RW84 - Editor in Chief

This week, Dan and John talk about

  • John rebuilding the basement of his house (House)
  • John missing a dining room table and not submitting to other people (House)
  • John’s collection of guitars (Music)
  • John as the Editor in chief (Early Days)
  • Building Pipe Bombs (Early Days)

The show title refers to John being the editor in chief of his high school newspaper and having to fight for it quite heavily.

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

John’s collection of guitars (RW84)

John does have a lot of things that belong in a basement and that are right now spread all over the place. For example, he has a lot of guitars. He used to work at a guitar store (!!!!) called Emerald City Guitars in Seattle, a place opened by his good friend Jay Boon during the heyday of guitar times in the mid-1990:s. Jay was a member of the ”no-longer-does-drugs” community and liked to hire the same kind of people for his store. That isn’t the most dependable workforce in terms of waking up in the morning and sticking around, because a lot of ”recently-don’t-do-drugs-people” are often also the ”recently-started-doing-drugs-again-people”. John didn’t have a real job and would help out Jay last minute to work at the store for a week whenever Jay had to find a new permanent employee. He didn’t have much money, but needed guitars because he was playing in rock shows all the time. There were a lot of cheap guitars at the store. 1960:s Japanese-made copies of an American guitars or 1960:s Epiphones were regarded lesser than [https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gibson Gibsons and 1970:s Fender guitars were pretty widely regarded as poorly made, low status guitars. Nobody thought a 1976 Stratocaster was a good guitar and 1982 Stratocasters weren’t worth anything. They were all cheap, but if 50 of them pass through your hands, you discover that one of them is actually a great instrument. The people making those guitars were not set out to make garbage instruments, but they were trying to make good playable things, it is just that they were not artisanal crafts people. On the other hand, the people making guitars in Japan in the 1960:s compared to the people making guitars in Mexico now were actually crafts people and were making great guitars. Those 1970:s Fenders are now super-expensive, because newer ones aren’t even as good as those. John collected guitars that were a Maestro or Lyle or Univox or some other guitar that in 1998 was considered a $150-$300 guitar, put he would pick the ones that were good, although they were not worth anything. As a result, John has a pretty interesting collection of Harmony’s and Höfner’s and Lyle’s, guitars that at least then were not anything, but they are all great. It would just be crazy to get rid of them! The guitars aren’t the problem, but every guitar has a guitar case and if you have the guitars out to use, you have a bigger box that has to rest somewhere else, so John has a closet with 30 guitar cases that he really would like to use for something else. Those guitar cases are definitely going down into the basement as well as all of the old newspapers.

John as the Editor in Chief (RW84)

When you write articles or articles are written about you, John’s instinct is to keep a copy of the newspaper or the magazine. That stuff takes up a lot of room! You could make a digital copy, but the newspaper itself, the yellow edged Alternative Weekly from 1998 is something in and of itself! John has a big bin with a copy of every high school newspaper that was published when he wrote for the paper, because he was the entertainment editor and then briefly the editor in chief of the East High-school Zaffer. John was briefly editor in chief because the former newspaper teacher Dough Blankenship decided that he was done teaching newspapers for some reason. It was a bad decision on his part because he was a great newspaper teacher and had it in his blood. The school hired a new teacher, a young gal, and John went down to the school in the summer when the teachers were first congregating and introduced himself as the entertainment editor and by acclamation and mutual agreement John became the editor this year. He can’t imagine how diplomatically he had presented this idea at the age of 17, but what he remembers was that she wanted to be the editor, but John told her that she is the teacher and she would probably want a student to do that job and he spent all his 3 years in high-school aspiring to be the editor, which was a thing he even before he entered high school. He didn’t want to work on the yearbook, that was a completely different class. The work John wanted to do at the school was to MC all of the pep assemblies, which was a job he got by going down to the school office every day and asking when he would be starting doing the pep assemblies. He started doing it in his Junior year although this was typically a job for a Senior. Editing the paper was the number one thing he wanted to do. The teacher told him that she wanted to choose the editor herself and not just have a student come in and tell her that they are the editor. John countered that the newspaper here has a culture and institutional memory that had existed even before he joined and there was no student who was on the paper longer than he was or more dedicated to it. He used to write 4 articles an issue for it and was looking for a reason why it shouldn’t be him. It didn’t seem to him that this was an idea that she had formulated in advance. She was just reacting. John left that day bewildered and crushed, because you would think that a student who would come down to the school in the middle of the summer showing some real engagement would be something she would encourage. She didn’t end up having a successful career as a teacher.

John had two bad teachers during his entire time as a student. One was his 4th grade teacher and the other one was this newspaper teacher. The rest of the teachers were either great or fine. In High School there were some teachers who were kind of phoning it in, but at the time he didn’t know how bad it was to teach 30 15-year-olds about the US government. Now that he does he can understand they seemed a little fried. Too bad teachers: His 4th grade teacher was a former librarian and all of a sudden she was a teacher, either because she aspired to be one or because there was a shortage, but she didn’t know how to do it. John at the time was used to being left alone, because he was a good reader and good worker, but he worked independently. All teachers prior to her understood that and when he indicated that he knew that lesson already, the teacher would give him another book to work on and it was great. But the 4th grade teacher insisted on everybody doing the assignments all together and this was the beginning of him not trusting teachers. At the end of 3rd grade when he didn’t get all the money he had earned for doing homework, that was when he learned not to trust adults, but 4th grade really cemented it. When school started senior year, John couldn’t not be on the newspaper and when he showed up there were a bunch of kids, some of them had been on the newspaper before, some of them were new. His high school girlfriend who had sort of worked on the newspaper the year before and was now a senior, doing that high school transcript padding that high achieving kids like to do so that when they went to college they would have this huge list of activities that they did, had also joined the newspaper. It was exciting to have his lady here! She was Valedictorian of their graduating class and she was president of the junior class, president of the student congress, so she was a very high achieving person and she was on the newspaper, but she didn’t care about it really. She didn’t want to write articles about the JV Football team, but it just seemed that newspaper was an easy A and it seemed like the kind of activity you would do if you were to go to Johns Hopkins.

As they started the school year, John was the only one who knew how to lay out a newspaper and knew how to get all those articles in on time and put together. He was devoted to this craft. The teacher didn’t know how to do it, where they would send it and on what day. So John effectively was the editor without the honorific, the benefit of the title. She was putting her name on the masthead. She was a young teacher who didn’t know what she was doing, she had her go-get-her-boy in this class and she wanted to kick his knee out somehow. After the first quarter, she said that a student needed to be the editor and she was appointing Kelly, John’s girlfriend, as editor in chief. He didn’t break up with her right away, but they had their issues and they ended up separating and she started dating David Brust who had the exact same birthday as John, but was a Junior. John should in hindsight also have started school a year later and would have been a healthier, happier student if he had been one of the older students instead of being the youngest. David was also a GQ type person. He wore a Guess watch, he wore penny loafers instead of boat shoes, he folded the cuffs of his shirt back a little bit, a weird thing he had seen in GQ that is not functional, he wore a lot of Benetton clothes and there was something on every level where he was wrong. He was also very handsome and had prominent Magnum PI dimples. She is dating him only to get John’s goat and also the dimples. You could go down the list of reasons not to date him and it was as long as your arm. The reasons do date him were: Dimples and it will get John’s goat.

So all of a sudden Kelly is editor in chief. She loved it, loured it over John like he wouldn’t believe, but Kelly also didn’t know how to put out a newspaper at all, she couldn’t be less interested in it. Because she was a high achieving person she learned quickly and learned what she needed to learned, but she was able to put out the newspaper because John was there until 9pm, laying out the paper and figuring out what everything went, because he couldn’t quit the newspaper, it was so important to him. He got D:s and F:s in every other class, he was an abject failure as a student all through high school, but he was very engaged in it, he liked going to school and being a member of the school community. He was on the student congress, he was the MC and he wanted to be the editor of the paper. Good grades didn’t matter to him, but he always got an A in newspaper. By Christmas break he couldn’t handle the indignity anymore. It was such a profound defeat, because he had made any case he could, had gone to the teacher after school pleading and she had this smirk. She was just a bad teacher! Starting in January of 1986, John quit newspaper, because he just couldn’t do it, bleeding onto the newspaper every week and have Kelly swan around as the editor and have this teacher walk across the paper with her dirty shoes as John was laying it out on the floor. As John left, the newspaper immediately became half the size it was and had no longer any humor articles in it and no funny cartoons. All the other people were just like ”This week at East High, there is a food drive, bring your canned goods to the gym”. At that point John even disengaged from school as he had never done in his whole life from the first day of Kindergaten. He had been a bad homework-doer and a disruptive influence in school, but he was in it, he loved it! He started to come to school in a bathrobe, teachers were concerned and he got called down to the office, got told he could not wear a bathrobe to school. John had always been fashion-adjacent and at that point he felt that a bathrobe expressed how he felt inside.

Dan has multiple times made mention to John of a movie called The Big Lebowski in which the main character, the dude, frequently wears just a bathrobe out and around and Dan has suggested to John on multiple occasions that he is an embodiment of the dude, which John has rejected many times, but now Dan is finding out that John in fact would go out and around in just a bathrobe and maybe there is something there they should explore. The key difference is that the dude wore a raddy old bathroom made out of towel material whereas John found a Pendleton bathrobe from the 1950:s that was made out of Pendleton wool with a dark green and blue pattern that had a shawl collar and it was a beautiful bathrobe, which worked terribly as a bathrobe because it was itchy scratchy wool, but it worked pretty well as an overcoat. As John was called to the office, they told him that they were concerned about him, as they always are, but this is a new level of concern. This the type of thing where the school would stage little intervention and told him he can’t keep doing this. One of John’s favorite teachers in his whole history of school was a man named Don Shackelfort and he was one of those teachers who would call bullshit on John, which a lot of the other teachers wouldn’t do. He would also call John in and tell him that this latest thing he is doing is not cool at all and John should stop doing it because it is not reading as John thinks it is reading. When you were wearing a gardening hat with a big fake flower in it, that was hilarious, but now that he is walking up behind people and in a very low voice reading the punch lines from Garfield cartoons, it is actually freaking people out. It was one of the examples that John was trying out, he wasn’t one of those teenagers who was just having sex with other teenagers, but he was reading comic books and was trying to be the editor of the paper.

Building pipe bombs (RW84)

There were two High Schools in John’s school, East Anchorage High, a bit school with 2800 students and then there was an experimental ”school within a school”, or SWS with had its own building, its own principal, teachers who taught exclusively in SWS and you had to apply to be in SWS. There were couches in the halls, it was one of the old-style hippy ideas for certain students who wouldn’t fit into a normal school where they could learn at their own pace. Of course John thought he belonged there because that was where the newspaper was, so he spent his freshman year there, but afterwards they agreed that John didn’t belong in SWS, because learning at his own pace meant for him that he just did whatever he wanted. At the end freshmen year he was caught by Don Shackelfort with a locker full of black powder cannon fuse blasting caps and all the makings of pipe bombs, which John was making and selling to other students. They learned through the Anarchist Cookbook and various other sources. At that time in the early 1980:s, you could buy black powder at Fred Meyer and it wasn’t even behind the counter. There was a whole row devoted to black powder hunting, like ball shots and wadding and 30 different kinds of black powder like smokeless powder. They were selling this shit to 14 year olds, together with a bunch of pipes with endcaps from the plumbing section. Then you had to go to a gun store across town to buy cannon fuse which you would buy in 100-foot-rolls. At first they made pipe bombs that way and then his friend Jim McNeal heard or discovered that you could buy solar igniters at the model rocketry store, tiny little blasting cap type things that you would stick into the rocket motors for big model rockets and then you could launch them from a distance. Jim McNeal bought a whole bunch of those solar igniters, a 6-volt battery and a plunger, so they figured out not only pipe bombs that you would light with a fuse and run, but pipe bombs that you could un-spool 200 feet of wire and then set off with this plunger, which was great except that they were such morons that they would just set these bombs places and the wire wasn’t even enough and shrapnel went everywhere and could have killed them if they would have been a bit less lucky. Anyway, these days if they would do that, they would be in Juvenile jail, because they also had the confused political believes of young teenagers and thought they were anarchists, Marxist/Leninist, they thought America was on the verge of a revolution or the Russians were going to invade and they were going be ready to Red Dawn them. They were just kids with explosives! Dan made bombs, too. He used Hydrochloric Acid from the swimming pool and Aluminum foil, which would make a Coke bottle explode, spraying all the acid. Building bombs at that time was a normal thing to do. Especially in Alaska there were a lot of people doing mining. Once they set off one of the bombs in a municipal steel garbage can that got totally shredded and they were lucky not to get killed by this claymore. They were three of them: John, Jim McNeal and maybe Tony Hyne.

As Don Shacklefort discovered John was selling pipe bombs out of his locker, he was put on emergency suspension at the end of his 9th grade year, which was a very infrequently activated ability on the part of the school to immediately suspend a kid with no process. The only process was now how to get into the school at all. John had to see some outside psychologists who were trying to find out if John wanted to harm himself or harm other people. John was out of school for 9 school days at the end of freshman year and they let him back in, but they wouldn’t let him back into SWS, because he couldn’t handle it. He was allowed to go down to SWS to take classes. Don Shacklefort was promoted from English teacher to principle of SWS and he had the big office down there. When John was quasi-editor of the school newspaper he had made himself a press pass with the lamination machine - it was the only one anyone had ever seen. Obviously the security guards and the principals, the teachers and the administrative people knew that this press pass was just something John had made, but in a way they all honored it. At the time you needed a pass if you wanted to go to the bathroom, you couldn’t just walk around the hall during class, but the security guards nodded at John’s press pass and let him go. Also the teachers let him be on official newspaper business, because they didn’t want him in class. The official business was either going to the darkroom developing pictures or going to the band room listening to the band rehearse or going down to SWS anyway although he wasn’t in it. By the end of senior year John had quit everything except for just wandering the halls. He had classes that he had signed up for, he even had quit newspaper and every body knew it, but he had this press pass and he was wearing a bathrobe to school and he had convinced them at the conference that the bathrobe was closer to a coat than it was to a bathrobe. John argued that fashion is a thing like pornography, you know it when you see it and this was a forward thinking thing and he was just ahead of the game. However it went, John was walking out of this discussion in his bathrobe and kept wearing it. In the first half of his senior year he was in debate, newspaper, radio & television production, but then he stopped taking any kind of class. John just put together a day that was meeting almost no requirements, but it kept him off the street. He would press-pass his way out of these classes and would sit in Don Shacklefort’s office. Don knew that the best place for John to be was just sitting in his office, because he didn’t get in any trouble and he would be mentoring him and pedagoging him. After a while he was giving John things to read and synopsize, things like principaling and schooling. At one point he was asked to judge a writing contest, a state-wide SA-contest and he was one of three judges and was given 55-page essays by students around the state, so he asked John to read them and separate them into piles, good, kind of good and bad. Don was keeping John out of trouble, sitting in his bathrobe and High School could have ended so grandly as editor in chief, but it ended just Blah. John wouldn’t have bought a Fedora, but he also wouldn’t have worn a bathrobe.

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