Thursday, August 28, 2008

Hard-core Wake-up

Rise and Shine
Sophomore year of college, my roommate Joe and I developed a radical system of rousing oneself in the morning. The system was as follows: When the alarm goes off for the very first time, immediately get out of bed. No hesitation, no hitting the snooze. We called this system “Hard-core Wake-up.” And it worked. Mostly.

This being college, Joe and I lived in a dorm room. Joe and I being men, we had our beds bunked. I was on top, Joe was on bottom. The couch was situated alongside Joe’s bed, forming a little crib that he would climb into, evenings. When I got out of bed, I would hop from my bed down to the couch and thence the floor. (Can you see where I am going with this?)

Hard-core Wake-up, as I said, worked. The trick, for anyone who’d like to play along at home, is that you must brook no discussion with yourself about whether or not to wake up. You just hit the deck when you hear the alarm, Pavlovianly and immediately.

But sometimes the system of Hard-core Wake-up, my position in the top bunk bed, and the invariable alcohol consumed the night before intersected in bad ways. Occasionally, in leaping groggily from bed, I’d hit the couch wrong or hit the arm of the couch and, still disoriented from sleep, go sprawling. One time it was worse.

This time was at the end of sophomore year. Joe had already left. Classes were over. I’d stayed behind to finish up a paper and for a couple of parties. I wouldn’t be back next year; I was going to Austin for the summer and then Oxford for the next year. One of the last parties was at my friend Collins’ house, out in a little back courtyard parking lot off the street. His was an ugly, squat, four-apartment, white-painted cinder-block building, but I loved that place. We’d sit outside at his little table and umbrella and drink beer from the keg and smoke cigarettes and bullshit and all of that felt like it would never end. Then it did end.

As I said it was the end of the year. I had gone back to my dorm room after Collins’ party to sleep. I was all packed up, my room entirely stripped of furniture and possessions; everything was in my car, as I was driving back to Little Rock that day. I had trained myself in the art of Hard-core Wake-up.

So when the phone rings (with that newsroom-style clanging bell ring that, sadly, seems to be disappearing) at oh, say, 8am, I instantly leap from the top bunk, feet seeking the couch—But no couch. I felt like I fell about six feet, landed like Spider-Man, squatting, arms out, fingers splayed, thoroughly hung-over and thoroughly shaken awake, now. It was kind of like the feeling you get when you pick up a glass expecting it to be one weight, because you think it’s glass, and in fact it’s another weight, because it’s actually plastic, and you end up picking it up way too fast as a result. That was how I came out of bed and to the floor that morning, with a brief flash of terror-filled cognitive dissonance. And dry-mouth.

I snatched the phone’s receiver off the wall and immediately laid down, flat on my back, boxers-clad only, on the bare floor. “Hello,” I croaked. It was my mom.

That was pretty much the end of Hard-core Wake-up … or was it?

Don’t Call It a Comeback
Recently, my buddy Sean was expressing his desire to wake up early, like me (I rise at 6am for work).

“No you don’t,” I said.
“Yes I really do,” Sean said.
“Well then there is only one way forward, Young Grasshopper,” I said, cracking my knuckles and flexing in the fashion of a long-retired martial arts expert who has just made up his mind to return to battle for the sole purpose of avenging the killing of his teacher. “That way is Hard-core Wake-up.”

An amusing musical training montage followed. Sweatbands and jump-rope were involved. Also Sean snapping out of bed and me there with a clipboard, marking down his time and screaming at him that it wasn’t good enough damnit and then throwing the alarm clock out the window in rage and disappointment.

Eventually he got it. Or he’s getting it. See, the good thing about Hard-core Wake-up is that it’s self-reinforcing. The first day you do it is Not Fun. But every day you do achieve Hard-core Wake-up, it gets a little easier, a little more natural. Waking up begins to feel more like an on-off switch, rather than a swim up out of something deep. I've been coming back to it, too. It was good on this weekday for the following reason:

Alarm buzzed, I woke. Got up (almost) instantly. Went into kitchen, poured a cup of coffee from the pot I’d set to brew at 6am the night before. (This, Dear Reader, is one of the great joys of life: Coffee ready the moment you wake up.) Went back into my bedroom and sat on the edge of my bed, feet on the windowsill, looking east. It was 6am and the sun was rising. I wrote the following:
Sunrise, from the window of 322 Rodney Street: The clouds looked like burning canoes, painted wispily by a traditional Japanese artist, frozen in their orange sorbet waves down a river of robin’s-egg blue. And the shoosh of cars from the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, behind me. Within minutes the canoe clouds disappeared, the ice-cream fires were extinguished, the painter packed up. And I dressed for work.

6 comments:

Micaiah said...

Will you train your brother in the ways of Hard-core Wake-up when you see him next? Please?

emily said...

If it's any consolation, the after-effect of that infamous party was, for me, that I overslept and missed my Intro to Philosophy final that was scheduled for 7:00 (or was it 8:00?) the following morning. Or, rather, I overslept and missed the first 40 minutes, woke up still drunk, realized what had happened, dug out from my backpack the sheet of paper where I'd written down all of my previous test and quiz scores for the class, and calculated (yes, while still drunk) that, if I missed the final, I would still get a B in the class. I decided I was ok with that and promptly fell back onto my bed and slept for several more hours. Good party.

audra said...

looks like you need a lesson in hard-core sleep-in. trade notes?

scram. said...

Ice-cream fires sounds like Last Thoughts on Woody Guthrie, and I too, have written about the early morning from your apartment windows.

I guess you could call us brothers.

Jen said...

This explains a lot. I love this story.

Collins said...

Ugly?? That was a wonderful building that was right at home among the Fay Jones houses in town.