The Five Stages of a Nap

So you are lying on the couch in the living room with a book and maybe an empty beer can or two — maybe even three. Who’s counting? The book is about a 190-foot, wooden, steam sailer called the Bear and Coast Guard operations in the Alaskan waters in the late-1800s. And while you are amazed that anyone would volunteer to rescue whalers, you read on about endless storms and ice, and gathering a reindeer herd and moving it north cross country to Point Barrow, and all of a sudden you are surprised to hear this:

“SNORT!”

There is giggling in the room and that person with blues eyes that sparkle and laugh when she is happy (which is most of time) is pointing at you.

“Sweetie, you were snoring.”

“Nope, I was reading about Lt. D.H. Jarvis saving ice-bound whalers.”

This is called Denial.

So you go back to your book and maybe visit the fridge to acquire another Pale Ale from Upslope Brewery (highly recommended).

Lt. Jarvis is now in some hovel with 14 Eskimos waiting out a storm. He’s absolutely driven to get the reindeer to Point Barrow, but the wind is gusting at 50 knots and the temperature is 20 below and even the Eskimos are saying “screw it” when anyone mentions going out.

You think of bone-chilling cold, snow coming at you sideways, wind blasting right off the Bering Sea and Eskimo roommates that have had a bath maybe once in the last year. You reach for your beer and take a pull, maybe two, and go back to the book. And maybe your eyes close for just a moment to imagine the spot that Lt. Jarvis is in.

“SNORT”.

“Sweetie, you are annoying the dog with your snoring. You should go take a nap.”

“Dammit, I am not snoring. I am reading.”

“The dog thinks you were snoring. I heard you snoring, and you woke yourself up with your snoring.”

“Okay! So my best friend accuses me of snoring. My dog is upset with my snoring. Will everyone just fricking leave me alone? Huh?”

This is called Anger.

“Sweetie, there are four beer cans lined-up along the bottom of the couch.”

“So?”

“It’s 3 o’clock on a Saturday afternoon and you have done two-thirds of a six pack. Your consumption is bordering on slacker-dude.”

“I deny that.”

“Okay, so everyone in the whole mountain world lies on the couch on a Saturday afternoon, reads a book, drinks four beers, falls asleep and snores, annoying both his best friend and the dog?”

“No, not true, some people have to work on the weekend. Ski Patrol is out on the weekend. Cops are visiting donut shops on the weekend. Hell, librarians sometimes have to work on the weekend if the city has enough money to keep the library open.”

“You know what? You’re a lout.”

“I deny that.”

“I’m going to movie without you.”

“You’re not mad at me are you?”

“No, just disappointed to be living with a lout.”

“Huh, so what movie are you going to?”

“A sci-fi thriller called, ‘Amazons Kicking Lout Ass’.”

“Can I go?”

“No.”

This is called Bargaining

You didn’t really want to get off the couch and go to an afternoon movie. Blue Eyes knew that. She pulled on her down parka, patted the dog, grabbed the keys and took the truck to the movies without you.

So you go back to the book. But after a while, if you have to read about one more Eskimo village that, in desperation, has to eat their sled dogs, and you think you might just have to toss the book across the room and go watch a basketball game.

So the basketball game is a good idea. It’s your old school, the one it took you seven years to get through, playing against archrivals and they are winning. But then those dirtbags from North Carolina pull even and then surge ahead. Your team folds like a cheap card table. The criminals from North Carolina pour on the points. You wish the coach of your team would just toss a towel onto the floor to end the pain. The score gets more and more lopsided. The play-by-play guys are making fun of your school. All the undergraduates have left the stadium.

This is called Depression

You turn off the tube in disgust and move back toward the book and the couch. But first you grab a blanket off the bed. You pick up the book and assume your position again on the couch, this time under a blanket. After two more Arctic snowstorms, your eyes begin to droop, you yawn several times and the book starts to waver back and forth. You close your eyes, lower the book to your chest and just drift off into this wonderful thing called a nap. Your body relaxes, you seem to be floating and, if you have any thoughts at all, they are of the warm fuzzy sort … a pup licking your face, a perfect steak frites with béarnaise sauce, or sailing downwind, with a following sea from St. Somewhere. And then there is simply nothingness as you wake slowly, look around your house and realize that this is really a comfortable place and all things considered, you have a best friend and a dog and a job — so life is good and best of all — there are still two beers in the Fridge.

This is called Acceptance.

Alan Stark’s last story for the Gazette was “God’s Own Dog,” which appeared in #174. He lives in
Boulder and is co-owner of Boulder Bookworks.

Dropping By

I was in Valdez, Alaska, to report a story this past March when something odd kept happening.

Every time I learned of another potential source, the person telling me I should talk to such-and-such a person didn’t offer a cell phone number or an e-mail address or, in most cases, a home phone number. They just told me where the person lived or worked.

Dave the city councilman? “He’s at the fishery, just past the duck flats. Purple building.”

Ryan the cable guy? “He lives out at 19 Mile. Base of the pass. On your right.”

Chet the helicopter pilot? “Take a left near the hospital. Big wooden house. He’ll be there.”

And my favorite: Karen the city councilwoman? “She owns the Landing Lights bar at the airport.”

Sure enough, when I got to the Landing Lights, Karen was not only there to greet me but she had already poured me a frosty pint within 40 seconds of my walking in. We talked for a good two hours, far better than any phone interview I did during my weeklong visit, and much more satisfying, in the way only free microbrewed beer satisfies.

When I sat down to write the story in May — a piece on two locals trying to save the town in light of waning oil revenue — I couldn’t stop thinking about what the casual reporting atmosphere said about the place, and about the people who live there.

I felt welcome in Valdez. Not because everyone I spoke with was ridiculously happy to see me — it’s a mountain town, not a women’s prison — but because the raw culture of the place seemingly includes a clause that encourages strangers to drop by your home or business unannounced, as if you’re the mailman on Christmas Eve.

Not long after I returned home, I dropped by a friend’s house at 3:30 in the afternoon. It was sunny and warm and hopeful, in the sense that spring had arrived and the days were phasing out the evenings. I knocked on John’s door, as I often do. No answer. I called out his name. Nothing. Hmmm. Knowing that sometimes he can be out of earshot when his bathroom door is closed, I let myself in.

Now, it’s important to note John and I are good friends. We see each other a few times a week, on average, and are respectful of each other’s space. While renting a cabin five years ago, I once mistakenly entered a stranger’s home at 3 a.m. after sleepwalking through the forest. That is no way to drop by. This, however, was perfectly standard; John keeps all sorts of friends on a pop-in basis.

Alas, this day, he happened to be napping. And grumpier than a grizzly whose shoulder I just shot. He let me have it — a merciless guilt trip for waking him up. I haven’t dropped by since.

But I still drop by other people’s homes all the time. I honestly believe it’s the purest form of human interaction, especially in a mountain town.

You can meet someone for happy hour, but are you really as interested in what they’re saying as you are in what that freshly showered filly is sipping at the bar?

You can agree to make turns with someone, but doesn’t it always become a situation wherein one of you repeatedly waits at the bottom for the other skier before jostling for space in line among tourists — or, if said turns are to be carved off piste, wherein both parties are breathing too heavily to converse on the ascent?

That is a great way to bond, but no way to interact socially.

Dropping by is not an unconscious act, as it was before the telephone. It takes effort. I have friends whom I’ll call or, worse, e-mail, from two blocks away. Luckily, I always feel foolish and end up riding my bike over to their place instead, often with two cans of beer in my pocket.

You can’t take this approach with just anyone, however. Some people are so used to the invisible brick wall afforded by modern technology that they are genuinely taken aback, and sometimes even insulted, when another homo sapiens penetrates their social force field. “What are you doing here?” their expression wonders as they slowly open the door. I try not to associate with too many of them, but it’s tough because they’re everywhere.

Sometimes, when dropping by a couple’s home, you have to remember that they could be engaging carnally. In such cases, I try and limit my knocks to two and my doorbell rings to one. You are there to talk on their sunny deck about nothing in particular, not stalk them.

The best drop-bys generally involve people who appreciate your effort, are not intimidated by the fact that you believe you are allowed to visit without warning, and actually enjoy the spontaneity you’ve added to their predictable daily existence.

These people are usually not ones to grow weed in their cellar or have sex while chained to the chandelier. But they like a good conversation.

Breckenridge, Colo.-based freelance writer Devon O’Neil covers skiing for ESPN.com. His last story for the Gazette was “Why Our Gear Represents Our Personality,” which appeared in #171.