It helps, in this story, if you’ve ever seen the poster of man’s ascent from ape. It starts out with a creature walking on its knuckles and each successive image it becomes a little more upright, going from 4 paws to knuckle dragging (I dated HIM) to arched over and then slowly up to homo erectus. I don’t think that’s actually a term I just made it up. Man upright. How far off can it be? A few years later someone added to it, showing a man slowly more and more bending over, carrying things, weighed down by modern life until finally he was hunched over a computer keyboard, much as I am now. Ha ha ha ha ha. But the first image is what you need to bear in mind here, the guy about half way through the chain, kind of hunched over, not quite man, not quite beast. Keep that image in mind. It comes in handy later.
So back to what I am forced here to call reality.
I used to have an apartment which was a great place, a little garden off the master bedroom, also accessible by a life threatening set of spiral stairs off the kitchen. It was a great place for summer BBQs, dinner under the Japanese Maple, that kind of thing. If you were hungry enough you took the challenge to descend or you had to sleep with me, most people just took their chances on the stairs. Who can blame them?
So one night, after a particularly fine evening I cleaned up, balancing plates and glasses up and down the stairs and then happily crawled into bed. Confession: I sleep in the buff. I’m not sure when that started, at first it was nothing but underwear and then it became not even that. I don’t really understand pajamas. We start them when we are very young and need the warmth. First the swaddling thing they make you do to babies. To make them feel like they’re still all snug and curled up in the womb. Why? They’re not. Shouldn’t they start dealing with reality at the outset? You’re here, womb is over, stretch out a little, next time you’re confined like that will be a coffin, enjoy the ride in between.
So after that swaddling thing we pajama them to keep them warm. Those things sometimes with the feet on them. We had to learn the hard way that those little plastic bottoms on the feet so they won’t slip sure can capture any night sweating and phew! Babies can get some stinky feet. Who knew? This is the kind of thing no one tells you. Or that a little baby can be a pretty sexual creature, subconsciously of course and they can get pretty musky stinky pretty fast. There are all these books about procedures and how tos but none of the ‘maybe you should think about this before diving into parenthood’ section.
Anyway, kids grow up with pajamas and then they get older and they keep putting on clothes to go to bed. We don’t live in a castle where there’s a log on the fire for about an hour and if the serf who’s tending your room falls asleep the room temperature will drop to colder than outside. We don’t have canopy beds because we need to close the curtains to keep in the warmth. We have canopy beds with little opaque lacey things hanging from the 4 posters because Pottery Barn says it looks cute in a farm house. So what’s with the clothes? Not for warmth. You need warmth, turn up the heat. Put on another duck down quilt, make sure the flannel sheets you own have 2,000 thread count (Restoration Hardware, page 237). Clothes? What? So they can get all wrapped around you each time you toss and then some more when you turn? Those nightgowns, don’t tell me those aren’t instruments of torture.
One might say I need to gird my loins. Frankly, you should be using your loins in bed, where else do they have any other purpose? But if you have issues with modesty then maybe a t-shirt. Maybe some boxers. What’s with the Laura and Rob Petry pants and button down shirt with a pocket? A pocket? I don’t have outdoor clothes with a pocket. That’s a conspiracy against women so you’ll go out and buy bags. Pockets match automatically but bags…you need one for every color outfit. You think that’s some fashion mistake? Think again my friend. No women’s clothes have pockets but those goofy pajamas pant suits….THOSE have a pocket. What for? To keep your loin girder in?
So it’s clear my position about night clothes. I sleep in the buff.
On this particular night, as it was summer especially, I crawled into bed, heavy sigh of being finished and after laying there a bit realized I had forgotten to turn off the gas. Not the flame, but I’d left the gas valve open. New York is one of those tricky places about grills. While you can have a coal grill, you know the kind where if you threw the hot coals onto the grass in the park it’d go up in flames and good bye Central Park. That’s ok. Also you can have a gas grill, but not the gas. You’re not allowed to buy propane in NYC nor are you supposed to bring it in a canister over any of the bridges or through any of the tunnels. It’s like pot. You can have it, you just aren’t allowed to buy it or grow it. If you can figure out that then you must not be too stoned. Me, I’m a gas smuggler. I’ll go fill a tank and then throw a blanket over it, like some kind of illegal immigrant hiding in the trunk of my car (no, I’ve never done that but frankly I don’t have a problem with that if genital mutilation is at stake) and you pray, please don’t let today be the day I get rear ended.
So an open valve doesn’t mean another premature trip to the hardware store to refill the tank, it’s an entire death defying procedure to ensure next time you light up the grill for 10 hungry friends it doesn’t go sputter sputter, who knows the number to Rays Pizza?
So lying in bed I thought, shit, go turn off the valve. I’ve already probably lost 15 hamburgers worth of gas. But it was 2am and my clothes were already neatly put away..…..that’s a lie. They were strewn in post BBQ exhaustion all over the floor but equally hard to reassemble. I thought, who cares, it’s the middle of the night, the grill is right outside my door, I’ll just reach my hand out and turn off the gas. So I opened the door and the grill was just outside. Just outside my reach. But I figured, so what, I’ll take one step outside and give it a quick turn. Who’s going to see? It’s 2am, pitch dark out, what’s the difference. So I took a step outside, kind of hunched over in the ready position to reach, grab, turn, withdraw and BAM!!!! I forgot! Motion sensors on spotlights in the back yard for protection. There I am, butt naked, Neanderthal like (refer to opening paragraph), hair falling all over the place (that’s any given moment on any given day) lit up like Christmas, or the nightmare on Elm St, depending on your perspective. Was I surprised? After the first 2 second shock, not really. After all, this is me we’re talking about. I have come to expect these things.
I heard the next day the old man across the alley had dropped dead in the middle of the night while crossing his living room to get to the bathroom in the middle of the night. I assume he glanced out the window, just as one does while crossing a room and was shocked into eternity by this Altered States type creature outside his window. Even New Yorkers have their shock value limits.
Ok. Another confession
I made up the part about the old man. It just seemed like a fitting ending. I’m sure the old man across the way is just fine. I know the old lady upstairs is.
Me, I still sleep in the buff but my new garden has no motion detectors. Safer for all concerned.