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    Bridge Ladies When I set out to learn about my mother's bridge club, the Jewish octogenarians behind the matching outfits and accessories, I never expected to fall in love with them. This is the story of the ladies, their game, their gen, and the ragged path that led me back to my mother.
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Someone Left the Cake Out in The Rain

I can’t sleep. It’s like this most nights. I wake at four. Then the games begin. Who did I forget to call, who pissed me off, what email set me off, how I long for the days of one ringy dingy. I’ve heard of a powerful entertainment lawyer who doesn’t use mail, enthralled as he must be by the sound of his booming voice so loud it shakes the gold out of pockets. I would like to sit behind a slab of granite and smoke Camels or Gitanes or pink Nat Sherman’s. I would  like , just once, to sleep through the night, not wake up screaming or thirsty beyond measure. I would like not to think about rewriting catalog copy or coming up with a blurb list or dear famous author will you stop your own important work and shit on my small self? Will you remember what it was like to a fly on the ass of a horse? How about a blow job? A bag of blow? I am not thinking about this submission. I am not thinking about money. I am not thinking about food. I did not forget to reschedule the dermatologist. I am not thinking about that email I sent maybe too impulsively. The scariest new word in the English language: Send. I am not thinking about death.

Do you sleep?

57 Responses

  1. It’s 3am here. You have just gotten up. I haven’t gone to bed yet. I sleep or I don’t. I doesn’t make much difference. When I’m awake I read and write books. When I’m asleep, I live them. Either way, I’m exhausted.

  2. Not much. In fact, my sleep is terrible. The next time you’re awake, call me and we’ll do a session. I’ll talk you down from the ledge, you’ll tell me all the good things about New York and dish about the next great book.

  3. I do. I only wish I knew the secret. I’d share it with you in an instant.

    • It’s called exhaustion. You have like two-dozen kids right?

      • On the contrary. When they were younger, they were actually responsible for many sleepless nights. We’ve obviously trained them well because they wouldn’t dream (hehhehheh) of interrupting our nights now. No, I’ve always been an excellent dozer. No special pillow has ever been needed.

  4. 3:45 am. I have eighteen months to sell a book before we run out of money.

    • 50 mg Trazodone stat.

    • (This is an alternative. 2am and the beer and weed talking in a Dennis Hopper tone)

      Dude, get yourself a .45, man. That and a fishnet stocking. I know you like that, am I right, man? Forget about robbing a bank, too many guards and cameras and shit; hit a liquor store instead. That’s where all the money is. You see what they want for a bottle of Jack now, man? Early Monday morning before they deposit the weekend profits. Only risk is getting blasted by the owner’s shotgun, so be careful about that. But if you do get away with it, shit that would be some story, huh? Prison’s pretty bad, so make sure you don’t get caught. That could be a story, too, though. I dunno, just a thought.

    • You have eighteen months worth of money?! That’s two or three times what the experts recommend, isn’t it? Even in these trying economic times? I get the feeling you’re not the self-congratulatory type, but really, that sounds like a good amount of savings. I hope you can get some sleep.

      • Yeah, right? I have 18 days to sell a book before we run out of money. Bounties of good luck to you, August. And good luck to me. Good luck to us all.

        8:09 am. Woke at 4. Wrote a kick-ass sex scene which I’ll spend the day revising. My husband is going to sneak home for “lunch” to hopefully trigger an elusive adjective among other things.

    • i don’t know if this helps or hurts, but it made me think of you hours after reading your comment. (also, i imagine “18 months of money” looking like something richard dreyfuss builds to get closer to ufos)

    • I imagine if anyone can do that, you can, August.

    • But most people will never have what you will never run out of August. A real way with words.

  5. Yes, no, sometimes with a little help from my OTC firends.
    If I didn’t have to punch a time-clock I’d stay up all night and write until my hands fell off and my brain fried. Oh wait, carpal tunnel and ‘dain bramage’, the life of a frustrated writer.

  6. Poorly. I mostly have trouble falling asleep, sometimes lying for hours in the dark or finally giving up and going upstairs with a book. In the last year though the new incarnation of my insomnia is that I wake up at 3 and can’t fall back asleep. Then it’s much as you describe, with my mind climbing onto the gerbil run that lives in my brain and going to town. I often say if I could change one single thing about myself, it would be sleeping better!

  7. Occasionally. The last two nights of insomnia have been the result of my elderly father, with a bladder the size of a pea, wandering to the bathroom. He shuffles along the carpet and I am over forty and six at the same time. And the darkness floods with all that entails.

  8. Funny you should ask. We spent much of yesterday in the emergency room, my teenage son’s arm broken in a couple of places and sticking out in all sorts of unnatural angles. The orthopedist made us leave when they put him under with the Michael Jackson drugs to reduce the break. My husband wanted to stay, but the burly ortho doc stared him down and said, “No. Really. This is the most barbaric reduction we perform, and we have found that it just doesn’t go well if you stay and watch what we have to do to your son.”

    Between imagining the barbarism inflicted on my son and checking to make sure his arm was still elevated (I’d lashed his upright arm to an old bunk bed railing with a bungee cord and wrapped the whole ridiculous spectacle in ice packs), I got about an hour of sleep.

    I considered taking his pain meds, but opted for the more productive sedative: 2,000+ new words, washed down with a glass or two of the champagne chilling in the fridge.

    Happy birthday to me!

    • Ugh. Thinking of you, Jess.

    • I hope his bones heals well and quickly, Jess.

    • Best wishes for recovery for all of you.

      (and that you have a happier belated birthday)

    • Aw Jess. Hope he (and you) heal quickly.

    • Happy birthday! And what a drag, breaking his arm right as summer is about to start …. be well.

    • Happy birthday to you, Jess. If it’s any consolation, I’ve been reading a lot about the American Civil War lately. The butchery that went on in the field hospitals was nightmarish. Piles of arms and legs tossed outside. No antisepsis, no painkillers, no way to fix an arm or leg shattered by a Minie ball from a rifled musket. Just grab the bonesaw and hold the poor bugger down until it was over. Talk about a barbaric reduction.

      • Oh, Tetman. You really know how to reassure a girl. Sticks to bite, bonesaws, slugs of moonshine and eventual gangrene…Yes. I feel much better now.

    • I’ve experienced that “reduction” – trust me, that is NOT a spectator event. And I didn’t have the drug cocktail – the ER doc was the barbaric element – so I’m glad your son was sedated.

      Every smart adult (and especially parents) keeps at least one bottle of champagne in the ‘fridge. At all times. For both celebratory and medicinal purposes. Here’s hoping this is the start of a better year for your and your son!

    • Happy birthday. You have my admiration for being so productive, writing-wise, in the midst of a crisis. If you want any recommendations for herbs that speed the healing of bones, let me know. Herbs can make a big difference.

  9. Give me a reasonably-sized horizontal surface, pillow optional—or a vertical surface to lean on—and thirty seconds without someone asking me for something, and I could stay happily unconscious for the following ten hours (please, God, let me demonstrate this sometime soon) . . .or until someone finds me to ask something.

    I’d blame stress or sleep deprivation, but I’ve always been slightly narcoleptic.

  10. While I know that worrying is counterproductive, that doesn’t stop my bothersome internal fretting alarm. It’s worse when I wake up at 4am, deprived of an hour of sleep before the actual alarm clock beeps. I worry about all the usual stuff (broken down vehicle, money woes, the condition of the world, why the fuck people don’t realize horseracing is a cruel sport, let alone decadent and depraved — thank you, Dr. Thompson–and boxing is even worse. Am I just pissing into a hurricane when I think my book is saleable? Holy shit, I’m getting old),the night feeling too vast at that time of day.

    At age 6, my daughter has a different boyfriend every week; I doubt I’ll get any sleep 8 or 10 years from now.

  11. Cake Out in the Rain….great piece of writing. You caught the whole line and flow of half awake reverie – from the Gitanes to I’ll do anything to get out of my head. Real edge.


    Jeff Hunter

  12. When I sleep I dream all night long. I wake up with a dream hangover, absolutely exhausted. I don’t think that I can take it. Cuz it took so long to bake it. And I’ll never have the recipe again.

  13. Do I sleep? Hahahahahahahahaha!

    But how much do I love this Donna Summer song! Back when I was a young fit person, the 17 minute dance mix of this got my workouts started. I knew if I could make it to the “Heaven Knows” part it would be a good day.

  14. Like you, it’s worry that wakes me at four. It keeps knocking when I don’t answer. When I do, it takes a hard shove from me to make it go away. I keep an audio book on the MP3 by my bed, preferably downloaded from cd’s. It’s the closest thing to “read me a story”. I never know where it will lead but either way, I don’t care.

  15. I do the whole 4am thing, too.
    The worms crawl in…the worms crawl out…

  16. I don’t sleep worth a damn. Haven’t in years.

    Last night I was exhausted and thought to slip into slumberland about 9:30, then something upsetting happened and I was pitched back into that state of being both wide awake and centrally wearied. I got out of bed and went to the study where I sat at my computer and worked on a rewrite of a short story. One thing about being so tired but barred from slumberland is I can go right next door to I-don’t-give-a-fuck-anymore-I’m-going-to-fix-this-land. I went there with the rewrite. I don’t know if made it better, but I fixed it.

  17. I hadn’t slept in years until I…here comes my secret weapons…

    1. went to therapy which led me to
    2. quit smoking which led me to
    3. stop using the phone after 9pm and
    4. started going to bed at a reasonable hour which coincided with my
    5. having many sessions of acupuncture and consequently
    6. quit alcohol.
    It has all truly helped me get a better nights sleep. Amazing how much nicotine, etc. keeps one up at night. Who knew? lol

  18. I haven’t been here since you were trying to get Jesus on the phone. So when I ventured in this morning, I decided to read all of your posts one after the other, doable because they are of reasonable length (the way posts should be). Now for my responses:

    Sleep: that wonderful time when my mind shuts down for a while. If I don’t get it I go crazy and my OCD comes out in full force.

    Yes I sleep. a lot. Fortunately, I have very little trouble going right out when my head hits the pillow. I do get up a couple of times during the night to pee, but go right back to sleep. Occasionally, I will wake half though the night and obsess about something, but for the most part, I average 7-9 hours a night.

    Seems like writers have more trouble sleeping than anyone.

  19. “Yes, I am a dreamer. For a dreamer is one who can only find his way by moonlight, and his punishment is that he sees the dawn before the rest of the world.”

    Oscar Wilde
    The Critic as Artist

  20. Well Friend , at least there are no thoughts of death ; like the guy said , “If ya fear death , ya die a thousand times , and if ya don’t fear death , it’s a one time experience” . And Oh Yeah , I can relate to your described sleeplessness , this as I’ve actually gotten less than seven hours worth in the last seven days / nights . Thankfully , those few hours include so R.E.M. stage .
    After three decades in pathology and two in psych nursing (two jobs) , my interest is peaked w/ re your thurstyness . All sorts of possabilities present themselves as potentially causal factors … Just curious .
    And howz about T.M. ? Or better still , when ya fire-up , well , … it’s always 420 somewhere ! And from my own humble perspective , I’m luddistic (by choice and Nature) as all get-out , not to fail to mention that I AM subsequently the village computer idiot … Don’t even FB – This is my first computer reply to a blog post , but please don’t blush too much , this as should ya answer the door ta find some stiff souled peddler of religion who might construe same as a post-coital flush . Sinner ! But more importantly , thanks for the fine write !

    And Jess , a belated Happy and condolences . The orthopod sounds like the quintessential pompous , overbearing , and egoistic “know-it all” who actually doesn’t know a damn thing about patients rights .
    50 mg of Traz stat ? For that dude , howz about 50 of Traz stat , I.C. ! ! !


  21. I haven’t set an alarm clock in 23 years. When you wake every half-hour, an alarm’s rather superfluous.

  22. No. There was an earthquake on Sunday morning and my heart was already pounding. It’s always been like that.

  23. One of my workshop mates was doling out the V last night (she’s going to France soon, so she was generous with her I’m-going-out-of-the-country-mega-refill). I’d gone to workshop sickish, and with nasty period cramps and then, magically, I was cured.

    The bummer was, pain pills give me horrible unsettling dreams. Shit and viscera and snake pit sort of horrible dreams. Wake up hearing your own blood curdling scream sort of horrible dreams.

    Why are there always consequences? Just once, I’d like to get really fucked up and sleep like a rock and wake up refreshed–no eye bags or neck kinks or throbbing brain. Is that too much to ask?

  24. Cliche alert…….! Like a baby. But I act like I don’t because my husband is the one who doesn’t sleep and I think he gets jealous. Maybe he’s the real writer…hm, hadn’t thought of that. (eluding to what Nancy said above)

    I have a ritual and it works for me. There is no tv in the room, it’s dark (i.e. blinds closed to take care of street lights, etc) with a fan running on low. I go to bed at the same time (yes, even on weekends) and I get up at the same time. (yes again, even on weekends) I don’t “nap” during the day. And like many folks, once in bed, I read. I usually only get a page or two done before the book falls, whacking me in the face, but even that doesn’t jar me enough to not be able to go back to sleep. Last night I had a dream someone was trying to shoot me – so – was it restful? That’s debatable (as I sit hear yawning)

  25. one of the most beautiful photographs of a raccoon i have ever seen.

    now we are all going to have that macarthur park song in our heads next time we can’t sleep….

    as a pastry chef, i especially hate it when someone leaves the cake out in the rain.

    for sleep every night:

    1.) next time you’re in boston go to the New Balance factory outlet and buy a good pair of running shoes.
    2.) find, in your neighborhood, a good 1/4 mile track (high schools usually have them)
    3.) see if you can walk/jog around it 4 times under 12 minutes
    4.) do that 5 days a week
    5.) you will sleep like a baby forever more, or, take 2 excedrin PM’s after closing a boring book, around midnight. zzzzzz will come

  26. I function well on 5-6 hours of sleep a night. It’s just a task handled efficiently: enough REM & uninterrupted relaxation to sustain me through an 18 hour day. I might be more interested in the whole sleep-ritual if I wasn’t sleeping alone. Alas.

  27. Like a corpse. Seriously. Dark room with blackout curtains, on my back, arms folded across my chest, and I don’t move until morning. All that’s missing is a lily. I try to compartmentalize my worrying to daylight hours.

  28. peri-menopause sucks.

    i’ve decided to approach insomnia with as much joy as possible. i wake up my husband and we have sex. he’s loving it.

  29. What’s really strange is that just before I go to sleep I tell myself when I want to wake and wahla, I’m awake about a minute or two before I have to get up. My internal clock is a fine tuned instrument. Even if I have to get up early, like get to the airport or be up for a colonoscopy, I wake up right on time…wait, airport yes, ass test, bad example, up all night anyway.

  30. I stay up plenty of nights. It’s not because I can’t sleep, but because it’s really the only time I get to be wholly alone. I had raging peri-menopausal insomnia, but got it under control after some struggle. The best era of sleep in my life was when I lived in WV: in bed by 9, up by 3 or 4, writing, meditation, study. Bliss! I’m striving to return to those halcyon days, but the internet is a dominatrix. Good sleep is possible for just about everyone, but it requires incremental and sustained habit-changing (for the whole family—good luck with that.). If anybody’s interested and willing, let me know and I’ll send you some links.

  31. I consider myself an expert sleeper. The healing place.

  32. I sleep the sleep of angels and I dream the dreams of children.

    There are things I don’t dream about that I cannot forget when I’m awake.

    Here’s a collection of them.

  33. It’s very good!I believe everyone will like it.

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