Archive for Dream Academy

Next exit, dystopia

Exactly one factor keeps this from being a proper nightmare: the fact that it began in broad daylight.

Please note that this unhappy experience was experienced without benefit of Ambien.

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Permanent adaptation

Despite my ongoing despair, it may be that at some level, I have actually refused to accept the possibility that I will never walk again unassisted. How do I know this? It came to me in a dream.

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Technicolor at two-thirty

I believe the answer to this question is Yes:

I’ve seen it posited that intelligent people have more memorable dreams, or they remember them more. I wonder if people with good memories — I know I have a freakishly good memory — have those kind of “sort-and-put-in-a-storage-unit” type dreams about stuff like I do, where there’s all kinds of crazy images and stuff thrown in, and a lot of them are traceable to what was experienced in previous days?

My own memory falls a couple of bits short of “freakishly good” — one of the reasons I put up so much stuff here is to document things I may someday forget — but my dreams tend to have preposterous levels of detail, though the particulars generally fade fairly quickly once I’m out of bed.

Then again, this one will likely stay with me forever.

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Winter is coming

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Prison 2.0

And I told myself, “This is not my beautiful house!” And it wasn’t. Oh, it looked about the same, but things were just somehow out of place. Worst of all, my beautiful daughter, all of six, suddenly seemed to be about fourteen, without changing size or appearance: she just had Different Concerns all of a sudden. Then she went away for a while, and I poked into corners. Stuff I’d forgotten began to appear, but it wasn’t the way I’d originally remembered it: posters the wrong color, address books full of people I did not know.

What used to be the corner I rounded to exit to the garage had somehow turned into a work area, and Eric Holder was waiting behind it. “Ah, you have completed your disorientation.”

“Did anyone ever tell you you look exactly like Eric Holder?”

“Like who?” He proffered a questionnaire. “Answer these to the best of your ability.”

All the questions were absurdly simple, so it seemed impossible to me that I’d come up with a failing score. “One last test,” said Holder-who-wasn’t. “Which of these two names identifies your father?”

I looked. The second one was closer to correct, though the middle initial was wrong. A couple of holograms appeared beside me, and the one resembling Dad said, “The name is Miller.”

Of course it wasn’t Miller, and never had been. Didn’t matter, apparently. I was given a list of Expected Punishments, and then a young woman in uniform, sort of a three-quarter-scale Rebel Wilson with a permanent scowl, escorted me through the door to God knows what.

There were several way-stations in this weird new environment, one of which was apparently intended to test my susceptibility to food allergies. All the stuff they were passing off as “food” was some sort of tofu in geometric shapes; some of it looked like Tetris pieces. I rounded a corner, was handed what appeared to be a shaving kit and a shower cap, and did what I could in the way of ablutions before a second escort came to take me to the Sleeping Room.

They assigned me a space on the 48th row, out of a possible 49. On offer: something resembling a hospital gown, more food-like substances, and a length of twine. Apparently if I were to drop anything, I would have to lasso it back into my possession. A couple of loud, boisterous guys in business suits took up a position just to my east and began to trade stories about whatever business they were in; the management made a perfunctory attempt to remove them, then apparently gave up. A very tall teenager — think Jeremy from Zits — engaged them in conversation. I concluded that these people were placed there deliberately, to remind us of what was taken away. And after a couple of slices of scarlet-colored sponge, I retired for the night.

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Side A

Well, she was just seventeen — you know what I mean? — and she and her BFF, who happened to be my daughter, were busily rousing me from my usual fitful slumber. From a chronological-consistency standpoint, this dream was clearly a disaster, since my daughter is actually thirty-six, and there would be further anachronisms, though I wasn’t awake enough to evaluate them.

Now teenagers don’t approach you unless they Want Something, and this unnamed blonde evidently did. While daughter beat a hasty retreat to wherever it is she retreats to, the request was made. Apparently the young lady had been to Record Store Day and had come away with an actual 45-rpm single by a currently popular teen act. Now when I was seventeen, the last thing in the world a seventeen-year-old wanted to listen to was a currently popular teen act, but then I am old and still devoted to that sort of thing, and I recognized the performer, though not the song itself.

“Most people your age,” I said, “don’t even have turntables.”

“I don’t either.” Oh. “I was hoping you could process this for me.”

I smiled. “You know, you could have just downloaded this. Probably would have saved you a buck.”

“Yeah, but everybody downloads. And then they lose it or forget where they saved it or accidentally erase it.” She had a perfectly valid point, I decided. And so the plan was hatched: I would play back the single on my own turntable and rip it to an MP3 file, but during the playback process I would simultaneously copy that track to a format even more obsolete than vinyl: an audio cassette. And if this gave the girl brief bragging rights, hey, that sort of thing matters at that age.

At my age, being able to show off matters, so I took her to the Audio Room, festooned with ancient equipment, including a vintage-Seventies open-reel deck, a semi-automatic turntable — you set the arm manually, but it retracts at the end of the side — and stacks and stacks of wax. In between explaining all the components — for all I knew, this might have looked like Dr. Frankenstein’s laboratory to her — I attempted to keep up my end of a discussion of the current Top 40.

At one point, I said: “Isn’t it about time Rebecca Black put out a new record?”

She was dismissive. “I haven’t paid any attention to her since ‘Sunday Morning’ came out.” Disappointed, I guess.

Then came a snag or two. For some reason, the turntable that couldn’t autoplay was trying to autoplay, even before I’d slapped the disc on the platter. And for the life of me, I couldn’t find a single blank cassette in the place, and I knew I had a dozen or two stashed away somewhere.

Her phone rang. “I’ll just be a minute.”

I’d heard that before.

Now admittedly everything had been moved around since my recent illness, but how do you hide a case (24 count) of blank tape with humongous logos on every surface? It was, of course, in the last place I looked; I selected a TDK 60-minute tape in the “HD” series, which I seem to recall was a Type II.

After that, things wound up approximately the way they should have, though a pain in my shoulder woke me up before I could see the finale. The price I pay, I suppose, for crashing between work and dinnertime.

In real life, daughter had actually had a blonde bestie in those days, though this one did not call her to mind: the Dream Object looked sort of like a vertically compressed Reese Witherspoon, though the resemblance disappeared below the ankle.

And dammit, when’s the new Rebecca Black single?

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The uncreative process

[Dream sequence, 30 October 2014]

Third-world hellholes conform to no specification but one: for the well-to-do, they aren’t particularly hellish. So when I found myself a guest of The Only Really Nice Hotel In Town — “four stars,” said the guy down the street who sells Michelin tires — I had to wonder why, since I’m about as patrician as dirt, and not the fertile, loamy stuff for which you pay extra at the nursery either. Still, everyone seemed to know my name, and there was this one twelve-year-old girl who fancied herself in love with me, something that never happened when I was twelve, you may be absolutely certain.

It was difficult finding all my personal effects, which seemed to be scattered among several cubbyholes on the ground floor, though my car was neatly garaged. Weirdly, they had room for exactly four cars, though TORNHIT boasted nearly a hundred rooms. Everyone was just as deferential as they could possibly be, and I was growing increasingly puzzled when a lanky lad, I guessed twentyish, offered to show me something of considerable interest.

So we walked along the not-quite-ruined avenue, and within a couple of blocks we’d come upon an old-style record store: they had CDs of some current stuff along one wall, but the big draw was good old fashioned vinyl.

“Isn’t this great?” said the kid, gesturing toward a different wall.

I stared in disbelief. The titles were extracted from my old mix tapes, the artwork was similar if a tad jazzed up, and the biggest print on the jacket was reserved for my name. Despite my debatable command of the local language, I could make out the ad pitch: Own Them All! At least fifteen different titles were on display, and a few more were in a rack on an adjacent corner. We’re talking gatefold packages, 180-gram vinyl, the works.

“Of course, you have all these already,” said the kid.

I nodded. “Of course.”

The store owner saw us, rushed to our side, and some electronic device somewhere began serving up a track from the newest release. It didn’t sound like anything I’d ever heard before, let alone actually assembled. It was jagged, yet somehow mellow; it was scary fast, but somehow soothing. (Closest equivalent in the “real” world: a Taylor Swift cover of Lou Reed’s Metal Machine Music.) “It’s the best thing you’ve ever done!” said the storekeeper, not softly enough; in a matter of seconds we were mobbed.

When we got back to TORNHIT, a small number of fans had gathered to get my autograph on their copies of “my” records. Why they hadn’t done this at the store, I don’t know: inadequate planning, perhaps. Still, it was entertaining to interact with the fans, though I had to fake my way through a lot of answers that I simply didn’t know.

And then came dinnertime, and I discovered that I had misplaced — or that someone had appropriated — my white dinner jacket. “They’ll never know the difference,” I persuaded myself, and if indeed they did, well, they didn’t say a word.

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Spread too thin

I tend to pay no attention to my dreams unless they’re really off the wall. But what if one of them might be trying to tell me something?

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And some gave all

Still they come, the dreams, brief glimpses of what might have been.

The war had been going on, we knew — they hadn’t told us, since it wasn’t “critical to the mission” — for nearly seventeen (“officially,” eleven) years. For all we knew, it had eleven or even seventeen years left to run, and if you were eighteen, as I was, that was close enough to eternity to bring you up short. None of us, cringing in our marginally awake state at 0430, knew what to expect: all we knew was that some of us would be sent to the front, and not all of us would come back.

But first, there was training. Lots of it. We learned some possibly useful skills — my own company proved to be particularly ingenious in dealing with the recapture of escaped partisans, and if I did indeed throw like a girl, only seven of my sixty test grenades failed to hit the target — and we learned to hurry up and wait, to stand there awaiting orders, and to not waste time thinking when those orders were given.

And then it was all done and new orders were cut and eventually I was sent to the other side of the world, where it was probably unlikely that I would be shot at, but it didn’t make any difference in the grand scheme of things: there was a mission, and I would be doing my level best to make sure of the success of the mission, Sir.

It’s forty years later and I still think about the ones who didn’t come back. They had faces, they had names, and several of them, I am told, drew resting places as near to nowhere as can exist on this planet. I grin when I think of some of the gallows humor produced in the wake of the war:

Six Phases of a Military Operation

    1. Enthusiasm.
    2. Disillusionment.
    3. Panic.
    4. Search for the guilty.
    5. Punishment of the innocent.
    6. Praise and honor for the non participant.

And then the grin vanishes, erased by the knowledge that the humor only barely concealed the truth of the matter.

It could have been me. The luck of the draw, the whim of the Almighty, whatever, it could have just as easily gone the other way. I’m not sure which bothers me more: the fact that we lost so many, or the fear that we won’t be able to mobilize anyone if something serious should happen.

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Enter the caretakers

It’s been a while since I put a dream sequence up here, but then it’s been a while since I had one worth remembering — especially since this one was a product of Saturday-night insomnia.

Anyone who’s kicked an automobile tire knows precisely the amount of give the tire is supposed to provide: zero. The same applies to bicycles, but bike tires are hard to kick, being narrow and all, so the usual expedient is to give it a pinch. Upon finding a definite deficit of air pressure in the front, I decided I’d chance it for the first mile or so, and then push it the rest of the way. The bike, of course, handled like a raccoon on an ice floe, so it wasn’t too long before I dismounted. When the rain started, I ducked into a convenience store, which was probably rude of me since I was still carrying the bike; I made it most of the way down the main aisle before I passed out.

I awoke to find no sign of either the bicycle or my clothing; apparently I had died and was in some celestial Fort Dix awaiting Final Orders. They had issued me something tunic-y, about a hospital gown and a half, with just enough material to cover my back bumper but nowhere near enough to keep me warm. A staffer speaking some sort of mutant Esperanto, of which I comprehended maybe every sixth word, bade me accompany him, and after about four and a half changes in direction he left me in some sort of dorm room with three beds narrower than twin size and two occupants, one a guy who looked like he’d just been told he wasn’t getting the Glengarry leads, the other a girl who might make a nice hippie chick once she grew up. Neither of them acknowledged my arrival: the guy was watching whatever was on the television, and the girl was half-asleep.

Some unknown amount of time later, another lackey popped in, this time bearing a tray full of tiny wood splints. Both my roommates groaned in classic “This again?” fashion. The lackey brought me a couple of them and gestured toward my face. “Did I ask for toothpicks?” I thought, but didn’t say. The girl was fumbling with hers; the lackey attempted to show her how to use the tool, and it appeared to me that this was intended as some sort of gum-cleaning device: the absence of curtain pulls, shoestrings, and the like told me that whoever our keepers were, they weren’t likely to trust us with floss. I obediently began tracing the appropriate area; the lackey gave out with a smile, probably programmed, and in a burst of syllables urged the girl to follow my example. She did so, and in so doing earned another smile from the lackey, who then turned his attentions to the old guy. (He probably wasn’t older than I am, really, but I wasn’t, at this time, as old as I am usually.)

I’d slept for several hours when yet another minion showed up: apparently the girl and I had earned a trip outdoors. And “outdoors” looked like what Le Corbusier might have thought a Turkish bazaar ought to look like: it was disorganized, but it was neatly disorganized for most of its two-block length. Nothing looked at all familiar; apparently that convenience store, and my bicycle, were far, far away.

Apparently I would be allowed some quantity of goodies from the bazaar, but none of them looked particularly interesting: a double-sized thimble, various puzzle boxes, what looked like a Super Ball. I was about to check the ball for Superness when someone’s failure to negotiate the ice on the corner of my street woke me up.

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Waiting at the gate

“Zombie fop” Terry McAuliffe is running for Governor of Virginia, and since his main talents are fund-raising and fund-shrinking, not necessarily in that order, Smitty doesn’t think he has much of a chance against Ken Cuccinelli.

Of course, I had this bozo’s number back in ought-four, and in a dream sequence no less:

Sunrise on the prairie. I’m awake for once, and I have time to kill, and as the fellow spins around with my breakfast, the little bell in the back of my head emits the faintest hint of a tinkle, reminding me that I shouldn’t have had the large orange juice.

And then it hits me: “Don’t I know you from somewhere?”

“I’m sure you don’t,” he says, and turns away.

The girl from the checkout counter catches him in mid-turn. “Terry, I can’t read this. Is this the short stack or the full stack? You didn’t write down the price.”

I looked at him again. “Aren’t you Terry McAuliffe?”

No response.

“I know I’ve seen you on the news. Terry McAuliffe. Head of the Democratic National Committee all those years. What in the world are you doing slinging hash in Snake’s Navel, Kansas, fercrissake?”

His voice dropped to a whisper. “Not so loud.”

“It is you, isn’t it?”

“That goddamn John Kerry,” he said. “I worked my ass off to keep him within reach for the whole year, and in the last week he pissed it all away. Didn’t get the electoral vote, didn’t get the popular vote, didn’t get squat. We damn near lost Connecticut. Somebody had to take the blame.”

He didn’t say anything more, and I wasn’t about to ask. Besides, the eggs were runny.

And no, I’m not expecting any invitations to breakfast in Richmond.

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Sleeper awakes

A look at some of some of the stuff my dreams are made of, and also some ingredients that were left out of the mix.

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London calling (collect)

Another odd little dream sequence, which perhaps someone can parse. I’m still perplexed by it.

I’d been separated from a tour group somehow, and was wandering around loose on foot in some of London’s less-tony northern districts, though the journey was pleasant, and there were always people to talk to.

And then a series of wrong turns led me back to our West End hotel, where the lifts were out of operation. I headed for the stairs, where a repairman was attempting to reposition a rung — several inches above where I thought it ought to be. “Bloody regulations,” he muttered. I said something to the effect that we had such back home.

Dinner was underway. My daughter was unwrapping her dish; a former crush and her current boyfriend were at the other end of the table. Since the last time I’d seen her, she’d apparently learned how to pass through solid objects: she appeared to be embedded in the table somehow. I opened a box with my name on it and found a rather curious-looking vegetarian dish: the actual vegetables were not identified, though the stuff looked like, and tasted like, shavings from green and orange Lego blocks. It proved to be filling enough, however. The bill was not enormous, and popping open my wallet, I shuffled through my banknotes, some of which inexplicably were not actual banknotes anymore. (This situation has now shown up often enough to qualify as a Recurring Theme.) Former crush and company had just left through the north wall; daughter was out of earshot, so I proffered my American Express card, which inexplicably caused the entire staff to revert from some semblance of English to something I hadn’t heard before.

The story ended there, thanks to a truck bouncing noisily down my actual street.

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A culture of corrugation

[The last scene from the most recent nightmare. — CGH]

Four of us lived on the top row: my bride and I, Kevin, and the Other Guy, each in our own box. The Other Guy seemed content with his existence; Kevin was kinda grumpy, and I was wondering why, instead of being blissfully happy with this beautiful young lady, I had this nagging sensation that something was wrong.

Still, there were things to do, and one of them was to maximize available space. Kevin had noticed that the very back of the grouping was uninhabited; we had no box knives to cut our way in, but they did allow us duct tape, so we figured we could punch our way through and clean up the mess later. I decided to inform the Other Guy, who didn’t even look up from his book; he just nodded and kept on reading.

My bride liked the idea. “So much space,” she said. “It might almost be like living in a real house.”

“Say that again?”

“Like living in a real house?”

I remembered that word. “House.” I used to live in a house, before the government built all these “temporary” shelters. In fact, somewhere over that ridge — it was all coming back to me now — I had a house of my own.

We piled onto our cycle and headed out the one road in the village. A gendarme on a better machine stopped us near the exit and informed us that we could go no further.

“Is that a fact?” said I, and decked the gendarme.

And we took that better machine out of the village, confident that somewhere en route I’d remember the location of that house. Up to this point, we hadn’t considered the possibility of squatters.

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I think my warranty is up

A distinction with a difference, by Steph Waller:

My personal philosophy is that I am the driver of my body-vehicle, not the vehicle itself. That’s what has made aging easier for me than it was before I really grasped that idea. Like a car, my body ages, but I, the driver inside, am the same age I ever was — I am ageless. My dreams brought this home to me this morning because in my dreams I am never any younger or older than about 30. That means something to me and, as I step into the final phase of my time on this planet, it’s a comfort.

I hadn’t thought about this before, but my own dream experience is similar: unless it’s spelled out early on that it’s the childhood version of me, there’s no real indication of my age in any of my dreams. Certainly the infirmities of age don’t play any role therein.

As for driver vs. vehicle, this sounds something like C. S. Lewis: “You don’t have a soul. You are a Soul. You have a body.” And there are worse things in life than sounding something like C. S. Lewis, whether or not you subscribe to Lewis’ particular faith.

You should read the whole piece; there’s much in it about the place dreams occupy in our lives, and why they’re there in the first place.

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Tranqs for everything

Some time in the last week I came up with what I thought was a reasonable idea: start phasing out the tranquilizers I’ve been taking for the last decade or so, on the not-all-that-arguable basis that I’m taking too many drugs, dammit, and it can’t be good for me. Since the stuff is known to be habituating, going cold turkey, even right after Turkey Day, was not an option; instead, I decided, I would simply cut the dosage in half for thirty days, and that would be the end of it.

First night was an abject failure, filled with nightmares not even Uwe Boll would film. I’m somewhere in the Mid-South, in a chamber filled with ill-tempered mutants; most of them are female, some of them are promiscuous, and one of them, identity yet to be determined, seems to want me dead. Things move slowly at first — there’s something playing on the TV that appears to feature Shel Silverstein’s infamous Stacy Brown — but the sense of dread is pronounced, and when one of the mutants details an escape plan, I am there, Jack. Somehow things get to the point where Volkswagens are being stopped at a border crossing, and there’s Glenn “Instapundit” Reynolds, appropriating all the classic Beetles for himself. “A gift for the Insta-Wife,” he explains.

We continue in a non-VW vehicle and find ourselves defending what looks like a 1920s grade school, albeit with a lot of unfamiliar equipment. Unfamiliar to me, anyway; she knows exactly what this stuff is for. It’s not enough, though: something sizzles through the electrical lines and zaps both of us with some sort of flesh-burning ray. Doesn’t hit much surface area, but it doesn’t have to: the pain passes, but as it goes, it saps our strength, mine worse than hers. And finally, we’re at the point where they’re coming in through the second-story windows, and the best I can do is lob stuff at them.

Whereupon I force myself out of bed and as quickly as possible ingest the second half of the daily dose, and sleep better until 9 am, when the doorbell actually rings. (The nerve of some people.)

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A 22 top and a 7 bottom

Well, not exactly:

[I dreamed] I was a designer. I was producing a line of tracksuits called “Pi Couture.” Featuring, as you might guess, the digits of pi printed on the backside. The number of digits varied with the size of the tracksuit bottoms … so the tiny little ones would be “3.14” and the ones for someone like me would be “3.141592” and then there would be some sizes that said “3.141592653589793”.

And of course, that’s a real design FAIL right there (at least in the real world) because (a) very few women are going to want to walk around with an irrational number on their bums and (b) no woman larger than a “3.14” is going to want to advertise that fact.

Walking around with any number on your bum is irrational, whether or not it can be expressed as a fraction. (Maybe they’d prefer “transcendental.”)

There should, I think, be a companion line for e, and also for i if the Emperor wants to participate.

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I, bystander

A couple of times this month, the object of one of my blogcrushes (I’ve had several, most of which don’t go away easily) has had a brief cameo in my dreams. Nothing untoward or even suggestive of anything untoward — that’s not how I, um, sleep — but it did seem odd, since most of the people involved in Tales of Morpheus, Volume XCIX, Expurgated Edition are people I don’t know anyway.

One snippet of story struck me as absurdly amusing. Apparently a passerby, impressed with the appearance of the lady in question but unable to guess her age, like it’s any of his farging business in the first place, stood there dumbstruck for an awkward period of time before sputtering it out: “Just how old are you really, anyway?”

In an absolutely perfect deadpan, she answered: “Sixteen.”

“And a half,” I chimed in.

Damned Ambien will be the death of me yet.

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Orange you glad?

One way you can tell the real world from the dream world is that in the dream world you do things like this:

I dreamed that I was desperately searching for a pair of orange dress shoes. While I was searching I found a very nice pair of soft casual shoes that I wish really did exist but no orange dress shoes. I searched lots of stores, more stores than actually exist in my area but no orange dress shoes. I also started thinking about an orange purse — the purse must match the shoes, after all — and just generally getting a bit angsty about the whole thing. I’m not sure what I was getting dressed up for that required orange shoes.

I missed the Citrus Festival myself. However, I take “go thou and do likewise” very seriously sometimes:

I didn’t think of Endless.com until I woke up but I had to look and, sure enough, when you search for orange women’s shoes you get 520 results including some that could be considered “dress shoes.” Not all of them are what I would call orange. Some are actually tan and some are a peachy pink but there are a lot that are actually orange — bright orange.

So I betook myself to Zappos.com, gathered about 490 results, and there’s a lot of coral and scarlet and mango and some other colors you could take for pomegranate, but not a whole lot of #FFA500 orange, reminding me of my earlier search for green shoes, which turned up a lot of samples that were greenish without being all that green.

Then there was this, not so dressy but otherwise meeting the basic criteria:

Ricky by Bouquets

This is “Ricky” by Bouquets, a shortish (2¼ inches high) wedge, simulated leather contrasting with presumably genuine burlap, at the $60 price point. It’s also available in black, yellow and green(ish). Probably insubstantial, but then so are our dreams, mostly.

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To my knowledge, she didn’t tweet

She was, however, a bird, and after a few questions I determined which bird: a sparrow which had been fluttering past my window for a week or two. How it is she came to acquire humanoid form, I never did quite understand, though I do remember the name of Jean-Baptiste Lamarck being dropped somewhere along the way. Nor did I understand why, in acquiring said form, she used as a model someone we all knew: instant acceptance without question, I’m guessing, and indeed, she was routinely greeted as though she were the one she’d copied, though it proved to be a blessing that the two of them never actually met.

I hung up a set of curtains behind the couch for a nesting area, and she asked me to bring her music, promising to keep the noise down. Her tastes apparently ran to the latter-day big bands: Paul Whiteman didn’t do a thing for her, but Toshiko Akiyoshi did. And vinyl, if possible, instead of CDs; something about the Compact Disc didn’t agree with her hearing.

What? Oh, that. Didn’t happen. I didn’t try. She had said that there were only a few days a month when it was even possible.

And right before one of those days, she became ill. I came back to her darkened corner; she told me to go away. I went to the phone instead.

The ambulance came, and they loaded her onto a gurney. I followed in my car. When we arrived at the ER, the doors were thrown open, and one attendant looked dazed: “I don’t know what happened. She gave out with a cry, and all of a sudden, she was, like, gone.

I looked up into a tree, its branches nicely framed by the moonlight. I had no reason to think she was there, but the light was better.

[This is what happens when you get up early, cut through a swath of Web work, and go back to bed when the sun comes up.]

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Two stories for the price of one

That price being some major thrashing between 10:30 pm last night and 8 am this morning.

Storyline 1: Lynn’s screenplay about a rural Oklahoma woman who wants to explore outer space is filmed. In its first week of release, it doesn’t make the box-office top ten and is therefore ignored by television reporters, though Entertainment Weekly gives it a B-plus: “The lack of high-dollar special effects gives it much greater plausibility.” Atypically for new releases, it gains some ground in its second week, a little more in the third, until the media are forced to pronounce it a sleeper hit.

Storyline 2: Both girlfriends, a smattering of hangers-on, and a number of people I’ve never seen before show up at the townhouse I share with K. Kendall Kade, who is sort of a black Jack Black. Kade’s been on the road for months and months, and everyone (except, well, me) is anxious to greet him, but time stretches out farther and farther until half the entourage seems to be playing Vladimir and the other half Estragon.

I blame Tylenol.

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On the edge of the bed

When the insomnia started to get bad, I determined, to my surprise and to my doctor’s, that significant physical activity tended to make matters worse: all the endorphins and none of the fatigue. This finding suggested that I should confine the yard work to Friday and Saturday, since I don’t have to get up at six the next day.

Then Thursday evening presented me with 75-degree weather and a front lawn that had grown rather a lot in six days, so I decided to risk it. The results were Not Awful, and gleeful at the prospect of not having to do any of this stuff on a Saturday, I finished my ten-hour work day Friday and attacked the back yard, which is way larger.

Sore, though not especially tired, I betook myself to bed about a quarter to ten, and stayed there eleven and a half hours. And judging by the condition of the bed this morning, it was a rough night indeed. No fewer than three narratives were played out in dreams:

  • Cher, of all people, had consented to appear in an online centerfold, on the condition that the photo be impossible to reproduce elsewhere on the Net. I was attempting to do exactly that, and failing: the handy Save As command didn’t work, since the filename kept changing randomly, and none of my graphics tools could get a grip on the file.
  • I was attending a session at a Guatemalan bingo hall, hosted by someone who looked a lot like Wink Martindale. I had no problem with the processional, during which we were blindfolded; however, those who wanted a place in the competition area were asked to surrender their shoes temporarily, and I never got mine back for some reason. While searching in the coat-check room, I managed to pull down a set of blinds, and discovered some very un-Bingo-like materials: I’ve played this game before, and no one has ever called out “C-4.”
  • A desperately-ill child has undergone an amazing synthesis: the body was allowed to die, and the consciousness was somehow uploaded into a device the size of a Treo. Which wouldn’t be a problem, exactly, except that someone has infected the poor kid with some sort of virus, and Venomous Kate and I are searching the backwoods of northern Missouri for clues to the identity of the perpretrator.

Note to self: Take fewer drugs.

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The snooze I lose

Purely as an experiment, I hit the sack last night having taken none of the usual tablets, capsules, potions, and other alleged sleep aids. Results: ten hours (10:30 pm to 8:30 am), although I woke up nine times in the interim, including one trip to the curb (newspaper retrieval) and one trip to the john.

This also threw off my dream timing, so I can’t fill you in on the details of the story, set in pre-Elvis Memphis, in which Roger Ebert and I are two convent girls caught up in the swirl surrounding a brutal street killing.

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Right off the dreamscape

I changed out sleep medications last night, opting for the old and formerly reliable instead of the new and possibly habit-forming. I was paid back for this decision by the most bizarre dream I think I’ve ever had.

I’ve driven somewhere to visit family, and I’ve timed my arrival poorly: no one’s home, and what’s more, it’s been raining. There’s something wrapped in plastic on the walk, which turns out to be a Sunday New York Times, already beginning to disintegrate from all the water. I toss it aside, and suddenly I’m somewhere else: the yard looks the same, but the street is totally different. The most salient difference to me, though, is that my car is gone.

I pull out the cell phone: no bars. Figures, I grumble, and start walking. Nothing looks familiar. In about half an hour, I arrive at Shea Stadium, which at least tells me where I am: in the city of New York, borough of Queens. Which explains why nothing looks familiar, since the only time I’ve ever been to Queens was to change planes at JFK, there being no direct flights from Istanbul to Oklahoma City in 1975. Or today.

There’s no reason for me to hang around Shea, so I veer off at an angle, and eventually encounter an expressway of some sort. Traffic is not so heavy, but not moving so quickly either. Across the road, I find what appears to be a bizarre psychological experiment: people are throwing coins onto the shoulder to see if anyone will bother to stop. On foot, I manage to scoop up around $4.

The second storefront on the cross street appears to be a travel agency. I wander in and ask if anyone’s seen my car — they haven’t, of course — and how I can get back to the address I was supposed to be visiting in the first place. After some heated discussion, and a mistake in the production room (“You made how many copies of the itinerary?”), a woman from the agency walks me the first couple of blocks, and says, “From this point, you’re on your own, but it gets easier.” It doesn’t seem to be getting any easier to me: for one thing, I seem to have lost my shoes.

I walk about another quarter-mile, or so it seems, and end up in what looks like an airport gate. For a moment, I sit down, and someone yells something untranslatable yet easily interpreted: “There he is! SEIZE HIM!Seize this, pal, I say, but no words come out, and so I flee.

Beep! I pull the cell phone from my pocket: incoming text message. I’m in no mood to read a text message, what with goons, or whatever, on my trail, but it occurs to me that if a text message can come in, I must have connectivity of some sort. So I duck into a storefront and push buttons. When finally I get an answer, it’s my ex, and in fact I can see her answering: she’s right across the room.

“What are you doing in New York?” I ask. She looks puzzled. “This isn’t New York.” “About time you two showed up,” says a third voice, and we are confronted by someone who looks like Ralph Edwards, circa This Is Your Life. Worse yet, he has books, and opening one of them, he demands an explanation of an incident.

She speaks first. “That never happened.” I look over the materials, and realize that they pertain to a relative, but not to me. I attempt to say so, but again, no words come out. Ralph continues to press, and I manage to come up with “Enough. We’re leaving.” Which we do; and we get about 50 yards before I am set upon by goons.

I am taken to a warehouse of some sort, and there’s this contraption suspended from the ceiling, a scary blend of M. C. Escher and Rube Goldberg which turns out to be an animated timeline, a simulation of just about everything dumb I’d ever done, in chronological order, complete with badgering voices and the occasional wooden stick to push me back into position. At about age 16, I see an opportunity, and I jump; they of course give chase, but I’m already out of the building.

But not out of the woods. I’m near the bottom of a bowl, an ancient sinkhole that eventually quit sinking. Grass has already grown along the slopes. I can’t possibly make it up those angles. There is, however, a tree; if I can make it halfway up the tree and then along one horizontal branch, I will eventually end up at the original ground level. So I start climbing. The goons aren’t pursuing; they’re watching, waiting for me to fail. Once I reach that horizontal branch, though, the possibility occurs to them that I might not fail at all. But they have further tricks up their sleeve. First, the bark begins to peel off; I have difficulty getting a grip. There is no wind to speak of, but the tree starts to sway just the same. Finally, the very rim of the bowl starts to dissolve into nothingness, random chunks of green just falling away, a cartoon effect that, were you to see it in real life, would not even remind you of cartoons.

It is at this point that the brain commands “That’s it, we’re done,” and I wake up. You wouldn’t think 50 mg of diphenhydramine hydrochloride would cause this much delirium.

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Waking up is hard to do

I have no idea what that little origami-snowflake toy is properly called; when I was growing up it was a “cootie-catcher,” and after flexing it enough times, you’d pop it open, unfold a section of it, and somehow your fortune would be told.

So when the girl opens up the device in the early moments of Richard Linklater’s Waking Life, I had to keep watching no matter how much I might have been put off by the premise. What it says is “Dream is destiny,” and while I’ve always distrusted dreams — my dreams, anyway — I felt I could trust Linklater, if only because he’d given us Before Sunrise, a romance I dearly loved because, unlike the case with almost every other such story, I could identify with either lead.

Linklater didn’t let me down. The structure is something like what I remembered from Slacker, with seemingly-random people coming by, speaking their piece, and then dissolving into the next scene. But the look is wholly different: the thirty or so scenes were shot in live action and then turned into animation, sometimes impressionistic, sometimes sort of realistic, sometimes hyper-unrealistic. If this seems a hodgepodge, well, so do my dreams, and dreams are at the very heart of Waking Life.

About ten minutes in, I was prepared to dismiss the whole thing: “Eye candy,” I thought, “to compensate for the preposterousness of the words.” But that, too, is characteristic of dreams: whether you can learn anything from them is independent of whether you can make sense of the narrative. “There’s no story,” asserts one character, a novelist. “Just people, gestures, moments, bits of rapture, fleeting emotions. In short, the greatest story ever told.” Nothing at all in there about continuity.

So slowly, surely, I was drawn in, marveling at the look of the thing while trying to keep its seemingly-contradictory premises from overwriting my own programming. And I decided that Linklater wasn’t trying to sell me a packaged philosophy: he did, after all, throw in an almost-perfectly serious scene in which a film class on Kurosawa is conducted by a monkey. If there is a philosophy, it’s that of the salad bar: there are plenty of things you’ll like, but if you go for all of them, you’ll quickly discover that there’s too much on your plate. You can call it a “neo-human evolutionary cycle” if you’d rather; for a moment I saw myself as Horatio, being informed by Hamlet that there are more things in heaven or earth than I’d suspected. And the ending, well, isn’t.

Perhaps Waking Life was intended to recapitulate, then extend, Descartes: “I dream, therefore I am.” Dreams and reality might even be somehow interchangeable. We already know that some of our “objective” measurements are affected by our perspectives: accelerate yourself towards the speed of light, and keep one eye on your watch, if you can. Was Linklater trying to anticipate what might be beyond Einstein? I don’t know. I do know this, though: in 2001, when it was released, I couldn’t have sat through Waking Life. My mindset of the moment wasn’t prepared to accept anything that didn’t fit into the structures I’d built for myself; I’d have dismissed it out of hand as Slacker Goes to Grad School. Today, it seems more like an artifact of a life I didn’t know I’d had. Maybe it really was all just a dream.

(Review copy lent me by a friend — thank you, Aero.)

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A dip in the Slough of Despond

While no one would accuse me of being chipper — unless they expected me to chew up some wood or something — the general tone around here is decidedly more positive than it was six or eight years ago when I was wondering if maybe things wouldn’t improve until I got around to not being around. (Vent #172, which begins “This is a suicide note” and then goes through several paragraphs explaining why technically it isn’t, is a case in point.)

Still, every once in a while something pops into my head to remind me of the Bad Old Days, usually during sleeping hours, where the dream mechanism doesn’t feel compelled to go easy on my sensibilities. This morning, after waking up at six, noting the presence of a newspaper and going out to fetch it, then returning to bed for another couple of hours, I got to “enjoy” a pair of scary scenes played out just above the pillows. (Two of them, anyway: at some point I apparently pitched the third across the room.)

In the first act, after a bogus “tour” that resembled outtakes from Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, I have somehow been locked up in some sort of “medical” facility for wayward children, and the sadist dietitian on staff has contrived to make sure everyone gets something unpalatable. For me, there was this amalgam of rice cakes and spackle, with things that looked like vegetables but weren’t, and vast quantities of mayonnaise, a true implementation of O’Brien’s Room 101 Diet.

I don’t know how that story ended because a second one followed quickly on its heels. In this one I am researching some arcane tax question, and I duly presented my findings to the couple who had requested my help. The presentation took place at a firing range, where they and several friends were gearing up to blow away a few targets. Informed that I might want to stand back a few feet for the duration, I heard myself saying: “Don’t worry. If you shoot me, I’ll be much happier.” Evidently at the subconscious level I operate on a frequency somewhere between Beck (“I’m a loser, baby, why don’t you kill me?”) and Daffy Duck (“I demand that you shoot me now!”)

Supposedly I have enough sense to avoid reading too much into dreamstuff. On the other hand, I do remember muttering this last week:

Look at the fricking West Coast. They can’t get rain to save their lives and we’re up to here in the stuff. I have to wonder if maybe God hasn’t outsourced the prayer-answering function to some place that doesn’t speak English. Or, in the case of California, Spanish either.

Weather-related stress. Yeah. That’s the ticket.

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Puget? I’ve never even seen it

It’s been a while since I posted a dream up here, and perhaps that’s just as well; rather a lot of my dreams are distinctly uncomfortable to endure, and most of them don’t have the sort of entertaining narrative I’d like to pretend I’m capable of creating.

I have noticed, though, that the better ones seem to come after I’ve gotten up, shrugged, and gone back to bed, so if there’s an actual pattern — but never mind; these things never work if you try to force them.

So I’m bicycling through Seattle. Since I’ve never actually been to Seattle, I have no idea where I’m going, let alone why I’m there in the first place, but two things strike me early on: this is a spectacularly gorgeous place — I’m assuming that the dramatic shadows overhead and the prodigious amounts of greenery actually exist in some parts of town — and while I get rained on for ten or twenty minutes, I don’t seem to get really wet.

My most obvious connection to Seattle, of course, is the fact that guys who live in Oklahoma City now own the Sonics and the Storm. Somewhere by the side of the road, I find what looks like a periscope, sticking two or three feet out of the ground, with a Sonics logo on it. Up close, the lens turns out to be a very shiny bolt; on an impulse, I loosen it a couple of turns. Nothing happens and I ride on; a few minutes later I decide that this was a Bad Idea, and reverse my path toward the mysterious structure, which I never again find.

Random sightings: a person claiming to be the Invisible Man, and certainly he looked the part, though the orange jacket didn’t help; an outdoor lesbian café (and what makes for an outdoor lesbian, anyway?); a very large gas station which, despite its size, had only two pumps.

I am loath to affix any meaning to this other than that I had a rough night — mattress and box spring, when I woke up, were offset fifteen degrees.

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I’m not sure this qualifies as a nightmare

It does, however, meet the part of the definition that calls for a dream that makes you sit up and take notice, so I’ll mention it here.

I’m on the periphery of a popular local eatery/takeout joint when I pick up on the crowd buzz, and what I’m picking up is implausible in the extreme: they’ve set up separate entrances marked “Straight” and “Gay.” Shades of the Southern South, I’m thinking, and what the hell for?

On an impulse, I went in through the “Gay” entrance and noticed that no one was checking credentials, assuming such a thing were possible. I walked over to the “Straight” entrance: nobody watching that door either.

And the crowd seemed about twice as big as usual, so obviously the artificial constraints, or whatever they were, weren’t discouraging customers.

I’m still puzzling over what, if anything, I am to make of this brief tale, except to note that people of any description have little use for attempts to pigeonhole them.

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