RL365 - Meet Me at Ballet

This week, Merlin and John talk about:

The Problem: John is off his bubble, referring to having booked his colonoscopy one day after his dim summit.

The show title refers to an Asian restaurant in Seattle where John had his first Pho.

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 Please do not quote these texts directly without applying your own editing first!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.

John having scheduled his colonoscopy the day after the dim summit (RL365)

They start the show talking inaudibly in strange deep voices. John was a bit off his bubble because it is a little early and this was the day before his thrice-postponed colonoscopy and today John had scheduled his semi-regular dim summit where he meets with some high-muck-a-muck in the advertising game for large dim sum breakdast [sic] / lunch, which spans hours sitting at a big table sending things around the Lazy Susan talking about all the different beer brands that they are going to make that is going to make them millions. They will talk about branding and politics, a wide range of topics because there are a lot of concerned citizens there.

Sometimes they will have a guest, not very often, like for example Merlin would be very welcome to join them. They have former mayors come, and it is the whole thing. It is sometimes hard to get a dim summit on the calendar and John forgot that he had a colonoscopy the following day until he woke up this morning, realizing he had a fork in the road coming: Does he treasure the dim summit and put off the colonoscopy one more time, probably into the new year because he has a lot of anxiety about this colonoscopy and doesn’t want to do it, or does he just get it over it and skip the dim summit because you can not eat 40 pieces of dim sum and then immediately begin the process of preparing for the colonoscopy.

At the Jade Garden there are tables that are just too small for a Lazy Susan, but John’s crowd often shows up too few people to justify in the eyes of the staff a table big enough for a Lazy Susan and John not showing could cause there to not be a Lazy Susan quorum, which would be a terribly indignity to John’s advertising friends. Also, the Jade Garden at noon is a freaking zoo: People are swinging from the chandeliers, it is nuts! It is the kind of restaurant where they are coming around with a cart and are constantly interrupting you. Certain members of John’s party will take charge and say: ”Yes, two of those. No, no those, we don’t want chicken feet!” John is one who says: ”I have never had that one before!” but that is not how you do it in this group.

One of the guys would order the noodles, but he has been soundly rebuked for ordering noodles by the group at large. Nobody wants sticky buns, nobody wants egg custard, those things have all been muted and collectively scorned by the group. One guy Mr. Fancy Pants likes the shrimp with mayonnaise and walnuts and although everyone else scoffs they will still get it to please him and for no other reason because they enjoy watching him enjoy his mayonnaise-y shrimp.

The problem is that if John won’t go he will get flamed, but second of all they are not going to get a Lazy Susan, which will add an addition level of flaming and will degrade the experience further, on top of missing the company John brings to the advertising round table.

In addition, John also wants to have the colonoscopy behind him and doesn’t want to rack up 4 on the board. His doctor is the woman who many years ago said: ”I didn’t come to you!”, the doctor who got John on prescriptions in the first place and saved his bacon. Her office is also the one where the measuring tape on the wall is an inch wrong and they keep telling him he is 6’2.5”, which is a noticeable amount shorter and when John tells them that their instruments are incorrect they will laugh. She is a straight talker who asked John to see a psychiatrist.

Last year she said: ”You are 50 years old now and all I want is that you schedule a colonoscopy before your 51st birthday!”, but John waited 9 months until he realized he had made this promise, he scheduled it and then he cancelled it. He had fulfilled his promise, but had immediately cancelled it because he didn’t want to do it. The night before when it was supposed to happen he called and said that he forgot and they were really nice about it and rescheduled, but it was 2 months out like they do.

The reason John is late to recording this episode is that he called the doctor because he had forgotten where the doctor had sent the prescription for the stuff he was supposed to take. John has to start taking this stuff now, but he can’t find it, he looked in his email, it could be anywhere, they are probably not going to make it today in time, he has this dim summit meeting, he is not sure what to do, and he is looking for them to say: ”Don’t worry, we will just reschedule it!” Every single person John has talked to associated with this appointment has been amazing. Every time he called on the phone they have had a laugh, they talked about their experience, strength and hope, and at the end of the thing John feels very relieved.

This young women was no different: ”Don’t worry! It is fine! There is still plenty of time for you to go to the pharmacy!” She found the prescription and they have it there and all John has to do is go over there. John replied: ”Oh, I already had some coffee today!”

John has never had one of these procedures before and he would probably not be so anxious if he had it before. There are all kinds of angles that make this extra difficult: One can ask for the Michael Jackson drugs, but John is not going to do that, he doesn’t even want a local anesthesia. Merlin says that the stuff you have to drink doesn’t taste good and you don’t want to go too far from that side bathroom because you are going to get some pretty rapid transit.

John had some sense of this and as a last ditch he told the lady: ”I already had some coffee this morning, that probably disqualifies me, right?” - ”No, you can have a light breakfast even up until noon!”, which is exact where the dim summit is supposed to start, but after noon you have to just switch to clear liquids, even coffee but with no milk in it. She just paved the way that everything was fine and John was so much still on target that he could switch off his targeting computer.

The dim summit is still on today as far as they know. John’s mom just sent him a text: ”Ran into Jason and he said you are having lunch! How about coming by my apartment after and handle my business questions. Bring your laptop! Your peanut butter jars of coins held $162.02. I will put it into your account!”, which is a lot less than John thought was in those jars!

John called the pharmacy, all right about when John and Merlin should have begun this show, and got caught up in some phone tree where they told him to leave a message, but John was not going to do that - if his mom has told him one thing it is not to leave a message at the pharmacy because that is how they get you! John is not going to be able to tell them about the dim summit in a message and they are just going to be playing that back for each other, rolling their eyes. Instead John called the colonoscopy person who then said it was going to be fine and when John called the pharmacy again to leave a message, the pharmacist lady answered on the first ring and she was really nice and promised to have it ready in an hour, which was the opposite of what John wanted to hear.

Mr Fancy Pants from dim summit is one of these guys with a flouncy pocket square and he one time gave John a bag of Soylent that was the size of a bag of grain, back when it was a powder. It was a sack of powder like one you would make a dike out of if the river was overflowing its banks. For 5 years that bag sat in John’s cupboard and he looked at it all the time, wondering if he was ready to step through the door into the future where he no longer needs food and he will just buy a bag of seed every spring and fall and just live on glue or whatever it is that these people are doing. John never was ready, but he liked the idea that if a time came along when he was ready to stop eating food this giant bag of human feed was there that had been tried and tested by software developers in the greater Bay Area and had been proven to facilitate human survival and that wasn’t disaster food.

John dreaming of a friend who wanted to OD (RL365)

John had a dream last night where he was interacting with a junkie friend, debating whether they should take an overdose because suicide was a consolation. John was not saying: ”… but you have so much to live for!”, but he was saying: ”Eh, give it another day! If you have enough dope to OD, maybe string it out and get high for a few days. Let’s talk about it! You could always do it later! What’s your hurry? Break glass in case of life!”

John’s introduction to Dim Sum and to Pho (RL365)

As John sits here, he is on track so far, he hasn’t consumed anything this morning, not even a dry cracker or a single hard-boiled egg and he could still go to dim sum, he could even be on time, because the timing was already baked in and Merlin wouldn’t even know. They would do a regular show, John would say: ”Okay, Merlin, talk to you later!” and then put on his coat, swing on out and march into Dim Sum on time to get a Lazy Susan for the table. Merlin really wants that Pork Shumai now, he was the one who introduced John to Dim Sum, but the place with that pigeon is closed now. They were $0.30 a pice!

John lived his whole life without it and Merlin asked him if he wanted dim sum for breakfast while they were sitting there with Eric Corson and had at the time only been to 3 states. They got a party platter and they would walk back from the pigeon dim sum with more dim sum than they could carry and they would sit there and make concoctions and eat these dim sums. It was 98% Shumai, they didn’t even have any fancy dim sums. Merlin will get 80-90% Pork Shumai, a few of the shrimp ones, maybe a Chive, just so he didn’t seem like a weirdo because he would seem like a fetishist if all he was getting was just a whole bunch of doughy pork on a party platter.

John doesn’t understand about Shumai that there is always something crunchy in it like you are getting a hoof or something. Merlin gets that in his Pho meatballs as well. You think there is half a mouse in there that they put through an extruder. The first time John ever had Pho meatballs (see RL136), the woman sat down with him and instructed him. It was a restaurant he went to all the time, before the revolution when there were still restaurants that were just ”Asian”, mostly Chinese food, something like Japanese food and a little bit of Indian food just for fun.

One of the meals they all loved was this curry in the color of Tika Masala, bright orange, except it didn’t taste like Indian food, but like something else. Everybody ate at this restaurant, it was called Ballet and in the early 1990s in Seattle you would just say: ”Meet me at Ballet!” They had no idea where the owners were from, what kind of food this was except that it was served with rice and the people who made it were from Asia. There were fortune cookies, there were all-vegetable meals, it was the first time John ever saw Mock Chicken and on the menu it was just called Curry Chicken with no further explanation. The vegetarians could get it with just vegetables, no chicken, called Curry Vegetable. There weren’t that many preparations.

One day John went in there by himself because it was also a place where you would eat by yourself and get a pot of tea and eat Curry Chicken, and there was a little tent on the table saying: ”Try our beef soup!” and John ordered it and the lady asked if he had ever had their beef soup before. The wait staff were just the daughters who were at the ages between 8 and 12. A very kind little girl would come out, but she had been in the shit and had seen it all, this was Capitol Hill in 1991. There was the one little guy with a frayed wig who had the big guy on a leash and they walked everywhere, it was a super-gay neighborhood, it was when Dan Savage was still a drag queen.

The lady brought John the beef soup and it was at this moment John learned that they were Vietnamese. In Seattle they had Vietnamese restaurants for a long time, but Bill Clinton only normalized relations with Vietnam right in that era. She told John that those were different kind of meatballs that are half-crunchy half-chewey. It was delicious and it was both crunchy and chewey. That is the thing about Shumai: Other dim sum have regular consistencies, but Shumai is chewey but then it will crunch and you will discover that there is a part of a mouse in it.

What Merlin likes about Pho is that it is a different meal every time depending on how you combine it, it is the ultimate do-it-yourself meal. You can have a lot of noodle or a little bit, you can have more Sriracha or more MSG. Merlin has a MSG-shaker at his private office. The most important trick is to heat the broth for 2-6 minutes until it is boiling because you are going to put that over cold ingredients in a cold bowl and there are some weird-ass cow parts in there. Merlin takes out the Tripe, which makes him a little inauthentic.

John likes to make a quite elaborate Pho preparation and a wonderful thing about being a dad is that now his daughter gets a bowl of Pho and they recognize that they are dealing with a child that is protesting because she doesn’t want to get Pho because it tastes like flowers and they always bring her a bowl with extra noodles in it. John does his very involved Pho preparations, with plum sauce, fish sauce, salt & pepper, crunch up the jalapeños, put all the leaves, he is doing it all by hand, no chompers. John picks up the bean sprouts and crunches them up between his hands to make them smaller and they tumble into the bowl. John is eating it more like soup while Merlin treats it like a bowl of wet meat that he eats mostly with a fork.

Now that his daughter gets a bowl of extra noodles, in addition to all the other stuff John also has more noodles and broth and as he eats the soup… We sow the soup and nature grows the soup, John eats the soup, and then he can continue to add additional soup components that weren’t in the initial layer of components. John can eat a lot of this Pho soup!

dim summit (cont)

Now John has 1 hour and 8 minutes because noon is the cut-off point for both the dim summit and for starting to drink the liquid for the colonoscopy. When he gets off of this program he will have one more cup of coffee and he will walk out the door and decide: If he will turn right he can make it to dim sum by noon, if he turns left he is going to the pharmacy to get the potion.

Currently he feels like he tried to get the medical professionals to wave him off, to give him a yellow card whatever it was, to give him a get-out-of-jail-free or a white ribbon or whatever he was looking for, and the resolutely positive and professional people John talked to on the phone both gave him the green light. Everything was on path: Go to the pharmacy, start drinking it, don’t go further than 15 feet from your bathroom for the rest of the day and tomorrow, it might be a good day for Infinite Jest, and tomorrow John is going to lay down on a bed or something and they are going to do unspeakable things and John is going to take a lot of medicine because…

John having been sober for 25 years (RL365)

The other day was John’s 25th sober birthday. He almost always forgets it, but he got a couple of nice messages from people: ”Hey, look at you!” John didn’t say anything more about it because it always feels a bit personal

dim summit (cont)

When John thinks about going to the colonoscopy and they are telling him that it is not uncomfortable because they are going to put drugs in him and he won’t feel the fact that they are all up inside him, but he doesn’t really do drugs. They will tell him it is not that kind of drug, but Merlin mentioned that it can be Michael Jackson drugs. They learned from MASH that anesthesiology is a very complex and potentially hazardous thing. They want to give somebody the minimal amount of whatever they need to not feel pain and to get you into the condition.

Most of the discomfort John feels in life he has earned somehow. Every time he eats dim sum he thinks on some level about the damage he is doing to his colon in the sense that he eats whatever at whatever o’clock. Is it 8am? He will eat the pizza that is under the bed or he will order a roast beef sandwich. Is it 11pm? He will eat 30 pancakes or he will put dim sum in him at any hour of the day and night, he will eat anything except for olives and potatoes and he will take any replacement they have except cottage cheese or sliced tomatoes, like you get in restaurants where the waitresses have blue hair.

John has done so many bad things in life and in the same way he is waiting for the Greys to rebuild him from the ground up one of the things he always imagined they would do is replace whatever the lining of his insides are. Part of what John is panicking about is that maybe his insides are full of polyps, maybe he is already dead, maybe he got 10.000 cancers in it, but Merlin thinks John will be fine. What if they go in there and can see every dim sum he ever had? Like: We know the troubles you have seen, but we also know the crimes you have committed.

People say that you can have a low-level inflammation for a long time and it will affect your health. Who wants that?

Until John walks out that door and goes either right or left he is Heisenberg’s colon: Four hours from now his colon could either be so full of dim sum that he can barely walk comfortably or it could be full of some crazy potion that he gets at the doctor’s office, which according to Merlin will also give him trouble walking properly, but for different reasons. John doesn’t normally have anxiety about stuff.

John doesn’t want to go on stage after he has promised that he will, he doesn’t want to go out and do things anymore, like he was down in LA last week and there were a lot of different things that he should do, like go see this person or that person, but John skipped them all to sit in the lobby of his hotel and read issues of Arts & Architecture from 1952 that they had laying around, waiting for the day to be over. It was not even a hipster hotel, it was a Euro Trash hotel and the people behind the counter all had accents from Tunisia or something. It was the only hotel of its kind in America, but there are many around the world.

Their TV was a Mac and it had a proprietary remote that looked like a turtle and you could go on the Internet or watch Netflix. One of the screens let you choose between TV, movies, porn, and it said: ”Free XXX Porn!” and porn had never been free in hotels! Originally the porn with one X was movies like Caligula where there was a plot, but there was also sex and it was too much sex for an R-rating. XX was not so much plot, more sex than plot, and XXX was just sex with no plot. Merlin doesn’t think that is real. When John clicked on it they asked if he wanted free XXX pron or free XXX gay porn and that is like a dim sum vs colonoscopy crossroads: Which way do you go? You are going to find stuff you are going to like on either side of this! Of course John went to both, which is what separates him from the snorks, and all of the titles were MILF-based porn. But John went back to the lobby to read Arts & Architecture and what he didn’t do was meet his friends or go to their events.

The thing John went to Los Angeles about he had to sign a Non-disclosure agreement, but he never does that because when they say: ”Sign this NDA!” - ”Or what?” It is not like they barr you at the door. John went to the thing that he went there to do, but Merlin interrupts him and is worried that John might get caught up in a law suit if he continues to talk about it. This show would get shut down and they would slap an injunction on the door of it.

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