Disarming the alarm

If you’re going to try and get out of bed at 5:30am every morning, I recommend taking the gentle approach with your alarm.  Choose a sound that slowly masturbates your slumbering brain awake, not one that violently rips you out of unconsciousness like an emergency cesarean.

This seems counter-intuitive, especially for those of us that count getting up in the morning as one of life’s great tribulations.  But after experimenting over the course of the past year, I’ve discovered that going easy on myself at this vulnerable time of day is much more effective in achieving the end goal of early rising than any masochistic approach.

When I first resolved to get up by 6am each morning, this determination was part of an even grander scheme to run three miles before work every day.  Previously not one to stir before 7:30 if I could help it, I decided I must take the most aggressive stance possible with my alarm: I would make it very loud, I would put it outside the bedroom, and I would make the alarm itself a rousing song that could not help but get me moving with enthusiasm for the morning.  I was convinced that in a matter of weeks I would be in half-marathon condition.

Instead, I developed a burning hatred for Blondie’s “Call Me” and an ability to leap up, shut off an alarm in another room, and return to bed in less time time than it took the Russian lover to roll over onto his other side.

When the Russian lover started commuting to New York each morning, we were briefly cohabitors of the same cruel schedule out of sheer necessity; however, after he started spending his weeks there I needed to find another means of early morning motivation. I blamed Blondie for my initial failures and decided that I would try waking myself with the soothing sound of Vivaldi:  Spring, allegro.

If you want to be startled awake every morning, this allegro is one way to do it.

What I finally realized is that being shocked out of sleep triggered a fight or flight response, and so invariably I would just lash out at the off button and then drift back to sleep.  The alarm was an adversary to do battle with each morning in my struggle to stay in bed, not a signal that it was time for me to get up and go about the day’s business.

So I went around the Four Seasons and what eventually worked for me was Autumn II, Adagio Molto.  Even Autumn Largo was entirely too much auditory bombardment, and I reflexively shut that movement off every day without stirring.  But the adagio was compatible with my morning self, gently pulling me out of dreams and offering reassurance: A daylight lullaby.

Instead of reaching for the snooze button in a panic upon waking, I found myself lazily stretching along with the cats and listening to the slow strains for a few moments.  And rather than falling right back to sleep, I was able to get to my feet, switch off the music, and start the day.

So while I’m still no marathon runner in the making, I can make it to 6am pilates.  It turns out that taking the alarm out of my alarm was the key to becoming — if not a morning person — at least a person capable of getting up in the morning.


Walking home today, I happened to look up.  If you live downtown in a city, you know what I mean.  The sidewalks are treacherous and the streets are perilous; there are a million obstacles and and things happening to observe, and unless you spend your time aloft in a high-rise you can for go days without noticing the sky.

But today I looked up.  It was hard not to, because the sky was a technicolor dreamscape, This was not just a spectacular sunset; it was an ethereal celestial event.  Improbable clouds — wispy and speckled and sweeping, but all on fire — were suspended like a hammock to the horizon in a still bright blue sky.

Crossing Broad, I overheard the “oh wow” of people coming up from the subway and casting their gazes overhead.  Instead of staring at their feet or their fingertips, the smokers I passed were leaning back against meters and walls just so they could look up.  We were all caught off guard by beauty on such a grand scale, because the dingy city itself is the only grand scale we encounter and beauty can be hard to come by.

Belonging to this digital age, even as reluctantly as I sometimes do, I of course pulled out my phone and started taking pictures.  With my fantastic camera app and its assortment of filters, I thought I’d have no trouble capturing the evening sky exactly as I saw it: breathtaking.  I couldn’t wait to upload a photo for my desk-chained friends to be jealous of.

But every picture I took was washed out and bland compared to the view I could see with my own eyes.  I went through an array of filters — those addictive enhancers that make us all beautiful people when we’re in photos and talented photographers when we’re taking them — and none of them could alter the photos of the sky in a way that made them match the actual sky as I saw it.  For once I wasn’t trying to make a picture more perfect; I was just trying to make a picture more perfectly reflect the reality.

I failed.  So you’ll just have to take my word for it about the sky tonight.  It was beautiful, it was strange, it was something you wanted to look at for a while.  Tonight I had to be what we were before we all had smartphones with camera apps to capture every beautiful sight and try to make it into a more beautiful image; before we had Twitter and Facebook and Instagram to show those images to everyone; before we had a need within us to freeze frame and filter and send forth.

For a moment tonight I was just a human with two eyes seeing the world, finding it lovely, and wishing to remember.

Halloween cat costume for the internet age

When it comes to Halloween costumes, there are two extremes: The people that phone it in and run to the drugstore at the eleventh hour to buy whatever crap is left on the shelves, and the people who really, Really, REALLY get into dressing up for Halloween.

Most revelers fall somewhere in the middle, giving their costumes a little bit of thought and putting in a little bit of effort. Store-bought in full or jerry-rigged at home, these are the costumes of people who want to have fun dressing out of character but know that part of having a good time is not caring too much. The party-goers in over-the-top costumes tend to flail awkwardly on dance floors, sacrificing the night’s fun for being the object of many straight-to-Facebook cell phone photos and maybe a hundred dollar prize, while the here’s-my-costume-it’s-a-wig Halloween slackers just look like assholes.

And we all know that the true spirit of Halloween is sluttiness, and the whole point of the holiday is that women get to wear as little as possible in public and men get to enjoy this. Women should have fun stretching the limits of both their creativity and their modesty; there is really almost no end to what could serve as a costume if your costume is just the barest veil between your body and society.

I love the idea of racey Halloween costumes fashioned from mundane objects, and today when I was tidying the home office I started playing dress-up instead of playing maid.  When you live with a techie you live with an abundance of CAT 5 cable; hence my idea for a new spin on the sexy cat costume:

Kitty Cat V

Kitty Cat V

That a holiday so often associated with masks should also be so closely associated with near-nudity is perhaps a thesis for some destitute grad student in the humanities to tackle; I’ll just say that I find it wonderful and amusing, and I think we should continue to embrace sexualizing just about everything and everyone until maybe someday we can just embrace sex.