Monday, November 19, 2012

Nurse the Hate: No Sleep




By Sunday I believe I was ready for a total physical collapse.  Days of poor sleep in creepy Detroit hotel rooms had finally taken their toll.  Even when I did manage to sleep, unsettling dreams shook me awake in total darkness.  What can be more unfair than to be stressed out of your mind, unable to fall asleep, and then have a dream fuck you up when you do?  Our schedule this week was insane.  Studio, studio, studio and then a straight drive to a gig in Akron.  I finally got home at 3:30 am.  The three and a half hours of sleep Saturday night gave me just enough energy to wake up and go to the grocery store where shoppers floated by me giving me the same wary look you give an inner city pan handler.  It probably didn’t help that I was quietly singing a new song I was working on in my mind slightly under my breath like a mental patient.  Yet, I had been here before… 

When The Cowslingers were at their best, in my opinion 1998-2000, we toured like motherfuckers.  Playing 125 shows a year is a pretty heavy schedule.  Playing 125 shows a year while continuing to be a full time white collar employee or college students is insane.  We had a touring circle that went from New York to Atlanta over to St Louis.  We would play anywhere at anytime and were receiving great show offers all over the place.  Our philosophy was always “we can make that work” and then figured out how to make it work on the fly.  Next thing you know you were chock full of mini thins driving the van at 4:30 on a Thursday morning trying to figure out if you should stay on 75 South or take 280 to get home.

I remember we had run out of vacation time and had a series of shows.  I was working at a radio station in sales, and needed to show up every morning by 8:30 in a suit looking like I was doing important things in advertising.  My douchebag boss would climb up my ass if I was even five minutes late, despite the fact that I was paid on 100% commission.  My mindset was you are only paying me for what I sell, so who cares if I show up at 8:30 or at 2:00?  Or even at all?  As long as I was hitting my goals, which I was, leave me the fuck alone.  This philosophy was not shared by management. 

We played Chicago at Schuba’s on a Wednesday night with Robbie Fulks.  We played first, hastily loaded out, and hopped in the van to drive back to Cleveland.  I walked into my house at about 5 a.m. to try and get a little sleep.  I made it through Thursday at work on adrenalin.  I recall being pretty with it and all jacked up on coffee.  As I slunk out of the office at 4:30pm, I hoped nothing would blow up.  This is all pre-cell phone, so when you left the office you would have to call in to make sure nothing was wildly out of control.  Leo would be serenely chomping on a corn dog at a Speedway while I nervously checked my messages on the payphone outside.  I prayed that a client hadn’t called my manager with an issue.  If all was OK, you hopped back into the van for a few hours and hoped crisis was still being averted. 

We got to Kalamazoo to play Small Planet that Thursday night with Robbie Fulks and the Volebeats.  We played second that night, and even hung out a little bit to watch Robbie play.  That guy is so talented, he had to be wondering how his life had taken such a turn to be playing a string of dates with shaggy dogs like us.  On any given night, we could be really really good, but Robbie is an actual talent.  He knows what the hell he is doing up there with his band of ringers.  It was a drag to have to climb into the van to drive home, but no matter what I had to be at that fucking cubicle Friday morning at 8:30.  I got home around 5:00 am. 

That Friday morning was tough.  I literally dragged myself into my car to drive in.  I felt wrung out.  It was one of those commutes when you have no recollection of the drive, even moments after shutting off the car.  I spent a lot of time at work walking around with folders and documents, making a public show of this alleged sales activity.  “Just a guy involved in monster deals here.  Nothing to look at.  Turn your attention elsewhere.”   I tried to sleep in my car for an hour, but was so pumped full of caffeine to stay awake, sleep was impossible.  I left the station around 4:30, leaving my desk as if I had only walked away for a moment, and went to get things in order for a gig at The Grog. 

We had some sort of equipment issue so I had to drive across town to pick up some gear.  Traffic kept me at a stop and go pace.  By the time I got home, I had to change into my cowboy suit to hump it over to the club.  There was no nap.  Another bonus?  We were playing last on the bill, so that meant a few hours of time to kill.  This is the dangerous time for a man with no sleep.  If you are standing in the Grog Shop at 9pm waiting to play at 12:30, there is one thing to do:  drink beer.  And that is what I did.  When all was said and done, I’m sure I got home about 3:30am.  Sleep should have come easily… 

Having a rental property is great.  The additional income was huge for me in my twenties.  The call from downstairs of the duplex about the broken toilet at 8:30 am Saturday morning was not so great…  The upstairs and downstairs units were the same.  One bathroom and two bedrooms.  There would be no way to delay this repair.  I had to deal with it.  I was out of bed.  I was awake.  The van left Cleveland for Cincinnati at 4:00… 

I don’t remember that Saturday gig at all.  I think it was at Top Cats and we played last.  I think it was us, Robbie Fulks, and the Volebeats again.  It might have been Bengals Stadium with The Who.  I honestly can’t recall.  I’m sure we stayed at a friend’s place, as during these Early Days of Bitter Struggle we never coughed up for a hotel.  That meant I slept on a couch or maybe a floor at about 3:45 am.  The issue when you stayed at someone’s house was that you would have to stay awake with the host.  They always wanted to have a few beers and hang out, and I always want to go to sleep.  The good news is that Leo will always stay up with anyone that wants to party, and there can often be an opportunity to slink off.  I didn’t really perfect that slink off move until years later, so I am sure I politely sipped a beer until late (or early morning depending on your vantage point). 

I had probably slept 14 hours from Wednesday to Sunday morning as we climbed in the van to drive back to Cleveland.  This is not what most physicians would recommend as a regular health regime.  I had become so overtired that sleep became elusive.  I had every intention of spending Sunday sleeping all day.  It just didn’t happen.  I went to bed around my normal time and set my alarm to go to work Monday.  It was almost impossible to get out of bed and into the shower.  My head was achy.  I couldn’t concentrate.  I was not what you would refer to as “sharp”. 

At lunch that day I went to a tavern near the office with two co-workers. It was a popular lunch place and we had to take one of those high top tables.  I remember a woman I worked with talking to me when things got fuzzy.  I got a warm flush feeling in my head and then something shut off.  The next thing I remember was being very confused as to why a large group of people were staring down at me from above.  I had passed out cold and fallen onto the tile floor.  People were understandably curious as to why this man in a suit was unconscious at Noon on a Monday.  “Dude… you should cut the partying.” I heard someone say.  I was taken to the Cleveland Clinic, given a battery of tests that were inconclusive, and then later released.  They told me to come back if I kept passing out.  It seemed reasonable advice.  

I can honestly say that is the last time I have felt similar to how I felt yesterday.  I feel like I am missing a key vitamin in my diet.  Is this how you feel before you develop scurvy?  Is this ache in your side normal?  My advice to you is as follows.  Avoid being in the area if you see me behind the wheel of a powerful automobile.  Do not allow me to handle any power tools.  While this is always a good policy, it is especially so today.  Don’t hold me to anything I say today.  I have no idea what I am talking about.  I may speak in tongues if I don’t get at least seven hours of sleep tonight.  How the hell did Leo do that 84 hours?
     

2 Comments:

At November 19, 2012 at 5:08:00 PM EST , Blogger Ken Miller said...

It was in the haze of that sleep deprivation at 2:30 AM on the sidewalk outside of The Grog Shop that I decided at that moment to quit smoking cold turkey. You thought your Saturday at Top Kats was rough? Try doing that gig going through withdrawal that is said to be on par with a heroin detox.

 
At November 19, 2012 at 5:31:00 PM EST , Blogger Greg Miller said...

Your memory of that show is much stronger than mine. I remember you throwing out your smokes and going to buy the Patch though.

 

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