RW152 - A Sorting Problem

This week, Dan and John talk about:

Bonus-content for Patreon supporters:

The show title refers to John not having a good memory for names and having to sort through the faces when he meets somebody he remembers having seen before.

It has been ”a couple minutes” since they talked (their last episode was from 2019-06-01, exactly 6 weeks ago). Things are good!

Dan claims John has never invited him to Seattle, but John says that he has invited him many times before to come up there with Haddie and do a show and have a good time. Haddie doesn’t seem to agree.

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

How summers in Seattle have changed (RW152)

It is a slightly cold and cloudy Seattle summer day, a thing they haven't seen in a few years. The last three years it stopped raining in April or May and it didn't rain again until October, which felt like the end times were coming and which was not how things used to be. After a few sunny days they used to have a rainy day and summers in Seattle were wonderful, but the last few years have been scorching hot.

The summer when John ran for city council (2015) was just awfully hot and uncomfortable, already when you were getting up in the morning. Today is a cold rainy day that feels amazing. The best kind of summer day is when you break it up a little bit and it will probably be sunny today. It is a stay-inside day and John is feeling good about that.

In Austin it has been 100 degrees (38 °C) over the last couple of days, but they got some rain last night and today is cooler. John thought there would be smoke from all the barbecues burning meat and there would be smell of gasoline. Today is Thursday and the barbecue restaurants and trucks are open Wednesday through Sunday and usually take Monday and Tuesday off. You can still go to chains like a Rudy's then, but the really good places where most of the best barbecue comes out of are closed.

Dan’s Philadelphia / Texas accent (RW152)

John thinks Dan said ”Barbercue”, but Dan insists he didn’t (He did!). Dan had just been eating a piece of dried mango as his mid-afternoon snack of choice and sometimes a little piece can get hung up in there. John just wanted to make sure that this wasn't a weird Philadelphia vs Texas thing. Somebody just pointed out to Dan yesterday that the way he says "sorcerer" is wrong because it is supposed to be ”sorcerer” or ”saucer”. John loves that! It is wonderful and beautiful!

Blue laws in Seattle, Seattle vs Portland, Nanny state, Food trucks (RW152)

Restrictive blue laws in Seattle

Seattle is a classic nanny state culture and they had pretty restrictive blue laws for most of the second half of the 20th century. You couldn't sell alcohol on Sundays, you couldn't sell booze in convenience stores or supermarkets, and you couldn't sell hard liquor in a bar unless you also served meals. Some taverns would sell wine and beer, but no hard alcohol. If you sold hard alcohol your bar had to be laid out in a way so that you could not look into it from the street, but there had to be some kind of barricade between the sidewalk and the interior of the bar.

There are a lot of fire department rules and a lot of health department rules and Seattle was a very top-down over-managed city. You couldn't stand in front of a bar with a beer in your hand and all-ages shows were made very difficult because you couldn't have minors and adults sharing the same space.

A lot of that culture suppressed the restaurant and bar scene because it was just a pain in the ass. When John first moved to Seattle in the early 1990s every small neighborhood had its own tavern on the corner and those taverns were the nucleus of a neighborhood culture, but the number of bars and taverns that sold hard liquor that weren’t also nice restaurants was a countable number.

West Coast culture being a downer

For most of Seattle's history Portland was regarded in the same way as Everett and Olympia: A dirty insignificant town somewhere up and down the coast. That was still true for Portland even in 2000, but certainly in 1990. There was no reason to go to Portland because there was absolutely nothing there. It was sleazy and run-down and it seemed like the sun never shined. It was moss-covered and it was sketchy. Seattle was sketchy in the 1980s, but Portland was a different kind of sketchy, almost a child-prostitute degree of sketchy with a lot of strip clubs and a lot of drugs.

It was a downer, which was also true of Everett, Olympia and Tacoma. All these places were bummers and it was part of why the culture that thrived in Seattle was also such a bummer, although it got commercialized, widely disseminated and cleaned up in the 1990s. In the early 1990s everything about it was still a bummer.

The rise of Portland, Portland's insecurity complex

For the last ten years Portland has been on a great run where they became a Mecca and an exporter of culture. Seattle's reaction was: ”Say what?” Portland has always had an inferiority complex directed at Seattle and John gets a lot of super-angry ”thou dost protest too much” emails and tweets from people saying: ”Portland doesn't have an insecurity complex about Seattle!” People get really really mad at the suggestion, which is further reinforcing that they always have and still do.

A lot of what Portland exports culturally is a general Northwest culture. It is not specific to them and a lot of Portland culture is the result of people from other places who adopted what they think is Portland culture, which is what happened in Seattle, too. Five years after your city explodes you are just dealing with a bunch people walking around cosplaying what they thought your city was. Many people in Seattle who moved there in the last four years are mad about development, but what are they mad about development for?

The food truck thing in particular really rankled Seattleites because it was so obvious, so cool, so 100% appropriate and really it was communicating a thing that was true about Seattle that Seattle had never figured out how to do. In 1996 it was still cheap to live there and if you wanted to start a theater you got six of your friends together, you found some old hole in the wall, you struck a deal with the landlord, you put black paint on everything, you built a one foot tall stage out of plywood and you had a theater. It was that kind of place and it was a big part of their identity. It was why it was so creative there and why it was so great to live there.

No sitting on the sidewalk, no flyers on telephone poles

They never figured out about the food because of all these restrictions and nobody ever fought the man on it while they were fighting the man on so many other things! This was during an era when you weren't allowed to sit on the sidewalk because their solution to panhandlers was: ”No sitting on the sidewalk!” You would go out and sit on the sidewalk just as a form of public protest, which was shameful and ridiculous.

It was prohibited to put posters on telephone poles because it was unsightly, but that was how people communicated! Phone poles all over the city were papered 15 feet (4.5m) up the pole six inches (15 cm) deep with flyers for Rock shows, for lost dogs, and for garage sales. Flyer culture was how they got the word out about things.

The first time John's band had a show that was worthy of flyers being put up was a long time before they were big enough that there were enough flyers put up for you to notice them. When a big show was happening, like when the Melvins were playing, there were flyers everywhere, and it added to the excitement. It was coming up!

The city didn’t like it and thought it was ugly. They were trying to build the Seattle that we have today, this gleaming city of the future, and at the time they thought things like flyers held them back. The excuse was that the six inches (15 cm) of flyers made it unsafe for telephone company operators to climb the poles. They used boots with giant spikes, but the one time in six months that a lineman has to go up a pole these flyers were in the way.

All of a sudden all the flyers got ripped down, right in the dead-center of John’s band’s early arc. They were big enough that there would have been flyers all over for it, but all of a sudden the flyers and the flyer culture was gone. What were they supposed to do? Lots of cafes would make a wall available for people to put flyers on, but then you were competing for a tiny little space. Flyers were an entire art form and a lot of artists did those show-posters. John was thrilled when he made his first flyer and a lot of his friends critiqued it, like: ”I'm not sure that is the font I would have used!” It was part of the culture!

John's hangouts: The Roma and the Septieme

Somehow the restaurant thing was just too complicated, the chef thing hadn't really happened yet, and Northwest cuisine was still evolving. One of the people who really promulgated the whole farm-to-table concept was a guy up here in Seattle by the name of Kurt Timmermeister (see RL266) who had a restaurant called the Cafe Septieme. It was supposed to be vaguely French, but of course it served Huevos Rancheros and it became John’s hangout.

John’s original hangout in Seattle was the café Espresso Roma which had coffee and maybe cookies. After he started dating the manager of the place she kept a bottle of Total Cereal behind the bar and when he came in she would ask: ”Have you eaten anything today?” - ”No!” - ”Well, have a bowl of Total!" and she would give him a bowl of Total because it had all the vitamins. She kept it there because she knew that John wasn't eating on a regular basis and it was her motherly way of keeping him alive. Other than that the was not even sophisticated enough that they had chocolate croissants or anything, but it was just a cafe.

For John's first five years in Seattle he was at the Roma every day, but as he got a little older and was sober he needed a cafe where he could hang out and also get some food and he went three quarters up the street on the same block to the Café Septieme. He would get a booth there in the morning and throughout the course of the morning his friends would come in, the table would fill up and they would all eat. Then couple of people would have to go to work, but two more people would come in and sit down. John would while away the day until the afternoon when he had to go to work or until something would happen that got them to move to a second location. It was great times!

Eventually Kurt Timmermeister did not want to run a restaurant anymore and he moved out to Vashon Island, bought a little farm, and started having dinners out there where everything was grown on his property except for the coffee, the sugar, the wheat, the salt and the wine. It was a seasonal year-round thing so in the winter his dinners featured different kinds of meat because he was raising animals and root vegetables and pickled stuff, while in the spring and summer it was fresh food that was ripe on the vine. He wrote a book about it and he was one of the early farm-to-table people.

Portland food truck culture

To Seattle's everlasting shame and embarrassment Portland devised a very free culture of food trucks where immigrants and young start-up people were given the opportunity to start a restaurant and all they had to do was get a nice truck that met health code standards, but the city itself had regulations that made it possible to open a small restaurant in the form of a truck. The culture exploded down there and all of a sudden fascinating food was available everywhere!

Food trucks could stay open late if they wanted to and as the bars emptied out at night there were little oases of delicious food waiting for you. If you took your beer out on the sidewalk they didn't shut the bar down, but you could stand in front of a bar with a cigarette and a beer in your hand and it wasn't the end of the world. In Seattle, with any deviation from the very restrictive rules they threatened to shut your bar down and they would.

It felt like Seattle’s little brother had exceeded them. To put this in Austin: It was like Seattle was Jimmie Vaughan and Portland was Stevie Ray Vaughan. It just didn't sit right! Portland shouldn't just come up with this simple and elegant thing! There were little food trucks around in Seattle, but the whole food truck as a gourmet or cultural marketplace where you go into an abandoned lot and get food from around the world came from Portland entirely and was exported to cities around the country because everybody saw it and went: ”Whoa!” Dan has that in Austin now and he didn't used to. There used to be Taco trucks, but not Syrian cuisine.

At some places in Portland there are 50 food trucks! It is like going to a Moroccan bazaar! They are great and they have Christmas lights on top and they are open late. Eventually Seattle loosened its restrictions due to public outcry because people thought it was ludicrous that they couldn’t have this. Now there are food trucks, but nothing on the scale of Portland. There is no place with 50 food trucks, certainly not anywhere centrally. At night there are trucks selling hot dogs and great hamburgers and tacos and even oysters, but they still are lagging way behind.

Part of the reason is that they don't have a lot of open space, but the neighborhoods where people want to be are pretty crowded. The genius of Portland is that they neglected the city for 90 years. They never tore anything down because they didn't have anything to build in its place. The city just sat there and moldered, but time caught up with it and suddenly Portland looked like genius preservationists. They hadn't torn down all their cool stuff, they slapped a coat of paint on it, they pressure-washed it and fixed the roof and: ”Tadaaaa!” It seemed like it had been planned the whole time, but they just didn't have the money to do anything about it!

At the same time Seattle was constantly tearing stuff down because it wanted to be new and fancy. Now they look like idiots because they tore down everything. Portland had an entire city block with nothing on it that they could fill with food trucks because nobody wanted to build anything there. In Seattle that vacant lot would have been five different buildings put up torn down put up torn down. Today's food trucks in Seattle are nothing like Austin and nothing that would constitute a full-on food truck culture. People are able to make a viable go at it but it is not the same.

Food trucks in Austin

Their listeners might wonder what are they talking about. When Dan got to Austin 8-9 years ago he had eaten in a food truck maybe one time when he was out in Los Angeles and it was Tacos or maybe a burrito. When he came to Austin he was talking to some people and said he had tried Austin barbecue but not a lot of it and he hadn't had anything new. He wanted to try something great, but he wasn't sure where to go. Everyone told him to go to The Salt Lick.

The Salt Lick is a very famous barbecue place that has been around forever, but it started out as a small little smoker pit that the guy would invite his friends over to. He turned it into a little restaurant and then it became a hit and a huge thing. It is always busy, it is always crowded, people have weddings on the grounds, and now they have expanded it and made it a huge thing. Dan always enjoyed that! Then people started to say: ”Listen, that is good, but that is not the best barbecue and that is not real barbecue!” People weren't really knocking it, but they were saying there is even better barbecue out there.

New barbecue trucks were coming out in addition to the existing Taco trucks which Dan had tried and loved, and this was now being seen as new barbecue culture. They would essentially have two trailers, one would have the smoker in it and the other would be the serving part where they would sell out of the window. Dan was thinking that the couple of times he had a taco from a truck he had been lucky to escape death because nothing out of a truck could be good or clean or anything. It turned out that he was totally wrong and all the best food comes from a truck!

The World-famous Franklin Barbecue had started out as a little trailer in 2008/2009 at the time when Dan was arriving in Austin and the barbecue truck culture was a new thing. Eventually Bourdain talked about it on No Reservations, Barack Obama ate there when he came here, it has been in movies, it has been voted as the best barbecue in the world, and Aaron Franklin, the guy who opened it got the James Beard Award for best chef in the Southwest. Two years ago there was a fire that burnt it almost to the ground and they had to rebuild and reopen again. This is the place you would go where there would be lines.

A friend of Dan’s told him he had to go to Franklin's barbecue because it is the best, but it was a long wait and he recommended Dan to bring a lawn chair. Dan had never done this before, but he got some friends together and went out there and it was just like his friend had said: They got there around 09:30am and there was already a line of 40-50 people ahead of them. At about 11am they sent someone out to start asking people how much brisket and sausages they were going to get. They were keeping a tally because they run out and they only make so much every day and if you show up in the line any time after 11:00am they might have already sold out before the place even starts serving. Dan had to wait for a few hours, but it was amazing!

A lot of other places are right on the edge of being there in terms of quality, flavor and taste. What really happened with all this attention that they got is that Austin’s barbecue went from being like: ”Oh yeah, it is really good!” to Austin being all about it and everybody knew about it and everybody wanted to come here for it and there are tourists who come and do tours of these places and tastings. It is so cool, but it also means that each place that comes out gets more popular and better known and you almost can't go there anymore because all the tourists descend on it. You have to get there at 11:00am in order to get in line and then you are still waiting half an hour or forty five minutes to get in.

There are a few places that Dan likes to go to, some of which have been here for almost 10 years, which are lesser known, but are just as good. For example Kerlin BBQ is great. Austin has a whole culture around it and it has way taken over the tacos. People still think of tacos in Austin and they still have lots of tacos, but it is all barbecue trucks now.

When John went to Austin in his South by Southwest days they were always chasing barbecue and they would drive for two hours out into the middle of the Mesquite to some guy who had a fire going in a barrel. Around 2005 John's Austin friends said that the real secret was Al Pesto Tacos and it revolutionized John’s South by Southwest because he no longer had this mad drive to find brisket somewhere. You could get tacos anywhere and they were awesome. They were just as good if not better as a way of feeding yourself.

John went through a long Austin period of just getting tacos, but now it has flipped back around and there is brisket everywhere and you don't have to go out to Fredericksburg. You can walk to it, you just cross 35 to what they now call the East Side, and that is where all the barbecue trucks are in their little wagon circles with benches in the middle where you can sit and eat at. You could also go down to South Congress, but you would need a vehicle to do that.

You never used to go to the ”East Side”! It was dangerous and you weren’t welcome over there, but it has changed a lot. People with double six-figure incomes are moving to the area and building their custom homes in the East Side. It is a very different part of town than it was. There are still parts you don't want to go, but overall it has much improved.

What is Barbecue?

Barbecue is not burgers and hotdogs on a grill! Growing up in Philadelphia Dan would say: ”Come on over, bring the family, we are having a barbecue on Saturday!” and there would be hot dogs, burgers and buns and maybe if you were lucky there would be some homemade coleslaw or some baked beans or corn on the cob. That was a barbecue, but that has nothing to do with barbecue! That is grilling or a cookout. ”We are having a cookout!”, which means you are cooking outside on a grill, could be charcoal, could be gas, but you are putting meat on the grill and you are cooking it. That is a cookout or grilling, but it is not barbecue.

Barbecue is slow smoking of meats. Dan is not going to get into how and why Central Texas barbecue is 1000 times better than any of these other states that attempt it because that is a whole different show. It is slow, low heat, slow cooking, with lots of smoke. You are not getting anything out of that smoker for less than six hours. If it takes less than six hours it is not barbecue. Maybe you could say four hours if you really want to cut some corners, but if you are putting a burger on a grill and flipping it, that is not barbecue! Stop it! Don't put a burger on the grill and leave it for six hours!

Dan had his own smoker before he burned it to the ground and he did some slow smoking of meats, which taught him why these places are closed on Mondays and Tuesdays: A brisket or a pork shoulder takes upwards of 12-16 hours to smoke and in order to get those meats ready for people showing up at 11:00am you have to have an overnight crew there. It is a lot a lot a lot of work.

The resident barbecue expert who does a lot of writing for the local magazines is Jimmy Ho. He is obsessed with barbecue, he probably has 50.000 followers on Instagram, and he goes to eat at all of the best Texas places and Dan is always learning new stuff from from him. He is one of the people who is really helping the world learn about amazing barbecue. Recently he did his own smoking of meats and he said the same thing: After doing this for one day he said we have to give a lot more credit to these guys who are running these pits five days a week. Of course they close on Monday and Tuesday because weekends are big business, but they have to close down at some point to just recover from this work.

A place called Leroy and Lewis has its own modern take on barbecue. They are a farm-to-table place and they only go with really nice meat, pastured and grass-fed and free range, but instead of doing a brisket they do beef cheeks. First you might think: ”I don't know if I want to try that!" unless you are into all kinds of foods like us and then of course you want to try that! It has all of the richness of brisket with a little bit of an extra flavor that is so amazing. They are very small and instead of spending 16 hours you could smoke those in five or six hours. John has to go to Leroy and Lewis the next time he comes to Austin.

John doesn’t want to prepare his own food, certainly not for 6-8 hours, but he doesn’t even want to spend five minutes doing it. Living in a city may be an unjustifiable squandering of resources, but it is a pretty nice division of labor. Some people want to make food for others and some people like John want to pay them to make food for him so that he doesn’t have to do it because when he makes food for himself it is not good and he is willing to pay the money. He doesn’t want the responsibility to raise a chicken in order to have a farm-fresh egg.

John doesn’t want a dog and he doesn’t want you to have a dog either, or maybe he doesn’t care if you have a dog as long as you always keep it inside and keep it quiet or if you live on 200 acres and John doesn’t live anywhere near you. Dan doesn’t dislike dogs, but he dislikes dog owners who don't take correct proper care of their animal.

John sleeping in his own house (RW152)

Yesterday John had a really good day! He is a little jet-lagged because he went on a long trip overseas and he is still shaking it off. You get bad jet-lag when you fly East and then when he flies West John always just stays up until bedtime, goes to sleep and then wakes up and is rolling tough, but this time it took him a little bit of time and he is still trying to figure out what time of day it is.

He spent the night before last night at his own house which now has sold and closed and the new owners are leasing it back to him for a month or so, but there is nothing there. There is no food, he can't make coffee, he doesn’t even remember how, his stuff is not there anymore, and he is wandering around the house like a ghost.

John spent the night at the house and woke up at 7:30am. He had gone to bed at midnight and had gotten a full night's sleep because he was still on Estonian time. He was walking around the house, there was no food, there was no coffee, and he realized he had to get in the car and go somewhere to start the day.

Not learning other languages (RW152)

For years John felt bad when he traveled overseas and he thought he was failing encounters in some way because he didn't speak their language. He would struggle and dribble out whatever bad vocabulary he had in their language and he would apologize and he start every conversation with: ”Excusez-moi, parlez vous Anglais? Je ne comprends pas!” and all this stuff because he perceived that he was in the wrong.

Over time he realized that he speaks English, which is the only language he speaks, but he is extremely lucky that English has become a de facto lingua franca in big parts of the world. He noticed that when he was in the Baltics recently. People from Estonia who visit the neighboring country of Latvia speak to them in English because Latvians and Estonians don't understand one another and rather than learn the language of the country next door they just use English. English speakers are lucky that they can just use English in a lot of cases.

But even when no-one speaks English and John is visiting their country the presumption would be like: ”Well, I don't speak English and you are in Estonia and you don't speak Estonian so that is not my problem!”, but it isn't John’s problem either. He is certainly not going to stand there and go like: ”How dare you not speak English!”, but the fact that he only speaks English is not a problem, it is just a fact.

If John wants a sandwich and they don't speak English he does what you do: He will point at the thing he wants and he makes himself understood. He is not going to waste everybody's time and emotional energy by standing there with his hat in his hands, going: ”I'm so sorry that I don't speak Estonian!” because they don't care, he doesn't care, and it is just a recognition that things are what they are.

This is true of remembering people's names or of being in a situation where it's like: ”Hey, we know each other! I don't remember how!” and that is not really salient because as soon as the other person starts talking about their common past he will remember. They are just a person he is meeting in a cafe and what is their exchange going to be? Let's find out!

Meeting a friend at a café, but not remembering her name (RW152)

Yesterday John drove through Georgetown, the Seattle neighborhood that most closely approximates a Portland Food Truck atmosphere. There is a little 1/4 acre (1000 sqm) parking lot with food trucks, and you can still be a sculptor and live in a space and do your work. A lot of Punk Rockers are still down there and it is where Fantagraphics has its book store.

It is surrounded by railroad tracks and freeways and it is not exactly super-duper charming, but it is a little charming. In Seattle it ends up sufficing for being one of the more charming places, but the space itself is pretty hobbled. There is a good coffee shop and John decided to get a coffee. There was a traffic jam headed into Georgetown because apparently it is a commuter route at that hour of the day. Cars and buses were backed up all the way halfway up Boeing Field in a throw-up-your-hands situation. That wasn’t true three years ago, but now it is traffic jam!

John waited his turn and he went into the coffee shop and got a coffee. He looked around because at that place there is a 50-60% chance of seeing somebody he would know and although a bunch of people looked like people he would know, he didn't know any of them. It was a little rainy, but John still decided to sit at one of the outside tables and there was nobody else sitting out there. He drank his coffee and watched the delivery trucks come and go and the people pulled up and ran in and hopped back in their car and ran off and he watched the traffic jam move through the town, just having a fine little coffee sitting by himself.

When it was about 9am he though: ”Well, I guess I go do something else!” and this is how John lived most of his life as an adult: ”Well, I guess I gotta get some coffee!” and once he got some coffee: ”Well, I guess I've got to go do something else!” In the last year or two he had given himself this job of podcasting every morning. He talks to Merlin on Monday, he does Friendly Fire on Tuesdays, Omnibus on Wednesdays and Road Work on Thursdays and he has somewhere to be every morning, which he never used to do.

Because John didn’t have anything to do yesterday he walked around the corner of this coffee shop, looked inside, and saw someone he knew and she saw him through the glass and she waved. This is a woman that John knows and recognizes, but he is not sure how he knows her and he did not remember her name either. He is not sure how well he knows her. It is a hazard of his lifestyle that he knows a lot of people and in their estimation he often knows people well, but he can't quite place how he knows them or who they are exactly because he knows a lot of people well.

It is not a fake ”well”, like they think they know each another well and they are wrong, but they do know one another well, he knows a lot about them, and they had been together many times, but it takes John a minute to sort through all the faces and all the people to remember who they are because he is capable of knowing a lot of people well. It is a sorting problem and John does not have a photographic memory or a great memory for names.

John saw her, he knew her, and she waved. If he had somewhere to go he could have just waved at her and kept moving, but he hadn’t seen her in long enough that it would have felt a little bit rude. John double-backed, came in, said: ”Hey!” and gave her a hug. Nobody has any expectation that he would greet her by name and they had a little moment of ”What have you been doing?”, looking for clues as to how he knows her, but he no longer felt any stress about it.

For many years in situations like that he would have felt like there was something wrong with him because he didn't remember her name although he should and he would be sitting there in a place of stress: ”Fuck, fuck, fuck! What's her name? What's her name?”, trying to figure out her name or figure out where they know each other. As the years have gone John realized that this is who he is and this is very normal.

A lot of people would say in that situation: ”What is your name again?”, but John doesn’t do that, but he just lets it ride and talks to her as though he knows her, which he does, and he is not somebody who says your name four or five times over in the course of a conversation, but he just waits if her name arrives in the course of the day to mark it down.

She was a woman his age and here are the clues: She was very Rock'n'Roll with long black hair, bangs in her eyes, tattoos, and rings on her fingers. She was wearing tight black jeans and a black T-shirt with the name of a music festival that was cool 15 years ago, then was uncool for a while and now is gone. She was wearing a denim jacket over it, but she didn't have any buttons on the jacket for him to zoom in on. She was extremely cool and that narrowed it down. John doesn’t know her from the Seattle City Council or from Gonzaga, but she was a member of his music community.

She said she was there doing some work, John pulled up a chair, and they sat at a little table right inside the door of this busy cafe where John had been sitting for an hour already around the corner on the other side. She had been a little bit surprised that he had pulled up a chair, but it was not unwelcome, she just hadn't expected John would have the time or interest to continue the conversation. He was curious how he knew this person and he didn’t have anything to do that day.

She was not a fan of The Long Winters, but he knew her through the town. They spent a little bit of time talking about Chris Cornell and how that still affected them. She was very tied into the Soundgarden people back to the Mudhoney people and she was an old Seattleite who had been in town the whole time. Maybe John knew her through Danny Bland?

She was the director of the local business community (maybe Georgetown Merchants Association, GMA) and they talked about what has been going on in the world. Different people came over to talk to her, for example John Bennett, a fit and handsome guy in his 60s who had come to this neighborhood 20 years ago and had bought a lot of these buildings when it was still a rundown neighborhood.

He is not an absentee millionaire landlord, but he is in the neighborhood, he owns a lot of these little bars and restaurants, he is trying to keep the neighborhood cool, and he is one of the good guys. They talked a little bit about what is going on in the local business community and John asked him some questions about a couple of buildings and lots that he had been curious about for a long time.

John was learning a lot, for example that the guy owning the Ford flatbed trucks down at the corner is named Cosmo. He is 92 years old and the reason that his lot remains a junkyard is that he had bought it in 1961 for $4000 and he doesn't give a shit about Seattle's property, it is just a junk pile to him, even though it is probably worth $4 million. The next time John will run into that 92 year old guy he might say: ”Hey Cosmo!” because Cosmo is an easy name to remember.

Then the guy from Fantagraphics Books walked in. He and John had a tumultuous back-and-forth because he didn't like John’s Punk Rock is bullshit article when it came out and when John ran for city council he came out vociferously, not only in favor of another candidate but against John’s candidacy. He was writing for a candidate who had no chance whereas John had a slim chance, and he saw John as his guy's competitor and wrote a couple of things that suggested John thinking Punk Rock was bullshit made him a bad city council person, while missing the entire point of John not thinking that Punk Rock was bullshit, but it was supposed to be a funny article.

John knew him for a long time, but never really friendly. He is the executive director of the Georgetown Business Association who came for a business meeting about Georgetown, a neighborhood that John didn’t know much about, but he learned that the city had bought the old Korean church with an amazing theater in it that John rehearsed in a couple of times ten years ago for the Seattle Rock orchestra.

John always imagined the McMenamin brothers would buy it and turn it into a destination theater hotel restaurant, but the city of Seattle bought it from the Beecher’s Cheese company in order to turn it into a sobering-up facility for chronic drunks on the street. The city has a van that drives around and picks up public inebriates, not just transients. If a guy in a business suit is falling down drunk and there is nobody there to take him home, they will pick him up, take him to a facility with a bunch of beds, tuck him in, and let him sleep it off. The question is what they will do with him in the morning.

The city is now in the process of converting this old church into one of these facilities. They had closed down their facility in South Lake Union because the property had become so valuable that they were able to sell their drunk house to Amazon for $6 million and this program managed to keep that money internally and buy this building in Georgetown. John had driven by it earlier that day and noticed that there was a lot of work being done. He briefly thought: ”Finally! The McMenamin brothers are turning it into a theater!”, but now he realized it was being turned into this facility.

The guy from Fantagraphics is also a dyed-in-the-wool leftist progressive organized-labor-boosting old-school West Coast liberal. He is really trying to walk a pretty tight line by not being against this although a lot of people in his community are. It has to get done, he is agnostic about it, and he just wants to make sure that it doesn't cause a problem for his business neighborhood. He is trying to get assurances from the city that when these people wake up in the morning the city is not just going to push them out the front door right into Georgetown's burgeoning restaurant cafe and bar neighborhood. You don't want to bring the drunks from all over Seattle, put them here and then push them out the door, but there has got to be a van to take them back to where they were picked up!

Pretty soon it was 1pm and they had another coffee. At one point she and John went outside so she could smoke a cigarette, they talked a little bit about her grown daughter, and it about the fact that her 50th birthday is this year. She and John are exactly the same age! By 4pm John realized that he had whiled away the entire day sitting in this cafe and he finally learned her name when she told him about the art show she was putting on. She showed him some of her art and invited him to the art show and John handed her his phone and said: ”Why don't you put your Instagram account in there?”

John slyly scrolled through her pictures while she was watching, looking for pictures of her with other people he knew. They had spent this day together, which is more time than all the other times they had spent together combined, they knew each other in the context of seeing each other at shows or at public events, and they had met enough times that they were at the level of a hug in greeting, but every conversation until that point had been: ”What's up? How's it going? Wow! Yeah! Good show! Oh my God! Great to see you!”

John had learned a lot about a ton of things, not just the people that she introduced him to and the neighborhood they were in, but they also talked about old Seattle and the Rock culture that she had a lot of knowledge of, and it was all fill-in stuff for John, like: ”Oh, you know that person? How are they related to this person? Oh interesting! I never put that together!”

Having had a great day, having no plan (RW152)

John had a great day and realized that this was what his days used to be all through his 20s and 30s. This is exactly what not having a plan looks like! John has been thinking about this a lot lately: He doesn't have a plan, he never had a plan, and not having a plan is one of the shaping principles of his existence. His whole life arc is governed and defined by waking up in the morning and walking out the door with not even no clear picture, but absolutely zero agenda. He hadn't spent a day in that style in a long time.

John had just spent a couple of weeks in Europe with very little plan, but he had his daughter there and he was traveling with his family. This wasn't the kind of thing where he just got to sit forever, because at a certain point his little girl would have said: ”I'm bored!” and the third or fourth time she said it he would have felt obligated to take her somewhere. John never got bored and his friend at the table didn't get bored because she was there doing her job, but they were having a very convivial time and in a way it was easier for her to do her work having John there. It makes your job fun, at least for a day, yo conduct it with a person who doesn't know anything about it, but who is interested.

She introduced John to all these people whom she saw on a daily basis and each one of them got to be featured in what normally would have been a mundane exchange. They would have come in and said: ”Oh, I need you to do this and I was hoping that you could tell me about this!”, but John being there meant that she could say: ”Oh, let me introduce you to John! This is so-and-so, they do this, they do that." and they had a light shined on them for a minute.

Looking at it from a distance, not having a plan often meant that John has not accomplished many of the totemic accomplishments he expected he would. He never pursued something to perfection, he did not made a ton of money, and he hasn’t made a ton of art. He looked at this planlessness often very critically because it is easy to see only the things that he didn't accomplish. Spending a day like this made him realize that planlessness is a thing that has shined a warm light on him throughout his life. It is integral to his life! He couldn't have spent a day like this and gotten what he got out of it if he had any feeling that this was a waste of time, that he needed to be doing something. The voice in is people: ”I have been sitting here long enough, I should go do something!”, or: ”I have this long list of things to do and I can't just sit here and waste time, I have to get going!”

John does not have that feeling although he has a long list of things to do: He should finish his book and he should make a new Long Winters record! John was not trying to get anything out of her and she was not trying to get anything out of him, they were not doing any business, but they were just whiling away the time. It was a really good day! Then John came to his and conversation with Dan in the podcasting world that he inhabits where people are listening in and John is trying to make sense of yesterday.

One of the things about that planlessness is that he has to process it. He would be processing it today by thinking about yesterday and integrating it into his experience, but he would be doing that alone in isolation. There were very few times when he would sit down with somebody else and say: ”I had a really great day yesterday!”, but it would be in the context of then sitting with another person and having a similar long day. On the podcast John can process it out loud.

John having sold his house (RW152)

John has sold his house, the money is in the bank, and he doesn’t have a place to live. Within a few weeks his house is going to go away and he is going to be in a state that might be unique in his life, a complete slow-mo ”everything is in the air” movie moment. General Lee is jumping the stream when it pauses for a commercial. John has no plan! They come back from the commercial and the assumption is that General Lee is going to land the jump and John is pretty sure that he is going to land the jump, but he doesn’t know how he arrived here and how he is going to land the jump!

John sat down with a pen and a piece of paper and he started to write a letter to the owner of the house that he feels is the benchmark in this neighborhood that he wants to buy. It is not for sale, but John started to write a letter, he got a couple of sentences in, his handwriting started to go into that shorthand scribble, he realized he looked like a crazy person and nobody could read this, so he crumpled it up and started again: ”Dear sir, my name is John Roderick and I am interested in…” and it happened again and he crumpled it up again.

John hadn’t written a three paragraph letter in longhand in years and his hand had forgotten how to do it and it took him seven tries to write a few simple sentences in a legible handwriting. He would sit there, going: ”No! Make every letter! Dot your i’s!”, but halfway through a word his hand went off to the races. John should sit every day and write in a notebook with his hand, just to not lose it. He doesn’t want to just be chicken scratch, although he never had a good handwriting.

John put the letter in an envelope, walked over to the house and slipped it under the door: ”Hey, if you want to sell this house, I want to buy it, give me a call, here is my number or email me at this address.” Now there is this pregnancy in the air. John could get a phone call today or he could never hear from the person, it is a crazy moment in John’s life! They have been talking about it for so long and here it is: General Lee is in the air!


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