father's beach house in Oceanside. The real beach house, at first
glance, seems to be a monumental affair, using the big arches and the
soaring, clean lines of the McMansions of the suburban gated
developments, but the reality is that it is a big, empty house, with
hardwood floors and deep plush carpets, but nevertheless an empty,
small-feeling house, of white surfaces, an unfinished feel, and
windows onto a larger world outside.
When I dream about it, my father's beach house is always a much larger
affair inside than out, with large-scale rooms, long corridors,
cluttered garages, inhabited. But from the outside, it seems compact,
pulled together, yet complete. There are unusual changes of level,
short staircases, skylights, paintings hung, none of which correspond
to the real place.
I dreamt that I was staying alone in the house overnight. I'd brought
my bike in my father's jeep. I had papers and my laptop in one room,
a sleeping bag in another. Slowly, my father's house became a public
place, like a gallery, in which theatre people were gathering for a
reading of a new play. Sam Gregory, maybe it was a new play of yours?
Because at this point, you showed up, at which I began to apologize
for missing your birthday gathering last weekend. Then the reading
began. Of the play being read, I have no memory.
At some point, I was supposed to be in the reading. Then, gradually,
it dawned on me that I was being gently told that I was no longer in
the reading. For no reason in the waking world that I can fathom, the
theatre hosting the reading (even though it was staged in my father's
beach house) became, at this point in the dream, Theatre Vertigo. At
first, it was a two-person play, but later, others stood to deliver
lines. (I do not recall who the other person was. But he had dark
hair, perhaps a goatee, glasses, and dark eyes.) Perhaps there were
other plays being read? It's a shame I have no memory of the plays,
because they were enthusiastically received.
Sometimes in my dreams my father's beach house at Oceanside morphs
into a vast, fantasy BART station in San Francisco that doesn't exist.
It's a big, sun-drenched, multi-story,
cornices and trod-over gum on the concrete walks and pedestrian
overpasses, and a monorail platform. It's always commuter-crowded.
(To my knowledge, the waking world San Francisco Bay Area Rapid
Transit System does not include a monorail.) When this BART station
shows up in my dreams, I usually forget that I'm dreaming.
Remembering that I'm dreaming was a deeply important early skill I
learned when I was little, to help myself end nightmares in the midst
of them. (Lately, as this dream will go on to indicate, I've been
losing the ability to do that.)
I turned away from the gallery crowd, nursing a small and blossoming
regretful resentment, and into the concourses of the BART station,
looking for a newspaper. Going up the stairs, I entered the rest of
my father's house, and it was late at night in the house, even though
outside through the windows, I could see the sun setting, on a
coastline that I've never seen in the waking world but I've always
seen in my dreams. Somehow I realized that most of the guests at the
reading were sleeping in the house.
I decided to leave for Portland, to avoid the awkwardness I sensed
gathering around me like a smell. I had a load of laundry in the
washing machine in the cluttered garage, so as I'm loading up the jeep
with my disassembled bike, I put my laundry in the dryer. In the
garage, in a small anteroom where the washing machine is, there were
objects and possessions that once belonged to an ex-girlfriend, with
whom I had a bad breakup a long time ago, and the sight of these
objects, with her distinctive handwriting on them, deeply pained me.
At this point, Kerry Ryan popped her head into the garage,
sleepy-faced. "Oh, it's you," she said, and then left. Sam Kusnetz
then popped his sleepy-faced head in, blinked, and turned away.
Searching for a paper grocery bag for my clothes, I found one with
three sticks of half-melted butter, which I threw away. I then put my
dry clothes in the jeep and started the engine.
The radio came on, loud, Etta James' "I'd Rather Go Blind". With the
engine running, I realized I had forgotten something on the floor of
the open garage, perhaps a bag or something. Running back in to grab
it, a third man, whom I've never seen before, but looks a lot like the
actor who plays Al Sweringen on Deadwood but much thinner and gaunt,
pokes his head in the door and yells indistinctly at me for being so
loud. I apologize and rush away.
Driving the jeep through the beachfront roads, I glance at the clock
and it's much later than I'd expected, 6:17 am. I park in a parking
lot to nap before driving back to Portland. The nap is brief and
fitful, and guests of a nearby hotel were partying in a living room
suite that opened onto the parking lot near me. I remember slouching
down to avoid being seen by the smokers who lingered outside.
When I woke from the nap, morning had come on with fog and some
drizzle, and the green of the grass was sharp and clear in the grey
morning light. I got out of the car, and somehow you were with me,
Sarah Dyrhaug, and we went walking through what I thought was a hotel
complex, but in the morning light seemed to be some sort of new,
well-endowed private college campus or something. The architecture
was of hardwoods and concrete piers and big, beautiful,
well-engineered monumental doors. Inside, there were beautiful new
rehearsal halls and auditoriuii, filled with dancers and musicians and
students rehearsing purposefully and diligently. The seats were new
and comfortable, and filled with bags and things belonging to the
actors and dancers. Some floors were strewn with sawdust, evidence of
sets being built or construction still ongoing. The rooms were named
for donors and patrons of the school, and I remember speaking sadly
and angrily about how unhealthy that custom is.
Glancing into one of the halls, I caught the eye of a tall, lovely
brunette with full, red lips, dark blue eyes and a light summer dress
and striped socks, who smiled at me, and I flushed.
At one point, Sarah, you and I walked around a corner and into a lobby
that opened onto a courtyard, from which it was apparent that other
buildings housing yet more crowds of students and theatres clustered
around this one. People seemed friendly enough, of all ages, but as
we exited, a security guard came up behind us and told us that we were
on private state property (a contradiction in waking world terms but
of perfect sense when I dreamt it). But he then stammered and turned
away abruptly, as though suddenly thinking that we were maybe supposed
to be there after all. We decided to continue walking.
At this point, a third joined us who had been with us all along, but I
do not recognize who he is in the waking world, though we apparently
knew each other. He is short, heavyset, glasses, dark hair (perhaps
the scene partner from the reading?), wearing a black kanga hat and a
black shirt with a wide white stripe on the left side, running from
shoulder to hip. Yes, he's dressed like a cheesy jazz musician.
We walk into a larger central glass-domed structure, that seems to be
a museum or a memorial of some kind, with sculptures and explanatory
text and balconies within. This building and its contents explained
something crucial about the rest of the place, though I can't quite
say what that crucial thing was. But it was a startling and dreadful
The brunette came up to us, friendly, curious, chatting. We were just
beginning to explain to her what we'd realized when the security guard
returned with others, carrying headbands that were painful and
brainwashing (yes, this sounds silly and star trek-derived, but in the
dream I was furious and terrified). They put headbands on the
brunette and on jazz musician before I realized what was going on. I
knocked one out of the hands of the guard putting one on Sarah when
another succeeded in slipping one over my eyes. Knocking it out of my
face, I remember the feel of gripped fingers around my arm, spit on my
face, an elbow in my back. The guards were yelling, I was yelling,
and then I was fighting that terror you get when your consciousness is
awake but your body is asleep, and something terrible is happening
that you must stop before it's too late. The guards were screaming
that I couldn't fight it, and then it was just me, fighting to wake
up, fighting to realize that I was dreaming but dreading the
possibility that I wasn't.
There were long, lonely moments when I'd almost succeed but I couldn't
wake up, and I thought, I will never wake up. This has trapped me.
Something is happening.
Then I forced myself to wake up, and I did, and it took long, deep
breaths and serious blinking before I could reliably ascertain that I
was truly awake (can that ever be reliably ascertained?) and with
difficulty I constructed the factual basis of being awake, of having
dreamt the entirety of the preceding dreams, and the realization that
I had to tell you about it, though why each of you specifically I
can't quite say.
Throughout the dream, time felt real. Movement felt real. Though the
transitions and events seem disjointed in recollection, the experience
of the dream carried the certainty of actual things happening.
I actually feel guilty about not being able to prevent the headbands
from taking the brunette and the jazz guy, and probably you, too,
Sarah. I've just spent the last hour writing this down and listening
to Etta James' "I'd Rather Go Blind" on repeat, slowly feeling a
little bit better about it all.