– by William Cooper
When I was a kid, my friends and I made up a game called “The Blanket Wanderer.” In this game, you, the blanket wanderer, were covered in a blanket or bedspread, spun in circles and shoved into a murky, unknown world – large complicated spaces like basements, yards and parks – where you would walk and stumble and bump into things on your way to nowhere. Vague shadows as seen through thick wool and polyester were your only guideposts and you could feel nothing but what your fingers encountered as they curiously searched the greyness in front of you. With outstretched hands you entwined serrated blades of grass, shivered at the coldness of oak wood tables and marble countertops, traced the gentle curves of chair backs or low-hanging branches, sifted pebbles and gravel and mulch, pressed into the cracks of asphalt or sank into shag carpet underfoot. What you thought you were experiencing made up your reality. What you remembered of your surroundings shaped your expectations.
And when you were ready, you were allowed to lift the blanket. Mostly you were where you imagined yourself to be, doing what you had figured you had been doing. But there were times – magical times – when the world slowly took form in front of your blinking eyes and you felt a sickening lurch in your stomach as you realized that everything you had believed was completely and utterly wrong, that you were not where you imagined yourself to be, that you were not doing what you were sure you had been doing. Everything you had experienced during the game, the unshakable and certain truth of place and time were revealed as false.
I loved this feeling. There was nothing like losing myself fully in an egoless state, melding into the background sensory landscape so that time, space and context became mist and fell away. And the moment when I got to experience everything ordinary as if it was new, watch the strange building blocks of reality flit one-by-one into a mysterious, alien whole that became familiar the instant it was complete, feeling the lingering aftereffect of the wormhole shift as it echoed in smaller and smaller circles until it was gone – it was like a drug.
Maybe this is birth. Maybe it is also death. For me, it was an early indication that things are not as solid as we’d like them to be, and that our understanding of our lives and our existence is subjective. The truth is changeable, everything can shift, your perception of reality is fluid, and sometimes disorientation is a powerful teacher, as long as you don’t wander into traffic.
In this episode, we become more disoriented than usual. Spring has arrived – for real this time – and what better way to celebrate than with the annual weighing of potatoes? Keep those russets lean, everyone! Full of a fail whale’s worth of carbros, William applauds the turning of the Earth and avoids discovering the wonders of speech-to-text. Meanwhile, down there, over here, or out there, Scott endures a clipping-heavy two-cut week. Fresh off the giddy highs of weather talk, we move into a discussion of dental hygiene. William’s MoldPik is a horror show cautionary tale that proves gravity always wins – and so might peroxide. Scott shares how a fateful trip to the dentist as a teenager in the seatbeltless 70s combined with a spit bowl’s worth of parental-provided free will gave him the power to confidently blunder. He’s faking it until the day he hopefully makes it, or dies. Luckily, he turned things around after only a few enameled casualties but still managed to pass on his dental-damaged legacy to his children. Don’t worry Mom, it all worked out! William has a similar story, which makes us wonder about parenting styles and whether our experiences with dental care were not so unusual after all. Spoiler alert; no. Should have listened more in 6th grade. William complains about the plethora of daily routines that are meant to counteract the plethora of nasty ways we mistreat our bodies in the age of computer crab people. Don’t Blink, Doctor? Got that covered. No, fellow travelers, I’m just fine… twitch. And then the podcast begins. Something happened outside! Must be time for Beyond the Porch! William heads to Microsoft for some COM-PU-TER training, attends disorientation, and suffers at the hands of a bait-and-switch mug of knowledge game that nobody wants to play. At least they fed him well. Eventually he learns to relax and let it happen to him, until what happens to him is a bit further south than desired. (No-one must know my secret). Scott heads to the Dayton Hamvention where the merchandise is about as useful as his ticket. After some quick data-gathering and general disorientation, he extrapolates disinterest and determines that this Hardware-Heavy Hobby is a non-starter. Sample the frequency spectrum kids, the world has moved on. Spring returns (how many times is this going to happen?) with Music in Rearview as we partake in yet another of the seemingly endless Columbia Special Product records, this time for Scott’s lawn care products. Yes, it’s Music of Spring, Volume 2 which comes without a timestamp on it and also, mysteriously, without Volume 1. We turn up the schmaltz levels as Tony Bennet plays a parody version of himself in real life with a wonderful song written by a wonderful person. We don’t feel okay about the tiny composite rabbit or the poppy-field child on the cover, and from the sound of it, Bobby Hackett isn’t okay either. The Eddie Van Halen of the cornet-trombone seems to be suffering from Cherry Blossom Pink narcolepsy. Not feeling as invigorated by the spring breeze as promised, we decide it’s time to stop this nonsense and make a plea for somebody to take control of this podcast and tell us what to talk about. If not, you only have yourselves to blame. There’s a fire in the data center, Bob, I gotta go! It’s my signature movement!