Thursday, December 29, 2022

I Dreamed a Dream

The weirdest dream last night...

I was at home in Oakland, Grandmother was still alive, and I think I was in my thirties... I was thin, and had dark brown hair, and felt good, so was somewhere between quitting drinking and getting fat. At any rate, in the dream I discovered that I am naturally incredibly good at baseball, or rather at hitting a baseball far and fast, and I needed to become a good runner to qualify to play baseball, I think for a business league team rather than a pro team, but still I wanted to pursue it. I went to a doctor at Kaiser to discuss what I needed to do to become a good runner, having never run anywhere for very long in my life, and she gave me eight different dietary supplements to take, one of which was a gel substance in clear capsules that hydrated your body so you didn't have to carry water with you. The doctor looked like the psychiatrist I had at Kaiser, but with bigger hair, like Carol Kane, or maybe Blyth Danner.

Anyway, I got home and argued with Grandmother some about I-don't-remember-what, took all my new pills, and went out to go running. And I decided to take our dog Maggie (a lhasa apso who died in 1997) with me, and she ran alongside me through a dream version of my old neighborhood, Crocker Highlands and Piedmont, and even via some space-and-time bending all the way down Tunnel Road past the Claremont to UC Berkeley before turning back. The running felt amazing, just floating along without any effort at all, which is unusual for my dreams, which are usually spent walking or swimming against resistance for incredible distances. 

On my way back up College Avenue, I stopped off to work a shift at a cafe that I apparently worked at, though I'm pretty sure at the beginning of the dream I was working in a corporate-type office that had a baseball team. This happens in my dreams a lot, where I'm in a food counter service job that I don't remember how to do. Anyway, it was sort of an amalgamation of all the cafes I'd worked in before college, and it migrated from College and Ashby where Espresso Elmwood had been to Grand Avenue where the Coffee Mill was (or still is, I don't know). It was a full shift, too, longer than I was asleep for, and had all sorts of dramas and struggles and weirdness to do with patio seating, negotiating power plays between two assistant managers, and something to do with baked goods. 

I took off home after my shift was over and a lot more weird things happened on the way, getting lost a couple of times, finding myself all the way in West Oakland, running on the freeway that looked a lot like the Cypress Superstructure that collapsed in the Loma Prieta quake, and navigating through a terribly complicated dream version of Downtown Oakland to get back home. But still running effortlessly and perhaps even joyfully. What I imagine running feels like to real athletes.

I realized as I was running over the hill on Mandana (which in waking life would have winded me to even drive over) that I'd lost Maggie somewhere along the way, since I hadn't had her on a leash. But I found her by the gas station at Mandana and Lakeshore in a sort of utility enclosure, basically a plywood box built at chest height around a utility pole, where she was hanging out with a small colony of feral cats.  She was happily humping away at a disinterested black and white shorthair, the way she used to do to her littermate and dam and any other small dog she met...I never understood why she did that, some kind of instinctive dominance ploy, I guess. 

I pulled her out of there and started jogging up the hill toward home, Maggie wriggling like crazy to get away from me... oh, and somewhere during the course of the dream, before I lost her even, she'd changed into an entirely different kind of dog, no longer a white and caramel lhasa apso but sort of a cross between a dachshund and an Australian shepherd, with the short legs and pointed nose of the former and the brindle coat of the latter, but she was nevertheless Maggie. 

Anyway, she argued with me the whole way home, wanting to get back to the black-and-white cat she was convinced she'd gotten pregnant, wanting to be there to take care of the babies and be a good father. I had to point out that A) she's a dog, B) she's a female, and C) she was neutered as a puppy, so there was no way in hell she'd impregnated that cat. It did not seem odd in the dream that she talked, any more than that she'd changed shape and color... the sort of thing that makes my dreams really bizarre.

When I got into the house, Grandmother had the kitchen all in a whirl with dishes and Tupperware everywhere, rearranging the cabinets for some reason, and annoyed with me for being gone all day. I wanted to go back out running some more, though, so I looked for my water capsules, but Grandmother had moved them in her mad reorganization and didn't know where they'd gone, so I had to go through all the piles of bowls and utensils and containers, looking for them... and that's when I woke up.

Not the weirdest dream I've ever had, but it was stuck in my head so I had to write it down. Plus I've been thinking a lot about dreams lately, wondering about the phrase I always use when wishing people good-night—"happy dreams!"—and whether or not I've ever had a happy dream, myself, or only anxiety dreams of greater or lesser degree. It has been suggested that perhaps I don't remember the happy dreams because nothing awful or bizarre happens in them to haunt my waking hours, just as you'd never remember a movie or book in which only nice things happened. I kind of like that idea except that it leaves the question of why we talk of ideal situations as "a dream come true" or quests for success "pursuing your dreams" or glibly wishing people "sweet dreams" when they go to bed. 

Anyway, I hope your dreams are perfectly lovely and not at all day-hauntingly weird.

Tuesday, December 27, 2022

Thoughts on Ageing

Or is it aging? I'm never sure about that word. Spellcheck doesn't catch on it, so I guess both are OK? (editorial note: aging is preferred in the US while ageing is preferred in the UK, and either is acceptable in Canada)

Anyway here I am on the morning of my fifty-fifth birthday and thinking about age, about the expectations we have about specific ages, how few of us Gen-Xers seem to feel the age we are, and what it means to finally qualify for senior housing and to order off the Senior Menu at Denny's.

I'm honestly kind of excited about it. It feels like a milestone, though I'm not treating it as a milestone birthday in any way...I don't intend to leave the house, much less have a party or even go out to dinner. I'll be hosting in Second Life, though I was offered the night off to celebrate, but I find I like working more than just being there, plus people tip like crazy on your birthday (or rezday, your SL avatar's birthday). So that and clicking the Love icon on all the birthday wishes on Facebook will be my birthday party.

It feels like I'm entering the sacred halls of Old on this birthday, like I've finished the Middle Age portion of the race and can relax. Of course if I relax any further than I already have, I am in danger of melting altogether and being absorbed by the carpeting, but there is nevertheless a sense of arrival having reached 55, safely under the marquee of "Golden Years."

Mostly it feels like I am now the appropriate age to be the physical and emotional wreck that I already am, like I am now allowed to settle into this curmudgeonly heap of thinning gray hair and drooping flesh that I've been occupying these last ten or more years as a birthright citizen instead of an interloper. I feel like I'm properly old instead of prematurely old, I guess.

Of course this is all based on expectations developed in early childhood, our first understanding of how the world works by observing our parents and grandparents and how they lived. I'm now in the age range that my multifarious grandparents and step-grandparents were when I was about five or six, starting school and learning about family structure and social structure in my early reading and television viewing. 

All my grandparents had certain things in common because of their generation, the so-called Greatest Generation who grew up in the Depression and were young adults in WWII. Well, to be specific, both my grandfathers were older than that, born in the first decade of the 20th century, but their experiences were not dissimilar to their fifteen-years-younger wives' except they were too old to be drafted by 1940. 

And then my parents and stepparents and aunts and uncles and all their cohort were first-wave Boomers, and they all had certain things in common, having grown up in the same place at the same point in history, with the same cultural references and social structures and sets of expectations to either succeed or fail at. The Boomers had a lot more choices of mainstreams to enter than their Greatest Generation parents had, but they were the same choices that all their peers had, and for the most part they aimed at having adult lives similar to their parents' adult lives, with long-term jobs and owned homes—but with a nostalgia for their golden childhoods and adolescences that the previous generation did not have.

Then my generation, Generation X as we came to be known as people started studying American culture through a lens of generational subculture, based our expectations of what adult life would be like on what our parents' lives were like when we were little, though we doubled down on the nostalgia by never letting go of our childhood obsessions and pastimes. We nevertheless based our expectations on what was modeled for us early on. 

What was different, I think, is that the world changed faster and faster as we grew up, and has continued to change at increasing speed as we age, and we really don't know where we are or where we should be. Our grandparents' lifestyle that our parents more often than not emulated is simply not available anymore, and we've got generations of children and grandchildren now that we simply don't know what to do with. 

That's the real mind-fucker, that our grandchildren are now coming of age and forming Gen-Z. That we've passed where our parents were when we formed our expectations of life, and are now zooming through where our grandparents were, and our models have turned out to be completely irrelevant. But they're still our base for what we think we can and should do.

These are of course sweeping generalizations, as most discussions of Generation Whichever tend to be, requiring sub-generations like Generation Jones and Gen-Y to bridge the gaps between actual population surges whose experiences will be different from those born at the beginnings of the Generations. But I find as I observe and talk with my own born-in-the-late-sixties peers that there are generalizations one can make, and the main observation is that we can't, and shouldn't, base our expectations on previous generations. But those expectations were formed in childhood, and anything formed in childhood will continue to echo through one's whole life. You can change your expectations, subvert your expectations, but you can't escape your expectations.

So that's what I'm thinking about on my fifty-fifth birthday. I'm off to write some notices and making some posters for tonight's Starfall shows, and make a nearly-naked outfit so I can party in my birthday suit, and expect to have a lot of fun. So here's a wish and a prayer that every dream comes true; and now, 'til we meet again, adios, au revoir, auf wiedersehn!