RL84 - Pedagogical Sex Father

This week, Merlin and John talk about:

The Problem: John is a filbert or better, referring to

The show title refers to John getting up to the age where he is seen as sexually attractive to younger women and can finally take on the role as the pedagogical sex father that he has trained for all his life.

Raw notes
The segments below are raw notes that have not been edited for language, structure, references, or readability. Please do not quote these texts directly without applying your own editing first! These notes were not planned to be released in this form, but time constraints have caused a shift in priorities and have delayed editing draft-quality versions to a later point.

Germans being the largest group of immigrants to America (RL84)

Merlin is busy and has been recording podcasts already and feels a bit winded. John hears about Merlin’s podcasts from a lot of people. Merlin doesn’t like the word ”podcast”, although nobody has found a better one. When they started out John tried to separate it into two words, like ”pod cast”, and he got some angry letters from Germany, but he doesn’t know what the problem of the Germans is. Merlin appreciates that there is nobody who is more tolerant of the crap, the Scheiße, that they give them, than the Germans. They are very resilient.

Germans are far and away the disproportionally largest group of immigrants in America. They came over, they stayed quiet, they kept moving, they got out of the way, they got some farmland out in Minnetonka, they started making Schnitzel and they started integrating into the local population because they look just like English. Merlin would have guessed that the Irish were the largest group. They used ti be very discriminated against, there was a sign saying: ”No blacks, dogs or Irish!”

Eddie Van Halen once had a Charvel (guitar) with a picture of a leprechaun (Irish folklore creature) with a buster on it. There was the sticker that said ”No fat chicks!”, which now is very unpopular.

Merlin’s last name is German. The Germans come in, they work hard, they didn’t cause a lot of trouble, and they weren’t controversial, but blended in. The Irish and the Italians both immigrated to America because their countries were having food crises and it was a last ditch effort to go down to the docks, put their kids on the boat and say: ”Ciao! Go find food in America!”, whereas the German immigrated to America with more resources and were able to get on a wagon train to get out to Minnesota and North Dakota and claim their land. They also knew how to use guns so they could defend their land against the Irish who were coming a bit later.

Merlin likes the scene at the beginning of The Godfather II when Vito arrives at Ellis Island and there is a long panning shot across all the people waiting to be processed. That was wonderfully done and it looks like it was from 1900. Imagine how monkey balls it must have been in Manhattan to be cheek by jowl with all those different people as someone from Europe who is coming from a very homogeneous background.

It must have been so strange living right next to people from a different continent that you could talk to, particularly given that the Irish and Italians and a lot of the Germans all share a religion, they were all Catholics (John said cat-lickers). John’s dad grew up in Seattle on Capitol Hill and there were cat-lickers who went to cat-lick-school and there were pub-lickers who went to pub-lick school. Then there were the Jews in the middle of that and the Japanese heading the basketball team. His Seattle was fairly cosmopolitan with the main groups being Japanese, Jewish, Italian-Irish, and Episcopalian.

There is a kid in John’s daughter’s preschool who is 2 years old, but he looks 50. He looks like a shoe shine boy from old photographs of the Bowery. He is just a couple of leather boots and knee-high pants away from being a street ruffian down in the Five Points.

Merlin’s mom graduated from High School in 1954 and in her High School yearbook everybody looks 45-50 years of age. It is an interesting mix for 1956 (?) with a lot of Jewish people, not so many black people, but they were there. It was more integrated in the aggregate than Merlin would have expected.

Redlining and racial aspects of the culture in Seattle (RL84)

In Seattle in particular the great migration of African Americans came during the war, coming from the South to work in the Boeing airplane factory. Before that there was a tight-knit vibrant black community that was such a minority that there was not really much racism against them because the threat that white people perceived were the Chinese who were flooding the city, so there were anti-Chinese riots.

The blacks were a middle-class community. There was a prominent guy who owned a waterfront hotel and built a large house on Capitol Hill and his family came up to join him. He basically built a whole neighborhood. Before the war there was not a lot of prejudice against blacks, but it was all directed at the wrong kind of Asian, and after the war all bets were off

Until the early 1970s there were Redline laws in Seattle, meaning that black families couldn’t live north of a certain street or even walk around after a certain hour. In 1964 John’s parents bought a house in a Redline neighborhood. His dad knew his banker, as you did at the time if you were a prominent white guy, and he recommended against buying in that neighborhood, basically saying they were conspiring to turn that neighborhood into a shit hole, and his dad had to twist his banker’s arm to agree. Even he couldn’t easily get a mortgage there because there was a city-wide plan to turn this neighborhood into a bog.

When Merlin’s mom was taking real estate classes, both in Ohio and later in Florida, there were classes in steering, which was similar to Redlining. Banks would take a map and draw red lines. If you were in this area you wouldn’t get a mortgage. Can you imagine being treated like that? Steering meant to not put your hand on the black family’s shoulders and move them over to Clifton. It wasn’t a legal thing, but it was very much a cultural thing. It is like the scene in Animal House: ”Ken, Lonny, I would like you to meet Jugdish and Mohammet!” John is very surprised to learn that there were any classes in Florida pertaining to real estate licensing. It was education by charts.

Hans’ Sausage and Delicatessen (RL84)

Just recently John has found in the bedroom community of Burien (South of Seattle) and place called Hans’ Sausage and Delicatessen, owned by Hans and Marianne Stewinm which is a German Deli. John was driving by the other day and noticed that the building looks like a big Edelweiß, it looked like the Eagle’s Nest, but it was in between two auto shops. There were all these Germans in there, talking their German talk, and at the deli counter there were 80 different wursts.

John asked for a wurst sampler and the guy cut 3 slices of every wurst he had. When he came to the tongue wurst he held it up and asked John if he wanted the tongue, which he declined, but he included every other kind of wurst and John has been working through it every day. It is not marked, so ”guess the wurst” is the game! John highly recommends people to find the German deli in their neighborhood and find the wurst sampler because it is truly a journey in meat. Any time John sees a Pimento Loaf or a Bologna (Mortadella) that has pistachios in it he is a little wary, but this stuff is either made there or the guy has some connection back in Heidelberg.

Being in Burien, this shop is perfectly outside of the orbit of hipsters who otherwise would sweep in and ruin it, but they haven’t found it. There is a shelf with 24 kinds of mustard. John asked the little Hausfrau about it, she tapped on one that had been packaged in a little beer stein, and told him that this was the hot stuff. She recommended some of them and John was loading up on mustard while he was there, which was pretty hot.

Merlin loves finding stuff like that. He might have gone for the tongue wurst. A lot of this stuff like Bologna has been bastardized or dumbed down, it is still going to be Schnauzen and Butts, but you can get a pretty good version. Merlin draws the line at Hedgies (?) because it looks like it is mocking you with how much weird shit is in it. If you order a hot dog you are probably eating plenty of tongue, but this was rough-chopped and formed into a sausage that was 6 inches across, so it looked like ground bark if ground bark was made of tongues.

It was rough-chopped to the extend that there were plenty of taste-buds visible in your giant log of tongues that had been cut out of these beats and put into a lawnmower and then fed into a sewer pipe and served on a manhole cover. This seemed like pro-level. John has to ease into that, he will eat liver wurst all day, and he will keep going back to this place until his whole house is decorated in Baron München flags (probably Baron Münchausen).

As John was walking out with his big bag of meat he turned around and asked the guy: ”Did I miss anything? You tell me what I am missing!” and the guy turned around and grabbed a big string of Landjäger off the wall, little dried jerky sausages, like upscaled Slim Jim that are tied together in a string of sausages. You put them in your pocket and pull it out, bite off a hunk and put it back in your pocket. John had seen them during his travels in Germany. Out on the country everybody has one in their shirt pocket. They keep them around because who doesn’t want a bite of delicious German pepperoni throughout the day.

John purchased a fairly long string of Landjäger, but when he got home and started carrying one around, chewing on it, he realized that he underordered by 1000% and next time he goes he will stock up and his Christmas tree is going to be decorated with strings of Landjäger. It is the perfect meat food.

Merlin just had a Dirty South because he was in a hurry. It is a hot dog with chili and Coleslaw and barbecue sauce and he had to eat it fast. It is really wide, it spreads out the bun, and you should eat it with a fork, but now Merlin hates himself.

Younger people’s perception of John changing with age, becoming a character he never wanted to be (RL84)

Since John has stopped eating sugar, pasta, and rice, he has experienced a total transformation (see RL81). He is really enjoying every aspect of it, but there is this nagging feeling that he has become of one those middle-aged men who is about to say: ”I have never been in such good shape in my life! I have never felt so young!” He does not want to go into his middle age with a kayak on his roof rack.

This morning he woke up and was inspired to put on some Wide Wale Corduroys. He has been wearing Thin Wale cords over the last 20 years, and by transitioning to Wide Wale cords he feels like a sitcom father, like he should be the father in a sitcom where a UFO alien is trying to pass as a normal High School kid. He is living with a family, he is a handsome kid, he has a couple of good catch phrases, but he gets into a lot of trouble because he is a UFO. Like 3rd Rock From The Sun or Alf or the one where Bigfoot lived with them (maybe Bigfoot and Wildboy).

For 25 years John has been afraid of ending up like John Lithgow in The World According To Garp. Of all the actors in this movie, the one that resembles John physically the most is John Lithgow. He also doesn’t want to be like Michael Caine in Hannah And Her Sisters. He doesn’t want to become the neutered older guy with the weird haircut whose glasses are too big and who looks a bit like a lesbian. Some guys in their 50s start looking a bit shiny and a bit like a lady. The last time John saw The Psychedelic Furs he thought that Richard Butler looked like someone’s grandmother. He used to be so scary and cool! It was probably not what he was shooting for.

In the last several weeks the number of conversations John had about his food and his health have skyrocketed, it is 50% of what he talks to people about now, and they claim they are very interested although John is embarrassed about it because he has nothing else to say and he has no other interests right now except his food intake and the energy that his body is turning that food into. He used to talk about world domination, striking fear into the hearts of villagers, and now he is just like: ”Quinoa!”

The other day Merlin went to pick up his daughter at school and it went through his head that he should have worn something else. He looked so silly because he really needs a haircut, he hadn’t shaved in a couple of days, he had taken a nap, and he had pulled on a pair of 34/30s that really had the full effect with blown-out knees and a blown-out pocket to where his plaid underwear was sticking out, and for some reason he wipes his right hand on his leg a lot which has created a patch of former hand dander on his pants.

He didn’t put on the purple high top tennis shoes, but the Keen walking shoes everybody made fun of. On top of that a Fantastic Four shirt, the old one, and a backpack. He is almost 47! Because he doesn’t like to overthink this stuff, the next day he picked her up he wore Khaki pants and a pair of dark-brown Chukka boots by Clarks and when he asked his daughter what she thought she said that he didn’t look like himself.

When John went to Bumbershoot he was wearing his coolest white linen pants because he was going to be interviewed on stage a couple of times and it was a hot day and he wanted to represent some white linen on the fairgrounds. Everybody else in Seattle was going to wearing the exact same outfit with Levi’s 535 jeans. They took some pictures of John and posted it on the BrooklynVegan website, which always treats him really well and they are a great website of Indie Rock fans.

The first comment was: ”Nice Dockers, dude!” It no longer matters what John wears, but to a 26-year old they look like Dockers. From now until eternity any 26-year old is going to be able to slay him by saying: ”Nice Dockers, dude!” There is no arguing, there is no saying: ”Get a life!”, but it is the end of the story. As much as John wants to find out where this guy lives and while he is sleeping show up at his miserable studio apartment in Williamsburg that he is sharing with 4 people, kick down the door in the middle of the night, tell his three screaming roommates to shut up and sit in the corner while he flamethrows him with a World War II era flamethrower and as he is sitting there screaming and burning, just be like: ”Nice Dockers, dude!”, that would be a waste of his resources.

John doesn’t want to go the rest of his life and increasingly trying to wear purple nylon parachute pants just to avoid the ”Nice Dockers, dude!” comment, and still be completely vulnerable to it. He could be wearing Harlequin pants, Pagliacci pants, and some 26-year old would still come up and say: ”Nice Dockers, dude!”, which is shorthand for: ”You are too old to be here on BrooklynVegan!”

Merlin thinks that he and John become non-combatants in the game of youth and one reason why middle-aged guys get so fucking weird is that it suddenly dawns on them that young girls are not thinking about them, and if they do they are not thinking about that, unless it is a freaky gold-digger situation with a creepy old guy who wants a place to live. Cool girls are not looking at them anymore, and for a lot of guys that is extremely hard to accept. Many actors and especially actresses in movies who were once very beautiful have lost track of what they actually look like now. They lipstick is looking more orange, everything is clashy, they have vein-y feet sticking out of their shoes. Good for them for effort, but it is okay to wear something more age-appropriate.

There is a strange component in women in that they are inexplicably attractive to younger women because they have some ineffable set of father-like talents that young women admire, and John does not allow that they are not continuing to look at him, but they are looking at him in a different way. When he was 24 they looked at him only with contempt and derision, while now he is finally blooming into the pedagogical sex father role that he has trained so long for. In his early 20s he was forever-alone!

His own vanity was always complicated, but it is so much more complicated now that he is conscious of the fact that he is sexually attractive to younger women, and a lot of older guys are exploiting that fact and are predatory about that. As you are getting older you do still feel young, which his dad always told him even at age 87 and John found that really pathetic and wanted his dad to be old. Now he is standing in the doorway of it and he doesn’t want to be predatory, but he wants to be appreciated and he wants to also be age-appropriate. If he is going to have pedagogical relationships he wants them to be appropriate and he wants everybody to agree that he is a sexually appealing middle-aged man who knows some things. Merlin agrees that a lot of women are attracted to John.

John has described himself as a young person being more or less an uncooked scallop that was left in the sun and those were hard dues-paying times because inside he knew that he was a Swashbuckler and that all these young dark intense guys were just empty shells, they were peanuts in the mixed-nut can of life while John was a filbert or better. Socially there are norms where a middle-aged guy who is appealing to younger women is also appealing to older women and everybody is mad at him already for other reason, but with this component added in everybody gets extra mad. The silver fox is a caricature and a lot of guys who grow into their looks and their appeal are ultimately not very interesting and it is an exploitative trip.

John wants to enjoy being appreciated. He spends a lot of time saying: ”Oh Miss, I don’t think that you are really in love with me, but I think that you have unresolved…” - ”Aha” and she walks across the room and goes home with the guy with the motorcycle while John is sitting there, trying to explain to her what her real problem is. Now he will say: ”I accept your gaze!”, but then he looks across the room and there is a 37-year old woman staring at him with the ”Ahaaa” look on her face - ”What? I am just talking to my friend!” These silver fox medals were hard-won!

A lot of people want to learn and John wants to teach. He is a free radical that is going around and connecting with people’s neurons, clicking in where there is an open space. John should hold seminars, although he doesn’t feel it is transferrable knowledge, but you have to put the hours in. Some people who are famous for being beautiful when they are young grow out of their looks, they forget what they look like and they turn into these handbags or Landjägers as they get older, and then there are people like John who grow into their looks as they get older and go from looking like an uncooked scallop to looking like a mighty fur standing on the top of a cliff.

One of the stereotypical gender problems is that older fascinating women who have grown into their looks are not widely attractive to young, callow men, but there is a certain component to sex roles where fascinating older men are attractive to young women because young women are more interesting than young men. Who wants to learn more in this world than young women, and who has to teach more than old men?

This is the subject of so many angry editorials in Ms. Magazine, it is the subject of a lot of late-20th century novels, it is a trope, something that people are mad at films about: ”George Clooney is 69 years old! Why is the leading lady always 26?” Sean Connery is 90 (actually 83) and they pair him with that Welsh Lady (Catherine Zeta-Jones) who is living with Michael Douglas. That is their actual relationship and there is a 25 year age gap. John says that they have never talked about this topic because it makes Merlin uncomfortable.

Merlin hasn’t thought of himself as a silver fox, but that is probably because he is happily married and when he gets the approving looks he unconsciously deflects them. Merlin thinks that is not true. He doesn’t get those. He is much more attractive to men in their late-20s, he is like the Marilyn Monroe of nerds, and that is awesome! He just can’t take that much libido in his life and he is so grateful. How do you even do it? It probably is always there, like when you went to the bathroom and you have to go again because the libido builds right back up like a great roiling cyst.

John at a political fundraiser (RL84)

Last night John went to a political fundraiser cocktail party because he is trying to get more and more involved in local politics, and the more he gets involved, the more he realizes that even Seattle and Washington State politics are a completely gnarly realm of blood oath vendetta. Half the people he met were in the olive oil business. You make allegiances and alliances with people, later on you regret them. It is all left up there, it is all progressives against progressives, but they go for the jugular!

There was a buffet and although John can’t eat any of the starchy stuff there were cream-cheese-filled green peppers. He gobbled a handful of them, but two peppers in he realized that they were cream-cheese-filled jalapeños that have not been completely divested of their seeds. He plowed through a baker’s dozen of these until he realized that they were spice grenades and he couldn't believe they were serving these at an event for normal people. It is the kind that doesn’t hit you for a while, but it is really hitting him today and it feels like he is sitting on a porcupine, which is part of growing old and it is keeping him in the moment.

As you are merely getting older it is easy to overlook how quickly everything escalates. It is not just subtly a little different, but you don’t even have time to keep up with how many things are changing. John can’t see, he can’t eat, he can’t drink coffee after 9am, he can’t climb stairs, he feels like walking out on an ice flow and just setting sail, but then he realizes that he has 40 more years of this and more.

He walked around the party like mid-period John Wayne, holding his arms out a little bit in case he needs to draw his iron. Maybe he is just really drunk in a dim room and doesn’t want to walk into a wall? He stayed all the way to the end and was with a crowd of local liberal activists that are engaged, rich mafiosi and everybody was shitfaced, not just on liquor, but on pills and really expensive liquor, which is fucking terrible! These bottles have hand-made labels, this is one of 100 bottles of this cask, and when it is gone it is gone.

It was a fundraiser, but it was very early in the game and it was a strategic meeting. The candidate went around and pointed out all the other elected officials that were in the room and probably 70% of the 70 there were elected officials in Washington state, including high muckamucks like prosecutors and big wheels. Then there were 20 local normals and taste- and money-developer people. The candidates all bail, the politicians have to get out of there, and then the rest of them were sitting around, like: ”Oh, you are the guy who runs that?”

Everybody was fucked up and little by little the peeled off until there was just a group around the table left and it had turned into a planning session, except everybody was so fucking loaded. John was the only one who was sober, and he became conscious that his body language made him look like the most fucked-up of all of them. He was slouching in his chair, leaning on the table and half on his hand with one foot up on a potted plant, his eyes half-closed, slurring his words almost, partly in sympathetic imitation of everybody else, what Merlin calls the contact speech impediment.

John is most comfortable when everybody’s inhibitions are so far in their rear-view mirror that they are seconds away from just tumbling into bed with each other. He was wondering why he was sounding like John Wayne at the 1968 commencement: ”Who is against Vietnam? I don’t understand it! How could you be against America?” That is who John really is and the rest of the time his clearer speech and his clearer maine (?) is all just straight-world drag. What he really wants to be doing is have one hand down the front of his pants and be yelling at somebody about the school district.

In 99% of the time people get shitfaced and all they have to talk about is their record collection, but this group of guys are talking about millions of dollars and realms of influence, and the more fucked up they get, the more they want to talk about the world that they live in, a world of: ”The guys from Bellagio want to come up and make an investment in this bridge project” - ”What did you just say? Why do they want to make an investment in this bridge project?” - ”Oh, because there is a lot of money in these big construction projects!” - ”Of course there is!” The more drunk these guys get, the more interesting the conversation gets because their guard drops and you are talking about some crazy shit that is never going to make it into the newspaper unless it is the topic of a federal indictment. John can’t tell if those events are nights well-spent.

John trying to get more and more involved in local politics (RL84)

Over the last year of getting more and more involved in local politics he will feel at a certain point that he is out of his depth and he is not used to that. Growing up with politicians all around he got used to interacting at a surface level with this kind of business and he has made the mistake of feeling like that if you can talk the talk and if you are chummy with everybody, then all these deals just get made and everybody wins.

Looking at his dad’s and his uncle’s life and the people he knows who felt like they had been misdealt time and time again: His dad always felt he was not ruthless enough. At the moment when the deal was done and he was shaking hands there was always somebody there with a knife in the gut and in the end the thing gets taken away or the percentage gets reduced. Someone want to insert one really minor little thing that is going to change the nature of this deal and take everybody for a ride.

Now John is tipping his toes in the water in his mid-40s after years of working in the scummy music business, time and time again feeling that his nature is such that when somebody says: ”Alright, great! Here is the deal!” he relaxes too soon and goes: ”Great, we got a deal! Shake on it!” and then he is not watching out when two weeks later an invoice comes for setup-charges and all this stuff.

As John dips into local politics it realizes that what has seemed to him in 30 years of reading the daily newspaper as just a simple matter, you get the guys from the Waterfront and from the Shipping Companies and you put them all in a room and you strike a deal, except the guys from Bellagio have an interest in the project and all of a sudden there is a guy from the Army Corps of Engineers here and what the hell is he doing here? Nobody is acknowledging him, but the chairman looks over at him and he imperceptibly nods and then the chairman calls a recess. All this type of stuff where you think: ”Wow, wait, what? I thought we had a deal!”

John feels out of his depth and people are starting to tell him that there is something in this for him if he would back this project. John’s perception is pretty clear-eyed that he has no influence in Seattle beyond that he is a guy whose name people have heard, but people on the other side of this door are starting to appeal to his vanity and tell him that if he came out in public and would endorse this candidate or this idea, then there will be a seat at the table for him. If his candidate gets elected and John is at the table, then there is opportunity for him to have input.

John is not seeking that kind of patronage, he doesn’t want a government job, but he has been identified by people as somebody who is seeking influence, or somebody who wields a certain influence. Everybody who plays this game at a high level knows that people who want to wield influence don’t ever get enough. The really great politicians could be making a fortune if any one of them just got a job at a major law firm, they could go down to Bogle and Gates and be making $350.000 a year walking in the door, but instead they are working for $110.000 a year as a government guy because when they walk into the door they are a Rock star everywhere they go and that is the pay: They are powerful people!

John is one of the people who would sacrifice money in order to have influence, and he has done that his whole life: He wants the power and the recognition. The guys who say: ”You take the power and the recognition and I will take 10% off everything that gets built in this county!” are the guys who take a helicopter everywhere. John is starting to see guys coming up and saying: ”We are really glad that you are here and that we can count on your voice in this!” - ”Wow, hold on! I came to this because I am interested, but I don’t have endorsed anything!” - ”Your endorsement matters and if we get it, then you are invited to a more inner room!” - ”I want to be in that inner room!”

Merlin says that is like when you join a mob or a gang and the first thing you have to do is kill somebody so they have something on you. They may be able to offer you the prospect of something that sounds really good and maybe it eventually will pay off, but now you owe them. John is confronting the fact that he is very comfortable being in charge and that he is entering a world where he is not in charge. It is not a corporate structure where the rules are clear and where there is a certain amount of intrigue, but there is also redress.

This is a world where you are not in charge, the rules are obtuse, and there is no redress of any kind. If you get 99% of the way into a deal and you get boxed out of it, what, are you going to sue them? First of all, they have thought of that already, and second of all there were aspects of the deal that are all happening on a handshake and what are you going to say? ”Hey, I was in on that and then they kicked me out!” - ”We never heard of this guy!” It is like every heist movie and it is how politics are played and it is an aspect of a way cities are run.

Some of these guy are tougher than John that when they went out into the parking lot, they do have pinky rings that are meant to cut you, but they also have bodies buried all over the county and John is fresh blood, the new guy who is sniffing around and who likes to be involved in this local government and who wants to make live better for the citizens of his county and he would like to be engaged in the process. ”Yeah man! Come on in! Have a seat at the table!” and the smell of blood is in the room. It makes John want to figure it out!

John has watched young politicians that he knew personally become middle-aged politicians around here and he has watched their gaze get flintier and their smile get more of an element of rigor mortis. Something is hard about them! When you look at candid photographs of national politicians, like a US Senator that has been there for 25 years, you can see the death that is on them and the capacity for evil that is right behind their eyes and you go: ”Fuck!” Even the gentlest and friendly ones like Barney Frank or Maria Cantwell are terrifying wild animals. Their body has been stressed so many times that it becomes like a hardened steel.

There is a picture of Ted Bundy taken in the court room where he made a ferocious screaming face and he had to be doing it with the knowledge that he was begin photographed. Serial killers never let their guard down that way, but he was performing this ”What does evil look like?” on his face. It really is a terrible picture! John sees that same scream on the placid faces of CEOs and high-ranking government people because these are the people who say: ”Well, 10.000 soldiers are going to die during this invasion, but that is the price of establishing this beach head!” - ”Right, I am not at the point where I could consign 10.000 people to die and feel confident that it was necessary!”, and without that you are just food in that room.

They can smell it and they smell it on John right now. He is food, but they don’t know how much food he is or how tasty he is. Part of being a politician is being able to quickly size up what it is somebody wants, is likely to want, and what the minimum amount is that you could speculatively give to them to bring them over to your side. When they look at John, their perception is: ”He doesn’t want a concession of any kind. He is not trying to get a speed bump put in on his street, he is not trying to get his neighborhood school to have staggered opening terms. This guy is here because he wants to be a player!”

They have a different way of dealing with people who want to be players than dealing with their constituents or people who are trying to get a deal for their union. That is why John is nervous because showing up at these events wanting to be a player is like showing up at a hobo campfire and saying: ”Hey, what about us hobos, right? Right, guys?” You are not a player because if you were a player you would not be showing up here, looking to be a player, but they would be coming to you.

One time John was sitting at a table with his dad and his dad’s friend judge Jack Tanner and in the room walked San Francisco mayor Willie Brown. This was a dinner party to celebrate the life and career of Jack Tanner and Willie Brown is at the time the mayor of San Francisco and he has flown up to this dinner to pay his respects to the judge. He swooshes into the room and his $1500 loafers aren’t even across the threshold of the carpet before he is shaking people’s hands and kissing women on the cheek and slapping people on the back.

He made his way across this room that is full of federal judges and senators and government and big business people, and he touches every single person in the room. This was one of these moments where John is just agog: ”Look at him, he is beautiful!” and John’s dad was like: ”Holy shit!” and he has worked for Kennedy and has been watching politicians all his life. Tanner with a smirk on his face just went: ”Yeah, I would look pretty good, too, in a $7000 suit!” and Tanner is just furious how Willie Brown is working his room, but he is also proud because Brown is here for him.

What would that be like to live like that all the time and never be able to put your sunglasses down and never put a hoodie up and run from the backstage door to the limo. He was not even in California, but he was in Tacoma doing this, and he was going to shake hands all the way to the door of The White House. It is astonishing to see and to think: ”That could be me! That is me! I am just not doing that right now because I am too cool and I am really into Radiohead right now, but I could be the mayor of San Francisco!”

Now John’s thrift store loafers are over the threshold of the carpet and he is standing there, saying to himself: ”Do I really want to go into this room with these people? Is this the next thing for me? Or do I go to the library right now and brush the crumbs off my wide-wale corduroys and just sink into my easy chair?” His thrift store loafers are actually very expensive loafers that he found for a very good deal because they have a patina already, but he is a 45 year old amateur in an arena where people have been sharpening their swords and battling with each other real battles all the years that John was signing T-shirts.

When John gets back out of the ego realm and the vanity realm and thinks why human beings are here on Earth, then all he comes to is: Science, space travel, figure stuff out, send out probes, go to other planets, make big signals, sweep the sky, together with a combination of: Do the best we can to colonize the Earth in a way that is aesthetic and sustainable! Supertrain it, Gaia-bomb it, make it as perfect a base as you can and then probe the universe! What is John here to do if not to do that here, to make his corner of this ball better and how to do that without having hundreds of millions of dollars of resources, but with your primary resources being your personality, your intellect, and your industry.

Government is certainly one of a handful of viable ways to make a profound difference and John is drawn to it. The power-aspect of it is his weakness, but it is also power that he would hope to use to Gaia-bomb the little corner of it that he could affect. It is the altruistic core of why John thinks his life has value. How do you do it without having the ring destroy you while watching it destroy people who you recognize are even stronger than you are? Yet you can look at someone and say: ”Wow, that person really made a difference!” So many things were the product of someone’s imagination and industry and dealing.

Someone needs to stride ahead and say: ”Follow me!” and to whatever degree our contemporary idea of what democracy looks like is suspicious of the person who says ”Follow me!” John believes in that model and he follows people all the time and everybody wants to!

Supertrain (RL84)

It is not outside of John’s realm of capabilities to put together a team of people who develop a prototype of a refrigerator-sized appliance that sits next to your refrigerator in everyone’s home and that is like a home-Supertrain and you feed your garbage into this box and it refines it in your home!

Uber and other ride-sharing companies (RL84)

John is watching it happen now with the Uber car service in Seattle. Everybody is scared and the taxi and limo commissions of every major city in the United States of America are a very powerful lobby. Talk about being in the olive oil business! Those are some tough guys and they are have been paying some usurious taxes and the insurance is crazy and all those little medallions that they have to staple onto the hood of their car! Now Uber comes along and goes: ”We have got a good idea! What about if everybody just did this from their smartphones!”

There are also those pink mustache cars that are for ride sharing (by Lyft), like Mary Kay cars. John would not join that service because of those, not even if they had a beard. Do not put fake facial hair on your car! We are already giving cars too much humanity! Do not start dressing them like they are little dogs!

Seattle also has a car2go system where some company bought 10.000 of those little Smart cars, painted them blue and white and put them all over the city. If you join the system you are just walking along, you discover on your phone that there is one around the corner, you get in it, you drive it somewhere, you get out and you leave it and probably there will be another one when you need a car again later. John and Jason Finn were thinking that one of these days they should get 80 people and drive all the car2go cars out to the very edge of the county and have a 15-passenger van drive them back into town and do it again until 150 of those cars are all parked out on a farm somewhere. That would be hilarious!

John can see the taxi and limo people and the city government struggling and being violently opposed to this interloper, but on the other hand he watches his friends use Uber, thinking it is a genius evolution of the concept and every taxi in the country should be summonable by cell phone. Merlin will pay Uber and pay twice as much because it will show up, while calling for Taxi around where he lives doesn’t mean a lot. There is a central dispatch place, they have no skin in the game to actually show up, and if whoever gets called out finds a fare along the way it is way cheaper and more efficient for them to just grab that fare than drag their ass out to Merlin’s neighborhood.

John looking at cars online (RL84)

John has been looking for a car for 8 years and here is what he has open in tabs: A 1987 4-wheel drive GMC Rally 1-ton van for $6700, a 1967 Chevy Suburban with price unlisted and an Alaska phone number and his name is Shane, a 1965 Plymouth Fury III 4-door where the word original is spelled ”original”, a 1965 (Chevy) Corvair 4-door, a 1967 Volvo Amazon Wagon 122S, a 1980 Cadillac Broam red with a white vinyl top and a white leather interior, and a 1967 Cadillac Fleetwood 60 Special for $5500. Those are the cars that he is considering today.

All of those are going to be pretty bad with gas and John is going to put gas in them with a pail. Merlin thinks the turbo creepiness of a giant white van is appealing, and it is absolutely one of the coolest Zombie-apocalypse cars he has ever seen. It has a welded steel roof-rack and you could put a .50 caliber machine gun on top of it with no problem! But the 1965 Plymouth is the kind of car that if there was an impact on the outskirts of town and people would be gathering around it and there were a couple of national guardsmen there and there was a half-buried glowing meteor and a little door opened at the top, right about that moment 4 guys in black suits driving the 1965 Plymouth would drive up, all wearing sunglasses, and no-one there would remember anything having happened.

Merlin suggests John to offer his rich political buddies that if he gets a little bit of funding he will buy all those cars and he will have a cool car service where you can have a cool car and pick it up around town. He could put a pink Hitler mustache on it and it would be the taxi that you can finally hail.

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