KPJR2 - John Roderick 2

This week, Ken and John talk about:

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This episode has been recorded shortly after John was crowned King Neptune of Seafair.

Ken assumed that John probably had the ability to execute him as one of his many powers as King Neptune, but that was not true because John’s powers ended at the Washington State line. It is like being a sheriff and, Smokey and The Bandit notwithstanding, sheriffs typically do not cross state lines even when in hot pursuit. Also, John doesn't take things that personally. If his dopey son was engaged to a New York City dancer and she decided to abscond with his black 1978 Firebird Trans Am, John would not really give two shits about it.

As King Neptune he would just say ”Vaya Con Dios, Ken Plume and New York dancer!" Being very zen about it is part of being a king rather than a sheriff. John is a Sea King who has seen the tides come in and out many times and he is not going to get all busted up over one dingeling son. He is the lord of all the waters: lakes, rivers, streams, ocean, and also lord of the horses, both seahorses and regular land horses.

The Romans, like the Greeks before them did quite a bit of gerrymandering when it came to the responsibilities and purviews of different gods, which is why Neptune is the lord of all waters plus all horses. It is not explicable to us, but it might have made perfect sense to the ancients. Horses are the boats of the land as far as conveyance goes. John’s powers extend further than just five miles out into the sea. The sea is where he belongs, including the sea bottom. He is more of sea bottom guy, or whatever floats your boat, and he is also in charge of floating boats and commands the Navies.

Ken is all the way on the other coast from where John is and John would have to go through the Panama Canal and come up the other side. Ken delaying the start of this podcast by 01:20:00 hours is just not that big of a deal and not worth it for John killing him or depriving him of any of his freedoms. Ken feels bad that John doesn’t feel that he is worth it.

John making Ken feel bad is the actual punishment and John is a master shamer. As he gets older, people start coming to him with their dad needs and John is good at bringing people down, but dads don't just bring people down, they also lift people up. Bad dads are capable of any amount of destruction, but good dads know when you need to get lifted up and when you need to get chopped a little. Everybody needs to be taken in hand every once in a while. John’s shaming has become Ken’s long winter.

History of Seafair (KPJR2)

John has been bestowed the powers of King Neptune not by the city of Seattle because the city of Seattle is a municipality within the Republic of Washington and does not have the power to crown him, but by Seafair, a non-profit organization. It was incorporated to encompass all of the summertime fairs and all the small parades in the different neighborhoods, like the Fremont parade, the Magnolia parade, and West Seattle parade: All those groups have been taken under the umbrella of the Seafair.

The organization started in 1950 as a summer fest in Seattle, prior to the time when Seattle had any kind of professional sports or any kind of national recognition at all. When they would do the nightly news and they would go to Harold for the weather, he would say that on the West Coast it was sunny in Los Angeles and raining in San Francisco and everything north of San Francisco in the Northwestern corner was just: "There be dragons" No one knew what was there, and no one cared.

In the early 1960s Seattle hosted the World's Fair which produced the Space Needle and the Elvis movie ”It happened at the World's Fair”, back when World’s Fairs mattered to people. Kennedy christened the World's Fair from the White House by pushing a button and the light went on. Prior to that throughout the 1950s Seattle was just a distant burg. Seafair was a way of cutting loose and to celebrate their nautical heritage. Seattle is one of only two towns in America built on an isthmus, it is very water-oriented.

The Navy came to town and the whole town would go crazy! Everybody would get drunk, the mayor would be drunk in the streets, and people in Seattle looked forward to it all year long because there was nothing else to look forward to in Seattle at the time. John’s mom said that there were so many freaking parades: There was a parade that opened Seafair, then a week later there was a parade in the middle of Seafair and then there was a parade at the end of Seafair.

The parades went through the middle of Downtown where everybody showed and there were parades in the neighborhood and you couldn't escape it. This was back when a dog getting shot in Ballard would be on the front page of The Seattle Times because there wasn't anything else happening. All of it was news and everybody was engaged. Even when John was a kid, the parade and Seafair were big deals.

Hydroplane Racing (KPJR2)

The one way in which Seattle is internationally competitive is by producing hydroplane boat captains on a championship level. Early boats were built around the 12 cylinder motors that powered World War II fighter planes, these big super-loud piston engines like the Rolls-Royce Motor that was in the Hawker Hurricane. They slammed those big powerful P51 motors into Balsa-wood boats to generate enough propeller torque to actually put the boat into a posture where it was sort of flying because it was going so fast that the boat lifted up and was just gracing across the surface, skimming like a stone. The danger being that if your boat can lift up enough that it is flying it can also fly and when your boat flies, it flips and crashes.

Hydroplane racing was a very dangerous and very risky sport because the boats crashed all the time. Back then they were made out of Balsa-wood and the boat drivers were wearing a leather helmet and they often died. These boats raced one another around some buoys, they were loud and fun and home-built and halfway horse shit, but this was a real sport back in the day when sports were real, when stock car racing was literally a stock car that you bought at the store and then hopped up and drove with no safety equipment. Washington state produced real champion boats and champion pilots and Seafair was oriented around these boat races.

John had a hydroplane boat that was carved out of a piece of driftwood he found on the beach that looked kind of like a hydroplane and he had whittled it with his cub scout knife until it looked more like a hydroplane. He had his Totin’ Chip until it got taken away because he got caught throwing a hatchet at a tree and the scout master was like: You were so proud of your Totin’ Chip, but now you have lost it and you can no longer carry a hatchet. That brief moment when John could proudly carry a hatchet was so great.

John's hydroplane made out of a piece of driftwood was pretty sizable, two and a half feet long, and he would tie it to the back of his Schwinn Stingray and drive around the neighborhood with it bouncing along on the pavement. If you ask any boy in Seattle John’s age, every one of them had a wood hydroplane that they had made out of some piece of scrap wood.

These boats evolved and at one point someone figured out that you could actually put a jet turbine engine on one of the boats and beat all the old World War II aircraft motors, having these boats actually became jets. They are quieter as jets, they are not anywhere near as loud as they were when they were these huge unmuffled Spitfire motors, but now they are jet powered and go 220 mph (350 km/h) across the water, which no longer appeals to the Times Literary Supplement reading not-in-my-backyard liberal types that live in Seattle. John watched it among his own friends.

The decreasing importance of Seafair (KPJR2)

Suffice to say: At some point in the last 20 years, the city of Seattle and Seafair have become somewhat estranged because Seattle has gradually converted into one of these ivory tower cities that you hear about in the news. It is part of the urbanization of America. You look at those maps and realize that all of the liberals in the country are in 15 cities and everybody else is chewing Skoal and shooting varmints. Sadly Seattle started to consider itself too good for this tawdry Seafair, which is sort of NASCAR-y.

The Blue Angels will come and back in the old days it was so fun when they were rattling all the silverware, but in the 1990s anti-militarism really took root and the Blue Angels were just wasting tax dollars with their military saber rattling. They scare my dog, there were these loud boats down there and all the Chio-eating Mountain Dew-drinking Americans that come watch them. It was a very anti-militarist turn that happened.

Nowadays Seafair appeals to everyone who lives within 150 miles (240 km) of Seattle, but not really the people that live within Seattle the same way. You would go to Seafair events and the people who were there to see the boat race and the jet fighters were all from Everett, Linwood, Federal Way, Tacoma and Issaquah and not from Capitol Hill, Ballard, Fremont, or the University District.

Seafair started to have a little bit of an identity crisis. Being crowned there was traditionally quite an honor. In the 1950s and 1960s there was no distinction between business leaders, local celebrities and local politicians, they were all the same. There were 200 of these people in Seattle and the prominent ones were known by everyone. John doesn’t know who Ivor Haglund (?) and Windsor Denny was, but they were somebodies one time. It was more like ”Ey, this guy is a good old time! He is King Neptune!” and King Neptune had a prime minister and there were 14 people that followed him everywhere and they wore big elaborate outfits.

The pirates and the clowns (KPJR2)

The Seafair pirates were roaming the streets causing mayhem. It was the times, they would walk into a bar and just start throwing M-80s. There were no safe spaces in the world at the time, it was just total chaos. Awful things happened by contemporary standards, but back then it was just like ”Wahoo!” The pirates still exists and you will recognize them immediately as exactly the same class of people who make up biker gangs. They are living this life all year long, hooligans of all ages, 75 year old Seafair pirates who have been doing it for 50 years and who are 75 year old bikers. It is a hereditary thing. The one thing they can pass along is hooliganism. It is wonderful to see a group of hooligans take that much pride in their city to embrace this role where they get to dress like pirates and act like pirates.

There are also Seafair clown groups with membership numbering in the hundreds. The clowns all roll around doing their clown business and they are very hurt that everybody hates clowns. They think clowns are great, obviously. They seem just as normal to John as the Pirates do, which is to say not at all, but God bless them also! They just want to be loved. They want to spread joy and help sick kids.

John being King of Seafair (KPJR2)

They asked John to be Seafair king, partly because somewhere in the Seafair organization someone recognized that they had to bridge the gap between Seafair and the NPR listening citizens of Seattle. Otherwise there was never going to be a feeling of civic embrace of what is one of the last great regional festivals like Mardi Gras. Los Angeles doesn't have any regional festival anymore. Maybe the Rose Bowl, but that is a sporting event, although it has a parade, but it doesn't engage the whole city, it engages all those weird yellow shirt wearing Pasadena people. It is not a thing where the whole town is engaged like at Mardi Gras.

John happily accepted the job and for the last couple of months he has been swanning around as King Neptune, quietly reshaping and expanding his role. He enjoys this type thing, it is a hijinks that is what you make of it.

John performing as an introvert (KPJR2)

John is a very introverted person by nature. He has come to a form of public performance that is situational extroversion and as a musician, a singer, a toastmaster, whatever you would call it, and he is able to put on a big show in bursts of between two and five hours. He does not crave it, he craves the opposite, but if he is called into service he recognizes the need, he knows it is his job and his place in the world, and in a way he was made to stand up on the table and say ”Everyone!”, and go clang clang clang on his pewter mug. He took upon himself the mantle of King Neptune and he really threw himself into it.

With music, like every kind of art, you have your art to hide behind. John has the guitar and the microphone to hide behind, but primarily he hides within his own song. Within his song, his creation, he is protected. You can not like the song or like the song, it doesn't matter. The song exists. If you don't like it, it will make John sad, but it doesn't really matter because the song is. It is not going to change if you don't like it. It is not going to stop existing if you don't like it. It is done and John is in it, it belongs to him, but it also belongs to you. John is just broadcasting it, that is all!

Apologetic culture, bands pretending they are meaningless (KPJR2)

There is a condition and an epidemic of false modesty in our lives right now. There is a lot of pre-apologizing and you are disallowed to show ego without first taking a knee in front of your audience and saying ”I apologize for being up on this stage. I am not worthy, and yet here I am, so please do not judge me for my loud performance because I am just a humble servant” This is endemic in our culture now and it is difficult to stand up and say ”Ta da!”, but you almost have to put on a mask of shame and self-abnegation before you can feel comfortable.

The audience doesn't want you to apologize, but they want you to take the stage and go ”Wahuuu! Here comes the show!” Nobody knows how to do that anymore and nobody knows how to swagger because there's all this context. Particularly people of John's kind are afraid that swagger and ego perpetuates colonialism, systems of oppression and dominance. We are already sorry when we wake up in the morning.

Indie Rock came out of Grunge Rock which came out of Punk which was predicated on the pose of ”What I make doesn't matter. I didn't even try. I don't even care!” Grunge was like ”Everything is shit and I'm a loser!” and by the time John got to Indie Rock it was ”I sing quietly and I am so shy that I look at my shoes because I'm just so delicate and frail and I'm not trying to sing too loud to you" There was an incredible tentativeness that wasn't real. In most cases it was not authentic to the person, but it was an attempt to seem authentic by operating within the parameters of that genre as it had evolved. It was what was expected of a artist performing this type of song.

Performers inhabited that role to the point that it became their way. Many Indie Rock singers wouldn't give interviews because that would be too ego, or they wouldn't put their picture or their lyrics on their albums because that would suggest that the lyrics meant something and they didn't want to impose that on you. Having their picture on there would suggest that they were people, so they put up a picture of a blurry dog running across a blurry brown grass. It could be a cat also, but we will never know because it is just a blur. When you meet them and talk to them, they are freaking sports fans and they chew Skoal. Bon Iver is a good time beer drinking party bro, but you would not know it from his music. He will stand up and shotgun beers in the bar, he is a Joe.

It is a grift and it is despicable! Getting up on stage requires that you have something to share and show. You are putting on a show, you are wearing a feathered headdress, and pretending you are not is very complicated. It is very psychological, it appeals to the conflicted feelings of people in their teens, but it is a sham and it does us all a disservice because it infantilizes. We want to think it makes the world safe for shy people, but in fact it doesn't. It puts the wrong things on pedestals because it isn't real.

Bonnie Prince Billy was living under the porch of a cabin because the sun was too bright, but at the top of his career he was doing 40 photo shoots a week, which is not something that somebody who legitimately lives under the front porch of a cabin is capable of doing. Photo shoots are hard! Even if you are not looking at the camera and projecting that you live under a porch, you are still sitting in front of a camera with a makeup person and lights and craft services. It is a sham to pose as someone too delicate to live when in fact you are making a tremendous effort to put that show on.

There is a desire to be real and the assumption that someone getting up and saying ”Welcome all my friends to the show that never ends! Come inside, come inside!” is a used car salesman and a fake. If you do that, then you are not being true, you are not in touch with your emotions, you are not connected to the real energy and the gravity of our psychology.

You can only be discovered through self-examination, through wearing the hair-shirt, through leaving Christianity and then rediscovering it, through being poor and all these things that we enshrine as proof of something, of a closeness to truth or a closer proximity to the spirit. The huckster is the enemy of that, the huckster is the person who is trying to sell you a bill of goods, who doesn't know themselves, who is propelled by lust and greed.

John has lived through an era where the hucksters were all presenting themselves in the robes of someone who was consumed by self-doubt, insecurity and anxiety as a way of making a connection with other people who also felt anxious or insecure which was as much of a performance as it was a sham. Worse, they were cloaking themselves in things that really do afflict people, perhaps even making that connection with people.

Maybe they did have a connection to it, but there is a dishonesty to it because what you want to say is that you overcame your anxiety enough that you are doing 40 photo shoots a week or 200 concerts a year, and that is a triumph that you are not acknowledging, but you are overcoming and fighting your thing. ”Look at me! I am engaged against the mighty pull of my fear. I am stepping forward, selling you your fear back to you.”

Instead of overcoming his introversion, John fabricated a separate man who could be there in front of the world. John still had to be behind him, spending all his energy, but at least that guy could live separately from John, which he did consider that quite an accomplishment. What a waste it would be to have that extrovert performer take the stage and apologize for being there! Have him walk out on stage and say ”God damn right!”

This persona that John had invented during the early days of Indie Rock was a conspicuous stage-hogging asshole, but the kind of asshole that you love, like your dad's cousin who hasn't had a drink in 20 years but is still the most dangerous person in the family. Everybody else is drunk all the time, but somehow your dad's cousin who doesn't drink anymore is the one who crashes his car into the garage. That is the character that John lived in as a musician and performer, but a lot of people don't like him.

John created that persona both as a wish fulfillment of wanting be this extrovert, and as an answer to what he saw going on around him in the scene at that time. He was very offended by Kurt Cobain because he admired him and wanted him to do a certain kind of work in the world. He suddenly was the most important young person in the world that John could see, he was the herald of John’s generation which felt very strongly about a lot of things. They suddenly had a spokesperson and no-one else could do the job. Eddie Vedder couldn't have done it and Kurt had the responsibility, but he did a piss-poor job of speaking on their behalf.

When Kurt got famous George H.W. Bush was president and the Soviet Union had really just come unglued. It was a historic moment, Seattle was on everyone's lips and on the cover of every magazine, but Kurt produced this ”I’m nothing, we are losers, what I say doesn't matter, Fuck you!” He did say some good things, like don't come to his concerts if you are homophobic, but for the most part he communicated his insecurity, fear and shame in a pretty aggressive way. It was a huge missed opportunity!

Kurt was a year older than John, and John was sitting on the sidelines, like: ”Dude, everyone is listening to you right now! Say something!” - ”Courtney Love has the greatest piece of ass in the world!” - ”No, dingeling!” He was not dumb, he just thought that communicating his insecurity and his incompetence was the thing that was going to make people take him seriously because it was realer than saying ”I've read some books and I feel like…” He said "I didn't ask to be the spokesperson of a generation”, but: "Fuck you! You tried to be the biggest band in the world and you succeeded, you can't pretend now that it is all a big accident. You don't choose that role. That role just happens to you because of whatever Zeitgeist of the moment. Step up when you get anointed!"

John was a pimple on the ass of the music scene and for all intents and purposes he did not exist. He was drinking into a state of oblivion seven days a week, and he was wrestling with fear, anxiety and low self-esteem. Those were the primary features of Generation X, it was the way they were raised and it was the world in which they came onto the scene. They were all flopping around! If somebody had turned the spotlight on John instead, he would have stood up, he would have been a ridiculous pain in the ass and there would be some other guy right now on this podcast saying ”John Roderick, what an ass!”, but it is not how it turned out.

Making an admiral kneel (KPJR2)

John's fabricated performer was very ready to be King Neptune, which is an insubstantial job. No one is asking him what he thinks about world news. King Neptune is given a sash with ”Seafair's King Neptune”. It is quite a nice Sash and with a sash you are welcome everywhere, even the country's largest Rotary meeting, which John attended. You are welcome on board the USS Michael Murphy, which John toured the bridge of, and you walk right past security everywhere you go. You can walk right up to people and say ”Hi! I'm King Neptune!” and they go ”Hello!” and want to find out how you got in here. It is a wonderful thing to be given a sash and particularly to have the sash handed to someone who has spent 25 years perfecting a performer who isn't shy or embarrassed.

The people at Seafair itself were not 100% sure what was happening because Seafair is, although a non-profit, sort of a corporation and the CEO spent the majority of his career working in professional baseball. He has a certain way of giving a speech, he likes to stand behind a podium and give a 15 minute speech everywhere they go and then John takes the stage and basically does the opposite. It ruffled some feathers at Seafair where they were like ”What the fuck is happening?”, but everywhere else it was was widely embraced.

John was talking to a four star admiral, the like of whom he never expected to be in conversation with, let alone in comfortable conversation with, and the admiral leaned in and said: ”I'm an introvert, a profound one, and if it wasn't for my wife I would never have been able to arrive at this place. After I am in command all day I go back to my state room on my freaking aircraft carrier and I close the door and I just lay there and try and get my strength back.” John was like: ”Tell me more, admiral!” He was a full-on admiral, not an admiral with any kind of appellation, no Vice or Rear, but pure admiralty. He felt like he could confide in John, largely because the sash got him there and no one is exactly sure what rank a sash conveys.

It is whatever the sash says and John was freaking King. John stood up at an event where this admiral was being honored by Seafair. It was a room full of people, the Blue Angels were there, and there were nine admirals of the United States Navy in the room. He commands the Pacific Ocean and he came up to be honored and all of this is hilarious municipal symbolism. The city of Seattle hereby awards you this gold-plated pomegranate in honor of ourselves and this award we just made up. You are an admiral in the Navy and your job is partly to show up places and have people give you little statuettes because to be an admiral is to be a diplomat and a politician in addition to being the CEO of an ocean.

John said ”Admiral, the problem in America is that we are a representative democracy and no-one in the military knows how to handle the protocol of dealing with an authentic royal. You understand how to deal with a member of the British royal family because there is a defined protocol for that, but how do you deal with a true American King like myself?” The room laughed uncomfortably, what was this guy with the sash doing? He should have already given the admiral the gold pomegranate and we would be on to the next stage of this event, but he had a sash and a microphone.

John continued: ”In this case Admiral, let me walk you through it: You are going to have to take a knee here” and he looked at John incredulously. No-one has ever asked this guy to take a knee since he was a bleed at the Naval Academy in the 1960s. He looked at John, one eyebrow up and John was like ”Yeah, hit the bricks, guy!” and he did, he went down, bowed his head and called John ”Your Highness”. John didn't have a Trident, but a sword with "Seafair" etched on it, provided by the Seafair organization.

John's King Neptune outfit (KPJR2)

John spent a month and a half trying to find an appropriate war trident, but it was not an easy thing to come by and a shitty plastic trident or costume trident was not a thing John would have besmirched the good name of King Neptune with. Ken pleads to Adam Savage to sort out a trident! Adam had been a great help to John and sent him some epaulettes that had once belonged to a lieutenant in the Royal Navy circa 1905.

They were in their own metal carrying case that had this lieutenant's name etched on the box. John researched him and he had become an admiral of the Royal Navy post World War I. Adam had these epaulettes because he has those kind of things and he said: ”I am sure you will need them”, which John did, and he also sent John a puffy linen pirate shirt because he figured John would need it, which John did.

He furthermore sent John a leather sword belt which John did need, but it was inexplicably configured for a left-handed lieutenant and John wasn't able to rig it up properly. Adam contributed these things, but he did not lay ready hand to a proper trident. There are Society for Creative Anachronism people with war tridents, but John does not want some siege trident, he wants the trident of the sea king, which is a specific kind of trident. John did try to get a proper trident and having failed he resorted to the sword.

The Seafair pirates do traditionally play an oppositional role to King Neptune in Seattle Seafair history. They fight a staged battle at the start of Seafair and by tradition the pirates triumph, which is why the Pirates take over the city: They vanquish King Neptune, although they let him remain in power. It is a very complicated story. The pirates have both a Captain Kidd, who is knighted by King Neptune at the start of the festival, and they also have a Davy Jones, a person from the community who is ceremonially drafted into the pirates. Davy Jones carries a trident and John does not want to stand around with a trident in any kind of comparison with the Davy Jones character.

John elected to model his King Neptune costume not on the traditional King Neptune, but on Tsar Nicolas II. There was a great period where the Tsar, the king of England, and the Kaiser of Prussia were first cousins, they were all grandsons of Queen Victoria of England and they all looked alike. This was just prior to World War I and it is precisely the apogee of military costuming after which the world has never reached its equal. These were also the dying days of the Austro-Hungarian Empire when people wore big feathers in their hats, before suits took over and before military uniforms became practical. Eisenhower was wearing a green-colored wool dress uniform that was the same uniform as an infantry captain would wear.

These royal uniforms had a multiplicity of sashes, gold braid, epaulets, medals, and Victoria Crosses and there was often at least one borzoi, there were white breeches tucked into knee-high black leather boots. They were all gorgeous costumes! One of the things that these outfits convey is that these people had at least two people help them get dressed, which is certainly a sign of wealth. Mustaches were flourishing during that time and John has admired this era for many years. It became John’s model for how King Neptune would dress, like a 19th century foppish European monarch, perhaps minor, perhaps not really a tsar, but some sort of Czech Duke.

Then John realized that it was 94 degrees (34°C) in Seattle every day this summer. He put this genius costume together and he wore it in the parade, but he could not wear it any other time because the outfit weighed 65 pounds (30 kg). Instead he resorted to his old-fashioned king outfits of the same lightweight plaid seersucker jackets that he wears on the JoCo cruise. No-one else was wearing those either so he did kind of look like a king and the sash does wonders, it made an admiral kneel!

The job of an admiral (KPJR2)

John made many admirals freaking kneel in the last two weeks and they loved it! They all know each other, they are tired of saluting each other, and they are just regular people chumming around. Most admirals are not that much older than John. They all watched Scooby Doo, they are just some people who got a job a long time ago at the last company in the world where you can just work your way up.

When John was a kid you could get a job at General Motors and work your way up, but you can’t do that anymore. You are certainly not going to get a job at SnapChat as a 21 year old and retire as vice president of SnapChat 40 years from now, that is not how things work, but you can join the freaking Navy as a 20 year old and by the time you are 50 if you haven't screwed up and you've got a pretty good job, you are an admiral now.

You have to do things, you can't just host. At each step of the way there are a lot of captains and there are not as many majors and then there are plenty of majors but there are not that many lieutenant colonels. You need to watch out and do certain things. If you don't get some continuing education at some point you are just not going to make it later on. You have to maintain it all the way along.

If they offer you a thing you have to decide if you I want to do this or if you want to do that. Which way is better for the career? This might be more fun, but you got to go back to Washington for a couple of years and make your bones. John was meeting these people, they were just out there, they got a job that often has them in rooms that are painted gray and they are often surrounded by young people who are forced to show them respect.

A lot of admirals have logistics jobs. They need to get all these pallets and all these people from here to there, they have to do these drills repeatedly, just in case. So much of being in the Navy is ”just in case”. They have giant ships worth hundreds of millions and billions of dollars and the whole point of them is ”just in case” somewhere over the horizon there is some thing that is mostly invented now. A Navy carrier strike group is built to project American power and does that successfully, but 8 out of the 15 ships are built to respond to a squadron of MIG-27 that don't even exist anymore.

These ships can hit a target with their Tomahawk missiles that is over the horizon, which is great, but what target do you think that is going to be? An Iraqi jet? Those are not even around anymore. Who is it? Who exactly do you need to hit over the horizon? The Syrians can't even find you, let alone shoot a thing at you. It is hilarious, but they all take it seriously. You are not going to get them to sit and laugh about that, it is like a nautical slash. Nobody makes independent decisions and even the four star admiral is waiting to get a message over the teletype.

Initial hesitation to accept King Neptune (KPJR2)

Being King Neptune was a lot of fun and John got a lot of interesting business cards. The wife of the head of the Coast Guard in Washington state invited John to come have dinner with them in the lighthouse where they live. They live in a lighthouse! It has always been John’s dream to have dinner with an admiral in a lighthouse. The two star admiral of the Canadian Navy that is responsible for their whole Pacific Navy invited John to go to Victoria and tour his submarines. These are opportunities you would not be afforded unless you had a sash.

The only part of John that felt a bit wary about taking the position was the part of him that is still a member of his Indie Rock culture. First they asked John if he would say yes if they asked him. John said ”Yeah, go ahead!” and they said ”Well if we did ask you, what would you say?” and that was when John was thinking about it quite a bit. His hesitation was that it is corny. John spent a lot of years sitting in his ivory tower or Capitol Hill saying ”Those damn loud boats and those people from Everett with their Cheetos!” He speaks knowledgeably about that because he is. In his career there is a real danger, because he enjoys being identified with Seattle, but he doesn’t want to be a local weatherman who is famous in Seattle and gets invited to open car dealerships and stuff.

John doesn’t want to become a caricature of a type, the go-to guy when you need somebody. "Seattle's own John Roderick!" He doesn’t mind playing that character for fun and he does it a lot, here in Seattle and abroad, but it is a gag, and John does not want to actually morph into that person. If he is not paying attention, he will turn around one day and be wearing a button that says ”Kiss me, I'm a local institution” - ”No!” John is still edgy, dangerous, and unpredictable, he is still your dad's drunk cousin who doesn't drink anymore, but he is not your friendly local clown.

John hesitated just a little bit. He is a history buff who loves the history of Seattle and who is proud that his family has been here since the 19th century. This is the kind of civic beknighting that his dad and his dad’s uncle Al and his great-grandfather George Alfred Caldwell Rochester have loved. John couldn’t say no, but how could he insulate himself against this propeller-on-a-beanie risk? He put something on the Internet and he got an email from his brother Bart right at this moment saying that dad would be so thrilled. If he was alive he would be so tickled that John was King Neptune because he freaking loved Seafair all through the 1950s and 1960s before John was born. To know that John was King Neptune would really make him glad. And John wondered: ”When did I get too good for this, the same corny local heehaw that my dad loved?”

Songwriting process, expressing confusion (KPJR2)

John's music has never been funny. Every once in a while it is wry, but there is no hardy har about it, nothing is literal, and it is all impressionistic language about hurt feelings. These are not the same as hurt feelings like ”Oh, I'm too delicate to live”, but it is the raw version of hurt feelings, like ”Why is this still happening to me? Why are you and I not able to come to a meeting of the minds? What does it mean when you do this and I do this, which seems reasonable and normal, but you react to it like this? How is that all happening over and over?” That is what John’s music is about. He is powerless to write music differently and when he tries to write a song about octopuses, about the Bush administration or about sex, any of those things that people write songs about, he just doesn’t have it in him.

John mostly writing songs about hurt feelings, which are negative aspects. He might have used the word negative a long time ago because he didn't understand enough what positive was and all he could do was compare what he was doing to an imagined positivity, but as time went on he didn’t feel like what he was writing was negative. Confusion is natural. We are all trapped in this wold, our culture elevates youth and beauty over all, but we spend a lot of time reinforcing to one another that youth and beauty are not that important. We say things like ”Don't fall into the trap of the beauty myth!” and "Let's love our dimply middle-aged bodies!”

Saying this stuff is very difficult because on our screens there are all these beautiful images of 18 year olds and the accomplished children were are so in awe of. To an 18 year old who comes on the scene and can already write great Rock music we naturally say: ”What a prodigy! What have you brought us, you charmed child? What are you going to show us?” Your first album The Strokes is so great! What must your 10th album be? It turned out The Strokes 10th album didn't take us anywhere. They gave us a great first album, a couple of good subsequent albums, but each new child feels like they might deliver us something and we pour our energy into them, but it robs us of the feeling that our middle age is a thing of value.

As we get further and further away from youth and beauty, we feel ”Well, now I'm middle aged. I don’t matter anymore. No one wants to hear what I have to say. I'm irrelevant. My ideas are stuck in the past and times have changed and now all I need to do is do away with people who are in their 40s because they can't even understand where we are headed and where we are at.” Nothing could be further from the truth! 90% of 22 year olds are morons and it is no fault of theirs. At 22 John was an unformed mess of confusion, he was smart enough, he had read a lot of books, he had a lot of information, but his emotional life was 5 dragons fighting all the time.

He had no experience of any kind that he could bring to bear on any situation, but he felt obligated to be an expert about things. The Internet is composed entirely of people who feel obligated to comment, to know and to act when they have absolutely nothing to lean back on to say ”Look, I have been through this a few times and here is how it goes.” They read not just one book about this, but they read 100 books about it in the course of a lifetime. Being in his middle age John is different than he was. The songs he wrote then were songs of authentic lack of understanding, expressed in language that insulated him from it.

For example: John didn't try to connect with you, although you wanted it and John failed not just to connect with you, but he had done something in that process where now you didn't even want him to try again. John had alienated you by not trying to accomplish a simple thing: to connect with you as you sat across from him, longing for him to connect with you. How did he manage to fuck that up so bad? John replayed this 1000 times, he remembers the moment when you looked at him with disdain and ten minutes before that when you looked at him with longing. What did he say?

John wasn't brave enough to put that into a song. All he could do was reduce the images of it down to the experiential impressionistic moment of it, so that if you listen to the song and pay attention to the lyrics, hopefully it will generate in you the feeling of when that happened to you if it did, or some version of that happened to you. Those are the words.

Bono and Jonathan Colton write great songs. Jonathan Coulton writes songs about what initially seems like comical topics. They Might be Giants is another example. Their songs are initially meant to goof off. They are going to list all the presidents or talk about a mad scientist, but then you feel the pathos in that music and you realize that Jonathan Coulton has lived, he has felt sorrow, he has tried to connect with somebody and he has watched them turn against him.

He doesn't know why either, but he is turning that into a song where the protagonist is a crazy diabolical genius who lives in a mountain. He is able to put all of that awkwardness into this character that makes us laugh, but then you realize you really identify with this song because you have been there, too. They Might be Giants can write a song about a worm and make you feel like you are the worm, but John doesn’t have that talent. He has tried it and it was all garbage.

John’s first draft of everything is pretty darn bad. By stripping away the connective tissue he is left with pictures that are one sentence long. In arranging those pictures into a song he creates a photo album that tells a story ”Here's mom with a birthday cake”, ”Here's a picture of me in the backyard spraying the dog with the hose”, ”Here's a picture of my dad who doesn't live with us anymore, wearing a tuxedo” and ”Here's a picture of me holding the flag that I had on the back of my bicycle that got ripped on a fence” You are meant to look it and say: ”I understand the 1970s”

John’s process has changed over the years because he is no longer as confused. Now he can look across the table and say ”I would like to make a connection with you!” He doesn't have to try like he once did, which is to hide that he was trying because he didn’t want to be uncool. It is the wisdom you get in growing older. The problem was not anything he said or that the person didn't want to connect with him or, but the problem was that he was pretending he didn't want to connect with that person because he was afraid to look like a dope. By that he was sending them the message that he didn't want to connect with them which was very confusing. Eventually they thought John was fucking with them and they turned on him while he was sitting there lost in a 25 year old's idea of what courtship looked like. All of that is now largely resolved.

Bipolar disorder (KPJR2)

Ken says that compared to previous years John seems much more relaxed and approachable. Going back a few years John didn't seem like the most inviting person whom you would go over, say a simple hello and start up a conversation with. He may have been a little bristly-er before and part of it was that he suffered from bipolar disorder that he refused to acknowledge for decades. He steadfast refused to consult a mental health professional, he fought it for years in all of its many splendors, and he tried to bear the depression stoically until it was unbearable.

He tried to ride the mania like a flaming steed and rode it into chaos, he had to deal with the consequences of all of that whilst still bipolar and not having a very reliable crisis management system, even sowing destruction. People encountered him in various stages of this oscillation. Sometimes he was as gregarious as a person could be, other times he would be assailed by demons of every stripe. John was projecting his fake extroverted self. Every event you would see him out was his extroverted Gollum stomping around the room with John inside with his little cardigan sweater, but inside him was bananas.

John finally sought consultation because it was not getting better. He was coming apart as he went into middle age, he had a daughter, he ran for public office which was a crazy thing to do, and which he decided to do in a fit of mania and which he maintained throughout and that was happening within the context of a two decade long struggle with abysmal depression. Eventually he was fucking shattered and went to see somebody who told him to take this medicine and he took it against everything that he stood for and it dramatically improved his life.

John always knew he was an alcoholic (KPJR2)

For many years John has never felt psychologically vulnerable. His sense of self was never on shaky ground and drugs could not put him into a posture where he was changed and unaware of them. He would not submit to being hobbled in order to solve for x. He would not take a Prozac or Zoloft because if he took it he felt benumbed. The end! It would be over in an hour because he wouldn't submit to it. He would not take the counsel of a medical professional over his own judgment of what was true to himself.

John never felt at risk of seeking treatment and then being a Stepford wife walking around in a daze. He stopped doing drugs 23 years ago, he quit drinking and doing drugs in an attempt to wrestle his insanity into a manageable circus ring and he largely succeeded. Since he quit doing drugs and drinking he has only been to jail a couple of times, which is a great record given how often that seemed to happen before.

Prior to getting sober John could never tell when he left the house where he was going to end up: Whether it would be the hospital, the jail, back home or at someone else's house that he never met before where he woke up in the morning and wondered why he was covered with syrup. When he was taking drugs that he couldn't identify there were moments where he wondered if this was the one, if he did it to himself now, if he was lost in time or if he was ODing or if he was going to float away and not recover. But even then John felt pretty solid in himself.

Nobody goes on drug adventures of that scale without always being up against the hard wall of ”What if?” The times when you wake up and realize that you have been gone for a period greater than 20+ hours, where you were dead to the world, in particular in situations where John would get fucked up and, like a cat, find a hole to die in. He didn't want to just pass out in the middle of a place where he didn't know anybody, but he would go find a hole in a house like the back of a closet or he would go down into the corner of a room in the basement.

Sometimes when had been consuming downers and alcohol altogether he would wake up a really long time later. It is impossible to know how shallow his breathing got in these situations and how closely he was dancing with the long slowdown. Eventually he would regain consciousness a long time later and no-one would have found him because he had crawled into some back closet. When he came out a whole day later and people would ask where he came from, he was like ”Beats me! See ya!”

It is only scary in retrospect, like ”What the fuck?” It was that feeling of powerlessness, he went away and he could not even have vomited himself awake because he was opiated with alcohol on top of it although he read enough newspaper articles to know it was a bad combination. John never shot heroin into his arm, but he ate a lot of capsules and the crack and the crank. Those drugs are not going to give you a heart attack, but the real danger is that you are going to get into a gunfight because they make you aggressive and overconfident and John would get into real trouble with other people. The mixed cocktail of capsules combined with the inability to not drink put him at the closest edge a few times.

John was always aware that he was an alcoholic and a drug addict. As a kid, long before he ever had a drink, his dad was a dedicated Alcoholics Anonymous member and had been since a long time before he was born. He had a hundred stories about how his drinking had hobbled him as a man in his 20s and 30s up to about when he quit at 41. John was born when he was 48 and he had been sober for quite a while. John’s older brothers and sisters tell horror stories about him! John’s grandfather drank himself into a pauper's grave and by the time John’s older brother was coming along in his teens, he was already what they would affectionately have called a wastoid: He was a drunk and a drug addict.

Before John ever had a drink he had already been subjected to 1000 conversations about it and his folks were watching him very carefully in his teens, trying all kinds of psychology on him, like ”Oh sure! Go out and have a beer with your friends!” and the first time John ever had a beer he got shit-faced because it wasn't a beer, but a California cooler and he had six of them. It is repulsive and you get a really bad headache because it has 70 cups of sugar, like an alcoholic Kool aid. John never had the period that most people have where they are just drinking socially and for fun and then gradually drinking more.

John meets 45 year old alcoholics all the time who haven't acknowledged yet that they are alcoholics because for years and years it never dawned on them and now bad stuff is happening in their life. They foist it off on their marriage and of course they are drinking a bit more than usual. ”Really, guy? This is your 5th DWI and you think it is your marriage that is the problem?” There are a lot of people out there at 50 years and old with big bright red noses who don't know that they have a drinking problem. John never didn't know it. He was 20 years old and he already knew he was a born alcoholic. Not because he had been told so and he went out and turned himself into an alcoholic, but he was a fucking born alcoholic.

That is why everybody was worried about John when he was 10 years old: He was going to have his share of troubles! This kid was on the way to a thing where you hope he comes out the other side, but he probably won't. John had it, and knowing that he had it he didn't feel any way to resist it. He didn't feel any joy in it either because his future was preordained. He was a drunk and a drug addict. Here are your choices: Either you stop and be an insufferable AA person, or you don't stop and you end up like your brother who has squandered his life, or you die. Those are your options!

Even John’s funniest drunk-and-drug years were always colored by that knowledge. There was one of three ways that this was going to play out and he didn't want to squander his life. He considered a glamorous death to be more interesting than any other option and he held it in reserve, not a suicidal death, but one where he died young and beautiful and on fire. He knew he couldn't squander his life because the people who squandered their lives didn't know that they were alcoholics until it was too late. They were in denial and John could not be in denial, no question about it!

John had been raised with the bible of Alcoholics Anonymous. He went down the list of the ten characteristics of an alcoholic and it was like: ”Yep, pretty much! Every one of those! From the time I first had a drink.” At 26 years old John arrived at a place where he had accomplished every single positive thing that could have happen on drugs: All the enlightenment that you get from psychedelics, all the lazy days of Wake and Bake, and all the great moments of standing on top of a bar in a sailor's tavern with a girl on one arm and a fucking monkey on the other, and ”I am the King of the world!” All that stuff had all happened.

John was still incredibly young and he looked ahead and saw that he was going to repeat these episodes. He was going to stand on that bar again with a slightly less wonderful girl on his arm and a slightly older, more decrepit monkey on the other. It was diminishing returns. John had seen it with drugs: Your first hallucination on LSD is tremendous and the second time is even more tremendous. As you progress through LSD trips you realize there are the ones that are psychological and there are the ones that are emotional. You can have all these incredibly different experiences with what is ostensibly the same drug LSD. It is a drug that has been given to you, but you don't know what else is in there, you don't know what kind of trip you are going to have until you go on it.

After a while diminishing returns set in and you already know the kinds of LSD trips you can have. You have gathered all the fruit and now you can gather another crop, but a lesser crop, and a lot of things are duplicated. It is the same with everything! You do not climb the ladder of enlightenment by taking drugs over and over. You take some drugs, you step up on that first rung, you go to the second rung maybe, and you say you could never have gotten here without having taken these drugs, you would never have had this realization, and it is true. Maybe if you sat in a lotus position under a betel nut tree for 25 years you would have arrived at the same place.

The drugs are a shortcut to that second rung, but to climb any higher than that you have to do real psychological work that the drugs can't do for you. They can open the door, but then you have to walk through it yourself and keep walking and keep climbing. The drugs feel like they are helping, but ultimately they become inhibiting. You are on that second rung and sometimes the drugs will open up the sky for you, you look through the clouds and you can see it, but then it closes and you are not there and that is not where you live. There is a big ladder between here and there!

John getting sober (KPJR2)

At 26 years old John felt he was starting to pickle. His anger was starting to manifest itself, his bitterness was starting to harden and sometimes when he would get drunk he was no longer fun. He started to be mean which he had never been before. Mean drunks are the worst and the least trustworthy people in the world. When you see somebody as a mean drunk you can never look at them the same way again when they are sober. John started to feel it in himself. For months he didn't have his own place, but he was just crashing in people's places. He was dating a wonderful girl, but he was just mooching, he was in this three way relationship, he had not been eating because he didn't have money and he just kept stealing cans of food from people's larders and eating cold ravioli, but it wasn't enough.

Eventually John got incredibly and incapacitated sick, he moved his head and his shoulders seized up, he couldn't turn his head side to side, locked in a rigor mortis, but he didn’t even have his own apartment to go curl up and die. He was lying on the couch of somebody's house where he had been crashing and he got so sick that he couldn't move and couldn't leave and this person did not want him there. He was laying on this couch in this house where he was being shunned and made feel really uncomfortable, because why did he come there to die?

These people barely knew him! John’s girlfriend and this other boy that they had been cultivating came over with a bottle of rye and were hanging out in this living room, trying to help, but John was just lying there like a vampire where the coffin lid had been opened during the day. They wanted him to have a sip of rye because it would warm him up from the inside, but he knew he couldn’t drink.

John was estranged from his parents at the time. He hadn't spoken to his mom or dad in a long long time and was separated from them. He learned later that they had resigned themselves that he wasn't going to make it and they were already suffering the tragedy of that. Every time the phone rang they expected that it would be someone saying ”Mrs. Roderick” and they lived in a constant state of expectation that they were going to find that he was dead. John called them from this house and said he had to come home. At first they were like ”Meh”, because what was this now?

John’s mom flew him to Alaska and he went to a doctor who told him that he didn’t have enough nutrition and this thing in his shoulders was how the liver manifests itself when it is in crisis and then you can't move your neck. John has still never verified whether that was true or not. He recuperated and they gave him a bunch of vitamins and some shots and he was eating and drinking fluids and just laying there in his mom's basement, still unable to move his head. For about a week he was there in this rigor state until he finally started to recover some range of motion.

Eventually John got a phone call from a friend who said they were going down to a party in Girdwood and he got up and said ”Hey Mom, I'm going out!” and she was like ”What? You have been lying down there, I have been coming every day with chicken soup, you were lying in the basement unable to move and now the first time I see you in motion you are out of here, going to a party?” - ”Yeah, see ya later!” She was obviously furious, but John was still chasing something. He went down to Girdwood and told his guys he was not drinking and he was quitting drinking alcohol, but he will eat these pot brownies and he will eat these mushrooms because those are natural things that were given to us by God. They are in their natural state. Alcohol was poison but these things were Jesus foods.

John ate these drugs, but the party was a really bad scene. It was a very Alaska party where people wanted to fight. There were lots of people John didn't know, there were guys prowling around in a gang, shoulder checking people, there were a lot of different types of skiers and snowboarders and a lot of skiers and snowboarders are rich kids because it is an expensive sport, but in Alaska there are also some thuggy skiers and snowboarders because it is Alaska and there are just some thuggy snow sport people.

It was just an asshole party, John was tripping balls and he didn't like it there. He went out into the snow, which was up to his thighs, waded out into the forest, plowing through the snow with no direction. He was on the side of a mountain that he knew pretty well, but he was by himself headed the wrong way and he had an epiphany out there on his psychedelic drugs.

John told himself: ”Oh, I get it. It is not that I just need to quit drinking, but this whole life is over for me, the whole thing! I'm not going to these shitty parties anymore. I'm not going to be a mean shitty drug person. It is over!” He always knew that there were three results. He had been trying to find a fourth way and there isn't one. He can die, he can waste his life or he can quit. He was just out there in the fucking woods under the moonlight. In Alaska when the moon is bright the snow reflects a lot of moonlight and you can be deep in the forest in the middle of the night and it is light, it is beautiful! The sky and the trees are dark, but the ground is glowing.

John was out in the snow in this glowing light, there was crystaly snow falling and he was done. He turned around, trudged back toward the town, trudged over and went into the bar where his sister worked, sat down at the end of the bar, said that it was over and done and he never had a drink or a drug since then. It was December 10th 1994.

The Bun Family Players (KPJR2)

John's first band, the Bun Family Players, had just started practicing in September of 1994. John didn't have a house, but his good friend Kevin Horning had a house. They found a drummer and a bass player and they set up in his basement. John bought a 1964 Fender Pro Reverb for $125 that had been spray-painted by some guy and he had been keeping an amp at his house that he bought in anticipation of one day having a band.

1994 was peak Seattle. Everybody had a band and John really felt he could do a better job than most of them, but he didn't have the gear, he didn't know how to get a practice space, and he didn't know how to put a band together. All that stuff seemed way above his pay grade, but he bought this fucking pretty cool amp back when you could buy something like that for $100. John still has it. It is spray-painted red and has moons and stars all over it because it was the time. Kevin was John’s best friend in High School who had moved to Seattle to play Grunge music. He had a good job, he had his own house, he had a basement they could practice in, he had a big amp, he had a big guitar, they found a PA and all this stuff. It was all due to him! John just had this broken-ass amp.

They were the classic Seattle band and band practice was an excuse to get fucked up. They would each bring as much Stroz as they could buy with what little money they could scrape together, somebody would have a gram a pot, somebody would have a can of Kodiak and somebody would have a pack of Camels. They would sit and drink and chew tobacco and smoke pot and smoke cigarettes. John would try to teach them the songs he wrote without having any ability to talk in musical language. "It goes like this! No, can you make it more foggy, like cold foggy?” They would have practices like that and then stand outside and smoke six cigarettes and talk about what they were going to do when they got signed.

The first ever guitar was the best one (KPJR2)

Everybody knew that the 1959 Les Paul was the holy grail of guitars, even in the 1970s. They were $5000 in 1975 and they are worth $300.000 now and at some point before the market changed they were worth $700.000. The 1970s were an era of a lot of experimentation in guitars. People were putting active electronics in guitars, they were experimenting if the neck should be glued in or bolted in, what if guitars were made of Lucite? What if we made a guitar out of stainless steel? These were various attempts to create something new out of the guitar instrument.

They ultimately realized that the 1952 Fender Telecaster, the first electric guitar that anybody can think about, a piece of sawed oak or birch is the best guitar. Leo Fender took a piece of wood, sawed it, took another piece of wood, made a neck, screwed them together and there you go. The first electric guitar that was ever made was the best one! It never got better than a Telecaster! He just got it right, amazingly! Who knows why!

The second guitar that was made was the Gibson Les Paul and that is the best guitar, too. Everything that is great about guitars happened in the first year: The tube amp, the pick-up, the solid body electric, the semi hollow body electric, all of it was invented back then and everything subsequent to that had been a hat on a hat. The whammy bar was also already fully in play by the mid 1950s.

There was a period where tube amps were considered to be inefficient and they were going to make them out of transistors now. Solid state amps were the future, but they don't sound very good and tube amps were not that hard, so let's go back to those! Everybody came to these same conclusions. They made guitars out of Lucite, but that was not very good and the ones made of wood were just fine. They made them look like starfish, but actually this Telecaster, as simple as it is, was pretty great. Bruce Springsteen plays one, Chrissie Hynde plays one, and if you turn on the TV right now you are going to see one because it is the best one.

John’s first guitar (KPJR2)

John had been working a temp job and got a cheque for $500-600 that represented a couple of weeks of work. It was a fortune! He said to his friend: ”Come on! Let's go!”, but they replied with ”Hold it!” John had been talking about making music and being in a band ever since they met and he was always fucking complaining about how there was no place to practice and how he didn’t even have a guitar! Now he had $600 right in his hand and he was either going to take that to the bar and drink like a fun guy for eight days and it was going to be gone, or they could go right now to the trading musician to buy a guitar.

It had never occurred to John. He had $600 and he could buy a fucking guitar with that! This friend of him was Chris Caniglia who ended up being in The Long Winters years later in 2001. John was like ”Fuck! Okay!” and they took the bus down to the training musician, they walked in, and right there in the entryway on a guitar stand was a 1966 Rickenbacker 330 that at some point in its life had been given Gibson humbucking pickups. It had been defiled because in the 1970s there wasn't a feeling that the guitars that later became classic guitars were anything sacred.

Somebody had taken this 1966 Rickenbacker and put Gibson pickups in it because they felt in their 1978 wisdom that their guitar tone wasn't quite what they thought it should be. This persisted all the way into the 1990s. John had a friend who kept putting different pickups in his Hagstrom guitar and companies were making guitar pickups with the suggestion that you need to replace the pickup that is in your guitar with a better pickup.

In hindsight you realize that the pickup you took out of it was 70% of the value because now it is just a hack job. They had taken what would have probably been a $1200 vintage guitar and made it into a $500 guitar that had these other pickups in it. There was nothing collectible about it, but it was a working guitar. John spent this check on it and he couldn't believe it.

John didn't have his own place at the time and was living together with this girl at her place, but he wasn't officially living there, and he took this guitar in its case over to her house and put it under her bed because it was the safest place he knew. He would go out into the living room, come back in, open the case, look at it and: ”That is mine! It is a Rickenbacker like the Beatles had!” It was older than he was, it was from 1967. He would close it back up and put it back under her bed and go out drinking and he would come back because it was a thing that enticed him to go back to this girl's house over and over rather than go wild, because his guitar was there.

John’s early songwriting (KPJR2)

John had been writing songs for a long time, but he knew they were terrible. Not musically, because you can't have a song too simple for Rock ’n’ Roll and three chords is all you need, you don't have to be a genius. All of your favorite songs are written with three or four easy chords that anybody can learn. You just need to have enough rhythm to put them together in a standing order. Musically John's songs were passable.

One of the first things you develop early on is a critical faculty, the ability to distinguish good from bad. There are plenty of people who are 16 years old and think that Ska is good. They are wrong, but they understand and believe and can defend that choice. You develop that ability a long time before you develop an ability to actually make anything. There are 16 year olds all across America right now who are debating whether The Beatles or The Stones are better or whether The Beatles or The Offspring are better. There are teenagers debating which of two things is the better one and they are scoffing at each other and they are practicing this faculty. No-one in either group can make anything useful, but they know already what is good and bad and John had that too.

The problem of being a creative person is that you turn this faculty on yourself and you go ”Oh my God, I worked on this all night long, I thought it was amazing and now I'm listening to it in the morning and I realize it is garbage and I am garbage” You really have to work hard to overcome that! You have to write a lot of garbage and eventually, if you keep working, you will write something that when you wake up in the morning and you look at it you're like ”Wow! I actually don't despise that!” John was right at that stage in the waning hours of his drinking and living on the edge. He had some songs that were expressing true emotions rather than being poses. The first songs he wrote were ”Hopping on a freight and seeing America!” - ”What are you talking about? Stop it!” - ”Well, the priest and the hooker went to…” - ”No!”

Right around 26 years old John first started to do impressionistic writing and he had a couple of songs that he could believe in. These songs didn't make it all the way to today, they weren't good enough to have survived, but the first song that survived is a song called Mimi, which is on the first Long Winters record. It had prior to that been a Western State Hurricane song, but it was originally a Bun Family Players song, so it survived three bands and each band played the song very differently. It was always a waltz, a song about something that happened to John in High School.

John having two cars when he was 16 years old (KPJR2)

Unlike a lot of 16 year olds John had two cars because his dad had a 1974 Chrysler Newport Imperial which he had mothballed when he bought his 1981 Audi 5000s Diesel which accelerated to 60 mph (100 km/h) if you had a full hour to get there. This Chrysler had a 440 Dodge motor and was a real land yacht. When John turned 16 his dad gave him the keys: ”Here you go, son! You are 16, here is your car!” The front seat was a couch, the backseat was an even bigger couch.

At the same time his mom also wanted to help him get his first car. They looked in the newspaper and John really wanted like a Karmann Ghia, but even then they were $2000 and John only had $1000 dollars from the Alaskan Permanent Fund dividend check that was a result of the oil money. They found a 1975 Fiat Spider for $1200 and his mom paid the other $200. It had rust, it was in bad shape, but it was a freaking Italian convertible sports car (his mom was into Italian sports cars when she was young).

This meant that John had a family car and a sports car. His mom and dad were in a extended feud and weren't talking at the time and John kept his dad's car parked three blocks away from his mom's house on a side street. He would drive the Fiat when he wanted to zip around in his little Italian rusty sports car, but if his mom decided she was going to get his car keys because he got bad grades, his dad's car was parked around the corner.

John's first surviving song Mimi (KPJR2)

The song Mimi is John's oldest song that survived to this day and it is about an event from High School (see also KPJR1). One time John went to Girdwood, the little ski resort where his dad had a little one bedroom ski condo. He was with his High School girlfriend Kelly (Keefer), they were 16 years old and somehow they had free rein enough not only to take John's car to Girdwood, but to spend the night and come home the next day.

Her parents were not like ”Sure whatever you want, Kelly!”, but they were bullies. Her dad didn't like John and would put his boot on John’s ass. Somehow after some dance she told her folks she would stay over at Tammy’s house or something and John’s parents were divorced so he could always tell his dad he was staying with mom and vice versa, he could get away with murder. They were virgins, this was before a time when it had even occurred to them to have sex. They were 16 and other people have had sex at 16, but it did not occur to John.

They stayed together at John’s dad’s condo in Girdwood and she took her shirt off, he saw her breasts and they made out rolling around on the stairs and that was good enough for them both. They couldn't imagine anything greater happening and they went to sleep, like ”Wow!” The next day they got in John’s car and drove back along a stretch of road called the Seward Highway. At the time it was a very treacherous, curvy, blind-cornered road that went along a cliff face. Coming back from Girdwood it had a rock cliff front to the right with little waterfalls coming down and the mountain goats would sometimes come down the cliff. On the left there was a guardrail and then another cliff down to the frozen sea called Turnagain Arm, a part of the Cook Inlet.

They were driving back along this curvy road in this giant Chrysler and John was on top of the world. He was 16 years old, he got his big car, he got his cute redheaded girlfriend and last night she showed him her breasts. He got his arm around her as he was driving and he couldn’t believe that he was this much of a big wheel in the world. It was like he was in a movie! This was a long time before anybody ever wore a seatbelt, so they were just lounging on this big couch and she was leaning into him as he was driving with one hand.

Then she turned her head up and blew in his ear. No one had ever blown into John's ear before and it had a very electric effect. It is a 1920s thing, to lean over and blow in your bow’s ear. John felt a tickle from the top of his head down to the bottom of his feet. He was already on top of the world and now she had done this thing to him which had electrified him. He was absolutely 7th heaven peeking! John was engaging with her in this ”Oh my God, my eyes are rolling back in my head!” and then he heard her gasp, regained consciousness and realized he had crossed the center line.

They were speeding along on this curvy road and around a blind corner of cliff face came a school bus and John was now in its lane. It was icy, he swerved back into his lane, the school bus also swerved and they narrowly missed a collision. John can still see the driver of the school bus and the look of ”What the fuck?” on their face as they came around a corner going 55 mph (90 km/h) and there was this fucking Chrysler barreling at them.

John regained traction, went around the corner and didn’t know what happened to the school bus. Kelly scooted over into her seat staring ahead and John was staring forward hyperventilating and they drove in silence for a while. Then she said ”You almost drove that school bus off the road!” and John said ”I almost drove that school bus off the road? We almost drove that school bus off the road!”

She was an argumentative person and said ”I didn't do it! You are the one driving! It is your car!” They immediately went into an argument about whose responsibility it would have been if they had killed all those kids in that school bus. John felt a real feeling of betrayal! Just moments before he had felt this incredible solidarity with her, his first girlfriend, his first love, the first breasts he ever saw, and the first person to ever blow in his ear, a person that at that moment he would have sold it all for, but at the first sign of trouble, the first near collision with a school bus, she scooted over to the far side of the chair and said ”You almost killed those kids!”

Even before he could express it John felt that his teenage heart broke a little bit at the understanding that when she looked at her life and thought of her life, she was already thinking of a life past him. If they had hurt anybody, it would have been John’s fault and if he would have gone to jail she wouldn’t have stuck around. All that stuff was all pregnant in the air.

The song Mimi is about the near crash and the feeling of ”Oh, I get it. This is just temporary to you!” The songs Cinnamon and Blue Diamonds are about the same type of story that John has replayed in a dozen different scenarios: There are two characters in a song and one of them is ”You and me, right?” and the other one is like ”I'll definitely try and testify on your behalf if I can make it to the court that day” and the first person is in that state of disbelief. In Blue Diamonds the characters have just carried out a jewelry store heist and are now surrounded by the cops and he is saying ”They will never take us alive!” and she is saying ”Tell you what, I'm going to go out for a pack of cigarettes and I’ll call you when the coast is clear”

The song Cinnamon takes place in Germany between two members of the Red Army Faction or Baader Meinhof Gang. There was a police raid, he is captured, she escapes, he believes in his loyalty to her and his faith in the cause and he refuses to give the police any information about her, but she escapes and sheds nary a tear for her former lover and compatriot and is off in some Libyan training camp with the Jackal. She recognizes that he had fulfilled his role, he was a former soldier who is now lost to the police state, and he is doing his duty by not ratting on her, but he is doing it out of love and she is thinking of him just as a political entity.

That feeling is in a lot of The Long Winters music. None of these narratives are evident in the lyrics of those three songs and John never mentions the Meinhof Gang dude. It is not even clear how many people are in the story, but in John’s songwriting-mind all three of them are love songs about an unequal love that is only revealed when tested to the limit. The event with the school bus would have been 1984 and he wrote Mimi in 1995, after he stopped drinking. It is the oldest song that survived to this day.

Going back to the band after John quit drinking (KPJR2)

The guitar player of the Bun Family Players, the star in John’s cosmos, his High School best friend Kevin (Horning) was a pretty together guy. He liked to drink and chew tobacco, but he didn't care about smoking pot. Kevin's idea of a great bar was one where there wasn't anybody there so you could take over the pool table and not have to navigate your way through a bunch of people, but you could just take over the bar with your group of friends and run the pool table all night. John felt like that was a ludicrous set of conditions to put on a bar when you were not even 21 yet and were there with fake IDs. You should be at the busiest bar in town, you should be crammed in with people and bands and noise and action and danger. This was their longstanding dispute in High School.

Kevin couldn't understand why he would even go with his friends to a bar like that, because none of them will even get to talk to each other. John wondered why they would want to talk to each other. They were at the bar as a little supportive gang, but what they were trying to do was penetrate the world. They had very different philosophies of life. Kevin did not ever take a bunch of pills out of a jar that didn't have a label on it and went into a car to a fourth location with three guys he didn't know with face tattoos. it just wasn't what Kevin was ever going to do.

When John quit drinking, it didn't affect their relationship really at all. They would sit out on the porch chewing tobacco and Kevin would have beers and John wouldn't, but it wasn't an issue because they had been friends since the first day of 7th grade. Their relationship wasn't founded on that as the cornerstone. They liked drinking together, but it wasn't that they had to drink if they were together.

The drummer of their band, a guy named Louis, was a wild animal and he and John were drinking buddies. They went on some crazy misadventures together and Louis was a guy who would look deep into your eyes and cradle your head in his hand at a time when nobody let somebody else cradle their head in their hand. Louis was a very tactile person who would stare at you and ”Dude, I feel a real connection with you right now!” - ”Whoa! What are we doing?” Louis was the first guy to ever grab John’s ears and gently pull on his ears so that his ear canal, which had spent 26 years never having been fucked with, suddenly was being stretched.

He pulled John’s ears until his ear canals came unstuck from where they had just been their whole lives. John had never felt anything so incredible in his whole life and he spent every year since then pulling on his own ears trying to get it to happen again, but you only get your ear canal unstuck from the rest of your head one time and Louis did it! He had knowledge of weird things like that. He didn’t asked for permission, but he just did it because they were spirit brothers and he was Silver Surfer. It was not a thing that ever occurred to John to do. Louis was a little older.

When John stopped doing drugs, a real gulf appeared between him and Louis because it is one thing when you are really tweaking and there is somebody else pulling on your ears and staring into your eyes and ”Let's fly!”, but when you are sober as a judge it is a lot harder to fucking fly off with Silver Surfer. All of a sudden they were talking about having to make a practice schedule and having to decide what tempo the song was going to be in. It took several months after John got sober before he could fucking collect his words into a sentence, but they kept trying to play and be in a band. John got more and more sober and the band got better and better. They stopped being a drinking party and started trying to be a good band.

One day Louis came to practice and said he had to bow out of this band because he didn't feel he was ever going to get where the other guys were headed. He was never going to be able to be that drummer, he was really in it just to whack away at it and get fucked up and rage, while the others were trying to be good. It broke John’s heart to see him go. He was a real star caster. John was the minister at his wedding, a true barefoot wedding. He was barefoot, the bride was barefoot, John was barefoot, standing on a cliff on the coast of Washington with the Eagles flying around, it was the type of thing that surprises John to look back at.

Louis didn't play music after that, John lost touch with him, but last time he heard from him he had not settled down. The marriage probably didn't work out and he was still tilting at windmills, even well into his 30s. John is not sure what he is doing now, he should probably google him and see what comes up, hopefully it is nothing bad! That band was where John cut his teeth in learning how to do everything, how to practice the same song over and over until you get good, and how to book shows and then show up and play the show and get paid at the end.

Not adhering to a particular style (KPJR2)

When John was in his first band, the Bun Family Players, Indie Rock was still an unnamed thing. It was a post-Grunge universe and everything that you could milk out of Grunge had been milked by 1995. There just wasn't any room left! Of course there are Nickelback and Kid Rock Grunge style bands and Grunge is a style of music that is still very popular. All of Creed is just Grunge. In 1995 Seattle did not feel that grunge had any relevance anymore at all. The sound of Seattle in 1992 compared to a lot of the tones that were adopted by the Nickelbacks and Creeds, but those later bands do not have any of the trial and torment of the Seattle bands. Nobody in Seattle was happy or fun or enjoying themselves at all. Those later bands have a lot more triumphalism in it, it is Dude Grunge or Frat Grunge.

Indie Rock was starting to coalesce in 1995. You had your Sebadoh and your Dinosaur Jr. and your Pavement and your Built to Spill, all of which were doing their thing. The DIY underground was much more about how you did it rather than what it sounded like. Pavement and Sebadoh don't sound alike. Slint doesn't especially sound like Built to Spill, but they were all akin because of how they were going about their careers. In Seattle there was a very strong reaction to Grunge that was a movement toward toy instruments and tinkly sounds and no attempt at machismo or music that took anything from Metal or Classic Rock or Hard Rock.

Modest Mouse is not especially Twee, they are almost a Funk band with someone yelping over the top of it, but it isn't Metal either. The rhythm section is a bounce and not a sound that is drawing you down. They are full-on Seattle 1996, straight up out of that era. Built to Spill has very loud guitars, but not doing any kind of bluesy thing or any sort of pentatonic thing, but they have their own weird thing, some of it an element of the Twee-er singing, but they were the loudest band anybody had ever seen. Not as loud as Jay Masses (?), but they weren't shy.

Harvey Danger was Pop Punk that came out of that time. Death Cab for Cutie, The American Analog Set, The Dismemberment Plan and a lot of other bands were making this new style of music. The Bun Family Players and the songs John was writing at the time were attempts to reinvent the wheel, a new way to write a song that didn't rely on Grunge, Hard Rock, Classic Rock, or Country, but they were attempts to do a new thing.

Their music was very much like the customized guitars of the late 1970s where someone took a 1967 Rickenbacker and put some Gibson pickups in it and couldn't tell you why. John was trying to write songs that were new, that reinvented the wheel, but they were just this crazy hodgepodge of a little this, little that, and all sort of incongruous stylings in an unlistenable jumble. A lot of bands at the time like This Busy Monster were doing nihilistic experimentation with no particular sound to the band from song to song. You can hear that in The Long Winters as well. It is obviously the same band from song to song, and from album to album, but there isn't any particular style that is promulgated.

Every song on the first Strokes record sounds like Velvet Underground. It is stylistically coherent and there is a tone, not just to the vocals. The Decemberists are coherent, but The Long Winters are not: There are long epic space jams, there are tight little attempts at a three minute Pop song, and there are folky strummy songs that are plain old Rock tunes. John wasn't trying to ape Bowie or Dylan, but there is no internal consistency.

John is not somebody who dresses the same every day. He doesn’t have a uniform, he doesn’t self-identify as a member of any particular cultural framework. He is not a hippie, he is not a mod, he is not a punk, he is not a rocker, he is not a nerd, he doesn’t look at any one group and say ”Aha! There's my clan!” He is not a member of a clan, except for whatever clan coalesces around him.

John never entered into songwriting trying to be a Mod, but he entered into songwriting like ”Here is a guitar, how do you make a chord?” and somebody showed him a chord. Then he got a second one and by the time he had five chords he was already trying to write something. He never felt an obligation to put himself within a genre, not in music or in life. He admired people who were fully committed to to their gang.

John loved the Hell's Angels because they went all in. You don't just half-assed join the Hells Angels. Those tall 24 year old guys with dark jet black hair who wore leather pants and motorcycle boots were so beautiful! That is not a thing that you just put on and the next day you wear Dockers, but you put on those leather pants on those motorcycle boots every god-damn day. It goes with the territory, it is not a costume, it is their thing.

John would watch those guys go by during the Rock ’n’ Roll years and was like ”Oh my God, that's so wonderful!” If only he could be that person who rode his motorcycle up the stairs of his girlfriend's apartment building (see RL259). Everybody bought it because he wore leather pants every day for the love of God! But John couldn't do it, because he is not him. There is too much else! There was always too much else! It is its own beautiful thing!

That guy is never going to go to a garden party, or if he does go to the garden party, he is the guy in leather pants at the garden party and the leather pants are going to insist that he behave a certain way at the garden party. He can't go and lean up against the hedge and every time the waiter walks by grab another glass of champagne and just try to lean against the hedge and watch what's happening.

That guy is never going to experience the garden party on its own terms because the leather pants and the boots are asserting his terms wherever he goes. In a room full of people with leather pants he is within his tribe, but when he is out of that room he is always an emissary of that tribe. That is not how John lives. He wants to go to a Rotary Club meeting and lean against the back wall and maybe be conspicuous, but not be broadcasting a particular message. Maybe the other people will wonder about the kid in the back, that sense of ”Does he belong? Does he not?”, but not ”The leather pants guy is here”, ostentatiously a thing rather than potentially everything and possibly no thing.

It is not that John doesn’t love it. One time he did a tour with Jay Farrar who is so himself! His motorcycle boots are unpretentious, he is just fucking there. He is from St. Louis and he is wearing a dirty shirt and his motorcycle boots because that is who he is. He has never ever put on a seersucker suit. He couldn't, not because he would feel like he couldn't, but just because he never will. There would never be a situation where somebody would tell him ”Hey, Jay, we are going to this thing, but it is kind of a seersucker suit thing.” No-one would ever say that to him.

John likes to go to things periodically where seersucker suit is what you wear and he has one in case somebody invites him to a thing where that is what you wear. He also can go to a thing with the leather pants people and he is not going to wear a seersucker suit to that. There is an authentic version of John that can go to all these things and it is not a put-on, but it is who he is. A lot of the people John went to college with are Patagonia people and what they do involves Patagonia. It is their uniform because they are outdoor adventure sports people. John is comfortable in that environment, but he is not a member of that tribe either.

Having his first promo photos taken (KPJR2)

If Ken was sending a painter to paint John’s portrait, John would wear a tie because that is what you wear when someone is painting your portrait, but it would be a tie with a flourish. John is not interested in a portrait that reflects him in his native environment, because his native environment could be anything. He would want to be represented in an oil painting as someone who recognized that you put on a tie for being painted in oils.

He is not going to wear a tie tomorrow, but he would if Ken were painting his painting. If Annie Leibovitz would be showing up to snap a picture, he would probably wear a denim shirt because it is in the style of her art. John’s style is inclusive of all styles. He would feel comfortable drawing from the whole well of men's fashion from time immemorial. He was asked to be King Neptune and he immediately started dressing like George V.

There was a time on tour where John's wardrobe was limited by what he could carry. He had a dusty blue hoodie that went with everything and was very versatile. Sometimes it is cold, sometimes it is hot, sometimes you need to sleep sitting up, and a hoodie is a very good travel outfit, but that was only for the length of a tour.

John also made some terrible miscalculations. All of the promo photos for the album Putting the Days to Bed were taken by the great Autumn de Wilde and no small expense was paid to take these photos. In the wisdom of the moment John costumed himself and the band, changing outfits, changing glasses, changing hairstyles, because here he had this great photographer and he wanted to try all these different looks, but at that moment in time the decisions he made were almost entirely errors.

He had just shaved his beard and was bare-faced, although he always wore a beard during that period, but he had shaved it off because he was getting these expensive pictures taken with this artist. He had purchased a bunch of cowboy shirts at a specialty store in Los Angeles that sold really nice rodeo shirts, he had these jackets and ties and fancy things and he combined them all. He also had 10 pairs of different glasses frames and time after time he combined them in super fucked-up ways. As soon as he got the contact sheets back, he thought it was awful and he looked like a total boob. They had spend all this money on it and it was very hard to say he trashed this whole thing and ”Let's start over!” Those pictures haunted him immediately.

Of course the people from the label and people around him were ”Oh, no they look great!”, but they were wrong! These photos will follow John to the gave. He was playing, he thought he was having a lot of fun, it was incredible, they had a makeup artist that day, there was a whole team, but no one said ”Whatever you are doing right now, the crucial thing that you are forgetting is that you don't look like yourself.”

John can wear any one of those cowboy shirts and he looks like himself, he could wear any one of those glasses frames and he looks like himself, he can shave or not shave and look like himself, but on this particular day he was making choices where he somehow managed to make himself look alien in almost every photograph and those are the promo photos that went out for Putting the Days to Bed.

The following day John met Autumn for coffee at a cafe called Le Pichet on 1st Avenue. They had a really nice coffee date and she took several pictures of John just sitting across from her. In those pictures John was himself again. They are just pictures of him sitting with a coffee cup in a cafe, but those are the ones that he wishes they had used exclusively for that album. John ended up using them as promo photos eventually, but for a year everywhere he went there were photographs of him staring out from record stores and venues around the world of him and this blue cowboys shirt with these weird glasses on and his hair shaped like a motorcycle helmet because in that moment in time had been like ”Let's try this!”, not even thinking he was going to look at these pictures for the rest of his life, and for once, dude, just play it cool!

Remixing the Long Winters albums (KPJR2)

There is one song on the first Long Winters record that they have almost never played live. It starts off with the lyric "Don't give any cake to the blonde one and maybe she'll be an artist.” (Government Loans) If John could do it over, he would take it off that record and replace it with a different song. On the second record he really tried to do something special with the song Blanket Hog and he sort of achieved it, but he also sort of dramatically didn't achieve it. It stands as a testament to overreach. If he did it over again he would just mix the drums a lot louder.

There is not enough demand for a Long Winters remix album. These were recorded on 2” tape and not in computers. In order to revisit that album, John would have to rent a studio with a 2” Studer and that tape machine would have to be calibrated and the tapes would probably have to be baked and then they would have to call it all up again and who knows, he can't just go to his laptop and see if he can remix it.

Remastered and remixed are very different things. If you remaster a record the hope is that what had formerly been a muddy mastering job that was a product of the era is now through the magic of new technology made to sound crystal clear where you can hear all these things that were in the mix. As a listener you become very familiar with the mix of a song. You see this with some Beatles stuff: If you move stuff around a little bit it becomes a very different listening experience. If John were to actually remix these songs, even if he called up all the tracks and tried to mix it exactly like the original mix, these would be alterations that people would hear and it would sound unusual and unfamiliar, which maybe is great?

John would love to go through the Long Winters catalog, which admittedly is only four records, and take ten songs from all four records and make a greatest hits album where he remixed those songs with what he knows now. That would be wonderful, but there would have to be some reason to do it. The Long Winters never achieved enough fame that there is much of an aftermarket for them. The people who love The Long Winters have the albums and all they want is new music. They don't want John to go and spend six months trying to make an album that puts a new spin on stuff.

Struggling with writing new music (KPJR2)

John is undisciplined and part of learning to be comfortable in the world has been to learn that being undisciplined is true about him. It is not a condition or a symptom of something. In the 1980s his lack of discipline was always being characterized to him by High School psychologists as fear of failure or fear of success or some other complicated set of pre-truths that defined the puzzle of why John didn't want to succeed in High School. The presumption was that if they could address some of those pre-truths, it would solve the problem of John not thriving. It has been a constant source of frustration for him his whole life that he is not more productive, that he doesn’t turn his ideas into action.

John’s greatest pain is the pain of the failure to do, the books he has not written, the songs and albums he hasn’t made, the strides he hasn’t taken. Over time he learned to a certain extent to just accept it as something true about himself that is not necessarily a flaw. He did not have an album that was due and he is late, he just didn't make another album yet or ever, who knows! John doesn’t want to spend his whole life feeling like he is behind, but he has spent his life up till now feeling like he is behind, that there is work that he owes somebody. School and by extension his parents wanted him to succeed and there was one definition of that which was to get his work in on time. Nobody ever said that his work was low quality, but he just didn't turn it in on time or at all.

John is a musician and he should be making music. People come up to him and ask ”Where's your music? I want more music!” John gets it, he also wants to have made more music. He wishes he had put a record out in 2009 because then he could have put a record out in 2012 and another one in 2015 or even on a faster rotation than that, but John didn't put out records in any one of those years. He did other things, but nothing that mark the passage of time for him to say ”Here I am!”

The great question in in all of that is: ”Where would I be if I had just stuck it out?” The last Long Winters record sold more than any other one before it, and based on that alone, would the one after that have sold more? Would that have continued and would it at least have sold more or done better? Would he have a different profile now? Would the Long Winters be as big as the Old 97’s?

John doesn’t think they would ever be as big as Spoon, and Spoon is not as big as The Arcade Fire, and they are not as big as Guns ’N’ Roses. Would he have been mentioned in the same voice as any of his heroes? John has always wanted to be a success and he has always felt like he had access to being a success. Whatever degree of success he had is a minor achievement relative to the access he had. John is only in middle age. The guy who plays the most interesting man in the world for the television commercial about the beer was 60+ years old before he ever made a dime as an actor, although he had an interesting rest of his life. You never know what is going to happen, who knows!

Ken wonders if John has done a lot of work on his personal life during the years since his last album and if whenever the music comes it will be from a much stronger personal position. John's music always trafficked in the language of confusion and disillusionment and feeling that his High School girlfriend was ready to betray him to the cops at the first sign of trouble. Although the sound of the music changed genres quite a bit, thematically the songs did not. There is no Long Winters song that nakedly celebrates joy, there is no Long Winters seduction song that says ”Oh baby. I'm a love you.” It is not in John’s nature to write that kind of stuff.

There is no Long Winters song that says ”There should be justice for the people!”, none of that comes from John’s pen. John can sit down at a typewriter and write an essay about ”There should be justice for the people”, he can write an essay that says ”Baby I’m a love you”, but he cannot write a song from those places because it does not come out of him in the form of music. The music John writes is a particular language.

A lot of songwriters are not especially articulate people and they use their songwriting as a way of expressing themselves in the world. It is their primary or only way to do it. Songwriting is a great relief and a release to them because if you put a microphone in front of them, they are just like ”Ohhh” That is not how they want to talk, but they talk through their music. John has a lot of avenues to express his political feelings and every other kind of realm of his mind. He can talk and write about all that stuff comfortably in his own voice. The only purpose music had for him was to express the profound befuddlement.

John is intuitive about other people, he knows very quickly where the other person is coming from if he meets them in a setting. He gets people pretty quickly, but he does not get romantic love. He has never understood it and he has never succeeded at it although he feels a tremendous love in him and he loves people, he likes touching people, he likes sex, and he likes closeness and intimacy. He just does not get all of those things together in the form of what other people see, strive for and celebrate in the form of romantic love. It has always thwarted him and threatened to destroy him. It has been the source of the greatest pain in his life and not the source of very much joy or pleasure. There was just anxiety, fear, pain, and frustration. That is the thing that John has no language for, no ability to write an essay about, but all he has been able to do is sing about it.

John being a bad boyfriend (KPJR2)

Earlier today John did a podcast with Dan Benjamin (see RW77) where he discussed some of these very themes and it is interesting that Ken would also have arrived at this moment in some kind of podcast Kismet. As John tried to describe this to Dan he was coming at it from a different direction: John does believe that there are things that we can learn and things that we can train for and that you can accomplish a lot in life across a great multiplicity, but there are people who can throw a football 70 yards (65 m) and there are a lot of people who wished they could throw a football 70 yards, who trained for it since they were in Junior High, all they want in life is to be able to do it, and they work and work and work and train and fight and they can never throw a football 70 yards because to be able to do that is a gift.

There are people who want to be great songwriters and who want to be genius artists and they want nothing else, they devote their entire life to it and they are not geniuses because that genius is a gift. There are millions of people who just want to get on down the road and get by and be happy and put food on the table and not even that is achievable for them. We are very fond of saying if it weren't for some flaw in our school system or if it weren't for some inequality in the capitalist system, or if it weren’t for some oppressive nature of religion or institutional racism then everyone would be a success, but of course that isn't true. No matter how you try to right imbalance in the world there will always be additional imbalance because not everyone is equal and not every thing can be made equal.

John has confronted this 1000 billion trillion times and he concluded that he is just a shitty boyfriend (see Personal Development). Romantic love in the idealized form that is presented to him, which apparently is the source of every fucking movie and book and song, it is all anybody ever wants to talk about, is a mystery to John. He tried and tried and tried to even grok what the possible appeal could be to people and he does not get it. The number of people who have said ”Maybe you just don't have X, don't give up, John! Maybe one day she will come walking in the door!”, but John is not expressing himself well when he says ”No, she has walked in the door 100 times!”

John has known amazing women in his life and it has been a tremendous frustration not just to him but also to them that something in him cannot throw that football. He can be incredibly close to them, he can feel a tremendous intimacy, he can feel deep love, but at the end of the day he cannot close that synapse. John has an extremely exaggerated romantic sense because he is an extremely emotional person who is susceptible to drama and he believed for decades that love was going to save him, but that romantic ideal was entirely the product of French novels and, like is true for a lot of people, it supplanted his emotional language with itself.

It came in and said ”All these profound emotions, all your deep feelings are called this. Love and what you are looking for is this. Your true love and what will happen then is this. Your true love will relieve you of agony. Love means never having to say you are sorry” All these things! It was an imposition over the top of John’s strong native emotion. It came in and said ”Oh, you were formerly worshipping a God called Cthulhu, but really that the name of that God is Jesus.” This love-language and Western romanticism colonized his nature like it does to most of us. Whatever his pagan gods were, what they really are is called True Love. He doesn’t worship his pagan God anymore, his childhood Gods of the trees and the grass and the forest, but True love is the monotheism of our hearts.

John doesn’t think that the cult of romance accurately reflects any but the very smallest minority of people, and yet it is an attempt to put into words a thing which is wordless: Our extremely complex inner emotional life including sexual desire, covetousness, jealousy, rapaciousness, hunger, fear of aloneness, fear of togetherness, and it is a very reductive way of describing it. John is good, he is made well, and he is useful in the world. There is a great need for people with his emotional makeup. He is not anomalous, he is not a broken version of a loving man, and yet there is no way to describe him within the context of this kind of monolithic idea of what love looks like between a man and a woman or a man and a man or woman and a woman, that it should take this form.

We talk about marriage as an institution. Once you are married anything that happens outside of that marriage is described as cheating and betrayal and if you are not ever married you are in a lot of ways never fully a success. None of those things are true, not even remotely! Marriage is not a completion of a person, except in rare instances. Things that happen outside of a marriage are not necessarily betrayals, they are only betrayals of the marriage, but not necessarily a betrayal of the other person, just a betrayal of this fucking idea that they both signed onto that. It didn't come from either of them! To not ever be married or to even ever have a lifelong romantic relationship does not make you a failure or partial person.

John is not waiting (KPJR2)

The world needs John and he needs the world. He is perfectly good as he is. He is not made to be a husband, but he is useful. He is useful as a lover and a lovee, he can spread good where he goes, he is not trying to ruin your marriage, he is not trying to steal your lady, and he is not trying to live alone until he dies alone. None of those narratives apply to him at all, but his narrative is ”I'm a good person and if I meet somebody and I like them I want to be with them”

It will become clear what his capacities are and he is going to be looking at their capacities and see if they line up and after a while his introversion will probably become a major factor in whether or not they want to keep sitting in his living room. That is not a sin, it is not John's sin or theirs, it is just a thing. There are house cats and neighborhood cats and barn cats and tree cats, and you just don't take a cat out of a tree and make it a house cat.

Going in with the expectation on either side that the other person is going to either complete you or fix you is certainly not a strong foundation for a relationship, but it is the mainstream practice. Some people believe that they are romantically enlightened and go into relationships both having long term subscriptions to Psychology Today and pregnant expectations of what constitutes behavior within a monogamous couple.

The socially acceptable open relationship is on the rise, and primarily today's nerd culture is attempting to redefine some of these things and to encompass some of these alternative lifestyles, but there is a tremendous momentum to institutionalize what those relationships look like, even in terms of giving them names, the style of it being named. You read a lot of articles like ”For this relationship to succeed we need to have total honesty” and all these prescriptive definitions. As soon as John reads those articles, he is ”Good luck with that! That's not me either!” and it doesn't sound like it is really anybody. It sounds like a style rather.

The institution of monogamous marriage is just as Christianity in the 1500s a thing that you can live outside of, even as a member of a church, but you are not ever free. If you have never considered the possibility that there is no God and you are living in a culture where no one has ever considered the possibility that there is no God, think of all the people throughout history who have committed suicide because they were convinced that they have sinned and that there is no recovery from that sin.

Think about all the divorces that have happened between two people who love one another still and between whom the betrayal is something tiny, he kissed his secretary drunk at a party, or she got some sexy sexts from her High School boyfriend. Within the context of the social adoption of all of the laws and moires of this monolithic institution of marriage it forces them into a posture where they feel like their bond is severed. They enter into a divorce, recriminations follow, their children's lives get devastated, but neither one of them wanted it. They felt compelled because not only was their pride injured, but they felt that the socially mandated bonds have been dissolved by some insignificant action and they have no other option.

Marriage wreaks havoc on people! John is not even saying anybody that is listening shouldn’t be married or fall in love or whatever, but it has taken him a lifetime to arrive at a place where he says unapologetically that he is not waiting. He is now. He does not believe she is going to walk in that door, he is not waiting for that! There is no present on the top shelf of his closet that he is saving for that eventuality. There is no self of him that is not online that will come online when he finally meets her. John is fully on!

A lot of single men in the world are waiting with some package on the top shelf of their closet that they will never open in their whole life, maybe it is their whole closet, because they think that they are waiting for that special somebody who never arrives, or they open that package for some special somebody and she ends up turning him over to the cops because they ran a school bus off the road and it turns out she didn't deserve that package.

After decades of Sisyphean bolder-pushing John has recently felt a final liberation of not being chastised by other people's smiley-faced hope for him to one day meet somebody. It is a chastisement! ”Oh, isn't that sweet! You are such a nice fellow! Maybe one day!” - ”Fuck you! Don't put that shit on me! That is your own condescension that doesn't belong to me!” If John is not waiting for her, don't you fucking wait for her for him!

How this relates to Ken and John's relationship

Ken is saying something like ”Something is going to happen, someone is going to cross your path”, which is incredibly presumptuous. In any of the conversations between him and John, Ken has tried to approach it as being within the moment, engaging with John in that way, and not trying to pressurize any situation when it comes to interaction, music, which is all just to say ”Hurry up and finish the next album! Make sure you get in a relationship! Follow me on Twitter!”

Even if you don't believe in God, God is waiting to forgive you. One day you will finally feel him in your heart. Ken has made decisions based on either outward expectations or a false belief in ”This is the smart move! This is what people do, right?”, but he had it fall on its face and he understands where John is coming from. He doesn't want to seem that he is playing into that. If he did so it was unintentional.

Podcast running long, not ending the conversation (KPJR2)

John’s feelings for Ken are an over-abundance of love and affection and he is only being contentious because it is after 2am and they have been on the phone for 3 hours and 40 minutes and he is a little punch-drunk. Ken is 3 hours ahead of John, cruising close to the dawn. Who the hell listens to Bit of a Chat episodes which are four hours long? People do surprisingly enough, it shocks Ken, too! The way he has always entered into these is that he likes to have a conversation with interesting people and if someone who wants to listen to it, great! Ken only has the conversation because he wants to have the conversation.

It seems potentially open-ended because Ken is saying ”Let's not close the door and let's not defer it to the future except if some extenuating circumstance like exhaustion or something else to do comes up and means we should naturally come to a cessation of the current conversation”, but that did not happen tonight, even closing on four hours. Ken could have kept going. There are times when these have gone seven hours with a couple of people in the conversation: Molly Lewis, Ben Swolo and Aaron Fever, an Irish improvisationist comedian friend, Hal Lublin was also on that call for a period of time, but short of that crazy one there is also one over 5+ hours. They have gone long when the conversation dictates it.

It is not in Ken's nature to artificially stop a conversation, as John saw when they were together in San Diego. Ken will have a conversation as long as people want to talk, which a good trade for an interviewer. John will also keep going until he is blue in the face. There was a moment right there where John was like ”Fuck you, Ken!” and Ken was like ”Aaahh!”, but it was part of the evolution of the conversation, plus the fact that they may both be a little bit on the getting-tired side.

John’s relationship just ended (KPJR2)

John had just been in a relationship for a year and a half that only recently ended (Millennial Girlfriend). The premise of that relationship was at least from his side that he had addressed his bipolar disorder by beginning a course of medication. That bipolar disorder had taken a lot of his best hours from him for many years because he was so depressed. People were trying to steal his life force and wanted more from him than he had to give.

In taking this medicine he was newly able to be with people, he no longer felt like every person around him was trying to steal him. He met a woman who was very type A and who had a very strong feeling that they were now together and meant to be together, and that there was an inevitability about it. It felt very much in this family of ”Here is what life looks like!”

Romantic love happens thusly, you meet someone unexpectedly, you are compelled to be with them, you feel a tremendous force of emotion, and you follow the steps: You are together, you are faithful, you move in with one another, you have a child, you make a lifelong commitment, and for a year and a half John felt very strong emotions for this person and thanks to his newfound ability as a result of taking a mood stabilizer called Lamotrigen he said ”I am capable of it! Let me do what is prescribed!”

She had strong feelings about what needed to happen in each instance and in each case John said ”Yes!”, even a long way past where he had ever said yes before, he said ”Yes, I will!” and she said ”Next is this!” and John said ”Yes!” and he did it both because he was in her thrall, but also because his whole life he had said ”No!” at a much earlier juncture and he had no idea what waited on the other side. A long time before he would have said ”What? No! Are you kidding me?” but now he was not just saying ”Sure!”, but an emphatic ”Yes!” and he yessed himself all the way into a situation where his well-being was at risk because he was saying ”Yes!” a long time past the point where he should have started to say ”No!”

He was doing it out of both experimentation and also pot-commitment. He had invested a lot and he needed to keep raising. Because romantic love and all its attendance were so foreign to him he said maybe he just needed to trust the world as the world told him what was next. This relationship got a lot of approval from his friends and his family and from the outside it looked very appropriate that this would have finally happened to him. This girl was formidable, she seemed to be someone who had conquered him finally. Even though John went past the point where he recognized it was no longer safe even for him, he knew that it was survivable and he felt like maybe he needed to go past the point of safe, maybe that is the secret? Maybe you go all the way past the failsafe point?

John was being in a relationship with someone who was destroying him emotionally and normally his self-preservation instinct would have said: ”Look, this is too… we are not acting toward one another out of a spirit of love anymore. This is a war of attrition for dominance and control and it is being conducted on a battlefield of complete emotional instability. There is no constancy, there is no law here!”

John is an extremely sensitive person and he is very very vulnerable to the shifting sands if there is no agreed-upon reality. You can't just tell him that the reality keeps changing and it is his perception that is wrong! John has a very strong sense of who he is, but he was on a new medication and maybe he had missed a crucial conversation?

It took a long time for John to admit that this romantic love that was supposed to liberate him, to deliver him, to free him and to complete him caused him to walk into a dragon-fire. He was doing it only to see, he was following the law of it, it had all the signs and he was doing what he was told by a whole lifetime of novels and magazine articles and close friends.

He fulfilled terms and he was utterly in jeopardy. When it ended, the first thing that people close to him said was ”Please don't let this color your feelings about love, because you really made a lot of big strides here!” Everyone was so proud of John for having said ”Yes!” all along and having said ”Yes!” to someone who was leading him to destruction didn't matter as much as that he had said ”Yes!” so many times. Wasn't that wonderful?

They wanted to make sure he didn't close down again and close off to the possibility of this one star in the heavens that was one day going to bring three wise men on camels, this thing, this talisman. John didn’t feel like he was closing off. This had all been a great eye-opening lesson. Once in his life he needed to say ”Yes!” to all those things and walk all the way to Isengard. Now he was going back to the Shire.

Lord of the Rings (KPJR2)

Saruman wouldn't have done what he did to the Shire if John hadn’t been gone but would have been there to defend it. People say he would have been burned alive, but they don't realize that he is Roderick the Grey! He was Roderick the Grey before he fell into the hole with the Balrog. Is he Roderick the White now? He is not sure.

Once you are Roderick the White you stop talking. Gandalf had so much less to say once he was Gandalf the White. He spent a lot of time just staring and he certainly didn't seem to be enjoying life as much. When he was Gandalf the Gray he had a lot of LOLs, but when he was Gandald the White he seemed really fucking troubled and not himself.

The battle wouldn't have been won without Gandalf the White, but that is another question: Does John want to retain his smoke ring, blowing good old Gandalf the Grey with the good old fireworks, or does he want to save the world and be somebody who is just staring into space and is angry all the time? John wants to hang out in an Entmoot, not be some Rodrick the White Grouchy-orama. Fighting the Balrog cauterized his mind and he can never go back. You don't just fight a Balrog and then ”Oh yeah, what's up? Let's go get a Philly cheese steak and a cold Kicker!”

After all those hours of riding eagles and communicating with eagles John and the eagles had a whole other thing going on that is really not covered in the book. If Gandalf could just show up with eagles, why the hell didn't he show up with all those eagles before? Ken explains the thoughts he had on the topic when he read the book.

It is not clear from the books if Gandalf and the eagles were eating cheese steaks at any point along the way. Gandalf was missing in action for some amount of time and then reappeared with the eagles. Who knows how much time they spent sitting around? Maybe the eagles were the ones who convinced him to go back? Ted Leo would have strong opinions about it. He was on the chat a few months back in a lengthy and candid discussion about Hobbits, but they didn’t get into the eagle discussion. They agree to do a chat with Ted Leo and John to talk about all these issues.

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