Saturday, May 19, 2007

These Dreams Began When I Closed My Eyes

I DON'T NORMALLY REMEMBER many of my dreams. Last night was different. This is how the film festival went, with my interpretation/footnotes in italics.

1. I am walking along a NYC street in daylight, probably Chelsea or the Village in Manhattan, on my way to the weekly poker game (which is held in Bergen County, so this was odd). It is held in a nondescript basement store front, so I walk down a short flight of stairs and open the curtain-covered door. About half of the regular players are sitting around the two tables in the store, including the host and, to my surprise, my buddy Len. We greet each other happily and ask what brings us to this game.

Len mentions that there is also a no-limit hold'em tournament in progress in the store next door, but that it seems tough, because "the players look like pros." I wasn't aware there was another game so close by, so I walk over to take a peek. Sure enough, there's a tourney in progress: four full tables (so it must've been early in the game), no talking, just the sounds of cards and chips being shuffled. I assume that Len took this silence for professionalism, rather than there being any actual TV pros present, and I go back to the first store and share my skepticism.

I also notice that the regular host has disappeared. Nobody knows where he went. A couple more players show up over the next several minutes and ask where he is too. By the time we have enough for a single full table, the players are restless, so I tell them, "The hell with this, I'll get it rolling." Amid grunts of assent, the guys and Len gather around one of the tables. A player begins selecting cards from A through 9 for the seat draw, and I retrieve the cash box and begin cutting out stacks of chips, $100 worth each.

Len is one of my oldest and dearest friends. We saw each other at Jen and Steve's wedding recently, and he mentioned playing poker with family members. The host and players were both from my regular, real-life Thursday game, which due to job-hunting, I haven't played in for a few weeks. I was also contemplating going to Foxwoods yesterday afternoon and trawling in the fishy waters of shite players through the afternoon and evening, but I decided against it.

I used to host the regular game, until Danny, one of my players, volunteered his finished basement; now I act as occasional backup. Even at his place, I helped run the game for several months by selling chips and running cashout at the end of the night. As for the location, one of the former regulars in the game, a hustler type of guy who always seemed to have watches or iPods to sell, mentioned he was trying to start an illicit game in a disused storefront somewhere in Hudson County. Also, my walk to and from my former workplace in Chelsea led along a street with just these sorts of basement-level shops. So the game and tourney in the dream were literally and legally "underground."

2. I am in the bedroom of my present apartment, but it is located in the Bronx, at least 4 stories up, My friend Leanne is my next-door neighbor. I am looking out my window, and spot her looking out of hers. She is holding a camera, and says she has one more shot on the roll before she can get it developed. I volunteer myself as a subject. I try to strike a pose in which I am nonchalant, gazing into the distance in a sort of James Dean/Jack Kerouac casual way. For some reason I even imagine she's shooting me with black-and-white film. She takes the picture, but she seems displeased with it because of the awkward twisting to get the shot while hanging out thew window, and she withdraws back into her apartment.

While getting myself posed, I noticed that a bookseller on the ground floor had set up his wares outside, so now I look down to see what he has for sale. Paperbacks mostly, old ones . . . nonfiction texts from the 1960s and early 1970s, and pulps from the golden age of the medium. The spines indicate these books have been read repeatedly. One of them looks like a book I own. I want a better look, but I'm nervous about leaning too far out the window.

From my recent trips to the Bronx and Queens, city apartment dwelling has been on my mind. Leanne is another longtime friend who I saw at the wedding two weeks ago. Doubtless I saw her taking pictures when she wasn't serving in the capacity of bridesmaid. Also, she circulated a note last night about Memorial Day doings at her house. As regards my pose and the monochrome nature of the film, I probably had in mind some of the shots in the magnificent book The Birth of the Beat Generation. I can tell you that living over a used bookstore is as much a waking dream of mine as a sleeping one, and whenever I pass such displays in the city, I always dig in. Old nonfiction paperbacks that were probably someone's textbooks intrigue me; I page through to dig the highlighting or marginalia. I've also been thinking about old pulp novels, in particular Chip Kidd's use of Thomas Allen's sculptures on the reprints of three old James Ellroy novels, and the long lost B&M Avenue Victor Hugo bookstore on Newbury Street in Boston, a frequent cash-sink during my college years. And of course you can usually find a wealth of Beat lit in any decent used bookstore.

3. I am in the front yard of my childhood home in Jersey. This is some time ago, because a birch tree that in real life succumbed to fungus is growing in good health next to the patio. I hear the cheep cheep of small birds coming from the tree, but I also hear barking! In the main crotch of the tree there is a very large nest. A voiceover, in the style of a nature special, informs me that a mother bird has captured a puppy to feed to her young. The mother bird returns at this point — a raptor resembling a giant, angry crow — and I realize it's standing on a struggling black furry mound, presumably the puppy.

I am not letting some shitty bird tear up a puppy and feed it to its young. I retrieve a .22 rifle from just inside the house and plink at the bird until it flies off. (I do hit it directly a couple of times, but the bullets don't drop it.) I then climb up to the nest. The puppy is a black Labrador retriever, unharmed and feisty, and he is snapping at four big black birds in the bottom of the nest. I lift the puppy by the scruff of its neck and set him down on the lawn, hoping he won't run into the street. Still angry at the bird, I then invert the nest and dump the four chicks onto the lawn. They continue cheep cheeping, but are too young to fly away. The voiceover says, as the puppy notices them, "Then the puppy expresses an instinct even deeper than the mother's need to feed her young: revenge." The dog tries to bite them, but they have big yellow beaks and nip back, at which he jumps back in surprise. I decide to even the battle up and stomp once on each chick. The dream ends with the pup chomping one of the chicks — still alive but subdued — and shaking his head wildly.

I do miss the birches that used to stand on my parents' property. My childhood dog was a black Labrador/beagle mix, and I have loved the pure strains of both breeds since. I am a longtime nature-show viewer, and one of my most hated moments in these shows is when a baby animal gets snapped up by some predator, such as the skua eating penguin eggs or sea turtles getting snapped up by prick shorebirds. Perhaps the urban legend of an owl or hawk grabbing a person's poodle before their horrified eyes also played into the setup for this dream. Either way, I make no apologies for stomping on baby birds that might grow up to steal some kid's puppy. Insert stock nature-special line here about man being the world's worst predator.

The rifle is one that my parents retrieved from my maternal uncle's condo in Parkchester after he was murdered. They wrapped it in a couple of pink towels with rubber bands, then drove it and an amber-plastic box of .22 shells back to New Jersey. It stood behind the door to the dining room for a week or so, still swathed absurdly in pink, while my parents tried to figure out how to get rid of it. They eventually took the rifle and ammo to the cops and let them dispose of it. For most of my life, I have had dreams in which the [weapon] I use to kill or repel [adversary] does not work. Look that up in your
Interpretation of Dreams.

4. I am in the bedroom of an apartment, presumably mine, but the layout and my possessions are all different. Not sure where it's located. I live next door to a woman I have not seen in real life in many years. My door is open, and I can see into her apartment, where she is weighing herself. Dissatisfied with the read on the first scale, she tries a second. This also fails to please. (She is fully dressed, which can't help the reading.)

"Do you want to try mine? You could average the three of them," I offer, half serious.

She looks at me for a second, then rushes past to try my scale. I discreetly peek at the LED: 206. Completely inaccurate; the woman probably doesn't weigh more than 155 in the altogether. This seems to please her anyway, and she walks over to me and thanks me. What weight she carries is very nicely distributed. "So, do you invite people in to weigh themselves every day?"

"Maybe I just wanted a pretty girl in my apartment."

She laughs and steps within my reach, fixing my gaze. "Are you being facetious?"


She puts her arms around me and kisses me deeply. I return it like I was waiting for it. Evidently I've known this woman longer than just the 2 minutes that have passed thus far in the dream . . . which, annoyingly, cuts off about ten seconds after this.

I am tempted to say I was living in a college dorm. The halls were painted cinderblock and uncarpeted. In many of the dorms I've seen, one could open a door and see straight across into your neighbor's cell. This seemed more like a suite of rooms, one that uncharacteristically had a second entrance in the bedroom. Giggity. I do weigh myself each morning, and I had discussed my loss of a pound this week with M. the previous evening, so weight loss was on my mind before I hit the hay.

As for the woman . . . the Internet and Google being what they are, I will leave her ID blank. She was quite curvaceous, had a sweet smile and gorgeous face, and she appreciated my sense of humor. I look fondly on the short time I knew her. As for me, such
rĂªves de l'amour are extremely uncommon for me, a surprise considering I haven't been in a relationship since the Clinton Administration.

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