What, Me, Getting Lost?

This Image Is Practically Engraved in My Memory

Apparently, I have this phobia of getting lost. When my brother and I were in Ecuador last October, we could not find any street atlases; though, it wouldn’t have done us any good if we had them, because outside the central tourist area of the cities, there were no street signs. Dan made fun of me for my meltdowns when we wandered off what maps we had. There mus have been an incident in my childhood when getting lost from my Mommy and Daddy terrified me. I wrote a blog about this entitled Where the Streets Have No Name.  (Sorry, Edge and Bono!)

Where this is all leading to is a dream I had last night. I was traveling alone in the City of London. Having been there five or six times and having expended fierce amounts of shoe leather each time, I have a good picture of the city permanently resident in my head. I was trying to find a bookstore near Charing Cross Road, but had no idea where I was. And, even more peculiar, there did not appear to be any Underground or Tube stations on the inadequate map I had.

I had had some sort of meeting and was wandering around the city with some of the participants. At one point, they decided to stop and have an impromptu cricket match, which fortunately did not last long. When they stopped, we kept wandering in an easterly direction, coming on a square with a large Catholic church and a troupe of nuns ministering to the need of a large bump encampment. I thought to myself, “Gee, I had no idea there were so many bums in London.”

In the end, the dream just came to a stop. (Did I wake up at that point?) Although I jnever got to my bookstore nor to any other recognizable monument or building, I was more perplexed than terrified.

Thi9s is not the first time I got lost in my dreams. In none of them did my reaction rise to nightmare levels, but it is an interesting recurring theme—sort of like having to give a public speech while buck naked.

 

Serendipity: Graham Greene Dreams of Khrushchev

Graham Greene

Graham Greene

I have just finished reading a fascinating little book of dreams that British writer Graham Greene had transcribed and edited. It is called A World of My Own: A Dream Diary, which I had just picked up by chance yesterday at L.A.’s The Last Bookstore. Here are a number of short dreams the author had about former Russian leader Nikita Khrushchev:

In the Common [i.e., Real] World I always felt a certain affection for Khrushchev in spite of his invasion of Hungary. In the Cuban crisis I felt he had made a favourable bargain with John F. Kennedy—no further invasion in return for no defensive nuclear weapons for Cuba, which in any case would have reached no farther than Miami. I liked the way he had slapped he table with his shoe at a meeting of the United Nations. Perhaps I was influenced in my affection by the meetings I had with him in My Own [i.e., Dream) World in 1964 and 1965.

My first meeting with him was at the Savoy, with a group of Russians including Mr. Tchaikovsky, whom I had met in the Common World when he was the editor of Foreign Literature magazine. Khrushchev looked cheerful, healthy, and relaxed, and he was only amused when two of his party disputed noisily. We talked together about the method of financing films in England and the bad influence of the distributors. I said that this is one difficulty the Russians did not suffer, but Khrushchev told me that films in Russia were often delayed for six months as a result of overspending and then waiting for bureaucratic permission to increase the budget. He was very cordial and invited me to lunch the next day.

On the next occasion … I sat next to him at dinner and he spoke no word to me until near the end, when he remarked that I had left a lot of my chicken uneaten. ‘So much better for the workers in the kitchen,’ I said. ‘Surely a Marxist believes in charity.’

‘Not in Vatican charity,’ he replied with a smile.

At our last meeting he was personally dealing with visas for the Soviet Union. He noticed that my profession was listed as ‘writer’, and he expressed the hope that I would write about his country. I noticed how clear and blue his eyes were, and when I rejoined my friends I told them, ‘When you see him close, he has a beautiful face, the face of a saint.’

 

Dreaming of … London?

50327110. Tulum, QRoo.- Los voladores de Papantla y los Guerreros Mayas, dan la bienvenida a los más de dos mil turistas locales, nacionales y extranjeros, que día a día visitan la zona arqueológica, que es de un kilómetro, donde algunos prefirieren hacerlo caminando o existe a su disposición un pequeño transporte en forma de tren. NOTIMEX/FOTO/FRANCISCO GÁLVEZ/COR/ACE/

Totonac Voladores at El Tajin

Last night I had particularly vivid dreams. Was it because I had eaten watermelon before going to bed? If so, I might be in for more dreams tonight.

Martine and I were in London at a large museum. I noticed that a number of English dressed in red “Beefeater” costumes were flying in the air by their feet just like the Totonac voladores at the ruins of El Tajin in Mexico’s State of Veracruz. I mentioned to Martine that it must be a traditional English Maypole ceremony—though, God knows, the real Maypole does not involve anything quite so spectacular.

At the same time, I noticed that several large buildings in London were aflame. Since the fires were several blocks away, I didn’t particularly care. I was slightly miffed that Martine, as usual, was being too slow and meticulous about seeing all the exhibits. I, on the other hand, wanted to catch a particular train to the north.

Somewhere along the line, my desire to go was also to visit a particular bookstore. At that point, I woke up.

 

 

Dreaming of Proust

Alfred George Stevens’s “Portrait of Sarah Bernhardt” (1885)

Alfred George Stevens’s “Portrait of Sarah Bernhardt” (1885)

When you’re a hopeless intellectual like me, you, too, will have dreams that smack of literary criticism. This one is from last Saturday night. Despite the hot, humid weather we’re having in Los Angeles, I had just begun re-reading the second volume of Proust’s In Search of Lost Time, in the David Grieve translation called In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower. (That title alone gives rise to dreams of a sort.)

Marcel has finally won the right to go to the theater to see the great actress La Berma (thought to be Sarah Bernhardt) as Racine’s Phèdre, albeit chaperoned by his grandmother. Feeling he is about to be exposed at long last to the holy grail, Marcel awaits the magical moment. It comes, but, alas, the lad is disappointed. Although he claps and cheers madly with the audience, Marcel feels that the actress did not live up to her hype.

That’s where my dream begins. I am thinking: Well, now, the entire heptology is full of disappointments: In the first volume Swann is cruelly deceived by his love, Odette de Crécy … but marries her anyhow. Marcel idealizes the ancient nobility of the Oriane, Duchesse de Guermantes, but gives us ample opportunities throughout the series to see how trivial her decorous life has become. As for Palamède, Baron de Charlus, he is given to affairs with lower class young men and, in the final volume, ends up being flagellated by one of them in a male bawdy house. Albertine does wind up in a relationship with Marcel, but he agonizes constantly that she is bi-sexual. Besides, she dies young.

Again and again, it almost seems as if Proust’s grand theme is either “You can’t always get what you want” or “Nothing is as good as it seems at first.”

And that’s where my dream left off. In the end, though, I rejected my dream interpretation. Marcel’s inner life is so vivid and intense that all the disappointments still make it all worthwhile. If that negativity were the only thing I got from reading Proust, why would I be reading the seven volumes for a third time? (Er, aside from THAT, I mean).

Incidentally, the original Stevens portrait of Sarah Bernhardt (above) is at the Hammer Museum in Westwood, near my place of work.

 

At the Hotel in the Desert

It Was Another of My Strange Dreams

It Was Another of My Strange Dreams

Don’t expect this to make any sense: It was another of my strange dreams. I was trudging with a friend across the sands of a desert when we came up on a hotel surrounded on all sides by sand dunes.

Naturally, the first thing we looked for was the check-in counter, but we couldn’t seem to find it. There were rooms, restaurants, pools, and lounges scattered almost randomly. We wandered down endless corridors, passing restaurants with sumptuous-looking fare. But we felt we had to check in first.

Like almost all of my dreams, it was well short of being a nightmare because of the dreamlike acquiescence with which we accepted the illogical design of the hotel. At any time, we could have asked someone where the front desk was located, but that possibility didn’t enter our heads.

As I write this, it strikes me that our wanderings through this hotel are a lot like life. We have to check out before we ever figure out where to check in.

The Talking Llamas

Not Only Talking, But Shopping As Well

It’s Not Exactly Bloomingdales, Is It?

I was restless last night, probably because my left arm was hurting more than usual. At one point in my dreams, I found myself at UCLA just outside the Ackerman Union, where there is a statue of the Bruin mascot. To my surprise, two llamas accompanied by two girls walked by. Oddly, the llamas were talking like Valley Girls about their shopping experiences at Bloomingdales as if it were an everyday occurrence. Cut to me doing a double take.

Considering that so many of my waking thoughts are occupied with planning my upcoming trip to South America, it is not surprising that llamas, in many ways emblematic of the entire continent, walk through my dreams. They are most welcome, even if they shop at Bloomingdales.

The Fruits of Luigi

It Does Not Appear in This Illustration

It Does Not Appear in This Illustration

No one can be held responsible for his dreams, even as wild as mine were last night. Various attractive women were offering me their breasts to fondle, when—quite suddenly—a physician wearing a stethoscope and white lab coat informed me that the underside of the female breast is so soft because of an internal organ officially referred to as the Fruits of Luigi.

I know I’ve been under considerable pressure because I’ve been working seven days a week, interspersed with nasty arguments with my boss, who is not aging well. So I am grateful I was informed via my dreams of this useful organ.