RW104 - Nick Nolte in a Pile of Wool

This week, Dan and John talk about

  • John’s new insights about his personalities (Personality)
  • Being a gentleman, holding doors for other people (Factoids)

The show title refers to John not seeing himself as attractive on the outside, but more like Nick Nolte in the movie Down and Out in Beverly Hills, which makes it hard for him to attract people who don’t know anything about him and just see him on the streets or across a crowded dance floor.

After episode 102, John mentioned to Dan that there was this whole other topic he wanted to talk about, a relationship thing that John had learned about himself, the kind of woman he liked, the drama and all that stuff. This episode is precipitated by this remark.

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

Being a gentleman, holding doors for other people (RW104)

Dan doesn’t think he is a gentleman. In some regards, yes, but he doesn’t even really know what the modern definition of gentleman would be. What comes to mind is somebody with coat tells and a top hat, walking poised with a walking stick, throwing his jacket down so that the women don’t have to step into the puddle from the carriage onto the curb. Things that Dan was raised to do, for example holding the door for people, not just women, but people, is now potentially an insult because the implication is that you did it because a) you are a little better than them and b) it was clear to you they couldn’t do it and they needed help because they are either inferior, old or weak. You can’t do it of politeness anymore these days.

A lot of the things that are thought of as being gentlemanly in the old definition of a gentleman don’t fit into modern day anymore, like having the correct wrist watch for the occasion or ironing your shirts. What makes you a gentleman in 2018? It is definitely not those things anymore or being patient and listening while somebody talks and waiting your turn to speak. It is not having a handkerchief folded neatly ready for someone who is about to sneeze. Those were the old-fashioned definitions of it. Maybe now it is sharing your weed? Dan doesn’t think he is a gentleman according to whatever the new standards are. His is certainly antiquated, because he does a lot of those antiquated things like holding doors.

For John, the questions are much further upstream: Do you have curtesy? Do you show curtesy? Are you generous? Do you show generosity? Are you charitable? Do you show charity? Are you virtuous? Anywhere in the world where someone is be offended by someone else holding the door for them is a world where there is too much wealth and privilege and too much fucking time on your hands. Holding the door for somebody is a gesture of goodwill and there is no other take on it. People punishing other people for showing curtesy are people who are hurt inside and the person showing the curtesy is not the one at fault. Holding a door for somebody is a courteous gesture and it can be done anytime between any two people. To let a door swing closed in someone else’s face is discourteous and that is the end! There is not a political take on it and if you are looking for a political take on it, then you are overthinking things and you are looking for problems. That is true of all the courtesies and it is also true for charity. Charity is solely a gesture of kindness. If you refuse charity, it is on you and not on the person offering charity. There are a lot of ways you can offer charity that are not actually charitable, there are a lot of ways you can fake it or you can pretend as a way of trying to put people down, but you should accept true charity with grace. Part of being graceful is knowing how to accept someone holding the door. It is also incumbent upon you to be generous in accepting grace. There is no world in which you are obligated to be discourteous out of consideration for other people’s mental problems.

A lot of people who reject this are rejecting it because this is the direction society is moving in. People almost never hold the door for anyone else anymore in Dan's experience. He almost never sees it and it seems like people just don’t do it. How many times has he been carrying a stack of boxes to the UPS store and other people walk up, look at Dan and see that he is carrying a stack of boxes, they walk in and let the door swing closed. That is not rare! Realistically, Dan just doesn’t see it. That kind of curtesy is going away or it is already gone. It is not a normal way to see anymore, which is awful and should not affect your innate desire to holding a door open for somebody who is carrying boxes.

When you get on the bus and there are little ladies standing, holding on, while teenage kids are sitting on chairs playing games on their phones, part of your role as an adult in civilization is to tell the kids to make room for the lady who is standing and holding a bunch of bags. If the kids go ”What? No!”, then it is their problem. But it is your obligation as a grown-up to make them aware of it. John does it all the time and 99% of the time the kids are like ”Oh shit, sorry!” and they jump up. They know what the rules are and they are just waiting for somebody to tell them. A lot of times you are getting that blank look of ”Why are you talking to me?” because there are a lot of people who have been raised wrong.

The fashion of our time is to move back to the cities. When John was growing up, the fashion was to move to the suburbs and the cities were in decline, but now everybody wants to live in the city, because they want to walk to work or bike to work, they don’t want to have a car, and there are a lot of cool things to do. If you live in a city where you are sharing space with people all day, it is key that you have respect and consideration for other people. John talks about being a gentleman in the initial context of courtliness, the idea of being gentlemanly within the very fluid, but at the same time rigid set of rules that govern people who are sexually interested in one another. The world is full of rude people, standards are declining everywhere, but John hopes he has made it clear over the last 1/2 dozen years of public broadcasting that he is opposed to it at every stance. There are 40 different arguments for it!

There are people who claim it is disrespectful if you are holding the door for them, but there is no political implication and if you put one on it, then you are walking around putting political implications on shit where they don’t belong! If you are offended by it, then it is you who has problems. You could just as easily say that you don’t hold doors for brown people because they need to lift themselves up by their bootstraps. It makes just as much fucking sense! Don’t overthink a thing! If somebody is walking toward a door and you are in a position to make their passage trough time easier, why would you not? Even if it inconveniences you! Measure your own inconvenience against what you perceive to be that other person’s inconvenience! Does it hurt you to take 3 extra seconds so that person may glide? If one of you has to slow down, can you not shoulder that burden? ”I am going to slow down so that you don’t have to! Because one of us has to!”

There is a moment in a person’s life when empathy comes online. It doesn’t happen as a child, but as a teenager or a late teen. You become aware that other people have feelings as profound as yours and that life is just as hard for them as it is for you. If you learn nothing in that moment other than helping other people when it doesn’t cost you anything, then you are not learning the same thing John learned in those moments. If what you learn is that everybody is trying to keep ahead and if you can keep other people down, you might get an extra penny out of the day, then John doesn’t know what books you are reading. Maybe you are reading Ayn Rand instead of Raymond Carver!

John’s new insights about his personalities (RW104)

John can’t think of a time in his life when he has not been thinking about his romantic life. It is always in the forefront of his mind and he can’t quite equate that with the fact that he seems to be so reluctant to be drawn into serious entanglements. He is not! He is always searching and he is always on the lookout for love or even on the lookout for life. Women have brought a lot of life to his world, but also a lot of confusion and a lot of emotion.


John always thought of himself as very level-headed and chill, but lately he has been examining the way he conducts himself and he realized that he might not be chill. John might actually be fairly dramatic in the sense that he likes life to be brought into his world, and he likes to feel life coursing through his veins. A lot of time, drama feels alive and although he is not necessarily a drama-instigator all the time, he is perfectly happy to sit and listen to your drama. John is not against it if you want to bring a whole bunch of drama into his life. There are a lot of people out there who don’t want anybody else to bring their drama into their life, but go ahead, bring your drama into John’s life! He doesn’t take sides very quickly, he is not somebody who is like ”Yeah, you are right! Let’s get that guy!”, but John’s take is ”Hmm, interesting drama, tell me more!” John doesn’t feel like drama is very threatening to him, because it is just another form of great storytelling that is really of the moment. People who are close to him have learned that they can use him as a sounding board or a place to go to unload, because John is a good listener and he likes to go over stuff with people.

The cad

John realized that he might also be personally dramatic, because things that happen to him feel dramatic to him. He is not chill when somebody slides him at a fancy ball, or somebody replies to one of his scented letters with an ambiguously scented letter in return. Those things are duly noted and John writes them down in a giant leather-bound book with a quill pen. He absolutely lives in a chivalrous world as well. We throw the word cad around as a way of describing somebody who is disrespectful and uncooth in a way, but the traditional term also implied someone who had a lot of charm and who was very socially graceful, almost like a scoundrel or a rogue in some way. A cad is not just a dope or someone who insults a woman in a bar, but a cad is someone who charms his way into a social situation, wins the love of his best friend’s wife and leads her on into a long affair. The word itself is ugly, but the classic role is a sophisticated job. The cad only looks like a cad from the vantage point of the happily married and respectable Lieutenant Colonel and King’s Hussars.

To call someone a cad is to dismiss them from a higher station of domestic stability. Also: A cad is a cad, we all know who they are! They are troublesome, but also rogueish and charming and delightful and socially beloved and desired. When you whisper to someone ”He is a cad”, it becomes a form of warning. It is an insult, but huge aspects of it are very appealing to both sides: Women fall in love with cads and men enviously see the success of the cad. John has always thought of himself as a gentleman and it is hard for him to recognize that he is more of a rogue and, to be honest, a cad. He does not go to the fancy ball looking for a wife ,he is not hoping to be betrothed, but rather to dance and to spill his drink and to insult the Colonel in a way where he can not quite revenge himself because it wasn’t quite clear to him what the substance of the insult was. He knew there was something in what John said that he should be offended by, but he is not quite sharp enough to understand. He is mad because he heard people giggle, but he doesn’t know why. Then John would leave on a stolen horse at the end of the night.

John is a dramatic guy unlike most other people

Although being a cad is very fun and very true, it isn’t very chill. John cannot say that he is a cad and at the same time he doesn’t cause problems, he is easy-going, he is not a dramatic guy, and he is not out there in the world making trouble. The fact is that he is making trouble and his drama keeps him in a state that feels like action because he is a busy person, but a lot of that busyness is just that he got a bunch of trouble all the time. It is one way to live a life! The strongest criticism of it from people in the world might be ”Is that really gratifying? Is it lasting? Does it produce vis-a-vis love? Does it build anything?” John is not 100% sure he has the capacity to make that assessment. A lot of the things people seem to want to build don’t appeal to him, but he is also in trouble with everyone all the time.

John will fall for somebody and he will be in a romantic entanglement that is characterized by fun and trouble from the very get-go. Honestly, John hopes it never ends! He is not somebody who wants to love them and leave them, but he wants to be in constant trouble with his partner until their last days. Most people do not want to always be fighting 4 monkeys, but they want 3 monkeys go away and have the other monkey be mostly nice, on a leash and go get stuff off the high shelves. They do not want 4 rambunctious monkeys fighting all the time, but that is what sounds like a blast to John! It does not put him at square with the world and it is why he is always on the edge of town. John has to acknowledge that he is dramatic and unreliable and that a lot of the drama in his life is not imported, but it is artisanal, domestically produced drama made in the USA.

Romantic relationships

There is this presumption right now that gender relationships are founded on principles of inequality. Relationships between people who are sexually interested in one another have always been complicated. They are not bicameral, there is nothing simple about them, and you cannot reduce them to any simple formula of dominance and submission, or power and weakness. Any two people who are sexually interested in each other have to hammer out a new treaty and every single little clause of that treaty has to be reinvented. There just isn’t any boilerplate. You cannot touch another person, have them reciprocate that touch and have it be anything that has every happened before and will ever happen since. Every one of those moments is unique! The transfer of power, the rules and expectations and the desires are ever new. To be a gentleman, to be courtly or to be considerate in that context requires that you know what consideration means in that situation. Be vulnerable! Be ready! Be confident enough to bear a certain amount of humiliation all the time! That is one of the ways you can be successful in love. Humiliation is the thing that we are all terrified of and you should go into love with the assumption that you are going to suffer some humiliation, small or large, and that every minute there is going to be something, because it is just impossible not to be embarrassed and not to feel ashamed, unless you are a sociopath.

To be graceful is to recognize that the other person is in the same situation, they do not want to feel humiliation either, and to be willing to shoulder it and to protect them from humiliation, which sometimes means that you have to bear it and you have to feel it a little, but this kind of grace is very hard to do because humiliation is the hardest thing to bear. To feel that feeling is much harder than physical pain and you can’t even metaphorize it because there is no analog to humiliation. It is its own tower of suffering! John is never going to ask anybody to do something, because the possibility that they don’t want to exists and if they do want to, they will let him know. Even asking is a form of pressure and coercion. Of course it is not generous either to put all the responsibility to state their desires on the other person. You can’t say that not putting any pressure on anyone ever is being polite, because you are just saving yourself the humiliation of politely asking and being refused.

Everybody has the responsibility to say what they want, but also: What do you want? If you care about the people you love, you have a lot of heavy lifting to do. You can’t just sit there stoically and say that it is on them because you don’t feel safe anymore, particularly when it comes to the question of consent. You cannot just say that you fear the appearance of intruding upon their consent and you are just going to wait this out and sit here passively and leave it on them to initiate all contact and initiate all choices. You put yourself at risk as soon as you express a positive desire for something, as soon as you say ”This is what I would like!”, but those are the risks that we are obligated to one another to take. It is a form of generosity, even though saying what you want seems like a form of selfishness. It sounds selfish to the untrained, but it is in fact generous because now the other person doesn’t have to guess. Sitting with a lover and guessing what they want is the worst! You like this? I don’t know! Or this? I don’t know!

Modern dating with The League

Dan doesn’t know how young people do it. Dating was bad enough when they were doing it, especially in college time. The answer is that people are unhappy and they don’t know it. There are so many games, it is all about games. They won’t text until they text first because their mom had told them never to text anyone first. If there is even texting! It is all Tinder and Bumble.

Earlier on this year, a female person in John’s King Neptune world told him that there is a dating site that is invite only. She told John he should be on there, but he didn’t think so. Still, she wanted to send him an invite. The site is called The League! Are you in their league? Only professional heavy hitters! This invite to The League sat in John's inbox for a long time and she was texting him and asking him about it. Eventually he joined The League and it was immediately super-duper embarrassing. He filled out the little thing and in his bio he wrote the same thing he has on Instagram, ”Musician, lives in Seattle”, very little detail. The League will then give you 5 people every day that you can thumbs-up or thumbs-down. John does not want to thumbs-down another living person, that just is not something that is in him. You just looked at that one thumbnail-picture for one second!

Because John didn’t do anything with these 5 people, they sent him the same people over and over each day, so John tumbs-upped everybody, because: Everybody is great! You can’t see into the algorithm and you don't know who has thumbs-upped you or not, because they are protecting that and they are just giving you this slideshow of people. John doesn’t like anything about it! He does not want to swipe left or right on somebody, and he doesn’t want people to see him in that way. Just having a profile up on The League felt like he was standing on a street-corner with his pants pulled down, even when he wasn’t looking at it, but just knowing it was there! After a couple of weeks The League reminded him that he was probably not doing it right and they wanted to give him some tips. They wanted him to upgrade to League+ to get the Glengarry leads, the gold leads. John doesn’t want the gold leads, he doesn’t want to have to talk to Murray, there is not a thing about this that he likes!

The people John is interested in are not on The League and would never be on The League. It is hard to explain. After about 5 days of conscious anxious stress about both being on there and also feeling the obligation to give all the people he never met a nice thumbs-up, he just didn’t want anything to do with it and blocked it and it is just gone from his life. He didn’t go back in there to take his thing down and he is not upgrading nor interacting with it and he presumes that if you are not active, you are not pushed on anybody because it is a social media thing and they want engagement, so John just becomes one of the many dead insect husks of there various short-lived social media program.

Dating a listener

Would John be interested in dating a listener? A program like Roadwork is self-selecting. If you are a man or woman or any in-between or on the very fringe of either definition and you are listening to this program, you have already self-selected that you are John’s type. If John met you at a party, and you didn’t know each other and you had the opportunity to strike up a conversation, like while waiting in line for the bathroom or at the keg, there would be enough commonality that you would probably strike up one of those party friendships, as opposed to getting a weird cold vibe of somebody who is talking over you or somebody who is talking about hot yoga. Hot yoga is not a make or break situation, just don’t talk to John about it. Not only is John not on The League, but he is not doing these podcasts as dating sites.

People like to make connection with each other based on shared affections and John has always loved it when people became friends through talking about Roderick on the Line or through a shared love of Jonathan Coulton or They Might be Giants. What John does is very much a niche thing. A lot of people became friends because of Van Halen, but it is much harder to become friends with somebody because of Roadwork. They don’t really maintain a fan site and that would be a little embarrassing to do. It has surely already happened, but John wishes it would happen more! People wouldn’t need to go out to their fucking Facebook page and ask ”Anybody out there like Roadwork?” and then hear crickets because it is such a weird thing to have found and to have stumbled on and to become engaged with.

How do you say that you are one of these people and you want to meet other people like you? Many of us are introverts already, so maybe you don’t want to meet other people like you? This is the hardest part and this is how John knows that nobody he wants to meet is on The League, because the only people on The League John wanted to meet are the ones that have been forced by their friends to go on The League and who every time they check it feel like they are wincing the night away before they are trying to get off The League as fast as they can. The chances of John meeting somebody like this over there are slim and there is no chance they happen to collide during the 0.001 second that they are on that thing. John does live in a magical reality, but it is not a magical reality that is divorced from reality. He does not live in magic land! Social media is a garbage place and there is no magic there. Magic doesn’t ”work”, but you cast spells and you hope for the best, but you don’t apply it. John does not desperately want somebody to find him on The fucking League and he is not going to waste any magic over there. That is not where magic lives!

John would be much more likely to go over to Seward Park and go find a big tree that feels like it would give good hugs and hug it just for his own special needs. In the process of hugging that tree he would hear someone giggle and turn around and there would be somebody traipsing through the bushes saying ”OMG, are you hugging that tree?” and John would say ”Yes” and they would say ”That is pretty amazing!” That is so much more likely to happen than John finding that person on the league and go ”Likes hugging trees? Thumbs up!”

John does not see himself as being attractive on the outside

Dan has been posting a picture of himself as a young man circa 1988 while he was assembling an office chair. Dan was a very handsome young guy and he should have been doing much better than he was doing, but he was just at home assembling an office chair. He was so handsome with a full head of hair, he could play guitar, he had a car, what was his problem? Anxiety! Dan had anxiety! John has never been that beautiful, not a single time in his life! In 1988 he looked like an uncooked pancake and over the years he has grown into his salty self, but he has 1% more Neanderthal genes than anybody else in the world and you don’t look at a picture of him typically and go ”hubba hubba!” You have to take the picture, the voice, the whole thing and you have to put John together and dig that guy and you have to overlook some of the things. Sometimes John is missing a front tooth, but it is fine. If you saw him walk into a grocery store and you have never seen him before and you did not have any of that substantiating evidence, you’d be like ”Huh?” It is the rare person that just by looking at John across a crowded dance floor and based on that alone says ”That one! There he is! That’s the one!” - ”Which one? The handsome one?” - ”No! The one that looks like a cloths hamper, the one that looks like if you took Nick Nolte in Down and Out in Beverly Hills and you threw him in a laundry basket. That is the one!” It just isn’t like that.

John always thinks of romance in terms of a glamorous ball in the 18th century. He pictures himself in that situation, attending with a certain amount of rank implied. All the military men are in uniform and you have to be socially present to even be at the ball. Everybody at the ball is gossiping ”Who’s that?” and the story goes along with it. You are not standing against the wall at a Junior High dance in 1981 where the only story about you is ”Bugger John!” or what a dork you are, at least in John’s case. By the time you are a grownup and be able to be at a ball, people are like ”Oh, he is the governor of Madagaskar” or ”He is the undersecretary for dribs and drabs”, or ”He invented the post”. By the time you ask someone to dance, they have more information about you than just that you look like Nick Nolte in a pile of wool. John is dependent on that to happen! He can’t just go to the meat market bar, but he is dependent on the newspaper clippings, but he is fine with that and has always been fine with it. He likes it better, but if there is a place where John is most susceptible to feeling humiliated, to feeling insecure, it is that he never wants to look somebody in the eye while they are in the throws of passion and they feel like they are really passionately coupling with John’s newspaper clippings.

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