Saturday, May 31, 2008

Sleeping in the City that Never Sleeps

A Qantas flight. Sitting in the emergency exit seats. Two female flight attendants buckle up opposite us as the plane prepares for landing at JFK. The usual small talk. "Where do live?" "We live in New York," I answer.

"How wonderful", the flight attendant opposite me answers. "Going to Broadway shows every week!"


When I first came to New York I made sure that I saw a Broadway show or two - but every week? I don't THINK so. In fact the only time I see anything at all of the island, is when I show a visitor around. And of course on my daily commute to Queens and back.

So, what DOES a woman of a certain age DO in Manhattan in her spare time?

The answer is - SLEEP.

I think most New Yorkers sleep-in on the week-ends. I think this, because on the rare occasions that I've been up and about early on a Saturday, the shops have all been closed. I used to think that everyone was asleep because they'd been out partying, our attending shows. Now I'm not so sure.

I was an insomniac before I lived here. A good night's sleep was something I NEVER experienced. I'd toss and turn until around four in the morning and then doze off, only to awake around six.

New York has cured me of insomnia. In fact, sleeping is now my favourite activity. I have become a connoisseur of sleep.

Before living in New York I saw sleep as an unattainable boring thing. Something akin to death. A just not-being-there sort of thing. A negation of the experience of living.

But this is not the case at all. There are all sorts of sleep. And by that, I don't mean the scientific categories of REM and NREM sleep; I mean the different types of sleep experiences.

My favourite type of sleep is the starting-at-eight-in-the-morning-weekend-sleep, when you drift between a state of dreamy wakefulness and actual sleep. When you hope that the phone won't ring or that there'll be any other distraction to jolt you from the floating bliss into the harsh reality of being fully conscious.

Then there's those few moments before sleep when thoughts become vague and almost meaningless. One minute you are thinking about a work meeting and the next you are wandering in a meadow picking daisies. And by the time you realise how silly this is, you are out of it and darkness truly descends.

The most annoying sleep-type is the being-asleep-with-the-telly-still-on. This type of sleep is not at all restful. Dreams tend to blend in with the telly, ... or is it the other way around? The drifting an and out of this type of sleep is not pleasurable like the starting-at-eight-in-the-morning-weekend-sleep, especially if you've left the telly on CNN. Not in my dreams, Obama!

Last week a Melbourne friend emailed me about such a sleep. We'd been discussing movies about Alzheimer's.

"... We had visitors and red wine and after they left post 1.a.m. I watched "Away from Her" in a drunken haze and kept nodding off and having to rewind so many times that the lines became blurred between Julie Christie's condition and mine!"

I know the feeling ...

The worst type of sleep, isn't really sleep at all. But it deserves a mention. I call it the post-sleep-horror. And it's when you wake up thinking that whatever you just dreamed is real. Another friend of mine had a terrible post-sleep experience several year's ago. She dreamed she had brain cancer. When she woke up she made a cup of tea and sat down to work out the best course of action. Should she tell her family? Should she go for treatment? Or should she act like it hadn't happened and continue a normal life until the inevitable? It wasn't till eleven o'clock that she realised it was just a dream.

The other morning I had a similar experience, although fortunately it didn't last for hours. But for at least ten minutes I believed that the dream I'd had prior to waking was real. I was in a really bad mood. I'd dreamed my husband had bought a twelve feet high ceramic camel. "Where on earth does he think we'll put it!" I mumbled to myself.

The phone rang. It was him, phoning from a ship on Australia's Bass Strait where he works. "Oh, it's you", I snapped, "now about that camel ..."

"No", I told the Qantas flight attendant as the plane touched down at JFK, "most New Yorkers don't go to Broadway shows every week". I should have added, "We don't need to!"

No comments:

Post a Comment