The Project

I have chosen to metaphorically put myself asleep to all news, weather, sports, and entertainment from the stroke of midnight Sept. 11, 2010 until the arrival of Sept. 11, 2011.

In honor of my literary antecedent, who in the famous story by Washington Irving lay down beneath a tree in the woods for a full 20 years, I have coined a verb to describe my current condition.

I’ve been Van Winkled.

Since I have not completely disappeared like old Rip, I am depending on cooperation from family and friends and colleagues. They have agreed to help me avoid spoilers and each day take me as seriously as John Lennon making his plea on Track 3 of Revolver:

           Please don't wake me,
           no don't shake me.
           Leave me where I am.
           I'm only sleeping.


Complete and Total Ignorance

If something happens on this planet, my goal is to not know about it. This includes natural disasters:
  • Floods
  • Droughts
  • Hurricanes
  • Tornadoes
  • Earthquakes
  • Volcanic eruptions
  • Famines
  • Epidemics and pandemics

I also will not have any inkling if there has been a man-made disaster or tragic happening:
  • Airplane crashes
  • Train derailments
  • Freeway pileups
  • Factory explosions
  • Fires
  • Terrorist attacks
  • Shootings, murders and kidnappings
  • Riots
  • Wars (declared and undeclared)
  • Oil spills

My information blackout, of course, precludes my knowing:
  • Results of the mid-term elections on Nov. 2
  • If the economy slips into a dreaded "double-dip" recession
  • How the NFL or NBA seasons progress, who makes the playoffs, who wins the Super Bowl or the NBA championship
  • Whether Tiger Woods gets his game back

As far as entertainment goes I will have no idea of:
  • What new movies come out
  • What new shows become hits on TV
  • Who the next pop star or band everyone is buzzing about is
  • What noteworthy books have been published

I will also be blind to and ignorant of the introduction of new products and their reception such as:
  • iPad v. 2
  • Chevy Volt
  • Affordable 3D television sets

On a more sobering note, I won’t know about:
  • Famous people who are splitsville, enter rehab, or simply die of causes natural or unnatural

Special Exceptions: Local and Personal

It will be all right for me to be “awake” to what’s happening in my own front yard and neighborhood and among those people I personally know, whether they live nearby or not. For example...

I'll want to stay in close touch with my 85-year old father who lives 350 miles away. In August he had a bad fall and had to begin physical therapy.

Any friend who is ill or suffering in some fashion is something I'll want to know about.

Should there be a severe thunderstorm or tornado headed my way (often a possibility in these parts), somebody please tell me!

And how my son is doing at school and my wife’s life at work will remain topics that are avidly discussed at the dinner table each night.

Two Things I'm Interested In

1 - How I feel while I’m "asleep"

Does a state of not knowing have a calming effect? Do emotions swing the other way so that I start to go crazy with curiosity? In the absence of facts and information, am I able to read clues as to what as to what has happened in people’s behavior or from a subtle but detectable buzz in the air? Do I suddenly have extra time on my hands and, if so, what does one do with it?

2 - What it might feel like to "wake up"

When my wife and son present me with oral evidence as well as textual (newspapers, magazines, web saves) of what has happened during the past year will I be amazed? Appalled? Will I really try to catch up on all or most of the news? Or will it be better to let those months in 2010-2011 rest in peace, the equivalent of a 365-day "lost weekend"?