Whelp, the new issue of Night Life is on stands today with a Big Words I Know By Heart edition of ‘Mama, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Into Fat Gamers’, a meditation on the difference between gaming enthusiasts and out and out geeks. Grab it this week for free on stands if you get a chance. It definitely leans harder on the side of ranting than constructive argument, but initial responses were pretty positive. And if you missed it last week, here’s a re-run of ‘Alert & Erect’, a breakdown of my morning routine be it on my days off or my days on. Both essays are fresh out of ‘Crass Menagerie’, the collection I’m currently tooling around with. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some gaming to do….Seeya next week,
Alert & Erect
My morning routine has changed by leaps and bounds since my days as a teenager. Maybe it depends on the jobs I’ve had, but I’ve gone from getting up ten minutes before my ride to sleeping in until noon to popping out of bed at seven in the morning an hour before my alarm even goes off. I’ve heard stories about men’s internal clocks freezing on a certain time for the rest of their lives and I hope for my sake that mine doesn’t pre-set to six am. The bladder is a harsh mistress, though, and its tough to argue with urinal pressure that startles you out of a deep sleep. That’s how it happens. The days of shambling off to the bathroom in the dark to pee before collapsing directly back onto a rem cycle are over. Nowadays, once I’m up, I’m up. My old man used to get up at five a.m. and keep going. I am definitely my father’s son.
A lot of it depends on the season, too. In the fall, I’m an early riser. I tend to be a bit more manic when the leaves are turning and school is starting back up for the kids. My creativity levels spike and I hop out of bed ready to take on the world before the sun comes up. Toward the back half of the winter, I start hibernating, getting eight, ten and sometimes twelve hours of sleep not including one and two hour naps after work. In the summer, I level out and average eight hours a night, which is the recommended daily dose. I get enough rest, but its on a yearly timetable.
I strive to streamline my morning activities before leaving for work. If I can get out of bed and be out the door and on the clock within forty five minutes, I’m a happy camper. That’s my miracle mile. After lumbering out of bed, I have to talk the Big Man down from the ledge while brushing my teeth, so to speak. The British refer to this syndrome as morning glory, and if you’re a woman, you have no idea what I’m talking about right now. It’s god’s joke that your biological peak happens when you have no time or inclination to do anything with it and furthermore, when you have a full bladder. The last thing I need in the morning is to walk around at half mast when I’m starting the coffee maker and getting dressed, but there we have it. So after brushing my teeth, talking the Big Man down and taking a leak, I start up the coffee maker. If the coffee isn’t prepped from the night before, I’m going to have a bad day.
Once the coffee is percolating away, I lay right back down on the couch with a fresh mouth and light up a smoke. Some people find this disgusting, but I find them disgusting and its hard to break routine. If it’s a day off, I try and let my mind form and drift so I can lock onto a topic to write about since I write best in the morning. I’ll also turn on CNN and keep it on for two or three hours to try and encapsulate a week’s worth of national news in an attempt to feel connected to the world. If it’s a work day, I try and rest a little bit longer before I have to spring into action. In the winter, when the cat is at the apartment, I have to angle my body on the couch since he likes to hog my spot, which aggravates me to no end. I may have to put down a ‘Reserved For’ sign when I’m not reclining on the couch to avoid this issue. We’ve got two goddamned couches, so there’s no reason why he can’t set up shop on the other one. I know he does it to get my goat and so far it works.
After a cigarette, I pop into the study to get changed into my work clothes or turn the computer on and check my email, depending on how much time I have. Normal people have dozens of pairs of pants and shirts pressed, folded, pleated, ironed and starched for the work week whereas I have two pairs of pants and four or five shirts that I end up digging out of the laundry basket from the day before. If I can get away with wearing the same pair of khakis five consecutive days in a row, I will, barring any large geographic food stains, in which case I opt out for the second pair of pants. If it’s a day off, I’ll just plop down into the computer chair, cycle through my email and then boot up the word processor and start writing. It took a few years to start this habit, but its best to create when the mind is a blank slate and hasn’t been contaminated with a day’s worth of stressors, confrontations and activities.
After getting changed, I lumber back to the bathroom to fix the hair. If I was a morning person, I’d get up a half hour earlier and shower because my hair is never easier to set than when I hop out of the bath tub. I’m more of a bath guy, though, and baths aren’t conducive to waking up, so I end up applying toxic quantities of gel and hair spray to get my head under control for an eight or nine hour day. If I’ve got a hangover, this is the time where I start gobbling ibuprophren, vitamins and tonics to resuscitate my weathered and battered body.
At this point, I fill a coffee thermos, make a complete disaster area out of the breakfast nook near the stove, and fill two liter bottles of filtered water. I’m a thirsty man so I need plenty of fluids, and the water offsets the dehydrating properties of the coffee. I dump an ungodly amount of sugar and cream into my coffee, and I’m not at my most coordinated ten minutes after getting out of bed, so this is a recipe for disaster. By the time I leave the house, the kitchen counter is lousy with powders and preservatives, but I can’t be bothered to clean it up and the white linoleum ends up getting fossilized with spilled coffee and trace amounts of sugar. Once my drinks are thrown into a plastic grocery bag, I sit in the beat up green chair near the door, tie my shoes, throw on my coat, grab my keys, center my brain and head out the door.
Music is key to the morning mood, so once I plop into the car seat and buckle up, I have to make the crucial decision as to whether or not I should listen to droll drive time morning shows, classic rock or two of the five cassettes I’ve been listening to for the last ten years. If I opt for the morning radio shows I end up getting disgusted with the inane blather the hosts drudge up and end up changing the channel in disgust. If I listen to a music station I end up hearing a song I can’t stand and change the channel in disgust. Nine times out of ten I go with the cassettes. I spark up my second smoke of the morning, turn the volume on the music up to maximum decibels to aid in the waking process, and head out of the driveway. I had a cd player with any number of mix cds but its on the fritz and I really need to get it fixed.
No matter what time I get up (unless its on the weekend), my drive time commute is fucked. There are no two ways about it. I could get up at four in the morning and I still wouldn’t arrive to work until eight am, which frustrates me beyond description. Commuters from five different boroughs bottleneck through the street that I take thinking that by avoiding the main road parallel to mine is faster. They’re wrong. I’ve spent years trying to find a faster commute and it doesn’t exist, so I take a fatalist approach and suffer in gridlock along with the rest of the morning zombies. This is where the music comes in. If the cars moving, I can belt it out at the top of my lungs and it distracts me from the mind numbing aggravation of throwing hours of my life away sitting in a car doing nothing. This only stalls the spleen venting rage, though, as I completely lose my mind by the time I get onto the expressway and start swearing at people in my car, digging my fingers into the steering wheel, and lane changing at will to find the faster lane that doesn’t exist between the hours of seven and nine in the morning. There is no excuse whatsoever to drive anything under ten miles over the speed limit in the morning. The sooner I get to work, the sooner I can go home, so people cost me valuable quality time sitting on my ass, napping, or achieving something worthwhile in the evening.
I used to get a second cup of coffee from a drive through en route, but this got to be expensive and time consuming. I used to stop at a convenient store to grab soda and snacks for the afternoon, but this was also time consuming. Nowadays, I pack a thermos and go to the store after I punch in, which saves me a good half an hour on the way to work.
On average, it takes me forty five minutes from the time I wake up to the time I get to work in the morning. On a really bad day, it takes an hour and fifteen minutes. There is no time to look at an accident on a drive time commute, and people who slow down and bottleneck gum up the entire proceedings. It’s a chain reaction, and when one person slows down to see what’s left of some jag-off’s demolished heap, everyone slows down. Kinetic energy slows down to a crawl, and I can’t stand driving five miles an hour in three lanes that should be going sixty five. If someone can’t drive safely and quickly on the expressway, we should be able to drive over their body passing by. That’s just good manners. One accident can make three hundred people late, and there’s no reason why everybody can’t at least go the speed limit. I’ve said my peace on that subject.
By the time I get to work, the first cup of coffee is drained and I’ve had three to five cigarettes. For all intents and purposes, I’m awake and alert. After I get punched in and set up for the day, I head to the bank and get my soda and chips after making small talk with the cashier. Then I go into the bank and crack wise with the tellers about my girlfriend, or what’s going on with my writing. I really like being a guy who goes to the bank and makes small talk in the morning. There’s just something about it that appeals to me. In my free time, I wouldn’t be caught dead inside of a bank, but it makes me feel responsible and important during work hours.
When I’m sixty five, odds are that I’ll roll out of bed at seven or eight in the morning with a raging hard on with no hope of going back to sleep. This is a sad fact of life. When I’ve got nowhere to go and nobody to report to, something will have died inside of me. Guys strive to beat their personal best record during drive time, and once that’s gone, the real senility will set in. Who knows; maybe I’ll roll pennies and drive them in to the bank across town every day just to have some semblance of belonging. I’ve come to enjoy being a morning person despite my instincts because you can get a lot more done with your day when you get out of bed before noon. Lord knows that I wouldn’t be able to swear at complete strangers, smoke a quarter pack of cigarettes or drink a gallon of coffee if I didn’t.
Tom and tar in the morning on WKBUTT,
Tom ‘veiny’ Waters