Naked, Drunk, and Very Tired
What I learned from trying to live like a genius
It’s 6 o’clock in the morning, and my privates are the temperature and color of a blue raspberry snow cone.
I’m sitting on a deck chair on my open-air back porch, which overlooks an alley and half a dozen houses. It’s November in Chicago and the weather is a nippy 24 degrees. On any other day, I wouldn’t even consider walking outside without a down jacket and mittens, or at the very least pants. But today, I’m wearing shoes. Just shoes.
I cross my legs in case a neighbor happens to glance out the window. The wind is slicing into my frightened, exposed flesh. I’ve only been sitting out here for 20 minutes, but hypothermia feels like a very real possibility.
I try to distract myself with my notebook and pen. I’m not just some masochistic nudist wondering how quickly genital frostbite sets in. I’m here with a mission. I’m trying to find out if acting like Benjamin Franklin can make me think like Benjamin Franklin.
Franklin was unquestionably a genius, not just as a politician and diplomat — he helped draft the Declaration of Independence — but as an inventor, writer, and deep thinker. He gave the world lightning rods, bifocal lenses, and political cartoons. He founded the University of Pennsylvania, established our country’s first post office and lending library, and still had time to be, as Time magazine called him, a “babe magnet.”
He also thought he was at his most productive when naked and cold. Franklin would begin a typical working day by sitting in his chamber, next to an open first floor window “without any clothes whatever,” he wrote to a friend in 1768, “half an hour or an hour, according to the season, either reading or writing.” Who knows what ideas came to him during those morning “air baths,” as he exposed his shriveled, frosty man bits to the world?
What if I followed in the footsteps of geniuses, forcing myself out of my usual routines? Might I become the next Ben Franklin?
Franklin wasn’t the only brilliant mind with some bizarre work habits. Composer Igor Stravinsky stood on his head for fifteen minutes each morning to…