Friday, July 10, 2009

we are hungry

[Here's another dispatch from dreamland. It all actually happened just like I describe it...well, "actually" is problematic. This was a dream, see?]

A sort of stout fellow is driving the old, dark-blue Toyota pick-up truck, which keeps changing to bright white as we surge through the city streets. The truck, as per usual, barely runs – just staggers, sputtering smoke from the tailpipe. We move in long hiccups, more than roll along smoothly like the other vehicles on the dream streets.

It's three of us. Guy driving, me somehow straddling the stick shift (Freud, anyone?), and an anonymous friend in the passenger seat – skinny guy.

We are hungry.

Steve – the driver – swings into the driveway of a swank restaurant/bar. He spots what he thinks is a free parking space right up front. Wheels into it (truck creaking and wheezing) to discover another vehicle is already parked there – a white “compact” car, about four feet long and four feet wide. Without getting pissed off (or being abashed in the least by a pigmy sedan), Steve backs out. He finds another spot. (Time is odd here: it was bright afternoon when he tried the first parking place; it changed to twilight when we de-trucked.)

As we get out, the topic is food. Steve always has money. Skinny guy is on the skids. I look in my billfold and see that I'm also broke. I dig a little deeper and find a hidden compartment. There's a tightly folded bill in there. I get it out, unfold it, and see that it's a $10 note. In dreamland, such a denomination has 10 times the purchasing power that it does in real life. So I announce proudly, “I'm buying.”

We stroll through the front door of the swanky joint. The open dining space is vast.

Waitresses are pretty and all have their hair up in swell beehives. A pretty (well, of course) hostess saunters up and then leads us through the crowded joint (who are all these extras?) to a large round plate-glass table of our own. We place our orders. I gawk at all the extras, wondering how come they all seem so happy to be here (in waking life, I'd rather take a running dive through a rusty barb wire fence than be in a swanky joint full of such cool, knowing hipsters).

Silver-haired guy with his back to us is sitting at the next table. Anonymous skinny friend thinks he recognizes him and shouts over the collective conversational din: “Hey, is that you, Bob?”

Guy swivels to face his accuser, and yes, indeed, it is Bob. It's a 30-year-old, silver-haired Bob Barker. [He hosted The Price Is Right, for all you foreigners or others with better things to do than watch TV game shows.] Anon and Bob stretch across to hug one another tightly. The embrace lasts quite a long time. Finally, I lean over to them and tap my friend's back (just beneath Bob's bear-hugging arm). I ask aloud and with uncanny empirical elan: “I guess you two know each other?”

After the hug, our food and drinks arrive. We chow and slurp down. Seems like the collective conversational din is getting gradually louder. Or maybe it surges like the Toyota.

Anon gets up and leaves (I suppose to go to the restroom). I don't have a clue what Steve has been up to all this time. I think he's there at the table with us. He just seems really diffuse, for all his stoutness. While Anon's away, Bob, who has remained swiveled in our direction, looks at me. His expression changes from innate confidence to troubled near-grimace. My returning look must have subtly signaled: “Well, what is it?”

“It's about God. I don't know what to make of any of it. Do you?”

Anon shows right back up and answers proudly: “He sure does.”

“He does? Really?”

“Tim, here, knows everything there is to know about comparative religion.”

As he says this, the fact that he's correct hits me pleasantly. I'd completely forgotten that I knew everything there was to know about each culture's understanding of things divine. And there seemed to be some implicit mental incense floating above my head: seemed to also remember that I had a super-subtle insight into the actual nature of God himself.

Then began a long, soulful discussion between Bob and me. His eyebrows arched and his eyes widened occasionally, as he learned things from me that few souls on “earth” had ever been privy to. I was not smug at all. I simply and sanely bestowed on him things that would astonish the angels.

As the transmission ended, Bob's mood lightened considerably. Apparently, he could now surge through the remainder of his silver-haired days unhindered by any further theological or existential worries. And in perfect soulful pitch, the entire restaurant quietens down as I utter my last thoughts to Bob Barker. (Please be attentive to the underlying schizoid irony: only in dreams am I taken seriously.)

I turn to Anon and ask: “Isn't this food good?” Immediately, the surge of crowd noise resumes. Almost as in a gesture of embarrassment that I have “returned” from profound depths of thought and now am part of their shallow world. I mean, it's loud. I can hardly hear myself asking Anon if he's actually seen Steve since we all sat down.

I wake up.

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