RL27 - Bellinghaming

This week, Merlin and John talk about:

The Problems:

  • John’s waxy buildup; °
  • The Bubble Bath Rotation; °
  • helping two halfway houses become a whole; °
  • some benefits of German underpants; °
  • Sly offers a PA some oral notes; °
  • Cal stands upon his head; °
  • Merlin’s unfortunate Era Era; °
  • A Brief History of John’s Egregious Rashes; °
  • mastering the international hand gestures that ensure a great haircut. °

The show title refers to people with West Coast passive aggressive mealy-mouthed We can all agree on cheese-tendencies that is at its worst in Bellingham, the farthest Northwest you can get.

Merlin had tater tats for breakfast and feels pretty good. John does not want to sing Merlin’s name today because he doesn’t like it when people know what he is going to do, which is totally on brand. He also takes a different route every time, even if it means he has to drive up on the sidewalk for some portion of it.

John thought he had met Merlin in person this week when he went into an elevator and met a guy with a leather top hat who said his name was Merlin Mann. He was very convincing, but he also could have been Castro Lincoln (Abraham Lincoln). Merlin would like to see what term would be used for himself. Lincoln was born in Kentucky and lived in The Castro, but he also used to live in Illinois.

John doesn’t believe in the old Improv Comedy philosophy that you never say ”No!”, but you always say ”Yes, and…” because sometimes you just say ”No!” Merlin noticed yesterday that someone had stipulated what we can all agree on to John directly and Merlin was tempted to jump into a bunker ("I think we can all agree that the only people not pulling their weight are the dweebs." — Paul F. Tompkins). A fellow podcaster, in fact, but one who apparently has never listened to John’s podcasts. Did you hear Merlin’s heart breaking?

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

John wearing braces (RL27)

John’s braces have been really bothering him lately and last night they were cutting up his lips. You have to put wax on the braces to keep what is evidently barb wire in your mouth from tearing your face apart. John slept with wax on his braces last night and he just realized that the wax was still in there and he doesn’t want the listeners to be confused when they can hear it in his voice. The huge slashes in his inner lip make it harder to talk.

Walking home past two halfway houses (RL27)

Last night John was walking home through his neighborhood at around 4am and there were two people walking very slowly side by side, both dressed in leather car coats, like puffy leather jackets that just goes down to the bottom of your wallet, a situation where a lot of people would start walking on the other side of the street or ask themselves what happened in their lives that made them end up there with these two people.

In the great Hipster Fashion Chase where the kids are trying to find the last good thing at thrift stores and turn it into a fashion meme, the puffy leather car coat has yet to be adapted. If you see two puffy leather car coats from behind, you can be pretty sure that the people don’t also have handlebar mustaches. Puffy coats are the purview of poor or bad people.

There are a couple of Halfway Houses on this street, one for drug abusers and sex offenders and the other one for people who are developmentally disabled and have committed a crime. The one that is just for criminal people is scary because there are bad people there, but the Halfway House for people who have mental and emotional problems and are also criminals is really the one where you have to be ready for anything.

When John was about 15 feet (5m) behind them, within range where they could turn around and throw something at him any time, his readiness got enhanced. They hadn’t seen him yet and the bigger of the two suddenly started crab-walking by sinking his butt down and splaying his feet apart. His feet pointed in opposite directions and he was walking like Charlie Chaplin trying to walk over a yoga ball. John’s readiness was really enhanced, because what was this?

As John went around them, the thinner one of the two was looking at the crab-walking one, trying to figure out what was going on, and the bigger one said in a lispy voice that he had such a bad rash. John realized that they had their own problems, his readiness went back down to zero and he went back to DEFCON 1. John doesn’t think the rash was a product of the humidity, but he would get rid of the puffy leather coat first because it retains moisture that rusts your undercarriage.

Thinking that you are supposed to wear something loose when you have a rash is a rookie mistake and whenever Merlin has gotten rashes, looseness was the culprit. He had probably given up and was wearing giant-ass puffy boxers and needed to take a break. Maybe he had gone swimming earlier, had forgotten to bring a change of clothes, and had to sit in the backseat of a station wagon on a vinyl seat for the long drive home with his swim trunks on, which is a sure way to get a rash.

German bikini underwear (RL27)

John walked more miles than most people have driven and he certainly has driven more miles than most people have driven. John’s driving has taken on a degree of certainty that Merlin doesn’t remember being there before and it is really admirable.

On long-distance walks, especially through Europe, John always wears German underwear. The Germans wear little bikini-underwear because there is something wrong with them, but they are much better for walking than the big voluminous American underwear. On John’s especially long walk that he did he traded all his American underwear very early on for very supportive German men’s bikini underwear.

John buying the wrong laundry detergent (RL27)

John is allergic to a lot of laundry soaps and the worst rash he ever had was when he was a Freshman in college. For the first time he had bought his own laundry detergent because when you are living at home of course you never buy your own laundry detergent, and had bought the cheapest one he could because he was an idiot. Three months into his Freshman year he had worn every item of clothing he owned as many times as you could wear them before he needed to do a huge load of laundry and wash all his clothes. He took it all down to the laundry room in the dorm and did maybe 20 loads of laundry, which took the entire Saturday.

The component parts of this cheap detergent were probably lye, aluminum flakes, mercury, and force tranquilizer. They also put fiberglass in cocaine because will seem more effective. John hung up all his clothes and felt a tremendous feeling of accomplishment: He was a full-grown person and he had done his laundry! Now he had all this fresh laundry and could go another three months without doing laundry.

On Monday morning he put on his first change of new clothes, he went to class, and it started to itch. By the time the class was over and he made it back to his room, he was red, swollen and puffed-out like a puffy leather jacket from his wrists to his ankles, except red as a monkey’s ass. He was lying in his bed in torment, naked, and groaning. Nothing could be done about this rash and every single item of clothes he owned was going to cause the same problem.

John’s room mate was appalled with John to begin with and now he was lying there swollen and naked he was really grossed out. John had spent $40 on doing laundry and he didn’t want to spend another $40 rewashing all these clothes, so he took all his clothes down to the communal showers in the middle of the night, hung them up in the shower, and turned on all the showers, rinsing all his clothes. The next day he got called down to the priest who administered the dorm. He gave John a lecture in hygiene: You can’t just take your clothes in the shower, that doesn’t get them clean!

Someone had reported John, but it was too difficult to explain. Some kid had come down the hall with a towel over his shoulder at 1am, thinking they were going to take a late-night shower, and after they opened the shower door and saw John in there like Mickey Mouse in his wizard hat, swollen in red with all his dancing mushroom clothes, animating all his clothes, they picked up the red phone and said: ”I’m worried about John Roderick”. John was not in there in a pair of 501’s, but he was in there naked, red, and swollen with all of his clothes.

The best laundry soap for John is Cheer Free. It has no fragrance and no dyes, but it is just pure Tyler Durden fat accumulation. It is great and he never has a problem with it.

John’s bubble bath rotation (RL27)

Merlin had a friend who would get sick from milk chocolate. He also has a dear friend whose son had to go to the emergency room while they were giving him the allergy test (Merlin talks about John Gruber’s son). One time Merlin was almost killed by Mr. Bubble and every part of him that was inside the Cincinnati bathtub was pink as a Mr. Bubble.

Recently someone gave John a bottle of Mr. Bubble and he put it into his bubble bath rotation and used some of it. He has several different kinds of bubble baths and although the bubble bath he took with it was a shorter one, he did feel a telltale itchiness, a little bit of a tingle, and he got out of there fast. John is not ready to take Mr. Bubble out of rotation yet, but when it comes up in his bubble bath rotation he keeps skipping it and he goes right to the Tea Tree Oil bubble bath.

Tea Tree is good for everything! Merlin says you can take it for a drug test. It has a very distinctive smell and it is good for cold sores, but it tingles in the wrong way to put on your testicles and Merlin wouldn’t put it anywhere near his dingus. Like with any kind of bath product, John always tries it out on his genitals because you are in there with it and it is nice to know what is going to happen.

John is never diluting things (RL27)

John is not a diluter and he doesn’t dilute things even if it says you have to dilute them with water. He just takes it straight! The problem is that there are a lot of concentrates now and John uses them undiluted at first and he actually had to call the washing machine service guy at one point because it kept shutting off and wouldn’t do a full load. He asked John how much laundry detergent he would put in and the amount John showed him was enough for 10 loads of laundry and that was creating so much foam that it was shutting the system down.

Merlin washing his dishes with laundry detergent (RL27)

In his early 20s Merlin was at a pretty low point. He didn’t have a lot of money, he was doing a lot of drugs, but he had a relationship that he really liked. He was out of blank cassettes and there were a lot of things that were mitigating against him, but his mom had been kind enough to gift him with a bottle of concentrated ERA, a very high-end laundry detergent. For Merlin stench was a big leading indicator for having to do laundry, but mostly it was rigidity. The pits of his shirts would start to crack a little bit.

Merlin had hardly done any laundry during the whole year, his life was falling apart, and he started running out of dish liquid and started washing his dishes with large amounts of concentrated laundry detergent. Because he was drinking water and eating macaroni and cheese out of dishes that were washed with concentrated laundry detergent he lost his fucking mind and wasn’t sure why. Taking a lot of MDMA on top of that did not help. Eventually his mom came by and drank a Coke out of a cup and told him that something wasn’t quite right because it tasted like ERA laundry detergent. Moms can be an important check valve in your 20s!

John finding a dead baby sea otter on the beach (RL27)

John is a person without any body-odor and he can wear his clothes many times. If you smell something on him it is usually what is in his pockets. Parts of him are still 5 years old and one of the ways that manifests is that he fills up his pockets with stuff that he finds as he walks around the world. At the end of the day he disgorges his pockets onto the counter and sifts through all the little beach glass and snails that he picked up along the way. Sometimes, particularly when he puts sand dollars in there or…

The other day John saw a dead baby sea otter on the beach and it took him everything he could to not take the dead baby sea otter with him. How often do you get one of those? The sea was coming in and there were turkey vultures circling around that would be very glad to have this baby sea otter for dinner. There are so many things John could do with a dead baby sea otter, but taking it with him would have been a very 4-year old thing to do. It was not going to travel well, but it was hard to just leave it there on the beach.

John has a process for curating his collectibles: At first you empty your pockets and you got a sand dollar, some beach glass, a dead baby sea otter, half a sandwich that you made yourself, and a pocket knife. The first sorting you do is putting things together that belong together. Generally you don’t pick up groups of things, but you might have one wish rock and one distortion pedal that you found at the side of the street. They don’t belong together, but you put them with their like-items in your home that you already have a collection of.

A wish rock is a rock that through some geological process has a ring of other kind of rock going through the center of it and if you find one of those you make a wish and throw it into the ocean. It could be that there was a crack formed in some igneous rock and then some different kind of rock came into the middle of it. John has a big bowl of wish rocks because can’t bring himself to throw them back and brings them home.

The thing about a dead baby otter is that John doesn’t have other ones and he would have to start a new collection or find some collection where a dead baby otter would belong in. He is still thinking about one. You could hollow it out and make a hat, you would have to hollow it out no matter what you would do with it, unless you freeze it, but then you have to thaw it again eventually and that is not going to be a good process. He found it on the beach in a part of town where John doesn't know the taxidermists, not like if he was in his neighborhood. John has not been to a taxidermist.

Taxidermy, comb overs (RL27)

Merlin’s dad was a sportsman and hunted the kinds of things you would hunt in the Midwest, whatever needed killing, John suggests vermin or Big City Jews, but Merlin was avoiding the ping pong because they are near Indiana which is Klan country. His dad was a terrific fisherman who caught a lot of big mouth bass, but he would also hunt smaller canines, the fox type thing.

He had a buddy who was a really good taxidermist and taxidermy is a lot like dentistry, hand jobs or haircuts: You keep going to the same barber because you don’t want to have to say what you want every time and you won’t have to talk to each other, especially if you have a comb-over, which is more an expression of the barber than the person who is living under it. It is the opportunity for the barber to create a hair nest where there was none and if he makes you look like Moe from the Three Stooges, but you are not going to question it because you already feel ridiculous going in there and having him make a hair helmet.

There must be people who specialize in that! If any of their listeners has a comb over, let today be the day! If you got a 1990s goatee, just give that a little extra thought, too! Merlin is not talking about Queens of the Stone Age or Chinstrap Lincoln. Sometimes John likes to rock a Colonel Sanders, not a Van Dyke exactly, but a Mark Twain with a mustache and a goatee that don’t connect. There are stories that Andy Warhol hired a guy who would come in every few weeks and act like he was trimming his wig.

If you are getting hand-jobs every day you know exactly what to say and not be embarrassed about it. John finds people fascinating who can talk about sex uninhibitedly. Merlin is not at all fixated about his hair, he gets a $12 haircut, but he spends a lot of time talking about his haircut before getting it and even if he would pay his barber $50 he would still not have adequately compensated him for his time. Merlin’s hair is tremendous and that is why his haircut fixation is such a source of joy for John.

We act like a barber is a blue collar trade, but there is no such thing as a blue collar trade! There is huge amounts of expertise involved! You are dealing with psychology, with physics, with a lot of mechanical skills, you have to handle money, and you are an artist. You probably cannot rock the same haircut over time and you are a time traveller who has to extrapolate what this haircut is going to look like in six weeks.

Taxidermy is hard and it is not what people think it is. Merlin’s dad did have taxidermy animals in the house and there is still a very large Canada Geese at Merlin’s mom’s house. Merlin does not have a single angry fox perched on a log in his house, but he is incredibly impressed by taxidermy because they are not just stuffing animals, but they are making a sculpture out of that animal. People think you cut it open like a carp and stick a bunch of cotton balls in it, but it is so much more than that!

If you have ever seen somebody’s taxidermy dog that was done poorly, like if you watch television in an older relative’s house who has a small dog mounted on top of the TV, you are not going to be able to focus on The Price is Right, but you are going to stare at these fucking googly eyes. You are slipping on the plastic-covered couch while you avoid the gaze of their taxidermy former pet and there are all the cats. Merlin finds it incredibly fucked up and creepy to have stuffed animals around.

Hand-jobs and blowjobs, Bellinghaming (RL27)

Unlike with hand-jobs and comb-overs you can go to a taxidermy place and tell them that this is a fish you caught and have them make it look like this fish. That is a transaction that is very straight forward. You can also go to a hand-job parlor and say that this is a fish and you want them to make it look like this and the hand-job purveyor goes ”Okay, I’m playing along!”

Merlin has heard people say that if you like your haircut, take a picture and bring it back. Can you do that with hand-jobs? Can you bring in a video of a hand-job that you have enjoyed and ask them to replicate that? Every hand-job is different because every day is a new day. Unlike a taxidermy animal which is stuck in time and is never going to grow more fur, you are constantly shucking off your skin cells and next week your penis will be a different penis than the week before. Also their hand will be different! This is fucking Heraclitus day one! Heraclitus would be a really good name for a hand-job parlor. You never dip it in the same hand twice.

John and Merlin have a mutual friend who could address this topic quite directly. John ran into him in Seattle’s hand-job district just recently (see RL8)! In order to get the hand-job you want you have to say some things directly and some things obliquely. You don’t just say ”Here is what I want! Get it done!” because the people who give the hand-jobs have probably more experience with giving hand-jobs than you and know their business. They are in a position to appreciate candor for their customer so they can deliver the best product for the best price.

You don’t want to come in and Bellingham those people! John just turned Bellingham into a transitive verb. The city of Bellingham is the city in the most Northwestern corner of the United States. You could say that La Push out on the Olympic peninsula is further West, but it is not as far North. The West Coast passive aggressive mealy mouthed we can all agree on cheese tendencies are concentrated as you move further North West until get to the city of Bellingham where no-one can make a decision, no-one can ever express an opinion, and no-one can ever get into an argument and will go: ”Oh, I see, yes!” John hates Bellingham! It is where ”Don’t yell at me!” music and culture comes from: If you are talking in an unvarnished way about your feelings or about some ideas you had, people will throw Icelandic sweaters at you until you are muffled!

John is opposed to Bellinghaming things and he wants to put a stop to it. You don’t want to go into a hand-job parlor and Bellingham the woman, but at the same time there is an element of fantasy necessary for you to become truly aroused, unless you are a sicko or a sociopath and you want them to whack you off right now and you want them to start a little taxi-cab meter. People who like the dirtiness of it want there to be an element of degradation and people who don’t like the dirtiness would like there to be some pretend game that the woman actually likes this and is doing it because she enjoys watching you have pleasure, even though the woman at the hand-job parlor doesn’t care about you.

Merlin can see a German going in there and wanting a taxi-meter, or they want the woman to take a poo on him. Merlin periodically comes across German pornography on the Internet and is struck that the Germans have babies because it seems to involve a lot of pooping and hitting and very little penetration of the proper holes. The many years in college that John spent learning multiculturalism has taught him to respect and admire the German poop sex culture and he doesn’t judge.

Sylvester Stallone having a blowjob with the microphone on (RL27)

If you don't want them to touch your balls, how do you express that? Do you say it directly or do you make a pointing South thing? If you want them to do it a bit more rigidly at the top, you might pull a Sylvester Stallone, not eating eggs in a glass, but one time he was making a film in Seattle. They were filming chase scenes in a city and if you live in that city you realize that from one shot to the next he has gone 15 miles and suddenly he is headed in the opposite direction. It happens in Bullet. How does he keep being on the top of the hill? He keeps driving downhill and now he is on the top again! This must be when (Jonathan) Van Ness had a Trebuchet and he just flings himself all the way over.

This Stallone movie is one of these terrible movies where he is a spy (probably Get Carter), but there are no spies in Seattle, first of all, and he is driving around in a puffy leather car coat because it happened during that era. One minute he is on this side of the town and one minute he is on that side. At that time Seattle was trying to be a film town, a lot of people were working on this film, and John heard this story first hand: Stallone was mic’ed for sound while they were filming and he was not in this one scene, but he was back in his trailer. The microphone was still on and he was getting a blowjob from some production assistant and everyone in the sound truck was listening to him getting his blowjob.

John has never heard a recording of it, but he has heard the story from multiple people and it is always the same. The pull-quote from Stallone is: ”Cradle the balls, work the shaft!” At the time in the early 1990s when this story made the rounds, the idea that you could say that to someone was a revelation because in your late teens when you first start getting blowjobs, John kicked into gear a little later in life, the only thing that ever comes out of your mouth is: ”Thank you!” Merlin finds it to be an awful lot to ask of anyone, even if it is a terrible blowjob, and when you get older you realize that there can be really terrible blowjobs. People like to do it and there are enough of them happening as they speak. This is the Bellingham problem: You think the blowjobs are a favor, but it is not necessarily true!

In England it is called cottaging when you walk into a place and somebody poops on you because they enjoy that, or maybe somebody is in there saying: ”This is occupied! Please come on in, I will be happy to receive your graciousness!” There is a side to everything! A person walking down Broadway in a leash and ass-less leather chaps likes to be naked in chaps just as the guy holding the leash likes it. That is true for blowjobs, too! In the early 1990s It was a revelation that you could speak to somebody who was fellating you so directly and say ”Cradle the balls! Work the shaft!” Those two instructions are not incompatible with one another and he was basically saying: ”You have two hands! Put them both to work! I am Sylvester Stallone!”

Playing the same ad for many years (RL27)

There used to be an ad in the local newspaper for the hot tub place where you can rent a hot tub for an hour, but targeted for straight people. On the picture was a woman in a hot tub in a bikini, drinking a Cosmopolitan with one hand and also simultaneously running her fingers through her hair with the other hand. If you have ever tried to drink a Cosmopolitan and run your fingers through your hair seductively at the same time you know it is a physical impossibility.

It infuriated John almost as much as the stupid Rosetta Stone ads with the farm boy who was learning Italian to be able to get an Italian Supermodel. The first time you see them they are very effective, but they ran that ad for five years and it pissed John off! He was a Florida auto mechanic, she was a Japanese Fury. Merlin thought that way about a Crisco commercial in the early 1980s which might have been personal insanity: They would have testimonials and they talked to a very old Southern woman and showed her name on the bottom of the screen and her name was Toppy Smelly, spelled like it sounds.

Many commercials were on over and over again, but this one was so awful and it was on so many times that it is now encoded right on his hard drive. John gives another example: ”If you are looking for a better set of wheels, I will stand upon my head to beat all deals!” There was a Ford dealer in Alaska named Cal Worthington who had a TV commercial where he would get on top of cars and sing that line (see this article) The punch line was: ”Go see Cal!” It ran every 20 seconds for 15 years! Everybody in Anchorage Alaska can sing Cal Worthington’s theme song all the way through.

Sometimes late at night he would even buy 2 minute spots and his songs had six verses, it just went on and one. He added verses as compact cars, campers or vans came in. He was in an environment with palm trees where it was sunny outside and in Alaska they were so confused about what the outside world looked like that it never occurred to anybody that he also had chains in California and was really a California car dealer who probably had 25 dealerships in California and just one in Alaska.

When you meet an Alaskan and sing the Cal Worthington theme song, it is big hugs and fist bumps all around! Merlin is from Southwest Ohio and the equivalent for him is Kash Amburgy with Kash’s BIG Bargain Barn in South Lebanon Ohio. It would just always be there forever! Merlin fucking loves the 1970s! He didn’t make it all the way through Calculus, but he will have that in his mind until the day he dies.

Neither John nor Merlin made it all the way through Calculus. Merlin took Geometry in 12th grade while you normally take it in 7th or 8th grade. John took Geometry pretty early but then he quit taking math. Merlin got a B in cursive, which just means handwriting or longhand. Longhand was Eric Clapton’s original Rock nickname before people realized he doesn’t have long hands, but he has a short guitar. It was forced perspective, the Peter Jackson thing! His guitar was 3/4 sized and he said: ”Call me longhand!” Do you think he is the one who spray-painted ”Clapton is God”?

Gay sex practices (RL27)

Brian Epstein would personally buy all early Beatles singles to make sure there was a sellout. He was also very into cottaging and John Lennon. They probably did fool around. Lennon fooled around with him just to say that he could! Lennon liked to fuck with people and hold that over his head. John is pretty sure John Lennon was atop and he probably didn’t give Brian Epstein instructions, but he giggled at him and used shame and fear of revelation to keep Brian Epstein…

Gay men know how to give a hand-job because the penis is not a strange thing to them. They have seen one before. The problem with giving hand-job and blowjob instructions is that you are dealing with a woman who has never seen one before. Merlin heard there is a lot of appeal on a strictly sexual satisfaction basis to doing things with somebody of the same gender, but he has never done anything with anybody of the same gender, not even in college. They say that you already got the equipment and you know how to work the tool. Maybe it is a more efficient thing and you don’t have to give those kinds of instructions?

As a gay man you realize that a pinky up the bum helps the whole thing along! How would you ask for that in a place? The international sign for ”pinky up the bum” is holding up a hand, make a fist, and raise the pinky and do a sweeping motion. What else would that mean? Nobody starts counting with their pinky! In Europe they start with their thumb. Merlin’s daughter does that as well, she might be European.

Most young ladies are shy about putting a pinky in your bum, even though they should know that everybody likes that. Putting stuff in a lady’s bum is in a different category. It is like ”How long have we known each other?” It is a smaller slice of the pie, but it can also be a bigger one, John doesn’t really want to get into that because he is already revealing too much and he wants some of the ladies who listen to this podcast to still have an element of surprise when they meet him.

They act like they don’t know about the pinky, but then: ”Boom!” No fist needed! When John holds up his fist and starts raising the pinky, he wants them to wonder: ”What is going to happen next?” He doesn’t want them to know everything! Maybe it is a German thing and if you raise your first in Germany they hit you and poop on you? You stick that pinky out, hit them with your first and break your own pinky. That is part of the hotness! Then you say: ”Thank you!” and leave a big tip, but Germans don’t even tip! That is not the kind of tip you want to leave!

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