Berger’s Burg: Willpower useless against three dreaded n’s of my life

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Addict: one who is addicted especially to a substance. — Merriam-Webster dictionary

Readers, three addictions snuck up on me over the years and before I realized it, all have become raging cravings I can no longer deny. With that said, I will let you in on a secret that I have suppressed these many years — not even Gloria knows. These uncontrollable, passionate and insatiable forces are encroaching more and more and affecting my personal life. I cannot seem to resist them no matter how hard I try. Coincidentally, all three compulsions begin with the letter “n.”

No, they are not neatness, noise or nudity. They are:

1. Nuts. Every fall, I am obliged to gather nuts with the single-mindedness of a backyard squirrel. I buy bags and bags, then settle down with the perfect trifecta: a Diet Coke, a newspaper and the nut du jour. This obsession began when I was young and my gateway drug was sunflower seeds. But they are labor-intensive, which is nature’s attempt at portion control.

I split mine with my teeth and amass a tiny pile. When I have about 25 unshelled seeds, I shove them all in my mouth at once. But do not try this at home because someone may get injured. And I never cheat by buying sunflower seeds already shelled. Never!

Another nut I die for is the pistachio, particularly the dyed red ones. But my fingers would be red for days and the rumor that the red dye causes cancer caused me to switch to the natural brown kind. Another warning is to never try to open a closed pistachio. It will defeat you every time. Instead, have an almond. I could talk about other nuts, such as pumpkin seeds — the crack cocaine of my existence — but you get my point. I am nuts about nuts.

2. Naps. I believe nature intended me to take one half-hour nap precisely at 2 p.m. and not a minute before or after every day, including weekends and holidays. I try to arrange my 2 p.m. addiction to coincide with my lunch hour while at work or a quiet place if I am away from home during my leisure time.

Some sleep mavens contend that nappers like me are borrowing from their normal evening sleep time. Nonsense! I observe that even after a full night’s sleep I am still compelled to nap at 2 p.m. Regrettably, society frowns on that, as do many bosses, so I do it on the sly.

To break this given, I tried to impose a little reverse psychology on myself by visiting a professional nap salon for people who had difficulty napping. If they could change my napping clock, I would be cured. They led me into a nap room for reflexology. Then I had to choose the kind of relaxing sounds I wanted to relax by: ocean waves, Chopin, medieval chants or the nap soundtrack (?).

I chose nature sounds and was swiftly placed onto a zero-gravity chair where I was tilted so far back my feet were raised above my head. It was supposed to make my heart work less hard and induce relaxation. The lights were turned low and a blanket was draped over me, but to no avail. I left the spa disappointed and went home. It was 2 p.m., so I took a nap.

3. Newspaper reading. This compulsion began when I was a boy during the time when the city had many daily morning, afternoon and evening newspapers and I read most of them. I love holding and feeling the pages in my hands and the crinkling sound they made as I turned the pages. I devoured the news, sports, editorials, letters sent by readers and, of course, my column quite often. When Gloria and I go on vacations, I run to purchase every newspaper available at that location.

Often, when I needed an immediate fix, after I had read all the city dailies, I would go to the Long Island Rail Road Bayside station to read the thrown-away Long Island newspapers left on the seats. On one bad day, I even visited a paper-recycling bin to go through the bundles of discarded newspapers for previously dated editions I had not read.

I do not merely read newspapers. I get into them every day like my hot bath, but being a voracious newspaper reader like me is not pleasant. It is comparable to a man who gets married to a nymphomaniac and after he does it has got to do it again and again and so on and so forth.

Nuts, naps, newspapers! ’Nuff said!

Contact Alex Berger at

Updated 6:08 pm, October 10, 2011
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