RW195 - The Ghost of Kurt Cobain

This week, Dan and John talk about:

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Dan’s kids loving John’s performances on YouTube (RW195)

Dan sent John a picture of their evening routine, watching the KEXP performance where it is just John playing on the acoustic guitar. They watch that a lot because his kids will ask for it and Dan will immediately shut everything else down and enjoy it. A lot of John’s live performances on YouTube are more traditional concerts with him on stage and The Long Winters with him, but there is something about these KEXP-recordings that feel more personal and intimate. It is just John, his soul, and Dan likes it.

John is glad that his music connects with people. Dan’s kids will sing the songs, they asked him to play them on guitar, he got a capo just for that. It is a family bonding thing. John is very flattered. John can’t watch his own performances, but he sits and plays guitar all the time, like all yesterday. He has a lot of different guitar friends from different schools and he has asked his Rock’n’Roll guitar buddies several times to teach him some cool licks and they always scoff at him. None of them has ever taught him a cool lick, except maybe Mike Squires.

Trying to learn more about the guitar neck (RW195)

Last night John texted Jonathan Coulton, Ted Leo, John Flansburgh, and Jim Boggia, saying: ”I am playing the guitar a lot, but I am trying to unlock the neck of the guitar. It has a lot of secrets in it. What were the techniques that you guys used to unlock the secrets?” Ted Leo was the first one to reply: ”I have no idea! The guitar neck is still a place of great confusion. I don't have any technique about unlocking it, I stare at it and I don't know what I am doing either!”, and that is a response that is very much in line with John’s Rock’n’Roll people going: ”I don't know any cool licks!” because Ted Leo is an amazing guitar player who can play any style.

John appreciates what he is saying and if somebody asked John, that would be his reply, too, but then Jonathan Coulton wrote back and said he has been playing scales, and they both at the mention of scales laid on their respective floors and groaned. Jonathan has been practicing scales and finding all the little shapes in the scales, and John has been trying that, too, but he doesn’t have a very good mind for it. Flansburgh suggested an app called Fretboard Learn which games it for you so that you are not even sitting there with a guitar, but you are just sitting on the bus and you are playing Fretboard Learn and in the meantime it is teaching you where the notes are.

Jim Boggia said he uses an imaginary capo. As he is working around the neck he puts a capo on in his imagination, and that helps him figure out where he is, because presumably you know most of the first position chords and as you are screwing around and you wonder: ”Where am I? What the hell is this?”, and if you throw an imaginary capo on, and John does that, but especially if you are doing little three note shapes, little triads, those little cords are three different chords all by themselves out of context. This is a B7, but somehow it is also a D, and John just doesn't have the musical knowledge.

Dan learning to play classical guitar (RW195)

Dan learned three or four chords, G-A-D probably. The lessons that he got were from the teacher at the university and this was classical guitar, the big nylon string guitar, and the closest you get to strumming is flamenco style, but that is not what Dan was learning, so he never learned chords, he didn't learn licks, he didn't learn the pentatonic scale, anything like that, but he was reading music.

Although he might have been playing chords or holding his hand in a chord position, he didn't know that he was doing it, and the teacher didn't teach you that. It was just: ”These are the notes. These are the fingerings for this combination of notes.”, and you are never strumming it, but you are fingerpicking with your right hand. Of course there are no fret markings on a classical guitar and so Dan had excellent knowledge of notes on the fretboard, yet zero knowledge of how to play a single frickin chord.

When he got done with this, people were like: ”Oh yeah, it is such and such a scale, just hit a Dm” - ”What is a Dm?What is that? Where do you play that?” He wouldn't even begin to guess. He knew ten different places he could play the D-note, but: ”What are the other notes in this chord?” What he did have was excellent finger position and finger strength and picking ability and an intimate knowledge of the fretboard, but other than having good form, none of that translated to the kind of music that he enjoyed or wanted to play. What it wound up doing when he tried to make the transition to playing electric guitar is that he could solo pretty well, but just random-ass soloing doesn't translate into musicality or something that anyone would ever want to listen to.

That led to the frustration, which is why eventually he stopped playing so much. Now he is coming into it as an absolute beginner with really good technical skills. It is like if somebody knew how to do everything with every tool that has ever been made, but they have never once changed the oil in a car. It is a weird spot to be in.

John’s sister working at the record store, buying a Juno-106 synthesizer, starting a band (RW195)

John doesn’t know how anybody learns a guitar. He learned it almost entirely on his own. His sister and her friend Tracy loved Duran Duran and they wanted to start a band in the style of Duran Duran. She is one of those people that used to fully commit. She loved Nick Rhodes, the keyboard player and she went to the music store with her mom. She had a job at a record store even when she was 13. She spent so much time at the cool record store that they gave her a job, initially just because she was this 12 year old girl who was in there all the time and they were: ”Okay, here is your job: Stack records!” or whatever.

Very quickly it was a real job. She worked the register and she knew all the records. This was in the early 1980s, long before John had a job or had any interest in a job, and he didn't care about music anything like she did. He would go pick her up sometimes when he was 16, meaning that she by then was 14. He would show up, she would be closing the store, and he would wander around the record store, as he does to this day when he is in a record store, just idly running his fingers along the records and looking at the little things for sale, not knowing where to begin, not really having that much interest in the product, and she would every day get off work and take half her pay just in records, always had an arm-load of some albums across the whole wide spectrum.

John has her record collection to this day because now she lives an ascetic life in a studio apartment, and John has this incredible record collection compiled between 1982 and 1985 with every OMD 12”. She always spends every penny she has and she bought a Roland Juno-106, which was the keyboard that sat on the top of Nick Rhodes's little keyboard pile. It was a new product at the time, the new Roland polyphonic synthesizer, and then her friend, Tracy Gadbury, her father found a Harmony Rocket at a swap meet and bought it for her for $25 and the two of them got together.

At this point in time John listened to The Beatles, some early Rolling Stones and some early Who. He doesn’t know how he started listening to British Invasion music in chronological order. Most people who start listening to The Beatles listen to Sgt. Pepper, but John started way up, not even Meet The Beatles!, but somehow he got his hands on a vinyl copy of some recordings of the Silver Beatles, which was early Hamburg-era Beatles stuff. His friends were all Metalheads and from them he got Ronnie James Dio's first album (Holy Diver), he had Blizzard of Ozz (by Ozzy Osbourne), he didn't listen to Led Zeppelin in chronological order, but started with Coda, which is a weird one to start with.

Led Zeppelin (RW195)

Dan started to listen to Led Zeppelin with II, then I and then III. II is the entry point for everybody. If you ignore Stairway to Heaven, so many people are thinking of Heartbreaker, Livin’ Lovin’ Maid, Whole Lotta Love, and those are all on II. Back in the day when Dan would listen to the Classic Rock station, those were how you kicked off the classic rock thing. With III you are hit with Immigrant Song and still they use that with Thor and all of his stuff. Side 2 has Bron-Y-Aur Stomp on it and Gallows Pole and this completely weird different take. Since I've Been Loving You, and Friends is on that one, which are so different and so weird.

Led Zeppelin IV is the one that people know who are not into Led Zeppelin at all. It has Stairway to Heaven, Rock and Roll, Going to California, and of course When the Levee Breaks, which the Beastie Boys sampled. It has Jimmy Page showing up with his Gibson SG, the double neck, so he can do Stairway on it, that is what people think of when they think of Zeppelin, really. They don’t think of Led Zeppelin I!

John is not sure what people think of when they think of Zeppelin, He doesn’t know where Zeppelin falls now. It was such a huge pillar when John was a teenagers, the pillar around which everything orbited. Dan had Zoso written on his Converse, he was hardcore into Zeppelin, he loved Zeppelin.

But in young people's imagination, there are people that are just as into Zeppelin and Hendrix as anybody, but in the grand sweep of Rock’n’Roll history, if you like Soundgarden and Zeppelin, they are thrown in with the people that were influenced by them into kind of a general sound that would be called Proto-Swing Grunge or something. John doesn’t think that they still lorded over all heavy music like they once did in the way people think of them. John hasn’t listened to Zeppelin in a long time and he doesn’t know what would inspire him to, but then at the same time he hasn’t listened to anything in a long time.

How John learned to play the piano and the guitar (RW195)

John’s sister and her friend Tracy had no interest in learning instruments and they got together to practice for their big Rock band, but neither of them could play and neither of them had any interest in taking lessons, and so they bonked along on these things for a weekend and then both things, the guitar and the keyboard, just ended up sitting in a corner, collecting dust. This keyboard was expensive, it was an astonishing amount of money at the time, and she bought it on a whim, but then didn't really ever touch it again.

Of course John wasn't allowed to touch it, but it sat there in the corner for a long time and then eventually nobody noticed when he went over and started monkeying with it. They also had a grand piano in the living room that their mom played at Christmas time. Other than Christmas time no-one ever touched it. John and his sister have been made to take piano lessons when they were little, but they hadn't followed through on them.

At Christmas their mom would sit down and pull her old sheet music out. She wasn't just playing Christmas music, but she would teach her hands how to play Rachmaninoff, theme from ”Summer of ’42”, she had a stack of eclectic sheet music that she would spend that month playing, and then when Christmas was over, it all went back in the piano bench and they never heard piano the rest of the year.

When John was alone in the house he would sit at the piano and plunk, and on his sister synthesizer and then that guitar of Tracy Gadbury's he started to plunk on it. His friends at school were all learning guitar because they wanted to play Living After Midnight (by Judas Priest) and they wanted to play Stray Cat Strut (by Stray Cats)and everybody wanted to play Bark at the Moon (by Ozzy Osbourne). The guitar class at his High School was extremely popular with 50 kids in there, all sawing away at acoustic guitars in the hope that they will put together the skills to be a big Metal rocker.

One guy at John’s school named James Hickey was a year older than him and he was fully Metal, and he actually walked the halls with a guitar. This was when the Tom Scholz Rockman (headphone guitar amp) first came out, so he had a guitar slung over his shoulders at all times and he was just rocking. Dan heard that ZZ Top used that to record an entire album. A lot of people used it and loved it and it is still around, and if you can find an old one, it is probably really cool. It was designed by Tom Scholz of Boston. He engineered all their records, that was how they got their sound, he was a genius of sound.

James Hickey went on to become a very successful photographer of fashion and Rock people, he was always handsome and cool-looking and he became an Los Angeles, Burning Man, Coachella style high budget fashion Rock photographer who has probably done 1000 magazine pictorials of Rock people now, but he was the first person John ever knew who actually talked like this (John imitating his voice), like Snake from The Simpsons, he was ready to rock and he was totally invested in rock and ready.

John took a guitar class from James Hedberg, one of four music teachers. He did choir and vocal coaching mostly, but he also taught beginning guitar. John had this guitar that had been sitting in the corner that Tracy Gadbury bought and he sat in this class and everybody was sawing away and they were all learning Greensleeves, and James Hickey was over there with a Les Paul and a Rockman and a little amp.

They were all at different levels. Some of the guitar kids knew how to play the guitar, and some of them were just clunky, clunky, clunky, but John learned how to swing his arm and how to play the basic four chords. Then he just was cast out into the wild and he didn't learn more than the 10 chords that there are: ABCDEFG and how to make the minor version of three of those chords. There probably were a couple of flats in there, so let's say 20 chords. Somebody taught him how to make a basic bar chord that he could move around and he could do Am, Em, Dm in the basic chords, but to this day he couldn’t tell you how to make a Cm in the root chords. He is not sure he knows how to do a Gm, maybe he could work that out.

John not knowing the music theory behind his guitar playing (RW195)

John he did not have very much sophistication. He could make an A7, an Am7, but he couldn't make any other 7th chords or minor 7th chords, but he figured out how to do it with bar chords. It was 1986 by the time he knew all that stuff and then he basically didn't learn anything new until 4 months ago. It is an exaggeration, but that entire time he has just stood and watched somebody do something and go: ”What is that? What are they doing?” and then go home and try to figure it out and he never could figure it out, but in the process of trying to figure it out he stumbled on something that was interesting. There are so many things in his songwriting that are a direct product of trying to figure out what somebody else was doing, failing utterly, but learning something, not even being willing to put a name to it. He would learn a trick or a shape, but he wouldn't even then ask: ”Okay, what is that called?”

He would just see the shape, love the shape, and then start immediately working on trying to get from that shape to other shapes, but never knowing what key he was in, whether that was major, minor, seven, or nine. He didn't learn any of it, but he just would put shapes into his little collection of shapes and then work on getting between them and in the process of getting between them little riffs would happen. He would be making the move, he would hit something wrong and h would go: ”Oh, that sounded cool!”, and then try and do it and figure out little passing riffs and little signatures.

The one thing he did teach himself was how to fingerpicking: first, inside, outside, last, and he worked on that, and that would have been in the late 1990s. John wanted to learn it and somebody called it FOIL method: First, Inside, Outside, Last, and John did it until he could do it, but he never learned Travis picking or Clawhammer, he can't do any other style, he just does First, Inside, Outside, Last still. When he lived in New York briefly in 1991, a guy he was hanging out with there said: ”Try and do FOIL, except holding a pick. It will give you all that extra attack on the low note!” John tried to do that for a while and he learned it, but he has never done it live or on any of his recordings. For some reason, even though it is cool, he learned it, but he doesn't use it and it never became natural.

John has been playing guitar since 1984, that is 36 years. If you said: ”Go to the guitar right now and play an E9!” John wouldn't know how to do it. If you said: ”Play a minor scale!”, he wouldn't know how to do it. Just basic stuff. He could futz his way through it, probably, hit notes and be like: ”Well, that is probably not in a minor scale, that thing that I just hit!”, but he wouldn't know what was happening.

That has been a source of embarrassment for years: How could he be a professional guitar player and not know what anybody is talking about? He would be on tour and one time he was in Brookly with the guys in Nada Surf and after a show he went over to their practice space with some other cool New York people, and everybody went downstairs and the cigarettes and the pot and the booze and the sexy people all around and all of a sudden he was in Nada Surf’s practice space, Daniel (Lorca) was not there and they hands John the bass and: ”Let's jam!” and Ira (Elliot) started playing and Matthew (Caws) started playing and John was sitting there with this live bass in his lap, going just dum dum, dum, dum, dum dum. He had no idea what to do and where to start, even.

At this point John had been the bass player in Harvey Danger, he was the guy from The Long Winters, and he was just clumping along on this bass until Ira from behind the drums was looking at him like, ”What are you doing? Come on, get going!” - ”I don't know where we are! I know you are just playing basic Rock music here, but I have no idea how to sit and jam with you guys. I don't have that set of skills!” John is good friends with people that could jump into that situation and play all night and everybody would have a blast, and they do that every night, that is how they take joy from the world. John just couldn't wait to hand that bass to somebody else and get the hell out of there. It has been part of John’s low self-esteem as a professional musician, and it is an example of that thing that so many people have, that feeling of being a professional or creative fraud.

Dan thinks that when people listen to John play guitar they think that he is good. They may not say: ”John is the best guitarist I have ever heard!”, but they might say: ”John's my favorite musician!”, or ”John is my favorite singer!”, or: ”John is my favorite performer!” Maybe he is somebody's favorite guitar player, too. The hardest thing for Dan back in the old days was realizing that it wasn't a competition. He and his friend Jason Wilson used to hang out in his dorm room and play guitar, and at one point Dan found out that Jason was two-timing him and had another good group of guitar guys that he was playing with.

Dan asked: ”What is the story with that? Who are these people? What are you playing?” - ”It is not for you! We play old folk music songs” - ”I would like that!” - ”You play electric guitar and you do lots of crazy soloing and stuff like that. We are just all sitting around, playing chords and stuff like that together!” They had so much more fun than Dan did doing the stuff that he was doing, and none of them were good. They all sucked, they sucked horribly, and they knew it and they didn't care. They were having way more fun than Dan was having being good. They were making music and Dan was making something that was cool, but you can only play so many solos to some Ted Nugent background song before you are bored out of your mind and you don't know what else to do. Knowing chords, even just the basic chords, the first 10…

John being thrown on stage by Death Cab at Bonnaroo (RW195)

John has been called up on stage plenty of times, like: ”Get out here!” He was standing on the side of the stage when Death Cab played Bonnaroo, which is a huge festival, in some ways it might have been the biggest audience he ever played for. He was standing on the side of the stage with 80 other people at this monster fest and 3/4 of the way through a song Ben walked over, locks eyes with him and he takes his guitar off and throws it to John. All the people standing around him were like: ”What?” and John stepped out on the stage and there were people to the horizon in every direction and John got the man's guitar. Ben ran over to some other instrument and they were doing one of their big Death Cab blow-the-roof-off-the-place epic swelling soundscapes.

Ben, as he was walking away, said: ”It’s in D!” -”It is in D?”, so now John got this guitar on, it basically came to him, he was up there, playing in D, throwing shapes at the thing, and he went over to look at his pedal board, trying to look cool at the same time, he didn’t know what was on there, if there were delays on this guitar, he didn’t have in-ear monitors, so he had no idea what sounds it was making, and he was just wailing on this thing, playing in D till the end of the song, and surely the 50.000 people that were watching the show were like: ”Who the fuck is this guy?” That was an extremely confusing moment, but that was more stagecraft than anything.

The death of Ron Heathman, John not being able to jam like his friends, but being a songwriter (RW195)

Two days ago Ron Heathman died, the original guitar player of The Supersuckers, he was a little bit older than John, very much a Seattle scene fixture and a Punk Rock, Punkabilly, Rock’n’Roller, Stoner Punk guitar player, a great guitar player. They haven't said, but he died of drugs in some fashion. He was one of us, but not one of us in the sense that he is one of the ones that got to be 55 years old and ODed. A lot of John’s tight friends were tight with Ron, but John wasn't. They were tight with him because they are all jammers and chooglers.

There used to be 25 shows a year in Seattle that were put together to play all of Zeppelin II at a big Rock show. The good drummers and the good bass players and the good piano players would figure out all the tunes and from the selection of lead singers and guitar players in the town they would put together little mini sets where you do 2-3 songs. Bass players would rotate in and out, drummers, keyboard players would rotate in and out, but really it was about: ”And next up, Kurt Bloch is going to do this!” and he would get up and do three songs and then: ”John Roderick will get up and play some songs!”

They did it all the time, it was a thing in Seattle, a real community builder, and just fun. They all knew each other, they all liked playing with each other, and they would always pick some great record, everybody would learn three songs, and then you would get to spend the night, most people getting more and more drunk, and rocking out. John can't even count the number of these they did. It wasn't all Rock’n’Roll, sometimes they did a Cure record, there was a lot of New Wave in there, it was a pretty eclectic group of tunes. They weren't doing it because somebody died, but they would just pick some double album and say: ”This would be a fun night to do!”

For John’s three songs he had time to learn them and he had the lyrics there on a music stand. They still do this. This is what John does on the JoCo Cruise, he still does this kind of show all the time: You learn the tune, got the lyrics there, you figured out the parts, you get up with a really good band who is going to make it sound good no matter how bad you are. John can sing, he can put on a show, and you have this super fun, three songs, you get off the stage, and everybody says: ”Killer, dude! Amazing! Wow!”

Then you get to the end of these double records, but and you are basically talking about a night of entertainment that started at 9pm, and what invariably happens is that everybody is heated up, they all had 8-12 beers, and they don't want the show to end, so it becomes a guitar toss where the band is playing songs that everybody knows, like: ”The next song up is When the Levee Breaks!” and there are going to be 9 guys in the room that know every note of When the Levee Breaks, or at least can fake it. In those moments where somebody throws John a guitar and says: ”Get up there, we are going to play Jumpin’ Jack Flash (by The Rolling Stones)!”, John can fake his way through it, but he is so outclassed.

Guys like Ron Heathman, Andrew McKeag, Mike Squires is good at this, Jeff Fielder, there are these guys in the Seattle Rock scene that can just play anything, and they want to! They are not songwriters, typically, but they are guitar heroes and this is their moment when they are as alive as they will ever be. When Ron died, there was a little text thread among John’s friends where people were posting pictures of themselves with Ron over the years, and of John’s buddies with their backs against his back, leaning back where they both have Les Paul and they are playing some solo with one another, somebody is playing rhythm and he is soloing.

Some of these pictures go back to the early/mid 1990s. It was another example of: John was there this whole time, he had been friends with all these people this whole time, he has been on stage with them all, he has been on stages this whole time, but he has never ever stood back to back with Ron Heathman with his guitar going. If he and Ron passed each other on the way to the bathroom at a club, they would nod. Part of John feels like it is impostor syndrome again. He is not really a Rock star by any means, he just put together the right combination of these 10 chords that he knows and a bunch of words.

It is the words that he can do that none of those dudes can do, the songwriting, but it is the words, the lyrics, the singing, being able to stand up there and sing a world into being. All that music is all so tremendous and so above John’s pay-grade and so astonishing, and at its best it is mind-blowing, but it is very, very, very, very, very rarely otherworldly. It is so rare that a band, even sitting and listening to completely free jazz where you don’t know where the one is, what the key is, you don’t know what is happening, but then everybody comes back and they all land on the same lily pad after after six minutes of of just flying through the ether, which is cool, but other-worldly, not like an unimaginable other world, but another world, not just another space.

The only way that happens in art is where somebody puts multiple tools together, multiple segments, and makes the thing that has never been there before. It can be made out of the same building blocks of Blues Jam + drum machine + something, and none of the component parts have to be particularly complicated, but somehow when the voice comes in and the way the construction of the song supports that voice you really are building a new world, not a world that anybody can just step in. You couldn't step into a Long Winters song as a great guitar player and insert yourself in there somewhere and sit and jam. It is not possible, people have tried. A lot of those really good guitar players don't know what is happening in Long Winters songs. What John can do is build these little rooms or these little worlds that are separate. They are all on the same stages, they are all playing the same shows.

That was what was so hard about the Death Cab moment: These guys are building up a room over here, a world, and you are going to throw John a guitar and he is going to come out and play some Blues licks or something? No way! They got a sonic language and John did fine and the guys up at the mixing desk were like: ”Whoa!” because that never happens in those shows, those guys are very serious and they don't have guest stars or something, and when the guys at the desk saw that happen they were like: ”Faders down! Whatever he thinks is going to happen!”

Songwriting is very definitely a separate component. All great musicians probably feel songwriters are the biggest pain in their ass, they are the most fickle, the most dramatic, the ones that don't know what they are talking about, the ones that are never satisfied, while guitar players tend to be fun and sexy and easy-going, unless you are in a band with one, but in general around the world. They tend to be swaggering and lighthearted. Then the songwriter comes in and brings everybody down with his heavy trip, but without the songwriter you don't have a music scene, you don't have a genre, really.

John doesn’t even know why he is talking about it this way. It has been almost 15 years since he put out a new album of original material and yet he is talking like being a musician was his current status. It is still his identity, but it is really not his current status. He should confine his conversation exclusively talking about podcasting because that is what he does for a living.

Dan going stir crazy in quarantine (RW195)

John is going a little stir crazy. Dan as well, and he hates it. His life is significantly different, sometimes he and Haddie are both in the office, but it sucks because you can't do the simple things that you want to do. He doesn’t go to Whole Foods to get food anymore because he doesn't want to do that now. Any of the enjoyment that you took for granted for so long is gone now. The idea of just saying to a friend: ”Let's meet for coffee today!”, you can't do it, you can't just see people, you can't go out.

Every time Dan watches a TV show or a movie and there are people in big groups or at restaurants, hugging each other when they see each other, that stupid crap that for his entire life he did without ever thinking twice about it, you just can't do that anymore. Every single person that Dan knows has either gotten engaged or broken up. He doesn’t know anyone who is just in the same relationship and is not affected by it in some way or another. Just today he heard that a long time friend and her husband separated during COVID, and another couple that just got engaged. It is the weirdest thing. These people were together 25 years. Everything is being affected by it, everyone is affected by it, and it sucks.

Basic things that we used to do and that we used to enjoy, people's attitudes toward each other, everyone is the enemy now. You are walking up the stairwell and there is someone at the top looking at you like you are a walking plague, an outdoor staircase, both of them wearing masks: ”Well, you go first!” - ”You go first!” - ”No, you go first!” - ”You go first!” - ”All right. I'll go first. Okay!” and they just watch you. That is what we are going to do right now, but it sucks and makes everything difficult.

For Dan’s kids it is absolutely miserable because they have started virtual school and they absolutely hate it. The school is really good and they are doing the best possible job that they can do and they are doing everything right and the best that they can do and it still sucks and they still hate it like. Dan’s son is in middle school and they ”switch classes” in middle school, so they have to keep joining these different Zooms. Some kids decided to go to school. You can choose if you want to be virtual or go in, it is about a 50/50 split, so the teacher is in the classroom and they are giving the lesson, but the virtual kids can't hear anything from the classroom.

Dan’s son wrote on a piece of paper: ”We can't hear you!” and held it up to his screen so the teacher will see it because they have all the virtual students muted. Of course Zoom flips the image so it is backwards and the teacher can't read it, so he takes a picture of the piece of paper with his other iPad, reversing the image, and holds his iPad up so that the teacher can read it until finally they fixed it. He missed half the class because of that.

It is a really good teacher and it is a good school, but little things like that are happening and it stresses them out so much and they hate it. Middle school is hard enough without this crap. Everything is completely screwed up! It never needed to be this way, that is the other stupid part of it. It is the stupidity of people, not a person. A person is smart, people are dumb, it is the people as a whole.

Dan was picking up a dinner not too long ago and this restaurant was doing a 50% capacity outdoor seating situation, but there were so many tables of people that had 6-8 people or more sitting around the table with their mask off, eating. This is why people are still getting sick and people are still dying because going out to eat dinner was more important. Someone of those people was probably sick, this is the odds! It is just super-frustrating and at least Dan has somewhere to go a few days a week to record and to get out of there, but it is just maddening. Dan is lucky that he has his own little private office that he can go to, where he can escape for a little while, but you definitely find out if you like the people that you live with.

One of Dan’s friends was telling him that their roommate is a pilot who is traveling all the time. He spends three weeks a month traveling as a pilot. How do you feel about a guy who is directly in harm's way now? Well, I make sure I don't see him at all when he is home. Everyone is making these huge modifications and nobody wants to and if all of us just did it right for two weeks we would be fine. Everyone just needs to do it right for two weeks! Stupid!

John went on a long walk with Ben Gilbert, a social distance bro walk a couple of days ago. They both put on masks, they went down to a cafe where they know the guy that owns it, got a coffee, started walking. They used to do this all the time, and actually the mask helps because Ben used to be shy about walking through town because they would always get stopped by a young person, but now he got a mask on. Even though a lot of that was just paranoia because Seattle is very cool and nobody is going to mob you. There was the ghost of Kurt Cobain and nobody would mob him. Seattle is too cool for that.

The mast just makes him feel less self-conscious because everybody is anonymous all the time except the ones that are walking around boldly with no mask. They ended up walking 20000 steps, however far that is, just talking and strolling, and it was nice. It wasn't just hanging out with a friend, it was being out in the town, people walking around, going places, things happening. Everybody is wearing masks, it is obviously shut down, a lot of places are boarded up, but it was good for John to get that exposure to just regular abnormal normal because for weeks John wandered around out here in his new suburban neighborhood and doesn’t see anybody that he knows and doesn’t stop to talk to anybody.

John is a stop-to-talk-to-er, just randoms, everywhere he goes: ”Hey, what is going on there? Look at that dog!” and pretty soon he spent 15 minutes talking to strangers. All of that is gone and that is fine, but John is starting to feel himself crack up a little bit because of the lack of options and alternatives. He doesn’t get to go to New York for a weekend, not to a restaurant even, and he is fine with it and he rejoices in it, but it is in his head in a weird way now that it wasn't before. Everybody was excited about the quarantine for the first six weeks, but now pretty much universally everyone hates it. It is really strange, but John doesn’t want the world to go back to what it was.

John was talking to a friend yesterday who is the most introverted person he knows, and he thought she must be enjoying the quarantine, but: ”No, I hate it! I want to go back to work. Work is where I get any human interaction and I like it at work because it is ordered and mannerly and dependable and I have my space and they have their space and we have reason to interact and there are rules. Work is wonderful for me. I can't wait to get back and it is killing me not to go to work! I have gained 20 pounds. I don't have the skills or the interest to have a social life. I never have people over to my house, so I am desperately alone now!”

It was the opposite of what John expected because he just assumed that the more introverted you are, the more this quarantine isn't affecting you. To realize that maybe it is really taking a toll on introverts in the same way that it is on extroverts because it is the system that is broken. Part of being an introvert is figuring out how to have a system that works for you and especially if you are in a relationship where you have got a system worked out where you see each other just enough, but not too much, and all of a sudden you are seeing one another too much?

John’s family wanting to meet for his birthday (RW195)

John is starting a two week quarantine right now. His birthday is in September and a few years ago his family established that the way they were going to celebrate his birthday is that they would go get a house somewhere on the edge of somewhere and they would all be together in the house. He doesn’t know why his birthday became the thing they were organizing around, but September is a nice time, you can go away for 4-5 days, the temperatures are cool, the high season is over, they are not in school deep enough yet that anybody cares what happens to a 3rd grader the first week of school, and it has been nice, they have gone to some nice cabins, ride bikes.

John’s mom has continued to wear a mask and practice social distancing with her own family and she is teaching his daughter two days a week. She is here at the house now, teaching her grammar, but they sit outside 10 feet apart, wearing masks‚ working on their grammar books. But now they want to be able to go together out to this cabin and they have been social-distancing with her for 5 months now, John’s sister put their mom in quarantine March 1st or February 27th.

For them all to be together, they all have to right now basically go into a shutdown, which isn't that hard, they are already in a shutdown, they just have to be mindful of eliminating all possibility, so that they can all share a house somewhere in the middle of September. The endlessness of this, even though John is extremely lucky in that he is not forced to interact with people, he doesn't want to, and he got outdoor space he can go to.

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