Can you ever anticipate where you’ll wander in a dream?

 WE’RE ON A TOUR BUS, coming down along the Northwest coast. The scenery is gorgeous, with the blazing orange light of late afternoon among swirling clouds. We cross a long bridge into America – the Columbia, I first think, though I can see little below or beyond – we come to a kind of Sturbridge Village of the Far West sort, debark briefly. I look up to see in the parting clouds a chevron of mountain peaks. I identify them, with Baker and Shuskin and the baby in front, but the clouds close over before you can view them, though you try.

Only days before, I couldn’t think of anywhere I’d want to travel.


SEVERAL TIMES IN THE NIGHT, I encountered Abraham Lincoln’s Best Friend. Maybe not completely, but at least close to it, probably from his New Salem days. A storekeeper of some sort, maybe a printer with the shop “out back,” at least the action appeared to be in the other room. He greeted me / us across a rough plank counter, had some Blacks working behind him. With impassioned, watery eyes kept trying to tell me / us about a meeting or gathering for later that night, but carefully, not to be overheard by spies. The general plight, fear in the air.


I’M OUT DRIVING ON SOME CURVING rural roads I once knew. Take a turn to the left. Somehow, I wind up returning to the Ashram for a visit. From the circle, Swami addresses me by my street name, obviously a rebuke, and then asks, “What are you doing here? Why did you come?” Obviously, there will be no satisfactory answer. I wind up leaving.

Since it’s a vacation, I stay overnight elsewhere. Find there’s a public evening performance on the street. It’s an Ashram presentation from the Mahabharata; Swami, seeing me, is quite upset, shoots darts. I get the picture, and leave – realize as I’m going she’s still entangled.

So you think it’s only money?

I’M DRAGGED TO AN INVESTMENT seminar in a rambling, modern one-story home. Maybe we’d received an invitation addressed to someone else. At any rate, went. Midway through the presentation, I realized the numbers didn’t add up and left but tripped on my way out. [Now in a different room, with sun: trying to gather up my goods spilled from my purple bag.] The pastor’s wife shows up, indicates she’s not happy with his participation in this scheme. The pastor, strangely resembling the black-belt master, appears and tries to argue me out of my reluctance to invest – turns on me, “How did you find out about this?” My last remaining items are under the head of a sleeping baby – a sick baby. I go to get a pillow so I can retrieve my remaining items. When I return, my bag has been stolen.

Don’t trust a pastor with investment schemes.


WE’RE OFF SOMEWHERE THAT vaguely resembles the historic manor overlooking the river one town over – there’s some development but the landscape’s mostly open with green fields. While strolling alone, I notice a dark Victorian house with Japanese touches and tell myself to bring my daughter back to see it herself. Then, as I approach a crossroads, I see an even more elaborate version, this one with a Queen Ann with a Buddha face occupying half of the second story, its mouth opening out on to a side porch. It’s a truly stunning residence. And then my daughter drives the blue Prius down the crossroad. I wave to her to look the other way, at the house, but she waves in return only at me and heads off to another destination. We’ll rendezvous later.

Another dream intervenes (now forgotten) but the next thing I remember is entering the cellar, which contains an upright stone monument of some note. John and Sarah Dawson are already there. She tells me his family knew the owners of the house and he once wrote a poem in honor of the stone, which he now recites. Not bad for a physicist, I think.

Somehow, we become locked in the cellar, along with another couple. There’s a door to the outside, but when we follow, it leads to hurricane fencing and concertina wire. We’re trapped?

Not quite. John knows some secret to get through, and it leads us to an outdoor dining room, one with white walls and black iron gates – the iron topped by a wiggle of white paint to indicate they were Catholic.

John explains the owners were Germans who lived most of their lives in Japan before retiring to this site, presumably with their children and grandchildren.


SOMEBODY’S EXPRESSING APPROVAL of my shoes, maybe even adding them to a Ten Best list. “But they’re cheap,” I counter, “I bought them at the Kittery outlets years ago.”
“Doesn’t matter,” comes the reply. “Look at that hand stitching and the fact they’re comfy.”

With or without a camel caravan

TRAVELING WITH A LINGUIST, somewhere in Eastern Europe … perhaps the Balkans … or perhaps even parts of Asia, such as Kurdistan. At any rate, he was explaining the addition of syllables to a place name to indicate our destination as we headed toward the train station or a marketplace or the like. We were in crowded towns, of dark brown shades, all the same.

As the scene unfolded, we agreed to part, planning to reunite, which left me to wander on my own for a while. Of course, I became confused but not panicked. At one point, I actually saw him and another – maybe even an old girlfriend of mine – walking a street below me, though I was unable to catch up.

Somehow, I became part of a wedding party reception. An old girlfriend, in fact, maybe even the same one I’d glimpsed earlier, though we were now quite distant memories of one another. Still, when our paths crossed in the crowd, we acknowledged each other’s presence, yet I’m not sure either of us wished the other well. Still, I was dragged off to festivities at a long bar with seats all around, like the Tiki bar at Lobster on the Rough, only larger. It was late afternoon or early evening – dark, that is, with twinkle lights – a Renoir kind of scene. I was told to order dinner, but getting a menu was another matter. All of the menu-like brochures said nothing of the food, as far as well could tell, much less the prices. As I hesitated, I told the waiter to go on, I’d catch up to him. Finally, it came down between a steak at $60 and lobster, also $60. I ordered the lobster. I went over to the waiter, whispered my decision to him, and was told, “Wait,” and soon a lobster on a platter was handed to me, right there. I was also told, by my neighbors at the bar, to go ahead and begin eating while the food was still hot, so I was one of the first to do so. It was a large lobster, over two pounds, served with a kind of chili on the claws. (We’d had a bean soup earlier that evening, reminding me of chili.) The father of the bride was picking up the tab, probably $8,000 for the event. (My first lover’s daddy? Maybe because I’d come across his obit again earlier in the week.) Even so, I was aware that I was one of two or three “poor boys” admitted to this affair.

The next morning, perhaps, on a lawn overlooking a lake, I was told by another participant how much he enjoyed my presence, that I was one of the few people who could carry on a conversation, who had something to say, who had really done things. So that’s why I’d been admitted.


TRYING TO CONSOLE a deeply depressed Prince Charles. (Well, in some ways he was more like Mick Jagger. But when a dream imposes an identity, we stick to it. Besides, we were both much younger than we are now.) Considering the circumstances, we were getting along quite well. He even asked for a long hug before running off to jump on the mattress, like a trampoline, and then a set of sofas as the scene morphed into a hotel lobby as others, including the girl, drifted into the setting.

It started off when a woman I was involved with (a contra dancer?) who worked in his household or some other organization of his wondered if I would ask him, when he arrived, what he thought of her. Well, he and I hadn’t been introduced, so I was reluctant but now see that as an American, for me that wasn’t the problem.

Since he was essentially alone, I was able to strike up a conversation, however awkwardly it began. He did indeed recognize her name (Kate, never mind, not his daughter-in-law but more like Kate Moss) and rattled off a list of statistics and the like – nothing of an emotional nature, but still thoroughly informed.

A while later, I asked if he was a reader, and he assured me he was. I was beginning to tell him of Nicholson Baker’s work when we were interrupted.

Beware of the snakes

WALDEN POND. IT’S DEEP WINTER, with a good two feet of snow on the ground. My thoughts turn to logistics: getting there from the town, what books and projects I’ll be taking, what food and cooking gear (if any) I should pack.

The prospect is liberating and exciting – an invitation to get down to some Real Work.


I’VE BEEN OFF SOMEWHERE and am returning with a friend as we come over the crest of a hill and look down to a very green meadow. A figure runs across the field. A moose? Or a horse? But a very full tail follows, and then I realize it’s a giant squirrel.

No wonder I awaken!


WAS SOMEHOW VISITING BROWN, a small group somehow in a social setting when we “went out back” to see is latest work. (This is where the dream picks up:) Not at his house and farm in Berwick, but rather beside the sea or a large gray lake. It’s a former industrial site, and he leads us into a large half-shell, somewhat like the Hatch Shell along the Charles except this has large piles of dirt inside, the kind that have been moved about by bulldozers. The shell is surfaced in rough concrete, and this is what he’s been painting on. Another person tells me Brown’s been doing very little of the painting these days but has others, including Mennonites, as apprentices who are doing much of the work he envisions. It’s largely gray, with some red and yellow. Brown tells me he’ll never be finished with this project and has no intention to.

We step back and the structure is no longer open to the air but rather goes back like a large Quonset hut or airplane hangar with office cubicles along the floor. This time, much of the surface is salmon or pinkish. What’s happening overhead is quite incredible, a contemporary Sistine Chapel. I retreat to a far corner to sit down to take it all in. Brown approves of my move with a nod or a wink.

In the final tableau, I’m outside in open ponderosa and see three typewriters in the sagebrush or palmetto. Warily, watching for rattlesnakes, I step out to get one in order to finish some project we’re engaged in. That’s when I notice the IBM Selectric II in a taupe shade. Before I can retrieve it, a stiletto-heeled secretary in black hosiery approaches to say, in effect, keep my hands off. As I retreat, something drops from a tree onto my neck and shoulders. I’m trying to brush the snake off as I awaken.

Back to places I’ve inhabited or at least visited

A rather elaborate sequence of dreams after drafting a letter to our former landlords. I had fallen asleep especially early, around 8 p.m., and this was kicking in probably around 4 a.m. and continuing until 6:

I’m in Yakima (actually had an elaborate “east of Yakima” dream about six months ago, heading through the small towns off toward Tri-Cities … no trace of its content now). Except that this one could as easily be Binghamton or even Manchester.

It picks up as we’re coming over the crest of a high hill overlooking the city. We’re on a clean concrete boulevard on a sunny day, the downtown arrayed below us – and golden hillsides overlooking it from the other side. Blue sparkling river flows through it. (Columbia River, as it is up in Wenatchee?) We’re chatting about my return visit after so long.

Actually, I now remember there was an earlier episode about taking my family out West … spurred by the letter, actually … so they become part of the crowd in this series, even when they’re masked as others, I suppose. In actually, it’s a golden morning after a very glum Sunday.

It’s a smooth sweep downhill, skirting the downtown. We’re talking about a movie that was done here. (Maybe even picking up on another recent dream of visiting Ivar’s orchard, which in reality could have been in York County as easily as Washington State.)

Next thing I know is we’re driving along the sparkling blue river. From the angle of the sunlight, we must have been headed east. The freeway is in a set of elaborate caging – wiring like extended lobster pots, actually – sprinkled by a earlier shower perhaps or occasional irrigation. A vast serpentine structure along the river and overhead – was the other side cliff? “They haven’t done a movie with this yet, have they?” Laughter. And our guide (Phyllis?) replying, “Not yet.” It was very cinematic and joyful.

We pull off at a small mill area … like those of New England. (I now remember yet another recent dream, of what I pegged as eastern Ohio or even West Virginia: driving along an industrial valley, leaving the freeway and visiting within the varied small cities. Many shades of Warren, Niles, Youngstown, with moats thrown in. Maybe this dream repeatedly. Trying to reconnect with something lost.) We park and walk past or through a small Catholic church and out on a shaded plaza beside a mill. In the window, I see someone sitting. Looks like Carl P., only turning to face us, is a woman. Not pleased by our banter, either. We start to borrow a picnic table bench to use elsewhere, then I turn around and replace it. Glancing down the street beside the church, I notice that what first appeared to be triple-deckers beside the mill are actually one long, complex series of stucco apartments with Roman Catholic crosses in strategic places.

I think we had been visiting in one of the apartments … a rather erotic introduction for me … though it’s all fuzzy now. Again, later vague memories of other apartment dreams and student-residents. Colleges or art schools. Maybe Cincinnati and theaters or music.

We exit through the church, and dash across the street to a parking lot – all set high above the river, like the Sam Hill museum and Stonehenge in the Horse Heaven Hills. The headlights of a procession approach – either a wedding or, as it turns out, a funeral. Now off to the side, we watch two groups in conflict – the funeral contingent above, with the hearse, and a group taunting and jeering below. Some kind of minor thug – a woman? – is to be buried after a funeral mass.

But first, we’re off. Somehow, our own crowd has changed. It’s more crowded, and Phyllis must be driving. A teenage orphan is snuggled up next to me and several others. (It’s getting very erotic.) She’s freckled, open-faced, and has somehow managed to live on her own – a victim of the thug’s oppression. A blanket’s thrown over us. I reach down to scratch my leg (I’m wearing shorts) but am scolded for touching someone else. Lift the blanket, and a face looks up at us. “Sorry. I’ll keep my hands up here, to myself.” Laughter. There are other bodies pressed in against us, too. It’s a crowded, but joyful trip.

Turns out this is part of a group that sees this as the moment of liberation from the thug’s circle.

A leap again, and we’ve stopped at a small roadside restaurant called, it turns out, Baklava’s. Looks like a Carvel’s or Baskin-Robbins. We’re running around in some confusion. I see bagels for sale, but not what I’m seeking. (Something big and fluffy, like a cinnamon roll, or even baklava.) “Oh, the coffee comes with baklava,” I’m told, and yes, the coffee is dark and thick.

After I get my order, one of our companions (not Phyllis?) goes up to the counter, where the manager (I presume) in a red-plaid shirt is at the counter. She squirts him with a fountain pen-turned-hypodermic, hitting him with a dark liquid. He falls over backward. He was one of the thugs and we’ve made our hit. We run from the store and no one pursues us to the parking lot. Good thing, since my car keys are tangled in my pocket. (So I’m driving now?) Even with the delay, there’s no sensation of panic. We’re on the side of justice, however illicit. The people’s side. Justice has been served. It’s still morning.

Feeling vulnerable all the same

LIVING AGAIN IN AN OLD LIMESTONE dorm, had a room in each of two or three buildings, under the pretense of opening some kind of retail store in all but one. For some reason, though, none of the doors would lock; or if they were locked, they wouldn’t hold. Anybody could push in. I was greatly annoyed – after all, I couldn’t be everywhere at once; besides, I had to be away for classes and the library, too, even though nobody actually broke in.

On the way back to one of the dorms, I saw a two-story building that had smoke rolling out of its windows – “Oh, no! It’s the firehouse!” – and then bright flames licked from the structure.

Poetic justice, perhaps, more than alarm – and relief wasn’t our building.

OUR building?


I RETURN TO MY APARTMENT, which is at the bottom of a staircase in a carpeted basement. The apartment is essentially one room, with the door in the corner and a panel of windows along the hallway – a commercial feel to it, like a small store. But as I approach with a friend, we realize the door is agape – and everything has been cleaned out, except for my violin case and same papers atop the closet. Somehow, I’m not disturbed by all the loss.

This leaps to something from another set of dreams, the door latch that will not lock – which has been the case in this apartment. “They” finally got me, and that’s it. Except it’s somehow also liberating.

This came the morning after our trip to IKEA, with all of its designer small-scale apartments, and my unexpected surge of feelings of poverty no doubt arising from my sudden “retirement” with its accompanying issues of finances that still need to be addressed. So who was with me? You? Even so, I felt insured … and that all my creative work and notes could be recovered. That, before clothing and kitchen ware!

The childhood home and neighborhood keep returning

THE BELLE-ETTE AND HER HUSBAND are hosting a party at the old Cape across the street. The lovely A twins are seducing me, or seduced. I never could tell them apart.

We go to an upstairs bed, entwine in evening rain.

Out the window we view an incredible forest that had always been hidden by the houses on our street. (Oakdale and Ashland are, after all, forest names.)

A good-sized stream runs in a valley, and a waterfall back there, though this is a big-city neighborhood.

The nearest house, out beyond that (the dairy, in reality, where those falls would be – has in reality been sold and is out of business). The woods, dense as Jay Lower’s, whose land probably triggered this.

The idea of a forest in that yard now amazes.

There were only the two ash trees in front, and the towering cottonwood behind.

All roped in by a slew of utility wires.


A MAILBOX, LIKE MY CHILDHOOD home’s. I see a big brown envelope to me (yellow slip attached), even though the mailman hasn’t made today’s rounds yet. (What was his name, Mister …)

There’s a pink envelope waiting at the bungalow across the street. Above and behind the milk box, I find a whole bunch of mail to me.


CAMPING IN THE BACKYARD – no tent – when the phone rings, very muffled, as if within a potholder – when I find it and answer, there’s a warning of a coming storm. At last, in the northeast sky, I see it, the tornado – which turns and comes toward me, veering toward the neighbors’ garage – IT SCARES ME AWAKE, even as I realize it’s traveling backward, toward the southwest. (Contrary to science.)

Dreams are some of the best movies

A GRAY DAY IN A GRAY DOWNTOWN where I’m apparently accepting a new job or making a big sale, establishing a relationship with a new client, a major newspaper. There are perks, including coupons or trade-outs for dining at fancy restaurants, where I’m encouraged to venture.

That afternoon, in one, the owner leads me to a happy alcove and introduces me to Colin Powell and his wife, both in matching Hawaiian shirts. Insisting I join them at their table for martinis, they then herald another couple, greeting them warmly. When the drinks arrive, we clink glasses merrily – so skillfully, in fact, we look out to see ourselves receiving a standing ovation. The retired general and secretary of state ars quite sociable and at ease, very warm and effusive. We don’t discuss politics.

In this episode, my name’s Luther.

WE’RE UNDER STADIUM BLEACHERS, assisting with a college graduation.

The girls walk two-by-two from the dark interior out across a bridge over a stream into the stands where they’ll sit. Only half wear white gowns (with mortar boards) – the rest, red shorts, yellow skirts, white patterned blouses, etc.

As for the boys, where presumable I am?

Somebody helps a girl in wheelchair to the bridge. I accompany a blind, partly blonde girl who carries a cane but can see enough to smile at me as she enters more sunlight.

Still under the stadium, I’m handed a paperclip set of credit card slips – my name hadn’t come out on some of the carbon copies after all – some of the others, just faintly.

So this is the reason I’m not graduating? Many of these charges had nothing to do with the college.

Coffee (ground?) war, the GIRL, her older brothers, and mother are graduating.

The soft package.

THE DOOR WON’T CLOSE RIGHT and he keeps opening it to wipe me out of business.

They finally blow it open in wind and spitting rain.

Kit’s a black-and-white coffee bag with a picture of me with a gorilla on the label urban grocery.

First see her in a movie or auditorium a row or two behind me and ask her to help me with this snake like a boa, and she does, admitting later she normally would have been afraid or inhibited and thus not spoken to a stranger.

WE’RE STAYING IN A MOTEL and look out. There’s a moose. No antlers yet. Leafy, forested. But also somehow urban, and somebody has to do something. Summon help. “That’s all right,” I say. Looking right, toward a swing set, when a fire truck comes into sight – emergency workers – but they crash into the swing set, can’t clear it. (I could see the collision coming.) When the truck hits, it’s no fire engine after all, but garbage. A Dumpster goes careening across and spills. A man – cowboy? – leaps from the truck cab, maybe, and lunges for the moose. Leaps through the back legs, grabs the front left – with a whoop and a holler from this truck companions. Pulls the moose over. It falls on top of him!

“Why, he’s OK,” I say to my companion.

They’re not always jointly rooted in the past and present

This sequence, from my time in the Pacific Northwest, remains eerily prescient.


DRIVING THROUGH ALLEGHENY FORESTS “out east,” I come into a small city. At an oblique Y intersection, I veer to the right and am struck by a large three-story apartment building with stately columns and porches on the front. Not that different, really, from one on Far Hills Avenue in my past. While this intersection initially seemed like the downtown, it’s only a prelude for a real downtown a mile or so further on.

After moving back, to eastern Ohio, I went driving one day into Pennsylvania and came into Warren via a route that eerily matched the dream. The sense of déjà vu was overwhelming.


I’M THE GROOM IN a Quaker wedding. The event moves outdoors, under an impressive beech tree and golden pools of sunlight. In the background is a large, old house of an unfamiliar style, part of a sedate farm. The bride’s off a bit, the center of attention, somewhat blurred but with distinctive flaxen hair stretching well-beyond her waist. I’m deliriously happy – so much so, I awakened with the cry (at least in my sleep), “But I can’t be doing this! I’m already happily married!”

Later, after my first wife had left, I was traveling from North Carolina to Philadelphia and, crossing through Delaware, came upon my first three-story federal-style house that I was aware of. A few months later, I became engaged to a woman fitting the one in the dream. She was Quaker.


AHA! I FIND MENTION in my journals of climbing a fire tire in Allegheny National Forest and coming out into Warren, Pa., noting, “how weird! the town seems to have three downtowns (no suburban malls) and one comes to an intersection … just like a dream I had (but I didn’t meet the ‘Quaker girl.’)”

In the decades since, I relocated to a locale where such houses are common and then in a Quaker service married a woman who easily fits the dream, though her hair is less flaxen.

And you wished me sweet dreams?

IN AN ARTSY VILLAGE overlooking the Ohio River, with a sprite who morphs into my sister. We view a very funny improv, not at all physically like Jackie Kennedy but the mannerisms are on target. Leaving, we encounter snakes all over the street, frogs, a boa constrictor hanging from a tree over the road. Carnival music. Our car hits a horse, and its head hangs down over the windshield. The boa’s mouth is by my window, which is open. I keep yelling, “Close the window! Close the window!”

The horse turns out to be white inflated plastic. A white horse with red rouge cheeks and green lips. A green button on the harness above the eyes. When we see that, we laugh, realizing the whole thing was artificial, a prank.

We venture off to see the rest of the film, which is playing just two more days.