Mid Century Modern

John's take on the Mid-century modern style (RW112)

Mid-century modern architecture has never been John’s style, but in the beginning of 2018 it started to grow on him. Back in 1972 when his mom moved back to Seattle she did what you were supposed to do: She bought the cheapest house in a good neighborhood just outside Innis Arden, which was a mid-century modern showcase. John went to elementary school in that neighborhood where all the houses sat on a third of an acre (1200 sqm) and had 1-story floor plans with exposed beams, big windows and sliding glass doors.

John's friends all had Eames chairs and lived with stay-at-home-moms who cut the crust off the bread. Even though it was already the early 1970s it still felt a lot like a version of the affluence of the early 1960s or mid-1950s, but people were wearing Lilly Pulitzer pantsuits instead of whatever they would have been wearing in the 1950s. John never connected with that style. Instead he always wanted a Victorian style house with lots of wood trim, stained-glass windows, towers, staircases and haunted basements made of stone.

John always considered mid-century as being built between 1951 and 1958.5, which is the middle of the century where that style became fashionable. What qualified as mid-century started to creep and pretty soon houses from 1975 were sold as mid-century modern houses, which they weren’t, but they were suburban split-level tract homes. Shag carpet and the fucking Banana Splits on television was suddenly seen as mid-century, which it is not!

John’s daughter’s mother loves actual classic mid-century 1952 houses that have a very unique and chintzy style: Very spare and without ornamentation. She had been looking for a house over the past several years and John often went with her on trips to open houses and she often sent him pictures and asked for his opinion. By looking at them over and over and by going to these open houses, John learned enough of the vocabulary and while he didn’t like some of them in photographs, when standing in the room he often found it really nice. His tastes turned slowly and gradually, but inexorably and eventually he was thinking about the mid-century lifestyle, which is the opposite of what he is.

John is not clutter-free, but he is literally a clutter. What if he lived in a home that was not only free of clutter, but where not even an oriental carpet would be appropriate? Throwing shelves into these places with his college textbooks wouldn’t look right and would be a defilement of the principle of it. John spent a lot of time lately chewing on the idea of having a house where he could roller-skate around with nothing in it except two Eames chairs which are so uncomfortable that no-one ever wants to sit in them, a giant chrome lamp that spans the whole room, and a huge fireplace in the center of the room that no-one ever lights. What would life be like?

It came to the point where John started considering buying a mid-century modern house, selling this house, getting rid of all his weird ephemera and all his Victoriana, taking down all of the crazy nautical flags and placards that he stole from the Berlin subway stations in 1988, and putting it all into a pyre because selling it on the internet is never going to happen, or maybe it will? John got 10 pairs of Red Wing boots in the basement, all size 12D, all ready to go on eBay.

John has forever been talking about that he needs a Haddie (Dan's sales director) or a Holly! Every time he says that (see assistant), somebody will write him and offer to be his Haddie Holly, but he doesn’t have a Haddie Holly to reply to the email, saying ”Thank you for your email!” John has all these wool jackets and these lumberman boots, but it is May now and nobody wants to buy a wool jacket at the start of summer. John might still have to do it because how is he going to fit all his stuff into his new mid-century modern house?

John had this idea of a different life where he was not surrounded by oriental carpets anymore, but he would have to move out of Seattle to accomplish it and he doesn’t want to go all the way to Peoria. He drove around these weird suburbs, looking at these houses, and he asked himself if he could live out there. There were dogs and birds on lawns, but would that be a thing for him?

John has always been oriented towards the city since he first became an adult. Was he going to be oriented towards some large grocery store with a huge parking lot around it? Some people go to the grocery store for coffee every morning and that is the gathering spot for the neighborhood: The big grocery store that has a bunch of olives in an olive bar. Could that be John? Could he start patronizing a place with an olive bar?

John’s daughter’s mother buying a mid-century modern house (RL292)

In June of 2018 John’s daughter’s mother sold her Downtown apartment and bought a mid-century modern house in the suburbs of Seattle. John himself was raised in the suburbs, he went to a suburban school and he always lived in suburbs until he moved to Seattle as a young adult in 1991. His aesthetic for a house has always been a ramshackle farm on the edge of town with a coat rack full of swords, but there are no old ramshackle farm houses in this neighborhood and a coat rack full of swords would really stand out in any one of these houses. Not that it doesn’t stand out in a farm house as well, but in one of those Frank Lloyd Wright-y houses there wouldn’t be any room for it aesthetically. There would be no Gary, either (see Gary and Skeeter)!

John was driving around the neighborhood and not in a million years would it have occurred to him to live in a place like this. It was normal-town USA and not what he ever thought he was looking for. Until pretty recently he would have felt a lot of scorn about living there and he would have said ”Well, I guess, if that is your thing!”, but now he was driving around looking up driveways and stuff and his feelings were quite hard to parse. Would he feel lonely down there or any lonely-er? It is not that far out of town and at the time he bought his current house it took him 12 minutes to get to town, but in the intervening 10 years 200.000 people moved to Seattle and now it takes him 35 minutes. From this little neighborhood it would take the same amount of time to get to town, it would be no different.

John thinking about a mid-century house (RL292, RL293)

John wants a house that hasn’t been monkeyed with, a house where the owner died recently and their 65-year old kids who live in Arizona just want to sell the place. He made the mistake of putting his phone number somewhere, but he actually does want them to call him about a one-owner place for sale that was built during the Eisenhower administration with a bunch of hidey-holes and its own bomb shelter with a tunnel to a cave. The house would be really livable with an open plan kitchen and it would be for sale for next to nothing. (RL292)

The first part is imagining how it could turn out and knowing how deep your fantasy runs. It might not even be a fantasy anymore, but John was already manifesting it: ”Here is the thing I want from the universe!” How many other home-owners today have successfully called a passport back to them? (see RL176, The Burglary) John could conjure an orb, or a house orb! The previous owner could have been a Porsche mechanic and when his kids sell the whole house, whatever is in the garage just goes with it. Why not have a 1966 911S in the garage? Other people hope for meatballs at the lunch place, but John was manifesting a killer-set of tools and a Porsche. (RL292)

Ten days earlier he was not walking around his house, thinking ”What would it take for me to put everything into a box, sell my house and go buy another house?” That was not what he was thinking at all, but now he is getting 400 real estate emails and texts an hour. He even ended up blocking some phone numbers because they were texting him 16 times. (RL292)

John started to feel anxious, not because he was afraid of being buried alive (see Anxiety), but because he was on the path of selling his house. (RL293)

John visiting an open house (RL292)

John was at an open house with his daughter, his little partner in crime. She did this wonderful thing that you want to happen when you walk into an open house where she ran away while John was standing in the entry way in that awkward environment where other people look at each other, like ”Get out of my house!”, but you haven’t even looked at it yet. The real estate agent had home-made cookies in little packages with his business card on the back.

Then John's daughter came out of some back bedroom, screaming ”I found my room! I found my room!”, but that is not how daddy negotiates! First you have to talk about how much it will cost to adapt it to your special needs, which you have to account for in the inflated price. Had anybody opened the garage yet? It was a nice house built in 1949 and it was one of the original houses in this new modern style, but it was not the house for John.

The real estate agent got John’s email address anyway and he sent John an email with a video where he was holding up a sign saying ”Hey John, thanks!” Was it a hostage note or an AMA sign? It was like Bob Dylan, Automotive, ”Step down, step down, turn a minute, turn a minute” (??) The agent held up the sign so that John could see from the thumbnail that it was not just some anonymous video. John actually did like talking to that guy although he doesn’t normally like talking to real estate agents because they have a greedy tone. He seemed knowledgeable, he was about John’s age, he was from the region, he had some interesting things to say, and he was really using technology. Other real estate agents could take a page from this guy!

Other types of neighborhoods (RL294)

John had never been a fan of mid-century modern. In Alaska there was no architecture, but as a kid he grew up in a mid-century suburb in Seattle. His elementary school was right next to a neighborhood called Innis Arden, which was the nice version of a completely planned neighborhood from the early 1950s: Big beautiful mid-century modern style homes with sliding glass doors, big windows and a view over the water. John thought of it as the houses his friends lived in while he himself always loved Victorian houses.

When John was a kid mid-century modern houses were 20-25 years old and so-called contemporary houses with an open plan, big windows and big open kitchens were more common. Those homes were not designed around having a bunch of shelves full of antique tchotchkes and the furniture was styled along with it. You were meant to be stylish in those houses! John has never been into it and never cared about it. When mid-century modern became fashionable in recent years, John found it to be for hipsters and people who really enjoy the movie Swingers.

Bob Wood’s house (see Friends) was what they in Anchorage would have called an expensive late-1970s tree house. Everything was made of wood with vaulted ceilings, big heavy beams and rooms where you could look down through a window in the vaulted ceiling from a tree house room way up. It was built at the side of a hill with trees all around it.

John’s friend Karen Korn (see RW77 and RL331) lived in a house where you had to climb a rope in order to get up to her room. These were all rich people, like Anchorage-rich. It was a real tree house and you could just throw the dirty clothes down and they would fall forever until they landed in the laundry room in the basement. It was built around a cyclotron, except it was made out of birch, almost like living in a guitar.

Exploring the neighborhood (RL293, RL294)

John was wondering how long it would take from his house to the neighborhood where his daughter's mother had bought her new house and one time when he was on the highway and had some free time he went down there and started driving around. (RL294) This is not a suburb like you would see in Indiana or Los Angeles that stretch to the horizon, but this is a Washington suburb with ravines and cliffs and twisty roads. John loves a ravine because there is often a stream in the bottom and John loves a stream. One of the houses had a stream in the backyard! (RL293)

In a suburban context someone like John who is flirty and friendly and doesn’t have a home-made red star at the back of his neck can engage somebody very quickly to shoot the shit with him for 15 minutes. John stopped a couple of people and told them that he was new to this area, he was not a cat burglar, he was not going to ask any specific information about their home, but he was trying to get a layout of this area. Even though the neighborhood is pretty sheltered, one guy said he wouldn’t look for any place up there between 1st and 4th because there had been a lot of mailbox thefts. Somebody also mentioned Nextdoor. Merlin is on the Nextdoor for his neighborhood and there is a lot of suspicion of otherness and of what does and doesn’t belong here. (RL294)

Later a guy came up behind John in a Corvette, but there was no way for John to pull over. (RL293)

In Innis Arden, another mid-century modern neighborhood in Seattle, they had chopped down all the big trees so everybody could have a beautiful view, but they did not do that in the neighborhood where John's daughter's mother bought her new house and if you walk out of your sliding glass doors you are kind of in the forest. A lot of the houses don't look like anything from the street, but around the back yard they have big beautiful windows and big open living rooms. (RL294)

Learning to love the mid-century modern style (RL294)

All of a sudden John was Mr. Mid-century Modern Curious! Something had gotten into him and he didn't know how to explain it. He even went on Amazon and ordered a mid-century modern coffee table book. His friend Bill Herzog is a mid-century modern upholsterer (HM Duke Design) and the bass player of Earth and Citizens’ Utilities.

The other day John went up to Bill's place and asked about those wood chairs with those strappy straps and suddenly he was seeing it with new eyes. He always thought this was just shitty thrift store furniture, but not anymore, my friend! It is very pinteresty, but John doesn’t want to have anything to do with Pinterest. If he saw Pinterest across the street in a car crash, he wouldn’t go over and offer help and he wouldn’t piss on it if it was on fire. The food that those hipsters eat these days is mainly made to be photographed.

You think you are not malleable anymore when you come into John’s age and you are just stuck in your ways, but John had been waiting for it! When would he get stuck in his ways? All of a sudden he thought about living in a mid-century modern environment where he would have zero tchotchkes. John's house is a 1912 farm house (see House) and by looking at the mid-century modern architecture he almost felt like it was 1952 again and he was out of date and needed to get hip with the times. His bookcase would probably not come with him, but his encyclopedias from 1968 could go into the new house because they would have been new then.

Having a bar in your mid-century home (RL295)

Mid-century houses have a very specific decoration and you can't just wheel your grandma's couch in there. There is typically a place where you are supposed to have your little bar with your little stack of bottles so you can entertain and make cocktails for people. John had 3 different cases of beer in his house that people had brought to him and that he just put at the bottom of the pantry. Somebody surely would come over and John could offer them a beer, but in 10 years of living there he has offered beer to people maybe 10 times.

Over the years Hodgman left 3 or 4 different bottles of booze as well. There have been a few different times where people came through town and bought a bunch of weed, but didn’t want to take it on an airplane even though John assured them that they could take it on an airplane from Seattle and TSA would not care because they were looking for pocketknives and nail clippers. Now John had a pile of weed up on one shelf above eye-level and he never looked at it or thought about it.

There was also a pack of cigarettes up there. John has offered it to people, but nobody wanted it. He wants to be a good host and he doesn’t want to be in a Big Mike situation (see RL295) where he invites people to dinner and is then just able to make fried mushrooms. Casey (his neighbor) would make a chicken pot pie for him and John wanted to be that person: The vegetarian who would still make a chicken pot pie for you!

If John moved into a mid-century home, would he get crystal decanters and put really nice booze in it that would just sit over there shimmering like small golden orbs? Merlin suggests that it would look pretty if John would put some board games there like Ticket to Ride or Cards Against Humanity. John could get some vintage Yahtzee, but he is not sure how to play Yahtzee. Merlin says it is like Poker, except that you never yell ”Poker!” Wouldn’t it be funny if Steve Albini did that?

John meeting a Vietnam Navy Seal at an open house (RL301)

In August of 2018 John was at an open house in the neighborhood that he was trying to move to, although he was not really trying and it was more an aspirational neighborhood. Merlin’s wife went to many open houses in the past just for lols, but Merlin finds it very uncomfortable to be in anybody else’s house. John is also uncomfortable doing it and he especially doesn’t like doing it with his whole family because there is too much explaining to do, but if he is walking into a place by himself he can stay agile when he talks to a real estate agent.

The owners were there, which is not supposed to happen, but as soon as John walked up he could immediately tell they were the owners. In the driveway there was a totally cherried-out hot-rod 1957 Chevvy with a bearded guy standing next to it, talking to somebody while having his hand on the car, which must have been the owner. John loves it when the owners are lurking around their own open house, because then John is in it to win it. He has a fantasy that he is going to be able to charm the owners into saying ”You know what? Just take the house!”, because they are rich and don’t even care and they are just doing this as a formality. Their kids suck, they are not going to give them the house, and they were just waiting for John.

The real estate agent came bee-lining for John, an older lady who had been doing real estate for a long time and John could tell that she was mega-stressed-out that the owners were there and kept interrupting her. It was one of those instances where the people are still living there and they are not selling the house because they bought a better place, but they want to see how much they can get for it and they don’t even know where they are going to go. John had the complication of both really wanting to talk to the owners, but also not wanting the real estate agent to feel bad, because she had a job to do. He let her show him around and she gave him the spiel.

The bearded guy was lurking around behind them and kept trying to interject. John was asking about some light fixtures, she was telling John they were all to code, and the guy leaned in and said that he had put them in himself. John was icing him out because although they both wanted to talk to each other, John was pretending to care what the real estate agent said. She walked John through the whole house, turned all the lights on, talked about the local HOA dues and all this crap, and the owner just couldn't bear it and was lurking and straightening books on the book shelf.

The owner was up to 70 years old, as big as John, and he had a grey beard, grey hair and a polo shirt with a little logo on it. John could tell he was pretty strong and fit and his hair was a little long-ish. If a child was trapped under his 1957 Chevvy, he could probably lift up one corner to free up the child. Eventually John pulled himself away from the real estate agent and this guy was on him like tar paper. The emblem on his polo shirt said US Navy SEALs, but John was not going to mention it.

The house was a beautiful, architecturally really interesting mid-century house, but the owner and his wife had decorated it in a hodgepodge that they thought was beautiful but that was pretty wrong. It was probably a 5-bedroom house, but they had turned one of the bedrooms into a master bath with a bathtub, a shower and a toilet. They took all the windows out from another bedroom so they could put up racks of CDs. It screamed ”No kids!” They didn’t need all these rooms and they had turned them all into specialty rooms. There were ouroboroses on the kitchen wall and in one of the rooms there were a bunch of photographs of the owner jumping out of helicopters and doing Navy Seal shit in Vietnam.

As soon he had emotionally and energetically bullied the real estate agent out of his own house John asked about the windowless room and the owner replied that he had concreted all the windows make it soundproof. He had been Special Forces and had made 3 tours. John got intrigued to light this candle and he ended up being with them for 4.5 hours. His wife came out of the back room and John wouldn’t have been surprised if she had been his age, but they mentioned that they got married in 1970, so they must both have been around 70 years old. He didn't want to talk about politics, but said that you never go to the government for a permit in this neighborhood because they can’t see up the driveways, which is one of the great things about living out there. Where John lived the inspectors were climbing the trees!

They were both photographers and writers and they did travel coffee table books for a living. John perused a couple of them and it looked like they did them for hire, like Horizon Air had decided they wanted a coffee table book about the history of Horizon Air and the couple had probably made a pitch to the company. There are endless possibilities! You could go to the Ski-Doo snow mobile company and tell them that they needed a coffee table book about their company history and they would believe it. She told John that she had briefly been an airline hostess in 1970 and her first ever flight got hijacked. John was looking to get his spiral-bound notebook out and he wanted to be with those guys all afternoon. One should make a coffee table book about those two!

The house next door used to belong to their in-laws, but a new family had moved in since. When he said that their neighbor was in his 30s and not their age, he gestured between him and John, not to imply that he and John were the same age, but to say that the neighbor was not one of them, but one of those. John had to acknowledge that he was a little bit on the heavy side and his beard had almost completely gone grey. In John’s case the weight all goes to his neck and it had grown from a size 18 to a size 30. With his grey hair John started to look like George Lucas, not that he was getting a dewlap, but if he caught a glimpse of himself in a photograph, he wondered what the hell was going on! He looked like he also could have been a Navy Seal in Vietnam. John thought that she was 45, so if they think that John was 69, they were in a vortex!

She was born in Alaska and they had met and gotten married in Alaska. They had so much to talk about, they had drinks, and they were sitting in the living room with ice clinking in their glasses, talking about all their experiences. She started talking about the house as though John already lived there because John had been sitting in the living room for 4 hours. Maybe they wanted John to have it and retire on their big coffee table book money? They were thinking about moving to Tennessee and for $350.000 you can be the governor of Tennessee, but they were not rich enough to just give John their house. John kept his cards pretty close.

She also said that John probably wouldn't want to introduce himself next door because the woman next door was an Alaska Airlines stewardess and she would glom onto John very hard and be over here every day, which didn’t sound too bad, because one of John’s number one criteria in looking for a house is that it is next door to a house full of stewardesses, but she said ”Not this one”, speaking as a stewardess who had been hijacked.

The real estate agent had left long ago. All three of them couldn’t wait for her to go because the nature of this event had changed. John was no longer interested where the hot water heater was, but this was now a Navy Seal conversation that had morphed into the story of these two people’s lives that John desperately wanted to hear. There were a lot of things they failed to ask about John and John walked away with a lot more information about them than they did about him. If people are interesting, John doesn’t care that they know anything about him, but he just wanted to know about them.

John always felt tremendous contempt for the Baby Boomer generation (see Generations), but there was also a feeling that his dad’s generation was dying by the thousands every day and if we didn’t do something, like record them somehow and get them into the borg, we would lose them forever. How much did a Coke cost back then? How long did it take for the radio to warm up? John realized that this was going to happen to the Boomers too, and we were going to be losing their collective knowledge, but 70% of their stories were lies!

The Internet of Things at John’s potential new house (RL310)

One morning in October of 2018 John was daydreaming about the Internet of Things as he was driving along. He was thinking a lot about buying a new house and if he maybe was going to have the Internet of Things. There is a fantasy in which John has perfect knowledge. He will have locks on the doors that all respond to his phone, that he can lock and unlock remotely from deep inside his underground bunker. There could be a squirrel on his back porch and he could lock and unlock the door frantically with his phone to scare the squirrel away.

There would be outdoor cameras for him to see all around the property, there would be a split-screen scenario with between 6 and 9 different views, like a Bond super-villain, maybe he would be able to see infrared as well for nighttime viewing. There would be some outdoor lights that could be triggered remotely. If someone was sneaking in the bushes, John would be able to turn a light on that was concealed in the bushes or he might have speakers around the yard so that he could speak to them quietly through a speaker in the bushes, like ”What do you think you are doing?” That would be some fucking spooky shit!

John is not that worried to change the temperature in his house remotely from his phone and thermostats do not need to be connected to the Internet of Things. John doesn’t want his refrigerator to have a TV in it, he doesn’t need to talk to his toaster, but he is getting better talking to Siri.

John would like a master computer somewhere in the house that would be connected to a switch box with 10 buttons on it and he could push button number 2 to bring up camera number 2, like a personal Panopticon. He could also ask Siri to bring up camera number 5, but he would probably have his own proprietary assistant like Bernadette or Brenda and he could say ”Brenda, bring up camera 4!”, but that would be too much alliteration. John does not want to talk to Alexa though, because he is not sure if he trusts her.

John couldn’t do that kind of compound shit here at his old house because it would be aesthetically inappropriate. This is a farm house and it would be reverse anachronism because his house would be vintage and all this gear would be un-vintage. This is the type of house that you protect with a sword and tiger traps, but the new house would be more consistent with Bond-villain upgrades.

John wants a full-on Matt Haughey situation where he can lie in bed, ask himself if he locked the back door and lock it from his phone. According to Merlin we are not quite ready to make John’s panopticon work in a way that would be satisfying to him. The current stuff is working well, but doesn’t feel like much of a development. The single largest problem is that all the stuff is not really well integrated.

HomeKit works with some things, but it is not plug-and-play and there is no standard for this stuff working together, especially when it comes to personal assistants. Merlin continues to talk about home automation. A lot of people say that if you are a target, everything is hackable. If John and Merlin and Marco Arment decided that they were going to make it 110 degrees (43 °C) inside of Matt Haughey’s living room, there are probably various exploits that could be caused to do that.

They made it real hot somewhere in Mr. Robot. He is in Queen now (Rami Malek is in the Queen biopic Bohemian Rhapsody), but while he is amazing, the movie is ”Meh”. They put out a couple new tracks, like Don’t Stop Me Now Revisited with new Brian May guitar tracks on it, that are pretty damn good.

The question is also how much John trusts the companies that are doing this stuff, but John doesn’t trust any companies. Merlin recommends smart switches instead of smart lightbulbs. In the movie Weird Science the character was waking up in the morning to a Rube Goldberg machine making his toast. Pee-wee’s Big Adventure definitely had that as well. Merlin has never seen Weird Science or Real Genius, but it sounds like it could be in a movie like that.

Back in the 1970s Merlin had a bespoke stick of his own design that would let him change the channels on the TV from a distance. John rigged up his room with a series of pulleys to accomplish that. He was trying to get it to make him Iced Tea in the morning back when he drank 14 glasses of Liption Instant Ice Tea a day because he thought it was the most amazing thing. He had it all figured out, but he couldn’t get the right combination of strings and pulleys to actually pour the water into the tea. There was no architecture of switches, though!

Dreaming of buying a new house (RL310)

After selling his GMC RV in October of 2018 John was one step closer to being able to buy a new house. Thanks to Merlin and all the influencers who listen to this show, which is a big part of the popularity of it, his new house is going to end up in Wired Magazine. Roderick on the Line never became one of those big shows like MBMBaM who sell out 10.000 seats every night and people sit and shoot money at them with a T-shirt canon, but Merlin and John have a lot of influencers among their listeners.

John is going to detail the construction of his house made of Internet of Things and all the influencers will be like: ”Finally! We never thought it would be Roderick who did this, but somebody else like Matt Haughey!” The 25th anniversary of Home of the Future featuring John Morgan Roderick, morganridesfree. Morgan will ride free again in the new house. (in a Yoda-voice): ”Question my Internet of Things you won’t! Move your dog! A problem to the Homeowner Association you are!”

John packing all his stuff (RW141)

During 2018 John had a lot of anxiety and conflicting feelings, but if he finally got a new house a lot of those anxieties would probably go away. They were rooted in the fact that all his stuff was in a storage space and John didn't know where he was supposed to be. He had been working on this project for months but he didn't really talk about it because just talking about it already gave him anxiety.

There are a couple of different logics when it comes to packing: One of them is to pack the stuff you want and get rid of everything else before you pack it. Another one is to pack everything, move it, sort through it as you are unpacking, and decide what you are going to keep.

John ended up going with the second model because trying to sort through things before he packed it was in the same family as trying to sort through things and John is always trying to sort through things. John's plan was to fill up two boxes every day, but he would end up sitting cross-legged on the floor, sorting through little bins of rusty screws, and deciding which ones of these screws he was going to take with him, like he was a crazy person.

John's storage locker got broken into (RW141)

Eventually John put everything in a storage locker that later got broken into. He had the middle storage locker on the middle aisle of the middle row of the middle section of a giant storage place and his was the only one they broke into. John’s mom immediately said it had to be a listener of John’s programs who had tracked him down and who had an inside scoop on the storage space, but no listener to any of John’s shows is going to break into his storage space!

Most people know that if they wanted something from John and would write him a heartfelt e-mail saying ”Will you send me two candlesticks and a globe?” he would say ”Sure!” If he ever got around to going to the post office, then: "Yeah!" His listeners don’t have to steal anything from him! The people at the storage space were like ”Yeah, I don't know man, every once in a while somebody just comes in and breaks into one of these things. That is why we have insurance”

The burglars had tossed the place and for months John was walking around, thinking about having gotten broken into again (after the Burglary in 2015, see RL176) and having lost all these important things. He was moping around until his mom eventually suggested to go down there, take everything out of the storage space and pack it all back in so John could see. They spent a day rearranging the storage space and John realized they didn't steal any of the stuff that he had thought, mostly because: Who wants this stuff?

People who break into storage spaces just want guns. What else is in a storage space? Tools? Papers? John’s storage spaces are full of books, more books, and globes. They stole an electric piano which seemed like the dumbest thing you could possibly steal because it must have taken three guys to carry. John thought they had stolen his collection of Hubert Humphrey political pins and his selection of collectible Filson bags that no-one else in the world except for 20 other people even give a shit about.

There are people who like Filson bags, but nobody is thinking about them as collectibles, it is a thing John is inventing. "They only made these for… that was never even on the US market… Oh look at this one…. that one never even went to market, it is just a sample, how did they even make it out into the world?" Who is John collecting these against? He is just collecting them for himself! For four months John went on eBay and Craigslist every day, saying ”When that grey 258 comes up for sale I know it is mine! There is not another!” It turned out it was in the storage locker the whole time!

The house that came on the market twice (RW141, RW142)

John had been looking for a house since June of 2018 and he had been rejecting a lot of them because he was looking for something with a lot of individuality. It seemed like a lot of people don't want a house with a ton of individuality, but they want a house that has a lot of normalcy. John was looking in a very specific part of town close to his daughter's school and he had narrowed his parameters so much that it didn't seem weird that it had been a long time since any good house had come into the picture. (RW141)

Already in June of 2018 a good house came on the market, but John wasn't in a position to sell his own house yet and was not in a position to buy one. He knew from the second he saw it online, just from the cover photo, that it was exactly the house and he immediately drove over to see it. The little old couple living there was still getting ready for their open house and they were in their bathrobes, putting Windex on the mirrors. John said ”Look, I know this is against protocol and it is an open house and I should be here with a real estate agent, but I saw your house come on the market this morning and I just want to take a look at it” Standing on the front porch he didn’t need to look at this house any closer because this house was perfect! (RW141)

The husband and wife were both 91 years old, the house was custom-built by an architect in 1959, and they had been living there ever since. Now that they were 90 / 91 it was time for them to move to a sunny place. They were still very spry, they looked young and cool, he was dying his hair black, and John complimented them on their place. He was devastated because he knew he couldn't buy it. He watched the house sell and continued to look for houses, but now he had a template: There was a house, it was not in New Orleans, they did not call it the Rising Sun, and any other house that came along now had to beat this house. (RW141)

About four months later, all of a sudden that same house was on the market again because the people who bought it had thought they were going to take a job in Seattle and either the job fell through or something happened and the house was for sale again and sold immediately, probably to the person who had been the second highest bidder. John had to watch this house come and go a second time and could do nothing about it! He wasn't ready to sell his house and November 2018 was a bad time of the year. (RW141)

John continued to drive by this house, looked at it and knew it was still the best house. He couldn't even think of a better house that he had seen, let alone one that was for sale. As time went by he noticed that the owners weren't sweeping the walk. A branch had blown down in the driveway during a windstorm and no-one had moved it. The lights weren't on, John never saw a moving van or a contractor’s truck, and over the course of the winter he realized that nobody was living in this house and nobody was fixing it up. There was another house John wanted to buy, but it was too much work and the day it closed there were contractor's trucks out front, ripping it apart. (RW141)

In April of 2019 John was ready to sell his house. If an offer came in right now he would call a bunch of movers, ask them to take everything into a storage space, and he wouldn't even care if they would break it. He could be cleared out by tomorrow! John asked his realtor to contact the realtor that sold that house a second time and ask what was going on because the second buyer was not living there. They heard back that the second buyer was a dad who was recently divorced and wanted to buy a house to visit his kid in Seattle and have a place for his kid to visit him. (RW141)

What kind of people can just buy a super-big architect-designed mid-century modern family home to have a pied-à-terre for his kid to visit him? Normally you would get a two-bedroom condo somewhere! The guy never moved in, but he kept a BMW SUV sedan parked there that had obviously been very expensive. It was not an M and it seemed like it had a hatchback but it sat up real high and was luxury-sized. John knows all those little X5 and X7 and this one was not a normal one that you see all the time. But whoever this guy was, he did not live in Seattle. (RW141)

John peeped in the windows and there was nothing in there except in one of the bedrooms there were a bunch of children's toys. John felt sad for this guy because he obviously had a bunch of money, but he just got divorced and he wanted to see his daughter. His solution was to throw money at the problem and buy himself a $150.000 BMW to leave parked here for the rare occasions when he is in town to visit his kid. He had to be a young enough guy to have a three year old. He probably bought a house in this particular neighborhood because that is where his ex-wife was living and he wanted to be like ”Oh yeah? Well, check it out! I can buy a house in that neighborhood, too!” (RW141)

John was not sure if he had a very good feeling about him in addition to pitying him. The real estate agent said he might be interested in selling the house because he had only slept there one night during the last four months. John wondered if it was really possible that this house was built and lived in by its original owners for 60 years and then got sold three times in the first year before it came to John, the person who should have it. (RW141)

Unfortunately the owner was a real wheeler dealer kind of guy and wanted to make money on it. John knew he didn't like him! He got a tragedy in his life, he was trying to solve it by throwing money at it and now he thought he was going to sit on this house for four months, do nothing to it, and then flip it to make a big profit on it? The people who bought the house the first time sold it to him for basically the same price they had paid. They took a bath on the closing costs, he bought it for $5000 more and now he wanted to make $50.000 on it! (RW141)

This put John in a weird situation and the last two days he was walking around, going ”Okay, it is the house. I haven't seen a better house. I want this house. I'm ready to get this house. If I sell my house I can get this house, but I don't like this guy and I don't want to give him the satisfaction, but I don't want to wheel and deal him either!” (RW141)

The guy is a dick and his real estate agent is a dick and John does not want to deal with dicks and he does not want to pay a lot more than they paid, but even at the inflated price the house would still be worth it because it was so clearly John’s house. (RW142)

John asked his real estate agent to make an offer, contingent on him selling his house, and "Let's move!” The bank was going to loan John half the money he needed, which was the best he was going to get as a professional podcaster and musician. The dick and his dicky real estate agent could accept John’s offer or they could say ”No! We are dicks! We are not going to deal with you just because!” (RW142)

Potential bathroom renovations on the new house (RW142)

A lot of the houses in the neighborhood John was trying to move to were owned by olds. The neighborhood was planned in the 1950s and not all houses there were cool old houses, but there were quite a few. A lot of the people who moved in there were still living there as 90 year olds and a lot of the bathrooms that John had seen in these houses had been slightly modified to accommodate the needs of someone in their 90s. 90 year olds do not typically want to climb in and out of a bathtub, but John is a bath person. The bathroom in the master bedroom of the house he wanted had no bathtub and only a shower, but John is also Home Handyman Guy!

There is nothing John would like more than to rip out an old bathroom and do 87% of the work of installing a new bathroom. What he is not going to do is get under the house and start moving pipes around, but stuff like tile work, cabinetry and wallboard is in his skill set, even electrical, except he would want that to meet inspection standards and an inspector is going to look at his electrical work and say ”Hmm, was this done by an enthusiastic amateur?” John would hire professionals to finish electrical and plumbing, but he would not just be going into a bathroom, make a sweeping gesture with his hand and say ”Contractor! Charge me $30.000!" He would get in there DIY!

He would have to do some tearing out in that bathroom and he would have to move a wall to really get what he needed in there. In the style of Mid-Century Modern, the master bedroom of the house he wanted had a door to the outside. John's current podcasting studio also had a door to the outside and John was accustomed to that. His current house not only had a front door and a back door, but it had other doors. This new house had four doors to the outside on the main floor and another one from the basement. John thought, and this would have never occurred to him before: ”Why don't I just put a hot tub in the backyard?”

All of this sounded very ambitious and expensive to someone like John with a very insecure income and who over the last year had been doing a lot of work that had not been compensated, in terms of other podcasts that have not paid very well or at all. Road Work does well! John's current house was appreciated. He bought it at a reasonable price and it has appreciated because Seattle exploded in price, but not necessarily in value! Seattle as a town got worse in value because you can't get anywhere anymore and it is full of people with banjos and people who have 14 different jars of moisturizer in their bathroom because they moisturize different parts of themselves with different products.

John having the movers at home (RL329)

At the end of March 2019 John called a couple of different service people and some of them came and some of them didn’t. There is a family of dudes from the Marshal Islands who have over the years been really great to call up anytime you need four really big guys to come and take apart an airplane or deal with a bull that got out of its pasture. They come in and reliably make a big problem go away.

Ben is the oldest of them and he claims that all these men are all his nephews. They were at John’s house, moving stuff around, but they are a little bit of a blunt instrument. It turns out you can be great at moving stuff around, but moving someone from one house to another requires a particular and different set of skills.

Good movers are tireless and usually pretty good at following orders. They think in three dimensions and everything is Tetris for them, which always shocks Merlin because he should have this skill. They can utilize the inside area of a couch to wind around a corner and put it up into the air to get up and down staircases. They do the most appalling things with being able to move things, which is absolutely mind-blowing, but you do have to provide very clear instructions. They are essentially Bullmastiffs in jump suits!

John’s bull wranglers did not master all of that. Yesterday when moving stuff around they got a couple of holes in the walls, a hole in a door and a hole in the ceiling, but John might be responsible partly for the one in the ceiling. He didn’t discharge his weapon because he only uses bladed weapons! At one point they were moving stuff around and sheared the coaxial cable connection off the wall.

John getting his house staged (RL329, RW142)

In April of 2019 John was selling his house and it was the one time when he wanted people to know where he lives so they could spend their Internet money buying his house. He was hoping for three of them to get into a bidding war because then he would be able to fly out of there in a UFO made out of dreams. He would put his bathrobe off and put it on the buyer, he would take his sword off and hand it over to them and he would say ”Now you are the keeper of the play!” (RL239)

The realtors told John he couldn’t live in this room anymore because they were going to stage it to make it look like he lived there. Imagine a house where a better version of you lived! It is very flattering that they were using John’s stuff to stage it, albeit very selectively, because their general policy is ”Everything out!” and they have a warehouse full of stuff that they use to stage houses. In the end it looked amazing, but they wouldn't let him live anywhere. (RL239)

John was finally relegated to the last room he could possibly be in and they had given him until the following Thursday when they were going to transform that room into the master suite. All that was left in this room was a keyboard bench from a piano, a walking stick, the last bed that had not yet been turned into a model bed, a banjo made of a cigar box, and everything they would take a pass on. (RL239)

John had two cigar box banjos and they had used one of them to stage the house. They liked one better than the other and John had to feel bad for the one that they didn’t like because he feels bad for inanimate objects, like picking a shirt: How do all the other shirts feel, especially when it comes down to two? John is having a super-interesting time and he doesn’t know whether to call it stressed or not. This has been a weird month and a half! (RL239)

It was a pretty stressful time, but nothing good happens if you don't break some eggs! As he came back from the JoCo Cruise, the same realtors who had sold his mother's house (see RW68) and his daughter's mother's house (see RL292) were selling his house. They were somewhat trusted friends and while John was gone they were able to stage it with his own things. (RW142)

John has seen a lot of houses put on the market that were staged with weird furniture and he was flattered that they wanted to stage his house with his own furniture and his own artwork on the walls because he is a hipster and they were trying to sell to hipsters. ”The snowshoes above the fireplace are amazing!” - ”Really? Why, thank you!” and John told them a long boring story about how those were John’s dad's snowshoes and their eyes glazed over immediately. (RW142)

John was living in his own home with his own things, but it was unnaturally staged like a set, just like being married! If John were married, this is what his house would look like: No robots, no candlesticks, and his dad's ashes wouldn't be under the piano anymore and John would have no way of knowing whether his dad was playing along or not. (RW142)

A lot of his stuff got moved into his podcasting studio and part of his stress came from the fact that they wanted to get all of it out, which was not going that well. John would have to break the whole studio down and rebuild it somewhere else in order to be able to continue broadcasting. (RW142)

Being willing to leave some things with the new owners (RW142)

A week from now John’s house could have a "For Sale" sign out in front of it and John’s house could languish on the market although it won't because it is very sexy with the snowshoes over the mantle. Some young hipster couple might say that they want this house with everything in it just the way it is.

For some of the stuff John would say ”You know what? Fine!” They could keep the dining room table, the chairs, the couch, they could even keep the piano although John's family has had that piano since he was a kid, but "Let go, let God! Aloha!" They could have the little drum kit, "Take it!" It is really just the artwork that they couldn't have, like the snowshoes or the American flag that John had made in 1976 when he was in second grade. He glued those stripes on himself with Elmer's glue!

But who knows, if they are hipster enough, if they come in and he was wearing Stan Smith's and she had her hair in a kerchief, they were both wearing overalls and he was carrying a banjo under his arm, John would be ”Okay! You know what? You guys need help! Move into my house and you will see what true hipsterdom feels like!” - ”Oh, we were Millennials, we didn't even know how how deep it could go!”

They can't have John’s dad's ashes, and they are not going to want them. They could keep the tintype photograph of John that somebody made a couple of years ago because he always felt it would be weird to display a picture of himself. They could have it and put it on their wall and be like: ”Guess who used to own this house? King of the hipsters!”

Dan has sold four houses and for one of them he was pretty much in the same situation: They were doing a For Sale By Owner on it and Dan and his wife staged it themselves because they knew that someone who liked this particular style would come in and would be thrilled to have it. The second people who came in fell in love with the house and loved it so much that they wanted all of the furniture and they wound up getting half of it. They loved it, they were happy to get it, and Dan was glad he did not have to move it because he hated it!

This was the first house John was selling. He had only bought one house and now he was preparing to sell one and buy another. He was expanding his knowledge of the game on an hourly basis, he knew more than ever before, but it was excruciating and John didn't like any part of it. It is what you do! John has been living there for 12 years, which is a great amount of time to be in a house and Dan assumes he will be in his next one even longer.

It used to be that the only question for John was ”How am I going to stay off drugs this week?”, but now it was ”I got to clean out all this stuff out of here because maybe a month from now some kids with overalls and a mustache are going to be living in here!” If that was true John already loved them, he already felt like the guy needed to understand that the banjo was 2015 and it was time to move up to an actual guitar. John will even leave one there! Who knows? A month from now John could be living in another house where he will have a whole new set of problems and a whole new set of house questions.

John having to leave his house (RW143)

Eventually John got completely kicked out of his house. The week before everything got staged except for one last place where he could be, but then they staged it all around him and there was no place left for him. When he was leaving the house he couldn’t find his keys and nobody had an answer. They were not where they were supposed to be and they probably got staged somewhere.

Without any clear house key to get back into the house John ran over to the Montessori School where he was considering transferring his child (see RW142) and talked with the principal and the elementary school teachers. In order to be able to talk to Dan he raced from the Montessori School to his daughter's mother's house because he had moved his giant podcasting desk and chairs into her basement which had a very different reverb characteristic. He was sitting in a familiar chair at a familiar table in an unfamiliar environment.

This chair, this table, this paddle ball game, and this laptop computer were his home now, these were the only familiar things in his life. John had to leave the house because they had staged it to be photographed by a professional real estate photographer. They had to take those photographs and turn them into those magic real estate photographs where everything looks bigger and weirdly (inaudible) and that takes time.

There will be an interregnum when they put the listing together and make it go live until they start having open houses, at which point customers will be coming through the house to look at it to imagine themselves living in it and John will not be able to be there anymore, but in the week between now and then he fully intends to move back into his perfectly staged house and live like The Phantom Of The Opera until he will be instructed not to be there anymore. Ken Jennings offered him his guest room in the basement, but John feels like thats is part of Ken trying to get John to become a Mormon. ”Why don’t we go to church together?”

John making an offer on a project house (RW160)

When John first moved into the farm living all the way out at 100th street was pretty confusing. In 2018 John’s daughter's mother moved out to 200th, which was 100 more! How do you live at 200th? You might as well be in Olympia Washington or Vancouver British Columbia! But since then John got used to being at 200th. It is suburban, but it is still within the inner ring of a city.

He even found himself looking at 300th and he just couldn't get his head around living at 300th because it is two extra more hundred than the first time where he felt like he was too far away. At 300th there are plenty of places to live that are relatively inexpensive, but by the time you are living at 300th you could also just go a different direction and live on a farm.

John exploring the neighborhood and doing his due diligence

During the summer of 2019 John had been looking at houses very seriously and in the beginning of September a house came available that was not anything like what he was looking for, but it was crazy and intriguing with features that weren't on his list because he didn't even know he could have them.

In the spur of the moment he made an offer on this house. There was a crazy situation with the owners, there was some drama, there were a few fretful days, and they accepted John’s offer, but a few days later the craziness of this house started to sink in.

John is not usually somebody who makes an offer and two days later he says: ”Whoa, I didn't mean that!” Before he had made the offer he went around through the neighborhood, talked to about 10 different neighbors, and he went and sat on the lawn at 11:30pm and watched the stars, trying to get a vibe from the land.

Dan would also walk the neighborhood at night and do all this stuff before he would buy a house, but a lot of people will just look at it for 30 minutes in the daytime and know this is the one for them. Later you realize everything that really happens in the neighborhood when you weren't there. Dan made that mistake the first time.

Before John even went to the open house he had already walked all the streets of the neighborhood, he had walked from the house to the nearest public transit and back, he had walked to the nearest public park and he spent an afternoon sitting there talking to people.

Anytime he saw someone in their yard, working in their garage, or getting out of a car, he stopped and said in the friendliest way he could: ”Hey, how's it going? I am thinking about moving into this neighborhood. What can you tell me?” and before he even had toured the house he knew all about the Homeowner's Association, he knew that the neighbors all knew each other, and he knew that Bob thought that Cindy was very emotional because of what had happened with Tony.

John had driven up some driveways and had people come out of the house in response to sensors going off. They met him in the driveway in a ”Can I help you?” type of way. He tweeted about it the other day: The fact that he looks like he does, that he is a middle-aged white guy who is tall and strong and groomed means that he can literally drive up a driveway with a sign that says: ”Private property! No trespassing!”

John can drive up that driveway right up to the door of their house in the forest, get out of the car, and the person who comes out of the door takes a look at him and greets him warmly like: ”Can I help you?” - ”Yeah, I was just thinking about moving into the neighborhood!” - ”Oh, come on in! Have a cup of coffee!” That stuff is real!

Almost everybody else wouldn't try it because they knew they couldn't get away with it or they were afraid. John is not afraid. Even if they said: ”I am calling the cops!” - ”Great! I would like to find out what they have to say, too!” It is really ridiculous! By the time John made an offer on this house he knew everything about the neighborhood, he knew about the owner, he knew why they were selling, and he knew what the neighbors thought.

There was a prior approval offer on the house and they had to wait for that to clear and John's real estate agent was not sure if that buyer was going to go through, but within 24 hours John knew the name of that pre-approved buyer, talked to him about his plans, and discovered that he was not sincere about the house.

The house being one man's unfinished project

There are some real issues with the house, nothing crazy like replacing a furnace or a hot water heating system, but it needs a lot of work and John was excited about that work. Many houses in the neighborhood are heated by radiators that look like electric baseboard heaters, but have hot water pipes running through them, which was a style of heating at the time.

It is not forced air, but the furnace heats water and sends the hot water around the house. It works great and provides really nice even heat if it still works, but there are an extra couple of things that can go wrong including that there are pipes of hot water running all over your house.

The real problem with the house is that it does not have a master bath. The man who built it started to build his dream house, ran out of money, and then lived in it for 20 years having never finished his master bath or the front of the house. The windows never got trim put around them and are not sealed against the world.

John would be moving into someone else's unfinished project and he would be finishing it to his own taste, which is a great opportunity, but this was one man's dream house and some of the things can't be undone because they are just the way he designed the house.

When architecting a house on a blank piece of paper in the second half of the 20th century people sometimes said: ”What is the deal about right angles? Why is everybody still hung up on squares and shit? What if we just made it not square?”, but in almost every instance when you are building a house that is not square it is wrong in the long run.

Even in the 1980s people still said: "We are not going to build triangles anymore! What if every house had a big round bay window? Not those old-fashioned bay windows that are square on the sides, but a round tower out of glass blocks!” - ”Nobody wants to be in that! You can't furnish it or put a chair in it! All you can do is stand in it and wish it was square!”

If John lived in a Gaudí house in Barcelona he would feel differently, but in a lot of those Gaudí houses the furniture is built into the wall and you are meant to live there only as a caretaker. You are only passing through this life and the house will stand and you are just a shadow.

In a normal American house where you want to put some couches, chairs, and tables, the walls have to meet in corners. This guy had been a bachelor who said: ”What am I going to need more? An extra bedroom, or a completely unfinished master bath and walk-in closet that is unusable for 20 years? I am going to go with that!” You could gut it to the studs and redo it, but that would be insane!

John was trying to put himself into the story of this house: ”Can I live here? Whatever it is I am looking for when I live somewhere, can this be it?” It would have been a change into something utterly different than his old farmhouse and that was the point, but what are the boundaries? At what point can John see a real problem and just charge ahead because ”Damn the torpedoes!” and how is that different from a thing where he can see a real problem and he just dives straight into it and then it is a real problem for the rest of his life?

The owner accepting John's offer

The deal was fraught with emotion because the man who built the house died and had no next of kin other than his mother in her 90s. She was very emotional about having lost her son, she is keeping big bags of the kind of rice that he liked - not making all the greatest decisions - and the house is a personification of him.

Luckily she got some capable helpers in the neighborhood, the people John talked to on the street. Her lawyer has power of attorney, another guy over here is acting as her agent, and they are all just trying to help her. The house is too ramshackle, she can't live there anymore, but she didn't want to sell it and they were trying to get her to see that this was the time until they finally convinced her otherwise. This is all stuff you shouldn't know about a house you are buying, but John was wandering the streets at night.

They accepted his offer and now he is in a situation where the voices in his head have started to comment on his decision making process: ”If you go through with this transaction you have bought an enormous project! You are not going to just move in there and put your bags down and start a happy new life, but you are basically moving into someone else's unfinished dream and now you are the guy who is going to either find the money and the time and the patience to finish the bathroom or you are the one living in a house with no bathroom! You have to fix the windows, pave the driveway, and build a deck, a patio, and a path!”

The backyard is on a steep slope and it is a death trap. If you step out of the back windows and take 10 more steps you will tumble into a ravine. Nothing is done, it is just a crazy environment, and John is telling himself: ”What did you just do to yourself? This is not necessarily for what we set out to do!”

For a year and a half John had a list of the 10 things he wanted in a home and the list did not say: ”Pile of sticks that needs to be reworked by an architect and my imagination”, but the opposite: ”I would like a house with a new kind of discipline that I can live in without the howling sounds of unfinished projects!” Because John has been wandering the neighborhood and knew the story he also had the burden of this 95 year old woman who lost her son and who had to be convinced to sell his house.

Thinking about cancelling the offer

Within the real estate business there are all these milestones like: ”You have three days to do this and then after that you have six days to do that and if there is an inspection you have 11 days to do this and that…” and at any point along the way the buyer can say: ”Well, we looked at it and realized that the hot water heater is made out of glass and there were a lot of things that weren't revealed and we are canceling the sale!” John could cancel this sale and not have any repercussions.

Dan has owned 4-5 houses. Your offer is usually contingent upon an inspection or a review of other things. Dan actually canceled a homeowner deal once when they found a whole bunch of stuff that was wrong with the house. They just said there was too much wrong and that was it. For people who haven't bought a house this sounds logical, but you would be surprised how much stuff isn't logical when it comes to buying houses. One time they read the Homeowner’s Association documents that were very restrictive and Dan didn't like it so they canceled the deal.

You can always find a way, and in this case all you have to do is walk into the bathroom and go: ”Well, it says on the listing that it is a two bathroom home, but it is not!” There is only one bathroom and it looks like it was the bathroom in a home where construction had been happening for 20 years. It is a bathroom and it works, but it is trashed!

For the last 24 hours John has been pulling his hair for a lot of different reasons. He doesn’t like to enter into a contract with someone and then look for a reason to get out of it. If he had gone into the house and found that it was full of snakes he would have had no remorse about saying: ”This isn't what you represented it as!”, but the house was still the house he knew it was when he bought it, he just realized that maybe he made a blunder.

It is not a blunder in the sense that the house isn't worth the money, that it isn't intriguing or excellent, or that he couldn't turn it into a wonderful place, but the blunder is that John was seeking to buy a house to not do the thing he always does: ”Let me buy this unfinished broken thing for $5, bring it home, take it apart, and maybe I will turn it into a windmill or maybe this is the missing album or the unfinishedness and plotlessness of my life!”

Why would John do this to himself again after months of meticulous work to avoid it happening? He feels bad about reneging a deal based on that realization! Most people would probably say: ”People renege deals all the time, don't buy a house that is going to torment you just based on some feeling of obligation you have to a 95 year old woman you have never met. It is not your fault her son died!”

She doesn't have a next of kin either, she doesn't need money, and apparently she got other properties. She should go live in a home and eat jello. No child should ever die before their parent, but if you live to be 95 you are taking a risk. He died tragically, but he was probably in his late 70s.

John was taking responsibility for her emotions, he was worried that his real estate agent wasn't going to respect him or that his family was starting to roll their eyes at him, and a big part of him did want to move into this crazy house, start working on the unfinished bathroom, and trying to devise a way so that people can walk out on the back porch and not tumble to their deaths.

The whole buying and selling of houses is an emotional nightmare unless everything goes right which it never does and it can't possibly! At the time John was living in the spare bedroom of his daughter's mother's house and there was a whole other voice telling him: ”Buy a house so that you can get out of here!” Living there was not bad, it was great, but John was living out of a duffel bag!

Buying a house is a long-term commitment because you are going to be there for a long time. It has to be just right! It is not like an apartment where you can get a one year lease and if it is not right you move out. Everything is on you! If you want to fix something then it is on you doing it, getting the supplies and figuring out how to do it, and you have to spend the time on it.

John wanting to have a basement

John's farmhouse was built without a basement, a decision made in 1907, and the lack of a basement became a ghoul that wandered the house rattling its chains in the middle of the night because John would sit there and say: ”If I had a basement I would be down there right now sorting through these old cufflinks, but as there isn't a basement I have to sort these cufflinks on the dining room table.”

The problem is that John will not finish a cufflink sorting project on the same day and he knows it, and after he went halfway the project is going to remain on the dining room table for an indefinite period. If John had a basement this could be down in the basement and the dining room table would remain clean.

After a while the basement started to exist in his mind and he knew exactly what it looked like. The fact that it wasn't there became a phantom limb syndrome. It felt like he had had a basement that was taken away and he could still feel it, but he couldn't get there.

He knew where the door to the basement would have been, he knew what it would look like, he knew how he had it arranged, how the lock on the door was going to be, but it didn't exist. It was never going to exist! That house will never have a basement! John doesn’t know if that is a peculiar kind of insanity and maybe people do this all the time, but he felt so acutely that he needed a basement and it was gradual over time.

When John started looking for houses one of the first three things on his list was: ”Must have a basement, preferably a basement that included some unfinished space!” It is nice if the basement has a little bedroom or a little TV room, but John would like a basement that has unfinished space so that he can have a work room, a place to sort some cufflinks while sitting on a stool in the middle of the night where he is not in anybody's way, nobody can hear him, and he can leave it and close the door and his house isn't an insane asylum.

John rejected great houses in his search because there wasn't a basement or because the basement was turned into a spa or he couldn't use it for his purpose. The house that he made an offer on does not have a basement at all! The hot water heater is in the garage! It does have considerable drama in that it is like being inside a barn. It is basically just a giant room with tall ceilings and you can see to the other side of the house.

From the unfinished bathtub you can look through the open bathroom door through the house to the outside. It is a very big raw open space that could be made into anything, but it is not in Pioneer Square or Capitol Hill in Seattle like the warehouse loft where he lived in his 20s (see Seattle Living), it is in the suburbs on a little plot of land with neighbors around it who look out for one another and the guy next door has a nice polished Airstream in his driveway.

It is not everybody's cup of tea, it was built by this one guy and it really felt like a bachelor house. It did not have any gentility at all, but a guy lived there and now he sold it to another guy. John's daughter, who grew up very resilient to aesthetic change, walked around and said: ”Here is my room! The first thing I am going to do is paint it pink and put a flower on the door. How do you like them apples?” - ”Well, yeah. All right!”

Having to make a decision

As soon as John was done recording this episode he got thrust into a real moment of decision. If he called his agent and said: ”I am going to pull out of this deal!”, will he miss this house? Will he regret it? Will he carry the burden of picturing this little old lady sobbing in the arms of her lawyer at having to go through the whole nightmare of putting the house for sale again? They shouldn't have marked it as pending as fast as they did, but waited a day!

Also, was John going to throw himself back into Mr. Guy Who Looks At Houses All Day? It becomes its own form of pornography! People get addicted to the kind of looky-loo covetousness of real estate listings and open houses until they are doing it for fun. There are television shows about House fixer-uppers and it becomes almost a sex substitute.

John is not looking for houses because he needs a sex substitute, but he needs a place to live. Buying a house is his only method for accumulating wealth so that when he is 80 he is not destitute. He doesn’t want to just take the money that he sold his house for and live in an apartment for a year, he doesn’t want to buy a cool car, and he doesn’t want to travel the world. ”Why not just go to Tahiti for a year?” - ”No!”

If he didn't reinvest the money he made, then he would be utterly failing to play the capitalism game correctly as someone with no retirement who pays for his own insurance. The royalty payments from his music were down in the single digits and not enough to live on. Where was the money going to come from? Would podcasting still be a thing in ten years time? It may be the number one form of media in ten years or everybody will have moved on to something else. John thought that Rock’n’Roll would always be a thing and it bumbles along, but (its importance surely has changed).

Think of all the people who thought that programs would always be coded in Basic! There have to be a million examples in computer maths of people who didn't keep up and who ended up being experts in something that nobody uses anymore. John can't say: ”I have found podcasting and I will just keep podcasting until the day I die!”, unless he will die in the next five years, which hopefully he won’t do!

Dan’s advice

It doesn't sound like John is committed either way right now, but it sounds like he is in a state of limbo, which is the worst part of it because a lot of people want to employ semi-woo-woo problem solving techniques, like put both options in a bag and set it on fire and whichever one you jump to save is the one you always wanted.

Dan is not one to give unsolicited advice or even regular advice, but he is good in doing a project and saying: ”I have a project, and I am going to do this thing, I planned for it, I studied it, and I feel comfortable about it!” However, he does not like to have to do projects in his home, the place that is supposed to be his sanctuary, your home base from which life springs.

If there are 50 things to do, some of them small, but some of them kind of major, then this should only be your second home, your project home. You have another home base already and you go over there on the weekend to refinish the deck and next week you are redoing the bathrooms and if you don't get to it this week you get to it next week. There is no real rush! It is your hobby, the thing you enjoy doing, and after a few years of work you did it, the country home is done and you can finally furnish it and go and stay there.

To Dan that is the only way that he could approach something like this. He has been in a project house, a 1940s bungalow style home that had been cosmetically redone just enough to sell it. The house flipper would buy three or four houses on the street and cosmetically redo them to create a sense of: ”Hey look, maybe a new little neighborhood is springing up here! This street is really improving! We should buy a house here on this street!”, which they did, and then everybody who had one of these little homes had tons of problems because everything the flippers had done was make it look good and the new owners wound up having to redo cabinetry, plumbing, and electrical. They had to refinish the deck and porch and other things!

It is one thing to have a project, but it is another to have a project that is happening while you are living in it and trying to conduct your life around it. Although John goes on trips quite a bit and sees concerts every single day, doing all this cool stuff, he also works from home. His home base is not just where he sleeps and does his laundry and prepares some of his meals, but he works there and spends a lot of time there. He is not leaving it at 8:00am and getting back at 7:00pm, but it is surrounding him. For Dan that would cause a feeling of frustration and anxiety. Sometimes it is not as much of a money thing as it is a time thing. Finishing that tub is not a 30 minute thing, that is not folding laundry, but that takes days!

Dan’s uncle was a person who would be inventing something, building something, repairing something, or redoing something in every spare minute. They never had anyone out to their house to repair anything, fix anything, or upgrade anything, but he did it all himself because he could. He was an electrical engineer and he believed that paying someone else to do something he could do was blasphemous, even if it was well outside of his wheelhouse. For example he retiled the entire downstairs himself and it took him weeks because he would do it after work and all weekend long.

Dan could see himself saying: ”I am going to hit all the tile shops until I find a really good deal on the tile that I want and I am going to transport it to my house myself in the truck!”, but when it comes to actually laying the tile, that kind of work really sucks! You are on your hands and knees with your back hurting, you have to saw the tile and measure it perfectly and it is just not fun.

That is something way best left to the pros, even though you could do it. Most people could do it. John might even encounter a lot of stuff that will surprise him: ”I pulled this plank of wood up and underneath it was a problem that I then had to fix!” Dan is worried for John. It might be the perfect house for him, but maybe the state of it isn't what he needs!

John feeling under a lot of pressure and not being able to talk about it to anyone

After John got off the phone with Dan he drove across town to master the Western State Hurricanes album and to go to the pharmacy because he was out of medication. Then he had to come home and make the decision about this house and one of the things that would be nice about real estate is that if you found a place that interested you, you could stop time for five days and not be instantly in a competitive war with all the other buyers in the world who are also being manipulated by real estate agents who live according to a medieval guild of arcane rules in a strange Life and Death real estate agent world.

John is under a lot of pressure, but it is not even an extremely sympathetic position to be in: ”I don't know which house to buy!” A lot of his friends wish they had this problem! So often we feel like if our problem doesn't rank in the top tier of global problems that we don't have a right to feel bad and people are saying all the time: "I know it is a first world problem, but blank blank blank blank” Not really! It is actually your problem, it is a problem that you are having and you should be able to have problems and not have to apologize for global inequality, or apologize for the fact that not everybody has the same problems. This is a real problem for John!

Even among his closest friends no one is really interested in hearing about it. It is not a thing where you call up and say: ”I am having trouble with this girl…” and people go: ”Oh, let me tell you man!”, but John is having trouble about a real estate transaction and he only has four friends who would even be vaguely interested. They are going to say what Dan just did, which is: ”Well, it could be the house for you and I hope if it is you get it, but if it is not the house for you and it isn't the right one I hope you don't get it!” What else can you say?

It was iternally agonizing because John was making a decision about not just where he was going to live, but where his life was going to take place, which is a significant decision according to criteria that he is just inventing. He could live in this house just fine, frankly he could live here in the guest-room of the house where he is living right now. He could live here for 15 years and everything would not just be fine, but if he lived here in the guest-room he would be for all intents purposes in the lap of luxury!

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