Who Am I?

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A nobody; a nitwit; a pilot; a motorcyclist; a raconteur; a lover...of life - who loves to laugh, who tries to not take myself (or anything) too seriously...just a normal guy who knows his place in the universe by being in touch with my spiritual side. What more is there?

09 June 2007

Sleep And The Lack Thereof

I get up early. I'm usually awake by 5:00, sometimes earlier. I don't like to think of myself as a "morning person," but it kind of makes me one by default. I blame all those years of being a professional pilot. Helicopters do their best work during the day, and customers often want to be going by or slightly before sunrise. So whether it's morning traffic reports in NYC, or delivering bank checks which had to be at the clearinghouse by the time it opened (back when paper was still flying back and forth across the country), or transporting roustabouts out to oil platforms (all of which I've done), my day usually began while it was still dark outside. So now I'm accustomed to it. No matter how early I have to wake up, there is usually never a need to set an alarm. My body just seems to know.

I routinely get five and a half hours of sleep...six, if I "sleep in." I cannot seem to stay in bed for longer than that, even when I want to. If I go to bed at 10 p.m., I'll be awake at four. There are people who swear they need a good, solid eight hours of sleep (or more!). I always wonder if that is simply because it's what they're acclimated to? Do people really need that much? The more I sleep, the worse I feel. And sleeping seems to be such a waste of time to me. I like to see the sunrises, to smell the smells, to experience whatever the day is going to bring...the good and the bad. We are "human beings" after all, not "human sleepings." I like the being part.

The odd thing is that no matter how late I go to bed I always wake up at the same time, or nearly so. If I go out partying until two or three a.m. (which I used to in my former life), I'll be wide awake by six or six-thirty. It can make for a rough day ahead.

The bad thing about waking up early and getting so relatively little sleep is that I usually need a nap in the evening. I feel so old writing that. What am I, 90? No! Only 51. But after supper I crash, especially if I work on the computer or try to watch television. If I'm active, I can easily stay up till midnight or beyond. Just don't let me sit down.

The good thing about getting such "relatively" little sleep is that I never have trouble getting there. I never toss and turn, ruminating about this or that. My head hits the pillow and I'm out like a light, snoring like a Husqvarna chain saw (or so I've been told, not that I believe it).

Back in Pensacola, my friend Matt and I would frequently go out at night on weekends, usually out to the beach or somewhere to see live bands. He'd want to get an early start, and he'd usually want to stay until closing time. I don't have a problem with either of those things, but to do so requires getting at least a short nap at some point during the day. Matt would would roll his eyes in exasperation. "Okay, gramps," he'd chuckle sarcastically, as is his lovable way. It was not a problem for him, because he could sleep the whole next day if he wanted, untroubled as he is with the very concept. But me on the other hand, like I said I cannot do that. Plus, Matt is a banker. And you know bankers; he usually strolls into his office right at the crack of ten-thirty or eleven, puts in a couple of hours of what he loosely calls "work" (which includes dashing off to Eat! or Dharma Blue for the requisite three-martini lunch), and then is home by four, four-thirty, tops if he has to "work late."

No, that's not true. As Triumph, The Insult Comic Dog says, "I keeeed, I keeeed!" Matt works hard, I'll be the first to admit that. Still, I'll bet even he can't remember the last time he saw a sunrise...unless it was from the other direction (like, staying up all night and seeing it before going to bed).

I know, I'm wasting your time. I'm sorry. I wish I had something more important or clever to write about other than just whining and insulting my friends.

Like, this Jimmy Buffet book I'm reading, "A Salty Piece of Land." It's about - are you sitting down as I reveal the plot? - a cowboy from Wyoming who becomes a Caribbean beach bum. Okay. Uh-huh. Haven't seen that literary device before, nope.

I quite liked Buffet's earlier book, "Where Is Joe Merchant." But this one...sheesh! Not even a quarter of the way into it yet and it's boring me to tears with poorly-drawn characters whose lives interest me...not. "Characters" with names like Captain Kirk (a boat skipper) and Clark Gable (someone else...I forget already), Sammy Raye Coconuts (a flamboyantly gay Jewish...ah, nevermind), and Indian-shaman Ix-nay. (Aren't there always Indian shamans in books of this type? Actually, in this book Ix-Nay is one of two!) Let's not forget Cleopatra Highbourne, a 101 year-old woman who still travels the globe (and smokes Cuban cigars...of course). I apologize to all of you Jimmy Buffet fans out there but, oh, please. Warren Buffet (no relation) could probably come up with a more interesting novel.

Jimmy Buffet always inserts "just enough" technical aviation stuff into his books to keep me sort of interested. He is a pilot, for real. And even though he has freely admitted how much pot he's smoked in his life, the FAA has evidently yet to yank his pilot's certificate, as they surely would do to...oh...me if I were to write about stuff like that.

And Buffet always "cleverly" includes real places and events in his books. Like the Flora-Bama Lounge (home of the annual "Mullet Toss!"), a bar on the beach on the border between two Gulf Coast states the names of which escape me at the moment. And Key West, of course. Funny though, how his "characters" never seem to wander into a local bar/restaurant there called "Margaritaville," which is really just a touristy souvenier shop that sells overpriced and over-hyped cheeseburgers in pseudo-paradise.

It got me thinking about his music, which I like although I am certainly no "Parrothead" (as his devotees are called). And I wonder how someone who can write such catchy songs can in turn write such boring crap in the form of a novel. (Hey, I should talk?) Maybe I just don't have enough of an imagination to read and enjoy fiction. That may very well be the real problem here.

But then again, come to think of it maybe it's because of the real-life characters I've met here in Guanaja. Maybe they've spoiled me for any made-up characters that could sprout from someone else's imagination. And believe me, Guanaja is chock-full of colorful, interesting people. Fascinating people with incredible...let's just say "backgrounds" who've had the unbearable misfortune of being born with mundane, normal names and not "Sammy Raye Coconuts." Maybe reading a novel about a tropical paradise when you're already living in a tropical paradise is not the best idea, he grumbled to himself, violating his own rule about writing about himself in the third-person and laughing at the deliberate irony.

I do know one thing though! In the future, if I am ever troubled by a little bout of insomnia and for some reason need to get a good twelve or sixteen hours of sleep, all I'll have to do is pick up this Jimmy Buffet book. Problem solved!


Hal Johnson said...

"I wish I had something more important or clever to write about other than just whining and insulting my friends." Dunno why you'd apologize. I mean, sheesh, whining and the desire to insult friends are some of the best springboards to creativity I know!

I'm usually up by five or so on non-work days myself. Seven hours of sleep seems best for me; with eight hours I just seem to have too much trouble getting going into the day.

In my teens and twenties, I was a night denizen. If I didn't stay up late on my days off, I felt like I was missing something. Now it's the other way around: if I miss the sunrise, I feel like I've missed out.

I've long thought that my own years of being ready for 6 a.m. takeoffs converted me to a "day person." Imagine my surprise, then, when I was put on the night crew last spring for several months. (Until the strike, actually.) I found it very easy to switch to a night schedule, and I actually found it sort of, well, stimulating. In fact, while I'll often take a catnap while on days if my flight schedule allows, on nights, I found that I couldn't take a nap, because I was simply too awake. I was predisposed to hate night duty, but actually grew to like it. I guess I'm a closet night owl, even after all these years.

Bob Barbanes said...

That's what it must be, Hal. I too have friends who feel like they'd be "missing something" if they didn't stay up late because that's when all the action is. But like you, I prefer to see the sunrises. I know what happens late at night - usually bad stuff.

I guess that as we get older we come to the realization that we just don't have that many good days left. And I don't want to waste even one of them sleeping.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, funny you mention Eat! as I "ate" there today, on the bank of course. Yeah, there are definate pluses to my chosen career, just don't let it get around! See you soon!