The City at Night

“We live as we dream–alone….”

― Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness

Woodall Rogers Expressway, Dallas, Texas

I used to never remember my dreams… and when I did they were gray, ordinary, and frustrating. Lately, they have been vivid and memorable, if more than a bit disjointed. Maybe as the dreams of my waking life are slowly extinguished… the sleeping ones come alive.

Last night, among other things, I dreamed that I shot someone…half on purpose (my tiny revolver had a hair-trigger). The bullet went through his neck, but he survived. He was pissed, though.

That’s all I can think of right now – I have to go to sleep – we’re a car short and I have to ride my bike to work – and that means I have to get up before dawn so I can leave as the sun comes up. Otherwise it’s already too hot.

In the meantime – here’s something I wrote in December, 1998.

I’m writing another entry sitting in the van, waiting in a parking lot. This time it’s a long way from home. I have a focus group at eight thirty, on the tenth floor of a big office building, at Park Central on the northern arc of Dallas’ LBJ freeway loop. I have better things to do with my time than sit here, but they’ll pay me a hundred dollars, cash. Allowing an hour to get here, it only took twenty minutes, so I found this lot in a commercial strip right off Central Expressway. About a half hour to kill before I drive back to the building, that’s how long the batteries in this old Dell can hold out.

I had wanted to go exercise after work and there is a club located between there and here. I forgot my damn shoes again, can’t very well work out in steel-toed safety boots, so I stayed in my office a couple hours late. Time is becoming so precious, it drove me nuts. Nowhere to go, no money, nothing much to do (I was so sick of work, it was tough to get anything extra accomplished). So I sat and did some light computer stuff and watched the hands turn.

At least the van is a good place to type. The middle bench seat is roomy enough for me to hold the laptop on my lap, there is enough stray light from the parking lot to illuminate the keys without washing out the screen. Also, the van isn’t stalling. I was about to give up yesterday, when I put another fresh tank of fuel in her, and presto- no more problems. My guess is that the recent cold snap condensed water into the gas tank, it took a refill to work itself out.

Across the street from here is a big hospital. This is where both Nick and Lee were born. It seems like I’ve been there a hundred times, for childbirth classes, medical emergencies, routine checkups. We don’t have the HMO anymore, so we don’t come back here now. One reason I dropped it was because I was concerned about the drive from Mesquite, it scared me to think of Candy driving over here in the awful traffic with a sick kid strapped in beside her.

The traffic is scary. The intersection of LBJ and Central may be the busiest in the Metroplex, maybe the country. Lines of white, lines of red. Going either seventy or stopped. I constantly look at these thousands and thousands of cars speeding past and wonder where all these people are going. What are their dreams? Are they happy? Do they really want to go where their car is pointing? Why are they in such a hurry to get there?

Honk! Honk! Honk! The car alarm on a big sedan is going off. A woman gets out. Is it her car? Is she confused by the alarm and can’t shut it off? Or is she stealing the thing? I don’t care. It stops, she gets back in. Nobody calls the police. There the car goes.

Behind this strip, this line of office supplies, fast food Chinese, medical equipment, and podiatrist, is the dark slash of a creek. I know that linear wilderness better than I know the wild street; the White Rock bicycle trail runs back there. It starts five miles to the south at the lake and winds along the creek embankment, using the floodplain to cut through these civilized islands unseen and undisturbed. The day was dry and warm, I wish I had my bike and was able to get some late season fresh air back there today. Or I wish I had a nice light and could run the trail now. Swooshing along in the dark, heart pumping, legs pumping.

Oh, well.

I think I’d better wrap this up, save the file and get going. I’m not sure exactly where to park (there is a maze of garages around the office complex) and I don’t want to be late. They won’t give me my money.

Thanks for listening to me ramble, thanks for helping me kill a few minutes away from home, thanks for the memories and the city at night.

Dreams Within Dreams

“Dreams feel real while we’re in them. It’s only when we wake up that we realize something was actually strange.”

—- Inception

Vivian Maier

The worst kind of dream is when you dream that you wake up in your own bed. I mean, if you are dreaming you are in a submarine on Mars – if things go wonky, you can say to yourself, “Well, there are no submarines on Mars, and if there were, I wouldn’t be in one.” You know you are dreaming and can relax, knowing you will be awake sometime soon.

I rarely remember my dreams (There is that weird, just awoke, feeling where you feel the dream memories draining away like water down a drain) and when I do, they are very mundane and frustrating, like my real life.

Sometimes, though, I remember vividly.

The other night I dreamed that I was at Starbucks for a while, when it was time to go I discovered my car had been stolen. I walked around the parking lot, looking at the vacant space where my car used to be. Understandably, I was pretty upset and wondering how I was going to get home until I realized I was dreaming.

Right after that, I woke up in my bed… the sun was rising and I could see gray through the windows. I sat up, parted the curtains and looked out. My car was gone. Not a good way to start the day.

Then… I woke up again. I had been dreaming that I was in bed. This time, looking out at the street, I was relieved to see my car.

Unfortunately, there was an inch of ice all over it. There would be scraping before I made it to work.

RIP Dustin Hoffman (not really)

“When King Lear dies in Act V, do you know what Shakespeare has written? He’s written “He dies.” That’s all, nothing more. No fanfare, no metaphor, no brilliant final words. The culmination of the most influential work of dramatic literature is “He dies.” It takes Shakespeare, a genius, to come up with “He dies.” And yet every time I read those two words, I find myself overwhelmed with dysphoria. And I know it’s only natural to be sad, but not because of the words “He dies,” but because of the life we saw prior to the words. I’ve lived all five of my acts, Mahoney, and I am not asking you to be happy that I must go. I’m only asking that you turn the page, continue reading… and let the next story begin. And if anyone asks what became of me, you relate my life in all its wonder, and end it with a simple and modest “He died.”
― Dustin Hoffman

New Orleans

I rarely remember my dreams – but last night I had a dream so realistic I woke up convinced it had really happened. I dreamed that Dustin Hoffman had died. I remember reading the word “Suddenly” in the article. It was so vivid that when I woke up I had to look it up to see if it had happened. I’m glad he’s going to appear in “Our Town” once Broadway opens back up.

Why did I dream of Dustin Hoffman? I have no idea. While I respect his impressive body of work, I never was a particular fan (I actually didn’t like Tootsie).

I do remember reading that because of his death Ishtar had shot to the top of the streaming charts.

Short Story Of the Day, the descent by Bill Chance

“ As he collapsed into deep slumber he felt himself still plummeting through the earth.”

—-Bill Chance, the descent

Dallas Museum of Art
Dallas, Texas

 

I have been feeling in a deep hopeless rut lately, and I’m sure a lot of you have too. After writing another Sunday Snippet I decided to set an ambitious goal for myself. I’ll write a short piece of fiction every day and put it up here. Obviously, quality will vary – you get what you get. Length too – I’ll have to write something short on busy days. They will be raw first drafts and full of errors.

I’m not sure how long I can keep it up… I do write quickly, but coming up with an idea every day will be a difficult challenge. So far so good. Maybe a hundred in a row might be a good, achievable, and tough goal.

Here’s another one for today (#13). What do you think? Any comments, criticism, insults, ideas, prompts, abuse … anything is welcome. Feel free to comment or contact me.

Thanks for reading.

 


 

the descent

Lucien stood in front of the refrigerator and scooped a large spoonfull of chicken salad into a small white bowl. He added a handful of curved shaved shards of Parmesan cheese and ate it standing there.

He was struck by such exhaustion he barely made it to his bedroom before tumbling over into the tangle of sheets, pillows, and quilts in a sudden torpidity. As he collapsed into deep slumber he felt himself still plummeting through the earth, falling into a jagged opening dream-chasm,  falling faster and faster into the darkness of sleep. Eventually, at the bottom of the opaque void he found himself wandering blindly, stumbling into and between the jagged remains of his lost hopes and broken dreams.

 

Short Story (Flash Fiction) Of the Day, Six Dreams About the Train by Maria Haskins

Then you wake up and look at me and you smile and I know who I am again, that I am real, that you are real, that this is the world as it is supposed to be.

—-Maria Haskins, Six Dreams About the Train

 

There is something primal about a train. I read the story and I think of six trains from my life: the DART commuter trains sliding between the crystal towers of the downtown skyscrapers wet with rain, a steam powered narrow gauge from the past chugging upwards from a hundred degree day to a lunch in the snow, a classic diesel-electric taking a small child alone across the Kansas Prairie, the burning of a derailed chemical train in the lowlands of rural Louisiana, a high school band crossing the forty five miles from Atlantic to Pacific (ironically going west to east) for a football game, a child’s ride around the periphery of a rundown theme park… the memories (even the recent ones) take on the misty confusion of a dream. Everything is starting to do that.

Read it here:

Short Story (Flash Fiction) Of the Day, Six Dreams About the Train by Maria Haskins

 

From Flash Fiction Online

Maria Haskins Twitter

Maria Haskins – Writer and Translator

Dream of Gigabytes

Woodall Rogers Freeway, Dallas, Texas, thirty second exposure, taken from the west end of Klyde Warren Park

Jung said that science is nested in a dream. The dream is that if we investigated the structures of material reality with sufficient attention and truth, that we could then learn enough about material reality to then alleviate suffering: To produce the philosopher’s stone – to make everybody wealthy, to make everybody healthy, to make everyone live as long as they wanted to live or perhaps forever. That’s the goal – to alleviate the catastrophe of existence. The idea that the solutions to the mysteries of life that enable us to develop such a substance, or multitude of substances, provided the motive force for the development of science. Jung traced that development of the motive force to over the period of 1,000 years. Jung went back into alchemical texts and interpreted them as if they were the dream upon which science was founded.

—-Jordan Peterson

I don’t usually remember my dreams. I know I have had them, I can feel them silvering away, sliding into forgetfulness. I’m left with vague feelings of fear and dread – so maybe it’s best that I don’t remember.

But sometimes I do. The other night I clearly remember one – or at least a good part of it. I go on these photowalks when I can manage it, and one was scheduled for Friday night down in the arts district. I’ve been thinking about this walk – working on a way to carry a tripod (it will fit in a gym bag I have – barely) and planning on doing some long exposures in the dark – working with blur and such.

In my dream I was doing my photowalk and taking a lot of pictures. Suddenly, a scene opened up in front of me, something of indescribably beauty and interest. It must have been indescribable because I don’t remember what it was. But it was something that I absolutely had to take a photo of.

When I pushed the shutter nothing happened. I discovered that my memory card was full.

Frantically, I lowered my camera and began deleting photos I had taken, trying to free up space for this amazing something right in front of my eyes. But I was too slow, and missed the photo of a lifetime.

I wondered what this dream meant and resolved to take a lot of photos – maybe even fill the card up.

When Friday arrived I carefully packed my bag with my camera, full battery, extra lens, tripod, and cable release. At the appropriate time after work I lugged the pack down to the LBJ/Central DART train station to ride downtown for the photowalk. Once the train began to move I decided to check everything one more time. It was all in the bag… then I pulled out my camera. Checking the battery once more, I saw the dreaded warning, “NO SD CARD INSERTED.”

My card was, of course, still on my desk at home stuck in my laptop where I had transferred the data from my last photoshoot. I didn’t panic – but was pretty upset at my idiocy. I began to think, “This is a huge city, where can I buy an SD card?” I didn’t have much time,

I don’t like to be late to group things.

I knew there was a 7/11 convenience store downtown, right at my last train stop. It’s major purpose is to sell cheap wine to the homeless, but it might have digital cards – for tourists and stuff. I pulled out my phone, did a search and found a page that listed items that 7/11 stores carried. I typed in “Dallas” and was presented with odd results – then I realized it was a dot.au site and I was searching Australian convenience stores – not much help.

Time was slipping away – the train was hurtling toward a digital-less downtown. So I pulled up Google Maps on my phone, watching the blue dot of my train going down the tracks. Looking ahead – I noticed that there was an office supply store right next to the Lover’s Lane train stop.

I was able to find a 16 gig card in the clearance rack. The whole store had a sad feel to it, Amazon is grinding office supply stores to dust.

Walked back to the train stop, caught the next train, and made it right on time. The day was too hot and I had trouble getting enthused – though I heard a really good Texas ambient band, This Will Destroy You, at the Nasher and am now a bit of a fan. I did figure out how to handle the tripod, camera, and cable release – will work on my technique for the future.

And pay more attention to my dreams.

The Only Right Thing to Do

“I dream. Sometimes I think that’s the only right thing to do.”
― Haruki Murakami, Sputnik Sweetheart

Oblique Strategy: A line has two sides

I rarely remember my dreams. When I am able to grasp the wispy end of something as I’m waking up it is always some form of daily frustration, like my car won’t start or my key won’t fit. I guess that’s why I can’t remember my dreams – they are simply more boring versions of my daily life.

This morning, though, as I crawled out of bed, I remembered. I was hitchhiking through Japan with two other people, a young couple. Why we were three was hazy, though there seemed an adequate explanation somewhere. At the time of the dream we were wading through a rice paddy, each clutching a train ticket. The tickets were paper and plastic, white and bright yellow, and valuable.

Ahead, rising out of the rice, was a track on a levee and a simple station. The biggest passenger train in the world was stopped there, vibrating and smoking. As we approached, it blew its whistle and slowly pulled off, just as we arrived. I was frustrated at the fact we had missed the train, and clutched at my ticket in frustration.

A minute later, we realized that this massive transportation system was too large for one single train, and a second, identical one came huffing into the station. Suddenly elated, I had my ticket stamped and boarded the nearest car. My two companions followed close behind me.

The rest of the dream consisted of me exploring the various cars up and down the line. They were laid out in a linear cornucopia of delights, each car more opulent and fascinating than the one before.

My alarm went off – time to get up and go to work. I hit snooze to see if I could drop off again and visit a car or two more, but the train had sped off to somewhere unknown.

The Opium Den of Remembrance

“In the world of the dreamer there was solitude: all the exaltations and joys came in the moment of preparation for living. They took place in solitude. But with action came anxiety, and the sense of insuperable effort made to match the dream, and with it came weariness, discouragement, and the flight into solitude again. And then in solitude, in the opium den of remembrance, the possibility of pleasure again.”
― Anaïs Nin

H&K Pump Air Compressors, The Cedars, Dallas, Texas

Oblique Strategy: Change nothing and continue with immaculate consistency

I had a dream last night – I rarely remember my dreams but this one I did, I still do.

There is nothing more boring than reading about someone else’s dreams. Sorry.

This was a nightmare, after all. Not a monster, murderer, or painful death kind of nightmare – I don’t have those. It was a nightmare of fighting the bureaucracy – which is what really scares me.

I graduated from college… next year it will have been forty years.

Just reading that sentence gives me the willies.

But I still have nightmares about final exams, or ones like last night’s where I go back to take some more classes. I was old, my present age – everyone else was young… well, college student age. I had a room in the dorm, and somehow, I still had a key from the old days and it worked. I had to park my car (the car I presently have) in some sort of inconvenient, dangerous, and illegal spot – half in and out of the common room at the dorm. I hauled my stuff up to my room (which was very nice, by the way) and stashed it.

Somehow, this was my old school, my old dorm, my key fit – but everything was completely different. It was better – the dorm was a tower, computers and screens were everywhere, it was glassed-in, full of light, the people were all happy and attractive. I didn’t fit in – makes no real sense – but perfect dream sense.

But then was the nightmare – I never received my schedule, official key, or, most importantly, my ID Badge. I waited in line at the front desk. In my dream I listened to the problems of everyone in front of me – mostly trivial or easily solved. When I finally arrived and told my story I was then asked an endless series of questions:

“If you don’t have your key or your badge, how did you get into your room?”
“Are you sure you belong here?”
“Did you register properly online?”
“Everything is done on the internet now, don’t you understand that?”
“Is that your car over there?”
“What made you think you could park there?”

…..

On and on… then I woke up.

Tarts and Tadpoles

“Tarts and tadpoles!…The boy is still alive!”

—-L. Frank Baum, Rinkitink in Oz

Tadpole Pool, Dallas Arboretum

There are few things as fascinating as tadpoles in a jar.

The tail slowly shrinks as the legs – back first, then front – appear and grow.

Does the tadpole understand what is going on? It must be frightening… to wake up in the morning (do tadpoles sleep? do they dream wet tadpole dreams?) only to find fresh, unknown appendages growing out of their body. They have a wonderful fish-like life – their precious gills – until they turn into lungs. Do they understand how they are following the evolution of their ancestors?

Of course they don’t.

Do they imagine what might come next? Do they dream of growing wings? A tadpole, like everyone, must dream of flight. What a blow it must be when they realize that they are stuck with their legs, no matter how muscular and sinewy they feel and how high and graceful their leap.

Daily Writing Tip 21 of 100, Proceed From the Dream Outward

For one hundred days, I’m going to post a writing tip each day. I have a whole bookshelf full of writing books and I want to do some reading and increased studying of this valuable resource. This will help me keep track of anything I’ve learned, and help motivate me to keep going. If anyone has a favorite tip of their own to add, contact me. I’d love to put it up here.

Today’s tip – Proceed From the Dream Outward

Source – The Novel of the Future, by Anaïs Nin

It is interesting to return to the original definition of a word we use too often and too carelessly. The definition of a dream is: ideas and images in the mind not under the command of reason. It is not necessarily an image or an idea that we have during sleep. It is merely an idea or image which escapes the control of reasoning or logical or rational mind. So that dream may include reverie, imagination, daydreaming, the visions and hallucinations under th influence of drugs – any experience which emerges from the realm of the subconscious. These various classifications are merely ways to describe different states or levels of consciousness. The important thing to learn, from art and from literature in particular, is the easy passageway and relationship between them. Neurosis makes a division and sets up defensive boundaries. But the writer can learn to walk easily between one realm and the other without fear, interrelate them, and ultimately fuse them.

….

For this the writer has to learn the passageways. Those passageways are like the locks of canals, feeding each other while controlling levels to prevent flooding. The discipline and form of an artist’s work are set in the same system to prevent flooding. The amateur drowns. The writer has to remain open, fluid, pursue and obey images which his conscious structure tends to break or erase.

This comes back to imagination and courage. Do you have the courage to let your imagination guide your work? Or is the inner editor always there, saying things like, “Nobody is going to understand this,” or “This isn’t what the paying public wants to read right now.” He will be there, saying those things – but you don’t have to listen.

The inner editor might be right… but he is still an asshole – and you shouldn’t listen to assholes.