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6/10/08 @ 06:51 pm   
Day nights
 
 
location: 5 AM
Current mood: awake

gotta do something about them day nights.

I was just walking home from the store, bopping down the street at 11 PM, a time that I grew up believing was a sensible time to be in bed. 1 AM used to be alien terrain, exotic, strange. 2 AM - well, that might as well have been a million o'clock. It was like the furthest frontier. The night might have gone on forever beyond that, for all I knew, ending only when the last human had decided to go to bed before we could all wake up in the daylight again.

Nowadays the small hours of the morning are familiar to me. More than familiar - ordinary, 1 AM no more mysterious than 1 in the afternoon (and probably not as mysterious as 10 AM, a time I haven't seen in many months but that somehow still fails to hold a fascination for me.) Even 4 AM is pedestrian. I call it the "day nights". It's just another part of the day. If you're up long enough, it becomes literally day again, and what once seemed the endless rolling mystery of night is revealed to be nothing more than the day going slack for a while, drooping into in a bucket of dark water, but soon enough pulled taut again. Sunrise doesn't just break the magic spell - it announces that it was, after all, just a spell. Daylight shines even into the darkest recesses of the day nights.

When I was a kid, I snuck out of the house a few times late at night, either by myself or with friends who had stayed over for the express purpose. I once ventured out into the unfathomable territory of 3:30 AM - alien, not as mars, perhaps, but as the arctic. It was a broad frontier. Now, it is no different than a trip to the cellar.

I had the experience once, as an adult. I had decided to catch a nightcap, last call at a nearby bar, at quarter after 1 in the morning. As I walked the few blocks to my watering hole, the neighborhood was quiet and still. Perhaps it was just that, or perhaps it was in conjunction with some inner psychological or chemical fluke, but suddenly, it all came flooding back. It was late night, that foreign land - past the frontier, well into the secret, wild territories of the 1 o'clock hour! Here there be tygers!

And I was on my way out! To a bar, to play with the adults in an adult outpost out in the wilds of 1:15 AM! I was delighted.

That was a rare exception. Once 4 AM became familiar to me, and sunrise mundane, the territory was charted, tame. I know the riverbed from shore to shore. 11 PM isn't the last outpost of the known, it's just 11 o'clock in the afternoon. And hence we have the day nights. There's no beacon, no hidden land or hour out there far in the night, far into times that we don't have a name for yet, which I might stay up later and later and still never find. Tygers don't exist. Dawn always comes.

So, I gotta do something about them day nights, because, you know, the quintessence of romance lies in the beckoning. Once you've conquered the unknown you have familiarity and safety and comfort, and if you believe the world is a terrible place that may be all you need. I am a romantic, because I am, at significant cost to myself at times, an optimist - a cynical, scarred, and unfailing optimist, in that I believe better things may always lay just a couple of steps into the unknown. And really, they don't have to be. I just need the potential to be there.



Note: This little bit of exposition is dedicated to Ray Bradbury, a longtime companion who I have never had the pleasure of meeting.
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From:zyxwvut
Date:June 11th, 2007 06:30 am (UTC)

Just to say

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I enjoyed reading this, Cosm Mikey.

Z

P.S.: Yeah, Ray Bradbury. Bigups!
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From:mike20
Date:June 16th, 2007 04:10 am (UTC)

Re: Just to say

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Hey, thanks Zyx! I knew there was a reason I post these things.

Interestingly, I posted this on my blog and emailed it to 6 friends who don't read my blog. Of the three people I know read my blog here, two responded almost right away. Of the six I emailed, none responded (although one of them called me a few days later.)
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From:mike20
Date:June 16th, 2007 04:11 am (UTC)

Re: Just to say

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BTW... yeah, I've got to send Ray Bradbury a fan letter while he's still alive & kicking.
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From:polyphonicvegan
Date:June 11th, 2007 05:51 pm (UTC)
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Well done, sir.

I'd really like to have tea with Ray Bradbury and Milan Kundera individually or together.
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From:polyphonicvegan
Date:June 11th, 2007 05:51 pm (UTC)
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...preferably outside the hobbit hole of J.D. Salinger.
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From:(Anonymous)
Date:June 16th, 2007 04:10 pm (UTC)
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The familiar made strange...

"We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time."


T.S. Eliot -- "Little Gidding"

Some years ago, I had a reasonably similar experience of the familiar made strange. The details don't matter, but here's the nub: thinking ahead, I'd made some preparations for the next day, then forgot that I made them. So when the next day came, I was pleasantly surprised. The feeling was more than that, though: it was as if the preparations had been done by a completely different person. The feeling was so strange—as if there were a Meyesterday who had done an altruistic deed for Metoday—that I resolved to occasionally do something nice for Metomorrow. And on occasion I do.

Your story reminds me of a consequence of this habit: a different way of looking at the world. Because Metoday only lasts until mytoday consciousness ends. Tomorrow there'll be someone like Metoday, but we won't be the same. All I do, I do for these future people.

It's a strange way of looking at the world, and it makes the world new again.

that corvallis person
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From:mike20
Date:June 16th, 2007 09:47 pm (UTC)
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Half! Hey! Nice to see you here. Thanks for the typically thoughtful comment.

Glad Youtoday get on so well with yourtoday Youyesterday... Itoday didn't luck out like that. If Itoday ever ran into Meyesterday, I'dtoday smack him for all the times Iyesterday got drunk and left Metoday with the hangover.
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From:mike20
Date:June 16th, 2007 09:51 pm (UTC)
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By the way... apropos of "the familiar made strange", it's probably worth mentioning Jamais Vu, the odd feeling, when confronted with something familiar, that you've never seen it before.
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From:mike20
Date:July 1st, 2007 12:23 am (UTC)
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Hey, thanks. Yeah, every now and again I get an idea and manage to jot it down just right. I'm particularly proud of this entry because I think it's the longest thing I've ever written without using a single cliche.
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From:zigmo
Date:August 20th, 2007 04:53 pm (UTC)
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What they said: pretty amazing stuff.
There's something very powerful about the familiar experienced in a different context. Sort of like existing in a reflection of the world: A faerie land or Mirror, Mirror universe, if you will.
I, too, remember when all hours of the night were unusual occurrences. Of course, these days, my life has become much more mundane. Now, the wee hours are almost always spent at home and have become either bleary child comfort sessions or a haven from the pressures of reality. In the former, the experience is quick and hazy. In the latter, I have all my creature comforts surrounding me with nothing to interfere with my enjoyment of them.
Of course, it's all an illusion for me that can be shattered by a toddler's cry or lapse into unconsciousness.
Still: don't give up! There are always new territories to explore: physical, mental, emotional ... metaphysical?
Ah, who knows - I'm jumping back into the coffee pot!
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