RW175 - Exploration Mentality

This week, Dan and John talk about:

The show title refers to John and his daughter having totally different mentalities when it comes to exploring spaces where you might not be supposed to be.

Dan’s day is already halfway over, but he had no complaints today. John’s day has just started, but he already had a number of complaints. There was no coffee this morning and the guys next door are hammering because they are in a savvy business mood and bought a couple of lots in this neighborhood that were decrepit and now they are developing those into homes. It is the style of the time! There is some ongoing hammering and all through the spring there will be a 60% chance of hammering based on John’s scope of the project. John has been doing some hammering as well.

Finding a quiet place to do podcasting is not nothing. In his old house every once in a while an airplane would go over the top or there was a car alarm or a gunfight, and this neighborhood is exactly what happens when you move 100 blocks further south: You get a lot more leaf blowers and screaming kids, people having fun, hammers, in other words John has successfully surrounded himself with people exactly like himself. No, there is no-one within a 10 mile radius who is even remotely like John, not even his daughter. She is not like him. That happened to Dan, too, which is interesting: They are like you, but they are not like you, in a good way.

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 Please do not quote these texts directly without applying your own editing first!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’s daughter being very obedient to rules, being different from him (RW175)

The other day John and his daughter were early for an appointment, it was raining outside and didn’t want to go in early, so they had about a half hour. They were in absolutely the warehouseiest warehouse-part of town there is and there were just warehouses with nothing to do around there unless you wanted to go into a showroom and look at samples of toilet porcelain. There is no cafe, nothing. They were driving around and she was throwing this challenge at John to find something for them to do for half an hour. They drove past a big square block building that from the outside just looks like a squat office building, but John knew that inside there is an atrium with glass elevators that go up inside it.

From the outside it looks like a three story building, but once you get inside you realize it is a five story building. It doesn’t even have a glamorous entry portal or a welcome lobby, but there is a door by the parking garage that opens into an elevator alcove and you take the elevator up one floor and all of a sudden you are in this big, exciting place. ”Let’s go into this building!” - ”For what?” - ”Let’s just go explore!” - ”We are not supposed to be in there!” - ”Come with me and I will show you what we are going to go do. We are going to go see a thing!” - ”I don’t think that we should go in that building!” and she is very confident about it. ”Darling, come with me, your father, who is going into this building!” - ”Ugh!” They went into the building, waiting for the elevator, and she said again: ”We are not supposed to be in here!”, but there weren’t any signs that say: ”Keep out!”, but it is just a regular office building.

”Just hold your horses and cool your jets about where we are and aren’t supposed to be!” They went up a floor, she is agitated and anxious, but she is also expressing it with a with a high degree of confidence. As they get off the elevator she realizes there was this new environment with fountains and lots of chic sitting areas all around this building. It got glass elevators, but each of the five floors has a hallway that walks around the entire perimeter of the atrium and the walkways all have glass fronts and you can see all the people in the building walking around, carrying their files, and in terms of ”We are in a rainy warehouse district, dad, find something for us to do!” this is pretty good! "I brought you to Logan’s Run!”

”Yeah, okay. Pretty good! But let’s get out of here!” - ”Sweetheart! Look around you! There are glass elevators!” - ”Oh, wow! Glass elevators! Let’s ride the elevator!” That was a quick transition. They went to the top floor, the door opens, John stepped out and she says: ”No, no, no. Let’s just go straight back down!” - ”Honey, come out of the elevator right now and walk around this building with me. And this is an adventure!” The whole time, they got halfway around, she said: ”I am going back!” If she was scared John would respond to that, but John’s reaction is: ”What is the matter with you? We are on an adventure! Follow your father!” and he has said to her over the course of her life repeatedly: ”Do you not trust me? Do you not trust that I am not going to get you into a situation that you can’t get out of, or that there is not going to be a problem?” - ”You all the time take us places where we are not supposed to go and someone says: Hey there, you can’t be in there!”

”Well, all right. Point made. And then we leave or I talk to the person and the person goes: Oh, all right. Well, I didn’t realize that all you were doing was just… you are free to go!, or will say to the guy: We are not the droids you are looking for! and he goes: Oh, not the droids we were looking for!” You are going through life! Of course you go down the street that says: ”Do not enter!” every once in a while! It offended her from the time she was very small. As soon as she could read traffic signs and understand traffic rules she was a backseat driver. She would look at the speed limit sign and then look at your speedometer and if they didn’t line up, she would make comment. If it said: ”No left turn!” and all these things, she was very aware of the street signs and very much cataloging all the times that John broke whatever rule it was.

They walked around this place and got up to the fourth floor there and it turns out this building has an incredible view of downtown Seattle, one John had never seen before because this building is the only five-story building anywhere around, just south of town. It was an open plan office with mid-century modern furniture and everyone in there was very chic and they are all bustling about. The balcony is glass, but the entire wall of their office that faces the atrium is also glass and then the outside wall of their office is also glass, so they are really in a terrarium. From the hall you can look straight through the entire office and see this panoramic view of Seattle, it is gorgeous! The company had some dumb company name like or and they are startup that will come in and design your office to make it look cool. They had done a good job designing their own office to look cool: ”Sweetheart, look at this! Look at this office! Look at that view!” - ”We are going to get in trouble!”

That was her attitude until they went down and found a bridge that went over the street and on the other side of the bridge there was a staircase that was one of those Cinderella staircases that swept up to the second floor and they got over there and John said: ”Check out the Cinderella staircase!” - ”Get a video of me coming down the staircase!” and at that point they had been in the building long enough and she had embraced that they weren’t going to get yelled at, and then they had fun. They rode the elevators, they went up and down the stairs, they looked in the windows of different businesses, John picked her up and showed her the different things.

When John was her age and his mom would need to go shopping and went to the department store, she would say: ”Stick with me!” and she would start looking through the racks and John would absolutely disappear and go ride the escalators and hide in the racks and go to every department of the store. Half of the time he would come back down to where she was an hour later and she wouldn’t really have noticed that he was missing. Sometimes he got in trouble. One time when he was 8 years old he found the button that turns off the escalator and he turned off the escalator during Christmas time. It was down at the bottom, a red button and a green button, but not where you would find it unless you were crawling on your hands and knees on the floor.

John turned off the escalator that was crammed full of people with their Christmas presents and there was a lot of consternation, people grousing as they had to walk up the escalator until finally somebody from the department store came around and turned the escalator back on. John had, of course, absented himself from the scene and was watching from far away, an innocent child. As soon as the escalator was started again and had gone for a little while he crept back over and turned it off again. John played that game with the employees of the department store and all of the people frantically Christmas-shopping through four separate iterations of turn off the escalator before he got caught. But he was just a harmless, innocent child with big eyelashes, doe eyes, but they did definitely call his mom.

John’s little girl doesn’t see the world that way, which is so different from John. It is not like she cleaves to their leg, but she is very confident and she has an extremely highly developed sense of right and wrong, what the rules are, what everyone should be doing. And she has that security guard mentality of: ”Well, if you are not supposed to be here, then you are not supposed to be here!”, which John’s thing is: ”If you are not supposed to be somewhere, then you could be anywhere!” There are times in the day where you are supposed to be somewhere, but in those times of day where you are not supposed to be somewhere, you could be anywhere.

In this building, for instance, there are people who are supposed to be somewhere and then there is everybody else who is not supposed to be anywhere right now and could be anywhere in this building. If a security guard came up to them and said: ”What are you doing?”, John would have said: ”We are touring your building!” and if it was a really intrepid security guard and they said: ”Touring it for why?” John would probably say: ”Touring it because we are speculating about whether or not to employ this building in a project that is above your pay grade”, or something. John knows that this is all absolutely a component of what Merlin Mann would apologize for as his privilege. John can do this and walk around a place like that and when a security guard comes up and John gives them some haughty attitude, the security guard will almost always back down.

If they were a person of color or almost anyone other than himself, the security guard might feel a little bit more empowered to be the enforcer. The people that do feel empowered to enforce on John are usually women. If he is in a building and a woman asks him what he is doing and he says: ”I am touring the building!”, it is usually a woman who feels she is not going to accept that explanation. There is a type of person that believes that they are the enforcer of the rules, there is a kind of person that gets off on enforcing rules, that is looking for violators. There are plenty of security guards and cops even that are not looking for violators. They are ready to see a violator if someone is violating, but they are not looking for them. There are other cops whose attitude is: ”Everyone is a violator!”, but a lot of them you can’t see what they are doing wrong right at this moment. Every citizen is a perp!

Those are the cops when you walk up to them and say: ”Excuse me, officer, can I ask you a question?”, they turn and immediately give you attitude: ”Yes, may I help you, citizen?” and they are looking at you, like: ”What scam is this? What crime are you committing already?” Other times you you say: ”Excuse me, officer!” and the officer turns and says: ”Hi, can I help you?” It is just a different mentality.

John’s daughter being in circus class (RW175)

Marlo is in a circus class right now that has an area where parents go to wait. You cannot watch the classes from there, which is probably not intentional, but they just gave the parents a coffee room or something. John likes watching the class and he will make himself invisible, stand over in a corner, watch the little tumbling and so forth. As he was standing in this corner, no fewer than eight employees of the circus walked past him, smiled generously, nod, or say hello. Three quarters of the way through the class an employee of the circus who is one of the younger ones, a young woman with short hair and glasses, is the one that doesn’t say: ”Hi!”, she doesn’t say anything, but she stops and says: ”Can I ask you to go wait in the parent waiting area?”

There is no arguing with her because any retort John has is going to make him a dick. There is a parent waiting area, so the presumption is that that is where the parents wait. There is no sign that says: ”All parents must wait in the waiting area”, or: ”Please do not watch the classes!” and it has been amply demonstrated to John by everyone else in this place walking past him and taking an attitude that there is no crime being committed, but this young woman decides that she is the enforcer of this particular rule at this particular moment, and having decided that she is, she is. What is John going to do? Say: ”Let me talk to your manager?” He can’t argue with her either, he can’t say: ”Why can’t I just stand here?” It is a particular quality of a certain kind of young woman that will take John on that way, in ways that a man his own age never would. It is one of the many interesting power dynamics of people in the world.

John believes that his daughter will probably be one of those women. He already sees her. If a teacher says: ”Kids stand in a line!” and one little boy can’t stay still, John’s daughter will find that little boy down the line and say:" "Brendon! Stay still! You need to get in line!” all the time. Her mom is not like that, maybe John’s mom, but more than anything John’s mom wanted not to call attention to herself and she would not have put herself in a position where somebody could have pushed back. Marlo does not at all mind being the center of attention, and also in a situation like that relishes the prospect that someone would push back at her because she feels confident that she knows the rules and if someone would say: ”Mind your own business!”, she would point to the rule chart and say: ”God is on my side! I have the evidence. I am backed up by the code! I will fight you!” That is a lot different than anyone else in the family. Maybe John’s sister, except she got imprinted maybe on John, maybe she imprinted on John’s dad the same way John did, but she thinks in terms of how she can get away with breaking the rules, not how she can enforce the rules on other people.

It is going to be really interesting as she gets older because she certainly has not felt less empowered this time goes on and when she really starts to figure out how much her father pushes the boundaries John may be in for a world of hurt. Right now she is just aware of the fact that he takes her into buildings where they ostensibly don’t belong and sometimes exceed the speed limit, but when when she gets more and more conscious of social norms… She is not embarrassed by John very much and Jon was embarrassed by his dad a lot. John’s dad was an extrovert. If he were in this building he would go around and introduce himself. He would have opened the door to that open plan office, walked in and said: ”Hello. Say, great office here! I am Dave Roderick. This is my son John. Do you mind if we walk around? Take a look around the place?” and 9 out of 10 times they would say: ”Sure, you have fun!” These days there is so much security fetishism that there would definitely be somebody there that was: ”I don’t think so!”, but that was embarrassing to John because he didn’t mind being in the building, but he wanted to sneak around, he wanted to pretend they were spies, not waltz in and get invited to the company president’s daughter’s wedding, but that was exactly what John’s dad was hoping, that by the time they left they would be honored guests at the president’s wedding.

That is why by the time he was 10 years old John had driven a ferry boat, he had driven a locomotive, he sat in the jump seat in a 747 while it was landing because his dad just had no shame. He would roll up there and knock on the door to the cockpit and the pilot would open it and John’s dad would say: ”I was in the Navy. I was a pilot. I am a pilot. Mind if my sons sits up here and watches the plane land?” - ”Pull up a chair!” You ever seen a grown man naked?” It was just his approach. John has embarrassment, which is the difference between him and his dad. His dad had no shame. John does have shame, and he would be too embarrassed to do that.

John wonders whether his daughter just has a more developed sense of embarrassment, but once she saw the princess staircase, she was happy to go up and down it, doing a Queen Elizabeth wave to all of her imagined minions. She just doesn’t want to be wrong, she doesn’t want to be busted. It is going to be a challenge!

Paediatricians telling John that his child needs a regular day (RW175)

There is no regular day here. John doesn’t have a regular day, and that is not some cool dad boast. He tried to establish regularity all the time. When she was born the pediatrician became aware of their family situation in that they were a modern family with two houses and they and every subsequent pediatrician and every book they read said that it is very important that your child have a very regimented, dependable, scheduled existence. Breakfast at the same time every day, dinner is the same time every day. In general, children thrive when they have regimented, dependable days. If they wake up in the morning and mom is making eggs and dad is reading the newspaper and the postman comes in and puts the mail down and everybody says: ”Mr. McFeely!”and then the little boy on a bicycle throws a newspaper at the front. If that is what your life is the pediatricians are all super-happy because they believe that babies and their little minds need structure.

John was dismayed because he knew that was never going to be his child’s life, not even for a minute. He asked a lot of questions, like: ”How serious are you about this? What if instead of that, what if the child has something different every day?” and the doctors would shake their heads ruefully and go: ”Well, every kid has to deal with what they have to deal with, but try and give them as much structure as you can!” - ”Well, just for devil’s advocate, what if there was as little structure as possible? Isn’t that also good?” - ”No, not good, really! No version of that is better than if you just were at the same place at the same time every day.”

John didn’t understand it. At a certain level he gets the theory. Like a lot of pronouncements like that he is not sure how many kids did they test, how do you arrive at a pronouncement like that? Did they in 1961 survey 1000 juvenile delinquents and the one thing they had in common was that none of them had tang and they all got up at different times of the day? Where does ”kids need a lot of structure in their schedule” come from? It sounds like science and it is presented to you as science, but try to describe the study that would produce that knowledge with enough certainty that it would then disseminate to doctors who would tell it to you like it was something that everybody knew and that the alternative is bad.

Having a little bit of information is a dangerous thing. John very pro science, but there are an awful lot of scientific articles of faith and if you really asked scientists about it, they would say: ”Well, there is no way you could design a study to produce those results reliably!” You would have to survey 10.000 people over the course of 30 years to determine reliably what kind of home produces a better child. We assume that two parents in the home and a nutritious breakfast is better than one parent in the home where you are just eating raw cookie dough, and it makes sense to assume it, but how do you study it? You can’t take a kid and his twin brother and give one a nutritious breakfast and one cookie dough every day for their childhood, unless you are Mengele.

John’s kid has never had a regular day. She has to be at school at a certain time and she has lessons afterwards, but when she comes home, maybe her mom is here and John is not, maybe John is here and her mom is not, maybe they are both here, maybe they have dinner at 5:30pm, maybe they have dinner at 8:00pm, maybe dinner is really thought out, maybe it is a complete afterthought, maybe they all forget to eat until says: ”I’m hungry!” But she is loved and doted on! Who knows whether John’s daughter’s fear of going into an office building with her father in the afternoon is a direct result of her not having dinner at the same time of day.

Her little best friend across the street has dinner at 6:00pm every day. If she is at our house at 5:45pm, we get a text that says: ”Send her home! It is dinnertime!” If Marlo goes over there at 6:15pm, she is sent away because it is dinnertime, and by 6:30pm the little girl is out on the street. The one thing John can say with certainty is that Marlo has never once in her entire life had dinner at 6:00pm. She has had it at 5:00pm, she has had it at 7:00pm, but never 6:00pm, because 6:00pm is not the time of day when John is thinking of dinner or her mother is thinking of dinner. It is just not what they think of as dinner time.

If she did have dinner at 6:00pm, it was probably because they were in Estonia and it was 2am and they were super-hungry and ate in an airport. At 6:00pm her mother just got home from work and for John it is a in-between like friscalating dusk light. It is not day, it is not night, most people think of it as dinner time, but if you eat dinner at 6:00pm you are almost certainly going to eat another entire dinner at 10:30pm or 11:30pm. John is going to bed at 3:00am and she goes to bed now at 8:00pm and she reads until 9:00pm.

Kids reading (RW175)

Dan’s kids just won’t read. They can both read really, really, really well. Dan was an English major, his mom was a lifelong college English professor, they can both write exceptionally well, they could both read at very, very early ages. But they just don’t! To get them to read is like pulling teeth. The way they respond if Dan suggests that they should go read something is like he told them to go jump off a bridge. It is just not a thing. ”Why would I go do that?” - ”Books are great!”

The downside is that they are both so very, very good at reading and writing. It is effortless for them. People say your kids should read and get into the habit of doing it because it really helps with their schooling, but they are already at high school level friggin reading! Dan can’t say: "You need to be better! You need more practice!” How do you get your kids to go into a room and read? That is the dream!” That is the holy grail of parenthood!

John’s daughter does that and they don’t have to tell her. She does not have an iPad, she does know how to control the television, but it never occurred to her that she could go down and turn it on on her own. She knows how to control the TV better than John does. The other day John sat down and said he didn’t know how they were going to get this show and she picked up the remote control and talked to it. She said: ”Play Brady Bunch!” and the TV started to play and John wondered how she knew to do that. John would never have known that.

Her friend across the street is the same as Dan’s kids are. When she talks to Marlo she takes pride in the fact that she doesn’t read. Dan’s kids would not be proud of it, it is just not a fun thing for them. Marlo has never played a video game and when her friends play video games, when she goes to parties that have video games, she doesn’t think it is interesting. Both of Dan’s kids love video games, that is totally their jam. It might just be an innate thing.

John never being interested in video games, gamers as an affiliation (RW175)

When video games came out, when all of the kids had Atari 2600 John would go to their houses and play video games, but he had really no desire to have one or two play it when there weren’t other kids around. He would play a video game when it was his turn. If there were five of them around a 2600 and the controller would go round, he would play when it was his turn, but he didn’t fight for it, he was actually as often as not perfectly happy to just sit and watch other kids play video games. John made no attempt to ever stay current with video games.

When the one with the ”body blow, body blow, knock him out!” (Punch Out) came out in 1983 in the Arcade, video game technology at that point had advance. It felt like that was an advance, certainly over Defender, and it had advanced and left John behind. It had gotten so complicated now, there was no point in John trying to stay current. It was one of the first games where you had to do ”this controller to the left, to this controller up and then push the button” and that was how you do a roundhouse kick. There were moves, it wasn’t like Defender where you went in one direction shooting, and then you turned the other way and shot and at a certain point you hit Smart Bomb.

John never went above level 10 on anything. Punch Out was one where the kids that were good at it had practiced, they had sat there and figured out the moves, there were tricks to it, and said: ”You left me behind with this new fangled technology, you kiddos!” He was 14 and from that point on he never owned another video game. He had IntelliVision, but he didn’t really like it, and from that point on he didn’t play them. He never owned a PlayStation or or ever played one even. If he went to somebody’s house and there was a PlayStation or a Nintendo, he looked at those things like he looked at skateboards: That seems like it is for kids and also a little dangerous. ”If you play a Nintendo, won’t you start smoking more pot? I bet you will!” It looks like a bong, basically, an electric bong.

That is something innate in John, it was not socially derived although it manifested as a social issue. He was not socialized to not be interested in video games, it was innate. He looked at them and thought: ”Hmm… No!” He looked at a jigsaw puzzle and thought: ”That is cool!”, but he is not somebody who would think to put out a jigsaw puzzle. If there is one going he will sit and fuck with it. It is innate, it is a way that you are baked. All around John that same PlayStation or that same 2600 or Nintendo, he watched a certain percentage of his friends fall into those drugs, become junkies and addicts, and then a whole big subsection of his friends that never were interested in them at all. It had nothing to do with money or social class. You could pick the gamers out of a lineup.

Not being a gamer and not being a skateboarder and superhero comic book fan did not seem to put one at a social disadvantage when John was a teenager. Strangely now it it does, depending on where you are and what online life you lead. In a way, John feels like he was homeschooled by Christians because he has so little experience with so much of the stuff that makes up the Ready Player One universe. People make Mario references, Mario jokes, there are memes that are predicated on you knowing Mario and his backstory well enough that you would look at this meme and go: ”Huh! Mario would never do that!” It is jus gibberish to John, he doesn’t know it. John had no natural attraction to it and his little kid doesn’t either. Although she doesn’t have those things, it wasn’t so much a prohibition of them as it was that John doesn’t have those things.

John doesn’t fuck around on an iPad, so there wasn’t one laying there that when she was fuzzy it would occur to him to turn it on and let her entertain herself. He is not going to go so far as to call it a gender, but it is definitely an affiliation. You are of a kind with others that either are gamers or are not. Right. Natural selection produced gamers because they are problem solvers, they are cave explorers, they are the people that you set at solving riddles. John’s question his whole life has been not why God made gamers, but why did natural selection produce him. What is he here to do? That is one of the fundamental things that drives John’s life. Why does he not want to play Nintendo. Why did he Punch Out so hard? Why did he look at that and know instinctively it was not for him anymore? It was funny for a while because he could figure out Dig Dug because it was 2-dimensional and it was just about moving little men around, but beyond that: ”No, thanks!” What is John here to do?

First person shooter games seem so interesting! He loves to watch people play video games even now. He will sit in a chair and they are on an adventure and John is looking over their shoulder as they wander through a dungeon and here is a monster and here they come and switch guns! I is fun to watch, like a movie. But to be in it feels like a lot of responsibility. To get Mario from one end of the thing to the other and to collect all the gems and jump over the things and look for the dragon… If you don’t do it, you have not lost. If you do play, there is a 100% chance you will lose because no matter how good you are, you eventually arrive at the place where you lose unless it is a game that has an end and when you get to the end of a game, that has to feel like even more awful because now what? Play it again?

It may be as simple as: John does not get such a rush out of playing that it outweighs a feeling of having lost at the end, the bummer of watching your last character go. John used to feel at that point that he wasted a quarter or if he was almost there and died, which is the thing that the game is trying to get you to do, to try again and get one more quarter in there, but then you get to the thing where you almost died and you succeed and then you go a little further and you die again. John doesn’t want to die that many times in this life. He just wants to die the once. John absolutely likes to explore an old office building or a new office building, but the risk of him dying is a lot less.

John making the top floor of the Denali Tower his playground (RW175)

Anchorage had a weird zoning in that it appeared that there was no zoning. There is a downtown to Anchorage and plenty of companies built buildings downtown, but there were also tall buildings that were not connected to any other tall buildings and were not around any other tall buildings. They were just standing out in the middle of nowhere. There are lots of them, weirdly. You drive around Anchorage and wonder why that building is there.

In Anchorage in the 1980s, when John was probably 10 years old they built a building just a few blocks from John’s dad’s condo that they called the Denali Tower. By 1970s standards or early 1980s standards the Denali Tower was very modern. It looked like a skyscraper, but it was just an office tower. Still, it soared over everything around it, and this might even be true to this day, on the same block there were little one bedroom post-war houses that were poorly insulated, there were log cabins on the street all around this tower, but here it was. It had a big red and white striped radio tower on the top of it.

They started building this building when John was in 5th grade maybe, and if you walked out of his dad’s condo, you turned right and you went to the corner, you turned right again and went up to the corner, you were on Fireweed Lane and if you turned right on Fireweed and went down three blocks you were at this tower. John was at that construction site every day, watching that tower go up. At that time in 1979 nobody was monitoring what your kids were doing. John’s dad was at work, he had a house key around his neck, but his dad never locked the house, so he didn’t even need it. He would get out of school and a lot of the time he would just go over to this construction site and watch the hardhats building this building.

When they were done and John realized that the first tenants had moved in he was walking through the glass doors into the lobby of the building. It was a modern lobby with all glass and polished black surfaces. John had watched this building get built from the ground, so he felt like he had some ownership stake in it. He was standing in the lobby in 1980, the beginning of the yuppies, this building was the most modern thing John had ever seen, because all the buildings that his dad lived and worked in were all government buildings that were built in the 1930s. The buildings that John went to with his dad were all either old hotels, government buildings, all places where if you went into the men’s room, all the stalls were made out of one inch thick marble, that style where the stairs were made of sandstone.

Here John was standing in this building and it looked like a space chandelier. The building had just opened and there were some office people coming in and going out and John was probably 11 by then and he walked over and he pushed the up button on the elevator. The elevator came, he got in, and of course he pushed the top floor. His heart was in his throat with excitement, he felt very much like he should not be doing this, he should not be in this office, this is where grown ups are, this is a brand new building, and this elevator door is going to open up and there is going to be security or there is going to be a lawyer standing there.

The building has 12 stories maybe, it is not that big of a building, really. John got to the top floor and the doors opened and the top floor of the Denali tower was not finished. It had not been rented out, it was unclear what they were going to do with it, and the entire top floor was just one big empty open space with windows on all four sides, from which you could see the entire city. John stepped off that elevator and the door closed behind him and he was in fucking hog heaven. He couldn’t believe it. There were tools lying around, there was electrical stuff just dangling from the ceiling, and you could see all around.

There was nobody up there and there no reason for anybody to be up there. John made that top floor of the Denali Tower his playground. He went every day, he showed it to his friends, and pretty soon if you worked in the Denali Tower you would be standing in the lobby waiting for the elevator and there would be four 12-year old boys, all dressed like Commandos, full-on combat boots and balaclavas and the whole nine, and those boys would get on the elevator with you and you would push the 10th floor where your office was and they would push the top floor.

It happened all the time! No one ever said: ”What are you kids doing?” They went up there and played on that top floor for not just the summer, bu all through the fall, never saw a living person, they never did anything with it. It was the greatest! They figured out all the stairwells, the parking garage, the whole building! They had this clubhouse that was the top floor of the only skyscraper any of them had ever seen.

Then John’s mom moved to Alaska and she moved into a house that was less than a mile away, but it was over the line into a different school zone. Instead of West High where John’s dad lived, he was going to go to East High, instead of Romig junior high he was going to go to Wendler junior high if he lived with his mom, which he was going to do. When John started going to Wendler he just wasn’t in his dad’s neighborhood and all the kids that he used to play with went to a different junior high and the thing all fell apart.

Years later around the time of junior prom, which was 5 years later but in your kid mind it seems like 50 years later, there was a group going to junior prom and one of the kids had a dad who was a member of the Denali Club, Anchorage loved this kind of thing, the latest really fancy restaurant that is really hard to get into and a lot of times you have to be a member. There were all kinds of clubs like that. The Petroleum Club, the Alaska Club. These were these were clubs that were either bars and restaurants that you need to be a member, or athletic clubs that you needed to be a member, it was all about that. The Denali Club was the latest, the coolest, hippest place and you had to be a member to get in. This guy’s dad got them a table for junior prom for fifteen of them at the Denali Club.

When they were all arriving at the Denali Club John realized it was in the Denali building. He walked in with his date into that lobby and the guy that was their friend that was taking them to the Denali club pushed the top floor button and the door opened and it was a super fancy nightclub with white table cloth, waiters in tuxedos, full of people, loud, people smoking and drinking and steaks and they were taken over to their table, John knew every inch of where they were, but it was transformed into this Scarface environment.

When they sat down at the table, there was a matchbook or something at their place setting that had their names embossed in gold, it might have just been a matchbook or a matchbox, some little thing that indicated: ”This is how fancy this place is! Your matches have your name on them!” It was inconceivably luxurious. John sat there through the whole meal, obviously having a great time with his friends and raptured by his date, but more than anything just looking around the Denali Club. It was the kind of thing that at 16 John loved to do, sit and think: ”I was just a kid then and now I am all grown up. Look at how the world has transformed!”


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