RW202 - A Culture of Eels

This week, Dan and John talk about:

The show title refers to professions like doctors and lawyers attaching themselves to John and trying to make themselves indispensable.

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 Please do not quote these texts directly without applying your own editing first!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

Construction work going on in John’s neighborhood, snowplows in Alaska (RW202)

There is some considerable construction going on right outside the old bunker and John forewarns that there may be some bleed into the mic of some steam rollers and some skid steers and some other equipment that is going beep, beep, beep. The backing up beeping is one of John’s earliest memories because in Alaska the snowplows tend to back up a lot. They push the snow into a berm and then they back up and do it again, so during the winter there is this omnipresent beeping coming from all corners.

There was a big road grader that used to grade the road when John was about three and he was watching that road grader work. A lot of the roads in Anchorage were dirt when he was a kid and the graders were working all the time, summer and winter. Good memories of equipment! John’s mom used to say that John could barely talk, but he knew where every dump truck and bulldozer and grader was in all of Kitsap County. When he was very little they lived in Washington and they would be riding in the car and John would go: ”Dozer!” and then she would turn the corner and there would be a bulldozer. John still feels that way about dozers.

Dan has been seeing this with his son when he was so little, he was just drawn to it all on his own. John tried desperately to get his little girl to like tractors and trucks and dozers, but he would hand her a little toy truck and she would turn it upside down and try to feed it a bottle. ”It is not a baby!” - ”It is a baby truck!” Do with that what you will.

This is a weird time to start a construction project. The people next door bought an empty lot and are preparing it to build a house, but knowing a little bit about cost overruns and construction projects they are probably in over their heads and in order to meet county code they were going to have to put in a new road and they were going to have to chop down a bunch of trees and regrade the property and all of that before they can ever put a brick down and they have spent a lot of money so far.

John thinks: ”Really? All that for a house here? I don't know if I would have built a house here, even if I not only not had to spend all that money, but if you had paid me that amount of money, I don't think I would want a house in this in this weird hole!” John has a lot of sympathy for people who get in over their heads on construction projects!

House update, choosing a stone for the bathtub (RW202)

At John’s old house, the farm, he had a drop-in tub that sat on top of a framework of wood and they had made it look like Ye Olde Farmhouse if Ye Olde Farmhouse had a drop-in tub with Jacuzzi jets in it. They did as well as they could given their not very good carpentry skills, and the tub sat in a little cradle of bead board that was probably stapled to some 2x4’s. The guys that are working on John’s house now said early on in the construction project: ”A big drop-in tub like this has to sit upon a shelf of stone!” - ”Stone isn't really appropriate for a tub in a house of this era and I am not somebody who is stone-crazy!”

A lot of modern houses are Stone City with stone everywhere! You got countertops, you got countertops in the bathroom, slate on the floor, it is all stone, stone bathtubs around, stone basement, granite and marble and so forth, but that doesn’t appeal to John at all. ”You got to have it!” - ”It is structural?” - ”Well, it is better because otherwise the tile…” and all this stuff. John resisted it for a long time and he would go to stone warehouses and realize that it is a global industry of sawing down big stone hills and producing giant slabs that are probably 12x6 feet of different colored stone from around the world.

In Seattle there have to be 20 different businesses selling giant slabs of colored stones from around the world, all congregated in the Georgetown neighborhood. John likes them, especially when the businesses go to the trouble of showing you where the stone came from and what its interesting attributes are and what kind of stone it is. It is great! When he was a kid he spent a lot of time in government buildings and Downtown buildings built in the 1920s and prior. A lot of them had stone stairs, both in public spaces and private. In the men's room all of the stalls were divided by big pieces of marble, the floors were marble, not granite, but proper gray marble, and those slabs were sometimes 3” thick! There was stone everywhere!

In an old American office building the stairs would get worn by all the feet and some cupping would happen on these big staircases. John loved those spaces back when everybody wore leather shoes and there was that constant clip, clip, clip, clip, the clopping of people's shoes before everybody shoes became rubber and then plastic. It was a whole vibe of Downtown! In the men's room in the Dexter Horton building you heard the leather-soled shoes slapping in an echoey marble chamber, and it was just as evocative as fire trucks and cars used to be before noise pollution became a thing and they quieted everything down.

John is not against stone, he just didn't want stone in his own freaking bathroom, but these guys insisted. The problem with this whole project was that he hired these contractors because his friend worked for them. They imagine about themselves that they are high finish contractors who do high end work and that is the world they try to target in their advertising. They came into this project with a lot of pride about how good they were, not just good at their work, but they only work on the finest properties.

But like anybody in this business they got their suppliers that they go to routinely, they got their relationships, they got tabs open at a half a dozen or a dozen businesses where they get their supplies, but they are completely beholden to what is fashionable at those five places and they have no ability to look outside of the box. John has thwarted them at every turn. They would say: ”Here is 17 different kinds of granite!” - ”No granite!” - ”Well, then there is like only four alternatives to granite” - ”None of those alternatives!” - ”Well, in that case we could do this!” - ”No!” - ”Well, okay, so what then?” - ”Here is what I want!” - ”I have never seen that before!” - ”You have never lived!”

It is that level of frustration. John finally went to the stone-yard. He had been there 15 times and walked out of there every time going: ”Well, I could get translucent yellow gold stone from Turkey and under-light it with LED's or I could get Jadeite from Central Alaska and carved statues of dragons and put the bathtub on top of those!” and he finally grabbed the contractor and said: ”You have to go to the stone-yard with me and tell me what you are looking for, because what I am looking for is none of this, and if you insist that I have this, then you have to go show me exactly what is going to work and what isn't!”

This business of sending John off on this fool's errand: He will walk through the stone-yard like a journalist, which is how he walks through everything, going: ”Tell me about this! Where did this come from? Why would that be better than this?” and the people that work there are like: ”Wow, I have got a live one here!” and he walks out knowing a lot more, but having only being further away from a decision. Then he saw a stone he liked that had been treated, it is not natural in the sense of it being exactly as God made it after you saw it with a giant saw and polished it, but they sawed it, etched it and then polished it very subtly, but John liked it, and he decided to choose that.

It is a giant slab and they won't sell you a portion of it, but they have to sell you the whole thing, but: ”Okay fine, I don't care anymore! I will buy the whole thing, cut the piece I need out of it and take the rest to build public benches for all the squirrels! Let's just move on this!”, so they cut the pieces and then between John ordering it, them cutting it, and them installing it, the business moves to a new location. Well, stone is fragile, it is extremely heavy, and if you can picture a stone-yard, a gravel lot covered with giant fragile, superheavy, valuable rocks in slabs, how do you move that? It would be multiple semi trucks, weeks and weeks of work, to move this and set it up.

After having cut John’s stone they lost it in this difficult process of moving. They were scheduled to bring it and install it, but they lost it. This was stone they had cut, so it should have been in a much smaller pile of things they had already done that just needed to go out, but they lost it and it got pushed back while they cut it again. In a project of 100 cost overruns and FOOBARs, here was a situation where after months of stalling and dragging his feet and casting aspersions on everything John finally picked a stone that he liked, he paid for it, they cut it, and now it is lost. Of course it is lost! John is only surprised it didn't kill somebody in the process of getting lost!

John bought a stone much larger than the amount of stone he needed, and he knew it was a specific piece of stone because this stone had a little corner taken out of it where it had been used as a component of something else and they were selling it again. In most cases you buy a big stone like that, you only need some of it and you really don't want the rest of it, so you leave it there, and part of being in the stone business is saying: ”We can only sell you the whole stone, but then you are going to leave the other half of it and we are going to sell it again to somebody and we are going to tell them that we can only sell them the whole stone!”

This was a large piece of stone, and John needed a small piece and he imagined with the rest he would actually make some stone benches for the backyard, but he didn't get that far with them before they were back to them, taking another bite out of the apple. They knew where the original stone was, so they cut new pieces and after a couple of weeks delay, they sent their installer out.

John’s contractor and the lead carpenter guy on John’s project had been telling him that this stone was going to fit in there, it was going to look great, and if they would have to do it in two pieces it was going to be seamless, you won't even notice the seam. In John’s old kitchen at the farm, which had been fixed up by the people that sold it to him and they had put granite countertops in it, granite countertops that even when he laid in bed at night for 10 years, they throbbed in his mind: ”Granite countertops are in your kitchen in your 1914 home! You have granite countertops and cherry cupboards!”, like a ghost that rattled its chains.

And yet, that granite countertop, which was also in a black color palette, which is what the stone that John picked for the bathtub was, a dark gray to black color palette, there was a very complicated seam between two large pieces of granite in his old kitchen, and he didn’t even notice the seam was there for the first year he lived there, it was so artfully done. It was a complicated seam in that there was a turn in the cut.

There was an angle between two pieces where each piece had to have the reverse angle of the other, and the front of the stone had been coved or there was a curve put on the edge, and the edges had to meet in this angle. There was an angle and a curved edge that made a corner, and it was done so well that John didn't see it for a year. John knows that the people that installed his kitchen were not of the type of: ”Spare no expense!”, but this was just an example of whatever stone installer was working on that particular day was good and took pride and did a great job.

John did have in mind a sense of what it looks like when it is seamlessly done, but he also had enough experience with workmen on this project that he was prepared for the worst, such that he called the lead actor on his project, Alberto, and said: ”Alberto, I would like you to be at the house when the stone installer arrives so that you can supervise and make sure…” because Alberto talks a big game and says: ”Oh, it is going to be like this. It is going to be like that. It is going to be amazing!” and sometimes it is good and sometimes it is not.

”You know what needs to go here, Alberto, so be there and make sure that that is what happens!” - ”Okay, John!” and he was there when the stone installer came, and when John got there that afternoon and looked at the installed stone, it looks like garbage. The joint between the two pieces was caulked with black caulk in the same way that you would caulk between a baseplate and a wall in a house that was not square. You put a bit of caulk there and then run your thumb over it to give it a little finish and you are out!

You could rest your pencil in this joint! You could see it from across the room! Alberto was there! This was not an example of a seamless stone, but John’s natural tendency is to assume that he is wrong and that it is his fault, and in this case all the delays and cost overruns and half-assed decisions and bad choices, and now he is looking at this, they had already done this once and lost the pieces, now they had done it a second time and they installed it and all that needs to happen now is for John to sign off on it and they will put that bathtub on there and off we go.

John walked out of the house, paced around, and went to bed at night, thinking about this thing and he was so not into it, but he was prepared to say: ”Who cares! Just finish it and let's just get on with our lives!”, but he mentioned it to his sister and if he is on good terms with her she can act as a great consiglieri and companion piece. She can be John’s ego, she can be his id, she can be his super-ego, depending on what is needed, and you can bounce things off her as she bounces things off of him, and nobody knows him quite as well as she does, and they are both highly sensitive people.

John told her this story in a voice of frustration that he so often resorts to in situations like this, just like: ”Whatever! Doesn't matter! Screw it! Burn it all down! I don't care! I am going to live in a Winnebago somewhere!” - ”Look, if you leave it, you are going to lay in bed at night and it is going to haunt you like like a ghost! Do not let them get away with this. It has got to be done correctly! Your contractor prides themselves on being this expensive high finish operation, you paid all this money, they screwed up once on this. Make them do it over!” - ”Do it over? What a pain in the ass!”, but at that moment the contractor texted John and said: ”How does it look!!!”

The contractor had not seen it himself, and part of the problem in this whole project is that he is a guy John’s age who is going through some stuff in his life. He got some stuff in his marriage or maybe in his business or maybe his own house has a leak in the floorboards or maybe he is changing religions or he has decided that he always wanted to be in the ballet. John is not sure what is going on with him, but he is not supervising and he doesn't have anyone else supervising. John only has Alberto who is the lead guy and does carpentry, electrical, and plumbing, none of it is he licensed and bonded to do, but he is just really good at it and he is fine.

It is not that they are loosey-goosey about it, but there are a lot of different scales of house remodels and not every project is permitted by the city, although the city would require that every project be permitted of this scale, but permitting is a bugbear for a lot of projects. It involves a lot of hoop-jumping and unnecessary bureaucracy and even John, as a lover of bureaucracy, recognizes that sometimes you redo the tile, you move a couple of things around, a couple of outlets need to get moved, and you don't need to call a city inspector in and permit it because nobody is going to notice once the wall board is spackled, and the house isn't going to burn down because these people are capable workers.

But Alberto is kind of a prima donna also. He is a young guy. He is a hard working guy. He got to be working 80 hours a week, and he is supervising the project, but he is a little bit of an unreliable narrator in the sense that he believes that he does really good work and he also feels like the his boss, the contractor, isn't doing a good job, for lack of a better way of putting it. He says: ”My boss isn't giving you the attention you deserve!” and that creates a dynamic where John got two different guys who have conspiracies with him.

The contractor is like: ”Well, here is what we are going to tell Alberto. Alberto is going to do this a certain way, but we just need to tell him this!” and then John talks to Alberto and he is like: ”Oh man, Lawrence is not telling you the whole story!” John would start text threads with them both so that they could get around this conspiratorial nature that seems to happen between them, like: ”Okay guys, I am giving you both!” and then they would text him back individually, like: ”Okay, this is what we need to do!”, which is not super confidence-inspiring.

Alberto was there and didn't say anything, and Lawrence texted John and said: ”How's it look!!!” and John’s sister had just given him the riot act and so he texted him back and said: ”It looks like shit! If this is the high grade finish that you put in your color brochures, then I want you to go there to the bathroom tomorrow and look at it yourself with your own eyes and tell me that you sign off on it as the guy I am paying!” - ”Oh, no! Send me a picture!” He didn't get in his truck and drive down.

When John looked at it the next day he realized that this etching in the stone is directional in the sense that these two pieces that make up the bathtub foundation were cut from the one piece of stone, but they were cut from different sides, so that even if they had abutted perfectly they don't align. One set of hash marks goes north/south and the other set of hash marks goes east/west and it is very subtle, but it is only subtle until you look at it. At that point any reluctance John had to say: ”This has got to get done over!” went out the window and he was like: ”This is fucked!” The way the stone businesses is that you pay up front because once they cut this piece of stone… They had to go back to the drawing board, cut this a third time, and take this out and reinstall it.

This bumped the whole thing out a couple of weeks and the stone company wasn’t answering their phone and all this other stuff. Last night Lawrence texted John and said: ”Well, they want to send somebody out because they want to see if one of the pieces of stone was cut well enough that they can use it and they just have to cut the other piece in the right direction!” and John realized they were out of stone. They had taken now three bites at this apple and they don't have enough of it to do a third time.

That was the first problem John had to solve this morning. He sent two angry texts this morning in the five minutes between when he woke up and when he got down to record, one of them to Lawrence saying: ”It is not my problem! They need to go find a virgin piece of stone and cut one 3’ piece out of it, and then I want them to take the remainder of that stone and throw it in the Duwamish River. I want to stand out there with a slingshot and shoot rocks at it until it cracks. I don't give a fuck anymore about them or you or your profit or loss!”

John is right on the edge of this contractor saying: ”I am sorry we screwed up your project, but I don't want to deal with you anymore and I don't want to deal with it anymore and goodbye!” because contractors are all primadonnas, they have more business than they know what to do with, and it could happen and he could one day say: ”I just can't devote any more resources to you, your project is too hard and it is not my problem!”, basically. It could happen!” John is pushing his luck when he writes him and says: ”This is a colossal fuck-up on your part and on their part, and if you supervised this project with 1/10th of what you should be devoting to it, it would be done already!”

John’s doctor making it difficult for him to renew his prescription (RW202)

The other text John sent was to his doctor, where he said: ”It feels like you are extorting me to come in and get my weight checked and my height checked and my reflexes checked once a year by not refilling my prescription!” His doctor says John needs to come in to get a check up in order for her to fill his prescription. One of them is his bipolar medicine, and then he has hypertension or high blood pressure, and she prescribed one pill, but it wasn't sufficient and in treating high blood pressure he realized that this is very complicated and tricky science for doctors because blood pressure medicine makes you feel weird or woozy or something, but also controlling high blood pressure is hard to do with medication.

John had consistently high blood pressure for several years that he left untreated because he was trying to do all the things about eat less salt and exercise and keep a sunny disposition and tie a little bit to Cthulhu and all these things, and none of it affected his blood pressure, but after 4-5 years of knowing he had high blood pressure and not doing anything about it he realized he needed to do something about it because it is dangerous, so she gave him a pill and then she gave him another pill, so John takes two high blood pressure medicines and they do work. One of them is hydrochlorothiazide and the other one is something else.

John said to her a couple of years ago: ”I am not some geezer who likes to go to the drugstore. I don't want to go to the drugstore ever, let alone once a month to fill my little prescription bottles!” John’s parents are both examples of people who like to run errands. Maybe they came up in a time when they went to the butcher shop three times a week and they went to the cobbler to get their shoes resoled, and then they went over to get a permanent at the hair salon and then they went to the library and the drugstore and the hardware store to get a little thing. Errants were part of what gave life meaning because you were busy, you got a list of places to go and things to do and you have to do them, you go to the dry cleaners to get your shirts, you stop by your tailor to see if he got any new ties.

John doesn’t know what people did in the 1950s and 1960s, but it seems that in the era before one stop shopping and supermarkets and box stores, errants were what framed their existences. John doesn’t like errands, he never enjoyed running errands, every time he goes to the drugstore he is under duress because he is sick and he needs some cold medicine. He doesn’t wander the aisles of the drugstore. He doesn’t want to talk to the pharmacist, and so he is only in there once a month filling his prescription.

John said to his doctor: ”These medicines are not temporary, they are not psychoactive, they are not dangerous!” He can't abuse them, if he took two of these or five of them, maybe five hydrochlorothiazide would have some effect, but according to his psychiatrist five Lamictals would just go out in his pee. He is not ever going to do anything but take one of each of these every morning, presumably for the rest of his life. John understands that high blood pressure is a thing that wiggles around and they have to check on him sometimes and make sure it is working, but the way to get him to come in to get checked on is not to cut off his pills, that seems crazy.

John asked her if she could give him these prescriptions with 90 day quantities, have them put them in the bottles so he only has to go refill his prescription every three months, and she did it, but all of a sudden on the bottle it said: ”two refills remaining, one refill remaining, zero refills remaining” and he tried to get a refill extended and they were like: ”We will give you 30 more days, but you have to come see the doctor!”

Whatever the antiauthoritarian that lives inside John’s heart, whatever he feeds him normally to keep him at peace, and he is not sure what fantasy he feeds this antiauthoritarian that satiates him enough that he doesn't intrude on his life like he used to and like he could, that antiauthoritarian has gotten him in a lot of trouble over the years where he is standing in line somewhere at a DMV or whatever, and the line is too long and the person seems incompetent and he is like: ”You know what? Fuck this!” and he walks out and then his tabs expire or he doesn’t have the permits, and then he is in trouble and is busted down the line.

That Antiauthoritarian stood up and said: ”What the hell?” because it seems like John is going to take this medicine for the rest of his life, but that means that he is legally mandated by the American Medical Association's bylaws that he needs to have his weight, height, and reflexes checked every year. They are going to charge his insurance and it is all just one big happy fucking maypole dance in order for him to not have high blood pressure. Between 40-55% of John now says: ”It is better to have high blood pressure than to get roped into this kind of errant-based culture of eels!” It feels like extortion and it is the type of thing that would drive John to get his prescriptions in Mexico!

Dan’s experience with doctors when he had GERD (RW202)

John claims that Dan loves to go to the doctor and he goes 6 times a week, but Dan says he absolutely hates it. He has canceled so many episodes of Road Work because he had a doctor's appointment, but that doesn’t mean he loves it. Dan has gone to the doctor more in the last six months than John has in the last six years. He goes to a therapist on a weekly basis, but that is an appointment and he wouldn't be canceling Road Work to go to regular therapy. Dan absolutely did because she had a schedule that had changed and because of COVID it changed her schedule so that she couldn't be in the office on certain days, so she asked Dan if he could move it.

Going to the doctor is literally the worst for Dan as an OCD germaphobe he is very aware that all the sick people of all kinds of sicknesses, not just COVID sickness, are all going to the doctor and Dan doesn’t want any part of that. He doesn’t want to be there, he doesn’t want to be where they are, he doesn’t want to be told that he is healthy or that he is sick. he will decide that for himself, he is usually at odds with any doctor that he goes to because he is opposed to Big Pharma and he doesn’t like taking prescription medication at all and he resists it, and they want him to have this full exam where they probe everything and he doesn’t want to do that.

Generally speaking the doctors are wrong a lot of the time, they say things that are wrong, and Dan doesn’t like going to a doctor, have them research something where Dan seems to know a lot about it and they don't know as much about it, that bothers him, too. There is nothing good about a doctor! You go to the doctor and you come out worse a lot of the time. Our health care system is fractured beyond repair!

Maybe 15 years ago Dan was having GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) due to stress and anxiety. He went to the doctor and he had done a little bit of research and he said he wanted to try Nexium, the purple pill, because his friend had it, or maybe Prilosec, one of those two. The doctor said he wanted Dan to try this other one first because it is good, so he prescribed it and not only didn't it help, but Dan got really bad headaches from it. A week later he went back and said he was not taking it anymore because it was shit and he asked again if he could have Nexium and did get a prescription for it.

Later Dan found out that the doctor had prescribed the other one because they had a rep come in and they got a kickback from it. After he prescribed Nexium it immediately started working, but it didn't get better and even taking this didn't help, so Dan went to a specialist who’s whole thing was gastroesophageal reflux disease and he said they needed to do an upper endoscopy on him, just to see what is going on, but in the end he didn’t see anything and it was fine in there and there was no sign of anything. He also looked at Dan’s pancreas and that looked good.

Then the doctor said: ”There is an old saying from where he is from, there are three things that cause this: Hurry, curry and worry.” and he said Dan was at the point now where he is probably going to take this forever. Dan didn't like the sound of that! Later he wound up going to another doctor for something else and they got in conversation about what else Dan was taking and he said ”this stuff”, but he was trying to get off it and the doctor just sat back in his chair and laughed: ”Yeah, you are not going to ever get off of this thing!” - ”Actually I will because this isn't a permanent condition. There is nothing physically wrong with me. It is coming from something else. I need to change whatever the cause of this is and the cause doesn't seem to be physical purely, it seems to be associated with stress, anxiety, other things like that”, and that is what actually led Dan to start his meditation practice.

A few months after doing that, working very hard at that, Dan would take it every other day, and then every three days, and then eventually he didn't have to take it at all anymore. It has been 15 years! Dan’s opinion of Western medicine for acute situations, a gunshot wound or you got something horribly wrong with you, it can save your life. Antibiotics can save you from things that 100 years ago would have killed you. Dan appreciates all of that stuff!

But as far as just: ”I have a thing!” You go into a doctor, they look at you, they treat you for the symptom and they send home with a prescription, and then there are side effects from that medicine, so now you got to take a second medicine and then a third and a fourth and that is what our entire medical culture is based around. It is getting you to take one drug and then prescribing additional drugs to further medicate you until you are taking all this stuff for the rest of your life and that is modern Western medicine in a nutshell.

Dan is not taking away the good parts of it that are life saving and a lot of these medicines are incredibly helpful for people, but for the regular person who just goes in? Dan knew a guy who just had some cold or something like that, some virus, this was way before COVID, and he said he had to go to the hospital last night because he had a fever of 102/103 and it would not go away for almost two days. His body was fighting something and Dan said he had to let it run its course, a fever is not a bad thing, a fever is how your body gets rid of a lot of stuff.

They said he had some kind of upper respiratory infection and to wait it out, but he wanted to be sure, plus they gave him antibiotics just in case. This is Western medicine! It is screwed up and people don't know what to do! Most people think a fever is bad, but a fever is the way that your body gets rid of stuff. Dan knows people who the minute that they get a fever they start taking Advil or Tylenol or something, or as they say in New Zealand Ibuprofen, and it will cut their fever down and they will feel better, but it prolongs how long it takes for them to get better.

That is your body's natural mechanism to eliminate whatever it is and if you can deal with the fever for a couple of days, three days, your body will get better faster, generally speaking. What if the fever spikes and you have a seizure or something? That can happen, but if you are that sick Advil is not saving your life. Don’t get Dan started! The long story short: Dan doesn’t like going to the doctor.

This was an excellent disquisition on Dan’s feelings about the doctor. Noted in the record. His therapist he likes going to. She is great! They mostly talk about John, not about Merlin, but John is very easy to manage. Just tell him that everything is fine and then everything is going to be fine and John will believe you, that is his inclination. He wants things to be fine, he does believe they will be fine, and if you tell him they are going to be fine, that dovetails exactly with what John wants to hear.

John no longer going to a therapist, his trouble with choosing the right therapist (RW202)

John didn't like his therapist particularly, which is not to say that he didn't think he was a good dude, but it was more that thinking his therapist was a good dude probably wasn't the point of him going to see a therapist, so he stopped going to him and did not find a new therapist because he had a couple of therapists recommended to him, he contacted them and they did the thing that it seems like doctors and therapists in particular do, which is to say: ”Oh, I don't have any openings, but tell me your situation and we will talk about it!” - ”If you don't have any openings, let's not waste any more time. If you want to hear my situation and talk to me about it, then it sounds like maybe you do have an opening or are prepared to have an opening and you are auditioning me or something. Don't ask me to talk to you on the phone about my problem just to make me feel better. That is what therapy is, but don't do it one time just so that I don't feel blown off. If you can't take me as a new patient, then please blow me off. Moving on!”

John doesn’t know what it is to be a therapist. Some of his friends became therapists and if he had to pick among them whom he would go to if he needed therapy, those friends are not the ones he would choose to talk to. In each case when John learned about their career path he went to other friends and said: ”Really? A psychiatrist? Really?” - ”I know, right?” - ”Of all of us that is the one of us that is going to be a psychiatrist? Seems like not a good fit!” - ”I know, right?” because those were the ones that would need the most therapy themselves.

Maybe that is how do you find your way into that career path, by seeking something and then you get over there and you are like: ”Wow, this seems right for me!” It is definitely the case with John’s psychiatrist and John will never know how he became a therapist. If you introduced John to 10 randoms in a bar, at the end of the night it would be pretty clear which of those 10 was the best therapist. John never had a professional therapist that met the Bechtel test or the Voight-Kampff test.

John has always said that about college professors, too: You can have 10 people in a bar and spend 15 minutes with each of them and come out of that evening and pick the person who was going to be the best teacher, the one you want to hear explain any subject. If they took a year long course in a thing they would be the one John would want to learn about it from, but the people that are college professors are the ones with PhDs, but the people who get PhDs are not the ones that you would want to learn from, because getting a PhD and being a good teacher are maybe not mutually exclusive, but they certainly aren't logically connected.

In trying to find a psychiatrist John has not undertaken a lengthy search where he has interviewed 15 psychiatrists, all of whom told him they have no openings, and then settled on the one sage, the one that felt like they have an understanding, and then tried to convince them to see John as a patient, partly because he is lazy and he doesn’t like making appointments and he hates interviewing people, but also because he has a fear that he already knows what will happen, and he hates that fear because he doesn’t already know what is going to happen. Every time he overcomes that in every aspect of life and actually pursues a thing that he was inhibited from pursuing because of the fear that he already knew what was going to happen, he is routinely pleasantly surprised and it turns out he didn't know what was going to happen and he met the interesting person.

John hired a contractor to work on his house and he really didn't want to interview a bunch of people because he had this fear that he knew what was going to happen, and it turned out he hired somebody and his worst fear came to pass that this contractor doesn't have the skills. It is not the carpentry skills or the tiling skills, but the contracting skills aren't there, the project managing, the client managing, the ability to see into the future managing that a good contractor should have.

John’s fear about a psychiatrist is that he feels like he would be very, very difficult to therapy, super difficult to effectively counsel. He has been disappointed by psychiatrists and psychologists, and he doesn’t want to have it happen again because it is an involved process. You go in and don't have the right feeling about this person, but you will give them a second chance, and your third or fourth appointment was a pretty good appointment, maybe they will come around, and only after a year you realize that you don’t jive with this person, but you need to!

Jennifer Melfi is the psychiatrist in The Sopranos and she is a fascinating character and her treatment of Tony Soprano is the hub of the show, but part of what makes her a fascinating character and makes it the center of the show is that she is doing a bad job of treating Tony throughout. Then she goes and talks to Peter Bogdanovich and he is doing a bad job of analyzing her. If she was a great psychiatrist the show would be over in one season, or she would be the star of the show or something. It requires that she be bad at it.

John’s experience of receiving head shrinking is very similar, in the same way that Jennifer Melfi is always trying to play whack-a-mole with Tony and he is manipulating her and resisting her and bullying her, and she is unable or unwilling to really go after him and personally doesn't have the stomach for it, and also her fascination gets in the way, but also Dr. Melfi is smart, but not eye-poppingly smart. Peter Bogdanovich is smart, but wrong 4/5th of the time. He is the classic psychiatrist in TV and film who when he doesn't know what to do or say he just asks: ”What do you think about that?”, which makes John want to throw his milkshake at the TV.

John wanting to be left alone (RW202)

John’s primary experience in life until very recently has been that ultimately he wants to be left alone. He wants to be left alone by people he doesn't know and he wants to be left alone by people he does know. He wants to be left alone by expectations, he wants to be left alone by systems, he wants to be left alone. He doesn’t mind paying taxes and he honestly doesn’t mind getting the work permitted and he believes that being a responsible citizen requires that you suffer a certain amount of indignity, but beyond that he doesn't like things attaching themselves to him and declaring that they are indispensable.

John doesn’t want his doctor to think that she is indispensable and that he has to see her because her professional ethics don't allow her to give him an unlimited refill so the American Medical Association has job security baked into its systems, just like lawyers. John has a lawyer because he filed a trademark for The Long Winters 15 years ago just to keep the Laura Ingalls Wilder estate off his back, and the law firm that manages his trademark, every time they send a computer generated letter a week later he gets an invoice for $75 for their work, and their work was sending him the letter. The letter says: ”Hey, it is that time again, every five years or every three years you have to re-up your trademark, let us know if you want to. — Sign Law Firm.” and then they invoice him for the letter.

It is such a thing that you can only get away with if you have the balls to do it. They just have the balls to do it, that is all, because John contracted with them to do this work, and the cost of the work, which they also bill him for, they also feel like they can just get this money out of him, too. It is the injustice of it. John has never once paid them that invoice and maybe somewhere on their books they are owed $4500. They don't seem to pursue it. They just send the invoice and John is like: ”Fuck you! I am not going to pay you $75 to send me a letter!” Why is there not an invoice for you having sent me this invoice? It could go on forever. ”We had to send you a letter to demand that you pay our invoice and that is another $75!”

That is how people get caught in the court system because they have a fine, they don't pay it, the fine doubles, they don't pay it, the fine doubles again, then there is a summons and then they don't come and then there is a bench warrant and then they don't come and then there is an actual ”go get them” warrant and then they end up in jail or they end up losing their property because of an infraction that initially had a $50 fine. That happen to John! At each stage you can see the internal logic. ”We fined him $50 and he didn't pay it. What do we have to do to get him to pay it? Well, double it and he will pay it! Double it and then threaten him that we are going to double it again!”

”Cut off his medicine and then he will either die of heart disease or he will come in for his checkup, and we bill the insurance company and that is how we keep the lights on!” John sounds like a libertarian or like a crank, and he is not either thing, Definitely not a libertarian! he also doesn’t think he is a crank!

BONUS CONTENT

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License