Rise and shine

If you sleep in, you miss stuff like this.

Marriage, freelancing, and New Mexico gradually turned me into a morning person, kinda sorta.

I spent the bulk of my newspaper career working nights on various copy desks scattered around the West. Clock in around 3 or 4 in the p.m., clock out when the presses start running at stupid-thirty. If you’re lucky, there’s a bar still open somewhere.

But when Herself hitched her little red wagon to my jackass in Fanta Se there were accommodations to be made. I was on the usual night shift at The New Mexican, but she worked like normal people, running the B. Dalton Bookseller in the DeVargas Center.

She was asleep when I came home; I was asleep when she went to work. We saw each other at dinner and sometimes on the weekends, if I wasn’t chasing commas or racing bikes. Our wedding vows may have included the endearment, “Shut the fuck up, I’m trying to sleepI”

In case you’re wondering, kids, this is how you make a marriage work.

Miss Mia Sopaipilla insists on sunlight as soon as it becomes available, if not sooner.

In 1991, when my mom developed a hitch in her gitalong and we moved to Bibleburg to deal with it, my routine went out the window. Herself found more retail work, but I was trying to freelance, and the first thing you learn in that racket is fear. You fear that the last dollar you earned will be the last dollar you earn.

So I said yes to every job, worked a lot, and all the time, not just from afternoons into the dark of the night. In point of fact, I was compelled to embrace the early morning hours.

It wasn’t awful. Not nearly as bad as I remembered from having a paper route. For starters, I was working indoors, and I was writing the news, not sidearming it onto stoops.

Nor was I restricted to a copy desk, where the routine is … well, routine. Daily editorial meeting, editing copy, writing headlines, sizing photos, writing cutlines, laying out pages, drinking dinner, overseeing pasteup, proofing pages, taking a quick look at the paper hot off the presses as they began rumbling up to speed, and going home.

Going freelance took me off that daily merry-go-round. When the deadline was every other week, or once a month, I found I could squeeze the work into my life instead of my life into the work.

Yeah, I worked almost every day, and at all hours of every day, but I did it in bite-sized pieces and a lot of different flavors. Cover an early morning Tour stage for VN.com, go for a ride. Write a column for Bicycle Retailer, do the grocery shopping. Edit some copy for Inside Triathlon, drink a beer (editing triathlon copy would make a stewbum of a Seventh-day Adventist). Draw a cartoon for VeloNews. And so on.

True, I was not always at my best in the early morning hours. Old habits die hard. And Mom had her own routines, which included wandering the house at night while chatting with the voices in her head (yeah, that shit runs in the family). But you get used to it, or at least learn to manage it.

Eventually she passed, leaving only one of us to argue with his invisible friends. And the mornings got a little easier, whether sunup came in Weirdcliffe, Bibleburg, or The Duck! City.

My paying chores have drifted away one by one, but the mornings have not. Herself rises earlier than ever, working four 10-hour shifts as a librarian for Sandia National Lab. But I insist on sleeping in, until 6 a.m. if I can manage it, before dragging the old bag of bone splinters and bad ideas out of the sack and into the kitchen.

Somebody has to make breakfast and inspect the sunrise, make sure God’s on the job. Some days one wonders.

Early morning watermelon at the foot of the Sandias.

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14 Responses to “Rise and shine”

  1. SAO' Says:

    The thing I love about these pix is, things are always looking up. Good way to approach life.

  2. SAO' Says:

    Señor, these musings are a pure delight. It’s a completely different style, but I keep thinking of something like a Southwest Home Companion, without the sound effects. You keep writing, we’ll keep reading. Deal?

    • khal spencer Says:

      O’G may be retired, but his brain still fires on all cylinders when it comes to writing these narratives.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      Glad you guys are enjoying the brain-squeezin’s.

      I loved writing columns for VN.com and BRAIN, but I never liked their standing heds: “Friday’s Foaming Rant” and “Mad Dog Unleashed.” Some days I wasn’t mad or in the mood to rant. But there you are, top billing under that marquee. The customers are waiting, the ones that like you and the ones that don’t. One hates to disappoint.

      “I saw a few things and raved for money,” as Thomas McGuane had Chet Pomeroy say in “Panama.” I’ll still do that from time to time, and for free, too. But there’s a lot of it about these days, and so there will be some of the other as well.

      • khal spencer Says:

        Yeah. You wrote some howlers for VN. And then there were the April 1st Editions. I always looked forward to the FFR (as well as looking forward to Friday for various other reasons, including that the week in the Bomb Factory, avoiding phone calls from the boss, was coming to an end) but I can see how the standing headline would box you in. Or as you said in a 2014 comment, “The more I did ’em, …, the quicker I flamed out every year. It’s hard to maintain that level of outrage for any length of time. It’s like doing intervals every day.”

        Hell, nowadays if one wants a daily level of outrage, just get on social media. Someone is always foaming and ranting about something or other and getting ratioed back again. Gives you less and less hope for the human race.

        Here, if you want to foam and rant, you can foam and rant. Or type a philosophical post with a cup of hot coffee. Or post pictures of the sunrise and cats. Or wax autobiographical. Or just say fick it and take a day off without missing a deadline.

  3. khal spencer Says:

    Maile the cat makes sure I am up by about six a.m. She has a voice that would shame Pavarotti that carries across every room in the place. And it doesn’t calm down until there is fresh wet cat food in the old cat food dish.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      Miss Mia Sopaipilla went through a stretch where she was yowling us out of a sound sleep pretty much nightly at around 2:30. We’ve been having visitors — rabbits, foxes, raccoons, and of course deer — and I suspect she was sounding the alarm.

      Either that or announcing a dump in the litter box, which she will also do. “Oy! Stinks in ’ere! You lot clean this up sharpish!”

  4. Herb from Michigan Says:

    The worst is when you stagger out in the early edge of the new day and fill the bowl with increasingly expensive cat food and the cat looks at you like “WTF? I’m not eating that crap today. What else you got?” Then mid morning while you are slowly running out of steam you find the cat curled up in the bed you wish you were still in.

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