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Sleepless in Seattle

Yes, a total cliché: like a picture of Mount Rainier when you come out of the elevator in the Roosevelt Hotel. But true. I've just returned from Seattle and now think I know why no one can sleep there. Coffee. Everyone has a cup of coffee in their hand. In Seattle you're either on your way to have coffee with someone, just been to coffee with someone, irritated because you haven't had your coffee yet, smiling because you've just had your coffee, talking about how this coffeeshop is much better than that coffeeshop, standing in a four-mile-long queue for your favorite coffee. Coffee.

The coffee in my hotel room was provided by Starbucks, which might have been wonderful if the creamer hadn't been provided by Coffeemate. Powder. Um: fail. Still, the guy at reception told me I could have as much as I wanted. He said wanted more like needed because this was, after all, Seattle.

In the five days I was in Seattle I probably slept four to six hours the entire time. I no longer need sleep. It's like fasting, I think. If you can get past the first few days, you're home. On Friday night, I stayed up talking to Bud Smith until 4:00 a.m. in the lobby of the Westin hotel. I said to myself--because when you haven't slept in so long you do start talking to yourself-- "Christopher, you have to turn this can't sleep situation around. Can't sleep is weak; won't sleep is empowered." And so I decided I wouldn't sleep and felt empowered. Have you ever stayed up all night talking to Bud Smith? What did you talk about? Serious question. I'm still trying to remember what we talked about. We've both told people our talk was amazing, but I'd bet money neither of us knows what the hell we said. All those hours. I'd do it again in a heartbeat (but I'd record it: lesson learned). If Bud Smith tells you he has a backpack full of beer and cider and he's on his way, stay put. You won't regret it.

That was Friday night/Saturday morning, but I'd had three sleepless (in Seattle) nights before that. Facebook friends sent me messages promising to send me something boring to read; I promised to write something of my own that would be sufficiently, and numbingly, boring. Instead, I wrote several stories I found brilliant in the moment. I can't wait to dig into those journals to see what crap they are. We'll see.

I tried to sleep. I lay in bed, eyes closed, for what felt like hours. I rolled over and over and trained my poor aging eyes on the clock. Four whole minutes had passed, and I was miserable. I turned on the light, did a bit of yoga--because I remembered my first yoga class and the instructor waking me up and telling me she didn't allow snoring in her class. Yoga is so morbidly boring. But it didn't help in Seattle.

I read the free books I'd got at the book fair that day. I surfed. I FBed. Oddly, I didn't tweet. Sorry, Twitter. I talked to other writers who were also sleepless and also in Seattle (a coincidence?). I seriously suggested we meet up at 3:45 a.m., which they took as a joke. I turned off my light, lay in bed, turned on my light, got up, stared at myself in the bathroom mirror (but not in that way, you creepy people). I was deliriously tired but was also sleepless--and it goes without saying . . . in Seattle. Damn the coffee.

It's in the air. The air itself is caffeinated in Seattle. That's why people can't sleep, except for Bill Yarrow, who apparently always sleeps well. He's a poet, which is the best explanation for this phenomenon I can think of. If he'd been reading in the middle of the night somewhere, I would have gone to see him. His readings are always killer.

But because Bill doesn't normally read at 6:00 a.m., I couldn't go to one of his many readings at sunrise. I did, however, enjoy Seattle at dawn in other ways-- and here they are...

Tomorrow, I'm going to go on and on and on about AWP in Seattle. I'm going to talk about the city and how great it is. I'm going to rave.

I must be off,

PS: Thank you to the readers of IMBO for slinging this blog over 500,000 hits while I was in Seattle. Sleepless.

Christopher Allenis the author ofConversations with S. Teri O'Type (a Satire), an episodic adult cartoon about a man struggling with expectations. Allen's award-winning fiction and non-fiction have appeared or are forthcoming in Indiana Review, Quiddity, SmokeLong Quarterly's Best of the First Ten Years anthology, Prime Number Magazine, Camroc Press Review, Feathertale, The Best of Every Day Fiction, Pure Slush, Bootsnall Travel and Chicken Soup for the Soul. A finalist at Glimmer Train in 2011, Allen has been nominated for Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize twice. He is the managing editor of the daily litzine Metazen.

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