Man on the moon

Lunacy

The advantage to leading a somewhat nocturnal existence is being able to see a world that people who lead exclusively daytime lifestyles don’t get to.

From when I was a kid, I liked staying up late. It just always felt like I was getting away with something. When I was maybe 3 years old, I’d lie in bed every night until my parents went to sleep, and then get up to play with my toy cars and such until the sun came up.

My body eventually started to need sleep. But by the time I was a junior in high school, I was again back to staying up very late, calling in to sports radio overnight shows on WFAN. There were no blogs yet, no Twitter — I didn’t even have the Internet — and throwing my voice out over the radio airwaves was a way to satisfy my need to express whatever opinions I was able to form at that point.

In the summer of 2004, I took an overnight job at the sports website I still work for now, just to get my foot in the door despite having zero experience in that industry. Out of sheer necessity, I started to embrace the emotions that come with being awake long after most of the world went to sleep. I would go to sleep around noon, and wake up when it was dark.

Offsetting the solitude I experienced, there was a sensation of intense clarity. I’d stand in my building in midtown Manhattan at 3:30 or 4 a.m. and look out at the skyscrapers around me, wondering who else was awake and what their lives were like. Working an overnight shift takes your mind in weird directions, but it also focuses you. I spent a lot of time thinking about where my life was headed, hoping the normalcy I was sacrificing nightly would pay off.

I began going for long runs to clear my head starting at about midnight on nights I wasn’t working, usually going about seven or eight miles. I didn’t wear headphones; my soundtrack was my own footfalls. Drunk people leaving bars enjoyed screaming at me from their cars, but that didn’t bother me one bit.

As I ran past the houses on my route, I’d feel as if I had some sort of hidden edge, getting faster and stronger while the world slept.

*****

Almost seven years later, things have changed somewhat, but not entirely. I thankfully don’t do an overnight shift anymore, but I do still work very late hours, and I stay up late on nights that I don’t work. I still love running late at night, though around 10,000 miles over the past 10 years have reduced my ability to do that with quite the abandon and frequency I used to.

But I still love what life is like late at night. A good movie becomes far better when you discover it at 3 a.m. An excellent book completely absorbs you by candlelight in the deepest of night. Driving a highway with no cars on it becomes a transcendent experience.

And once in a great while, you have the opportunity to see something that doesn’t happen very often.

I honestly didn’t even know about the eclipse until people started talking about it on Twitter at around 2 a.m. I found that I had a pretty good view of it from the windows in my apartment, and after a while, I turned off an episode of Entourage and went outside to snap a few pictures of it.

Another brick in the wallIt was a quiet night, and I felt very small and reverent looking up past my apartment building as the moon’s light was very slowly taken over by a reddish hue. Eventually, the whole thing turned a dirty copper like an old penny, tinged with a burnt orange.

In all honesty, it was too exquisite to describe.

I’m not a big outer space guy, but I read up a bit and found that this was the first lunar eclipse to fall on the Winter Solstice since 1638, with another such instance not coming until 2094. There also won’t be another complete lunar eclipse viewable from the continental United States until 2014. So, I mean, it doesn’t happen every day.

I know a lot of people probably set alarms to get up and look at the eclipse for a while before crawling meekly back under the covers, but to me, that’s like being a visitor to a world that doesn’t belong to me.

Tonight, the Winter Solstice lunar eclipse entered my world.

*****

There are definitely times when I wish for a more normal life, with more regular hours. There’s something to be said for the freshness the world exhibits when you’re up early, which I rarely experience anymore. I see a sunrise once in a while, but it’s typically only when I’m still up. And I definitely don’t get to see my parents and good friends as much as I’d like.

Then once in a while, something like a once-in-372-years eclipse happens in the middle of the night to remind me that some people are just meant to be still awake when it happens.

I’m sure there are a lot of things I miss by working nights and waking up late.

But I’ve found there’s also a great deal I’d miss if I didn’t.

 

Esoteric

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