Creatures of the night

April 8, 2019

I have seen far more sunsets than sunrises. They are equally beautiful, for me the best times of the day, but I have always been, and always will be, a creature of the night. I covet that quiet time when most of the world sleeps. It allows me to clear my head and focus my thoughts. My most productive writing hours often occur between 2 and 8 a.m. when most telemarketers are sleeping.

There are those who are smug about being early risers and disdainful of my fellow creatures of the night. They trumpet the phrase, “The early bird catches the worm.” Did it ever occur to them that the early bird is more likely to be eaten by the cat, and what about the worm?

During my early years I struggled with my fondness for the night. After all, most of the world rises at the crack of dawn to ply their trade, and in my youth school beckoned. After becoming emancipated, my solution was to stay up because my circadian rhythm, or lack thereof, required me to do so. I am sure that is why the cursed alarm clock was invented. Having listened to roosters crowing during the middle of the day, at 2 a.m., 4 a.m., you name it, an alarm clock is much more reliable for night owls.

In Latin America there are two kinds of chicken soup. One is called pollo, which is chicken, and the other is gallina, which is tougher chicken. Gallina typically costs more and is chewier to eat.

I have never understood why it costs more to eat a chicken that is tougher to chew, but that is the case, and I hope the chickens going into the gallina pot are the roosters crowing 24 hours a day. Given my odd sleeping hours, there have been times when I would gladly pay someone extra to make soup out of those erratic roosters.

As a trial lawyer, somewhat in control of my daily calendar, I came up with a solution to my fondness for the night. I instructed my staff to never schedule an appointment before 10:00 a.m. That worked well except for the times when judges, those people that I cannot ethically disparage in public, scheduled early morning hearings and trials.

During trials I would go days without sleeping (my record was five days), but I knew that one day I was going to keel over from a heart attack or a stroke. I eventually solved that problem by becoming a mediator and insurance consultant with substantial control over my schedule.

My erratic sleep patterns have played hell on my partners over the years. Doctors have warned me that a failure to sleep will hurt my health. They advised me that I would die someday if I didn’t get more sleep and, of course, prescribed pills. As best I can recall, there was no offer of eternal life if I would take sleeping pills.

I tried the drugs briefly and found they made me feel worse as strange things began to happen. There are those who have called me a vampire due to my fondness for the night, and I began waking up with blood around my mouth, but I could not remember where I had been. I decided it was better to know where I was feeding so I tossed the pills.

Las Vegas, perhaps the tackiest town on the planet, made me feel better about myself. It was the place that never slept, and for the first time I realized a whole world of people exist who make a living being up most of the night. I have close family living there and considered moving to sin city to feel normal, but I also like to gamble and would eventually have lost my house.

My fondness for the night has instinctively felt primeval. Having spent a week in the Amazon, I can assure you there are more creatures at work there during the night than the day. It comforted me knowing many animals have a circadian rhythm wired for the night although I didn’t want to leave my cabin to hang out with them. I felt vindicated when I read in the Feb. 15 issue of The Week that human night owls, according to a study done on subjects in the U.K. and the U.S., are genetically wired to be that way.

Other studies have also found that denizens of the night tend to be more creative and have higher IQs, but they also drink and smoke more often (win some, lose some).

It pleased me to discover I had been fighting genetics most of my life, and I ignored the part of the story that indicated night owls have higher incidents of mental illness, the supposition being they have to work against their natural circadian rhythms in school and at work. Learning I was abnormally normal was enough of a relief.

I am also a nighttime feeder. Those same people who crow about the early bird catching the worm are usually the ones who want a full plate of steaming food cooling before them as the sun rises. For me, that’s a sure-fired way to start the day with nausea.

It is often hard for me to look seriously at food until noon, and I make no apologies. I prefer to build to a frenzy of night time feeding ending in a crescendo of popcorn and ice cream around midnight. I know — it’s going to kill me someday, but I’ll have a satisfied smile permanently etched on my mouth while sharing that same cemetery filled with health food junkies.

A friend of mine is also a creature of the night who puts me to shame. I normally call him after 2 a.m. to visit, as that is my best chance to catch him in the land of the living.

My fellow night owl and I worked in a place volunteering once where you did not have to be on your game until mid-afternoon, and we thought it was perfect. Between the two of us, he was the true vampire, and our program coordinator once confided in me calling him “sleeping beauty” to my amusement and dismay. How many times had I earned that moniker from others when my friend wasn’t around? Thanks amigo for making me feel normal.

I took a trip to Alaska once in June. The sun never really set while I was there, and for the first time I felt normal when I was up at 2:00 a.m. enjoying hazy daylight. If I had stayed there very long I am sure I would have hibernated for the winter with the bears or better yet, bought myself a ticket to Mexico. I knew there was a reason why I am no fan of winter, as I rarely sleep in places filled with perpetual darkness.

Whether you are a DNA programmed creature of the night or a hungry morning daisy, please know you are all welcome at my house. However, if you want a full breakfast at 6 a.m., get up and fix it yourself.

Jesse Robison is a Pocatello native who has lived in Mexico and other places. He was educated at Idaho State University and University of Idaho. Robison works as a mediator and insurance law consultant, but his passion is public art. He has spearheaded numerous art improvements throughout Pocatello, including the Japanese garden located at Pocatello Regional Airport, and he serves on the Bistline Foundation. Robison currently resides in Pocatello.