Walking in the Dark

September 16th, 2019

I walked Shocky at 4:00 AM yesterday, well before sunrise. It was probably unwise to walk a black border collie/lab for a couple miles on an unlit stretch of road. I did it anyway. Not only was it dark, but it was also foggy. Fortunately, there was only a minimal amount of traffic. I suspect that the motorists I saw were mostly people in a rush to get to jobs that they hate. I used to live like that. I remember playing death metal on the radio to stay alert. Anybody who is up at such an ungodly hour is probably not loving life.

I was up. I am often up that early. I worked third shift for over twenty years, and I can no longer sleep like a normal human. I wake up at two or three or four in the morning, and I can’t go back to sleep. No chance. I stare up at the skylight for a while, and then I crawl out of bed.

The wee hours of the morning are pretty twisted. They are part of a time frame is not quite right. It is too early to start a pot of coffee, and it’s too late to crack open a beer. I can’t begin anything, because then I will wake up Karin. Lying silently in bed is not an option.

What to do?

I tend to latch on to Shocky and go for stroll in the dark. Some nights are glorious, with the stars above us as we hike past subdivisions, farm fields, and marshes. Other nights are not so glorious. However, even with the fog, it was good to walk. It was still good to be outside.

Darkness can be a blessing. We rely far too much on vision. Walking along a lonely road at night requires the use of other faculties, especially when the few things that are still visible are shrouded in mist. The senses of hearing, feeling, and smell sharpen as sight fades. The sounds of crickets, frogs, and an occasional sand hill crane became much clearer to me on our hike. The smell of the marsh was more pungent. The feel of the road under my feet, and the pull of Shocky on the leash was more immediate. A familiar world became strange and fantastic when there was so little light. Our walk was not completely in the dark. Every once in a while I could look up and catch a fleeting glimpse of the waning moon through fog.

I have been thinking about other predawn activities, some from long ago.

Once, I had a friend named Greg. He worked as a truck driver, but his passion was music, all sorts of music. He had a radio program on a local non-profit station. It was called “G.B. and the Neutral Drop”. His time slot was from 3:00 to 6:00 AM on Mondays. That was a truly wretched time to be playing music on the air. He had very few listeners, simply because very few people were conscious at that time of day/night. The only people who ever called into his program were bakers and dairy farmers.

The one upside of being a DJ in those predawn hours was the fact that Greg could play whatever he wanted to play. And he did. It would be a gross understatement to say that Greg’s program was eclectic. His choice of music was diverse to the point of being almost random. He played everything. Greg ran through his selection of artists in a jarring and unpredictable manner. I think he took great pride in that.

Greg invited me to come to the studio with him during those witching hours. We had fun. He even let me speak on the air. What a mistake.

He asked me to do a PSA (public service announcement). I proceeded to make a total mockery of it all. I’m not sure why he would have expected anything else. He did seem a bit alarmed.

Once he switched over to some music, he cut the mikes and gave me a hard stare.

“Hey man, what are you doing? I mean, we are recording all this. What if somebody from the station hears what you said? C’mon, man!”

I mumbled an apology.

He queued up another song, and gave me the side eye. He shook his head, and said,  “Asshole”, as he was laughing to himself.

As I mentioned, Greg’s musical tastes were far-ranging. One morning he started off with some scratchy 45’s of black Gospel hymns. Then he went immediately to some nasty-ass track from Solomon Burke, a soul artist whose musical references to sex would have made Prince blush. After that, Greg went to directly to some western swing, some shit so redneck that any white boy would want to stand up and wave the Stars and Bars.

As far as I am concerned, the best part of Greg’s show was when he played “unheard 45’s”. Greg, in his travels, would stop at garage sales and buy old records. Often, he bought records from artists that were completely foreign to him. He never listened to them prior to dragging them out for his show. These were old vinyl disks. They were recordings from bands that made one or two records, and then disappeared. Greg would pull out the 45’s, and then he and I would play them at random.

The recordings almost always sucked, and we almost always said exactly that on the air. It was kind of an artistic sadism. We ripped on these performers who probably put their hearts and souls into some lame song. I am likely going straight to hell for my active participation in this cruel enterprise. I suppose I should feel regret. I don’t.

At one point, I thought to myself, “What if one these performers actually hears us mocking him?”

Then I thought, “Oh well, he’ll get over it.”

We moved on to the next record.

The wee hours of the morning are times of intense beauty and terrible sin.

It’s best to stay in bed.



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