RL162 - April's Cream

This week, Merlin and John talk about

The problem: ”John’s not sitting on his guilded tortoise”, referring to a conversation about letting your child believe in Santa.

The show title refers to John having old creamer in his coffee that had expired 6 weeks before.

Merlin starts the show singing.

It makes Merlin sad when he watches a movie and he knows that the dog is already dead, like Ubu from ”Sit, Ubu, Sit!” died in 1984, but his legacy continues on.

Draft version
The segments below are drafts that will be incorporated into the rest of the Wiki as time permits.

Expiration dates, coffee mold and old coffee cream (RL162)

John just made some coffee, which will give him a sense of where he is at. He knew there were a few suspect creams in his refrigerator. Some of the people who had been in and out of the house had also bought a new container of cream, pushing some other creams further back into the fridge and creating the Heisenberg uncertainty of cream. John looked at the date of the cream he found and it was June 1st, which felt like it had just been around the corner. He put it in the coffee and walked around sipping it. There were some floaters, but he won’t throw a cup of coffee away for some floaters. After about 10 minutes he had one of these slow, delayed oxycontin of thought and realized that June 1st was quite some time ago because it was almost August. The cream did not smell like spoiled milk, but maybe a little bit like pie. It is like that strange phenomenon that Half & Half doesn’t spoil, but becomes something else, like a state-change. It becomes a particulate! Somehow Merlin has a Half & Half in his refrigerator at work that expired in April 2014. John made the executive decision to just go with it and because he drinks his coffee out of 1/2 liter beer steins, he is now sitting with 1/4 liter of coffee and something that can only be described as April’s cream. It got to be April’s cream 2015. It is a bit like John’s affections for his shirts: He can’t just throw that guy out, but wants to see how long he can stick around, like putting a relative in a home! They are stinky and not very useful, but you got affection. He wonders where the cows are who produced April’s cream?

Merlin is not very satisfied with the current coffee technology in his house. The house was built in 1928, so there are only two plugs and not a lot of counter space. His wife has been taken by the new Keurig K-Cup system at her new job and Merlin was against it at first because it requires a big machine that only serves a single purpose and takes up a lot of space, but it makes a really good cup of coffee in less than a minute. On the other side, it produces a lot of waste with all those used cups and is a little fancy.

John was made aware several years ago that coffee mold is not just the major mold system that arrives on your coffee filter if you don’t change it for two weeks, but it can also be present in your coffee without you knowing about it. Maybe you had old beans or old grind that has been sitting around. It becomes a presence that you are not conscious about and it is potentially bad for you and could be toxic, who knows? John is always fighting a losing battle against coffee mold because he doesn’t have a regular or predictable routine.

The reason for April’s cream is that it had been determined to be too old by someone else in his house. Different people have different ideas how old cream should be. If it says expiration date June 1st and it is June 15th, a certain slice of the population will go and get another one. When John sees a ”sell-by”-date of June 1st on June 15th, he feels like he is right in the strike zone, but he is not in 100% control of his environment anymore. Another bigger and newer cream appeared in his refrigerator while he was out of town and when he came back, April’s cream had been pushed way back in there somewhere together with the half-empty container of greek yoghurt, 3 or 4 different mustards and a box of Arm & Hammer Baking Soda that has been in there since 2007. John just reaches for the front cream, he is not managing his refrigerator contents in a way to get April’s cream before June cream. April’s cream got pushed further back, maybe a mustard migrated in front of it, but John does manage his refrigerator well enough to know it was in there, but he wasn’t ready to do the humane thing and let April’s cream go live on a farm. Now the main cream, or more likely four main creams, all got cycled through until one day April’s cream just popped up again. The mustard let their guard down for a second and she came to the for, masqueraded as a new cream.

John doesn’t know what is going to happen if he drinks this cream today. This is also the beginning of blackberry season and they grow in abundance precisely in those areas where the pollution is the highest, because the place where people let blackberries run riot are right next to the freeway, right next to the train-switching-yard and right next to where they dump the unusable avgas. When you are having a wonderful time gathering blackberries at the side of the road, you are conscious about the fact that they are covered with a film, kind of an environmental dander. John has been scarfing blackberries as well and by this afternoon he could be in the hospital. There is the April’s cream, the coffee dander and the coffee mold that has performance characteristics they haven’t even begun to identify. John could see through time if he has enough coffee mold! Merlin also thinks about toxoplasmosis, the cat poop thing that makes people crazy and is dangerous for unborn babies.

Cats and toxoplasmosis (RL162)

When the baby was coming, John sent his daughter’s mother’s cats to aunt Martha. He is not above making a hard decision when there is a risk! Those cats were the two most awful people John has ever met in his life. One of them had some cognitive disconnect and did not understand the role that hissing performed in a normal social environment. It enjoyed hissing, but hissed at inappropriate times at people it knew well. It would come to you to be petted, you petteded it and it hissed at you, but remained there to be petted more. Sounds like half the women Merlin met in college! When it was hissing, it was also propelling Whiskas breath at you, like the inside-of-a-cat-smell. The other cat suffered from a kitty malaise and had some feline ennui, meaning it didn’t really care for itself and didn’t have self esteem. John didn’t even want those two cats to live on a farm, but to live in the sea! His daughter’s mother was attached to them, because people get attached. It could have been toxoplasmosis as well or a little bit of Stockholm syndrome where you are held captive by these monsters and then you feel sympathetic about them. She said that the cat doesn't mean it, but the only reason to keep a pet is if that pet is a companion or a friend. To keep a pet who clearly wants to die is to do no-one a favor. As it turned out, aunt Martha is a cat lover and was able to give those two cats a happy life. The depressed cat started grooming itself again and the hissing cat lived on top of the refrigerator and was showered with love. It was a story with a happy ending. John had a baby that did not suffer from toxoplasmosis and he never had to see those cats again.

There are numerous cases of celebrities who have contracted toxoplasmosis, John assumes Gwyneth Paltrow, but she was not in that wikipedia-list. Toxoplasmosis might be what causes the catlady thing. There are animals that can take over another animal and make it do crazy stuff, like a zombie ant. Part of the reason you become somebody who has a lot of attractive cat-dander in the house is the toxoplasmosis is attacking some part of your brain and tells it that it is okay for all this poop to make more toxoplasmosis and you don’t know it, because it is coming from inside the cat. John had cats growing up because both he and his mom loved cats. They didn't know that they were both allergic, because the cult of allergy and allergy detection technologies had not yet entered into the American consciousness at the time. John's chronic cough and fatigue during his whole childhood were never attributed to anything other than sickliness. You didn’t need science to attribute that some children were broken inside. As it turned out later, John was sleeping with a cat on his chest his whole life while he was allergic to them, so they stopped keeping cats.

John has had a couple of great cats! Recently he had a secret cat called Louis that was hit by a car. In the pantheon of great cats, there was also Guido. His dad thought that Puppy was a great cat, but John never bonded with Puppy and as he died, his dad got Puppy 2, who was a pretty good mouser, but not a really personable guy. Tippy was a good cat, Flaky was a flaky cat and his memories go all the way back to Mel, one of the original great cats. John’s mom and dad kept talking about Simba Chacoby and Tiffany Michelle, two cats from the 1960:s, until his dad passed away! They would jump up on their Borzoi Manuschka and ride around and they would follow the dog around the neighborhood like a pack of elephants. Merlin is thinking about getting a cat named Midget because he instantly bonded with her. She is a prequalified cool cat who like to lick you, how cool is that? The problem with cats for John is that the kitten does not denote the cat! John has seen a lot of cute kittens that became pretty uncute cats and if he is going to look at a little face all the time and have that little face pleadingly looking up to him, wanting its Whiskas and greeting him every morning, he would like to like that face. When you chose a kitten, they are all cute and then they turn into a grotesquery. There is nature and there is nurture, so there is only so much you can do to turn a cat that is destined to be a jerk into a good pal. When you get a kid, there is a lot of biological stuff going on making you feel compelled to move things around in your schedule to make sure it doesn’t die. With a cat, Merlin would have to manufacture a lot of care. He is trying to be realistic: There are those idiots who are going out to get an easter bunny or a turtle and they have no idea what they are getting themselves into.

John had another cat after Louis in an attempt to replace Louis. All these cats come to him by hook or by crook, he doesn’t go to the pound to get a cat, but cats show up. A second cat arrived, probably when somebody was trying to make John’s pain over Louis go away. It was okay, but it had been weaned too early or incorrectly. Eric Corson had a good report with the cat and as he kept it once to watch it while John was out of town, John just never went and got the cat back. John was living with that cat for about a year and they were sharing a space together, but they were not sharing a place together. The rotten milk in John’s coffee is really making him sentimental.

The bird in the coffee cup (RL162)

John once left a cup of coffee in the garden and as he came back a few days later, a bird had fallen into it. John doesn’t know how or why she swallowed a fly and died in his coffee cup. John honors the bird by still using the cup, but washing it out had been no easy thing. He dumped the moldy coffee bird in one of Seattle’s many bins, maybe the yard waste or the compost. He gave the cup a good scrub and put it back in rotation. Now he could not even tell which one it was. John was trying to picture what was happening in that bird’s life, curiously perching on the edge of that mug. Birds don’t lose their footing! How did it end up in there? Dropped down and couldn’t get out! It was a bird that was small enough to fall into a beer stein. It wasn't a crow and it wasn’t an eagle! John has had a few private tragedies involving creatures over almost 50 years in American life. A few of them have always remained private, like for example: When you come upon a noble stag in the forest and you fell him with a hand-made bow-and-arrow, you would never talk about those things to anyone else. It just doesn’t come up in conversations and when someone asks you at a party if you have ever felled a stag, you just kind of don’t answer.

Telling your child about Santa (RL162)

About a month ago, Merlin's daughter found a Robin’s egg and put it back into the nest. She is really excited because it still hasn’t hatched. If it were just any egg in any nest, Merlin would just tell her it is dead, but she has already so much investment in it. John would just get rid of that egg in the night and tell his daughter that the bird hatched and flew away. The other day they saw a mouse struggling in a glue trap. Merlin doesn’t mind seeing mice like he did when he was a kid, but an animal struggling in a glue trap to the extend where it had flipped it a foot from where the trap had been was disheartening.

The Santa Clause continuum is tough right now, because John's daughter is at that age where she probably got some pretty specific concerns and there is probably some dickhead at school who has already spoiled it for her. John doesn’t have any political feelings about Santa and he doesn’t have a moralistic stake in the ground about the consequences. Some people feel very strongly about Santa and pretending Santa is real will not set your kid up for a lifetime of not trusting people. But John is not sitting on his gilded tortoise or his magic footstool either, saying that the magic of Santa and Christmas is something he would never deny his child. Thus far, John's daughter sees Santa as a panoply of bearded men who wear all red, including her father. Jolly-bearded guys in funny hats. She might not even have made the connection that Santa brings presents.

The other day in the midst of July, his daughter was walking around the house with a matchbox-sized Christmas present in her hand. As John asked her about it, she claimed that she had found it on the dining room table with the Christmas decorations and indeed, there was still an advent calendar, a crèche and a stuffed Santa Clause that apparently had a bunch of stuffed presents at his feet. Those have been there since Christmas and John just stoped seeing them with his eyes because he had other things going on. That does probably not say amazing things about him as a person who is living a pretty organized life, and he double-checked that the stockings were not still hanging over the fireplace, which they weren’t. She had found a Christmas present and was carrying it around before she attached it to a fork somehow and was calling it a piece of cake, meaning that she was off on her own thing. John had a real moment of pause as he realized he had been looking at an advent calendar for 6 months and it had just turned into another piece of flotsam.

Had that Christmas present not been repurposed as a piece of cake, John would not have noticed those Christmas decorations until it would have been time to decorate for Christmas again! Christmas decorations are another couple of bins of sentimental jetsam to John, stuff that he has looked at his whole life, remembering when that advent calendar really mattered to him and when he couldn't wait to open another little door every day during the endless march on Christmas. It was an advent calendar from Germany made in 1954 and there was a little boy in Lederhosen holding up sugar plum. John is not sure why Germany in the 1950s colonized his childhood Christmas to that extend. He knew the lyrics to "Oh Tannenbaum" and never made the connection that it was the same song as ”Oh Christmas Tree”. Why did post-war Germany have such a lock on Christmas? Made in West Germany says Christmas to John! In terms of Santa and the tree, he hasn’t picked a side yet. His daughter already knows that he is pretty half-hearted about most American traditions and holidays. Merlin feels bad about seeing Veteran’s day and Memorial day mostly as a day off. They are a good way to mark your progress through a year.

It makes Merlin thinking that if we could conveniently chose and fully understand our own forms of madness, it wouldn’t be madness. Merlin finds the movie ”Synecdoche, New York" very affecting. It had a huge impact on him as he realized how much of what Caden goes through in that movie feels like something that felt peculiar to Merlin. For example you think that something happened 10 years ago and you realize it is not 1996 anymore. Merlin has a little stick-on calendar from the diner down the street. It is from 2012 and it occurred to him that not only had he not taken this down since July of 2012, but he also hadn’t bothered to rip it off since August of 2012. It started dogging him because: Why is it still here and why does it start bothering him 3 years later?

Do children need routines? (RL162)

Before the baby was born, all the conversations they had with pediatricians and all the books they read about how to raise a child were contradictory and none of them made sense, really. Some of them made it seem like a matter of desperate importance while some made it seem like it will be fine, but what they all agreed on was that children need routines. They want the same things at the same time, which gives them a feeling of safety. That is the nurturing life they need to grow up to be productive and healthy members of the banking community. John does not have any kind of routine or any capability of maintaining a routine. If he would have accepted that framing, he should have already feared for his unborn’s child’s future. During some weeks John makes coffee every morning and during some other weeks the coffee mold takes over the entire North-east corner of the house. The reasons for that are inexplicable to him. He has tried to take vitamins and made it 10 days before he just stopped remembering them. He did the 7-minute workout for as far as 14 days until one day he didn’t and he never got back on the train. Often enough he gets off the train in the middle of the woods and then starts bushwhacking again, which is his natural state. John refused to accept the idea that a child needs routine and instead found a different layer of routine. He sees her every day. That is their routine. Merlin thinks there can be a distinction between a routine and consistency. If you try to instill something in your kid that you don’t basically have yourself, there is a lot of potential for disaster. If you are consistent, people know what to expect out of you, especially if things don’t go well.

Wanting to buy a wagon when the baby was due (RL162)

A couple of days before John’s daughter was born, he and Ariella decided that they needed a station wagon, because you have to carry the intertubes and stuff. They went to Mercer Island, an upscale neighborhood, to look at a Passat wagon from a family their age with two toddlers age 4 and 2 and a brand-new baby that was like 1 day old. They were selling their Passat because with three kids they were now at suburban level of car-needs. John and Ariella liked the family very much, they were chatting with them and were really fascinated about the brand new baby. The baby was crying and fussing and they were asking the parents about being up all night, but the mother replied that she will take the week off, but then the baby will have to get on her schedule. She said that with such confidence. She already had two kids, the day after she had a another baby she had people over selling a car and she was running the show. This idea that you are going to control the schedule of a baby instead of the other way around was profound! In contrast, the only thing John’s daughter knows for sure is that the first day of 7th grade, they are going to drive to Mexico in a stolen Jeep. That is the only thing on her horizon that she can count on.

Introducing kids to TV (RL162)

John doesn’t know if his daughter will ever believe in Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny or if these things are even important. She still hasn’t seen a movie. At Merlin’s and Hodgman’s recommendation they watched a couple of Adventure Times, but she was a little young for that. John loved it very much and looks forward to the time when she is 8 years old and wants to go through that world. Almost everything she has ever seen on a screen was the result of going over to a friend’s house where the friend is watching Frozen for the 40th time and Marla will sit next to her friend for a while to watch some portion of Frozen, but her attention won't stay on it. When there is a song in the movie, she will rather go up and sing for herself. John could also say that he is depriving his child of this rich encyclopedia of video culture and he is starting to feel bad. He wants to show her some things on TV, because there is so much wonderful stuff on there! He introduced her to Mr Rogers, which she likes, and they watched some British children’s TV programs from the 1970:s just because they like hearing how they talk. Usually the main character is a man made of a button and a soup can, because those were hard times in England and production values were very low. Button Moon is one, an amazing show that John highly recommends. But then John wanted to try Adventure Time and Power Puff Girls and Merry Poppins. Because John doesn’t have a lot of time watching stuff, it is not part of her culture either. Dumbo traumatized them both as John has told previously, and they have decided that watching Tap-dancing videos is something they both enjoy. The other day they came upon one where some Tap guys and some River-dance guys were having a Tap-off and John could watch it again right now. The Tap guys had a man with a Fedora and a saxophone and the River dance guy had a red-haired girl with a violin. They were trading licks and they were trading tap-licks, young guys giving each other a little bit of the old razzmatazz! YouTube can be really good for that and you can watch Tap-dance videos for 1000 years. You get a little bit of Shirley Temple, you get a little bit of the cast from Fame, and you get a slice of American history.

The first few times he was showing her anything, he was watching her very carefully and of course she was delighted by the moving pictures. There wasn’t any moment when some switch was flipped that made her want to dive into this incredible world of video production, but it was always just another thing they would do for 15 minutes. It might still be happening and she will probably put her VR-headset on when she is 7 years old. It is not surprising that something both of the parents are really into becomes something that the kid is really into. Conversely, something the parents are not into, for any variety of reasons, might become something the kid is not into. Based on her mother’s proclivities, their daughter might be spending many hours a day looking at Bed Bath & Beyond catalogs for the rest of her life. Merlin’s wife and daughter are also very much into catalogs. Sometimes you think you might catch them with something on the Internet if you would look over what they have on their iPad, but all you catch them with is discount purse sites. John has a luggage fetish himself and he is not casting aspersions on anybody because you might catch him on some discount purse sites, too. Merlin and his wife struggle with this screen-time thing, because they both really like looking at iPads or watching Top-Chef at night. Last night they had a Gilmore Girls marathon where they finished off season 1 and started season 2. Their daughter loves it now and is singing along with the song. Is it surprising?

There is a Long Winters song on a couple of episodes of the Gilmore Girls! John was on the OC, too, a couple of times. Matthew Cause responded to one of Merlin’s tweets the other day, which was kind of weird. Now, yes, we can have exactly one more Gilmore Girls, we already had bath and dinner, so it is definitely bed time, we do 20 minutes of reading and then that’s it. But there was not a time when the credits came on and she was happy. Guess who else had been like that? Just one more! Who is to blame?

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