RW200 - Pushing Back the Darkness

This week, Dan and John talk about:

The show title refers to John’s neighbors wasting candles when the power goes out, just pushing back the darkness one day, while John’s mom wouldn’t light a candle just because there is no power.

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 Please do not quote these texts directly without applying your own editing first!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.

John drinking two-day old coffee, coffee culture (RW200)

John is a little groggy. He just woke up and rolled out and everything is brand new and confusing. He also didn’t even have a sip of coffee yet. It is from yesterday or even the day before, but he has microwaved it and now it is deliciously warm and sitting there waiting to cool down just enough for him to take his first sip of two day old coffee. Dan wonders if John does this in a boomer way who doesn’t want to waste a single drop of it, if there is a laziness factor or all of the above. ”What I want…” - ”… is no more attempts on my father’s life!” and in addition the fastest cup of coffee with the least amount of fuss and muss.

John had them all, he had Keurigs, he stayed at a little house on Whidbey Island a couple of weekends ago and they had a Delonge Home espresso maker, which is the best. Jonathan Coulton has one of those and they have had it for a decade, they were the first people John knew that had one. You put the beans in one thing and the water in the other, you push a button, the machine sounds like you are in a cafe, it is grinding the beans, it makes you a long shot of espresso, and then it says that it needs to be descaled and it needs constant attention, more than a child, but it does produce these wonderful coffees.

Then on the other hand somebody will give John a free pound of coffee because he did a five minute appearance on their dumb thing and he will take it home, it is already pre-ground, he will pour it into the 12 cup coffee maker, the Mr. Coffee that is 14 years old and has never been cleaned, and he will make all 12 cups because he get to make all the bacon, and then he will just let it sit there on the counter for as long as it takes him to drink 12 cups of coffee, which usually is two to three days.

The Keurig was fine for a little while, somebody gave it to him as a gift, and then it needed to be descaled. Dan had a Keurig that just went kaput after about a year and he got another one that was a different brand, maybe Cuisinart or Kitchenaids, i uses the Keurig pods, and it has lasted for years and it has been great. Dan doesn’t drink much coffee, but his son now has developed very much over the last six months a real interest in coffee and in order for him to just not get completely addicted to it Dan tried to get him to have decaf, but that is really expensive.

Dandy Blend is like instant coffee, but not actually coffee. It is a blend of barley, chicory, rye, and dandelion roots. That is the stuff that they used to drink during the war. It is rationed stuff that doesn’t even have caffeine in it. Dan’s son is drinking this now because all you have to do is boil some water and take a spoonful of it and knock it into the into the mug, stir it, and you have something that might remind you of coffee, but it is not coffee.

When Dan went to South Korea he was expecting that they would be all about tea, but they are not. They are an instant coffee culture. John knew that although he has never been there. They have a brand there called Maxim. Many Asians are lactose intolerant and their coffee of choice is Maxim instant coffee with a crap ton of non-dairy creamer powder mixed into it, to the point where you can buy a premixed non-dairy creamer instant coffee packet that you just dump right into your mug and add the hot water and you are good to go. There are vending machines everywhere for these, this is what people have in their own houses.

At the time this was peak coffee lifestyle for Dan. He was grinding his own beans and doing them in a French press or his own espresso machine. He was into the really pretentious coffee world, in some cases even roasting his own beans in the oven and grinding them and having a burr grinder and if the beans were more than three days open he could not abide. But in Korea instant coffee with nondairy creamer was all he could get and that was the culture shock, but by the time he got back home he loved it and he had to start making it at home.

In Europe they drink a lot of Nescafé and John got in the habit. On tour they give you a buffet spread backstage and European venues treat bands a lot better than American venues. They understand that being a traveling musician is hard and they value art and European countries generally have vibrant arts communities, both at the level of people banding together in communities, but also the government supports the arts as part of their collective values. Even though European moms and dads don’t want their kids listening to that jive ass Rock’n’Roll any more than anybody else does, the communities understand that bands are coming through here and they can’t just treat them like shit.

In a lot of European countries when you show up at the venue, certainly they are going to make every attempt to have some food waiting for you, but they also often have figured out where you are going to stay, they either got an apartment that they use for this purpose or they got a hotel that they regularly employ, they really hold your hand, not in a paternalistic way. They are paternalistic in the sense that they want you to arrive at the venue at 8am and stand around all day while their unionized guys change light bulbs. Honestly, they are not very Rock’n’Roll and they do believe that Rock’n’Roll should be on time.

You show up and they got three different kinds of black bread and some hard boiled eggs and lots of wonderful meat and cheese and fresh juice, but almost never is there coffee other than packets of Nescafé unless the venue has its own espresso situation, but generally that is not up and running when the band arrives. John got into Nescafé in a serious way and they have those single serving little tubes and John is a prepper.

Preppers vs survivalists (RW200)

It is such a bummer these days that preppers have gone from having an understandably already bad reputation as people who are waiting for the big one, and now preppers have been lumped in with all these race war preppers who are a separate kind of prepper, although if you are a prepare you are prepping for something bad to happen. The Roderick family are all preppers with the exclusion of John’s dad because he believed that he would live forever and there was no tomorrow, but his mom and sister are both mega-preppers still.

The origin-point of any proper is that you have trained your heart and mind to not expect things to stay the same. There are a lot of people in the world who do not have any contingency plan for if things change and they can’t handle it if things change. If the power goes out they just can’t handle it. They are just: ”What the fuck am I supposed to do?” and when the power does come back on they have no memory of it ever having been off, or if they do, it is only a fear memory, like they remember the time that the power went off, ”Please Lord, let it never happen again!” Most people are like John’s dad: ”There is no tomorrow and there is no yesterday!” They are just in the now and if the power goes off two or three times, the fourth time it happens it is a big surprise to them again.

When there is a good administration in power in local or national government they just think we are over the hump now and everything is going to be fine from now on. Then all of a sudden there is a bad administration and they are like: ”What happened? How is this possible?” whereas somebody like John’s mom assumes that what we have right now, the power is on, there is food in the cupboard, the water comes on when you turn it on, the neighbors are not hostile to you, is the temporary state. She is just a Hobbesian kind of person.

John’s mom does not have tremendous faith in other human beings, but human beings are not just untrustworthy, but if there is anything you can trust about them, it is that they are mean and dumb. She is never going to allow herself to be put into a position where she is dependent on other people’s generosity or goodwill or other people’s intelligence, but if she can help it, beyond the fact that we are always dependent on one another and no man or woman is an island entire of themselves, but you can buffer and John’s mom is not convinced that anyone else will come to her aid in her time of need and so she is always ready.

It is psychological more than anything. If her car stopped and she got out of the car and looked around and everyone else on Earth had been raptured, she would be fine. If she got out of her car and everyone else got out of their cars because some electromagnetic pulse had stopped all cars, and people immediately started rioting and looting grocery stores, she would also be fine. It is hard to imagine that an 86 year old woman could be suddenly stranded in the middle of a city that had descended instantly into chaos and would be fine, but she would! She would trek overland to her store of of supplies, she is ready!

John’s sister has it too, although she is much more emotional than her mom and has a lot more invested in other people and compassion. Not that John’s mom doesn’t have compassion for others, but she just doesn’t have faith that they have compassion for her.

They have for years been ready for the big earthquake. They all grew up in earthquake country and none of them have lived through the big earthquake. They lived through some 7-point earthquake and dozens of fives and sixes, so they know what it is like when an earthquake happens, one of the profound experiences because everything you thought is true is no longer true: The house that you thought would protect you from anything is suddenly made of jelly, the ground, the earth that you think of as immutable, is just not your friend anymore. Everything that you think is strong, like phone poles and skyscrapers and bridges and all the things are all immediately in play, and depending on what the earthquake wants to do it could all be gone.

Coming up in that it is a companion to the Gen-X Nuclear War experience, walking around all day thinking: ”Well, the nukes could come at any time, too! The Russians could come over the horizon!” I mean, that was. Very much, you know, we’ve talked about this a lot and for people who I think are.

People born after Gen X were born into a world where nuclear war only was a remote possibility. Dan and John’s parents were the duck and cover generation, they were having drills in school. The way that kids have drills in school now are for a Columbine type event, but they had drills in school for a nuclear bomb and they had the atom bomb before us, where they were very much taught what you do when you see the flash. Then there was the movie The Day After. Both Seattle and Anchorage were first-strike targets and all through the 1970s and 80s they had air raid drills all the time. It was a big part of big part of their awareness.

It was a Cold War, but they were for all intents and purposes a very tense situation with Russia all the time. This movie had such a profound effect on people. It basically told the story of a war where there was a full scale nuclear exchange between the US and the Soviet Union. It is told from the standpoint of someone out in in Kansas, outside of a big city, so they are alive and they are witnessing what happens during the nuclear war and after the war and what the nuclear winter would look like and what would happen to civilization and how people would try to survive.

Because that felt very real, nuclear war was a very real thing that felt like it could really happen at any time, and to a kid early early teens or tweens age, Dan wasn’t following politics closely enough to know if we were on the verge of a war or not or how quickly something like that could escalate. In his mind it was very much a war game scenario where somebody decides to turn a key and push a button and the nukes are flying. He was very worried about nuclear war and a lot of other people were, too. Then this movie came out and apparently it had such an effect on Ronald Reagan and other people that it actually changed their feelings and thoughts on nuclear war and had them change the policies. This is one of the things that led to the summit that he had with Gorbachev, talking about we don’t really want this to happen.

It was something that set Gen-X apart from Boomers: The Boomers had the experience of growing up in the early Cold War where there was a lot of Sturm und Drang about bomb shelters and duck and cover. They built the Interstate Highway System to allow people to escape from cities in the event of the message coming over the wire that the Russians had launched. At some point in the early 1960s, even late 1950s the scales fell from the eyes of the military and the government and they understood the technology well enough to understand that there was no escape, bomb shelters weren’t going to work, civil defense wasn’t going to work, and no-one was escaping from the cities. There was no survival after the fact!

All of the systems that they had spent billions and billions of dollars to put into place to make nuclear war survivable were all just a puppet show. There is lots and lots of documentation of this moment of realization that happened in the higher echelons of government where they were like: ”Wait a minute! If this goes off, we are talking about hundreds of millions dead and there is not a family plan for how you are going to stock up 50 cans of soup and emerge to build a new civilization!”

If the Boomers were old enough they were there for the 1950s ”Keep the floor beneath your feet!” propaganda about the Soviets and by the 1960s there was this collective feeling of: ”No way, man! This has all been a comedy routine!” and fatalism set in. If you were a Boomer by the time you were in your 30s, you had been living in this threat of nuclear war for so long that you had gone through 3-4 levels of cynicism about it. John doesn’t remember any Baby Boomers talking to him about the nukes in any voice other than one of total cynicism.

When Generation X were kids, they were given this perfunctory story about how the nukes were coming, but it was also drenched in cynicism. They were just kids, it was certainly still what anybody talked about, but people forget how tense the international scene was in the late 1970s and throughout the 1980s between America and Russia. Through a lot of the 1960s they were fighting Vietnam, there were wars in Africa, they were fighting the Russians all over the world, but there was a detente post-Cuban Missile Crisis that lasted basically until Reagan, but then it came back in with such a vengeance. It skipped the Boomers in a way, but hit Gen-X full blast.

The thing about an earthquake is that once you have lived through one, you realize it is not just a legend that the grown-ups are telling you, it is not just something you read about in the newspapers, it is not a potential disaster that will create firestorms and Jason Robards will get scabs as he walks around the fallout zone, but an earthquake is very much God reminding you that nothing is solid. People in California who live through a lot of 3.4 earthquakes have a pretty strong sense of how scary it is, but lately you have a 3-point earthquake in California and Twitter will light up and everybody is like: ”That was an earthquake. I hid under the kitchen sink!”

Like a lot of things in California, the fact that it is a potential real disaster dawns on people even less because it happens as a small scale thing for so long. Fires, landslides, and earthquakes happened in California John’s whole life, but always these manageable disasters, like: ”There were a bunch of wildfires and we put them out!”, or: ”It rained a lot and there were a bunch of landslides!” or: ”We had a really bad drought, but we figured it out!”

But in Alaska, and to a lesser extent Seattle, but to a greater extent than in California, if you are in a 7.4 earthquake you do not any longer feel that there is any question that a) the big one is coming, and b) when it does you got a few seconds to figure it out. John’s uncle and a lot of his dad’s friends lived through the big one in Alaska in 1964 that was a 9.2. It shook for five straight minutes and it destroyed the state, it created tidal waves and it absolutely wrecked Anchorage and other towns in Alaska were just wiped off the map.

The only reason it was no greater disaster was that in 1964 there weren’t that many people in Alaska. Anchorage was a small little town and most of the towns that were wiped off the face of the map were just villages, but if it happened today there would be mass casualties. That earthquake could happen in Seattle, San Francisco, or Los Angeles, too. A 9.2 earthquake in Los Angeles is unfathomable, but it could happen at any time.

The kind of preppers that John’s family are, are the kind of preppers that every time John buys a can of soup he buys one for Elija. Every time he opens a package of new bandaids he puts half of the bandaids in the medicine cabinet and he takes the other half of the bandaids and puts them somewhere else because he might not be able to get to the medicine cabinet. John has bags that have bandaids and flashlights and knives. It is not Every Day Carry!

John has never gotten into strong Every Day Carry because it is not very stylish. He admires people who have made the transition coming from a place of having no style to having developed an Every Day Carrie style and having that be their style, because John likes it when people have style and if Every Day Carry is your style, John is into it because it is a style. He also admires people who came from having some kind of style and migrating into having an Every Day Carry aspect to that style, wearing clothes that they think about, and also they carry a bandolier and a short machete. Great! That is a style, too!

John’s style and Every Day Carry, there isn’t a place really where they connect. He is not going to wear a fanny pack. He has over the years worn some things on his belt in holster fashion, like a leather man and a little mini Maglite, but that was when he was touring all the time and he needed those things for work. But John is not going to strap on a utility belt on his way out the door with his red boat shoes and his Madras shirt, Every Day Carry just does not comport. The fundamentalist preppers are going to roll their eyes and fall on the floor and grab their sides at the prospect that John would jeopardize his life and family by not carrying a fishing wire and a signal mirror on his person at all times, just because it doesn’t go with his Bermuda shorts, but life is weird and style is very important.

A part of John wishes that he could just be full-on prepper style with the sides of his head shaved and a top knot and wearing black Carhartts and combat boots and have utility shit all over him and if somebody said: ”How am I ever going to get this hex nut unscrewed?” he could just reach back and have a hex nut on hand. His friend Jesse Uyeda is a maker with videos on YouTube of her constructing things. She lives in Joshua Tree and she is fixing an old house up there, and her style overlaps with the prepper style. Black head to toe, utility belt with knives and screwdrivers and nunchucks and climbing rope or whatever. If you are ever in her company and you are walking along and think: ”I wish that I could pry up this USGS survey plaque and cut it with a MiG welder and turn it into a belt buckle, you turn around and she is already doing it.

Preparedness is the key of being a prepper and John is not into that, but he is ready for the big one. Nowadays when people talk about the big one, they are talking about the civil war that keeps coming up on this program and in every program. A lot of the preppers are getting a bad rap because there is a lot of overlap, a lot of the Gen-X people that were ready for the nukes and the earthquakes or for the system to break down and recognize the fragility of civilization, they also cannot help but feel like these are fragile and perilous times, and every religion has some apocalyptic element to it and it is a natural human impulse to feel like these are the end times.

Everybody always feels just naturally in their hearts that it can’t get any worse, but also for my life to have any significance I have to live through the end somehow. There are all these preppers in the world that are coming at it from the other side, which is the side of the fundamental belief that the tree of Liberty is watered with the blood of patriots. John hesitates to say it is brainwashing because that is too pejorative, but the logical underpinning of the NRA version of the current world, which is that the only thing that protects Americans from tyranny is the widely distributed availability of firearms to keep Tyrannosaurus Rex from jack-booting them into prison camps.

It is a sex fantasy, basically, a fantasy of virility, because it is not rooted in anything. There is no example in history where a well-armed militia was successful in holding back tyranny when tyranny was on its way, but there are 1000 more examples of a well-armed militia just being co-opted into the service of tyranny, which is what is happening now. If everyone in America was issued a single firearm, like in Switzerland or in Israel, like: ”You need a firearm in your home, it comes from the government. Here it is! Here is the serial number. Please sign here!”

That might be one thing, but there are people in this country living in far flung places who have incredible arsenals in their home and they believe in their hearts that they are equipped to protect themselves. It just fills your mind with images of: Who are you there to protect against? If there aren’t Russians that are coming down Red Dawn style you have to invent people that you are there to defend against, and most of those Second Amendment people throughout the 1990s and 2000s were ready to defend against the government. They thought it was going to be the feds who were coming to take their oatmeal and impose some kind of Obama legislation on that may make them have gender neutral bathrooms.

Now somehow the script has flipped in just 4 straight years and they are defending against supposed antifa armies that are coming to their small Kansas towns to impose gender neutral bathrooms. That is their ultimate fear. It used to be that the government was going to do it, and now it is this vast left wing conspiracy of black-masked Portland graffiti artists who somehow really care whether your West Texas town has gender neutral bathrooms or not.

The people coming from that side, who believe that what they are there to do is not survive the disaster, but to protect and to man the barricades, to build a citadel and fight off the enemy, they also think of themselves as preppers. John’s family and their version of prepperdom isn’t fighting anybody or fighting off anybody, but when the big one comes, when the earthquake comes, and the volcano erupts and society breaks down and all the grasshoppers who didn’t prepare for winter and who are suddenly out on the roads in bedraggled hordes, marching up the I5 corridor, scrounging for nuts, John is not as worried about them, he doesn’t not see himself sitting in a foxhole with his family huddled at his feet, unloading rounds into these Californians who didn’t have the foresight to buy enough toilet paper to protect his way of life. That is not what he is preparing for.

The first thing John is preparing for is the immediate six hours after the earthquake destroys everything. ”How do we get inside and get a fire lit?” If you think about the people of Poland in 1938: There surely were people in Poland in 1938 who had a bunch of guns in the basement and who thought: ”Whatever happens between the Nazis and the Soviets, I am protected because I got all these guns and they are not going to fuck with me! I will make sure of it! My wife and daughter are safe!” That guy didn’t survive the war and neither did his wife and daughter.

There is no chance he survived the war because if he shot the first 5 Wehrmacht guys that came over the hill, the next 50 Wehrmacht guys shoved that gun up his ass. If he was on the other side and shot the first Red Army guys that came over, they shoved it up his ass and then the Wehrmacht came and pissed on his grave. There is not a way if things really go where a guy with five guns protects his family and somehow the wave of disaster parts and go just goes around him, and his hardened basement is like a beacon of light until order is restored.

Those guys separate their bandaids out, too, with a different fantasy about what the plan is. At John’s wildest fantasy he figured out a way to survive off the land, but it is not like he had the foresight to carry fishing line with him to the office every day and now the disaster came in a big wave and he is now up in the mountains outside of Missoula, pulling fresh trout out of the water. The difference between John’s friend Jessie and people that carry that stuff as part of their daily carry is that she is not waiting for the disaster, but she wants the tool to solve today’s problem immediately. She is prepper for the problem that you are going to have this afternoon when the fuse box on your car burns out.

According to Dan there are survivalists and preppers, and Jessie is more of a survivalist than a prepper. A prepper is someone who needs to be prepared for when something goes wrong, whether the power grid is off for two weeks, the hurricane knocks out power and we have no water, or a nuclear war, or a zombie apocalypse, or a meteor strike, or an EMP or whatever the concern is that basically reverts us for a period of time to the stone ages. They want to be ready to survive that. And the big part of surviving that is having the stuff you need stored in your basement to get through it and the know-how to build or make the things that you might need to make while you are waiting for the world to come back or how to defend yourself during that period of time. These are the people who have the basement with stocked shelves, they are separating the bandaids, they know how to do a basic field dressing and how to make a splint, they know how to take a six inch knife and baton to make firewood, they know how to make feather wood and they know how to use the wet pieces of wood, maybe they have got some tanks full of propane so they can cook or maybe they are just going to rely on their fires that they are going to make to cook. The point is: ”We are going to be okay for these three weeks before order is restored!” That is a proper to Dan.

A survivalist is the kind of person who says: ”I went out into the woods and spent two weeks there and the only thing I brought with me was this knife, this hatchet, and this half-empty plastic bottle of water. Two weeks NBD! I know what to do! If the world were to fall apart, that is fine, it is not really going to affect me that much. I won’t have Netflix, but I can live without that! I will play guitar and sing out by the fire because I am lighting a fire anyway every night outside or I go camping every weekend!” Those are the survivalist people, the people who probably have some kind of knife on their belt at all times, the people who are ready to do anything.

That is the survivalist mentality. They are not doing it because they anticipate a bad thing happening, although maybe they do, but they are more just engaged in a mentality of wanting full independence: ”I don’t want to rely on a power grid to cook my dinner! If I have it, I will use it, of course, but if it were to go away, I am fine!” whereas most preppers are not thinking that way. Most preppers are not like: ”Power went out! NBD! Le’s start a fire out back!”, but they are still going to be pissed off that the power is out, but at least we don’t have to dig into the rations.

Like anything in America, at some level there is a prepper community that is just an excuse to throw money at stuff. The guy across the street from John has a generator that is wired into his house and when the power goes off the generator kicks on. Everyone else in the neighborhood you see the fire start in the chimneys and you see the candles show up in the living rooms, but his house sounds like ”Brrrrr” and he turns all his lights and his stereo on and he uses the microwave, just to show everybody that he was ready and we weren’t.

At another level, at the level John’s mom thinks, that guy is just burning precious gasoline in order to keep his dumb ass TV on for another two days and then he is out of gas, but the extent of his preparation still relied on gasoline and it still relied on pushing back the darkness for one more day. John’s mom’s thing is: ”Don’t rely on candles!” She doesn’t light a candle when the power goes off. Why waste a candle? It is an entirely different sense of scale and economy. John doesn’t even think that Jesse is thinking about the apocalypse. A lot of the people in the Every Day Carry world just want to solve problems.

At a basic level it is down to: When something breaks, are you able to fix it with a piece of rolled up cardboard and some wire that you find, or if it breaks do you throw it away or if it breaks do you panic? The number of times that you use the wrong tool to fix a thing there has got to be a sliding scale in the prepper universe. If you are somebody that practices the religion of: ”There is a right tool!” and your version of preparedness is to have the correct tool for every problem, that is one mentality, and the competing mentality is: ”With this Leatherman I could build a tower! I have the wrong tool, but I have a sense of how to take this wrong tool and make it function across all platforms!”

A lot of that is knowledge-base, too. If John’s Chevy Suburban broke down he could probably get it running and keep it running, even past the point where they are having to make parts. If John’s daughter’s mother’s Audi A5 broke down he wouldn’t even know where the motor was, frankly. It is under so many layers of bleep bloop, he wouldn’t understand it, which is part of the reason that he has an old truck. Right now, just in the same way that Hawaiian shirts are getting a bad rep and Fred Perry, the ancient desire to be ready is also getting corrupted by politics in that being ready now feels political. It always felt a little political, but now it feels partisan.

It feels like you are ready and there is an ellipses there because: ”What are you ready for exactly?” There are so many people in America who are ready and you can just taste their excitement. They are ready for a civil war, they are ready for it to spark off, they are excited, partly because they have been in their minds emotionally preparing for it for so long and they have all this gear stacked in their basement and they are ready to prove themselves, they are ready to demonstrate their virility, they are ready to back up their convictions with action, and all of that is feeding into this energy that is in the air right now, an energy that could only exist in a world where most of the people had never been in a fistfight or in a fight of any kind.

Most of the gun-preppers and whatnot, most of the people across the entire spectrum that are really squaring up for a fight are doing it as part of that ancient cycle of: ”There has to be a war every two dozen years or every 50 years or every five years!” Small war, big war… Sports contests will sate that thirst for a while, but eventually people forget how bad it is and they need to fight. It feels like a perfect storm is happening! As somebody with bandaids in three or four different locations and cigarettes over the doors John wants to be ready, but he is still pretty much preparing for an earthquake because there is no state of civil war for which he can be prepared for with a bag of tools.

A gun is not going to help him or his family, not even 20 guns! No amount of guns is going to help, nor fishing line either, not even a hardened safe room. The only thing that John can contribute to protect his family or to help is his voice, but his voice is holstered, too, in a way. There is such a cacophony now of voices that there is not a place where people of good sense are talking. Basically, every time he buys a soup, he buys an extra one for Elijah and then he buys an extra one for Elijah’s friend.


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