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.