After having a hard time getting to sleep last night because The Noisy House was doing its thing, I was sleeping very deep at 6am when the phone rang. I went through the usual anxiety as I staggered up to answer it, but it turned out to be a wrong number. An odd wrong number, unfortunately, because when I asked the caller what number he was trying to reach (trying to insure I would not be woken again in 5 minutes) and then had to ask “Well, does it begin [the beginning of my number]”, he said “I don’t know” or “I’m not sure” or something equally cryptic. It was a peculiar conversation and left me off balance. Then I remembered an acquaintance who’s behavior has been odd lately and thought perhaps it was him and thus I was indeed likely to be disturbed again. I called the operator to see if I could find out where the call came from, but all he could do was suggest I try *69 to call the person back. Which I did. I then had another slightly less off balance conversation in which the laconically-voiced stranger proved to be a stranger after all. To my relief, I did not receive a revenge *69 call. Very strange and upsetting. I felt very alone and scared and ill at ease in this big city.
When I couldn’t get to sleep, I read a more of Bill Bryson’s A Walk In The Woods and soothed myself with troubles more uncomfortable than my own. This allowed me to return to a dream-pocked sleep where I mostly remained with minor surfacings until 11am or so. Now I’m feeling that vague-brained fog of oversleep and staring aimlessly at nothing.
To cure both my blurriness and my disconnection from the city I love, I am heading out for a big walk. Today I’ll finish Lombard Street, walking from Van Ness over Russian Hill, down into North Beach and over Telegraph Hill (I already walked the western half with Chris a month or two ago).
It’s odd when I’m in this mood; it’s so very much harder than usual to get started, to get myself out the door and heading down new streets, but the benefit is enormous and frequently immediate. My attention goes out from myself into the world around me. My focus changes from the past and the future into the present, into reality not fears or regrets.
As C.S. Lewis put it, in the present moment alone are we offered freedom and actuality. I find, as I grow older, that Lewis’s The Screwtape Letters proves more and more accurate about the way people really behave. I highly commend your attention to it. Don’t think you have to be a Christian to enjoy it; I’m an atheist and it’s one of my favorite books. It’s also one of my favorite books on tape in the version read fiendishly well by John Cleese (now, apparently, tragically out of print. Look for it used; the box is quite distinctive having a negative image of Cleese on the cover rendered entirely in black and red. Your library probably also has a copy or can get you one).