RW46 - They guy on the edge of town

This week, Dan and John talk about

The show title refers to John seeing himself as the guy who lives on the edge of town, not off in the woods, because he likes to go to town, but living just outside of it and sometimes not being there at all.

John was recording from a hotel wifi and the audio quality was quite bad at times, but he made it work!

Draft version
The segments below are drafts that will be incorporated into the rest of the Wiki as time permits.

Having trouble connecting to the Internet from an hotel (RW46)

John was recording from his hotel room and he was having some trouble getting the Internet all set up. He is grandfathered in his original unlimited AT&T plan that he refuses to switch away from although they are brilliantly turning this plan into an incredible albatross. One of the things they do is to prevent you from setting up a personal hotspot, but you have to call in and get a different plan for that. There are so many things you can’t do with an unlimited plan that you might find that an unlimited plan just isn’t worth having. They are scumbags who already pushed John to the wall, but he is just being stubborn.

When John was trying to log into the Holiday Inn web portal, it insisted that he had to reboot his laptop and upon reboot the laptop wanted him to go through some song and dance about iCloud and he had to configure his iCloud and agree to some new terms and conditions. That is the end of his screed and he is so glad to be here.

John visiting San Francisco (RW46)

John was sitting in the Holiday Inn on beautiful San Francisco’s famous and indisputably best street Van Ness Avenue, yelling at his cup of tea like an 80-year old. He made some coffee in the Keurig and because he had just woken up he forgot that English Breakfast isn’t a kind of coffee and it looked like the worst coffee when it came out, but then he realized that it smelled like tea. Dan is a huge fan of the Keurig, as bad as they are environmentally. They were wonderful things when he had his first kid and was on a weird schedule and just needed that one cup on demand. Those little plastic cups are bad for the landfills, until we mine those landfills, but that is a different podcast //(reference to Supertrain, see RW25).

John is not visiting Merlin because Merlin is an eccentric and you are not allowed to visit him anymore in San Francisco. There is a process! A friend of John’s remarked the other day that both people John does podcasts with are eccentric people, but of course they are! Who else would do a podcast with uncle John? Dan always wanted been termed eccentric, but it had never been used toward him before and he likes John doing it! Even if John had wished to see Merlin in San Francisco, it would probably not have been possible.

World Series of Poetry (RW46)

John got invited to host the World Series of Poetry competition. The idea is to get poets who are working in the traditional style of writing poems to come out into a public setting with a lively spirit of competition and read poems from their collected works. They are not improvising poems, but they are all established poets with books published. They bring all their books on stage with them, John draws a prompt from a hat that ranges across the whole spectrum of poetry prompts, like ”Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups”, and the poets have a few moments to scan through all their books and read a poem in response to the prompt.

If you are lucky enough and have once upon a time written a poem about Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, then you already have a leg up, but because they are poets they will mostly take it as a broad suggestion and read their poem about their baby they call Sugar. It is very interesting to watch poets react on the fly and read their poems aloud. There are poetry-professors who critique the poems as judges, despite those being published works. They offer a critical assessment, compare and contrast the two and then award a point. At the end of the night, the red team or the blue team wins the poetry baseball. It is a lot of fun and attracts a weird crowd. John is doing it again in Seattle 10 days from now on the 22nd of October. They have chosen John as the preferred host of the poetry baseball and this is one more little chip in his bag of jobs. Lord knows how they found him!

Once John arrived and met the organizers and poets, he felt a kinship with these people because they are part of the larger culture he lives in. If he was visiting a strange town and a friend said ”Hey, let’s go to the poetry baseball!”, John’s initial reaction would be ”No!”, but if they insisted and said that John would love it, he wouldn’t protest. Of course he will love it! It is fun and your initial refusal is just curmudgeonly.

Because John had tweeted that he was here, some people came just on a lark and every one of them reported having a great time. He often tweets that he is somewhere and there will always be somebody, usually a little crowd. Often the person was just nearby when they saw John’s thing and found it hilarious that he was just over there. It is the fun of making the Internet real in life!

Almost anyone in a public place could do this because we all have friends on the Internet that we don’t know. Even if you have just 150 Twitter followers, you probably don’t know them all or you don’t know where they are. If John says that he is in San Francisco, he definitely drinks enough coffee in a day that he can spare a coffee with each person who shows up. His problem is that he doesn’t promote things very far in advance and he sends out a tweet at 5:30pm for an event that is at 7pm. A lot of people replied that they wished they had known about it more than 1,5 hours in advance, but that is too bad because they are not his boss. John talked to 3 people who had come up, maybe there were more, but all 3 of them were interesting and super-good people to talk to!

Introvert/Extrovert (RW46)

If you are a native introvert who has the capacity to socialize in short bursts like John, cater to your nature! If you are a total introvert and you never want to be around anybody, you are probably already catering to that nature and hopefully you have found a lifestyle that allows for that. When any social interaction is uncomfortable, you really have to plan for it, but John needs to bump up against people a little bit, he just doesn’t want them to suck up his life energy. He will hit a wall, but before he hits this wall, let’s talk!

Understanding that John was an introvert was a profound revelation. In the same way, when people are introduced to the Myers & Briggs personality types, a weight is lifted from them because they find out in a simple test that they are a certain type like an INFP and the description of that type comports with who they already thought they were. Giving gave voice to their prior suspicion feels liberating because a lot of us feel out of step with the rest of the culture. You are a certain type of person and every one of them deviates from the mean, some of them are less likely than others.

After living with your revelation for a while you will see the cracks in how sufficiently it describes you as a person because in some ways you are more this than that. It isn’t quite revealed to be like a fortune teller or like astrology, because if you read an astrologer’s star chart of you, it feels incredibly accurate because the astrologer says that you are a really caring person who sometimes feels that her caring isn’t appreciated.

Accepting the diagnosis of introversion was such a liberation for John! Not being motivated like other people seemed to be motivated and always being at odds had tormented him in interactions with other people. It felt natural for John to desire to wrap up an interaction pretty quickly and go away, find his preferred place in his own company, and sailing along, not necessarily home in a box, but walking through the city at night alone. It was fine if someone wanted to come with him, but he wasn’t going to invite them because the desire to have somebody there was secondary.

Those preferences put John at odds with everybody who was trying to have a relationship with him. Now he has walked around for 10 years and explained almost every social impulse with being an introvert, but people always laugh because John is a very public person who knows a lot of people and who he is always out in public doing stuff. That this is true, but it is a defense mechanism he learned from his dad who was an extroverted person. John understood that you could be social and that is how you keep your private space.

Over the years it felt too simplistic, but John still calls himself an introvert. It explains why he is always peering longingly at the exit door although he really does have a good time with people. It is just that if you ask him if he wants to go into that room and meet some people, if he is honest he will say "No!" He would rather you would take your hand off his arm, he will point down the hall and say ”Look!” and when you turn around, he will just slip around the corner and walk very quickly. Hopefully he will be out of the hotel by the time you realize he is gone.

That is John’s instinct, but if you push him into the room, he will try to have a good time. He can’t reduce it down to a type. John's sister does not want to slip out of the back door of the hotel at all, but she wants to go in the room. "Why are we still in the hall?! She gets fed up and irritated with people and at the end of the night she will be tired and wants to go, but she does not get overloaded and her synapses don't make her incapable of processing new emotional energy, which is what happens to John.

Dan has seen John in social situations and no-one would ever put John in the category of a seeming introvert. Dan knows lots of people who are more introverted and the image we have of an introverted person is a person at the outskirts of the conversation. They are just standing there listening, they are off to the side and at the earliest opportunity they will leave and won’t talk to anybody in 3 days because they are recovering.

That is the stereotypical image we have of an introvert, whereas John is frequently in the category of ”Life of the party”, although Dan knows John is introverted. It is not an act! People will see John at a party sitting by the fire, maybe in an old Rocker (rocking chair) with a flannel blanket over his knee, with a throng of people around him, and spinning a yarn. Maybe he has a pipe, maybe it is not even lit, but it is only there for effect, and he has an old fisherman’s hat on with the lures in it. That would be a natural thing for John to do, but that is also a kind of performance in the same way than getting up on stage would be a performance.

Why is it that Dan hears it so many times from performers, from artists who’s job it is to get up on stage in front of people and do a show, that they also happen to be the most introverted people you would ever meet? From the perspective of an introvert the luckiest people are the ones who have all that energy. John admires extroverted people, but from within an introverted mentality, extroverted people seem like they are having fun at the expense of having depth.

People who suffer from psychological maladies like anxiety and depression say all the time that although depression is a great burden, when you encounter people who aren’t depressed and have never been depressed, you feel like you can’t trust them. It creates a strange subculture! The musicians John knows who are unburdened of social or spiritual anxiety get up there and start a party and all they are doing is having fun. It is amazing to watch and he envies them profoundly.

There is a singer of an Austin band that The Long Winters got compared to over the years, but as time went on John realized that those articles that say that the Long Winters are like Ted Leo and the Pharmacists or The Old 97’s are not true at all. It was just some writer who had heard both their songs and was trying to make some comparison. For a long time John was trying to figure out how they were like The Old 97’s and it confused him until he realized that when he writes an article about something, he does the exact same thing. "Jennifer Aniston is sort of the Kirkegaard of the cast of Friends." That doesn’t mean anything at all!

When you play a big festival together and you are sitting around the hotel lobby after the show, the musicians who are just living the life in their extroversion are having an uncomplicated experience. There are all these cliches like living in the moment and being present and you can watch those people living entirely in the moment! It does not seem that while being in a hotel lobby surrounded by fans and drinking red whine they are doing what John is doing, which is replaying and processing things that happened 15 years ago, gently watering every fear and anxiety he has ever had with a copper watering can, being certain that he is an UFO who just landed from another universe.

Those people do not appear to be carrying on conversations and they do not appear to be receiving all that unnecessary telegraph data. There is always a morse code with messages from across the Atlantic in John’s head: ”Charles Lindberg has landed in Paris!” although he is in Barcelona right now, eating paella with a beautiful girl. Why is he not just here? John sees that related to introversion, although it is not in the definition.

When John first heard from a friend that she thought he was an introvert, he rebelled against it because he knows a lot of people who are just visibly introvert. John took the word to mean a lack of social dexterity, but his friends insisted that John was the most introverted person she knew. Almost everybody she knew was an introvert, but John was the one that was the hardest to penetrate.

As she explained it, John understood what she was saying and her describing all these things he never had a name for made him feel liberated. When John is in a group of introverted people professing fellow introversion there is still a gulf. They accept what he is saying with a smile, but he is a different bird. John can speak to introverts knowingly, but he is also their center of attention. You can’t give a one-word description for it.

When John moved into his house out in South Seattle finally felt liberated from the confines of the forced interaction of the town. For weeks at a time he made no attempt to be in the company of other people. After having puttered around the house without speaking aloud for 7 days, his voice creaked the next time he answered the phone. John's instinct is to go all the way away, but after that he forced himself into the culture again.

Dan is definitely not an extrovert in that stereotypical image as somebody who is going out every night with a huge group of friends. He is quite content to have a small group of friends and he is very careful whom he would call a friend, but Dan has never been nervous to get up in front of a crowd. He does not have any kind of social phobias and anxieties and the phobias he does have are not any of the social ones.

Dan might have to move if he saw more than 3 spiders in a 24-hour period, but he doesn’t bat an eye or get nervous when he has to get up in front of very large group of people to give a talk or to host a thing. He doesn’t even think about it before he has to do it. None of his friends have ever been like that! He totally knows what John means that he halfway through thinks of going home and stick to his regiment. Dan doesn’t feel drained at the end when he has been at an event where there are lots of people, but he either feels neutral or energized from being with people. Still, he totally knows what John is saying in that he would be content in seeing the same very small group of people for extended periods of time.

For John there is always a 5% chance that he would do anything across the board, because he has zero regiment and is only limited by resources and his physical position in space. Because he has a child, he has to be places at times, but before he had her, it happened to him that he was walking down the streets of Seattle and a guy pulled up in a car and ”Hey John, I haven’t see you in a long time! I’m going to Alaska!” and John asked ”Can I come?” and he said ”Yeah” and John just got in the car and they drove to Alaska. John knew some people in Alaska, obviously, including his mother and therefore he had a place to go when he got there, but until very recently there wasn’t anything keeping him from doing that. Even now his daughter is his only responsibility and if he is not obligated to pick her up that day or if he is not her caregiver at any given moment, it is back to the same old thing.

Dan described an introvert as somebody wanting to be with a small group of friends by default and that is also what his old friend was saying, but that is not the case with John at all! What makes it difficult is that John has many groups of close friends and in most cases he is thought of from within the group as a member of the group, but while they socialize primarily with each, John is a member of a multitude of these groups and in each one he fulfills the role of the one guy who doesn’t come to everything they do and he is the person that somehow is a close member of the family, but he also the one who cancels or doesn’t reply.

John is the problematic friend who can’t be nailed down and who isn’t ever there, but he is still invited to the most intimate of those gatherings. He is in the wedding party, but from within his own mind. For him it is very natural to be a member of multiple groups of close friends, but he is not misleading anybody, he is not a member of some group under false pretenses, but they prefer to socialize with each other, while John needs to leave at a certain point and socialize with other people. He is the most uncomfortable and the most looking-for-the-exit on about day 3 of a concentrated amount of time with a small group of friends.

The initial experience of having names for his predispositions or predilections is a feeling of great relief, because John is not sick, but he is a kind or a type. When John was in college, the group of people that he was close with was tight with each other, there were girls and guys in equal numbers and there was a little bit of dating within the gang. John went out with this girl and then with that girl, but then the others started to pair off and get married to one another and they still persist as a group of friends. John would still be invited to their gatherings and he would still be considered as one of their close friends, but as he watched that group morph into its next form, there was absolutely no way that he was going to make that transformation. He wasn’t going to marry anybody in that group, he wasn’t getting together with them. They were going to face the future together as a group and John was headed in the opposite direction alone.

This happened many times throughout John’s life. There was another group he was very close with and whom he loved, but they were all coalescing and they wanted to feel closeness and have cocktail parties and be a clan, while John was always headed in the opposite directions. He always felt sorrow about what he was missing because it seemed like people usually do want closeness and community, but John was just this free radical, the electron that gets kicked out every time. Sometimes the group would even coalesce around John and he would still end up being the electron. Giving that name was a great relief but now he is laboring under the fact that not only are the names not sufficient, but maybe the name is inhibiting, too!

Bachelor party with paintball gear (RW46)

This weekend John will be going to a bachelor party which has gradually gone from a bachelor party night to a 3 day long bachelor party weekend, taking place in a small cabin in the forest near the ocean. John is going to drive his RV there and the RV is going to be like a bunk house next to the cabin. There will only be 6 dudes there who are the groomsmen and it is going to be super-intense, because for the other 5 of them this is their main gang. They see each other all the time and they are super-tight and John is super-tight with them, but this is going to be a level of intimacy with them that he generally escapes from.

First of all, there is an epic 100-year storm coming to Seattle with 100 mph winds and torrential rain while they are going to be in the forrest at this cabin. The guys are planning on bringing the meat of 50 animals and most of them don’t drink anymore, so it is not going to be a crazy booze-fest. The cabin is out where there is no TV and all that means they are going to sit around and whittle while Rome is burning because there are going to be tidal waves.

Then somebody suggested to go to Cabella’s and get full paintball combat equipment. While this storm is raging and trees are falling in the forest, they will be 6 middle-aged dudes with camo-facepaint on, knee-deep in the mud, trying to shoot one another. Could there be a better bachelor party? John can’t imagine a thing he would love more! Huddling under a rotting log in the woods for 4 hours, just waiting for some dummy to come along so he can shoot him. That is a bachelor party! Let’s do that 3 days in a row and hope that one of them doesn’t die, because that would be very awkward on the wedding day.

John feeling like he is always disappointing people (RW46)

John has always felt like a tremendous disappointment to people. It is one of the main feelings he carries and all of his interactions with people close to him are predicated on his own sense that if he is not a disappointment to them now, he will be shortly. This comes from constantly being a disappointment to people and it might have started already when he was 7 years old. It has to do with unrealistic expectations and with not ever being able to accept ”what is”, but aways comparing ”what is” to ”what could be”. The conversation John had over and over again in a lot of his close relationships is that a person loves him and is asking him ”What is the problem? This is so easy! We want to be together, let’s be together!” and John would say ”It does seem easy, but I would like to leave now!”

John is not leaving because he doesn’t like them or because he doesn’t like the closeness with them, but he just also wants to be an independent operator who walks the city at night alone. Then they will say that it is fine and John can walk the city at night alone on a schedule, like Wednesdays and Saturdays from 11pm to 1am, but John couldn’t imagine it! It is not that he resisted or rebelled, like ”You can’t pin me down!”, but that is speaking a different language, kind of like in that exchange they had a second ago.

Going on a walk around town between 11pm and 1am on Wednesdays and Saturdays is not at all the same thing! They are describing a different life. At that point the disappointment is mutual and in John’s case always super-sad because he sits there in the chair and doesn’t want this relationship to end and they say they can’t live in a world where John is an electron, just bouncing around creating different elements all the time.

John, the person on the edge of town (RW46)

As John has gotten older, there was that great period where he was liberated by his new theology that he was a certain type and he wasn’t doing what he was doing because he was incapable of something or because he was mean. The one refrain he heard over and over during his whole life is that he just hasn’t met the person or people that he is meant to be with. Everybody will find their thing and John hasn’t found his thing yet, which is why he is not able or ready to make these leaps. John always resisted that and thought it was reductive! No, he has met the person or people multiple time, it is not that he is waiting around to fall in love, those things have happened, but it is just that he is made to perform a different role. There is always someone who lives on the edge of town.

There are people who go out to the mountains and come back every 5 years with a bunch of pelts, but John is not one of those people. He likes to come to town, but he lives on the far edge of town, just outside of it along the river. Travelers who come through meet him and he is often gone for long periods. John does not get lonely, which Dan thinks that is unique to John. Many people would become lonely living on the outskirts of town, because they need more human interaction than that.

That is the flip-side: John doesn’t feel a deprivation from feeling lonely or not being able to meet his people, but a deprivation of loving these people who are all now going into the next phase of life together. They are going to feel close intimacy with one another and their lives are going to take share around one another, while John doesn’t want that at all. As the ship sails away and John is on the dock waving, they are consumed with their new lives and they are not waving back at him. They are on the ship, headed out, while John is on the dock.

John feels the deprivation of not ever knowing what it feels like to be in it. He doesn’t want it and it is not a lack of bravery, but it feels like a lack of bravery. He is not brave enough to join them on the boat. People saying that he is not brave enough to live on the edge of town is similarly wrong. It doesn’t require bravery, but when he goes to the edge of town and stakes his claim, that is what he wants to do and what he is meant to do. It doesn’t feel brave, but it just feels necessary.

People from the outside say that they would never dare to do that, but that is because it is not what they want. John doesn’t want to be on the boat, but he feels that this is a similar sort of ”If only” he had just a little bit more of a certain kind of taste of humanity. John has full humanity, but whatever the spices of it are, he doesn’t have the spices that would ever identify him as the cuisine of a region. His spices remind you of something, and it is not bland, but it is not local either.

Now John is in a different phase of life. He is in adulthood and his daughter has located him in space and time. He is ready to make another evolution because it would be very easy for him to stay on the edge of town.

Possibility to by a church (RW46)

The other day John's mom sent him a link to a church for sale in Tacoma, Washington. It is a full-on church, not some little store-front church, but a church with a steeple, stained glass, the whole kit and caboodle, and it is a church that John could afford to buy. It is a little run-down in a little bit of a run-down neighborhood, but one that will bloom again. John has always wanted to live in a church and turn it into a home.

Many years ago John was walking in the fields outside of the town of Harwich in England and there was a stone church sitting up on the hill, looking over the English channel. It was far enough away from London, but it was commutable in the same way that a waterfront home in Connecticut is commutable to someone in New York City if that was really the thing you wanted and you would be ready to spend 2 hours on the train every day.

John walked through the country and he approached this little stone church, it wasn’t in decay but it looked nice and it was surrounded by fields of grass. As he walked up, he peered into the window, saw that it had been converted into a luxury home and tried to imagine who could live in a church outside of Harwich. It had been outfitted with contemporary lighting for the time where they strung a wire across the room and little lights were hanging from the wire.

There was nobody home and John peered into all the churchy windows and was in awe. Whoever those people were, even if it took them 2 hours to get to London, John understood why they lived in this place. The ceilings were tall and the room was open, there was all that room for your thoughts to go up into the rafters and then they are up there and you are not bumping into them all day. Your thoughts and your craziness can go out around the ceiling fans and the space down here where you are walking around, making coffee and stuff can be clear of them.

John always wanted to live in a church even before he saw this one in England. Now there is this church in Tacoma and John’s mom sent it to him, like ”Lol, here is your church!” and John is thinking ”How fast can I sell my house?” He is not sure right now what stage of life he is in. At middle age you see it all the time how easy it is to resign at this point in life. It never feels like that because it is not a single motion and you are not presented with another opportunity of life and decide that you resign, but it is an incremental, small resignation.

John is an introvert, a recovering alcoholic, a father, and a musician. Those questions are answered and they suggest what he is capable of. They suggest a future to him in ways that makes him comfortable. When a decision comes along, he has toolbox that allows him to know what his choice is. From where he stands, he sees a lot of people marching, maybe joyfully, but marching into a future where they are themselves. John has not lived that way in the past, but it is very tempting now because he has learned so much about who he is. He is ready for some comfort, ready for some security, but the important part to him is not the knowledge that he has gained about who he is, but it is the process by which he has gained that knowledge. The process is the important data and John needs to keep applying that process rather than harvest the crop of what he has learned and use that. It is like to keep teaching himself to fish.

Does he buy a church? That was absolutely his dream 15 years ago and buying a church and living in it would be so on-brand, there is not a single person in the world that wouldn’t go like ”Tip of the hat! He lives in a church now! Gold star!” John could live in a church until he was 90 years old and no-one would bat an eye, but the important information at this point is that he needs to keep seeking.

All the seeking he has done throughout his life was not in order to actually find, but it was seeking for its own sake. John has learned enough that he can easily say that he has found what he was seeking and he just has to turn the wheel of the car and point it back out on the highway, force himself back out on the road and we will see. He has to stay on the road and feel like he has actually metamorphosed. It is a metaphorical road obviously, and not one like in the book called The Road. Within himself, how does he keep from sitting back in his chair?

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