There are soliloquy about sunrises, sonnets on sunsets, and the time between the two is covered by authors, poets, playwrights, and the majority of a library. That’s when things happen, when people are awake, and it makes sense that people talk about it. The beauty of the sun peaking over the ocean, or the depressing gloom of a cloudy day are thought of as great writing because everyone’s awake to see them. Everyone over the age of eight has seen a sunset that they remember, a patch of clouds that held their fascination for longer than a glance, or something; be it a tree, building, car, or just the carpet of your bedroom; lit by the sun in just the perfect way that you had to stop and stare.
You need light. It’s medically proven, sunlight makes you happy. I lived near the artic circle, the actual one, not the fast food chain, for a while and the sun is important. The lack of sun doesn’t just make you sad, it gives you SAD (seasonal acute depression). The sun disappears for the winter and only shows up for as long as an episode of your favorite TV drama. It’s a shame if the sun and your favorite TV drama show up at the same time because you’re going to miss one of them. It’s dark at 3:00 in the afternoon like it’s dark at midnight everywhere else, and people get SAD. People feel the urge to jump in front of speeding trains more; the amounts of anti-depressant medication skyrocket; and everyone that can afford it fly south for the winter, like a messed up, pasty white, flock of sad northerners.
The sun is important, it makes you not get SAD but also makes people HAPPI (Heightened Amounts of Perky Personal Instances) if you will allow me to use a second grade spelling of ‘happy’. But the insomniac inside of me, hates the sun and loves the darkness. There are the given implications of me siding for the darkness, and saying that people should get out of the sun more often, but I’m sure I can live with it.
I grew up in Las Vegas, home of everything happening there and staying there, burnt out B, C, or even D-list stars, pimps, prostitutes, Garry Waddell and Paula Francis, Egypt, Paris, Venice, Rome, New York City, and triple digit summers. The summers in Vegas are hot, and it was in Vegas that I learned the joy of seeing the world when the sun was not up.
During the middle of the day, the best hours to get HAPPI and get rid of your SAD, the concrete adult playground of my home gets hot. It’s not an exaggeration, it’s serious. About a dozen people each summer die from the heat. I worked out in the sun as a lifeguard, and we would toast pop tarts by leaving them in the aluminum wrapping and putting them in the sun. After about an hour, or two, depending on if you were cooking on concrete or asphalt, you would have a warm sugary treat.
While growing up I heard people say things like, ‘it is hot enough to fry an egg on the sidewalk’ or something along those lines. Frying an egg is easy, anyone can do that, but that inspired me to take the pre-made cookie dough from a tube that you find near the eggs and butter at the grocery store, and bake it. Concrete isn’t hot enough to make cookies, but a parked car with the windows rolled up with a cookie sheet on the front dash is good enough to get a dozen baked cookies and a car that smelt like chocolate chip cookies for a few days. Grease monkeys can have the new car smell, I’ll take the chocolate chip cookie car smell.
I know the sun and what it can do to a person, but when growing up in Vegas you learn that there’s a limited amount of things you can do when it’s 120 degrees outside. The sunny hours are fun, but every construction worker, gardener, trash man, or public worker knows that if you do not want to loose gallons of water to sweat and put yourself at risk for skin cancer, you start work at midnight. The coolest minute of the day is the minute before sunrise. You might have a high of 120, but at midnight it’ll drop back down to a bearable, comfortable, and most importantly, workable 80.
Those moments that aren’t covered by poets, those moments that are never seen by a nine to five worker, and those minutes of the day where there the majority of people are in their beds, are the most comfortable moments of the day. It sounds morbid when people call it the graveyard shift, but it’s not that sort of graveyard. It’s not a graveyard full of zombies lurching around wanting to eat brains; it’s a calm, peaceful, quiet, and empty graveyard that has a few visitors walking through it. When you go to a graveyard, there is never a large crowd, it is always peaceful, and even if there is someone else there, the graveyard is large enough that you never have to see them.
Every insomniac or graveyard worker has found the joy of having the world to themselves. There is joy in driving down the a road that during the daylight hours is bumper to bumper and congested, but at post midnight hours you can speed down it without a single car in sight. There is happiness in being able to go shopping and getting that prized parking spot next to the handicapped spot. The best moments are traffic lights with sensors on them. You are alone in the world and are special enough that even the lights (that have sensors on them) are willing to change for you.
For those moments in the post midnight hours, you are the ruler of the universe. Celebrities have to pay a lot of money to get a store all to themselves. Diplomats have to have police escorts to have the lights change for them. Insomniacs get the five star treatment whenever they want.
Next time that you’re annoyed with shopping at a store that is open for 24 hours, be it for the lack of service, how crowded the place is, or anything that would be completely different if you were the only person in the store, get out of the store and go shopping at 2:00 am. You’ll never want to shop during the sunny hours again. It’s almost a regal feeling of being able to walk through the grocery store and the biggest problem that you run into is a fellow insomniac stocking a sold out food that’s on sell, just for you. You know that your fruit is the freshest because you can stop the person stocking your apples, and grab what you need from their crate.
There’s the ego-stroking bonuses of going out late at night, being treated like a king, having the world to yourself, and being able to do just about whatever you want with no one watching; but just like the daylight times, there is beauty in the midnight hours. I didn’t realize just how beautiful night time in a city was, until I managed to get out of the city. It was in a small town that I realized that stars are great, and being able to actually see them was impressive, but there’s something mesmerizing about an empty parking lot lit by twenty foot high light poles. The artificial light of the midnight hours takes things that you are use to and, quite literally, lights them in a way that you never expected. You get glimpses of the beauty that neon brings to things around 10:00, but there are people moving around and messing up the picture.
It might seem silly, that you can’t see art and beauty when there are people around, but anyone who has been to a famous museum like the Louvre knows how annoying people can be. You can see the Mona Lisa, but you have to jump up and down to catch a glimpse of her over the heads of the hundred other people crammed into the room trying to see her faint smile. There’s something missing when you’re crowded, when there are people walking through your line of sight all the time. It is the art critics dream to have ten minutes alone with Lisa. Those ten minutes of being able to sit and stare without any distractions would mean more to a respecter of art than an entire day crammed into the Mona Lisa room, fighting with the crowds, the din of everyone talking, and the heat of that many bodies bumping and jostling for position to make it to the velvet ropes.
The midnight hours are the hours that you can see the beauty of a city. One of my favorite things to look at are intersections. During daylight hours we rush through them, wait at them, and hardly think twice as we see the lights change colors. When no one is around and the world has turned off for the night, intersections are a city’s installation art, brought to you by the very artistic group; the Department of Transportation. Intersections are amazing because the light changes. There is beauty in concrete buildings colored with neon lights, but there is art when that lighting changes and alters the entire image. With one intersection, you get to see the world of a lively emerald green, a shining golden yellow, and a harsh brilliant ruby red. You also get the lights conflicting with each other. When there is that lively green, only 90 degrees away there is a harsh, conflicting red. For those that know your color wheel, green and red are opposites, they are perfect polar opposites and Department of Transportation was artistic enough, and brave enough, to light the same intersection, the same buildings, and the same world, in these strongly conflicting colors.
Unlike other outside instillation art pieces, intersections only get better when weather is added. When it’s windy, and I really mean gusting, the stationary Christmas tree of the intersections lights begin to dance. Shadows begin to do a quick mamba that only they can hear the beat of, and they dip, twirl, and sway to it. Snow is also an added bonus to any midnight art critic. It takes the light of the street and reflects it into the air. It has to be fresh, white, clean snow, but with the change of a light, an entire pile of snow can become a glowing green mass from an alien planet, a dirty joke about yellow snow, or a blood splattered war zone.
The holy grail of insomniatic art is a rainy night. Rain cleans up the world, taking away any of the dirt and grime from the daylight hours, but it also makes everything shine and shimmer. Your favorite intersection is only magnified by rain because the roads and buildings begin to glow. A building that use to be sort of interesting, on a rainy day becomes a concrete chandelier with a rainbow of light shimmering and glistening from the water.
Go to sleep early, set your alarm, or stay awake until 2 or 3, and go out and see the secret that the late night workers and insomniacs have been keeping to themselves. It’s a different world, waiting for you. You’ll have the world to yourself, an entire art gallery to frolic through and make your own. Just make sure you get out of the streets before 5 because nothing ruins a good insomnia driven romp through the streets like having an over anxious high strung business man rushing through your piece of art in his four door sedan while he shaves his morning stubble with an electric razor.