Red Rock Review

Red Rock Review

I’m holding in my hot little hands the Spring 2015 issue (#35) of the Red Rock Review, a literary journal from the College of Southern Nevada. Red Rock Review is notable for publishing such luminaries as Marge Piercy and now yours truly. Check it out, page 71, “Dreams,” a short piece of what might be called fiction. Long-time readers of this blog may be intrigued to know this story/essay had its genesis back in 2006, during a two-week inner vacation which I wrote about in somewhat vague and mysterious terms. It took over eight years to bear fruit, a long gestation. This is my first time in print, I think, and certainly in a literary journal of this caliber. I’ve also got work coming out in a couple anthologies later this year. The question remains, how best to leverage this into something more? What next?

PS: You can get a copy of the Red Rock Review from their website. Copies of “Dreams” are available from the author for a song.

PPS: Uploaded to Academia.edu

Two Weird Dreams

Couple of weird dreams lately.

Two night ago, I dreamed we got an extra-thick Times-Picayune on our front porch. It was a Sunday. We don’t subscribe to the Sunday paper. I realized the reduced print schedule must have kicked in. I got out a knife and stabbed the paper just to see how thick it really was. I got out my phone and was about to take a photo and post it to Twitter. But suddenly a man in a suit got in my way, wrestled the phone from my grasp. It was the publisher (or was it the editor?) and he crawled out on the balcony with my phone, threatening to kill himself. Then I woke up.

Last night, I dreamed of a city called Lotus, an international science research city located somewhere in Asia. Under threat of thermonuclear war, Lotus launched some escape pods into the Pacific Ocean. The attack did not in fact materialize, but one scientist was lost at sea for a couple years. Then one day she felt like she was being watched. She turned around to see an automated probe rising out of the water. The probe was shaped like a giant version of her own head. Adding to the eeriness, the whole dream was illustrated in the style of EC Comics.

Valerian Dreams

Common Valerian

I’ve been drinking a cup of valerian root tea on occasion when I think I might have trouble sleeping.

Man. Anyone who is skeptical of natural remedies should try this. The stuff works. Most of the time, anyway. The first three times I took it, I felt a strong sedative effect, and had no problem going to sleep early. Last night it wasn’t so effective, perhaps because I didn’t let it steep as long, but when I finally got to bed at my usual time, I slept soundly.

As an interesting side effect, I’ve enjoyed some unusually vivid dreams. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that I’ve remembered my dreams more vividly. A few weeks ago I dreamed that Antonie Batiste and Big Chief Lambreaux (characters on HBO’s Treme) were making a sculpture out of tomato paste. This morning I was a soap inspector living in a giant tree.

But last week I remembered way more. I was looking through some old stuff and had my memory jogged about a defunct social network service I had used years ago. It was a minor flash in the pan, similar to Twitter, but before Twitter. It was called Rsslssnss or something equally ridiculous and unpronounceable. I looked it up on Wikipedia and was intrigued to learn the inventor was residing in New Orleans. He was just a teen at the time but now would be a young adult. For reasons I can no longer discern, I tracked down his address and went to pay him a visit.

He wasn’t home, but somehow I gained access to the house (which seemed more California-style than anything around here) and soon found myself perched in front of his iMac looking through his files. He came up behind me and tapped my shoulder and didn’t seem mad at my blatant violation of his privacy. We talked for a while and when it was time to go I discovered my shoes were missing. He loaned me a mismatched pair of shaggy Day-Glo slippers. One was green, the other orange with heel. I thanked him and went on my way.

That’s it. Certainly not the strangest or most profound dream I’ve ever had, but my memory of it was very vivid. Some quick net searching indicates I’m not the only one who’s noticed this effect from valerian root.

Xy will want me to note that the root stinks to high heaven. It smells like toejam. It’s so nasty that I have to keep the tea bags, which are already in a foil packet, sealed inside a plastic bag. Of course I could just buy some sort of encapsulated formulation but where’s the fun in that?

Common Valerian / Willie Angus / BY-NC 2.0

A Very Silly Dream

Over the last week I’ve been sleeping less soundly and remembering my dreams better. I believe the two are related, and decreased alcohol consumption probably plays a role in both. The most vivid dreams come just before I wake up.

This morning, I dreamed that Brian Denzer was working on a newspaper story about the Big Easy Roller Girls, who had suffered a crushing defeat or setback of some sort. His problem was the headline: It had to be short, very short, no room even for the full name of the team. I came up with what I thought was a brilliant solution: “BERG Iced.”

I woke up briefly, or dreamed that I did, so pleased with myself that I almost laughed out loud. Then I fell back asleep. Next thing I knew I was explaining the headline to Nicole Kibath in her kitchen in Toronto.

I should have written this down first thing in the morning. The precise details have faded now. What exactly happened to the Big Easy Roller Girls? How did I know what Brian was writing? Was I looking over his shoulder in the newsroom or floating over his head like a guardian angel or what? What newspaper was he writing for? And, above all, what did Nicole’s kitchen look like?

Post Scriptum: In real life, Brian is not a newspaper writer, at least not to my knowledge, but he is the relentless brains behind NolaStat. Nicole makes beautiful art glass. I’m a big fan of both, and also of the Big Easy Roller Girls, whom I’m sure will prevail at their upcoming home game on August 14th.

Post Post Scriptum: Next morning, I dreamt of an elephant who committed suicide by jumping into a river of bourbon.

Invested

Abstract abstract of an abstract

A dream I had over the weekend:

It was back a couple years ago when we were in the process of hiring my boss. She’d just been offered the job here. In fact I think she’d accepted it, but hadn’t actually started yet.

Then she got an offer from Loyola. That doesn’t really make sense since she was already at Loyola at the time, but such is the logic of dreams. Somehow, even though she hadn’t started here, she had the opportunity to take me there with her, to Loyola, and not just me, but all my co-workers as well. I know, I know, it doesn’t make sense.

I considered it. I went to Loyola and walked around campus for a while. I had it in my mind that working there would require moving uptown, so I was considering moving as well.

Finally I went to my would-be boss, and I told her I couldn’t do it. I was too invested here at the University, and too invested in Mid-City.


I understand we dream every night, whether we remember them or not. I used to keep a journal of my dreams in the early 90s. It’s rare for me to remember any dreams these days. What I do remember tends to be fragmentary. This felt like a complete narrative, and it was very vivid, so quite rare for me anymore.

Fever Dream

The only good thing about a fever is the weird dreams they produce. Unfortunately I haven’t been able to remember a one, until last night — and my fever is much abated, so this might not qualify, but it was awfully vivid.

All I’ve retained is this final scene. There was an epic, convoluted backstory that I can’t recall for the life of me.

Envision a landscape of massive multi-colored cones, tall as mountains. Each cone is in fact a gargantuan skyscraper, an arcology, with a metropolis hidden inside.

There we sat, my friends and I, perched high on the side of a cone, for each cone was steeply stair-stepped. The cones thus appeared to be formed of thousands of rings, steeply racked. Each step was about three feet tall, but only a foot deep, and a slightly different shade than the ring above or below it.

I’m not sure what we were doing there, having a picnic I suppose, and enjoying the view, which was tremendous. There was a general spirit of celebration, tied up with the events that found us there, the backstory I can’t remember.

One of our party, a young woman I didn’t particularly care for, had fallen asleep. As we talked and laughed and sang songs, I noticed out of the corner of my eye that she was slipping over the edge.

Before any of us could spring to her aid, she had fallen to the next step, and the next, and the next. She was awake and flailing now, but unable to stop her fall. We watched in horror as she slid down a thousand layers of the cone.

Then she hit some kind of wire threshing mechanism, invisible from our distance, and we saw her limbs and head all fly in separate directions.

It was awful. That’s when I woke up. And I thought to myself, “I didn’t like her, but she deserved far better than that.”

Baby Dreams

Xy has had a trio of weird dreams over the last couple nights.

In the first, she dropped our girl three times in a row, banging her little head on the floor. She was weak from the c-section and couldn’t hold her properly.

In the second dream, Xy was nursing a tiny baby (not our girl) and accidentally bit the top of its head off.

And in the final dream, Xy was nursing an absurdly tiny baby (again, not our girl) and accidentally ate her. I guess the baby just jumped in her mouth and got swallowed.

Mirror

Last night I had one of those intricate, mind-blowing dreams that seems to go on forever in vivid detail, complete with dreams within the dream. I couldn’t begin to recount the whole thing, which has faded from my memory anyhow, but there’s one compact vignette that was particularly striking. I was lying on our couch looking at a large mirror on the coffee table. Somehow I broke off one edge of the mirror. It lost its reflectivity, becoming clear like glass. Then it turned soft like Saran Wrap, and it covered my mouth and smothered me.

Shards of Mirror

Then I woke up — in the dream. Later, at a party (but still in the dream), I recounted this dream sequence to a woman and she gasped. Later, in what appears to be the so-called “waking world,” I recounted the dream of the mirror to Xy, and she gasped in the same way as the woman at the party. I think I’m awake now, but who knows?

A Dream

Yesterday some friends were discussing their dreams of departed relatives. I reflected that I haven’t remembered any of my dreams for a long time.

Then, last night, I dreamed that I was at a gathering of some sort. I was talking to a woman about all the songs that had been written about Helen Hill: a song by PJ, a song by Dave Cash. In the dream there were many more.

The strange thing was that the woman I was talking to was none other than Helen herself. And it wasn’t weird or sad that I was talking with her about songs written after her death. It seemed like the most natural thing in the world.

The strangeness only struck me when I woke up.

Cloris

Dreamed a TV show. Cloris Leachman had a brief cameo as a brunette. She also made a quick appearance in a group of dancers with her hair dyed platinum blonde. I didn’t realize that was her until the credits rolled. She was listed as Cloris Bleachman.

The cameo idea came from The Family Guy, but the pun belongs to my subconscious. I thought it was pretty funny when I was still asleep. Now that I’m awake, not so much.

AI Rail

I had a strange dream last night. I don’t remember too many details, but an artificial intelligence figured prominently. In form it appeared as a great, golden, glassy globe, encompassed by a hollow disk, so that it loooked something like a ringed planet. It may have been extraterrestial in origin. I spoke to it at length. I don’t recall much of our conversation, except that I believe we discussed insect life at some point.

But the strangest thing of all was that it was mounted on a wheeled chassis which in turn was mounted on railroad tracks, and this was how the thing got around: on the railroad tracks that crisscross the land.

Perhaps it’s the cold medicine.

Farmhouse

Xy & I inherited the Seddelmeyer family farmhouse in Fort Wayne, Indiana. We promptly moved in. It was huge, much bigger than I remembered, covering acres. We bedded down in a small room early in the evening, but I was restless, and soon we ventured forth to explore the house. From a window I saw the Klotzes, friends of my family from Indianapolis, approaching the door. Xy didn’t want to talk to anyone, so we crouched down and tried to hide beneath the window. But they knew we were there, and they wouldn’t go away until they’d delivered their housewarming fruitcake. So I got up and greeted them, and before I knew it I was playing host to a large party on the front porch. My parents were there. An uncle of mine was poking my dad’s stomach and making fun of his hemorrhoids. He had astonishingly thick fingers.

Captive

Xy and I were captured by radical Islamic terrorists and held in a large empty cloak room. We were there for hours and hours. We bickered. I was scared. It was very cold. We had a yellow sleeping bag, which we wrapped around ourselves to keep warm. I remember thinking that if our captors chose to take away the sleeping bag, I’d be psychologically devastated.

When I woke up, it was indeed quite cold in our bedroom, and Xy and I were curled up together under a pair of quilts.

5397

Alone in a dark room with just a mattress on the floor and a pay phone on the wall. I’m making a call. I’m scared . I’m trying to speak into the receiver. I’m trying to say a PIN number — 5397 — but I’m literally paralyzed with fear, so terrified that I can’t even open my mouth. I summon all my strength and scream the numbers between clenched teeth: 5! 3! 9! 7!

Then Xy wakes me up. She could hear my “screams” in the form of heavy breathing.

Dream

I woke up at five o’clock this morning with an incredibly vivid dream fresh in my head. I haven’t had such a vivid dream in years. (Come to think of it, I haven’t even remembered any of my dreams for months.) It was a long and generally realistic dream, with some funny details, like Xy & I discovering a new wing to our house. But it was the final detail that really got me. I was in a pub or at a party; I was holding forth on the current state of ROX to a guy, who was a ROX fan, and his girlfriend, who seemed a bit skeptical of the whole enterprise.

“Our particular artistic crisis of the moment is a common one,” I said. “Basically, we don’t know what the fuck we’re doing.”

“I hope you don’t mind me pointing out — that’s exactly what you said last time I talked to you,” the girlfriend said.

I didn’t remember ever talking to her before. “Well, at least I’m consistent.”

“The last time I talked to you was ten years ago.”

I just stared at her, dumbstruck. I still didn’t remember her, but ten years ago ROX was at its peak, or so it seems to me now. I often look back to our activity ten years ago with a certain nostalgic longing. I’d come to think that we knew what we were doing then, and have lost our way since. Yet her words reminded me of how it really was. Suddenly I felt transported ten years into the past. I remembered the feeling of being strapped to the engine of a locomotive hurtling into the darkness.

“Thank you,” I said at last. “Thank you for reminding me that, even back then, we were thoroughly and utterly confused.”

And I woke up feeling sad and amazed and inspired and confused.

Dream

Last night I dreamed my family had a reunion. We were having a special conference about our family religion. The session was being led by “Tall” Steve Volan. Steve is not related to me in real life, but in the dream he was some sort of distant cousin. He stood at the front of the room and lectured us about our religion, which was a strange mix of Rosicrucianism and Zoroastrianism, with a healthy dollop of English literary tradition. In fact, Steve seemed to be infused with the spirit of a tweedy English professor — J. R. R. Tolkien, perhaps? (This is all the more odd because my family is actually German, and Steve is Greek.) After about ten minutes I interrupted. I stood up and said that I, for one, had learned more about our religion in the last ten minutes than I had on my own in the last ten years. Everyone applauded. I struggled to add that I still didn’t believe any of it, but no one heard me.