Monday, January 13, 2014


I think about dreams a lot. I love dreaming, and I often dream in vivid detail or with intense emotion. 

Often, I experience the fantastical, incongruous, or incomprehensible situations that are among the hallmarks of dreams. I've seen and done things while sleeping that make Finnegan's Wake seem almost coherent. I've never tried psychedelic drugs, and I don't have to, because my mind naturally takes itself to bizarre, otherworldly places. Put the painting below into a blender along with some M.C. Escher drawings and David Lynch films. Mix them up, then turn the result inside out, and accompany the whole thing with a mix of Grateful Dead and Danny Elfman songs. This is an approximation of where my mind goes many nights. 

Dreamscape, by Romanian artist Liviu Mihai. Hosted at CoolVibe:

In dreams, I have ridden my motorcycle along the edge of a vast, spectacular canyon to a hotel room where my children greeted me. I have bought jewelry for my wife in a Mexican village. I've wandered into a nightclub where beautiful people were dancing with large casts on their arms and legs. I've flown high above the Earth, ridden on the backs of strange beasts, and held conversations with newborn infants and with my dog. I've often participated in scenes from movies I like.

Many of my dreams reflect unfulfilled lifelong wishes. For example, I've never been a good swimmer. In fact, I could not swim at all until I was a teenager, and this often troubled me. But in dreams, I am a graceful, fearless swimmer. There are other examples that I will not share here.

I've had some horrible nightmares. Occasionally, these involve a tangible threat, like a monster chasing me. The most frightening ones, however, which came when I was very young and recurred many times, were quite different. They consisted of vague but powerful emotions, with no characters or plot, and no specific visual or auditory details. There was merely an overwhelming sensation that I was completely alone and being overcome by a tremendous, evil force. This was usually accompanied by a scene which I can best describe as follows: I hold between my fingers a tiny crumb of matter, like Play-doh, perhaps. In an instant, it grows to the size of a building, or a mountain, or even the entire Earth, and I am trapped beneath it, being crushed and suffocated, unable to move, and unable to shout for help. It is a very real and utterly desperate sensation. I would wake up screaming, confused, and bawling for comfort from my mother.

To this day, if I concentrate, I can intentionally recall the emotional state of those nightmares. I will not take myself deep into it, especially not at night, but I occasionally experiment with it in my mind--sort of like sampling something bitter just to remember what it tastes like. Even as I formulate this description right now, if I think too much about it I can bring myself to tears. (That could be a useful tool if I were acting in a dramatic movie, eh?)

Putting the intense nightmares aside, I hold with those theorists who believe dreaming is the mind's way of sorting the clutter of what we experience in real life; it's part of a mental tidying-up process. Several nights ago I had a very long, detailed dream that was confusing to me when I first awoke and recalled it. As I pondered it throughout the day, it became clear to me that various elements of the dream reflected things I had seen and done recently, or that I'd heard about from friends. If I told you what I did in my dream, you'd be shocked and frightened. I plead innocence by virtue of the fact that I don't control my dreams; they come spontaneously, and I would sooner surrender my life than commit the atrocities that took place in this one. As our world is a place where ugly, senseless things often happen, it is no wonder my brain has much to sort out.

Hamlet thought the dreams that may come when we have "shrugged off this mortal coil" must give us pause. I don't have to wait until death for this to happen. The dreams I have now often give me pause. Now and then they frighten me. Sometimes, they open new worlds to me, reveal things about my self, or delight and entertain me. Usually, they leave me guessing, wondering, thinking. I love to dream.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

What Kind of Nuts?

As I look back through the things I've written on this here blog, I notice there are more posts about stuff my boy, Caleb, says than anything else. He's a constant source of fun material. Sometimes one of his friends will also say something that is worth a laugh, and worth sharing.

He was playing with a five year old boy from the neighborhood recently, and the two of them had the following conversation: (This is all true; I can't make this stuff up.)

Friend: Have you seen "Space Balls?"

Caleb: No.

Friend: It's funny. There's a guy that looks like Darth Vader, but he's called Dark Helmet. And he kicks someone in the peanuts!

Caleb: You shouldn't say that.

Friend: What?

Caleb: You said a bad word.

Friend: Huh-uh. That's what it's called.

Caleb: Really?

Friend: Yeah, it's called your peanuts.

Caleb: Oh. Okay.

I'm glad he has a source of accurate information. This means I don't have to worry about talking with him about the sensitive topics when he gets a little older. He'll learn everything he needs to know from his peers.

Always guard your peanuts when this guy's around.
Image courtesy of

Friday, January 10, 2014

Improving On the Classics

Warning! The following post contains a big movie spoiler. Don't read any further if you're the type who likes sappy drama and you've never seen Little Women. You should only proceed if 1) you don't care about movies like that, or 2) you've already seen it. (I think that covers roughly 100% of the human race.) 

Cupcake (a.k.a. Celeste, my spousal unit, the wife-inator) and I don't have exactly the same taste in movies. It's not that I mind her movies so much; I just enjoy them in a different way. While she likes to sit quietly and concentrate on the dialog, characters, and social drama, I find it fun to add my own witty commentary. As you can imagine, this leads to some great conversations.

Recently, she and our daughters were engrossed in the screen adaptation of Louisa May Alcott's Little Women. (The version with Susan Sarandon, Winona Ryder, and young Kirsten Dunst.) I've seen most of this movie before, so I knew what was coming in the part where the girl gets really sick.

We had the following fun discussion:

Me: Is this the part where she dies from AIDS?

Cupcake: She doesn't die from AIDS! It's cholera. She gets it from holding the neighbors' baby.

Me: Whatever. Same thing.

Cupcake: How can you defile a classic like that?! [From her tone of voice and facial expression, you'd think I'd just scrawled a mustache on the Mona Lisa.]

Me: I don't know, if by "defile" you mean make better, and by "classic" you mean boring chick flick, I guess I just have a talent for it.

Cupcake: Well, you'd better STOP!

Me: Okay, [whispered too quietly for her to hear] if by "stop" you mean think of some even better comments to bring out next time you're watching Pride and Prejudice or Steel Magnolias.

She's so lucky to have me, because movie nights would be very dull without my contributions.

Edit: True story. I published this post late last night, and this morning the girls watched Fried Green Tomatoes. I got to tell them, "Here comes the part where the guy gets killed by a train," and there was nothing anyone could say, because he does! Ditto the part where they chop up Mary-Louise Parker's husband, barbecue him, and feed him to the investigating officer. These chick flicks are great.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Cash Money: Almost as Good as a Credit Card

I reckon it's time for another installment of the recurring feature I call...

"The Stupidest Thing I Saw (or heard) Today" 

You say you don't recall this feature of my blog? That's probably because by recurring, I mean I've done it once before. This post makes its recurrence official.

Today I went to a bank. While I stood at the counter doing all my transactions, I could overhear parts of another teller's conversation with someone in the drive-up. This other teller was probably new on the job. She was pretty young. Based on what I heard, I think she had worked at that location for about three hours, and amassed a total of about three hours' banking experience. Hopefully she made it to the end of the day and will be invited back tomorrow; that's a tough call, though.

She got the plastic cylinder out of the air tube and opened it, and then I heard this:

Young teller, to her supervisor: Can we accept cash for a loan payment?

Supervisor: Ah, we... er, WHAT?

Young teller: He wants to make a loan payment with cash. Is that okay?

Supervisor (very slowly and distinctly): Yes. That's fine.

Young teller: 'Kay, thanks!

I guess some banks are becoming quite liberal in the payment options they will allow. Soon, we might see supermarkets starting to accept cash, and before you know it, we'll be able to use it as legal tender for all goods and services. Crazy, huh?

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Worst Station Ever!

I saw this in a shopping mall restroom. I swear I did not alter its label in any way. But I think someone did. I seriously hope someone did. Otherwise, this station is a horrible thing that I think we really don't need in our society.

My advice for whoever built this is to focus on making the labels more durable.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Some Observations and Questions...

... or, "a few things my brain has been working on.”

- Have you ever noticed that in magazine ads for watches, the time is always about 10:10? (Sometimes they make it 10:08 or 10:09, somewhere in that range.) I guess they're intent on giving a balanced appearance. Seems awfully conventional, though, for a product that's often marketed as an expression of one's individual style. There's no such thing as an average citizen, but we all like things tidy. Even the avant-garde fashionista and the rock climbing, yacht racing polar explorer have a sense of feng shui when selecting a timepiece. "I want a watch that lets the world know I'm the fighter pilot type, living on the edge and, especially, following my own path. But when selecting that watch, I want to see the hands, the date window, and the hour markers as clearly as possible."

- How is it that we can put a man on the moon, but we can't make a soda fountain that will not drip on my hand as I pull my cup away?

- Why is a man on the moon always used as the standard of technological achievement? Why not nuclear fission, laser eye surgery, or mapping the human genome? We can put a man on the moon, but we can't seem to think of another accomplishment to reference when making a proverbial claim about human progress.

- I think they should make a movie about Leonardo da Vinci, and cast Leonardo DiCaprio in the lead role, just because that would look neat rolling up the screen in the closing credits. I wonder if DiCaprio will go bald and grow a beard in his old age.

- People like to shorten up big words, to make them easier to say. And yet, when talking about a ladies' doctor, they always pronounce each letter of the abbreviation: Oh-Bee-Jee-Why-Enn. Folks, that's five syllables! Why not just  pronounce it Ob-Gyne? That's what I'd do, if I ever had a need to talk about such a person. The rest of you can say the whole thing; it won't bother me. Just don't get upset if I end up with more free time than you.