Am I the only person who loved the first “Pirates of the Caribbean,” yet fears the sequel will feel like six hours of rubber hoses to the kidney? Hollywood ruins everything, it seems; I read a while ago that Kate Capshaw was going to reprise her role as the Screeching B-list Actress / Director’s Wife in Indiana Jones 4. I loved the first movie, but left the second with a headache and the feeling I’d spent the last hour trapped in the fat-folds of a Sumo wrestler with spasmodic bowels. They seriously considered bringing back that character? Like we all waited 20 years to hear that charmless harridan shriek INDEEEEE seventeen dozen times in the climax?

In high school I had to get up early Friday morning for speech tournaments, and feared missing the alarm. I don’t know why – it was a Panasonic with a piercing shriek that bored right through your skull to the exact place in your head where your dreams were taking place, and stabbed everyone in the dream with a cold knitting needle. It would wake dead dogs on the south side of town. Naturally we preferred it to the clatter of the old-style clatter-bell alarms, because it was modern. If we resented the sound, well, it was the price we paid for casting off the wind-up clocks. I never really knew a dark room with a ticking clock. Just as well; they’re morbid. They’re nervous and jumpy. They pester the dark – or worse yet, they get that smug feeling that they own the room. Death’s sonar. To hell with clocks! Anyway, I had modern electrical clock with a chunky off switch. Not the sort of thing you could bat in your sleep. There was no chance I’d miss the alarm; none.

Nevertheless I’d get up before the alarm went off, and get ready for the tournament. Once my dad found me washing my hair in the sink at 4 AM, half-asleep. Gotta make the bus! The bus will leave without me! Ill-considered proposals for alternative energy may go unrefuted in a drafty classroom in Pipestone, Minnesota!  And it wasn’t the first time, either. I frequently rose too early, wandered around the house with haunted eyes, the Ancient Debater, looking for the port where he could rest his cursed bones. Since I never slept well on the bus (no one sleeps well on buses; even if you’re tired, there’s either someone with late-stage tuberculosis behind you, a baby across the aisle, and the cold metal rim of the window on your cheek. Granted, things may be better now, My bus experience was long ago, when the back six rows were filled with smokers grinding out butt after butt into the overflowing armrest ashtrays, taking comfort in the dark from a paper bag, falling asleep with their legs blocking the bathroom door) I learned to drink coffee at an early age. Bad coffee, too. High-school teacher's lounge vending machine coffee. It's like plasma for discontinued robots.

I thought of the 4 AM Wella Balsam sessions this morning when I got up to take Gnat to camp; felt like I hadn’t slept at all. Checked the clock: 5:10. Okay. Well then. Nevermind. Got up again at 6. False alarm. Back to bed. Keep in mind I had three alarms set to go, and my wife to cattleprod me as she left the house; I was still worried I’d miss the bus. Consequently I feel like I’ve slept about two hours, and feel rather woozy. A nap was needed. But that would have meant setting the alarm so I could pick her up, and that would guarantee I’d get no sleep at all.

Anyway, it’s been a busy day. Sort of. I think. It’s all a blur. After I dropped her off I headed home to discover again that my coffee pot had decided to shut itself off after one hour. It has a short, I think; the clock resets, and the heater goes off. That’s two Cuisinarts that have gone south, and while I could indeed ship it back to them to fix, what would I do in the meantime? Chew beans and gargle hot tap water? It’s also developed a bad case of coffee-maker incontinence, and leaves a cup of evil brown water on the countertop. So I microwaved the rest of the pot - Lazarus coffee is never as good, ever; it loses its soul - and sat down to write a column. In between paragraphs I called the tree people to have the Old Dead Guy sawed down to the stump, and called a wood-refinishing place to do something about the front door of Jasperwood, which looks like sixteen male wolverines detected a female in heat in the living room. (It was in the garage) Watered some pines that have started the dying process. Wrote another column, filed both. Which brings us up to 1 PM.

About to pass out from excitement, eh? Gasping with delight from the depth & breadth of my insight? Well, I apologize, but I have two more columns to do, and I really, really want to get to bed before 1 AM for a change. Consider this a continuation of the low-voltage summer mode, if you like. New Quirk, three fine motels. See you tomorrow!