RL185 - I reject potatoes

This week, Merlin and John talk about

The problem: The stomp is innate, referring to John’s daughter having stomped at him, which is partly innate.

The show title refers to John not having liked or eaten potatoes his whole life.

John felt like Bez (Mark Berry) this morning, the professional accompanying dancer in the Happy Mondays. Merlin is a fan of bands who have a superfluous dancer on stage, like Bob from Pavement. In the 1960s having people dance on stage was a thing. There was an excellent Indie Rock band from Portland with Pete Krebs called Hazel who had a dancer named Fred. He was a little older than everybody else and they also had a middle-aged guy with a long beard who was dancing on stage with them, which at the time was quite a spectacle and not what you expected.

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

John’s new Keurig coffee maker (RL185)

John now has a Keurig coffee maker in his office and he was 15 minutes late to the show because that was the time it took him to figure this machine out. He used a mug with his own picture on it because that was the only mug he had here. It is delicious, it is nutritious, and it is his own coffee from his own strange little packety coffee maker that he got as a Christmas present. It simplifies the process of making coffee a lot because all you have to do is to press 14 buttons and wait 11 minutes. There are a few things Merlin really likes about the Keurig and a very large number of things he doesn’t like about it.

Merlin’s wife has a fancy new office with a lot of perks. She can walk to the gym, she has a standing desk, and they got hot rooms. When you get a job in medicine and education, you get a lot of perks and free medicine! The reason Merlin ended up getting a Keurig machine is that she has one at her workplace with a dedicated water line, which changes everything. You get one of those little buckets that look like a giant-sized coffee creamer, you drop it in, an incredibly sharp needle goes into it and it squirts out some coffee for you. When it works, it is insanely consistent and convenient, two things that John wants, because at the office he sometimes wants another cup of coffee, but it is a long way to get a cup of coffee there.

Later in the show John was making a second cup of coffee with his Keurig and Merlin did not edit any of it out. John used one out of the sample pack that came with the machine. His mom is an 81 year old lady who loves the Internet and she went online and bought John 80 of these Keurig pods from Office Depot. They are all Starbucks brand and now John has coffee for days. Because it is a Keurig Office Pro, John hopes it breaks less easily.

Merlin’s machine frequently gets clogged and is wasting those expensive little buckets because it didn’t run right. Merlin still likes his fizzy water maker and he will buy those canister that are not cheap, because in the end it is way less expensive and less wasteful than cans. He drinks a lot of Seltzer water, over a 12-pack a day. When he was a youngster he would drink a lot of Coke, but today it has way too much sugar. Nestea and Tang was terrible stuff, but it was the early 1980s and they were still feeding the kids garbage. Nobody thought for a second! Merlin’s daughter loves candy and all things chocolate and she will eat all of the chocolate, which is not good. He wishes that was a habit they hadn’t started, but it is still nothing like they had as kids.

John’s office (RL185)

John’s office is a former immigration prison, a beautiful art-deco building from before WWII, built to house foreigners that we had determined we did not want to just roam around. At the time the biggest immigration problem in Seattle were Chinese, Filipinos and other Asians who were working on ships and who were trying to immigrate. Before that, people with unclear immigration status were just held in warehouses or wharfs.

In addition to being the new immigration prison, it was also the assay office and if you wanted your poke of gold assayed, you would bring it there. They would tell you what your gold was going for, in other words they would put it on the scale. It continued in that role until the war when they decided to deport all Japanese Americans to camps and John’s office became the headquarters of that process.

After the war, there were successive waves of people immigrating to Washington, which resulted in people without a passport or who were applying for asylum. The goal of the place was to process those people, but a lot of times you will find people who need to be deported to their original country and sometimes their original country doesn’t want them back, which is when you get people in a limbo state.

America wanted to send them away, but no country wanted them and they would be locked in this prison until their status was resolved. The people who were supposed to resolve that status were of course underpaid, overworked and harried. For many years, they were people who lived in a prison with no status. There was that one guy who lived in JFK airport (actually it was Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris) and couldn’t get out. They even made a movie about him!

This prison developed the reputation of being a pretty bad place because people were stuck in there for years without recourse to any law. As time went on, a lot of Latin American or Muslim people were held in there, but at a certain point after 9/11 it was determined that the prison wasn’t big enough and they needed to build a new super-big state-of-the-art prison to house all of the new people that they were going to hold, the Tacoma Northwest Detention Center. This was the Bush era where they were a) building a lot of prisons and b) holding a lot of people.

Now they had this very cool enormous terracotta building in the center of Seattle’s international district that no-one knew what to do with, so they surplussed it and sold it to some dudes who wanted to set it up with T1-lines and turn it into a super-rad tech office. Then the tech crashed and they said ”You know what? We are just going to throw up some dry wall and rent it to a bunch of artists!”, because right at that time, the Seattle Pioneer Square neighborhood which had formerly been the artists’ loft place was being swept with a wave of gentrification and all the artists were getting pushed out.

There had been a place called the Washington Shoe Building, an old shoe factory, which was an artist hive where the walls were all wackadoodle and people were having crazy and wonderful parties. People were living in there illegally and making art. A lot of the old respectable artists who had come up in the Washington shoe building just moved over to this former INS-building and the new owners changed the name to Inscape, like ”IN escape”. There are no T1-lines and no amenities, though.

John’s office is a corner room on the top floor in what was formerly the men’s dormitory where people lived for long times in bunk beds in that giant holding place with bars on the windows. There are stories of guys who climbed out on the ledge and jumped to their death because it was so abysmal there. Now some artists have turned the Inscape building into a living museum where they commemorate all of the eras of its prisondom.

There are all kinds of art parties and on John’s floor there are painters, photographers and a woman who diagrams business meetings, which is both an art and a business strategy. She is turning the meeting into a big flowchart-y wall art thing which then allows you to look at the meeting in a whole piece of data art. There are potters and a lot of encaustic sculpture type people who are melting wax and burning things. There is an industrial sink halfway down the hall and a dormitory bathroom at the far end of the hall from John, but there is no kitchen and you would have to build your own little kitchen in your office.

If you want running water you can go to the sink or the shared bathroom down the hall which is kept reasonably clean. There is a manager who does a pretty darn good job of running herd on everybody, and the free pile down in the basement is pretty amazing. Over the years you would find things like a dentist chair there, and John has outfitted his whole office with stuff he found in the building. He has a couch, a table with 4 chairs and a desk. It is living history! John likes the space and the weird people. He got a pitcher so he doesn’t have to take the Keurig apart, he got a space heater, but no fridge and therefore he bought a box of those aseptic don’t-go-bad-creamers. They will last or 6 months or so. What else would he want in the fridge? Greek yoghurt? John doesn’t mind a warm seltzer!

John furthermore has a Wurlitzer Electric Piano, a Juno-106 synthesizer, and a very big crate of Long Winters kazoos. They bought 10.000 of those and they sold a lot of them, but they still have a lot of them left. He also got some Long Winters vinyl, some John Roderick books, some vintage Long Winters T-shirts including a couple of girl's baseball sleeve snowblower T-shirts, and some campaign material including a huge VoteRoderick banner, which he does not have unfurled because it still a little soon for putting it on the wall. Then there are various things he found in the free pile.

In Merlin's office there is a Costco dorm fridge, their old microwave, and a Cuisinart Hot Pot water boiler for making hot beverages with 6 buttons on it for different temperatures (maybe this one) so if you want to make green tea, you will not accidentally singe it. John wonders why it doesn’t just have a graduated knob. Merlin had a Black & Decker toaster oven when he was 10 and it was the greatest oven ever made. You could make Stouffer’s and French Bread Pizza in it! John has never had a toaster oven.

He has a private bathroom and if he and his wife had a disagreement, he could just live in his office for a couple of days. John takes naps stretched out on the floor, because the couch is too small for him to sleep on. Merlin got a sleeping bag and a pillow that he pulls out a couple of times a month and maybe his landlord might think that Merlin is stretching the code a little bit.

Merlin also has a big shelf unit with a couple of dolls on it, like Supergirl, Superboy, Girlboy, Dynamite Twins, Bat person, Green Person, Big Boob Girl, and Bigger Boob Girl. Merlin is such a poor housekeeper that even a month later all of the stuff John used when he visited him for recording the live episode 182 are all in the exactly same place, including the coffee cup. There is a giant pile of Marvel dolls on the floor that John has examined.

The desolate state of John’s house (RL185)

The state of John’s house is currently embarrassing because somewhere around October he just started to let it all go to hell. Then he put it all back together once in late October and did a big clean, but he was teetering and in November he let it go again. He has processed the election, but when he is looking into the future, he is wondering what is going to happen. Then he went away for 1.5 months on tour-ish things.

Walking into John’s house now you will be greeted by utter chaos in every direction. He took apart his bed in order to replace it with his Casper bed, and he is now sleeping on the Casper bed in the guest room, meaning he emigrated to the guest room which he had never done since he bought the house, because it is the guest room. The sleigh bed in his bedroom has been dismantled but hasn’t been removed, there is an extra couch upstairs that doesn’t belong there that was hard to get there but never should have gone there and now has to get our of there. There is also a desk up there that doesn’t belong there. John's new Casper reality is just waiting to be implemented.

Downstairs there is another desk that doesn’t belong there, there is some furniture he found in the barn that needs to go, he is wearing his couch out and on top of it all there are 1000 New Yorker magazines, all that stuff he got back from the burglary that he decided he needed to sort again, there is a layer of books and novels and there is a layer of wool over everything. Every time John walks into his house now, he is overwhelmed by the daunting scale of what needs to be done and he is becoming someone who is just walking through the clearing.

John started doing his hobbies and projects in the kitchen because there isn’t any space anywhere else and now the kitchen counters are all covered with boxes. Merlin has a similar situation because his daughter has gotten into arts and crafts and there is LEGO everywhere. For Merlin it is a little depressing, partly because it is a tile puzzle. If half of John's stuff was just gone, you could easily clean the rest up, but if you got two desks you don’t need in your house, you got a bigger problem.

One of John’s bigger problems is that he has too many blazers and there is only so much closet space. He found a lot of really good blazers during the last couple of years and he didn’t say no to any of the good ones because they were only $8 and they were lovely. Now John has too many blazers without having the closet space and he spreads them out and looks at them and wonders which of them he could get rid of. He needs the orange linen one, the green felt one, that blue tweet one and that other tweet one and pretty soon he is in that headspace where he thinks: "What if I get invited to an orange tweet party?"

This is all part of the looming eBay store that John is going to launch, a pipeline in order for all this stuff to go out in the world. When John did the live-show with Merlin the other day (at SF Sketchfest 2016), he was looking in the audience how many of those people were 44/46 longs, because that is the market for pretty much everything he owns. These things are going to be practical items for large people and if you are 5’6” (168 cm), these things are of no use. John is even looking at his candle stick collection with a different eye because he has too many of them and people of any size could buy them off of John’s eBay-store.

What John really wants and needs is a basement because he is a basement dweller who really wants to be in a basement late at night. It would feel appropriate to be surrounded by crazy projects down in daddy’s basement and you close the door behind it. You could play the guitar, or you could build a train set or whatever lunatic thing you want to do. John’s house doesn’t have a basement, which is the one thing he rues. Digging out under the house and building a basement, would be a huge project!

John living in a split level house (RL185)

Split level houses, or split plan houses, are suburban houses which are wider than they are deep. After you walk through the front door you can go upstairs to a big open-plan living room, a little dining room in the back and a long kitchen. Down the hall over the two-car garage are 2-3 bedrooms. You can also go downstairs where there is a big recreation room, another bathroom, a laundry room and another bedroom. That bottom bedroom is the one you put your teenager or your mother in. You can have the whole top floor be the house where everybody is hanging out and that big recreation room can be your TV room. John lived in the back bedroom in a split-level house around Ozzy Osborne’s Blizzard of Oz, right as he was transitioning into being a teenager, and he couldn’t have been happier!

John designed a system of pulleys so he could sit in bed and pull a string that went across the ceiling and to the pull-out knob that turned his TV on. It was a red plastic TV about the size of an Amazon box, they had three channels plus PBS, and he would pull the TV on and watch Mel’s diner. John had another string that turned on the light, it was a whole system! In his bathroom he had a jar of instant Lipton Ice Tea and he drank 5 tall glasses a day, not realizing it was full of caffeine. He still has a jar of it in his pantry that he never touches, just to look at it.

John had his own corner of the house, rigged up exactly as he wanted it, with a little desk where he could build his model of the USS enterprise aircraft carrier. In 1980/1981 he was working hard on building a model of a B-52 bomber, because during the Reagan administration the B-52 bomber was slated to be retired and John wanted to finish his model before it was taken out of service. It was going to be replaced by the B-1 bomber that they wanted to build 1000 of, but it wasn’t a good bomber and they only built a few and kept the B-52. Both of those models are still flying.

You wouldn’t call the lower floor of a split-level home a basement, but it was slightly subterranean and 3 feet (1 m) of it was underground. John misses that separate area that he doesn’t have in his house. Merlin was always trying to find a new enclave and one day he set up a second room for himself in their third bedroom. They had a very small house with three bedrooms and the third only had an old single bed in it. Merlin was a latchkey kid and he inhabited this room.

He would hang his pictures of Charlie’s Angels that he had cut out of magazines, he had a second radio in there, and it was where he kept his copy of Emily Post's Etiquette and all of his almanacks. When Merlin moved to Florida around 1981, they had an attic with pull-down stairs where they kept all their Christmas stuff and their old stuff. Merlin was spending a lot of his time in that attic! He invented the life that he wanted up there in his own 1-man teenage gentleman’s club.

John had Miss Manner’s guide to excruciatingly correct behavior and the Preppy Handbook. He would pour over these two books, trying to figure out exactly what balance he was going to strike between the polite and accepted behavior and the completely inappropriate behavior that was going to balance it out. He didn’t even realize that the Preppy Handbook was tongue-in-cheek.

Bruce Vilanch (RL185)

John did just watch the movie The Big Short and Brad Pitt looked like angry John through that whole thing, like if John is depressed and angry. Merlin though of John when he saw Bruce Vilanch on Shark Tank not that long ago. John doesn’t like how Merlin says ”Bruce Vilanch”, but he hadn’t said that in 3 years. It just sets some people off and they will all send John pictures of Bruce Vilanch.

John does not eat potatoes (RL185)

John rejects potatoes! He does not eat nor has he ever eaten potatoes in any form. He will eat mashed potatoes on Thanksgiving that have gravy on them, and if he is sitting at a table where someone is lauding their fries, like ”These are great fries!”, then John might reach over and try a fry. But he has never ordered French fries, he does not like potato chips of any kind, he doesn’t like hash browns, he does not eat home fries and he does not like any kind of potato. He will put little russet potatoes in a stew that he is making, but no corn beef hash! He will eat corn beef all day, but he has never had a corn beef hash. John doesn’t want any kind of those breakfasts that is all jumbled together with potatoes and he doesn’t want a sewer lid: ”I do not want potatoes, Sam, I do not want them, Sam, I am!” No potatoes!

John never wanted potatoes, even when he was a little kid. At every kid’s party and they throw potato chips at you through a canon, but John did not want them. In restaurants they will shove potatoes at you and you might not even notice unless you are someone who doesn’t eat potatoes, which John is the only one he has ever met. Potatoes are given to you as your primary starch option about 60% of the time and John doesn’t like them. He didn’t like the first potato he ever tried and he never liked a subsequent potato either.

To John potatoes seem like a grainy grease-holder or a grease-and-salt delivery device where the underlying substance is a grainy muck that tastes like dirt, has the consistency of dirt and it is slatted with grease and salt. Even if they are fried to a crisp, you can still taste that grainy dirt and no matter how much salt and fat you put on them, they still taste mud. John didn’t want potatoes when he was 4 years old! Most people will just take your potatoes if you don't want them, but everybody recognizes that they are garbage food. If you don’t eat them they will just throw them away! Nobody ever asks ”Why didn’t you eat your potatoes?” because everybody realizes that they are just pre-garbage, or pre-compost.

John does not eat Twinkies (RL185)

John does not like Twinkies. He likes Ding Dongs, which have different names on the East Coast and the West Coast and are just barely chocolate, barely cake and barely filling. The Twinkie is the potato chips of lard cake. If you were going to have one kind of kid’s sugar lard cake, it was going to be Twinkies. There are Zingers, which were advertised during Charlie Brown specials, and Twinkies, Cup Cakes, Donuts, and Ho Hos. Whenever Merlin’s mom got her hair done, he would go to the Pony Cake next door and get a chocolate thing and a couple of Ho Hos, like that was a normal thing. As John got older, the amount of wax in Ho Hos went up and the size and moistness went down. John and Merlin would never eat a Snowball because that seems like an old-lady food.

John’s childhood was bookended and characterized by the fact that on one end he didn’t eat potatoes and on the other end he didn’t like Twinkies. What kind of kid is this who doesn’t like the two great kid foods? It is like if you say that you don’t want to watch TV but rather read quietly: It doesn’t even register as something sensible. Kids would come to John’s house and ask ”Mrs Roderick, can John come out and play?” and she would ask him if he would like to go out and play with Todd and Tony, but he would say ”No, thanks!” and mom would go back and say that John is busy and maybe he will come out later. They would be disappointed while John would just be in his room, doing what he was doing, and eventually they would just stop knocking. Merlin would always unroll his Ho Hos.

The cold bowl of peas, eggs and Macaroni and Cheese (RL185)

John does not eat olives and would not have a Muffuletta. A couple of times his mom made him sit in front of a bowl of peas, but he didn’t eat them and she told him he was going to have them for breakfast, then! He called her bluff and got cold peas for breakfast, then he called her bluff on that and had cold peas for lunch when he started crying. He got the same cold peas for dinner and he was really crying until he choked them down, theatrically gagging with every spoon, while she was just sitting there placid-faced. He was not going to get any other food until those peas were done! It was the same peas that were once hot and were now cold and were not going to get hot again. He was going to see these peas until they would grow a skin on them. Merlin wonders what she was trying to accomplish and if she accomplished it.

John’s dad was being irrational and mean about food. He made the eggs wrong and John crossed his arms and said ”No way!”, because he likes his eggs sunny side up while his dad made scrambled eggs. They had a Battle Royale involving everybody in the family and the neighborhood about freaking scrambled eggs! They would have showdowns like that over Chow Mein and a lot of other things. John's dad made Macaroni and Cheese according to the directions on the box with 4 quarts of water (3,8 liters) and half a stick of butter, which turns the sauce into a butter-sauce.

They might have talked about this before and Capt Mariam will know. John's dad would make the sauce for Kraft dinner in a separate pot and then pour it over the noodles when they were done, which absolutely affected the performance characteristics of the Kraft dinner, but he didn’t know any better because he was following the instructions on the box and the first rule about Kraft dinner is that you don’t follow the instructions on the box! You just put a little bit of butter in there, a little bit of milk and a little bit of sauce and then you get that nice sticky Kraft dinner, but making it separately feels fancier. It is like opening a can of Chef Boyardee Spaghetti and Meatballs and putting a salad on a plate. John actually called his mom in Seattle long distance and asked her how she made Macaroni and Cheese because his dad is doing it wrong.

Her secret is that she will make them with water and not even put milk in it. She was doing that because she was a) frugal and b) she understood that powder cheese once had been cheese and all that has been taken out of it was the water. All you needed to do is reconstitute the water and it would have all the characteristics of cheese, which she presumed it had once been. She didn’t realize it was orange food coloring, dust and ice tea mix, but she understood it to be cheese. Putting a little milk in it was a luxury.

That was a big contention between John and his dad. At a certain point his mom was trying say ”Enough!”, but as a parent John hasn't figured out where exactly that line is yet. It was not just about the food, but she needed to make a stand. The pea thing was a McGuffin, telling him ”You are not going to dictate what food gets served! We are done with you just arbitrarily deciding that you are going to throw a wrench into the spokes of my road-bike as I pass you ,trying to be friendly to your Italian bike team. You are putting your bike pump into the spokes of my wheel!” She was making her stand over a cold bowl of peas.

The bad part was that this happened on Easter Weekend when they had just graduated to a state where the Easter Bunny was not hiding the eggs anymore. Instead the kids could hide eggs for each other, then find the eggs and then the next kid got an opportunity to hide the eggs for each other. John’s mom’s boyfriend had 5 kids and there were 8 kids at this party, everyone playing hide-and-go-seek and hiding eggs around him while John was at the dining room table in front of a cold bowl of peas. It is singed in John’s memory!

His mom listens to this podcast periodically and then she will tell him that this is not how it happened, but she has a selective memory about things, like about instances where she was standing in John’s closet, stomping on his toys because he hadn’t cleaned them up. She denies it completely and then she tells some bananas story about how she was the great mom and John was the bad kid.

John’s daughter stomping her feet at him (RL185)

The other day, John’s daughter stomped her foot at him. They were out in public and he told her what they were going to do next, but she wanted to do something else, which they couldn’t do, because they had to do this other thing. She turned, put her little fists on her hips and stomped her feet at him: ”No, daddy!” John said with a big smile on his face ”Don’t you stomp your feet at me! You don’t stomp your feet at me! I am daddy and I don’t get feet stomped at me!” She is still at an age where John can say that and she will put it into her function machine and go ”Oh! I didn’t realize that you don’t stomp your feet at daddy!”, but that will not work for that long anymore.

John he has now made some little encoding trail in her brain that he may never be able to take back. He doesn’t even know what he is doing here. How will she use that when she is 35? In her head this might mean that a) You do stomp your feet at other people and daddy is a special case and b) daddy thinks you don’t stomp your feet at him, which she will accept now because it is unclear what the results will be if she does. She is still unsure exactly what daddy is capable of. There will come a day when she will go ”Oh yeah? Let’s see!” and then John doesn’t know what he is going to do. It was cute as hell!

John imagines that partly the stomp is innate in her and partly she is going through a phase where she is really doubling down on ”No!”, although she has always bossed everybody. John doesn’t believe that she has the capacity to understand her feelings and he is not yet going through the process of being too complicated in reasoning with her. She comes out the other side in better touch with her reality. John is at the stage of ”You don’t stomp your feet at daddy”, which is just a rule and a way of saying ”Enough! You are not the boss!”

There are a lot of ways she is trying to assert that she is the boss and there are some realms in which she is the boss. John lets her decide in lots of situations, but where they are going to eat dinner is not a thing she will decide. They will take her input, but in the end that it is going to be something that momma will decide. She doesn’t decide about crossing the street and about what they are going to do next if daddy says that we have to do that instead, because: Reasons!

Giving rights and responsibilities as birthday gifts (RL185)

In John's family they have established the concept of half-birthdays and fucking quarter-birthdays. When John established the precedent of half-birthdays he immediately regretted it, but then his daughter learned that half of a half is a quarter and she told him that her quarter birthday was coming up and she wanted to have a cupcake. John agreed and now he has set this precedent as well.

Before she was even born, he did discussed in his family that she should be accorded new rights and privileges as a birthday present. Now you are 7 and now you are empowered within the family to have these new rights and responsibilities. That way she does not think of her birthday just as a time when she gets presents, but as another masonic level in her path of being a 33rd degree Mason. John is trying to impart that rights and responsibilities go hand in hand.

Now you can dress yourself without arguing with your mama, you can wear whatever you want, but that means you will put your clothes in the laundry when you get undressed at night. If you do not perform the responsibility, then the right is retracted as well. John’s problem is that he doesn’t know what the consequences should be. If she will keep dressing herself but not put her clothes in the laundry, will he let her sit in front of a cold bowl of peas or should all of her clothes disappear in the night and all that is left would be the white boilersuits from the earliest incarnation of The Police? He could just gaslight her and tell her that life just did that to her. There are just 6 boilersuits and ”Hey baby, here it is!” Mirror in the bathroom! Daddy does have significant power to change actual reality. He did this once to his dad who went away for 2 days on vacation with his girlfriend and while he was gone, John painted the walls of his house yellow.

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