Magic Carpet Ride

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Shopping on Ambien reaps unexpected rewards

By Susan Braudy

Gentle reader, I’m a late night shopper. The computer’s a magic carpet that flies me to Osaka, Kyoto and other parts of the faraway country of Japan. I can almost hear Joe Weintraub snoring next to me as I journey. He’s thankfully unable to protest my taste in world-class designs, woven on antique silk kimono fabric. The patterned treasures I look at are “un-picked” from the kimonos by Japanese women who love the forest, Shibori and ocean wave patterns as much as I do.

It turns out that most Japanese don’t revere antique or vintage kimonos. So they are sold in the marketplace for small sums. My hardworking sellers painstakingly “unpick” seams and sell the fabric from them piece by piece—earning little for their labor.

I’ve been mixing and sewing kimono pieces into striking scarves for years. Most amazing of all is that people in the streets and on elevators compliment me on what I’ve created. I’ve even taken to selling them off my neck to strangers. What fun! I’m working up my courage to take them to a museum store.

Recently, I discovered a bizarre wrinkle to my shopping pleasure. Shopping on Ambien makes me a sort of an unconscious late-night shopper.

First, let me assure you, consciousness is an issue for me. Unconsciousness is too close to death. Hence the desire that I’ve had since I was a child to stay up later and later into the night.

But sometimes it’d be fun to be almost unconscious.

I work by day, as a writer who loves word rhythms, a-tonal sentences and pithy phrases beyond reason. Then, late at night, when I’ve no energy left, I avoid the darkness of sleep by switching to my second-favorite solitary activity—shopping. And on rare occasions I take half an Ambien beforehand. Shopping on Ambien turns out to be a trip: last month I was accused of criminal activity via email from Japan.

“Hello, I’m a seller of your bidding auctions… I know you are not bad buyer, but I hear complaining buyers because you bid thousand dollar bids and then you retract bid. Buyers ask are you trying to raise prices illegally with me.”

It seems that in my Ambien stupor I mistakenly made an opening bid of $25,000 for a unique, geometric pre-World War II piece of silk. I meant to start at $25. I realized my mistake (I’ve some recollection of this) and went to great lengths to withdraw the bid. In doing this I accidentally saw the highest bid of my competitor.

I made this mistake three times. Each time I withdrew my bid, these semi-
conscious maneuvers threw sellers and competing buyers into a tizzy. I was accused of cheating.

The air cleared after I made apologies all around.

But mostly the few times I’ve shopped on Ambien have ended up better than Christmas for me.

It adds the element of surprise—surprising myself. For example, 10 days ago I bought several silk pieces, including an antique 1930s navy ocean wave treasure that will make a perfect urban scarf. Because I’d slugged half an Ambien, I had no recollection of which pieces I’d won.

Within the following weeks, oddly-shaped packages arrived, lovingly packed by zealous strangers from Osaka. The most remarkable thing is that opening each package confounded me. Their contents were mysteries.

But, sure enough, they turned out to be wondrous designs on silk—the best gifts imaginable.

They’d been ordered by me and for me: “unpicked” pieces exquisitely tailored to my “picky” taste. 


Susan Braudy is the author and journalist whose last book, Family Circle: The Boudins and the Aristocracy of the Left, was nominated for a Pulitzer by publisher Alfred Knopf.

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