gall and gumption

Thursday, March 02, 2006

On Sleep

I sleep a little worse every year, I think. I cherish this optimistic belief that it will be solved, but it isn't. I am basically a crap sleeper. But I really like to sleep. Some people who don't sleep much I think don't like to sleep. But I have always loved to sleep and when I was younger could fall asleep almost anywhere. At night now I fall asleep with the light on and a big stack of a variety of soothing literature piled up on the bed next to me in case I wake up. In Santa Rosa, in the anguished weeks after the breakup, I even read novels in bed, a pleasure I have denied myself for years because once I start it's kind of hard to stop. I have this really cool lamp. It is ugly but it is a daylight bulb.

When I was growing up in the house in Jamaica that my father built I had a four-poster mahogany bed in my room. It was nice, I think it belonged to Aunt Emmy in Oracabessa. There was also in my room a really lugubrious mahogany dresser, damn that thing was ugly. The bed of those days was very high, which I liked. I used to hide my favorite pair of cutoff shorts between the mattress and the box spring. My mother hated these shorts and I wore them everywhere, usually with this Che Guevara T-shirt that had a stain on it. I used to pretend I didn't know it had the stain on it. I mean I kept pulling this trick for months. She would call my attention to it and I would pretend that I was seeing it for the first time, that it had acquired the stain since I put it on that morning. Once, just in a fever of irritation with my slobby ways, she threatened to get hold of the shorts and the Che Guevara T-shirt and cut them up. So that's why I hid them under the mattress. When she found out about this she laughed. One day she did, at last, get hold of the shorts. I found them cut up in pieces in the waste paper basket in her bathroom. She had hacked away with them with the scissors, it must have been quite a bit of work, and, I have long suspected, did not quite deliver the satisfaction she had hoped for. The weird thing was that I laughed about that.

Anyway when I first got to "The DC Metro Area" my father and I, refugees from various shipwrecks, didn't have hardly any furniture, just a sofa and a table and a couple of chairs and the TV. We have added things. Including the table I'm writing at, this big long dark dining table that has seen a bit of life, but I'm fond of it because Aunty Babs gave it to my father years ago. And my bed, which we bought from a neighbor of my cousin. Which is, amazingly, another four-poster except queen size this time. It is even more colonial than the last mahogany four-poster I had. And it is high. Daddy's dog can't climb up into it, but she can fit her whole fat self underneath it. (We had to buy some lifters for Daddy's bed because she kept getting her head stuck underneath it in the middle of the night.) In addition to room for the dog there is about an acre or so for storing things like watercolor paper, drawings, books, etc. It is quite comfortable but nevertheless I still don't sleep in it with abandon.

I mention all of this because i think the sofa is haunted. Of course it is haunted by the dogs who spend most of the day on it, with rotations on the recliner at the window. They have become quite adept at looking out of the window. But mostly they are on the red sofa. We keep it clean with a fleece blanket. At night I settle down on the couch for a bout of editing or other writing, with the TV turned to Law and Order, which is always showing somewhere. Soon I stretch out, trying nonetheless not to crowd my dog who is lying on it and looking aggrieved about the crowding. Then hours later I wake up with a feeling that I am being strangled by my sweater. The TV is on, I haven't heard a sound of it, the cop show is over and I am just this side of stuporous. Thick, soupy sleep, sleep that I never get in the bed. But, hopeful, I stagger off to the bed, this is the time when if I do anything it is likely to be goofy. Like leave the water running in the kitchen after I get a glass of water. Or trip over Daddy's dog in the middle of the floor, or kick the dog's water dish and spill water all over my toes. Get... to... bed. Crawl under the covers and well, what do you know, wide awake with all the bats flitting about the belfry again. So that's why I think the sofa may be haunted by something more than the dogs.

But it is something to have insomnia in such a splendiferous bed.

So what books do I have in the bed just now?

Montaigne - Essays, trans. Donald M. Frame
William Hazlitt - Sketches and Essays
William Hazlitt - Literary Remains
Popper - Selections
Carlson's Guide to Landscape Painting
Drawing - Daniel Mendelowitz
Ruskin - Selections
William Blake - The Complete Works
A couple of other books on drawing
S.J. Perelman - The most of S.J. Perelman
A clipboard with sheets of paper for scribbling thoughts in the middle of the night.

This lists represents what I put back on the bed after I made it. Another stack almost as big was relegated to the floor for being boring. That stack included The Wings of The Dove.

Why the drawing books? They used to have a magical effect. I would read about drawing and look at the illustrations and get completely absorbed. They were perfect, they were like thinking about nothing while having something to look at. But in the last five or six months they seem to have lost their mojo. So I hardly look at them. I just keep them there in the hope that they will put me to sleep again. Also they make a good stand for my computer when I bring it to bed with me, which I am ashamed to say I do, too too often.

Two mornings ago Daddy's dog woke me up at about 4 a.m. to go out. She has to take phenobarbitol for seizures and it makes her drink a lot of water and pee. I got up, took her out and then went back to bed. About an hour later my father got up for work. As he always does he took his dog out for a walk. My dog, Sweetie, will not go with them as she refuses to go out of the house without me. Well all I can tell you is that my dreams were, some time later, sort of penetrated with the sound of a dog barking. It was going on for a while before it woke me. I got up and it was Sweetie, sort of running up and down the apartment and barking up a storm. I looked through the peephole in the front door and my father was standing in the hall. He had forgotten his keys and locked himself out and had been banging on the door to no effect except the mad barking of Sweetie. His dog, Misha, who was out in the hall with him, was so disturbed by the commotion that she was trying to run out of the building and was down near the door at the furthest extremity of her leash. I opened the door.

"That must have been some deep sleep you were having," my father said very, very drily.

I finished The Golden Bowl today. Why am I reading so much Henry James? Think big fat novel. Think page counts. I believe that the Golden Bowl is the novel of his that I will hate the most. I really am not trying to be perverse when I tell you that my sympathies were so completely with the wrong people in the book that the supposedly happy ending made me just peeved. I got down to the last few chapters, the ones where things actually move at the pace of actual human beings, albeit very slow ones, and as I got to the end of each I was thinking, "All right, come on now, bring it back around." But he never did, the bastard.


At 7:56 AM, Blogger merlallen said...

Where's my thong?

At 2:18 PM, Blogger Kia said...


At 1:27 PM, Anonymous Lisa said...

I am very happy to hear how much you disliked The Golden Bowl. Me, too. I read it in Venice--so did Jeff, of a previous life--& being in Italy made it feel like it OUGHT to be good. The only really good thing about it was the cover--a Sargent painting.

At 1:28 PM, Anonymous Lisa said...

I am very happy to hear how much you disliked The Golden Bowl. Me, too. I read it in Venice--so did Jeff, of a previous life--& being in Italy made it feel like it OUGHT to be good. The only really good thing about it was the cover--a Sargent painting.

At 4:43 PM, Blogger Kia said...

Lisa! You found me! Please keep stopping by!


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