RL102 - The Birkenstock Point

This week, Merlin and John talk about:

The Problem: John thought he had more coffee, referring to him having people stay over at his house and not being in control of all of his supplies.

The show title refers to an ear in the 1980s when Mountain Bikes were invented and everybody was wearing Birkenstock.

Raw notes
The segments below are raw notes that have not been edited for language, structure, references, or readability. Please do not quote these texts directly without applying your own editing first! These notes were not planned to be released in this form, but time constraints have caused a shift in priorities and have delayed editing draft-quality versions to a later point.

Running out of things in the house, Seltzer-water (RL102)

John thought he had more coffee than he had. One of the things about having people stay over at your house is that you are not any more in charge of every aspect of your stores. When he had The Gamechangers up there (see RL47), at some point after that weekend he went into the pantry, thinking he had x number of certain items, most coffee and bacon, but it was all gone, like locusts had come through and he felt like Richard Gere (in the movie Days of Heaven) and should have just started a fire in his house and burned them all. Like Elizabeth Taylor: You open up your closet, expect to see all these beautiful gowns and underpants and it is just moths laughing at you.

Instead of coffee he found a freezer full of 4 gallons of ice cream that he got as leftovers from a birthday party. God never closes a door without opening some ice cream. Merlin doesn’t like running out of things and it means a lot to him to always have one in the chamber. He has been out of his Sodastream tank for a while and has been lazy because you have to trade in your empties, each one of which weighs a few pounds, so he has fallen back into his old ways and got 12-packs of cans which his wife does not approve of because he does drink more than a 12-pack of those a day.

John remember’s Merlin’s previous can era, where Merlin ended up with 6-7 cans with some carbonated water in them laying around that loose their carbonation pretty fast and now they are just pop cans full of water. Merlin usually slams a whole can pretty quick and then start another one which he then forgets about. John understands slamming a can of Seltzer water if you are just about to get into a burp fight with someone, but otherwise it seems like the opposite of what Seltzer is good at. Merlin thinks it feels so good because it burns, like drinking beer. He started drinking Seltzer more around the time he stopped drinking beer. He used to drink a lot of beer. Seltzer is refreshing and even when he goes up in the middle of the night to urinate he will have a Seltzer and he throws the can against the wall and wakes everybody up, because: ”Fuck you!”

Grateful Dead, Jerry Garcia going behind his amp into a cloud of smoke, Birkenstock (RL102)

John was fortunate enough to see the Grateful Dead live 3 times in the late 1980s because by the early 1990s he was already transitioning after Touch of Grey spoke to him. He couldn’t afford Birkenstocks, they were expensive and all the cool kids had them for that one summer of 1988. Both Birkenstock and Mountain Bikes became popular that same summer. Before 1988 John had never even heard of a Mountain Bike and if you wanted to ride your bike off-road you got a big BMX bike, but all of a sudden Mountain Bikes were invented and everybody was wearing Birkenstocks, but John couldn’t pay $90 for a pair of sandals. He didn’t have any money for either of those things and he was getting left behind.

This was also the summer where everybody was wearing Ray Ban Aviators, not Wayfarers, and John got nothing, so he decided to see the Grateful Dead whenever he could, just to try and even the playing field. Jerry Garcia would in the middle of a solo walk around behind his amp, the solo would keep going, and from behind the amp there would be a cloud of smoke like they release when the pope is chosen and you would think he had spontaneously combusted and he would come back out, the solo never stopped during all that time. John doesn’t know what happened behind that amp, but he thinks about it still. He probably went into a John Travolta bubble boy tent and all the drugs are in there and he infuses them through his skin.

John has never owned a pair of Birkenstocks even to this day.

Everybody suddenly needing an SUV, Macramé, crafts (RL102)

In 1999 suddenly everybody needed a Ford Bronco SUV and people act like it has always been this way. They can’t afford a Hummer, so they needed to get a Bronco. What are you doing with that? Fully 60% of the vehicles on the road seem to be SUVs. Every car make has an SUV. It is really infuriating because they are terrible cars and bad trucks. A lot of them have never been in 4-wheel drive in their entire life. Merlin calls that phenomenon Macramé. What is happening? Why do we all of a sudden have Macramé and why is it suddenly something everybody is doing and not acting like it is weird that everybody got jute?

Macramé has a special place in John’s heart. How would you otherwise suspend a terrarium in a giant glass globe from the ceiling in your living room? John has a use case, but that is probably not how most people do it. Merlin’s paternal grandmother was a crafty person her whole life. She had an area of the utility room and she made Christmas ornaments, Decoupage, every single one of the things that you see people make in the last 50 years and she was good at it. Not scrap-booking, that is just hoarding with a trip to Michaels. John’s whole house is a scrap book.

Every once in a while John’s mom will divest herself of another box that is keeping her from being able to fly, and John will open it and sometimes it contains an item of incredible lace or super-detailed needle work that would never be able to buy at any price and says that her grandmother or her great-grandmother made that, and John is just imagining the skill involved in the patriarchy training the women to be that involved in such a useless task so they don’t have political power. You have to keep their hands busy, otherwise they are going to call meetings.

1960s nostalgia (RL102)

It is very difficult to explain to young people the moment in 1988 where the nostalgia for 1968 reached its apogee. During the summer of 1988 we relived the summer of 1968 except dumber, lamer, and shittier in every respect. Merlin was a fake Marxist, fake hippie and fake Punk Rock at the time, but he was a happy guy who was heavily invested in what you could very loosely call alternative culture. At his school there were scientists of hippies. The Harmonic Convergence was coming and it was science for hippies, some big shit was going to go down.

1990 is going to make 1970 look like 1980 (Dennis Hopper quote from the movie Flashback, see RL71, John has a hard time remembering the exact quote and from what movie it was) The movie came out in that one year (1990) when John went to see every movie. The movie 1969 (that came out in 1988) with Winona Ryder and Robert Downey Jr., the junkie who plays the superhero now (Iron Man) made John tear up as Crosby, Stills & Nash’s Wooden Ships played and they went into their Volkswagen Bus and went out across America.

John was being spoon-fed 1960s nostalgia and he was allowing it to be his own youth. He was 20 and he was looking at this movie about 20-year olds from 20 years before, weeping that he didn’t have a Vietnam to be mad about, and that lasted until Grunge, sadly. There was a sense of the 1960s being a shadow of John’s generation’s youth, they were laboring under a 1960s cloud. John was a hippie, and what the fuck was he looking for? Partly it was that the 1960s generation never produced anything after the 1960s, but were stuck in a complete retro-nostalgia trip about themselves.

Music of the 1970s (RL102)

In a way the 1960s lasted until 1990 in the same frozen state of expectations. It was enough time for the Baby Boomers to come into purchasing power and political power right when the 1960s nostalgia should have gone away. All through the 1970s most of these people were really into buying HiFi stereo systems, John is just basing this on old copies of Oui Magazine. In 1980 the average Baby Boomer was 30 years old and they were taken by surprise by Punk Rock, New Wave, and Disco, which didn’t involve them and wasn’t about them, so even at 30 years old that generation started to turn back and circle the wagons, which is the beginning of when you start to see: ”Well, really nothing ever happened after the 1960s! 1968 was the peak!”

At every point along the way you look back 10 years and go: ”Boy, things really sucked 10 years ago!” and 10 years after that you say: ”Wow, things were amazing 20 years ago!” They talked so much shit about the music of the 1970s in the late 1980s/early 1990s and everyone accepted the basic premise that the 1970s were the worst decade for music and it could only be enjoyed ironically. When the Have a Nice Day collection came out that is full of AM Radio hits that Merlin loved as a kid and still really likes today it was all really ironic from a remove. When Deee-Lite got popular, House music was starting to get big, and there was pre-raving, those massive dance parties were influenced by a 1960s vibe. The first record by De La Soul (3 Feet High and Rising) was graphically and philosophically very 1960s, it was the daisy age (one song is called D.A.I.S.Y. Age).

In 1992 clothes from 1972 looks so preposterous and you would see Susanna Hoffs ironically wearing bellbottoms in a video or the Deee-Lite video had a lot of fun with the iconography, but stuff from 1972 looks timeless today compared to what people were wearing in 1992. Watch an early Seinfeld! The 1990s is so much more 1980s than the 1980s ever were. Now there is Normcore, but Merlin thinks that has got to be a prank, like artisanal toast. People are wearing Mock Turtlenecks. John read a couple of articles about it and wondered if this is real, but he met some kids who were rocking not just Cosby-sweaters, but to the next level. Scott Simpson was ahead of this all along, he was wearing Mock Turtlenecks before it was uncool.

John still feels a little bit of residual resentment about the way the urine-smell of the 1960s was all over the music of the late-1980s, and that is why he will always be Grunge.

The way the 1960s subculture looked back on itself and the way that drugs had freed their mind and what separated them from the squares, that whole division, was probably pretty poignant in 1962-64: ”We are doing drugs! No-one else has ever even heard of them, we are really outside!”, but by the time the mass-culture got ahold of drugs it was just: ”Meh, alright, you are a bunch of spoiled kids” When John was 17/18 years old throughout the culture the Baby Boomers were winking between them, like ”Remember the shit we saw? Remember the drugs and the times and all the sex?” and at 17 John was perceptive of sub-text he wanted to do the drugs and have the sex and run away in a Volkswagen Bus and protest the war. Ronald Reagan could stand in for 1950s suburban culture they were rebelling against.

The one regret John has at not being Punk is that it legitimately was a subculture of his time that he could have participated in more actively and it could have felt like it belonged to him. Instead he rejected Punk for a handful of valid reasons and he was sampling from a buffet of other American cultures, none of them belonged to him, and they were all lies. He feels a little bit ashamed about the time between 1987-91, that he went to the Grateful Dead, not because of the music, and he wasn’t looking for a party, but he went there looking for enlightenment and that seems idiotic now.

Merlin felt that way seeing U2 in 1985, they were transcendent in a lot of ways. In the charts there was John’s beloved Phil Collins, Whitney Houston, Billy Ocean, Sade, and they were singing about Martin Luther King and that seemed very important to Merlin. He understands more about stagecraft today than he did then, and that is probably part of what allowed John to enjoy the Miley Cyrus thing (see RL98) because now that he is officially an old man he is allowed to go to things and say: ”How did they do that? That must have been expensive!” She is in a lawsuit because one of the guys who worked on the tongue got injured.

Merlin’s poetry professor (RL102)

Merlin’s poetry professor at New College in Sarasota was Mac Miller, one of his all-time favorite professors and his sponsor for most of his time. He had a really complicated life. Even as a full professor at a Florida university you are not making that much money, his mom required total care and lived with him, his developmentally disabled son lived with him some of the time, and he taught at other places at the same time. He went to Princeton and was one of the first professors at the school, a great guy that everyone at the school remembers.

You could tell how stressed he was and he was always smoking, even in class, which was the style of the time, and he smoked the shit out a cigarette like Matthew McConaughey, each one was a conjugal visit. He would also bring a 12-pack of beer to class and you never saw him with a beer in his hands, but you would hear him opening the can and by the time you looked up he had already crushed the can.

You could tell when he got really stressed out because he would light a second cigarette when the first one was still burning, and in a couple occasion, and these were the days when he said: ”Let’s sit here and go through the pile of what everybody did wrong today!” and he would get a third cigarette lit and that is when you just sat very quietly because you knew it was going to be a tough class. He told Merlin: ”That is called pathetic fallacy! A rose can’t have an angry thorn, it literally doesn’t make any sense!”

New College in Sarasota, John looking for a similar experience at Gonzaga, wishing for a mentor (RL102)

This school was such a little funky petri dish in Sarasota Florida, there were 520 students in the entire college, and Merlin knew at least the first name of every person who went to this school and he had talked to well over a majority of them, probably 80% because he was an RA (Resident Assistant) for a year. He went through periods where he was barefoot for a while, and that is something you could do at that school. Even at the time he was aware that all the campus cops were by and large retired New York City police officers who had moved to Florida and they got all fat and worked at this college and protected them from the community, they didn’t bust them except when they were egregious and dicks.

It was strange to have 4 years in that environment at that time. Merlin just looked up the movie The Big Chill and it came out in 1983, that was the beginning of the response to New Wave. Those characters were in their early 30s and they were already getting back to the reunion. That was 31 years ago! That is bananas! Merlin tries to leaven this by remembering that his experience was very different and for him it really was that first month in Haight-Ashbury before the heroin arrived, it was a really amazing environment.

The parties on the weekends, the mix-tapes that really were a hit were White Lines (by Duran Duran), Talking Heads, Scratch Perry, a crazy mix of music that he had never heard in his entire life. Then you might hear Institutionalized (by Suicidal Tendencies), which nobody wanted to dance to. It was a lot of hippies listening to Reggae and Hip Hop, a lot of people from New York who came to the school and brought this culture with them. Merlin learned about Def Jam artists around the same time. That 4-year period was such a great time for him, even though it was tumultuous like it is for everybody in their early 20s. Then he thinks about what it would like to go somewhere where you had a ton of weed all the time, outside the terrarium of his school, and it scares the shit out of him.

John had never heard of the New College of Sarasota Florida, which sounds amazing, but the alternative ones he was aware of were Reed (Portland, Oregon), Santa Cruz (California), Colorado College (Colorado Springs), and there are the preppier ones like Colby (Waterville, Maine) that are still small, your classic liberal arts colleges like Antioch (Yellow Springs, Ohio), a little constellation of schools that intrigued John, and Reed was probably the one that he imagined himself at the most. The combination of smallness and exclusiveness, they were expensive, they were places where young people could go and really explore, and the adults that were in charge thought that was exactly their mandate.

John could not reach any of those places and he was basically out in the world. Gonzaga University was also small, but it was a place for young Catholic people to meet each other and get married before the graduate. The compromise that all Jesuit and all Catholic colleges make is that Catholicism is wide-spread and diverse enough that half the population are always just affluent practicing Catholics, but not real thumpers about it. It is not at all like going to a conservative Christian university. If you want to go to Notre Dame and be a real grind and spend all day in chapel they are certainly happy to accommodate you, but those places are really a place to learn to drink in an adult way, and to learn to be a polite wealthy alcoholic and to meet and marry a respectable member of your same order, to find a mate of your same creed, and obviously get a good education.

At Gonzaga there was a house where the Jesuits lived and a lot of them taught the classes, but they are having relationships with each other that are their primary relationships, on-again-off-again-relationships with God, so there wasn’t a sense of: ”This is a giant sandbox where we let these kids discover the world!”, but if you wanted to discover the world they had God there that was available if you were philosophical. If you weren’t philosophical you weren’t encouraged to be philosophical. The basketball team was what most of the students cared about.

This was probably an experience that was common to every small college in America. John was looking for an experience than the one Merlin was describing at New College, and making it for himself with a small group of friends out of whatever pieces they could find, which meant they all climbed into a car and drove down to Riverfront Park in Spokane and found some guy on the street that was selling acid and half the time it was just paper dipped in arsenic and the other half it was the most amazing acid you ever had in your life and how the hell did a guy on the street in Spokane have that stuff?

They would take acid, sit by the river, watch the water, and think to themselves: ”Wow, we are changing!”, not just internally, but somehow through this process they were going to make the world a better place, but John doesn’t know how. They were not doing anything but taking drugs, but somehow that was supposed to make the world better. Somehow John’s personal consciousness being changed was an act of resistance and political activism. Past a certain very brief threshold it is none of those things, but John didn’t have a guide, the only mentor he had was television and mass culture, trying to understand what counterculture was just by watching its reflection in the glasses of mass culture.

If John had ever met a 30-year old Punk Rocker who had said: ”Hey man, I know that this seems really stupid to you, but there is more to it than that. Come with me and let me show you a couple of things!”, or a 30-year old anything, it could have been someone who runs a video store. John never had that. Some of that was luck of the draw, and maybe he was personally unappealing to 30-year olds when he was 20. To whatever degree that gesture of taking a young person under your wing even for a moment and saying: ”I see where you are! Read this book!”

The only exchanges like that he was having were either with peers or with much older adults, but nobody who was helping initiate him into the simultaneous culture that was happening beneath and beside the visible culture. It took John many years to wend his way through these corridors, find it himself, and feel like a member of it himself.

Mistakenly getting off a freight train in Missoula and talking to a student about Jesus, looking for meaning (RL102)

One time John had hopped a freight train and it pulled into Missoula and stopped and John was sitting on the train and he didn’t understand how freight trains worked, this was after him pitching his tent in a dump (see RL25), he was learning, and he was successfully choosing freights that took him where he wanted to go and he was able to pick the train, having a general sense of its destination and get on it in more or less a safe way. The train sat in the yard for 10-12 minutes and his brain started turning, telling him he must have gotten on the wrong train and this train was just going to Missoula and now it is done. He was sitting in the hot sun, cowering hidden on a flat car full of beams and he should get off this train and find a better one, he was more anxious than he was knowledgable.

He jumped off the train and ran across the yard to find some shelter and some shade and immediately the train started moving and headed out to Denver or wherever it was John was trying to go. If he had just stayed on it for another 2 minutes he would have been out of here and on his way and now he was stuck in Missoula and had to go through this whole process of find another train and getting out of there again.

John walked into town and he knew somebody who was going to school there and the first thing he would do in a strange town was go to the college and try and find the common area, the dining hall, or the student center, and he would find a couch there and tuck his bag behind the chair and wait for something to happen. More often that not something did happen and someone would come along and ask: ”Can I help you?” - ”Oh, yeah, I am looking for this person!” and 85% of the time no matter where he was, even at Rutgers, the first person would say: ”Yeah, I know them! Come with me!” and if they didn’t know whom John was looking for they would offer to ask another guy who knew.

John was sitting in the student center of the University of Montana and a guy came over and sat down next to him: ”Hey, how is it going?” - ”Good!” and right away he started to talk to John about Jesus. John had been through it 1000 times already, he had been through every process, the process of: ”I am actually going to sit and talk to this guy about Jesus!” or ”I am going to bait this guy and act like a dummy and have fun with him!” or ”I am going to tell him to fuck off!”, he had done everything that a young person could do and now didn’t have a strategy with this guy and he was tired and he was feeling lost, so he was just going to engage this guy like a human being, he was not going to try and mind-meld or mind-fuck with this guy.

There was a simultaneous narrative going on in John’s head, asking himself if he was vulnerable to this right now. What would happen if he would just abandon his cynicism and just went with Jesus? What would that feel like? John was conscious of being able to make that choice. Up to that point his history as a child of his own parents, his history of inhabiting the identity that he had spent his whole life building would have always prevented him from taking someone like that seriously. Of course he was also asking himself the questions based on their received narrative: Is this what it means to have your heart opened? Is this what it feels like when God touches you and opens your heart? He was feeling as disposed to this philosophy as he was to any philosophy at that point.

John had a very nice couple of hours with this guy who was really excited about his faith and it seemed just as reasonable to John as anything. He spent probably 6 months after that walking around, still feeling like Christianity was a cult, but wondering whether or not he was a potential cult member. Maybe this was what he should do? Maybe God was speaking to him? The reason that particular time made that resonate with him was that he was very starved for meaning and had been for years and had sought meaning everywhere he went and he had found none.

None of the philosophies of all the people he admired were revealed to really be philosophies at all. They were faking it till they made it, or their philosophy was too general, there did not appear to be any meaning. When John was a teen or his early 20s, the idea was that there was meaning that was discoverable and it was just hidden from us because we couldn’t handle it or weren’t smart enough to detect it. At a certain point he realized that there doesn’t appear to be any meaning, it isn’t a question of there being a plan that we don’t see, it is really just that every one of us is doing their own thing and it only looks like a plan later. John didn’t want that, but he wanted there to be a secret and he wanted to be both smart enough and also sensitive enough to be the person who was capable of hearing it and knowing it.

At that moment and for a while after that John was open to people proselytizing what he had already rejected. He gave it a new hearing, and that was the last time he considered that there was really a plan. He felt very vulnerable and if one more person had come up to him and put their arms around his shoulder and had seemed smart and funny and gentle, because the other option for him tonight had been sleeping in a box car, he would have had Hare Krishna dinner with them. On the other side of that he never again really believed that there was any kind of orchestration to life and he was never vulnerable again to being brought into a fold or accepting a doctrine.

Merlin notes that John is generally disinclined to go into things where he is expected to check out intellectually, stop asking questions, and be a good German. He might have been 10 times more disappointed and enraged because he might have realized something fundamentally hypocritical about it where he needed to get a little bit closer to the center to see it. That is what happened to him working in non-profits. He went back East on that same trip and ended up getting a job working at the National Environmental Law Center, a Ralph Nader organization connected to the Public Research Interest Group and he spent 4 months really engaged in the idea that there were Liberal organizations that were paying for lobbyists and that lobbying the government for liberal causes was God’s work.

John was successful at it, he was promoted within the organization and he got up to the point where he realized a) the people who were running this organization were all young lawyers from Ivy League schools. John was 21 and they were all probably 27, but they were Yale-ies and they believed they knew what was right and they believed they knew what they had to do and they were working within the system. John felt a certain amount of class resentment because although they were older than John was, they weren’t that much older. They were smart, beautiful, and rich, and they were politically on the correct side and they were devoted to the cause, and all of that was very appealing from a distance, it must be what is hanging out with Ronan Farrow looks like: He ticks all the boxes.

John was sitting in a position where he was conscious of the money they were raising and he started asking where the money went. He wasn’t in a real position to see nuts and bolts where the money went, but they were raising a lot of money by sending an army of canvassers out, knocking on people’s doors and saying: ”The Clear Air Act is under assault! We need your help, and here is where your money is going to go!” to support the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act, but that money all got put into the same undifferentiated pot, and from that pot they paid lawyers and lobbyists who took congressmen out to dinner.

The disconnect between the righteousness of those kids on the street who were going door to door: ”You got to help! Please, Mr. and Mrs. America! Write a $50 check, we need your help!” and then you trace that $50 check and it ends up as steaks and cigars. The response to John was: ”Listen, do your job! You don’t need to know about this stuff!”, which made it feel like a cult. John supported everything that this organization did, he admired everybody involved, but the moment he recognized himself as a cog and recognized that his own idealism and enthusiasm for this was just a thing they were utilizing to accomplish their goals which he wasn’t really privy to. He was never going to be invited into that room, and he felt that this wasn’t for him either.

Reflecting back he recognized that he wasn’t ever meant to be a member in that way and what he really missed was a mentor at some point early on, saying: ”Don’t look for what you are looking for in these things, kid!” You are not going to find it in Punk Rock or in Ralph Nader’s organization or in a corporate environment. There are some people who don’t belong. But there isn’t a mentor like that, but the people who don’t belong discover that path on their own and that it sucks.

John meeting a guy on a ferry boat who encouraged him to cut all ties (RL102)

One time John was on a boat crossing from Morocco to Italy (see RL238), and he was at a point in his life where he was considering giving it all away, abandoning his life and his history and transitioning into a new existence following his own footsteps. He was going to walk off this boat and walk into a new life where he did not have a past. This was a long time before he walked across Europe, and he was not going back to America. If he was going to America again, it would be ”going to” America, not ”back” to America, and he was going to become a citizen of the world. He was sitting on the boat, thinking about what it would take to cut all those ties.

John is not constitutionally a tie-cutter, he loved his family, and one of his characteristics is nostalgia and a warm feeling for nostalgia, which is one of the things that keeps him from being truly a radical. He was on this boat and he was thinking to just do it, burn his old life, walk off this boat, and walk into a new life. There was a guy on the boat who saw him from across the dining room and came over and sat down at his table. He looked like Mike Mills looks now, an older guy with long grey hair. It was one of these weird encounters where a guy did sit down across the table and said: ”What is going on with you, man?” - ”Well, I am thinking about not going back!” - ”I thought so. I saw that in your face?” - ”What, man?”

For the length of this ferry trip he sat there and told John: ”Do it! Don’t go back! Do it! You know you should! You can’t know what the future holds, but it is going to be amazing and you just got to do it!” - ”Are you a wizard?” He was feeling empowered by this guy’s attention and he asked him if he would be his guide and if he could come with him, but that was not how it works. He was on his own thing and John had to go and do his thing. John wanted to go with him for a month at least. The boat docked and John said: ”I am done! I am not going back to America! I am not going in reverse!”, but he didn’t have a clear picture of what that meant and it didn’t take. It was a hallucination. When winter came and he got cold and hungry, 4-5 months after that, he bought a ticket back to America, like: ”Please, take me back, America!”

That was a crossroads where he took the road less travelled by and he went a mile and a half up it and then he turned around, ran back to that crossroads and took the road more travelled by, and that has made all the difference.

The bug Merlin the most is that the biggest take-away from a proselytizer, and the thing that makes it feel culty across the board is that the impression you are left with is that when you join up you will end up mostly as an ineffective salesman, and that is not what anybody wants to be. Nobody wakes up and wants to be a salesman or a manager, people want to be cowboys and astronauts. Merlin always has a panhandler that he sponsors, and if the person disappears he will pick somebody else. When he sees him he will give him $5, that is his entire approach, he doesn’t give anybody else any money, not even girl scouts, because he doesn’t like begging, people stopping him and his daughter walking down the streets.

John’s sense about the Mike Mills guy on the boat was that he was like him, and he did recognize him, and now he was trying to give John the advice he wished somebody had given him. He was no more off the grid than John was, he was on the same fucking ferry boat from X to Y, but he was trying to make a difference in somebody’s life and John thinks about that a lot now when he sees people, but he tries not to give them advice that he wishes he had taken. You don’t know what was going to happen because you didn’t do it either! It is a way of trying to live vicariously and he walked away from that encounter, thinking he fucking made a difference today by setting that kid loose on the world.

Nobody knows what would have happened if that guy when he was 22 had just gone off the grid, and what would have happened if John had, because neither of them did. It might not be great! John does know guys who have gone off the grid and it isn’t great for them or for the world. What those profound moments gave him was 15 years of another thing that he felt like he had failed. That guy gave him everything he needed and he should have just walked off that boat and into a new life, but he had chickened out 4 months later.

It was the era where he felt like if he was using human money he was a sell-out. If you need to buy your food at a store you are not truly alive. The only way you can think that way is if you do not understand anything, and John didn’t understand anything and he did believe that somehow transactions were a thing that he couldn’t participate in and he had to find a new currency which was going to be song, a bit like an angry Buddhist monk who has to go out and beg for his food each day, but he has to start fresh with a clean empty bowl every day, except he was angry, defeating the entire purpose of the exercise, which is rung 17, which is a purposeless exercise, and realizing that is rung 18.

John hopes somebody is writing down all these rungs because they have a lot of rungs. In commerce they call it retroactive continuity when they have to go back and adjust some of the numbering a little bit. LRH (L. Ron Hubbard) did this with all the OT levels. There was a time when OT3 was as high as you could go. Tom Cruise is OT7, probably. Merlin read that book last year. OT3 is when shit gets real, OT4 is the Dark Knight of the Soul one, and then you get into the senior after that. Everybody loves a ladder, rungs are fun! John likes to climb, but the problem with him is that he is still climbing, he is still standing, after all these years, ”looking like a true surviver, feeling like a little kid.” (lyrics I’m Still Standing by Elton John).

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