August 3, 2011

Idea + Paper + Stapler

Here's a story I did for my day job at METRO magazine on Twin Cities zine culture--a subject about which I'm pretty stoked. I'm really sad not to be participating in Twin Cities Zinefest this year, but I just don't have the time anymore. (Which reminds me: Microcosm, I still owe you another order of zines...). Lacey Prpic Hedtke is organizing this year's Zinefest (September 24 at Powderhorn Park) and I think it will be great.

Read it online for now, and I'll upload a PDF in a bit.

That's some of my embarrassingly extensive collection there. Dude, some of those zines are from high school! Hello, hoarder! SMBHBD is on the left, about halfway down the page.

Server dreams

My first zine, No Rest for the Wicked, was about insomnia, a disorder with which I've struggled on and off since I was about 5 years old. In it I wrote about dreams that used to plague me in my early 20s, while I was a barista. I would dream that customers would be surrounding me on both sides of the coffee bar like zombies, that the cream pitcher wouldn't stop leaking or that the industrial-strength blender wouldn't stop whirring. I'd wake up feeling like I'd been at work all night, then would have to get up and do it all over again for real in the morning.

I used to have similar dreams when I started my first job as a bagger at a natural foods co-op--I'd try to fall asleep, but my brain wouldn't stop strategically placing groceries in bags--and when I was a kid and would play a lot of Tetris on our first-edition, black and white screen Gameboy (this one--ah, that makes me feel old!).

Keeping in mind that I've struggled with insomnia for years and have sought out doctors and alternative practitioners galore to try to figure it out, imagine my surprise when a co-worker told me about Hypnagogia.

This particular co-worker has also struggled with insomnia and we've compared notes once in a while on our respective sleep idiosyncrasies. I was telling him about some severe, disturbing hallucinations I had recently (par for the course in insomnialand, unfortunately) that were paired with paralysis, and he immediately said "Hypnagogia." It's a phenomenon mostly related to when you're falling into and out of sleep, which is when most of my sleep problems occur. Take a look under the Sensory Phenomena heading (and yes, I realize Wikipedia is not the place to diagnose yourself, and I do see all those "citation needed"s in the article) and what do you see? For one, the "Tetris Effect":

People who have spent a long time at some repetitive activity before sleep, in particular one that is new to them, may find that it dominates their imagery as they grow drowsy, a tendency dubbed the Tetris effect. This effect has even been observed in amnesiacs who otherwise have no memory of the original activity. When the activity involves moving objects, as in the video game Tetris, the corresponding hypnagogic images too tend to be perceived as moving. The Tetris effect is not confined to visual imagery, but can manifest in other modalities also.

For another, "server dreams":

This is very common amongst new waiters or waitresses in busy restaurants where they report having "Server Dreams" and restlessly wait tables in this state of mind, sometimes jolting them fully awake or preventing them from transitioning into actual sleep.

This definitely explains a lot. In fact, I've experienced nearly all the phenomena--sleep paralysis, strange vibrations, hallucinations, visions, apparitional experiences, insight, amnesia, phosphenes--of Hypnagogia. I've involuntarily written entire screenplays in my head while in a state of sleep paralysis before. 

Luckily, I don't really have server dreams anymore (but Amy Poehler does!). Occasionally I'll have a work-related stress dream, but I'm very thankful to have a job that doesn't intensify my (apparently) already cray-cray sleep issues.