RW246 - Frost on the Peaches

This week, Dan and John talk about:

  • Snow in Austin (Geography)
  • Tap water in Seattle, the guy getting distilled water from the PCC supermarket (Geography)
  • Climate change (Geography)
  • Winter weather in Austin, the Urban Dirt guy turning everybody’s water off (Geography)
  • Construction workers tearing up John’s street at 4am with a jackhammer (Normandy Park)
  • Imagining the Northwest creating their own little republic within the United States (Geography)
  • Different towns, different architectures, how most places are not really places (Geography)

Bonus-content for Patreon supporters:

  • Why is John negative about Seattle recently? Should you still move there? (Geography)
  • How to listen more to your intuition (Personal Development)

The show title refers to climate change and how in the past if there was frost on the Georgia peaches it was a cover story in Time Magazine.

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 Please do not quote these texts directly without applying your own editing first!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

Snow in Austin (RW246)

Dan is all frozen in here today. It is not as cold as last time (see RW213) and it won't stay as cold, but they do have snow stuck to the ground. This is Dan’s 11th year in Austin and this is the second time that the snow has stuck when it is falling. He grew up in Philly and this wouldn't even delay school, it is nothing, but here in Austin everybody freaks out. There is panic buying and all of that and now everything is shut down. John loves panic buying, it is such a cool modern feature. Dan does his regular stuff, he has a schedule, earlier in the week he had his regular Costco run on Tuesday, he does it once a month, his son likes to go with him, and it was packed and everybody's cart was completely full of bottles of water.

Last year at this time no-one had the water, so this they are going to be prepared and they are going to buy ten dozen bottles of water. Just buy one of those empty five gallon water cooler jugs, you can get those super-cheap anywhere. Just get two of those and fill it up! Done! Why are they getting individual bottles of water? For what?

Tap water in Seattle, the guy getting distilled water from the PCC supermarket (RW246)

John was at the hippie supermarket last night called PCC Community Markets, basically a Whole Foods, and he was loitering in the parking lot outside of the frozen yogurt place as a young beardo in a BMW station wagon drove up, clearly a techie, and he got a shopping cart, went back to his car, proceeded to load up the shopping cart with empty water containers, took the full shopping cart of empty water containers into the PCC, and there has got to be some purified water dispenser in there and he was bringing his water bottles to fill them up.

In Washington where when you turn on the tap the water that comes out was mountain snow 4 hours earlier, it is just fine, it is great, it hasn't gone through 1000 aqueducts, it hasn't been treated, John has actually studied how the water goes. You can drive in the mountains and see where it sits in a big Lake and then you can trace where it goes. His old house, the farm, had a giant water pipe that went right over the hill next to him and you could go in the night and stand on top of it and hear enormous amounts of water going under your feet.

Some of the original pipes that brought the water from the mountains were actually made out of cedar logs, they hollowed them out, and there are still wood pipes in service. He remembers a bunch of guys digging a hole in the ground with hard hats on and there was wood pipe under there.

The idea that this was the errant that this guy with his white BMW station wagon was on at 9pm, John felt the cold hand of his wife, frankly, saying: ”We are out of PCC distilled water and this is your job! Go to the store!” - ”Just turn on the tap, man! And if the water doesn't taste great, just buy a little tap filter!”

Climate change (RW246)

Seattle is basically paradise except for the one month a year that the sun comes out and then everything catches on fire, but Austin is a place that should be basically like central Spain where there is no weather of any kind, it neither rains nor snows, the wind barely blows. John is beginning to think that there is something to this climate change! Dan doesn’t think that it is possible for anyone to not acknowledge that the climate is different now than it was before. That is pretty simple and we can all pretty much agree on that.

There are people who will say the climate is cyclical and you can go from a time where it is warmer to a time where it is colder to a time where there are more hurricanes or less hurricanes. Most scientists would agree with that also. But what the cause of that is that gets people very upset because some people would say: ”Remember how we all agreed that the climate is cyclical? Well, it is cyclical and we are just on a part of it. It might be that it is more extreme right now than it has been in recorded history, but that doesn't mean it is unprecedented, it doesn't mean that it is unusual!”, and then there are other people who would say: ”Actually it does, because even in our ancient historical studies, archaeological digs, we don't see these kinds of changes in this extreme!” and other scientists will say: ”Well, that sounds right, but that doesn't mean anything!”

There are lots of people who would then say: ”It is so obvious that human beings are the cause of this and that we need to do something about it!”, but regardless of what you think is the cause we can all agree that this is not what it used to be like. John grew up in Alaska, a place that had extreme weather, but the weather up there is nothing like it was when he was a kid. You could live somewhere like Los Angeles where the temperature is always 74 degrees and maybe think: ”Oh, there have been more fires lately and less water!”, but really, it has always been 74 degrees here and it still is now.

But in Anchorage in 1978 it was so different than it has been in the last 20 years. Maybe it is cyclical, let's call it that, but what a cycle! Things are crazy up there and also down where Dan is. When John was a kid and there was Frost on the Georgia peaches, it was a cover story in Time magazine. The temperature got down below something down in Florida, all the oranges got frost on them, and now they get all the exciting weather down there! Dan doesn’t like the exciting weather, he didn't move there for exciting weather, he moved there for it to do what it is supposed to do all the time and no-one checked with him.

Winter weather in Austin, the Urban Dirt guy turning everybody’s water off (RW246)

Last year at about the same exact time they had what Texas refers to as the snowpocalypse and they covered it in too much detail a year or so ago when it was going on (see RW213). They got a series of very cold days in Texas, unusually cold for Texas, other places no big deal, Texas not prepared for this kind of thing. It stayed below freezing for many days, during which there was freezing rain and quite a bit of snow that stuck and stayed and the roads froze and the tree limbs got heavy and fell onto power lines. Worse than that was what happened to the generators in Texas because although technically they haven't seceded from the Union they kind of have and they have everything separate there. They have their own power grid that is not connected to anyone else, they can't share their power with anyone else and they can't pull power from anyone else.

They had failed to effectively winterize all of the big generators that provide power to all of Texas and the Texas power grid, and as a result of that when things started to go bad they started to go bad in a way that was a cascading failure that was affecting the generators, they were freezing, they weren't able to bring them back online, combined with the fact that everyone was told to drip their water for many days at a time, combined with sub-freezing temperatures that led pipes to burst so there was no water pressure and it couldn't be restored. The end result was that a lot of people had no power or water for weeks and Dan was one of them and it really sucked.

Supposedly they have winterized the generators so that they should be okay now, but they also have a very different scenario this year than they did last year in that it is not as cold as it was and it is not staying that cold for very long at all and it is much less snow than it was before to the fact that Dan even got a notification before they started the show that USPS is delivering a package to him today. Apparently, people are still doing stuff and it is not going to be like last year, but any indication that what happened last year might happen again is freaking people out.

Yesterday morning Dan got an email saying that the homeowners association is going to be sending out a new landscaping crew, replacing the old ones, and the new ones are going to be great. Dan usually wouldn't call someone out, but the name of the company is Urban Dirt. They said: ”You might see some trucks and some new faces around, but it is okay, they are ours!” Dan just happened to be looking out the front window, drinking a little bit of coffee, and he saw the Urban Dirt truck pull up, the jamoke jumped out of it and he ran over to the curbside water shut-off box, a little buried box where the lid is visible, you pop the lid off, you use your water key, a long metal T-shaped device that fits right over the little key, and you turn the water on or off. If it is turned to the off-position there are two little holes that line up so you could put a padlock in there if for example the person didn't pay their water they could come and lock it and you couldn't just turn it back on.

Dan saw him messing around with Dan’s and the neighbor’s and a couple of other ones and he was just doing this up and down the street and then he just drives off. He just turned the water off for no damn reason and Dan walked over to the sink and turned it on of course the water was off. Dan immediately went out there with his water key because he has been a homeowner for an eternity and he just turned it back on because he had no business touching his water supply.

Of course everybody in Austin completely panicked because they are shell-shocked from a year ago where they had no water and it just spontaneously turned off. Dan had an appointment to go to, he was getting his crap together, went in the truck and drive over to the appointment, and when he went outside he saw a large group of his neighbors, they all work from home now because of COVID and they were all outside, freaked out and Dan asked: ”You are talking about the water, aren't you?” - ”Yeah, is your water off, too? What is going on? It is only 55 degrees right now, this isn't supposed to happen yet!” - ”No, the Urban Dirt guy just turned off the water for the whole street for some reason!” - ”What are you talking about?” - ”Did you get the letter from the homeowners association?” - ”Yes, but they weren't supposed to turn off the water!”

By this time Dan had already called the homeowners association and told them what was going on and they said that should not be happening, they should never touch the main water supply, they don't know what they are doing, that is an emergency only situation, they made a mistake. Dan was not upset, he had turned it back on. They said they would let them know. The neighbors asked Dan: ”Can you help us do it?” - ”Yes!”, and he went up and down the street and turned people's water back on, went to his appointment and came back later that afternoon and he saw the same jamoke running up and down the street, checking all the waters, turning them back on, so apparently he got a little bit chewed out.

Nobody is in charge anymore! Who knows what he got told by whom and who cared enough… The person that actually had the big plan is probably sitting and thinking about their crypto or something. Who knows anymore! You don't get a feeling that there is one person that sees a plan all the way through.

Construction workers tearing up John’s street at 4am with a jackhammer (RW246)

John is surprised that their show hasn't been interrupted by the fact that the next door neighbors are putting a new roof on today. It was loud this morning. Four nights ago at 3am he heard a pipe banging, and there was a guy in a hard hat with a reflective vest and he had opened up a little metal covering, a valve of some kind, in the road, and was banging on it with a metal pipe at 3am. John thought: ”Well, he got a reflective vest, so it has got to be fine!” and he went back to bed and an hour later and there was a jackhammer going at 4am, and there were 3-4 people in reflective vests and there was a dump truck and they were running a jackhammer.

John thought again: ”Well, they got reflective vests. I am sure it is fine!” and he went back to bed. Normally he would go and ask if they pulled a permit because there is nothing he likes better than to be in his slippers and a bathrobe out in the middle of the street, just going: ”What is going on? What are you digging for?” because in order to get permission to start up a jackhammer at 4am you would need to have a geyser of water or natural gas or heating oil streaming out of the street. What could the problem have been that it would have directed their attention to the middle of the road enough to be tearing it up in the middle of the night? Normally John would be out there, but normally at 4am he would be up playing Tiddlywinks.

Dan thought that the last time they talked about this John had said 2am and they got to check with the guy who does the Wikipedia, he is such a cool guy (Jochen), to fact-check (see RW236, John went to bed at 2am, but it was an exception from his usual 4am).

John will stay up all night, but lately he is really trying not to and at 3am he was in the middle of sleeping. Normally all his little cat curiosity would be going full on, he would have known that guy was out there before he even started banging on a pipe because he would have seen his headlights because he would be sneaking around and now he was asleep and he went back to sleep and he has no idea what they were doing. The next day he walked out there and looked around where they had been working and he will never know until one day somebody else in a hard hat comes by here and John will ask and maybe they will have some institutional memory. All of a sudden John is like everybody else, not knowing what is going on.

Imagining the Northwest creating their own little republic within the United States (RW246)

John’s neighbors are tearing the roof off of their place over here, and they might have the same Jamoke, but John doesn’t want to use that term because it is a Florida thing and it feels like appropriation. Dan thinks it is okay, he also pronounces ”Colorado” like John does and ”diabetes” like Wilford Brimley did. They continue talking about the pronunciation of Colorado.

Colorado is the American West and John imagines how their non-US listeners are picturing the West that they only know from movies. It is hard to reconcile that California, Seattle, Texas, Colorado, and Montana all are in the American West, although that area encompasses a land mass as large as all of Europe. It is sort of the West, but not really. Many parts of that don't share any sympathy with one another, but they all would band together against Pennsylvania in a heartbeat.

As long as there is a United States, the Northwest would never want to leave, but they will absolutely enact own contradictory laws, tariffs, and border controls. They would still be in the United States, but be a special exclusionary zone within the United States that it's harder to get into than you might think, given that they are all one nation that has all its own laws. As a resident of this breakaway republic John is a little ambivalent, which is sad to say because for most of his life he couldn’t wait for the Northwest to form a Pax Cascadia and he would assume that there would be a role for him in the government.

Now John is not confident in the quality of the laws they would pass here. It would be his job to make the whole thing work, and he can hear his father's voice from 1990 saying: ”Go to law school!” If he had gone to law school there might be a backdoor way for him into the government, but as it is now he is not going to get invited to the Constitutional Convention and he is not sure he wants to live under the laws that they would come up with, knowing what he knows about the people from here, whom he trusts more than the people in, for instance, the American Congress or the Supreme Court or really any of the institutions that he has spent his life defending.

Instead John is going to have his own breakaway republic within the Northwest that makes its own laws that contradict the contradictory laws of the Northwest, and as Mando (from The Mandalorian) would say: ”That is not the way!” These are tricky times! Their listeners in other places have their own problems, people down in Australia don’t know what to bet on at the big camel race this season, while they up here are talking about wooden water pipes.

Different towns, different architectures, how most places are not really places (RW246)

Dan had a buddy in New Zealand who went to America and didn’t like it much. He went to Miami, which is not representative of most of America and it can’t be how you evaluate America.

Dan thinks that the way John travels is very different from the way that many other people travel. Most people travel either for a vacation, which doesn't count because in a vacation you are going on the tour, or they are doing it for business, in which case they are between their hotel room and the conference room and maybe they ate at a restaurant and saw a show. When John travels he is going to try and find an area to stay in where the people stay and live, find a hotel that is for the people, not for the tourists, and when we goes to eat somewhere he is not going to check Yelp which place has the best burger.

Instead he is going to walk the streets, find someone who very clearly lives there and is an experiencer of the place, connect with that person, and out of a 20-30 minutes conversation on the street they are going to make a recommendation for the right place to get a burger and that is where John is going to go. Every part of his experience is going to be that way, meaning his experiencing when he visits a place is more a window into what the person who might live there is going to experience than what the person experiences who stays in the Marriott, gets an Uber to the restaurant that they are meeting their friends at, and then they go to the airport. That is a very different experience!

New York is the one city to visit if you come to America

If a person was coming to visit the States and they could go to one city or town and spend their time there and leave having said: ”I feel like I do know what America is like!” where is that and what is that and where do they go? It has to be New York, even though New York is not representative of America exactly and is a singular place on the planet, but a lot of American places are too confusing to make sense of in a week's vacation.

Boston? If you live in Boston for a decade, how much do you understand it? There are 40 Bostons and the 40 Bostons don't like each other. Geographically over here is this, if you look over here let's just pretend this isn't here right now. Boston is not comprehendible. Philadelphia? How are you going to make sense of Philadelphia? You couldn't make sense of Philadelphia in a year! What is this? What happened here? There was a village, and then they put a town on top of it, and then they tried to build a city on top of the town, but they failed utterly and then they tried again to do it, and they failed a second time. So here it is! It is like a giant wedding cake that someone set on fire and then David Letterman shot it out of a canon. It is Philadelphia, the capital of America!

Baltimore? John was trying to explain Baltimore to somebody the other day, and words failed him. He had already been talking for 20 minutes and words failed him because what was he going to say about Baltimore? It is true of Los Angeles, too! A lot of people have this problem when they try to visit Los Angeles: What does that even mean? What is visiting Los Angeles? Los Angeles isn't even a place. Nobody who lives in Los Angeles even feels like they live in Los Angeles.

Los Angeles is a voice on the wind, a region between three other regions and there is no defined center to any one of those regions, and Los Angeles is a region surrounded by those regions. John challenges anyone to tell him where Los Angeles is. Is it downtown Los Angeles? No! There is almost no town in America that you can say that the Downtown of the town is nowhere near the town, and no-one considers it the town. And also, in addition to the 17 other things that might be Los Angeles before we get here, in 17th place is Downtown Los Angeles.

San Francisco used to be a great place for people to visit from around the world because San Francisco is uniquely itself and weirdly, even though there is a dozen San Franciscos it is comprehendible. It is almost the classic version of: Here is the Chinatown, here is the Italian town, here is the skid-rowy place, here are the fun little trolleys, here is the gay neighborhood, and this is the artist's place. There are vistas everywhere where you could stand somewhere and say like: ”I have seen this in a movie!” or: ”I could picture living here!”, ”This is the Rice-A-Roni box!”

But San Francisco now is impossible to be in because it has become a Blade Runner universe. There is nobody running the show there and hasn't been for 30 years and you can't be there, which is really a drag because it is one of the great places in the world, but they fucked it up because they are Liberals and Capitalists and those two things should never be allowed to run a thing together. If you are going to have Capitalists run a thing, have them be Republicans, and if you can have Liberals run a thing, have them be Socialists, but you don't want Liberal Capitalists running anything!

Maybe it is the opposite and only Liberal Capitalists should run things and in San Francisco you don't have enough of the two together. John is still working on that theory.

John has always recommended people to come to Seattle because you can see it all in one panorama: You got the water, the mountains, the forests, the city, the culture, but they have fucked it up beyond belief up there, too and John doesn’t recommend you come because it will make you sad. It makes John sad! Somebody says: ”I am visiting Seattle for the first time!”, he used to love getting those emails: ”Oh, great. Let me tell you the five things!” and now he would just be like: ”Oh no, don't come here now! You are going to hate it, or if you don't hate it you are going to feel awful!”

It boils down to New York because even during the 1970s, even when the power was off, even when Times Square was a war zone, it was always New York, it always endured. Every little bit of America is in it somewhere. If you stand in one place long enough all of America will go by you and it is very easy to understand because they thoughtfully built it on a grit, completely ignoring the geography and completely ignoring how people really are and think, they just built a grid in the style of Napoleon III, and there it is, you just go up to the corner of this and you turn left there and you go down to the corner of that.

People in small towns claiming that their town is the best

There might be a lot of people in America who would say that New York is the antithesis of where they live, that in fact New York is a hellhole, and saying that this is not only where someone should visit if they are visiting America, but that this is representative of their America, ”How dare you, sir?” That person is probably standing atop a tall peak in Montana as they have emerged from two weeks in the wilderness to find that their truck is precisely where they left it, untouched and unlocked, their dog and the raccoon that they adopted on their shoulder, walking out of the woods saying: ”Let me get the Falcon in and its carrier as I laugh at the folks in New York struggling to buy a loaf of bread!”

Dan enjoys visiting New York, it is not what people think it is, it is a very welcoming place in a lot of ways. People imagine it as this cold, rough place that you don't want to go and where people are mean, but you are actually thinking of Philadelphia when you are thinking about that. New York is a very friendly place for the most part! Then there are a lot of people who would say: ”No, John! Don't send people to New York! There are enough people in New York already!”

If you want to go to a Midwestern city that exemplifies the United States as a Western place, the answer is Calgary, which is the most American of Canadian cow towns. Calgary is like Denver if Denver wasn't so fucked up! Dan claims that John hates Denver, he talked about the brown cloud and all the other stuff about it, but John says he doesn’t hate Denver. It is a kind of brotherly love he feels for Denver and how badly they have fucked up over the course of decades of fucking up. It is part of the Denver character all the way back to the 1860s, they just can't help themselves. John is loving it a lot, it is the Mile High City!

Philly is the city of brotherly love and you can really feel it! The first time Dan’s dad got mugged at knifepoint, he was like: ”I was involved at knifepoint last night!” - ”What do you mean?” - ”Yeah, it really sucked!” - ”Are you all right?” - ”Yeah, I'm fine!” - ”What did they take?” - ”Oh, they took everything!” - ”What do you mean?” - ”They took my rings, my wallet, my glasses, everything!” - ”What did they take your glasses for?” - ”Why not? They are mugging me. Take everything!” and he was unfazed by it, he was just walking home and this is normal. This was the 1970s, but whatever!

Most Americans who hate New York, if you really went with them to their place, they would not be taking you falconing in Montana, but they would take you to their town and they would have to drive you around the town and you would get in their car with them and you would have a hard time knowing where you were because it would all kind of look the same and they would be pointing to businesses: ”There is the bowling alley, and up here on the right is the Piggly Wiggly!”, you just got a bunch of one story tall stores and stuff that are all separated from one another. This isn't a town. It is just strip malls.

Then they would turn left and you would be in the middle of a town that once was cute, you would perk up and look around, but none of the stores appeal to you and the person who was giving you the tour would be embarrassed a little bit about the town, saying: ”No, this is the old town, but it is coming back. We are working on it!” or something. Looking around, there would be no evidence of that, there would be some banks, the legacy stores are all gone, and then you would be out driving around the roads again, and they would be like: ”Over here is where I went to High School!” and your overall impression would be that in the United States there was no there there.

Those are the people that are convinced that they are from the best place in the world and that they don't need Chicago or New York or all those Hollywood movies, that they are from God's Country, but they have to confess that whatever it is that is great about it there is something that has a lot more to do with how they feel when they go into the grocery store and how welcome they feel at the Chick Fil-A and maybe what their Church is like, but it is not because there is a real sense of place beyond the sense of place that is communicated in the relationships they have with people.

Other examples

In Columbus, Ohio, there is a newly revitalized downtown area and the College, but really outside of ten blocks you got to hop in a car and you got to drive around Columbus and actually this thing is 2 miles over here and all the architecture is kind of the same, and a lot of things are hidden behind trees and outside of the very heart of it, there is nothing that distinguishes it from outside of the center of Indianapolis. That is not true of New York, San Francisco, Philadelphia, or Miami. Those places are themselves and unique, but not duplicable.

If you go to France and somebody says: ”Don't go to Paris! It is not representative of France!” - ”Oh, what is representative of France?” - ”You have to go to Provence!” and you get to Provence and you are like: ”Well okay, here we are. Where is the center?” Over here is a place and over here is another place. There is no there there, there is no Provence, it is just a collection of buildings and of places to go. But Paris, you walk out the door of your hotel and you are in Paris immediately, you are in Paris all day, everything is Paris, every little thing is, every piece of dog poop on the sidewalk is Paris.

John really hopes that they will make Seattle a place to visit again one day. In Austin there is 6th street, and then there is the business downtown, which has to be there, but nobody cares, and then there is Lady Bird Lake and everything else you would want to see in Austin is either North, South, East or West. You get in your car and you go over there, you go down here, the neighborhoods have distinct characters, but would that be obvious to someone from New Zealand? ”Oh, no, that is Southeast Austin! The Mexican restaurants in Southeast Austin are so different than the Mexican restaurants in Northwest Austin!”

Houston is a weird place that John recommends visiting. New Orleans of course, but in a weird way New Orleans is just a Disney version of itself now. Mobile! There is where you go! It is a cute little town. Atlanta is very itself, way more than a lot of cities that are even smaller and cuter. There is way more to see in Atlanta than there would ever be in Nashville! Nashville? Don't hurt yourself to get to Nashville. John says that with a lot of love for Nashvilleans, but anyone listening to this program in Nashville right now knows what he is talking about. You know what you have done!

Different unknown neighborhoods in Austin

If you live in or around Downtown Austin, it is not snobbery, they don't think that they are better, they just disassociate themselves from the fact that other parts of Austin exist and are considered to be Austin. Up North is just 10 minutes north of Downtown for them. Dan has seen different people come out with different maps of Austin and what they consider to be a neighborhood. If you look at the map of Austin neighborhoods, which there are many different versions of, there is Downtown, there is Tarrytown, Hyde Park, North Campus, Mueller, East Austin, North Central Austin where Dan is, he is in in the Norther part of North Central Austin because North Central Austin is a huge area.

This makes as much sense to Austinites as it does to anyone listening right now, which is to say not very much. Then there is West Lake. Dan is North of the University, but not all the way up to Austin Community College. One of Dan’s favorite areas is Clarksville. The East Side is where all the cool people want to go now. The area that Dan is in is technically right on the border where Crestview and Brentwood interconnect, just North of Violet Crown. On the way down from there is what they would call really Downtown, and there are all these little neighborhoods that only people who live in them even know what they are called. Dan continues to list names of neighborhoods and emphasizes that nobody knows them and where they begin and end.

Different architecture for different climate region

John’s daughter's mother is in Tucson right now, an example of a place with a real vibe. Old Tucson and the neighborhoods there that are made out of Adobe houses and Downtown built around the Congress Hotel and the University, it is a real place as opposed to Phoenix, which is the ultimate hole in the ground in terms of the fact that they have got a city of several million people there where nothing should be. They put a city where there should be nothing. It should just be tumbleweeds.

Scottsdale has a reason to be there, but Tucson is a real place, and yet sometimes John will be driving around in Seattle and he will see a house and think: ”Wait, that house belongs in Tucson? Who would have built that here? Somebody had a crazy idea!” and one house that looks like it belongs in Tucson in Seattle is fun, but in Tucson now the new houses don't look like Tucson houses, they look like the exact same houses that they are building out in the suburbs in Seattle, but a house that works in Seattle and a house that works in Tucson share nothing, if they work.

To build a house in Tucson is to crank up the AC from the moment you turn on the power and never turn the AC off again, and to build that house in Seattle is to gradually watch the water stains take over the drywall until the drywall starts falling off in patches. There is no way you could build one house for both places and yet that is the world we are living in. There is an architecture in Tucson that belongs there for a reason. They came up with it to handle the harsh climate.

The same is true in Seattle! There is a way to build a house in Seattle that works. The idea that you could drive around America and see the same house over and over, the same mall, the same buildings over and over in a place that is so wide ranging, so crazy as it is here? There is nothing at all that Los Angeles has in common with Virginia Beach. They are both on the Beach, but beyond that they should share nothing.

Some people have lived in places that are established and old and have been around for hundreds or maybe many hundreds of years, from a village or a city in Europe where buildings have been around for hundreds of years. On the other side there is nothing old in Florida, the ancient stuff in Florida isn't very old at all, and everything looks new there, especially in the areas that have been kept up and are really nice. There isn't any long history in most of the places and a lot of America is like that. The housing developments that get built, there is the same house with slightly different roof, different window configuration, garage on the opposite side, and that is the entire neighborhood of 1000 homes. That is weird when you think about that! It is not how people want to live, it is not how people want to drive around and be inspired.

John’s neighborhood’s architecture, the neighborhood turning its back on itself

John’s neighborhood was built at a time when the presumption was that the car was the way we were going to move around, his house was built in 1955. As they were laying out the neighborhood you could tell that they were expressing new ideas about privacy, about how the house and the land it was on would interact with each other. It was the era where there are a lot of cul-de-sacs, there are a lot of situations where five houses are built on a long dead-end driveway, and houses where mid-century architecture often turns its back to the street in favor of having the house open up to its own backyard and all the windows are facing the back and the front just looks like a bunker.

A lot of things result from that. The philosophy of that architecture was about what it was to live in your home. Those houses are always a huge good surprise when you walk inside because there is nothing on the outside to signal what you are about to experience. You walk in and you are like: "Wow!” From the outside it just looked like a bunker and on the inside it is airy and light and really integrated into the space, but the problem is that the neighborhoods themselves turn their back on themselves. You go out for a walk in these neighborhoods and there is nothing to see. If you are interested in architecture, a lot of the best houses are up these dead-end driveways with five houses on them, but you don't feel comfortable walking up there, peering over the front of the garage.

In the 1950s the idea was that architecture was a private pleasure for the owner of the house and their guests, but architecture serves a social function as a way to communicate with passers by, and walking through a neighborhood where every one of these houses is incredible, but none of it is visible is a drag. The privacy is great, the experience of being in the house is great, but the language isn't a shared language. And one of the things that the privacy and car-driven nature of the concept behind this neighborhood is that if you are in point A and you want to walk to point B, there are no shortcuts. You go to the end of one of these cul-de-sacs and where all it would take is 100ft of connective trail to get from the end of this cul-de-sac to the end of the next there is none. Very definitely there is a house built right where the shortcut should be and there is a fence very specifically to keep you from doing that.

The effect of it over time is crushing because the soul knows when you are at point A which way to go to get to point B, it is that way! You want to wind your way through the forest! On your way you want to see your neighbors, you want to see interesting things. People don't want to interact, but it is awful, it is terrible! Dan had this interaction with his neighbors about the water having been turned off, and he hadn’t met some of them before. If you have lived somewhere for a year or more, you should know all your neighbors, but they don't come out. You walk by, like: ”Hi!”

People not knowing their neighbors anymore

People are conditioned now for whatever reason, and COVID just made it worse: If they weren't already a little leery about just meeting people, now everybody is very leery about it. It used to be that you knew your neighbors and you knew them because you wanted to know them and they wanted to know you because we have to know each other because we are cohabitating and sharing a very closely touching space with one another. You don't want the first time that you meet your neighbor to be when you are apologizing for the construction that is about to happen or when they are making noise and you want them to be quiet. That is not the time to be a bud, that is not the time to introduce yourself to the neighbor, you want to already know.

In a prior house Dan had a neighbor who had sold their house and the new owners moved in and for whatever reason they always left a side light on, it was shining all the time 24/7, it was a very bright floodlight, and it was shining into one of Dan’s kids’ windows. Okay, they just moved in, let’s give them a few days, they will realize it is turned on and they will turn it off, and they didn't. A week or so went by and they just left it on. It was always on, even during the day. Dan didn't care personally, but it was bothering his kids and you want your kid to not have a floodlight shining into their room at night.

They put up a blackout curtain, but that is not The Solution. How do you have that conversation? ”Hey, I am Dan! I live next door! What is your name? By the way: You got this floodlight!” That is not cool. You want to have had the first conversation already, so that it is now the third or fourth conversation where you are now asking them to modify their behavior. But Dan had to do it on the first time, he was talking to this woman, just chatting around, and at the end on his way out like Colombo: ”One more thing: Do you think you could turn that light off at night? It shines into my kid’s room!” - ”Oh, that is why you stopped by?” She saw right through the whole thing! They had been hanging out for half an hour and were best friends at this point.

Dan smiled and said: ”That is a reason!” and she laughed and said: ”It is no problem, we will turn it off!” She saw through it, she knew by that point that Dan had an agenda. That is the way that we are now. We don't just know people because it is interesting to know people that we live around. ”I don't know those neighbors. I don’t want to talk to them!” - ”Why not? They might be great people!” - ”Well, I mean, if they like me they will be over all the time!” - ”Maybe they have their own life, too! What is so bad if you talk to your neighbor sometimes?” - ”They are not in the Zoom invitation list, so…”

Dan and John are going to foster community and bring people back together. It is all going to happen as a result of podcasts. That is what is going to rebuild community!


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