time and John thinks that from that point on no-one ever made that mistake again. Buffet said that the key is to buy when other people are selling and sell when other people are buying and that is the kind of statement that makes so much sense, but many people think there is a trick.

It also helps to have $1 billion to buy when other people are selling and 1 billion shares of stock to sell when other people are buying. If you have $1000 to invest, then buying when people are selling and selling when people are buying is not going to make you rich. Every Black Jack strategy works as long as you have a literal unlimited amount of money. You made 20% on your investment? Congratulations, now you have $1200! Get back to work, wait for the next market swing and invest it again.

A bunch of books got lost in Alexandria when it burned and sank into the ocean because of the earth quake. It was a perfect storm for librarians, people were not just about talking loud and smudging the covers, but it sounds like they had a pretty rough time. It burned when the city of Alexandria was being sacked in war. Burning the library is a bad thing, but that is what the old-timey people did because they didn’t appreciate that the collected wisdom of the Greeks and Latins was contained there.

Alexandria is in Egypt, but it was controlled by the Greeks at the time, which is very similar to the Iceland and Greenland problem. If you start naming things the wrong thing and put them in different countries, potentially other continents, it is extremely confusing. Alexandria was named after Alexander who had made a name for himself by conquering places and naming those places after himself, which is the definition of making a name for yourself.

Icelandic bands and Hagström guitars (RL8)

A few years ago everybody’s weblogs was talking about the band Sigur Rós who sing in a made-up language, but that doesn’t matter because nobody can tell the difference between that and Icelandic. The band Sugarcubes are also from Iceland. They believe in gnomes and they even have one as a singer in their band. Einar does not like lobster and he was the flavor flave of The Sugarcubes. John only had a tangential glimpse of The Sugarcubes as they went by in popular culture, because at that point he was focused on preserving Grunge at the Grunge museum in Seattle.

John was the cook at the Grunge museum and worked his way up to assistant manager. The bill of fare at a Grunge museum is scrambled eggs, greasy potatoes, and black tar heroin. When you are nodding off, there is nothing that smells better than a cold plate of greasy eggs. Maybe they would give you a Hagström, which is a Swedish Les Paul, but the titular Les Paul would not agree with that. Merlin wonders if you can get a Hagström Gold Top, because his impression was that they fell apart pretty easily. John says that Hagströms were great, but the thing in musical instruments is that everybody always tries to compare the shoddy musical instrument that they are manufacturing to the good musical instrument that doesn’t exist anymore, kind of like Democratic politics.

Hagströms were great guitars. Kim Thayil in Soundgarden was playing a Guild SG rather than a Gibson SG. At the time it seemed like a radical and uncomfortable choice, like "Why is he playing that off-brand guitar?" It was something he found in a junk shop because at the time you certainly could not have a musical instrument endorsement as a Grunge musician, that wouldn’t have flown very well until Kurt Cobain did his stupid (Fender) Jag-Stang thing. Hagströms were good guitars and John knew a guy who had one. Merlin had a friend who was in a band that would only play Hagströms. The Fucking Champs only play Hagströms. Something has changed in the last 15 years because now that can be a thing.

Back then you could have a really heavy and pointless Peavey bass that you played ironically, like an ironic bass. They were still experimenting with the technology of having female bass players in 1992 and you were not going to work with super-high chemical reaction matter like female bass players and then also throw in something like all you play is Hagströms, but you have to go slow and change one factor at the time because you can only fit so many molecules in a building. At the time all the bass players were named Kim.

John has been talking to some people about the next iteration of The Long Winters and he was thinking all Kims, boys and girls, which sounds like a Korean Smiths cover band. Even if your last name was Kim you could be in. You could be Paul Kim, Skim Bobersted or Kim Kimbersteen. If Al Di Meola showed up, John would tell him that he could not be in the band for a variety of reasons, mainly because he is not named Kim. Also, he literally has no soul! There are people who want to play music badly enough that they would be willing to change their name legally.

Having your blood type tattooed under your arm (RL8)

John was on a train the other day and a 75-year old woman came up the aisle and said ”I hear you talking about tattoos. Did you know that I had a tattoo?” - ”Of course, we have a book here with all the elderly people with tattoos!” She was a little old lady with that wedge haircut that little old ladies have. In 1954 she was living in Northern Utah and they were all shepherded down to the health center and given a tattoo of their blood type under their arm. They told them that it was in case the North Koreans bombed America. She was 4 years old at the time and they gave everyone in the town a tattoo. As John Hodgman was looking it up on his phone, John was thinking that Northern Utah was one of the places where the missile silos were. They were bullshitting them if they said anything about the Koreans, but they were definitely preparing for a nuclear apocalypse.

Merlin heard of people who write their phone number on their arm in Sharpie before they drink, which is smart. John has another suggestion: Don’t drink so much that you forget your phone number. Hodgman pulled the old lady's story up on his phone, and it was in fact a pilot program in rural Indiana, Northern Utah and one other bumfuck Egypt-kind-of-place. They tattooed everybody in town including little children their blood type under their arms and if after the big apocalypse people were coming into triage with their faces melted off and couldn’t speak, you could still figure out their blood type. That is your America! North Korea couldn’t have thrown a basket of fruit 150 yards (135 meters) in 1951, but they were being funded by the Chinese and it was the first war between the Soviets and the Americans fought by proxy before that became a real thing later.

This strikes Merlin on any number of levels as a very duck-and-cover style solution. If you are very near a place that is going to be bombed, they are not going to be able to find that tattoo. You would think it is a ”kiss your ass goodbye” scenario, except that the other day John just read a thing that after they exploded the A-bomb on the Bikini-atoll they went back to check it out and to inspect the Scorched Earth situation and numerous rats had survived because they are indomitable spirits that are planning the big takeover. It is one thing to survive Hiroshima because there were buildings and places to hide, but if you are just a rat on a dessert island and you walk out of the explosion of an A-bomb, that is pretty impressive!

Merlin doesn’t fully understand these things. Of all the things you can put on there you will put the blood type? Hodgman still has that mustache. John is pretty good pals with him.

John having been in an abattoir in Morocco (RL8)

If you lived near a lot of tall icicles, stalactites or near an unregulated abattoir, having your blood type tattooed under your arm would be silly, but understandable. Does Merlin think if he lived near an unregulated abattoir that he might accidentally find his way into the spinning knives? It is the same problem as with generic drugs or herbs: It is not well-policed. You buy some Ginseng, but you don’t know what is in there. It could be cat whiskers and shredded newspapers! John has been to a couple of abattoirs in Morocco and he can attest that they were not well-regulated. They killed goats in there by slitting their throats with knives.

Sniffing glue in Romania (RL8)

John built many Revel models and periodically he gets a flash and thinks he has a stroke because the smell of Revel modeling glue will come out of some recess of his mind when his brain is offloading some old memory in order to retain the new memory of what the chord sequence is to Tonight You Belong to Me. They say that smell is the strongest sense, especially of glue. For a while all modeling glue smelled like lemon because they wanted to dissuade kids from sniffing glue, but John doesn’t understand why they would make it smell like lemon. Who amongst you looking for a buzz would want a refreshing smell of citrus? No, that is appalling compared to the delicious smell of modeling glue huffed from a plastic bag.

John never huffed modeling glue. When he was in Romania, glue huffing and adhesive huffing was an epidemic and there were really young little kids, Urchins with zombie looks, out in front of the train station, sleeping in little hollowed out depressions in the dirt and passing around bags of 3M spray adhesive. Merlin wonders where you would get sniffable adhesives in Romania, but Romanians need to adhere stuff just like anybody else and Urchins are not above stealing, for one. In a Dickensian sense, in a phagan sense, it is right in the name, not to be antisemitic, but the whole nature of being an urchin is that you are not going to go out and get some extremely high-grade drugs and you won’t have a car with a window to roll down.

You are probably not going to go into the store and comparison-shop. You buy the cheapest thing with the money you stole from the little old lady and you get a lot of bang for your buck with a can of spray-adhesive. At least the last time John was there, your typical Romanian shop-keeper was not going to keep spray-adhesives behind the counter to keep them out of the hands of kids. It is the cough syrup problem. Setting aside the fact that almost everything in Walgreens is now behind the counter, even some some Nutrine Shampoo. There is a little yellow piece of cardboard saying ”For your convenience, please go somewhere else to buy this razor blades, good luck!” There is a reason Merlin doesn’t shave, but he is really tired of going to the counter asking them for blades.

Merlin does not come from urchin people, but he can understand the huffing if you otherwise would have to go to a sports supplements site and drop $59.95 for a 48-count that is cut with Guaifenesin, that cough medicine bullshit that nobody needs. They don’t want you doing this huffing and that is why they add stuff, like in the science where they add sulfur smell to the gas so the bunsen burners stink and you can tell if they are leaking. They put some nasty chemicals in rubbing alcohol because you could get shit-faced on rubbing alcohol if it wasn’t for that stuff they put in so you can’t drink it. John knows some guys who have been drinking Sterno or hairspray.

Merlin feels bad for the urchins because they are not going to be able to walk up to a strip mall and buy some whip-its. You are burning through whip-its super-fast, but then you are going to want more, and that is costly. John can’t speak for the urchins exactly, but if you are living in a hollowed-out depression in the ground in front of a Romanian train station, the 35 seconds of euphoria that a whip-it provides is probably not quite enough consciousness-alteration to smooth over the bumps in your life, whereas if you are huffing glue all day, you are killing brain cells by the hundreds of thousands and that is much more comforting to them.

In that situation you want a high that you can count on, but a whip-it is a high for if you are at a party in a suburban house and there is a girl at the party that you have a crush on and she is talking to your friend, not even flirting with him, and that is causing you psychic pain because you are a teenage kid and the fact she is talking to him means that they are in love and that she is never going to see you across the room. In that case a whip-it is the precise dose of drug that you need to make it through that experience, but if you are living in a depression in the ground, you need a stronger dosage of altered states.

$50 lunch-time hand-job places (RL8)

Merlin just found out that the place across the street is a hand-job place. He had that feeling for a while, but he just got confirmation from the merchants association guy. Hand-jobs are one of those things like weed: You might as well regulate it and tax it and everybody wins. In a lot of nail places, or any place where they do things to you like a spa type situation, there are a lot of diseases you can catch, those places are caustic! John can’t breathe in a nail salon. A nail salon is an inexpensive business to start and a lot of people who came here after the Vietnam war opened one. There is a whole thing on NPR about this. John thinks they use the solution to electroplate truck-bumpers and it is very caustic. It is a very toxic process to chrome a bumper and that is not a euphemism.

If some lady sucked the current mafia bumper, you would literally go somewhere and they would use electricity to replete it, which sounds like a racket to Merlin. It sounds like a lady who is good at fellatio and people from South-East Asia could easily turn that into a hell of a racket and then her brother is running the electro-plating thing. What about removing golfballs from garden-hoses? How did the golfballs get into the garden-hose? Ask yourself that!

Not that long ago John was walking around in a neighborhood he doesn’t normally go to and he saw a Donut Shop. The streets were deserted, John walked over, and a car came the other direction with a guy he knew. They looked at each other, but he didn’t stop, but was just slowing down to let John pass and kept driving. What was he doing up there? It was a weird neighborhood for both of them to be in.

John had a donut in the donut shop, a few days passed and John saw the guy again in a Rock club. They started talking that they had seen each other in the weird neighborhood, he was trying to think what John was doing up there, and for him the only reason to be in that neighborhood was the $50 lunchtime hand-job at the strip club that is up around the corner from there. John just stone-faced and he said ”Oh, oh no! I thought that you went up there to see a friend!" It is the same problem with the handkerchief-code: There should be some way to make sure we always talk about the same thing. What was terrible about this exchange was that he was so excited to have found somebody he could share this with.

$50 for a hand-job seems like a bargain price, like a lunchtime special. It is for the type of guy who wants a hand-job at lunchtime, but who isn’t just willing to go into the stall in the bathroom where he works and get a self-administered hand-job, but he wants it done by a professional nail-salon employee. Merlin hasn’t had sex since 2001, but if he remembers correctly, part of the appeal of having sex is the idea of taboo or badness. "You are a bad boy!" To sit in the stall at work and self-administer a hand-job is enough badness for a lot of guys, but it would not count as a hand-job, but it is masturbating. To actually get a hand-job is to take several steps toward being dirty which in and of itself is the appeal to most guys. The hand-job itself, the woman or the man who is administering it, is secondary, but the steps they take to be there and be dirty are the things that really turn them on. Getting a discount makes it even dirtier!

Of all the things Merlin has done, he has intercoursed in the past and he has done things that are weird, but he has never compensated someone for a specific thing. He has helped with the rent or picked up flowers or something, but he hasn’t ever specifically gone into a place that was intentionally built with hand-jobs in mind and said ”I would be interested in this, can you give me a little break on it today, it is lunch” Except for his wedding chapel, because that is all a wedding chapel is: Wedding job!

Not being able to buy Ephedrine anymore (RL8)

You can't buy the Ephedrine anymore, which is a shame because it really helped Merlin getting a lot done at one point in his life. Now you can’t even get Pseudoephedrine, but you have to go to the pharmacist who is probably incompetent, you have to make a case for wanting Pseudophed and you have to prove that you are not making Crystal Meth. You get to show them a drivers license and they don’t want you breathing clearly.

John often relishes screaming a lecture at people standing behind a counter somewhere because they often can’t leave and they are asking John for something and John is yelling back at them what they need to know. He is not just a fan of Ephedrine, but he believes it is one of the things God made to make life on Earth more bearable, which is a whole motherfucking index card. Merlin doesn’t have anybody to talk about this anymore, it has become his secret shame.

John goes to a pharmacy, he paws through the antihistamines, he looks through the list of ingredients and yells ”Not a single one of those ingredients is an actual antihistamine, these are fake antihistamines and John’s body is not fooled!” Then he goes to the counter and asks for the Pseudoephedrine, but he has to fill out a card for it. He rants and raves and yells at every pharmacist who makes him go through this process. He wants the one thing that works, it is like withholding the Polio-vaccine!

You whore, why aren’t you helping me? Do you know what it is like to have allergies? Do you? You have it right back there, you can sell it! Give me the little red pill that makes life bearable! John never misused these drugs, but he only used them for clearing out his nostrils. Ephedrine is not a very strong drug compared to a crosstop, a white cross, amphetamine, or actual speed. Merlin had it for his condition and if you take a lot of those, now you are really driving a semi-truck across…

Merlin could get so angry right now that he could take another one of these and just be good and pissed. He had to watch it with Aderol and he stopped taking that stuff. John can’t look at any kind of medication and think ”Maybe if I only took two I could get this writing assignment done”, because that is a very slippery slope, but John does take one every day during allergy season, whether he wakes up with a stuffy nose or not, because it is an antihistamine and suppresses the histamine-response. You end up not going through the agony and that is why it is called prophylactic, which not only means intercourse with a rubber. Merlin got generic Cleratine and he can’t tell if it makes a difference, but it seems to help. Sometimes he will find himself standing in the kitchen, sneezing for minutes, like 16-18 sneezes, which is how he gets his bacon so flavorful.

Merlin retweeted his coffee place, Brown Owl Coffee (1131 Taraval, San Francisco, CA 94116, USA) this morning, because the lady at the place, Ariana, gave Merlin some Chinese herb that she got at Whole Foods. John wonders if Ariana is some kind of Ukrainian refugee or Russian bride, but Merlin believes that her parents are from China and Afghanistan. Merlin’s shrink has got him worried about the whole herb thing in the same way he got him worried about the whole generic drug thing. He says that the whole generic drug thing is the worst kind of horse-shit, because you don’t know if it is horse-shit.

Merlin has taken Ginseng but his shrink told him not to touch that stuff because you don’t know how much of anything is in there. It is totally irregular, which is the problem especially with antidepressants. Apparently you take one of those name-brand antidepressants and it may or may not work for a person, but it can work. For a lot of this stuff you don’t know what is in there and there is no way to check this stuff out. When you talk to some yoyo, being people who disagree with Merlin about this, they will tell you that generics are exactly the same as regular drugs. One of these have for example 0.01% of this active ingredient, but the other 99.99% John takes Pseudoephedrine, but he would also take an Ephedrine.

Merlin started on Ephedrine in 1986-1988 when he was in college because the place that he bought his malt liquor obviously also had bottles of Ephedrine. You could buy 50 little white unadulterated Ephedrines with 25mg for $2.99. Merlin made a spreadsheet a few years ago because he was getting concerned about the historical cost of dancing medicine. Now he has ADD medicine and doesn’t need to self-medicate anymore.

Like with the dancing medicine, Merlin thought they were simpatico, and now it turns out Merlin is fucking Elliott Smith and John is Mother Theresa. As Merlin was talking about the $2.99 bottle of Ephedrine in 1986, John was able to transport himself back to his 1986-self and it sounded like a good deal and you could get really high. 660 days ago Merlin took the time to collect all the receipts from having bought Ephedrine from pseudo-legal places over the years, he did a cost-calculation based on milligrams, and he was appalled about how expensive it had become. In 1988 Merlin was paying $0.06 for an equivalent unit and it went up to $1.46 in 2008. Right now it is a lot harder to get, but Merlin is glad he got the help.

John as the potential drug counselor, taking Mushrooms (RL8)

Merlin is learning a lot and he notes that John would have the basis for a very disturbing almanac or possible unlicensed medical practice because given the fact that John tends to know what’s right for people a lot of the time, John could put an ad in The Stranger and the Seattle Weekly, maybe he could leverage his Reverb thing for this, and he could start finding people with fundamental personality problems and potentially connect them up with the kind of drug-ish item and dose that would make it better or worse, depending on what they need.

John has long felt that psychedelic mushrooms are an underused mind-alterer in terms of solving people’s psychic trauma. A lot of people don’t know about mushrooms, either because they think they are some kind of hippie-drug, they think they make you vomit, or they are put off by the hallucinations or by the fact that your friends sometimes will turn into lizards or cartoon cats or bug-eyed reptilians behind a long-pig mask. But mushrooms in proper doses and used under correct adult supervision can be very good for people. John doesn’t mean to take them every day for a year, but take them once, think about it for a year and take it again. That is probably enough. It is an aid that goes in conjunction with counseling.

Speaking as somebody who has fucked with a lot of people who were on mushrooms, John can say that it is very hard to tell in advance who is going to benefit from being fucked with while on mushrooms and who is really going to be traumatized by that. John tends to be very gentle with people while they were on mushrooms unless they indicated that they really desired to be messed with. In most cases safewords are good, but most people taking mushrooms are also all in on mushrooms and there is a tendency to forget the safeword or ignore it. In the same way, one of the problems with drunk driving is that if you have 3-4 drinks, you think that you shouldn’t drive, but if you have 160 drinks, you may become imbued with believing that you are the greatest driver in the world.

People should not take mushrooms in a laboratory environment, but they should be out at La Push in Washington at the coast where you can watch the whales cresting. Rather than in a lab coat John should be in a furry sweater and a Cowichan hat. Merlin sees a Mamas & Papas getting-on-the-bus kind of fuzzy yak vest and a Dennis Hopper mustache. People will feel like they are in good hands and that there is a spiritual component to it because their guide has a yak vest and they don’t give a yak vest to anybody. John will walk them through being high and as they come down the other side, he will be ”Yeah, right? Am I right?” The next day they could talk about some of the stuff that went on and follow up a few times.

Drugs are not inherently bad, but drugs are just drugs. They drug you and do druggy things to you, but we have demonized them and in so doing we have done what we always do in paternalistic societies: There are a certain number of people that are too stupid to live, to stupid to make their own choices, and in order to protect those people from their own stupidity we remove the option from everybody else of doing things they are perfectly capable of doing without harming themselves. People under 21 are not allowed to drink in bars because 7% of them would not be able to handle it, whereas 93% would be fine and they would go watch a Rock show, have a beer and nothing bad is going to happen.

This is the thing with drugs, too: A certain percentage of people use them wrong and the vast majority of people who would use them on the sliding scale from good to neutral are prohibited from using them. Drugs used improperly or in excess are bad, just like television used in excess is bad or the Bible used in excess is bad, but these things aren’t inherently bad. This is what Timothy Leary said 40 years ago except he was such a stoner that he absolutely squandered the opportunity he was given. A lot of the drug gurus squander their opportunity by becoming drug dipshits. You shouldn’t say things like ”We are going to open everybody’s mind and it is going to be the end of war” because you just sound like an asshole.

We have this incredible resource of people like John who have used drugs, but who are not on drugs anymore, but the only way we as a culture can think of utilizing the collective wisdom of all these former drunks and drug addicts is in the recovery industry where these brilliant people who have used drugs have to publicly pretend that it was bad. Merlin says it is like camps that try to un-gay people: You can go there and you can act like you don’t like Show Tunes anymore, but that may not really stick. You can keep it up for a while, but you are still going to think about adhesives. John is not interested in doing drugs anymore.

The people who formerly used drugs have a collective wisdom that is worth more to the population at large than it is by being confined simply to talking to people who are also struggling with drugs. There is so much paranoia about drug use on the part of normals. For every kid who has a drug problem and who needs someone to step in and say ”Kid, you need to find help for your drug problem!” there are 5 kids who really should get high once, but they are scared of what is going to happen if they get high one time or they got high and it was bad and there was nobody there to help them figure out what was happening. Those 5 kids who have never gotten high or got high and had a bad experience grow up to be just as big a part of the problem in America as the kid who is struggling to not die of drugs. Doing drugs should be a phase, but if you are 45 years old and you are still getting high or drinking yourself to sleep every night, you should stop doing those things.

Merlin never got any great advice from his guidance counselor in high school, but they only gave him two pieces of advice: 1) he should probably join the Air Force, because the counselor himself had been in the Air Force and Merlin had that blond Air Force mustache. He would get free clothes and three squares a day, nothing wrong with that, and 2) Merlin should probably go to a community college because you get the same education at a community college than you get at any college in America, which is in part true and in part dangerously untrue.

If you go to a guidance counselor who is really into community colleges and the Air Force, you are going to get a certain kind of answer. His answer is not going to be that you have to see a couple of cartoon cats and have somebody talk to you about it. Thanks to the wisdom that John has gleaned over the years, often to his detriment, he has a lot to share, more than somebody who does his PSA to work off the sentence. The difference between Merlin’s dumbass Florida guidance counselor and John is that John highly recommends you join the Air Force, go to a community college, take some mushrooms and then come to talk to John. Until you have done those three things, you are not ready, but if you have some questions after doing those things, then John is somebody you can talk to.

A lot of people could just benefit from sustained holding of their breath. John goes to a lot of Mexican restaurants and looks in the bar portion as he is walking through to the restaurant portion and he sees all these gals in there with their big icy cocktails and thinks ”You just need to hold your breath as long as you can and then do it again!” Have you every thought about building models? There are so many ways to alter your states and every person has their own way.

Background checks (RL8)

John’s feeling on background checks is to go in and lay it on the line. You tell them the truth because they are not interested as much in what you are doing, but whether you are lying about it. Background checks date back to a time where the cultural norms were so stratified that the thread of blackmail was a real fear for people. If you were gay, if you had smoked a marijuana cigarette or if you had talked to a communist and that information came out, it could really be used against you because your fear of being revealed would cause you to make really bad choices under this person’s thumb. No-one can say anything about John in public that he hasn’t already said. He has no secret!

If somebody said ”Back in 1993 John Roderick rolled around in bed with a guy and they touched each other’s pipis”, John would say ”It was great! It was amazing! He was a dancer!” This is not a hypothetical, it is 100% true, and he was also African American and a very handsome guy. Right now he is probably Paula Abdul’s stirrup-pants advisor because he was actually a gay person and John was a pedestrian, an interloper, a young guy who was wondering what that was all about and what was going on there.

Merlin says that John has so much honesty to share with other people that he doesn’t want to put his candle under a bushel basket, unless he is a dancer. John has put his candle in a lot of places, but nowadays he has responsibilities, he has a bath coming up, the leaves are falling from the trees and somebody has to rake those. John could hire one of the guys who drives by his house every day in a truck with a big sign on the side saying ”Will rake your leaves”, but he wants to do that work himself because that is how he feels connected to the Earth.

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