RW85 - The Humidity

This week, Dan and John talk about

The show title refers to the climate in Florida where it is always humid.

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

Feeling claustrophobic in humid weather (RW85)

John is puttering and cooking, trying to get his life in some kind of order. It is still hot in Texas, around 90 degrees (32°C), which is a little warmer than Dan likes Octobers to be. Seattle is down to its preferred 65 degrees (18°C) with a light breeze coming from the ocean. His mom said that she is offended by the sun when it shines on her, particularly when it feels like it is shining at her! John has the same feeling of ”You again? God, chill out!”, because in Seattle they all grow up with this sort of delightful haze, like a protective gray enveloping sleeping bag that just makes the sun feel like a distant, warming friend that is not in your face. At 65 degrees everybody can put their sweaters on, it is sunny, but it is not oppressive, the leaves are changing and it is great! That is why fall is so popular. The problem is that it then all goes to hell and it is a cold and rainy winter. They tell the tourists that it rains from November to March, because they want them to stay away, but there are actually some years where it rains all of November every day and that is a little tough to handle. By your 25th day of rain you are like ”What’s going on? Why do I feel so weird?”, but it is just the price you pay to live in paradise! What they don’t get is 90 degree days in October. If they got one of those, it would feel like end times. 15 years ago, Dan asked his friend Chris why Chris was so tolerant of the heat in Florida. It is much hotter there and much more humid, even when it is cool. You take a shower and you get dressed, but in the process of walking from your front door to your car you are already drenched in sweat and need a shower again. Chris liked it because he liked the fact that he could not die just from being outside, referring to the cold weather where he grew up. If you spent enough time outside and it was cold enough, you would die, but at 90 degrees you would just get a sunburn and get thirsty. You could maybe die of thirst or of Scorpion stings. Dan has only seen one Scorpion in his house so far. There are more Tarantulas here than Scorpions.

John’s mom said she would always prefer to be too cold rather than too hot, which might be unusual among human beings. Dan’s mom came to visit a few months ago when the temperature was in the 80:s and she brought a fleece jacket a down vest that she put on periodically during the trip to the coldness of Texas. Both John and his mom both suffer from a thing called humidity claustrophobia which is John’s great great great fear: Having his breath restricted. He doesn’t like somebody sitting on his cheast, he doesn’t like somebody putting their hand over his mouth, he doesn’t want to be in a tight jacket and he doesn’t like being in an enclosed space at all, because he doesn’t like the idea of suffocating. If you could put John in a coffin with enough air, he wouldn’t mind the enclosed space, but the claustrophobia is all about breathing. His mom is the same. If he is under a thick layer of blankets in the winter, he always has his feet sticking out, like in a hotel if the bed is hospital-cornered, he rips it all apart first. If Dan can get in a bed that is tucked in and wake up in the morning with the bed still tucked in, that is a win in his column! John wants to be from a deep sleep to on his feet and in a crouch in as few seconds as possible. It is a bit of the claustrophobia thing. The humidity in places feels breath-restricting to John and he is struggling for air, so he would much rather be in the cold crisp air. In deep deep cold you feel restricted because you would freeze your lungs if you would take a deep breath, which is the reason why parkas have those big wool- or fur-lined hoods. If you close a parka down all the way so you are looking out of a fur-lined tube, that amount of space is enough so your exhaling creates a warm tunnel to warm the air so you can breathe back in again. If the air is 40 degrees below zero (-40°C) and you take a big breath, you can injure yourself. In humid places John can’t get enough air in his body and he doesn’t like it, but the outer warmth is not the problem. He is fine with sweating. If he could have a nice oxigen mask that was giving him cool, lightly humid air, he would like to live in the deep south.

Getting paid for doing nothing (RW85)

John wears jeans all year long and he likes to have a sweater on, because he likes the extra layer. If the temperature is so hot that he has to be just in a shirt, he is fine, but if it has to be a short sleeve shirt, it means he will perspire in a car seat and he doesn’t like that very much. John likes being on the beach if he can play in the waves, which is why he likes going to Hawaii. Otherwise, just laying in the sun next to a swimming pool is something John doesn’t understand. Dan agrees! Dan also loves boating on the ocean or on a lake, he loves kayaking. But sitting by a pool for hours drinking alcohol? You couldn’t pay him $1000 a day to do that. In a cabin in the woods by a lake, yes! But not by a pool with all the chlorine and people screaming! John would take the $1000 and bring a ukulele or something to entertain himself. There are those new clear plastic ukuleles that are sweat-proof. They are actually pretty good instruments and play pretty well. A lot of people work through their whole lives with the ambition to one day just chill. Their goal is to have nothing to do. John has plenty of time to do nothing and he does plenty of nothing, but he does not have any ambition to do nothing. His ambition is always to do something and to make himself useful and to produce something that is going to be good and lasting. He is always judging himself based on how much he has accomplished toward that goal and he always finds himself wanting in terms of sheer output. He both wants it to be good and he wants to be a lot of it, but he often does not do either. John hears stories about people who are so lucky because they retired at 59 and just get to sit around do nothing, but that is not what John wants at all. He wants to be 90 years all and hopefully do something that helps people. Dan completely agrees. John is never content and never has the feeling like he did his thing and has earned his leisure. He takes an awful lot of leisure, but he never feels like he earned it. John is lucky in a sense that leisure is part of his work, at least how he has designed his life. He is not driven enough to get up every morning at 6am, go out for a run and then come home and write 100 pages. He is not Michael Chabon and has not won a Pulitzer Prize, but he does want to do something other than sit by a pool.

For $1000 however he would feel that he was doing something and that was to earn $1000. That is $365.000 a year which would be a very good wage. Dan wouldn’t do it, he would be miserable. A pool on a cruise ship would be better. John has spent a lot of time on cruise ships and it is a popular topic of conversation between him and Jonathan Coltan, his wife Kristin and her sister Liz how it would feel to be on a year-long cruise around the world. They are all very familiar with a 7-day cruise and they are trying to picture a 14-day cruise, let alone a 40-day cruise or a 400-day cruise. You feel the creeping dread of being locked into this cycle. Even after 7 days John is already good and doesn’t wish it would last longer. But a year long cruise? You’d get really bored, walking down the same hallways and going to the same restaurants and laying by the pool drinking. Dan has tried sitting by the pool and drinking all day, but he will have only one drink, maybe two. It doesn’t sound fun or interesting for him. Not that long ago they had been at a family vacation in San Antonio at a beautiful resort with wonderful hotel rooms, wonderful food and a pool with a lazy river going all around the property. If you have to be in a pool, at least you are in motion.

Going up early (RW85)

John can’t believe that Dan would be in the pool at 9am. Sleeping in for him is 6:30am, 7 days a week! His kids have night lights on a timer, not to wake them up but to tell them when they are allowed to come out of their rooms, because they are always awake waiting for the light to turn on. If they can get them to stay in bed until 6:30am, that is sleeping in! Dan was the same when he was a little kid. His parents would put the TV on the channel where Ultraman and Speed Racer would come on so that when he woke up at 5:30am, he could just turn the TV on without waking them up. John went to bed at 4:45 last night and had to get up at 9:45, which is only 5 hours and not enough. Now he is already on his second cup of coffee. This is why John couldn’t join the crew team in college, he was always going to sleep right when they got up to go do crew. John really wanted to do crew, he has a build to do crew, his dad did crew, he loves the idea of crew, but for some reason they are morning practicers. The same was true for the swim team in High School, they practiced before school, what an insane notion! John was shortchanged his birth-right to be on a crew team, to be out there just rowing and feeling the water and the wind, but it just wasn’t in the cards for him.

Excuses for drinking alcohol (RW85)

Often John feels that not drinking alcohol makes the experience of his life different from what life in the main looks like to most of his fellows. He doesn’t get to unwind with a drink, he doesn’t get to go out with his other middle-age friends sometimes and tie one on, he doesn’t get that experience of bonding with strangers over a common experience of getting shit-faced together, but he doesn’t spend an untraceable amount of money on getting drunk. The money people spend on booze never seems to make it into their accounting. When they are drawing up a budget, it goes into entertainment or something. Alcohol is not a category in their pie chart. John also doesn’t spend cigarette money anymore, but he also does not have any commonality with a lot of the things that people do in order to be able to drink. They go out to the cabin, not to fish, hunt, boat, read, or write, but because they are on vacation and that gives them the right to drink at noon. There are so many things that we think of as human culture that really is just like a baked potato is just and excuse to eat sour-cream and butter and bacon-bits. Vacation and leisure and sports are really masks for getting to drink at noon. All that is gone for John! He remembers when he was a heavy drinker that any excuse to getting to drink at noon was so welcomed, but eventually your excuse gets smaller and smaller and having that not part of his life, so much of vacation and leisure culture just makes no sense to him until he contextualizes it. As soon as he recognizes it as just another drinking excuse, he is liberated of having to pretend to having any interest in it. Sitting at the pool makes sense if being allowed to sit and drink becomes acceptable. A lot of the planes John flys with leave at 9am and you can see the crowd up in the section where they get free drinks making different decisions. Some of them set their watch forward to the destination and it is already 2pm. You can see them each making their decision at what point it is okay for them to get drinks on the airplane, because being on an airplane is an excuse for free drinks, primarily because they give you free booze in the front, and the people flying in the front are oftentimes people looking for a reason to drink, which is a big part of being rich.

Dan does enjoy sports, especially baseball and football. As he was living in the Colonial Town in Orlando by the lake, his friends would invite him over to watch the games, but there was no talking and nothing fun happening, no cheering for a team, but just silently flipping between the two or three channels that showed the games and them drinking beer. That is one of the things almost unique in our common human lives, which is that having a drink is a universal way of expressing both celebration and mournfulness. You get a drink both when you got a promotion and when you got fired. There is a lot of social consternation around people who don’t follow the rules surrounding drinking culture, like having a drink at 9am. At age 25, John once bought a 40 oz of Old English at a convenience store at 8am because he was up all night and felt that he still wasn’t done. The guy behind the cash register asked him if he was serious because nobody drinks at 8am, not even if you have been at work all night. There is this threshold you have to meet in order to be allowed to have a drink and nobody in the world would say that losing your job or getting a promotion is not enough.

When Dan was a little kid growing up, whenever they had a family dinner, they would always pour out a little Manischewitz or later whatever wine the adults were drinking into a port- or sherryglas (John thought Dan would be saying they were pouring one out for their dead homies or Elijah. They always had a chair and cup for Elijah). They would pour a little bit of wine for Dan, so Dan’s association with alcohol was not some kind of forbidden thing or something you have to do to extreme, but it was part of a good meal and a different wine would go better with a different kind of meal, but that wasn’t a major topic of conversation. Alcohol was not a forbidden thing that Dan connected in any way with rebellion. In fact, when Dan wanted to try some beer, they would get one for him at the grocery store next time and he tried it and it was fine. Dan never connected what other people called the ”having fun part” and the rebellious part the drinking to excess. Yes, Dan had been drunk and sick multiple times, but he we would not say that he would never drink again and then fall back like other people do, but he would then really not drink as much ever again, because getting really drunk is not a pleasant experience. Dan is not a person who needs his inhibitions lowered. He probably already spoke his mind too much and too openly and overshared his opinions. For a lot of people, alcohol is a way to feel more relaxed in social situations and feel more comfortable, not so much in the sense of streaking and jumping in the pool, but alcohol loosens them up and in a social environment or enables them ask a girl out on a date. Dan always thrived in those situations without alcohol on top of it. He doesn’t feel awkward and is not concerned what other people think. If anything, the alcohol inhibited his ability to enjoy this kind of situations.

John is just as nervous when he has to perform for 4 people than what he is for 15.000 people. It is much easier to play for 5000 people than it is for 5 people. John doesn’t stand next to the stage and says ”Oh no”, but he does dread going out there because he wants to do good and he is never 100% sure if he is going to live up to what he is aspiring to bring and that feeling gets worse and worse the closer he is to walking out on stage. When he gets back from his performance afterwards, he always feels good about it, but then on the next day there is new dread for the new show he has to play the next day, until he really gets into the tour mode where he knows the level on which he is delivering. That is usually the time when he starts smoking again, partly just to cope with the day in and day out of traveling, but also to cope with those feelings. It is why so many musicians end up resorting to drugs, because the daily up and down ends up something you have to try to smooth out. Drugs is one of the ways to makes it seem more even. It puts a compressor on life and puts the lows up a little and the highs down a little. There are rare times when John comes off stage and says that it sucked.

At the height of their success in Spain, which was one of the places where they were treated really well, somehow they were asked to headline a music-festival in Barcelona and the Friday night headliner was Teenage Fanclub and the Saturday night headliner was them, which didn’t make any sense to them, because Teenage Fanclub was a much bigger band and there were lots of bigger bands all around them, but they were giving this honor. The show was happening outdoors on Placa Reial, in the heart of Barcelona, on this enormous square. They got out on stage and the monitors were just spraying white noise at them and John couldn’t hear a thing. He kept yelling at the monitor guy who didn’t speak English. It was exhausting, it felt awful, the crowd was separated from the stage by 25 feet of room in the front, they were on the other side of a fountain, John didn’t get any crowd response. When he walked off stage, he thought it was the worst and just went back to his trailer and stared on the floor. It was offending the promoters, because they thought it was a great show and they wanted to party, but John was just staring at the floor because he was so emotionally drained out there so he couldn’t even look up at people. That kind of experience is very rare. Usually when he steps over the threshold on stage, the anxiety goes away and he is just in performance mode which he is enjoying. The closer it gets to the end of the show, the more fun he is having, because whatever mistakes he was going to make are behind him and all he has to do now is get to the end and play the last song. If he does that well, then he will feel triumphant.

It is interesting: Doing podcasting, he does not even feel the remotest feeling of trepidation, but there is not excitement in the form of ”oh my god, oh my god” either. It is a completely natural feeling for him! There is no dread of obligation either, which otherwise happens for most of the things that John puts on his calendar, like a doctor’s appointment or a birthday party or going to the studio. Podcasting feels natural to John because he is just talking to his buddies. He likes talking and none of his shows have any plan, so there is no difficulty either. John could do 50 podcasts and never have the burden of it feeling like work. Maybe even for the guys down at the propane distribution center it is the fact that they get to talk to a lot of people that they like in the course of a day. They have that Will Rogers feeling of ”I never met somebody who wasn’t my friend!” and they are ready to meet people all day. Even in the small way that podcasting does feel like work because John is going to earn any money from it, it continues to feel amazing. John knows that this would be really hard work for some people, like how do you even do a podcast, which is not a question he ever had to ask. John was thinking of renting a little podcast studio while his house was getting worked on and they are very expensive! There is a place in Seattle called The Cloud Room that has built a whole suite of podcast studios. For $2000 they will help you to record and produce some number of episodes. Who is that for? Are those shows like ”What’s new at our local boutique hotel? Tune in to our podcast!” Surely, a lot of people want to do a podcast, but it isn’t their instinct so they don’t know where to start. You would think that getting up there with a guitar would be easy for John and it continues to not be. John knows a lot of people who you can’t keep off the stage, because they would happily get up with anybody at any time with no dread, but most of them are not singers, they are mostly instrument masters and they are good enough at their thing that they are never going to get caught with their pants down. With singers, it is rare to not have a little bit of feeling of ”I hope I don’t fuck this up!”

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