Both daughters dropped by at one point in the evening, so I was pretty much left to myself to watch basketball. I have thousands of words to say every morning on the radio and TV, but around the world of womanhood, I defer. It's easier.
"You guys good? I'm gonna go on up to bed?" They looked at me with blank stares.
"You've been snoring for over an hour."
"I have not. I've been watching the Ohio State-Michigan State game. Look it's still in the first half."
"Game ended a half hour ago. We love you. Go to bed."
I've been sleeping six hours, which is all my body says I need. As a teenager, I could sleep til noon. Same thing in college and as a young adult. But the moment I hit the workforce, I turned into my grandpa... who woke at four every morning and had a stack of Playboys in his office.
"Grandpa, why do you wake up so early. Don't you like to sleep?"
"I'll sleep when I'm dead."
Which he is now and has been for nearly 40 years. He died a few months before my mom died. It was a bad year.
Back to the bug crawling on the edge of my bed... Since I went to bed so early, Alexis slept down the hall. When she comes up the stairs and I'm sprawled across five pillows, she walks to the guest bedroom. If she crawls in with me, I wake up and I'll be up the rest of the night. It wouldn't have been that big of a deal tonight since I don't do the show in the morning... but on a work night it means I'd be up all night looking at maps. I'll sleep when I'm dead.
I was laying here listening to various podcasts. There seem to be millions of them and new ones coming online all the time. Alexis relegates our listening to podcasts about serial killers and up-to-the-minute news. She doesn't like to venture too far down the charts. So last night I started listening to a podcast called "Story Worthy." It's a woman who interviews people and asks them to tell a good story. They do. But the stories are about going to Portugal with your family or appearing on the Howard Stern show. For whatever reason, the stories do not connect with my soul. Actually, very little does except for my family, the spirit of WJOB (which is good and pure and beautiful), Big Ten basketball, the three or four of you... and Vonnegut, Bukowski and Jean Shepherd.
You know when you're in that stage between sleep and awake? It's a fog. You're listening to the podcast but you're not listening? The woman was talking and I was dreaming that I was in her living room. I had gone to Los Angeles, where all entertainment podcasts originate from, and I somehow ended up in an acting/comedy class in this woman's living room. There were a few others and I sitting around the living room. The woman's husband came in the living room looking for something - a pair of socks he misplaced - and he asked me to stand up for a second. I did. He couldn't find the socks.
The host's daughter came in and asked her mom for a pen. A garbage truck rolled noisily down the street. A tea kettle whistled from the kitchen. The whole time this was going on in my dream, the woman kept talking and we kept listening. It was the same woman talking on and on in the podcast, so who says there's no cotton candy on Tralflamadore.
Then I opened one eye and there was a bug crawling across the sheet. I popped into action, smacking the roll of toiletpaper and then pouncing on the bug. I have seen few bugs in this house for the 20 years we've lived here. Is this some sort of sign?
It does remember me of the last time this kind of thing happened. I was living in Barrington Hall, that cooperative in Berkeley I told you about. It was an old Army barracks that eventually filled with leaders of the counterculture. I lived there as a broke boxer with a dream to one day become a writer who doesn't get famous until he dies. I'm not kidding. That was my dream then and maybe even now. It's the poems, junior. It's the poems.
Put all of your
troubles in a
brown paper bag and throw
it into the Little
Cal. Walk away.
Or it could be this journal. Or a novel I write one day about a wide-eyed Midwestern boy joining a bunch of hippies and punk rockers. Or something. As long as it happens after I die ... when I'm sleeping... just like my grandpa.
As mentioned before, when I lived in Berkeley I didn't have any money. I didn't have the luxury of buying a bed, so I picked up a mattress from the basement of Barrington and slept on the floor. It worked out when people would drop by. We'd lounge on the floor. I won't say what we did together. It was just a lot easier if everyone was hanging out lazily on the non-furniture.
I was taking a nap in the evening one time after boxing practice. The lights were on, which is how I often sleep if alone. I read before bed. If you doze off then get up to turn off the light, it ruins the rhythm. Half the time you wake right back up and next thing you know you're turning the light back on anyways. So just sleep with it on til you wake up for your first piss. Then turn it off.
But in Barrington Hall in the mid 1980s, it wasn't a great idea to sleep with the light on. It was a hippy-punk rocker joint with no adults around... and no cleaning crew. Part of your payment - or why it was so low - is you had to work 5-10 hours a week toward taking care of the place. Which meant it was kind of dirty. Mice figured that out and lived right along with us. You'd be eating a PBJ in the lunch room on the bottom floor and a mouse would scurry into one of the corners. No big deal.
But when you're laying on the mattress on the floor of your room and a mouse scurries across your chin, that's a different story. I hadn't been drinking or doing drugs. I had just returned from boxing practice, still sweaty, lying shirtless on top of a blanket. I woke up to a mouse pit-patting up my neck, across my chin, and down my arm. I sat up and watched it scurry under a slit in the drywall.
"Bwah. Bwah. Bwah," I screamed as if to spit the taste of mouth from my lips. "Nyak, bluh, patooh."
The girl from across the hall came running in. "You all right."
"A mouse just ran across my mouth."
"Oh, you'll be all right. The other day Herman found a cockroach in his underwear."
I'm trying to remember what happened shortly after the mouse ran across my mouth. Perhaps a similar thing will happen now that a bug crawled right under my nose. But it's all a blur. To the best of my recollection, I had a fight that weekend in Reno and won by punching the guy from the University of Nevada in the gut a few times. Afterwards, I ran into him sitting on the ground in a hallway. A woman was tending to him. It turned out to be his sister. She was quite pretty, so I struck up a conversation. After a while, little brother sitting on the floor piped up -
"Great. You rack my stomach, now you're hitting on my sister? She has a boyfriend. It won't work."
I begged to differ. At that point in my life, the words "I have a boyfriend" meant nothing. It actually made the challenge that much greater. To this day I would have liked a chance to ply my trade with older sister, but the boxing coach came around the corner.
"Dedelow, get out there and cheer on Halford. He's getting his ass kicked." It was customary when it wasn't your turn in the ring to cheer on teammates. Missed opportunity. Missed challenge.
So do you think that if I emailed the woman who hosts the "Story Worthy" podcast she'll interview me about a mouse running across my mouth at Barrington Hall in the mid 1980s? Do you think it would be wise to tell my wife of 30 years that story?
Probably not. She's not a big fan of Barrington Hall stories. "I can't relate. I was married with a three-year-old kid when that was happening."
And that she was. Now she's sleeping down the hall because she didn't want to wake me up. I appreciate that. Even though to you it might not seem like much sleep, I got a full six hours until a husband asked me to move so he could look for his socks and a bug crawled under my nose. Here's another JEDpoem for you.
Hold loose tea in
the palm of your
hand, take a big whiff... then
try to tell me there's no
God here today.
Oh, by the way... that meme at the top of this blog was made by MX. That's all I have to say about it.