One time I fell asleep at a jazz club. When my friend was singing.
I was front row beside a speaker and I could not keep my eyes open. That was decades ago and I still cringe thinking about it. I’m sure she noticed. She was several degrees more sophisticated than me on many levels and she could really sing. I loved to watch her perform, the way she commanded the room, an intelligent blend of sexy and capable, like Rosie the Riveter mixed with Jessica Rabbit. That’s a recent photo of her above.
I’m kind of famous for falling asleep in unlikely places. And for just falling asleep. Places I have dropped off: the deck of a pitching sailboat, professional football game, prom, work (many times), at a stop light when driving, and Catherine still teases that I closed my eyes for longer than is generally acceptable at a dinner party she held in my honor. In my defense, I just flew through two time zones and it was 1 a.m. where I came from.
I don’t suffer from narcolepsy and drop off in mid-sentence. I have a tell when I’m about to go down. My friends call it the “face rub”. I start at my forehead and rub my palm slowly down the middle of my face. As dependable as Old Faithful, once I’ve completed a face rub it’s a matter of minutes before I’m insentient.
I used to fight the face rub, but now I embrace it because if we’re entertaining and I face rub our friends just start packing up to go home.
Sleeping’s fun, but I never sleep in. I’d like to, but I can’t manage it. I’d like to pull a regular seven to eight hours, but most often I’m lucky to get a broken five. Now, with middle age encroaching, I can be awakened by my bladder up to three times a night. In fact, an undisturbed night’s sleep is a cause for celebration.
Winston Churchill never slept for more than 20 minutes at a time, which I suppose saved a lot of money on pajamas because he didn’t need them, but he apparently drove his war cabinet and underlings batty because he expected them to be available whenever he wasn’t napping. Edison was also a napper (see pic below).
A good nap is a glory. According to sleep scientists, in order not to wake groggy you need to nap in 20 minute increments.
Salvador Dali had an interesting sleep theory. He said when you were tired you should sit cross-legged with a tin plate on your lap and a spoon in your mouth. He believed all the sleep you needed was the time it took for the spoon to fall from your mouth and wake you up when it hit the plate. However, I found this picture of the surrealist snugly sleeping on a sofa so maybe the theory was just something he concocted for publicity.
Moe Norman is a golf legend. Many professionals consider him the best pure ball striker to ever live. But he never made it on the PGA tour because he was different. He didn’t dress like a golf pro, had poor teeth, an indifferent attitude to hygiene and was socially awkward. The story is he was run out of the game.
I saw him give a clinic once. He hit 10 balls with a seven iron to 180 yards—all onto a blanket-sized space. If you don’t know golf, this is the equivalent of shooting 10 bullets from 150 feet into a target the size of a quarter. Or cleanly sinking 10 consecutive basketball shots from half court.
As I remember it, Norman wore two shirts and two watches and said everything twice. Shortly after Norman’s demonstration, I played in a pro-am tournament and mentioned Norman to the pro. He first expressed his undying admiration for Norman’s talent and then told me a story about the time he drove between tournaments with Norman. It was night and the pro fell asleep while Norman drove. The pro woke when the car went through the gravel shoulder and into a marshy ditch. “You fell asleep, Moe!” the pro yelled.
“So did you. So did you,” Norman replied.
Sleep is funny. I would prefer if I didn’t have to sleep because I could get so much more done. If you live to 75 you will spend between 20 and 25 years of it sleeping. It doesn’t seem fair. But if we don’t sleep we die, so there you have it.
I’ve read about Army Rangers and Navy Seals who are forced to exist on two hours a night for extended periods of time. That would kill me. Doctors are often sleep deprived, which doesn’t seem good because they more than most should be alert. I mean, who really cares if the parking lot attendant is drowsy, but the guy or gal leaning over my gurney?
Sometimes, if there’s a lot going on, I will wake really early, like three-ish. There’s a kind of hollow, cave-like feeling that accompanies waking at that hour when the rest of the world is sleeping (your friends, colleagues, strangers and random folks like the pizza delivery guy whom you never picture sleeping because, like, why would you?).
But lack of sleep messes you up and inspires all sorts of crazy.
UFO sightings always happen in the middle of the night, never at 10 a.m. Or ghosts. Does anyone report seeing a ghost just after Good Morning America?
“I walked into the kitchen to refill my mug and there was Aunt Agnes stealing sugar from the bowl. She died three years ago.”
And when teens and college-age kids get in trouble it’s usually after 2 a.m. when they should long be in bed.
If you’re going to be an early riser I would say 5 a.m. is the champion’s time. That way you’re up for one or two hours before everyone else and have the world to yourself. But it’s not so early that you have to worry about seeing UFOs or your Aunt Agnes’ ghost while you’re still groggy and in your underwear.