Amsterdam Short Story

An unexpected scene on the Prinsengracht, told in words and pictures.

November 4,  2019

Woke at 12:00 AM this morning from a dream set in a huge park in London. My mother and my sister Julia and I are walking through the gardens, and upon noticing the top of a stadium in the distance I mention that of course, Wimbledon is held there. And I think to myself wouldn't Julia love to see it? So, we head up a long slope from which we can see the venue. There's a huge dry waterslide that runs from our station several stories up above the trees down toward the grounds of the tennis stadium. The prospect of an uncontrolled slide deters us from our target and both a bit confused and disappointed, I wake up.

October 24,  2019

Dream fragment:

This is the middle and end of a longer dream. There was a backstory to my arrival at the point where these events occur, but it's lost.

Coming back to a motel room. I walk into the room with its two twin beds, an open shower room, and a water closet around the corner beyond the beds, both of which are covered with clothes that spill onto the floor and open luggage. I turn on a light switch and a jet of water shoots out of a fixture in the shower room. I go into the shower room and try to make sense of the ultra complicated piping. Then, in an instant, I'm talking to someone about how the controls work and they say they'll come check it out, but then I finally find all three switches in the twists and turned of the plumbing that have to be turned off to make the water stop. I step back into the main room and watch a animal that looks like a scorpion navigating a spider silk thread across the entrance to the water closet. It's too large to be an actual scorpion, and way too big to try and capture so I set about thinking up ways to exterminate it. I walk back around the beds to the center of the room and notice that the ceiling is only a couple inches above my head. Knowing how short I am, it strikes me that this is a very cramped space. There's a step down to the shower room, so there's a bit more headroom there, but it's still far from the normal height.

I step out into the parking area and walk away into a meadow. As I pass a house set down a slope to the right, I see my eldest cousin and his wife at a table near the window. He comes out, grunts a garbled version of my name and walks around toward the other side of the house. He's not looking good, his neck is canted off to one side, and he's having spasms that jerk his head and shoulders around. His wife gets up from the table but doesn't come out of the house. Turning away from that scene I walk up a path through the meadow. Two very small, very playful golden retrievers pups come running up to me and busy themselves leaning into my ankles and looking up at me as I keep moving. I'm about to bend down and pet them when I see a couple very flat creatures scurrying up a path to the right that joins the path I'm on. They appear to be tiny flat badger/hedgehogs, built like little furry flounders with eyes on the top of their bodies and tiny little noses. They are soon joined by a couple smaller pale otters that come down the same path. I lean over to pet the lead otter toward the middle of his back, wondering if I'm at risk of being bitten, but it lets me give it a nice scratch, and all I can think is that my niece would love this strange place with these very cute and unusual tame critters everywhere before I wake up.

October 4,  2019

Dream fragment:

I'm walking in the woods in the wintertime. There's fresh snow on the ground, the trees are bare, and it's very cold. As I follow a track downhill, I see two people approaching, and there's a dog with them. I want to avoid them since I'm afraid the dog will attack. I set off over a frozen pool next to the road and get stuck against the opposite bank which, when I get close to it, turns out to be much too steep and slippery for me to climb. Although I'm wary about my footing, I manage to get across the snow covered ice, but I am unable to climb up the bank. My right foot siezes up in a painful cramp in my boot, just as the dog comes toward me and I wake up with a cramp in my right foot.

September 27,  2019

Lucid dream fragment:

I'm with a group of friends and someone mentions the color of my hair (currently white in real life, but with some late additions of brown since changing my diet). I look in a mirror and am surprised to see that it's entirely brown, there's no white hair in my beard or anywhere. I'm quite taken aback for a moment, but then it occurs to me, "Oh, of course, I'm dreaming." In bed, I rouse from the dream for a just moment but quickly slip back into sleep.

September 12,  2019

Woke at 4:00 AM this morning from a dream set in San Francisco which had the vertical relief factor scaled up more than twice what it is in real life. I'm with three friends laughing at one of them because he admitted he was having sex up on top of the hill at 20th and Castro Streets. Which is where we are, but the hill in the dream is more of a steep alpine slope than the admittedly steep San Francisco city streets and the scene looks more like the view from 25th and Grandview, but that's the dream world for you. We go into a unit (I feel like it's my place) in a dark blue building (that I've never seen) and step out into the steepest backyard of all time. It's one of those, take a step and careful, oops, you slipped and are sliding all the way down the hill, places. My friends give up trying to work their way down the slope and go back into the house. I go down toward the bottom of the thicket under the canopy of tall bayberry shrubs. There's no one there. I head back up the slope and hear something behind me. When I look back downhill, I see a freaking lion prowling around. It notices me and doesn't wait long before coming up the slope toward me. It has trouble getting through the dense thicket where I am, but reaches out a paw with its claws out to try and catch me. And I wake up, heart racing, unable to sleep for sometime.

August 14,  2019

Then there was this dream I will always remember from back in 1995. I found myself, my young self, at the nursery school in a church basement in Verona where my mother would drop off my little sister and I. There'd be some play time and later maybe a cookie and glass of milk. Then we'd lay down on blankets on the floor for a nap. I fall asleep and dream about a young Polish boy playing with his friends. I don't understand anything being said but after I while I realize that he's actually a friend of mine who had died almost ten years prior. The realization woke me up from the dream, and woke me up from dreaming about dreaming. It was an interesting, unexpected, and satisfying continuation of his life, a life that had offered him no satisfaction when I had known him.

August 9,  2019

The tub

I'm naked in a just more than waist high porcelain on steel tub that is about six feet long by three feet wide, shaped vaguely like a kidney pool from Hollywood in the 1960s. It's just under half full of water. There is a jet at the head of the tub and a drain at the foot. The jet is on, the water is warm and some chemical process or treatment is taking place. The whine of the water in the plumbing is all I hear. I play with the controls for the drain and the jet, letting most of the water out until there's just a few inches flowing across the bottom. The controls are unlike anything I've ever seen and yet I know how they work. But the tub is not in a bathroom, it is set in the middle of...

a cathedral

of soft grey stone which towers overhead. I feel a surge of energy pulsing through my torso and spreading up through my hands. I raise my right arm and see my hand swell and change color with a sudden flux of blood and power that quickly expands out to affect the building. A wash of color flows up the interior walls that tower hundreds of feet overhead. Everything suddenly appears sharper and more detailed, and the colors match the deep dark red and venous blue that have taken over my hand. The pulsing energy in my hand continues, and fills the space, beating everywhere in the vast reaches overhead solidifying the pillars, arches, and tracery in the ornate glass windows.

I realize I'm with two other people, a woman who is leading the three of us, and another man. We know one another and are here with a purpose although all I can think is that I need some clothes. Small matters like that resolve of their own accord so with a couple words I'm dressed and we leave the area of the tub and go down what feels like a darker indoor marketplace corridor to...

an art gallery

filled with dozens of deep green, highly detailed, polished sculptures, of groups of people, objects, buildings, and all, I realize in a moment, made of the same thing. I ask the woman, "Are they really made of spinach?" She says yes, and suddenly I feel and "Alice in Wonderland" moment arrive and pass by with the thought that I, and in fact we, should choose and eat some of the art, but instead we walk around a corner into the middle of a glittering...

gift shop

which is an almost elliptical space filled with waist to shoulder high shelves displaying a profusion of objects I don't recognize. We have a few quick words with the proprietor before leaving.

I wake up with the feeling that if I go back to sleep, I'll forget this dream in its entirety. Mentally, I outline the sections of the dream, and then go wash my face and sit down at the computer to record this gloss of what I can recall.

August 2,  2019

I was sitting with and listening to Taylor Swift talking to Ron Wood about the music she'd been making. She told us that it had been more free form, more random, more spontaneous than the studio work she'd done in the past. She was energized by telling the story and took us on a walk from the balcony where we'd been sitting down through a hilly town and out into a park, narrating the story of her new music the whole way. At one point she starts talking about having the sound of young people's voices in the background and I realize she's referring to the thirty or forty people nearby. We can hear them all talking, and in a Glenn Gould moment they suddenly sound musical. Taylor starts to sing, Ron begins playing the guitar, and they perform a track which is (at least in my mind) being recorded somehow. After several minutes, a young girl comes over to where we're sitting, looms over Taylor, bends over and leans in over Taylor's shoulder, and asks us, "Is there anything you want?" Taylor smiles and answers her, but I forget what her answer was. Ron stops playing. Taylor and Ron go on to debate whether or not that track is done. Taylor thinks it is, and Ron suggests that it could be tweaked some more. Taylor finally says it's perfect just the way it is, and I agree saying that the part where the girl came over and interrupted them was amazing. They ask me about what I was doing before and I tell them about building the sound stage in California and how the role of Cassandra (the accurate seer in Greek mythology who was cursed to have no one believe her prophesies) feels to me. For whatever reason, they are encouraging about what I could do. They ask if it's still a going concern and I tell them it is. We all get up and leave the park, heading back up into town. Before long Taylor is well ahead of us, she's visible far up a long, narrow, very steep stairway. I tell Ron that when they talk about climbing a set of stairs, this comes to mind. The passage narrows quickly and it comes to feel more like a ladder. I'm pulling myself up by the handrail, and after a short while, the walls converge to the point where I can't fit between them. The stairway we could see from lower down appears to be an optical illusion, it's now just a painted vertical surface in front of us; Taylor is nowhere to be seen, and I tell Ron that I can't go any further. He's a step behind me, and agrees. I wake up.

July 22,  2019

I'm roaming, seeking an address in a landscape of steep wooded cliffs, dense with summer houses that emerge from the damp rocks, dark windows under deep eaves, shaded by trees, trees, and more trees. It's a strange endlessly deep summer resort, the likes of which I've never imagined before. Narrow winding paths ran in every direction, with all but vertical stairways leading up to houses that I sensed were up there somewhere, but couldn't make out through the trees, shrubs, and undergrowth. I'm lost and apparently, so is everyone dragging themselves through the maze of rocky paths trying to find the tiny signs that yield little in the way of clues to locations. I meet a couple coming down the path of one declivity and they beg me for directions but our words sound like robots speaking foreign numbers and codes which have no meaning and we end up going our seperate ways even more frustrated than when we met. The longer my trek goes on, climbing up the stairways that pretend to be streets, past more and more empty houses perched on impossible hillsides of dark forest, the more desperate I become. I recite a number like 3897 Jinea as though I could conjure it to appear right in front of me along the myriad knots of twisted steps. Eventually I become completely baffled as to why I thought I could ever find anyplace familiar much less the place I imagined I was headed back to, and at that moment I wake up, exhasuted, and quickly fall back to sleep.

July 3,  2019

I only remember the last part of a much longer dream. I was wandering through a huge ancient stone building that felt like it had been retrofitted to be a prison. I wandered from room to room and felt as though I knew that somewhere I'd come across an animal. I came to a room setup with a row of half a dozen outsize metal bathroom stall doors. I tapped the last door in the row open, and it slowly swung into the space it concealed. Inside was nothing but a tall blue furry alien shaped like a cross between a giraffe, a horse, and a very sad faced tapir. It had high shoulders, but wasn't more than five feet long from nose to tail. It looked directly at me but didn't move. I left that room and found myself in a vast open atrium filled with piles of hundreds of roughly four by eight foot slabs of stone that could have been quarried in place from the drock the building was built with and constructed upon. The blocks all had grids of raised icons carved on the surface. Three other young men were walked around on the jumble of stones. They said that the stones worked like telephones, they could be used to communicate with the alien gods of the religions that were represented by the icons. I joked with them, "So you mean you could dial up Catholicism and its guilt, just like that?" The guy I spoke to said, "Yes, exactly". End scene.

June 22,  2019

Last night's dream sonata was all about not having it together when nothing else mattered. I was driving through what looked like a hilly coastal town in New England, on my way to my first day on a job, or was it an interview for a job? In any case I keep reciting the address which is like 7280 V-something street, and suddenly I'm almost at the end of the street that's supposed to get me there, and V-something road is nowhere to be found. Instead I'm at 100 Somewhere Else Street, and can't get the GPS to search for the proper address, which it was supposed to already be programmed with, and I can't believe I've somehow let this get out of hand. I look at my watch and realize I have just over 10 minutes until I'm supposed to arrive, and I have no idea where I'm going. That sinking feeling that this is neither going well, nor going to end well, resonates for a long while before I wake up.

May 26,  2019

I remember the end of a long dream from last night. I was outside on a rocky hillside. Think off the slickensides at Red Rock Hill in San Francisco. They are deeply weathered orange cherts that break up into rough cubes ranging from a couple inches down to gravels and sands. I needed to get down the hill and followed a track that appeared to trend down. The problem was that when it passed through a v-shaped declivity it turned sharply back up and and down the hillside without getting me down onto the road into the valley. I thought to myself that there was no way that would work, so I turned directly downhill, even though I couldn't see my way to get from the cliff down onto the path below. Since I didn't want to backtrack and start over, I worked my way down to a point that dropped off straight down onto the path, but when I got there I realized that I'd been tricked by an optical illusion. It wasn't a ten foot drop off the overhanging rock that it had appeared to be from up on higher ground. Instead, it was a short step which I'd misread as a perilous escarpement. Relieved, I stepped onto the path and woke up.

May 21,  2019

Last night I woke up at 4:00 AM from a dream about rockets. We were in an oddly small hangar prior to boarding a rocket plane. I hesitated getting on the craft and after my companions had boarded, the pilot maneuvered it out through the far side of the building toward the launch field. I felt certain that it was going to be a disaster, and worried that even if I wasn't on the flight, I still might be part of an explosive failure near the ground. Instead, as I walked toward the open hangar door on the opposite side of the facility my flight had just left from, another launch began around a corner behind my location. Enormous sprays of sparks and burning yellow and blue light competed with a deafening roar that signified the takeoff of a 25 foot cube (which looked to have been purloined from an oil drilling rig) and turned out to be a flying platform powered by two rocket engines. The exhausts bellowed and flamed and carried the platform past me as it headed up into the sky. At 100 feet up, its flight halted and hovered on two cones of flame. Then it quickly descended to a soft landing back on the field directly in front of me. The engines cut out and surprisingly, I could hear the pilot, standing in the middle of this improbable contraption (which was clearly made airworthy only through computer flight controls) a lab coat his only flight gear, as he looked at me and said, "How about that?" Relieved that a disaster with my flight wasn't involved, mystified about what could possibly be going on, I woke up and didn't pretend, even just to myself, that sleep would come easily again.

April 23,  2019

I dreamed that I was in a rental car heading north in hilly California on a freeway late at night. I pulled off into a lane that led into a huge parking structure. Deep inside the building, the road split. The left fork went back to the freeway, the right brought me up a gated ramp. In front of it were four or five men. I got out of the car to talk to them. The closer I got to them, the clearer it became that they were patchwork chimeras, produced in some dark experiment. None of them had two eyes that matched, and their faces looked like a merger of too many soft plastic parts held together by unnatural forces. They spoke in tones that made it clear they had practiced lying and persuasion and little else. My instinct was to buy time, asking nonsense questions, trying to focus on my chances of escape, trying to see around their twitches and grimaces as they pushed and plied me with a need to move past the gate. Seeing only deadly danger lay that way, and with no other way to go ahead, I went back to the car, and escaped into wakefullness, no longer interested in the rewards of sleep.

April 22,  2019

I dreamed that I was standing behind a seated Pete Buttigieg and started giving him a neck and shoulder rub. He seemed OK with it until I got to his left shoulder at which point he said, "New tattoo." I said, "So it hurts." I took my hands off him and then had to wonder what I was thinking of. I mean, really, what led me to touching him in the first place, and how could it possibly have been appropriate? The dreaming brain sure works overtime. I woke up feeling guilty about behavior that I enjoyed but didn't actually do. It makes me wonder if some forms of infectious Catholicism can be airborne.

April 21,  2019

I woke up from a dream that had Ed (my ex) and I trying to get someplace in a hurry in present day Chicago at rush hour. He was driving us south along a street that ran along the freeway which was some thirty feet below us on the right. I commented that traffic (which was dense stop and go in both directions at best) was really moving well. And immediately felt bad for saying it. It wasn't as though he hadn't noticed that it was going to be slow going. We eventually came to a point where there was construction and no way forward so we got out of the car and tried to get across the construction area on foot. We found ourselves in a shed with an opening on the far wall inside that opened onto a single lane of traffic that we needed to cross. The oddly shaped shed made it a blind crossing so cars would race by seemingly at random. We debated how to proceed but finally stepped out to cross the lane. It turned out the lane had been blocked off so there were no more cars coming through. It was a both a relief and a letdown. And oddly, it was quite clear that the lane wasn't wide enough to accomodate the cars that had been speeding by. I suppose that's a pretty typical dream brain conundrum, where actual facts are construed to be as fungible as the forever lying Republican operative Sarah Sanders and miserable dummkopf-in-chief Donald Trump would have us believe.

April 14,  2019

I'd love to know how many of our top 10% of wealthy folk also collecting Social Security, and taking advantage of Medicare. C'mon. There's gotta be a statistic out there somewhere. I mean, there was a report the other day that that the richest man around, Jeff Bezos, only takes $84,000 a year in salary, but that also means he only pays into Social Security on that tiny bit of money. It looks like yet more tax avoidance to me, from someone who can well afford to chip in his share.

February 2,  2017

Six things worth changing in America, the sooner the better.

All State and Federal employees and elected officials should rely upon Medicare and Social Security. There's no reason for them to get special treatment. It isn't as though they are unpaid volunteers.

Gerrymandering should end. Software that knows nothing about politics should be used to move us toward equal representation at the State and Federal level. Gerrymandering is a bad faith attempt to grab power by undermining the ideal of one man one vote representation.

The Electoral College should end. It has yet to serve a purpose and it is even more inequitable than most gerrymandering.

Single payer health care is the only fair approach for this country.

End Citizen's United, corporations are not people.

Reset the Social Security deduction limit to tax the first $5,000,000 of income and index it to the CPI every year. You'll never see a problem funding Social Security if this is done.

November 3, 2016

New York Dream Journal 1975

Fade in to the dream time.

It is a clear quiet night on the outskirts of a North African coastal town. Dry sparks of white stars and a sliver of the crescent moon add their glow to the deep blue black sky. It's still warm, but much cooler than it was during the day. Two of my best friends and I are climbing the exterior steps that lead up to the roof of an adobe covered house. We're wearing dark robes, talking softly, laughing, and happy to be able to cool off and take our ease in the comfort of the night. I recognize my friend Ritchie, but the other, who seems to know us both just as well as Ritchie and I know one another is someone I can't name. We laugh and talk and our faces shine in the glow of the moon and the stars. The moment fades to black.

Several years later, back in real time.

It's a beautiful sunny summer day. I'm sitting on a log along a path that winds around the southern side of the hill that is Buena Vista Park in San Francisco. The unknown young man who seemed to be such a friend in that New York dream of North Africa, comes walking down the path in shorts and a T-shirt. We greet one another without any sign there's a connection. But when the conversation turns to the East Coast, where we'd both spent time, it turns out he was good friends with Ritchie too. His last name? Pentecost.

I got to know him, for at least the second time, or so it seemed to me. I had a powerful crush on him. Eventually we spent an affectionate but chaste night together. He understood that I wanted him badly, but this time around I wasn't his type. He was mine though. He was so compact, attractive, familiar, and sure of himself, all I could do was long for him and let him pursue the men he desired.

October 29, 2016

An open letter to every web designer on earth, and their clients.

Please, I clicked on your pop up request on your site's home page to sign up for your newsletter solely in order to close the pop up. No, I don't want your newsletter. And NO, I don't want to ever see that pop up again. C'mon. Use the cookie you dropped on my system to remember that. And, for fun, how about putting an easy-to-find link to subscribe to your site's newsletter in case I finally wake up one morning and realize that I can't go on living a happy life without getting daily pitches from the folks at "___fill__in__your__site's__name". Is it really asking too much of you to show that much consideration? Or should I write a script that signs up with a dead end email address, or 500,000 dead email addresses to annoy you and your client as much as you're bothering me?

October 24, 2016

Djawana know what I think?


Well I'll tell you anyhow!

I've just got to say!

If I was the moderator of those 2016 presidential debates, I'd have had a cutoff switch for the candidates microphones, and I would have used it. And I'd have rehearsed that with them beforehand so they had a clear understanding of what they were facing. Not only that, I'd have a clock on screen that they could see to know when their freaking time was up.