Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Infinite Rest

Blogger's note: As most of you probably know, I participated in a sleep study at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston from November 12th to 25th, 2010. Over the next few months I'll periodically be posting the journal entries I wrote while in the hospital. Except for minor spelling and grammatical revisions, I've refrained from editing the journal entries and will be posting them exactly as they were originally, sloppily penned. However, I might end up omitting some of the boring stuff, for your sake and mine. I might even end up scrapping the entries altogether and just start making stuff up. But for now, integrity. And a few posts, such as the following prologue, have been written ex-hospital, to serve as contextual bookends. Hope you enjoy, or at least that you don't fall asleep.


Sometime in the late summer or early fall of 2010 I found myself en route to Rumney, New Hampshire for a week, or maybe it was an extended weekend, of rock climbing. I was making the two and a half hour drive from Maine with Tucker, a friend who'd graduated from college a couple years before me and had been drifting between temporary jobs ever since. He wasn't the type to settle into an office job right after school, and as far as I know, he's still floating around somewhere, I think up in the Pacific Northwest now. A couple years earlier I'd driven cross-country with Tucker and a couple other friends. For us it had been an excuse to camp and climb across America and even earn a little college credit for it; for Tucker, it was a rather impromptu relocation, as he ended up staying in Crested Butte, Colorado to try his hand as a ski bum while the rest of us continued the road trip for another week or so before returning home to finish school.

I'd graduated only a few months earlier and was enjoying some unemployed, freewheeling downtime as my summer job had ended and I had no plans for the future. I imagined myself taking it easy through the winter, traveling around New England, maybe living in NH, maybe trying to travel abroad -- I wasn't really sure what I'd be doing, but I didn't want to be tethered to one spot, whether by a job or even just the thought of applying for one. That's something I could do later, right? Right. But still, being a free spirit isn't free. I mean, look at how Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas ends. The dream of the 60s is dead -- time ran out, the alarm went off, and the hippies either had to wake up or become mildly endearing but vaguely pathetic relics, reminders of the perils of arrested development, of how much sleep without dreams resembles death. Being a drifter is possible, but risky, and I wanted to dream with my eyes wide open. I wasn't ready to be a dirtbag, so I needed some sort of bankroll to pay for the mountains of beans and oceans of tuna I imagined subsisting off of for the next some odd months.

And of course, as unemployed recent college grads, the conversation in the car couldn't have really avoided falling on money, and specifically how to make it, and extra-specifically, how to make it without having to sacrifice traveling and climbing and freedom and everything else that can be followed without direction. A variety of ideas were bandied about, ranging from the so-obvious-as-to-go-without-saying (slaving in a kitchen, landscaping) to the unrealistic-and-undesirably-demanding-anyway (slaving for AmeriCorps, teaching English in Mongolia), but it was far from a serious brainstorming session -- we just needed something to talk about as we were still in Maine, at the outset of the drive, not close enough to Rumney to excitedly blather about what climbs we were going to do and what climbs we had done in the past and what climbs we might do next year and what climbs we would probably never do, and not yet far enough along in the drive to fall into that sort of comfortable silence that comes when the initial conversation is running dry and some really perfect songs that need, no, deserve to be played loud have all of a sudden found their way from iPod to car stereo.

"I got a friend who did a sleep study," Tucker suggested. His words are often barely audible, too quiet to be inflected, leaving the responsibility of extra-linguistic context to his mien, which can usually be described as subtle or stoic, a semiotic Siberia. But the seeming absurdity of this last breath had betrayed him. It'd be an outright lie to say that he flashed a devilish grin as the words "sleep study" wisped out of his mouth, but there was a slight curl to his smile, and slight curls can be even more mischievous than devilish grins, as Da Vinci paintedly proved a half-millenium ago. "He was in there for 24 days straight but he got like seven grand for it, I think." Damn, that's a long time. But damn that's a nice chunk of change. That's like at least enough for a solid half year of frugal climbing, if not more. Or a little less of luxury climbing. Or maybe even a trip abroad somewhere.

I made a mental note to look into this. The conversation didn't linger on sleep studies for too long. I probed a bit, but you can't expect too much detail or information from these friend-of-a-friend anecdotes. Even though he threw the idea out there, Tucker seemed just as uncertain about what a sleep study would entail, and just as distantly curious. And without much clarity, the curiosity couldn't really be anything but distant. I mean, his friend probably went kind of insane and had to spend all the money on heavy sedation or worse, a therapist. And to be honest, it seemed like a kind of ridiculous thing to consider, anyway; more of an interesting novelty to maybe google and read about on some bored, computer-bound afternoon than something to actually get yourself into. But seven thousand dollars is a lot of money. And the hippie dream isn't the only thing that died in the 60s; so did the academic and clinical institution that allowed for so many unethical but oh-so-interesting psych experiments to be conducted on unsuspecting human subjects. Sleep studies must be strictly regulated now, so really what's the worst that could happen? The seed was planted -- planted into a garden where strange plants grow.

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