RL430 - PILF Pants

This week, Merlin and John talk about:

The Problem: John is the outlier, referring to him being the only 52-year old Gen-X person in his neighborhood of Boomers and Millennials, as he realized when walking in the 4th of July parade.

The show title refers to John wearing stars and stripe pants in the 4th of July parade that made him a PILF instead of a MILF with P meaning Patriot.

Their entire Skype chat history is just John saying ”beep” and Merlin never replies because the reply is that they start the show. Without context that doesn’t make a ton of sense and when the FBI comes and looks at their conversation they would go: ”What the…?” and every time they ask John a question he would say: ”beep!”

Merlin is not really awake yet because it is Monday July 5th. John is not very awake either. It is 85 degrees (29°C) and yet he is a little chilly. They did not record last week because it was over 100 degrees (38°C) in the room in which John would be recording the program.

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 Please do not quote these texts directly without applying your own editing first!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

Thinking about spending a night in a hotel because of the heat wave, not having air conditions (RL430)

John asks Merlin if he knows where the closest hotel to his house is. There is one where they put his mom up in down by the water, but San Francisco is a weird city for stuff like that.

John lives close to the airport and there are a lot of hotels down there, hotels he has driven by his whole life, but not a hotel he would have any reason to patronize. Occasionally someone will be in from out of town and he will go into the lobby of one of them, but when the temperature gets to be 107 degrees (42 °C) these hotels take on a whole new thought technology of spending a night or two in the $99 airport hotel that is just right over there with air conditioning and Sex and the City on the TV and you can close the blackout curtains and you just go away and your super-hot house that no-one ever thought to put air conditioning in just fades into your memory.

For a long time when the weather gets too hot John has periodically snug off to a $99 airport hotel where he turns off the lights and watches Sex and the City until the heat goes past because it is never more than a day or two. In San Francisco there are mostly no air conditions because all those old buildings never had central AC and it doesn’t get that that hot or that that cold and the fog mostly takes care of itself.

There is an intransigence as part of Seattle’s identity that means no-one wants to admit that anything has changed, although everyone is a hippie screaming about climate change, but they are definitely not prepared to say that they need air conditioners now. Like with umbrellas: We are not going to start using umbrellas now! There is a bit of an air conditioner gap. The new houses that were built after 1997 have air conditioning because the arms race of contractors building big dumb awful uninhabitable mega-mansions had to keep upping the ante. They already had the stainless steel refrigerator with the computer in it. Those people now with their middle-aged baseball caps and their freaking flip-flops are comfortable sitting in their houses.

John walking in the 4th of July parade in his neighborhood (RL430)

Yesterday John was in a little parade. Was it Private Parade? General Disorder! Major Catastrophe! Their suburban community incorporated itself back in the 1950s and calls itself the ”City of…” There is no real center to the place, there is a grocery store and a couple of Mexican restaurants, but there is no Main Street USA. Still, there is a town pride and there is a 4th of July parade and in order to be in the parade all you have to do is to step off the sidewalk and start walking in the direction of the parade along side it or in it.

It is a bunch of classic cars, the definition of which is very stretched and is basically: ”Do you think your car is a classic?” As they were watching at first John’s mom asked: ”What is special about that truck?” She wasn’t wrong, it was a 1997 Chevy step-side pickup truck, but the guy had lowered it a little and it had good paint and he had pride in his vehicle and he had spent money on it and he was rolling the dice that it was going to be a classic.

Because it is an affluent suburb you get some crazy cars and one guy had a 1965 Ferrari that is worth hundreds of thousands of dollars and he had restored it nut and bolt in his garage and even at idle the thing just sounded amazing. There were 3 other Ferraris that were newer, making this neighborhood where you are going to find 4 people who have Ferraris! There was also a 1986 Ford van. Merlin thinks that was an exciting time for vans, there was that Toyota one that looked like it was from the future (Toyota Space Cruiser) and Mike Squires had one and Merlin’s friend Sam’s family had one, it was tremendous.

It looks like the van from the movie Moon Patrol (?) and when Squires drove his around John would tease him with: ”What’s up, Moon Patrol?” It was a great van, except that something was always sparking back there, which was not stock. Your motor shouldn’t be sparking!

Another car in the parade was a Vixen RV with a BMW motor, which looks a bit like the GMC RV, but it is really low to the ground and small, which feels sized like a delivery van, except long and it looks like it is from the future. It is strangely big and small at the same time and it is so low that if John was standing next to it he could talk to you over the roof. John had never seen one in person before, but there was one in the parade and 99% of the people were probably wondering what that van did there while John had his nose to the glass.

The reason John was in the parade was that it had a children’s bike parade. After the fire trucks all the kids can line up with their decorated bikes covered with crepe paper and streamers and they get to be in the parade that goes from the great school to the city hall, which is not a short distance. A tractor was pulling a trailer with a bunch of hay bales and people sitting in it. The Miss Teen Pierce County, who is part of the Miss America organization, but way down. They are in King County and Miss Teen King County must have had a different parade, so they got Miss Teen Pierce County riding in the back of a Corvette with Miss Pre-Teen Pierce County.

There were a couple of guys on motorcycles, some guys driving tow trucks advertising their tow truck company, but one of them was a 1967 tow truck. To Merlin this doesn’t sound like a parade, but like a bunch of locals walking the same way. John’s daughter’s mother was very offended that there wasn’t a marching band. Every High School has a marching band, probably even the Junior Highs and you can’t call it a parade unless somebody is playing a snare and a bass drum. You could get a firefighter’s band, there are even Punk Rock marching bands in Seattle.

Most people brought their lawn chairs down to the sidewalk in front of their house and the audience was built-in because you are going through a neighborhood. John was walking in the parade mostly to keep his daughter’s mother from hovering because she is just entering that age where she is starting to be a little bit clingy because her daughter is 10 and she can see her starting to grow and blossom and have independence.

She can now ride her bike between mommy and daddy’s house and she is a lollygagger who stops and looks at birds nests just like her dad did and at one point it had been too long since she had left and she doesn’t have a phone and she hadn’t arrived and after a while he got in the car and drove the route and couldn’t find her. It turned out there was a 1/32nd period where John looked down a street and didn’t see her and as he turned right she turned left and in the end she was sitting on he mother’s couch.

She wanted to be in the parade and her mother who was dressed in a very festive 4th of July fashion entered into the parade blurring the line between being in the kids’ bike parade and being back there with the stragglers. It is a Ragtag Fugitive Fleet (reference to Battlestar Galactica) that was bringing up the rear and she was up almost putting sun tan lotion on her nose as they were riding in this parade. ”I got you a hat! I got you another hat!” and she was going to be in the front of all the kids, her front tire being right behind the fire trucks, and like a sled dog if another kid’s tire got closer to the fire truck than hers she would get closer and closer while never touching.

John had to join the parade to tell her mom to hang back with him and talk about stuff so he could give her something to think about so that she is not thinking about the fact that her perfectly fine 10.5 year old daughter is only 150 yards ahead of them. It just so happened that John had a pair of Stars and Stripes Uncle Sam pants which make him look like he was in the MC5. These are pretty cool pants that you are not going to find on the rack, these are not the cheese cheap ones, but full-on Rock’n’Roll flag pants.

John is not an overly slim guy, but these pants are very slimming, they have a Rock cut without going over and as he was walking in the parade he was getting a lot of cat calls from all the moms, like: ”Nice pants!”, ”Love these pants!” and people whistling after him. It made John a PILF (instead of MILF with P for Patriot), which gave his daughter’s mother something to think about. John was exactly where he wanted to be, it was wonderful! She is an attractive woman who also was in a very festive patriotic outfit that if she had raised her hands too high in the air it would have been showing a teeny bit of her underpants, which was very ”God bless America!”

John has been living in this neighborhood a couple of years and it is very hard to know the neighborhood. He read an article recently that was describing how in Los Angeles you can gauge how wealthy a neighborhood is by how many trees are on the streets.

Merlin went through this a lot in Sarasota where he had a friend who was an invasive exotic vandal and he would go on ninja missions every night to the new developments to destroy the invasive exotics, sometime at a cost of $5-20.000 per tree. When Merlin’s mom was still in her freestanding house she got offers all the time to buy her Sago Palm because it is very costly. John’s neighborhood was a forest and they came in and cut out some areas for houses. They logged it in 1910 like everybody, maybe they have logged it a second time in 1930, but not again after that and some of the trees in John’s back yard are 100 years old.

It means that they don’t see their neighbors very often and you wave people on the street, but it is a bit awkward. When John would pick up his daughter at the elementary school he felt no commonality with the other people because of the Las Vegas-isation of America that means that all these guys had backward baseball caps on and John doesn’t want to be their friend. It is just as weird when you see other people in the hotel in the elevator or even in the hall because you realize that those are the other people who stay at the hotel.

When walking through this parade John saw all his neighbors for the first time and he realized that this little town that was just a weird thing in the trees is incredibly diverse, not just in people but also in age. When you are in a parade on Capitol Hill and see someone over the age of 50 you wonder how that old person got there because although it was full of old people in the 1950s/60s they all got driven out because there is no reason for an old person to live up there, no facilities for them at all, and the culture of the neighborhood is not actually that diverse, and one thing it doesn’t allow is regular old people wearing hats.

In John’s neighborhood there were people who were 60, 80, 50, or 30, with kids that were 10 or 5, it had been a long time since John had seen a neighborhood with people with so many times of life. Everybody was like: ”Nice pants!” - ”Thanks! It was just a coincidence I wore them today!” and his daughter’s mother responded with: ”God, you are insufferable!”, but she likes to be in the 15-foot glow around John, not too close and not too far.

It was not just a bunch of weird sports dads down there, but John encountered a lot of delightful people and had to re-evaluate his perception that was skewed based on a very small sample. There are also a ton of kids, but they are all 5 years old and younger because the parents are 10-15 years younger than John because nobody cares about generation X, as if they don’t exist, and people are having kids a little younger now.

John was walking in the parade as the 52 year old guy: ”Let me tell you when Chris Cornell looked at me across a crowded steaming shit pile and said: You are never going to be more than what you are… something. I forget the lyric!”, while these guys are all listening to EDM because they are Millennials and the world is theirs now.

John is the outlier in this neighborhood. There are a bunch of boomers driving their restored Ferraris and a bunch of young people who probably have 6 TVs in their house and John is the guy in the MC5 pants and his people are not there. They are like tears in rain! What did Generation X even become?

There was the movie where Robert Redford was on a sailboat going around the world (All Is Lost) and his sailboat hit a thing in the water and got a hole in it and it was an entire movie where he was the only person on the screen and he barely spoke a word, but he was just there, trying to keep the boat from sinking in the middle of the Indian Ocean. One of the things he uses is a sea anchor that you throw in the ocean and provides drag in the water and he used it to free himself from an obstacle.

John was not aware of this tool before, but afterwards he started to think of it as a metaphor: He uses a sea anchor all the time. When it was time to get out of a party he would mime pulling the rip chord on his parachute when the party was a building falling through space and you would go right through the ceiling, floating away. It sounds like something Tom Cruise would do. John started throwing a sea anchor out on himself when he felt like he was being swept into something or swept away, but he didn’t want a real anchor, he didn’t want to get yanked, but just a sea anchor to pull him a little bit.

John was acting as a sea anchor with his daughter’s mother. As the parade moved down the road he just slightly slowed her down. At first she was 20 feet from their daughter with 2 kinds of sun lotion in her hand, but that was really screwing up her anchor dress vibe with the red/white/blue and the handkerchief and her hair tied up in a red ribbon. ”Just slow it down! You are with Mr. Nice Pants, we have our own thing now!”

Little by little the fire truck went forward and John knew their daughter was up there, that her wheel was barely avoiding bumping the rear bumper of that thing, but they couldn’t see her anymore, but they have become part of the mom and dad parade, they were meeting their neighbors, the older people, the young people, people they knew. Then the parade went around a corner and they couldn’t see the fire truck anymore, but John had created enough sea anchor style distractions for her.

When the parade got to end, the classic cars were dispersing, there was also a horse trailer for the horses and a replica Wells Fargo stagecoach, and their daughter was nowhere to be found, but John knew that nothing bad could have happened to her in the middle of a parade. It turned out that she had found a really cool playground and she showed up out of the mists and the first thing she wanted to do was debrief and tell them about the people she saw on the parade and what has happened, which was exciting.

When John was a kid he lived in tiny little places and when it was 4th of July he would be in Kingston Washington or Fort Yukon Alaska and they all had those parades where a guy in a riding lawn mower came out. In the Kingston Washington in the 1970s they actually had a Nike missile on the back of a trailer because the Nike missile base was on top of the hill and the Air Force came down and wanted them to check out their missile.

Everything else was the High School marching band, one fire truck, and a tractor pulling a hay bale and the girl from the next county over who was Miss Teen USA. In the Fort Yukon parade he was 13 years old and they actually put face paint on John and told him that he was the clown. They had a foam nose for him, and he was running around the parade, throwing candy, and until he was the Red Robin that was the greatest day in his life (see RL80).

Now they had a silly-ass small-town parade and although he had his daughter in some major parades when she was little this was the first one that she is going to remember. There are not even photos of her in the parade because John didn’t let her mom get close enough to take a photo, it will go undocumented, which is even better. It is the SnapChat parade! Merlin would like to see a photo of John as the clown, but they didn’t have cameras then, except 110 cameras. John has a couple of pictures in his room of Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox on the Oregon coast that he took with a 110 camera. ”Happy Independence Day!” - ”God Bless America!”

Ken Jennings throwing the first pitch at a baseball game where the alarm went off (RL430)

The other day John went to a baseball game because Ken Jennings was throwing out the first pitch and a big alarm went off in the stadium and lights were flashing. At first they thought it was one of the 10.000 stupid things that baseball does to get people out of their seats, but soon they realized it was a real alarm. Everything seemed fine and John told his little family to just stay in their seats and wait it out. The alarm went on an uncomfortably long time, but everybody stayed in their seats because in a baseball park being in your seat is the best move.

If a 747 had lost its engines and was going to crash right into the baseball field they would not have time to set off the alarm. The other option is that it was a sniper like in Black Sunday. Dog Day Afternoon would be even better. Then they turned the alarm off and told everybody that it was a false alarm and everything was fine. It was definitely a situation that brought all 25.000 people in there closer together for a brief moment. John is not going to die in a crowd crush because he is not going to find himself accidentally in a crowd crush.

Crowd disasters, why doors open outward, wanting a zipline (RL430)

Merlin’s first cousins were at The Who concert (see RL151). A year earlier his aunt and uncle had been at the Beverly Hills Supper Club the night of the huge fire in 1977. There was also a soccer disaster in the UK (probably the Hillsborough Disaster). That is why doors open out now and Merlin is terrified about his front door that opens inward at the bottom of a set of stairs with a 4x4’ area from the stair to the door and he has to keep saying to his family to please never put anything there that would keep the door from opening.

What if something happens and he falls down the steps and his family can’t move his body and now they can’t get out the door. He does not have a chain ladder. His cousins who were at The Who concert had chain ladders on their 3-story house. Merlin’s uncle was very successful as a VP in Procter & Gamble. Whenever John lived in a 2-story house he always had a chain ladder under his bed, ready to pull it out. Merlin thought a lot about getting a zipline, especially when his kid was little and ziplines figured heavily in TV shows, specifically Diego from Dora.

John did some research on ziplines because his yard would be a killer zip line thing and he read an article written by a guy who’s profession it was to go around the world, setting up the most cool, luxurious, and awesome ziplines and he said he had an enormous piece of property on a hill and he doesn’t have a zip line for 10 different reasons. Thank you for convincing John for not installing a zipline. You have to deal with it every day, keeping it clean and waxed, and every kid in the neighborhood will try to sneak onto your zipline at all times, so you are basically monitoring 24 hours a day. By the end of the article he dodged a bullet.

Working in Washington DC in college, Merlin almost working for PIRG as his first job (RL430)

In college it hadn’t dawned on his what selfish and useless generation Merlin was in and leading in some ways. A guy he rented a house from for a while called Brian was the guy who celebrated the first Earth Day at New College (in Sarasota) as an officially sanctioned event, and he was incredibly involved in grassroots and environmental stuff. He worked in PIRG because he could afford to do so. Merlin almost got a job at PIRG in Boston for $14.000 a year and then his friend John told him that the only people who work at PIRG are the ones who can afford to work there.

When John was working in Washington DC he was sleeping on a couch in a town home with 5 people in it that were all graduates of the Cornell Hospitality Program. They were working at the Watergate and John was friends with on of them and was able to sleep there, but he didn’t have a mattress and was sleeping on the couch and working at US PIRG until one morning he woke up and there was a note pinned to his shirt that said: ”Don’t sleep on our couch anymore!”. It was anonymous, but could only have been written by 1 of 5 guys and John had to move out.

Merlin’s guy Brian increased awareness of Kristallnacht on campus and he was part of a group that was coming in right around the time when Merlin was graduating and you could just feel the generational difference. It was even before Merlin was introduced to the idea of privilege. He had lived in Florida and gone to 4 years of public college, he was not exactly an existential road warrior and he felt that these kids were so much better at life than he was and he continues to feel that even with kids his daughter’s age. They also had their house keys around their neck on a piece of red yarn, trying to conjure a fucking orb.

John used to play at the Southgate House in Newport Kentucky all the time, an old mansion up on a hill that was the cool Indie Rock venue for Cincinnati, but it was in Kentucky. It is very confusing in that area because also the Cincinnati airport is in Kentucky.

Merlin’s attachment parenting with his daughter (RL430)

Merlin’s wife is from Rhode Island and she was raised 5 miles from Bristol Rhode Island, which is purported to have the oldest 4th of July parade in the country. The line-up of bands that appeared there in 2021 looked like a fake Coachella poster where the band names are all made up, like Steve Smith and the Nakeds, The Accused Band, Back in the Day, 7 Day Weekend, Crushed Velvet, Changes in Latitude, Country Wild Band, Colby James & the Ramblers, Bar Fly and the DMB Project.

Merlin and his wife did Attachment Parenting, the whole Dr. Sears thing, not all the way to not setting their kid down for 2 years, but they believed in it and it worked out great, but that makes them predisposed to being helicopter parents. She quit her job for 5 years and all 3 of them are grateful that she make that sacrifice to be with their kid. She was raised a scant 5 miles from Bristol and they weren’t allowed to come in the house until the street lights came on, they were on a cul-de-sac by the Barrington River and they had an impossibly large dome of biomes to play in that was entirely safe because everybody knew each other.

Sometimes Elenor needs to go in the yard, which was hard, but when she first crossed the street to the Confederate Soldier Park to dig around if she could find any hypodermic needles Merlin told his wife that it was important that their daughter was getting practice at being away from them, and it is important for her to rehearse not having her parents around in low-stakes environments, and it is even better rehearsal for them.

She got a phone pretty early on, she was reachable, she was very compliant sticking with their rules, but the more you try to be secure the less you ultimately are secure. What if her phone suddenly dies? Merlin would be freaking out because he hadn’t done enough of rehearsing uncertainty, otherwise he wouldn’t flip out every time he doesn’t have total information. As a person with anxiety it took him until 2021 to realize that sometimes more information makes us neither safer nor happier and you have to rehearse ambiguity and lack of information.

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