Sleep & Other Stuff

I’ve always had a pretty tough time getting up in the morning, despite the fact that I’ve always absolutely loved my job.

My big issue with getting up is that while you’re sleeping, you don’t realize that you’re actually sleeping & having a wondering time.

You can’t enjoy doing something if you don’t realize you’re doing it! (And what’s also true is that you can’t be scared of something if you don’t realize that you’re doing it! More on that one later.)

That was always the dilemma I had.

How do you enjoy sleeping when the only time you realize you’re doing it (or was doing it, for that x matter) is when you’re awake???


As strange as it seems, I always enjoyed waking up a few times every night (for whatever biological reason, except acid reflux) as it always felt so great lying back down again, knowing that I still had X hours more of sleep awaiting me.

Not a better feeling in the world suddenly waking up in the middle of the night & thinking, “Wow, still another 4 hours to go before I gotta get up!”

Whenever the alarm rang, it would simply mean that I realized that I was just having a great time sleeping.

The downside, however, was that it also meant a sudden end to that enjoyment.

That’s why I usually employed the tactic of setting several alarms, about 10-15 minutes apart or constantly using the “snooze” button (which normally defaulted to 9 mins).

Wake up. Realize I had been sleeping. Go back to sleep. Wake up. Realize I had been sleeping. Go back to sleep.

Keep repeating until you finally look at the clock instead of blindly reaching for the button and realize, “Uh-oh, now I really need to get my fat butt outta bed!”

But that’s where my other secret weapon comes into play…setting my clock ahead!

For years & years, my bedroom alarm clock was always set 22 minutes ahead.

The theory was that I would forget that fact one morning & jump out of bed. Then, somewhere down the line, I would realize that it was actually 22 minutes earlier than I thought & all that stress from rushing & worrying would be instantly relieved! Nothing like a great surprise to start off the day.

(Note: It might have happened only once or twice in all those years.)

Funny thing is that when it came to playing golf on the weekend, I rarely, if ever, had any trouble getting up.

And we’d always tee off as early as possible, so I’m waking up at least an hour or two before sunrise!

Hell, most of the time I’d be wide awake WELL before the alarm was ever set to go off.


Oh, to get back to something I mentioned earlier…

“…and what’s also true is that you can’t be scared of something if you don’t realize that you’re doing it!”

I am deadly afraid of heights & I have a huge fear of the water.

You can only imagine what driving over a bridge would do to me!

When I was dating Laurie, I’d hafta drive over the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, from Brooklyn to Staten Island, several times every week. And then back home again.

And even after we were married, for 5 years (‘88-‘93), we lived in Staten Island, but I worked in Brooklyn.

I was scared shit EVERY SINGLE TIME I drove over the bridge!

The bridge, for years, was the longest single-span bridge in the world. And even today, it has the longest main span in the Americas.

It actually has 2 levels & the bottom level is less crowded probably 99% of the time.

So what level would I religiously take?

The top level, of course!

I mean, in case the bridge were to suddenly collapse, I didn’t wanna be on the lower level as that would hit the waiting water below first.

The top level, however, would collapse onto the lower level, smashing all those people underneath in their cars & using them as a buffer when we eventually dropped even further into the water.

My Mom didn’t raise no idiot!

I got brains!

*points to his elbow*

I remember flying out to California in February 1985 with Laurie when Heather was less than 8 months old. We were going to Salinas (not far from Monterey, Carmel, Pebble Beach, etc., south of San Francisco) to visit my Uncle Pat & Aunt Ruthie (my Godparents) & all my cousins…Ricky, Carol, Bobby, Richie, Ruth Ann & Vicky!

Instead of flying directly into SF, we took the now-defunct World Airlines, one of the discount airlines that flew into Oakland instead.

No big deal, I thought, especially since we paid probably 1/2 of what it would’ve cost to fly directly into SF on a “name brand” airline.

We rented a car at the Oakland Int’l Airport & headed off to Salinas.

Unfortunately, there was this big water thingie, the San Francisco Bay, between where we were & where we needed to be.

And this incredible long San Mateo Bridge was basically the only way across by car. (If you remember watching videos of the earthquake that rocked that area in 1989, this was the bridge that was bending & buckling like an old belt.)

The bridge is 7 miles long (as compared to the meager 2.5 miles for the incredibly-spooky Verrazano Bridge back in NY)!

Ah, no issue.

I was with Laurie & baby Heather as the rental car was simply bursting from the sheer masculinity that was just seeping out my pores!

Onward & upward!

And then, she struck.

“Why are you driving so slow?”

That did it!

I think a little poop might have somehow sneaked into my pants at that time as I immediately started sweating bullets.

Hadda put the emergency signals on as all the other cars seemed to have problems with their horns.

Oh, and the dirty looks!

I kept on frantically trying to change the radio stations in order to distract myself.

“Are you OK?”

Oh, now I plunged straight into Hell!

How do I control my arms? How do I make my legs control the pedals? How many “A’s” in “paranoid”?

(I know exactly how many are in “scared shit”.)

Lemme tell you, I swear someone mysteriously added another 50 miles or so to this damned bridge. What if it somehow disconnected it from San Francisco & we were just gonna ride forever or, at most, right into the Pacific?

I know I’ve never been to Hawaii, but I also never imagined myself actually driving there!

We finally made it to the other side…thank the Lord! I was a sopping, soaking mess, sweating from parts of my body that I didn’t realize even existed!

I was never so happy to see solid ground in my entire life.

Had another harrowing experience when I visited my great friend Lori Matus in 2006 after she permanently moved into her beautiful vacation home in Sarasota, FL (after her divorce).

After I was there for a couple of days, our mutual friend, Kathy Kelleher, was flying down from NY into Tampa. It was late afternoon/early evening when we started out to the airport to pick up Kathy.

I was driving Lori’s Mercedes as she was suffering from macular degeneration & slowly losing her sight. She would only drive around the little island she lived on.

So off we went.

I knew that we hadda cross the Sunshine Skyway Bridge, but again, I figured my incredible machismo would kick in & we’d fly simply breeze over that sucker, powered solely by testosterone!

No way, José. Nor Joseph. Nor Giuseppe.

As soon as we got onto the approach to the bridge (a narrow, 2-lane highway with concrete barriers on either side) & I saw what appeared to be a 45° incline, I froze.


Stopped the car right there in the right-hand lane (there was no room to pull off the road) & couldn’t move. I told her, “I can’t do this!”

“I’ll drive.”

I got out & switched sides with her. Here she is, practically half-blind, the sun was already setting & she guns that Benz straight across the span.

I was shitting bricks just being in the passenger seat as this bridge appears to be so “flimsy”, as if a strong breeze could easily blow it over.

In fact, this was actually the second Skyway Bridge as the original one collapsed when a tall-masted ship crashed into it one night.

So they built this one extra high (yeah, thanks!) to ensure there would be no similar recurrences.

As soon as she was able to pull over on the side of the highway, we switched sides again & I continued driving the rest of the way, through St. Petersburg & to the airport in Tampa.

We appeared to be driving along the coastline (as I was unfamiliar with the area) since I kept seeing the lights of the highway reflecting onto the water to our immediate right.

I’m OK with driving NEAR water, just not OVER or UNDER it.

We made it to the airport safely & met Kathy’s flight.

She was a little surprised when she hadda drive all of us back to Lori’s home in Sarasota (I explained the situation with the bridge & it was completely dark by now so Lori driving was out of the question).

When we got to the Sunshine Skyway Bridge, even Kathy got a little startled by its height & dramatic incline.

Here’s the funny (ironic?) part…

I moved to St. Petersburg in 2009 after spending a couple of years in Nebraska.

There’s a small channel between St. Pete & Tampa that is crossed by 2 “small bridges”. Not even sure if they qualify as bridges…they’re more of an extension of the roadway across the water. They’re not high at all, probably less than 15 feet (at most) off the water.

(They’re very similar to the Florida Keys Overseas Highway, just not nearly as long.)

Despite all this, when I moved to St. Pete, I absolutely hated taking either of these 2 spans into Tampa.

I really had no other choice as trying to circumvent the water by driving north, then around the water, then south into Tampa would take several hours.

So I forced myself to use them whenever I traveled into Tampa, but I hated every second that I was on them.

And then, one day, it dawned on me.

*cue the light bulb*

When Lori & I were driving to the Tampa Airport to pick up Kathy (after Lori bravely crossed the Sunshine Skyway Bridge & turned the driving back over to me), I had actually taken one of these small bridges (overseas highway).

Since I was driving at night, I could see the highway lights reflecting off the water to my right. I couldn’t see the water to my left because of the oncoming traffic on that side of the highway.

And thinking that I was merely riding along a coastal highway (instead of over the water), I never got scared!

Like I said previously, just like you can’t enjoy something if you don’t realize you’re doing it, neither can you be frightened of something if you don’t realize you’re doing it!

For me, the former pertains to my enjoyment, sleep, while the latter is related to the many phobias I have.

The corollary of this is exactly what virtual reality is all about.

You can be enjoying being on a beautiful beach in Hawaii, even touching & feeling the sand, but actually be standing in a virtual reality booth at an amusement park.

Or you could be climbing a dangerous mountain without any safety gear, yet never leave the comfort of your recliner.

You guys wait. This whole virtual reality thing (once they really get it off the ground) is gonna be the next best thing since the internet!

The mind is, indeed, a strange & powerful thing. Most of the time, I prefer keeping mine in the garage as I’m almost out of gas.


As always, thank you so very much for listening!

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