RW137 - Gary’s Van

This week Dan and John talk about:

  • John starting to record his part of the call (Podcasting)
  • John cutting his own hair (Style)
  • John being allergic to his own skin (Aging)
  • John’s orange flight suit, non-iron shirts (Style)
  • Cultural development during the Reagan administration (Politics)
  • Gary’s Van

The show title refers to a Facebook group that is themed around Roderick on the Line and Roadwork.

Visit Gary's Van on Facebook!

It is good to speak to each other again! It is a new year!

John is feeling strong, ”Feeling guilty, feeling scared, hidden cameras everywhere. Stop! Hold on, stay in control” (lyrics of Destroyer by The Kinks) They are starting a little bit late and John hasn’t podcasted in a long time, but he has just been sitting around, which was nice.

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

John starting to record his part of the call (RW137)

Dan’s voice sounds very nice because he changed a lot of settings and he is using the Universal Audio Arrow preamp, but John can hear some background noise, just like a telephone call used to sound. It is 1000 degrees in Dan’s office and he has some fans on, but turning those off did not make any difference. Maybe John’s entire computer operation is a fucking barrel of garbage poo? John hates all computers! He finds the noise quite pleasing because it is what he always associated with talking to someone on a telephone line. He doesn’t like too much clarity, which is why he uses the abominable program Skype, which is somehow the standard of the form, but it is garbage.

Some of the Marco Arment types complain about the quality of John’s voice because he doesn’t record at his end. Merlin doesn’t like John to record because he doesn’t want to do the extra work, but Dan says he wants John to record and doesn’t mind the extra work. John is happy to do it and they exchange a Dropbox link and John starts recording in Adobe Audition. It took a while because John’s computer is a pile of garbage. John hates computers, but he does everything on them now and it feels like Stockholm syndrome: To love them is to be held captive and to fall in love with your captor!

John’s dropbox email is moc.sretniwgnoleht|nhoj#moc.sretniwgnoleht|nhoj which he set up a long time ago and it won’t allow him to switch over to his regular email moc.liamg|kciredor.nhoj#moc.liamg|kciredor.nhoj because Dropbox is also a terrible program. There was some hum in the background, but Dan put on a noise gate. Dan didn’t need a clap because it is not 1919. They always clap when they are recording Omnibus even though they are sitting across from each other and it is being recorded into one file. John’s recording starts at 07:35 and the actual show starts at 08:53.

John cutting his own hair (RW137)

John still has nice full thick head of hair. Up until he was 18 years old he had an Eddie Munster hairline that was 2 inches (5 cm) above his eyebrows but when he turned 18 all of a sudden his hair receded on both sides and he shuttered in fear because his uncle Jack is completely bald, his dad was definitely balding, his mom’s brother was balding, his mom’s grandfather was completely bald, his father was completely bald, and John thought ”Here it goes!” His mom’s dad was the only one who had a full head of hair. All of a sudden John got a Bruce Willis hairline, but then it stopped and he never lost another hair.

When John was young, he had a lot of straight thin hair unlike people with thick luscious curls or cool hair like Jim Morrison. Barbers would tell him that they had never seen such a thick mop of hair. It was straight until John got into his 30s when all of a sudden fairly appealing waves started to show up which made it easier to have his hair be kind of a mess. That continued until just recently where enough grey hair started to enter in. The grey hair is somehow coarser and it feels like John’s hair is somewhat confused about what its project is.

The other day John cut his hair as he has done for the last 15-20 years. For each of those different hair qualities he had to re-learn how to cut it to its best advantage. John is terrible at cutting hair! He always has a plan going into it, but halfway through he will completely loose the plan and will scramble to rescue it. At least half of each haircut experience is a stage of panicky ”How can I save this haircut?”

Almost every one of John's haircuts you see in photos is home-done. During a few occasions he got too confused by cutting something way too short relative to the rest and had to go to his friend Carly, a professional haircutter who has dealt with him for a long time. She knows how to look at what he has done, tell him that he did fine and then do some shaping to make it look presentable and not as if somebody had cut it in prison.

Sometimes John wears very asymmetrical haircuts where one side is way shorter than the other because it is the only way he can salvage having cut one side shorter than the other. If he cut the other side to match he would have a modified Macklemore or some kind of Suedehead, which is not where he is coming from. He also has two cowlicks and can wear it either way. If he cuts the left side where the bangs originate too short, then the left side is kind of Suede-y, the bangs just go across the top and he might look a little like Hitler. If he cuts the other side too short, then he will do the Indie Rock comb-over which also looks a little Hitler.

John likes to start to cut his own hair at 2am. He will look in the mirror and think that he needs a haircut, so let’s get out the scissors from the Bartell Drugs store that are made to cut construction paper. Sometimes he finds some kitchen scissor, but he doesn’t have a good pairs of scissors, which is one thing. He usually spreads some newspaper over the sink so the hair doesn’t go down the sink and he just goes at it.

John originally started doing it because when he went to the Hipster or the Rudy’s to get haircuts at normal places, nobody was really listening what he really wanted. They were just going to do what they did. John had some friends who had a salon called VAIN and who gave him a great haircut, but it costs real money. That is where Carly used to work and John also knows Victoria who owned the place.

One time when he needed his hair rescued Carly worked there and as he went up to the front to pay she said ”John has a store credit and always gets the 50% off deal because he is a friend of the salon” John didn’t know about that and was wondering if they had always given him 50% off because it was still expensive, but that was great!

A long time ago John went into a Supercuts and told them he wanted to grow this hair out. Over the years he has grown it out many times and then cut it short again. It takes longer to grow the front out and so he asked them to leave the front long and just cut the back. The guy said that he absolutely knew what John wanted, they were chatting along, cutting the back, it looked good, and right at the end the last thing he did was comb John’s bangs straight down and cut them off right across the front. It was just absent minded or it was just a haircut, but John was like ”Ah, dude!” He had been growing those bangs out for a long time! That was when John decided he was done.

It was the same thing with getting his glasses made (see RW119). John was a normal for a long time who went to an optometrist and picked glasses off the wall. For a while he would pick them out of the catalog because none of the ones on the wall were good, but then the glasses cost $350. No way, never again! John started to use thrift store glasses for $5 and take them to the hospital where they would put prescription lenses into whatever you brought in for $50. He felt like a genius and has been doing that for 20 years. That is why John is so arrogant: He has solved a lot of problems. John would cut his own hair even if the haircut was just $10 and was exactly what he wanted.

In the 1970s Dan's dad had some things that looked like attachments for an electric hair clipper, but they had little razors in them and you could run them through your hair to ”cut” your hair. He would use them between haircuts to keep things in order. One could also use a Flowbee, the thing that attaches to the end of a vacuum cleaner, but John doesn’t want that.

When John was in High School, he used to go to a barber with a mustache, a white jacket and a barber pole out front. There used to be barbers like that and there is still one in Seattle. Then John went to the Punk Rock haircutter a few times who had a salon across the hall from the Skateboard shop that was owned by Juan Gomez, the G&B Skate n Sport that was in the old fire station on Northern Lights and Spenard (2906 Spenard Rd).

Downstairs was a Punk Rock clothing store, upstairs was the salon and the skateboard shop. John started to go to that guy who cut his hair with an old-fashioned straight razor that you would shave a cowboy with. He would pull the hair straight up, twist it around like a Thai Stick or Maui Wowie, and cut across the grain with a straight razor which would make it a little ragged and feathery. In 1984/85 that was the coolest haircut John had ever seen. John never wore a mullet, it was not his style.

John was intrigued by watching the barber do this technique and it felt like something he could do himself. It took him 15 years to get up the boldness to attempt it, but he always had it in his mind. Of course the guy had skills and had practiced it and did it all the time and was good at it while John would be bad at it, but it felt like something he could do. Now John pulls his hair straight up, uses the blunt blade of a $5 pair of scissors and he saws across it which makes every hair just a little different than any other hair, it is all kind of frayed. There was a time when everybody was worried about split ends and it was on every shampoo commercial.

In 11th grade, Dan took an elective class about criminal justice with a really cool teacher. It was for people who wanted to go into law enforcement or study law, but Dan took it because he had heard it was easy. The teacher knew many cool people and they got to visit a prison, which was like a Scared Straight situation. The prisoners came out and talked to them, but not to terrify them.

The teacher had some weird idiosyncrasies and on the first day of class he laid down classroom rules. If you had split ends you were supposed to tell him and he would hand you some scissors, but you may not grab one end of each of the split ends and pull it up so it essentially became two hairs, which girls apparently did. If he ever found them doing that, they would get detention for it. It was not a joke! John does remember spit ends being a thing that people were super-worried about, even his mom talked about them, but these days you hardly ever hear about them.

Dan’s hair is half as thick as it used to be, but it is still thick. He uses a conditioner because otherwise his hair gets Roseanna Roseannadanna very quickly. Back in the old days they had a conditioner and shampoo in one, something Dan’s roommate in college Tom showed up with and was very excited about. It was like peanut butter and jelly in one, like Goober Grape (see RW111), and it was horrible, it was the worst thing ever! If you are doing lawn work you don’t want to get one of those edger/wheat whacker combos where you can pop the end off and put a different end on, but you want a dedicated tool for each one.

John agrees that this generally applies, except in Seattle where they thought they needed both a baseball stadium and a football stadium, which was very popular with cities for a while, but John disagrees with that general premise. There is not that much overlap that you couldn’t just schedule it and without needing two stadiums. The Metlife stadium in New York is shared between the Jets and the Giants. They used to have the Kingdome in Seattle and it used to work just fine. Then it was decided that it didn’t work and they needed two stadiums. They tore the Kingdome down and built two brand-new stadiums.

John being allergic to his own skin (RW137)

John only washes his hair out of medical necessity because he is allergic to his own skin. How this can be possible when he is covered in his own skin is one of the great questions. Dermatologists say that John is allergic to his own oil. He went there three times as an adult and every time they said that there is no solution and it is what it is. They could prescribe him medicated shampoo, but it would be the same than washing his hair with soap. In High School it was assumed that everybody washed their hair every day. It was the fashion around the time John became a teenager and went hand in hand with practicing grooming and hygiene. Some people washed their hair twice a day, once in the morning and once at night.

Then John turned into a skummy loafer couch-surfing mooching Punk, although he was never Punk, who wanted to wash his hair once a month except for that allergy. His skin becomes inflamed and it mimics the effects of Psoriasis although it is not. He gets inflamed red, it scabs and it really hurts anywhere he has hair, also his beard.

Back in the old days before there were 16 different kinds of Metal, when you listened to Metal you were a metalhead and there wasn’t Hardcore Metal or Death Metal, while now when you listen to one kind of Metal it doesn’t mean you listen to any other kind of Metal. Back then it was all Metal. There were only seven types of young person and all alternative culture was all banded together.

Back then John had a friend who practiced alternative medicine. He was a drag queen, but also a rolfer and he used to take baths in diluted hydrogen peroxide. He poured a whole bottle into his bath every time he took a bath. John doesn’t remember why. He was evangelizing it as the miracle drug and he offered some to John who would pour it on himself down his hair and into his beard. You can tell the period because there are photographs of The Long Winters where John’s hair is peroxide blond.

The surfers in Dan’s school all did this as a style, John did it to counteract this terrible inflammation and it fizzed and bubbled and hurt so badly it was excruciating. It was the kind of pain where you think that it is healing it or it was doing something to it. It would arrest the progress of the inflammation, it would crust over and for a week or so there would be this crusty flaking. John still does it, but not so much that it bleaches his hair. He started washing his hair on a fairly regular basis, but if he didn’t have to he wouldn't wash his hair very often. When it starts to break out and he starts to have that reaction, it happens quickly. He starts to feel the pain and if he doesn’t rush to a shower he will be super-screwed 2 hours later.

Sponsor Mack Weldon, orange flight suit, non-iron shirts (RW137)

John is only half-dressed because he woke up 10 minutes before they started doing the show and he threw on his podcasting coveralls. Dan imagines it like a hazmat suit, an easy thing to just throw on, a pair of overalls with no shirt underneath it, and the kind of wading suit they have when they work with pigs where the boots are attached to the pants, but John argues that you would perspire too much.

When John was a young teen he used to go to the Army Navy Surplus. His mom would buy him some school clothes at the start of the year and if he wanted any additional clothes over the course of the year he would have to go to the Goodwill or the Army Navy Surplus. Back in the early 1980s the Vietnam era stuff was the new stuff and those stores were full of World War II stuff and Korean War stuff. John found a bright orange flight suit from the Korean era of the 1950s, a very early jet aircraft era flight suit.

It was like today's flight suits with zippers and pockets and stuff, but it wasn’t made out of that fire-retardant Nomex fabric and was just made out of thick denim-y cotton in bright orange. The idea was that if you ejected you would be visible to the rescuers, but then they figured out that you are also visible to the communist Chinese or whoever it was you were trying to escape and they started making them green so you could hide in bushes.

That flight suit fit John perfectly because he hadn’t grown to his full height yet and in the 1950s fighter pilots were all 5’6” (168 cm) and half of them are even now. John wore this flight suit every minute he could. He slept in it, he wore it around the house, he even wanted to wear it to school, but his mom prohibited that. He always made the case that it would be fine, but she was adamant that he could not wear a flight suit to school. It was very durable and John wore it until he could no longer wear it.

John’s length is in his torso and at a certain point his torso was too long to get into it and it was all tight in the crotch. John was devastated and he has been looking for a flight suit from that era that would fit him ever since that day. He is walking into every Army Navy Surplus environment looking for that flight suit. There are orange flight suits worn by C-130 pilots, but they are made of Nomex and John doesn’t want it to be fire-retardant.

It is like at Brooks Brothers: 90% of the shirts are 100% cotton non-iron, which means they have impregnated the cotton with some chemical that makes it feel like it is half polyester and they might as well just have it be polyester. There was a phase when they realized that polyester is amazing because you don’t have to iron your shirt and every shirt was 60% cotton 40% polyester, but then people got to be snobs about polyester. John’s mom says that fancy people love to buy things made out of Rayon, which is just polyester and if they had just re-introduced polyester at some point and called it Luxofab or something, people would have been all over it.

It is a miracle fabric, but people stopped using it because snobs said it was no good. Shirts went back to all cotton, which meant that the business dingdongs who wear shirts with ties every day had to iron their shirts again and they came up with this non-iron garbage. John hates it so much that he throws any shirt that says non-iron right in the shredder. It feels like it sticks to you and you can feel the chemicals. Maybe John is a victim of this material snobbery, but he doesn’t like that feeling.

John never found a flight suit from that era that was 46 long because pilots were probably not allowed to be that big as they would not fit in the cockpit. Mack Weldon ought to do a flight suit because their stuff is very comfortable. They have special underpants that are impregnated with silver, but they don’t feel weird, they feel like 100% cotton and yet they also are impregnated with silver and John can not stop being thrilled by it.

When he got his first pair he was very suspicious about them. Would they feel like an S.O.S Soap Pad? They turned out to be delightful and feel like cotton, but they have the extra protection of silver. The reason they do that is that it makes them anti-microbial and they eliminate odor. By feel you couldn't tell that they had silver in them unless you are a vampire. Dan is not a big hoodie person, but he wears his Mack Weldon hoodie more than his Philadelphia Eagles Super-bowl Champions hoodie and that says a lot. Dan continues to talk about different Mack Weldon items he likes.

Cultural development during the Reagan administration (RW137)

According to Ferris Bueller, the different categories of kids are sportos, motorheads, geeks, sluts, bloods, waistoids, dweebies, and dickheads (quote), but there are Neo-Maxi Zoomdweebies as well, the ultimate expression of a dweebie. John doesn’t think this expression entered the parlance, but he still says it all the time. Like a lot of things he heard one time, he will continue to say it for the rest of his life.

John’s High School in Alaska had a smoking area inside the school. The school was donut-shaped and built around a courtyard. All the classrooms looked out into the middle that wasn’t used for anything, but was just a big huge courtyard. You could walk across to the other side, but hardly anyone did that. Inside the courtyard was the smoking area for metal heads and stoners because nobody else smoked. Even in the most freezing days they would step out into this courtyard and have a cigarette between classes. So many people smoked that they had to make a provision for this.

You had to be 18 years old to buy cigarettes, but that never stopped anybody. Until Regan was elected president, the culture was in a steady decline or a steady loosening-up. Pot-smoking became more normal, and even if Playboy magazine never had bongs in it, Penthouse certainly did. Porn magazines became more acceptable, you would walk into a normal person’s house and see a Playboy on the coffee table, pot smoking was accepted, cigarette smoking was just generally accepted, sexual moires had loosened up, and people were a lot sexier.

Then the Reagan administration came in and conservativized this country very quickly. There was a zero-policy on drugs, AIDS happened and made sex more complicated and the panic in the news magazines stopped people from being cool with everything. Everybody tightened up real tight! The yuppies, those assholes, were so fucking singed and by 1986 all the fun had gone out of everything. If you were smoking pot or cigarettes you were a flashback or a holdover.

John has a bunch of biker magazines from the late 1970s and early 1980s and the full-on biker culture (see RL250) with custom Harleys that everybody was modding themselves was astonishing. They were camping out, they were wearing denim, they were flashing their boobs from the back of their boyfriend's hog, they were riding around in ad-hoc gangs. They were no bad, thieving, mean bikers, but being a biker was just a really commonplace thing. Your parents could be bikers, like in the movie Mask with Cher. Today that culture is almost completely gone. It was eradicated by the fact that people no longer felt like having a motorcycle and a half-rack of beer and their old lady on the back. Back then that was enough and you felt like your life was full.

That 1970s culture continued into the 1980s until the Reagan era just mashed it down and it stopped completely. By the 1990s, and the 1990s make the 1970s look like the 1950s, it was part of the whole teenage-looser Grunge Rock thing. They were so exhausted by the 1980s which had been such a moralizing up-tight un-cool time, but by the 1990s they couldn’t bring back everything, they couldn’t bring back bikers or a time when it was light-hearted, so now they were smoking pot and doing scummy things, but it was all dark, full of depression, angst and self-loathing. It didn’t have the groovy thing. In the 1970s you could sit and talk about your stereo for hours. Nobody had any money, obviously.

(John lost the thread, which is happening once in a while, but didn’t used to happen before)

Everybody smoked back then, but in the Regan period it got easier to enforce those little micro-laws that would for example stop teenagers from buying cigarettes. Marijuana was legal in Alaska until the late 1980s, maybe even the early 1990s, but then some combination of the Regan administration or the Bush administration said that Alaska wouldn’t get federal highway funds if they didn’t adopt the administration’s ”Just say no!” drug policy. They tied some completely irrelevant thing to it!

John went to a Rotary Club meeting with his dad where the head of the state troopers and guys who's bellies were over the top of their belt buckles, all the law and order types, made a presentation to the Rotary club, talking about Marijuana being a gateway drug. John used to go to these meetings with his dad who loved the Rotary club, partly because he was the most liberal guy there and they would tease him.

He loved being teased for being a liberal because he got to be super-hilarious, like ”Hey Dave, are you still a communist?” and he would always have some remark that was specific to that person. He would know some thing about them that he would retort to burn them, he loved to burn people! John went with his dad because it was hilarious and he got to see all this nutty inside-stuff on who the people in power were.

In this presentation they were saying that Alaska is giving a bad example and if we don’t criminalize Marijuana, all we are saying to the kids is to use drugs and once they start using drugs, they are going to become cocaine addicts, sex workers and communists. The cops were trying to get support from the community leaders and eventually they passed a law criminalizing marijuana after decades of a liberal pot policy, but the city cops and the state troopers pretty much just ignored it.

John told the story before where he got pulled over by a trooper and his car was full of marijuana (see RW123) and he didn’t care about the pot and actually said that it makes you a slightly better driver because your attention is more focused on the road. They are obviously not making it a priority, but they had to make it illegal to save face somehow among the other law & order people.

No-one was ever going to yell at you about smoking cigarettes until very recently. John remarks on it with people his age all the time. They will be at some thing and someone will say ”Remember when we all would have been smoking?” and they all laugh and talk about how bad everything used to smell. Dan remembers the first concept of a smoking section in a restaurant. Eventually it was non-smoking in restaurants, but you could still smoke in bars. Then you couldn’t even smoke in bars anymore. There was an incredible outcry when they tried to make smoking illegal in New York because it would impact the receipts of all bars and restaurants. No-one would go to a bar anymore. Why would they if they couldn’t smoke?

In some respects we have been consistently gaining ground: More people have more rights under the law than ever before. That was a steady and consistent process. Even if we would take one step back, we would always take three steps forward. Since Roe vs Wade (legalizing abortion) there have been constant endless assaults against it because it is a bad law, but it accomplished a good thing.

Despite all these assaults it has never been overturned. They never passed the equal rights amendment, although they got very close, but women’s rights have continued to be expanded through the whole period since the 1970s. Gay-rights had its ear in the late 1980s and in the 1990s and we continue to expand the definition of recognizing and protecting more and more identities.

But culturally we have lost so much relaxation and attitude like ”It’s cool man, you do your thing, I do mine!”, which really seemed like the direction things were going for a long time. A lot of it was a result of the rise of the moral majority, the evangelical movement. Evangelical Christianity used to be confined to the South and to rural parts of the Midwest. There were no large pockets of Evangelical Christians on the East or West Coast.

It was not a thing you saw in cities and it was not very hip. In the 1960s and early 1970s there were the back-to-the-land, back-to-Jesus hippies who made Christianity a little bit hip if you were a hippie, but it was in the 1980s when you started to get that mega-church super-tight Brylcreem hair, lots of eye makeup, and The PTL Club and the Billy Gram people started to expand into television and become nationwide.

In the 1990s there were mega-churches with ministers who had tattoos and where the worship band had electric guitars and flames on their shirts. It was called Christian Rock and all of that started a moralizing minding-your-neighbor’s-business, trying to get the laws changed so that everyone in the state recognized that evolution was just a theory. A lot of the movement was based on the idea that they were the persecuted minority and their kids were being forced to learn evolution in schools. Someone went home and had their parents tell them that it was all a lie and it wasn’t sufficient and they needed to pack the school boards.

Evangelism became a political movement in the country and ratcheted up the culture wars. There weren’t culture wars before, it wasn’t something that was in the newspapers, but obviously it was happening. In Tuscaloosa you could teach your kid that Jesus rode a dinosaur and nobody cared. It was that 1980s period when Regan was pretty stylish and it feels like a huge step backward and we have been slogging it out ever since.

Someone who is 20 years old today might thing that the story of America has been an uninterrupted conservative, moralizing, anti-gay, anti-woman mentality throughout half the country, but it wasn’t! Those mentalities were confined to the rural South, they were small and not very politically effective and it felt like they were on their way out, but in cities like Atlanta people were just as sophisticated as anywhere. They were going to get down to Mississippi and into these little towns and little by little the school were doing a better job of teaching people.

They weren’t going to be racists anymore and they would no longer believe that Jesus rode a dinosaur, it was just a matter of time, but somehow took the eyes off the ball or they got rooked or end-runned and now we are in a state where 50% of the people in America seem to believe that Jesus rode a dinosaur. How did that happen? The yuppies embraced evangelical Christianity because it had that Prosperity Gospel. Somebody is going to yell at John for pronouncing it that way because it has become a trope in his world that people comment on his pronunciations.

Gary’s Van (RW137)

See Gary’s Van!

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