Stories

John meets Gillian Jacobs who knows everything about the architecture of Los Angeles (RL125)

At one time John met Gillian Jacobs. They were at the Chateau Marmont and he was at the time not predisposed of being interested in her. But then she said "Do you see that building over there? That was built by the guy who built the original Garden of Allah which is where Groucho Marx met Joan Didion." She totally blew his mind and over the next 20 minutes she revealed that she knows everything about the architecture of Los Angeles, which is only one aspect of her expansive intelligence. John told her "I'm in love with you! Do you have a boyfriend? Are you a famous actress of some kind?" It was an excruciating thing to learn so late in his life! She became that light in the sky for John, knowing that there are people like Gillian Jacobs who are comedic actresses on popular television shows and also interested in esoteric architecture stories.

The kid with the giant coke at Petticoat Junction (RL183)

Merlin always makes a stop at Nut Tree because they got a carousel and a small choo choo train. John had not been there since the 70:s, but he remembers a restaurant in that region called Petticoat Junction, between Chico and Central Valley, not right off I5, but on some spur route. All the waitresses were in their 50:s and 60:s and their uniforms showed ruffled panties under their skirts. Some trucker's version of pre-Hooters sexyness. Once John saw a kid with a giant size coke pouring sugar packets into the drink. After he had a big pile of sugar packet wrappers off to the side, a parent slapped him on the back of the head and shouted "I told you to stop doing that!" The kid drank his coke which now had a pound of extra sugar in it, put it off the table down in his lap, and continued to pour all the available sugar packets into it under the table.

Visit at the uncle (RL239)

John went to visit his uncle in Palm Springs together with Sean. They were invited for dinner at his uncle's place, but the uncle wasn't really interested in the company, but mostly wanted to cook for people. Turns out Sean's aunt and her husband Bob Einstein (a comedian playing Super Dave Osborne) were invited as well, because they were in the area. Everybody was enjoying each other, drinking cocktails. Bob told the story that his brother Albert Brooks was born Albert Einstein and John's uncle famously asked "Einstein? What kind of name is that?", pretending he didn't know it was Jewish.

Holding court at family gatherings (RL239)

At Christmas when John was age 24 and still in college, they had a family gathering holding court, which was a family tradition, just like standing around the piano and sing. There was even a whole book with family songs from 1910. John was just coming into the age when he started to hold court. He was talking to a group of people where the common bond was the Rochester family. He elaborated his theory that while the Rodericks were some "Welsh interlopers", the Rochesters (who were the connection on John's father's side to the Wasby heritage) came to America via an Ellis Island story and changed name from Rothstein to Rochester and made up an enormous backstory. They are probably Eastern European Jews. While people under 40 were amazed by that story, everybody over 50 emphatically dismissed it because how would John know at his young age?

Worst night of his life (RL241)

About 10-15 years ago, Merlin stayed at a camp ground near Bakersfield on a trip to Los Angeles, planned by his wife. It was one of those inescapable nights that you just have to go through with. They stopped at a KOA and got a cosy log cabin. The cabin was comparable to something one step above a shed full of bees in the backyard. Bunk beds, a bathroom, mad woman in the attic, bees in the shed. The cabin was next to the highway and a regional airport, meaning 18-wheelers were going by and you had the occasional airplane right above the head all night long.

Another night camping, Merlins air mattress deflated and they didn't notice that they were on top of the roots of a tree.

One-upping Merlins story, John talks about his signature worst night of his life when he was in Hungary and the clacking of the gigantic roaches as soon as he turned the light off was loud enough that he could not go to sleep. John then made a carnage of roaches, like an Armenia of roaches. When he then was just about to make peace, a roach fell from the ceiling on his head area. In John's house there are no roaches, but they have a lot of chirping bugs in the ground.

How John's sister cut his nightshirt in half (RL243)

English people use a lot of different clothes for different modes that Americans just don't have: Sleeping hats, dressing gowns, and nightshirts. In the 1980:s during the initial prep revival, when Land's End was making a stab for the boat shoe market, there was a point when John got an LL Bean plaid flannel nightshirt. A knee-length flannel Peter Pan style thing. It was the time when he transitioned from tighty-whities Y-front unterwear to plaid boxer shorts, and he felt like these were the items of sophisticated manhood, so he rocked this nightshirt for a while. Because John is an active sleeper, he jumps around and bounces around, he would get tangled up in this thing, like when you put 4 towels in a dryer. But one day he came home from school and his nightshirt had been cut in half because his sister decided that it was a cool punk rock layering element. She cut the bottom 9 inches off, not quite like a Madonna midriff-type situation, but she had just decided she had the power to take scissors to his stuff, which was pretty brassy. John is still upset about it, he is still stewing. Had she not done that or even just asked if she could have it, he would have long forgotten about it.

The Burglary (RL238)

Somebody broke into John's house while he was in the house sleeping. The burglar took among other things John's computer and traded it in for meth. He got caught because he then feel asleep in his car with the motor running, catching the attention of the cops.

Free lawnmower (RW68)

John took his somewhat broken lawnmower out of the shed. It is not really broken, but he did not take any engineering class that would have taught him how to fix it and because lawnmowers are like $150 he doesn't want to take it to someone else either. He hates to live in a disposable culture like that, but he finally got a new lawnmower and as he was rolling the old one out, a carpenter who worked on the other side of the street asked about it and John gave it to him. The guy asked if John still had the side attachment, but it was in the barn and John promissed to get it for him next time he is out there. For the next two weeks, the guy would ask him about that side attachment every time he saw him! John's life got a little bit unruly lately and the side attachment is probably burried under a lot of other things that he needs to get to. As John told him about the situation, the guy shrugged at him in a strange way and John was about to mumble at him: "Enjoy your free lawnmower!" Face to face confrontations like this hardly ever happen, but on the Internet it happens every single day.

Nitrous Oxide trip at the dentist Doctor Darling (RW70)

John had a dentist in Anchorage called Doctor Darling, the only dentist he had in his whole life who used nitrous oxide (N2O). One day they gave him a bit of nitrous to get him ready and left him alone in the room. He looked at the nitrous sedation machine that had two cylinders with ping pong balls bouncing around in them, one with N2O and one with pure oxygen (O2). The NO2-ball was 1,5 inches up and the other one was 6 inches up and John deduced that this was indicating the ratio of N2O vs O2. He leaned over and turned the O2 way down and the N2O way up and was just tripping balls on N2O which had always been his favorite light intoxicant. They left John in there for a long time and when they eventually came back, they blamed each other for the mistake and fixed the settings immediately while John just looked innocent. This was one of those little instances where he triumphed over the man.

The story of John's false tooth (RW70)

John's left front tooth has sustained a lot of damage over the years and plagued him his entire life. To begin with, he fell in the bathtub and knocked out his front baby tooth. As his next tooth came in, it was discolored and looked like a little gold nugget. In 5th grade he was swinging on some tall, old-school metal swings that allowed him to get very high. At one point he was swinging sideways right into the poles that supported the swings and crashed the same tooth. He was given a cap made of 1980:s material which later broke while he was eating baby back ribs. Over the years it broke again and again. It was capped and recapped until John was walking around with no front tooth at the age of 40. When he lost the tooth for the first time, his dentist prepared a "flipper" for him, a tooth that is attached to a superstructure. It looks like a retainer, but has just the one tooth at the front of it. The dentist assured him that those are very common, but John found that they looked really uncomfortable. He gave in at last. When the thing arrived, the assistent wanted to sand away from his good tooth to fit this stupid thing in and John stopped him right there. He wore it for about a day, because it felt like he was wearing a chain link fence in his mouth. It made him lisp and feel claustrophobic. He switched dentists and went to the "Rock'n'Roll dentist" who wanted to make a titanium implant and screw it into John's head, but first John had to wear braces, because the titanium implant can never be moved again and it would be impossible to straighten his teeth at a later point if he wanted to do so (which John found very unlikely).

At that point in life, John hade become legit. He had bought a house, he was grown-up, other grown-ups were telling him things and he listened to other grown-ups who put braces on him for 3 years of his adult life. During that time the dentist was reiterating what John had heard since he was a teenager: His lower jaw kept growing past the point where it should have stopped. Not like an Acromegaly, his jars are not like the guy in the James Bond movie Moonraker, but just a slight bit, so that his teeth clam onto one another top to bottom and the bottom teeth are slightly behind. The dentists started to say that before they put the titanium implant in, they need to align his teeth by breaking his jar, cutting some millimeters of bone and bolting it back together. This seemed crazy, but he heard it for the first time when he was 17.

After the braces had straightened his teeth, John went to an oral surgeon who told him that breaking the lower jar is barbaric and makes the airway narrower. These days, they instead used to saw off the upper set of teeth, move them forward and bolt them down again, which doesn't sound any less barbaric, because when God made the head, he did not intend a major part of it to be sawed off and moved. At this point John had spent thousands of dollars and was wearing braces for three years just to get this one tooth replaced, so he agreed to the procedure. First, they said they had to pull all 4 of his wisdom teeth at once. At age 42 John had never had a single problem with his wisdom teeth. The doctor also said that the procedure won't not change his appearance. When everything was ready, they found out that John's insurance company won't cover it, but luckily it was only $50.000 and they could finance it. John told all those grown-ups to go to fucking hell and he went to the orthodontist to take the braces off immediately. His original dentist who had recommended him the whole procedure told him that it would have been his own responsibility to check with his insurance if the operation he didn't understand was covered by a policy he didn't understand. In other words, John had let the grown-ups down! He asked his dentist to just glue a plastic tooth between the other teeth and so she did. It is not very functional and he can't bite into things, but he has learned over time to use other teeth. That is also why you don't see a lot of pictures of him smiling and during the last 8 years it has fallen out and broken a couple of times. Once John went to a dentist in New York City who continues to send him emails wishing him a happy birthday and happy hanukkah, even though he just went to him one time for an emergency.

Recently, John's dentist started to recommend him to make him a bridge like they have done for old people for decades. It would be a tooth that he could maybe eat sandwiches or apples with, but he wouldn't trust it and mess around with it. The disadvantage is that it involves ruining one of his existing actual teeth. The reason why they didn't recommend a bridge in the first place is because there is all that new technology that dentists are eager to use. The whole logic for all of this mess is the fact that his teeth clang at each other and they are wearing each other down. During the upcoming second half of his life, John will gradually wear his teeth down until they are tiny flattened nubbins and he will look like somebody from Deliverance. His life will be a constant source of agony and they are just trying to help him by solving this problem now. By not letting them do it, John is disappointing them. They would never tell him to just put a bridge in there and let it ride, because that would be like chewing his face apart. They propose to do all that other stuff so he would never have problems with his teeth again, but he screwed it up! Here he is today, about 10 years later and still mad when he thinks about it.

Migraines and headaches (RL252)

In July of 2017, Merlin woke up at 1:00am with a raging migraine in his hippocampus. It was maybe his 7th migraine ever. He took a hot shower on the thumb thumb thumb setting, gripping the accessibility rail, groaning and trying to not wake his family. He was a little bit pseudo-buddhist and asked himself how much of that is a bad thing that is happening to him and how much is his 10-times more terrible feeling about how he feels about what is happening to him. But the problem was actually the fire in his hippocampus. He got a little bit of sleep until about 6:00am and when he woke up it only hurt a little bit and he was so happy not having that migraine anymore. They usually last between 3 to 8 hours and all you can think of is that pain in the center of your head and you just lay down and watch Mr. Rogers on mute. Their mutual friend Jesse Thorn suffers from these habitually. John's mom gets them, but John does not suffer typically from headaches.

John once went off an airplane and had some nitrogen bubble inside his sinuses, which were clogged because of a cold, and it got up in there behind his eyeball and he was banging his head on the door. His girlfriend of the time called her hippie mom and told him to get some ginger, grind it up, get som rags, take a pot of hot water and put the ginger in, dip the rags in, put it on your eyes until you can't stand it, then take another rag that you dipped into cold water and alternate between them. Lo and behold this awful pain just subsided. John never loved his girlfriend so much! He had never met her mother, but she is in the pantheon of people who know what they are talking about.

A couple of years ago, John suddenly had a pain in the side of his head like an ice pick pain which became all-encompassing, like a pick trying to get out. At a certain point he was rolling on the floor, sweating and banging his head against the wall. Because it was 11:00pm, there is nobody he could have called at that time. John located the pick in his dentistry. How often can you really say you are writhing? Writhing is rare! The hot-cold-hot did not work, because the pain was coming from inside the house. He had never before been at a dentist's office before they arrived in the morning. He was parked out in front at 7:00am in the morning when the assistents started to arrive. The dentist was like "Generally, when someone is waiting for us to open the door, we get them into the chair fairly quickly, particularly someone like you who usually wakes up at 1:00pm in the afternoon." John had an abscess, an infection at the root and it was on one of his wisdom teeth (he had all four of them left at the time). She wanted to pull it out and John agreed.

John's association with Oregon wines (RW70)

There are some good wines in the Dundee area south of Portland. Willamette Valley has been a wine area for many years. John's uncle had a winery there in the early 1970:s, called Knudsen Erath. They split their partnership later and while Erath went on to make a big label, the Knudsens retained all their land and sold grapes to other vintners. The Knudsens are John's first cousins and they recently decided to bring back the Knudsen name into the wine business. Now they are producing Knudsen wines and make a real go at it. They are mature vineyards and make delicious wines. John was up there not very long ago and Erath has this big beautiful tasting room that is aparently built on Knudsen land and owned by the Knudsens. There is going to be a twist about the tasting place, because the Knudsens are going to turn it into their own room again. John has a long family association with Oregon wines. At the time he was a drinking person, he was fortunate enough to be in an environment where wines were just lying around. His uncle had an impressive wine cellar, but John didn't appreciate it enough at that point, because all he wanted were drinks. He would kind of "spirit away" a couple of bottles in his pant legs. Since he quit drinking at a very young age of only 26 years old, he never really learned the trade, like swirling around wine in a glass, telling that it tasted like boot leather and woodchips.

John and the pigs (RW70)

One time, John was sleeping under a tree in the farm part of the world, relaxing from a very very hot day. He heared some snorts as all those baby pigs were coming down the hill. They flopped into this giant mud puddle and started flopping around. He was in the shadow of the tree and hadn't moved, so the pigs did not notice him at all. More piglets came tumbling down the hill and jumped into the mud puddle. John was watching them closely and discovered that every one of them had a distinct personality. There were the fun ones and the serious ones and the mean ones and the goofy ones. He just couldn't believe how much individuality there was in those little piglets. There were an uncountable number of them slopping around in this slophole. John was so full of glee that he couldn't contain himself anymore and said very softly "Hey pigs!" One single pig turned around, made a noise and all the other pigs instantly turned quiet and still. They all turned and looked. John was just a couple of feet away and one by one, very methodically, with their eyes on him, all pigs slowly got out of the pool, congregated, looked quietly at him and marched back up the hill. Eventually they were all gone and John sat under that tree and marveled at those pigs. They filled him with such joy! For them, it is not going to get any better than that, so why not eat them after that? They have lived! They have lived more than John has, because he never had that experience.

John's nemesis Reggie Watts (RL253)

John met Reggie Watts at the jazz club in the bus station. Reggie lives in a separate reality. His reality and John's are only any more tangentially connected by virtue of them both occupying a similar sort of weird minor-celebrity status. The last several times John has seen him, he was in a vape cloud that excluded other people. He probably busts the sickest vapes! Merlin found Reggie's TED Talk kind of confusing. He is extraordinarily talented, but maybe he is a victim of the vape. Reggie is aware that he is John's nemesis from the time when they were dating the same person subsequently. John was partnering with someone early in her partnering life. Then they split up and somewhere along the way she and Reggie had a relationship. They parted amicably later on and somewhere down the line she came back together with John. While Reggie was dating her, he would be tentative, like "Hey man, are we cool?" and John replied "Of course we are cool! I'm not seeing her anymore, I'm not one of those guys!" Later on, John was dating her again. She became an iconic figure in his life and Reggie moved into the position of saying "Hey, I am happy for you!" John felt that his relationship to her was the primary relationship and he did not at all see the need of asking Reggie "Hey, is this cool?" Reggie's relationship was just as an interregnum and John was the original prime animal. Today, Reggie is not John's nemesis anymore. John couldn't be happier for him! John is happy for everybody's success! All he wants for people is to thrive. John is both thriving and crying and he just wants everybody to succeed on their own timeline. If they want to be a deer, John wants them to be a deer.

The unmanned hatchet (RW74)

One time, John was in his barn up on a tall ladder hanging up some lights. He couldn't find a hammer so he decided to use the back-end of a hatchet. He climbed down to get things he had left on the floor and as he was down there, he took the opportunity to move the ladder to the next place where he could still reach the spot he has working at before. He had left the hatchet on top of the ladder and as he moved it, the hatchet landed blade-down right in the part of his hair and got stuck in the top of his head for a second. It hurt and John dropped to his knees as the blood was streaming down his head. He thought: "Did I just kill myself? Have I just split open my head with a hatchet?" while kneeling there alone in his barn. Are those the thoughts of someone who is already dead and is just waiting to die? He was thinking of all the people who have sustained a life-threatening injury and who are just laying there 30 seconds to 3 hours surrounded by people, dying, but still conscious.

After a minute he realized that he was probably not dying. He got up and stumbled out of the barn, got in his car instead of calling an ambulance and started to drive to the hospital. He knew he had a concussion and was struggling to stay awake, so as he drove down Rainier Avenue at about 15 mph, covered in blood and concussed, he passed three or four hospitals because he wanted to go to the hospital that he liked. As he got there, it was not a busy day, they were all surprised that he arrived in this condition and after they cleaned the wound the doctor said that he is studying to get his wilderness medicine certificate and asked if he could practice some wilderness medicine on him. Of course! And so the doctor practiced to stitch up the wound on John's scalp by using John's own hair from either side of the wound.

John Roderick, the hooligan (RW74)

Apparently at one time there was a soccer hooligan with the name "John Roderick" who would follow Manchester United to other countries like France, Italy and the Netherlands. They would start fights and cause trouble and besmirch the reputation of the United Kingdom. It was a time when the UK was trying to crack down on hooliganism, because their soccer fans were developing a bad reputation internationally. John was about to take the boat from England to France and when he came to the dock, they asked him to sit on a chair in the corner. It was the last ferry of the day and there wouldn't be another one until like 06:30 in the morning. They kept him until right when the boat sounded it's horn and by the time they realized that he was not that John Roderick, it was too late and John had to spend the night in the cab of his truck.

For several more trips he would get pulled at UK customs and had to go through this whole thing until he started to walk up and explain to them right away that there is a soccer hooligan with the same name, but he is not American and they were not the same guy. It took a long time until they took John's name off the list, but he somehow managed, which is good because he does not typically go to the airport very early and one hour is already being pretty conservative for him because he doesn't like to wait at airports and would rather do anything else.

When John spit on the street car and tweeted about it (RL255)

At the time when Ben took John and Merlin to meet MC Hammer, John spit on the street car. He then tweeted about spitting on the street car and the San Francisco street car twitter account was like: "Eww! Cut that out!” (see also this and this) and John felt so bad! That Twitter account and John do still communicate with each other to this day.

The Garbage man with a Polaroid collection (RW81)

In John’s experience, waste management is a line of work that attracts people who are just hilarious and great! You never see a garbage man who isn’t pretty cordial. It is very rare you see a garbage truck been driven rudely, they are just out there doing their thing and when they open those garbage bins, they see us at our worst and at our greatest! When John went to the dump, everybody from the first to the last person he met was having a good day! They are all just having fun. John has a friend who used to work as a garbage man in Tacoma, Washington. He was driving around town with an older garbage man who had been doing garbage since the 1970:s. He was collecting the cans while the older garbage man was driving the truck. This old garbage man had a collection of photo albums full with Polaroids of amateur porn that he had pulled out of people’s garbage cans over the course of 30 years, either because somebody threw out a collection or because these were the out-takes, and he kept this collection in the cab of his garbage truck with him, presumably because his wife wouldn’t like them in the house. This is the kind of brilliant collection that your son would probably keep, but also imagine the freaking Taschen coffee table book that would be a duplication of the whole thing! It would be the greatest coffee table book in history! The garbage man probably recognizes what incredible wealth he has, but he is probably not thinking about the German publisher that could turn this into a book that would cost $400 and every weirdo in America would want it. John would want it, but it is never going to get made.

Another one of John’s friends has a collection of Polaroid prison photos from the 1960:s and 1970:s. He is even sometimes bidding on those on eBay and there are others nationwide who are also interested in these. He recognizes that the more Polaroids of inmates in denim outfits with giant hair that he collects together, the whole of it becomes a single work that has greater value by virtue of being somewhat comprehensive.

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