the summer of no sleep

It is, it seems, a universal constant that only -children seek or long for family additional to what we grew up with. Or so I have always heard. Certainly, my friends who are only-children (and that’s most of them) have long reported to me about longing for a sibling or two or, most particularly a twin. Despite also being an only-child, this has never been a desire I’ve particularly shared. Certainly, now that I’m older and my parents are also older, it would be nice to have someone with the same loyalties to them to share the stresses of their aging; and I make no secret of the fact that a lot of the aggravations of my childhood would be easier to put to rest if only I had someone to compare notes with regarding the indignities of six, ten or twelve. But I don’t, and it’s not a particularly big deal to me. Considering the richness of the fantasy lives I cultivate, this is, I suspect, somewhat notable.

What I do have, however, is a history of longing for creative family. I could blame this on the fact that my parents are both painters, or on the desire for the instant family of high school drama club that I observed but, despite being the in the plays, rarely felt a part of (although I did, that time someone sat at the piano and someone else plopped down at the drums and we all spontaneously sang “Ruby Tuesday” and later, at the cast party that same year, when we kept tormenting this kid named Jonah who was stoned out of his mind by telling him whales were chasing him). I could blame it too, I am sure, on the backstage narratives of so many musical I grew up with, around and in — shows like 42nd Street and Kiss Me Kate. I could also blame it, however, on the summer I only slept four hours a night, every night, because I thought that was how I was going to change my world.

This was the fault, indirectly, of our host over at InsomniBake. She conned me, despite my having thought I wanted nothing to do with it, into watching Moulin Rouge with her one night on DVD (that tango scene is a gateway drug). I dug it, and, because I have a fannish personality, I acquired a lot of info about it, its process and its creators, fast. I loved the idea that the director made it with his wife and that she (the amazing designer, Catherine Martin) was the one who kept winning awards for it. I loved that it was written with the director’s best friend. I loved that it seemed everyone on the team had some backstory, backstage, connection to everyone else. Over all, as a lifestyle choice, I decided it made artistic family seemed like the Best Idea Ever and somehow that never sleeping and making all the art ever was, inexplicably (oh, there’s an explanation, but it’s too absurd to repeat here), the way to go on making my little fantasy a reality.

When I think about it that way, in terms of how little sleep I had at the time, it all makes a lot more sense that, that was how I wound up with the lover in Texas I wrote stories with and who I wanted to move up to NYC to open a restaurant. Now, that didn’t work out by way of a lot of things, including an ill-advised wedding (not mine) and a very long bus trip to Texas (mine). But The Summer of No Sleep was also how I started writing with Kali (which has also been an evolution of relationships, and, in the interest of full disclosure of my pure loser-ish geekery, I will totally admit that I once dragged her to sit behind a table at a casting call with me and called her my designer just so someone could sit there and share with me the horror of what you deal with when you hold an open call in New York).

Patty and I, meanwhile, don’t particularly create art together. Not for other people, anyway. We do proof reading duty and talk ideas through with each other a lot, though, and we certainly do all that day-to-day art stuff that couples do with each other — the “this scarf or this scarf?” question and making up silly little songs for each other and cooking and telling stories in the dark. That stuff is totally art. Big art, sometimes; important art, always, and it’s nice to have art that isn’t for other people. Almost ten years ago in The Summer of No Sleep, I wouldn’t have really gotten how private art would be good for me, but that’s because I was a fool and in the throes of one of my things. The Rach & Patty Show, audience of mostly just us, is divine.

But I, somehow, wound up with collaborators anyway. The dude in Texas is often one of my first readers. Kali and I have a stack of projects we can’t get enough of. Erica, who I knew for two weeks through an academic friend and Inception: The Musical, jumped on the idea of Dogboy & Justine with an enthusiasm I’ll never stop being grateful for. And now, it seems, I’m doing some scholarly work regarding media with a collaborator as well.

When I look back at The Summer of No Sleep, which I do a lot, because it was very well-lit (that apartment was screwy but had great light) and I wasn’t working, so there was a lot of being in the city and thinking about conquering the world, it all seems very strange. Creative partners. Collaborators. Co-authors — all words that have cause to roll off my tongue a lot these days, because they are practical details in necessary professional and social conversations. But in The Summer of No Sleep they were pretensions, fairytales and fantasies, something the people who were there that summer won’t likely ever let me forget.

It’s not something I mind really. Because I still like the stories — the ones belonging to other people, the ones that were make-believe, the ones that didn’t quite happen to me or happen yet (gosh, I still really need to win the lottery so I can have my very own New York City townhouse in which to make things and have parties, ne?), the ones that got me to Australia and back.

That summer of self-imposed insomnia is a good reminder, too, that the only life you can have is your own. That you shouldn’t, as Dov Simens (I should really write about that 48 hours of madness sometime, but short version: thumbs up) says, compare your insides to anyone else’s outsides. And that you really can’t live a story you yourself aren’t writing, start to finish, with as many damn co-conspirators as needed in whatever configuration it takes.

P.S., Never take a bus from New York City to Austin, Texas. Ever.

8 thoughts on “the summer of no sleep”

  1. I really should have gone to New York instead of getting that first marriage. (And oh god I am sorry about the bus! I will never be sorry enough for that bus trip! Haha!) I think of Magnolia every time I eat a cupcake.

    This longing for a creative family is something I completely understand. I think about it a lot, actually. I keep looking.

    1. Just think, it all could have blown up in an entirely different way than it did! What’s funniest to me (for values of “funny”) is that for as much as that bus trip makes an AMAZING story, look at how I’ve never tried, for even a moment to make art out of that. It’s begging for it, but I just can’t even go there, not because it’s tragic or anything, but because it was so surreal.

      1. So true. I’ve wondered sometimes how the burning freeways and highways full of turkey buzzards have never shown up somehow because they are too strange to be believed.

  2. Somewhere, I have bookmarked your very first initial reaction to MR; as a kindness to us both, I shall decline to link to it :). I rewatch it every few years, and respect its achievement more each time.

    1. Sweet lord, I don’t even remember what that was, but I do appreciate you not linking to it 😉 I suppose I could find it if I tried, but I probably don’t want to know. What amazes me really, about it, is how it continues to hold up. Although I did recently have to defend it to someone who didn’t get it and felt it was a tribute to 80s music, which boggled my mind hard, although once I tried to find her lens to it, the reaction made some sense.

    1. Sent you a reply. I thought… I thought it was going to be all swoony, not “what the fuck is this?” I mean, not a moment useful to anyone else, but my dignity is slightly more intact than previously suspected!

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