RL85 - Steamin’ John

This week, Merlin and John talk about:

The Problem: It’s just a long circle of brother-in-laws, referring to people ”taking care of everything” when you play a tour in some countries, but it is just their brother-in-laws making money from it.

The show title refers to a nickname John’s friends in High School were trying to establish on him after having caught him lying about being in the shower instead of in the bath tub.

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 Please do not quote these texts directly without applying your own editing first!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

John begin sick from the pollen in the air (RL85)

John is sick and he sounds awful, but he might be playing it up a little bit. These are the first words he has spoken all day. He is very susceptible and the North West has a lot of spores. Anywhere there is verdancy there shall be spores! It is like Spock set off a Gaia bomb except it is of spores. John sounds like Mason Reese in a commercial from Robitussin.

”My Bologna has a first name, it is O-S-C-A-R” (from a classic Oscar Mayer commercial) He is probably a junkie who lives in a pumpkin patch. Merlin finds John sounds adorable and wishes for John Roderick Babies on Saturday Night Live. Mel Brooks and Marlo Thomas should be in the nursery when John would be a baby. ”I am very definitely a girl!” - ”Boys keep theirs and girls don’t!”

John was hoping that by not eating carbohydrates he would have developed super-immunity to disease and all his health problems and his mental heath problems were all just a product of eating sugar, but in fact the sugar was probably a bollwerk against it. Merlin doesn’t think so and John could have gotten way sicker way sooner. John is doing everything right, he bathes a lot, he uses a lot of hydrogen peroxide, and he cut out all the noodles.

Back in the old Punk Rock days when the junkies couldn’t find heroin and they couldn’t get methadone in the street from junkies who were getting methadone and then selling it, their third line of defense was drinking hot mugs of Theraflu that they had themselves prescribed to help them with their sickness. They said it was just like heroin, which is why John would never take it, but now he feels like it is end times.

Merlin always was a Triaminicin kid, but like Theraflu, all it is really doing is forestalling the pain and it is stopping you up. John believes that when you are taking something like Theraflu you are not getting the poison out and he has spent the last 20 years not taking medicine of any kind, not even Aspirin. Lately he has grown soft, particularly when he is looking forward to doing a podcast with Merlin, and we was going to take some Theraflu to get his stuff taken care of.

John being on a low-carb diet (RL85)

John opened two cans of progresso chicken noodle soup today and he ate the soup and left the noodles in the bowl because he is not eating carbohydrates (see RL80).

John’s band practicing (RL85)

John’s band has been rehearsing. It has been long time since they had used their practice space and it had become damp and the first day it had a mildew smell and John wanted to get a dehumidifier, but they are hard to find. When Merlin was a kid you couldn’t always count on air conditioning and needed a dehumidifier. For every 50 humidifiers in the store there is one dehumidifier, but John found one, which is suspiciously both a humidifier and dehumidifier. Now he is dehumidifying, but it is too late for him.

John regretting learning 6 years of French in school (RL85)

For Merlin it is either this or getting his ass kicked at Uno because his daughter is really good. Uno is a game that is best played on a train in France and if you are playing it in an apartment in San Francisco it is only half the story. John was not a game kid, but they did play Mille Bornes because in Junior High his French teacher Mrs. Elsie did not speak French, had been to France on her honeymoon. They never spoke French in class, but they did play Mille Bornes and watch The Red Balloon, which only has one word in it.

John went to Anchorage Public Schools and he took French instead of shop because his parents were adhering to a 1940s idea of what was important in life and if John took French he would go to Yale and be the ambassador to Yugoslavia, while if he took shop he would wear a pack of cigarettes rolled up in the sleeve of his white T-shirt, have a duck’s ass haircut, driving around town in a jalopy, getting in fights with the cops. John had 6 years of French in school and he regrets every minute of it because that means he forewent 6 years of small engine repair.

If he had started taking lawnmower repair in 7th grade he would be Elon Musk right now, building a space craft, or he would be able to build Supertrain on his own without any help from anybody. Instead he is sitting here, having forgotten how to conjugate all but the most basic 5 verbs and he knows just enough French to solve the New York Times Sunday Crossword Puzzle. He would pick it right up again if you dropped him somewhere French, but the same would be true if you dropped him in Saudi Arabia: He would pick up Arabic pretty fast, too, without the 6 years of Arabic he didn’t take.

Learning a foreign language is mostly unnecessary, which is mostly true for English speakers. If you want to be a world traveler, you get out there and figure it out. You talk softer and get in close, let your eyes do the talking.

Merlin felt old a few weeks ago because his daughter is in regular school now and once that happens you are deluged with all these offers of other things you can do. She is taking an engineering course, she is playing soccer, pretty soon she is going to be an annoying overscheduled kid. She could take Mandarin at the age of 5 and Merlin was of two minds. Everybody tells him that you should learn Spanish which you can do in an afternoon. The letters always sound the same and if you can get your pronunciation correct on day one you will be fine reading anything.

If you believe in the future world created in the movie Looper, everybody is living in China in future times. Until John was 2 years old he had a Japanese nanny and she and her husband both lived with them, back in the late 1960s before Japan was an industrial powerhouse when Japanese people would still come to America and act as nannies instead of as industrial production design coaches. John was learning Japanese until they got deported because they were here on student visas and John’s parents didn’t have the power to keep them in the country.

This means that John has lost his opportunity of growing up speaking Japanese and he is still angry about the nation of Japan and about the American government and he is going to crush them both when he will become a supervillain. Overstaying your student visa is something that everybody gets busted for, there is not much you can do about that. It is the backdoor to bust white people for their unreflected privilege.

John planning to sign his daughter up for karate (RL85)

John is going to sign his daughter up for Karate lessons at a young age. Karate is no longer even a fashionable martial art and martial arts are an extremely nerdy thing for a person to pursue in High School or Junior High. You are automatically relegated to the Dungeons & Dragons room off of the band room at lunch time and you don’t walk around in those toe shoes for long until you get branded an outlier.

John is trying to shepherd his daughter through her difficult teenage years by casting her in iron as a nerd early on when it just seems like a fun exercise and then when she is 14 years old and develops a bosom she will just be wearing Kendo garments and the cheerleaders will not want her at the party. After all that suffering through High School of being a nerdy martial arts outcast, she will be like Scarlett Johansson in the movie The Avengers by the time she turns 24. He will make her a nerd, but she will also get self-confidence and is not going to care that she is an outcase, which is the perfect way to enter adulthood.

John is going to find her a Karate teacher who will only speak to her in Japanese, which will be triple-threaded: Nerddom protects you in High School, counter to what we always think of it, but he is not going to teach her Magic the Gathering because he doesn’t want her to be retarded. Martial arts is hard work, it is fantastic, and it comes with all the attendant Buddhism that John barely understands.

Merlin’s daughter goes to school for how many hours a day to learn how to follow orders, that is what Kindergarten is: Learning to sit still and to not hit people. She took a few weeks of a pretty generic version of random Krate, which was pretty impressive: You got a schedule, you have to be respectful, it has all of this stuff that Merlin could never give her, but they stopped because it was at 3:30pm which was terrible timing. Merlin wants her to learn Wing Chun, which is a really cool mostly hand-and-foot type of Kung Fu.

With Taekwondo you can literally break everybody’s bones, but it doesn’t look nearly as cool. Eventually when she is wearing her Dojo to the single’s bar and somebody remarks on her big boobies, she can break exactly a specific bone in somebody’s hand and still not drop her drink. That will pay her back forever. She might even be able to punch herself out of a coffin, should she ever be buried alive.

John doesn’t really want to talk about being buried alive, but for the sake of this podcast he can do it, or trapped in a closed that is on ground level, not in the basement. Merlin finds it implausible that people don’t initially panic when that happens to them in movies, unless they are Matt Damon. Also people should be looking for a trap door or something similar that they could use to get out. You are going to be aware that you might going to be able to get out of this if you remember your training. If she manages to break the lid, but then 6 feet of dirt fall on top of here it will speed up the collapse. If you are going to die of being buried alive, let’s get it over with.

Most villains have a built-in hubris and will get a bit show-y, so John should show her enough movies so she knows how to take it and turn it and flip the villain to their side. Her father will at some point turn to the dark side and will become a supervillain who believes that he is acting in the cause of justice and right, but he becomes a mad man, which will be informing her character arc. She has all these powers, but she just wants to live as a normal person and she doesn’t want anybody to know that her last name is Roderick because that name lives in infamy.

She just wants to go to a regular college and not use her special powers, but just put on glasses and put her hair up in a bun because she is just a regular nerd starting her Freshman year until her father’s minions and sworn enemies start another battle for the future of Earth and so on. John wants her to be ready. Merlin mentions that there are other stories where the parent is extremely successful, but was a dick, like Frank Sinatra Jr or Bing Crosby, and if John would focus on becoming a tragic character he could do a lot for his daughter.

John doesn’t want his kid to be Bing Crosby’s kid. He wants his kid to be Bing Crosby and John is trying to emulate the mistakes that Bing Crosby’s father made. He doesn’t want her to end up being Nancy Sinatra, that is no way to go! Bing Crosby and John lived in the same dorm at Gonzaga, but separated by 50 years. He famously got kicked out for being a discipline problem and now they have a statue of him in front of the library. John was also kicked out of Gonzaga, but where is his fucking statue? Maybe he should hit her kid with a belt! Or make another Christmas album that is not so irreverent, that might be what put Bing Crosby over the top.

John being offered to go on a tour in Spain (RL85)

John’s Christmas album was lot of work that was packed in a short amount of time. He shares a feeling of total ambivalence to the holidays with Jonathan Coulton.

John was offered a Spanish tour around Christmas this year. He emailed back and forth with his Spanish people and the tour was designed by science to sound amazing, but if you put all the numbers into the function machine that has just one red light on it, no buttons, no switches, and you are waiting for the read-out on the other side, the machine just poops because the people who represent Pop music in Spain have got it down to a science where they know exactly how much to offer you so that it feels like a Sophie’s Choice and turning it down seems crazy, but if you accept it you actually lose in the end and it will cost you money to play for people.

John has done enough European tours to have had this experience multiple times: You are sitting in the airport on the way home, you are looking in your money bag, which at one point on the tour, three weeks in, was full of money, and one week prior when you were sitting in a hotel room somewhere in Zagora the money bag was so full of money that you thought you never had to work again because you were so rich, but that last week is all people showing up and saying: ”Hello my friend, I am the person that supplied the wire that ran the electricity from the building to the amps, and I need 1000 EUR” and you just pay 1000 EUR to so many people on the way out to the airport. There is a line of people like in Downton Abbey when all the staff has lined up, except you have to give everyone 1000 EUR.

Then you are waiting for your plane and your money bag just has moths in it and you still have to pay people back home when you get back, like the T-shirt guy and all the shit you have put on your credit card. In the famous words of Eugene Mirman: There used to be a time when a free hotel room felt like pay, but as time goes on that is no longer the feeling.

Merlin gets really suspicious when they take care of things for you. All you got to do is to show up, plug in, and it is all ready, and here is all the money you are going to get. The problem is that all those things are taken care of by their brother in law and his brother in law and his brother in law. It is like the meta cheese: All those popes that became popes even though they were pederasts, it is a long circle of brother in laws, which is why Italy has had 45 governments in the last 30 years and why John is not going to do this Spanish tour.

When I Pretend To Fall was getting 10 years old and John got a ridiculous deluge of offers to do shows, but the offers that seem completely legitimate end up begin exactly as reliable as the offers you get on Twitter, saying: ”Come to Iowa City! You can stay at my house!”

John turning down playing a show in Iceland (RL85)

John also told this story in OM121

A couple of years ago the government of Iceland put together a Reykjavik/Seattle Friendship Committee as they wanted those two places to think of each other as sister cities in the world. They brought a bunch of Icelandic musicians to Seattle and they played a big show together with local bands. John and Eric Corson played with Mugison from Iceland and they had a wonderful time together.

Then the Icelandic government wanted to fly The Long Winters to Iceland to do the same thing in Reykjavik and they wanted John to be the center piece of it, which he found amazing and he couldn’t wait to do it. As the weeks went by they said that Mugison couldn’t do it because he was going to be in Scotland mixing his record with Arab Strap, but they got another guy, the younger cousin of the bass player of the side project of the piano player from Sigur Rós and he was going to replace Mugison for John’s show.

Then they asked John six months before the show to send them a credit card for the hotel room even though they were paying for the hotel room, and they needed it by tomorrow or the whole thing would be cancelled. This is how they do business in Iceland. They continued to tell John that he is going to be in the prime spot of the Reykjavik summer fest and he would go on at 3:30pm on the Gnome Hat Stage and he will be right before the puppet show, which sounded like an American Rock joke, but when John them that they were extremely offended because puppet shows are an extremely important part of Icelandic culture.

The deal was changing all the time and the guy from the hotel was really mad because John was staying two extra days that the festival was not paying for and this was the height of Icelandic tourist season, so it was 1000 kronor a night and the kronor on the International Market is worth 40 pounds of mushrooms and that was $600. The more emails he got from Iceland, the more confused he was. All he wanted to do was play in Iceland with Mugison and now he was playing before a puppet show with the second cousin of the third bass player of Sigur Rós in the middle of the day.

John has seen some documentaries about Iceland and the best he can hope for is polite applause, but there is a bigger chance that they will just openly scoff at him, and there will be Gnomes running all over the place. He also doesn’t like any currency where he has to translate an amount into mushrooms on its way to dollars. They harvest geothermal steam and turn it into magic tricks, this culture is completely baffling to Merlin. John is not even sure that Iceland is real, it sounds like a train set you would build in the window of Macy’s.

When John was in 9th grade there was a guy in his English class named Darell who had formerly lived in Iceland because his father was in the Air Force, and he said that people in Iceland drive at night to save gas. It is a reverse Area 51 where the Air Force has been telling us that there is a place called Iceland in order to distract us from the portal where the alien motherships enter the center of the Earth.

There was a bunch of money on the surface of it, it was Iceland money, but if it was to be believed it could be transferred into American money. On the other hand he had to pay for these hotels and there was going to be a shame surcharge as everyone will tisk at him, and John pictured himself at the airport in Reykjavik buying 14 Icelandic sweaters, which he had to factor into the cost. He was going to come back with a chapped ass, with no money and mad, so he turned it down and he has still never been to Iceland.

Looking back John can’t fault that decision because the initial deal started going sideways right away. He was talking to the consulate and the ambassador’s office and they were talking to him this way as though it were normal, but John is not a Scandinavian and doesn’t like being barked at about a credit card.

Companies who treat freelancers poorly, Merlin not wanting to do gigs anymore (RL85)

It has become difficult for Merlin to do business with anyone because he always thinks about what could go wrong with something, and it always does. He is always working with people he has never met before, talking about money he has never gotten paid before, doing work in a place he has never been before, and it is extremely speculative and requires a tremendous amount of communication and trust on Merlin’s side. It is the basis of every scam, to offer you something that as long as you don’t think about it too much it seems like a good gig.

When John played some shows for Microsoft, not only did they pay him Net 90, meaning 3 months after the gig, but he had to go through the entire process of becoming a Microsoft contractor. It was like walking through the Starship Enterprise into Maxwell’s Smart Cave.

In Merlin’s case it often is about doing a 1-hour talk and he charges it as 1 day because it is 1 day for him, but essentially they want him to come in and talk for 50 minutes about something they think is important, but it is excruciating what you have to go through to do that. Don’t they have petty cash around? Meet me at the stage door with an envelope full of money, it doesn’t have to be complicated!

People come at you in some combination of time, money, and courtesy. In the best situations they have lots of time to work it out, they have a reasonable to excellent amount of money to give you, and a huge amount of respect and courtesy for your time and for the relationship, and ideally you respond in kind. In the worst cases you get none of those. Somebody calls you at the last minute and then they are all pissed off because you won’t do it for free. Merlin likes people who give him a lot of money quickly and more than once. If we work together a lot and it is a medium amount of money, Merlin can wait a little bit on that, but if there is hardly any time involved and you want to get this done next week and it is not a lot of money, it is due as soon as you hang up that phone.

Nobody respects the freelancer, everybody takes their cut, but they are all sitting behind a desk, making their living taking 5% off everything, but they don’t wait for their invoices to get filled. They are where the money sits and waits.

Merlin’s worst gig that he shouldn’t have taken was back when his book still had a chance of getting made. He had a draft that was due and he got an impossibly great offer from a major Pharma company in the Bay Area, but he could feel it in his gut that he should have stopped talking to this person, and of the million things that went wrong about this, they made it a terrible decisions for Merlin to even keep talking to this person. The worst part was the waiting when they promise you to have things ready by the end of the day, but then it is Friday and Taylor got sick and in the meantime Merlin is turning other stuff away for this make-believe gig.

They sent him a document he had to sign that was literally for a contractor, something they would give to Boeing. He was required to have $1 million in liability insurance in order to do a 1-hour talk, that they owned the IP on every word of what he said, and he was not going to sign that over. Merlin hates dealing with people in bad faith and he feels like a Putz. It is like going to Flingers and he is the only one who doesn’t want to acknowledge the fact that he and the waitress aren’t really friends and he is the dick.

If John Flansburgh still listens to this podcast he is going to be so mad that they still don’t have a cough button. Merlin doesn’t think he listens anymore.

John’s old New York City Rock’n’Roll lawyer that was eventually indicted for fraud was really good about spending a year and a half going through a contract like this with a red pencil and nothing ever happens. The whole business of businesses… urgh! Merlin will just go through and if he finds the first thing that is going to be a pain in the ass or shows that they are dicks who haven’t thought of this he will be done. He is not going to spend $300 an hour to have a lawyer look over that contract. In the case of the gig he never took half of the money he would have gotten he already spent on dealing with this Boeing-style contract.

Cell-phone roaming charges in Europe (RL85)

In 2004/05 John couldn’t see how you could live in Europe, even after they had taken down the national borders because every single country had a separate cell phone empire and as soon as you crossed from the Netherlands to Belgium you were paying 1 EUR per second to use your cell phone. In the equivalent of going from Seattle to Portland you pay out-of-country roaming charges to 4 different countries. There are as many people in Europe who think of the whole continent of Europe as one big playground as there are people in America who feel that way.

The first time John went to Europe in 1989 you still had to go through passport control to go from one country to another, which makes sense if it takes you 5 days on a horse to get from Bruxelles to Berlin, but as soon as the car was invented it is incredible that these countries maintained their chauvinistic sovereignty through all of the 20th century and all of those wars. It is crazy to think that John’s first-hand experience was that his fucking cell-phone stopped working an hour after he bought it. He went into a Vodaphone store at the dam in Amsterdam and bought a cell-phone, he made 5 calls, and then he was in Germany and the thing was close to useless.

People would buy SIM-cards for every country and keep them in little plastic bags, switching them out every time they crossed a border. John doesn’t know if that has changed, maybe it hasn’t. The last 4 times he has been to Europe John has treated it like he was out to sea and he turned his phone into airport mode and used it as a WiFi device, but he never ever used it as a phone and he never asked anybody about it. It was just: ”Forget it! Fuck you forever! I am not going to use my phone over here!”

John not seeing his friends anymore because he stopped releasing new records (RL85)

Touring in Europe is wonderful and John has made lifelong friends over there that he hasn’t seen in a long time because he doesn’t have a new record and the basis of his life that he had established 10 years ago was premised on putting out a new record every 1.5 years to keep this going as long as it can and his friends around the world will continue to be his friends because he will see them every few months. As soon as John stopped making records he stopped being part of the economy of places.

It is true in the United States, too: There are friends John hasn’t seen in years because he stopped doing the thing that gave him a reason to be there and no he doesn’t have a reason to be there. It is part of John’s ongoing ennui, he has angst of not knowing his reason for being here.

Merlin feels that way about college when he went from being a fairly lonely kid in the provinces to going to college and being surrounded by smart people. He would bump into 100 people a day without even trying, which was really jarring, and he had to be much more intentional about seeing people. John’s description is not so different from Merlin checking his mail in Hamilton Center where he is going to see 20 people along the way and catch up in an impossibly casual easy way, which goes away.

The 5th time John playing in Munich there were people there that had been to all 5 shows and that he had talked to 5 times in the last 3 years. They had gone out for drinks afterwards and spent some merry times and after the first few times you are looking forward to seeing this person again because they are akin in a way.

Competitive friendships in High School, and how it changed in college and during the music years (RL85)

John’s group of 10 friends in High School were very tight, but they were also very competitive with each other. His relationship with them was like his relation with Colin Meloy, friendly and very competitive. The competition often turned into thinly veiled hostility, but those were John’s closest pals. They weren’t loyal to one another and you would shoot your friend down in class or while he was trying to chat up a girl at a party. Walking by and making some cutting remark to blow up his game was considered fair play and there wasn’t a sense of ”We are in this together!”

John’s experience at Gonzaga was much closer to what most people think of how normal friends treat each other. All the people liked each other and were friends with each other, but John didn’t understand those relationships. At one point were they going to start playing mean pranks on each other? Their High School experiences had mostly been that you don’t have that many friends, but the friends that you do have are warm and supportive. The Grunge years were a deeply competitive and fraught era for John and it wasn’t until the Indie Rock years that he felt he had a network of people that he liked, that liked him, and that they weren’t out to get each other.

If you were outed as a bed-wetter in High School, your friends were the ones who would shout it from the roof tops. Because it was a fairly impressive group of kids they were always looking for the Achilles’ Heel to knock the other ones down a peg. It might have inculcated in John the idea of friendship as being combative. His whole adult life combative friendship is his model. He had a conversation with Sean Nelson where Sean said: ”You don’t like any of the things I like! Why are you friends with me? Friends are people who like the same stuff!” - ”What? That is crazy! Friends don’t like the same stuff, that is what makes them friends! They hate the other person’s taste, that is how you know you are friends!”

John getting caught lying about being in the bath tub and being called Steamin’ John (RL85)

One time John was in the bathtub upstairs when a couple of guys came by his house to get him for something. He stuck his head out the window and said: ”Hey, what is up, you guys?” - ”We thought you were ready?” - ”I will be ready in a minute! Just a second! I am in the shower, I will be right down!” He said that because taking a bath was uncool. It was in the middle of winter and John was standing in the window, leaning out in the cold, with steam was coming off of him, but they noted that his hair was dry and for a week or two after that they really tried to get the nickname Steamin’ John going, which was the 1984 version of ”Nice Dockers, dude!” (see RL84)

They had all the pieces: John had said he was in the shower, his hair had been dry, he was standing in the window with steam pouring off of him, so something was not right, there was a vulnerability they could try to exploit and Steamin’ John was what they were pushing. At that age he had already learned how not to let a nickname like that catch on by going into the blow a little bit: ”Steamin’ John, that is right! Here I am, steaming it up. I am going to steam you! Pow! Finger gun!” You just put the dumb on it! You don’t sit there red-faced and go: ”Knock it off, guys!”, but you have to go into it a little bit.

Your audience is the third person who is watching from the sidelines and who is trying to decide for themselves whether Steamin’ John is something they can get away with under the protective umbrella of the kids who are trying to turn it into a meme. You are looking at the weak minds and you are giving them the Obiwan Kenobi, like: ”That is right! Give it a try! Why don’t you try calling me Steamin’ John to see how it works for you? I would really like you to try it!” and you soften the gum in their pockets.

It really works because people want to jump on a bully train when they feel really safe. They want to call the fat kid a fat kid, but they don’t want everybody else in the room to go away and suddenly it is just them and the kid. John was just as bad on the other side, looking for openings to get some Steamin’ John meme going because if you manage to do that and it lights up you got the person by the sack.

People not wanting to admit they like taking baths (RL85)

You have to really man up and own your baths. John knows plenty of adult men who would never admit to taking a bath. Not very long ago John went to a millionaire software designer’s $5 million 20-room house at the shore of Lake Sammamish, and all he has on the wall are Lamborghini posters with bikini girls tacked up with blue Fun-Tak poster gum. In his bathroom there is a massive Jacuzzi indoor sex bath, built to hold the overweight software guy and 4 Russian escorts. John was looking at this thing covetously, but the guy had laundry hanging all over it and he said that he had never used it and just put it in his custom house in case he ever wants to sell it.

If Merlin had that house he would take 4 baths a day, he would cancel things to take fucking baths. Not very long ago John was in California in somebody’s house and they offered him to take a bath because they knew he likes baths. If there is one thing John wants to be his ambassador in the world, it is that people know he likes baths. It was a bath with a waterfall and there was a TV mounted on the wall and he had never had the experience of being in the bath tub watching a movie. Wow! He didn’t think he would like this, but he really liked it and now he never wants to see a movie again when he is not in the bath. John was a bit uneasy about it at first because what if he turned the TV on and all that is on it is porn?

The USS Enterprise being named after ”business” (RL85)

The other day John was forced to watch the Star Trek reboot because his lady-friend wanted to watch the new Star Trek and you can’t see the new one until you have seen the first one. She rented it from Redbox and put it in John’s Yamaha DVD player that is built with Soviet technology and is only half-digital. One time John and his dad headed out in a skiff (small boat) to the USS Arizona docked at Pearl Harbor, and they went around the USS Enterprise, which was the largest aircraft carrier in the world at the time.

For John’s whole life there was the USS Enterprise, the Star Trek Enterprise, the carrier Enterprise, World War II Enterprise, and it only just dawned on him watching this movie what a curious name that is for a US warship. It is like calling it the USS Capitalism or the USS Business. It has just been put out of service in 2012 and now it is in mothballs up in Bremerton, there are 7 aircraft carriers lined up just like cars in a Walmart parking lot.

John accidentally booking a hooker hotel in Miami (RL85)

John has told this story in RW120

Not very long ago John checked into a hotel in Miami near the airport. It is the last time he will ever use Yelp! This place had great reviews for being a cute old-style ironic vintage hipster motel with neon pink flamingos called the Paradise Inn. The first sign was that the desk clerk was behind bullet-proof glass, the key was an actual key on an oblong plastic key thing that says ”Paradise Inn Room No 4. Mail this if you find it. Postage paid” and the traffic from the door of his room to the bathroom had worn a path into the carpet. It wasn’t ironic, it was a real old hooker hotel!

The mattress was wrapped in plastic and as John sat down it crinkled like he was sitting on a Christmas present. It was not funny anymore, he had stayed in plenty of these and it wasn’t cute. Who wrote these Yelp reviews? It was fucking terrible and gave him bad memories and John reached over, trying to think what to do because he only had a few hours and he needed some sleep and on the TV there was looping porn on every channel. Not a porn movie, but 2-minute loops of the good part, like a demo reel. This was a full-on hooker hotel, a no-tell motel with rooms by the hour. John could only imagine what this poor pillow had been through in its short life. John didn’t want to touch anything and he didn’t want to lay down.

John has been in many situations where this room would have been a God-sent and he would have thanked his lucky stars that he had a door he could close and he would have gotten as much sleep as he could, but in this moment he only had 5 hours to sleep that he desperately needed, but he was too wound up to just grab that pillow and snuggle up to 100.000 butts and try to get that 5 hours, so he left, kept the key as a memento and reminder, and he thumb-tacked it to the wall of his room when he got home. Remember: Never use Yelp! He went out and slept in his rental car because there are indignities and there are indignities.

In a really nice hotel John will throw the sex pillow on the floor because we all know where it has been, but this room had no surface that was not a sex pillow. There was blood on the wall! Instead he slept in his rental Camaro right under the airport, there are worst places to sleep than that. Fewer people will have cum in the rental, it only had a few thousand miles on it and only a handful of people could have fucked in that one, while there were a handful of people who had sex in that hotel room since the night before.

Merlin hates being the bring-your-own-pillow guy! If you are a 19-year old girl wearing Ugg boots and your jammies when you go on a plane, that is fine, have fun, but when you see a grown man carrying a pillow around, that is a Steamin’ John type situation.

Here is a business opportunity to make a genuine pillow that doesn’t feel like it is full of beans or like a neck pillow you buy at the airport, but a pillow that you could call your own, but that is collapsible and fits inside your carry-on bag so you don’t look like a dingeling walking around with his woobie. You could vacuum the air out, but that only works one way or you would have to put your vacuum in a vacuum bag as well and bring it with you and then it is vacuums all the way down.

The easier way would be to standardize pillows and then have them in sizes. Merlin never knows what pillow to get and he is 1 for 3 on pillows. He goes to the store to buy a pillow and he is not happy what he brings back and he doesn’t even know what to ask for. This is the thread count problem where 500 thread count means nothing because people are just scoundrels and liars about these things now. In this age of 3D printers and Elon Musk there should be a way to send your order to the hotel and a purpose-build pillow could be brought into your room in a sanitary bag for you.

It could be a vending machine under the stairs that does that. Maybe you could get it with a vagina on it, to have some gentlemanly intercourse with, and then you throw it away like a newspaper. Or it could be shaped like an owl. In his whole life John has never fucked a pillow, maybe because he sees them more like watchers rather than lovers. Merlin has tried, he tried to fuck pretty much everything. He is never traveling again.

Merlin wants to stop because he has to pee, and maybe they should just stop there and it will be the first time without a laugh in all these years.

Merlin finds it so gross to think about John getting into a bed that hundreds of people have slept in that didn’t know each other and who didn’t shower before they got in there, and they rolled their cock around in there until they fell asleep, and then they woke up and probably did it again. In a hotel like that it is all disgusting people, people who read Yelp!

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