RW176 - My Yoni

This week, Dan and John talk about:

The show title refers to one of the things that people want John to do like mediation and similar.

John is in Hawaii. Aloha! Dan will be able to hear all of John’s doves and chickens and other weird birds. Today is John’s last day and he is flying home tonight on a red eye, which is not a thing he typically chooses, but that is how it broke down this time. He is trying to get his last little day of Hawaii here, one more time in the water and one more time up the mountain. He has been there 12 days. Uncle Jack is 95 this year and it is getting to be a little bit of a toil to be 95 for him. Smaller and smaller things are becoming a pain in the ass, but he still has his acuity and he is still working on his book.

Marlo and her mom have been here the whole time, it has been wonderful, and it has focused aloha for John, or at least focused what he thinks aloha is, by trying to get ahold of it again this year and having a much harder time getting to whatever that aloha-place was. That has been interesting. He knew that it was tricky, just like you are not supposed to look for turtles, you are supposed to just go swimming and then the turtles will find you, it is also true about aloha. You are supposed to look for it as much as you are supposed to just go swimming.

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 Please do not quote these texts directly without applying your own editing first!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.

Austin and other cities getting less chill over time (RW176)

In Austin it got cold again, it is in the 40s, it was 30s tonight, it is raining, not what Dan wanted. It is not very aloha there. John has had some extremely aloha times in Austin, at least Austin as he remembers it from 15 years ago. There was a vibe there that was a chilliness to the little social bubble he was in down there that stood in real contrast to Seattle in the sense of people just living their lives. There didn't seem to be a lot of stress among the people John knew down in Austin, but that might have changed in 15 years. There is more stress everywhere now.

As far as places go, Austin is a relatively casual, chill place, but not as chill or casual or laid back as it was when Dan moved here nine years ago. John wonders where all the chill went! There are a lot of people moving there, very quickly, a lot of people moving in mass, and a lot of those people are from less chill places. Dan is not going to say ”all the people from California”, although a lot of the people that have moved here are from California, but it is not just them, it is a lot of other people moving from a lot of other places.

That has happened in Maui. Kihei used to be so chill and every day it is less chill. Where are the places that are getting more chill? Are all the people who are leaving Southern Indiana and moving to Austin or California making southern Indiana more chill? It is a little unchill there, but for different reasons. The pace of life there is slow and chill. What is unchill in Southern Indiana is certain attitudes, but that is not universal, you can always carve out a little corner of chill-attitude somewhere. Is Missouri super chill right now? Kansas City sounds chill!

Gary’s Van meetup (RW176)

John was talking to somebody the other day because they had a meet-up of people from the Internet when the Western State Hurricanes played in Seattle. A lot of people came from all around and they had a little gathering, talking to people that had come from far and wide, a young man from Perth, a woman from Kansas City, singing its praises. From Perth to Kansas City, two of the great cities of the world! Dan has a handful of emails from people who have recently been in attendance of the things John is talking about for the Aftershow. So many people saying they saw the Western State Hurricanes show or they have the vinyl or other things like that.

Hawaiian Coffee (RW176)

John just had a little sip of coffee, the first one of the day, he is just waking up here because the time difference between Texas and here starts to get pretty wide. Honestly, 9:00am is not that early for most people. They do have wonderful coffee here. When John was growing up in Alaska, the coffee from Hawaii was the coffee, that was the stuff that if you were a real player, you were drinking Kona coffee, but in the Starbucks years that whole Hawaiian coffee thing faded. John doesn’t hear people in Seattle talk about Hawaiian coffee as much as he does Ethiopian coffee or Central American coffee. Part of it is probably that the coffee plantations are gone from Hawaii, but there is still wonderful coffee here. Let John be the first to sing its praises!

Choosing to do things deliberately, not just because they come up (RW176)

John is contemplating the fact that Uncle Jack may not come next year. Who knows? He may come next year, he may come for the next 10 years, but it is possible that he won't and John has never taken this trip for granted, he has always recognized that it is an astonishing opportunity, a wonderful gift, to be able to come here, because he couldn't afford to do this over the last 10 years, now he is on the threshold of being able to consider that next year if Uncle Jack doesn't come, will he want to come badly enough that he will AirBNB a place and come maybe for the first time really intentionally and not because…

There is so much that John does, like: "Oh, that is cool, sure! I will do that!” as opposed to: ”I am going to make a point to do that!” John got a tradition now coming here in February and he wonders if when Uncle Jack stops, whether that tradition will mean enough to him that it will end up being the first thing that he start to say: ”This is what I do! This isn't something that I do because there is a chance to do it. This is actually something I am going to make sure that I do!”

Getting to be a judge for the Rasmussen Foundation (RW176)

There is a lot going on this spring. John got asked to go to Alaska by the Rasmussen Foundation, the big grant awarding foundation in Alaska, and they give pretty big grants to artists and people working in a lot of different fields up there. John got asked to come and be one of the artists that helps decide who gets the grants. He is not exactly sure what the name of that job is, but to sit with a small panel of other people and review the grant applications of 100 people and pick the 8 of them that are going to get 20, 30 grand to work on their art.

They are flying John up to Alaska and putting him up for a week to do this whole thing and it is wonderful. It is the first time he has ever gone back to Alaska where he was doing it for work. Even though he is not getting paid to do it, it is still within the terms of what he considers his work. On his 20 year high school reunion he put together a show instore at the cool record store in Anchorage because he had a new album out and wouldn't that be cool if he played while he was there! He did a couple of radio interviews at the College Indie station and he played a lightly attended in-store at a record store, all as a thing to do around his 20 year high school anniversary.

John drummed that up, this thing with the Rasmussen Foundation is the first time that it feels like he wouldn't be up in Alaska otherwise at this time, except to go do this thing. Traveling somewhere where you have a purpose, where you are there for work, is a milestone for John. It always feels like that. He has never been to Australia, he has never been to Japan because both places he has hoped that he would get called there, that he would go there because he had to because of work and not because he elected to go as a tourist or a vacationer. It is a neat milestone to go back to Alaska that way.

Getting accepted into the Army War College (RW176)

What John is very excited about this spring is that he got accepted into the Army War College program that he applied to a couple of years ago (see RL270, RW159).

The week of the Western State Hurricane reunion (RW176)

That week before John left for Hawaii was an extraordinary week. The Western State Hurricanes experience was overwhelmingly positive. The week of intense rehearsals with the band was nerve-wracking because that music was a lot harder to remember than John expected it to be, but it was great. The shows were great and the album came out and it is beautiful, it is vinyl, it sounds great, all the things are going up on Spotify, John is going to release it on Bandcamp in another day and that is going to be great. The feedback from everyone was great. There wasn't a single voice that said. ”Oh, that wasn't very good!” Everybody loved it. They played on KEXP and it went well. John had a meet up of people that go to the Facebook group Gary's Van. There is a Discord now for people that don't like Facebook because Gary’s Van is becoming a multi-headed hydra.

The whole thing was the culmination of a lot of work and all of that work was really validating and then it all worked. It all happened and was great. There wasn't a single thing to latch onto and say: ”Well, that part of it was a bummer!” or: ”I read one bad review and it erased 50 good reviews!” There wasn't even one bad review to fixate on. Personally for John it was just great all the way through. Then he heard he was going to the War College and then he went to Hawaii. It is pretty amazing and from a materialist standpoint there isn't very much that could be better. In the material world everything clicked.

John’s article in the Wall Street Journal, how to fund things (RW176)

Two days ago there was a big article about John in The Wall Street Journal that no-one noticed and that John didn't promote because it is in The Wall Street Journal and it is talking about John’s financial life. A writer contacted him and said: ”We want to do a profile on a podcaster and what a podcaster’s financial situation is, and we want to give you free financial advice from The Wall Street Journal.” It is a series they do.

They sent John some to compare, all these people that were like: ”I am a potter. I live in Brooklyn, and I want to make sure that being a potter is going to provide me with a good retirement!” (see here: A musician / podcaster starts thinking about retirement).

There are even print copies of it out there, the published version is on the street. On one hand it is wonderful and normally something like that the expectation would be that you would publicize it, you would go out to the Internet and say: ”Hey, you guys, look at this article about me in The Wall Street Journal!”, but it is about the tricky business of money that feels doubly embarrassing. If it was a review of the Western State Hurricanes in the Wall Street Journal he would have been out, touting it. This article is about how much money he made last year and how much money he is am trying to make next year and how much of that he spend on expenses and how much of that he has left over to save and house selling and all this.

To do the article was another confirmation of how much has changed in the last year, a lot of that a direct result of crowdfunding stepping in and taking John from a person who felt was on the on the razor's edge, who was working all the time and not getting paid for it, and halfway through the year he was getting paid for it, 100% because of this new method. Some of John’s friends work at McClatchy, the newspaper group. They are laying people off and shutting down and John was talking to his friend who used to be the editor of the Anchorage Daily News.

They were reflecting on the fact that we still haven't come up with a way to fund things outside of advertising. That is the only way Google makes money, the only way Facebook makes money, the only way Twitter makes money. It is the only thing that keeps podcasting afloat. For some fucked-up reason the only money there is in the world to pay for all these wonderful things is trying to get you to buy oven cleaner. What is all the other money doing? It is just moving from room to room.

Hollywood generates their own money, musicians used to at least be able to actually make a thing and sell it, but John was completely dependent on advertising and advertising just doesn't work at the level he was operating. Crowd-funding, it is obviously not a new thing to have patrons, but this ”every little patron”model has transformed John’s life in such a short amount of time, it is astonishing! He has no idea whether he can sustain it or whether people eventually will say ”I am going to give my dollar to the McElroy brothers because they are so irresistible!”

Dan says there is a lot of churn in their Patreon. You would it is 1000 people and one or two drop off and one or two come, but it is not. There are a lot of people who will be there for a little while and then they will drop off and get out. Although the patronage is increasing, it is increasing, but there are also a lot of people who are leaving. When Dan decides to support somebody, he will stay there, not just for a few weeks or a month. He is not criticizing people who decide to do that, but it is interesting because that is not how he does it.

The whole idea was that this was another voluntary eel that people attach to themselves where they basically start doing it and then forget they were doing it, just pledge and then it becomes another tiny little remora stuck to the outside of your skin as you swim through the waves. The whole notion of it is so new relative to how long John has been doing things.

Not being able to appreciate all the good things that were happening (RW176)

This amazing experience putting out this album, and that is not even to get into the amazing experience of being able to go back and relive all those experiences and have a different result come out, which is to say: The album was released, but also: John flew a couple of guys out in their opening band, The Nevada Bachelors‚ and they reunited and relearned their songs from that time. The Western State Hurricanes paid all their expenses and paid them all so that they earned a little bit of money.

John wasn't even being Machiavellian about it, but he want these guys to do this and this would be fun and they wanted to do it and it all worked. It wasn't a thing where at the end of the day anybody got screwed, it wasn't a thing where anybody had a bad time. John has been texting with a guy in… people DM him into various different places… certain people choose to DM him in Facebook and certain people choose to DM him on Twitter and certain people do it in Instagram. It is so funny that all of those messaging services really do end up getting used. People end up getting sliding into your DMs these different places.

John has been DM-ing with a guy. He talks to a lot of people who are struggling with drugs and alcohol and he makes himself available because it is important. He has been talking to a guy who is really struggling with that material world versus spiritual world thing. In his material world, things are really going badly, and it has been emphasizing to John that we talk about materialism in our culture as being a thing revolving around consumerism, you are fascinated with things, and when you say materialist it is implied that you are saying: shallow, somebody that just wants televisions or whatever.

But materialism is not just a class or wealth status acquisition thing, it is a mentality, an approach to life, and a lot of times when we talk about being present, being here now, that can bleed over into a world, a mentality of: What is the material world is the world. What is happening in the world of our flesh and blood and the things that we are touching is reality. There are a lot of attitudes that people carry that are intrinsically materialist. A lot of the fixation on justice in our contemporary society is an expression of materialism. Certainly we want a fairer distribution of material things, but we are fixating on the material things and we lose sight of the fact that that is not the world, really. Money is fake and we are actually living in a…

Talking to an alcoholic who is struggling, for instance, and having them list all the things that are going wrong, and tying that to whether or not they can get sober, or whether or not it is worth it even to get sober. Why even bother getting sober if everything has already gone to shit? This person was writing John: ”I am losing my house, I am losing my family, I am losing my job!” It is crazy to say that your family is materialist, but they are in this sense. If it was sufficient that losing your family was such a blow that it would force you to stop drinking, then there would be a lot fewer chronic alcoholics than there are because alcoholics lose their family every damn day and it doesn't stop them from drinking. Alcoholics lose their health, they drink themselves straight to death, they lose everything, and it is not enough because it is a spiritual problem, it is not a material one.

In having that conversation with that guy, a conversation John is having with 15 people, but this precise one just happened recently, caused John to reflect on the fact that all of these things that have happened recently, if he segregates them to the material world, when he thinks about it in terms of: ”These were events that have happened, these are signposts!” and each one of them John should be able to line up and say: ”Look at these accomplishments. How proud I am of them, how successfully they they went off!” Each one of these things has gone off without a dark side and John should be able to stack those and see in himself, feel and himself the production or the transformation. He should feel good, relaxed, proud, content.

To have gone through all of this in such a concentrated moment, the last four weeks, so much happened! And yet John feels himself internally unchanged, he feels the same, and in those moments when he was on stage with the band, he is absolutely flying at peak efficiency because he is a performer who really puts it all out there. It has been described as: ”leaving it all on the stage” and that is how John feels about it. When he is up there whatever energy he has, why would he take any of it home tonight? Go all the way!

At the first night he had to save a little bit because he knew there was a second night, but at the second night he didn't save anything. Just put it all out there! That is an incredible feeling by itself, to the point where he can make it through one more song and then he would be unable to sing. He bounced around now to the point that he really doesn’t have that much more. In the moment of that there is a kind of presence that is bullet proof, and for the hour or two after you get off stage you are still bathed in a light, but whatever John’s spiritual malady is, this last month has really demonstrated that it is impenetrable to things happening in the world.

There is no thing that John can do or have happened to him that is going to change his spiritual wavelength or constant state. He is still exactly as non-plussed as he was and probably as he would have been if all those things had gone wrong. If the Western State Hurricanes record release had been a disaster, if the album sounded terrible, if nobody liked it, he would have lots more bummers, but whatever his energy level is, whatever his spiritual level of contentment or feeling of belonging, it is unaffected. That is pretty astonishing realization!

John had it a dozen times in my life, the idea that: ”If I just get this next thing!”, including: ”If I just get sober!”, ”If I just get in shape!”, ”If I just lose 20 pounds!”, ”If I just…” At a certain age we all realize that all those ”if I just” you never cross the finish line. There is never one of those that actually accomplishes what you think or what you hope it is going to do. To have it in such bold relief right now has foregrounded it, it is the file that is on the desk right now, which is to say: John wants to be able to enjoy these things and he wants to do that now so much that he can't possibly go through another season…

If John thinks about last year where he was and what he felt he needed, and now he can sit here this year and feel like he has realized all those things, not only the things he thought he needed, but all these other gifts, and yet he is sitting here more or less in the same frame of mind, like: ”What can I possibly hope for for next year in the material world that is going to make any difference to me?” and the fact is that there is nothing. Last year's Aloha journey has got to convert this year into a spiritual path. John hates saying that! As somebody who ostensibly has been on a spiritual path for 25 years he realized that he is not on one, he hasn’t really been on one, he doesn’t want to go to one, he doesn't want to do any of those things.

It is excruciating to consider, it is much harder than going to the gym, which is already hard. To seek guidance and to pursue a program, John doesn’t relish it, but how can he sit here and say that there is any other way forward? He is not depressed, he did not come off of that stage, he did not come out of that record release… When he got the message that he was admitted to the War College event he actually did a fist pump in the air. Part of the problem was that there are very few people he can share that with.

It doesn't happen very often where there is something that he feels is so exciting that he actually has a ”Yes!” He has been so excited to do it. It is not a big thing, he has not been awarded a presidential medal or something. A listener who is an Air Force officer and teaches at the Air Force Academy and at the War College invited John to apply: ”I want you to come to this, but the government has to decide!” and John replied and was rejected and a couple of years went by and he applied again and this time he was accepted.

It is a fist pump, not because it is some great honor, but because he really wants to do it so much. Since being King Neptune and since meeting several military officers that listen to these various podcasts, that listened to Road Work and Roderick on the Line a long time before John started doing Friendly Fire, and then especially when he was King Neptune he met all those admirals. The insight it has given him into the world, knowing officers who are at a general staff level, has been a profound deepening in his understanding of politics and human endeavor.

He wants to know more and wants to spend more time with military officers to understand how they think, to understand what the expectations are of them and how we get into these situations in the world where we turn to military officers to solve problems for us and they often are the ones that are like: ”We are the wrong people to ask!” and the response from us is often: ”You are the only ones we can think of!”

When you ask the military to solve a humanitarian crisis, their attitude is: ”Our first idea is to shoot people. And our second idea is to shoot people. If you ask us to solve the problem, we are going to find a way to solve it by shooting people!” The understanding that there are military officers that are that reflective about their role in the world and yet also great officers has been exciting for John.

John is not depressed, but he is in a place where he cannot go higher. There is compression, not depression, there is a limiter that is connected to a disease of the spirit. A lot of people have recommendations, but he does not live in a bubble and he knows what the opportunities are and what the options are, he just doesn’t want to do these things. He doesn’t want to meditate, he doesn’t want to do yoga, he doesn’t want to think about his Yoni, he doesn’t want to make a list of all the people he has harmed, he doesn’t want to read Be Here Now by Ram Dass, he does have a couple of copies of it already, he doesn’t want to do The Artist’s Way (by Julia Cameron), he just wants to be lazy, but he can't anymore. There is nothing easier to put off until tomorrow than beginning a spiritual path. It is easy to say: ”I will do that later!”

Dan’s meditation teacher would often quote that people would say to him: ”I can't meditate. I am too stressed out to meditate!”, which is like saying: ”I am too sick to go to the doctor!” It is super easy to put that off and not do that, not want to do it. Who wants to do any of that crap?

John doesn't want to do that crap, but he has to. A lot of us pursue that stuff as a component in an overall project of self-care and general health. Because you don't get presented to you in such bold relief the contrast between what is happening in your material life and what is happening in your spiritual life, the tendency is to embark upon those things as general self-improvement or rather a feeling that something is missing from life, or whatever it is.

John has put himself into a situation where the emergency of it is is really revealed. It is an emergency if everything can go right for a period and everything that went right in the last month is not just some thing where he won the lottery or he found a wallet full of money. Everything that went right in the last month is the result of work that he did for a year or two beforehand. The crowdfunding thing: It is not hard to put a thing up that says: ”Donate money!”, it is hard to ask people, but more than that: it is hard to over the course of time think that you are worth it. It is hard to come to the realization that you can do that without shame. It is hard to make a thing that is good enough to warrant the feeling like you can ask.

It was extremely hard to make that Western State record, it was hard to get all those people together, and John is not a good project manager. There were so many text threads where people were like: ”John, are you? Hello? We have been talking about what is going to happen and you are not chiming in?” John hates replying to texts, but he would finally say: ”All right, here is how it is going to go. You are going to do this and you are going to do that!” It is a study in contrasts of how people like to communicate because there would be 80 texts between them and John wouldn't say a word until finally he would say: ”All right, here are the dates and times and here are the places and here is how the money is going to work and here is how it is going to roll.”, but it would take John those 80 texts to get to the point where he was so frustrated that he would have an answer.

In spite of that, the other members of the Western State Hurricanes have a lot of skills and they really interested in this project and they really came through and people helped make it. This wasn't just a vanity project, this was a thing that was a gift to everybody that participated in it. The work that they did to pull it off was a gift. Each person had the ability to put hard work into it and see it happen for themselves. It is just a great experience!

It was the result of a couple of years of work on it. None of this success was anything other than an affirmation of all of this other stuff, all the stuff that was like: ”Why am I doing this?”, but he never even asked those questions. He was never like: ”Why am I doing this?” because it was clear why he was doing it. And it still feels right.

Wanting to go to an AA meeting (RW176)

The first step has got to be that John goes to an AA meeting. The last AA meeting he went to was last year here in Hawaii, he went to one or two last year back in Seattle. There is a home group… Most AA meetings happen in church basements, some space where a non-profit gives you the keys to the coffee maker once a week, but there are some freestanding buildings that are just AA halls, not many, but there are places that are AA spaces and there is one very close to where John lives now. There are a lot of different kinds of AA spaces. There are places where people work phone banks because there are numbers you can call if you are in the middle of a crisis. There is always a number you can call and there are people staffing those spaces, volunteers that go down and answer phones for a few hours. That is fun, you have the cup of coffee and there are three or four other people there and the phone rings and in the meantime you are talking with each other.

There is an AA hall down by where John lives (called Pass It On, 17801 1st Ave S, Normandy Park, WA 98148) and he has been driving past it for a year, looking at it, and it is one that feels very much like pretty close to the street. It is not a luxurious place, but a place where within AA terms you would say that there is real work being done there. John is 25 years sober, but he looks at that building and it is intimidating, not because he wouldn't be able to walk in there and feel immediately welcome, not that he doesn't know all the songs, which is funny because there are no songs, but in fact, there are a lot of songs.

It is not intimidating in that sense, but intimidating because he drives past it and knows that it is a no-bullshit environment in there, it is not a social place. A lot of AA meetings, well-established ones, long running ones, become social places. The people that are in there have been through a lot together, they end up having a lot of sober time and if you are really working a program and you are sober for a long time, you become wise. It is a challenge that some meetings have to address where there are 50 people that are always there and they all know each other and all heard each other’s stories and so it becomes a kind of club.

Those are intimidating meetings to go to because you walk in, sometimes in dire straits… John went to a meeting like that this year on an afternoon, he was hitting the skids, and he was texting with somebody and they mentioned this meeting and John happened to be driving past it and he just swung into the parking lot and walked in. It was a convivial place, really nice people that brought a lot of food, but it was really a thing where you walk in and people are talking to one another and everybody knows each other. John is welcome there, any alcoholic would be welcome in that group, but it is different to understand that you are welcome and to feel like you walked into somebody’s clubhouse.

This place that is down by John’s house, if it is a clubhouse, then it is a club house of a very different kind where people do not have the luxury to go to AA because it is fun. This place is where John belongs, not just because he has a lot of sober time and there is a lot of help he can give other people, but it is where he personally belongs because he is at that level. In terms of spiritual growth he is basically at the bottom, he is starting, and it is the craziest thing to think that you could be 25 years without drugs and alcohol and you feel like you are just starting.

Throughout that entire time, that entire 25 years, John has known and recognized that he was not really working the program. He was doing the thing where he was exerting a pretty strong willpower because he can set himself to an idea and make it real, and he set himself to not being drunk and rationally confirmed it every day for 25 years, but all the stuff about staying sober that is part of a process of learning to be, because staying sober is one part of it, but being an alcoholic isn't just that you drink. A lot of people drink. It is not just that you take a drink and suddenly you are an alcoholic. There is something wrong with alcoholics, but nobody knows what it is. Alcoholics don't know what it is. That is why there is all this terminology problem. What the hell is a spiritual disease? What does that even mean? It sounds idiotic, but there is no other way to describe what the problem is.

To talk about alcoholism as a disease, everybody who says that understands that they don't know what that means. It sounds crazy. But how else can you describe it? This person gets drunk all the time and loves it and is happily married, successful in their job, their kids love them and they drink like that their whole lives. When they retire, they sit with their wife and get drunk and are having a blast, and then this person over here, every single time they get drunk it ends up being a fucking clusterfuck. They screw up everything, they can't keep friendships or relationships going, they lose their job, they are in trouble all the time, they wake up sick. What the fuck?

It is not the booze that is doing it. The booze is a constant! There are people to have less ”tolerance” for alcohol. Native Americans, their bodies don't process it the same way and it becomes a devastating poison. Two Irishman, why is one an alcoholic and one is not?

John have that, whatever that is, it is a problem that is not just that his body doesn't process alcohol because his body processes the fuck out of alcohol. He was able to drink an incredible amount of alcohol and not pass out, not throw up, he was one of those people that was doing those games like in Indiana Jones, where it is a contest of how many shots you can do in some Tibetan fire cave. It is not that, but before he even had a drink there was this thing already in him and he has never addressed it directly. He addressed it his whole life because he is always trying and that is why he takes bipolar medicine now and that is why he reads and thinks.

But the idea of directly saying: ”Okay, what is your fucking meditation program?” or ”What is your spiritual…” God damn, John can't even say the words. He sees the shelf of books at the Barnes and Noble under the heading. Recovery/Self-care and he just wants to pour gasoline on it, but there is not another way. It is not exercise…

John read a thing on Facebook the other day that was: ”We are going to start prescribing exercise for mental illness rather than drugs as a first line of defense!” and there was a part of John that was like: ”Huh!” and there was a part of him that was like: ”Fuck you!”

Being free of pain (RW176)

John was thinking the other day: What are the times in recent history where he was in a state where he was not plagued? All three of them were sports moments. He was at Whistler a couple of years ago or a year ago.

Whistler Blackcomb is this enormous ski mountain that stretches for miles in every direction. If you lived at Whistler Blackcomb and skied it every day for a decade every day the season was open, you could still not fully know those mountains. They are just enormous and there are runs in every direction. Even if you knew all the runs, every single day on a ski mountain conditions change, so you can know all the runs and then come back a week later and all the runs are different. You knew them all a week ago, but you don't know them all now because they are mountains and conditions change. These slopes on an icy day and on a powder day are completely different environments.

John doesn't know Whistler Blackcomb worth a hole in his head. He barely understands the layout and has been there a handful of times. You get a thing when you are skiing a mountain where every few minutes you have to make a choice. You come to the end of a run and you can go left or you can go right or you can go straight. Every one of those choices changes the rest of your day, it changes your life, and it is rare that you can have every two or three minutes a choice where it is going to immediately affect your experience, but also the whole rest of your days is changed just by going left or right. Like going for a drive in a place that you don't know and every stop sign you come to having no plan. It is a weird thing that is true of skiing.

Each of those choices, especially if you are on a new mountain and having a ski day, you want to find the best place, the cool places, and you don't want to end up being routed to some access road or to someplace where the skiing is bad. It ends up being all either fun or also it can be a drag because you spend all day trying to find stuff and you never just be.

John was at Whistler and was going as high as he could. He got up to the top of the mountain and there was a lift that went all the way up to the top, but it was a pretty short lift and it was obvious that most of the people taking this lift were only using it to get up to the top and once they were at the top they were taking their skis off and they were hiking up over the top of the mountain to get down to some other bowl or hiking over, doing some traverse to get to some run that you can only get to if you are all the way up at the top.

John got to the top and he didn’t want to hike to some far away bowl. Half the time skiers do that it is not like the skiing is any better over there. They are just doing it to do it. This lift was on a was on a ski run that was very much like the ones that John grew up skiing, it was really perfectly groomed, it was very steep, it was way, way up on the top of the mountain, so the air is thin, the sky is clear, it is cold, the wind is blowing. but you got this steep flap ski slope and no-one was skiing it because it is not what people like. People are looking for Nirvana and this isn't that, this is just a steep flat hill and it is the kind of skiing John loves.

He set himself into this set of S-turns where he was completely using the entire hill. He went all the way over to the very edge and then set this giant carving sweeping fast turn all the way across the hill where he was in the turn all the way to the point that he transferred his weight, set up for a second turn, was only flat on his skis for a second, hauling ass before he set into his next turn, which was a giant sweeping parabola all the way back across the hill, just going so fast that he was right at the edge of… he was absolutely in control, but one mistake and he will be a tumbling yard sale garbage pile and will come to rest in the trees and be seriously damaged.

But John was in control, he was on this side of that, not on the other side. He made this run and got to the bottom and was completely out of breath, but so present. He got on the lift and went back up to the top of this thing and skied this one run and he was the only freaking person on the hill, but the ski lift is full of people. He was skiing under this lift… there is an element of skiing that is also like a dance. You want people to see you ski if you feel like you are skiing beautifully, so he had this audience of strangers and a hill all to himself. There was nothing else to look at, all they could look at was John. When he was riding the lift he could look down and he could see his turns, he could see where he had carved a divot a foot deep in this really well-groomed snow.

John did that for an entire afternoon until he was wiped out. During that whole time he was completely free of any hurt. He had no pain, he had a lot of physical pain because it was super-hard what he was doing and he felt like the entire time he was always one second from needing to be airlifted if one thing had gone wrong. But this is what he skis for, it is the whole reason that, it was the thing that he loved to do when he was young, the thing they would call Super G turns, except his use of the slope was perfectly economical. He went right to the edges and he kept his speed right where he wanted it by maximizing the slope.

It was everything John likes and it was exercise where he was perfectly in balance, like being on a crew team, except by yourself. There have been a couple of those, last year with the snorkeling, earlier this year when he was down in the ravine of his new house and clearing brush, same thing: Clearing brush, he is in a place where the exercise, the action becomes mechanical, but in the nicest possible way.

To do that on a stationary bike in a YMCA, John doesn’t know how to do that regularly and not feel like an asshole. But he knows it is there. He knows all these things. He has the Rolodex full of three-by-five cards that friends have made him over the years about what he needs to do, and it just has a little sign on it that is: To do later. Tomorrow.


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