I don't sleep much. I'd like to, but I can't. It has to do with being a parent. Before I had a kid, I would sleep all day if I had the chance. In graduate school especially, I liked to sleep until late into the afternoon. Sometimes I'd get up, eat dinner, take a shower, and go back to bed for the night. Ah, that in general was a fun time of life; one I wouldn't want to relive for any amount of money. I wouldn't mind a little of that old time sleep, but anyway...
So I couldn't sleep the other night, so I went to the living room and turned on the TV. They say watching television will actually make it harder for one to fall asleep. I don't know about that. I've tried a lot of things, and I've found the TV distracts an active imagination like mine; keeps it from drifting into dark thoughts that tend to make sleep impossible.
So I turned the TV on and Michael Phelps was blowing the doors off that dude (I forget his name) who was talking smack in the papers the previous day. Some business about how if Michael Phelps thought the competition was receiving an unfair advantage because of the high-tech swimsuits they wear, he should just wear one himself. I know Michael Phelps has sponsorship commitments, and it would be lame (and possibly illegal) if he jumped ship and used another company's gear. Anyway, Phelps kept his mouth shut for the most part. He did the right thing and let his manager be the bad guy. (I'm well acquainted with that tried-and-true move.) The next day Phelps went out there and shattered the world record. I'm pretty sure he shattered that other guy's ego in the process. The dude finished a more than respectable second, but it may as well have been last. It was pretty exciting to see, and I don't even like to swim.To me, competitive swimming is like horse racing minus the leather and legal wagering. (I read in the papers the next morning that swimming had eclipsed Major League Baseball in popularity that weekend. I believe it. I didn't watch baseball that weekend. I was still pissed at players on my team for having been linked to PEDs. I could be over it pretty soon, so long as Victor Martinez keeps hitting.)
After the Phelps race I caught a few segments of the Summer X Games. Okay, I was a skateboard kid, and I raced BMX and road bikes when I was younger, so I understand why a kid would want to try some of these things. What I can't understand is how they actually pull it off. It's unbelievable the stuff these guys do on bikes, skateboards, and motocross motorcycles.
One event that stood out — again, I don't remember the official title of it — was the high jump for motorcycles. Pure insanity. These guys were hitting an almost vertical dirt ramp, flying over 30 feet high, clearing a bar, and landing on another ramp. I couldn't believe it. Thirty feet is a long way to fall. I couldn't help wondering,when these guys were just starting out, how did they know they were good at jumping 34 feet in the air? I know it's learned in increments. First you go five feet, then six, seven, and so on. But there must be a point when going from one height to another is a quantum leap. Maybe it happens at 20 feet. Sure, when you get to 20, you must actually feel like you're flying.
It must take intense concentration. Even if I was into the motorcycle high jump, and even if I was very, very good at it, I know that sometime in mid-flight I'd think to myself, Hang on one second, Charlie. This pretty damn high.
In the end, the motorcycle high jump gold medal was given to two guys. They had been going head-to-head — raising the bar each time — after having eliminated the rest of the competition. Finally, one of the two riders crashed pretty badly trying to jump 35 feet. He wasn't moving for what seemed like a year. I saw his legs going, and he got up and waved to the crowd. (This was no lame-ass European football phony injury. You know, the kind where one player grazes the ankle of another, and the wronged player shrieks, falls, and lies motionless until the stretcher (!!!) carries him off the pitch.) The judges got together and decided to call it a day so long as the riders were cool with splitting the gold. They were, and I was glad they were, too. Someone could have been mangled. But they weren't. Knowing that made it a lot easier to sleep.
÷ ÷ ÷
Joe Pernice is a musician and writer, whose first novel, It Feels So Good When I Stop, is to be released August 6, 2009. Pernice also recorded a soundtrack for the novel, called, cleverly, It Feels So Good When I Stop (Novel Soundtrack), on his own Ashmont Records label. (It's his 11th or 12th full-length record, depending on who's counting.) He has recorded as Pernice Brothers, Joe Pernice, Scud Mountain Boys, and Chappaquiddick Skyline. His novella for Continuum's 33 1/3 series, Meat Is Murder, was published in 2003. He grew up in the Boston area, and currently lives in Toronto. Click here for tour information.
Books mentioned in this post
Joe Pernice is the author of It Feels So Good When I Stop