Interview: Josh Lubin’s Obsession

Editor Matty Byloos, Interview, December 10th, 2015

"Sleep is a scam. Like Valentine’s Day, it's an invented holiday."

dana stirling photography



NAILED MAGAZINE: Have you ever been so obsessed with something that it made serious problems for you in life?

JOSH LUBIN: I’m in my 40s now, and I can never sleep until after dawn. At 3am I’m home from work. Watch TV. Think about reading. Think about writing. Think about a lot of things; the witty retort that never happened, poker hands I’ll never have, and all the testaments made at my funeral by all of my future x-girlfriends. “He was such a good lover, wasn’t he?” Then I masturbate. Now I need to do laundry…

In my early teens I was always running from something. I always found myself in the strangest of places: on the road, in the backseats of abandoned cars, and in empty train stations, waiting for the dawn. Night time was always the best time to run. What a clever boy I was. No sleep.

At 4am I begin the bargaining. “Now,” I think to myself, “If I lie down soon and clear my mind like Buddha on the nod, if I breathe in through my nose and out of my mouth, if I count the sexiest of sheep, then I will become the big adios and dream.” If only…

In my late teens I worked in night clubs and at rave parties, the places where the night begins at 3am. At 10am, it was the time to go and work the after-party, skipping down a yellow-bricked road lined with Dexedrine. I have no idea how I survived into my 20s. No sleep.

At 5am I eat. Between bite and chew I pause and listen to the hum of that distant, mysterious machine. Someone is always trying to tell me something. I stare at a pile of dirty socks and little bursts of light pulse an urgent message in Morse code: S.O.S. I should have done my laundry…

In my 20s I met a woman who was strung-out on heroin. I fell in love with both of them. A junkie is a restless, sleepless animal. Nighttime for a junkie is prime time to walk the streets looking for a fix, for county jail kicks, and wandering the halls of the detox clinics. Cold turkey was the cleanse, but I never took the cure. I have no idea how I survived into my 30s. No sleep.

At 6am I’m listening to KMHD. Mid Century Miles Davis be-bop flutters around my bedroom and I’m buzzing like a bee. Dawn is the enemy. Dawn is the smartest man that rises from the far corner of the world every morning and says, “You did it again, you stupid motherfucker.”

In my 30s I drank whiskey, shot more junk, and popped Xanax like Tic Tacs. And there were hospital stays and psych ward vacations. And there were the cold, cement floors of drunk tanks. And I used to call my sister on the down side of a half gallon of rot-gut every morning, tell her I was going to expatriate, then ask, “Do you think the French make good whiskey?” I have no idea how I survived into my 40s. No sleep.

I’m in my 40s now, and though I’m sober, I can never sleep until long after the dawn. I take enough sleeping pills to put down a horse. I have always obsessed over sleep, or my lack of it. I move throughout my day at half-speed, living in a constant state of half-wake.

As soon as it gets dark I’m up. My brain becomes a carnival barker; a tilt-a-whirl on tilt, spinning off its axis. At 7am I’m staring at the cracks in the ceiling while normal people are up with rosy cheeks, brushing their teeth. I don’t know how they do it; I don’t know how normal people sleep.

But sleep is a scam. It’s like Valentine’s Day; it’s an invented holiday. It was dreamt up by the people who make stupid things like instant coffee and alarm clocks. It’s a scam. That’s what I keep telling myself.

But there’s a tick-tock to this world I can’t kick, so I just lay there at first light and wonder: “Is sport-fucking another form of love? When will I be dealt those aces? What am I running from? And really, do the French make good whiskey?”

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If you enjoyed this piece on obsession, then you might also like “#2: Sean Davis” which you can read here.

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josh lubin portlandJosh Lubin is a writer living in Portland, Oregon. He is the host and curator of the weekly performance series Salon Skid Row, held every Tuesday night at The Corner Bar in downtown PDX. His work has appeared in several chapbooks, online and in print, including Criminal Class Press.

Header image courtesy of Dana Stirling.


Matty Byloos

Matty Byloos is Co-Publisher and a Contributing Editor for NAILED. He was born 7 days after his older twin brother, Kevin Byloos. He is the author of 2 books, including the novel in stories, ROPE ('14 SDP), and the collection of short stories, Don't Smell the Floss ('09 Write Bloody Books).