Tag Archives: dreams

Sometimes a Cigar

warhol20freud1Last night I had a dream that Betsy Lerner recruited me to join a baseball team of wannabe writers she was putting together. The team was called Midlife Crisis. A few of us were huddled around a small student desk in a ratty classroom trying to decide what position we should play and tossing around ideas for uniform colors. That’s it. I woke up feeling anxious and needing to pee.

Pretty weird, right? In my defense, the heat here on the East Coast is disintegrating my brain cells and to counteract I had a big bowl of Rhode Island Lighthouse Coffee Ice Cream smothered in butterscotch sauce before going to bed. So bad for me on so many levels but again in my defense I do live in Rhode Island and I am a big fan of lighthouses.

But back to the dream. Of course, who wouldn’t want to be recruited by Betsy Lerner to do something – to do anything? I don’t stalk her but that’s just because I’m lazy. As for baseball, I would suck at this, which is (duh) my fear about writing. Don’t get me wrong, I know all the rules – my father was a Little League coach throughout my entire childhood and while girls couldn’t play at the time (dating myself here) I attended almost every game dragging along a cooler full of sodas for the boys, memorizing my father’s bizarre hand signals, and keeping up a steady banter of He’s a wiffer, Good hustle, and Battabattabatta. Then I went to college and lived in Red Sox Nation for years and now I’m married to a Yankees fan. And while watching baseball on TV makes fuzz grow on my teeth, I love the sound of a game as background noise on a hot summer’s day while I’m reading a book and drinking mint infused iced tea. So I know baseball. But could I actually play baseball? Never. Just like I know writing, but can I actually write? How obvious can this dream get?!

As for the name of our team, that’s another big duh. Might as well stamp that on my forehead. I think the fact that we were in a classroom and not at a ball field is pretty telling – I often think I should have gone for that ubiquitous MFA but I was always too chicken shit. And my dream job, my dream life actually, would be to write and to teach writing. As for the discussion about uniform colors, well, I guess a girl has to look good no matter what she does.

So there it is, my writing dream. Not exactly earth shattering but at least it got me up an writing this morning. How about you? Had any writing dreams lately?

 

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You Can’t Cry on the Moon

Did you know that we are 50% banana? My youngest daughter, who has a penchant for odd or interesting facts, Ripley’s Believe It or Not books, the TV show Buried Treasures, rocks and sea glass, and inventions (since there are butt warmers in cars she thinks there should be air-conditioned back coolers for the summer-and if you sweat like we do you’re with her here), is now addicted to her iPod and an App that gives her some new, unusual and probably dangerous information on a regular basis. Such as the fact that we share 50% of our DNA with bananas (which I suppose explains a lot, like why we can put a man on the moon but can’t cure the common cold).

And speaking of the moon, according to my daughter, you can’t cry up there. When I tried to push this a bit she said it has something to do with gravity. I guess we need gravity to cry. This doesn’t seem right to me. If I was on the moon I think I could cry. The tears would just stream up off my face into the black dense universe. Like Elphaba, I too would be defying gravity. It would feel more like an offering, more like prayer.

We also never dream about anyone we haven’t seen in our life. Every person in our dream is someone we know or been introduced to or walked by. Our brain has actually taken a picture of absolutely everyone we’ve encountered and stored it somewhere. My daughter loves this–she thinks it’s really cool. I find it preposterous because how can that be true, and terrifying, because what if it is? Of course, my dreams are older than hers. They are darker and more complicated. Full of betrayal, danger, secrets, lust, and a great deal of other hullabaloo that I can’t get into here. How awful if I actually know all these people doing all these crazy and sometimes horrible things? I’m going to apologize right now to any of you I know or may have seen or even those of you I have conjured an image for in my head. I’m sorry if I dreamed about you and you were doing something despicable or ridiculous or contrary to your every moral fiber. I don’t believe I have control over my dreams, although one of these days my daughter may tell me otherwise. I’m never quite sure what’s coming next from that App.

Here’s a good one. Did you know that Bill Gates has so much money that if he drops a one hundred-dollar bill on the ground it is literally not worth his time to bend down and pick it up? This makes me wonder about so many things, like why are we even debating whether it’s ok to increase taxes for the 1% if they can walk around dropping $100 bills without a care in the world, and does anyone know where Bill Gates likes to walk a lot and is it a public space that I might have access to? And is someone actually making money from the 99 cents my daughter paid for this App? Are there just millions and millions of prepubescent girls purchasing this App across the world, being fed these particular facts in some insidious way so they will be so inundated and brainwashed when they are 18 they will  join a cult? Or create a Ponzi scheme? Or try out for the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders? Or write a breakout fanfiction novel about zombies?

It’s all starting to make my head hurt. And it raises the bigger question that I am sure every one of you has asked yourself time and time again, but still you have no answer. You just don’t understand. Who writes this crap? That’s what I really want to know. Who on God’s green (well, not so green) earth writes this crap? And more to the point, should it be me? Should I really be wrestling with point of view and what’s at stake and character development and a sense of place when I could just write, well, crap. It seems to be a legit business these days. In high demand, ok pay, no drain, no shame. Maybe I took a wrong turn back in Mrs. Kleeman’s fifth grade English class. I fell in love with words and stories and the transformative power of books. Did I miss the boat? Is there an App for that?

Honestly, I could just cry. On the moon.

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Friends With Benefits

This is so damn hard. It’s embarrassing to be here again, like some shmuck constantly apologizing for forgetting your birthday. I suppose there are people who can just come back to a blog after a month or more and write like nothing happened. Like it’s ok that they were away from the blog, farting around, playing the stock market, tweeting, flossing, betting on Roller Derby, designing new lawn furniture from the recycled bones of KFC family meals, Whatever man. But I’m too self-conscious for that. I can’t just blog you and leave without at least making you coffee.

I feel like I’ve abandoned you. I feel like it’s a problem I’ve always had that needs deep exploration with a Jungian analyst. I feel like you will never forgive me, or you will think differently of me. You will think, there goes a woman who can’t wear lime green. Or, look at her roots, ugh. Or, I bet her children don’t have a bedtime.

Or, she is a chicken shit writer.

Well I am. I’m a chicken shit writer.

The other day I tried to write in a coffee shop. Across from me sat two women writing. They were friends, writing buddies. Their nails were painted black their hair long and beautifully unkept. Fabulous scarves were tied around their necks like Gordian Knots. They had journals and Apples and iPhones and tablets and clanky bracelets and lattes in oversized green tea cups.

I had a spiral notebook and cold black decaf in a paper cup. And let’s not even talk about my clothes.

I got nowhere. I got nothing. I thought, why am I even trying?

Because it’s what I do. It’s what I keep dragging my sorry ass back to. It’s the only way I get to feel that bit of warmth still there from an ember of a dream.  And even if it’s a really really small ember, it’s my ember nonetheless. I’ve carried it around since high school. Through college and rocky relationships and childbirth and day jobs and fibromyalgia and loosing my mom and debt and cooking show addictions and flat tires and floods in the basement and fabulous sex and wrinkles and pain and hilarity and ingrown toenails and bad perms and silk pajamas and elastic pants.

I have had this dream for such a long time that I totally take it for granted. And just when I think it will leave me, just when I’m sure it will die out forever, the ember sputters and sparks. It flames up again like that phoenix and I am back at it. I am swimming and stewing and singing and swaying with stories. Words start following me around like paparazzi. I am scribbling things down, thinking where can I use this? I sign up for a workshop. I make it to a writers group. I put my tail between my legs and give up my best puppy dog eyes and plead with anyone who ever read this silly blog to take me back. To understand. To judge me only slightly, with humor and warmth and good spirit. I am your friend, your writing buddy. It may feel like I left you. but I will always come back.

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For You, Mom

A year ago today my mother died in my arms. I’ve posted about it before (see Still Here) so I won’t go on. But here are some excerpts from a short story that give you some sense of her. The tense is a mess, and it’s a bit of a hodgepodge without the rest of the story. I have other stories and other excerpts that show a different side of her–complicated, depressed, withholding, cruel–but today this is the part of her I want to share. To remember.

SHADOW DREAMS

Every night, my mother dreams. Sometimes it is nothing more than an abbreviated version of her daily routine. Running to Agway for mulch. Picking up milk and butterscotch cookies at Munroe Dairy. Reading the newspaper while my father nods off watching Murder She Wrote. Sometimes, she dreams in shadows. In these dreams there are objects floating over her that she cannot actually see. They are distinguishable only by the black shapes they cast at her feet.

“I had another shadow dream last night,” she says at the breakfast table one Saturday morning. “It was an avocado‑colored Amana refrigerator. Double doors.”

“How the hell do you know all that from a shadow?” This is my father. He sounds like he is talking to a Jehovah’s Witness or a used car salesman.

“I just do,” she says.

My father claims he has never had a dream. I tell him this is impossible and explain the four stages of sleep to him. I say, you probably just don’t remember them. But he is adamant.

“I never dream,” he says, pulling a package of Marlboros out of the pocket of his shirt.  “Your mother’s the dreamer in this house.”

***

During my first year of graduate school I spend Saturday mornings with my parents.  My mother and I sleep late, but my father is up by five.  He lets the dog out, makes a pot of coffee, reads the paper, makes a grocery list, goes to the bakery.  I wander into the kitchen around ten, just as my father comes through the door with a bag of fried apple dumplings, or poppy-seed sweet bread, or sour cream blueberry crumb cake.  He smells like stale smoke and fabric softener and sweet morning air.  I make another pot of coffee and peek into the waxy bakery bag.

My mother joins us in the kitchen by ten thirty.  Her body is round and soft, but her legs are wiry, like a bird.  She puts a kettle of water on the stove for tea, then stands next to where my father sits, surveying this week’s bounty.

“Look at all these goodies,” she says.  “Oy, Franky, what are you trying to do to my girlish figure?”

My mother thinks she was Jewish in a past life, so she says “oy” a lot.  She pats her stomach fondly.

“This wasn’t here when I married you,” says my father, but he pats her stomach fondly too and turns to cut up bite sized pieces of his breakfast to feed to the dog.

My mother tells us stories about her students—this one asks too many questions, that one doesn’t apply herself, another is pregnant and abandoned by some no account boyfriend.

My father bangs at the window to frighten squirrels away from his bird feeders.  The feeders sit high up on poles he threaded with battered garbage can tops meant to block intruders from the special sunflower seeds he buys at Agway.  He is trying to attract cardinals.  The squirrels look up at him for a minute and then continue.  They climb the pole and pull themselves onto the circular metal barriers like Olympic gymnasts.

My father looks at me and shakes his head.  Then he talks about my brothers—how they should or shouldn’t spend their money, what they should or shouldn’t do for work, why they never should have moved out of the house.  He asks me what’s wrong with them.  He thinks because I study psychology I can solve all the family problems.  I shrug my shoulders and reach for more pastry.

And then, my mother tells us her dreams.

“Last night I had a dream about Jim Deitrick,” she begins.  “You remember, he stood up for your father at our wedding.  Everyone thought I had a crush on Jim because I kept looking at him in Sister Jeffrey Anne’s Chemistry class.”

She waves her butter knife at me.

“Jim was a big shot basketball player, so they assumed I liked him, but it was your father I had my eye on.  They sat right next to each other.”

“How do you remember such crazy stuff.  I don’t remember any of this.”  My father’s thick black eyebrows arch in disbelief.

“Never mind.  I remember.  Your father wouldn’t ask me out because of the rumor that I had a crush on Jim Deitrick.  After all, they were best friends.  There were rules in those days.”

“Your mother’s getting soft in the head,” he says, staring at her over the top of his glasses which have slid half way down his nose.

“Nonsense.  It took me three months to get your father to ask me out.  On our first date we went to Hyde’s for hot dogs and I knew he was the one for me.  So right after we graduated from St. Luke’s we were married.  Seventeen years old.  Imagine that.”

“You should have stuck with Jim Deitrick,” says my father.  “He’s making six figures with Chemical Bank.”

“I’ve got plenty of figure, thank you very much.”

My mother gets up to put her tea bag in a bowl on the counter.  She saves them for fertilizer.  They pile up for months until my father threatens to throw them out.

“What about the dream?” I ask.

“Oh, the dream.  Well, Jim Deitrick was driving down our street in one of those lawn mowers you can sit on, except it was really a Lazy Boy Chair.  Blue, I think.  And when he got to our house he waved and called out, ‘I’ve been to the Sistine Chapel.  Say hello to Frank.’  Isn’t that strange?”

“I’ll say.”  My father rolls his eyes at her.

“No, I mean I’ve always wanted to see the Sistine Chapel.”

“Well,” says my father, “It’s going to be awfully slow going in a Lazy Boy chair.”

***

My mother is talking about her old high school, St. Luke’s.  It is being torn down by the city because they’re building a supermarket and they need a big parking lot.  It is hard to hear her.  The wind is against us and it rattles our clothing like sails.

“Your father brought me home two bricks from the walls of the building.  Imagine that.”

And I do.

My father bends down in the rubble of the building, his glasses sliding down his nose, his knees stiff, his eyes tearing from the dust, a lit Marlboro cupped in one hand.  He picks up a brick and remembers my mother, her smooth creamy skin, her splash of red lipstick, her perfect dimpled smile.  He flicks away the half smoked Marlboro, picks up another brick with this now free hand, and in an instant, forgets.

***

I wrote this story years ago. It needs some attention, but unfortunately I’ve moved on to bigger more convoluted writing. A novel, that as my father might say, doesn’t know if it’s walking or riding a horse. On I go. But I miss her. More than I could ever have imagined.

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Almost Famous

Last night I had a dream about Michael Cunningham. He was giving a writing workshop in some small, gloomy city and I wanted desperately to be part of it, to see if he remembered me from the P-town workshop I took with him 11 years ago, to impress him with my extraordinary writing and my brilliant banter. But the workshop was closed. Like a Lady GaGa concert, it filled up 5 minutes after it was offered.

There was more to the dream. I crashed the workshop and had to sit in a tiny elementary school desk, the kind with the seat attached to a manilla-colored rectangle top. There was something about a pair of aviator reading glasses on his desk, some perfectly folded men’s white briefs,  a lot of randomly placed wooden cutouts of zoo animals. Everyone was using vocabulary that sounded like it came from a GRE study guide. I felt completely out of place and inferior.

Aside from the obvious interpretations (over my head in this writing thing, fraud, inexperienced, getting too old for this, etc.), this dream got me to thinking about writers. About how we look for other writers to love us. And how we emulate and worship certain writers like other people emulate and worship movie stars.

I actually did take a workshop with Michael Cunningham, and it was amazing. He was late for the kick-off meeting of a week-long summer session at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown. When he finally walked through the door, interrupting some spiel about where we had to go for lunch, he took my breath away. He had on a simple pair of faded jeans and a bleached white t-shirt. I swear he was barefoot but maybe I made that up. He is a tall man, and his face was tanned, with hair windswept in gorgeous dark waves, high chiseled cheekbones, eyes full of mischief and attitude. When he smiled I’m pretty sure their was a collective gasp in the room. He had just come back from the movie set of The Hours, watching Nicole Kidman transform to Virginia Wolf through the power of Hollywood. I hung on every story, every arch of an eyebrow, every thoughtful piece of advice or feedback. I loved him so.

It doesn’t matter that he is a gay man and I am a lesbian because the reality behind all our obsessions with Hollywood or literary stars is, well, not real. From the moment I read “White Angel” I was smitten. He is inspiration and aspiration and even at times a little perspiration. And I want to know everything. What does he wear when he writes? When does he write and how often? What was it like to win the Pulitzer, be published in the New Yorker, meet Oprah? Does he drink tea or coffee? Does he eat red meat, cheese puffs, quinoa? Who does he hang out with? What does he do about writers block? Who is his favorite writer? Who broke his heart? Does he watch the Cooking Channel? Is there a quote pinned over his desk that pushes him on in dreary times? Has he ever dressed in drag?

I bet I could start a magazine about literary stars. Amy Bloom’s workout secrets, what really scares Stephen King, Eudora Welty’s secret addiction to Mint Juleps, Toni Morrison writes a Vampire book under pen name Tina Mire, Joyce Carol Oates is really 3 people, Geraldo Rivera uncovers Harper Lee’s sequel, To Kill A Mocking Bird II, Oscar Wilde wasn’t really gay …you get the idea. I think I could make a fortune and get to meet a lot of really cool writers.

Because I can’t be alone in this. Some of you must get it. Who are your literary stars?

And what do you think the perfectly folded men’s white briefs means?

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