Another Perspective

Naps

One of life’s sweet habits.

By 1.20.05

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Contrary to popular impression, at one time in my life, I did get up early and enjoy it. It had to do with time zones.

I had my own apartment in the flats of Beverly Hills, and I used to write for a score of business newspapers and magazines. With sources in the east, I'd get up at six, have some breakfast and coffee, and hit the phones by seven. By ten, I'd have my interviews in the can and first drafts of several articles cooking.

Then I'd change into tennis clothes and go hang out at Rancho Park with L.A.'s jovial and readily available bums -- actors, agents, musicians, screenwriters, real estate hustlers.

Back by two, shower, wonderful post-exercise clean clothes, light lunch, and then that ineffable drifting narcotic sensation induced by the after-meal smoke, and the finest hour of the day. Unplug the phone.

A nap.

A ceiling fan over the bed gently stirred the velvet air of Beverly Hills, a radio purred just loud enough to blend in the traffic noises. It never took more than two minutes to fall asleep.

Other than that one interval of a few years, I have never gotten up early, as long as it was up to me. It probably started when I stayed summers with my grandparents in a little town in South Dakota. They stayed up late, my grandfather coming home from his job as town constable at about 11. We'd toast white bread and spread margarine on it and let the house cool, the breezes and the cricket sounds drifting through the kitchen windows. We'd even drink tea. Then off to bed at midnight, me ten years old. I'd wake about 8:30.

I am convinced I get the best sleep between five and nine a.m.

My nap habit started when I was about 20, living in Manhattan and working as a musician. Bars close in New York at four a.m. My buddies and I would pack up after some gig in an outer borough and stop in Greenwich Village, empty at that hour, for fresh canoles and espresso at one of half a dozen open bakeries, then stumble on home and crash about the time the sun came all the way up.

After a night of hard work, the espresso didn't even touch us. And a nap about four in the afternoon felt awfully good.

Cruel world. When we are young, school rouses us, earlier and earlier with every level. Those best hours for sleep get ruthlessly attacked, and then when we ourselves become parents, we have to attack our own children, who are wise enough to know better, and who complain eloquently, "I'm tie-erred" or "I want to slee-eeep."

I have learned to keep this rousing and departure mercifully short. Somehow, miraculously, every day, the boys arrive at school at least half-conscious. Back in the car after dropping off the second one, I check the indicated outside temperature. Four degrees. "The Osgood File" has just begun on the radio. Thankfully, it's only a mile back home.

To an electric blanket.

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About the Author

Lawrence Henry writes every week from North Andover, Massachusetts.