2015-July: Not being able to drink coffee at any time anymore (BW230)

In July of 2015, John made some poor decisions about his midnight coffee intake. He was hanging around in the restaurant with the model planes hanging from the ceiling and they didn’t have any decaf, so he had a cup of regular coffee and ended up having four. At 6am he was still awake, rearranging his old Levi’s in the Levi’s drawer, not getting any sleep that night at all. John used to be able to drink coffee at any hour of the day and he used to be able to sleep standing up in a corner, but now his metabolism is changing because his body is slowly decaying and all his superpowers, his great skills, are starting to fray. One of those skills was the ability to eat whatever whenever. The other day John had a couple of chili dogs immediately before he went to sleep and he woke up feeling bad. As he talked to some people about it, somehow the chili dogs came up and people asked if he could see a connection: Two enormous homemade chili dogs and immediately going to sleep without even walking around the house?

John used to be able to do that without suffering any discernible consequences, or maybe those consequences were far down the stack while he was still wrestling with consequences from earlier bad decisions. He is still not as affected by it that we won’t go for it, but at 6am this morning he was searching his database for reasons why he might still be awake and landed on the fact that he had 4 cops of coffee at midnight. It is not definitive and it could have been something else! John might be anxious for recording this show because it is a big American institution and he is filling some mighty big shoes.

Injuries, showing signs of age and looking old (RW71, RW75, RW76)

During the summer of 2017, John kept himself busy with his King Neptune duties and with going to baseball games in order to keep himself active as he gets older. He hasn't sunk into his Barcalounger yet. When he needs to be old, he trots it out and is good enough at pretending. He doesn't work out, but should probably be doing push-ups right now. Luckily, he still managed to stay in a somewhat good condition, because he was built to be useful. He was not put on Earth as a born war machine, but if you need something moved, he doesn't have trouble picking things up. If he had one superpower, it would be picking up heavy things, correctly lifting with his legs and not with his back. He would be the one to lift that car off that child! His body was built to do something, other than sit around and podcast. He is supposed to climb and survive and get over the wall, but instead he sits around all day playing the guitar and talking to a computer. Inside he is probably falling apart, his eyes are going to mist over and his toes are going to curl. In the meantime he carries a few extra pounds on the front because he is a middle aged guy and you never know when you have to go on a long walk without food. He feels like he is in a fairly decent condition without having to do a lot of work, but he is always worried about getting something like a serious back condition as his uncle Jack had. Even his dad also had his foibles. (RW71)

When John was young he had tremendous back pain, but it was upper back pain in his shoulders caused by emotional stress. His knees are just shredded from being tall and reckless. He was a skier and he was climbing and jumping recklessly. A couple of his friends were injured by falling and that was the thing he also used to do: Bad judgement combined with the feeling of invincibility, combined with an innate desire to climb up a mountain or a wall. (RW71)

John's friend Jim Harle, a psychiatrist in Bellingham, was an Ultimate Frisbee player who decided that rock climbing would be his thing, so he built a climbing wall under the stairs of his house and spent his free time hanging upside down from those tiny climbing wall grips. He used to live on Salsa sandwiches: Two pieces of wheat bread with Salsa and nothing else. One night they were walking through Palo Alto and Jim decided to scale the wall of some brick lecture hall. He was already a story and a half off the ground before John even realized where he was. He was crawling the side of this building like a spider. There are climbers in Russia who climb up on top of skyscrapers and hold on with only one hand. As a young person, John had the same desire. If Parkour had been an acknowledged sport in 1980, John would have really wanted to do that. Dan's son is obsessed with it, too. In the beginning it was like skating without a skateboard, but it has evolved from there. John never wanted to be an inline skater. He found a used pair once and had no impulse to be good at it, but Parkour would have been a thing he would have trained at. (RW71)

John knows a lot of people who got grossly injured over the course of their lives and John got injured himself, but never where his back was involved. Instead, his legs got hurt because he jumped off something that was too big to jump off of. He had surgery on one knee and the other one is damaged from compensating for the bad knee. He continues to do reckless things, he continues to ski, he walked across Europe on those bad limbs, probably not doing the meniscus any favors. That is the part of his body that is showing his age the most. The things he has damaged are his knees, his ears and his heart. The heart is probably the limb with the most phantom pain. He has a lot of scars on his feelings, but his knees are fucked up and his ears ring. He has broken both his hands a couple of times, so they are going to become arthritic eventually. His one finger is always going to be a little bit stiff, it was a fresh wound when Dan first met John in the fall of 2014. He had taken two chopsticks as a splint back when he refused to go to doctors for things, because he thought doctors were just a racket. Eventually he realized that he had a broken finger and as he finally went to see a doctor, the doctor just said that the finger was past the point where he could do anything about it. He would have put a splint on it for the last two weeks, but now is already the time when he would have taken the splint off. He didn't want to re-break it, but he would have set it differently if John had come in in time. (RW71)

People younger than their mid-40:s are usually not able to guess John's age. The younger the person is, the less able they are to correctly guess an age. The only grey-haired people whom somebody in their 20:s will know are their parents and grandparents and therefore they will put you in that category and incorrectly guess your age. Dan had been guessed to be 32 years old, which is 10 years too young. But then he grew a nice, thick, beautiful beard with a handful of grey in it, crossing the point of being salt & pepper with a bit more salt than pepper and somebody guessed his age in the early 50:s. A lot of members of the fair sex like and might even target you for having grey in your beard, but the length of your hair and beard contribute to that as well. When John was running for office, his beard was very tightly cropped. Returning to that might give John a younger appearance. (RW75)

There are a lot of ways John could youthify himself, like putting a little flower headband on as can been seen on those anti-abortion billboards where they always chose to show hideous babies with awful flower decoration. Those advertisements are only there to scare young pregnant girls, but they are not going to sway anyone else's political view on things. John could also shave his beard completely and look 15 years younger. He could wear a baseball cap with a flat brim that was tilted a little bit off to an angle, like a skateboarder. He could walk around with knickers, a baseball bat over one shoulder and a mitt in his other hand and look like the other rascals. but John is not interested in appearing young, he is just conscious now of appearing old and the responsibility that comes with it. He is also trying to calibrate his inner feelings to his outer life, because there is nothing more gross than a 50 year old guy trying to appear 30. John is now entering this time period where it is less obvious what options you have left. If you are 18 or even 21, you have unlimited possibilities! If you wear a suit, you look like an up and coming corporate tye guy, if you wear the baseball cap at an angle, you are in that type of scene. You got unlimited choices. If you reach a certain age, it just looks like you are trying too hard. People even say you can't wear hoodies in your late 40:s anymore! For John a hoodie is an absolutely neutral item of clothing, but at one point Magnet Magazine said that John was Bob Dylan in a hoodie, which was one of his favorite moments in his Rock career. (RW75)

You hear older actresses (an age group starting at 37) talk about something that women experience in general: They become invisible as they age because all that attention and all those eyeballs that are focused on young women just don't see older women, even those who are glamurous and beautiful and talented. They don't get the same roles anymore, all of a sudden they are not cast as romantic leads anymore and the only jobs they can get are as moms, which is pretty frustrating. It is the rare Susan Sarandon who is able to transition to dramatic roles. This is less true for men because we don't see men with the same eyes and judge them the same way as we do with women. (RW75)

John doesn't want to get into fights at taco restaurants anymore, but he does want to continue to go on rope swings into rivers when the oportunity presents itself. When he was at the river in July of 2017 at age 48, everyone else was 22 and John was like someone who came down out of the mountains or something. "Who's dad are you?" Everybody has "let's-go-jump-in-the-river"-times and John wants to be part of it, get on this rope, swing out and fall into the river just like everybody else. Climbing up the tree and looking out at the big wide river, he is also very conscious of having to tell the kids to rescue him in case he starts drowning. Dan and John have talked a lot about growing old with grace, and that is it in a nutshell. (RW75)

Listener Gabriel wrote in a week later: John looks older than his contemporaries because he is calibrated like a baby boomer instead of a gen-x:er. Look at Marissa Tomei: She is older in Spider-Man: Homecoming than some of the Golden Girls were when that show started, but she is calibrated Gen-x. John is like Ernest Borgnine or Bea Arthur: He has a different calibration! The most famous person in this group is Wilford Brimley in the movie Cocoon: He was 50 years old and played a guy that was in his 80:s. Tom Cruise is 55 now. Even Brad Pitt, Johnny Depp and George Clooney are in their mid-50:s. That is what listener Gabriel refers to by "calibration". It is not flattering for John to hear that he is calibrated towards the Baby Boomers. His beard went prematurely grey which adds some serious age. John is waiting for somebody to come by and offer him to play the heavy local bad guy. (RW76)

John looking old (RW79)

John felt that having a mustache with a clean-shaven face was not appealing to anyone. His daughter has no problem speaking truth to power and every time he asked her if she likes daddy's face, she always said yes, which made him feel that it is not that bad, but most people were not responding to it other than "yeah, that's fine". Oftentimes people don’t notice when John shaves his beard and grows it back. It is not as dramatic a change on him than it is on some people. Shaving daily is a lot of work and when he forgets to do it for 3 days in a row it becomes an ordeal to shave. Now it has been about a week and it is basically looking like a full beard again. John will keep it trimmed, though. The problem is that every centimeter of his beard ages him 10 years. If he has a really long beard, he looks like fat father time. John has awareness of his vanity, as amply recorded on this and other podcasts. It has never been a problem before and being old has never felt like something John needed to be conscious of, but everybody he knows is now complaining that their glasses don't work anymore. The conversation at a party turns immediately to the fact that they can't read the menu. All of John’s friends are still beautiful, but their eyes have stopped working en masse. For a lot of them that is because they are nebbishes. We were already myopic. Sean Nelsson and John Hodgman have never been able to see, but now even John's normal friends can't see. The long beard just puts John in this category who doesn't give a fuck anymore because he is old.

The majority of John's friends have always been a year older, because he was early in Kindergarten and in High School. During the whole of 2017, the "50"-landmark had been around John. He himself is going to turn 49 about 2 weeks after recording the show, but Layne Staley and all the rest of his pals just had his 50th. Then there is this whole group of some of his Rock peers who are 42:ish. John was a late bloomer in Rock 'n' Roll and started his career around the age of 30 while the peer-bands at the same time were all around 22/23. Together they started Indie Rock and now they are 42 and starting to have kids. John was 42 as well when he had his kid and it seems like the new age to have kids, instead of 26 or whatever it should be if you are listening to God. Then John has a whole group of friends who are 32-36, but he has nobody there in-between. The 35-year olds see him as ancient, the 42-year olds think of him as their older brother / creepy uncle, but even when he shows up at his own peers, he is the one who looks the oldest, because this guy is still racing bicycles and this guy has no grey hair for whatever reason. They all look young & fit & cool while John slaps in like Walt Whitman. That's when he really feels like he needs to up his game a little. John doesn't want to talk about his vanity anymore because he doesn't live in a material world, but in a spiritual world where the material things just wash over him like a wave of nothing. John does not sit around worrying about this! The spirit of the grass!

John can't read a menu anymore, he can't see a god-damn thing! Not even his computer! That's not vanity, that's just embarrassing and inconvenient. John does not understand progressive lenses, but he is going to get some bifocals which is better than what his dad did: John’s dad had three pairs of glasses. One on his eyes, one around his neck and one on his head. John has pictures of him in his airplane with three pairs of glasses. The first person Dan knew who would hold a thing far away to read it was Merlin and Dan found it the funniest thing in the whole world. This person who was just a few years older than him was struggling to do even the most basic things! A couple of months after that, Dan himself started to pull things just a little further away. Now he would not only pull things away, but he would also lift his glasses off his nose and look under them or over them. It is just that God doesn't want us to see things. Maybe it is because we are wise enough at that age and those little details shouldn't concern us anymore.

Taking performance-enhancing pills (RW79)

John is spending his life creeking along, beaten down by the sun. He is taking NAC and NAD which are supposedly antioxidant and make his cells fat and plump. There is this supplement called Elysium that 90 differnt Nobel laureates signed off to promote, but the main ingredient is just NAD. There is only one company in the world manufacturing Elysium, but it is packaged under the name NAD by about 50 different companies. John read an interesting article about a woman who had decided to take the performance-enhancing drug that Maria Sharapova had taken and was banned from Tennis for 2 years, because at amateur level it is not banned. She said there was not really a performance enhancing effect in her Tennis, but she didn’t have any aches, no pains, no recovery time and she felt amazing the day after. It didn't make her faster, but it improved her return. NAC and NAD do not give John any identifiable improvement, but he does take it every day, because if nothing else he might benefit from the placebo effect. He does feel a kind of a comprehensive bodily wellness. As soon as John realized he has to take a pill for his mental stability every day, he thought he could just as well take more of them, so now he takes about 15: Vitamin B, Vitamin D, Baby-Aspirin, and some more quack-stuff like a pill that is cartilage rebuilding. It might just be a pill of ground-up cow bones because it says that "this product has not been proven to do anything at all", but it is supposed to do something for your joints.

John and Dan repeatedly talk about this stuff and it starts to feel like a geriatric podcast: two old guys waiting for their turn to get a haircut. The most shocking thing for Dan was that those ridiculous things that would plague people 10 or 15 years older than him actually started to happen to him as well. He wasn't going to have those problems, but it turns out they are for everyone!

Getting sick (RW41, RW60)

John gets sick an awful lot and he doesn’t understand why. Maybe he is unhealthy? He is not somebody who cancels a podcast for being a little sick, but Dan will cancel if he sounds legitimately bronchial. John sounds congested and bronchial, but because he has such confidence in his voice he still sounds good. It is the Kathleen Turner effect: As you get more and more sick you sound more and more sultry. John doesn’t want to say that he didn’t get sick when he was gluten-free, because that goes down a whole crazy road that he doesn’t want to think about. According to his podcasting philosophy John is the real story and the real truth of the absurdity of life and part of it is that you show up sick or injured, you walk it off, you do your thing, and you do your job. People will tell you not to go to work when you feel sick, but not everybody can afford to do that. Dan finds that John sounds like a different guy, like he was from New England or like a cop. (RW41)

John is the “Show must go on” type, even if he is sick. John avoids doctors whenever he can. (RW60)

John doesn’t like to be around other people when he is sick and he doesn’t want to be cared for or entertain people. He usually gets into some kind of doped-up cleverness that is kind of washy, but wise. He will bumble around the house and although there is nobody there he will perform like a cartoon bear, fumbling around and talking to himself, even a little bit more than on a regular Thursday. Maybe he wants to amuse God because God has delivered this poison onto him? John is basically like a doped bear that had a tranquilizer gun. It would be fun if he could be a little bit more like that in real life. Whenever John is sick, even if he scraped his knee skateboarding, it will turn into an upper respiratory problem and he always felt like his lungs and his knees are his week organs. (RW41)

John had not been sick in a long time, but whenever he tells people he is sick, they will tell him that he is always sick, but he is just always sick every 6 month when they want to do something together. The crazy ones will tell you that they are sick and the next day they are already feeling better, which never happens to John. It has always been like this, even when he was in the absolute prime of his health. You wouldn’t think of him as a sickly child, but he always had some little cold like a monkey on his back. John also has a little girl in school, but she doesn’t get sick, although she walks through life chewing on pencil lead and falling down stairs. She doesn’t even get a cold and neither does her mother. Maybe they didn’t stick John's face in the dirt as much as they should have? It was the 1970s, of course they did! (RW41)

When John’s daughter was born, he took her to the beach in Washington, which is a gravelly seaweed-covered sketchy beach, put her face-down on the beach and she came up with a mouth-full of seaweed and sand. Everybody was yelling at him, but after that she was not going to be sick! John would put her face down everywhere they went, which is globally recognized as good fatherhood to improve your child’s immune system by inoculating them against spores. Obviously they didn’t do that to John, but they swaddled him, protected him and wet-nursed him and now he can’t defend himself! When the next global pandemic comes, come bird flu or pig flu or cat flu, John will be one of the victims despite all of the precautions he has taken, sitting there with his small bag packed, his bungee cords and his canned tuna, but he will get a cold and die. What an indignity! (RW41)

In the midst of the bird flu scare where everybody was walking around with paper masks, John played a show in Toronto and felt confident because he was protected by cigarettes. They are already so bad for you that nothing else can survive that environment. The bird flu will come in and all of a sudden be surrounded by the smoke of 25 Winstons. John didn't think that it would make him more susceptible, but it was more like a shield. He doesn’t smoke now, but instead he is a pink, pudgy little long baby. (RW41)

In March of 2017 John was feeling sick as if he was on the cusp of a cold. He was feeling acidic like if he had some kind of pH imbalance and he didn't know what direction it would take. John’s ear has been plugged for a long time, but he is not sure if this is a related issue. He talks about Japanese ear picks (Factoids). Dan recommends him to take it easy and John says this would be the perfect time for cable television, which he does not have. In those situations he is always a bit envy of other people’s home entertainment systems, because he only has a bunch of ukuleles and harmonicas. This time he even had taken apart a guitar and has pieces all around the living room. (RW60)

John deciding he is not sick (RL186)

In January of 2016 John was fighting an interior thing, but he had not been getting ill lately and he was going to stick with that. A good friend claims that she never gets sick and even when John personally witnessed her being sick, she denied being sick, which is such a flip from a lot of people who are always getting sick when they are not. John started to adopt the mentality that he is not sick and Merlin wonders if that actually works to fight things back. The corollary that you do get sick if you are constantly thinking you are being sick might really be a thing.

John used to be sick all the time on this program, but at the time he was chasing the alligator away. The sensations he was feeling were not sickness, but his body was telling him that he was alive and that foreign agents were lurking around the dark corners of the city of his lungs and nose. John did not allow them in, but there was a counter-insurgency on the part of his white blood cells and other things he doesn’t understand.

Going to the doctor a lot (RL165)

Running his political campaign put John into conditions where people normally get sick, but the conditions were so extreme that John didn’t even know if sickness could have gained purchase in him. He went to various doctors, but they disappointingly all seemed to agree that he was perfectly hale and hearty and he kept wanting to go to a doctor who would confirm his suspicion that something was really wrong with him and that he had a terrible, un-diagnosed condition that all those other hacks had missed. He imagined that he had an extra pancreas and once they took out his second pancreas he would stop making so much bile. Yet, all of John’s readings seemed normal, he didn't have any Arterial Sclerosis, Diverticulitis or any of the other Victorian diseases that used to plague his mother’s family. Maybe he should eat less and exercise? Some doctors even recommended meditation, but please: Just shut up and stop it! John wanted some kind of diagnosis that didn't require him to meditate or take a pill. He wanted them to take something out of him, some extra organ that would have explained everything.

The Star Trek Transporter fixing you up (RL165)

John wants the Star Trek Transporter (John calls it Teleporter) that turns you into crystal sparkles and reassembles you somewhere down the line, but during that disassembly and reassembly they would run through all kinds of checks. It is like restarting your computer! There are probably all kinds of different errors in your genetics that can be fixed with a reboot! Just by teleporting him to the waiting room, John's stream of atoms would be going through a filter where all the toxicity got removed, all of the old tobacco, all of the undigested meat, all of the genetic errors, and all of the unactivated genes. Merlin can’t believe this isn’t already a thing! At Walgreens they sell things that look like Dr. Scholl’s and are supposed to draw the toxicity out of your feet, but that is not actually a thing. It is sort of like ear candling: Every single gal John dated during the peak beet-juice era in the mid-1990s was all about ear candling and when they would pull the candles out at the end, it would always be inconclusive.

So many of the Science Fiction tropes should exist, like the Transporter that actually has a medical purpose. You would presume that everyone in the Star Trek universe was more or less immortal to normal death. Part of the concept of the show is probably that they have taken care of a lot of the things that used to trouble people in the 20th century. They are able to explore without having to worry about health or war, yet they spend all that time walking in halls! If you really had mastered disease and conquered war and were sent out to explore, why would you wander up and down the hall so much, carrying a clipboard? You would think that everybody would be in a comfortable chair having sex! It should be more like Wall-E and you would be in a rocker chair enjoying your drinks. They’d have to be sugar-free drinks, though, and you would need some kind of colostomy bag where all the food goes out, but nobody wants to interact with somebody who’s got a colostomy bag.

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