RW133 - The Doughboy

This week, Dan and John talk about:

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The show title refers to a nickname for American servicemen.

Significance in numbers (RW133)

Dan says that this is episode 133 with the number 3 repeating, which is usually an auspicious sign of something, but John does not put any stock in the importance of numbers. He does mark anniversaries like 500 or 200, he recognizes the significance of numbers, and he likes prime numbers. 133 is an octagonal number, a Harshad number, and a happy number, which is defined by a number that starts with a positive integer and replaces the number by the sum of the squares of its digits in base 10 and repeats the process until the number either equals 1 or loops endlessly in a cycle that does not include 1. It is a semi prime, which is a product of two prime numbers, namely 7 and 19, but those primes are Gaussian primes and that means 133 is a blum integer. That is how John feels about 133. (It is also the first section on the Wikipedia page) The USS Pillsbury was DE-133, a destroyer escort during World War II, named after the Doughboy, a nickname for American servicemen. John is not numerological in general and numbers are not guiding him in any way. He does not think it is 117 which means he shouldn't wear pink or something.

What about Dan and all of his quirky nutty little habits and features? He surely knocks on every door three times before he enters? Dan takes offense that John referred to his habits as little, but he doesn’t respond to certain numbers as having significance or value.

OCD (RW133)

In Dan's OCD world, if he had to repeat something‚ which he occasionally might have to do, he would have to do it four times. For instance if he felt he needed to check that a door was locked, he would have to check it four times. He rarely has to do that kind of stuff nowadays anymore, but in his heyday of OCD checking behaviors, everything would have to be four times. It could be four times in rapid succession. It would satisfy to check the lock, check it, check it, check it. He would not have to go back, wonder if he checked the lock and go back and check it again, but each time that it gets checked there had to be four sub-checks. It might very well be that he wondered if he did I check it which is the whole problem with OCD.

There is a huge difference between a person who is driving to work and then wonders if they left the iron on. They get back to their house and see that they did in fact unplug the iron. That vs the person with OCD who wonders if they left the iron on, they drive all the way back home and they realize that the iron had been put away with the cord wrapped up upstairs in the cabinet above the towels for the last two weeks. That is the difference between someone with OCD and somebody who just thinks they forgot to unplug the iron.

There are lots of different kinds of OCD, for example the kind where people have repetitive or invasive thoughts. Dan knows someone who would never harm anyone, but she might have thoughts like ”What if I threw a brick at this person's head?” or ”What if I jumped off the roof right now?” Even though they don't really want to do that, these thoughts are very invasive and disturbing. Dan never had anything like that, but his OCD has always been about checking things related to personal security, especially when he was a younger kid. He was probably feeling insecure, not about himself as a person, but through all the moving they did, the divorce and everything else that his parents had. Who knows what else contributed to that! Checking of things was was always Dan’s MO.

With OCD you could walk over to a door, window, backdoor, or light switch and you can be standing there with the light off, you can look and see that the light is off, but you still want to check the switch. What if it's not really off? What if you think that you turned it off but it's slightly on, just enough for a little electrical circuit to arc and set something on fire and killing your whole family. It would be your fault because you didn't check it! You could be in bed, you could be driving away from the house, you could be just in the other room trying to watch TV, it doesn't really matter.

In that sense these thoughts are invasive thoughts, but they are connected to a specific thing. Of course you want to quell that and you get up and check it again and of course it is off, it is never on! Another one that Dan used to have a lot is driving away and wondering if he shut the garage. He could remember shutting it, he hit the garage door button in his car and watched the thing go down, but as he was driving he remembered shutting it, but was that yesterday or two days ago? Better drive back and check!

Dan is very different today than the way he used to. Some people can never leave the house because it is so bad that they can't function. Other people might have to check something a few times before they go to bed. They have their little routine before they go to bed and it is fine. The check or the test for severity: Does it interfere with your daily quality of life? If the answer is No, maybe you spend three minutes a night before you go to bed just walking through the house and checking things and double checking. If you can do that, then it is not a big impact on your life and that is kind of where Dan is at now.

For Dan it peaked during a long time around the age of 10 or 11. He had a cool corner desk with dressers and shelves attached on the left and right. Everything together in a room was really cool and he had a place for all his stuff, but of course his stuff was everywhere, because that was the way he was: Papers, Dungeons and Dragons books, homework and whatever else. The desk had a glass top and underneath the glass were little green felt circles that kept it from being stuck to the wood.

Dan had this stupid little black horse that he always thought looked like the Black Stallion from the movie The Black Stallion, but it was rubber instead of a cool majestic statue like the kid had. It had a bum leg because of the way that it formed when it was being made before being put into the little plastic ball and into the $0.25 machine. It would stand, but after a period of time it would fall because it was lame. We can't use the word lame, but it was a lame horse. You could bend the leg back so that it would stand straight for a little while, sometimes for a long time.

Dan had to position that stupid horse over the felt dot on the glass and have it stand up so that its front hoof would be in the center of this stupid little felt circle on top of the glass. Of course it wouldn't want to stay there because of its bum leg and it would fall over. He got this thing situated and laid down in bed, started to fall asleep and then he heard the sound of the horse falling on the glass and had to get up, turn the light back on and position it again. That kind of thing. It makes absolutely no sense!

Real life events contributed to Dan's feeling of needing to check things. His mom remarried, but was not even remarried for two years. The guy was a very nice guy, but he was sloppy and careless. If he was getting some ice from the ice maker in the fridge and a piece of ice fell out of it, he would just kick it under the fridge. Now in 2018 Dan might have kicked ice under the fridge once in a while, but as a kid this was a sin for him. It is just going to be under there now! What is going to happen? Is it going to melt? What is that going to do to the floor underneath it?

They lived in Florida at the time and fishing was quite abundant, even more so than it is now because there was so much less development back in the early 1980s and there were miles of land with piers and docks and lots of wonderful places to go fishing. When Dan was 10 or 111 he went fishing with his mom's second husband a number of times. He would go fishing for many hours at a time and the fish aren't really biting until 1am or 2am, so he would leave the house at 10pm and be gone until 1am or 2am.

When he would come back there would be all kinds of banging and noise and things dropping and falling over, because he was clumsy and oafish. You have to clean the fish right away, so there was all the noise from cleaning the fish and whatever else. Not only was he getting back at 12am or 2am, but he was also making a ton of noise. The worst part of it was that not only would he not clean up after himself, but he would leave the door unlocked, the garage open, or even leave the door open.

They lived in a low traffic neighborhood on the edge of town. Realistically they could have left their doors and windows wide open for years and nothing would have happened, but it didn't matter, it really bothered Dan. On the nights the guy would go out fishing Dan would be laying awake. If he would fall asleep he would wake up and during the hour that the guy was banging and bumping around Dan would have to sit and wait for him to finally go to bed and go out and lock everything up. He already had OCD thing going on, but this amped it up to be worse. It fueled the fire and turned it into what later became something that did affect the quality of Dan’s life when he would check things constantly, always four times. But then: ”Wait! Did I just lock that or was it yesterday? Was that an hour ago? Has someone come in since then? Did I go in? What if my brain is playing tricks on me? What if I didn't really lock it? What if I thought I was locking it but I unlocked it? Better go check it!” That is the cycle.

Dan watched a documentary on all the different kinds of obsessive compulsive disorder when he was probably a teenager. There was one guy who had OCD pretty bad and was almost house bound from it. He had a small pint-sized refrigerator in his small studio apartment that could hold maybe two cases of soda. He was checking it every 30 seconds because he was convinced that his neighbor's cat had gotten in there and was suffocating and dying inside of his fridge. How would he explain that to the neighbor? Would he go to jail for it? Would he get in trouble for it? His neighbor's cat had never left his neighbor's apartment and had never been in his apartment. He somehow fixated on this little thing and it ruled him, it dominated him, he couldn't function because he had to check his fridge.

John does not have obsessive compulsive disorder, but he sorts a lot of things, like nails and tacks. He has a couple of jars of assorted random paint-covered rusty nails. Once in a while he is doing some repair job on an old piece of furniture and he goes into his little rusty nail jar and often finds the exact right patina on a nail that will make the repair invisible because it won't have a bright shiny nail or a nail with the wrong sized head. Recently John was repairing an old piece of built-in shelving from a home owned by our friend Byron Coney. The home was built in 1890 and when he took out the shelving John said that those were perfectly good standalone shelves, made by expert craftsmen at a time when beautiful wood was plentiful. This house was a grand home and these basement storage shelves were still made better than anything you get today.

The shelves weren't on a base because they were built in, but John had salvaged enough old wood that he could build a base out of the correct wood. He didn't have the right nails until he realized that he did have the right nails. That is not the same as checking your door four times. John gets teased a lot for sorting old nails, but he isn't compelled to do it in an unstoppable way to the detriment of other activities. He is free of that kind of compulsion. Whatever John’s peculiarities, they do not rise up to the level of disorder and he is grateful that Dan is healthy now and not worried about kicking a chip of ice under the refrigerator.

Apple and privacy (RW133)

Dan does not believe that the Macintosh company has our best interests at heart, but he believes they are being truthful when they say they are trying to protect our privacy and not collect unlimited data and what they are saying about how they collect and store our data. They say that they don't save personalized data and Dan believes that based on what he has read about them and what he knows about them. He believes they are being completely truthful about that. They use other techniques such as creating static, in other words false data that prevents it from being connected to an individual person and other things like that. That is all accurate.

However he doesn’t believe that they have our best interests at heart. They have their own best interests at heart because they are a commercial company. They don’t think of us or our information as their product, which is absolutely what Google thinks and which is beyond a doubt what Facebook thinks. Both of those companies are about data mining us and about selling that data in every way that they can. We know a lot of that to be true. That is not Apple’s business, but they want to sell us phones and to a lesser extent computers and they are going to do anything that is conducive to them making those sales. That is why we have the App Store, iTunes, Apple Music, and all of those services. Not because Apple thinks they make the world a better place, but because they make an ecosystem around their products that is better than the other ecosystems which in turn leads people to want those products and buy them and use them. But what they say about privacy is still true.

Internet of Things (RW133)

Dan would love to hav the Internet of Things, like putting his doorknobs onto electronicals so he could sit in his bed, open his phone and lock them all at once, but his wife would like to get rid of all technology. She doesn't like electricity, electronics, or WiFi and she doesn't like taking something that is a straightforward simple mechanical process such as locking a door and complicating it by connecting some kind of technology to it. She can use the Apple TV remote with the little trackpad on it, but she would much rather have a regular old remote. It is pushing the limits already. How is Dan, Mr. Technology going to reconcile with the fact that his wife is like Better Call Saul’s older brother Chuck? Dan just watched that last night. They have just simply not been adding the kinds of cool technology stuff that Dan wants but there is no real reason to have.

John is thinking more and more about the Internet of Things. In the past he was extremely suspicious of it and didn't even like to walk under power lines and hear them buzzing, popping and spitting because he became concerned for his cellular structure. He has been doing some research in the meantime. It is possible to have a wired house that is not cloud-based and now John is searching out a way to have a self-contained system. You want it to be self-contained so the Russians can't come in and hack your Nest, but you also want to be able to control it from your phone, which requires that it somewhat goes out into the world. He doesn’t understand the technology and there are people who do and he should just have them come in and tell him what to do, but he is having an interesting time trying to figure it out for himself.

John is just worried that his Nest would be listening into his phone calls. The Nest he got for Christmas once is still sitting in its box somewhere. He was afraid to plug it in because he didn't want it to change the settings on his oven or whatever he was afraid it was going to do, but now John has come full circle. He is looking on the Interwebs how he can get into this wonderful new world where he can pull out his phone and see eight video cameras surveying his entire house. If someone is walking through his yard, he wants to be able to to say: ”What the fuck are you doing?” in a really quiet voice right in their ear. He wants to do all this stuff and he believes it is possible.

Having OCD would then be a problem for John because he would be able to look at his backyard 6000 times an hour if that was his particular preoccupation. Dan has never been concerned if there is someone in his backyard. He doesn’t want anyone in his backyard, but that is also not a thing on his mind. John is not stone tripping about it, but weed can make you a little paranoid. What if the cops are right outside and they are going to come in here and find us smoking weed? That kind of irrational fear is the feeling of OCD that makes you want to go and check stuff. It makes perfect sense in the moment, but rationally you know it isn't true. You know that window hasn't been opened for six months, but you check it anyway, because that is the thing you do now.

That is not how John is going to live, but he is going to live in a new way that has less weirdness all the time. He doesn't know if that means everyday is going to be less weird than the day that came before it because he doesn’t even know if he is trying to do that.

John missing some spontaneity lately (RW133)

In the last year or two a little bit of spontaneity went out of John' life. He hunkered down a little bit, but now he is bringing a little bit of spontaneity back, like taking some frivolous trips. He was talking to a friend the other day who is 30 and who doesn’t know what any of the bands are anymore. John doesn’t really care, but he told them to call him up if they go to a cool show! John will probably say "Thank you!" and not go, but it is disturbing that he is not going to any cool shows anymore after decades of going to cool shows. He amended it by saying he meant just the coolest shows.

They responded with something like ”That's what I need, to drag you to my coolest shows!” - ”Don't sass me, don't backtalk me!” Bon Iver is playing tonight, which is not one of the coolest shows, but apparently it is a cool show and John is debating if he wants to put on his coat and go down, stand around and watch the show. He kind of does and he probably should! Maybe it is his podcasting schedule? A few months ago John was telling Dan that it is not really a job, but it is like a job (see RW109). He does things on regular days and regular times, he shows up to do it which is the first time in his life he had something quite like that. Maybe that regularity is at odds with spontaneity.

Not making enough money from his new podcasts (RW133)

It is a fairly familiar adage that money does not solve problems or makes people happy, at least after a certain point. John’s mom quotes research to him all the time and he has not independently confirmed this, but up to $70.000, earning more money actually improves the quality of life, but after $70.000 earning more money does not add to and in many cases detracts from the quality of your life. Last year John felt very much on the cusp of earning more money than he was earning before.

It wasn't just dream money, but he was starting two new podcasts, both of which were popular, and because he was already doing two popular podcasts and they were earning him money, he figured these two new podcasts, which were also popular and had more listeners, were also going to earn him money. These two new shows were no independent podcasts like the ones he does with Dan and Merlin, but they appeared on networks and because of the intricacies of that network relationship, those two new podcasts have not earned John any money, while still having quadrupled or quintupled the amount of work he does every week.

They excite John creatively, he enjoys making them, but all year long he has been in this very strange state where he was doing tons and tons more work but hasn't increased his income at all. It is a strange emotional and mental disconnect because everything he is doing suggests that he would be able to take some of the financial pressure off his life, like buy a car that doesn't catch on fire (see story about John’s truck fire in RW270) or get a mortgage on a new house. This year John sold the GMC RV, he sold a handful of expensive guitars that he had for 25 years that weren't expensive when he bought them, but were expensive now, but that was all just to get money together to pay off his debt. It didn't put him into a different realm, it was just to pay down what had become credit card debt that was running up to keep him going, because last year and the year before he didn't earn very much money (see RW59).

Coming into 2019 both of his new podcasts are established and popular and maybe 2019 will be the year where the networks that those shows are on find a way to capitalize on their listenership and earn money for the people that are making the show. He had already thought that all through 2018 and he kept putting eggs in those baskets. There is not a clear path in 2019, he is just wishing into his wish bag, because he doesn't see that either network is actually doing anything differently in terms of making those shows profitable. This situation has been tumultuous.

A big part of it is that John doesn’t have control. On this show with Dan he can call Dan up and ask what the plan is and Dan will tell him what Haddie says and ”Oh, apparently Haddie has a plan!” and John goes ”Great!” The business operation between Dan and Haddie is very close to him. He can contact his partners and get a clear answer, ask for it in e-mail and it arrives within an hour. John doesn’t feel disconnected from the business.

When John sends an e-mail to these other operations, four days will go by and then there will be a reply that gives him nothing concrete. He will write back and ask them to drill down on this and they are like: ”Why don't we hop on a call?” That is not very productive, but they get everybody in the room, they will hop on a call, and everybody on the conference call talks about what a great job they are doing and John says ”Yeah, but it is weird that we are not making any money!” - ”It is about to change!”, which is the podcast equivalent of the cheques in the mail: ”We sent it last week!”

John’s fate in regards to these new shows is not in his hand although it is the same work than for his original two shows. It is creative work that he and his cohosts are doing independently. They don’t require any money, nobody is funding them and the actual work they are doing is just as independent as Road Work, but they take that creative output and hand it to someone and say ”Now take this and run!” They are companies and their creative output goes into the mist of their office and there is no transparency. John can't say he wants to sit down with all the people that are supposed to be generating income from these things and find out what they are doing all day, because he doesn't see they are doing anything. ”Well, they are doing a lot, it’s just that we have 45 other shows and their attention is divided”, but that is a bad business model. ”Just wait and see! This is the year!”

John went to a bank and told them he likes to sell his house and buy a house that is closer to where his daughter goes to school. The bank said ”Oh, well, based on your tax returns it is very hard for us to loan you any money!”, but John has paid the mortgage payment on the house he currently owns without fail, even during the depths of the mortgage crisis when the whole country was coming off the rails. He was never late a day, and that has got to count for something, bank? ”It does, it does. How about if we loan you this amount?” Thank you, that's very generous, but really it is not very generous, given the fact that John has an 800 credit rating. That has got to count for something? And it goes back and forth.

No cheque that ever arrives in John's mail is the same as any other cheque. Every once in a while he will get a $1000 cheque from here and a $1000 cheque from there and you could put them up next to each other and they are both for a $1000. John is in business with a dozen different people or more and every one of them sends him some amount of money at some point in a year. The amounts are never the same, the time the check arrives is never the same, and it is never for the same thing.

John is in show business and has to take some of that money and pay it out to subcontractors who were helping him, he does a lot of traveling as a component of his business and there are a lot of deductions of all the kind of machinery of making the stuff he does. Every year in early December his tax return tells the story that he made it to the finish line, but when he puts that in front of a bank, they say ”Wow! Sweet, but that is not really what we are looking for right now. We share your enthusiasm, but we like it to be a little bit more chill!”

John’s daughter's mother gets like a cheque every two weeks for her job. The bank loaned her money without hesitating for a second. Banks love to give car loans to people who just enlisted in the U.S. Army and when you drive by any military base you will be in a traffic jam with 2018 Mustang Cobras. The banks go: ”Oh, we know this kid is going to be making a regular income for the next four years. He is locked in and he has to be a major fuckup to lose this money and we also know that the military is going to hold him accountable.” You can't be in the Army, drive in a new Mustang and miss your payments for long, because the car company can go to Big Daddy Army and say: ”Hey, your guy is screwing up!” Banks love to loan onerous amounts of money to service people, but they do not like loaning money to guitar players at all. Maybe podcasters even less?

Back in the day anytime anybody handed him money John always felt like ”Whoa! No way! Thanks!”, but now it's a little bit more like ”Oh well, I knew that this money was coming and I know why I'm getting this money because I did this thing two months ago” It is not this constant state of ”Wow! You mean that thing I just did is also worth money to people?” If things had worked out even on the small side of what he had hoped at the beginning of this year, even if he had made less from his two new shows than he makes from Rodrick on the Line and Road Work, it would still have enabled him to go to a bank and say that things changed in 2018. Instead he is making the argument that this is the new reality. Those guys look back over the last four years of tax returns and ask ”Oh what is this line item here?” - ”Every once in a while somebody gives me $400 because I leave an outgoing message on their girlfriend's phone.” - ”Right. Is that a regular thing?” - ”Well, no, not really, it just happens every once in a while”

Anxiety attacks (RW133)

2018 was the first year John has ever had anxiety attacks. He never had an anxiety attack before, but he had a handful of them in 2018. What makes them stand out is that they generally lead to him being buried alive. John's primary fear from a very young age was the fear of being buried alive and he can always find a mental path to a scenario in which he is going to end up being buried alive without having the normal check and balance that he would have had at any other point in his life.

If he had been sitting there, thinking about being buried alive, there would have been another voice in his head that would say ”Why don't you think about something else? That's very unlikely! Moving right along!”, but during the last year John hasn’t been able to arrest that and it spiraled out of control a couple of times when he started to feel the feeling of being buried alive although he was just walking around his apartment all by himself, or worse: sitting in a chair on an airplane. It is not likely you are going to get buried alive on this airplane, but John walked himself through a chain of events. It usually happens when he has a cold and his nose is stopped up and he gets restricted breathing claustrophobia.

John can't fail to connect that anxiety to what is going on in his life right now. Why is this a problem right now? Why is he stressed? He is doing things he loves, neither of the two podcasts he started this year are things like ”Yeah, it's just not working out! This thing is causing me too much stress, I don't want to do it anymore!”, but the opposite: Both things are great and have added to the quality of his life a lot. These relationships with his friends and doing these shows that require research is what he should be doing, but now he is in this world where he is sending e-mails to corporate people and getting corporate e-mails back.

He is talking to his cohost about what they are supposed to do, what they should be doing differently and what their plan is. Eventually they end up getting short with each other because they are so frustrated, but they are not mad at each other and why are they yelling at each other? They are just trying to make a good thing, why can't this turn into something? John is in a terrible position of telling them ”Dan Benjamin seems to be making me money” and they are like ”Aaaahgg!” It is not really Dan, it is Haddie, but it is happening!

There is not just the stress of being somebody who doesn't have a reliable income and who is always struggling, because John is going out playing shows, he is on tour, he is an established band and people are coming to his shows, but somehow the deal with the promoter was written in bad faith or phrased in a way that makes him not getting paid at the end of the day. The promoter is like ”Oh dude, this tour is going great! People love it! At the end of this tour I will settle up with you, don't worry! We will really be set up for the next tour”, which is the shit that they say to you when you are starting out, but if John was doing that now as a Rock musician, he would murder, because that is the oldest trick in the book of Rock ’n’ Roll.

John is not just starting out in podcasting, he made a conscious choice to put shows on networks because networks will help those shows get bigger and networks will have access to resources. The networks helped the shows get a little bigger, but not to the extend where you could look at it and be like ”Whoa, being on a network just totally paid off, it blew us out of the water in terms of listeners!” They don't have resources to generate resources. How do you keep a business in business if you are not doing business? They are keeping the lights on and they are employing dozens of people! John talked about this on an After Dark recently (see RW130), but now he is talking about it more specifically in terms of having lost a lot of spontaneity which is absolutely tied to the extra work he is doing. It has increased his emotional stress in a way that is unrelated to the work.

John is doing freelance work that he is not being paid for which is the hardest part about being an independent artist. It is the kind of thing that graphic designers or photographers typically complain about, that they do their work and then people steal it, or they do their work and then people go ”Wait a minute? I was supposed to pay for this?” People don't value the work. People who are knowledgeable value the work of graphic designers and photographers, but your average person just feels like ”Oh I saw this great logo!” and they just took it.

As a musician you get taken advantage of in 1000 ways and that includes: ”Oh I used your song in my podcast that has 200 listeners and figured you wouldn't mind because it is good exposure!” John never felt like he feels right now because he has something to compare it to. He knows what these shows should be earning and could be earning. It is not that they are earning 20% less than that, but they are essentially earning zero because of something in the bowel of someone else's business model.

John’s good friend died of alcohol (RW133)

Yesterday one of John's good friends died of drinking. He hasn’t heard the details, but it was probably not liver failure, but he drank until he died, either from asphyxiation or from just blood alcohol poisoning. That kind of news make it hard to burble along in life and be doing normal things. If his friend had died in a car accident instead, as bad as it were, it would feel normal because we are all on the road and we all know the risks. Every time you get in your car something could happen because you can't predict what other people are going to do. Heart attack, stroke or cancer feel tragic, but they are understandable and normal. Your body had some flaw that became fatal because we are delicate, we are not unkillable.

To drink yourself to death is the worst suicide and it feels unfathomable. They talk about drugs and depression on this show quite a bit and John thinks about it a lot. Regulars, snorks, most people don't know not to say ”Do you ever think about having a drink?” and John hears it all the time. It is a normal thing to ask, but it is weird if somebody wants to push that question past the first or second answer (see RL315).

The other day a pretty good friend asked ”Don't you think that Bipolar is just because you had a real love/hate relationship with your childhood or something and that it is the kind of thing that turns you into somebody that can't tell love from hate or whatever?” That is an interesting theory and John put it right there in the file folder with all the interesting theories that people have come up with that he pulls out sometimes and reads over, but he is not going to use that take to decide whether or not he will continue to take his Bipolar medicine. That hot take wasn’t that hot.

John hasn’t had a drink in over 20 years and it does become a little bit unreal. He can remember the feeling of being fucked up, ashamed and miserable quite well. The hardest thing is remembering what it feels like to feel like you deserve it or to feel hopeless in a way where there is no path. John can see that sometimes when someone relapses whom he has known for a long time, and he sees that they are back in it and they are miserable, but what they cannot see from there is that they can't remember the path, because they were on it and they got out and now they are back in it and from within it they don't see the road anymore, because it is so much harder to get on that road again.

John’s friend who died yesterday is a person he has known for 30 years and has been good friends with for 30 years. He has been in and out, he went to rehab a half dozen times, he tried and tried, he was sober for a long time and then went off the wagon and back on the wagon and he did all that stuff, he tried all those things and was succeeding, but he got hopeless. He didn't get drunk and hang himself, he didn't OD on drugs in a way that could have been an accident, but he just drank alcohol. He was a big strong 50 year old guy. He drank alcohol until it killed him.

In our culture we put a lot of virtue on being poor. Being poor seems unfair, rich people are imagined to not have real problems, real people problems are poor people problems and rich people aren't sympathetic. This guy was rich. He came from a well-to-do family, he married a woman who worked at Microsoft, they made a lot of money and put it into property development. He was somebody that people wouldn't have much sympathy for in the leftist press in Seattle or in the world. What is he wining about? And he drank himself to death!

John talked to him a lot through this period. He was not suicidal in the sense that he didn’t want to do it anymore, but he was caught in that thing like ”This time I'm going to pull it off! I'm going to rehab two days from now and this time I'm getting back on the straight and narrow!” He had three kids, he had a nice house, and if you had talked to him ten days ago he would have said that he got everything to live for and he is definitely getting back and getting his shit together, but he just had a couple of more things to work out first. He got shit-faced and the thing about alcohol is: It is not that heroin is some kind of danger and alcohol is not.

Two years ago John and his sister had a really good friend who had been a junkie for a long time. They talked about it on the show when it happened, he was a brilliant artist and an incredibly sensitive guy who had been struggling with drugs his whole life since High School and he fucked up bad, but he was a lovely dude and he hadn't done the thing where he had stolen from all his friends. He always kept it going and he had been sober for a year multiple times, but he relapsed and they found him barely breathing in his car. He shot up in his car, they got him to the hospital, he stayed alive for a week or so and everybody got to come in and say their goodbyes, but he was gone and he eventually died at age 48 or 49.

People say that every time you mess around with heroin you are taking a risk that you are going to OD, but people don't think about booze in the same way. It is dangerous to be addicted to booze! John is wrestling with it and a couple of close friends have been talking about it. The community of people who revolve around this guy are not artists and they are not inclined to talk about their feelings. Nobody is making a commemorative plaque, no-one is planning a gathering where we all get together and sing this guy's songs. He was a business person and his friends are business people and John knows them from a different side of his life that doesn't really connect to the drug scene and the Rock people.

They were straight and he was even a Republican. When John ran for city council he donated to John’s campaign and he wrote something that was like: ”I gave you the money for your campaign even though your politics are the thing I hate most in the world, but you are a good dude and I would be embarrassed if I didn’t give you money to do your campaign. I think you are an honest guy and you will do what you consider to be a good job when you are on the city council, but God you infuriate me with your hippie politics!” - ”Thanks bro!” He donated the maximum amount you can give to a campaign and at that time John was grateful to anybody who was donating. It was also a hilarious gesture. ”If you are elected to the city council, every decision you make will directly hinder me in my own business as a property developer and Seattle rich person, but I love you man, here is your money!”

John is trying to navigate the experience of someone living in a world where they don't know a bunch of people who have ODed and where they don't have the experience of ”We lost another one!” and they couldn't understand what was happening when it was happening. They would call John and say: ”You are the one who knows about drugs and alcohol! Can't you do anything?” This has been going on for a few years. John went to see him in rehab, he has been up and down with him, but if he doesn't want to stop drinking there is not any AA voodoo spell. If he wants to stop drinking, John is there, but if he doesn't want to stop drinking, John is not going to hold his coat and John is not his mom, he is not going to call him up and wring his hands and be like: ”Ooh!”, but he feels bad now. Even if John had done all those things, it wouldn’t have changed anything, because his mom was wringing her hands.

When John got the news yesterday, he thought to himself: ”Remember, I am also an alcoholic and every day that goes by that I don't drink is a major blessing” All his struggles and all his problems and all the work he is trying to do in the world: If he were drinking he would be doing none of this! He would be doing something else and whatever he would be doing, it would be way worse. John never forgets that although he lives a normal life now. He coms home, puts the key in the lock, and goes into his house which is messy but clean. He doesn’t stand on the front porch for spend two minutes trying to get the key in the lock. Every time he walks up and puts the key in the lock and walks in the door, he is not thinking ”Oh shit, if I were drunk that whole process would have been a lot more difficult.”

John has a really good friend who famously stood at their front door and couldn't get the key in the lock. He just stood there and projectile vomited on the front door because he couldn't get the key in the lock fast enough to get in and go to the bathroom. His wife came downstairs, opened the door and he was just standing there, the door covered in vomit, the key still in his hand, just trying to get it in the lock. John doesn’t have to do that, he can just put the key right in the lock.

What is the takeaway when a friend dies? At 50 years old John now has another group of friends die. When he was 24 a bunch of people died of OD, of accidents, in crashes, or of big dumb young person foibles. John’s sister once watched a snowboarder in Valdez who snowboard right into a crevasse, he just disappeared down into a glacier. Shit like that, that's what life is. You are 25, derp derp derp. And then there was a long period where nobody died and it started to feel normal. We all made it! On John's 30th birthday his mom said "You made it!” He made it to 30. He lived! All those times you shouldn't have, but you did it, and now you are 30 and you are not going to die like a dumbass.

But at 50? John lost a couple of people close to him to suicide and to drugs this last couple of years. Suicide is common among 50 year old men in particular who get to a point in their lives where they say ”What the fuck do I have left to give? Nobody cares about me!” They reached a point where it just doesn't seem like anything else is going to happen. 50 years old is the start where people are going to die now. Your friends are going out one by one, you are going to lose a friend here, you can lose a friend there, hopefully not to drugs and suicide, but somebody is going to have a heart attack, hopefully not John.

Right now John is in a frame of mind where he is not sure what he is gleaning from his life, from their relationship, from his decline, from his death. It is not a reminder to John, he didn't need a reminder. It is just a personal tragedy for the 25 people around this one man and their lives will have to go on. It is not a tragedy in the world. No one was saved.


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