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ralph robert moore


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ralph robert moore

Copyright © 2011 by Ralph Robert Moore.

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better living through water vapor
march 1, 2011

I had two terrifying nightmares in a row Saturday night, February 19.

The past few years, I woke each morning with no knowledge of what I had dreamed during the night. Maybe I was waking up at the wrong intervals, too far past the most recent REM, or maybe it was something else.

But a couple of months ago, I started once more remembering my dreams.

I was impressed, as I had been years earlier, with how many unnecessary details there are in my dreams.

I'm sitting outdoors, somewhere vague, America or Canada, overcast sky but plenty of sunlight on the sidewalk in front of me, turning the sidewalk's beige rectangles banana, typical dream contradiction, and there'd be a book on a nearby abandoned table. I open it. It's about collecting Cloisonné, or how to propagate irises, or a biography of the movie director John Farrow with a comprehensive filmography, subjects I have no interest in, in waking life (I had to go to IMDB to find out who John Farrow was, a bit rattled to discover he was a real person.)

The books are, essentially, props. Mere set dressing for the main action of a dream. I don't know if I'm even meant to look inside them. They could just be carved out of wood. But looking inside them, I am stunned (realizing at this point I am dreaming) at the extraordinary amount of information in the books. I take time in my dream to flip through page after page, reading long paragraphs, unsettled by all this precise information. The tables, the footnotes, the photographs.

Why is there this amount of unnecessary detail in my dreams?

Anyway, I was enjoying this mystery, but then, that Saturday night, I had two horrible nightmares.

They were similar.

In the first, I woke up, eyes still shut, and realized there was someone else in the bedroom, besides Mary and me.

He was standing by my side of the bed.

I woke with my head turned to the left, which meant I was facing him. Although with my eyes closed.

I could sense his physical presence right next to me, looking down at me.

I kept my eyes shut. Pretended to still be asleep. Very carefully, I slid the back of my foot under the covers, to make sure Mary was still there in bed with me, and safe.

She was.

I was terrified. I could tell he was leaning over, examining me, to see if I were really asleep.

I popped my eyes open, heart beating fast. He wasn't there.

Still lying in bed, I raised my head to look around our bedroom.

Didn't see anyone.

Well, if there were a real person in our bedroom, I reasoned they couldn't possibly disappear that quickly. It had to have been a dream, even though it felt so vivid, to where, under the blankets, I could feel the weight of my wedding ring on my left ring finger.

A little shaky, I rolled over in bed so I was facing inwards, towards Mary.

Started falling asleep again.

The man came back. My spine could tingle-sense his presence.

This time, he seemed to doubt I was really asleep. I felt the covers get gently pulled off my shoulder.

Felt his finger touch the curve of my ear.

I opened my eyes.


But the physical experience was so vivid I knew I couldn't get back to sleep.

As it happened, Mary woke up. Got out of bed to use the bathroom.

While she was in there, and I know this sounds absurd, I went throughout the entire house, downstairs and upstairs, checking the locks on doors and windows, looking into closets and shower stalls, behind desks and sofas.


I got back in bed before Mary returned. I'd tell her about this in the morning, but I didn't want to tell her in the middle of the night, for fear it'd spook her out.

As we were both settled back under the covers, it occurred to me the one place in the house I hadn't checked was under our bed. But again, I knew, realistically, there was no way anyone could get under our bed that quickly.

Exhausted, I laid my head back against my pillow, and actually got several hours of deep sleep.

The next morning, while Mary was still snoozing, I went upstairs to my office, got online, and Googled 'wakeful nightmares.'

That led me to 'sleep paralysis.'

From Wikipedia:

Physiologically, sleep paralysis is closely related to REM atonia, the paralysis that occurs as a natural part of REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. Sleep paralysis occurs either when falling asleep, or when awakening. When it occurs upon falling asleep, the person remains aware while the body shuts down for REM sleep, and it is called hypnagocic or predormital sleep paralysis. When it occurs upon awakening, the person becomes aware before the REM cycle is complete, and it is called hypnopompic or postdormital. The paralysis can last from several seconds to several minutes, during which the individual may experience panic symptoms.

In addition, the paralysis may be accompanied by terrifying hallucinations (hypnopompic or hypnagogic) and an acute sense of danger. Sleep paralysis is particularly frightening to the individual because of the vividness of such hallucinations. The hallucinatory element to sleep paralysis makes it even more likely that someone will interpret the experience as a dream, since completely fanciful or dream-like objects may appear in the room alongside one's normal vision.

The phenomenon is fairly common.

Several studies have concluded that many or most people experience sleep paralysis at least once or twice in their lives. A study conducted by Sedaghat F. et al. has investigated the prevalence of sleep paralysis among Iranian medical students. 24.1% of students reported experiencing sleep paralysis at least once in their lifetime. The same result was reported among Japanese, Nigerian, Kuwaiti, Sudanese and American students.

Which brings us to the Old Hag.

In The Terror That Comes in the Night, folklorist and behavioral scientist David J. Hufford argues that sleep paralysis is related to an anomalous experience known in Newfoundland as "the Old Hag." According to Hufford, the Old Hag is "an experiencewhich is widespread, dramatic, realistic, and bizarre," and elements of the phenomenon cannot be fully explained either by psychology or culture. His works have explored the connection between the Old Hag and parapsychology in what he labels the "experience-centered approach" to hauntings.

Cultures around the world have attributed the experience of sleep paralysis to the presence of an old hag or a goblin or a succubus climbing atop the sleeper. In Iceland, the demon is called Mara (from which we get the term Nightmare.) As far away as Greece, the demon has a disturbingly similar name, Mora.

In some cultures, the demon is believed to start eating the body of the sleeper.

Most cultures associate the experience with a feeling of weight on the sleeper's body, with a subsequent difficulty breathing, which I didn't experience.

I understand the physiological state of being half awake, half asleep, and therefore momentarily paralyzed. That makes sense. But what I have trouble understanding is why that state would so consistently manifest a threatening presence in the bedroom.

What gives?

Mary has not smoked since her stroke in 2002.

But she tells me that in her dreams, she still smokes.

I've smoked since I was a teenager. I never smoked in high school, even though so many other kids smoked in the yellow school bus hauling us to classes each day my clothes always smelled of cigarettes.

I actually didn't start smoking until I dropped out of high school the first week of my senior year, and got a job in New York City at Brooks Brothers on Madison Avenue.

There was a lot of downtime, waiting mid-morning for a customer to get off the elevator on the sixth floor. Most of the salesmen, and call desk clerks like myself (I was seventeen) would hang around the men's room, killing time. Everyone there smoked, so after a while, I tried it myself. And loved it.

I don't remember the first cigarette I ever smoked, or who gave it to me, although I probably coughed quite a bit, any more than I remember the first time I pushed through the double glass doors of a nearby restaurant, all by my lonesome in Manhattan, for lunch or dinner, and on the way to the counter put a dime and a quarter in the vending machine, pushed down a plastic piano key with a cigarette's reduced logo encased in that key, and purchased my first package of smokes.

That would have been around 1968 or 1969. I've smoked ever since.

Mary and I were watching The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills on Bravo about two months ago. The episode was called The Dinner Party From Hell.

In it, a housewife (who was married to Kelsey Grammar, who was off in New York appearing in a play on Broadway), invited over a number of other housewives for a peace-making dinner (she was having an on-going feud with one of the housewives who, she believed, had insulted her.)

Also at the dinner party was Allison Dubois, a medium who's often consulted by different police departments in the United States to help solve murders (her story has led to a TV series, Medium, in which she's portrayed by Patricia Arquette.)

Amid all the bitchiness at the dinner party, at one point Dubois pulled out an E-cigarette, also known as an electronic cigarette. I was intrigued. That evening, I went on the Internet, to do a search.

E-cigarettes consist of two components, both made of metal. There's the white cylinder of the cigarette, which houses a battery. And there's the yellow filter of the cigarette, which is an atomizer holding nicotine extract in a small glass vial.

The end of the filter has a small hole. You place the filter end of the cigarette in your mouth, inhale as you would a regular cigarette, and the battery atomizes the nicotine extract into the water vapor produced by the battery. You inhale the nicotine-infused water vapor into your mouth.

The difference is there's no smoke involved (only water vapor.) So you're not inhaling smoke, or tar.

Unlike a regular cigarette, you have to pull on the filter a couple of times to get the inhalation going, but other than that, it's remarkably similar to the smoking experience. You get the same back of the throat sensation of nicotine entering your mouth, and the same pick-me-up from the nicotine.

I was skeptical at first, but I have to say, I love them.

The E-cigarettes cost about one-quarter of the cost of 'real', or 'analog', cigarettes.

What I'm doing right now is smoking real cigarettes in the early morning, when I go upstairs to check my emails. When I come downstairs, I switch to the E-cigarettes. I switch back to real cigarettes when I work upstairs mid-day, then return to E-cigarettes when I come back down. When we go upstairs in the late afternoon to project, I smoke cigarettes again, but when we come back downstairs to eat dinner, I switch to the E-cigarettes.

So the only room in the house where I smoke tobacco cigarettes now is in my upstairs office. I smoke the E-cigarettes downstairs, and in our car. The rooms smell so much sweeter, and I no longer cough the way I used to.

I think they're great. And because they can't be taxed the way cigarettes are (they contain no tobacco), they're a real cost savings as well.

The brand of E-cigarettes I use is Green Smokes.

The Video Lately this month showcases three more skits from the self-produced movie Mary and I did in 1987, The Rob and Mary Show - The Movie. Featured this time are "Oral Roberts Moore", "Shady Tile Salesman", and "Fritz and Fritzalena." Although they're somewhat dated, and the video quality is not the best (it's a VHS transfer), I hope you enjoy them. We had a lot of fun doing them.