Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Sleep? Well...

Why do classical music stations play Shostakovitch and Bartok at 2 a.m. Why, at that hour, musically-speaking, do they move furniture, test the chainsaw, and wake the chickens?

Meet your garden-variety insomniac, springing from a long line of midnight roamers on the distaff side.

When I was a kid, I had nightmares. Scream in your sleep, wake the house, get into bed with mom and dad nightmares. My brother had them too – and he was a sleepwalker to boot, so we might find his five-year old, racecar- pj’d ass screaming bloody murder in the basement or on the front lawn. A couple of Munch portraits we were, and for no apparent reason. We lived in the suburbs, on the golf course, for god’s sakes. At that age, what fear did we face – flank steak for dinner? A broken retainer?

The nightmares went away, maybe along with the innocence and helplessness of childhood, but not the chronic insomnia.

When courting sleep, I’ve never taken anything stronger than an aspirin or glass of wine except once. A friend gave me something – ambien or lunesta. (I love marketing. How about Uncon-shush.) I slept ok, but the next morning I found a weird still life on my kitchen table -- one badly dented tea canister with a screwdriver punched in the top, a butterknife, and a hammer.

Don't ask me. But never again. I have problems enough.

So it has really always been about the radio versus my endless yammering internal nocturnal narrative. I know, instead of complaining about the KUSC programming, I could just pop in a CD. But for some reason, it has to be live – a soft voice in the dark that’s speaking right now.

If only I could find a late, late night baseball game. As a little kid, nothing sounded so sane and soothing as the second half of a baseball double header on the AM dial. Lovely, boring baseball. I feel sleepy just thinking about it.

“Low and inside, ball three. He steps back from the plate. Let's see who's warming up in the bullpen... Hey, how about some Farmer John sausage. Always fresh, always delicious; nothing is better with eggs than Farmer John sausage. You'll find them in your grocer's freezer. And he swings, strike two. Full count...”

Sure, nightmares are nothing but illusion. But then, so is safety.


  1. Tears of laughter splash on my keyboard! Another bull's eye or should I say homerun KB. I can always fall asleep but wake promptly at 3:15. Depending on my level of angst prior to bedtime, I go back to sleep shortly or solve and resolve my issues over and over till about 5 or 6. Retirement has eased the angst level tremendously. Now I just don't give a damn when I fall asleep. I'll sleep till noon if I want to! Oh, and I could fall asleep listening to a baseball game right there IN THE BALLPARK! Yawn. It's time for my nap.

    WV: FINGSHO - it's a feng shui knock off

  2. "Fear of flank steak"--!

    Maybe a radio that gets reception from other parts of the world. Surely someplace it's always time for baseball or its moral equivalent.

  3. I just heard myself say:

    I get the kind of sleep that other people only dream about.


  4. Copyright that one before 'someone' swipes it Kevin.

  5. On a dark and stormy night, all I want to read is a good Bach.


  6. Terrific read ... peas in a pod. If it weren't for blogging, I would have to iron or clean ...

  7. This is testament to why live radio will always be with us. The best voices feel like they're talking right to you.

    -K-, be careful what you say with Ginger in the room.

    sisicinc=ethnic holiday for the faint of heart

  8. FYI - I've spent the afternoon unsuccessfully keeping this image out of my head:

    "...but the next morning I found a weird still life on my kitchen table -- one badly dented tea canister with a screwdriver punched in the top, a butterknife, and a hammer."

  9. 3:15 am must be the witching hour. That's when I wake up too.

  10. try getting a satellite radio---you can listen to people talk all night long about nothing.

    and yeah, I'm having trouble getting that still life picture out of MY mind too. Great, now *I'll* be up all night long...sigh!

  11. For a short period of my childhood I suffered from night terrors. Young enough not to know whether or not your dream state was as valid as your waking state.

    To bad Dr Gene Scott took a dive, He was my favorite late night entertainment. Watching him on his Saddlebreds going round and round and round and....(you get the point) better then counting sheep

  12. My boyfriend took Ambien once. Awoke with all the knives laid out on the kitchen table sharpened and a shaved chest. Yipes.

    Maybe you could record a game to play when you're wide awake.

    Finally, broken retainers are nightmare worthy if your mom was as touchy about them as mine was. ;)

  13. I'm sure you've tried counting sheep. The woolly buggers keep bleating all night keeping me awake. I do find Saturday nights quite easy to fall asleep; Saturday Night Live is so dull and unfunny, it knocks you out cold. hmm, Might have to take a few shows for the week.

    Isn't it odd how we are bombarded with all these remedies in pill form for everything that ails us; yet the side effects may kill us?

  14. Ditto on the laughter - I woke up hubby! (This image will stay with me for a while "one badly dented tea canister with a screwdriver punched in the top, a butterknife, and a hammer.")
    I'm the ultimate night owl, but once I do get to bed, I'm out. The cats howl, the dog barks, the kid has nightmares, & it's all to the light sleeper to take care of.

    WV: lycarica (would work for a drug name)

  15. I appreciate this posting. One of your Greatest Hits collection.

    And, it's good to know nightmares are no longer a part of your life.

  16. Oh god... the dented cannister with the screwdriver! I've heard that Ambien causes some people to sleepwalk/drive/attack their spouses. (Or cans.)

    Before I had my child, when I actually used to sleep, I had terrible insomnia. I liked to listen to Home Shopping Network! Now, when I finally clock in my zzzzs, I'm so exhausted I usually just pass out.

  17. Excellent suggestions -- sheep, TV evangalists, and home shopping network.

    (Amy, yikes.)

  18. insomnia. Not funny to me. I feel for you.

  19. The Weather Channel was my default insomnia (and general white noise) go-to for years. Because I liked the idea that I could "see" the world in real time. Sounds similar to the live radio voice you're speaking of....

  20. Every time I see a commercial for Ambien they've added a new "side effect". The only thing left is committing an axe murder. I think you got off easy.

    Insomnia is an old companion - until recently. I took up Centering Prayer, spent about a year processing a very particular and peculiar anger, something not previously encountered. Now, zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz...most of the time. But everybody has a bad night now and then, and then there's menopause, and Craig Ferguson, yaddah, yaddah, yaddah...

    Petrea, maybe you could make us all a relaxation podcast?

    Finally, I have to say, I am a little suspicious of the Bartok/Shostakovitch problem. Isn't LA the land of tripy, late-night, melifluous, and well-modulated radio night owls??? Don't tell me they're no where to be found. I'll be up all night thinking about what might have happened to them.

    wv mershfig

  21. PJ, I'll record one tonight when the hot flashes wake me up.

  22. Hot Flashes, P!? Your kinda young 4 that aren't ya? Don't you have be at least abour 50 for those kinda fireworks?

  23. Dammit, my blog is getting carjacked. Give me back that steering wheel.

    I tried books on tape for awhile, and you know who has the best voice, after Petrea of course. Prunella Scales. I wore out Mapp and Lucia.

  24. Very funny. Did you really have that reaction to Ambien? Did you ever read that New Yorker Shouts and Murmurs about it? Very funny too.

    Another good one, AH. Sigh. You set a very high standard for the rest of us.

  25. Oh! Gosh. Right, right, right you are, Cafe. I forgot I'm still 40.

    I love Prunella Scales. Not personally. I mean, I don't know her.

    I would like to do books on tape. Ought to investigate that. Anyone know anybody? Got an in for me?

  26. The demise of the tea canister reminds me of a favorite Steven Wright quote: "Did you sleep well?" "No, I made a couple of mistakes." And the only thing better than radio baseball might be radio golf, if such a thing existed.

  27. Golf claps can be very soothing, TB.

    Lovely post KB, you really know how to draw out the crowd. Night, night.

  28. Oh yes I'd almost forgotten about menopause ( thank the good Lord) ! No sleep for the wicked.

    PS For the record, I'm taking Benadryl on the plane.
    Did mention Jack Daniels chasers???? ZZZZZZZZZ I hope!

  29. I have three but tomorrow's another day. There could be more. Think I'll need 'em KB? BTW, has anyone tried those little blow up pillows that go around your neck and keep you from have a head jerk like in church??

  30. I share your pain, AH. Life-long chronic insomniac. I have tried all of the following to get back to sleep:

    • Speed reading
    • Mental arithmetic - long division is said to be soporific (actually, it's just boring)
    • Cat brushing
    • Smoking
    • Drinking
    • Drugs
    • Sex
    • Solitaire
    • Music composition

    I can hereby testify that none of them work. Once I'm awake, I'm awake. And there it is.


  31. I'm doing a U-turn. Your invited

  32. I usually sleep like a log, but on the rare occasion I don't, I take valerian. It's mild, nonaddictive, herbal.

  33. I know I'm late to the party in this discussions, however the following exercise can either put me to sleep, or keep me awake when entering the nod-off state. Try counting from zero to 100 and 100 to zero at the same time, and handle the crossover at 50 - 50. For example, 0-100,1-99,2-98,3-97,4-96 etc. It works for me. If this doesn't work for you, you can always search for the answer to the question, "What's the difference between a duck?"

  34. I blame this blog for my lack of sleep.

    Hey, Young Man, did your sister call? Sleepwalking brother? Your best friend who slipped the micky in your beet sandwich?


  35. I have tried everything to sleep -- it's genetic -- my dad was a big insomniac, too. I've tried medicine, valerian, herbal tea, meditation -- it only ameliorates it for awhile, but insomnia never goes away.

    What I do now -- and this is not for the faint of heart -- it use a pillow speaker from Radio Shack and listen to the radio. I listen to "Coast to Coast AM," unless they're talking about raw food or numerology that night. At least, when I do sleep, the dreams are interesting.

  36. Once again, you are brilliant and hilarious. Someone could do a whole web site with scary Ambien stories.

  37. Ok, AB, I have to say: For awhile I listened to a KPFK program that was something like Gays for Gays, or Speaking About Lesbians, or something like that. I'm not gay, but the host had such a monotone drone, it would put me to sleep. Of course, the monotone also put her off the air.

  38. Great post, KB....very funny!

    Ambien is a scary sleeping drug. Scott just got an rx for it last month, and took one. OMG, it was weird...he'd get up, talk to me about crazy stuff and then lie back down again, only to do it again 5 minutes later. He didn't remember doing it and I didn't get any sleep.

  39. BLR, please make me a tape.

    Lori: I know, that stuff should be illegal. Hope you locked up the knives and screwdrivers and flushed the rest of the rx down the toilet.

  40. owo
    good one ....