by j-a

[main menu] [thoughthistory menu]

June 2006

A Good Defense
(Part Two)

go to part one

the bearable malleability of reality

Is it any wonder I reject you first.
David Bowie, "Fame"
An old workplace, but different, with aspects of a newer (dream version) workplace mixed in: I'm supposed to send something down to Steve's office, some piece of paper or something. So I decide to take it down instead. On the second floor, as I'm getting out of the elevator, I meet a girl [someone like Anna, but petite] from the art department who is leaving for the day. We've always been attracted to each other, so we decide, without words [cf. previous dream], to get into the elevator and go upstairs somewhere where we can be alone; but some of her friends come by and she goes off with them, to disguise what we were about to do. I go back up alone in the elevator, which is very small, capable of holding at most two people. [This is recurrent, along with the very narrow staircase that runs along beside the elevator. I've long felt like the symbolism is important and have tried many times to discern what it means, but cannot.] I go up to the ninth floor offset department [the offset dept. was actually on the seventh floor, with the eighth and ninth floors used as storage], which turns out, instead, to be on a much higher floor, in the twenties or thirties [the bldg. actually had only nine floors, and I feel like these additional floors mean something important too]. The department has been remodeled and all that is now visible are wide hallways with walls made out of some kind of greenish metal paneling, everything else hidden inside inaccessible rooms. Cut to:

I'm outside the city, walking along railroad tracks with a friend (no one I know, but as if he were one of my lifelong best friends, sort of a combination of Alan and Eddie, two entirely opposite physical and psychological types). We have just left the place where we were working the night shift, and now it's early morning. We come up to an outdoor area where a guy is supervising some workers. As we approach, he directs them to go somewhere and do something. He's left alone, standing next to a large pile of partially rusted metal, chains, etc. I'm interested in the junk and in the work the guys are doing. By at first merely overhearing our conversation and then later by talking to us, the guy determines that we would make excellent employees, that we have the right attitude and are the kind of people his company is always on the lookout for. We really don't want jobs, but we agree to try it out for the day. Cut to:

Inside a huge building, many workers are doing complicated assembly line tasks. We watch the various operations for a while. All of the workers are happy with their jobs and like working for the company, unlike the job where we were working earlier, where all of the employees are miserable and secretly hate their work and the company that dominates them and makes them feel belittled and oppressed. I like the idea of doing assembly line work, but first I must learn how to set-up my particular area of the line. My friend and I are split up, and I'm not too happy about this; but I decide that I'll try it out. I'm supposed to watch what the supervisor is doing and then, in one shot, know how to do it. I know, and think to explain to the supervisor, but do not, that in order for me to learn to do the procedure, I must actually do it and not merely be shown how to do it, that I learn tactilely, via muscle-memory. As I watch the guy, I feel lost and know I will be unable to repeat his actions later. Cut to:

My bedroom at 6023: db and I are breaking up. She says that she has things she wants to do involving college, etc. that she can't do while she's with me. Although she doesn't say it, I understand this to mean that she's met a guy at school that she wants to have sex with. [In fact, this actually happened (not the breaking-up part...well, that happened also, twice, the second time successfully), more than once, and not only at school--although she never knew that I knew. So this dream is probably dealing with my feelings of those times that I refused to feel consciously. I was way too "cool" back then to be so human as to become disturbed by inklings of a woman cheating on me and so repressed the obvious hints very well.] Despite the genuinely sweet and caring attitude she has toward me, I feel an overwhelming opprobrium, not from her, but from life in general, that works at me to make me want, as a means of relief, to take advantage of her offer to remain my girlfriend until Friday, four days away. But I fight the desire to delay and tell her that, if she's going to leave me, she should do it right now. I don't really mean it, but I can't help myself. (This is consistent with the way I am: if you dis me to any significant degree me or reject me in any significant way, that's it, you're history; I may never speak to you again unless you actually go out way of your way to speak to me, and even then, I'll stonewall you and treat you with only the most superficial kind of token civility, which is a caricature of normal social intercourse.) db has clothes and other stuff in my closet, and she begins to gather them together, with the idea that she will get the rest of the stuff later, on Friday. She's unhappy and about ready to cry, which allows me to project my own feelings onto her and so be somewhat relieved of them. [When others are hurt by my reactive standoffish nature, I am relieved, via their proxy, of my own reactive hurt--in the past unconsciously, and now only semi-consciously, a la object relations; it really has very little to do with the actual person I'm (minimally; i.e., repressively) relating to.] In the living room, my mother talks to us in her ordinary, matter-of-fact way as if we are still a couple. I feel like I want to tell her that we've broken up, so that she changes her attitude toward us and acts sympathetically. But I don't tell her; but she finds out anyway (intuitively?), and she tells db, (because db is having problems getting all her stuff together while becoming overwhelmed with the feelings associated with the break-up) that she'll gather up all of her stuff for her and get it ready for her to pick up.

I awaken in a profoundly tenebrous mood, which I carry over into my day. All of the hurt that db felt (in the dream; and who knows, maybe in real life too) was my own hurt, denied when I was younger. This is still with me, sealed off down there in the depths somewhere, accessible only via dreams. I absolutely do not, of course, want to feel it. But now that it's been released, as I try to work, I carry it with me into my waking life, along with the idea that through (effective) dreaming, I have changed the world. This is the impact of Ursula LeQuin's book, The Lathe of Heaven: The protagonist, George Orr, dreams effectively; that is, his dreams become literally true and thereby change reality and all of the history leading up to it, which is the perfect metaphor for what dreams actually do if we devote the attention to them that they deserve, stirring up unconscious contents so that they rise to the surface, become conscious, and affect (effect) the "reality" of our present life--because what is reality, after all, but the net sum of our feelings, attitudes, beliefs, interpretations, etc. toward the data we only believe we perceive objectively? When we change our affective nature, we effectively change our reality by changing the filters we use selectively to process data.

I change my reality somewhat marginally effectively through fantasy and especially effectively by dreaming; but I do it by reading too, when authors use their skills and/or visionary prowess to get into my head. I used to do it a lot by watching movies (and far less effectively with tv); but the visual media doesn't work so well any more in this respect, probably because I now understand its sociocultural significance, as I did not when I was younger and more enamoured of the boob tube's power because I didn't yet understand its capitalistic nature. The written word, however, seems to have compensated over time for tv's decreased effectiveness on my imaginative alteration of my reality by increasing its effectiveness; especially, fiction by good writers (and very especially science fiction) seems to alter my identity increasingly as I age. Maybe I'm just getting better at it the more I do it; and I do it a whole lot. Some authors are better than others, of course, for causing the effect, and they don't necessarily have to be "good" writers (although it helps me to tolerate them if they are by getting me beyond their mechanics and more thoroughly into their vision):

you don't know dick

Everybody has been making such a big deal about Philip K. Dick lately, so I bought a couple of his books to see for myself what he's all about. And I'm not impressed. He's not that good a writer, which is maybe okay if his ideas are good; and maybe they were, back in the fifties and sixties. But now, they're just ordinary, and even often wrong from a scientific and/or thought-sophisticate POV. (But that's to be expected; time degrades the best ideas as society progresses.) But they've been translated well by good filmmakers, so maybe the people who are making him out to be such a big deal never read his stories, but saw them as movies. But it probably wouldn't have mattered anyway since they probably wouldn't know a good writer if he or she jumped out and bit him or her on the ass,1 or wherever else a person needs to be bitten on to wake him or her up to reality. I mean, these same people think John Grisham is...well, never mind.

Of course, the books I'm reading catalogue his stories from the fifties and sixties, and I have to admit that the sixties stories are a big improvement over the fifties ones (but still seriously flawed), so maybe the later stuff is even better. I'll have to check that out. Meanwhile, here's my opinion of Dick's difficulties:

His dialogue is stilted and unreal, which one might conclude is okay for sci fi, it being a form dedicated to the not yet real; but I would disagree. The thing that makes sci fi "legitimate" fiction in the literary world is good writing. It's not the "absurdity" of the situations that turn readers off (when it does), but the style. When interpersonal relations and exchanges ring true, they bridge the gap between present and future, just as they do between past and present. People are human, no matter the historical era; and unless strained or unbelievable dialogue serves the plot in some significant way (such as in the film Code 46), it detracts from the literary quality. People just don't talk the way Dick writes their dialogue; and often they don't interact the way he portrays them either. Some critics claim that this is a part of his appeal. Maybe so. But it calls his skill as a writer into question.

In addition, his characters are overly stereotypical, even by short fiction standards. You get the idea (or at least I do) while reading that Dick knows the characters well and has a specific image for each character in mind, but the image is never adequately fleshed out. He does a great job at providing character background and setting, but short-sells their image by resorting to traditional types that, maybe, he assumes we are already familiar with, a good time-saving device; but not original enough to provide the reader with a genuine interest in the characters.

Dick's choice of adjectives that qualify the dialogue and carry the narrative along is also often trite, questionable, and/or inappropriately anthropomorphized re non-human characters and objects. [I'd provide examples of this, but I'm already getting bored with this material. Go read some of Dick's work. I'm sure they'll pop right out at you.]

He frequently and without warning slips out of a limited third person POV and into an omniscient author, leaving the attentive reader wondering how, for example, a ten year old boy ("Captive Market") could understand the concept of "foreboding" and know of intimate details of landscape in a place he's never been.

His narrative style is awkward in that way that writers whose first language is not English is. His use of prepositions is sometimes slightly askew in that way that the French will misuse "to" and "at" in English; etc. [Ditto re examples.]

Often, the science is bad, or at best left unexplained, which in the light of these later years is easily called into question. This is not so much a flaw in and of itself as it is a failure of his work to stand the test of time; but, to be fair, much of Dick's work excels in this regard, even if it must be rewritten for our postmodern films. Compare Dick's "Minority Report" to the film version. The changes in the film are for the better and point to Dick's shortcomings as a writer (re both style and plot). [This is an hypothesis that needs verification, and I just don't feel like doing the research work. My mind is already off in other directions.]

These flaws (which Dick could probably have corrected with more extensive revision, because at times he goes on for many paragraphs unimpeded by them) detract the reader from becoming absorbed into the narrative. His off-centered vision may be his strongest point, but his skill as a writer is weak.

As I said earlier, I still must verify these criticisms re Dick's later writing, which maybe I will do one day. (Or maybe not.) Meanwhile, consider this piece as criticism of Dick's earlier work only. [And stop pointing out to me that as a writer I'm not any better. Either I already know that or don't believe it (I'm not sure which), you don't have to be capable of doing it to analyze it, and I don't have an editor. (Oh, go ahead and point it out again if you want to. That was just a fit of pique. I actually love feedback, even criticism, which I tend to consider more for its attention to me than for its actual message. If you criticize me, I've got your attention; if you do not communicate with me, I start to worry that maybe you don't like me any more. I know it's an ego problem. I'm working on it.)]

arrogance and nostalgia

I noticed that a number of people felt that my recent posts have been self-absorbed and arrogant. My first reaction is "Gee, I don't want to be self-absorbed and arrogant." So I decided to apply my gigantic intellect - the one that is far, far superior to yours - toward solving this problem of seeming arrogant.
I'm Christian Slater at my high school, shortly before graduation. My hair is longish and unruly and, although I know I should, I can't be bothered to take the time to comb it out; rather, I tie it back as best I can. This makes me somewhat of a character who is both popular and a bit mysterious and non-approachable. Nevertheless, at the graduation reception, I perform rock and roll songs with my music partner, a fellow rocker. We're a hit; but nostalgia sets in after our set is over. I overhear a few kids complaining about me, how don't I treat people very well. [Before I fell asleep, I was marveling at the way everybody seems to like me; or at least they admire me, even the people who don't know me but only observe me from a distance, and especially the people who want to get close to me but just can't seem to manage it--except for the people who hate me because I unwittingly or counter-manipulatively slight or antagonize them in some way and they react in kind, feeling hurt and consequently angry because they don't understand that they are really angry with themselves for starting the process off in the first place, and/or because they harbor ill-will in the form of an envious or malicious spirit. This is the central dichotomy of the dream.] At the end of the afternoon, the supervisor/chaperone of the party, a fledgling teacher who has moved to our school from another in the north, talks to me about how it went, not so good, she thinks, because it kind of lost steam after I got off-stage. I say that I kept trying to perk it up by returning, but I didn't want to hog the limelight and steal the show. She understands, but is disturbed by her failure to provide the best of times for the kids. I say that she'll learn how to do it better in future years. For the next five years, under her supervision, I become the mentor-orchestrator of the graduation party; but I contract a serious illness and cannot continue on.

Strange little late afternoon dream. I awaken from it to the sounds of summer outside my window:

Summer nights, and to a lesser extent summer days, especially the sultry ones that sit in close and hang heavy like an alien atmosphere, with birdsong, especially early in the morning before such a time as could be concluded that they announce the not yet seen but subliminally perceived dawn, are a mystery I have dispelled, having become accustomed to them, day and night, out in them, sitting quietly, having worn out hope against hope of discovering what they contained until I concluded nothing, they contain nothing, their content proceeds from inside, the mystery I project, a mystery no more, except that its nostalgia persists; once a mystery, so slowly revealed that the minute pieces of revelation were hardly noticed, if at all, and now only the memory remains, the vain search no longer important, replaced by the experience I can take or leave, satisfied to observe and be observed in the present; or not.

And then there's the damp and rainy overcast Celtic weather, equal in its mysterious nature, with low ceilings that precipitate foggy fingers that reach down toward you like a lonely masseuse: though not so predominant like the julep-sipping heat oppression, it closes in the very same way and contains the body in its clammy hands; but always only in fairer seasons, since the same weather in winter is too deadly to allow it to be so familiar. Perhaps in less harsh climates the projection might persist throughout the year.

This exact non-argument can be applied to all phenomena, even the ones I have not yet concluded (with): I pursue goals, still; but I know their ultimate result, the same nostalgia, like all that have foregone, worthy pre-occupations, but as futile. Looking ahead, I wonder why I try, especially during the times when it hardly matters, except that one day, soon, in the middle of the winter perhaps, it might pay off--maybe. But only for a while. I could let it all go and do nothing, or something else. It wouldn't matter, except for the wasted funds I spent trying to accomplish what I so far have; but if it's wasted then, it wasted anyway; that is, it's already gone. I might as well, then, go on. Nothing else to do. If there were something else...

Either I'm (preoccupied with) advancing each and every project and task that I have listed in my various planning formats, or else I've managed to complete one or two minor steps on the way to one or more of their completions and feel justified to kick back and bask in the afterglow of contented, though perhaps illusory self-attainment (which tends more in the winter and early spring to manifest itself as ennui instead). It seems to me, however, that I should be able to self-engineer a middle course that keeps me on-track and mildly productive, feeling neither the need to continually be achieving steps along the way toward at a multitude of plans and goals nor the satisfaction of non-achievement (or disregard of my future altogether), a way to feel satisfied at working by pacing myself as I methodically, bit-by-bit, complete the steps toward my future in a casually, carefree way.

Actually, I do work this way most of the time, but I don't feel it; this is not a problem of method so much as it's one of my perception of it, because typically when I feel satisfied, instead of working on in a calm and peaceful way, I quit working for the day, I've done enough, I've worked myself to the point of mild satisfaction, so why not take the rest of the day and night off and start again tomorrow? It's tough enough to lose large lengths of what would otherwise be productive time to the need to catch up on sleep because I lost a regular sleep pattern by having not slept through the night and so need to catch a long afternoon or evening nap (I'm talking at least several hours here) without also having to add up all of the off-time that I feel I've earned by having actually accomplished (as opposed to simply having worked at) something.

As it is, I use sleep and the off-time leading up to it (eating, reading, etc.) as R&R, which I imagine will prepare me for my next marathon work session; but any more, I seldom seem to manage to get to the marathons like I used to (up all night seems to be the extent of the marathon any more), whereas the "recovery" periods have not diminished, even as they are less required; I give up too early on.

lah dee dah

A different type of marathon is my conservation. It becomes an obsession. I conserve, conserve, conserve, in every possible way I can, and wait for sales to spend as little as possible on what I only really need, and meanwhile I accumulate free materials and lists of less demanding needs and desires; and then, all at once, in a fit of glorious relief, when I feel the time is right, when the heavens in my head come into alignment with a world of reality, I spend and get the things that take me to a new level of existence.

I've claimed in the past that this obsessiveness is OCD. But I don't think it's really OCD that I experience when I feel obsessive, because in almost every case it's related to financial concerns: I obsess about money, because I fear I will run out (more of an emphasis on the fear than on the running out); and every activity and concern takes on an obsessive nature as I try to make the most of all resources, utilizing them to the nth degree, so as not to waste anything unnecessarily. But it's more, I realize, than actual worry about running out of money, because I've always tried to do this, even when I had more than enough money, though never so successfully as now: That fear, of indigency, expressed in different, sometimes less obvious ways, has been with me always; it's not an obsession so much as it is a way of life. It seems like it's an inbuilt faculty or imperative: Utilize all resources made available to you and don't waste anything. My father was the same way and I hypothesize that it's not so much conditioning in us as it is a genetic (Scotch-Irish) influence.

Some people believe this kind of behavior to be "cheap," but I don't see it that way at all, but rather "intelligent." (Before I "retired" I was never cheap at all and would lavish selected family members and friends with my largess.) The word parsimonious now comes to mind, in its most positive sense. I'm frugal and economic. If I had not been this way all my life, I'd be having a very hard time surviving right now. The money I saved and invested when I was working is providing for my current and future existence. To this same end, I'm "worrying" (planning) about what I'll do if I can't get the car inspected one last time (so that I can transfer the plates over to "classic"). So I think: If I have to walk a mile to the store every single day and haul a knapsack full of food home, that's not so bad. At the worst, it's good exercise; and it's a further means of detachment from mainstream society; and, in a sense, it's a means of re-attachment to nature. Or, alternatively, I could ride a bike, if I should happen not to be able to get the motorcycle running.

This brings me to an idea I've been entertaining lately re projects: Every day I "obsess" over a number of the more complex projects I'm currently working on, trying to motivate myself to get to them and get them done; but there are just too many of them and the more I obsess, the more I balk at going to work on any one of them. The whole idea of projects is becoming demotivating, which is exactly the opposite of what I intend to do when I plan them out in detail on paper.

But I'm beginning to realize that very few of these projects, left uncompleted, have any real negative consequences other than a simple loss of the money I've so far vested in each. Should I decide, or simply through permanent postponement, not to finish any one or more of them, no big deal. But that monetary investment is of such significance to me that I accord a greater importance to each project based upon its accumulated cost. If I never get back to (some of) them, what a waste of money that will be. Thus the angst re their completion.

So I've decided to think differently about my projects: All of them will be completed, eventually. There is no wasted money involved, but merely invested money. I will get to each and every project (or I will die and it will not matter). This idea, I hope, will relieve me of some of the burden of needing to get done everything I must, or else. And what is the nature of that "or else" beyond the monetary expense? To discover answers to this question I'm listing out all of my major current projects, along with what the consequences will be if I don't do them: most of the reasons will turn out to be something involved with costing me money. Very few of them will involve social consequences, at least of any significance. Included in this "database" will be a priority for each, probably assigned primarily by what has been invested so far, although I can see how certain garden projects might become contingent upon seasonal considerations and be more important in spring and summer than in fall or winter, such as the layering of plants or propagation by cutting, the planting of new beds and replacement of plants in existing ones, etc.

The point of assigning consequences and priorities to projects is not only so that I can identify them as to which is most important to work on first, but to balance that work with the other major occupation of my life of ease: writing, reading, and meditating. Because what's the sense of living if you can't achieve, a lot if not most of the time, a life of carefree ease? At least during the summer when it really counts. Whether I work on projects or whether I sit out on the front porch and read books all day is often a major decision in my daily life. I want to think that the smartest or at least the most advanced way of life is to be able to choose reading or just sitting over actual "work" I have to do. "I wish I were a rich man. Lah dah dah dah dee dah dah dah dah." Then I could pay others to do the most difficult of the work I feel absolutely must be done. [Am I a big crybaby, or what?]

[As I re-read this, I realize that this problem is addressed in the story of the ant and the grasshopper. Goddam that Aesop for making life so cut-and-dried.]

museum of dreams

And, of course, and dreaming to the reading, writing, meditating list: I'm with a friend in a neighborhood off Saltsburg Rd. opposite to where the new Wal-Mart will be built. I'm trying to accomplish something that has become somewhat difficult. (Later, awake, I decide that it's rebuilding the motorcycle, although in the dream, this is not at all apparent at this point.) My friend, a casual acquaintance, tells me he knows where I can get help and he leads me a short distance through backyards and shortcuts to, illogically, the intersection of Saltsburg, Hulton, and Frankstown roads (which is actually several miles away). I'm surprised that our walk through the neighborhood has brought us here. I walk to the old Gulf gas station on the corner and am further surprised to see that it's still there (since it went out of business long ago when the old man who used to own it died and the quaint old building was eventually torn down and replaced with a daycare center). The place is now a small store that sells candy and household odds and ends and (as far as the dream is concerned) always has been. I go inside and am amazed to find that in the rear of the store they sell rebuilt motorcycles. One of them, the nicest one, is an exact replica of mine, the same (nostalgic) tangerine color, except that it has a smaller engine (only 125cc.) I'd like to own it, feeling like it would be a nice replacement for my inoperable bike--except for the fact that the engine is way too small. (Later, awake, I realize that this would be a perfect solution for my motorcycle dilemma: buying a new, cheap bike rather than doing all the painstaking detailed work of hand-manufacturing no longer available parts that I never really feel like getting into.) The price tag on the bike is only $659.00, which I realize is a bargain. (That's exactly what I paid for my bike in '72.) Farther in the back of the store I see a lot of other bikes in far worse shape, all tangerine; but none of them is the same size as mine. If one of them were, I could buy it for parts, I think. I go outside and walk up Frankstown and am surprised to see that the store has an outdoor area where they're selling a lot of reconditioned Yamaha dirt bikes, all a lime green color and, like the Hondas inside, each with a different engine size and/or body model.

Writing out dreams provides me with a format on which to hang ideas I have; and vice versa: ideas I have are hung in dreams as if the dream mechanism were an art gallery. My daily art of project completion, the most prominent and difficult of which is the motorcycle reconstruction, is hung here in my museum of dreams.

As I awaken out of the dream, in a near hypnagogic state, I envision a cartoon show about Minsky Moose, a disenchanted moose who escapes from Russia to the West during the Cold War with his best friend, a chipmunk named Sergei. Minsky is a composite of Bullwinkle, Boris Badenov, and Mickey Mouse. Sergei is a composite of Rocky, Natasha, and Alvin. I fall back into sleep chuckling at this.

An old workplace, a very large room/outdoor area that contains all departments of the company (office, professional, manufacturing) all in one huge place. I have been "displaced" as a supervisor and am a kind of persona non grata who is tolerated and allowed to hang around as a kind of ineffectual token member of management (recurrent), but who is nevertheless a source of valuable knowledge for the workers, from their own, not management's POV. I do not have an office (or desk; no one has an actual office because there are no inner walls; but some people have desks in a quasi-defined shared "office area") and every time I try to settle in somewhere, for one or another reason I am quickly edged out by the company operations. Mr. S [whom I had been a favorite of, and who protected me to some degree when I worked there] changes his mind about me and decides that I am a negative person who is not only detrimental to the company, which is incidental, but also detrimental to his own existence. I have no idea why he believes this (later, awake, I conclude that it was because his mind was being poisoned by malicious gossip--not in real life, but within the dream), but my "displacement" is caused by the negative attitude toward me that he adopts. People think I'm a joke, although they're not above using the knowledge I have of the operations when it benefits them. A few of the younger women in the front of the room in an office area, although they are reticent to get too close to me for fear of being identified with me since I am out of favor, are sympathetic with me and help me out via subtle clues as to what's going on. I discover, with their (remote) help (as if I am "tuned in" to their attention to me) as I walk through the manufacturing operations, that Mr. S is working at one of the production lines and has become affected by the process, fallen to the floor, and is dying. I walk over near to where he is and try to decide, since I have emergency medical training, whether I should help him or not, since if I do not and he dies, his negative attitude toward me will be eliminated. But I decide to help, not only because it's the right thing to do, but also because I actually do like the guy a whole lot. When I go to help him I discover that he isn't dying at all, but was faking it to see if I would help him because one of the women in the office told him that I hated him so much that, if he were dying, I wouldn't help (which I later surmise was why a few of the ladies in the office area knew of the "character assassination" and, because they liked me, tried to help--or else, since it was known that they had intuitive/remote contact with me, they were told to inform me of Mr. S's little ploy). After I go to help him, we have a talk and I convince him that the rumors and his fears are unfounded and we get back to where we had been before. Fade to:

An adjacent woodsy area: Jeff P. shouts to me, "Look out!" as a female deer rushes at me through the woods, which is a park-like extension off of the work room/area to the west, as if it were off Frankstown Ave. where Blessed Sacrament used to be and at the same time along the street that borders the small shopping center where the Ben Franklin store used to be in Swissvale, and also farther west in an area around Highland Park where it borders a similar street; a stone wall with an iron fence atop it separates the "park" from the street [recurrent dream area]. I'm not aware of how close the deer came to running into me until Jeff shouts and I see it running off. I walk over to the northern border (Frankstown Rd.) and find the deer along the curb, fallen, with its head smoldering. It cools its head in a small snow bank, then gets too close to a tv that's sitting up on the curb, and the light from the screen rekindles the deer's head. I feel relieved when the deer cools its head, but agitated when it becomes rekindled. (I think the word "inflames" within the dream.) [I am the deer? I "inflame" my head when I watch tv? Hmm. Maybe the news. Awake later, I wonder if the inflammation is that of my spine, rising into my head. I've had a lot of headaches lately, caused by my spinal inflammation, and I've been arguing with myself if it's worth it to go to all the trouble of eating only anti-inflammatory foods, which would require eliminate most of my favorites from my diet and would make life hardly worth the effort because I derive a lot of remedial psycho-physical comfort from what I eat; or should I simply eat what I want and take NSAIDS when necessary?] I become exasperated with the deer. I ask it why it continues to re-inflame the top of its head after it has successfully cooled it down. I hesitate to get too close to the deer because I feel like it'll hurt me; but I also feel sorry for it and affectionate toward it. In a sense it doesn't speak to me because I rule out the possibility within the dream as being totally unrealistic; but in another sense, it speaks and tells me that its head is itchy and the inflammation eases the itch, although it also causes pain. Some of the ladies who work in the office area, though somewhat distant from me now, have been monitoring my activities as if by remote viewing and are sympathetic with both the deer and me, just as they had been when I was having problems with Mr. S.

My past haunts my dreams, recurently, and usually in terms I have yet to learn how to deal with.

purely in the past

Drawing aside a little, I looked at the scene and at that point decided to separate from the crowd. If I walked in the direction of the hills, something would work out. To go on moving with a mass of people like this seemed more dangerous than striking out on my own. Fortunately, the sense of isolation that was so constant a part of me gave me the courage to do so.
Katsuzo Oda, "Human Ashes" (in The Crazy Iris)
This is so true of my past also, although I always over-enthusiastically misjudged my meager limits and way over-extended myself and found myself in potentially dangerous situations that only my continued penchant for isolation pulled me out of without too mucg damage. My mind is running on and on with ideas about how I might revise my past to make myself different(ly perceived).

It's two a.m. and I can't sleep, which wouldn't mean a thing to me if I didn't have to pick my brother and his family up at the airport tomorrow morning. I hate the idea of having to drive the twenty miles out there through heavy morning traffic in his boat of a luxury van on no sleep. This is the problem with interacting with society: it refuses to operate on my biological schedule.

Going anywhere any more is like an adventure to me. It used to be I never stayed home. I was constantly on the move. My life was an adventure, which I hardly ever paid attention to in the present moment. Life happened to me and I recorded it in memory for later perusal while I lived for doing whatever it was I was doing, pretty much spontaneously and semi-consciously.

So, I think I should be doing this still; but that kind of a life is for the young.2 It's what you do until you find your way in life, roam around and experience things, looking for what suits you and for what you are suited for. But I still feel like I'm looking; only I've settled down and am looking from a permanent position, which makes it kind of hard to experience change positively, like before.

I'm reading The Crazy Iris, a book of stories about the experiences of Japanese people during and after the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The narratives are terse and purely descriptive, as if the event blasted the feeling right out of them. They mention their inner experiences occasionally, but it's as if from a distance. That's the way I've lived my life, separated off and too shocked to react.

I've always thought that I should have been a traveling reporter seeking out significant historical events first-hand; but I've always been too caught up in my own personal existence to care. I lived in NYC when Warhol was around, knew who he was, and was vaguely aware that he lived nearby. I could easily have sought him out, and I feel like he would have taken to me, a fellow hometowner.

But I didn't. I was too cool to be a fan or protg. I never saw the Statue of Liberty, Coney Island, or any significant landmark. I ate my lunch every day in Central Park and thought it the most ordinary thing to do. I remember Lincoln Center, because I worked a block away, but I never paid any attention to it. I spent my Sundays in either Tompkins or Washington Square, disconcerned.

The United Nations was fairly closed to where I lived. I never saw it. I walked down Bleeker Street once, unimpressed. It was just another street. I knew its significance; I just couldn't care. These places were where I happened to have ended up. I didn't go there to see them, I went just being me. If I'd have thought of it at all, I would have expected these places to attend to me.

I have a million ideas right now--no different than at any other time--that I want to get expressed; my ideas. How could I ever have reported on events external to myself? My mind is racing too fast to sleep, even though I only had six hours last night. And yet all afternoon I was too unmotivated to do anything but sit and read. Now, now, when I need to be asleep, I want to work.

I feel like I should go out right now and seek out specific (types of) experiences, like Thomas Wolfe did; or in a more general way, set out on big adventures to serve as material, like Hemingway and countless other writers have done. But I'm too old for all that shit. (Didn't I just write that? Oh, yeah, I did.) So I'm going to write about my past instead. (Not now; but soon.)

I'm going to write a "past journal" as if I'm the age I was when I experienced what I did and from that more limited point of view. (My actual journals back that far are devoted almost entirely to dreams; not too much real life stuff got in.) I'm going to try to exclude my present sensibility and "report" what I did then in the way I saw and understood the world and myself then.

[This can be the literal truth or it can be spun to enable people, especially those involved who (I) might (want to) read it, to re-interpret the events that they see now from their far different perspective, people who judged me (or would have judged me if they had known me) in what I'd consider now an erroneous way. I want to correct their misperceptions; but why should I bother?]

I have never been the person people thought I was. (This is still largely true in the present.) There are a number of reasons for this, all having to do with my relative lack of concern for how people thought of me; I never much tried to create an impression, first or otherwise. Now I find myself wanting to go back and undo all of that, shake up people's ideas of who and what I am.

One of the reasons: If I (semi-consciously) wanted the attention of someone who insisted on remaining distracted, I might make increasingly outrageous statements until they ended up finally hearing the last thing I said, but not the lead-up to it. I achieved the result, and I never went back and corrected the negative impression I'd made. It seemed irrelevant to what I was all about.

Consequently, people formed their own, erroneous, opinions; because I was not so serious. I was only concerned with the psychology of the situation, not the content. In this way as well as in others I created a past that was, at best, misinterpreted, and worse, a simple fabrication, a contortion of exaggerations and falsehoods designed for immediate effect, but unwittingly lasting.

Now I want to go back and correct (at least some of) these errors. I feel like I want people to understand, incident by incident, where I was coming from back then and who I really was. But I want to do it by "re-writing" history, not by revisionist techniques, but by telling the event as if for the first time, as if I'd written of it in journal format shortly after it had occurred.

[If I can't manage this, if I insist, without intending to, on adding a more up-to-date perspective and/or more mature sensibilities, then I will try, when rewriting the material, to revise via extracting that content out into a separate text stream, perhaps via colored text or footnotes or whatever other mechanism(s), so that the story proper remains purely in the past.]


Freedom is never given so much as it is taken.
There is only so much time; but I have it all.
I may not utilize it very well most of the time, but...
I'm the King of the World!

Today, for the first time in a very long time, I experienced the effects of acute stress--and lived to tell the tale (I live an unconsciously pensive life, I realize, watching every situation and timeline, calculating ahead of time where the pinch points are and how they might be encountered, so that I may avoid overtaxing my system and initiating another loss of heart rhythm; after four hospitalizations, I've been successful at avoiding any further incident for over ten years.):

With only three hours of fitful sleep finally achieved via deep meditation so that much of it earlier on was less sleep than reduced awareness, eyes burning, feeling that familiar nostalgia of Ozzy ambulation, putting one foot in front of the other to prevent myself from falling on my face, next item of business, next item of business, only x more steps and I'll be back home and into a bed of oblivion (when I was working, this was practically every single work day for me), I negotiate heavy parkway traffic among assholes who used to be me now cutting me off. Assholes! Karma. Driving the van reminds me of my old van, in which I sat even further forward than in this one, up above the roadway and looking down on it, as if I were hands-free in the prow of a ship. That feeling of freedom I always used to feel while driving, that feeling that counteracts and temporarily reduced stress, returns to me. For years it has been trumped by my more general feeling of overall freedom afforded by not having to go to work every day. The rest of the way to the airport, I alternate between this feeling and the stress caused by road and traffic conditions, settling back and relaxing when possible.

At the airport, I park in short term, go inside, and at Au Bon Pain I get a small cup of coffee (the size that used to be called large before they introduced the even larger size and then the "all-day conference meeting" size). This is my second cup of the day, and I worry about drinking it; but I really need it. Even with four sugars and much cream it tastes like shit. But I sip it dutifully as I stand next to the escalators down to baggage pick-up and await the arrival of the flight, walking over every few minutes to the arrivals board to see if the plane is in yet. I really want to sit down, but the chairs are close together and the few that are available are squeezed in between fat ladies or crude-looking men. I wait nearly an hour before descending to baggage pick-up to see if my people are down there. They are, baggage already claimed and just about ready to go. It seems there is another way down to baggage pick-up just outside the security gate that I didn't know about. The airport is not set up any more to cater to people who are not flying. Droppers-off and pickers-up do not get beyond security and there is very little room available to wait conveniently elsewhere, except in baggage pick-up, of course. I should have waited there right from the start.

On the way home, a guy in a beat-up pickup is riding our tail, causing my brother to curse out at him in a too-loud and thus disturbing shout, with no effect, of course, on the actions or intent of the other driver, but highly disturbing to the rest of us, though I doubt that any of the others would admit it, at least while my brother is around. Finally, the pickup passes us on the right as the exit lane opens, and farther ahead he pulls back into traffic; then he darts back into the exit lane and pulls back in farther up. Joyce says, "I hope no one else lets him back in and he has to get off the exit." I almost say that you can always get into a line of traffic, there's always just enough space to push in, because some drivers will always be intimidatable; you look for the women, the youngest or oldest ones, the ones who are unlikely to get out of their cars and attack you when traffic stops or unlikely to be carrying a gun they might use in an incident of road rage. I know this because this is the way I used drive home from work every single weekday.

Joyce comments on the traffic backup, how it's too early in the day for rush hour. I say, "It's Friday. Rush hour starts early." There's a pattern to the traffic here: The right lane, which farther up becomes the exit lane before the tunnels, always moves the fastest because people stay out of it to avoid not being able to get into backed-up traffic once it becomes a dedicated exit lane; the closer you get to the exit, the harder it is to get back into traffic, and sometimes the cops sit up near the exit and bust drivers trying to force their way in, since the lane is clearly marked "Exit Only." The middle lane moves next fastest up to a point almost to the exit. Then, the pattern changes and the left lane begins to move the fastest into and through the tunnels. What you have to do is use the exit lane for as far as possible, then force your way into the middle lane, then force your way into the fast lane as the speeds change. It's easy to do if you're wired from a day of drinking coffee, stressed beyond endurance, and the single thing dominating your mind is to get home and settle down. During rush hour, it normally takes about half an hour to get through the tunnels. I could always do it in less than ten minutes, leaving behind me a trail of pissed off drivers. I almost explain this all to Joyce; but I think better of it since she's been critical of how the guy in the pickup is driving. I don't want her to think of me in that way. Even though it's in my past, I feel like I could become that same asshole again under the right (or wrong) circumstances.

After helping the family into the house with their luggage, I depart, heading for the bank. This is the last day I have to renew one of my CDs before it defaults to the less desirable automatic renewal rate. I'm feeling wasted and far beyond exhaustion, but I notice that, in this frame of mind, nothing seems to bother me (unless someone would happen to disrespect me in one or another self-perceived way, a common occurrence that in any other state of mind I would ignore; but in this state I could, without thinking about it at all, end up responding in kind and with a whole lot more vehemence. I need to learn how to write prayers to the gods of intelligent wit and wisdom and spontaneous social action that reside inside my brain and direct my unconscious behavior and keep me on the right course through life when my conscious ego-mind doesn't interfere with their benign influence). If I could remain in this exhausted state but remain calm and feel okay (unaffected by my automatic-vengeance syndrome or heart rhythm and other stress-related problems), this would be the perfect way to short-circuit my social anxiety; in fact, I realize, this is exactly what I used to do when I was working: it's easy to relate to people when you're not stuck inside your head anticipating not only every bad thing that might happen, but every good thing as well; on auto-pilot, you take care of what needs to be taken care of as the time to take care of it occurs, and you pretty much relegate everything else to a later time after you've gotten some rest. Later, back home, I will add this realization to the notes on my newly developed theory of marathon accomplishment as a "mini marathon method": push to get something done, some nagging task or goal accomplished in a single-minded effort, and then crash, abandoning all else until everything is back to "normal" with the standard daily routine and schedule reestablished. This could work; it does work when I will do it spontaneously occasionally, making certain that I do not go beyond that point where stress overtakes reasonable sense. I've got to make this a part of my SOP, because I've been suffering a serious setback in the motivation area recently.

The bank has a new customer service rep, Lora, young, blond, only very slightly boyish, thin, but with an unusual, though still attractive, postural hip placement when seated that accentuates in an odd and only slightly chubby way her tummy and thighs. She's very business-like and methodical and she zips through each transaction efficiently. I express a few concerns about how my CDs renew, and she changes them over to revert to the money market so that I have maximum flexibility later if I should happen to miss renewing one of them. Then, after she's finished with all of the paperwork, she makes good eye contact with me, finally, and she tells me to have a nice holiday, and I tell her to have the same, and we say goodbye to each other, and then, after our eyes drop away and I start to turn, we look at each other one last time before I leave.

Oh, to be young again. (But she was wearing a huge diamond on her left ring finger; but, then again, when did that ever stop me?)

Back home, I don't want to crash. The sun is shining brightly and I want to sit outside and read. Or else I want to continue to accomplish things. But I know my physiology and what will happen if I push myself too far. I go to bed.

I'm in a hospital. Someone has died or is in the process of dying. [Me?] There's lots of stuff going on in small rooms and in the halls that I can't remember. In a lobby-like hallway, Jimmy Kimmel is a police detective giving a news conference about the death to a small group of reporters. Helen Hunt, in scrubs, an intern or resident at the hospital, comes running down a hall and into this one, having heard of (or seen on a monitor in another room) the incident Kimmel is reporting on. She bursts into the hallway just as Kimmel announces that the guy's death was exactly the same as the president's. [When I awoke, I had the exact words, quoted, for this--because it was a tv sound bite; but I've since forgotten them. It had something to do with the guy (he mentions him by name) being murdered, just like the president had been.] Helen's extreme concern turns into grief at hearing the words. I feel exactly what she's feeling. It turns out that the dead guy is Helen's boyfriend. It's an overwhelming affect. Kimmel and I leave the building and walk out onto the street. As we walk along, two blond women, made up very nicely, approach us. They take our arms and tell us they're taking us to dinner. We don't know these women, but we're both flattered by their attentions; but I feel like, maybe, they're prostitutes. Nevertheless, I go along. The short one takes Jimmy's arm and the tall one, taller than I am, puts her arms around my shoulders, drapes herself over me, and hangs onto me. We cross the street and walk up a hillside toward a prosperous-looking house. The hillside is, at first, an extension of a side street that is, although still commercial, a bit out-of-the-way, although not in any kind of seedy way. The steeper the landscape gets, the more overgrown it becomes, although the trees and bushes are not wild, but cultivated. As we reach the top of the hill and come up next to the building, I see a faux-old-fashioned sign that reads _____ Tavern. This place look very posh and exclusive. I try to look through a window to see what it looks like inside, but I can't see anything. We've come up on this place from the side, but at the front where the sign is we see that it's a straight drop-off down to the city, which looks like the Century City area of LA. The same drop-off exists on the other two sides of the building, although there's more vegetation there and, paradoxically, the city streets are not so far down on these other sides. No one could walk up to this place and I wonder how customers might get up here, because as I look back the way we came, I see that the hill is far steeper than I realized and is almost a cliff itself, or rather several near-cliffs with landings in between. Again, I surmise that the women could be hookers and this could be their high-priced bordello. I think/intuit that the restaurant is a front and the real business is done on lower floors that extend down into the depths of the hill and have an entrance, disguised as a storefront, down on the main street below, the street that the hospital was on. The big girl and I decide to go back. I'm afraid to try to climb back down the hill, but the girl precedes me, saying it's easy. She jumps/slides down the steep hillside to the highest landing, which is small and narrow and I think that she could easily have missed it and tumbled on down. I decide that it's too dangerous; and she decides that to proceed down to the next landing would be even more dangerous, so she's stuck on the hillside. Kimmel has managed to contact police rescue squads and they send out helicopters to airlift us back down, which I want to feel is equally dangerous, although its not; but I'm deathly afraid of heights and even merely standing at the front of the house is vertiginously affective. [I've had this same feeling in several recent dreams. At the same time it is highly intimidating to the point of being deadly and yet it is exhilarating.]

Awake, I am so impressed by the dream's affect that I decide I want to dream it again, and I force myself back into sleep: Helen Hunt comes running down the hall and bursts into tears at the news that her boyfriend has been murdered. I feel her emotions fully. Then, I'm sitting in a chair at the side of the "lobby" as a doctor tells me that my girlfriend has died, and I feel the same emotion and this time I act it out. (Previously, while watching Helen, I felt what she felt but remained outwardly stoic.) I'm getting into the feeling, expressing it fully, when some yells, "Cut," and suddenly the emotion is cut off, although traces of it persist as I smile and wipe the tears from my face. The doctor, an unknown (to me) but mainstay character actor, comments on my performance, praising me for it. I feel like I'm in acting school, doing exercises designed to release emotion. Helen, off to the side, and in fact everyone else there, also appreciates my performance and they all applaud it.

I feel satisfied and happy that I have done a good acting job and at the same time released some genuine emotion and I also feel like I should have remained reserved and revealed nothging, as if I were a tough character in a movie [I am]. Both of these modes, I understand, are the same affect, the former released, the latter withheld. And both are defensive postures, the former eliciting sympathy and help from people who respond to such states (or appreciation that you are capable of feeling), the latter more obviously defensive as a protective shell that prohibits penetration.

Click on footnote number to return to that respective point in the text.
1. Language sometimes pisses me off. For example, when I can't change the text of a split infinitive because the rejoined infinitive doesn't exactly express the idea I want to communicate in the way that the split infinitive does, I get pissed off. Language should be capable of better precision. (Actually, it's that old split infinite "rule" and not the language itself that's the problem. It's those old anal grammarians who beat this crap into my head in the first place that I should be pissed off at.) The same thing happens when I want to express myself with a single-person verb and grammar wants me to use 'his or her' instead of 'they.' Fuck that shit! Why hasn't the English language developed a single word that means 'his or her?' But getting pissed off at language is kind of stupid, and I always feel silly when I do it. It's really just a way I have of getting pissed off at my inability to accurately express myself to express myself accurately.

2. "Harry and Tonto" type events are rare exceptions.