‘Tune’ In Tomorrow

Each Dawn I Die

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If you’re not humming it yet, you will be (Columbia Pictures)

I have this weird ‘waking-up’ quirk almost every morning. Some might say it’s a nice thing, but it can be irritating at times. Actually, more than irritating. I wake up with a song in my head. It’s very random and it can be anything from Bruce Springsteen to Glenn Miller.

This morning, for instance, it’s ‘Pennies from Heaven.’ I have no idea why and, no, I don’t think it’s necessarily a sign of anything, although it would be interesting if it was. I never sleep well — my mind goes on all night long and the dreams I had last night were not the kind you would associate with a song like that.

Now many would say that waking up with a song in your heart is a good thing. Unfortunately, this is a song in my head, and it stays there for hours, over and over again.

Every time it rains, it rains pennies from heaven
Don’t you know each cloud contains pennies from heaven?
You’ll find your fortune’s fallin’ all over the town
Be sure that your umbrella is upside down

Over and over and over. Round and round my head it spins.

Who is singing? No one. No, not Bing Crosby, nor Frank Sinatra. Just a generic vocalist, happily ramming the tune into my head like a hammer on an anvil.

Trade them for a package of sunshine and flowers
If you want the things you love, you’ve got to have showers . . .

After a while, I’ll try to break the spell by subbing contrary lyrics. ‘Pennies from Heaven,’ turns into ‘Nickels from Hell.’

Alas, it doesn’t work. The spell is too strong and will only leave me as the hours in the day pile up and some other tune invades my thoughts.

I’ve tried playing these morning reveries on YouTube to break the spell, but hearing the actual song only adds to the torture.

The worst songs are the catchy little ditties like ‘Pennies from Heaven.’ Think of a few other torture devices like ‘Don’t Worry, Be Happy,’ ‘Puttin’ on the Ritz,’ or the theme from Gilligan’s Island, which actually happened to me once. And everyone my age knows the entire theme, including the ending credit lyrics, by heart. Pure torture.

When I was a kid, I had a pretty strong obsessive-compulsive problem. I couldn’t sleep unless I performed a check of every corner of my bedroom, followed by an elaborate counting ritual. Although I tell people that I ‘white-knuckled’ my way out of that Hell around the age of 14, the compulsions just take other forms for the rest of one’s life.

The song thing, I think, is part of that. It’s like an earworm only it’s an . . . entire . . . song.

There’s a famous Mark Twain short story from 1876 about the author finding a bit of amusing doggerel about a conductor on a train punching various fare tickets. I read it in the eighth grade. At the risk of the reader hating me for life, here it is:

Conductor, when you receive a fare,
Punch in the presence of the passenjare!
A blue trip slip for an eight-cent fare,
A buff trip slip for a six-cent fare,
A pink trip slip for a three-cent fare,
Punch in the presence of the passenjare!


Punch, brothers! punch with care!
Punch in the presence of the passenjare!

Twain, as the narrator, finds the rhymes infectious, but it soon takes over his whole being and, in his words, leaves him “a tottering wreck.”

Then he meets a friend of his, a Reverend, who sees Twain is distressed. Asking what is bothering him, Twain repeats the poem, unburdening himself, while infecting the Reverend.

I won’t ruin the rest for you (although I may have already ruined your day by planting the diabolical seeds of two or more earworms in your consciousness) because the ending is really quite funny, and everyone deserves a good short story to start their day.

Really, you deserve it. As for me, I will, no doubt, be tortured with some new, perhaps obscure, tune tomorrow. For now, it’s:

So, when you hear it thunder, don’t run under a tree
There’ll be pennies from heaven for you and me. . .