tonight’s dream

My wife and I work with an international espionage network of some sort.  Agents of this network pass messages to each other coded within appraisals of Elvis Costello songs.  Today it is incumbent upon me to write an analysis of “Veronica” whilst encoding whatever secret message I’m supposed to hide in said analysis.

(An aside: I have been thinking about writing an espionage thriller recently, but not about coding, although it certainly seems like my “message encoded in a song appraisal” sounds like a job for Robert Redford in Three Days of the Condor.)

As the dream begins I am finishing up my task when a detail about the song’s lyrics catches my attention, and I find myself writing a good deal more than I need to for purely “code” purposes, just because of the beauty and import of the song.

(For those of you unfamiliar with “Veronica,” it is a propulsive, energetic pop song [and one of Costello’s only true hits] about a silent, still, senile elderly woman in England who has a rich, full inner life of memories.  She is in a nursing home surrounded by people who do not have a clue as to the colorful life she’s led — to them, she is opaque and lifeless.)

I call my wife into the room and play the song for her, pointing out the lyrical passage that has caught my attention.  Listening to it again I am moved to tears.  (Don’t go dashing for your copies of Spike to find the lyrics — upon awakening, I realize that the passage that I found so moving is one completely invented by me in dreamtime.)

It is time to deliver the message to our contact.  We go to meet him at a large, crowded fruit market.  While we are waiting for him, my wife remembers that we need grapes.  I select some from a pile: they look accepable on top, but when I turn them over I find that the ones below are rotten.

Readers will note a number of differences between this dream and the others.  Here, I have, indeed, contracted to a performance, but this is a private performance for my espionage network, not for a public audience.  Also, there is no bizarre, surreal travel nightmare in this dream and the location is, in all respects, a normal fruit market.
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tonight’s dream

I am a member of a large touring band of some sort. It’s the size of an orchestra but I don’t remember it having the instruments of an orchestra. Perhaps it’s a jazz or swing orchestra. In any case, I don’t play an instrument; I seem to be there in a purely administrative capacity.

We are in Canada. The band has been given a large, derelict shopping mall to rehearse in. The architecture seems to date to the 1980s, but the building was not well-designed and has been declared unsafe. The band is not even allowed inside the building; we rehearse in a semi-covered outdoor cafe on the exterior of the mall.

In the middle of a number, the store next to the outdoor cafe explodes from a gas leak. Glass showers outward into the parking lot. The authorities arrive and shoo the band away from the ruined exterior.

I note that the jagged hole in the store’s glass facade resembles the maple leaf of the Canadian flag.  I pull a musician aside to point it out to him.  Not only does he not find this funny, he has a hard time seeing the resemblance.

Men in grey suits and fedoras (these guys, actually, now that I think of it) show up to investigate the explosion. I suddenly remember that I’ve left something inside the mall and go in to get it, in spite of the fact that one of the stores just exploded. No one stops me — they have more important things to do.
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tonight’s dream

The world has ended, and the powers that be have refurbished a vast underground bunker (many many stories deeper than the above illustration) in order to house the remaining shreds of humanity. All of this seems okay with me.

I am one of the first people to gain access to the new living space. It is windowless and a little corporate, a warren of white-painted, grey-carpeted, mid-sized rooms stretching out into infinity and deep down into the earth, like an office tower built straight into the ground. It is stark and cold but not unpleasant.

I am hanging out in one of the rooms with my friend R. Sikoryak and a couple of other people. We’re talking about a project that we’ve all worked on, a textbook that is being published in order to familiarize people with their new lives inside this vast underground bunker. There is no furniture so we’re leaning against the walls or sitting on the grey carpeting. The place has that “new office” smell and there is still masking tape on the freshly-painted moldings. The room we are in has been set aside as a children’s playroom and there is a small arrangement of wooden blocks scattered about. We talk about the experience of contributing material to the book and the various production and editing headaches that we’ve encountered.

The book’s managing editor shows up. It is a female studio executive I’ve worked with before. She has a proof copy of the new book to show us. R. and I make fun of the cover, which is an ugly, purely-informative temp job done by some graphics-ignorant publishing slave. The editor assures us that this is not the final cover, although she sighs that the publisher (who is, I think, whatever government that exists) will not budge on the title, which is a long, meaningless gibbering of syllables that resembles the title of a software user’s manual.

As R. and the editor talk about production, I flip through the book (which is hundreds of pages long and has the heft of the aformention user’s manual) and note with pride that in addition to R.’s drawings, the book also has illustrations by Tony Millionaire. This makes both R. and I happy because Tony is a friend of ours.

At that moment there is a hubbub in the next room.  The building has been “opened for business” and a great, swelling tide of humanity has been ushered inside.  The editor opens the doorto reveal hundreds of people waiting in the next room, clutching their meager belongings and angry at us for hogging this room to ourselves.
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My dream

Attention armchair psychologists:

I didn’t use to be this way, but, for whatever reason, I am this way now.

I have only one dream. Over and over again, every night. The details are always different, but the scenario is always the same.

It’s a variation on The Actor’s Nightmare. The Actor’s Nightmare is that you go out onstage and you don’t know your lines.

This is the dream: I am who I am, Todd Alcott, and my life (or at least my personality) is that of my waking hours. I dress how I dress, I talk to people as I talk to people, I think as I think.

As the dream begins, I have, every night, contracted, somehow, to engage in some sort of a performance — a speech, a monologue show, a TV interview, a play, a symposium. Endless permutations, I don’t know how my brain comes up with them all. Some elements seem pulled from my past, some don’t.

I have contracted to engage in this performance and I am unprepared. Or, actually, it’s not that I’m unprepared, exactly, it’s that, every night, things have been scheduled in such a way so that there is no time for me to prepare. Instead, there is always some kind of complicated hassle about lodging, transportation, costume, location, directions. These complications can become baroque in the extreme.

don’t tell me you don’t want to know how the rest of this goes