I have never slept well. I have never slept well because I am a ridiculous person: I am terrified of zombies. I recently discovered this is (sort of) a problem that many of my friends share. A number of people I know wrestle with insomnia. These people, however, are kept conscious by totally pragmatic troubles: paying bills, the existence of true love, the possibility of nuclear holocaust, et cetera. My eyelids hang open until the wee small hours because every time I close them, I see an army of undead corpses shambling toward me. Clearly, I am in need of professional help.
This is nothing new. One of the many terrors of my childhood was the inability to sleep. One entire summer my parents thought I was seriously ill. I likely looked this way because I only slept between six and ten a.m. for an entire two month span. You see, on the day that school let out, I watched Ridley Scott's Alien for the first time. Every night that summer, I lay awake quaking in abject fear, certain that a xenomorph would crash through my ceiling and rip my face off should my eyes even flutter shut. I would finally succumb to exhaustion around dawn, only to be jarred awake, soaked with sweat a few hours later in time for "The Price is Right." That was a horrible summer.
Before that, during the period I now refer to as my religious phase, I was kept awake by a paralyzing fear of missing the Rapture. In retrospect, this seems a bit naive. I doubt that the ressurected Lord would bypass someone merely because they were asleep. Fear, childhood and religious fervor know no such reason.
The earliest tormentors I can recall are vague memories of some sort of witch and ghost, sort of an evil duo that I believed would spring from beneath my bed. When I think about these two, though, I can only remember them doing some sort of malevolent (but basically unharmful) dance that looked like the choreography from a Scooby Doo episode. Anyway, my point is that I have never been able to get a good night's rest because I have a hyperactive imagination that has been spoiled by years of violent horror films. Even now, about once a month, I wake up drenched in sweat and screaming because of a recurring nightmare that takes a very specific scene from Zach Snyder's Dawn of the Dead. In fact, one of the main reasons I want to become famous is so I can meet that son of a bitch and knock his block off.
Consequently, I will always be the kind of person who buys two dead bolt locks. I will also always staunchly defend the right to bear arms, lest we ever need to defend ourselves from the recently departed. It seems like too big of a risk to take a chance on. Thank me when the time comes.
In the interim, I have considered several options for getting some rest. I toyed with the idea of sleeping pills, but I've never really been the doomed starlet type. For a short time, I thought about drinking myself to sleep with a bottle of Early Times every night. After careful consideration, however, this seems dangerous (and worse still, expensive). NyQuil was promising but the dreams were just too exhausting and I ended up sweating through my sheets every night (although no monsters were involved). And then I discovered My Bloody Valentine.
Amongst my roommates and I, MBV were something of a punchline for a long time. The British band served as shorthand for everything that was wrong with Pitchfork and music snobs. (NB: The internet webzine named their 1991 masterpiece Loveless the best album of the 90's, later to be shifted to second in a rehash of the same poll.) Eventually, I picked up a copy of Loveless on while I was taking a break from the men's store where I pretended to work while ogling girls and sleeping in the stock room. I spun the record a few times but never really got a lot out of it; the vocals were indecipherable and the guitars sounded like a migraine. For the most part, Loveless just occupied the space in my collection between Mountain Goats and the Old 97's.
Then one night I was convalescing with the worst case of strep throat I've ever had. I honestly considered slitting throat just to feel a different kind of agony. The only pain medication I had was some leftover hydrocodone from a minor surgery a few years before. I popped one in my mouth and put Loveless in my player. I'd heard it was a stoner album, so I figured it couldn't hurt. At least not as bad as my poor throat did.
And then time stopped. The first few tracks slid by unobtrusively, priming the canvas for what was to come. By the time track five kicked in, coincidentally titled "When You Sleep," I felt like the roof of my room had been ripped off. I could actually see the guitar sounds and it was amazing. I felt like I was riding a dolphin through the stars while tripping on LSD (that pain medication was major league stuff). The next track--"I Only Said"--came on and I was in a field of those fire plants from Mario Brothers with a psychedelic Yoshi. He passed me his sunglasses. When I put them on, the night sky exploded in colors. Something crazy was happening.
Track eight, "Sometimes," was the soundtrack to an intergalactic strip club filled with dancers that blinked in and out of existence, every color of the rainbow. I laughed and I could actually see the "HA HA" coming out of my mouth. How had I lived twenty years without this music??
As the album drew to a close, I was finally drifting off to sleep...I think. I remember as the shimmering synth notes of "Soon" filled my room, I imagined myself, still in the dinosaur's sunglasses, dancing with every girl I had ever loved. We were all laughing and jumping in slow motion. The walls fell in around me.
I awoke the next morning, still groggy from the pill, and stared down at my CD player for a long time. How had I missed it before? The watery, dreamy guitars...the whispered vocals, like the most important secret you'll never hear...the thudding drums that, mixed just a bit louder, would crush your ribs...the pounding, cardiac bassline...
These eleven tracks are, in a word, magic. This is my second favortie album of all time, behind Imperial Bedroom. Since that amazing night when the cosmos aligned, I have listened to it roughly five hundred times, in various states of altered consciousness. Every time I get something new. Stoney sober or blackout wasted, there is always something I'd never quite noticed before. MBV brainchild Kevin Shields has said that much of it was written during and for the period right before you fall asleep, when you're aware of how absurd your thoughts are. I find it difficult to grace that liminal stage of consciousness now without this record. I sometimes will shout myself awake just before drifting off unless it's on.
So there you have it: I may never love a woman and I'm terrified of fairytale monsters, but I had one hell of a drug trip one night.