Wednesday, December 10, 2008

It's been a slow education.
The dream I had last night was great. I was in Japan for a conference, and we were walking back to our hotel that was built along a lake with a great view. We went around the back of the hotel and saw a series of these things that looked like giant hurdles (if you're familiar with the steeplechase, they were like the big hurdle that's right before the puddle of water) in rows leading down a hill from the back of the hotel to the lake (running parallel with the hotel). We looked out on the water and saw a guy driving a boat that was actually a piece of earth that had broken off from the mainland. He had just stuck a steering wheel in the piece of land, and was ferrying about 10-15 tigers, who were all sitting the same way and looking at us standing on the hill looking at them. The guy driving the boat decided to dock, without realizing that as soon as he got near the land the tigers could run after us, probably eat us. I thought about how fast I could run if that happened, and what exactly the tigers would do. How quickly would they start chasing us? If one of them swatted at me with their paw, how bad would it hurt? The driver got close enough to land that a couple of tigers were able to jump out. We started running towards the hotel. The two other guys from my office were way ahead of me, and one of them did a flip off one of the hurdles and landed on his hotel room balcony, about three floors up. I knew I wasn't going to be able to do that and wouldn't be able to outrun the tigers. I remembered I had the power to levitate, so I closed my eyes, concentrated, and started to float away.

Later, I walked down to a clothing store where my friend Kate was working. They only carried t-shirts, and left them in piles on the floor instead of putting them on shelves or hangers. She was playing a recording of her daughter saying the letter "X" over and over. She told me she had a live video of one of my old bands playing a show in Florida. I couldn't remember what show she was talking about, so she got the tape and played it on one of the TVs. I was playing bass with no shirt on and we sounded a lot like Palatka. A couple kids who were big fans of the band were in the store and started talking to me. One of them asked, "Which one was the wimpiest guy?" I figured he was talking about Brady, but I said, "Well...we were all wimps." I left the store to finish delivering some mail, but I had to drive through a mall that also had subway cars running through it. I had to be extremely careful not to get in the way of any of the trains, and I had to listen for these alarms that meant a train was coming through. I heard one of the alarms going off and tried to park the mail truck in a corner. I had to do an awkward parallel park and kept moving like 1 ft. backwards and 1 ft. forwards, totally fucking it up and saying, "Sorry, I'm new here." The alarms kept sounding and I finally got the truck parked, and then woke up to the sound of my phone ringing.

This was a much better dream than the one I had the night before, where my grandmother called me up and asked how I was doing, and then, her voice kind of breaking, said, "Well...I think I'm ready to kill myself." She hung up and then I tried calling my parents, but their line was busy. Finally I went over to their house and they just asked me exactly what she'd said, like word for word. I woke up around then. It's not that I think she would really do that or say that she was going to do that, or fucking call me up and tell me she was going to do it right before she did it, but I do know she wants to die. The last time I went to see her at DeMay, she asked me to read from a large-print daily devotional prayer book. I read the one for that day, something about using prayer or faith as a shield or a sword in the battle for...I don't remember exactly. It was about God. Then it had a prayer at the end and I read that, too. I didn't feel uncomfortable reading it. When I finished, I looked up and she had her head down and was covering her face. She looked up and I could see her eyes were teared up. Then I was like, "So...yeah". She looked at me and said, "You know what I pray for, don't you? For the Lord to take me." She said this with a smile on her face, like she was acknowledging that it was a funny thing, or that it was one of those things that doesn't seem funny until you mention it to someone. I think most people who have a good sense of humor and also get retardedly depressed would understand. I laughed when she said it. She'd said it before to me and my mom, and I think I said something like, "Well, you can't tell God what to do." This time I just said, "It'll happen when it happens." I changed the subject and asked about a picture of her parents that she had on one of her shelves. Then I gave her a piece of gum. I left and walked past the common area, where these three women in wheelchairs were sitting in a row watching A Carol Christmas on a huge-screen TV. I could see William Shatner's giant head talking to Tori Spelling's weird face and these women staring at it from about 4 feet away. When I first got to my grandmother's room, a nurse was helping her into the bathroom, so I waited on her couch and read one of the daily devotionals, written by a woman about her daughter, who'd wanted to be a ballerina when she was little, but got cancer and wound up dying roughly 18 years later. This is like the only thing my grandmother reads.

I drove to my sister's and then back to my apartment, listening to Bright Flight. Dave Berman's lyrics are the best--ridiculous sometimes but absolutely true. I have to get his book. Sometimes his voice--untrained and flat, but pleasant and reassuring--sends what would ordinarily just be good lyrics into another place. I got Bright Flight a few years ago, when I was working in Phelps. I never gave it a good listen, and when I was driving home, I looked at the tracklist and really wanted "Horseleg Swastikas" to be an awesome song, just because of the title. I'm not advocating being a Nazi, I just feel like most great song titles are paired with lackluster songs, and vice versa. Plus, swastikas were around way before the Nazis. My friend Andrew did a paper on the history of the swastika when we were seniors in high school. We drove from Newark the the U of R library so he could look up info. He was kind of freaking out about it. I half-assedly looked up info for my paper, which was about Punk, and in all likelihood the worst thing I've ever written. I'm not even sure I read Andrew's paper, or if he wound up finishing it. When I was driving I thought, we should be able to mention the word swastika or use it in a song and not have it be some loaded thing. We should be able to use it as part of something else entirely, that maybe turns the word swastika, or the idea of a horseleg swastika, or whatever you had previously thought of when you heard the word swastika, into something warm and sad and funny, something less race-hatey. With everything we have to suffer through--ABC Family movies, deadlines, being born without certain talents, wanting to die but not wanting to do it yourself--we should be able to say or not say whatever the fuck we want.

Silver Jews - "Horseleg Swastikas"
Silver Jews - "Room Games and Diamond Rain"
Silver Jews - "Tennesee"

I have to admit I'm mostly listening to The Sads' Silent Show LP. I'll maybe write more about it later. What else was I going to mention? Bands covering The Clean are Times New Viking and Pavement. Pavement's cover of "The Killing Moon" is a lot better, although what the fuck are "Major Leagues" b-sides doing on the Brighten The Corners re-ish? Do I need to read the liner notes more carefully? Did someone else need to do something more carefully? I haven't listened to the whole Street Carnage Radio with Paul Stanley, but I'm going to! I'm also going to download all this Huggy Bear stuff eventually, but in the meantime I'm looking at the hottest Debbie Harry photos ever. Christmas post is coming.