RW146 - Companion Teeth

This week, Dan and John talk about:

Bonus-content for Patreon supporters:

  • Needing to advertise the bonus content more (Patreon)
  • Not being able to square your own beauty standards with society (Humanities)
  • John's daughter's mother having an internet security podcast (Daughter)

John got a fairly good night's sleep last night and was still reveling in that feeling. He had been staying at the home of his daughter's mother for several weeks while his house was on the market.

During recording a bald eagle just flew by.

Cuban Coffee vs Ethiopian Coffee (RW146)

In the last six months John’s sister has been to Cuba before she went to Ethiopia. A popular thing to bring back as a gift from both those countries is coffee: Cuban-roasted coffee and Ethiopian coffee. Now they have a profusion of coffee from foreign places, but John never really liked Ethiopian coffee. It is too fruity and he prefers a robust coffee.

John did have coffee when he was in Cube and drinking it as prepared for an actual Cuban working person is astonishing! He has had little cups of coffee all over the country. Normally when someone serves you a little cup of coffee you are like ”Ahaa! Alright, I see where you are coming from!”, but a little cup of coffee in Cuba…

In tourist areas of Cuba they have a separate kind of money for foreign visitors. This fancy money has a lot less buying power than local money, but local money cannot be used to buy fancy things that are only priced in fancy money. There are not a ton of fancy things in Cuba, but a hotel in Downtown and a fancy dinner can only be bought with the shiny money.

John as an American shouldn't even have any regular money in his hand and everybody he encountered should have been vigilant, but he got out into the countryside in places where there wasn't any fancy money because they hadn't planned for any Americans. It is not like you were forbidden, but the same was true for Canadians and Swedes.

There in the countryside John had a cup of coffee that cost the equivalent of $0.03 and it absolutely blew the top off of his head like a powerful drug. He had never had that profound and wonderful experience on coffee and he didn't want to leave this. It was just some little shack and the person was preparing each cup of coffee not quite like a Japanese tea ceremony, but all the brewing materials were all crafted out of old aircraft parts. Boy, John thinks about that cup of coffee a lot, but he doesn’t think we can get the same kind of coffee here because you would need it to be made out of aircraft parts and nobody here would do that.

Dan had Cuban coffee in Miami, prepared in a little Cuban shack by Cuban people. With the large Cuban population that was in Miami at the time Dan assumes that it would have been pretty authentic, but he has never been to Cuba and can't really compare to what John got there. When he was in South Korea, the food he ate in many homes and restaurants many times was exactly the same as what he was able to get here in the States at a true Korean restaurant, not one of these fancy Korean fusion restaurants where you get someone's interpretation of what they had in South Korea 10 years ago and they were jamming up a Kimchi on a hamburger and calling it Korean.

This morning John found some coffee in the back of the cupboard that had been pushed to the side to make room for all the Ethiopian coffee. They had only been drinking Ethiopian coffee because John’s daughter's mother was excited about it, but there was actual old coffee back there that John does not mind despite its oldness because it has robustness. Now he is drinking a robust cup of coffee and is very glad. There is only a little fruitiness in it because there were some grounds in the bottom of the coffee grinder that he didn’t want to waste.

John not wanting sympathy when he is having a bad day (RW146)

John had a pretty bad couple of days. Everybody has been following along his house-buying saga and it hasn't been going well and it definitely hasn't been going the way he had imagined. John hadn't just glued two sticks together and claimed it was worth $1 million, but he thought he had a sense of the market which turned out not to be accurate.

We are not talking about differences of millions, but differences in tens of thousands of dollars between what he thought the house would sell for and what it appears to be worth. He expected the price to be driven by competition, which it hasn't. There has not been a ton of competition, which has thrown all of John’s best-laid plans awry.

In the last few days John has also felt pretty hemmed-in. He doesn’t have a place to live that belongs to him, he doesn’t have any privacy, and depending on how you look at it, the last 10 years have been pretty bumpy. His dream for this year was that a lot of these problems were going to be resolved. He was going to have a new place to live and some new income. It is a fantasy that his dad used to call a geographical cure, the impulse to run. Something is going wrong, your life is bad, and you decide to move to Florida and you are going to cure your problem by moving geographically.

That is not entirely what is going on. John is doing better monetizing his shows and he feels like he is doing okay and his prognosis is good, but a lot of it depended on him being able to execute this move. This past week it was all weighing him down in a way that felt familiar and unwelcome, and as the week wore on, by Monday he felt the familiar feeling of depression that he hadn’t felt since late 2015 when he first started taking medicine.

John posted a couple of things online where he was super-bummed and not doing so good and he got all the well-meaning ”Are you okay?”-kind of replies. He is always surprised by that because he put a version of himself online that is in a dark mood. Things aren't going well and something has changed in him in the last 10 years. In the past if he would have bumped into somebody on the street and they would have asked: ”How's it going?” he would have said ”Fine!” - ”You don't look fine!” - ”Ah, you know!”

John cannot account for his present self putting his feelings on the internet in any way shape or form. It isn't how he would have done before, but now when he is feeling sad and feeling ”Blah!” he puts a picture online. Generally when he is feeling bad he takes selfies, but not ”Yeah! Check me out!”, but they are ”Ugh!”, a selfie staring directly into the camera with an impassive face. That is some version of John like ”Ugh!”

John will never get used to receiving ”Are you okay?” from people because he is not a person crying for help. Sure, why would you put a picture of yourself online and say ”I'm feeling bad!” if you weren't soliciting sympathy and declarations of love from far away, like: ”We love you! Don't feel bad!” John is doing it because he is broadcasting, but he does not want to be asked if he is okay or be told that everything is fine.

People were saying ”Oh, I didn't want to intrude!” or ”I wouldn't come up to you in a restaurant!” or ”I respect your privacy!” and all this stuff. ”I didn't want to repost your house thing because I don't want to intrude on your privacy!” John’s feeling about all that is: ”What do you mean? Of course repost my house and come up to me in a restaurant and say hello!”

What feels most intrusive and makes him the most uncomfortable of all those things is somebody commenting ”Are you okay?” on a post. "What? How dare you?”, which is weird because the currency of the Internet for most people is just that. There are people on Facebook who go ”Blah blah blah” and then a bunch of people go "Oh, we love you! Are you okay? Blah! We love you!”, but for John that is just gross.

For a lot of people social media is an equation of about 150 to 200 people who follow them, whom they are friends with and whom they know personally. For them social media feels very intimate and you see that in the familiarity they have with one another. It is not just that everybody is a kook and they think that Patton Oswald is their friend, but they have 150 friends that they know personally and they follow about 50 other people, meaning their timeline is made up of people that they know and these few other people that over time they feel like they also know. Especially with podcasting you develop a real intimacy with people.

John is not mad at anybody for doing that, he can see that it is the lingua franca of the Internet, but he doesn’t want anything to do with that game! If John got cancer and he went online and said ”I have cancer and it is fucking me up!”, he would do that in part because he feels obligated to people who follow along with him, but also because transparency is a big part of what he has evolved into being.

When David Bowie died we learned that he knew that he was dying for a long time. He did all this work to go out on his own terms creatively and compassionately, but he also really kept that secret because he didn't want to get a bunch of ”Are you okay?” He definitely did not want to be celebrated or feted in an embarrassing way while he was still alive. He did not want to go to Madison Square Garden and have a funeral for himself.

John’s public life and performative style have become connected to the idea that he is putting all his cards on the table. It is not all the cards, he holds a lot of stuff back that isn't salient or that would be dangerous to reveal, but something like "I have cancer!” would be salient because for anybody listening to his programs that would be part of John's identity.

There is an obligation of sympathy where John wonders if he should ”like” a thing on Facebook where the person is talking about something terrible, like their dog died or whatever. Then Facebook came up with a way that you could ”sad-like” something and you have all these options ”sad-like”, ”happy-like”, ”love-eyes-like”. John will click "like" on people's emotional posts if having read it helped him understand them or understand himself or moved the ball down the line. There are a lot of posts where somebody says: ”I am having a really hard time, you guys, and I need $1000 right now!” - ”Not really, man!” John is not going to engage with this.

John’s difficulty to square these universes has more to do with him than the culture on the Internet. It is what people seem to like, it is the language of their exchange. If they say ”I am having a bad day!”, a bunch of people saying ”Oh, man! You are going to be fine. Are you okay?” is comforting to them or feels like caring. It makes them feel more stitched into the world.

John is instead feeling revulsion. He did get a couple of texts from friends: ”What is going on? Are you alright?” - ”Well, yeah, of course I am!” Part of it is the generalized mental health concern trolling that is happening in the world today, where people feel obligated to respond to anybody who says they are feeling sad as though they are potentially suicidal. Nobody wants to be surprised by something, so everybody overreacts, but then there are also a lot of people who are overreacting to their own mental illness.

There is a lot more awareness of mental illness in our culture today, but we do not have more insight into it. 30 years ago people would have been shy or embarrassed to say ”I am depressed!” and culturally we made a lot of progress in terms of getting to the point where you can say ”I am suffering from a mental illness of some kind!”, but not in terms of what that exactly means because it means a different thing every time.

We don't know how much to integrate those things into our personality, John included, and we don't know what role medicine plays in this giant jumble. Mental illness and emotional problems have joined the public space in a giant identity conversation where they are being treated as equivalent to other things which they are not equivalent to.

We live in a world of false equivalency: The fact that you like video games does not put you on par with Martin Luther King in terms of how you perceive yourself to be discriminated against in the world. Just because you prefer DC to Marvel does not mean that you are a freedom rider, but people’s worlds are small enough that they do feel persecuted because persecution has become a kind of food.

John gets these ”Are you okay?” things and he is like ”Yeah, I'm fucking okay! Are you kidding me? I could walk to New York City right now, eating one apple a day! I'm fucking fine! But am I sad? Yes! Can you do anything about it? No! Does your sympathy help me? No!”, but that is very individual and it is very personal to put a picture of himself sitting in the back of a club, going ”Today is a shitty day, but I went to this Rock show anyway. Leave me alone!”

It is ridiculous for John to be sitting in the back of a Rock club in a bad mood and not wanting anybody to talk to him. There is something hilarious about that, and that is what he is promoting. It is ridiculous to feel sad, excluded, or catastrophic and we really are in danger if we cannot find something funny about ourselves then. Even at his darkest time John always understood that he was ridiculous, that life is ridiculous, that it is all ridiculous. It is depressing, but it is also funny, like a pratfall!

John put a picture of himself and said ”I'm in this club and I'm totally telegraphing unapproachability” and 15 minutes later a guy walked up to him, showed him John's photo on his phone, interrupted him when he was talking to somebody, sat down next him, showed him the picture, and said: ”My friend in Tuscaloosa texted me to go over to you and say hi to you!” - ”Tell your friend Hi!” - ”Okay! Great, man!” high five, and he walked away.

Sure! Of course! That is ludicrous! It is the type of thing where Merlin or any number of other people would be like: ”I just said don't bother me!” Wil Wheaton would write 2000 words on it. The person who sent that text to his friend knew that his friend was going to be at that show and he is thousands of miles away. That is a pretty good prank! John identified this as something specific to him: ”Hello! It is me! Today is not the best day!”

There are people who are way more famous than John, beautiful women, who periodically post pictures of themselves without makeup on and say: ”This is the real me! Don't be fooled! Here is a magazine shoot of me that has been photoshopped and here is the real me side by side!” They are trying to say: ”The life you see on the Internet is not real! Remember that! Don't get depressed!” and John is doing a smaller-scale thing like that. He is not always 100% confident, he is not always 100% fun, please do not send him your condolences or ask him if he is okay. It is fruitless!

People do care about John and they have a feeling of powerlessness when someone else is sad. They just want to do something and take away their sadness and want to tell them that they are loved and make it better. It is almost irresistible, even when you have said 1000 times ”I know that is what you want, but by your efforts you can not accomplish what you want. Telling me that I am loved does not make me feel better. It just doesn't. It is incapable of it! Putting your hand on my shoulder and rubbing my back is not an effective medicine for depression. It may be ineffective medicine for disappointment!”

If John tried to hit a home-run and he struck out and his team lost and he was sitting there with his head in his hands, putting a hand on his back, rubbing it and saying: ”It is okay! You did your best! You are going to be fine!” can be effective for disappointment and stress. In situations like ”How am I ever going to balance my checkbook by the end of the week?” that hand on the back and the soft voice can be effective.

But when John is sitting there, going: ”Things are pointless and I am a garbage person!”, someone saying ”I love you and a lot of people love you and you are going to be fine and life is good and God and the Bible!” does not help. In some ways it is even more alienating because depression and mental illness are not logical! They are not equivalent to disappointment! They are not in the same universe! A person sitting there with their head in their hands because they struck out looks the same and ”You are a great person and the rest of your life is great!” works, but if you are sitting there with your head in your hands because your mind is telling you that everything is pointless and hopeless, encouragement does not help.

John’s depression is back (RW146)

Earlier this week John felt that monkey on him again. He has been taking Lamictal for three years and prior to that the monkey had always been on him for a decade. After he started taking this pill the monkey was gone and hasn't been back. That is not to say that John hasn’t had ups and downs or been sad or felt that things were hopeless, but that weight, that monster, had been gone and now the monster was back although he was taking his medicine. He believed that the medicine excluded the monster!

John is in a relationship with that medicine. He never felt triggered into depression by anything, but depression was a constant companion and what happened to him in the outside world was largely irrelevant in terms of whether or not he was depressed. Depression is its own terrain, it is resistant to outside influence. It feels much more like an environment than something like: ”Oh, something bad happened and now I am triggered and I feel bad!” It is other-worldly. It came on so fast this time that John was able to recognize it as a state. It did not do its normal thing which is seep in under the doors like a special effect in a scary movie where the sentient gas is going to come in and make everybody in the House a mad man.

It was just there in strength, it wasn't a tinge of it, but the cloud came in, the fog came down, the hopelessness spread out, and it didn't feel like it was on scale. Having trouble selling his house has a reverberative effect because he can't walk his daughter to school, he is tied to his car, and he doesn’t get a new life in a place where his junk isn't cluttering up his soul. John was invested in the idea that he was going to start walking every day which was going to get him into better health, his strength would come back, and he would have vitality in middle age.

John did the dumb thing of tying all these things to this house event, and the outside viewer can see that not selling his house threw all of the dreams that he mistakenly put in that envelope in question and of course he would be depressed, but: ”No!” Depression is not like that. It is not in response to the environment and it is not a thing that ever felt appropriate!

Some things in the past three years that have thrown John's whole life akilter, but he never felt depression. He felt bummed, he felt mad, he was all bunched up about it, but he didn't feel that fog. And here it came! To use the word dangerous is also wrong, because it implies that John has a Scott Hutchinson level of vulnerability where things aren't going to go right and he is just going to go walk off a bridge because he has been suicidal all these years.

John is just not that! He doesn’t have self-harm in him in that way. His self-harm always takes the form of substance abuse or sex addiction or something, but he doesn’t despise his physical form, he doesn’t want to leave this world, he doesn’t think that the world would be better without him. He does abuse himself, but that abuse is more trying to experience feelings, trying to feel something.

Feeling that fog felt dangerous to him‚ but not dangerous in the way that he would say online in order to get a bunch of ”Are you okay?” texts. It felt dangerous in the sense of that his medicine was betraying him and if that were true, then he would feel unsafe or shabby. Not unsafe in that he was going to hurt himself, but unsafe because he didn't have very many safe places. The place he for a long time had called home had been removed and maybe his medicine didn't work anymore. Maybe there won’t be another house? maybe he will just be living in the forest?

Depression always felt geographical, it was a place and no matter where he was he was also in that place, like an overlay. The medicine was also a geographical place, he was in the medicine, to be out of it contributed to the placelessness, but at the same time he was just fucking depressed and these things were not the reason why he was depressed. He was thinking about these things in a context where his mind was telling him noticeably different things that were the opposite of what he was telling himself just days before and they were not strangers to him, but very familiar!

Division of labor (RW146)

There are people around John who love to fill out forms and do lists, and they actually say that without exaggeration. There are lots of people for whom nothing feels better than going down a list and checking it off. None of the work of calling somebody to ask them for a refund, or going online and finding plane tickets for the upcoming trip seems hard to them. It is just part of the work that gets done. What is hard for them is other stuff, like deciding what color the walls should be, hanging up paintings, and certainly going to meetings or giving a speech.

John’s relationships with them often starts out with ”I am good at these things, you are good at making art, so let's have a division of labor!” - ”That sounds great! You do the things like get plane tickets and call up credit card companies for refunds, and I will fill our house with music and fun, we will do interesting things, and conversations will be interesting. I don't know what else I can add, but I bring a lot to the room!” - ”Great! That is all stuff that I'm not good at!”, but then they get the plane tickets one time, they get a refund from the credit card company once, and then they say ”See how easy it is? All you have to do is just do that!”

They put the list in front of John and they say: ”Here, I made a list! All you have to do is call these people!” - ”No no no no no! That is impossible for me, it really is! I would rather lose $10.000 than call a credit card company, I would rather not go on a trip than make plane reservations. If I handed you a guitar right now and said it was really easy, here are the chords, now go up and play a show in front of 800 people, you would say that you can't. This is not an ineffective comparison because just as you have not spent 20 years learning to play the guitar and sing, I have not spent 20 years learning how to make this list-check-off-business fun or easy.”

John shuts down every time somebody says ”You need to call the doctor!” - ”I don't call the doctor and just die young” - ”Yeah, that's crazy. All you have to do is just call the doctor” - ”Right, or die young. That is another option!” John always has difficulty with people from that world because they think they are helping him, they think that John’s inability to do those things is a kind of disease or it is a kind of thing that he just didn't learn how to do. In the same way that they think that putting an arm on his shoulder and telling him that he is loved is an antidote to depression, they think that giving him the phone number to the doctor's office was the problem, like he didn't have the phone number.

It always becomes a domestic problem. They have had a conversation and they have agreed that there was a division of labor, that John will do this stuff and they will do that stuff, but along the way they start to feel like all of John’s stuff is fun and all of their stuff is work, but ”Wait wait wait wait!” First of all, they said that the stuff that is work was fun and easy for them to do. John recognizes it is not fun, but they were saying it was fun, you just do it, but they are also saying that the stuff that John does isn't work, but the stuff that John does is work, it feels like work, it is exhausting and it required him to learn how to do it and practice it and be good at it and it earns him money.

John made some choices so that the things he does are native to him. He does five podcasts a week where he wakes up, sits down, hooks up his microphones and talks to a friend about stuff. He never gets tired of doing that, he never wakes up in the morning and goes ”Oh God, I got to talk to Dan today. Alright, well, fold up your bridges!” Never! John never dreads this and he never runs out of things to say, he is never too tired to do it, because if he is, then he will just come on and say ”Well, am I tired!” - ”What are you tired for?” and off they go.

Whatever kind of domestic accommodation John ever tried to make with someone always broke down almost immediately because they weren't able to understand his geography and all these things that seem simple to them are impossible for him to do, but all the things that he does, because everyone is an artist, they could do that stuff, too, if only they didn't have to go to work and if only they didn't have all these lists to check off.

Going to the dentist (RW146)

The other day John went to the dentist, which he hates doing, not just like other people hate the dentist, but he had real problems with his mouth for decades. His front tooth goes in and out all the time and a permanent solution to it continues to elude him (see RW70). He never felt like he had a dentist who was also a good project manager, but they all say: ”Well, we fixed your problem and you really should look into doing a better job.”

”Well here I am, dentists! Tell me what I should do!” - ”You should really make some decisions about what to do and then tell us! We are just the mechanics here who will do the work you tell us to do”, but that is not what John needs. He needs a dentist who has a vision and is going to help him get a healthier mouth. ”Okay, we can give you some recommendations to go to some specialists!” - ”No no no no no no, I need a project manager! I need somebody to help me!”

Years have gone by and John is not sure why he hasn’t found a different dentist. He likes his dentist and she is a member of his community, even. She would be a social friend and she is very good and she is the dentist for a lot of John’s friends, but her team of ladies who are all great and super-wonderful and do a wonderful job say: ”We are going to call this person on your behalf!” and then they don't, or ”We are going to forward this to somebody and they are going to help you!” and then that doesn't happen.

Six months go by and they send him things, like ”We haven't seen you in a while! Come in for a cleaning!” - ”That’s not where we were when I left! When I left you were talking about whether or not I was going to get an implant or see a dental surgeon or get a bridge or whatever!” and now six months have gone by and they say: ”Come in for a cleaning!” because it came up on their computer.

John's dentist put a fake tooth back in the front and they talked again about a bridge. John said again ”We talked about this six months ago, nothing happened, I called the number you told me to call, they told me they needed to talk to you, and they would call me back. They didn't call me back. You didn't call me back. I hate my mouth and I hate all talk about it, it is not like I wake up every morning with this on my list!” It is a universe of difference and it is very hard for people who wake up in the morning and go down their list of 10 things to do and check them off to understand what life must be like for someone who doesn't even have a list.

They say ”Put this on the top of your list and do it in the morning. You are going to sit on hold for a half an hour and get disconnected, but don't let your enthusiasm flag for!" All that for following up on a thing that is going to result in a lot of pain and suffering. "Get up in the morning and do it again with a cheerful heart!"

They can't imagine what it is like to get in the chair with a mind that is telling you ”Nothing matters! Your mouth is never going to get better!” John does need to get this work done! For 10 years he was walking around with a missing tooth in the front and an inner voice has been telling him ”Whatever! Fuck it! Who cares!”, but another voice was like: ”You need to care more! You need to take an active hand in how you live and work, in your health and in your well-being!”

John asked the professionals: ”Will you help me?” - ”Sure, absolutely! Come in for a cleaning!” - ”No, I guess I didn't say it right.” If you are getting up in the morning and have 50 things on your to-do list, can you just put this on there, too? Maybe that is a relationship that people like him need to institutionalize with people like his dentist or with list makers.

John went to the dentist and she said: ”We still have this issue and it feels more and more like an implant isn't the solution because in order to get an implant we have to do these 10 other things. Maybe we will get a bridge?” - ”A bridge like for an old person?” - ”No, most of this work we do with implants now, but bridges are still a totally valid option” - ”I smell a rat!” - ”However, you have two root canals that were done 30 years ago and they look a little suspect to me, so I am going to send you over to this lady who’s specialty is root canals and she is going take a look at it”

”Well yeah, this is the conversation we had six months ago. You said you were going to send me to the lady, I called her, she said she was going to call you and call me back and she didn't. If you send me out of the office today with a piece of paper with this lady's phone number on it, I do not have any confidence that this is going to happen.” She turned to her assistant and said: ”Call her right now!” and she called over there and said ”She can see you in half an hour!” - ”Great! I'll go there now!”

John’s dentist had been talking to him for a year about this magic woman and now it was happening because the people who have staff sitting at desks doing nothing else but making appointments figured out a way to tell John: ”Here is when and where to come in! Now!" - ”I can do it!” John went over there, the dentist lady looked at John’s X-rays and said ”Both of these root canals were done very poorly!” John was getting root canals in his 20s when he got all three of his front teeth bashed out in a brawl. It was three teeth in the front that all had been root canaled and capped because they were all completely bashed out.

John was 19 or 20 when it happened. The main tooth one in the front broke off at the root in 2008 at a show in Toronto and thus began John’s great saga because they had to pull the root out, there wasn't anything left to put a crown on, and John had been walking around this whole time with that tooth just gone, but its companion teeth are also root canaled.

She further said ”Oh well, we have to redo those 30 year old root canals!” - ”Because they have decayed over time?” - ”No no no, they were badly done then!” There are gaps in it and the root canal doesn't go all the way down to the bottom of the root. It seems like this would have manifested in problems. ”Well, do you want to wait until it does manifest into problems, or go in there and redo them?”

As John got up to the front desk of her business with two people who’s only job it is to get him in there later, they came up with two dates and now he has a schedule to get two new root canals. It is going to take two visits because they are going to fill it full of antibiotic or something and he is going to walk around like that for 10 days. During that period he is going to do his Friendly Fire podcast tour and when he comes home she is going to fill it up with whatever magic and patch it up.

These root canals do not benefit John, he won't come out of this painful, expensive, and excruciating two-week affair with any change to his appearance. His mouth will not be more stable or even ready, except this bad work which held him in good stead for decades will now be made better and then the whole question of implant or bridge or whatever else will be back to square one. At least they will have moved the ball a few yards down the field!

John walked out of the dentist's office like: ”Great! I went to the dentist today to get my tooth put back in, but I have just given myself a ton of extra work and pain.” Depression was already on him and while this news wasn't contributing to it, the fact that it was there already was now filtering that news through a new / old way of seeing the world. At any time in the last three years he would have received that news living within his drug and he would have gone: ”Uh, that sucks! I gotta go do this. I wish this problem could just solve itself. I wish the UFOs would come down, put me in a Luke Skywalker tank (see also Anchorman), give me a robot hand and just fix this fucking problem so I don't have to keep going back and forth to these medieval dentists and their weird cult!”

There is something culty about dentists because they get an idea and they pass it around to one another, like ”Oh, this is what we do now! We used to do this, but now we do that!” - ”Really? Is this better than that?” - ”Oh well that's just what we do now!” - ”I don't know!” Heart surgeons keep moving the ball down the field, but in dentistry there are a lot of lateral passes.

John going to an AA meeting (RW146)

As John walked out of his dentist's office it was rush hour and he hadn’t had any food the whole day. He got a little Thai food and went over and to sit in a park to eat his Thai food out of his container in the park, thinking: ”Things are not looking up! I don't know what's happening, but I can't afford to go dark right now!” Going dark would mean saying: ”I don't care about selling my house! Whatever! Take it off the market!”

The real estate agent will say ”Well, no, if we just try a little harder! If we just either take a little less money or we leave it on the market a little bit longer, we'll still sell it.” and his voice would say: ”Who cares! I'm never going to find a good place anyway in the neighborhood I want to move into, and even if I did, it is all just moving deckchairs around the Titanic, and so just forget it and turn it off.”

John is not contractually obligated to anybody, and although they would push back a little bit he could still say: ”No, just forget it!” three times and they would just forget it. John’s house would be taken off the market and he would go back and live in his house. That would solve a lot of problems. He would not be sitting in someone else's kitchen and he would be able to pick his own coffee.

Dan interjects that John can't have let himself go through this for nothing, but John’s dark voice would say ”Yeah, everything is for nothing!” It would have been a learning experience that had taught him that everything was shit, but he knew that already. Now he was still living in his house and although he was ready to live somewhere else which felt good and invigorating, he learned once again that he doesn't deserve nice things.

John was sitting in the park eating this Thai food, thinking about the way that Beetle Bailey falls off a cliff: There is always some little tree he can hang on to and John was clinging to that Beetle Bailey tree and needed something else to happen. He couldn't just surrender to not selling his house because that would begin a landslide of surrender!

He should just get in the car, get back into rush hour traffic and sit there for an hour, moving a foot at a time, just to go home to his house, lay on his couch and send some messages to people saying: ”Forget it!”, but some little voice in his head said ”No, you should go for a walk!” and having said it, it seemed pretty logical. John went for a long walk through the park and he was enjoying it.

At the end of the park there was a Pee-Wee baseball game with little kids of all genders, about five or six years old. A grown-up was pitching and these kids were getting hits and fielding the ball! They were playing baseball, maybe softball, the American pastime, and it was not ”Three strikes and you are out!”, but the grown-up was throwing the ball until they got a hit, although the game was real! John watched it for a while and then he saw a dad throwing a frisbee with his 12 year old son who was really into Frisbee and they were doing a pretty good job.

John was walking along and a friend texted him: ”Are you okay?” and he was like: ”Whatever! Never mind!” - ”Why don't you go to an AA meeting?” They were someone who suffers from drugs and alcohol as well. ”Urgh, I haven't been to a meeting in a long time!” - ”Exactly!” - ”You know what? I will!” John went to an AA meeting, which was a big one where everybody knew each other and John was a floater. Every meeting has floaters, but this was one where people were being greeted by name as they walked in. It was fine. It was a speaker meeting where two people told their whole story and their stories were interesting.

You don't get to decide what happens in AA meetings and a lot of times you hear a bunch of stuff and none of it really applies to you. It doesn't get you out of anything and you are not walking out of there with a new bag of wisdom, but you still go to those meetings in part because the ritual of it is something that you are getting out of it, recognizing them as safe places where everybody more or less is wrestling with the same thing.

People there understand you and you understand them in profound ways that doesn't require that you identify with their story. It is like going to your 30 year high school reunion and realizing you haven't seen a lot of the people in 30 years, but you know them and they know you, you have known each other for 30 years.

The meeting was good, but at the end everybody was standing around and a lot of people were looking at John, like: ”Are you going to stick around? I'm talking to this person, but I’d like to talk to you if you stick around.” - ”Not sticking around!” and John got out of there, got in his car and got out of that parking lot as fast as he could.

John did not take his medicine regularly (RW146)

John realized ”Wait a minute! I haven't really dependably been taking my medicine lately!” He was living in a strange environment and he had his little bottle of pills, but he didn't have his little ritual. In his own house he would go downstairs in the morning, make a cup of coffee, and as he was waiting for the coffee to brew he would take his pills. If he would forget to take them, at some point in the day he would come into the kitchen and wonder if he forgot his pills and he would take them then.

Generally he would take them at 9:00 am and sometimes he would take them at 3:00 pm, but he would always take them. You build up an amount of this salt in his body and it will last as long as he kept re-upping it. It is not like it goes up and then immediately falls. During the last few weeks there have been more than a couple of times where he forgot to take the pills for a couple of days running, maybe long enough for it to drop out of his system. All the medicament people say that that is really dangerous and don't do it, because when you start taking it again you are getting imbalanced and that is what was happening!

John would take a pill and then he would go two days without one and then he would remember to take one, but it would be in the afternoon, he would take it for a day or two, and then he would forget again, because he is super-bad at routines and he had baked this ”Make coffee and take a pill!” thing into his routine at his own house.

John wouldn't even know how many days he went without taking one. He would remember to take one sometimes and be like: ”Oh shit shit shit I got to take my pill!” and as he was driving home he wondered if this was just a medicine issue. He took a pill at night and when he woke up in the morning he took another one. He took one the next day and when he left the house yesterday he put one in his pocket and thought ”Maybe at 6pm I should take one, too!” He was replenishing his depleted silo and by 6pm last night he felt better and the fog, the creeping skeletal fingers, were gone! It had been insane to feel them back and it was just as insane to feel them gone.

When they are there they feel inarguably true, they are describing an accurate version, they are depicting life in a way that you cannot argue against when you are under their spell. It is not even voices going ”Blah blah blah blah blah”, but it is a mentality that you cannot argue against. To watch it come and go in the space of a week is just astonishing. First of all, to see how effective this medicine is on John in particular.

There are people whom this medicine doesn't work for, but it is not psychosomatic. When he is under the thrall of that mentality, he doesn’t want it to go away necessarily, but it feels honest and it is more interesting or fascinating. The role that brain chemistry played and continues to play in how John perceives the world, himself and his own place in it is nuts!


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