Last week, a high pressure system enveloped the San Francisco Bay Area like a massive slab of steam-heated cat fur. In these parts, three days of this equals three years in a hot box in Brazil wrapped in bacon. If we still used old-time thermometers, geysers of globby mercury would’ve shot into the air, adding to the poison already in our systems via too many tuna sandwiches. Each night I baked awake in bed, my brain cooking with insomnia not even melatonin could cool.
On the third afternoon of the heat wave, work done, my jaw ligaments snapping, my mouth like a cargo bay, I turned on my biggest—and only—fan, a 26-inch, 3-speed Lasko and sunk down on my bed. As the cooling fan wind flushed over me, I kidded myself: 30 minutes, 45 minutes, 60 . . . 90.
I awoke asleep. According to Wikipedia—unless someone’s making mischief again; last time, it was instructions on how to hunt grizzly armed with a butter knife and assurances that cooking with anthrax is perfectly safe and delicious--I had made mistakenly slipped across the door sill from “Power Nap” into the room signed with the sinister appellation “Slow Wave Sleep.”
By napping too long, I had entered into Slow Wave Sleep and then broken it too early to my detriment. From Normal Sleep I awoke to Abnormal Consciousness, or "Sleep Inertia." My skull felt like a bowl of liquid rust that had bored a hole in the bottom and then seeped blood-like throughout my body; a rust that crusted on my nerves, my arteries and veins, and every cell muscle. If the police had come to my door, I would not have been able to think fast enough to identify myself. And then they would have shot me.
I wandered zombie-like through the house. If I am a zombie, my mind droned, then I must go out and eat some brains. Luckily, my wife arrived home just then and the next door neighbor escaped unharmed.
Some weeks earlier, I had bought tickets for a benefit concert for that night as a birthday present for my wife—in my decrepit stupor, I recalled only that her name was something like “Mrs. B.” After some desultory conversation, I finally grasped that we were scheduled to attend the “Mozart for Mutts and Meows” benefit for the Berkeley/East Bay Humane Society. Five minutes of patient explaining and hot coffee poured over my barren skull alerted me that it would not be Mozart as performed by dogs and cats (or, as the cat constantly reminds me, “cats and dogs”). In fact, no pets would be attending at all. I said I thought it unfair to exclude the animals, but my wife, sensing that I was unable to grasp complicated explanations, simply said “The animals don’t have any money, so they can’t afford the tickets.”
We left the house, my wife by the front door, I by falling through the living room window. “Grrrhhgg,” I growled as I waved my arms at all four points of the compass when my wife asked me for directions to our destination. We detoured through Martinez and it was very very nice, but it makes for a long drive to Berkeley, unless you’re trying to run your Normal Sleep Cycle like I was. I managed to doze through all of Walnut Creek, both directions.
We finally arrived in Berkeley with enough time left to annoy the staff at Moe’s Books by my insistence that somewhere in the world there was a first edition of Moby Dick by Dean Koontz. I then caught another five sprawled face down across the remainder table. I paid for the books I drooled on, among them, one called Spelunking for the Claustrophobic.
I snatched another five minutes on the walk to the Berkeley City Club, a journey made perilous my inability to discern the difference between sidewalk and street and the desire to lie down on both. In the lobby of the club, I glimpsed a sign that said “Bed and Breakfast.” But before I could get a bed for the night, my wife steered me toward a broad staircase laid with the softest, most comfortable-looking carpet. And so I stole another five minutes of Normal Sleep Cycle curled up on the second floor landing.
I am told the Berkeley City Club was designed by architect Julia Morgan, but it could have been Mies Van der Rohe for all I knew. The second floor was filled with hundreds of people. I bounced from body to body like a pin ball rolling from post to post, until I rolled in front of a bar and figured that a scotch and water was just the pick-me-up I needed. Five minutes later, I was sprawled face down across a comfy platter of smoked salmon where I happily snoozed until show time.
The concert, performed by members of the Mozart Midsummer Festival, consisted of a reduction of Die Zauberflote (KV620, arranged by Johann Wendt) and the Quartet in G Minor (KV 478). I am sure the performances were fine, but I remember not one note.I did, however, receive compliments for the performance that I was unaware I had given. “My word! The Magic Flute sounds so evanescent when accompanied by loud snoring!” piped up a fellow concert goer as we shuffled out of the hall.
“Do I detect a note of sarcasm in that remark?” I riposted, arching a sleep-ruffled eyebrow.
My wife hurried me home. By the time we got there, my sleep cycle was completed. I was bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, chipper and ready for action! “Wanna go somewhere!?” I chirruped like a bird, happily bouncing up and down on the bed.
“Oh shut up,” Elizabeth grumbled and stuffed the pillow over her face. She still hasn’t told me what she was so sore about.