Nocturnal Newkirk

Insomnia is no longer a problem for me. This isn’t to say I sleep through the night. I’m old, which means I invariably need to get up to pee, often more than once. When I’m done and crawl back into bed, the amount of time it takes to fall back to sleep varies. Sometimes it’s a couple of minutes, sometimes a couple of hours. There’s really no way to tell.

The reason this isn’t a problem is that sleeplessness is budgeted into my schedule. I go to bed a little after eight and my alarm doesn’t go off until six. That leaves me plenty of time to fall down the IMDB/Wikipedia rabbit hole or stare at the ceiling and lament every stupid thing I have ever done or said.

I can also spend the time planning my future and have found that bedtime is well-suited to do just that. With the progression of autumn bringing temperatures down to what passes for winter in California, the heap of blankets creates a fortress against the entire outside world. There I can plot out what to do with my remaining years, with the ultimate goal of stepping off this planet with a passing grade.

“Let’s have five years on the clock,” says a version of Richard Dawson that lives inside my head. What he’s saying is that I’m 60 and will retire at 65 so I have five years to come up with a game plan. My latest refrain is “Life begins at retirement.” Being in the workforce serves as a sort of deferment.

When I say game plan, I mean it is all a game so it follows the person in charge would be a game-show host. For me, Richard Dawson is the most iconic person in that role. All those years of watching “Family Feud” cemented that in my head. Gene Rayburn, Monty Hall, and even Alex Trebec pale by comparison.

Not just any Richard Dawson will do. “Feud” Dawson has the requisite smarm and look (love that three-piece), but he’s too nice to be taken seriously. I want him to be a little more malevolent, but not as bad as his character in The Running Man. That Richard Dawson simply cannot be trusted.

The best of both worlds would be Corporal Newkirk from “Hogan’s Heroes.” Though Newkirk never hosted a game show during the series’ six-year run, he did understand that a little cutting corners and sleight of hand was often necessary to get the job done. A Dawson like that would inspire me, my own lack of guile and clumsiness notwithstanding.

But how would he inspire me exactly. What possible way could his example transform me from couch potato to the AARP version of a high achiever? I usually drift off before an answer presents itself.

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