RW6 - Nebbishy Vulnerability

This week, Dan and John talk about:

The show title refers to John being allergic to feathers and requiring a hypoallergenic pillow, which he sees as a nebbish vulnerability in cases where he has to survive with as little as possible.

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

The viral Pizza Rat video (RW6)

John was just watching YouTube videos of rats getting caught in rat traps. He was originally looking at the video of Pizza Rat that he had seen on Twitter, but he usually lets a couple of days go by before he really investigates a Twitter meme and although everybody was like "Pizza Rat!", John didn't care at first. When people are then still saying "Pizza Rat!" after two days into a thing, he will go figure out what Pizza Rat is. He also read an article in Wired about how people were monetizing Pizza Rat, because apparently there is a company that very early on in Pizza Rat's ark, immediately upon it arrival in the world identified Pizza Rat as a potentially viral piece of content.

The company is called Jukin Media and somebody from Jukin Media was scanning the Internet and saw Pizza Rat when it only had 2500 views, but they knew Pizza Rat was going to be big. They reached out to Pizza Rat's creator, the person who had the foresight to see a rat dragging a piece of pizza down the stairs in the New York City subway. If John had filmed every rat he saw doing something interesting in the New York City subway system, he would be a millionaire! Even though there are 200 million videos an hour, the company just had a good feeling about this one in particular. The guy signed a contract with them and now Jukin Media owns #pizzarat and they are collecting advertising revenue on all of the many millions of views it now has acquired, sharing that money with the original creator and they are all getting rich.

The smoke hasn't cleared yet, but as soon as Pizza Rat has 5 million views, Matt Little, who - surprise surprise - is an actor and a comedian in New York City (What are the chances that there would be an actor and comedian living in New York who had the fucking quick wittedness to film Pizza Rat?), is not going to have to be an actor or comedian for long, because he is presumably going to get just that one followed by 100 zeros check for all the great revenue Pizza Rat has generated.

John was watching Pizza Rat and was just loving it! He must have watched that 14 second video two or three times in a row! He just watched it and watched it again! YouTube apparently now has a new business model where all you have to do is nothing and they will immediately start streaming videos to you after the first one is done and you will watch YouTube videos all day long! The next one was about a guy who had set a rat trap in his kitchen and put a camera on it, because again: People are geniuses! This rat trap sitting in the kitchen was so tantalizingly framed that even John wanted to go take the corn chip out of it.

A rat came along and down at the bottom it said "This is a graphic video, but who among us hasn't killed a rat?" to defend himself against the 10.000 people who were going to call it cruel because a rat got hurt. It was brilliant because it built some tension! John has seen a few rat traps, but this rat trap had a whole little smorgasbord of potato chips and cheese. The rat came along and was very suspicious of the trap at first. He was gingerly and jumpy and recognizes that it was a dangerous thing, but he pulled a chip away, took it and ran away to somewhere else for 17 minutes, ate the chip and came back to get the second chip.

Of course you think that this was the time the rat was going to get it, but no! He got away a second time with the chip and came back a third time to get a piece of cheese. By the fourth time you are thinking first of all: "I've been watching this video for ten minutes, there must be something wrong with me!", but also know how this is going to end because you have seen the previews. The plot of this movie had been spoiled and you know this rat was going to get it, but John was astonished at how diabolical this was, because the rat got more confident with each time and he felt like he knew this trap and he knew his was around it.

He came back again and again and again, but finally, when the trap was completely scoured, he came back a last time and all of his caution and skittishness was gone. With tremendous aplomb he just climbed right up on the trap and it snapped and got him. The tragic part of course is that it did not kill him right away and he flopped around, which was when Dan called and spared John from having to watch the last minute of the death throws of this rat. He got to see the kill shot, but he didn't want to spend another minute watching this rat writhe in agony. Dan Benjamin called at the perfect time.

John visiting cabins in the wood (RW6)

Earlier in the week Dan saw some photos that looked like John was at some kind of dwelling but it didn't have any walls, more of a compound or a kibbutz. A group of people, some of whom are John's friends, went down to Western Washington into what most people imagine is the jungles of Washington. There are multiple places in Washington without any roads, which didn't keep the lumber companies from bushwhacking in there and chopping down all the trees, but after that, they just let it go crazy.

Down in Southwest Washington very close to the coast around where Krist Novoselic lives (see story in RL276), there is a giant chunk of fairly mountainous wild land without any roads to it. There is another stretch in Southeastern Washington in the corner of Oregon and Idaho that is completely untracked wilderness. Obviously, coming from Alaska, John knows a lot about untracked wilderness, but you don't think of it as being a thing in the contiguous United States. In California there are plenty of places that are pretty far off the grid, but there is always some little road back in there.

Central Idaho is completely untracked and there are places in Idaho where you could die in the wilderness and no one would ever know you existed.
Surprisingly there are places like that in Washington, too. This group of people bought 126 acres (0.5 sq km) together as a group, which doesn't cost that much, but maybe everybody had to put in $20.000. There is a hillside and a crick, which is not exactly the same as a creek. A creek is a fairly fast moving little year round rocky bottom stream that has to meet some criteria. Any one of those conditions may not be met in a crick. It might be dry part of the year, it might have a grassy bottom, it might not be fast running, and John would describe this property as having more of a crick.

There is also a swamp, a bridge, vine maples, and beautiful stands of Aspen. The area was logged 25 years ago, meaning that all of the fir trees and all of the cedar trees are all the same height. They are not small, but they are not mature either. The area is on a big hillside and encompasses almost an entire ridge. This group of people bought this property together as a communal effort, they built an open air cookhouse and gathering place, and each of them went off into the woods and built their own little cabin. Some people wanted their cabin to be closer so they didn't have very far to stumble at night, and some of the people wanted to be more secluded and went off into the woods. Some people built cabins in places where they had a territorial view while other people wanted to be more in the forest.

There are six cabins built out of a variety of scrounged materials, some of them are very nicely appointed, some of them are more ramshackle. There are privies, there is a well in addition to the crick, there is a common garden with pigs and ducks and geese, there are lots of dogs and cats, and it feels a bit like a shanty town that is governed by an utopian vision of how ten couples can live together. A couple of people live there year round, but most of the little shanties are weekend cabins. Whoever shows up on the weekend is there and you can bring your friends.

Obviously the big commentary is huge and you could have a party there with 300 people. Some of the people are experimenting with learning to grow Shiitake mushrooms in the gardens, there are enclosures and they are making improvements to the land, but also trying to do it in a way that takes contemporary thinking on the invasive species into account, making improvements to the land without converting the land from its natural or healthiest state. Obviously it has been clear cut once and has been interrupted that way, but now these people are trying to steward the land.

John went up there for a little bit and stayed in some ramshackle cabin out in the woods. They sat and played poker under an oil lamp until late in the night. The cookhouse area has a very sophisticated solar system that is connected to a bank of batteries and powers the Viking freezer and overhead lights. It has a whole infrastructure built in and a couple of the houses have pretty good solar arrangements.

Then there are others where the half assed solar thing they bought at Lowe's that was strapped up on the roof blew right off the first time the wind blew and they just use oil lamps now. Oil lamps are great! They are really wonderful and will light your house just fine. They are obviously also really dangerous and burn your house down if you are not careful, but John likes the light from an oil lamp. At night you hear the coyotes get going and the dogs get into it with the coyotes. Hearing a whole hillside of Coyotes light up is really unsettling!

One of John's friends is a medic for the Seattle Fire Department, one of them is a professional oil painter, one of them owns a small handful of restaurants, and one of them was visiting from New York City where he is also sort of a gallery owner / theater art type person. The conversation was interesting and it was a good little break from his normal life which is not highly stressful and seems like a break all the time.

In a situation like this there is a danger of going in over-prepared. John has prepared innumerable survival bags and when somebody tells him to come to their cabin in the wild land, he will start throwing survival gear in a bag and he will show up with a machete. Then you realize that everyone else is in penny loafers because they think of it as their vacation house and you have overdone it. It is a delicate balance, because you also don't want to be in a situation where you suddenly need a knife and you don't have one. Then you are the city slicker who is trying to cut a piece of rope with a butter knife and you feel like a dummy because you should have brought all this stuff you have at home.

John brought a carefully curated group of tools: a buck knife, a small fork spoon just in case, and the exact right amount of wool garments, so that if it got cold you could layer them into a good costume and you don't have to sit there shivering, but you are not the guy who is in a 20 below (-30°C) parka, sitting around a campfire with a bunch of people in polo shirts either. John has been on both sides of this. He once showed up to a thing in penny loafers and a polo shirt and it got to be 11 degrees at night (-12°C). Not having his stuff and freezing feels like being a dummy, but he has also pulled a machete out at a party and said "Let's go clear some path through the woods!" and everybody else is like "Well, there is a path right here that is made of brick and we could just take that" and then you are the guy with the machete.

John knew what he was getting into. The one dissent was that the guy who owns the restaurants brought some caged shrimp in a food service style bucket and some pork loin and he was going to make this series of really delicious meals. There is a gas stove and he was going to do all this cooking. They had eggs and bacon for breakfast. John said that they needed some Wieners, but everybody looked at him what they would need wieners for, because they got pretty much every meal planned out, but if you are going out to the woods, even if you stay in cabins, there is still going to be a fire and if there is a fire we should have some wieners!

There is going to come a moment in the night when the dinner is long in our past and everybody is sitting around drinking beers and telling ghost stories and we are going to want to put some wieners on some sticks. It is not even about the food, but it is just some unconscious knowledge. Everybody just blew John off, but when they did stop at a gas station, he was a little pouty and didn't get any Wieners and let's see how you guys feel about it! There was a moment where some Wieners would have been appropriate, but it wasn't a dire situation where they were sitting around waddling Wiener sticks with no Wieners. John would have had to force the issue, in fact.

It seems to Dan like John is just as comfortable in a new and uncertain location with many less of the things that he is used to having as he is in his own home. It doesn't feel like a big deal and John is not doing without, or at least it doesn't have a real effect on him. A lot of people, and there was a long time in his life where Dan would definitely have been in this group, would feel they were doing without, even when they are staying in a really nice hotel in a big city, because they don't have their pillow or whatever they feel like they need to have to be happy.

Consumerism (RW6)

A long time ago John got acquainted with the idea that modern life was predicated on building up dependencies in people according to the American capitalist model. We were building up dependencies on things and we came to rely on not just technology, but also on security blankets and John didn't want that. He wanted to be less vulnerable, because with every thing you became dependent upon, you were just in a prison of that thing. Once you were hooked, they could change the price or the availability and what would happen if they weren't available anymore?

John has a stockpiler impulse if he decides that a thing is really useful. He remembers that one time he found the perfect pair of shoes and why would he ever want a different pair of shoes? Other people have done this. Chris Walla once bought 15 pairs of of the exact same Converse, because it was right at the moment where Converse was outsourcing their manufacturing to Asia and Chris didn't want to buy Asian Converse. He wanted American Converse and before they were all gone he bought a closet full of identical shoes.

There was a day they stopped making Levi's 501 unwashed shrink to fit jeans in America and started making them in Mexico or wherever. Now they don't make what used to be the flagship jean of Levi's at all anymore. It is so confusing that John doesn't buy them anymore because he can't make his way through there. There is black wash and there is silver wash? No, John wants the jeans that you made for gold panners back in 1849 and they ask him if he wants the gold pan deluxe model or the x x x x model, but fuck you! None of those things are real!

John stopped buying Levi's, but instead he should have gone to Sears the day they stopped making them in America and bought 80 pairs. It is one of the things he regrets. He bought a couple of pairs of shoes one time because they were perfect and they were a limited edition shoe. It was built in that you were not going to be able to get these in the future. He was fooled by that and bought three pairs of these shoes, but today 12 years later he is still wearing that first and he got two pairs left. When he will be 95 years old, he is going to take that third pair out of the bag, like "I still got a pair of these fuckers!"

It all feels coerced and it feels like everyone is in collusion with one another to agree that the line between necessity and luxury just keeps getting pushed further and further. All these things that were luxuries to his grandfather are now necessities to him. John can't abide! He does a certain amount of putting on the hair shirt and denying himself nice things, but a lot of that has to do with punishing himself for being bad. He is always conscious when he is using a thing that it can go away and he has a sense of what his necessities are. Some things are necessities, but there is all that other stuff like grooming products or the idea of hot water.

Carrying a knife (RW6)

A knife is one of the first tools. It was necessary enough that people took the time to make them out of shale or they honed a rock so that they could use it as a cutting tool. It seems like humans have agreed over thousands of years that a knife is something nice to have. We have nice ones now and it is not like knife technology is really continuing leaps and bounds. All those carbon fiber knives are actually a step in the wrong direction, but you can't go wrong having a good knife around!

For years John carried a knife in his pocket all the time, but he lost three or four of them to TSA, became embittered and stopped having it be part of his pocket change. John's dad had a knife in his pocket every day of his life. Over time he graduated to carrying a smaller Swiss Army knife that had three or four different tools on it and he would pull that knife out and solve all kinds of problems. For a long time John carried Spyderco knives that had a serrated edge and when you work them over time you get them to flick open.

At some point 25 years ago John realized that you could still buy beautiful switchblades in Italy that were perfect pieces of classic gimmickry. Their legality in the US varies from state to state. In Oregon you can actually buy a switchblade, but John has never tried it. They are illegal in New York City for instance, because you have to tap down on the switchblade based gang warfare that's plaguing the outer boroughs. Without access to a switchblade you couldn't be in any gang and couldn't do anything bad! Think about the "Beat It" video! All those guys are swinging chains at each other!

John carried a switchblade for a long time, but he doesn't strike Dan as a switchblade guy and John thinks Dan is right. Either John should have gotten a very traditional sort of buck knife that he always carries in the same position in the same pocket so that it eventually wears its shape into the jean, or he should have bought the thing that Rambo would have used and wear it either on his boot or in his boot or right on the belt brandishing it, but it is kind of tricky to carry a bowie knife in town. The switchblades he carried were kind of special because they were made out of brass instead of stainless or aluminum and the wood was mahogany.

Those knives were dark brown and brass and over time they wore when brass takes on that patina. When you would just look at it in your hand, it didn't look like a switchblade comb that you would get in a drugstore. They were delightful knives and John still has them, but he doesn't carry them around anymore. He now carries the perfect Buck knife, just big enough that every time he pulls it out and opens it, he is like "Oh, that's a knife!" It is a Buck 50 year anniversary knife and it is sharp enough to be a danger even to its owner and master because it can cut you accidentally if you are not careful.

John is not proud but also not embarrassed to say that he carried a fucking Leatherman and a Mag Light through all of his Rock 'n' Roll years, because all of a sudden you were standing on stage in the dark, trying to look behind an amp and figure out which wire came loose. In those situations you need both a light, a pair of pliers and potentially a knife. When you are doing your own tech while you are touring, this happens enough times that you are saying "Fuck it! I'm just going to carry a Mag Light!" It wasn't a giant Mag Light, but one of those little ones and it was an original Leatherman.

John lost a couple of those to TSA, too, because you don't think about it. You get in the habit of carrying it with you every day and at some point on the tour you have to fly to Europe or something and all of a sudden you are standing at the airport and you are screwed, because you have checked your bags already. It's like "Fuck you, TSA! Assholes! I do not believe you are keeping us safe!" The TSA was just in the knife collecting business and they were not doing anything else, but to disarm America. Think about all the great switchblades they have! They don't even have to prosecute people, but they can just take them at the airport.

John always carries a space pen and a knife and he is now trying to find the perfect spork that he can carry with him. He found one the other day that is made out of hard impact plastic, but not so hard that it doesn't have a little flex to it. It is a spoon, a fork and a knife all in one and it is brightly colored, which is appealing. It feels like something that he could just slip into his pocket or his bag and forget that it's there, but when the apocalypse happens and it is just you and a gyro captain trying to figure out how to get into a can of dog food, what is the gyro captain going to have? He has got a fucking big wooden spoon because he is an idiot! You can open the can with a knife and then eat with your magic spork.

John loves a cold can of Spaghetti-o's almost more than any other thing in the world and he can just eat them right out of the can. He gets the kind with no meatballs, because those are the only Spaghetti-o's in a true sense. Once you put meatballs in, it is something else. Like with grilled cheese sandwiches: If you put tomatoes on it or tuna fish, it is a melt and not a grilled cheese sandwich. John was once in a fancy nouveau restaurant and one of the four food items was grilled cheese sandwich. You could order it with all these other things, but then it is not a grilled cheese sandwich! You are selling melts, which is fine, but call it what it is!

John being allergic to feather pillows (RW6)

John is allergic to feathers and can not sleep on a feather pillow because he will wake up in the middle of the night with a constricted throat and his nose is running. A feather pillow will make him miserable and he hates himself a little bit for having that kind of nebbishy vulnerability. Allergic to feathers? Really, Poindexter? Yes, John is a Poindexter and it is probably because he grew up eating macaroni and cheese and tab and didn't develop the right immunity to things. If he goes into a hotel and they got feather pillows, and the fancier they are, the more likely there are to be beautiful feather pillows, John has to be the one who asks for a hypoallergenic pillow.

When John was younger, he tried to not need anything. There are so many things in the category of "WANTS" that he wants desperately. He wants ice cream right now! He wants ice cream all the time! He absolutely wants a king sized bed that is warm and quiet. John wants just as much as the next person, but if he has to be sleep on a cot next to an air conditioner, the window doesn't shut, there is a highway interchange right outside the window and two guys are going to be arguing about duct tape at 4:00am right outside the window, despite John not wanting any of those things, he can figure out a way to roll back over and go back to sleep.

Ira Elliot sleeping like a professional (RW6)

John toured with Nads Surf quite a bit over the years and at one point, it might have been in Canada, their drummer and one of the sainted Rock 'n' Roll characters Ira Elliot came with them instead of sticking with his bandmates, he got separated from the herd and he was partying with The Long Winters until it became night and it was unclear where the rest of Nada Surf and their entourage had gone. Ira was now stuck with them!

Nada Surf had always been a bigger band than The Long Winters and were used to traveling with a certain standard, while The Long Winters were still sleeping two guys to a room at this point. For the first two years it was always four guys to a room and two guys to a bed. When they were five dudes in the band, it was two guys to a bed and one guy on the floor and they were staying in not very nice hotels. John remembers the first time they graduated and each guy got his own bed. That was a big deal! They traveled like that pretty much until the end and it was rare that they would be in a situation where everybody would get their own room, because that is pretty expensive.

They showed up at the hotel, Ira was with them and he wanted to crash with them. They got up to the room, they surveyed a dismal scene of two queen sized beds in an Econo Lodge on the edge on the side of the highway somewhere in Ontario. Although John wanted to offer him his bed, Ira grabbed his coat, folded it into a pillow, and laid down in his clothes in the hallway between the bathroom and the front door. He looked up and said "No, I'm a professional!" and then he was asleep. John was in aw and "Oh my fucking God, you are a professional!" That is a level of professionalism that John aspires to!

Ira was completely self-contained, not resentful in the least, with no expectations of any kind. Above all the other things that he didn't need, what he most didn't need was any kind of special treatment. He did not expect that he would be cared for. He was fine! That was ninja level Rock 'n' Roll. John already felt like he was practicing some ninja level Rock 'n' Roll, but no way was he at that level! Ira woke up in the morning and the fact that he was rumpled and his hair was messed up and he had slept on the floor on his coat just made him look cooler. He was just ready to go down to the to the buffet at the Hampton Inn and eat some bacon out of a bed pan or whatever they have in those places.

Sleeping (RW6)

John and his sister have the same strained relationship with sleep. Neither one of them wants to go to sleep and both of them will do anything to avoid going to sleep. John is routinely up at 4:00am or 5:00am in the morning doing nothing except sorting his daughter's socks by size, taking old jelly jars and sorting things into them, but he just doesn't wanting to go to sleep. He is lying in bed, reading until his eyes are closing or until he is nodding off, but then he is forcing himself back awake to read to the end of the page or the end of the chapter, avoiding going to sleep at all costs.

John doesn't know for what reason he is doing that! He has talked about this with his sister a lot because she is the same way. What do we not want to go to sleep about? It is not fear. John is not apprehensive about going to sleep, but he just tries to get as much out of the time awake until it is ridiculous, especially at times when he has to get up at 7am or 8am and he is trying to read to the end of the chapter at 4:30am. "What am I doing? Go to sleep for Christ's sake!"

On the other side when it is time to wake up, John does not want to wake up and get out of bed. He will roll back over and go back to sleep a hundred times before he finally drags his ass out of bed. Interestingly, Susan says she cannot go to sleep, but she has to fall asleep. She can't wake up, but she has to be woken up. John has the exact same thing!

John's mom is like those people who wake up at 6 o'clock in the morning, rain or shine, whether they have to go to work or not. She loves to wake up at 4:30am, read the newspaper, make breakfast, go for a walk, and cherish that she doesn't need an alarm or anything like that. John has an internal alarm. Before he goes to bed he can say he has to get up at nine tomorrow and he will pretty much wake up at just the right time.

Dan used to have that same exact ability back in his college years until his early mid 20s. One of his very special talents is to have a very good sense of knowing exactly what time it is, usually within a 1 to 2 minute range. There are other people who can do this, too. Dan can feel the difference between 2:56pm and 2:58pm, but only if he is in his regular routine. If he is traveling or in a different time zone, he is lost.

Dan's travel anxiety, OCD and Buddhist practice (RW6)

For many years, Dan struggled with anxiety whenever he had to go places where he would be out of his element. He drew a lot of comfort and stability from being able to create his own little mini environment inside of whatever bigger environment he was going to be in, something that his therapist helped him figure out.

Dan's parents got divorced when he was around the age of four or five. Them getting divorced was not upsetting to him, because he knew that they didn't get along and it didn't come as a surprise. Someone gave him a book called "Your parents are getting divorced, Timmy" trying to explain that it was not his fault. Why would it be his fault? His parents don't get along! Of course it is not Dan's fault and he knew that. This was not the part that was responsible for feeling this way later in life.

After the divorce they wound up moving around to a number of different places, none of which were very good. It was Philadelphia in the 1970s, it wasn't like they were living in nice places with good apartments, but it was really crummy stuff! When it got dark, you locked all eight locks and you didn't look out the windows. While moving around a lot and changing schools a lot, something happened that led him to start to feel some kind of insecurity if his surroundings weren't right. He noticed it around 9 or 10 years old when the OCD stuff started. It is all tied in together.

This eventually led to a desire, especially around sleeping, to have that predictable environment for himself. It led to anxiety around travel because he wanted to be completely prepared for any contingency that might happen. Packing would become a major issue, because he needed to make sure that he had everything. He would try to find miniature versions of his regular things in order to be prepared. He would better bring some Neosporin, because you never know.

He would bring three or four kinds of bandaids because you never know. Nobody needs a bandaid for one day, so if you need a bandaid, you need a bandaid for multiple days and so Dan would better bring multiple ones in multiple sizes. How would he transport them in a way that keeps them sanitary and dry? He needed some kind of little thing to put them in, just for bandaids. Multiply that across all of these different things! Of course he had an anxiety of flying! Dan is happy to report he doesn't have any of that anymore, but now he might go too far the other way which is "What is the the minimum number of shirts that I need to bring on this without it just being gross?"

At the time, Dan got very much into Buddhism and he still considers himself a Buddhist. He was practicing Buddhism very seriously for a while, focusing on the impermanence of everything. As much preparedness as he tried to achieve, he was still never really prepared. He was never going to the Sahara, but he was going to Chicago! They have convenience stores in Chicago where they sell toilet paper and toothpaste! You can get some of the basic things you need to survive if you forget your underarm deodorant and you have to buy some. Maybe it will be a different brand.

Dan was able to put that into perspective and to get to the heart of the issue, which was "Why was I so attached to something that was going to change?" There is an impermanent condition of things have to be a certain way. He used to have so many hang-ups about things like that, which took a long time for him to process and work through. John was describing Ira Elliot who would just roll up his jacket and sleep on the floor and Dan wishes he could do that, but he is way higher maintenance than that. Compared to the way he used to be and compared to the way a lot of his friends are when they travel, he is way more casual about it now. It is something he really had to achieve.

Dan's goal was to come to the point where he could go on a trip in a day or two and maybe he should think about packing pretty soon, not stress out about it, and be able to get on a plane and not worry about it. He got a smaller and smaller carry-on and he brings less and less and does just fine. He came from a place where he started taking Xanax weeks in advance! Two weeks before a flight is what the doctor recommended. It was really bad!

Dan would start really getting into something that is very familiar to OCD people: A thought loop where you start circling and thinking about what could happen and playing out every single "what if"-scenario. Talking about getting on a 3 hour flight and staying in a hotel for three or four nights would be enough to start really stressing him out ahead of time. He would start thinking of ways he could get out of the trip somehow. Maybe he wouldn't have to go? The answer turned out to be getting a Buddhist practice and meditating seriously for a while. It really helped figure out a lot of this stuff. It is possible to change your thinking and your mental habits. It is not easy, but you can do it! Now Dan is getting to the point where he loves the concept of not needing stuff.

In the process, Dan lost any kind of sentimental attachment to physical items. Without really any exceptions, he doesn't have any attachments to physical things. That isn't to say that he doesn't place value on physical things like his laptop. It is worth some money and if he didn't have it, or if it disappeared, he would need to get another one which would cost money and would be a problem, but he has no emotional attachment to anything. Nothing at all! There is not a single item that means anything to him.

If his 4 year old, who is an outstanding artist, would draw something just for him and give it to him, he is not going to crumble it up into a ball and chuck it in the trash. He winds up saving all of these things and he would feel an emotion about them if they were suddenly gone, but that would be because of the intent that was there when she gave it to him. She wanted him to keep it. He received it as a gift, he enjoyed it, he looked at it, he probably spent more time than he ever would have in the past really looking at and appreciating this thing that his kid gave him.

He might one day want to reflect on this stage of her artistic progress at age 4 and not having the ability to do that might be something he would say "Oh well, I would have enjoyed that!", but he can let go of that. Maybe this is the one small exception. He used to have attachments to everything! "That old car, sure I love that old car! I remember when I got that shirt. I was here and I did that thing" and he doesn't have any of that anymore.

It was liberating in a major way because although he wasn't hoarding stuff, he was keeping a lot of crap that he didn't really need. Now Dan has some clothing, he has crap he puts in his hair in the morning to make it look reasonable, and he got a toothbrush. Those are the things that he thinks of as "mine" and nothing else is really "mine". He doesn't have any attachment to anything else and if it was all just completely gone he would feel freed by it being gone.

Periodically Dan went on huge purges where he got rid of tons and tons of stuff and his wife would admire him for being so good at getting rid of stuff. He would like to have as little stuff as possible. If there was a way he could just have 7 of the same shirt and just wear the same thing everyday, he would absolutely do it. Dan and John are almost polar opposites in every one of these respects.

Attaching value to objects (RW6)

John attaches tremendous emotional significance to objects. He has sentimentality about really dumb things and can remember the story of every single item he owns. He anthropomorphizes things, and although it is not quite as bad as it used to be, there were times where there would be some ripped pair of pants and he would be like "But I can't give those away, think of all the times we've had! The pants will be alone in the garbage can." John would bring himself to tears about a broken cup that couldn't live anymore.

There are a couple of different levels of dependency. At the surface level John is incredibly dependent on the insulating layer of garbage that he collects onto himself. For instance, John has too many blazers. He decided decades ago that he liked the blazer, a man's coat, and so he started being at thrift stores and buying these things for a couple of bucks. When he wears them they have meaning to him because he remembers when he found them and he remembers all the things he has done in them. All of a sudden he has 24 blazers! What is he doing with all these things?

Those blazers don't represent any real investment money. Dan probably paid more for his deodorant than John did for most of these jackets, so it is not a money investment, although John does feel like they are worth money. A lot of them are old and John makes the mistake of thinking that they are worth money even though there is no market for them, but he feels like there should be a market for them. There should be more men of discerning taste out there competing in the marketplace for late 1950s, early 1960s 3 button blazers.

John is just hoarding these things until one day people will finally come to their senses and realize that they are the pinnacle of a lost art. In the meantime he will have 24 blazers. The people in his life tell him to clear some of these blazers out, so he will sort them all: This is a blue blazer and that is a blue blazer, but there are these little flecks of color in this blue blazer, which is completely different than this solid blue blazer. The two are both absolute necessities! You couldn't give one away!

At the surface level of John's life that is the kind of hell that he is living in: He is surrounded by stuff that he mostly doesn't need. Then he looks at the idea that a man should have three suits. Those would be all the suits he needed and it would be amazing! Can you imagine how light and unencumbered you would feel? Then he was watching Mr. Robot and there is a shot in episode 3 or 4 where the bad guy, the evil Dutch chief technology officer of Evil corp, is in his walk-in closet where he has 150 shirts and 40 of them are just white dress shirts.

John's reaction was like "Oh wow, look at all those shirts!" and he was just imagining how nice these shirts must be. Wouldn't it be nice to have a whole closet full of Charvet shirts for $250 each, custom made? John knows that this is a lie, because at a deeper level in his life he is prepared to walk out of the house with a knife and a flashlight and never return. A lot of stuff has been written about the current cultural fixation with vampires and zombies and what all the hidden cultural anxieties and preoccupations of zombies represent to us.

John's kind of readiness for the apocalypse (RW6)

People John's age, particularly from Alaska, grew up imagining that the apocalypse was a very real possibility, not a fantasy! The Russians are coming and when they come, it is going to be right behind a wave of toxic atomic death and only a few will survive. Those few will be living in a scorched earth and John couldn't even imagine. When he was young, he heard people say that when the big one happens, when the bomb drops, they wanted to go in a flash and wanted to be one of the first ones to go.

They did not want to deal with radiation sickness, scavenging for food, all the people that they loved being dead, and they did not want to live in the burned out shell of the former civilization. They just wanted to go with the first explosion! John remembers being incredulous at that kind of thinking even at 10 years old. No! Of course you want to survive! Of course you want to be one of the few hardy survivors who live underground, who begin to rebuild civilization from the ashes and who re-learn how to build hydroelectric dams.

At 10 years old he knew he wanted to live through nuclear war, which he knew was coming. Everything he read and watched and all the information out there about how you were going to survive was that you did not want to be a drain. You didn't want to be the person with a limp. The group will be moving and you will be in a primitive hunter gatherer society again and you do not want to be the one who breaks his glasses and can't see, because then you are a drag on everybody else and eventually they are going to leave you behind.

John tried to cleanse his soul of anything that would make him be the weak link in a war part or in a hunting party. Somehow those two things coexist in him. At one level he still believes and knows it to be true that if he got done with this podcast and walked out the door of this building and never went home again and never saw another person he knew, he would be fine. He wouldn't be full of joy, he would miss his family, but that would be a sadness that went into the sadness file along with other sadnesses. He was not going to sit in a doorway sobbing himself to death!

John had a collection of dolls of every single US president. If somebody were to come and tell him to get rid of these US president dolls, because they are gumming up the works and you can't get to the kitchen because the US president dolls are encroaching on the path, John would be like "No, you can't! These US president dolls are incredible! What if my kid wants to know about the president some day? I've got to have these US president dolls!" Looks like a lot of dolls!

John's mom came over not very long ago told him to get rid of some of these globes, because he got too many globes. Every single one of those globes represents a different moment in the history of globe making! This globe was made before the invasion of Hungary, this globe was made after the invasion of Hungary. Nobody gives a shit! That amount of specific knowledge of things is not useful unless you want to go into the globe trade, which you do not!

John is sure there is a guy in New York City who has a shop on the Upper East Side, probably on 3rd Avenue, maybe on Lexington, you have to buzz in and go up two flights of stairs with a rickety freight elevator and when you walk in, the guy has got his reading glasses down at the end of his nose, he is wearing a cardigan sweater and a tweed jacket over it and he has a shop full of vintage globes. He knows all the same stuff that John knows about them and more, and he is also not really interested in talking to you about it, because he is a curmudgeon who runs a globe shop. He is probably divorced and bitter.

He went to Columbia a long time ago, he is balding, but he has a beard, he thought he was going to be an actor but it never worked out, so he doesn't want to sit and talk to some yokel from Washington about globes. He wants to sell globes, because long ago his profession turned from something he loved into just something he did. John doesn't want to be him at all! He is even afraid to find his shop and go in and talk to him about globes, because he is going to be so sour that it would take some of the love away for John. That doesn't change the fact that he has 20+ globes and globes aren't small! Some of them are 3 feet across.

John cannot reconcile that with his constant preparation to survive a nuclear winter and rebuild civilization, except maybe that he will be making the first new Globe post-apocalypse out of like birchbark. John will be that guy, like: "Listen, children! Gather around as I will tell you the story of the Earth. Although it seems flat, it is really round! Here I am going to make you a representation of that out of birchbark. It is called a globe." By that point all the young warriors will be like "The old man, he knows not what he speaks! The earth is flat. It is clear from our survey!", but "No, children! Pay attention to me now! I am from before the firestorm! I know about the globes! Have you ever heard of the Soviet invasion of Hungary in 1956? It is very important to remember these details!"

John has a fascination for history on a level that Dan doesn't have. Dan is interested in history, but for John it is pervasive in the way that he thinks of things and relates to the world. This connects with his sentimental attachment to objects because they become part of John's history.

Death over dinner (RW6)

John did an interview with a reporter from a Las Vegas newspaper who wanted to talk to him about a death dinner that he recently attended. His good friend Michael Hebb is a chef impresario here in the Northwest who for a long time has been putting on one pot dinners where he would make a big dinner in one big LeCreuset pot. Then he would invite 20 fascinating people to eat this big communal dinner, having a lively conversation and spilling wine into the middle of night. He is trying to create a scene and he has been very successful at doing it.

Even though the idea is ripe with pomposity, it is also true that he is able to invite interesting people, the food is good and really great conversation does transpire. As he got better and better at the impresario side of his game, he would have parties where he would invite 10 poor artists and 10 rich swells, capitalists who thought of themselves as pretty hip. He would charge the capitalists $200 for the dinner and he would invite the artists for free, but he would never tell the capitalists that the artists weren't also paying $200.

There would be totally bizarre conversations with people who were rich, arrogant and super full of themselves, but also thought of themselves as actual bohemians who wanted to be around rich people, like all bohemians do. "God, please will some of that money fall out of your pockets into mine!" Some of these dinners were really fascinating. John remembers standing out front of one of them Downtown in some abandoned 10 story brick building and smoking a cigar.

They had colonized the space, they had a big table covered with candelabra and they were eating this fantastic meal. One of the guys said "You know, I own this building!" It was a $10 million building, even when it was abandoned! He owned this building, the one across the street and the one down there, and he started describing his urban renewal plan which represented $100 million of development. He was still just talking about the buildings that they could see with their eyes from where they were standing. He was not that much older than John maybe 55 years old.

There was no way John could possibly benefit from the guy's wealth during that conversation. $1 million was not going to fall out of his pocket nor was he going to employ John in any fashion. They were just peers, standing out front smoking a cigar at this funny fucking dinner. There is a lot more for John to take away from this than there is for the guy. The guy's experiences it as bohemian and it makes him feel like he is one of the good guys, but for John this is a window into the world and he should be soaking up this knowledge.

Michael Hebb has now graduated to where he has recently started having what he calls "death dinners" He brings a similar group of 15-20 people together and the theme of the evening is death. They are all going around the table and everybody is going to tell a story about a death that is very close and personal to them. The expectation is that you will be very forthcoming. It is very cathartic, the stories are intense, everybody gets very emotional and people connected to one another really fast because it is a very quick window into people.

It is very much about revealing yourself to other people rather than having a good story to tell. What keeps it lighthearted and what makes it in the end feel light, is that the big tragedy of being human is that our life span is short relative to our perception of the span of time and history. We all ultimately die before we see the project completed.

The loss of knowledge how to do things (RW6)

John's dad was born at a time when most houses in America didn't have electricity or running water and when he died, he had his own cell phone, and he had already taught himself how to use the Internet and was pretty well versed. At no point along the way would he have ever said that he saw a project completed. He saw a man walk on the moon and he learned to fly in the U.S. Navy in a biplane and yet he still probably almost certainly felt like he died too soon, that he wished he could see what happens next.

The Interstate Highway System was built before John was born and every day he drives on a thing that foreshadowed him. It is still recent memory and it was probably a mistake to build, but it reflects how we felt 60 years ago, which is very recent, but it is still older than John. It will still be here after he is gone even if it is in a state of disrepair or even if it will have been colonized by self driving cars. Remnants of it will continue to exist and we can see that everywhere we go every day.

The building John is sitting in right now is so much older than him and will be there after he will be gone. That feeling of being just a blip in history is funny and hilarious. It is what makes the death dinner lighthearted and it is why John's interest in history is so pervasive: It is around us all the time, but most of us just don't think of it as history or of history having anything to do with it. People buy an old house, tear it down and build a new house, because they don't see themselves as caretakers of a story already in progress. All that matters to them is "now" and this old house is in their way because they want a new house at this location.

There is a lack of feeling that the story you are playing a small part in is what is really interesting. Your part of it might be insignificant, each of us is insignificant and the deaths that happen in our world are not a big deal. It is really comically small and that is sad. John wishes he could live 1000 years so that he could see the scope of these stories unfold a little bit more, but he is not granted that view. He is only granted this pathetic view.

Whether or not the city of Seattle builds light rail to the airport is going to take up decades of John's life and when they will finally open it, he will be an old man and he will have watched it get built. In the grand scheme of things that is just nothing! Why shouldn't projects of that scale be as small in John's history as they are in in world history? John thinks about history all the time because it lets him read back in the story. He tries to read forward into the story, too, as a way of trying to live a little bit longer.

Dan and John talk about how we are now disconnected from the skill to make stuff and to build our own house, as people did just a few 100 years ago. Dan's next door neighbor in the first house he bought was the same age as Dan. He was an architect and his main sort of paternal influence was his granddad who knew how to build everything. He had inherited a lot of that knowledge and a lot of his tools. They discovered that the front deck of their house had rotted and had bad wood in it. Instead of doing what a normal person would do in whatever year this was, 2005, which is call and getting estimates, he just completely ripped apart the entire front porch of his house.

He re-did the roof part as well, and he started building a new front deck and porch. Somehow he just knew how to do it. Because he was weird, it wasn't good enough for him to use standard size wood, but he had to rip the wood and trim half an inch off each board, just because he wanted it to be a little different and to show that it was custom. It took him months to do this, because he would only be able to do it after work and on the weekends, but it looked amazing! It was true craftsmanship.

He built a deck that was better and nicer and more well-made than the rest of the whole house, but the only person who would ever really appreciate it was himself. You couldn't really tell the difference! You couldn't look at it and tell that it was new. It looked nice, but you wouldn't necessarily know that it was new, you wouldn't know the amount of time, care, effort and energy that he had put into it. He did it for himself because he enjoyed the process, the craftsmanship, and the fact that he made this thing and that he left a little something behind there as part of the history of that building, which is kind of cool.

How many of us today can say that we've done something like that? He invited Dan and a couple of other neighbors and he did a little time capsule inside of one of the bannisters of the porch. He made the bannisters out of four pieces of wood to make them squares and one of them was hollow so they could put something in there. The idea of leaving something behind was foreign to city slickers before, too. There were so many more people who could do that kind of work, but also there were just fewer people. We have proliferated and that is part of what makes everything more complicated or more difficult to understand.

There are so many more of us and with with every additional person it doesn't seem like we are increasing the spread, breadth and depth of knowledge. It seems like we are adding a lot of people to the equation and most of them are slotting themselves somewhere into the equation, they don't need to know how to build anything or do anything, they just need to figure out a way how to make a living. Now we have raised a generation of people who think that they are all artists and who are even further divorced from real knowledge.

The fastest growing group of people or the fastest growing skillset is what Dan and John are practicing right now on this podcast: self documentation and self-examination. It is a skill set relative to what our parents knew about themselves. We know a lot more about ourselves and that seems beneficial to us because we can point to the damage that our parents and their parents did by not knowing themselves very well. We can point to a lot of horrible results, but we didn't build on their knowledge.

We know less about what they knew about, and we have traded it for knowing more about ourselves. That is what looks like progress to us! In the sense of historical time 250 years from now, will all the carpentry be done by 3D printers, and will we be consumed with our own stories and our own dreams, just because we have the time and the luxury to do it? No one has to learn any skills anymore. No one has to learn how to throw knives or write or even cook a meal.

Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (RW6)

A friend of Dan used to run a hosting company, but then he started to get more and more interested in the post apocalyptic world. Dan is not sure if he believed that the world was going to experience some kind of catastrophic end and whether it was nuclear war or a meteor or something. He didn't seem like a paranoid and he wasn't starting to prep or stockpile water or anything, but during the time Dan knew him he definitely developed this philosophy that he should be able to do these kinds of things in order to survive and take care of himself.

He had that survivalist mentality, we wanted to know how to hunt and kill and skin an animal to survive, knowing how to set up a shelter that will not just last for a few days but that he could actually live in, maybe even build a permanent or semi permanent dwelling. We wanted to be able do exist in nature and on the land and not be dependent on commercial vans to bring the supplies that he needed. He got really into this and he eventually became an EMT because he wanted to have a skill that would be valuable after. If he knew how to set bones, how to do CPR really well and how to amputate a limb, he would be one of the valuable people in the worst case scenario or in the best case scenario he might even be a leader.

If the apocalypse happened right now, then the people who are born today will never know a world other than the apocalypse, but twenty years from now those people are not going to be without guidance. There will be plenty of people who survived the apocalypse and who will teach them to read and teach them how to use books to figure out how to do stuff. That road warrior idea, specifically in Beyond Thunderdome, where the kids have invented a complete cosmology, was an appealing idea because the oldest of the kids are old enough to know but not old enough to know well.

The youngest kids in that group were five or six, so the apocalypse could only have been six years ago, which means that those who were 16 during Beyond Thunderdome were 10 when the apocalypse happened and could speak perfectly well and read and knew that the sky man was not flying in a metal eagle, but in a fucking airplane. According to the lore of the Mad Max films and from the reading that Dan has done, because the movies don't do a very good job of explaining this, our idea of the apocalypse is that we very quickly will revert to booga booga.

The first movie is pre any kind of apocalyptic war during a time of degradation due to running out of resources, primarily fuel and energy. Between the first movie and the second movie we have gone into full on economic collapse and we have completely lost the majority of our fuel and energy resources to the point where there has been war about this. Some time between the second and third movie, if not already during the second movie time period, the nuclear war happened.

It might have been a limited exchange, but it was enough to destroy the major cities and to push the world into not only a point where there was no energy in a conventional sense, but there weren't even any weapons as we think of. A working gun would be very hard to find. There has also been the destruction of the world and the environment. Everything is now much more like a desert and you can't grow anything anymore.

Those kids might have been born five years from when the nuclear war happened and the pilot was able to escape in the plane with the kids to try to get from whatever terrible city they were into a better city. The nuclear war might have happened five to 10 years ago, but the kids have always been in a world without electricity, without a grocery store to go to, and without the things that we think of as civilization, because they were born post all that. There are Wikipedia entries and interviews about that stuff.

If there was an apocalypse of some kind in our own context, like if there was some kind of climate change where all of a sudden it didn't rain in the Pacific Northwest for all of May, June, July, August, and September, it kept doing that until California ran out of water, which absolutely could happen, and you would somehow found yourself marooned in a community of Juggalos, you will find that there are already people living in a culture characterized by deprivation of some kind: Deprivation of opportunity, familiarization with language, and law. In a very short amount of time you might be speaking a patois that was made up mostly of misremembered hip hop lyrics and an incomplete understanding of science.

If the apocalypse happened right now, John would band together with the people right around him, and most of them know that an EMT does not do any magic. You would have to skip a couple of generations before somebody with the knowledge how to fly an airplane seemed like a magic man. Most of us would not forget that, even though electricity wouldn't work anymore, but it isn't magic. It is science that we maybe didn't completely understand, but we can still connect to a world view.

John's usefulness to a post-apocalyptic tribe is never going to extend beyond his own lifetime. He will never have the great advantage of living in a world where no one else knows what he knows, which is the appeal of so much post-apocalyptic fantasy. You would be the king of those people, but you won't live until then! There is no scenario in which your commonplace knowledge seems like magic, but it is basically A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, except set in a dystopian future rather than imaginatively in a medieval past.

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