RW9 - The Hill People

This week, Dan and John talk about:

  • John loved grammar in school (Early Days)
  • The 2012 Benghazi attack (Politics)
  • Libertarianism (Politics)
  • America being the most diverse place in the world (Geography)
  • Neighborhood behavior in Florida (Geography)
  • People taking their phone calls in restaurants or not leaving their tables (Technology)
  • John’s mom’s prejudices against The Hill People (Parents)
  • Dan’s family being Northerners (Dan Benjamin)
  • People being molested for wearing the wrong baseball hat (Stories)
  • John’s opinion about flags (Attitude and Opinion)
  • Texas and Alaskan sense of place (Geography)
  • Having visited every state in the US, doing a show tour through minor cities (Travel)
  • Traveling with instruments (Travel)
  • Trying to write songs again (Career)
  • Listener mail: Talking about your mental illness (Depression)

The show title refers to the people from Southern Ohio and John’s mom having very strong prejudices against them, calling them the Hill People.

It is so early today! Dan had a lot of coffee this morning and it is earlier in the day for him, so he gets more agitated than usual when talking about other people's misbehavior during the episode.

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

John loved grammar in school (RW9)

This morning John figured out what a participle was. He used to know all that stuff backwards and forwards, like present participle, past participle, and he was doing a little bit of studying. Then he wondered what he was doing because it was freaking 8am: "Just stop it!” John loved grammar in school and he would diagram sentences full of joy, but it has been a long time since he practiced it. There are people on the Internet who contact him and who are practicing grammarians, while John is really out of shape. Of course he knows what a participle is, but what is it really?

Dan has an English degree and of all the people he should remember all of that, but he doesn't. His mom is a retired college English professor so he should really know what all that is, but he will still forget and sometimes he will be writing something and has to text his mom and ask her: ”Is it John Roderick and me or John Roderick and I?”, things like that, like ”who's” with the apostrophe. She never makes him feel bad about it, but she always just explains the answer.

You wouldn't think you would see grammatical errors coming from adults but John sees a lot of the incorrect ”Dan Benjamin and I” formulations out there. People get it beaten into them and then they don’t know the rule for it and don't know the simple way to untangle it and they are just throwing that stuff out there. "I” is wrong there, it should be ”me”, but in any case: That is just morning grammar, it is not where we are at right now, but we should be arguing about Benghazi like everybody else in the world!

The 2012 Benghazi attack (RW9)

This refers to the 2012 Benghazi attack 3 years prior to recording this episode.

John was tweeting about Benghazi last night and Dan asks him to frame it so that future generations will understand it in the right context. John is no expert, but what happened in Benghazi was fairly self-explanatory. The American mission there was guarded, but didn't expect an enormous spontaneous mob to form, and when an enormous spontaneous riled-up mob of people did form they were underprepared. Because it was far away they weren't able to get support to that location in time to prevent this mob from overrunning the mission and killing the Americans.

That happens in the world. When John was a kid a truck bomb blew up the Marine barracks in Beirut. It is the danger of Foreign Service in a war-torn country, but it was immediately turned into a partisan issue by the crazy Congress that we have because it was suggested somehow that the State Department made these intentionally terrible decisions to strand these American people and to not provide support when they were asked to provide support, although John can only imagine the many requests for support sent by American missions globally that arrive on the desk of whatever poor State Department employee is responsible for that stuff.

The supposed evidence is very unclear and it is just retroactively trying to capitalize on a tragedy, but unfortunate reality, which is that this mission was out in the boonies and for the longest time our head diplomat there walked those streets brazenly, bravely and openly without fear. Then the situation on the ground changed very rapidly, not in a way that anybody could have anticipated, and looking at it retroactively and saying: ”Oh well, we should have had 45 Marines there…” makes no sense.

It is a country with a recently toppled leader where there is no law on the ground and we had an under-protected base there, especially considering that for example Berlin is not really a very dangerous place right now, but the US embassy there can withstand a tactical nuclear weapon. The street is closed off with retractable pneumatic anti-truck barriers, which is very impressive, frankly, but in Libya we were just using some house that was available at that point. It was a secured facility, but what can you do when 600 people decide they are going to overrun a place? We can't keep 200 Marines everywhere there is an US office!

It was a total tragedy, lives were lost, but then it became an issue that the Congress was going to use to try to destroy the party in power, specifically Hillary Clinton, as they have used every single issue that they can and 1000 issues that you would think it was impossible for them to use. They try to leverage the news in a way that achieves their ultimate goal which is to shut down the government and create some strange libertarian utopia where everybody just obeys their own inner God-given law and the police become help-meets.

John has to assume that most of his 30.000 followers know what he is about and where he is coming from. Benghazi has effectively become a word like Watergate or Vietnam where the initial instance and the initial tragedy of the event has been subsumed beneath the travesty of the subsequent reaction and the word Benghazi has been transformed into meaning a congressional boondoggle and clown car wasting resources and exhausting the public interest, an unintentionally hilarious travesty!

John got three or four responses from people from Idaho, people who regularly reply to John on the Internet, saying: ”Hey, I'm making a joke!” or: ”Hey, I got your joke, here is another joke!”, people he considers to be Twitter friends and allies, but a couple of them were just like: ”Benghazi! Now we are talking about some sacred ground!” - ”Wow!” When you are laughing about the nerd stuff that you share all is well and good, but you cross into some of this other turf and you find yourself in people's sacred space where all of a sudden there is a lack of intelligibility.

John replied to a couple of them: ”You know me, you know who I am, you tweet at me every day, you know that I am not mocking our sacred dead! Get down off of your stepladder for a second! I didn't suddenly become someone who pisses on the graves of American service people. I am making a comment that is in the same spirit of all the comments I make.” To these people's credit, they were like: ”Yeah, you are right!”, but it was a trigger word for some. Wow! America! USA! ”Pow! Pow! Pow!”

Libertarianism (RW9)

John has no idea what the Congress' vision of the country is and what they would like to see. Do they want the federal government to go away or become an administration of the army? That would be the perverted version of the libertarian philosophy that is being practiced now. John understands libertarian philosophy the same way he understands Marxist philosophy, which is: If all the conditions are perfect and everyone in the world agrees, shares our fundamental premise and behaves accordingly, then: Yes, we could create an utopia tomorrow.

Most people who are educated in this kind of dialog would fundamentally agree that at its fundamental core the Libertarian philosophy is a great one. It is about personal responsibility and about people understanding their own rights and other people's rights, but Dan has never seen it in practice. We have never seen Marxism or Socialism or even Democracy perfectly practiced either. All of those things come up against their first problem when the 5th person in line says: ”I object to some aspect of this and I am going to sit here and protest!” and there goes your utopia! What are you going to do about this guy? That is the nature of human beings! Every style of government is imperfect and you have to find the three legged dog that works best.

For centuries people have been saying: "This much government is too much, slightly less government please!" and other people are saying: "This amount of government isn't quite enough, slightly more government please!" and that was the version of the two party system that John was raised in. The Republicans said: "We would like slightly less government in the following categories" and the Democrats said: "We would like more or in some cases significantly more government in the following categories.", but now we are in this crazy world where half of the group just wants to shut the government down entirely because it serves no function and it provides no useful service!

John is no fan of the Democrats anymore, but they sit there and put their head in their hands and go: ”What? No government? No functioning government?" It is a weird thing for people who have run for public office to advocate and it is cynical for someone to run for public office with the stated purpose of destroying that office. It is gross and despicable!

America being the most diverse place in the world (RW9)

America is absolutely the world's premier melting pot. No other place has absorbed as many different people and has attempted to be as inclusive and to structure a government and a social world in which the ultimate goal is that all people are equally welcome. We have achieved it more than anywhere else in the world and more than anywhere else in history. There is an argument that Moorish Spain did a good job of welcoming a diverse cast of people, but nowhere near what America has done.

A lot of the foment is a result of having absorbed a global population and we are still trying our initial idea of an American democracy, which was formulated in a very different time by a very different group of people with different aims. The system is elastic enough and forward thinking enough that it has continued to evolve and embrace all this diversity of thinking and it is still working! It is exciting to everyone on Earth and it should be! It has been a model for subsequent democracy in other places and even European countries with very different parliamentary systems are always reflecting on America.

That kind of democracy increasingly lends itself to an increasing lack of commonality, which is the consequence of diversity and particularly of social relativism. There is no common understanding of what the goal is or even a commonly held respect for just the very basic building blocks, both by the people and by the people in power. Our representative government is imperfect and it sends a privileged class upward, but increasingly that class is less defined by traditional privilege and certainly a more diverse set of privileges is sending people up. They reflect the will of the people, but the people no longer share a common sense of themselves.

Other countries in the world, particularly European countries, have the benefit of a homogeneity at their core. They are trying to absorb immigrant populations and new ideas and that homogeneity is at risk by their attempt to welcome a more diverse population, but they have a fundamental sense of themselves and they can either absorb populations and try to bring those new groups into their national sense of itself or they can adopt that sense to incorporate new ideas.

In Germany the majority of immigrants are from Turkey and in France the majority of immigrants are from Algeria and Morocco and in Sweden the majority of immigrants are from Africa, but even the immigrant populations in those places are somewhat homogeneous, they are largely from another group that has an identity. The Muslim population in France that was born and raised in France definitely has an identity crisis, but it is nothing like here in the United States where in any urban High School you have people from all around the world and in a lot of cases their common thread is Hip Hop or whatever our lingua franca is.

Everybody saying the Pledge of Allegiance or everybody reading Mark Twain is certainly a thing of the past. A unifying sense of self is changing worldwide and we are in the middle period where everyone is asserting their independent sense of self, particularly in America. Every single person is their own nation who is creating a restrained chaos that doesn't resemble not only the America that John grew up in, but the one that he anticipated, aspired to, or dreamed of. The American democracy and the Constitution and all of our institutions aren't just some electrified fence around a teeming mass, but the aspiration is that people pull together and work on a global understanding that we are a single race and that we have a common consciousness.

Neighborhood behavior in Florida (RW9)

John mentioning that everyone sees themselves as their own tiny little nation. In Dan’s experience this has never been more true anywhere but in Florida because it is such a transient place. Nobody was born in Florida, nobody stays in Florida, and especially in Central Florida it is much more pronounced. No-one stayed anywhere for a very long period of time and you didn't really have the concept of a town or even a neighborhood. Nobody cared! If they wanted to play their music loud, they were going to play their music loud: "It is your problem that you chose to live near me because I am going to be playing my music loud, that is my thing, I am a deejay, and I play my music, sucks to be you, next door neighbor!"

Also: "I am only in this place for six months and then I am moving and at the next place I am going to move to I am going to do the same thing and it sucks to be you if you live near me there, because that is my thing!" That was very much the attitude, whatever their thing happened to be: "Maybe I like to work on the two cars that I have on blocks in front of my house. I don't care that I am renting this place and I haven't mowed the lawn once this year. My rent is $900 a month because this place is falling apart and I don't care that the people next door and across the street are all fixing up their homes and are trying to make this a great neighborhood. When my buddies come to pick me up at 6am they are going to lay on that horn to wake me up. That is my thing. And I don't really like work in construction."

Dan is describing real life scenarios and he could continue for the next hour. People think it is their right to burn their trash on their front yard in their underwear: "It is my land here!", but the funny thing is: South Florida was not like that, but Central Florida was much more like that. In Central Florida there are a lot more hillbillies or rednecks, which is an applicable term to a lot of that. Even in the places that weren't on the outskirts, even in the main ”metropolitan” areas the general attitude was like: ”I am only here for a little while, so it doesn't really matter what I do!”

This was a shock for Dan who was coming from Philadelphia where people are born and raised and live and die without leaving the neighborhood. Moving to a different neighborhood or even just going to a different neighborhood to get a competing cheesesteak is a big deal! Dan is not saying that they are polite to one another, but there was an understood thinking of: "If I play my music in my apartment loud my neighbors will hear that, they will know it is me and they will hate me and maybe bad things will happen in my apartment because of that." Also: "Me doing that makes it okay for everyone else to do that." There was a conscientiousness in a way, even though they might not have been thrilled about it, but there was an awareness that the things that I do will affect other human beings and they will do things that will affect me.

This has always been Dan's fundamental philosophy, maybe because he grew up there, maybe just because. He is aware of other people around him and he doesn't want to do something that might inconvenience them because he doesn't want them to inconvenience him. If I play my music loud and then they do it or they let their dog bark out in front of their yard all day it is hypocritical of me to say: "You need to shut your dog up!” - ”Why? You played music that one time!” Dan doesn’t ever want to have that! Florida is very different from Texas and certainly from the Northeast.

That whole concept of: ”I am my own nation unto myself because I own this land or because I rent it and I live here!”, the whole philosophy of putting yourself first, is fundamentally different than what Dan saw in South Korea for example when he visited there for a few weeks. There it is very much a part of their culture. Asian cultures in general are always thinking and talking about the interconnectedness of things and it is easy to lose track of that when you are in your car and it is just you in your SUV, in this bubble and then you are in your office or cube at work and you are in the bubble and you are in your apartment or your home and it is yours. Our whole culture is conducive to that kind of thinking!

People taking their phone calls in restaurants or not leaving their tables (RW9)

Yesterday John was at a restaurant that was mostly empty. He was there with his family, there was another girl eating alone, and then a guy 30 year old clean cut white guy eating alone as well. His phone rang, he took the call in the restaurant and proceeded to speak at a slightly elevated volume because he feels like you have to shout into the phone. You see this thing periodically now, although it still surprises John. He would not talk at that volume to somebody sitting across the table, but he was shouting into the phone because maybe he thinks it is a walkie talkie, rather than say: ”I'm in a restaurant right now, can I call you back?” or say (quietly): ”Hey, what's going on! Yeah, I'm in a restaurant. Yeah, I can talk for a second”

John has been in situations like that before where he walked over to the person and said: ”Can you take your call outside because I don't know if you have noticed but everyone else in this cafe is working quietly?” and he had incredibly hostile responses to that. People were incredibly offended like if he had come up and slapped them in the face with his dick, it was that degree of shock and horror that someone would intrude on their space that much and come over and acknowledge that they were too loud.

The most egregious example happened in Chattanooga Tennessee in a cafe where everyone was working quietly at some book or computer. You could hear a pin drop in this place and this guy took a phone call right in the middle of it and proceeded to chatter on with some inane gossip at the top of his lungs. You could look around the room and every single person in there had their hackles up and was just like: ”Oh my fucking god!”

John walked over and just said exactly what he just said, and the guy said to the person on the phone: ”I can't believe… Excuse me!”, but John was standing over him in what you would describe as a somewhat dominant posture, he may have even had his arms crossed or akimbo and he was fully prepared to slap the guy in the face with his dick next.

He slammed his book closed, slammed it in his bag, and went through a dramatic 5-year old temper tantrum of packing his stuff up in order to take his phone call out to the sidewalk. John wasn't saying: ”Leave the cafe and never come back!” He was very polite, he was not at all aggressive in any way other than: ”What isn't going to happen is that I am going to go sit down and you are going to keep talking.” That wasn’t one of the options.

He was a 24 year old white kid in a preppy shirt and he just hadn't learned any sense of community somewhere along the line, a sense of shared space. John can't perceive it any other way than ultimately a dominance move and a version of lifting your leg and peeing on the entire room.

John is not in the habit of walking up to people and correcting their public behavior, unless someone is being aggressive to someone else and John feels like he needs to intervene in a situation where someone is on a bus and having an episode and they are making it scary for other people, or if there is a domestic abuse situation happening in public. In those cases John has no compunction about putting himself in between it.

John is not normally going to say to somebody: ”Hey, you are being rude!” or: ”Hey, that is… Sir, do you mind!”If somebody is being profane John is not the one who would say: ”There are children here, sir!” because he is not a public moralist, but that particular example in Chattanooga was a moment that he just couldn't fathom.

This guy in this restaurant yesterday was just chatting away while John's family were having a conversation. It did not go past the threshold where it was a public nuisance, but it was just another example of: ”This guy is an asshole!” and in a way it was good for John’s daughter to learn that there are assholes in the world who take their phone calls in restaurants. She is growing up in a world where you don't have a tantrum in a restaurant and you don't talk about poo or pee in a restaurant.

There are so many things you don't do in a restaurant and the list of things you don't do in a restaurant is almost the longest of all lists. There are lists of things that you can do and can't do different places, but in a restaurant? It is a very short list of things you can do: You can eat your food in a polite manner, you can talk at a reasonable volume, but you do not have a fight in a restaurant, you do not fart in a restaurant, you do not scoot your chair in a loud way, John could go on for an hour! There is this sense of: ”What are you going to do to stop me?” or conversely: ”I am an autonomous island. Other people are just pylons. And when I woke up today and ate a handful of Cheetos and went to class, it is all me me me me me me me!”

Last week Dan was at a restaurant with a couple of friends and typically at lunchtime that place gets busy and the tables fill up. There are plenty of two-seater tables and fewer of the kind that seat 3-5 people and Dan saw several people at them who were clearly by themselves. Whey sat there, they might have had headphones in, they had their laptop or iPad out, and they were eating their sandwich while they have taken over the four-top table. In a lot of cases they weren't even eating a sandwich, but they had ordered one cup of coffee four hours ago and were nursing it while there was a line of people waiting to have lunch.

If Dan comes to a place where the only available booths or tables are designed for more than two people, unless the place is deserted, he can't sit in a booth or a table built for four people, but he will get his food to go and eat it in his car. He can't do it and feels too guilty about it! For these people it doesn't matter if you can walk up them with three persons or are standing around because it never even occurs to them that maybe they are putting themselves and their individual needs before the needs of the three or four people who now cannot eat. People are not aware of what they are doing in any way or how it affects other people. When Dan is in public, one of his primary considerations is how his actions are interfering with what other people might be doing and how can he curtail that quickly.

People walk through the threshold of a store into the main thoroughfare and stop to talk about what they are going to do next or where they should go next in the store, unaware that they have stepped out in front of a group of moving people who now have to also stop which pushes the people behind them back. That happens all the time! Do people just not care? Do they know that they are inconveniencing other people and just snicker about it? Merlin and John have a phrase about that, which is fairly well understood to be one of the themes of the current world: You need to keep moving and get out of the way.

The hardest thing in situations like that for John is when you sit down at a table when the restaurant is empty. You have your lunch, you get into a lively conversation, you are having a good time, but the restaurant fills up while you are still eating and while you are still enjoying your conversation. At a certain point you are done with your lunch, but you are still enjoying your company.

There comes a moment when you are being inconsiderate, but it isn't one of these like egregious situations. You weren't being inconsiderate a moment ago, but all of a sudden you have been there past your allotted time. You came, you used the table, you ate your food, the cheque has been dropped, the restaurant has filled up, you are no longer just alone there, and you look up and there are people waiting.

It is the trickiest thing to have a consideration-switch like that in your mind. John has a switch like that, but you can overdo it and you can be a person who is so worried about other people that you take your lunch and go eat in the alley next to a trash fire because you never ever ever want to be seen as inconveniencing another person. That is threaded through with martyrdom and relationships that are unhealthy in the other direction.

As a patron you are entitled to come in and rent the table. It is included with renting that table that you can expect a fairly good service even. You are renting the table, you are buying the food, you are entitled to not be treated rudely by the staff. Certain entitlements you can expect!

John sees that switch in your brain evidenced in people and he sees it not. You are in the middle of a conversation and you look up and look around the room with your eyes glazed over and with certain people their eyes will focus, they will see people waiting at the hostess stand, they will do a quick scan of the room and go: ”Oh shit, there are no open tables and there are two families waiting to sit down!”

They will lean forward and say to their table: ”Hey you guys, let's get out!” It is basic courtesy and you do have to snap out of the dream of your time there, but then you see other people who look up in that dream state and either never snap out of the dream or their eyes do focus, they do see the people at the front, they do see that the restaurant is full, but they feel no personal responsibility and they don't see themselves as part of this system. They are not complicit in this system in any way and they just go back to not even listening to the conversation, but just sitting and fiddling with their toothpick for another 20 minutes.

John doesn't understand how that switch can be present in some people and lacking in others and whether that comes as we traditionally think in childhood. Were they were just raised poorly, or is it something else on the sociopathy spectrum? That person's grandmother and mother and father were very courteous people, but this person was born with the CEO gene and they just don't give a fuck. Their friends and family think they are rude and no-one can explain it. There are way too many inconsiderate people for it to be the CEO Gene expressing itself every time.

John’s mom’s prejudices against The Hill People (RW9)

John's mom and dad were both completely colorblind people who just saw all people as brethren. Because John's mom is from Northwestern Ohio the exception to that are people from West Virginia and Kentucky who are in a special class that she will never be able to see as anything other than a threat to civilization and she has a huge prejudice against those Hill People, which comes from being born in 1934, but also from the tension between the different migrations of people across the United States.

She lived in a very narrow 50 mile wide band of Pennsylvania Quakers where 4 miles to the North there were Yankee Puritans and to the South of that Scots-Irish were pouring through the Cumberland Gap with their straw hats and their muskets. She felt like that strip of Northern Ohio was the narrowest bulwark of civilization, the place in America where civilization was compressed into this tiny little ”Yes to definitely Toledo, by the time you get to Columbus it is questionable and when you reach Cincinnati all bets are off.” John has read a lot on the topic, in some ways motivated by trying to understand his mother and her prejudice.

There is a wonderful book called Albion’s seed (by David Hackett Fischer) that talks about the waves of different cultures, all mostly from different parts in the United Kingdom and to a lesser extent Germany and Switzerland who came to different places on the Eastern seaboard of the United States.

These very different cultures flourished in very different ways and a lot of the American sense of: ”I am a nation unto myself and I get to do what I want and go fuck yourself!” is Scots-Irish mentality that was transplanted from the borderlands of Scotland and Ireland where those people were under constant siege for generations and were living in holes dug in the ground and developed a mentality that they were at war with everyone. It has permeated American culture, it has become one of the five dominant mentalities, but it is by far the most aggressive mentality when confronted with other people.

Many of the other immigrant groups to the states found some kind of rapprochement with their neighbors, even if it was: ”Keep your blinds drawn and mind your own business!”, but at least it was considerate or courteous in public. When you come up against what John’s mom would describe as the Hill People, they don't give a fuck about courtesy in public in that same way. Although they have very elaborate courtesies they don't stand on ceremony quite the same way as people from New Hampshire or even the people from Virginia. Certainly the people from Virginia had the most elaborate sense of courtesy, but that has been been co-opted in a certain degree by what we now identify as a Southern mentality.

There were two Souths: The Virginia South and the West Virginia South. John gets very stormed up in this kind of thinking because a lot of it is 300 years old, but it is still present in our contemporary culture in a constant confusion that we feel about one another that the people in America who largely share a common culture look at one another and just go: ”What are you talking about? What are you even motivated by?”

Dan’s family being Northerners (RW9)

John’s mom has taken to saying: ”We should have let them win the Civil War, we should have let the South secede, it would now have an economy equivalent to that of Paraguay and they would be a client state of ours, a small and weak festering sore.” - ”Mom, first of all: No! And second of all: The last thing we would want is an angry poor South that had its own army. The South remaining an apartheid system that was also armed and had allowed their ideology to fully flower would not produce a great 20th century. Where would we have been in 1960 if that were the case? There would constantly be border skirmishes and we would be at war with them the whole time!”, but she can't abide it. She is a Yankee, a Northerner.

All of Dan’s family would fit into the category of Yankees, but they didn't detest a specific area of the country. Dan himself is from Philadelphia, which is almost Quaker home country. His family was very much of the impression, without it ever really being said, that people from the Northeast were better and more educated. They were the birthplace of American knowledge and the epicenter and homeland for justice and truth. Most of his family was in education in one way or another, both of his parents worked at great universities, not just the little community college, but Temple University, Penn State and Carnegie Mellon: "This is where we go to school!" But they were not rich, they were not prep school kids, far from it! They were there because of the merit of how hard they worked.

Dan’s cousin has two master's degrees in something Dan doesn't even understand and couldn't describe. There was never: ”Oh, we are going to the good schools because, you know, we all go to the good schools!”, but: ”You will work hard!” Dan is the least educated of anyone in his family. At family reunions he is the one without a master’s degree. He is also the only entrepreneur in his family, the only one who took a path of not working at someplace else for a significant part of his career or all of his career.

Dan's granddad was a metallurgist working for the government‚ designing armor plating for tanks and other things like that. He worked at one place his whole career, but nobody does that anymore. He would just shake his head when Dan was saying: ”Got another job!” - ”You just got a new one!” - ”I was there forever!” - ”You were there for six months!” - ”I know. Can you believe that? Six whole months in one place!”

It was okay to live in Florida because first of all it was still the East Coast, and the people from New York and Philadelphia can go from Pittsburgh down to Florida because there were enough of them there that it was like home, just with better weather. Dan is also talking about Jews now, that was part of it, but he was never told in any way that it ever mattered. He didn’t even date one Jewish girl because it wasn't for him. He is part of the problem, marrying Shiksa girls! You should have seen what happened when Dan bought a VW, and it wasn't because of the emissions thing!

They were modern and they adapted to that, but Dan’s mom always used to say he should appreciate being married to a Jewish girl because they understand that we have a shared history. Dan’s shared history is not the same growing up as a 1970s/1980s kid as it was growing up in the 1940s/1950s. His shared history was that he saw a Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo in the theater, and he definitely wanted to marry a girl who understands his Breakin’ 2 references: ”Beat Street, the king of the beat. So you reckon that being from across the street” What if she doesn't understand that being street is a lesson, too? ”Because you can't let the streets be you!”

People being molested for wearing the wrong baseball hat (RW9)

Yesterday Dan watched a video from after Monday night's game between the Eagles and the Giants, and some guy was in the Philadelphia subway after the game still wearing his bright-red Giants jersey. You should be able to do that, but at the same time you need to have an awareness of where you are! If you are going to wear your Giants jersey in a Philadelphia subway you should be with a bunch of friends. You should not go alone into the Philadelphia subway, that is just some tribal knowledge!

He got punched in the face by a guy wearing an Eagles jersey who he had been egging on very clearly in the video. John does not believes in social Darwinism at all, but he seems like the guy should get the Darwin award. There is what you have the right to do and there is also common sense, but he was not wrong to do. Whatever he was doing, and nobody deserves to be punched in the face, but if he was antagonizing them?

There is a video from a prank show of a guy walking around South Boston with a Yankees cap and these guys were standing on the sidewalk, like: ”Hey, what the fuck do you think you are doing?” - ”What do you mean?” - ”You got the wrong hat, bro!” - ”What do you mean? I got the wrong hat?” These guys were stepping to him and then certainly throwing punches at him. He was some prankster who lets himself get hit by people as part of his prank, and he is getting his jollies by getting punched by strangers.

John was watching some video where the guy was pretty much openly antagonizing people of all stripes, but he needed no further provocation than just to wear the wrong baseball cap in these neighborhoods and people were stepping out of doorways, like: ”Hey, you don't walk down my street wearing that hat!” That is some very impressive American tribalism! When we spend a lot of time at a high level you just forget that that exists.

One time Albania was playing Serbia in a soccer game and some guy flew a drone over the field with a nationalist Albanian flag, asserting Albanian rights within Kosovo. A Serbian player reached up, grabbed the flag, and pulled it down, and it sparked a stadium-wide riot that ended the game and threatened the peace in the region and made this guy both a hero and a villain and his visas were revoked.

John’s opinion about flags (RW9)

Flags matter, apparently, but they don't to John. He wasn't raised to think much of many flags. He put his hand over his heart and said the Pledge of Allegiance and as a matter of general principle he doesn’t like to see the US flag mistreated, but somebody burning the flag in a public protest is a political gesture that doesn't offend John really. Burn the flag! That is an accepted way of saying something that you are trying to say!

”Fuck the United States! I am burning the goddamn flag!” comports with John’s sense of propriety, but to just throw a flag on the ground gets his hackles up, not to the point where he is going to be some guy in a ”Try burning this flag” T-shirt or even someone who would intervene in a public display, but he will pick a flag off the ground because that is just simply about respecting something and in a way respecting history.

There are not very many things that are sacred to John, but he is an American democratist. He does believe in the American experiment and he is proud of it, but there is no sports flag or regional flag he thinks much about. John feels very proud of Alaska and Washington and the Alaska flag is a fine flag, but he doesn’t get emotional when he sees it flapping in the wind. He knows the people who went to the first Alaska flag Congress where they picked it and they were just some old white dudes. There is nothing sacred. Also, the Washington flag is a dumb flag!

Texas and Alaskan sense of place (RW9)

The Texas flag is a big deal in Texas and there is a reverence for it. Dan absolutely respects and enjoys that reverence and how seriously people take it. Austin is a different kind of place because it is the third coast and it is tech, but if you go just a little bit outside of Austin you quickly find yourself in old Texas, which is not a bad place.

When Dan first moved there somebody told him: ”Don't be the guy who says: Austin is great, but the rest of Texas? Whooo!”, but visit the other parts of Texas and see what Texas is really like. You will meet some of the nicest people in the whole world and you will meet people who are both very confirmed in their points of view and perspectives, but also incredibly and surprisingly willing to accept your perspective and your point of view.

It is the one thing Dan found in Texas that really surprised him. His image of non-Austonian Texas was the Bible belt, the South, the Southwest. He had no idea because he had only ever been to Dallas and Austin. There are so many other great places! He loves the fierce belief and willingness to defend Texas as a whole and the understanding that everybody is going to have their own individual perspectives, point of views and beliefs. Far be it from me to tell you how you should think! However, don't you dare let those interfere with mine! It is an interesting combination, but it works!

That is the Alaska mentality, too. ”I have five acres. You have five acres. On my five acres I am going to customize bulldozers so that they become flame-throwing killing machines and I am going to turn my five acres into a diesel-smelling mudborg where I am going to raise fighting dogs, and ”Fuck you!” if you want to tell me I can't do any of that. However, off of my five acres I got no truck with anybody else doing whatever the hell they want with their five acres. That was traditionally the Alaskan way.

The tremendous rise in evangelicalism during John's lifetime has changed that dynamic somewhat, but the traditional Alaska mentality is: My land, my scene. You do whatever the hell you want on your land and your scene and then we will all come together for a rendezvous and get drunk and trade furs. Along with the rise of evangelicalism there has also been a rise of hippie environmentalism.

Evangelicals do not want you to put your finger in anybody's butthole, no matter where that is happening, whether it is on your five acres or not, they just don't want it to happen, they can sense it and they can smell it in the air if somebody has got their finger in somebody else's butt and they are going to march in the streets. Just as that happened over the last 40 or 50 years, so too do the hippie environmentalists not want to let you do what you want on your five acres.

They do not want you to run your diesel tractors and destroy the world. You are not allowed to strip-mine because they have a sense of the world as a shared place. The vibe has really changed! When John was a kid you could stand on your front porch and shoot a shotgun at the moon and everybody would be like: ”Well, there he is! Old Roderick is out shooting at the moon again!”, that was the shared reality.

The Texas flag is one of the few in the United States that John would show a particular reverence for in Texas. He would not scoff at it. Even as much as the history of the Texas Republic and The Alamo and all that is very interesting and it is a founding myth of that particular place, but that is very real, that is enough. Texas for all of its slave state history and all the other ways in which it is the South, it also very much could have been a second Mexico. That flag has a big old star on there just as the statehouse in Austin was built intentionally and specifically to be taller than the US Capitol. The top of the dome is some incremental amount taller than the US Capitol as an amazing and wonderful ”Fuck you!” to not just everyone in America, but to other nations. God bless Texas!

John couldn't pick the Minnesota flag out of a pair of flags if one of those flags was Texas. If there were two flags and one of them was Texan and the other was Minnesota he still wouldn't be able to tell you it was Minnesota's flag, and that is not to denigrate Minnesota, it is a wonderful place with 10.000 lakes up there, but it doesn't have that sense of place. There are parts of Minnesota where you are like: ”Am I in Iowa now? It is starting to feel a little Iowa around here!” John is going to make some of those Southern Minnesotans mad, but they have to agree that it does feel a little bit Iowa down there, or maybe Northern Iowa feels like Minnesota. Really there should be another state there and we should have 51 states.

There is also Southern Illinois, a place that you go: ”Where am I?” It does not feel at all like you are in a place called Illinois and it is unclear that you are in Missouri either, it is a strange world down there, but it is a big area. Dan has never been to Southern Illinois and there are a lot of states he hasn’t been to. John has been to every state and he has been to every city of any size in every state.

Having visited every state in the US, doing a show tour through minor cities (RW9)

When John was 20 he took it as read that he was going to see every US state, but it wasn't a thing he pursued methodically. Instead it happened very naturally and John didn't actually arrive at 50 states until 2003. In the course of visiting all those states he also visited every city and every white spot in the road because the combination of being on tour and also road-tripping as a leisure activity produced a world in which he was going to visit a place just because it was named Davenport and just to get all the Davenports. There are quite a few Davenport, Riverdale or Springfield and you want to see them all! Maybe you couldn’t visit all the Springfields because some states have more than one Springfield.

John suggests to take this show on the road and make a point in going to all places, maybe not to every city, but they should play in places like Rock Island, Davenport, Fort Wayne, or Cedar Rapids. Dan proposes to visit every army base in the country because that is most of their audience, but John is not sure how much appeal they would have with service people. He was thinking of a tour where they wouldn't play in any city that had more than 275.000 people, just to set an arbitrary limit, and they would play in Carbondale, but Springfield would have too many people.

If you did a tour of the United States where you just played at Springfields you would definitely get in the newspaper. Just call it the Springfield tour! Some Springfields are only going to have 50 people and people would have to come from neighboring towns or they would just need to get used to the fact that sometimes it is a big show and sometimes it is a little show.

Traveling with instruments (RW9)

Does John always have a guitar, mandolin, or bass with him on his travels? John found that a solo artist with a bass doesn't connect with audiences as much. Sting always has 11 people in his band, including two drummers, someone playing a piccolo sax and someone playing a Chapman's dick or a didgeridoo. Sting doesn't go out without a full world music caravan. You never know what kind of music you are going to have to play!

John hates schlepping a guitar through an airport and he always tries to not take a guitar, but that is a problem because you show up places and you think you should have had a guitar there, so John started traveling with a ukulele. You can make it work, but he hasn't worked up a full hour-long set on the ukulele. That would require that he would sit down and really do some diligent figuring-out. He could easily do it.

John's intention at his first XOXO (see RL125) was to play a full set on the ukulele. He first thought he wouldn't know anybody there, but it turned out he knew everybody. A guy walked up, they started talking, and he asked: ”Are you playing tonight?” and John told him he had just broken his finger (see RL124) and he was going to play this ukulele, but the guy offered John to borrow his electric guitar and amp and John did a show half ukulele, half electric guitar. He probably should work up an ukulele set and a piano set where he can show up and he can just play ten songs on the piano. That would be smart!

Trying to write songs again (RW9)

For the last month John has been working on a song in fits and starts. He came up with some piano parts and put some words to it, but it didn't coalesce. He put it down and he took it back up again and tried for a while longer and it was just not gelling, so he put it away, like he has done with two dozen other songs in the last five years. He was thinking: ”Well, this isn't happening! I don't have it anymore, I guess! I'll just put this one in the deep freeze and maybe one day I will learn to write a song again!”

While he was running for office John realized that what he really wanted to be doing was writing songs. Running for office was so excruciating that writing songs seemed really easy and fun by comparison, but then he was confronted with the fact that it was not easy and fun, but hard and grueling. He had always known that, but it is a very different kind of grueling than running for office: No-one is torturing you in public and you are not actually being prodded with hot irons, but you just have to pursue the thing that you are doing.

John encouraged himself to not let this go into the deep freeze, but to sit his ass down at the piano and figure this fucking problem out. Somewhere along the line he realized that the lyrics were junk and he wasn't going to be able to salvage them, so he threw them away and started writing all new lyrics. He has done that many times in the past and he always forgets that part of writing a first draft of lyrics is the realization that they are garbage and you throw them away, but then you write new lyrics which are better and much easier to do because you have already written the first draft. As John did that he was onto something, but then it got really hard because he had good lyrics for the verses, but needed a freaking chorus.

Nobody in the Northwest can write a fucking chorus to save their lives! All the songs are just meandering, the verse goes along, then it goes to the chorus and the chorus goes along. Northwest musicians think it is very inventive to make the chorus even less whelming than the verse. It is a trope where: ”Now it goes to the chorus and the bass goes away!” or: ”Now it goes to the chorus and the melody goes away!” and: ”Isn't that cool and edgy and weird?” - ”No, it sucks!” The chorus is the chorus for a reason! It is called a chorus because you want everyone to sing along with it and for it to be fun or at least compelling.

John talks about that shit all the time, knowing that even he is guilty of writing courses that only have one word in them or that repeat the same sentence over and over until people want to kill him and stab him in the eye. John hasn’t unlocked the chorus secret either! There are so many great songwriters, and John is not even talking about David Bowie level where everything in the song is perfect, but great songwriters like A.C. Newman who can write a chorus. John was sitting at the piano, he got the verse, he got the parts, but now he had to write a chorus and they are so hard and he struggled and struggled and struggled and picked away and he got half of a chorus, but then he couldn't resolve it.

John never wanted to quit writing a song more than what he did two days ago when this song already had 85% of three verses complete and half of a chorus. He is more ready to shoot it in the back of the head than ever before, but last night he solved for x and wrote a satisfying chorus. He could see the light at the end of the tunnel and today he is very close to having finished a new song, which he can't lay claim to having felt that much in the last several years. It is a great feeling and it makes him feel that there are formulas that involve work and produce results and results are what he is after right now. John is not a good enough piano player to write fast upbeat Pop songs on the piano, so all of his piano songs are droney dirges, but John really likes droney dirges.

Listener mail: Talking about your mental illness (RW9)

I've been listening to all your great shows for a long while and one thing that I've always appreciated is that both of you at different times have been willing to share your own experiences with mental health. As somebody who is currently stuck in a very rough patch of anxiety and panic attacks I find myself caught between two desires: Some moments I want to tell everybody I meet: ”Hi, I just had a panic attack and lost seven pounds in a week!” I think it is partially selfish: ”Hey, be nice to me!”, but also an attempt to care for others: ”Look, we are all going through something!”

At other times I try very hard to make sure nobody else knows how I am feeling. I would rather be seen as an unfeeling Jason Bourne robot than as a vulnerable human being. That is the side that wins out most often. Have you two ever felt that same tension? How do you navigate it? Thanks for all you do! — Ryan in Denver

It takes a certain kind of person to be able to talk openly about these things or to get up on a stage and perform and sing your heart out and bare your soul, but at the same time John is an introvert who is content with being completely on his own and who needs to recharge his battery by being alone after he was out with human beings.

A lot of it has to do with our idea of privacy and what is important to keep private or what constitutes the personal private (see RW8). For a lot of people the things that attend their mental illnesses feel covered in shame and that is the private stuff that we don't want to reveal. Then there is also traditionally the fact that if you reveal too much of that stuff and you can be denied insurance or you can be fired from your job. There is a lot of social approbation put on people who are supposedly sick. Approbation here doesn't mean praise, but notice.

John’s take on it has always been that he is not that different. His feelings of self-loathing, depression, mania, nervousness, fear and all this stuff are absolutely held in common by so many people. We hold ourselves against this unrealistic standard of what we imagine to be perfect people who are endlessly happy. We feel like we are broken and lesser, but in fact there are so many of us! Although there isn't any shame in it we not only feel ashamed about other people knowing it, but the disease manifests itself as a feeling of free-floating shame.

Revealing that is both helpful to other people and helpful to John because it takes it out of that special category, puts it into the public and enables you to say: ”This is norma and repeatable, whether or not it is treatable I don't know, but it is within the bell curve!” The problem is that there are still all kinds of confusion about our mental lives. Somebody like Jeffrey Dahmer did monstrous things, but he is still a rational actor. He can speak about himself, he can reflect upon himself, and he says: ”I don't know why I did this. I was compelled. I fought it as long as I could!” We have very little human sympathy for the extremes of our mind and we say: "Put Dahmer to death!”, which is particularly true of people who have sexual compulsions that we really really really don't like.

We categorize certain people as creeps and we want to exclude them from human life. We want to destroy them, burn them alive in the public square, but a lot of those people report a similar thing: ”I'm compelled! I hate myself! I don't understand! I do everything I can!” Some people castrate themselves chemically in order to control their compulsion. We are not completely empathetic to our own kind. Lots and lots of people still fall outside of the circle of light that is normal. John hesitates to say: ”Express your true self and be free!” because there still is a lot of condemnation.

People like Dahmer, Bundy and Ridgway should be in laboratories! We should not execute them and we should not let them go, but they should be test cases of a human capacity that should be studied rigorously and exhaustively. There is so much curiosity about serial killers! There is a whole industry of books and we think about them all the time! They are fascinating creatures, but when confronted with one we are appalled, at least in this country, and we put them to death. We don't want to glorify them in any way and we are suspicious of their autobiographies because they obviously are often liars.

John’s own problems and his own struggle is well within the circle of light. He feels at liberty to describe and discuss it because anybody who comes at him for it won't have any ground to stand on. You are going to blackmail him? You are going to say he is not fit for public office or that he shouldn't be hired for this job because he suffers from Bipolar disease? John would stand his ground in a situation like that!

John doesn’t consider sharing that a privacy issue. He expresses his private life through introversion, meaning he is not available to everybody. You don't get to intrude upon his thoughts or his person and he protects himself sometimes by not revealing the mundane because it is through that mundane that people try to gain access to him. The first question some people ask is: ”What is your favorite movie? What is your favorite TV show?” - ”Fuck you! I don't talk to you about my favorite TV show!” That isn’t any kind of access and you don't know anything about him because of what his favorite TV show is and don't think that you do! Keep away from that false sense that you know him!

It puts him at odds with a lot of the culture where your favorite TV show is a calling card, but: ”No! Fuck you! You don't get to know that stuff about me!”, not because it says anything about him, but precisely because it doesn't. John doesn't want that kind of familiarity. He is not interested in somebody coming up and saying: ”I saw you like the Americans! I like the Americans, too! We must have a lot in common!” - ”What? No, sir!” But John will say that he probably suffers from Bipolar II and that it has been a struggle his whole life. He welcomes you to come up and talk to him about that because it seems interesting, human and real.

Dan talks pretty publicly about his OCD because: ”Why not?” He wished somebody had talked about that kind of thing when he was younger or even six months ago. These things had to go through an evolution before people could really talk about them and the evolution starts with the extreme cases you read about and think: ”Wow, that poor person!” and continues to a lifetime movie and to some joke we can actually talk about. The first thing people think when they hear the terms Bipolar, Manic, or OCD is: ”Well, there was this one guy who used to build airplanes and he was OCD and needed to live in a hotel room!”

That is not the definitive picture of it, but if you have ever been driving to work in really bad morning traffic and it has taken you 40 minutes and the whole time you have been wondering if you remembered to turn the iron off and you have to turn around and you have to go home, another 20-40 minutes, and then back again and you know you are going to be late and the only reason that you are doing it is because you can't turn that loop off. Talking about something like that and hearing that other people had to deal with something like that can be very helpful.

When Dan was in his teens there was a show on HBO talking about some guy who worked in TV news and who had come out to talk about his OCD and how he had dealt with it and and what it was like. It was the first time! Dan thought this thing was just between him and Howard (Hughes), but it turned out that it was a fairly common thing. If you are struggling with this kind of thing, whether it is panic attacks, feelings of shame, being Bipolar, having OCD, fear of flying, or whatever it is, you aren't alone with it.

How come some of these things are not considered weird or strange? Fear of flying is a good example: We wouldn't have bars in airports every 10 feet (3m) if most people were not uneasy about flying. There are people who can't board an airplane sober, but that is not weird? Dan is not scared of flying at all now, but he used to be petrified about it! He used to be the two Martini guy until he got Xanax prescribed for it. Xanax is three martinis in a little tablet that taste like a turkey dinner!

A lot of it has to do with our changing ideas of what masculinity is. Today a man can say he is anxious and not get ridiculed for it or seem effeminate or incapable. John was diagnosed as Bipolar already 30 years ago and he rejected the diagnosis because most of the people that spoke about that stuff in public or most of the public awareness of it was the extreme cases. This guy has Bipolar, he just bought a plane ticket to Las Vegas at 2am and went on a three-day gambling spree where he lost his house. Wow, that is pretty extraordinary! This other person is Bipolar and went on the Internet and said: If anybody knocks on room 204 in this hotel I will open the door a crack and if I like the look of you, you can come in and have sex with me and for four days he had sex with everyone who showed up.

Wow, bipolar! That sounds pretty extraordinary, but John wasn't like that at all: ”That is baloney! I am not bipolar! What a terrible misdiagnosis!”, but in fact he is on that spectrum. He learned that there was something called Bipolar II where you never go all the way to full mania nor do you fall all the way through the bottom to suicide. Instead you are in this realm where you sometimes don't sleep very much and you have a lot of big plans and you forget to eat and you decide to run for city council even though you have no experience in the political culture at all, or whatever! John has made plenty of decisions, including: ”I am going to walk across Europe!” and later on he was like: ”Well, I committed to this and I don't know what I was thinking when I said I was going to do this, but here I am, so I am following through with it!”

Other times three months went by and John just did not get out of bed. He got out of bed at 3pm, went down to the bathroom, made some macaroni and cheese, took the pot and a spoon back up to bed, ate the macaroni and cheese, and then watched Law and Order until 4am. That is not very good either and it doesn't sound super healthy, but John has spent many months of his life that way.

He realized that not all OCD people end up as Howard Hughes and not all Manic Depressive or Bipolar people should be institutionalized, but you can be on that spectrum and it can still be devastating. John’s life isn't a wreck, but there are dents in every quarter panel and in the door. He is missing some trim, his dash is cracked, there is a little bit of rust in the floor and all of that is a product of this untreated mental illness that he wasn't willing to treat because he rejected the notion. The ways in which John was broken felt normal, natural, and right because he had been doing it for so long. Being depressed and eating macaroni and cheese in bed seemed like a reasonable response to how he perceived himself and the world. It was destabilizing because it didn’t feel alien but it felt right!

When Dan was driving back 40 minutes to make sure the iron was turned off he hadn't used the iron since two days earlier. It wasn't like he had just used it and ran out the door, but it had been turned off and was put away in the closet. This is the basic minimum of conscientiousness in that state of mind because if you don’t go back the house will certainly burn down and it will start a fire at the neighbor's house and they just had a new baby and you don't want to kill their new baby! You have to drive home!

The mania always felt amazing and felt like John's natural self: "Thank God I am back! Now let's go and start fires all over town! John is back!” When he was in between on an even keel, the nature of the voices in his head meant that he was still arguing all the time with Bismark, Metternich, Napoleon and a cast of Greek Furies. He was also probably arguing with St. Thomas Aquinas and he was arguing all the time with people and it never felt comfortable, even though it is normal.

Even when John was manic he felt like he was just arguing with them in a much more manic way and he was defeating them in argument, except Bismarck, you can never really defeat him, he is very canny. Normal was always a little bit tinged or blue, but when he plunged it absolutely felt very rational. ”I am a shit show and it sucks and life sucks!”, not enough to want to end it, but enough that there is no point in getting out of bed today.

For Dan there has always been that other part of him very consciously saying: ”You know you didn't use the iron, dumbass! And you know that not only isn't it still on, but you remember putting it away!”, but then the voice says: ”I think you are remembering the time before last time!” Dan could be in bed with the lights out and the doors locked, he remembers he put the alarm on, but the voice goes: ”Are you sure you remember tonight? Are you thinking of last night? Probably thinking of last night! You should really go check again! You have done it two other times, but those two other times might have been last night. So you should really go check!”

There is the rational part of: ”You know that this is the OCD talking and you know that you did it!” to the point where Dan at one point took a Field Notes notebook and was writing down a little checklist and as he went through and checked the doors he would put a little check next to it and he won’t have to go back. How many times do you think you can check that notebook?

Dan always knew that it wasn't a rational thing to be doing. Even looking at fear of flying or being scared of spiders or of heights: After Dan worked through it and lost his fear of heights it was a wonderful thing. He had two different experiences with this: The first time was when he went up to the top of the World Trade Center and wasn't afraid to be up there, but he couldn't stay by the edge for more than just a second or two. All around him there were other people of all ages, children, young people, very old people, all right at the edge, and none of them were just being blown off and rolling over the edge and dying. They were all fine, but Dan felt like if he got too close he would whip right over the edge of it!

After overcoming this fear he visited 30 Rock, which isn't quite as tall as the Trade Center, but it wasn't about how tall it was, it was the fact that it was tall at all. That feeling was completely gone and what a great feeling it was to lean over the edge and feel totally fine and remember the way that he used to feel and think back and chuckle and be like: ”Why did I feel like that?” It is the way of people who don't get this kind of thing, whether it is: ”Why would he be up there with macaroni and cheese? Why doesn't he just get up and go down?” or: ”Why is this dude having a panic attack? That is stupid!”, ”Why is this guy worried about his iron being turned on?”

What people who haven't experienced this need to know is that for the person who is going through it it is absolutely a huge challenge. Dan now has a personal trainer who is a registered nurse. She is a hardcore trainer and he is working really hard to overcome these chronic lower back issues that he had and he is making great progress doing it. Part of him says that some of this stuff seems weak-ass and he should be able to lift this, but he can't be embarrassed that he can't because he was working really hard to overcome this long-term issue that came from lack of core strength.

For Dan this stuff is hard! It shouldn't be hard, but it is! It doesn't matter whether it should or shouldn't be this way. It doesn't matter whether this is something that should or shouldn't be hard. It is hard and it is hard for the person who is doing it and whether you can do it or not isn't relevant to whether that other person has a challenge with it. It took Dan a long time to see that, even in himself.

Dan doesn’t think there is a right or wrong answer to Ryan's question. He should do whatever he feels he should do and either way is right. John says that if he is asking he probably sees the wisdom in sharing and understands the benefit of it, and he just has to find a way to figure out what is salient. Knowing that you are suffering is helpful to other people, particularly people close to you who wont blow you off. John’s big problem is that everybody has got a fucking solution: ”Why don't you do yoga?” - ”Why don't you take a flying fuck at a rolling donut?” That goes with the territory. You have to educate yourself and then help educate other people and not get frustrated by them.

It is a challenge to live in the world where the only people who don't find it challenging are the lucky few who have sunny dispositions, extroverted natures, and optimistic world views, who are naturally strong and beautiful and wealthy and gifted. That is the rare individual, but it is portrayed as normal. We should all aspire to be that and if we are not, then we are bad, and we should should work toward that if we are not there already. Those people are unique and extremely lucky and they are nobody to hate. You can't even resent them! They had no hand in it, but there they are! Imagine if you came out into the world and you could run a four minute mile or a three minute mile or whatever the current record is, or you could throw a Frisbee and catch a Frisbee just naturally the first time you tried!

John’s sister was friends with some kids that were just daredevil athletes. There was a kid named Andy Barr who would just get on a long board and set off down a long twisty mountain road where it was an active road with cars coming up the hill and going down the hill and he was on a longboard, passing cars, going so fast down this twisty mountain road with no safety equipment. He just had a combination of physical giftedness, luck, and daring where he could do things that would kill other people, but he didn't die to this day. You just go: ”Fuck! What can I do? Can I resent Andy Barr and his gift?” - ”No!” All you can do is appreciate it, stand on the side of the road and clap your hands and go: ”Fuck yeah! That's incredible!”, but the last thing you should do is say: ”Well if he can do it I can do it” or compare yourself to him and say the fact that you can't do it means that there is something wrong with you.

John didn't envy his talent, but his daring. John would say: ”Fuck, I'm not brave! I don't have the balls to do this patently insane thing that also requires tremendous skill!” There is a lot of confidence in Andy's ability to control that freakin skateboard, but at the time all John could see was the balls and he would compare his own daring which was already off the scale, but it didn't measure up to that, and so he was just a lesser person.

You realize: ”God, the people who have it all?" Leave them be! Let them live! They are great! There are all those rich kids on Instagram who are taking pictures of their Patek Phillippes in their dad's private plane on their way to Burning Man. Leave them alone! Get them out of your head! Stop worrying about them! Don't ever compare yourself to them! The rest of us are down here, ankle-deep in mud, some of us waist-deep in mud, and we just have to find our own dry place to sleep every night.

Silent ending

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