RW167 - Regular Big

This week, Dan and John are talking about:

The show title refers to John’s height and body size. He is a big person, but he is not really big like the biggest people who can’t get into most cars, but John is just regular big.

Raw notes
The segments below are raw notes that have not been edited for language, structure, references, or readability. Please do not quote these texts directly without applying your own editing first! These notes were not planned to be released in this form, but time constraints have caused a shift in priorities and have delayed editing draft-quality versions to a later point.

Dan having lunch with Matt Haughey (RW167)

As the episode starts Dan was tweaking a setting that would allow them to record the actual episode, meaning it was an important setting to use. Dan just had dinner with their common friend Matt Haughey who was in town hanging out with some friends. He works for Slack now and they had some kind of team meeting. It was good to see him. It got very very quickly very cold in Austin and it is in the 30s today which is quite cold for Austin. The day that he showed up it started pouring rain and the next day it was super cold. He lives outside of Portland Oregon where the Spruce Goose is, in Gesham or something. He could walk to the Spruce Goose apparently and doesn't.

They finished dinner, they were standing outside, and he was getting his Lyft or Uber and he wanted to continue the conversation, but Dan just had a sweater on and a light jacket and he grew up in Philadelphia and would have thought nothing of a 42 degree (5 °C) night, that is summer, but Dan can't do it anymore. Maybe he is a little older, maybe because he has been living in in hot climates he has acclimated himself to that too much. Matt is two days older than Dan and Dan was starting to shiver like a child, like a baby that has been brought out of the bathtub and laid just on its blanket before being wiped down.

Dan was quick to say: ”All right, dude! Have a good trip back! I gotta go!” - ”What are you even cold for? It is not even cold? What is it? 42 degrees?” - ”That is cold to me! Have a great trip back, bud!” and Dan had to fly and get out of there, get into the truck with the seat heaters and the heated steering wheel, going back to safety. Matt Haughey is one of the characters that has appeared over and over from the very beginning of the podcast universe and he is an OG, an old school blogger, South by Southwest only eight people in the hall guy.

John’s height (RW167)

Dan wonders if Matt or John is taller, but John hasn’t ever stood next to him and compared their heights. John claims that he is taller and has Matt Haughey challenged that and he won't challenge it because John is taller. John is on record for many years explaining to people that his height has always been 6’3”, but there was a period where the doctor told him he was 6’2” and John contested it and said: ”Your machines are wrong!” - ”It is not a machine‚ it is just a yardstick, it is not wrong!” - ”No, well your carpet is pressed down or the walls have shifted!” - ”I don't know what to tell you! You are 50 and you might have lost an inch” - ”Go right to hell!”

The last time John went to the doctor and got his height measured it was at a different height measurement stick, not the one that they were using before, and this stick also said he was 6’3”, so this is an ongoing problem for him that he has lost an inch in height due to pre-osteoporosis or something and he won't accept it and is fighting for that extra inch. 6'2” is the top-limit of normal-sized guy and 6’3” put John one inch over into tall guy or big size person territory. 6’2” is still a tall guy, but you are not over into big size land, and if John is coming back down to Joel McHale height where it is like: ”Oh, he is a handsome, well-proportioned guy!” that is fine and everything, but John needs a little bit more time to prepare.

Plenty of people say you would be blessed to be described as comparable to Joel McHale in any way because he is a handsome, successful, funny guy, but John also feel like he is probably about 6’2”, not 6’3” and Matt Haughey is in that 6’2” range, too. Dan says there are tall people who shouldn't be tall because their body is thin and lanky but they are just tall and maybe they have ridiculously long legs or something. John is not just tall, but he is a big person, he has big shoulders, and he is a large human being. Tall almost implies a lankiness or almost a creepy skeleton-like appearance.

The problem with describing John as big is that there are a lot of people that are really big and John is not big like really big, but regular. Compared to somebody who is big John is a small version of big. When he goes someplace with Ben Acker who is 6’8”, he dwarfs John in height and he is also very broad-shouldered and John would be embarrassed to talk about being big. He has to pick his automobiles based on whether or not he can get the seat far enough back. John drives around in a Jetta and when he sits down in the Jetta he can't sit up straight but has to lean over to the right, which creates a postural problem. It he sits up straight he cannot put the seat down and far back enough that his head isn't uncomfortably touching the ceiling. Ben Acker could probably not even get into a Jetta and that is the difference between being big and being really big.

John thinks of himself as big because when he sees myself with other people he is a lot bigger than those people, but then there is always somebody saying that John is not big, but just regular big, not big where you would have to capitalize it or where any special accommodations should be made. Like that correspondent John had not very long ago who said that they were a man of shorter stature and that although in every other respect of their lives they could not complain because things were going well and they had plenty of opportunity in life and they enjoyed their life very much, but other people didn't quite appreciate how difficult it was for them as a man of 5’4” or smaller. John had a lot of sympathy for them, but then again that is also within the realm of normal small. Even using the word ”normal” John accidentally backed in to a realm where he is triggering everyone because there is no normal and John didn't mean to even walk into this field of flowers.

Listener mail: Having a consistent style (RW167)

John was thinking they actually should answer some letters today in the normal episode. They hardly ever do this, but the bonus episode is mostly them responding to listeners and John enjoys it a lot they have gotten some letters from people and John figured they could just do it as a regular episode. Dan wasn't ready, but he can get ready really quick.

Dear Dan and John!
You are both skilled at relaying your experiences so that others can engage with them, but do you ever feel like this skill interferes with your ability to experience things in a direct and genuine way? As an example from my own life: I was recently at a flea market, considering buying a Griswold cast iron pan and a Marantz cassette deck, but then I was hit with the realization that I was not personally drawn to any of this stuff. I was drawn to the idea that friends of mine would admire my having these things in my house.

This sent me into a mental tailspin of doubting whether I actually like or care about anything, independently of how it contributes to the image I want others to have of me including my education, my career, and my long term romantic partner. This occurs on a smaller scale, too. When I am enjoying a magazine article, I will realize I am focusing on which friend I will email it to or how I can holster it to say something interesting in conversation in the future.

This leads me to worry that I am incapable of just reading a magazine article. I would be very interested to hear what you think. Thanks for all you do! — John

As a kid growing up, Dan’s parents had a Marantz amplifier, tuner and turntable, which he inherited in college and they were wonderful and he later sold them and it was the stupidest thing he has ever done. John had a Marantz tuner for a long time, but it is gone, too, probably he gave it to a thrift store for some reason. Hodgman collects those Griswold pans. He was in Austin, too, but Dan had the kids on his own that evening and couldn’t get out.

To answer the question: That does not happen to John, but he knows what is happening to their listener. It is much more of a risk to people today than ever before. John forgets that he does these shows and when he arrives at his podcast desk his mind is always blank and when he starts to tell a story it usually just arrived in the forefront of his mind. There are times when John says: ”Oh yeah, I am going to jump out of a plane tomorrow!” and someone says: ”Wow, you are filling up the old podcasts story bucket!” and John is always surprised when somebody says that. He probably will tell this story some day, but it is not a motivator.

John does think about things like Griswold pans and Marantz stereos in the terms that their listener is describing. Particularly this house search that John has been on for the last year and the idea of this house being an opportunity to establish a new aesthetic John has noticed and really bookmarked the fact that a lot of the time when he was thinking about his new house and how he was going to live in it: John has one particular friend who has a really good personal aesthetic and he was always gut-checking his choices against the prospect of this friend coming over to the house for dinner. This friend is not judgy or wicked. John admires him, but his aesthetic is very much his own, it is not one John is trying to imitate, but John would picture himself in his new house having a cocktail party, and this friend was always the one that he pictured looking around the living room approvingly.

When he would look at a place and wonder: ”What is it about this place?” it is not like he would hear this friend's voice, but he would just find himself standing next to him, looking at the place, and going over his own thoughts. He was a constant presence, not because John was trying to impress him directly, but because he had become a yardstick for John of someone who was complete in his own sense of style and his own communication and performance of his life as a text. He doesn't have things that don't belong with him. They don't just belong to him, but they belong with him, and that is a thing John also aspires to, and he has a lot more varied categories of things that do belong with him than he does.

John’s friend has a very concentrated aesthetic, he is like The Decemberists in the sense that The Decemberists’ artwork, their band name, their onstage costumes, their songs, their themes, it all goes together. It is a really tight package! The Decemberists haven't gone through a psychedelic phase, they don't have a metal album, but it is always really tight. John is much looser and much more varied, he has things from all eras and styles. John did go through a phase where he was like: ”Why am I thinking of this friend of mine every time?” He knew they were going to be impressed or happy or supportive, no matter what house John was going to get or how he decorated it, but he was self-conscious about it. Was he performing for them in some weird way?

This friend was a stand in, a gut check, that was a component of John discovering his own taste as his taste evolved. It is easy to say: ”Well, if you have taste it is just going to come out of you like some natural fountain, and if you at all are altering your taste or refining it or questioning it, then you are inauthentic! Your taste should be this native animal portion of you!” That is baloney, that whole line of thinking that things are either natural and authentic or they are manufactured and fake. That is just some Generation X bullshit that is really seductive to people who believe that there is a purist way of living and that being purist is somehow better than being a combination of things.

John is modifying his style quite a bit right now, doing it intentionally as a way of trying to use style as a method of changing the way he lives, because he understands style and it means something to him. Just to eat better has proved to be very difficult, but if John were to combine eating better with a stylistic element, like a Griswold frying pan, or a cookware that both facilitates a way of eating and also makes eating more of a performance, those are things that John responds to.

John is guessing that the person writing them is a little younger and in an Instagram reality. If he was a 65 year old he would be too scared to say something like this. They are sharing a confidence that feels much more like they are interrogating their evolution as a person, stepping up their game but wondering if it is authentic and if it belongs to them or if they are just a poser. Generally 60 year olds are still afraid of being posers or called posers or feeling like posers, but by the time you are 60 you can not let that on. John hardly ever hears that from somebody older.

John still feels like a freaking poser because he never settled on a single identity. He always was just excited about what he was excited about, but the people that he was friends with that started wearing Chuck Taylors when they were 14 and still wear Chuck Taylors, they have this purity of essence that John couldn't live in that, he couldn't wear Chuck Taylors only for his whole life. They don’t have any support and Dan is using them as his dead lifting shoes because you want to basically be as flat footed as possible when you are dead lifting.

Stan Smith’s was what all the emo kids were wearing and Chuck Taylors in John’s culture are Punk Rock and he never was Punk Rock. He had plenty of Chuck Taylors over the years but he wanted to wear some other shoes the next day. John admires it, just as he has always admired those people that have been wearing the same leather jackets since 1986.

Does the Hollywood rendition of bipolar remind people of John? (RW167)

John had a friend the other day say they were watching this TV show and there was a bipolar character. The first thing John said was: ”Did the bipolar character remind you of me?” - ”Yes, they did!” and John thought about that for a second. Why would he ask that? It was because he wanted reassurance, and he seeks this all the time, that his bipolar diagnosis is not a fraud somehow, because mental illness is a thing that John felt like he watched a lot of people his age fake. There was a lot of misdiagnosis, there was a lot of medication being taken unnecessarily or badly prescribed, and it was why John resisted seeking help for four decades.

He didn't want to be weak, but also he didn't want to be ingenuine. He didn't want to take medicine for a thing that he should have been able to solve. Even though John has been taking this medicine for a few years now and it has really transformed his life he is still insecure. ”Does the Hollywood rendition of a bipolar person remind you of me? If so that will reassure me that I actually have a treatable condition!”

Did John’s drug use affect his bipolar disorder? (RW167)

Dan got a question relating to this: They say that certain drugs blast and fry out your dopamine, or whatever the thing is that makes you feel good naturally. Is it possible that some trippy drug experiences John had put him in a situation where he might be more predisposed to having something like bipolar? Or is it the opposite of that, that he enjoyed drugs as much as he did for the time that he was doing them because he was already struggling with a bipolar situation?

John used alcohol primarily to deal with his bipolar and his pre-indications of bipolar when he was younger. Alcohol was the primary drug that he used to cope with those feelings. Marijuana is in its own category. You use pot for a different reason and John combined it with alcohol as a double/triple layer cake in coping‚ but marijuana was additive to that. You could surely not drink alcohol and smoke pot and still use it as a major coping mechanism for mental illness, but for John alcohol was the primary. Other drugs, psychedelics and white powder drugs and downers and all that stuff were appendices to booze, which was the central organizing principle. John doesn’t think that psychedelics had any negative effect on him.

John’s friend rob having a psychedelic break (RW167)

John knows a person, and he may have talked about him before, that had a psychological break triggered by psychedelics. He probably was at that age where if you were going to experience schizophrenia that it would come alive then, it would come on, but he was a genius, a physicist or a physics major and he had a quality that was legendary as a math and physics superstar in school, but also a heavy tripper, the guy you would get acid from, the guy that was making it himself, really a heavy dude, and somebody that John was friends with and admired. He was a year older.

One day he left school suddenly, there wasn't any indication why, he was just gone. Several months later John was down in California on some trip, he had hopped on a freight train in Spokane and ridden it down the coast and then hitchhiked his way down to San Francisco. They guy was from Palo Alto and John was down at Palo Alto, he went to Stanford to visit somebody else, a different friend, and while he was there he realized that Rob was from Palo Alto and he picked up the phone book and found his phone number and called the house and he answered the phone and John said: ”Hey Rob! It's me, John Roderick!” and he hung up.

John called back and said: ”Rob, it is me, John!” and he hung up. John called a third time and his mom answered and John said: ”Hi, my name is John. I am a friend of Rob from college!” - ”Can you meet us at the parking lot of Stanford?” - ”Yeah, I will be there in 15 minutes!” and she and he arrived in the parking lot in a car, they got out, and he recognized John and was excited to see him, but he was speaking gibberish, English words that were combined in ways that didn't convey meaning. He was looking in John’s eyes in a pleading way with a big smile on his face. He was showing a form of elation in his face, in his manner, like hyper, but his eyes were tragic.

His mother was tragic and she stood there and was like: ”Can you do anything?” She was looking for John to say something to him or understand what he was trying to say. John was a young person who maybe was going to be some lightning bolt with him. John tried to talk to him for half an hour or so and he just couldn't get anything out of him. He was really enthused, he wanted John to understand something, but he just couldn't make himself understood. He was like in a fixed loop, it was the craziest thing John had ever seen. John was 19 years old when this happened and Rob was probably 20.

At the end his mom was desperate and broken-hearted. They stood there: ”I don't know what to do, I don't know what to tell you!” - ”Well, thanks for trying!” and they bundled in the car and off they went and John never heard of him again and he has no way of knowing whether now 30 years later he ever regained any kind of cogent life. It would be awful to think that he would be stuck in a brain loop. This was probably three or four months after he took his big trip, so maybe as time went on they found some treatment or he just regained some toehold in the world.

In contrast to what happened to Rob, which was a trigger of a thing. He was always an intense dude, even the bad trips John had on psychedelics he always came back to the world and stood firmly on the ground and was able to contextualize what had happened relative to the azimuth. It is depressing to recall. It happened so long ago that… there are those things that happen in a person's life where you end up telling the story not just to people, but to yourself enough times, not like those pictures in your baby book where you convince yourself that you remember something, when really what you remember is looking at old pictures.

It is similar to having thought about a thing enough times that you no longer fully trust that your recollection is accurate. John has thought about that parking lot encounter a lot of times, and each time thinking about it, it re-cuts those grooves in your memory and in your brain and if John was looking on that scene today, he doesn’t know whether he would say: ”Well, Rob was trying to say things and he managed to communicate some thoughts. He just remember him saying the same few sentences over and over!” Lord Love a Duck!

Dan thinks that kind of story is why a lot of people are not willing to try that kind of stuff because they don’t want that to happen. He never even heard that back in the college times when they had the opportunity to try LSD or mushrooms or something and didn't, he doesn't even remember hearing stories about that, it was completely unknown to him that something like that might happen, whether it is a 1:1.000.000 chance or 1:100 chance, Dan wasn't even aware of that possibility.

The story of Peter Green, the original guitarist of Fleetwood Mac, or Syd Barrett right from Pink Floyd, or Brian Wilson, all three of those famous lead singers, lost their way in the world, and it was credited in the time to the fact that they were doing a ton of psychedelics and suffered a psychic break. In the case of Syd Barrett, he gradually became unintelligible enough that he couldn't be in Pink Floyd and he disappeared from the world. He died in 2006 and he never regained his equilibrium enough that he came back to the world for a benefit concert or some crazy reunion. Peter Green from Fleetwood Mac is still alive, and he was a seminal artist.

Somehow Brian Wilson they sparkled him back together and they prop him up in front of his piano, but by all accounts he sort of knows where he is and he kind of is able to perform his songs and every once in a while he is of standing up there on stage or sitting up there and he just sort of drifts off. Every musician John knows who has seen Brian Wilson performed or been lucky enough to perform with him talks about it as though it is tragic and unseemly that he is being trotted around like that. Those are the people that primarily you hear about as public figures who had LSD experiences that took them away for good.

When this happened to Rob John had at least that context, that it is possible. ”What happened to Syd Barrett? Was it LSD or was he was already on a path? If he had a psychic break, would it have been so dramatic?” There are a lot of musicians that are touch and go, but are still able to get their pants on and get to the show. In the aftermath of the 1960s there were all kinds of guys walking the streets of Haight Ashbury with leaves in their hair, that were credited as acid casualties. There are still acid casualties today, but it is not like they are flooding the streets of San Francisco. There are other people flooding the streets of San Francisco now.

John finding a dog while on a bad LSD trip (RW167)

There was one time on LSD where things got dark and John did worry, but he found a dog and the dog found him (find story!) That dog kept John out of a dark place. Dan thinks the dog was a hallucination, or maybe there was a dog for a few minutes but after the first few minutes it went back to its owner or went back where it came from, but for John it continued. Maybe somebody appeared as a dog? Dan has never done any hallucinogenic things like that, so he doesn't know if that is within the realm of reality or not.

It is hard because not only did that happen a long time ago, but John was high on drugs when it was happening. Although it seems clear, John cannot say for sure… at the time he did not believe it was possible to hallucinate a dog and he still does not believe it is possible to hallucinate a dog, but has he put two nights together in his memory, where one night he saw a dog while he was tripping on acid and he spent some time with the dog, and then the next night he also was on acid and met a different dog and now both dogs feel like the same dog? John doesn’t think so! He has a very clear memory of the geography of the night and the arc of the trip.

It was 30 years ago and John relied on his memory his whole life as an instrument that had a degree of precision to it that it felt like other people's memories didn't. He could very clearly recollect small details and recollect them for years and years and years. Those things in particular, that stuff that happened to John between the ages of 16 and 26 when he was drinking and using drugs and living rough, now 30-35 years later he is starting to have to admit that although those memories still feel very clear and he is able to tell those stories the same way he has told them for many years, he now feels like the number of times he told those stories are superimposed over what happened and his recollection is so colored by the experience of having thought of it over and over and recounted those stories around a campfire that they are starting to feel like baby pictures.


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