RL381 - Slots in Some Imaginary Future

This week, Merlin and John talk about:

The Problem: John was the chase vehicle, referring to driving after his High School girlfriend Kelly when she would do mountain-to-sea quadrathlon, meeting her at the checkpoints and taking care of her gear.

The show title refers to John being in regular Chemistry class in High School instead of AP Chemistry and people there were not competitive, they were not going to one day have a PhD in Chemistry and nobody was competing for a few slots in some imaginary future, but everybody was just trying to get through class.

The audio starts with two seconds that sound like Michael Jackson.

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 Please do not quote these texts directly without applying your own editing first!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

Getting songs stuck in your head (RL381)

Merlin very easily gets a song in his head. Twice in the last week he heard someone sing a little of the song Belle from Beauty and the Beast and that is now in his head all the time. Although Merlin sings it for John, John says he doesn’t know the song. Merlin often gets Morrissey cadences stuck in his head which is part of his life and that is what he will talk about in various places. Sometimes there will be a certain rhythm to how someone says something that will trigger a phrase or a song and sometimes i will take a few hours until he notices he has a song in his head.

The other day John was in the living room while his daughter was absently humming 99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall (song by Melvins) and she had been doing it for a long time. Of all the things to get stuck in your head that would be a maddening loop, but as a young person John doesn’t think it makes her insane yet.

John recommends to refocus on a Beatles song like Help or She Loves You or something that he knows really well and that is catchy and that he can use to get Owner of a Lonely Heart (by Yes) out of his head that has been stuck for a month. ”Move yourself. You always live your life!” - ”I have been bringing in my sampling keyboard!” Is it a Synclavier? It has that famous sample that everybody used for a while, the orchestra stab.

ZZ Top, Frank Beard, Def Leppard (RL381)

The ZZ Top album Eliminator, in which reputedly Frank Beard was not able to do the drumming job and that is why they used that drum sound and then they realized it was great, but Frank wasn’t so keen on just playing along with a drum machine. Those guys don’t seem to enjoy each other very much on stage, Frank Beard more than any of them doesn’t seem happy and he doesn’t seem to want to be there. They are choogling and if John choogled that hard he wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. The interesting thing about Frank Beard is that he is the only member of ZZ Top without a Beard.

ZZ Top is just as susceptible as any other band from the late 1960s to having furry guitars and to deciding at some point that they are not going to play through amps anymore. They have done everything that Weezer has done. To this day River Phoenix still plays his guitar with a Peso that was run over by a train because of Billy Gibbons. After their groundbreaking album (Eliminator) that included so many hit songs like Sharp Dressed Man. It was an out of nowhere hit that was such a ZZ Top record, but also had so many synthesizers. How did they make a Country-Pickin’ Texas Blues Boogie Choogle band that is all synthed out with drum machines everywhere?

Then they followed it up with a record called Afterburner. John was a big ZZ Top fan and he really liked Eliminator, even though most of the time when a really good band came out with a super-pop record in the middle of the 1980s he was going to line up against it every time. He was a big Def Leppard time and he did not like Pyromania, he didn’t like INXS Kick, the didn’t like U2 The Unforgettable Fire. But when Merlin saw Let It Go (by Def Leppard)or Bringing on the Heartbreak (by Def Leppard) - he saw John’s tweets about this - he thought: ”What is this magic?” They are incredible records.

David Bowie, MTV release events (RL381)

Then they re-released Bringing on the Heartbreak with that weird synthesizer arpeggio because the drummer lost his arm. They had to give him special drums. The day it came out was an MTV event that everybody was eagerly waiting for for the world premier. Jazzin’ for Blue Jean is far from Merlin’s favorite David Bowie song, but when that came out it was a whole event and he had make-up and it was a production. This was art at the time! For the rest of that album his make-up was quite regular, he had a regular haircut and a suit, he was pretty normal, and then all of a sudden that Blue Jean video came out and it was so sexy!

Merlin and John grew up with radio and you would sit around and wait for the song you liked to come on. When they finally had cable you had to drag Merlin out the door to get him to stop watching MTV because there was a handful of videos they didn’t play very much and if they did play it, like Adam and the Ants - Stand and Deliver, it was the highlight of his week. Captain Sensible’s Wot had John rooted to the floor until he realized that they were never going to play it again.

Bands who weren’t cool to be a fan of (RL381)

Being a fan of Eliminator… in the 1980s there were a lot of bands that you liked but that you couldn’t quite rep, at least in John’s culture. He couldn’t wear a ZZ Top Eliminator shirt. For example, a couple of years earlier Merlin deeply loved two albums by Hall & Oates, but by the time Maneater (album by Hall & Oates) came out it was not very cool to like Hall & Oates. You could like that one Christmas video, but then you got G.E. Smith up there, hamming it up. It is comfort food for Merlin, but he doesn’t feel cool about it.

Regular Chemistry class in High School, the girl with the ZZ Top button on her jacket (RL381)

John wasn’t very successful in High School which manifested itself in many different ways, primarily in sciences because in the arts, even though he got bad grades, every time they tried to break him down they tried to encourage him through negative reinforcement by putting him in classes that were beneath his dignity. The idea was that John would be so enraged from being in a regular English class that it would inspire him to work harder. That was not a good strategy because John destroyed the class he was in and made it impossible for anyone to learn, meaning they had to leave him in the upper arts classes.

But when it came to sciences they could do this because you have to do science, you can’t just… This was the 1980s and they didn’t know what else to do so they just tried to punish John. They put him in a Chemistry class that was not AP Chemistry where John’s friends were, but Rocks for Jocks, Chemistry for Regulars. It is strange to reflect upon the social division in High School where John showed up for this regular Chemistry class and felt like he was in a different school entirely. It was just down the hall from the AP Chemistry class, but all of John’s friends were in AP Chemistry and he had never seen any of the regular kids before.

It felt like John had been sent to a Gulag. The same happened to Merlin with 8th grade math. He was so insulted by his placement that he undid himself for years with his behavior. Chemistry isn’t even hard, you just sit and do it, which was also what John’s dad used to say: ”Just do it!” - ”I don’t know why I can’t, but I am not going to!” For a whole semester John was in a room with just normal students from East High, snorks, and he gradually came to like it there because there wasn’t the super-competition that was among John’s friends. They were incredibly competitive with each other and were always putting each other down. You could never let your guard down.

They all loved each other, but they were vicious to each other, while in this place everybody was just trying to do Chemistry and get through the class. There were no whizzes, nobody was going to end up getting a PhD in Chemistry in this room, they weren’t all competing for a few slots in some imaginary future. John’s lab partner was a girl with a New Wave haircut and a denim jacket and John was first paired with her he thought of her as a snork, as just a regular girl who was just wearing a regular New Wave haircut.

She had a ZZ Top Eliminator pin on her jacket and John was dumfounded by this. Who was repping that? If you are going to wear a pin on a denim jacket it is going to have to encapsulate your whole thing. Whatever you put on your jacket is an invitation to ask you about your life and preferences.

If your one pin is The Clash, then you are Ted Leo. The first time John’s band med Nada Surf they were both on tour and they connected somewhere out in the world when their respective vans pulled into the parking lot of the same diner somewhere and they were going to begin some dates together with Sondre Lerche and this was their first meeting. As they were standing there, introducing each other, shaking hands, Daniel Lorca was wearing a denim jacket with one pin on it and John asked him what it meant and he replied: ”The Clash! The only band that matters!” and he turned on his heel and walked off.

Sean just exploded, his eyes rolled around in his head and it sounded like he had just run the pool table, like a bowling alley re-racking. John hadn’t even heard that phrase ”They only band that matters”, but Sean explained to him that this was a thing and he could never let it go. If you walked up to him and said: ”Daniel Lorca” he would say ”The only band that matters” in his European accent. Ted Leo surely had a button like that on his suit jacket.

This girl had a ZZ Top Eliminator button on her jacket! Who wants that record to be the thing they want to talk about? John was in this class of snorks, down in the regulars, feeling like he had been banished to a far-away place, and yet his lab-partner was this girl who unabashedly repped Eliminator, an album that John could only secretly like. If he had an Eliminator pin on, he would have been ripped to shreds by his friends!

Probably 20% of the catch phrases that John’s friends in High School had, and he is talking about memes that they still use, were digs at each other. Like Rick Garnett and John were having an argument in the hall one day about Jack Kemp’s economic policies or something and Rick had made some assertion that John knew was false and John said: ”Read up on it, Rick!” and ”Read up on it!” became a thing they would say to each other.

This girl wasn’t sophisticated, but over the course of the semester he gradually realized that she was very pretty and that he liked her. She didn’t have any plan or ambition, she had no sense how the world is divided into classes of people, she doesn’t look at a room full of people and star separating them immediately into groups of class, but she is just a person who is living in the world and who is trying to get through this Chemistry class and she is New Wave, but not afraid to wear a ZZ Top pin.

Partly that might have been because she didn’t have very many friends and the friends she did have were not the New Wave kids. If she had been properly New Wave, then John would have known about her already because she would have been part of the New Wave kids that John knew and had already classed and divided into boxes. But she was not one of them, but she was a free woman in the world, an unaffiliated free agent.

She and John became friends and he started to think about her and became incredibly confused because he would have thought that he outranked this girl in every way he could imagine, but he was thinking about her now and didn’t know what to do. When he had chased Kelly he did know what to do because he knew where she ranked and where he ranked and he just had to surmount the obstacles and prove to her that he was not only her rank, but also outranked everyone in every way he could show that and that he could do things no-one else could do.

But this girl was oblivious to 85% of the things John had trained to show or she just didn’t care about. The fact that John’s boat shoes were boat shoes that put everyone else’s boat shoes to shame, it was not Sperry Top-siders because that was what David Breast would wear, that was a Sosh shoe, but John was wearing fucking Quoddies, some crazy shit made in Maine that would only notice if you cared. What she cared about was that John liked ZZ Top’s Eliminator, too, and they could talk about music and about things that they weren’t competing in. Toward the end of the semester it was obvious that she also liked John and he liked her and he was thinking about her all the time while he was tormented by Kelly walking down the hall on David Brest’s arm.

When David Brest would see John coming the other way he would put on his smuggest one-eyebrow raised face, like the Jared Kushner looking guy who is in the motel room with Kevin Bacon when they beat up Hoover or Pinto (probably a reference to Animal House), except without the ROTC-ness (Reserve Officer’s Training Corps) of it. He was basically tucking his Guess jeans into his socks. He was 100% a Pagan Heart and he would have gotten his ass kicked if he hadn’t also been strong and handsome. He could have gone to Hollywood if he had wanted to, but he just didn't have that much confidence and he ended up staying in Alaska and managed the Natural Food Pantry and nothing makes John happier.

When the quarter was coming to an end and John was going to be leaving this class where he was together with this girl, probably even because he flunked out of it, although he really enjoyed doing the science with her, he just never turned in the assignment. This was in regular High School where you couldn’t just ask the teacher to give you a gentlemen’s D.

John has a memory of thinking about her at his dad’s house, which is very different from thinking about somebody at his mom’s house. He thought about Kelly at his mom’s house. John has no idea what this girl’s name was and toward the end of that quarter he realized that he needed to ask her out because she was waiting for him to ask her out. He had a car now, he wanted to ask her out, and as the quarter came to an end they were doing their work at the lab table and both of them were completely distracted, not that they were nervous talking, they were very comfortable with each other, it was sweet.

The only stress between the two was that John needed to make this move and had no idea how, partly because he couldn’t imaging them being together. It was absolutely a Pretty in Pink thing! What would they go to together? John was still going to his Conserve parties, even though Kelly and David were sitting on the throne and John was pouring another bottle of Ten High Whiskey into the punch bowl and putting a Snickers bar in the pool, or whatever the fuck he was doing, a $100.000 bar, he had become that person! He was Blutarsky in every way.

John couldn’t show up to this party with this New Wave girl with the ZZ Top pin on. He was feeling resistance of letting go of his castle that never wanted him in it in the first place, that he had assailed because he had something to prove, and once he was there he didn’t want to be there, and here was this girl that he could just be himself with but he didn’t understand what kind of life he could possibly have with her. He doesn’t even know if she went to college. John didn’t have another vision, he didn’t know another way to rank things in the world or to rank himself or to know if he was doing good or not other than these very clear ways of seeing and he could not see her.

The end of the semester came and John didn’t ask her out and on their last day of class he said: ”Well, I really enjoyed having you as a lab partner!” - ”Yeah, me too!” - ”Well this has been really fun, I guess I will see you around” - ”Okay!” and he never saw her again. The second half of Senior year John pretty much got bounced out of school and went to the career center, a place that if you wanted to be in the hospitality industry or the radio & television industry or photography you were going to learn a trade. His trade was Radio & Television, they wanted to show him how a camera works and he would show them how a television anchorman works.

John would sit behind the desk and go: ”Today on Career Center News…” and the camera dudes had somebody to film and the teacher was thrilled that there was a kid here who wanted to be on-camera talent, which was exotic. It was perfect for John, he just shot the shit and produced a bunch of weird radio programs that anybody ever saw, but he didn’t go to East. His Going Places friends went on their journey, John stopped washing his hair and started drinking and he never saw the ZZ Top girl again. John never stopped thinking about her, but it just wasn’t a path.

Why John broke up with his High School girlfriend Kelly Kiefer (RL381)

After the summer of Junior year John and his High School girlfriend Kelly were very joined at the hip (inseparable), and it got to be too much. She worked at the Nordstrom café, which was a very good place to work as a teenage girl. It was the place that the ladies went to lunch, it was during the fern bar era, and you could get tea there that wasn’t just Lipton’s, it was the era when waiters and waitresses all wore unisex white shirt black bow tie green apron, so it was kind of androgynous, but classy in a fancy way.

Kelly and John broke up at the end of that summer because at the time when he told her he was going to go with his friends to the mall she would say that she would wait for him to get back, even though John assured her it will take him all afternoon. She was the president of the Junior class, she was a big wheel, and she got very domestic and it freaked John out. All these things that John spent the rest of his life feeling like were true of him, that he was introvert, that he felt pressured by other people’s love, he didn’t like to accept compliments, he didn’t want to owe anybody anything, he didn’t want to be watched…

When he was 15 he didn’t have any of that or at least he didn’t have any awareness of it if he did because nobody had ever watched him or shown him any love or given him any compliments or wanted to wait for him anywhere. In this first relationship that John really had desired and pursued and spent 6 months in this idyllic place, it came to an end when John broke up with her because she didn’t want to do anything else than be in a relationship. John had been fascinated by her because she was so independent and so powerful, she was the most powerful girl in the school, and John didn’t understand it, he wanted to thrag the mall with Jim McNeil.

Merlin had a similar experience in his dot-com job when he was really bugging his wonderful boss wanting to have constant assurance that he would be fine and nobody in his team would be fired and he talked about going to monster.com looking for another job and his boss told him that he really couldn’t afford Merlin’s loyalty right now. Sometimes you can’t afford somebody’s loyalty, even if it is somebody you love. Kelly wanting to sit there tapping her foot while John was in the mall with his friends was really at odds with her primary value, which is that she was better than John in every way and the whole point was that he didn’t deserve her.

Kelly and John had a really good teenage relationship in the context of a group of super-competitive teenagers. They really liked each other and they liked to hang, one would say: ”She was a really good hang” and they enjoyed doing stuff. Kelly was a really good athlete and she was doing a mountains-to-sea quadrathlon with John as her chase vehicle. The race would start at the top of the mountain, they ski down, they get out of their downhill ski boots and into cross-country gear and they ski down to where the snow runs out and then they take off their skis, put their running shoes on and they run down to the flats where they get on a bicycle and bike to the finish.

It is a long all-day race. John was in his 1974 Chrysler Newport Imperial with the sunroof open and he had bought an expended shoulder-fired rocket launcher at the Army-Navy-Surplus store for $9 and he had strapped it to his ski rack on his car so he looked like he had a trunk-mounted rocket launcher, it was the 1980s, it was a different time. John had all her gear, he would meet her at all the different places, not because he was somebody who would have done the race except he broke his toe, but he was drinking Dr. Pepper and ”Come on, babe! You can do it!”

That whole energy, like: ”I can’t afford your loyalty right now!”, that is the first time John can think of that he ever experienced it, and he experienced it whole. John doesn’t know whether at that point in time he ever would have had an intellectual… he had never heard of that concept. His mom didn’t want people over to the house, she didn’t want his name in the newspaper, and she didn’t want anyone at work to know anything about her. The reason she broke up with John’s dad was that he was a bastard, not because he she was an introvert. There were not shoes for John to fill yet. First John was chasing Kelly, and now she was just caught?

John didn’t like chasing her, the thrill of the chase wasn’t what he was all about. Why wouldn’t she do something with her friends and John would sit here and wait for her? ”No, that is fine! I will just sit and read until you get back!”, which put an overwhelming stress and guilt on him that he still feels today when someone else wants something from him that either he can’t deliver or he doesn’t want to deliver, and he feels bad about it. John went to the mall that day and he felt awful the whole time. She was fine, she was reading, she didn’t have a problem.

Her parents are still married. They met in High School, got married and are married now, 35 years later. What she modeled, what she saw in her life: Dad had an orange chair, mom had a yellow chair, mom’s chair was slightly smaller than dad’s chair, the television was in the corner in the living room, dad sat in his char, mom sat in her chair, Kelly and Peggy sat on the couch, and they watched the MacNeil/Lehrer Report (PBS NewsHour) and because Ann Kiefer was a good cook they ate dinner.

Kelly had an idea of what it looked like when you were in love, but John didn’t. Dad lived in this state, mom lived in that state, and whenever they were together it was 36 hours when everybody was getting along and then there was a huge fight about something and dad would be mad at John because John wouldn’t eat his eggs. John didn’t know what looked normal and what he was searching for. Kelly was John’s girlfriend and if you had asked him before they started going out if he wanted to get married and have kids and live in a house and be in love with your wife, he would have said: ”Of course!”

Kelly dating David Brest after John broke up with her (RL381)

John didn’t think when he was 16 that he wanted to be lonely for many decades and he wants to never quite click with anybody and he wants to feel like every relationship is burdensome. John broke up with her, but he did not mean that he didn’t want to still be close friends with her and still consider that they were mostly still going out, just not with this whole problematic part of it. She was hurt when he broke up, but rebounded pretty fast, and at the beginning of Senior year she started going out with David Brest who was exactly the same age as John, they have the same birthday, but he was a Junior because they had held him back a year.

By the time John was 16 he looked like everybody else his age, except they were all 17 and John just wasn’t grown up. The fact Kelly started to go out with David Brest, who was very handsome, but 100% a snork, not good at things, he was for sure a lower status choice, but he was so handsome, he was GQ, he was very fashion conscious, he was beyond preppy, but not a dandy, not a fop, but a style of 1980s… there was a huge dividing line whether you read GQ or you read Esquire. In Esquire there was a lot of men’s fashion, but also Dominick Dunne was writing about the Kennedies, while GQ was just about the latest Swatch.

David one day showed up wearing his watch at the outside of this shirt because Enzo Ferrari did it, or something like that. You would put a Ferrari sticker on your Volkswagen, you put gel in your hair, you are fashionable, not chic or stylish, but fashionable. David was way on the Sosh-side (the Soshes vs the Conserves were two groups at John’s High School), but into this other level of precious egotism, which is a class of dudes. He was successful in what he was trying to accomplish.

The problem was that she was slumming, not only because David was a Junior, but also he was never going to go to a good school or work for NASA, he was never going to write a book, but he was going to work in a Health Food store. He was not going places, he was not part of the Going Places Gang. It was a boy toy situation. For her to do that when she was queen of the preps and she even became student body president, to date a boy that was so lightweight, but pretty, was for her a power-move. She wasn’t renowned for her beauty, that wasn’t her strength. She didn’t need it because she was queen of the scene.

John couldn’t believe it, he was so indignant. There were 4 guys that if she had started to date them John would have been devastated because they were the 4 guys he was in competition with for the world, but she went all the way around those guys and was dating a person that John wouldn’t have ever in a million years picked as his potential rival. In dating him, was he now John’s rival and John’s peer? No! You get stuck in your bracket, even though you consider yourself a much higher seed. He also had the smugness of an attractive person.

Everybody in Alaska is an asshole. Virginia is for lovers, Alaska is for assholes. When John went back to Alaska after the Grunge thing happened, he went to a club and there was a little gaggle of people standing there in floppy watch caps with chain wallets, like David (Cross) from Mr. Show, the Jesus Christ Superstar character, shorts on over land wear (?) and combat boots. John had been living in Seattle at this point and he was really noticing that they were wearing Seattle clothes in Alaska.

David tried to talk knowledgeably about what was happening in the men’s fashion world in Milan, but this was Alaska, bro! This isn’t real! You cannot be real here and that at the same time. John had so much penned-up class-awareness and status-awareness that when he was trying to assault the castle and all the kids up there were rich and also successful he was like: ”Watch me as I tear down your walls!”, but once he was up there in the castle and… Kelly made it okay and then Rick Garnett started dating a very prominent Sosh girl. What was going on? Was John seriously have to go to parties now where he is in a party with them? What the fuck?

The start of John’s fall in High School (RL381)

John was in this chemistry class and this was the beginning of his fall. Senior year had started, Kelly was dating David, and John got bounced out of upper level science and math and was at this crossroads where his 1.2 cumulative GPA had caught up with him, but he didn’t yet know that by voice vote all the teachers would say to let him go, ”Give him the paper! Get him out of here!” In his Junior year their futures were still far enough away that it was still just a game of who was quicker-witted, but by Senior year it was a question of what colleges you had been accepted to.

Kelly wanted to be a doctor and applied early admissions to Johns Hopkins and John always wondered why. She could have gone to any Ivy League school, but Johns Hopkins was an expression of her super matter-of-factness. She had super-practicality and at the time she said with supreme confidence that Johns Hopkins had a better pre-med program than Yale. John thought: ”Who cares? You got to Yale if you can!” - ”No, because I am interested in the following 7 different brain chemistry tracks that are only available at Johns Hopkins” She was headed there, Rick went to Duke, and people were on their way to the big castle.

John realized that there was a gate here, this was an aperture that you had to get through and that all these people had been aware of, and people had been saying that to John since 7th grade. He knew it, but he didn’t know it! Up until that moment he thought he was going to be able to waltz into the world and go to the front door of Yale and ring the bell and they would open the door and: ”Hey, there he is!” and they would be off to the races.

John is not 100% sure if he had maintained his confidence through Senior year what would have happened. Setting off to Junior year he had this list of things and by the end of Junior year he had accomplished them all. He was dating the queen, he was sergeant of arms at student congress, he had started doing all the pep assemblies, he was Mr. Man! BMOC (Big Man on Campus!) But then it all turned and John’s confidence went completely out the windows, because he all of a sudden didn’t see a path that he could waltz in and explain to people just by the cut of his jib why he belonged there.

John was no longer even allowed into the upper level Chemistry and Biology classes. Up until that point John would have said he belonged there, but from Senior year they said they were actually doing work now and it was not a question of whether or not you belong here, but a question if you rank here and do the work, which John didn’t, so he didn’t belong there. John belonged there in a class sense, but that wasn’t how they did that anymore at this point. He also had tremendous arrogance. He just showed up where he knew he belonged.

When John was running for city council, the first time he went to one of these big events in a Downtown hotel that he had always gone to with his dad, where all the political players are there for a lunch on behalf of the World Wildlife Foundation and Senator Patty Murray is there to present an award to the director of the water conservation society. Those people have those lunches three times a week in every city in America, that is just what the political class does for work, and it is the 101 of networking. At every one of those tables somebody is the sponsor who put $25.000 in an envelope to put 10 people at this tables who are their hand-picked crew. This is how America is run.

John walked into that event in a suit that he found at a thrift store with a tie that had a secret naked girl in it, his glasses were made by his guy in Yakima, the shoes were his dad’s, and he rode the escalator up into this room, there was the entire political class of Seattle, but John was not there with his dad, but because he was running for city council. It was the first time in a long time that John had to stop at the top of that escalator and tell himself that he belonged there. It had been so long since he had to say that to himself that he had forgotten how stressful that is to walk into a room where you are not sure whether you belong there, let alone where you know you don’t.

John knew a lot of the people in the room, but he was a new candidate, so the others were not racing necessarily over to greet him, because the first person who will shake his hand, everybody else would think: ”So I guess Dow (Constantine) is endorsing John” Some guy lobbying for Shell oil was talking to John, a judge with some business at the council was greeting him, and then his opponent Tim Burgess came up the escalator, perfectly tailored, he looked around the room and because he was the president of the city council everybody in the room knew him, and in the moment he saw John he turned away in shock and fear, like: ”Oh, that’s that guy!”

That moment when Tim saw John and flinched was when John knew he had all the power in the room that anyone could have. Tim was 10 years older and had been in the city council for 15 years, he was a former cop, he was everything that plays in this world. He had done opposition research on John and when you google John and have never met him and are not in his world, an awful lot of things will turn up that you don’t know what it means. ”What the hell is Inbox Zero?”, but there sure are a lot of web pages about it!

John’s Star Wars tweet going viral (RL381)

John got a couple of French followers on Twitter over the last couple of days and didn’t understand why until somebody sent him a link to a French Star Wars magazine where the tweet from his daughter was featured.

Posting High School pictures on Instagram (RL381)

John recently went on Facebook saying: ”There are no pictures of me in High School” because everybody was posting pictures from High School and a bunch of people posted pictures John had seen. It is not hard to find his yearbook picture and doesn’t even look like John. Then Kelly was on John’s Facebook page, saying: ”I take this as a challenge!” - ”I have seen every picture you have of me”, but he hadn’t. She sent some pictures, one of them her sister Peggy took of them sleeping on the floor of her parents’ living room. In not having seen that picture before he had not built a callus around it and contextualized it in all this ways.

All of a sudden he saw this picture and he could not remember a time he was that innocent, a time when he could have fallen asleep on the floor, holding hands with Kelly. John never was that person again, but when he was that person it felt natural and normal. Kelly and John were teenagers who fell asleep talking to each other on the phone where three hours into the conversation they were: ”Are you still there?” - ”I am still here!” - ”Are you going to go to sleep?” - ”Maybe!” and they would fall asleep with the phone in the crook of their neck. John never did that again with anybody! He never again chased anybody again!

John stared at this one picture for a week, trying to understand that he was a normal sweet kid at some point and he started thinking about this girl in Chemistry class. He had never talked about her to anybody and mentioning her on the podcast today is the first time he ever mentioned her at all. She was an alternate universe, the alternate universe that John looks at that picture and sees him and Kelly staying together and getting married and being together which would have been possible. Her parents met at 16, a lot of people do.

They could still be together and they could have that picture falling asleep holding hands on the carpet and that would be one of their earliest pictures together. John never would have imagined that until that picture showed up, and in trying to make sense of it, all of a sudden this little New Wave girl came back and he realized that she pops into his head all the time. He doesn’t think about her like: ”What if?”, but whenever he thinks about ZZ Top, which is not never, he thinks about that pin. It wasn’t cool ZZ Top, but it was freaking Afterburner ZZ Top.

John's posts on Instagram are here, here, here, here, and here.

Merlin changing the topic just before the show ends (RL381)

Was there everybody anybody cuter than Karen Allen in 1978 (from Animal House). Merlin is looking at a lot of photos right now and she might be single. In that moment when Boone (Peter Riegert) comes in to try to win her back and then he hears Donald Sutherland’s voice from the back of the house and she goes: ”Boone!” and she has that desperate voice. Until Ally Sheedy in Wargames, which is not Ally Sheedy in The Breakfast Club. Merlin finds her a special thing, those crooked teeth. She is so brunette! ZZ Top girl might have been closer to Ally Sheedy in Wargames than Kelly was and Ally Sheedy in Wargames was what John might have hoped would happen, he just didn’t know how to talk to WOPR.

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