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THIS IS NOT A TEST with Michael Phillips

Mixed Nuts (transcript)

Published January 5th, 2019

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Hello and welcome, hallo and walcomb, heep and hep and ho and here we go, Joe. It’s a brand new year which usually means nothing, as much as we try to give it meaning with a lot of shouting and blowing things up and fucking in the streets on the last night of the year. A tradition or phenomenon that I’m sure is relatively recent.

Most things that draw attention to how important we are, or how significant the passages in our lives are relatively recent, since people didn’t have time for that kind of self-involved shit when they were mainly concerned with making enough money to get some food, or before that, outrunning the animals that were trying to make us into food.

But we have a lot of time now to do nothing and think about how important and awesome we are, so we need a lot of holidays and markers and reminders. Like September fucking 11th. Every year we must remember that and each and every anniversary of each and every grisly piece of shit thing that humans have visited onto other humans. We must remember, we can’t ever forget. Really? Why not?

I don’t live in New York, but if I did I wouldn’t want to be reminded of what happened in 2001 every September 11th. It’s enough already. Maybe every 25 years or so you can show that god damned footage of those god damned planes and say, “Hey, remember this? Show it to your kids if they don’t know how awful we can be to each other.” But rehashing it every year, now, 17 or 18 years later, it feels like torture porn for masochists to me.

Michael Che has a comedy special on Netflix, and he does a bit about “Black Lives Matter” and people who hear that and say idiotic shit like “all lives matter,” and otherwise trivialize something that should be important here in this country, and in every other country. Anyway, as part of that bit he says that on September 11th he’s going to wear a shirt that says, “All Buildings Matter,” which is about the funniest thing I think I heard last year. Which is over, by the way. Last year. In case you hadn’t been made aware. Time for a new calendar. If you’re 90 years old and still hang a paper calendar on your wall.

I can hear everyone tuning out right about now. Ha. What does that sound like? Half of your audience clicking away from your podcast in disgust? Probably sounds just like this. Well, arrivederci those of you who took umbrage. It’s probably for the best. Our relationship wouldn’t have made it. It would have ended eventually, in a messy shower of tears and revulsion and recrimination.

For the rest of you: I was at the drugstore looking for something – last year – I was looking for windshield washing fluid I think? But usually when I’m walking around the drugstore I’m looking at everything, wondering if I need it or not. A plastic bin to hold batteries? Oh, that could be handy. Two gallons of wine in a box? Hey, you never know. Do I need a butterfly net? But as I was sort of looking for the windshield washing fluid, which is probably just blue water with some alcohol or something in it, I spied a big can of CVS brand mixed nuts, and I thought, you like mixed nuts, you should get those, so I did.

And they are very good mixed nuts, for a generic store brand. Though I don’t know if you can really screw up nuts. Seems like an easy product. Just buy huge containers of nuts, like by the barrel or cargo ship, shell them, maybe put some salt on them, stick them in a little box or jar and go home and have a nice dinner. So what’s in the container of CVS brand mixed nuts? Cashews, Almonds, Brazil Nuts, Hazelnuts, or what used to be called Filberts, Pistachios, and Pecans. No peanuts. I don’t like to sully my mixed nuts with the common peanut. I get the peanuts separately. And unsalted, thank you.

You know what’s really good? Boiled peanuts. Sounds awful, doesn’t it? Boiled peanuts? But damn, they’re tasty. And expeditious. I don’t remember why I sought them out a couple years ago, but I had to get them sent to me in the mail, because they are a southern thing, apparently, and you can’t just pick them up at Ralph’s here in California. But yeah, boiled peanuts. You should try them.

But CVS mixed nuts are good too. If you’ve ever bought mixed nuts you know that they’re expensive. And if you want them without peanuts they’re even more expensive. So when I saw the big 18 ounce can of mixed nuts for “only” $8 I figured I almost had to buy them. It wouldn’t have been right to leave them there. Though I’m not really a very good comparison shopper, so I couldn’t tell you what 16 or 18 ounces of mixed nuts goes for anywhere else. All I know if $8 seemed like a good deal to me when I saw it. That was my impression. The feeling I had.

But I stopped looking at how much things cost at the drugstore and grocery store a long time ago. When I started working for Internet companies and felt comparatively wealthy. I say comparatively because I never got wealthy working for an Internet company, it’s just a job, but it’s a better job than I was used to, so I didn’t really have to pay attention to how much pasta cost or mixed nuts or boxes of wine.

For most of my life before that I had to pay attention, of course, we’ve all had to pay attention at some point. I used to walk into the grocery store with $40 or whatever amount I happened to have in my pocket, and as I added things to the cart I would keep a running tally in my head. When it got close to what I had, that was it, I was done shopping, whether I had everything I wanted or not. Maybe many of us have never stopped shopping that way. I’ve been unemployed for 10 months so I really should be shopping that way. It’s just the whole not looking at prices thing is a hard habit to break.

But I do pay attention to price when there are two things on the shelf and they look the same to me but one is twice the price of the other. I’m not buying the twice the price one just because it has a certain logo. It’s all the same stuff I think, when you get right down to it, so it’s not like I’m throwing money away. I’m just not walking through the store repeating over and over in my head, “$18…$18…” then picking something up, “$19.50…$19.50…” Though now I may have to do that next time I’m there, just to make sure I never forget how it works.

But as I was chomping down on a handful of the CVS mixed nuts – and I’ll just say here for the record, CVS, if you want to kick anything my way for the advertisement, you know where to find me. Anyway, as I was chomping down on a handful of the CVS mixed nuts, it made me wonder how the hell you can even sell a can of mixed nuts for only $8. If you think about what goes into growing and processing them maybe they should be like $40 a can or something. I think that about a lot of things. I pick them up and put them in my cart and wonder how the hell they can sell an avocado for 50 cents or a box of pasta for a dollar.

Did you know that archaeologists have dug up nut-cracking tools that were 780,000 years old? I thought our human history only went back 100,000 years? Or even less than that, maybe 70,000 years ago we were making tools out of bones and things other than rocks. Any way you slice it, that nutcracker they dug up was 10 times older than modern human tools, so people or pre-people or space aliens or apes or whoever have been eating nuts for a very long time indeed.

Anyway, I was crunching on that mixture of cashews, almonds, brazil nuts, hazelnuts, pistachios, and pecans and wondering how many of them are even native to this country I’m standing in, and for the ones that weren’t, how long have people been bringing them here, and why and how and – you know, nuts raise a lot of questions if you think about them more than you should, and clearly I was thinking about the more than I should because I went and looked them all up.

As it turns out, pistachios are a kind of cashew, did you know that? I didn’t. Did you now that it takes 10 years for a pistachio tree to become mature and give you any pistachio nuts? See, right there – the god damn tree has to grow for 10 years before it makes the farmer a penny. Okay. Well pistachios didn’t come to America until the 1880s, and we didn’t really start eating them as snack nuts until the 1930s. Now all the pistachios I eat are probably grown here in California, like a lot of nuts are. But they are native to western Asia, Syria, Afghanistan, Turkey, places like that.

Which strikes me as odd since cashew cashews, to which pistachios are related, are native to Brazil, Vietnam, Nigeria, India, and Ivory Coast. Those are different regions than the cashew’s rich relation the pistachio, but that’s science for you. The cashew didn’t get to the United States until around 1905, long after pistachios were here, but they become popular almost 10 years before pistachios did, during the “Roaring Twenties,” a decade which was also known by the less common name, “The Cashew Decapod.”

Almonds came from the Mediterranean, Syria, Turkey, Pakistan, but they got here in the 1850s, before cashews and pistachios, and for some reason, we started planting almonds here in California right away, and now most of the almonds that the world eats are grown in California. Someone must have really liked almonds to start growing them here in the 1850s. Then again, you could probably sell a pound of almonds in California back in the 1850s or 1860s for ten times what you can get for them now. “Well Clara, we can either buy a donkey or a sack of almonds. Which will it be?”

Brazil Nuts come from a South American tree and came to America in the 1800s. Half the Brazil nuts we eat now in the United States come from Bolivia, of all places. Most of our Hazelnuts come from Turkey, but oddly enough it’s one of only two of the mixed nuts that grow here natively. The other being Pecans. They are native to northern Mexico and the southern United States, around the Mississippi River. Native, but again, no one started growing them as a crop to sell until the 1880s.

So basically, in America we’ve only really been able to eat most of the nuts in the can of mixed nuts for about 100 years, which isn’t very long in a world that has 780,000 year old nut cracking tools. Though in our defense, the country is relatively young, as far as the white people who live here, so you’ll forgive us if we were more concerned with surviving than feasting on exotic nuts and fruits.

And you’ll forgive me for talking about them, because all I’ve probably done is make you hungry for nuts. Unless you’re allergic to them, as a lot of people seem to be. It must be a lot of people, because every packaged piece of food I pick up these days informs me whether it was produced with, near, or in the vicinity of nuts. The first time I heard that anyone could be allergic to nuts was about 20 years ago, we were sitting around the office eating peanuts in the shell, and one of the kids who worked in tech support told us he couldn’t eat peanuts or he’d die. He said he couldn’t even touch them, so naturally he got the nickname ‘peanut.’

But when I was kid there was no one who was allergic to peanuts. Anywhere. Well, okay, in my world, anyway. I never heard of the strange race of people who couldn’t touch peanuts. Then again, maybe they were just all dead from touching peanuts and we hadn’t yet figured out that’s what killed them. But I don’t know about that. Just like I don’t know about you gluten-avoiders out there. I think you’re living in a bit of a self-imposed prison, but what do I know.

Janeane Garofalo has a new hour comedy special out now – she hasn’t had one in a while, but apparently, yes, she’s still alive and kicking – and at one point she asked the people in the audience to raise their hands if they were allergic to gluten, and of course a few people raised their hands and she talked to one woman, and asked her, “Any history of it in your family? Mother, grandparents, anyone?” The woman said, “no,” and Garofalo said, “Because it’s hereditary, you know that, right?”

I don’t know if that’s true, but I feel like Janeane Garofalo wouldn’t lie to me just to make a joke, and I know that we humans, at least we humans who live in rich countries where we can afford to have food fads, we go through some new thing every 10 or 20 years. A bunch of screwballs come up with the idea that something we eat will kill us, so you have to stop eating it. Then 10 years later we find out we need whatever it is and we’ll probably die without it. It’s pretty much all a load of shit – I mean all food is a load of shit eventually, am I right? Har har. But the idea that a can of beer has to have a gluten warning on it is asinine. We are asinine.

I say “we” because I was a vegetarian for 25 years, so I know a thing or two about imposing unnecessary dietary restrictions onto yourself. I don’t know if I gained anything being a vegetarian for 25 years. It’s not something you can really gauge. Maybe the only reason I’m alive right now is because I didn’t eat any hamburgers between 1984 and 2010. Who knows. Maybe I can be the test case. NEW ENGLAND JOURNAL OF MEDICINE REPORTS THAT ABSTAINING FROM MEAT FROM THE AGE OF 25 TO THE AGE OF 50 EXTENDS YOUR LIFE SPAN BY EIGHTEEN MINUTES.

Speaking of life, I posted on the THIS IS NOT A TEST site a few days ago that I might not do an episode this month because I was not feeling well. I’m still not feeling well, but I love you too much to abandon you like that. Besides, when you have something as compelling and exciting to talk about as mixed nuts – well, who wouldn’t get up out of a sick bed for that? It practically writes itself.

But I don’t know. It’s hard to tell lately if I’m sick or injured or if this is just what old feels like. I’m not that old, but it’s funny, you know, when you’re 30 years old you’re like, “Man, I’m going to be the most kick-ass 70 year old the world has ever seen! I’ll still be rocking, baby! I’m going to be running up and down the street, rescuing cats from trees and banging all the widows on the block!” Then one day when you’re 45 you suddenly notice in the middle of the day that you have to wipe your ass for no reason and you think, ah, here we go, this is how it begins.

I still think I’m going to be a kick-ass 70 year old, but this podcast probably won’t be around for me to tell you about it. Not because I plan to quit, but just because everything changes so quickly. Podcasts have already had a good run, they have to stop at some point. Fall out of favor. Maybe when people finally get sick of having little hunks of hard plastic jammed into their ears for 10 hours a day. I don’t know.

Well, I mentioned that I’ve been unemployed for 10 months, but that’s not strictly true anymore. I still don’t have a real job, but I’m doing some writing for a website hosting company on a kind of freelance part time kind of tip. Do the kids still say “tip”? Probably not. So I’m doing that, and it’s nice to have a dollar or two coming in, especially since the unemployment insurance ran out, and can we talk about that for a minute?

I worked steadily for the last 18 years, and over that 18 years I paid, oh let’s just say, a shit load of taxes. A portion of those taxes were unemployment insurance. Now I don’t know exactly how much I paid in to unemployment insurance over those 18 years, but I’d wager it’s more than ten grand. But that’s what my unemployment “benefits” amounted to, about ten grand, and they just ran out.

And it’s not only the past 18 years that I’ve worked, of course. I have paid a ton of money in, but when I need to take something out, there’s nothing there. And it’s about a million times worse for people who aren’t able to pay in at all.

I guess my first question is…no, I don’t have any questions. It’s a ridiculous system, and what it pays out is hardly enough to pay for food. It was nice, yeah, getting that little bit of money last year, but it was really a drop in the bucket. This rich country, this ridiculous, rich country, and we treat people without jobs like shit. Everything is so wrapped up in work. One’s value to the country or to the world – it’s all about work. So stupid.

But as I was saying before I was so rudely interrupted, it’s been nice to have a bit of money coming in, but it has been…strange, to put it mildly, working for a company like this. Meaning part time, remote – I didn’t mention that, but it’s remote, so I don’t have to go in to an office, because this company doesn’t have an office. So modern. So strange.

It’s great in very many ways, the remote thing, except when you need to say something to someone. Or ask a question or explain something. Then its a fucking nightmare. But that’s not what’s weird about it for me. What’s weird about it is having someone tell me what to do.

For the past, oh, I don’t know, two decades more or less, I’ve been in management, as they say. Meaning no one was really telling me what to do. I decided what to do, and if other people had different ideas about what I should be doing, we talked it over and come to an agreement – or not – on how to proceed. Whatever the issue was. If I didn’t have complete control, at the very least I had input, and if I have input, most of the time I can get what I want. Or what I think is needed. I’m persuasive like that.

But this thing I’m doing now, it’s kind of like getting a gig behind the counter of a McDonald’s when you are one of the people who opened the very first McDonald’s, and you’re saying, “Hey, this doesn’t make sense, why are we putting the lettuce on before the ketchup?” and the person in charge, your boss, is looking at you like you’re stupid and saying, “Uh, yeah, well, just do it the way I say to do it. See the picture over there on the wall? That’s how we do it. Make it look like the picture.”

Which, I understand, that’s how most jobs are. I get that, I certainly spent enough of my life in jobs like that. But unfortunately for me, I also spent the last 20+ years in a very particular kind of industry, deciding how things would work, and you know, participating in the creation of the industry. And now I have someone telling me how to make the hamburgers that I invented.

That’s the strange part. It took me a couple weeks to start thinking like an employee, and it’s been an eye opening experience as they say. Well, really, I haven’t started thinking like an employee, but I have stopped being surprised that no one is particularly interested in my valuable expert input. So I just do what they’re paying me to do and all’s well that ends well.

I used to get so frustrated at the kids I worked with, wondering why they didn’t participate, come up with ideas, tell me how they thought things should run. But when you’re in that position, where you don’t feel like you have any say in anything, all you want to do is put in your hours and go home and forget about it.

I guess I forgot that. Or forgot how that feels. But now I remember. Because I’m there again. An old man in a young girl’s world. As Corrine Burns said in “Ladies and Gentlemen, the Fabulous Stains.” A movie you should go watch right now.

So I’m still looking for one of those other kinds of jobs, the ones where you make a lot of money and people actually listen to and take seriously the things that you say, though obviously my luck hasn’t been particularly good on that front. But there’s something out there somewhere, I’m pretty sure. Some lunatics looking for another lunatic. I’ll find them. Life has always been funny, that much I know, and I can never forget that.

And look at us now. Another bit of our lives has faded into the past. A past which, like last year, doesn’t even really exist. So now what? Hey man, if I knew that I wouldn’t be putting on the McDonald’s uniform every day, would I. See ya.