Since it’s the time of year we celebrate the birthday of Thomas Hobbes, the old gloomster born in 1588, I thought the moment ready to investigate whether we are indeed living in a world with “no arts; no letters; no society; and which is worst of all, continual fear, and danger of violent death; and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.”
Although it didn’t take long to establish that fact to be “true,” I started to wonder how bereft I am, especially now that I’ve finally learned to embrace my CPAP mask and can look forward to wild adventures each night as I fall asleep in an oxygen-enhanced little bubble all my own. In case you don’t know, CPAP stands for “continuous positive airway pressure” and is a breathing device used to cope with sleep apnea, a condition my long-suffering wife Jody and I have dealt with.
Not to bore you with the technical parts of it other than for a man who sports a beard it takes on an abbreviated shape with two little pliable “pillows” on the end of the part that juts up inside your nostrils. All this straps around your head and with the “pillows” in place–beware the telltale hiss–you push down on the control button and the show begins.
I had my share of getting used to it and thought of it once in Hobbesian terms. Exaggerated whiner that I am, it was indeed brutish. The only amusing part was that we found the alternative use for KY Jelly which as a water-based lubricant softened the pliable pillows without dissolving them. I find humor wherever I can in this life of “continual fear, and danger of violent death.”
I’ll get the phony drama out of the way right now: Like most of the characters in the great 1964 movie Dr. Strangelove, who learned to stop worrying and to embrace “the bomb,” I’ve grown to more than embrace my CPAP. I love it and can’t imagine closing down for the night without it in place. Even when Jody was away earlier in the winter and I was here alone for nearly two weeks with the dogs who never complain about my stentorian snoring, I didn’t close my eyes late at night without it in place.
Even I marvel at this transformation. At first, we could find no way around the discomfort. After all, just donning some contraption like this with flexible hoses dragged across your pillow as you toss and turn during the night seemed a game stopper right away. And I was convinced it was going to live down to all expectations. Slowly but surely, though, we worked around the problems and got me comfy enough that I would at worse accept my fate and not go kicking and screaming to bed each night like a squalling 2-year old.
Then the magic began: the dreams. I haven’t been able to pinpoint if I’m just getting more oxygen or whether it’s the uninterrupted supply, but what I’m breathing in is feeding my already fertile imagination. I don’t want to set you up and claim it’s one endless orgy of erotic dreams, since sadly it’s not. But the trade off is almost as good.
I’m blessed with being able to fall asleep quickly so now I look forward to watching my own version of Netflix each night. If the drama is not exactly steamy, it’s at least detailed and memorable. Afterward, I can actually awake and reconstruct the action, entertaining Jody with some of the better details. To her, it’s better than me recounting the adventures of trimming my toe nails.
Last night, I had a series of vignettes in which I actually got to play a dog in one of the scenes. The others took me to places like Macao which I used to visit when I lived in Hong Kong eons ago. Of course, that seedy little outpost has reportedly been transformed today into a mind-numbing glitzy gambling casino that now draws in big Chinese rollers. When I was there, I think some of the Portuguese who first lay claim to it several centuries ago were still in charge.
Anyway, there I was wandering about, losing money, and being harassed by a mad chef with a huge cleaver who claimed I had insulted his family by spitting out some of his prize ink-fried eel. Later, I couldn’t find my way out of a laundry hamper I had dived into for refuge.
Then all of a sudden I was in an underground parking garage with Deep Throat listening to stories of Watergate. I didn’t have a car and had no idea how to exit the subterranean tomb. Out of the blue, I found some keys lying on the dashboard of an old Subaru with its windows down. Lots of cardboard boxes strewn about on the floor full of Top Secret documents that I was trying to organize and put in the car through the windshield which magically could open the same way a rear hatch door does.
Somehow or other, I then morphed out of that scene and was a pooch tied to a leash in the old Tan San Nhat airport outside Saigon where GIs got their first introduction to Vietnam way back when the world was younger and so was I. The dog was definitely the kind you see in that part of the world with his curled tail held high and with a wary but opportunistic look. Fit me well.
And so my adventures last night left me exhilarated like some Errol Flynn character who had sailed the seas, fought with pirates, saved damsels, and lived through it all to fight another day!
And the best part, I didn’t have to endure any cameo appearances by the totally insane Strangelove character General Ripper, played to perfection by Sterling Hayden. He was blocked from entering any of my dreams to warn me–depicted as the fear-stricken Peter Sellers character Group Captain Mandrake–of some insidious Communist plot to pollute the “precious bodily fluids” of all Americans.
I was more than happy just to awake to the voice of Vera Lynn singing the “We’ll Meet Again” lyrics at the end of the movie. I don’t necessarily want to ride the bomb down with Slim Pickens in charge but in my dreams…
“We’ll meet again,
Don’t know where, don’t know when,
But I know we’ll meet again, some sunny day.”
And we won’t invite Mr. Hobbes along, either. Thanks to the miracle of modern medicine and something that pushes air down my gullet every night, I’m a happy boy. And joyfully I’m certainly not mired in the gloom of the author of Leviathan. In fact, I’m not even close to being poor, brutalized, or solitary, not with all these rich dreams!