Archive for the 'Dreams' Category


More than meets the eye

I had a dream last night that the planet was invaded by an alien species of robots that could change shape. (I’m going to get on the phone to Hasbro immediately. We could make a mint!)

I was in a mountain cabin near “the city,” and I could see them approaching from below. A band of survivors came and took over my place as a home base.

I didn’t like their techniques, so I hatched a plan to escape and strike out on my own (like an idiot).

It was the dream of a 12-year-old boy, but it felt SO real, and I woke up in a panic.


The Cruelest Dream

Minutes before my alarm sounded this morning, I had a dream that I was getting ready for bed.

It was a deceptively pleasant dream. I pulled back the comforter and sheets, fluffed up my pillows, snuggled in, positioned myself just so. I always sleep with one arm under my pillow. My other arm lies bent in front of me, my palm against my forehead, fingers through my hair.

I savored the coolness of the unmolested sheets against my body. When I stopped moving, I felt the covers settle like a gentle, silent, heavy snowfall as pockets of air seeped out. I was so tired. I pulled the covers tight and heaved a quiet, satisfied sigh. I was just fading off to sleep, and then…

Continue reading ‘The Cruelest Dream’


The Best Movie Never Made

Dreams can really make you glad to wake up sometimes. Witness the one I had a few days ago, in which I could not stop shitting myself.

Last night’s was much lighter in tone but no less weird.

It was in the format of a movie trailer. Not sure if I was watching the trailer, or if the dream was a trailer — or if I was some kind of omniscient observer. And not just any trailer, but the trailer for that 1979 Bill Murray summer camp movie Meatballs. Or, rather, a remade version of it. It had that grainy, filmic quality of those old trailers, with garish, yellow titles and an overenthusiastic voice over.

It starts out normal, but then there’s a scene in which Bill Murray and the shy, awkward teenage main character Rudy (played in the movie, as in my dream, by Chris Makepeace) have some kind of fight. Bill Murray is shouting at Rudy and provoking him, poking him in the chest and berating him until Rudy flips his lid and shouts “There’s nothing I want more than to kill you right now!” He charges toward Bill Murray, arms flailing, and they both fall into a gruesome fist fight.
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An Autograph from Shelley Long

Mom and dad and I were on a roller coaster. It was a sunny and cool summer or spring day. I was my present age, or a little younger (I always feel younger around my parents). They were somewhere in their 50s and still married. And I was dreaming.

I was able to see the coaster from a third-person perspective as well as my own. It was like watching it on TV or in a video game. This allowed me to see the train moving so fast that sometimes there was no track under the wheels. We would be suspended on solid but invisible tracks for a second, like the cars remembered where they were supposed to go, before sections of track would suddenly blink into existence. My in-dream explanation was that the processor in the computer was too slow to keep up with the train. We were spinning and dipping and looping so much that I began to worry my dad would get sick. Plus, I felt bad about sitting with my mom instead of him.

After the coaster stopped, my dad approached the ride operator looking a bit rattled, babbling, shaking all over, with a wild look in his eyes. I assumed he was doing it for comic effect, and that the operator must see people behaving like this all day long. To prevent my dad from embarrassing himself, I took his arm to lead him away — a gesture, I was aware, both arrogant and presumptuous.

When I approached him, I saw that he truly was shaken. Never mind him getting sick to his stomach, it occurred to me for the first time that he might be having a heart attack. In my dream, he’d had one years before. Not so in real life, though we suspect it’s what finally killed him. We’ll never know for sure.

The next thing I remember is being in a parking lot at night. Maybe at an amusement park, maybe not. Mom was no longer around, and Dad was apparently feeling a little better, sitting in the passenger seat of The Car (any car). He looked over my shoulder and said, mightily impressed, “Huh! Look, there’s Shelley Duvall.”

The woman walking by had what looked like a short amber-colored perm, and she wore a knee-length beige skirt and jacket with brown piping and a white blouse ruffled at the collar. It didn’t look like Shelley Duvall to me. But I followed her as she walked to her car. When she opened the door and turned to enter, I saw that it was in fact Shelley Long.

Dad loves her! I thought. (In the dream he loved her, anyway, and I recalled memories of us watching Cheers together, memories that I now realize may or may not be real.) I thought I might make up for putting him through that roller coaster, cheer him up, by getting him an autograph.

As I approached Shelley Long, I glimpsed a guy crouched at the driver’s side rear corner just long enough to wonder what he was doing there, when — flash. “Got it!” he shouted.

Whether he was a paparazzo or a private investigator, Shelley Long seemed unperturbed, but I did not want to be associated with him. So I cleared my throat and began, “Excuse me, Miss… uhm… Long? Hi. Uhm, I have nothing to do with this guy, just so you know. But I was wondering if you could do something for me.”

The photographer had the gas cap door open, and he was tucking some money inside. “There,” he said.

She looked impatient. Well… and?

“I was hoping I could get your autograph, ma’am,” I said.

But I didn’t have a pen on me. Or paper. “Do you have any?” I asked, embarrassed at my lack of preparation. Clearly she did not. “Never mind. There’s one in my coat. Which is in my car. Just around the corner. I can go run and get it.”

“No,” she said, sighing loudly. “I may not be here when you get back.”

My mind raced. I must have that autograph! “Well, how’s about this?” I stammered. “I go run and get my pen, and if you’re here, great. And if you’re not, at least it’s my own stupid fault.”

She shrugged: agreement enough for me — or at least not a disagreement.

Then she crawled into her car and curled herself up so her entire body fit into the steering well. It did not look comfortable, as her head was now tilted nearly completely upside down, and her legs were tucked up somewhere behind her body. But she seemed unbothered by the posture. It was as if she were hiding from someone. And she was now in no position to sign anything.

I gave up on the pen. To leave her alone seemed dangerous somehow. Shelley Long was having an emotional crisis of some sort.

Stepped past the photographer, who was just sort of crouching there, I asked her what was wrong, but she said she couldn’t tell me. “Of course you can tell me,” I said. I fancied it a somewhat heroic gesture on my part. “You need to talk to someone.”

If she was worried that I was some kind of gossip reporter, she gave no such indication. I don’t remember what we discussed, but once she opened up a crack, it all came spilling out. I worried that the guy with the camera would be taking down every word, but he seemed to have stopped moving — like his wind-up clockwork had stopped running.

And that’s all I remember.

Usually my dreams are about ordinary, banal events like making coffee or being at work. Sometimes they’re overcomplicated versions of normal things, like trying to find my way through a stranger’s house on my hands and knees in a reality somewhere between M.C. Escher and Lewis Carol.

Sometimes they’re miniature fantasy scenarios, like talking on a video telephone to Madonna — until she begins to make dubious claims about losing the connection (“You’re fading, Eric. You’re fading.” Roughly translated: “You’re boring me. I’m hanging up.”)

Sometimes they defy normal physical laws, like the time I drove a car down an ordinary staircase into my uncle’s basement.

I find myself every once in a while dreaming about my childhood best friend, who told me to stop coming over to his house after his parents found out I was gay. Clearly an experience like that will leave a mark; I understand why that would be on my mind. But sometimes I remember a real doozy the morning after — like the one where a stained-glass rocking horse emerged from The Ocean (any ocean) to attack The City (any city), throwing immense objects out of its way, such as a radio tower and large pieces of the bridge I happened to be standing on at the time. I have no explanation for dreams like this.

Among those dreams that defy explanation, my favorites are the ones that last long enough to take completely unexpected turns. Like giving Shelley Long a shoulder to cry on. I tend to appreciate them as inexplainable little “art movies” rather than something with a psychological explanation.

I may never understand the apparent potency of an autograph from Shelley Long, but it’s not hard to see the value of a few stolen moments with my dad.


What? No, really… what?

Mad, crazy turkey, or the link between dinosaurs and birds?

Last night I had a dream that I was stalking an archaeopteryx. This would be the long-extinct link between reptiles and birds. The “first bird,” if you will.

I was crawling on my belly on a forest floor. After waiting for who knows how long, I looked up and saw it through a gap in the leafy canopy. Its flight followed a graceful arc, its wings beating effortlessly. I don’t think an archaeopteryx actually flew this way. It was not a bird as we know it. It was a reptile, much heavier than a bird. Its bones were not hollow. It glided, and it flew short distances like a bird, but it was not like an albatross or an eagle or a sparrow.

The creature in my dream was beautiful, with a spectrum of feathers splayed out along its wings like a multicolored poker hand. It had fins of feathers on its head, too, like a gryphon. They looked like horns or ears. The head in real life would actually probably have been covered with something more like scales than feathers. And it would not have had horns. I remembered this after I woke, but during the dream I saw the creature as a normal specimen.

It soon spotted me and began to approach. I remembered it was a carnivore and that I probably looked pretty tasty, but I didn’t know where I could run to avoid it. And anyway, this being a dream, I couldn’t move. The closer it got, the uglier it looked and the slower it moved. Soon it was just floating down, like the petal of a blossom or a piece of fluff from the laundry.

When it reached the ground with a soft bounce, the creature looked nothing like it did when it was in the sky. It was brown, gray, withered, shabby. It looked like pieces were missing — its eyes, for one thing. It had no feathers. It was dried up. It was dead. But it was still moving.

It was trying to communicate with me, but it made no sound. It just hopped and flapped impotently, thrashing around through the dead leaves. I had the impression that these movements were meant in a menacing way. It wanted to hurt me, but it was harmless.

Then I became aware that there was someone else on the ground next to me. He or she was a companion. I knew that much, but I didn’t know who it was. This person was similarly dead and dried up in a gray, intact, zombie sort of way, able to move arms and legs but not apparently able to stand or walk or talk. Then I realized the archaeopteryx was communicating with — threatening, in fact — this dead friend. The corpse was scared of this creature, I could tell. And I realized that I was not. Rather than being startled by a partially mobile dead person, I was mainly annoyed that I couldn’t tell who it was.

I stood up and ran away. I tore through the brush, forgetting where I had just come from.


Nothing Like Rudolph

A Cylon centurion, c. 1978, from the original Battlestar Galactica series

When I was a kid, I had recurring dreams that the Cylons from Battlestar Galactica were after me. We’d see them approaching down the street, and my mom would wrap me in an afghan and hide me behind the couch. She’d politely let them in when they knocked at the door (yes, they knocked), and I’d hear them clunking through the house, searching for me. I was sure they’d capture me and kill me or make me into a human slave. No matter what their plans might have been, the worst part was he thought of them taking me away from my house.

After a few minutes of coming dangerously close (but not close enough!), they’d always give up and leave, promising that they would come back again some other time. I’d pop up from behind the couch, pull the blanket off myself, breathe a heavy sigh, wipe my sweaty forehead, and give my mom a big hug.

Last night, in a bizarre throwback to my childhood, I had a dream that a reindeer was trying to get me. I was my present age. It was winter. I was at my grandma’s house in suburban Detroit, where reindeer usually glow with electric persistence, are made of plastic and stand in people’s front yards from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day.

Looking out the kitchen window, I saw a reindeer trudging across the lawn to the front door. I couldn’t tell if he was friendly or not, but he was sort of mangey and dirty, and it looked like his antlers had been sawed off.

A far friendlier-looking reindeer than the one in my dream.

As he approached the door, I opened it to meet him. He looked menacingly at me and demanded, “Let me in.”

“No,” I said, startled not so much by the reindeer’s ability to speak as by his foul mood. “What do you want?”

“Let me in!”

I slammed the door and snapped it locked. He scratched half-heartedly at the storm door and loped away.

It occurred to me that he might try the side door and come in through the kitchen. My heart was racing. What could he want? What would he do if he got inside? I ran to the garage and got to the door just as the reindeer was charging toward me. I locked the door and leaned against it for reinforcement. He stoped short of ramming the door and put his eye up to the window. He was clearly very angry. I wondered if he had some sort of disease. And what did he want with me anyway?

“Open the door!” he demanded. “Let me in!” His breath fogged over the glass.

“No!” I shouted and ran back into the house, hoping he’d get bored and just leave me alone.

the untallied hours