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Dream

Last night we went to the museum. I got separated from my wife & kids and wandered into a room containing a massive scale-model diorama of Hong Kong and the entire Pearl River Delta. I could see tiny cars crossing the bridges, and see crowds around the bases of the skyscrapers.

A voice came over a PA. This exhibit was on the earthquake threat to the region. Sluices in the walls opened; water began to pour into the room. The diorama started to to shake.

I saw the bridges break, imagined the hundreds of cars falling into the sea. The streets began to flood, the skyscrapers to crumble. The PA explained that in the event of such an earthquake, the region would subside. I watched Hong Kong and Shenzhen, with their millions, sink beneath the rising water, until it was just me, standing waist-deep, with nothing else visible above the surface.

Drains opened. The water poured away and the diorama rose again for the next demonstration.

When I caught up with my family, my 6-yr-old asked “What did you see, Daddy?” I didn’t tell her. I didn’t want to scare her.

Then I woke up.

Had a dream. Little hard to describe since the dream had not a plot, but a place: The River.

From the air, I could see the River, curving fat and slow across a great plain, the sun glinting off the turbid water. At every curve you found a town, centers of the surrounding farmland. In between the towns swam the boats choogly.

Choog-choog-choog.

I saw the steamboats, not like sidepaddlers of our own history. I saw a line of them: barges with boilers on them, looked like furnaces, with great bronze screws, choog-choog-choog, half-in and half-out of the water. Which makes for massive cavitation and poor performance (hence the choogly sound), but that was not a problem. They were slow, but they connected the towns. No one was in a hurry.

Between the towns the steam-boats carried goods and passengers, choog-choog-choog, and the boat-men got a little change in their pockets, singing in the sun.

On the river ran the boats, town to town, and I saw the River, the people of the River. They were happy. It was a lovely dream, because they all were happy.

Last night I revisited one of the Libraries I See In Dreams, the academic one described here. The layout was different than it has been, an open space with galleries looking down at the stacks. My five-year-old daughter accompanied me, and, as always, I had to make sure she I didn’t lose her and that she didn’t get into any mischief. We ended up among the Periodical archives, in the basement. The semester was just beginning, with the prospect of new learning and new transformations. It’s always a thrill to revisit that feeling.

Last night I dreamed about Facebook discussion of a plant, resembling a leafy lettuce, but waist-high and large, with a myriad of nutritional and industrial uses. New evidence suggested its cultivation during the Middle Ages was much more widespread than previously believed.

But some were still skeptical, because no matter how useful this plant was, there was a 1 in 100 chance that when the harvester laid the sickle to it, it would explode.

Upon waking, it occurred to me this would make a perfect Monty Python skit.

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Next on the BBC, we bring you “The Snorgweed: An English Tradition”

(Title card: A woodcut-style drawing of a snorgweed next to, in mock old typeface, THE SNORGWEED: AN ENGLISH TRADITION)

Narrator (John Cleese): The snorgweed. An emblem of the English countryside. Here, on this beautiful September morning, the snorgweeds are ready for the harvest.

(Footage of driving past a field of ripe snorgweeds. In the middle distance, there’s an explosion and a column of fire)

N: This is the farm of Thomas Miller. Here he and his sons take in the snorgweeds, as their family has done for generations)

(Footage of Thomas Miller, played by Eric Idle. Caption: THOMAS MILLER, FARMER. He carries a pitchfork, his face is covered with soot, and his hair is on fire)

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When the tutor arrived, he looked like the Fonz in a long black dress, or I guess Henry Winkler in a long black dress. The dress was a cheap polyester and hung off him oddly, but took away none of his essential dignity.

“Which class are you studying for?”

“Dream studies.”

“Now does that mean studies about dreams or studies in dreams?”

“Both, I think,” leafing through the table-sized volume that contained my notes. “The point of the class is to combine the two.”

“All right. Let’s talk about this while walking in the lake.”

The lake was right off campus, and remarkably warm for December. We waded in up to our necks.

“Now the important thing to remember,” the Fonz said, “is Perez’s six theoretical structures of dreams. What’s the first?”

“Metaphorical.”

“Then?”

“Psychological?”

“Third?”

“Ornithological.”

“Name the rest.”

“I can’t remember.”

“We’ll make them up: historical, erotic, and purgatory. Now, in which structure do birds feature prominently?”

“Metaphorical.”

“Exactly. See those herons?”

On the shores of the lake stood a flock of herons, wading in the surf and pecking frogs. They made me nervous.

“The herons are a mnemonic. Their names are, left to right: Perez, Hauptman, Smith, and Evers. That way you can remember the major dream theorists.”

I had never looked at it that way, but he was right. I guess that’s why he was the Fonz.