RL9 - He Was Apparently a Talented Baker

This week, Merlin and John talk about:

  • John raking his leaves (House)
  • Sunset Magazine ads for juvenile detention camps (Stories)
  • Merlin using index cards (Merlin Mann)
  • Sonic Youth, alternate guitar tuning (Music)
  • Merlin's drive to organize his daughter's toys (Merlin Mann)
  • Goodwill's store organization (Objects)
  • Zooey Deschanel looks like Katy Perry (Movies)
  • John’s girlfriend Maurice, the thrift store picker (Friends)
  • John finding a whole wardrobe in a Goodwill (Objects)
  • Counting Crows, Jennifer Aniston, Narcotics Anonymous (Movies)
  • Getting angry at ladies magazine covers (Stories)
  • Christina Aguilera (Music)
  • Intermission
  • The old lady with the ”Don’t yell at me” sweatshirt (Style)
  • John planning to take his daughter to Mexico in a jeep (Stories)
  • The bakery in Anchorage that was owned by a serial killer (Stories)
  • John’s conflicting personality, wilderness people in Alaska (Stories)

The problems:

  • the dolory of John’s wet and unrakeable leaves; °
  • some nuanced aspects around fulfilling The Belgian Promise; °
  • Kim Gordon’s sassy and industry-ruining boas; °
  • solving an Argentinian heiress’s mystery on the pampas; °
  • new ways to make iced tea while your kids are in rehab; °
  • the passing of Maurice; °
  • the challenge of becoming a truly memorable serial killer when saddled with just two names; °
  • one stinky Nigerian Prince and the weltanschauung he brings to organizing a Goodwill; °
  • mothballs, mildew, and dreams deferred; °
  • the timeless advice Merlin shared with his infant daughter; °
  • how Merlin helps by taxonomizing his toddler daughter’s toys; °
  • how John will eventually help by explaining this process to Merlin’s teenage daughter; °
  • why St. Paul was definitely a Taurus and probably a komodo dragon;
  • scouring every molecule of the Duritz from Jennifer Aniston’s bath tub; °
  • choosing John Roderick to block; °
  • marching orders for The Salivation Army; °
  • Merlin discusses something pelvically; °
  • the bespoke wardrobe of Philadelphia’s most pretty-wristed dandy; °
  • The Story of O’s self-enlightened snacks; °
  • exploring the artisanal baked goods of Alaska’s busy bush pilots; °
  • Merlin’s numerous confusions about Zooey Deschanel (“/ˈzoʊ.iː deɪʃəˈnɛl/ zoh-ee day-shə-nel”); °
  • thoughts from John’s Mom on the controversial versatility of Meg Ryan; °
  • tips for insulating potted plants for winter; °
  • swerving around John on the road to Damascus; °
  • balloons v. bottles in the service of optimistic correspondence; °
  • why Lenin secretly never peed on fruit juice; °
  • John’s plaintive voi ch’entrate regarding opening any ladies’ magazines; °
  • a renewed interest in shiny ladies in big shoes standing on ladders (a/k/a “Ladder Girls”); °
  • the pressing need to attach a proper Boswell to John’s Johnson. °

The show title refers to a bakery in Anchorage that had been owned by a serial killer who apparently was a talented baker.

It helps to ask things from people as a favor. John knows who hates that and his famous line is ”Sometimes it does hurt to ask”

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

John raking his leaves (RL9)

John sounds dolorous, but this is the time of year for that. Two days ago he had raked all the leaves in his yard, he put them in piles, and he told himself to better pick these leaves up now before it rains. Then he got distracted by a butterfly and now is the next morning and it is raining on all of John’s leaf piles, which means John can’t rake them anymore but has to pick those giant piles of soggy wet decaying leaves up with a shovel, which is a whole different game.

Merlin can see John raking leaves on a philosophical level as part of a larger process. There are a couple of reasons why John doesn’t sub-contract this leaf-raking business. One of them is that he makes his own compost and especially the leaves from the Catalpa tree are great for producing loamy compost in the spring. Also, John uses the leaves to insulate potted plants that he leaves outside over the winter. All this is stuff that you can learn in Sunset magazine, John didn’t invent it.

Sunset Magazine ads for juvenile detention camps (RL9)

Sunset Magazine did a heavy rebrand recently and Merlin loves it. John used to love it as a kid, but it was all about hot tub parties, 1970s moms, how to decorate your bungalow, and making ice tea, but now it is about hipster moms and it has become a very sexy magazine. Merlin has it in his bathroom and he has used it to learn about things. The old magazine was a peculiarly West Coast magazine that covers Arizona, California, Oregon, Washington and even Alaska and it had a whole section of classified ads in the back, many of them were ads for juvenile detention schools and fat camps. There were three pages of ads in the back of Sunset for what to do with your troubled kid. There would be a picture of a chubby girl with tears streaming down her face who doesn’t want to rake the leaves.

When John was reading Sunset as a kid he would get to the back and it was this taboo area because although he wasn’t afraid they would send him away to juvenile camp, there was still a period right before 11th grade where John’s mom got all the application forms for all these schools and had John fill them out in long hand as some kind of tough love program, not the fat camps, although he should probably have gone to those, too.

There was an essay portion on those application forms and John thwarted the process by writing hilarious and terrible essays and dragging it out until it was too late. It probably wasn’t the best idea to have John fill out the applications, it wasn’t a thing he wanted to do. His mom was kind of vetting them for form sanity, but John was very good at writing something that passed muster, but that also on closer inspection said ”Fuck you!”

John is (Antonio) Gramsci, the Marxist in jail who is writing on little bits of paper and when you peed on them, the true type would become revealed, which is an old spy trick, the disappearing ink that you can only see when you pee on the document. You can write in lemon juice and when you pee on it, it gets revealed. Is this called a pigeon drop? Merlin had a Caspar the Ghost disappearing ink book, but he was probably not scratching hard enough at it and he did not get any coded messages he was aware of apart from the ones he sees everywhere. The thing about coded messages is that there needs to be a sender and a receiver and if you are just squeezing lemon juice on blank pieces of paper looking for messages, your rate of return is going to be pretty small.

There could also be a problem of having sent coded messages to yourself that even you don’t understand. Merlin called it his 30s, he was peeing on everything and he was squeezing lemon on fucking everything that didn’t move, he was dropping pigeons. He ended up married, so something must have been working, but he was walking on a wire. Merlin has never put a note in a bottle and thrown it into the ocean. He has put things on balloons and imagined that it would do something interesting. John has done that out in the Pacific Ocean.

Merlin using index cards (RL9)

Merlin wonders if John lives anywhere near a drug store and has access to index cards. He is not forcing this down John’s throat, but John has a lot of problems and is probably missing some kind of affordance, as they call it in Human-computer-interfaces, for capturing his thoughts in some kind of a taxonomical way that he could theoretically put into his pocket.

Sonic Youth, alternate guitar tuning (RL9)

Merlin wonders if the bass of Kim Gordon is a standard-tuning. John never went into the fetishized Sonic Youth’s alternate tunings thing, but he did go into easy dismissiveness around 1985-1986. People were talking about their alternate tunings and you would see two drumsticks stuck in their Jazzmaster and they were hitting it with a hammer. John doesn’t know how much alternate tuning matters when you are hitting it with a hammer. One of their guitars has four Ds on it. Merlin saw them once and the next night their equipment was stolen, which sucked because they didn’t even know how some of their guitars were tuned and they were pretty sure they couldn’t replicate it. Tom Violence and potentially Shadow of a Doubt were certain songs that had to come off the repertoire.

Merlin's drive to organize his daughter's toys (RL9)

As recently as this morning Merlin's organizational gifts were evidencing themselves. Sometimes he likes to be very focused and when his daughter wants to play with something, he likes to organize the parts. Merlin organized her Magna Tiles and her plastic animals. He has different buckets for all of her little plastic toys that are anthropomorphic and/or people. The Toy Story ones are in their own one because it will play together, but the Big Tub’e Cats cats go in alongside the Creepy Crawlies.

Magna Tiles are very easy, because there is a limited set of colors, such are Legos, but for the Thames stuff Merlin has three different boxes. John is glad they are talking about is, because when Merlin’s daughter will be a teenager, she will come to John and say ”Uncle John, I have so many problems!” Merlin wonders if that was something she peed on to send to John, but John is going to say ”Let me give you some insight where some of your anxieties might come from” Merlin asks John that if there is a torn and filthy index card with teenage girl’s urine on it, to handle it carefully, but John cherishes items like that anyway.

John suggests that if Merlin and his daughter are looking for an activity, Merlin lives mere blocks from the Pacific Ocean and they could go down there periodically, write a letter to whom it may concern, put it in a bottle, cork it and throw it in the ocean. In San Francisco the pollution police might be all over him, but this bottle in the ocean thing is big stuff! Merlin couldn’t throw it off the bridge because somebody would occupy him. It works on so many levels even if the theoretical purpose never happens. Merlin used to explain to his daughter when she was a baby that this was the biggest body of water in the world, and she could get in a boat and go all the way across that to another country. If you can manage projects and put up with bullshit, you can do anything in life. He would tell his daughter every morning because his wife needed a minute to take a shower.

Goodwill's store organization (RL9)

John was at a Goodwill yesterday and they are had organized the place differently to conform the insane mind. Merlin always obsessed over who decided to make ”Wooden souvenirs that no-one ever needed” a section. People get promoted up the corporate ladder, they become managers, and those individual people’s obsessions dictate how the thing gets organized. This particular Goodwill was being managed by a 50-60 year old Nigerian man who was very elegant, but he had terrible body odor. He obviously was obsessed with office supplies because there was a section of office supplies that is usually relegated to a little corner in the area where the old carburetors and battery chargers are. This guy had office supplies for two whole rows, paper and 3x5 cards, unopened, and stacked to infinity.

John was walking through this area and thought it would be the treasure of the Sierra Madre of Merlin because these were vintage 3x5 cards and not that new crap. Merlin is reluctant to talk about any of this because if this story had Bat Girl in it, it would be his fantasy because it already has Goodwill, organization, and Nigeria!

Merlin was a Goodwill sweeper who used to go to Goodwill all the time, but back then it was a whole different world before Kim Gordon ruined vintage fashion. Right now she is having a hard time. At a Goodwill you can see a level of organization that reflects a certain human Weltanschauung that goes way beyond how anyone would ever think about buying something used for not much money. The connection between those two things is virtually non-existent.

The Music section is always a complete mess. If you want to find records or a giant thing of cassettes or a Tepalca (?) single, you are screwed because it is all a mess, except if you go to the Hipster Goodwills who triple the price on everything, but they organize their music section, because that is what hipsters do: They get a job at a Goodwill so that they can put all the Dan Fogelberg records in order. Meanwhile the cups and saucers and the Tupperware sections are just giant piles of debris and detritus because these kids are only organizing the skinny ties and the CDs and the rest of the Goodwill is going to hell. Hipster Goodwills are some of John’s least favorite places to go.

It used to be that when somebody in your family died, whether or not you liked them, you did not keep their clothes. Every once in a while John goes to a Goodwill and catches that whiff of mothballs and he runs to the back and there are 25 suits from the 1950s from some guy who had died, but of course they all for a 5 foot (150cm) person. These are mothballs, mill dew and dreams deferred and they will go fast because they are some good-ass suits. Merlin blames Kim Gordon who showed up in Sassy Magazine wearing some kind of fucking feathered boa, because today there is cherry picking going on at every level.

It has always been that the people at the Goodwill or the Salvation Army got dibs. If a boa came in, that shit was out the door. Dan Fogelberg? They got plenty of those for Merlin. Merlin was talking about their Walmart style of distribution and now they even put stuff on the Internet. You drop your shit off at the Goodwill and it goes to some central processing, probably in Reno, Nevada and lots of Dominican children separate stuff. There are 75 different levels of cherry picking going on at any thrift store: It is getting picked at central distribution, they now have these boutique sections, then it is getting picked by the people who work at the individual places, and then there is the first rung of professional pickers who show up at 8am on Monday morning and make a living reselling shit they find on thrift stores.

Zooey Deschanel looks like Katy Perry (RL9)

Does Zooey Deschanel ever get mad that she looks like Katy Perry? That must drive her nuts! The best story John has ever heard was that she was at a baseball game in Seattle and some drunk guy was like ”I know you! I know you! I’m a super-big fan” and she could tell that they thought she was Katy Perry, this was before everybody knew her when she was still an Indie darling and before she was a genuine bonafide celebrity. Her show was doing quite well and made her quite famous. That used to happen her a lot, but now her picture is on every dorm room wall in America. Merlin still gets it wrong and picks up Lucky Magazine.

John’s girlfriend Maurice, the thrift store picker (RL9)

John used to date a girl, let’s say her name is Maurice, who was a picker. She and John would go to thrift stores in the middle of nowhere and walk through the aisles. People would be coming down the other way and as they pass each other they would say ”Hello, Maurice!” - ”Hello, Stan!” and there would be all this derision dripping off both of them. Then the other person would wheel their cart full of Nike Air Jordans, torn T-Shirts and Horse Hair jackets past them and John would say ”How do you know that person? We are out in Monroe!”, but she knew all these people. They are full of hate for each other because that is what they do. It is the same with comics people and record people and any of these diggers.

Merlin thinks this is happening at a much deeper level now. In 1985 when he bought all his Paul Westerberg-looking clothes, that stuff was going from the dumpster of the Goodwill to the moth ball room and straight onto the show floor, probably within a matter of minutes, but today that stuff is going on trucks, probably to a central center, they get photos of Kim Gordon and probably Zooey Deschanel.

You have to approach thrifting philosophically and if you get obsessed about all of the things that you are missing out on, all of the great things that have been picked by thousand levels of pickers above you, it will get inside your brain, slowly drive you crazy, and you will not be able to do anything else but think about going to the thrift stores. Thrift stores are like a tide pool: Stuff comes in with the tide and goes out with the tide and you have to get out of thinking that there is anything good there. You have to walk in to a thrift store with the conviction that there is nothing there. It is like an un-curated museum of overly normal. Hipsters want to go to the place in Philadelphia with the eyeballs and if you go in there expecting a Four Freshmen record, it is going to limit your vision and you are going to get mad at the guy who got it before you.

John finding a whole wardrobe in a Goodwill (RL9)

One time John was in a thrift store in Philadelphia. Merlin thinks that John needs a blog about all the places he has been or a (James) Boswell to be capturing all this. John appears to people on the road to Damascus every fucking day, but they drive around him while he is standing there waving his arms. John found a man’s entire wardrobe with 15 suits, custom-made shirts, beautiful stuff and it fit John perfectly except that this man had incredibly short arms and John looked like a snappy-looking Boris Karloff, except that the pants weren’t correspondingly short. If the pants had been short and the sleeves had been short, John would have bought all of this stuff and dropped $500 in this place, but these sleeves went halfway down John’s arms, and all this stuff was tailored.

The pants fit and were the right length, he was the right height, a giant of a man, but either his arms were half as long as John’s or he had his suits custom-tailored so that he could do the dishes without rolling up his sleeves. It was devastating to John because it was the holy grail. It was an entire wardrobe that used to belong to a man with class, taste and distinction, tailored at a time when people made things by hand, but this guy had flippers instead of arms and there was probably not a note in the pocket explaining that. It would have been a hell of an estate sale!

John didn’t search the pockets, maybe there was a note sowed into the lining, something he could show to TSA! He might have had one of those special houses with a helper-monkey. This is like meeting the woman you think is perfect and then finding out that she only listens to Phish. In this case John found something that was disturbingly close to perfect for him and it was yet so fundamentally wrong. This guy was bullet-proof, he lived in a big house and he probably had a diamond-tip cane that was really long because the arms didn’t reach down to the floor. It might have been William Zanzinger?

Counting Crows, Jennifer Aniston, Narcotics Anonymous (RL9)

Once John met a girl at a narcotics anonymous meeting and she was so beautiful, so smart and had all the things that John thought he needed in life at the time. Meeting her where he did seemed so fitting. John thought they had a lot of the same problems and a lot of the same gifts and this relationship might be the one! He went back to her house and on the way to the bathroom he noticed in a corner a shrine to the Counting Crows, not just a poster, but several framed photographs arranged in a shrine-liked triptych with candles and John couldn’t let it go unmentioned. They are the fake Van Morrisson band, the fake Rolling Stones band, they are The Black Crowes who did that Faces cover, they were a good cover band! Through longevity those guys are somehow still on the road while the Counting Crows have converted somewhat by having Indie bands open for them. John would not say that they have credibility of any kind.

That dreadlocked fat faced guy (Adam Duritz) dated Jennifer Aniston. He was a Hollywood creep who washed his dirt-soaked bejewels in Jennifer Aniston’s bathtub. How much time did she have to spend at Home Depot to figure out a solution to keep all his beard and hair shit out of her bathtub? She seems very tidy and gives the impression of somebody who says that you can’t shower at her house. Merlin thinks she seems nice and very pleasant, but John disagrees. His mom said one time ”You know that Meg Ryan? Even though she always plays roles where she is an anxious, tidy ball-breaking little bitch, she seems like a nice person, but Jennifer Aniston always plays roles as your best friend and also a little bit tidy…”

One time John was in a dentist’s office and picked up a copy of architectural digest, as one does. There was a photo spread of Jennifer Aniston’s new Hollywood-villes home, which had been professionally decorated by professional decorators and John tired to picture himself standing in that living room in a bathrobe, yelling into the kitchen ”Jen! Jen! There was a book on Miles van der Rohe here somewhere and I seem to have misplaced it. Do you know where it is?”, but he just didn’t feel it. If John came in as the new Jen Bow, he would ask her to have the bathroom professionally cleaned to remove all the dirts, to make sure there is not a lick of dreadlock in there. It wouldn’t have occurred to John that that guy would have befouled it. He would have to insist that she moves and throws away the mattress and stuff, even if it was a long time ago.

Getting angry at ladies magazine covers (RL9)

Merlin’s wife is one of the greatest people in the world and sometimes Merlin picks up silly ladies magazines for her. John has seen Merlin do this. Merlin picks up some Half & Half, and he might get a Vogue or a Bizarre, failing at that he will fall back to a Lucky, which is about shopping and style and it has stickers. These things cost money that they probably shouldn’t be spending on a silly magazine, but she enjoys it and Merlin is only allowed to do that so often.

He will bring home The September Vogue the day it comes out. There is a movie The September Issue with the big gay guy that looks like John in it, André Leon Talley. Merlin buys these for her and he is happy to do that because she takes care of their daughter and their home and she is the best person Merlin has ever known. Then he gets angry about the covers of these magazines when he is defecating or occasionally urinating, sometime he looks through them to see if there are cute pictures of girls, which there are. John tells Merlin not to look into women’s magazines because they contain multitudes of angry-making things that you are not supposed to look at or you will turn into a pillar of salt.

Sometimes Merlin will end up with a Self Magazines, which is a third-tier magazine. She does not like an Allure, because that is a magazine for teenagers about lipstick and sad. Occasionally Merlin will take a photo of a Self because the cover is so rife with nothing but bullshit shortcuts, the stuff that you shouldn’t be worrying about anyway. It is intoxicating! This is why John can’t look at a Psychology Today! All it is is pictures of cute young moms overcoming their problems, and now that John started thinking about those, he got so mad!

O magazine is a funny thing because Merlin always gets mad at the cover. A story on the latest one was: ”Bonus: O’s self-awareness workbook” - ”You bring the pencil, we bring the enlightenment, encouragement, and snacks” By requiring the women who read this magazine to bring a pencil, this path to enlightenment already has more work involved than 98% of the self-help books out there. Merlin hasn’t looked at the workbook yet, he couldn’t bring himself to. Somebody suggested the other day that John read The Artist’s Way, and that workbook will be a smaller version.

The most angry cover for Merlin was one of those ”Unleash the artist within” kind of things. It was spray-painting gold macaroni, covering them with tinsel and putting it on a purple sweatshirt. Merry Christmas!

On the back of Boy’s Life, or maybe Highlights, there were ads for military academies, one of which Merlin went to. John was just describing Sunset which had ads for fat camps and drug camps. ”Send your kid off to a private school in Arizona and we will get them off the pot” One of John's friends went to one of these, he is local and a fairly famous Rock drummer, but he has been in the Fastbacks, went to one of these and came back to Seattle as a changed man. He learned all kinds of new tricks from other druggie kids. Put druggie kids from all over the region in one school for a year and they teach each other how to hot-wire Goldwing motorcycles and where to stash your dope.

Christina Aguilera (RL9)

Merlin has a lot of problems with Christina Aguilera who has ruined singing at sports and she is very shiny. John has heard something through the music business grapevine which you wouldn’t expect by looking at her: Apparently she is a tremendous professional who arrives at the studio on time and works her ass off all day without ever throwing coffee at an intern or ever having a diva tantrum. She busts her balls in the studio and has earned the respect of all of the recording engineers she has worked with, which is no small thing. This doesn’t actually surprise Merlin, because in order to have some longevity in this business you need to have some measure of that and you need to suffer a lot of things like photo shoots.

One picture in particular kills Merlin, a spread of her newly remodeled house which of course looks like a museum designed by a gay man with a little too much money. Merlin loves this one shot of her in her dressing room, which is not even a closet, but more like an extra room because they ran out of new rooms to have in her bedroom that involve clothes. They made a great room with a ladder in it and her 900 pairs of shoes (picture here).

She is standing on the ladder in 6 inch (15 cm) heels totally dressed up with giant red lipstick, she is smiling and her child in that sweet barefoot child-like way is sitting on the floor playing with some carefully arranged blocks. It made Merlin so fucking angry. John would share Merlin’s anger if a girl up a ladder wasn’t one of his special things. Christina Aguilera probably sees her baby once a week because it is being raised by very competent employees. She is a pro and she is undoubtedly going to turn out just fine, better than Mia Farrow’s kids. John is not hot for Christina Aguilera, but imagine her up a ladder looking at a wall of shoes!

Intermission (RL9)

Merlin disappeared for 30 seconds and asked John to talk to the audience in the meantime. ”Dear audience, I know it is hard sometimes for you to make it through life. There are things you could remember that will make it easier and one of these things is to keep moving and get out of the way, because these are important lessons for to learn. [sic]” They should have PSAs on the show!

This morning John has done nothing except staring out the window at his wet piles of leaves and he became demoralized. He might have coined the word dolour (like dolourus) in the beginning of the show. Dolory would be a pretty name for a girl. The test is if you could yell it off a porch.

The old lady with the ”Don’t yell at me” sweatshirt (RL9)

One time John was walking down some street somewhere and a cute little old lady was walking toward him with a sweatshirt she had clearly made herself with appliqué and tinsel and embroidery, a real craft project, and as John came closer, he saw that it said ”Don’t yell at me!” John ended up using that on a Long Winters shirt, the white castle design and it morphed into a way to describe all the other people at his label. At the time it broke John’s heart because it was a smiling little old lady, how nice, and then: ”Don’t yell at me!” Picturing her home life that this was a response to.

That sweatshirt didn’t only take 5 minutes to make, but she must have worked on that for weeks! Merlin thinks that if you are making a shirt like that, you don’t make just one of those, but like potato chips or intercourse with animals you don’t do it once and then walk away. Maybe she also has one saying ”Don’t rape me at the kitchen sink!” John fully absorbed this woman and her life into his mind and he processed the tragedy.

Not very long after that he was interacting with young Indie Rockers who probably all should be wearing home-made ”Don’t yell at me” T-shirts and he felt like he needed to do something for these people. That is why he made a Long Winters T-shirt that said ”Don’t yell at me!”, a picture of the White Castle logo, but instead of saying ”Buy a bag of burgers”, it said ”Don’t yell at me” They sold out pretty fast. It is another example of an in-joke inside of an in-joke inside of an in-joke and John doesn’t understand why his band isn’t more successful!

The reason is that The Shins and The Decemberists did not encode that many different levels of not that funny weird sad in-jokes into their T-shirt art, they just gave people a simple shirt with a bird on it and they are so much more reluctant to explain why and how you were listening to it wrong and that you are not enjoying the music the right way.

John planning to take his daughter to Mexico in a jeep (RL9)

Merlin is ready to be wrong about this, but right at the time when you feel that you should really crack down on your dumb-ass kid and you do stuff to remove the freedom and the options, you get the compulsion to give up and send them to a camp or find some other way to infantilize them. Merlin thinks that this is exactly the wrong thing to do. You should rather send your child to a third world country with $100 or to New York with $120. You throw them into a fucking shark tank and let that fucking smarty-pants video-game guy figure out what happens next. Maybe this goes a little bit midnight cowboy and he may tootsie later.

John is not entirely prepared to throw his 13-year old kid to New York with $120, but he has a version of that and he hopes to lives to see this day. It is for the case John’s child starts to have problems and gets willful, which happens to some of them, to the bad eggs, and to the kids of the parents who organize their children's toys. Some kids are just nice and respect their fathers all the way through, but for the ones who don’t, John wanted to do this for years, even before the idea of having a kid occurred to him.

John is going to buy an old jeep with a price limit of $1200, take his kid out of school, put the kid in the jeep and drive to Tierra Del Fuego. A $1200 jeep is not going to make it all the way to Tierra Del Fuego and they will drive as far as this jeep will take them and when the jeep breaks down or gets stolen they will be on their own and will have to use their wits either to keep the jeep running with baling wire and chewing gum wrappers, or make it by some other means, perhaps on the back of a Burrow. They will continue their trek and they will God-damn make it to the Tierro Del Fuego.

Through this process the child will learn the value of a Peso, how to speak Spanish, how to handle a Burrow on a mountain trail, and to respect his or her father, in this instance John. How is that going to change John? He will learn a lesson about love and he will fall in love with a beautiful Argentinian woman who is a dancer and who appears to be one of the noble poor, but she is actually an heiress to a giant plantation on the pampas and she is just spending some time living as a noble poor woman before she takes over the management of this 100.000 acre (400 sq km) ranch.

Like so many incredibly rich Argentinian women pretending to be poor she will just get fucking weathered in a hot-house window by John having a really fucked-up kid in a Burrow. She is going to be all over that and she will have a whole Burrow room. Ranch houses on the pampas are big, they might be breeding heritage lamas, and there will be beef cattle because Argentina is the steak place.

John is going to be 50 years old and he is going to have a grey beard. He will be a big grey-bearded American 50-year old, 20 pounds lighter, with a couple of records out, who might or might not be a former CIA agent who’s knuckles are bruised from working on the distributor of this $1200 jeep and who’s daughter by that point is a well-behaved, Spanish-speaking friendly cohort. They will also have been solving mysteries the whole way and their reputation will precede them.

The rich lady will come to John needing a mystery solved, like who killed her father, and that is how they will realize that she is not a noble poor woman, but an heiress who’s father died under mysterious circumstances. John might discover that her father faked his death and is now a Nigerian prince working in a Goodwill, at which point she could collect the many millions of dollars that he had all around and she will be double-rich. What concerns John is that her grandfather might be one of the German emigrants who flooded into Argentina in the after-war years, perhaps from a European country that was recently devastated in a war, and he will open a bakery because he loves ovens. They are going to cook a steak by putting it on a sword and cooking it over an open flame.

It works on so many levels: It will be a rehabilitation program for the kid, it is a way of finding love for John, realizing that love is real, and they get to solve the mystery of who killed her Nazi grandfather. They will end up living on a giant ranch in Argentina for half the year. If John will find his daughter looking at any of those little Argentinian gauchos, he will send her right back to her mother, because girls will get into that time of their lives and John doesn’t relish it.

The bakery in Anchorage that was owned by a serial killer (RL9)

In Anchorage right up the street from John’s dad’s house there was a bakery owned by a serial killer (see RL268). They are making a movie about it now starring John Cusack, and John keeps getting emails from his friends in Anchorage about John Cusack sightings. The father of one of John’s good friends in High School (Eric Spurlock) bought this bakery immediately after the serial killer got caught and they used to hang out there all the time and thought of it as the serial killer bakery. The serial killer was apparently a talented baker, his name was Robert Christian Hanson, and the reason they make a movie about him is that he was a bush pilot who would kidnap girls, take them out into the bush, set them free and hunt them with a rifle.

That is the thing about being a bush pilot that people from the lower 48 don’t realize: You can fly out into the middle of nowhere, hunt a girl with a rifle and make it back in time to watch your shows. You don’t have to go out for 5 days. His mornings would have been very busy because he would have to get up early and do a lot of baking.

People in Anchorage eat lots of baked goods and you need that stuff, but in Alaska no-one is picky about quality, but they want quantity. They pay a little bit extra for shipping and handling. Things used to be a lot more expensive in Alaska and Hawaii when they had to ship stuff up on the back of a Burrow, but now it is pretty systematized and you can get some fresh eggs without paying $5 an egg. When John was a kid, you were lucky at $5 an egg, and those eggs had been sitting on a truck for months. Those guys are tough and that kind of stuff puts hair on your chest.

John thinks that the guy had some employees and a quick turnaround, so he could set the girls free in the forest, hunt them down, and make it back in time to make the donuts. Being a baker and a bush pilot is two strikes against you, and if you also have three names and people call you by all three names, you are probably a serial killer. It would raise suspicion if your airplane was not full of rifles because in Alaska you need to carry rifles at all times. Two people go up in an airplane and one comes back is also not going to raise any suspicions, that is the whole business of Alaska.

John’s conflicting personality, wilderness people in Alaska (RL9)

In the fall a lot of people in Alaska go up to their little cabin and do not come back out until the spring. Their vision of paradise or the twists and turns of their life have resulted in them spending the whole winter alone. They will be working up there, trapping, hunting, and living off the winter land, and living in isolation far far away is their life. This appeals to John sometimes, but he has spent enough time living alone in a cabin in the Alaskan wilderness to know that a certain kind of madness will set in.

Merlin understands why John’s life is so complex. It is not just about wet leaves and uptight T-shirts, but he has at least two warring influences in his life: One hand says that he should be a crazy guy in a shack out in the middle of the winter and no-one knows where he is, possibly dropping ladies out of a plane, and there is another warring part of him that says he should be a crazy guy in a Burrow trucking his daughter all the fuck over South America. One reason John might not be out there on his knees, literally fucking picking up wet leaves, is that these are warring things that put him in a bathtub: How can he have the shack and the burrow?

The other day one of John's friends from Alaska posted a picture of his daughters on Facebook and he prominently featured a giant Huskvarna chainsaw in the background that is bigger than either one of them and that he just sat down on the back of a couch. John looked at this picture with a certain amount of envy. If he had a chainsaw in the house, people would call him crazy. He just probably came in and the house isn’t that big. In John’s palatial compound he has a whole building where his chainsaws are. His friend is living in a cabin and there is no hall, but you walk in and the chainsaw probably hangs on a nail and he didn’t put it up on the nail because he didn’t get to that because he was trying to coral the girls and so he set it on the back of the couch.

If only there was a way to combine that with the Burrow life! They are not incompatible, but in the middle of that John is living in a house in Seattle playing the guitar, which has to be in there, too, and it is too much to think about and John needs to take a bath. John is not just the guy with the guitar, but when he puts on a guitar, it is like putting on jousting armor, like the sheriff taking out his sidearm: You leave the gun in the holster until it is absolutely needed and that is where John is with the guitar.

As John pictures himself solving crimes in South America with his daughter and his new Argentine heiress, one thing he does not picture himself doing is pulling out his guitar around a campfire and serenading the gauchos with a version of Blue Diamonds. John is not there to entertain them, but they are the fucking gauchos. Get out and herd some cattle! John has other things to do, he is solving crimes.

However it is going to turn out, Merlin is super-interested in what the interiors of John’s newly professionally modeled home look like when John will be looking for that book on Mies van der Rohe. There are books in John’s house that haven’t been read, but there are no books that are just there for display purposes. They are all on the list to be read and the depressing thing is that some books in his house he will never read.

One time a girl in Belgium gave him five different books by Alain de Botton and she said John will love this guy because he is so brilliant and smart and beautiful. John took the books, he might even have promised to give them back to her, and he read a couple of them, but there are at least two or three of them that John is never going to read. There is never going to come a time when he is going to say that he hasn’t read enough Alain de Botton books. It was not a negative experience, but John got the gist.

A couple of people John follows on Twitter who ware friends from the old days apparently follow his Twitter account and periodically retweet some little aphorism of healthy mental thinking. John has digested a lot of this material and then not returned it. They call it a Belgian promise, which is when you take books that you never wanted to read in the first place, take them to your home, and then neither read them nor return them, take them back to your home country, flip through them, and read a couple of them on the plane. The girl who gave John these books started working for the international court and now she lives in Nigeria as a Belgian diplomat. The Belgians have a problematic relationship with Africa.

Merlin is starting to really wonder how much of this is just completely fucking made-up. John has brought in more Belgians and Nigerians and Argentinians and Alaskans than any 500 people Merlin has ever met. There is no way John knows anything about two Nigerians! It is still raining outside and John cannot rake his leaves. If he has anything to say about it, he will spend the rest of the day in the bathtub because just thinking about all this stuff is too dramatic. John does know a couple of people who work for the international court in Den Haag.

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