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  • Writer's pictureJerry Della Femina


I can’t sleep.

And when I do, I have the most horrible dreams.

I’ll bet you, the reader of this column, are experiencing the same thing.

I’ll bet you’re not sleeping too well these days, either.

I have a theory. I blame Donald Trump.

There is so so much tension, anger and mishegas (it’s a Yiddish word – look it up) connected to Trump that it’s rubbing off on the whole country.

Some nights I look up at the ceiling and see Donald Trump and he is Hitler minus the funny little mustache but with that weird head of straw hair.

Some nights I look at the ceiling and see Trump’s creepy senior policy adviser Stephen Miller. He is Heinrich Himmler – an evil son-of-a-bitch just waiting to destroy some innocent immigrant children’s lives for the fun of it.

I look at the ceiling and I think of Trump, Miller, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Bill de Blasio and dopey Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez – all the walking nightmares of our lives – and now I’m wide awake, so I toss and turn and sleep for a half-hour and wake up and toss and turn for another half-hour and then sleep and then I have a horrible dream and I wake up shaking and by now it’s 3:30 a.m. I get up out of bed and hit the refrigerator – have some grapes or a handful of blueberries or a pretzel to calm myself down and then try to go back to sleep, but I never do.

Now I have to admit, I never slept when I was a child.

Whenever I went back to visit my old neighborhood, on West 7th Street in Brooklyn, old women would come up to me and say, “You were the little boy who never slept. I used to rock you for hours in your carriage. You never cried, but you never closed your eyes.” (No wonder I turned out this way.)

The fact is, I always found it easier to stay up and read or stare at the ceiling or listen to the radio than to go to sleep.

Then there was my Lone Ranger period.

Thirty years or so ago I became addicted to old radio shows. I buy them online from a site called I listen to radio mystery shows on my iPod until I fall asleep with those little white headphone plugs digging into my cute little ears.

I remember once at 3 a.m. my wife, the beautiful Judy Licht, complaining, “Jerry, please, I can’t sleep. I hear someone screaming something about ‘A fiery horse with the speed of light, a cloud of dust and a hearty Hi-Yo Silver!’ coming out of your fu#*%king earphones.”

The radio shows all went back to a more innocent time – the 1940s. But then, so do I.

I would listen to “The Shadow,” who was secretly Lamont Cranston, who was described as a wealthy man-about-town who traveled with his faithful female companion, Margo Lane. Margo went with Lamont wherever he went. I would stay up at night wondering if Margo and Lamont ever had sex.

As I said, it was a different time, and many of the detective shows I would listen to featured two men who lived together, and I would wonder if they were sleeping together. Bulldog Drummond had his trusted friend Algy. Mr. Keen, Tracer of Lost Persons, had Clancy, and I don’t know (and don’t care) what went on between the Lone Ranger and Tonto on those cold nights on the prairie.

Today I’ve gone from old radio shows to the wonderful Audible site where I listen to books, but even having someone reading to me doesn’t put me into a restful asleep.

I’m currently listening to a great but scary book called “Those Who Wish Me Dead” by Michael Koryta.

Last night I fell asleep while listening to the part where two maniac killers, the Blackwell Brothers, were chasing this young boy who saw them commit a murder up and down the mountains of Montana. In my twilight sleep I dreamed I was the young boy they were chasing and they were just about to catch me.

My screams woke me up. I never got back to sleep.

I must admit that lately I’ve considered taking Ambien.

I’m told it works, but I’ve heard a few horror stories about people popping an Ambien and sleepwalking.

A woman I know took an Ambien to fall asleep and that’s all she remembers. Her daughter found her the next morning. She had left a Hansel-and-Gretel trail of cake crumbs all over the house. When she was found she looked like Willie Wonka in the chocolate factory. She had chocolate all over her face and she had devoured all the contents of a large refrigerator.

A man I worked with, who shall go nameless, popped two Ambiens and went to bed.

When he woke up he was in his car in the town where he lives and he had hit four parked cars. Luckily he was unhurt when the police woke him up. I haven’t had the nerve to ask him if he was naked or just wearing pajamas during his Ambien adventure.

But I have to get some sleep, so tonight I will take an Ambien, wash it down with glass of warm milk, stare at the bedroom ceiling and instead of counting sheep I will count Donald Trump’s lies. By the time I get to 10,000 I will be in a sound restful sleep.

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