RW214 - A Boy Emperor

This week, Dan and John talk about:

The show title refers to John enjoying being catered to as a dominant, but not as a boss, but more like a boy emperor who is laying on a divan.

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 Please do not quote these texts directly without applying your own editing first!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 being in Hawaii although his Uncle Jack is no longer there (RW214)

John is in Hawaii, as every year. The reason they went to Hawaii was because Uncle Jack was there and it was the chance to spend a good solid amount of time with Uncle Jack every year, but he died late November and the whole family reeled from it, weren't sure what to do with their lives, so they decided to come anyway and it has been good although you can't just step back into Aloha.

Claustrophobia, panic attacks, anxiety (RW214)

John saw a graffiti the other day that said: ”Emerge with Aloha!” that was painted on a wall. He is always trying to figure out what Aloha means and what he means by it, but that particular construction is giving him a lot of instruction. He has tied Aloha to the turtles and the behavior of the turtles, namely that watching the turtles and the fish on a reef.

It all started because John was having panic attacks and was just generally feeling a tremendous amount of borderline panic in his life a couple of years ago. He was a middle aged guy who had never really felt panic and didn't even acknowledge feeling anxiety. People experience panic in a spectrum, and some listeners just hearing him talk about it is making them uneasy. John made the huge mistake of when he was having a panic attack googling ”panic attack” and it made him feel 1000 times worse.

John is claustrophobic and he has always really been afraid of having his breath restricted. He has always been very susceptible to colds and flus and sinus issues and lung issues and he got to a point in where he started to have these thoughts like when you are fighting panic: ”I can breathe fine right now, but one day I am going to be really sick again and I won't be able to breathe!” and the thought of one day not being able to breathe caused John to start to feel panicky. He would feed that panic by saying: ”One day I might be completely unable to breathe. What would happen if I got handcuffed and put in the back of a car and someone put a bag over my head?”

One time, long before COVID, John was still getting colds and he was on an airplane and had a head cold and got a feeling where he couldn't clear his ears and he was absolutely freaking out. The flight attendant came over, he could tell John was freaking out, he was concerned, and he came back with the old trick they where they put a hot rag in a cup and put it over your ear and it clears your sinuses, not completely but it allows the pressure to equalize. There is also a little bit of a placebo effect where you feel like you are doing something and this guy gave you this magic trick that he learned in the Amazon rainforest about a hot towel in a plastic cup over your ear. It does work!

Dan has a hard time believing that this is a thing and he looks it up and finds: ”The stewardess was very familiar with hot cups, these are Styrofoam coffee cups with a paper towel in the bottom and a small amount of very hot water poured into the cup. Then the cubs are held over the ears. The steam helps the pressure stabilize and eases pain.” If you are sitting back in steerage they give you a Styrofoam cup with some hot paper towel in it.

USA Today says: ”If nothing else works, ask your flight attendant for a polystyrene foam cup, a paper napkin and a second cup with a little hot water, crumple the napkin into a ball and soak it in the hot water, put the wet bald napkin in the other cup and hold it over one ear. The steam from the wet paper will relieve the pressure in your ear and soothe the pain. Massaging a bit of petroleum jelly in each nostril will help your nasal membranes stay moist and clear.”

John went from having no panic attacks to feeling like he was on the verge of a panic attack all the time and once he got the the 3-4 different pathways to it, one of them was imagining that one day he was going to be so sick he couldn't breathe, it was all about breath and he could go a million different directions. If you can't clear your sinuses felt at the time the same as being buried alive for the amount of fear he could start to generate. There were a couple of times late at night all by himself in his house he would start to freak out and he just wouldn't know what to do, pacing around.

Because a none of this had ever happened to him before he was 50 he had never taken any interest in it. Merlin has talked about panic for years and John always thought he should probably chill out then, he didn't take any interest in what it was. There are so many anxiety disorders, and hearing people talk about them is like hearing somebody talk about depression if you have never had depression: ”Oh well, maybe you should try and go out for a walk!”, all that crazy stuff that people say: ”Have you thought about feeling better?”

The word and the idea of panic attacks is in that family of emotional responses to things that feels a little weak. It sounds weak. Very early on in his twenties, because of the Grunge era, depression was made to feel literary. It has always been true: You can connect depression to Hemingway and to Van Gogh. Depression doesn't feel connected to a lack of personal strength and willpower. It does a little, like any sort of mood disorder within the mainstream culture there is a feeling of: ”Well, why don't you just get better?” There is not a lot of sympathy. Even as somebody who has suffered from a lot of emotional tumult, there are ones that he considered looking at and connect them to his generation's idea of what is masculine and what isn't.

The picture of someone bringing their comfort turkey on an airplane was one of the great moments of the mid-2010s. People quickly exploited it because they had self-diagnosed themselves with anxiety disorder and connected it with the fact that they now needed to bring their pigmy goat on an airplane until the airlines chopped it way back. You can bring your dog into a park, restaurant, or onto an airplane if it is actually licensed, but you can’t just bring a duck because it makes you feel better.

Panic attacks or anxiety felt like: ”Just fucking suck it up!” and John was already wrestling with a lot of emotional pain, all the products of Bipolar, alcoholism, ADD and whatever other 100 things, but there was a bridge too far! Having panic attacks made him understand that there was something wrong. It felt undignified to talk about it, in particular because no-one was denying him breath! Having a bag put over his head and be stuffed into the trunk of a car is unlikely, although not impossible, and it does not explain why he was walking around his bedroom at 3am, hyperventilating.

During that period John was also experiencing a lot of financial panic. He wasn't earning enough money, he was in debt, and he had worked really hard to never be in debt and live within his means. If he wasn't making a lot of money he would close off all the rooms in the big house until he was just living with the hotplate in the corner under a bare bulb and he was always fine with that, he would never complain. It is part of the life of an artist: You don't make a lot of money for a long time and then it ebbs and flows. You put out a record, you make a little bit of money, you go on tour, you make some money, and then you come back and you are not making money again.

During the two years he was dating Millennium Girlfriend who was a wealthy person, but she caused problems for John in what went along with him buying her dinner, outfits, and plane tickets. She was very frugal and weird about money, but she had a lot of it and John didn't have very much of it, but the dynamic for her needed to be that he paid for things. He understood it because it would not do for her to put a bunch of money into a bag somewhere and pretend to lose it and then John would find that money and use it to pay for their vacations.

Although John was very clear: ”Hey, I am a musician who does some podcasting and the podcasts don't pay any money!” and she grew up in Europe and was used to living a certain way. Nobody loves an $800 sushi dinner more than he does, but he can't buy that type of thing all the time. The way that he lives high on the horse is that people fly him places and buy him things. The whole benefit of being an entertainer is that you get assailed around on these junkets: ”I am going to LA this weekend and it is all expenses paid because this company wants me to do a thing!”, but that doesn't mean that he goes home and eats guinea fowl for dinner every night, he goes home and eats macaroni and cheese with hamburger and he is so happy.

By the end of these two years of being in a relationship with her John was out of money in a way that he had never been before. Even when he made $900 a month he wasn't out of money because he knew that he made $900 a month and he lived as though he did. His rent was appropriate because back then you could live on $900 a month and have an apartment. He knew how much he could spend on cigarets and he lived downtown, so every restaurant he went into he knew somebody that worked there and he had to pay for the scallops, but they would comp his entree. He never felt poor. Everybody he knew was was poor in the sense that they didn't have money, but they were not poor, they were rich because they went to plays whenever they wanted. It wasn't that they were poor, they just didn't use money.

But now here John was, 46 years old, and he had used all his money, as little there was, to esquire his girlfriend around and make her feel cared for. No girl is going to look at John and say: ”Here is my meal ticket!”, you can just look at him and say: ”He cuts his own hair!”, although he has his own Patreon now and maybe that has changed. It was never a dynamic in any of his relationships that anybody would look at him as a sugar daddy. If anything, dating this guy was going to be more expensive than it is worth.

But because it was part of the dynamic they couldn't break that character and by the first quarter of 2017 for the first time in his life he was considerably in debt, like $30-40.000, because he had just been: ”Well, it is all going to work out down the road!”, which is also not how he thinks, in one way it is, in the sense that he doesn't ever have a plan for anything and assume it is all going to work out, but he is not somebody that says: ”Put it on my credit card!”

This snuck up on him, he wasn't looking at his bank statements and going: ”Oh well, here is another 10 grand I don't have!”, but because as a creative person you feast and famine, you make $10.000 and then it sits there for a little while and then you go through a period where you are not making any money and the $10.000 goes away and then you are down to zero and then you make another $10.000 somewhere, it all comes in at once. John gets checks quarterly from the music, so you could be down to a couple hundred bucks and then 3rd quarter checks would come in from BMI and from SoundExchange and all of a sudden there would be a little bit of money in his account.

John was burbling along, as you do, and then he went down to zero and when those checks came in they just covered the debt and all of a sudden he was at zero at the wrong end of a long fallow period and by the time he got to the end of the long fallow period and then a couple of checks came in that weren't worth anything, and then it was: ”Wait a minute, I just went from fine to super-not-fine!” He did a thing he never done, he sold guitars he had for decades. He had to go look at them and say: ”Which ones are worth any money?”

Most of these guitars aren't worth anything, they are bashed up old guitars that he played for years that weren't worth anything when he bought them and unlike smart people back when guitars weren't worth very much he didn't buy the ones that would one day be worth anything, but he bought the ones that were worth $50 then and they are worth $250 now instead of the ones that were worth $500 then and are worth $25.000 now. The ones that he did have that were worth some money he had to sell. He sold some of his things, and as a collector that is not what he ever thought he would have to do, and he sold those things and just got back to a toehold, he was still in debt, he just got out of what felt like the kind of debt that if you don't get on top of it, it becomes a self-fulfilling spiral.

Raised by John’s mother, there is no greater terror! She is one of those people that is like: ”We are eating tin cans because we can't afford aluminum cans!” - ”I don't want to eat a can!” - ”Sorry, that is what we have!” When John was a kid he, his sister and his mom split one box of $0.25 macaroni and cheese and he was not prepared to be in a death spiral of debt, he worked his ass off to never be that.

Anxiety around snorkling in Hawaii in 2019 (RW214)

John mentions the years 2017 and 2018, but it was in fact 2018 and 2019

That was a major component of what was powering that anxiety panic of 2017. When he looks at his Google photos for 2017 it was an incredible year for, just astonishing! At the start of it he was still very deep in his relationship with Millennium Girlfriend, he had just started Omnibus and Friendly Fire, but they weren't earning any money, and then he was King Neptune all of a sudden out of nowhere, just on and on and on. After he broke up with Millennium Girlfriend he had a really great relationship with a woman that had come in and out of his life a couple of times that was both medicinal and also its own kind of fraught.

By the time John came to Hawaii in 2018 he was coming completely unglued, he just not well, he was scared to get on the airplane because he was in such a panic, and when he got there… he loves to snorkel, but he is not a very good swimmer and he is very afraid of the water. Swimming is the absolute worst combination of super boring and super scary, but snorkeling in Hawaii is wonderful, it is just that the sea is often rough, the it is dangerous, it is sketchy, 20 people die snorkeling in Hawaii every year, and John does not have that confidence that he is a great swimmer who will never get in trouble, but he is not a great swimmer and does feel always in trouble. He doesn’t float, or only floats with his nose and mouth 6” under water. His corpse would float, you would be able to see the top of his head bobbing, but he does not float with his shoulders out of the water like so many lucky people do.

John wanted to snorkel, but the fear about breathing was setting him off on these incredible panic attacks, and that was just sitting in a room, imagining not being able to breathe, that wasn't floating with his face in the water, trying to breathe through a tube while trying to swim, which he is not good at. He would go down to the beach and put his snorkel on and put his head underwater and there was just no way! He would pull his head out and be like: ”No, fuck this!” But he loves the experience, it is the closest thing to flying, especially somebody that weighs as much as he does, the feeling of weightlessness is really nice, it is nice to not be so fucking heavy for once. He would go down every day, put his snorkel in the water, put his face under water, feel that panic rise up and pull his face out and just be like: ”I can’t fucking do it!”

This whole anxiety experience, and seeking a path through it, was one of the things that made him realize and accept that there were vulnerabilities that he hadn't allowed himself to have. He started to feel like he wasn't holding it together anymore, and having held it together through so much crazy shit, how could it be coming apart now? He held his shit together through really hard times of all stripes and he never doubted that if he was alone in a room that he was fine and cool.

In the early drug years a couple of times when he was really messed up on drugs he felt like he was on the verge of going out of control, and in both of those cases he clawed his way back, but now he was not on drugs, no threats to him, he was in a comfortable house, both feet on the ground, and he was freaking out? Worse than he did when he was tripping balls in a strange town, being guided through life by a ghost wolf? He was freaking out more now?

Millennial Girlfriend and her D/s culture (RW214)

John talked about this in RL288 and in the bonus content of RW129

Encoded into the very foundation of the relationship dynamic between John and Millennium Girlfriend, and this energy came from her, was what they call a D/s dynamic, popularly understood as a daddy/baby dynamic that was part of play, but it was also a fundamental way that she wanted them to conduct their relationship. In the dominant/submissive culture, in particularly the daddy/baby universe, the vast majority of the energy is coming from the ”submissives”.

For instance, in a lot of their communication she wouldn't use capital letters, and Dan wonders how John could date someone who didn't use proper capitalization in their texts. She did it intentionally as a way of communicating submissiveness. She wouldn't dare use capital letters in writing him. This energy was coming entirely from her, it had never been part of his sexual culture. During his young adult life on Capitol Hill in Seattle he was surrounded by sex culture, it is the gay neighborhood, the queer neighborhood, the sex positive neighborhood, the young people neighborhood and he had friends throughout the whole fabric of people with alternative sex. For some people it was a major part of their identity, some people just came and went through different styles.

Among all of the people that he knew John was widely regarded as a vanilla and he was happy to be a vanilla. There was nothing kinky about him and a lot of people teased him about it because he was in situations all the time where kink was implied or an invitation was extended and he was well-known as somebody that was like: ”No, that's fine!Y'all get your leather on and get in your swings and good luck, but I will just be riding my unicycle over here!” It didn't appeal to him, it wasn't where he got his jollies and he always felt like sex is complicated enough.

Having somebody else around that you allow to touch you and they allow you to touch them is very complicated right out of the gate and John didn’t really need to add any additional spice. When another person puts their hands on him, that is pretty electrifying and it is incredibly challenging to be a lover to someone and have them be a lover to you and have it be mutually fulfilling and have those experiences be real and authentic. It is so hard to squeeze every nuance out of that, and introducing any other theatrical component or feeling safe enough to say: ”Actually, what I like is if you called me daddy!”…

If you knew somebody and were so together with them that you felt comfortable saying: ”Tickle your ass with a feather?”would demonstrate an amazing evolution, but to come right out of the gate, to walk in with somebody that you are just getting to know and saying: ”So then I want clothespins on my nipples!” felt like you couldn't possibly have figured out how to have good sex before you are trying to have some intense sex. The people who would mock him would say he was so vanilla that he didn’t even understand the first thing about sex or kink.

Dan wonders that if John was so vanilla, why would an experienced D/s girl be into him, and John also asked that question. Throughout his life the reason why he found himself over and over kink-adjacent and invited into these scenarios where he then had to say: ”I am pretty vanilla, actually!” is because he present like someone who is very much a closet-Dom. He has the energy, the appearance, and the pheromones of it and in certain neighborhoods when he walks down the street, the way people look at him shows him that he reads as a Dom and within the culture, like within any culture, there is always a feeling that there is a certain percentage of people that are in the closet. In any kind of kink scenario or queer scenario there are people who are closeted and in a lot of cases don't realize something true about themselves or denying something about themselves.

When John met Millennium Girlfriend that was very much her take: ”You don't realize it, but you are a daddy!” - ”I don't think so!” - ”You absolutely are!” The submissives, the babies, are actually the drivers of the culture and the energy. You want to think that the culture is driven by the big, tough, dominant, dudes, but in fact, it is all coming from the little submissive people. They are there doing what is called topping from the bottom, there is a lot of performance, and a lot of it is people trying to inhabit the performance. They want the performance to be to be real, they want it to actually reflect their day to day life.

John is generally attracted to very small women. He had a lot of girlfriends that are 5’ tall and 100 pounds, and he didn’t feel like he was choosing them. In the main the women in his life have chosen him and he was standing there like a big ox. In a lot of cases these women had a lot of energy, not a manic pixie energy, but a lot of intensity, and they feel out of control, they feel that their emotional life is out of control, that they personally are out of control, and there is something in the exaggeration of the traditional gender dynamic of a big Dad who lays down the law.

The appeal of that to them is that it is going to give some structure to their life, that they are not going to feel as out of control because there is a big man here who is going to draw the line on things and he is going to have it be a certain way. Their component is that they are in service and this big man needs their help and and they do what he says. The appeal for dominant guys in that scenario is that it also flatters their gender expectation that: ”I'm the big guy and I'm in charge and you need to do this!” - ”Okay, whatever you say!” It is very theatrical and exaggerated, but it is driven by the women. The guy’s dynamic is very uncomplicated: You are a big guy and you are in charge.

John looks like the confident big guy who has no problem being the center of attention, and from the outside he seems to have all the qualities of that, but emotionally he is much more complicated than that, asking: ”Do you love me? Am I Okay?”, but one of the first things he learned in trying to figure out what role he was here to play… Daddy/Baby is a subset, a further exaggeration where the girls specifically adopt very cliched and exaggerated qualities of femininity that border on infantilism, she talks small, she acts small, she wears clothes that are small, and John is supposed to act big and be big, and he is big. Personality-wise this is the appeal, the feeling of command.

What the girls would say is: ”Don't ever ask if you're doing it right! It is the last thing we want to hear! Never say: Is this right? Is this what you want? We want you to be in charge and if you ever break character and say: Am I doing it right? you have spoiled the whole thing.”, but John’s whole emotional life is predicated on: ”Am I doing it right?”, not just in sex, but he walks around all day and his whole thing is: ”Am I doing it right? Is this good? Am I all right? Am I standing in the right place?”, it is the foundation of Keep moving and get out of the way.

John does not go through life, feeling: ”Step aside, I have got this under control!” He does perform that, but that is not how he feels inside. Sex is a place where he is as vulnerable as he ever is, and he tries to be. To insert that dynamic and to connect it to sex was very tricky because on the one hand the exaggerated gender behavior is very liberating to someone who has grown up in a post-feminist world where men are not supposed to be that way, women are not supposed to be that way, we are all supposed to be working toward equality, trying to redress imbalance rather than exaggerate it, and at its furthest extent there is that: ”We all are wearing gray linen now!”

Part of the incredible excitement in that world is that it allows you to play the games that are actually very natural: ”You are the big one and I am the little one, so you are in charge and I am trying to keep you happy!”, it is so basic and the excitement of it is really ramped up because it goes against everything not only that we have learned, but everything we are trying to accomplish in society. We are trying to develop new systems that free us from the tyranny of the big loud person running the show and the little quiet person having to take it right and the last half of the 20th century in America has been all about working exactly counter to that idea.

We trying to let small, quiet people and with that are not a big, strong, loud, white guys equal say, so the excitement of it is connected to a very simple taboo that lights a fire under all those questions of: ”Wait a minute, is some of this even redressal?” At a certain point if your girlfriend is 5’ tall and weighs 100 pounds and you weigh 260 pounds, there are natural dynamics to that that John spent his whole life trying to redress just in the home, it produces a lot of situations that are connected to anxiety: ”Are you okay? Am I hurting you?”

What John learned from being in this universe for a couple of years was that they get tired of hearing that. They want their guy to be strong and to be strong and be like: ”Are you okay? Is this all right?”, to express that and to try to equalize a situation that they don't want equalized, they are like: ”No, no, no, you are big and strong, you just be that and let me be small and weak!”

Going on the forums and meeting people in this community and talking to his girlfriend, trying to figure out what the culture was and what the expectations were, John was learning that this culture and this energy is coming from the women, but they don't want that, they are really driving it, they know what the rules are, they know what the expectations are, but they want you to be the one that is saying it, because they don't want it to be where the guy is like: ”Am I doing it right?” They don't want to be saying: ”Here is how it is supposed to be!”, but that is actually the dynamic and that is topping from the bottom, the little girl telling the dad how she wants him to be.

At least in John’s experience that is how the dynamic always ends up being powered, even if the role-playing is super-well figured out, even if the scripts are really followed, because for it to even work, if it was really coming from the guy, if he was walking around with a riding crop, saying: ”You missed a spot!” then it would be what we would consider an abusive relationship. There are plenty of those where the guy is a dictator and the girl has no say. In order for it to be kink, in order for it to be in this family, there has to at some level be an understanding that it isn't just that she is consenting, it is that she is powering this energy.

The problem for John with it all was that the dynamic ultimately requires that the guy not be very sophisticated, and this is John’s vanilla coming again: If you say: ”I really like that outfit on you and I really like the feather duster and you calling me sir, but also at a certain level we are actually in a real relationship and you are actually my girlfriend and we want the world to be a better place!”, you have already broken character and in order to remain in character John would have to be simple.

What that produced among 1000 other difficulties that they had in synching up what their expectations were… She is the classic case as they say, that all the dominatrixes in the world, the guys that they are spanking are all CEOs who are in power all day and then they want to come say: ”Yes, mistress!” and have a girl put a high heel on their head. John’s girlfriend was a tech lawyer and was successful and domineering in her professional life and then this was how she wanted her personal life to go.

What this relationship did to a certain extent for John was free him up from feeling like those more traditional power dynamics were caustic or toxic. Before going into this relationship he would have thought: ”That is a really toxic energy between two people for one of them to be like: I'm in charge and you are the little one! and the little one be like: All I'm trying to do is make you happy!”, he would have just seen that as a very bad vibe, but coming out the other side of it and realizing that as a form of play, and not just play like: ”I am going to put on my hat and you are going to put on your hat and we are going to do this for an hour!”, but play as a component of your relationship where it is always present, and sometimes you forget it, sometimes you just go on the roller coaster or have a fun day at the beach, but those little things like: ”Where are we having dinner tonight?” she just wants him to choose and that is part of the playful dynamic that is now encoded in the whole understanding how they are together.

Realizing that that is fine, that that isn't toxic, that if both parties consent to it, it can be amazing. John would talk about this relationship with his female friends, because that was ultimately where he had to go. He couldn't ask her if he was doing okay, he couldn't go on the forums or meet other people in that community and say: ”Am I doing it right?” because they didn't want to hear it either, so he started to go to his lady friends, a lot of them ex-girlfriends, but also not ex-girlfriends, just female friends, they were all extremely curious about this and titillated by it.

They would sit and turn it over in their hands and say: ”Wow, what would that be like? What would it have been like when we were dating if you had been like that and I had been like that?” and you could see how it was a notion that hadn't occurred to any of them. It had never occurred to John and any of his girlfriends that they would allow that dynamic in the room. They were always working for the opposite.

John would call them up and say: ”Hey, can we get dinner? I got to run some stuff by you!” - ”Great!” - ”I am dating this girl and here is our thing:” - ”What? Whoa!” and this happened over and over, this wave would wash over them, like: ”Wow, tell me more!” You are fascinated by it, first of all, because of the taboo and because of the: ”Are you kidding me?”, but thinking about it it was the same reaction John had: For a progressive liberal person who thinks about equality in universalist terms, the idea that you could have this safe space where it was like: ”No, no, no, in this game we are exaggerating the inequality for effect!”

The appeal to them was like: ”You mean I would just get to be the femmy little girl and you would be the big, tough guy? Whoooo!”, watching that happen to so many women he knew and women that were very powerful in the world, self-actualized, creative, to see that them have that reaction he realized that just knowing this is liberating because it opens up a world of possibility that this traditional gender-stuff is not just about reinforcing evil, it doesn't recapitulate patriarchy, it isn't just evil, but there is stuff in it that is interesting, that you can explore, that is exciting.

The problem was all in the fact that in fact she was a very dominant person, in fact almost every baby John ever met and any woman he has ever dated are very dominant people, so the dynamic and the desire for him in the way that he appears as a very dominant man is that he is going to be the thing that keeps control over them and keeps the whole thing battened down. But John is a terrible project manager and the last thing he is good at is keeping charge of a whole bunch of balls in the air. He spends a large portion of his day with a spiral notebook open on the table in front of him and five words written in it and then he is staring out the window for the next two hours.

She would come home from a hard day of work and what she wanted was that he was focused on her and them because her way of unwinding was to turn over all of the keys and all of the authority and all of the energy to him and now she could relax as the baby, as the femme. She would come home from work and he would have been staring out the window all day, watching the leaves change, wondering about his own nature, and he would say: ”Hey babe, how was your day?” - ”Oh, Daddy!” - ”Oh, right, right, right, right. How is your day? I mean, I don't even care how your day was. Make me a sandwich!” It was not where he was coming from.

Dan reckons it actually requires work on John’s part because he needs to come up with assignments or look for mistakes to come up with punishments, which is what John means when he says that the men that are best at this are uncomplicated. If he was working all day at a forge and came home at night and wanted to just keep on working at the forge, or if he worked all day as an administrative assistant somewhere, just taking shit off of other people, and then he got to come home and be a big deal, maybe that is the dynamic!

John doesn’t want to be reductionist about it because there are a million ways you can do this, but he is a pretty dreamy dude who is not trying to accomplish any goals. He got no long term goals, he got very few short term goals, his goal is to get to the end of the day and feel okay and hopefully make something along the way. It is not really about other people, he doesn’t sit there waiting all day for his significant other to get home so that he can come up with tasks for her, for sure!

John likes to be waited on and catered to, but he likes to be waited on or catered to like a boy emperor, not like a boss. He has no interest in being a boss, but he wants to lay on a divan and: ”Bring me some fucking cherries, if you want!” Their dynamic never fully settled because John never fully grokked it, but also he did not understand how liberating it was going to be for her the day she never had to think about anything anymore because he was doing all the thinking. He got that later, that that was the freedom she was looking for, the freedom to have him be in charge of her, and she could go to work and be in charge of 40 upcoming court cases. She wasn't really a manager, she worked with other lawyers, but she was in charge of billions of dollars, and then she would come home and John would tell her what to wear and what to eat and what to think.

John projecting to be the ”Daddy” (RW214)

Dan and John have done a show now for 5 years or so and Dan gets him now, but when they first met and started talking, even having listened to some of the other shows, he feels like there is a perception around John that lines up with what Millennium Girlfriend thought about him when she first met him. People come into this thinking almost that John is an ex-con in a way. He is tough, but the reality is that he is the most sensitive guy that Dan knows. The perception of that, for whatever reason, it doesn't seem that way, maybe because John is a tall big guy or he has the deep voice or he seems like a dad. John seems like a dad to Dan and they are basically the same age group, like: ”Well, John will know!”

Maybe the women that were looking at him in that way, he definitely came across as being big Uncle John. No matter how big the adult male is, there is a bigger adult male who is like his uncle who can help set him straight. It has to be a visual thing, too and a mannerism thing, all of that. Dan can see why people would think that about John, it makes sense. Once they get to know him they realize that John is not actually like that at all, but he is very sensitive and then not like that. That is the challenge because John is like that, but there are also a couple of other layers and the deeper you go John is more and more sensitive.

Going to Comic-Con and putting his hand on his friend’s neck (RW214)

A year after he stopped seeing Millennium Girlfriend John was at Comic-Con, he was there with a gal walking around the big floor in San Diego, and there are tens of thousands of people milling around, all dressed like Batman, it is a crazy scene, super loud, and he asked the gal he was with: ”Do you mind if I just put my hand on you so we don't get separated?” - ”Great!” and he put his hand on her shoulder and it just gradually turned into having his hand on the back of her neck.

They were walking around Comic-Con, she was small and he was big and he can see ahead, which is one of the best things about being big: You can see ahead in a big crowd. She was in front of him and he was steering her through the crowd, just gently moving her through the crowd, and they spent all day together in this environment and the entire time he had his hand on the back of her neck. To someone looking at them as they walked through, there are 100 million hot takes in the naked city, and there are going to be people, depending on who they are and where they are at, that are going to overlay that image with their own fucking problem about life.

There are going to be people that are going to look at that and say: ”Typical! Blah, blah, blah!” and there are going to be people that look at it and have a million fucking… in the wrong situation there would be someone that would walk over to her and say: ”Are you okay?” There are a million takes! This is not a woman who had any aspect of dominant/submissive interest, but having John’s hand on the back of her neck was a tremendous comfort to her and she loved walking through ComicCon with him just gently steering her through the crowd, knowing that he was behind her, knowing that he had his hand on her. She felt guarded and protected and safe, and it had no lasting ramifications about how much input she was going to have about what they were going to have for dinner.

She is definitely somebody who in most cases to most people will say: ”Don't touch me!” and a lot of other things, like: ”Don't ever lock me in a room!” She said one time: ”If someone ever put handcuffs on me, I absolutely would chew through my own arm before I would sit and let myself be handcuffed!” She is definitely not playing around, but this was a very simple dynamic and a powerful one, and it was for John, too. He felt purposeful, he was in charge, and it was testament to how comfortable they were with each other that they could do that without it being weird- They were very close and they could do this and not have to navigate all the fucking political questions.

That is true of John: It is very much in him, he is a dad, he is a dominant person, he does want to be in charge, and if somebody has a question he does have an answer, but he has other things to think about besides being your boss, first of all, and second of all, the deeper down in him you drill, the more you are going to find that there are certain kinds of soap that he can't even be in a hotel that has that soap in the back room, let alone that he was universally bulletproof. He is sensitive, too sensitive in some ways.

Snorkling with the turtles in Hawaii, trying to find Aloha (RW214)

It was down on the beach with the snorkel, sitting in the shallows in the sand with people all around him, scuba people coming in and out, all these people with their fucking spear fishing, children running around, and fucking turtles on the beach and eagles and tiger sharks and whatever else, and he was sitting in the shallows like a little toddler, putting his face in the water, holding it there as long as he can, and then going: ”No!”, doing that over and over until he could do it and put his face in the water and move 10 feet out into the water and float, come back to shore, take his mask off and breathe, and then he would put it back on and go out 10 feet and float.

John worked on this and it had everything to do with breath. In trying to find a connection between slowing his breathing down and by so doing mastering his panic. At the end of the day he would feel like he had done enough, he had gotten out there, floated around, and swum around a little bit, he came in, a couple of times he wasn't able to do it, but he kept doing it and kept trying to find whatever that place was. He was putting himself in a situation… He was already having problems just laying in his bed, but now he was out there, absolutely restricting his own breath and putting himself in in real danger of drowning, but in doing it.

One of the things that helped him in this is what Aloha was to him, was watching the sea creatures, watching a turtle sitting and eating lichen off the side of a rock and the wave would come in and this giant turtle who has no natural predators and does not give a single fuck about anything, the wave comes in and it moves the turtle five feet down the rock, and the turtle has absolutely no agenda, no interest in going back to that place on the rock, not fixated on anything, the wave moved the turtle five feet and the turtle started eating some lichen five feet away, and then the wave moved the turtle over here.

The turtles have a plan, they are doing stuff living their turtle life, but watching the fish, watching everything under the ocean and realizing that the wave action, the way the ocean is moving is what is true in our lives, too, in a way that we are not conscious of because they are not conscious of it, and if they were trying to fight the motion of the ocean they would get exhausted and die. It is only that they go with the flow.

Realizing that in John’s own life that wave action is present and he is usually very good at going with the flow and he is eating a little bit of lichen here and then a little bit there. When he tried to stand somewhere athwart it and hold it back, maintain some position he thought he needed to be in, he would exhaust himself and die.

Trying to figure out what that was and feeling like there was a kind of Aloha that was not passive, the ocean isn't just moving you around and you have no say, but it is that you are going. They are all in motion, they all are doing their thing. Snorkeling remains a thing that John has to overcome panic the entire time. He goes in the water the first day, he has to just lay there close to shore, he comes in and out a few times, he goes back out there and lays there, gradually he starts to move around, by the fourth day he is all over the place, but he is always very conscious of keeping his breath regulated, never working too hard, always aware that if he gets in trouble he just has to stop moving and float.

On this trip John realized that the thing that calms him most is not even watching the fish, but it is the fucking sea anemones, the little blobs that are hanging on the bleached-out coral and the big boulders, the little dudes with the wavy arms that whenever he is trying to calm my breath, he is floating over these little anemones and is just looking at them, he is out of his head, not thinking about his breathing, he is inevitably trying to get his breath, trying to keep calm, trying to figure it out, and then he sees a sea anemone and he will float over them and be like: ”Look at you, little guy, you are a little dude, just sitting on the rock, always there on the rock!”

That is a merge with Aloha. If he went out looking for turtles he would never find them. The only time the turtles ever appeared was when he had abandoned the search for turtles and had decided he was just going to float around and look for yellow fish, look at what you are seeing, see what you are looking at, and then the turtles always seem to appear, they always come over your shoulder and it is like: ”Oh shit, I am surrounded by turtles!”, but if he went out and look for them he would spend all day and never find one.

The ”Don't look for anything! Don't search for anything, just see what you are seeing, look where you are looking!” and it is always the anemones that are the thing… That is where he emerges with Aloha. He goes in with no Aloha and that is what he is trying to do in his 50s, in every aspect of his life go with the flow and emerge with Aloha.

T-shirts (RW214)

Dan wants to talk a little bit about the T-shirts that they are doing. Dan asked on Patreon for suggestions. Last time they had the ”John sitting on his truck” T-shirt and the Going Places Gang shirt, but this time they want to do something different. The patrons are the only ones who are going to get to contribute their ideas, anyone else is just going to have to accept the decision.

John learned about Patreon that it is a certain culture that is not for everybody, but they are trying to attract the percentage of people who love the show and Patreon might be their thing, trying to encourage them to join the Patreon, but John can’t be upset at the rest, he understands completely. Dan can be upset if he wants because they have very different emotional natures.

The suggestions that have come in are:

  • Grant: A roast beef sandwich
  • Brian: King Neptune
  • Eric: Fluffernutter, maybe traffic cones with the American flag.
  • Jason: ”The Internet tried to cancel me and all I got was this lousy T-shirt.” John is not going to wade into that.
  • Jacob: a dented half-open can of beans. No!
  • Drew: King Neptune seems appropriate.
  • Neal: How about T-shirts that people outside of the US can buy more easily?
  • Dave: the dynamite guy
  • Bear: an illustration of the classic blurry Bigfoot hoax photo, but it is John.
  • Meesha, who is here in Austin: ”Keep a small bag packed”, Dan and John’s silhouettes with Road Work text.
  • John from Japan: Seattle to Austin Cannonball Run, John and Dan's barbecue truck, something about the Austin GMC RV Club with a broken down RV and then ”between two derricks” with Dan and John
  • Dave: John and Dan talking using two cans on a string, sketch-style drawing of the show cover photo
  • David: eel on a wallet, labeled Road Work.

People are coming from the Merlin-sphere and the Roderick-verse with all this overlap of John Siracusa and Scott Simpson, Hodgman, this universe of podcast-people that overlaps, but within the Roderick-verse, which encompasses Gary's Van and now the discourse group from John’s Patreon group and the Reddits and Discords.

A long time ago John talked about the modern intellectual property leasing economy where you no longer buy Microsoft Word, but you lease it or pay them to use it, which he will never like, he understands that you pay a Netflix subscription, but one time he was sitting in Jonathan Colton’s living room and asked if he had Hulu or something and Jonathan he just subscribes to everything at whatever the rate is and considers all of it a business expense, rather than spend time sitting there trying to figure out: ”Do I have this, do I have that!” It the cost of modern life.

”Do you subscribe to The Washington Post online? Because I constantly am following links to The Washington Post and it is behind a paywall!” - ”I just subscribe to everything. If I come to a paywall, I subscribe to it!” John saw that as a pictures of a whale shark that is covered with Remora, these little sucker fish, little barnacles that attach themselves to you, but they are more active than barnacles, they are leeches and John described them as eels that attach themselves to you, death by 1000 cuts, these little charges, and that is what business thinks is the sustainable model: ”We are never going to sell you anything anymore, we are just going to charge you every month for it, and if we find that sweet spot of what the cost is that you will consider insignificant enough to bear we just attach another eel to you.”

Now the Patreons within the Roderick-verse, for the most part everybody appreciates it whimsically, that there are these eels we attach to ourselves that are positive, that we do voluntarily, like: ”I am going to give $5 a month to this person that I think is good because I like their work!”, which is the flip side of this lease economy where you are entering into that relationship, which is what that is a reference to, a wallet with an eel on it. It is meant whimsically, not a chastisement. We are not asking you to subscribe to our Patreon because we are trying to lease you Microsoft Word, but because you recognize that that is part of the reciprocality of the relationship of getting free podcasts from people.

  • Andrew: the simpler, the better.
  • John: technical drawing of a can opener. They don't realize that John wants to move on, but they mean it in a good way. If John’s personal take on BeanDad was that it was a grave injustice that he was going to take head on and try and be funny about it, all of those would be great suggestions, but his take on BeanDad is that it is done and he doesn’t feel like it was a grave injustice. It was an event and not one to mock or repurpose.
  • Ian: I'd love to see a shirt of Ben (!) attacking a giant tarantula with a broom in his driveway as John cowers behind him in mortal fear. I'm pretty sure that's the closest thing to actual Road Work that has ever been discussed on the show.
  • Brian: something with the ravine, which is very hard to artistically represent.
  • Corie: John and Merlin in fluorescent reflective construction gear, complete with hard hats, jack-hammering away illustrated or in real life
  • Tommy: Hey, Dan, I am a designer and illustrator and whipped up this idea. In olden times on TV stations if there was a problem or something like that where they would have a station interruption or a technical issue and you have the test pattern, but instead of the Native American in the test pattern there is a little John Roderick looking down.

Here is a question: There are ways you can post something to the Patreon site that is visible to everyone, not just the subscribers and John suggests Dan would do that so everyone who was interested in the T-shirt plan could go there and look at the different ideas and designs that people were proffering.

Next Thursday is a travel day, so they move the show to Tuesday.

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