Sunday, March 30, 2008

Had to share.

I love this. It's right up my alley, and perhaps yours as well.

"Before She was a Ghost"

And you think that is good? Man, you should read her novel (check out the rest of the blog).

Love you!



Friday, March 28, 2008

Pre-Sleep Insanity

I'm fascinated by Sleep Paralysis. So much so that I will now regale you with tales of it. I didn't make Sleep Paralysis a link just now because I wanna be the one to tell you all about it. Because I'm fascinated by it. I believe I've already mentioned that.

So, have any of you ever heard of it? I secretly hope that you haven't, but that you've experienced it, and now I will officially be blowing your mind by explaining to you a crazy phenomenon that has haunted you all your days. Or not.

Before I knew it had a name, I called it Pre-Sleep Insanity. I didn’t know it happened to anybody else so it never occurred to me that there might be an official term (and I love official terms. Official terms mean you're not crazy. Or not that crazy.). I was out with a friend of my brother’s a while back. They’d been roommates in Japan. Somehow we got on the subject of Pre-Sleep Insanity and he said, “Oh, that’s kanashibari.” Mind blown. What?! You just drop the K-bomb like that? This is a known phenomenon? All Japanese people know about it?! 'Cause this guy is an American, and even he knew the Japanese word for it. Apparently it’s common knowledge in Japan. And I’ve since found out, in Asian culture in general (well, okay, one Vietnamese guy told me it was a known entity in his culture).

Now that I know the name, I’ve found a bunch of stuff on the web about it. (Well, hell, I hadn't actually done a recent search on it. Now that Wikipedia exists, of course there's an entry on it! Dang I love the Internet.) A Dr. Dement (I swear) at Stanford has a website. He says:

“Sleep paralysis consists of a period of inability to perform voluntary movements either at sleep onset or upon waking.” It almost always happened to me when I was nodding off.

This is the even creepier part:

“In some cases, when hypnagogic hallucinations are present, people feel that someone is in the room with them, some experience the feeling that someone or something is sitting on their chest and they feel impending death and suffocation. That has been called the 'Hag Phenomena' and has been happening to people over the centuries. These things cause people much anxiety and terror, but there is no physical harm.”

It’s the closest I’ve ever been to being haunted.

It happened to me a lot in college. Which makes sense according to the research because it can happen when your normal sleep patterns are messed up. And in college, naps ruled my world. I would regularly fall asleep while reading some dull tome. And that’s when they’d get me.

Now it’s not when you’re nodding off and you’re still sort of awake but you are dreaming too and you trip over something in your dream and you flinch in real life. That’s not it. That’s just falling asleep.

I had this fabulous professor for a class called The Ordeal of the Union. John Mills Thornton. He was a genius but wrote an exquisitely dull book: Politics and Power in a Slave Society. Reading it nearly killed me. Sometimes in one session of attempting to read it I would fall asleep four or five times. And each time I’d have Sleep Paralysis and try to yank myself out of it. And try to keep it from happening again. But I’d be too drugged by the book to just get up and change positions. See I was reading in my Pier 1 Papasan chair. You know those dish chairs? And I think it was that and the book that were fucking me. I’m just gonna try to describe what happens.

There’s a lot of different ways it’s happened to me. I’ll fall asleep on my back and I’ll feel my hands fall through my chest to rest on the bed beneath me. That’s no good.

You’re in it, and after it’s happened a few times you know you’re in it. And it’s uncomfortable. It doesn’t really hurt, but it almost does. And you can’t move. Sometimes you think your eyes are open. Sometimes you think you’re moving a little and maybe even making noise, but you’re not.

I watch them there ghost TV shows. Many times I hear someone describing their encounter (or, their alien abduction, for that matter) and they're giving a textbook description of Sleep Paralysis. And the "experts" interviewing them have clearly never heard of it. So, therefore, it must be ghosts.

I've even had an out-of-body experience, but I knew full well what it was. I was in college. I dozed off on the bottom bunk. This is what appeared to happen to me: I stood up, walked to the door of the dorm room, looked back at myself asleep on the bed. I knew it was Pre-Sleep Insanity, as I was calling it. But I'd never been able to "balance" it like this before. Walk the fine line of being the boss of it, without coming out of it. I started to walk down the hall and as I got a few doors down I lost it and whooshed back to my body. This feels nothing like a dream. It feels exactly like being awake. Even if you know what's happening, it still feels like being awake.

For me, it takes physical effort to get out of Sleep Paralysis. There is only one way I can describe it. It's like someone wraps his hand around my sternum and pulls. And you kind of gasp and you're out of it. It doesn't hurt, per se, but it's wildly uncomfortable. And that moment before you succeed in coming out, it's like your wrapped in Saran, except you can breathe. It does feel sort of like suffocating, like your lungs aren't properly inflating. And what especially sucks is if you're so sleepy that you snap out of it, but then slip right back in. It's like being an oxygen deprived yo-yo. Not that yo-yos are normally big breathers.

I'd like to describe some of my most memorable Sleep Paralysis moments. I will describe these events as if they are actually happening, but please recall that they were only happening very very vividly in my brain.

I'm around 22. I'm in a hotel in New York City. There for a business trip that I don't wanna be on. Very lonely. Afraid (of the business, not of the city or hotel, although Barton Fink clearly had the room next door to me). I want to say it's the Pickwick Hotel, but I may be making that up. The lobby is vaguely fancy. The room, however, is a tiny brown bathroomless Coen Brother's special. I go to sleep. (Okay, all that actually happened outside of my brain. This is where the paralysis starts.) Shortly thereafter I hear someone fiddling with my doorknob (that sounds dirty). Then the door opens. Slowly. I can't open my eyes. I hear someone walk in. Quietly. He (because it's a he) comes over to the bed. He's standing over it. I hear him breathing. I can't open my eyes. I can't open my mouth. I sense him lean over me. I feel his breath on my face. I can't scream. And here's the only thing that didn't ring true. In fact, maybe it was a sign that I was falling from Sleep Paralysis into sleep and a nightmare, if that can happen. As I tried to scream, I was foiled by a butterscotch candy in my mouth. Then I came out of it. Now if you haven't experienced this, you'll say this was just a bad dream. But it's nothing like a dream. It's exactly like reality. And happily, even though my brain fully felt this was happening, my mind sorta sorta knew it was Pre-Sleep Insanity.

Another time I was in ye olde Papasan chair. I was reading Mills Thornton's book. This is where the insanity starts. The TV was on (it wasn't). It was Oprah. I could see the TV, but the rest of the stuff that happened I couldn't see. And it's similar to the hotel thing. I assume this is the hag phenomenon. And while we're at it, people think the hag is on their chest. I think this is the weird paralyzed lung/sternum grabbing thing I feel. Anyhoo. There is a person in front of me. I can't see him. I think it's my boyfriend at first. Then I know it's not. He leans into the chair. I hear him breathing. He puts a hand on the rattan on either side of my head. I hear it creak. I feel the chair give slightly from the pressure of his arms. He looms right up to my face. I feel his breath on my face. I don't care for this (i.e. scared shitless). I "get myself out of it."

I don't think this is the same thing as "night terrors." I can't be bothered to look into that because I think it only happened to me once, if ever, and it involved an Asian man, a squirrel, and me flying out of my bed and "coming to" cowering in the corner. I think this is similar to the times back in the day when my sister would wake in the night and decide all electrical appliances were evil and unplug her clock radio and electric blanket. She would oversleep. She would be cold. And she would have a vague memory of her late night brush with demonic simple machines.

I don't know why I've always yearned to discuss Sleep Paralysis ad nauseam. I think because so few people know about it. And it's the kind of thing that is an epiphany for those folks who have experienced it but have no idea what it is. My mom said to me when I mentioned it to her, "Oh yeah, that used to happen to me when I was a kid. You'll grow out of it." And I did seem to. Or else I'm just no longer sleep deprived and napping in uncomfortable positions. I sort of miss it. And I will sorta be gleefully happy if it never ever happens again.

Okay, I'll let you go search the web about it now. Hell, now that I've written this post so chock full of "facts," maybe I should read that Wikipedia entry myself.

Anyway, don't you think it's cool?!?

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Words that please me.

I carry a small notebook in my purse in case I have a sudden need to write a thought. Not usually a creative thought, more often the price and dimensions of an attractive dining room table or how to say "Amsterdam has 88 beautiful canals" in Dutch (Amsterdam heeft ocht en tachtig prachtige krachten.).

In this little book I started keeping a list entitled "Words That Please Me." "Please" is a key word here because it's the sound of these words and their effect on me that I care about. How they make me feel. How they make my face feel when they're pronounced. Some of them need annotations, which is maybe cheating because the words should stand on their own, but it's my damned list so shut yer trap.

You may notice a theme.

Cheese (especially when said by my sister when imitating Wallace of Wallace and Gromit.)
Modest Mouse (must be said together, although Mouse on it's own is not bad.)
Shpilkes (as said by my friend David when he sorta pops his P with his big lips and pronounces it the way my father says most Yiddish words, with an EE sound on the end.)
Squirrel (when said by an Englishman.)
Arf (said in a chirpy staccato way.)
Peep (this is an important one. Good word to peep out when you're all full of energy and have to let steam of your lungs.)
Delicious (really drawn out with a juicy SH sound like my film and literature professor Hugh Cohen says it.)

This is an ongoing list. You may note many EE sounds. Is this because my father likes to make words extra cozy by tacking on that sound? Yeah, probably. Some of them probably have warm fuzzy associations for me. But a lot of it is how your mouth and tongue and cheeks and lips work together to make the sound. Say cheese out loud. Really draw out the EE. Chew on that CH sound. Doesn't that feel good? I think it feels good. But then again, making sound is very important to me. It may not be that way for everybody. I find the act of making sound physically pleasing. Soothing. A relief. Small sounds and deep sounds and high sounds and groaning sounds. And singing. Singing is my balm in Gilead. I always wanted to learn to play the violin because the sound of the violin makes me feel the way I feel when I sing. I thought if I could combine these things I'd be in heaven. (Can't play the violin because besides the fact that it's hard to play, I can't keep my left elbow bent for more than a few minutes due to nerve damage from breaking my it when I was four. But really, was that necessary to write here just now?)

Noise. Good noise. Just singing Ahhhhhhhhh. Such a pleasure. A physical pleasure. Why is that I wonder? There must be some physiological reason for this. Does it release endorphins? I don't know. And maybe it's just me. I come from an odd sound-making family. It's in me blood. I have a calling for voiceover, which is weird, I know, but let's just be grateful the nut's got an outlet for it and got work.

I'd like to apologize to the words I've forgotten to put on my list.

You got words you like? And what about making noise? Do you like making sound come out of your throat (wow, that sounds suspect)? Is it just me? I'm okay if it is. I'm fond of me.

And fond of you,


Monday, March 17, 2008

Mariah my ass.

I hate wind. Hate it! I DON'T CARE FOR WIND, PEOPLE. And oh the wind last night. It woke me. Then it kept me in the grips of its creepiness off and on for hours.

There are a few tall scrawny palms nearish by. The wind hits them first. Way high up the trees rustle like insidious pom-pons. That's how you know it's coming. Then it hits my house. The screens shake, then the 83 year-old windows shudder in their sashes. Then the temporary paper blinds scrape against the sills; 83 year-old windows don't keep out the wind.

Every few minutes I make note that I'm holding my breath and lying there rigid. I breathe. And I fall in and out of sleep and have weird dreams. And I get up and unplug my computer and tell the dog, no it's not time to get up yet. And I think about digging out my earplugs from the drawer a foot from my head, but that might mean turning on the light, or at least lifting my arm and besides, when I do I only find one and then the dog wants to know what's going on and it's just not worth more effort. No, actually it really would have been worth it, but I wasn't in my right mind.

I'm not particularly afraid of anything specific about the wind; I'm uneasy. Only way to describe it. And it's just the sound of the wind with which I have a problem. And I even know why. You would think knowing why would somehow make it all better. Doesn't.

March 20, 1976, 7:18 pm. My brother and father and I watched a tornado travel across our backyard. It wasn't really our backyard. It was in a field beyond our backyard, but I assure you, it looked like our backyard. It was so close, in fact, that it wasn't a funnel, just a perfect white cylinder whose top we could not see. It wasn't white, I found out later. It was pink. It was full of fiberglass from the roofs it had been tearing off. I think it was very nearly dark out, or it was just so dark because of the storm clouds. It had stopped raining. It had stopped anything. It was quiet and green. The tornado warning had ended at 7:00. The three of us were opening a can of sardines. I know. It doesn't take three people to open a can of sardines. Not even two. I was only six, though, so I was hardly a person. As my dad rolled the lid back he said, as fathers are wont, make sure their eyes are closed. Then something happened. Let's say it was the sound of several locomotives or a swarm of bees, as they say in song and story. I have no memory of any sound. But something made us look up. And there was the tornado, methodically traveling left to right across the window's view. My 11 year-old brother, who was terrified of tornadoes, said, "Dad, is that a tornado?" My dad said, "Yes." And they went back to the sardines. Camera tightens in on me, standing just behind them, eyes huge. Then they whip their heads back up, the lights go out, and my dad shouts, "Hit the floor!" He may not have said that, because it sounds ridiculous. But that's what I remember. He probably said something like everybody get down on the floor.

We crawled into the long hallway at the center of the house. There's no basement, so this was our only choice. We met the rest of the family there. I sat next to my mom. Our Newfoundland paced and whimpered and I kept trying to wrangle her in because I didn't want her to leave the hallway. We may have had pillows over our heads, taken from the nearby bedrooms. I don't remember any sound. I'm sure there was nothing but sound. I do remember thinking that I just might die. I thought it rather calmly. And it's the only time in my life that I've ever honestly thought I might possibly momentarily die.

I just know that if I ever heard a tornado again in person, I could get over my wind problem. I know it made the stereotypical sound because my mom heard it and ran to the window (yes, you're not supposed to do that) to watch. Hell, she was 35. Younger than I am now. I'm sure she thought it was cool. I think it's cool. To hear a bunch of trains and just know it's a tornado? That's kind of cool. I can say that because nothing happened to our house and none of us was hurt. A girl died a few blocks away and my best friend's house imploded, but that didn't happen to us. Our tornado experience had all the thrill and horror without any lasting effects. Except of course that I seize up in a strong wind.

I recently Googled our tornado and found this site. It made me feel special. For your information (when looking at the map), my childhood home is a dash north of West Maple Road between Orchard Lake and Middlebelt roads. You'll note that the pink arrow of the tornado's path goes right through our backyard. Sorta. It's nice to have things confirmed in print. Pink print.

So yeah. Wind. Don't care for it. And this pesky Santa Anna Wind gives me migraines, damn it. No tornadoes though. But earthquakes make an ungodly sound. Seriously. You can't win. (on rereading this I noted that I'd originally typed, "You can't wind." Nice.)

Glad I don't live on The Prairie,


Sunday, March 16, 2008


Is it too early for results? I don't think so, not when your treatment worked immediately. This business of not turning on the television? REMARKABLE! Look at me remark on it! I am freakishly full of energy. My house is both clean and neat. I have fresh fruit. My email in-box is almost empty. I feel like the greatest person ever. Well, I secretly nearly always feel like the greatest person ever, but lack of TV has made me vocal about it. I do seem to be getting a bit of a meegraine (as my old English boss used to say it), but I blame THE WIND.

Now I'm gonna go read for as long as I damned well please. Or at least until my head explodes. I could take some preventive medicine, which of course is the only thing that might put a stop to this meegraine. But it seems so reactionary! I'm gonna see if food helps first.

I love everybody!


Thursday, March 13, 2008

I never promised you a rose garden.

Listen, I told you I was an undisciplined writer; I told you the very first day. I only write when I need to spew, and unfortunately, not always then. I probably would have been happier to have written a while ago. But maybe it's better I write today. Today is a fascinating day.

But let's talk about before today first. So, geez, what was it, two weeks ago? I inadvertently had a seven course dinner party for 12 people. That's not as horrifying as it sounds; I just had to provide the house. I was sort of a last minute venue, but here I have no danged dining room table and they were having to rent a table anyway, so why not my place? I needed an excuse to clean it and I was excited for the company of the chef and his girlfriend and eventually the guests. I took several days to clean the place (many of which were spent watching TV and thinking about cleaning it). Then came the Saturday afternoon of said chef and girlfriend preparing the meal (he'd actually been preparing it since Monday). Clearly this man is a nut. But a delightful talented one. 84 plates of food served; nice lunatic to be. The guests weren't my invitees, but I like them all nonetheless. And we had assignments of wine to bring for each course. May I mention each course, by the way?

Shallot Pork Rilletes, Dijon Parsley Butter

French Onion Soup, Comte and Thyme Crust

Sautéed Skate Wing with Nicoise Tapenade, Fennel Onion Confit

Ruby Grapefruit and Tarragon Sorbet

Chestnut and Mascarpone Agnolottii, Celery Root Truffle Purée

Herb Crusted, Frenched Rack of Lamb, Cassoulet of Winter Beans and Rosemary

Chocolate Terrine, Pistachio Creme Anglaise

Again, nice madman to be. But oh, that food . . .

Needless to say, I slept in on Sunday. Couldn't face the kitchen. My sister and b-in-l came over that night to take home their chairs and wash their glasses and take them home. That helped start the ball rolling. The next day the chef came and took home all his many dishes and pots and pans. Took them home dirty! Because it made more sense to do that and put them in his dishwasher then washing all that crap by hand at my place, lord knows. So I could have really gotten down to brass tacks that night. But I didn't want to. Nor did I want to on Tuesday. And herein lies a message about procrastinating. On Wednesday I sprained my ankle. Kinda badly. I mean, not too badly. Enough to fuck me up for a week but not much more.

Until this afternoon, a week and a day since spraining my ankle and two and a half weeks since the kitchen was destroyed, I've lived with a filthy room that smelled of lamb. But two things happened today that were fully motivating. One, my ankle is healed enough that I can stand on it for prolonged periods of time (long enough to clean said kitchen and wash all the dishes that have piled up in a week). And two, I had an epiphany at the shrink.

Now I have to work hard to come up with anything worthwhile for the shrink; we did all the juicy stuff years ago. These days we do what I believe they call growth therapy. I go every three weeks. We gab. He schedules my appointment at lunchtime so I can partake in the spread with which the drug companies shower the doctors (the drug companies rule the world, by the way, and we should be afraid of them. We really need to reform how our healthcare dollars are spent, man. And we need universal healthcare, but I digress. I'm perfectly happy to eat Pfizer's sushi.). I'm still learning how human beings work and how they communicate. It's fascinating. I learn new stuff about people and the world all the time.

So now and again over the years I've mentioned to the shrink my dislike of my abject laziness and procrastination and occasional excessive napping, etc., etc.. He never really understands it because he feels I'm far from lazy. But I must have said something today that made a light go off over his head. "You have a television addiction," he says. "Boy howdy," I say. "You couldn't have mentioned this 10 years ago?" He tells me he clearly thought too highly of me for it to occur to him. But you read and you paint and you this and you that, he says. Yeah, I say, but there are still a million hours in the day and I do most everything with the TV on in the background. And I turn into a couch potato and I don't do the things I want to do and the things I have to do. He had no idea I used the TV as I do.

Dude, I've lived alone for a hundred years. I like noise. I turn on the TV. I try to pick something engaging enough, but not so engaging that I'll sit down and watch it. But I do often sit down and watch it. And I'll feel compelled to do something with that time. Play Scrabulous. Floss. Knit. Busy work for my hands. But it still makes me feel crappy and unproductive.

The shrink mentions how TV these days is a babysitter, and I'm like, these days? (He didn't even have a TV until he was 16.) I'm like, dude (I recount stories this way. I most assuredly didn't call him dude. Come to think of it, though, I certainly have done), I'd come home from school, make myself something to eat and spend the rest of the afternoon and evening watching TV. Actively not doing my homework. I have distinct memories of watching Lost in Space reruns thinking, man this is boring, but there's nothing else on. God forbid I should actually do something else. True, I also read voraciously and talked on the phone and must have done some homework and hung out with friends and the like.

My shrink points out that there is a difference between watching a program and watching TV. He tells me that TV addiction's a real thing and it sucks the life out of you and makes you lazy and tired and unmotivated and miserable. He was preaching to the choir, boy-o.

I accomplish all sorts of stuff on the weekends. And in the morning. Because at those times I'm listening to NPR! I'm the most productive person ever! I will happily get up at 6:00 and listen to Morning Edition Saturday until it stops at 10:00, even though the show repeats! But man, if I turn the TV on, party's over. It's not that I have too much time in the day (ever heard anybody complain about that before?), it's that I've lost the will to fill it with engaging things. I haven't lost the engaging tasks - they're all there - I just lost the forward motion to do them. I'd be full of energy in the car on the long way home from auditioning at my agent's office (where most voiceover auditions are done), laying out my plans and schemes, the mouse beside me furiously scribbling his to-do list. Then I get home, turn on the TV and quickly everything gang aft a-gley.

But today, with my new found knowledge? I stopped by the library after the shrink. Got a massive pile of audiobooks, as is my wont. Came home. Didn't turn on the TV. Put an Agatha Christie novel on. Cleaned the hell out of the kitchen, occasionally breaking into that task to play fetch with my Wiener Dog. Called my sister. Read. Wrote this. True, in my kitchen cleaning zeal I completely spaced an audition, something I have nightmares about actually doing. This is only the second time it's happened in 12 years, so I'm not too horrible a person.

I'm a fool of energy, I love life, love you, love the lack of lamb smell. I may watch a soupçon of stuff I've Tivo'd before I go to bed. But then I'll be watching TV as I like to and deserve to watch it, as a kicking back at the end of a full day. I'll be watching specific programs in which I have an interest. And the nice thing about this addiction is it's easy to cure. I just don't turn on the TV, which, in turn, means I don't sit down and never get up again.

And why, you may ask, in those eight days of elevating and icing I couldn't have posted a blog? Dude, I was watching TV.