Saturday, July 14, 2007

Nappy Rides (plus Bonus High Sierra Pics)

Camp Harry Warmly Welcomes ALO
Bouncing at Bisco
Page's new shirt (and old songs)

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I was born at precisely 1:09 AM and haven’t really been able to adhere to a normal sleep schedule ever since. Maybe I drink too much caffeine too late at night, maybe I have too many unused ideas floating around my overstuffed, underused, skull or maybe I just have a secret crush on the early AM hours, but, whatever the reason may be, I’ve never been able to sink into bed until shortly before sunrise.

According to legend, the July night I returned home from the hospital in 1981, I fell asleep with eerie ease and, then, managed to keep my parents up for the next 26 straight years. Since, at the time, I was blissfully unaware of what the words “girls,” “jamband” or “Jew” meant (let alone strung together into a complete, neurotic sentence), I’m not sure what I was worrying about at the ripe old age of 48 hours, but, apparently, my superpowers revealed themselves early on. As the story goes, my dad blamed my mom, my mom consulted my doctor and my doctor diagnosed me as a “colic child” (a name some Brooklyn indie-rock folkie should nab before my fake hipster group the Well-Dressed Groomsman are ready for a side-project).

Apparently, the only way my parents could sooth me to sleep is by taking me on what they still affectionately describe as “nappy rides” around my suburban town. The memories are now lost in a web of Wonder Years narration, semi-useless Phish knowledge and childhood concussions, but, at times, I can still recall sleeping in the back of my mom’s station wagon, feeling her tires bounce back and forth against the street’s elastic cement. The perpetual, err, uh, groove, um, motion (!) rocked me to bed then and certainly does now, almost three decades since taking my first detour through the often narrow street of Armonk, NY.

I sat in the backseat on the way home from my cousin Sarah’s wedding this evening and, somewhere along Interstate 87, fell into the deepest, most peaceful sleep I’ve experienced since I watched Optimums Prime die on my sixth birthday. It’s a strange sensation, but a familiar one, feeling yourself fall silent while the world turns around you. The car stereo (the Grateful Dead’s “Feel Like a Stranger”), my parents’ conversation, the citadel lights and opening credits to tonight’s R.E.M. swirl together into a single dream, while my pink eyes try their hardest to block reality from peering too far in.

My body goes numb, my right hand wraps its fist around my left fingers and my legs curl into the pretzel-like fetal position I perfected in the womb. Like all my trips down Interstate 87, a trip I’ll always associate with visits to my grandparents, my mind jumps to a particular family dinner that holds some subliminal importance, before pushing forward nineteen years to explore the recent moments left on the Greenhaus Effect cutting room floor since Bonnaroo: seeing Ralph Stanley in Prospect Park, “Airplane/Primitive,” a trip to central Jersey, the dorky conversations which guided that long trip home, a friend’s BBQ in Connecticut, McCarran Park Pool, San Francisco, Height-Asbury, Spam nightmares, the Great American Music Hall’s wall, Moon’s garlic bread, High Sierra, Page, The National, Camp Harry, red eyes, early flights, Relix Kidz, Skidmore phamily, Femi Kuti, one small embarrassing String Cheese tear, festival freedom, overdue assignments….. As usual, my mind drifts to my Grandfather’s bedroom window, a view I’ll likely never seen again, but always remember, when I see the unpolluted, purple hues of upstate New York’s trademark sunset. It’s a crime that I can never sleep, because I love wading through my dreams, revisiting my memories and trying to make sense of my thoughts during the three-second silence that occurs after my eyes open, but before my ears are polluted by the day’s first sounds.

I like to joke that I haven’t slept since 1997 (the year I truly discovered the jam), but, in all reality, I haven’t slept since 1981. At least, that is, when I’m supposed to.

All photos by Jay Blakesberg

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