Now playing on the Otherppl with Brad Listi podcast, a conversation with Ayobami Adebayo. Her debut novel, Stay With Me, is available now from Knopf.

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Allen, Jeffery Renard (Mark Hillringhouse)So it seems that you have a new novel called Song of the Shank, which is based in part on a real person, Blind Tom, a book that I understand took you forever to write. Tell us more about it.

Better you read it.

 

Okay. So can you tell us what is the most important thing readers need to know about this novel?

The book is many things at once, travels in many directions, explores a number of possibilities in an effort to engage the reader and engage the world. I hope that anyone who reads the book will resist any inclination to try and pigeon-hole it as say a historical novel, or a novel about slavery and Reconstruction, or a novel about a musician, since it is all those things and more.

Can you tell me something extraordinary?

I made it with a dolphin yesterday.

 

How was it?

Awesome!

Do you really wish you could’ve gotten out of work sooner? Do you really wish that, or are you just being overly apologetic in hopes that your one-time girlfriend and current pitying host will forget that she ran into you at the Whole Foods bean bar where she felt obligated to invite you to her “Tuesday supper club” because she “knows it’s tough to be in a new town”.  Do you really wish you could’ve gotten out of work sooner? Because your nervous stomach and that fresh bile stain on your collar tell a different story.

Do you really not need your ex to introduce you to any of her friends? Do you really think you’ll be fine navigating the party on your own, or is this just a reflexive attempt to thrust yourself into a situation wherein you might add to your empty arsenal of easygoing guy qualifications? Do you really not need your ex to introduce you to any of her friends? Because while you sat at work, hiccuping back vomit and debating whether or not you’d attend this party, every guest became immersed in conversation about mutual friends whom you’ve never met, would hate you, and are coming soon.

Do you really want to live in Africa? Do you really want to, or is this just something you’re saying now because you’re drinking a glass of Malbec and there’s a good-looking girl with leather bracelets and uncombed hair sitting next to you? Do you really want to live in Africa? Because no one there will care that you “appreciate Infinite Jest more at thirty than at nineteen” or have a friend who works at Google; in Africa, tenuous ties to accomplishment still wouldn’t be fodder for introductions.

Do you really love this obscure bossa nova record? Do you really love it, or do you just feel like unbuttoning your shirt one more notch wasn’t enough to make you seem like an aficionado of all things alternative? Do you really love this obscure bossa nova record? Because the kind of people who love this record didn’t even wear shirts to this party and won’t put one on until they fly to their Peace Corps reunion in Senegal next week.

Do you really wish Alain could’ve come tonight? Do you really wish he could’ve, or do you just want everyone to know that you and your host have a French mutual friend? Do you really wish Alain could’ve come tonight? Because if he came, he’d barely recognize you and comment to your enthralled former girlfriend about New York audiences appreciating bossa nova in a “façon” totally different from the Brazilians.

Do you really hate Mitt Romney? Do you really hate him, or do you just think having a strong negative opinion about a conservative politician will make up for the fact that you wore loafers to a flip flop fest? Do you really hate Mitt Romney? Because if you hated him, you’d be too busy right now to give conservatism a thought; you’d be texting Alain about yoga retreats and Freegan microenterprises in fluent French.

Do you really think dinner is even better than the appetizers? Do you really think that, or have you just not spoken since your Romney comment? Do you really think dinner is even better than the appetizers? Because thinking that would mean you’d eaten one single olive tapenade cracker while precariously fielding questions about why you think Mitt is “worse than Hitler and Bin Laden combined.”

Do you really prefer Italian filmmakers to American? Do you really prefer them, or has Todd Phillips made every movie you’ve seen in the past five years? Do you really prefer Italian filmmakers to American? Because liking the bruschetta and penne alla vodka you’re eating better than the olive tapenade just means you have the palate of a nine-year-old; it doesn’t mean you know anything about Rossellini’s neorealism.

Do you really hope to get back to Europe soon? Do you really hope to, or are you just glad that your time studying abroad in Barcelona has enabled you to seem nostalgic for a place other than Disney World? Do you really hope to get back to Europe soon? Because the locales you’re remembering as “incredible” and “unforgettable” seem to be recollections of landmarks other guests mentioned five minutes ago, during the Italian filmmaker conversation.

Do you really wish you could stay? Do you really wish that, or would one more minute at this dining room table fashioned from unlacquered Balian driftwood cause your restless leg to bob so high it knocks the glasses off your soon-to-be-forgotten face? Do you really wish you could stay?

Because, it’s really fucking okay if you fucking really don’t fucking wish that at all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ll get one thing out of the way first of all, to address whose in the know, and as a point of interest for those who aren’t. “Akata” is to some a pretty nasty word. It’s Nigerian Pidgin deriving from the Yoruba for bush civet cat, and is used as an epithet for Americans of African descent. Some people claim it’s not derogatory in intent, but I don’t really buy that given the context in which I hear it used most of the time. It certainly leaves an offensive taste in the mouth of many Nigerians, especially in diaspora. Yeah, taboo language sometimes marks the most superficially surprising vectors. Nnedi Okorafor, author of the recent fantasy novel Akata Witch (Viking, 2011 ISBN: 978-0-670-01196-4), is well aware of the controversy she courts with its title. It takes an extraordinary book to put such an abrasive first impression into the background, and in short, I think Nnedi has well accomplished this.

I’ve long trumpeted (most recently in “50 Observations on 50 years of Nigeria, part 3”) the marvelous efflorescence of young Nigerian writers, and especially Nigerian women writers, both in Nigeria and in diaspora. I’m not much of a reader of novels, but I waste no time getting stuck into any new work by Adichie, Oyeyemi or Okorafor. Nnedi Okorafor is the author of the novels Zahrah the Windseeker (winner of the Wole Soyinka Prize for Literature) and The Shadow Speaker (winner of the CBS Parallax Award), and the children’s book, Long Juju Man (winner of the Macmillan Writer’s Prize for Africa). Her latest novel, Who Fears Death (DAW Books), was released in June. Her forthcoming novel, Akata Witch (Penguin Books/Viking Press), is scheduled for release in 2011. Nnedi was also a finalist for the Andre Norton Award (The Shadow Speaker), the Essence Magazine Literary Award (The Shadow Speaker), the Kindred and Parallax Awards (Zahrah) and the Golden Duck Award (Zahrah and The Shadow Speaker). Nnedi is working with Disney to produce a chapter book in the Disney Fairies series, tentatively titled Iridessa and the Fire-Bellied Dragon Frog.

This is a continuation of a series of personal observations about my native country on its golden jubilee. For items 1-16, please see part 1. For items 17-32, see part 2. In this final installment I include a few observations I’ve culled from my father’s memoir of his life in Nigeria and abroad “Seeing the World in Black & White.” (SWBW) (AWP, 2006)¹

33. Modern Nigerian literature, ever vibrant, is certainly on the up. Young as it is Nigeria has already had an early generation of great writers, household names such as Chinua Achebe and Wole Soyinka, not to mention the likes of Cyprian Ekwensi, Amos Tutuola, Christopher Okigbo, Flora Nwapa, Buchi Emecheta, and even the prolific pulp novelist Dan Fulani. It’s almost too much to ask for more, but as it happens, we have much, much more with new generations exploding on to the scene, including poets Chris Abani, Uche Nduka, Olu Oguibe and lesser known contemporaries such as Chinweizu. But the real earthquake manifests in novel form, with the emergence of the likes of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Helen Oyeyemi, Sefi Atta, and Nnedi Okorafor. I can’t pass without a word for the recently deceased poet and playwright Esiaba Irobi. One of the neat aspects of these 21st century blossoms is that so many of them are young women.

Writing should speak for itself. Good writing does. But with this piece, I feel a brief primer is in order.

I recently undertook the Sisyphean task of typing up a collection of journal entries that encompasses the nearly ten months I lived and traveled in southern Africa. This is a task made difficult not only by the sheer volume of words (close to 200,000, I suspect), but by the at-times illegible, roughly-hewn writing, which as often as not was written on the road, in a chemically-altered state, or some combination of the two.

Jack Kerouac wrote by the principle “first thought, best thought,” although even the master of the road manuscript learned that he was not above editing. In putting together this piece, I sought to retain the raw, visceral reflections that poured out of me while encountering such a spectacular and challenging part of the world.At the same time, I was fully cognizant of the fact that in its original form, much of what I wrote made sense only to me (and sometimes, not even to me). In order to form a more cohesive narrative, I moved individual passages around, inserted punctuation, and changed the odd word for the sake of clarity. But otherwise, what you read is straight from the heart, the gut, the ass, or whatever part of me it is that demands the words be written.

February 13, 2009

All of life is a waiting game—a preparation for the grand tomorrow on which day all demons shall be banished…

…There are many tomorrows on a trans-continental flight, but scarcely any todays.This pilgrimage at 32,000 feet is indicative of the human condition: the cramped and bored masses, wishing the moment away.And what awaits but uncertainty, unknown joys and terrors…every man yearns for a prophet, a taste of the supernatural, because it relieves the angst of making choices…

…At 32,000 feet all conversations feel a bit forced.Why am I going to South Africa?Where to begin…

…Every man at some point looks upon his life with the eyes of a distant stranger.What could be: the twisted half life of what is, always shimmering on the horizon, briefly igniting a spark to throw it all away and embark on some damn fool’s errand.It is a rebuke of the sensibilities we harness each day, those bricks out of which we’ve built our personal empires, the bedrock of those things that fill our lives…

…For all of the wisdom of our fathers they never once said to us, “You will build a life and afterwards always wonder what could have been.”…

…How can I hope to explain to a stranger in business casual what I have trouble myself understanding?What words will I string together to describe all the passion that’s been put aside, the yearnings that have been marginalized, a mental tickle that says things should be different?Instead I use language he can understand: I tell him I fell in love, which is true, only not the whole truth.In loving her I have merely recaptured the ability to love—and a man in love believes all things are possible—he is a glutton, eating everything before him but never full—he belches; defecates and rolls in it.To be in love is to have boundless energy.I love her madly, but not only her—I want to make love to the world, lay back with a sigh, satisfied, but thinking always of more, more, more…

…What awaits as I step off this plane and walk into her arms?Is it love I feel or love I seek?Infidelity already lurks in my heart, for it is Africa that I truly lust for… a place where beasts and chaos reign supreme…

… Oh Africa!How I long for you!Oh Africa!I lust for thee!Oh Africa!Give me a reprieve! …

…Let me hear the sounds of lions at night and roam among the sun-bleached bones of those fate did not favor in the morning…

…..I want to be surrounded by the possibility of death, because living in a cage of logic is already dying…

…I seek mayhem…upheaval…bring on earthquakes and hurricanes…sweep my old life away into the sea…leave me naked on the ruins of what I’ve built…

…It’s not often that one can see a new chapter of their life unfolding, but that is precisely the view before me as the plane makes its descent into Johannesburg. The African continent comes into view, conjuring up a wealth of imagery as varied and twisted as the mind that tries to make sense of it.Of all the places to start over, Africa seems to be the best …

… The Africa of my mind is a picture of an old, faded map with an unfolding line marking my travels.I will make it to Kilimanjaro, stand atop the roof of Africa, stare out across the continent and have a view similar to what God must have had when his work was at last done and he could rest…

…Starting over…what is it like?At 10,000 feet and descending, I know not, but I know the pure adrenaline in my gut is enough. If this ecstatic doubt is an indicator, then I’ve been living my whole life asleep.To start over, in Africa, in love…

…Love and Africa.Now, this is all I know.The plane touches down.I pass through the required checkpoints and collect my bags.I step into a lobby, baggage in tow.She rises to greet me.I am in her arms again.Love and Africa.Now, this is all I need…

…I am better than fate.I am stronger than the universe.I am a man.

February 14, 2009

I have scarcely a night to dream big African dreams before we are on the road. Up by 4:00, casting a shadow on the still-cool tarmac by 6:00…

…nothing is set or decided, but for now we set a rough course down to Cape Town and from there up to Namibia, where we shall be swept up and away into The Heart of Africa…

…She holds my hand as she drives and I love her. We are together, our lives condensed down to a small white Toyota…

…driving through the Cradle of Humankind we pass a lone hitchhiker, his dark features reflecting under the bright sun—in his single, outstretched thumb I see the history of humanity laid bare—starting here, wending its way northward to new lands—the growth of many races from one—he still in the birthplace of man and I, returning in an automobile—here, in the plains of Southern Africa, history has formed a strange circle…

…We stop to refuel in the kinds of small towns that make ghosts out of men. A worker finishes pumping dinosaur bones into the tank and I tell him to have a nice day, but what I really mean is, “I’m sorry.I don’t know how things came to be like this either.”…

…We drive all day and make the town of Nieu Bethesda just as dusk is beginning to break.To get there we follow a long, winding dirt road that picks its way through the rocky, crumbling remains of mountains…

…The first day of the journey calls for a bottle of wine and we share it in the common room of the hostel with a Canadian woman who says she has come to Africa to save the lions, but who I suspect has really come to save herself.No 35 year old insurance salesman from Calgary sits up in the dead of night knowing her mission in life is to protect a creature 10,000 miles away.Lions are a symbol of her discontent, of a longing for something more out of life than cold-calling strangers and trying to get them to buy a new policy…

February 16, 2009

The sun is nearly down when we reach the town of Uniondale.We find the name of a youth hostel and head there.She is scorched and exhausted, wants to go to bed.I, in a similar state, oblige.But as I lay there, the desert night calls to me.Restless, I rise to sit alone outside….

…The proprietor, a man of about 60, sits on the stoop, smoking slowly, each long inhale seeming to encompass a universe of silent rumination. He at first seems aloof and rude but turns out to be the type of man who finds no value in senseless chatter.He offers me a cigarette.I don’t smoke but I accept.We puff away in silence; the sound of the paper burning is clearly audible among the cricket chirps and nighttime rustling of unseen creatures….

…He is a counterpoint to my youthful restlessness; where I flounder he is fixed; where nothing ahead is known for me he lives in this familiar world…

…He rises wordlessly and enters the house, reappearing with a fiddle.The case opens with a click that resounds in the darkness.The instrument is old but the strings look fresh and strong.He raises it to his shoulder and draws back the bow.I lay back, smoking, propped up on one elbow in the cool grass.I imagine he plays for me, but this is not the truth.He plays for himself.I am merely a witness to his strange blues. He stops occasionally to take a drag off of the cigarette that lies smoldering at his side.Several of them burn down to the filter…

… He finishes, packs the fiddle away, rises and enters the house.I remain, in silence, but I can still hear the music, telling me everything I need to know, filing the spaces between my thoughts with a wordless chorus…

…He has killed me softly with his strange blues.His song speaks to the road ahead.

February 17, 2009

We drive downtown to the main church.The Boer Farmers who migrated north from the Cape to escape the rule of the English built their newly-founded towns around these places of worship, the detailed craftsmanship of this building reflecting their ambitions for a good life, a beautiful life, a peaceful life…

…I walk around it, snapping pictures.I’ve not had any use for God since I refused to return to Sunday school at the age of nine, but churches always instill in me the sense that without myth, the world would be a very ugly place…

…I look at the small white car, the steed that carries me and Emily through the wasteland—we are together against the world, but also separate; horribly alone in our own quests…

… Everybody needs their own church, squat, solid and beautiful, built in the center of the vast, perilous wilderness of their own mind….

…I gaze through the fence at the well-kept grass and handsome stone work.A woman approaches from behind and says something in Afrikaans. She is the cleaning lady, old and toothless, her hair in a handkerchief.I beg her pardon that I only speak English.

“Would you like to have a look inside?” she translates.

“Yes, very much so,” I say….

…She unlocks a back door and I climb a set of stairs up past the bell to the very height of the church.From there it is a tentative walk up a ladder that is leaned against a shuddered window.I push it open and step down onto a circular terrace that surrounds the tower…

… A church is built to make people feel humble.The towering roof, the detailed craftwork, the stern-faced biblical figures, all are bent towards reminding people of a higher power in whose presence we are hopelessly small. To that end, I say let the people of Uniondale congregate up here on Sundays, rather than suffer under the heaviness of stone and wood…

… Let them be accompanied up the rickety staircase by the cleaning lady who has spent decades inside this hallowed building and has nothing to show for it but stubborn pride and arthritic fingers…

… Let them climb the wobbling stairs past the cobwebbed gears and levers of a massive bell, the booming metallic voice of god, which summons them to worship each Sunday….

…Let them stand on this terrace where with one glance they can size up their entire sleepy town, where they live and will die, where the great expanse of the Karoo is overtaken by mountains to the south and where beyond that, mountains fall into the sea.The view from here can make one feel smaller than any preacher’s words…

…Let the people see pigeons perched on stone crosses, roosting in the eaves of the highest point of the holiest building, defecating wherever they please, years of shit accumulated upon the House of God.Then, they will be humbled, truly.

This is a continuation of my series of personal observations about my native country on its golden jubilee. For items 1-16, please see part 1.

17. Nobody deploys the witty put-down quite like Wafi and Safi boys (and girls). You know it by many names: “the dozens,” “snaps,” “cracks,” “yo mama jokes,” and such. The tradition of non-violent contests of wits through rapid-fire mutual insults is well know anywhere Black culture has left a mark. But in my travels I don’t think I’ve met any group that dishes it out quite as expertly as folks from the Niger delta towns of Warri and Sapele (AKA Wafi and Safi), rendered in the particularly extravagant brand of Pidgin English for which that region is famous. I myself still bear the scars from some such encounters. And if you are trying to get cozy with a girl from that region, you had better come correct, or you might not survive the resulting put-down.

Nigeria’s 50th birthday was a fortnight ago. On October 1, 1960, the British officially turned over sovereignty of the country to the Speaker of the newly independent Nigerian Parliament, Jaja Wachuku, in the form of the Freedom Charter. The new nation nearly convulsed apart within ten years, and in many ways, it’s amazing such an entity has survived intact, an agglomeration of hundreds of ethnic groups (and indigenous languages), many of which were so recently colonized by Britannia that they were not very warm to the idea of sharing political commonwealth with a bunch of circumstantial peers.

The holiday got me thinking of what it means to me to be a Nigerian, born in Nigeria, educated in Nigeria and abroad, living (and naturalized) in the USA, but with a very strong sense of rootedness off the Bight of Bonny. Nigeria is enormous. I’ve read estimates that a quarter of all black people in the world are of recent Nigerian origin. Among such multitudes there is so much to say that I’ve just begged off to a series of vignettes in a number that suits the occasion, and I’ve broken the expansive result into three parts. Please do join me in this sampler from our enormous platter.

I am crazy about poetry. Absolutely besotted. Poetry has helped me though the darkest days I’ve endured; it’s calmed me down during minor surgeries; it’s helped me remember experiences I never want to lose to the horizon; and it’s helped me put out of my mind destructive vexations.  Poetry is so utterly a part of my life, my everyday, that I am still astonished when I run into people who dislike poetry, who distrust poetry, who even fear poetry.  As any lover prickles in unrest unless everyone else acknowledges the magnificence of their beloved, I find myself wanting to draw my friends, my family, my colleagues into my inductive field of admiration.

This column is for those who are nervous about poetry, those who have had a nervous breakdown from the effects of poetry stuffed down their gullets by bad teachers. For those who have felt belittled or just bewildered by what they have been cajoled to admire, under pain of being called Philistines.  For those who have found their intelligence insulted by shallow irrelevance.  This column is not about educating you, but rather sharing delights with you, with the full understanding that you will like some of it, and dislike some of it, and that, that’s OK.  I’ll present different ideas and themes regarding poetry each time, and I’ll always have a poem or two to share, and I hope I can put you in the mood to share alike. To tell me why the poems I pick work for you, or why they do not.  To tell me in general why you love or hate poetry.  Each column is just a touchstone for discussion. I want to hear about your experiences with poetry, or lack of same, whether good or bad, satisfying or enervating.

I’ve decided to post this list after having kept it scrawled in notebooks over the years. The inspiration for it comes from one of my favorite people on this planet, Tom Rhodes. He has a list of over 1000 things he simply calls “Happiness”. I started keeping my own list a few years ago – which has been edited and updated and deleted from sporadically over time – but still serves as my own reminder that there are far more good things than bad on these little paths we all stumble down.

2009 is almost gone.  I feel like I made it through this year the same way I got through high school, which is to say I skipped most of it and barely squeaked by the rest.   One of the greatest perks to writing as frequently as I do is that there is always a record of where I’ve been and what I’ve done.
I rolled into this year as unobtrusively as I possibly could, falling asleep on my brother’s couch an hour or so before midnight.  “If I’m quiet maybe ’09 won’t notice me”, I told myself, and for the most part it didn’t.  I spent January in the coldest weather I’ve ever experienced, -21 in Indianapolis.  Negative.  Twenty-one.  At that temperature even your soul freezes.
That probably explains why I was so sick a week or so later in New Orleans.  Instead of wrought iron and beignets and the banks of the Mississippi, I spent my time there huddled in the Ambassador Hotel hiding from fever induced nightmares.  That didn’t stop Wild Bill Dykes and Sam Demaris from dragging me to Vic’s for a glass or two of James.  I went straight from there to the Oklahoma foothills for a few nights of nothing but wilderness and fire.
There was a very blurry weekend in Shreveport somewhere around that part of the year, too.  I remember Justin Foster not wearing pants for most of it.  Sam and I stole a tree.  We also almost fought Elmo and Cookie Monster.  Wait, maybe that was last year.  This year we beat up a midget.  In our defense, he said he was in the UFC, which prompted the response, “Not unless Arianna Celeste writes a number on your chest and holds you over her head between rounds.”
I spent most of my May hopping around the Middle East with Don Barnhart and Bryan Bruner, which is not the place to visit during the summer.  I got to bake in the Qatari sun and walk the streets of Riyadh in Saudi Arabia.  It was nice to find out that Saudi was so much different than I had thought it would be.  I got to soak for a few unplanned off days in a lagoon attached to a luxury hotel in Bahrain.  It was an oasis by every definition of the word and a very welcome respite from the hot desert sun.
While on that side of the world I got demolished in a game of soccer by Djiboutian children, met too many amazing people to name, played with wild cheetahs, and watched Christian Slater rescue a Marine girl from being attacked by one.  A cheetah, not a Djiboutian kid.
Somewhere in that same time period a German woman decided to go skinny dipping with polar bears at the Berlin Zoo.  I’ve never laughed so hard in my life.  We were soon inundated with more attacks from the animal world, this time in the form of the Pig AIDS.  Swine flu.  H1N1.  People wore masks and we all watched as the death toll rose on national television.  It didn’t take long for us to realize that it was a pointless thing to be afraid of.  “Save your fear,” we told ourselves, “there are underwear bombers coming in December.”
The King of Pop died right in front of all of us this year, too.  Sam was in Seattle when it happened, and managed to sleep through the news.  As long as I can remember, he has had one line in his show that takes a crack at Michael.  He called me that night to tell me he did the line on stage and was booed by the entire crowd.  “What’s wrong?” he asked.
“He’s dead!” yelled someone in the crowd, to which Sam replied, “No he’s not.  He just looks like that.”
Here’s hoping nobody dies while you’re hungover in 2010, Sam.
I was almost arrested in Dallas on my birthday until the cop admitted that some friends of mine had set me up.  He laughed as he took the handcuffs off, and I resisted the urge to kick my friends in the head.  It wasn’t the only time I would find myself in a cop car this year.  Back in Indianapolis, Billy D. Washington and I recruited a ride to our hotel from Indy’s most eccentric police officer.  After tazing himself a few times in the leg, he invited us into the cruiser.   What should have been a ten minute drive took forty minutes, reaching a conclusion only after I managed to pinpoint our location on my phone’s GPS.  To this day I’m not certain we didn’t get a ride from a guy that had just recently stolen a cop car.  Billy and I laughed until we cried, making that one of the most memorable weeks of the year.
I got to climb a bit in the Rockies this year as well.  There was a lot on my mind this summer and nothing clears it like thin mountain air and thousand foot falls.  Charlie Moreno and I watched a Gay Pride parade, a Mexicans for Jesus rally, and a Free Iran protest all take place in downtown Denver within a block of each other.  We watched street musicians and crazy people for a few hours before heading back to the Springs.  I was introduced to K’naan on the drive back, which only made the trip that much more worth it.
In July I got to briefly see my friends Kevin and Pete, who I see far too rarely.  I also got share some of the finest Irish whiskeys in the world this year with BC and Mike Flores.
Fall was spent in Canada, riding trains across Ontario, and drinking Alexander Keith’s with a slew of new Canadian friends.  For a comedian, the stage at Absolute Comedy in Ottawa is as close to heaven on Earth as one can possibly get.  It is to comedy what Nirvana is to both Buddhists and grunge fans.  I was also given the grand tour of Toronto by Jeff Schouela.  If you have to spend a few weeks in Canada with anyone, you could do far worse than Jeff.
On top of all of that, I lost my two best friends.  Tiger Woods fell from his perch at the top of the sports worlds.  I saw snow in Houston.  A family pimped their kid out with a childish balloon hoax.  I fell out of touch with my favorite person on this planet.  Billy Mays and Farrah Fawcett and Patrick Swayze and David Carradine and Jim Carroll died.  I made a stupid bet with my friend Titus.  I saw my friend Rachel turn orange.  I met new people and reconnected with some old friends.
And with all of that said, I managed to accomplish absolutely nothing.  I somehow managed to end the year precisely where I began it: in front of this desk, staring at this screen, drinking coffee.
Here’s to 2010.  I don’t know anything about it yet, but like most wild animals, it probably won’t bite you if you don’t look it in the eye.  I was a little passive this past year however, so I may very well pick a fight with this one on purpose.  It might kick my ass the way ’07 and ’08 did, but I also might find a way to tame it.
Good or bad, it’s pretty much upon us.

We recently went on a trip to Africa.  Plane one:  three and a half hours to New York.  Plane two:  fourteen hours to Dubai.  Plane three:  ten hours to Johannesburg.  This does not include the waiting times between planes.  We all hoped to get some sleep, but it is not easy to sleep when your body says that it is daytime.  Victor decided that for the last flight, the ten hours to Johannesburg, he would insure his rest by taking a sleeping pill.  Victor had never taken a sleeping pill before, in fact, he rarely takes any medication except the very little prescribed by his doctor.

We were served a meal. (On these kinds of flights you are served meals on a regular basis. You eat these meals because they are right there in front of you. They taste like airplane food.)  Victor and I were sitting in the middle of the cabin in the middle of the plane in a four-seat row with our friends, Ken and Cindy.

“I’m going to take an Ambien,” Victor announced.

“Why?” I asked.  Victor is known by all who know him as a person who can sleep anywhere at any time under any conditions.

Here is some convincing photographic evidence of Victor’s aforementioned abilities:

Victor on the bed, before peeing, after work and before dinner

Again

Victor asleep on the dog crate, after work, before peeing and before dinner

Again

Victor in the airport in Bhutan

Victor on Safari at Kruger National Park

Please understand that there were lions and rhinos and hippos and warthogs and springboks and zebras and giraffes and, well, you get the idea….

Here is Victor on the bus traveling through the bush in Africa, where we passed ostriches and elephants and wild dogs and leopards and cape buffalo and hyenas and all flavor of monkeys….

I think it may be genetic.

Poor Benjamin!

“Because I want to be sure to be rested so I don’t miss anything,” he said.  “In fact, I’m going to take it with my meal.” He also had a glass of wine with his meal.  You don’t have to pay for wine on long flights, even back in steerage where we were.  Victor does not like to pass up anything that is free.  Another thing you should know about Victor is that he is virtually never publicly affectionate.  Our kids have named the hug they try to give him after not seeing him for a long time: “The Hug and Shove.”

On Emirates Airlines, there is a screen in front of each seat with hours of movies, TV shows, music and computer games. The lights had been dimmed to simulate nighttime.
I was watching a movie. Victor began poking me.  I used hand gestures to indicate I was watching a movie.  He continued to poke me.  I told him that I was watching a movie.  He poked me some more.  I took off my earphones and looked at him.  He was grinning.

“Let’s cuddle,” he said.

“Cuddle?” I asked.

We usually reserve our cuddling to the bedroom.  We were on an airbus with four to five hundred people.

Victor became quite insistent.  There began a tussle whereby I tried to hold his hands down while he made it quite clear that he needed his hands free to pursue certain maneuvers familiar to me, but only in the bedroom. Victor was amorous. The struggle went on for quite some time. It was a heated grappling. Spectators started gathering.  Our group assembled in the aisle.  More onlookers appeared.
We were quite the hit on a boring flight.  Finally I suggested that he put his blanket over his head, which is a trick he uses to breathe carbon dioxide and become sleepy.  Oddly, he reacted immediately by covering up his head. Ken and Cindy, both medical professionals, told me that he was actually quite asleep and to watch him carefully because there was no telling what he might do.  Ken and Cindy and I all stayed awake to watch him.

He took off the blanket and shouted: “Argentina!” He pulled his blanket back over his head. He took the blanket off several times to meticulously bite his nails and then covered himself back up.  He removed the blanket again saying: “Get in touch with Ken and Cindy and tell them it will be Wednesday, if that works for them.”  Back under the blanket he went.  Frequently, he would remove the blanket and either utter some gibberish or grin and wave giddily at the three of us with him in the row, eyes wide open.

After he had been quiet for awhile, I began to let my guard down and went back to my movie.  Ken pulled my sleeve.

“Victor has to stop that!  It isn’t safe.”

I looked at Victor. He had taken out all the cash for our vacation, which had been in the “secret” pouch around his neck, and was counting it out loud in his seat.

“Victor, stop that!”  I exclaimed.

“You are not the boss of me;” he replied, “you can’t tell me what to do.”

“I may not be your boss, but you need to put our money away now.”  I said.  He continued to count the money.  Out loud.

Ken said: “Victor!  Put that away now!”  Victor quietly put the money back in his “secret” neck wallet and went under the blanket again. Apparently, Ken’s advice was given more credence than mine.

This had been going on for hours.  It seemed a good time for me to get up and take a bathroom break.  Ken and Cindy got up and I exited that way, so as not to disturb Victor.  They took up watch.  I just made the turn to the bathroom when I heard Ken yell.

“’HE’S ON THE MOVE, IRENE!”

I hurried to the other aisle and found him wandering about.

“Where are you going?” I asked him.

“Nowhere.  Why are you following me? he asked.

“Do you have to go to the bathroom?”  I asked.

“Could be,” he replied.

I walked him to the bathroom and stood outside.  He was inside for a very long time.  The toilet never flushed.  I was beginning to think that I would have to send Ken or Cindy to get a cabin attendant to free him from the bathroom.  At long last, Victor emerged from the bathroom.  I was relieved to see that he was fully dressed, since one of the scenarios our friends and I had discussed was that he might just disrobe in the bathroom and come out buck-naked.  He had not used the toilet.  I can only assume he was making faces in the mirror.

When he saw me outside waiting for him, he asked:

“Why are you here?  You are always spying on me!”
“Yeah, I’m sorry about that, honey,” I said, “I’ll try not to bother you.”

I maneuvered him back to his seat and told him to sit down. He was eerily compliant. He explained that he didn’t want to sit.  He wanted to take a walk.  I used my ace-in-the-hole and said:

“If you sit down, I’ll rub your head until you go to sleep.”

Victor will do close to anything to get his head rubbed, evidently even while asleep.  He sat down and I covered him with the blanket again.  He took it off and asked:

“Why are you covering me up?”

“Head rubs are better under the blanket,” I declared.

“Oh.  Okay,” he said, and settled into his seat.  I buckled him in, wishing I had handcuffs, and covered him with the blanket.  I stood in the aisle and rubbed his head continuously until I saw that he had finally stopped fidgeting.  Then I walked around to the other aisle and Ken and Cindy let me through to my seat.

After an endless wait, the lights came up slowly in the cabin and the cabin attendants came around with another meal.  Victor pulled off his blanket and proclaimed his vast hunger.

“I feel really rested,” he noted.

“Are you awake?” I asked.

“Of course I’m awake.  You are ridiculous,” he answered.

He had no memory of anything he had said or done, except, oddly, the counting of his money.

It is my heart-felt advice that you should not take your first Ambien on a plane.  First take it in bed, with someone carefully watching.


109 Comments »

2009-03-04 16:57:45

Tears of laughter.

I want Ambien.

I read ”all flavour of monkeys” and thought it quite amusing. It did not adequately prepare me….

just awesome…

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-03-04 17:39:05

Thanks, James D., There WERE all flavors. Many with swollen underparts.

Comment by josie |Edit This
2009-03-04 17:52:46

“swollen underparts” Heehee. That’s what I’d have after 28 hours of sitting on a plane!

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Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-03-04 17:58:12

Josie, are they surprisingly red, also?

2009-03-04 17:25:18

Oh Irene, how I have missed you so!

I think you and Victor should perform a reenactment and put it up on YouTube. Seriously. That would rule.

2009-03-04 17:26:40

Also, what is with that “face-down-flop”? That’s friggin’ HILARIOUS!

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-03-04 17:42:29

Kimberly, I am VERY afraid that this is an inherited trait. As you can see, Benjamin shows the same tendencies. Genes will out, I’m afraid.

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Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-03-04 17:40:58

Oh, Kimberly, we would if we could, but Victor remembers nothing but the money. If only we knew to have a movie camera at hand….
(I DO have LOTS of witnesses, though!)

Comment by Irene Zion elsewhere in the states |Edit This
2009-05-09 16:01:09

Sorry, Kimberly,
Victor remembers nothing about this except that he thinks he had a dream about counting money. Couldn’t reinact it. Impossibile.

Comment by josie |Edit This
2009-03-04 17:46:32

Victory on safari… wow – guess I could close my eyes and save myself the trip. lol

Oh gosh, I’m with Kimberly – why oh why isn’t there video? I think you’ve stumbled onto a brilliant new form of international flight entertainment. One or two passengers can just gobble an Ambien, wash it down with a glass of wine and… Voila! instant entertainment.

But until then blogs with photos will suffice.
Welcome home Irene )

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-03-04 18:04:19

Josie,
I have really missed you guys!
(I DO think that the wine had a part in the reaction, but what do I know?)

Comment by Melissa |Edit This
2009-03-04 17:46:42

Once again you have me hysterical laughing. I take Ambien every night. Wonder what I might be doing in the middle of the night? Hmmmm. So far the dogs are keeping quiet.

Melissa

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-03-04 18:00:28

Melissa,
If you sleep at night and no one complains, what’s the harm?

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-03-04 18:01:40

Melissa, I was typing away forever and nothing but the first sentence showed up. Now I’m too jet-lagged to remember what I was saying. Maybe tomorrow….

Comment by melissa (irene’s friend) |Edit This
2009-03-04 21:36:10

Irene, you know I have jet lag and I do not go anyplace but Publix. You must come back soon. Or I may be stuck in the elevator forgetting to push the floor number.

Melissa

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-03-05 04:10:05

Melissa, Remember. It’s the other floor. Just repeat that as if it were a mantra.

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2009-03-04 18:25:41

I’m headed to South Africa this May for six weeks– a 22-hour layover in Madrid. Thanks for the medicinal cautionary tale…

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-03-04 18:48:57

Matthew Gavin,
The 22 hour layover will save you. Get a hotel and sleep. I promise you will be the better for it in the end. The trip is grueling without a break. It’s well worth it, though. Africa is amazing!

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-03-05 04:11:45

On the other hand, Matthew Gavin, you could bring a pair of handcuffs and give the key to the cabin steward after you attach yourself to your seat. Be sure to use the bathroom first.

Comment by George |Edit This
2009-03-04 18:30:13

I want some Ambien — it’s the new Viagra.

Frankly, I don’t know if Irene is an unusually clever writer, or just surrounded by absolutely insane people who give her wonderful material.

I do think that the safest place to take Ambien is on a plane. There is a limit to how far you can go with sleepwalking.

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-03-04 18:50:45

But George, there are doors that can be opened by civilians if there is an emergency. What if a sleepwalker decides to take a walk…outside?

Comment by Lenore |Edit This
2009-03-04 18:57:52

oh my sweet jesus. that was the funniest thing ever. i was cracking up reading it. lisa and matt are here and they are desperate to read it next.

i so wish i’d have been there.
or maybe not for the part were he wanted to get it on with you, cause that’s weird.
but for the other stuff.

we’ll never know what he was doing in the bathroom. god, i wish we could know.

i love dad. he is my hero. i can’t wait to get a hug-and-shove from him.

see you in TWO WEEKS!

Comment by Tim |Edit This
2009-03-05 15:19:38

Like father, like daughter . . .

Comment by Lenore |Edit This
2009-03-04 19:02:10

also, you are SO totally not the boss of dad.

i am the boss of dad.

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-03-04 19:03:05

Oh Lenore, my pet, there is so much more that cannot be put into print. I’ll never say.
(Maybe you’ll be lucky and I’ll get demented and tell you one day.)

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-03-04 19:05:13

Lenore, was not that the strangest thing for him to say? That is a KID’S thing to say, not a grown-up’s. I still cannot get over that.

Comment by Lenore |Edit This
2009-03-04 19:07:49

well, it’s not that strange. like i said, you aren’t the boss of him. i am. he wouldn’t have said it to me.

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-03-04 19:10:27

You are a piece of work, chickenheart of my soul.

Comment by Kate |Edit This
2009-03-04 19:27:36

When Ben and I went to France and to England, he just took Vicodin and went to sleep. I think that was probably for the best. When I went to Sweden, I drank a ton of free wine and just felt sick. That was not for the best.

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-03-04 19:39:17

Kate, when you drink alcohol in an airplane for some reason it is as though you drank three times as much. I don’t understand why, but I know that it is so.
Where did he get vicodin? He should save that for real pain. Most people sleep when they take a sleeping pill. I’d recommend that instead. (But, I’d watch him….)

Comment by Kate |Edit This
2009-03-05 13:21:29

I got it for my wisdom teeth surgery, but I apparently am sensitive to it. It just made me vomit a lot. So we saved it for the plane trip.

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-03-12 04:10:25

Kate, My doc gave me some oxycodone for my restless legs on the plane. I spent the whole trip in the bathroom vomiting. On the other hand, my restless legs went away. I can’t believe people take that for fun!

Comment by Phat B |Edit This
2009-03-04 20:15:56

The face down sleeping is unreal. Will Dr. Zion teach me how to do it? You know how many people could sleep in a suite in Vegas like that? I must know the secret.

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-03-05 04:14:34

Phat B, Do you see that most of the time his face is in a down comforter? How he didn’t smother is beyond me. The genetic code for this only runs on the boy’s side of the family.

Comment by the kayak lady |Edit This
2009-03-04 20:19:05

too funny! totally believable! i saw part of this! it is a tru tale! glad it was irene and not me! anything to pass a looong flight.

victor can sleep anywhere. a talent i wish i could pick up from him.

write more! it made me smile.

the kayak lady )

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-03-05 04:18:48

Sure, Kayak Lady, YOU SPECTATORS were having fun. I was working hard there. He is a persistent bugger, even in his sleep, apparently.
I am his complete opposite. I can’t sleep anywhere. The drugs work on me as they are supposed to but only in a good bed in a cool room in the complete darkness. Even a nightlight keeps me up. I would’ve been good in a submarine like Timothy. He takes after me. (Or in one of those underground houses dug out of rock or earth.) Don’t need window treatments if you don’t have windows.

Comment by Jim |Edit This
2009-03-04 20:22:34

Why “Argentina!”?

This is the best travel story I’ve ever read. The photos added to the hilarity.

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-03-05 04:20:22

Exactly, Jim. Why ANY of this. He was the only totally rested person when we got to Johannesburg. Ready for bear, he was.

Comment by Marlene |Edit This
2009-03-04 20:55:23

we missed you so much! looking forward to seeing the pics of the trip…
What an entertaining and hilarious story! The face down sleeping pictures of Victor are a plus. I should learn how to fall sleep like that -the only problem would be my boyfriend not letting me get the needy rest…
The Ambien industry won’t appreciate the negative advertisement -or positive? The story sounds good for a movie script.
Can’t wait to see you and Brooklyn

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-03-05 04:24:16

You know, Marlene, I had heard about these things happening from time to time, but never thought they would happen in my family.

I guess as a periodic side effect is not up there with bleeding from the eyes or loss of bowel control.

Comment by Adam |Edit This
2009-03-04 20:58:47

You’ve alluded to Victor’s uncanny ability to sleep before, but the Bhutan photo didn’t really make the case.

Now, seeing him standing hunched over the dog cage, I can truly appreciate what it is you intended to share.

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-03-05 04:27:35

The problem with that photo, Adam, is that you can’t HEAR the airport “lounge” in Bhutan. It was very very noisy. Also you can’t FEEL how cold it is. Remember, the temperature OUTSIDE is the same as the temperature INSIDE a dwelling there. We learned that fact the hard way. We slept wearing everything in our suitcases every night.

Comment by keiko |Edit This
2009-03-04 21:12:40

i had to read this twice because i laughed so much the first time. see you tomorrow. woo hoo.

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-03-05 04:29:27

Yeah, Keiko. Just remember you promised not to lick us or shoot snot rockets.

Also when you land I will be long asleep. Victor will stay up, but I’m just not able to yet. I’ll see you in the morning. About 3 AM.

Comment by bill |Edit This
2009-03-04 21:41:00

thank you for sharing your story….very entertaining. I suggest you keep some Ambien around the house for those quiet nights alone with nothing much to do…instant entertainment.

Comment by Adam |Edit This
2009-03-04 21:48:08

…including, but not limited to, instant amorousness.

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-03-05 04:32:04

Bill, I think you’ve got something there. They could market Ambien as an aphrodisiac!

I’ll have to write them a letter. Maybe I can get a percentage of the profits. (Be getting on the bread line soon.)

Comment by Matt |Edit This
2009-03-04 21:42:32

Great story Irene. Maybe I need ambien because I’m an insomniac. Then i will perhaps do crazy things in the middle of the night that creep Lenore out. Although, Hege and Wetzel already do their jobs of distracting our sleep with their antics, so Lenore would probably go crazy if i were also adding to the mix.

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-03-05 04:36:46

Matt, driving Lenore crazy is one of my purposes in life.

You should absolutely get a prescription. If it works on you the way it worked on Victor, you’ll be dancing on the table and cooking with kleenex.

Hege and Wetzel need the entertainment, anyway. They are just bored.

Besides, Lenore could take pictures and feature you on TNB as I did Victor.

It’s too bad Victor never reads it. I bullied him into reading the very first one and that was it. Doesn’t even want to hear about it.

Comment by Dan |Edit This
2009-03-04 21:49:49

Brilliant. This had me weeping with laughter. The next time I’m on a plane, I hope to hear someone cry out, “HE’S ON THE MOVE, IRENE!”

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-03-05 04:38:34

Dan, you just have to have a very very good friend or two, like Ken and Cindy, who will stay up and be watchers even though they are so very tired.

Comment by jmb |Edit This
2009-03-04 22:42:11

Ah Ambien.

I wrote my ode to Ambien Zombies back in the old TNB days.
It’s a hoot…

Comment by Lenore |Edit This
2009-03-04 22:44:02

LINK

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-03-05 04:40:51

Your link doesn’t work, Lenore.

HA! “Ambien Zombies!” Got to love jmb!

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Comment by Adam |Edit This
2009-03-05 10:50:05

I think the “LINK” is a demand.

Not a supply.

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-03-05 11:47:29

OOOHHHH. Thanks, Adam, I’m clueless here.

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-03-05 12:00:02

Folks, this was NOT at all easy. jmb has written at least a trillion posts on TNB. In any case, here is the zombie post:

http://www.thenervousbreakdown.com/1159/2006/12/ice-cream-in-your-nightpants-onward-ambien-zombies-to-the-god-shaped-hole-in-my-tooth/

He tries to fool you by using “zombie” in other posts, but, hey! I’ve got time on my hands.

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-03-05 04:39:35

Oh! I will go searching for it. I’d love to see jmb’s take on this drug.

Comment by Christine W. |Edit This
2009-03-04 23:59:12

I am printing this and keeping it for handy reference. Apparently, you Zions have some sort of weird relationship with Ambien.

Give him some more and report back to us.

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-03-05 04:43:34

Christine, he doesn’t do what I tell him to do. As you saw, even in his sleep this is true.

Perhaps if Ken tells him, he will.

I can sleep a good three hours with two, (at night, in a good bed, with no ambient sound, and in total darkness.)

Comment by Marni Grossman |Edit This
2009-03-05 00:40:21

“’Do you have to go to the bathroom?’ I asked.

‘Could be,’ he replied”

I laughed so hard. The intrigue! He may have had to go to the bathroom. He may not have. But he certainly wasn’t telling you, Irene, because you’re not the boss of him.

My father just completed a 12-hour flight to Tel Aviv but the only story I got out of him involved legal briefs and a mini book light.

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-03-05 04:45:33

Aha, Marni, but was he alone? If he were, you wouldn’t really know WHAT happened, would you? Remember Victor recalled nothing but counting the money. (And if you knew Victor that would make total sense.)

Comment by ksw |Edit This
2009-03-05 04:30:31

nice recitation. you forgot that when he exited the bathroom his pants were at a strange angle and one of his shirt tails was out. it give one pause to consider the 8 ball in the corner pocket (or if you prefer taking the one eyed bald man to the optometrist)

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-03-05 04:49:05

KEN! He did? I didn’t notice anything awry. I guess I was just so happy he finally emerged. The I covered him all up. Now that I know he was in disarray, that turned out to be a lucky move!

I know I should understand the rest of your comment. I know what the one eyed bald man is, but not the rest. My parents never taught me any sex education!

Comment by Marcia (former next-door neighbor in Illinois and frequent visitor to Florida) |Edit This
2009-03-05 08:23:14

This may be the funniest thing you have ever written! It’s even funnier if you know Victor. (For those who don’t know him, think Alan Arkin or anyone else who is easily embarrassed.) Also great that you had witnesses because, of course, he would deny everything even if he could remember it.

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-03-05 09:30:02

Oh Marcia, you are so right! I have approximately 400 – 500 witnesses! (And several who know him personally!) He would be SOOOO embarrassed if he would only read this!

2009-03-05 12:30:34

Irene, I was cackling aloud the whole time reading this.
I have a friend who was actually arrested for shoplifting on Ambien. She did not even know she was in the store. It was the middle of the night. She had left her house and gone to the store and was walking up and down the aisles just obnoxiously and blatantly throwing things into her bag with no effort to hide it. I thought this sounded like a “likely excuse” for being busted stealing, but it turns out I guess that this sort of behavior isn’t uncommon on Ambien and she was actually let go once a doctor got involved.
Yeah, for long plane rides, try Valium. I am deeply suspicious of sleeping pills.
My husband David can also sleep anywhere. He once fell asleep at a rave while the police were busting up the place. He also once slept through a film while sitting in a seat with a spring poking out of it and boring into his ass cheek so violently that when he stood up he had a big blot of blood on the back pocket of his jeans and a hole in the fabric. He had not noticed. He was asleep.

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-03-05 15:42:32

Gina, I also was leery of claims of “sleep eating” or “sleep driving” until this happened to the most staid of all men: Victor. I guess since Ambien has little or no effect on me, I sort of thought that I was the bellwether. But it appears I was wrong. (How can I NOT be the bellweather?)

I hope your friend got cleared of all charges. I will attempt to be more humble in the future. (Humble is not my natural state, so this is a real effort here.)

I don’t think you can get valium anymore. Isn’t that a drug from the 60’s? My mother-in-law used valium like candy.

Do you have any pictures of David sleeping in unlikely places? No one believes you if you don’t have proof. I (underlined, if I knew how to do that,) believe you, but I have found that the majority of people are disbelievers! I hope you put neosporin on his booboo and a bandaid. These poor men. They have to be taken care of, don’t they?

Comment by Ben |Edit This
2009-03-05 13:23:56

Man… Why does Dad only do embarrassing things when we’re not around? We need to sneak him some Ambien next time we’re all together.

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-03-05 15:47:14

So let me get this straight. You all want to catch him doing embarrassing things? Sorry to say, but you are just not around enough. I am here 24/7 and I see all. That is why I have access to embarrassing material.

You will be able to get great stuff when we are both demented. I hope you don’t waste the material when it’s handed to you. Seriously.

Comment by Tim |Edit This
2009-03-05 15:18:16

Airplanes suck. Fat people, sick people, babies, it’s always way too hot, the food tastes like shit. I’d rather get punched in the face than get on a damn plane. The only thing you can hope for is to pass the hell out and forget it’s happening to you. Alcohol and ambien are the only tools we have. Too bad ambien makes you all batty and out of control.
I agree with The Worm. We can grind some up and tell him that it’s part of a dryrub for a steak or something.

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-03-05 15:52:00

You know, Tim, I believe that would actually work. We would all have to be careful that he ate the right pieces, though. What if WE ate the pieces and went bonkers for several hours and didn’t remember? Too bad Lonny won’t be there to film it for proof. I can take stills, but what if I go bonkers? It will have to be up to the last man standing to take the photos.
There. All figured out. I am so GOOD when I get on a problem!

Comment by Autumn |Edit This
2009-03-05 16:03:26

Irene,

I’m already so excited and you haven’t really even gotten into any details about the actual trip as far as arrival and ensuing occurrences. I believe that I too have the ability to sleep anywhere. At my sister’s in the middle of the living room amongst screaming toddlers. Just today in my grandmother’s hospital room. On a train, on a bus, etc.

Anyway, glad your back and hope you had a great trip. I can’t wait to read more about it.

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-03-05 16:18:43

Autumn, I cannot tell you how much I envy you! Sleeping is the hardest thing for me.
The trip was amazing in so many ways.
I’ll getto it, but I’m pretty jet-lagged now. (and company is coming.)

Comment by Cecile |Edit This
2009-03-05 16:06:40

This is indeed one of the funniest real life stories I have ever read. Victor was so out of character it sounds like fiction. You know you could have become a member Mile High Club with maybe just one more Ambien. Well you (he) made a memory!

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-03-05 16:20:18

Cecile, we absolutely could have joined that club if I had no sense of propriety. Luckily for me, only Victor was loose and free. I was my usual buttoned-up self. It takes two to tango….

Comment by Lenore |Edit This
2009-03-05 19:03:24

slut

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-03-06 04:51:14

whore

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Comment by Ursula |Edit This
2009-03-05 17:05:17

What a story. Victor who always seems so much in control. Your way of telling it is truly funny. Was he back to his old self when you landed, or did he think he had arrived in Argentina!! Glad you are back and looking forward to hearing more about your experience.

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-03-05 18:13:10

Ursula, as soon as the next meal was served he was back in the land of reality. He was in Oz for hours before that. I think that’s what makes it so funny. Here’s this uptight guy who is always in control and he’s acting like he is controlled by Martians. It certainly came as a surprise to me!

Comment by Erika Rae |Edit This
2009-03-05 19:34:59

What are all of these pictures of him sleeping face down at a 90 degree angle??? This has to be some kind of crazy sleeping disease. And here I am laughing my head off at him. Poor Victor. (And I can’t seem to stop laughing) This was just too funny.

Also, does the fact that it is “before peeing” have anything to do with the position? Is it that he can’t get comfortable enough to lie flat?

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-03-06 04:44:01

No Erika Rae,
He would come home from work exhausted and on the way to changing his clothes and peeing to get ready for dinner, he would just fall asleep wherever he was. It happened all the time. I guess it was good to get a nap in before dinner and homework warden duties.

The 90 degree angle is ridiculous, but he managed to pass it along to Benjamin, who also can do the same thing.

Timothy fell asleep while marching in boot camp. Lots of people sleep standing up, but I was impressed with Timothy being able to do it while marching. My kids are so special!

Comment by Amy |Edit This
2009-03-05 20:01:31

Did he believe you when you told him that story? He is the only one who got rest, maybe you all should have taken it (he he).

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-03-06 04:47:02

Amy, he HAD to believe it. Everyone around him told him about it, plus some that had traelled the plane to watch him with his shenanigans. Plus he did recall the one fact of counting his money.

If we had gone to sleep, there is no telling who he would have accosted, or where he would have gone and what he would have done. I shudder at the thought!

Comment by Sara Zion |Edit This
2009-03-06 03:23:03

That’s hysterical, ma.
I love that we now have a free sneak preview of what Dad will act like when he’s old and demented: stubborn but re-directable, and still a horny old goat.

(Someday you ought to write about your Thanksgiving visit when I walked in on you and Dad at SIX THIRTY IN THE MORNING IN MY GUEST BEDROOM while you were *busy*…)

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-03-06 04:49:04

Sara, it is one thing to humiliate your father and a totally different thing to humiliate myself. Duh.
You need a lock on that door!

Comment by lonny zion |Edit This
2009-03-07 21:18:20

ew
we are sleeping in that same bed tonight

hopefully sara changes her sheets at least once every 3 years

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Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-03-08 06:28:38

Sorry, Lonny, Sara’s a chip of the old block. She doesn’t KNOW how to change sheets. The old ones will do fine. Don’t fret, we showered.

Comment by Phat B |Edit This
2009-03-06 13:33:09

I have to join this family. How many goats for the hand of one of your daughters in marriage? I have lots of goats.

Comment by Lenore |Edit This
2009-03-06 18:38:36

i’ll marry you for a goat.
i’m not worth much more.

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Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-03-06 19:05:58

Phat B, Sara is way too complicated, what with the husband and the two kids and a potential dog. You can’t have the number of goats necessary.
Lenore, on the other hand, is way unincumbered. Just two cats. She’s selling herself too cheap though. I’d ask for three goats.

Comment by Sara |Edit This
2009-03-07 08:46:46

Hilarious! That thing about being able to sleep anywhere, anytime – it’s a surgeon thing. I have it too.

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-03-07 15:37:31

You know, Sara, that is the problem with TNB. Too many artsy types and not enough scientist types. As I said before, in an entirely different context, it takes two to tango.

Comment by lonny zion |Edit This
2009-03-07 21:16:33

i am no expert, mother, but it kinda sounds like dad was on something stronger than ambien

i have not taken ambien but this story kinda makes me want to
seeing that i will be on a measly 8 hour flight to paris in a few days it might even be appropriate

i really dont have a problem sleeping unless you count sleeping too much as a sleeping problem
and i must point out that i am not a doctor yet i have in the past fallen asleep before take off and been awakened by the plane landing – woohoo 10 minute flight across country!

is it hard for you to sleep on planes cuz of rls (restless leg syndrome)?
i am clearly a child of both of you because i can sleep anywhere but i wake up with crazy legs
which often bothers others a heck of a lot more than it does me

i guess that is about it – mom, you are funny – dad, you are a perv
not that i am judging you understand
go family!

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-03-08 06:35:53

Lonny, if you sleep that easily you should REALLY not take a sleeping pill. What time of day are you flying? If it’s overnight, you’ll have no problem. If it’s daytime, you might.

Yes. I virtually never get any sleep on planes because of rls-plmd. I wander the aisles and dance at the bathrooms. If you go all the way to where the cabin attendants are, you can dance while talking to them. They are always interesting and they HAVE to stay awake, so they don’t mind the diversion. I always suggest to them that they should put a stair-climber in at the end of the plane for people like me. I don’t think it will happen, even though it is a really good idea.

Dad’s always been a perv. Duh.

Comment by Marty KC |Edit This
2009-03-08 09:54:13

Ah, to ‘get off’ so well on a legal over the counter drug.

I’m jealous.

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-03-08 18:04:16

But Marty, is it really “getting off” if you don’t remember any of it? Granted, it was good fun for the audience, but for him, well, he thinks he just got a good night’s rest.

Comment by Sheree |Edit This
2009-03-08 11:00:23

I’m a sleep talker. I will tell you anything in a dead sleep. My husband finds this hilarious and uses it to bemuse his boredom. (we have different sleep patterns) He will have me say things like, Paw the well needs a fixin’. He’ll ask me nonsense questions like, Do you want some soupy salad, to which I apparently become unglued and give a good rant.

He can sleep through anything, anywhere, anytime. I do not have documentation to prove it though, but after reading your hilarious post I am definately investing in a good camera!

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-03-08 18:11:56

Sheree, you have to get something to record what you say! I’ll bet it’ll be fun.
Victor says I talk in my sleep all the time. After I read your comment, I asked him what I say and he said that last night I said “what good is it to have something that is supposed to be Grandmother when it’s all in code and you can’t see it?” No clue what that was about. I’m going to start asking him more often. We need to get something to tape with also. We need our husbands to at least write down what we say. Maybe if we hear it all, and not just snippets, it will make sense.

Comment by Jack |Edit This
2009-03-09 07:44:26

When I take Ambien I just sleep!!!. What did he take it with?

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-03-10 11:17:11

I think the TNB server is gummed up. Either that, or my computer is, and that would be worse for me. Anyway, I’ll try to answer this again.
Jack, I know! I take a double dose of Ambien and I might get three hours under perfect circumstances!
I think the thing that might have pushed him over the edge was the little mini bottle of airplane wine. It’s all I can think of for his idiosyncratic reaction.

Comment by reno |Edit This
2009-03-11 07:30:04

lord.

that was probably the funniest thing i read in a long time.

i love you irene.

but i may love your husband more.

but WHAT IS UP w/ that man sleeping while standing up? i have never, NEVER, in my life seen anything like that. too funny. a grown man bent over a dog crate snoozing.

oh, lord. this story is a keeper.

“you’re not the boss of me.”

ha! double ha!

oh, god. thanks, pal. that was great.

always,
reno

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-03-11 16:50:54

Oh Reno, I’m so glad you came to visit.

I always thought victor’s sleeping while standing was a bit off, but I tried to believe it was normal when my very fabulous son, Benjamin, started doing it. I think they were both really, really tired. People get really, really tired, right?

My kids used to use that phrase on each other, but that Victor used it under the influence was hysterical to me. Especially because I had to play along and actually address that claim. This was a very unusual experience.

Comment by ksw |Edit This
2009-03-11 17:51:21

Fist, I am sure we could have sold tickets for the second hour . Second, THANK GOD for my extra blanket( since yours was covering the north pole and not the south!. And last but not least you forgot the part about Victor proclaiming you promising to not wear underpants— I thought the lady across from Victor was going to wet herself. caw P.S. who knew victor had such a long wing span!

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-03-12 04:24:23

ksw!

Some things I was not going to include here. Like the parts related to me and not wearing underpants and stuff. By the way, I NEVER promised not to wear underpants. That was part of his delusion! I love embarrassing Victor, but I can’t take it myself. You know how it is. Give it but not take it.
I am so glad that there is one thing he said that I am pretty sure you didn’t hear. You would obviously broadcast it!

The lady across the aisle was a big help when we were trying to lay him back, remember? It took the three of us. I am sincerely grateful for the use of your blanket for his southern regions, since I needed mine to cover my southern regions too.

What a ride!

Comment by the kayak lady |Edit This
2009-03-12 14:39:06

still funny and entertaining after i have read it twice. and i was there to watch this real live performance………

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-03-13 03:41:12

Dear the kayak lady,
This was before we got to know each other. It was really embarrassing in front of four to five hundred strangers! Embarrassing makes good material, though, eh?

Comment by Ruthie |Edit This
2009-03-17 16:45:58

This is hilarious. Where was the video camera when you needed it most? Oh, life is just one missed opportunity after another. Keep up the great writing.
Love,
Ruthie

Comment by Irene Zion on the road again |Edit This
2009-03-18 17:07:48

My camera has a video setting, Ruthie, but I never did learn how to use it.
I’m so lazy. I have no excuse.