Crazy Dreams

30 07 2010

I had the two most incredibly bizarre dreams the other night and I actually wrote them down and am just now getting around to editing that writing. I guess you could actually technically call it three or even four (maybe five) dreams if you went by overall theme, but they blended so seamlessly into each other that I can only really call it two. It probably would’ve been just one really long dream except I work up after the second episode of dream one.

I usually never remember dreams and all of these stuck with me. They were pretty bonkers. I had pork roast for dinner the night before, so I don’t think that could’ve been the culprit, but who knows. Was just my crazy REM night.

Dream One

My Venus looked a lot like this one, but imagine it glowier and greener.

Setting: White, two-story house with a living room open to the roof and a stairway above. I don’t know where this place was, though it looked a lot like one of the houses that Holley had showed me while going through her house-hunting websites.

Episode One – “Venus in the Night Sky”

The dream begins with me sitting on the couch with Juliana next to me. One minute the ceiling is there and the next it’s not and this is completely normal and okay, because what’s happening is an astronomical phenomenon like none we’ve ever seen. The orbits of Earth and Venus have shifted bringing the two planets extremely close to each other and Venus hangs in the otherwise very pretty and clear night sky, which as I mentioned before, we’re viewing from our living room couch. The planet was this odd green-glowy and fiery thing with red polar caps and much, much larger than the moon (I think the appearance at least was a little Starcraft inspired). It was pretty amazing to look at and nobody cold explain why it had happened nor did they seem to predict that it would happen. It just suddenly was. Juliana was really amazed by it and we started taking pictures of it.

Segue: In one of the pictures, we caught part of the second floor of the house in addition to Venus. A houseplant from the railing above in the photo that looked like a schnauzer looking down from the second floor into the living room, with the leaves resembling pointy ears and a few dark spots where the eyes would be.

Episode Two – “Pirate Returns”

For background, it’s important to know that recently our dog Pirate died at the age of 15 a few weeks ago on July 8th just before we moved and is still conspicuously absent. The houseplant in the dream was suddenly no longer a houseplant, but was Pirate returned to life. We went upstairs and greeted him and he was not only alive again, but he was not the decrepit old dog that was was in the last years of his life, rather he was fully restored to his youthful exuberance. All of the health problems like those in his mouth were gone and he was aware and happy. Even though he was never especially kind to Juliana when she was a baby, they suddenly hit it off and we were all extremely happy that Venus had somehow brought Pirate back to us via a houseplant.

I woke up disappointed and missing Pirate. I probably lay there an hour before falling back asleep after spending so time just remembering Pirate when he was younger. Clearly, I’m still mourning the loss. No idea where Venus came from, though as I said, I suspect Starcraft had something to do with it.

The much younger me idolized Tommy Lee, but that was a long time ago. But I did have a drum set in the downstairs of that house, so that's the closest and most obvious connection.

Dream Two

Setting: 3 White Fox Cove, Jacksonville, Arkansas: my childhood home where I lived from age 3 to 15.

Episode One – “Shooting Tommy Lee’s Birdhouse”

I was back in my house where I grew up and there was a little area between the yards of two of the neighboring homes where you could run between the fenced-in backyards and get all the way to the street. I was sitting there with some kid I didn’t know but who presumably lived in the house now and it was understood that I was visiting the place where I grew up. For some reason, I had an air rifle and was shooting outside and showing off to the kid. For kicks, I decided to shoot the birdhouse in the next yard which was owned not by the police officer who lived there when I was about 10 years old, but rather was now occupied by none other than Tommy Lee, the former drummer of Mötley Crüe. Unfortunately, I killed a bird doing this and that angered Tommy Lee, who began to chase after me, but somehow I managed to escape.

Segue: While avoiding Tommy Lee, I return to the house, but never make it all the way inside.

Episode Two – “Bears”

I get as far as the entry hallway of the house when a woman comes out walking a baby brown bear on a leash. Somehow, I secretly knew that the baby bear was really Pirate again, but that fact was hidden to everyone else and seemed not to matter beyond just my knowing it. Suddenly, an angry adult bear and a slightly smaller, but still much-larger-than-the-baby-bear bear comes and attacks everyone after seeing the little bear, Pirate, on the leash. Everyone erupts into panic, running around screaming while the largest bear heads straight for me. Someone asks me if I know what to do in case of a bear attack and when I reply that I don’t, he yells for me to stand perfectly still, put my arms at my sides and act like a tree. I comply, because, really, that’s all I’ve got and I don’t know how to handle bears anyway. The big bear, instead of mauling me, just hugs me and stands there, not eating me. He doesn’t even squeeze that hard. It seems that in acting like a tree, I made it very easy for the bear to just hug, so that’s what bears do. Given the choice between eating an uncooperative subject and hugging a cooperative, bears will always, without fail, choose the latter. In fact, I had the feeling that the bears totally knew that I was a human and not a tree and they were all fine with the idea provided we all just kept up the ruse.

After a few minutes of rather dull hugging,  the smaller bear gets jealous and actually starts talking about how it’s his turn to get to hug “the tree.” At first, the larger bear protests, but then gives in and lets the smaller bear hug me. The problem, however, is that he’s a bit too small for me and I end up carrying the little bear around and we all start laughing. Yes, the bears laughed, too and all seemed to be forgiven and we were just happy and giggly with bears, though the game appeared to be over.

Segue: As we lay there, we’re suddenly in the driveway sitting and laughing.

I like your movies, dude. Where you came from in this dream, though, I have no idea.

Episode Three – “Mutual Respect”

After a moment of laughing and rolling around on the ground, I notice that we are next to one of those old wood-paneled Clark Griswoldesque station wagons. My mom used to drive one when I was very young. I glance back at the bears and they suddenly but completely naturally transform and reveal themselves to be Will Smith and his son, Jaden. I tell Will that I always really liked his movies and think he’s an awesome guy and then I apologize to Jaden for not having seen the new Karate Kid yet, but I’m delighted he’s growing up so fast and following in his mom and dad’s footsteps.

They also tell me that I’m one heck of a guy, too and that seemed to be just what I needed to hear. Especially from Will Smith, who seems to be a pretty neat guy himself.

At this point I woke up and it was about 6 am.

At first, I didn’t realize how funny the last two episodes were until I told Holley about them, when I had trouble actually making it through the whole telling without laughing myself to tears. At some point, there’s got to be some Freudian thing going on with the bears and Will Smith and Tommy Lee, but I’m much too close to it still to be able to make heads or tails of it. It can’t possibly all be the pork roast, could it?

Photo credits: Venus from Sunday Mercury; Tommy Lee from Rock and Roll Report; Will and Jaden Smith from Hip Hop UCiT

Starcraft II

28 07 2010

Starcraft II

Starcraft II is an obsession already. There are like 3 different posts for this blog, a book review for another blog, a story and a section of my dissertation, all of which I’ve been working on in my head, but I’ve got the game now and it’s going to take a while to shake off the excitement of that before I can get everything else back into the queue. It’ll come, though!

Meanwhile, the nekkid night elf dancing in the cantina is funny. The rest of the game is really good, too. They really put a lot of work into making the player feel more involved than the original and that’s really saying something.

Also, interesting side-note: I played the original about 12 years ago here in Nashville and then moved away only to move back when they finally released the sequel. Okay, that wasn’t interesting for anyone but me, but there you have it. You should get this game and let me know if you do.

Poundage and Staying-at-home

25 07 2010

Ah, the stresses of moving.

My diet and my lack of exercise over the last month and a half of stressing over the move have resulted in a weight gain of somewhere between 10-13 pounds. In a month. Ugh.

So, now with the prospect of being a stay-at-home dad for a little while longer, we have a gym we’ve joined and I’ll be taking advantage of the free childcare for a couple hours everyday. Of course, a big source of the stress is I’ve never really been super-comfortable with defining myself as a stay-at-home dad, either. Even though I’ve been in most respects the primary caretaker for our kids for the last 7 years or so, as my schedule even when I was teaching was the lightest and most flexible and I had summers off, I’ve never fully embraced the role and truth be told, I’ve always been pretty embarrassed by it. In fact, it provoked a rather major stress attack on Friday and I only really stopped freaking out about the prospect yesterday. This article by Kari Henly about the Benefits of Stay-at-Home Fatherhood is a good one and is quite calming, at least as it considers the psyche of the children, but I find myself thinking also about my own well-being (and I don’t mean that in a selfish, what-about-me way as much as it might sound). As she points out:

In so many ways, raising a family remains slanted in our collective psyche towards the more feminine interests and styles. Full time Dad’s often feel awkward at the library “play groups” and feel like an outcast on the playground.

Now, the goal here is obviously that we, as a society, have to adopt a new perspective and I believe on an intellectual level, most enlightened people share the view that there’s nothing to stigmatize about fathers staying at home. Yet, I think there’s still very much an almost visceral and primal reaction that says that the hunter-gatherer better get his ass out and hunt. Hence, the stress.

Maybe some positive news will open up for me on the job front soon as we can reevaluate our situation. Until then, I suppose it’s fortunate that staying-at-home will give me a little time to work my ass off and drop this weight I’ve gained. Plus, I get to play Superman a lot more.

I write like James Joyce!

20 07 2010

I write like
James Joyce

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

Yes, I do believe I’ll take that!

Kicking off on a Monday

19 07 2010

When we moved in here last Thursday, we were welcomed into a full house, with not only Holley’s parents, but her sister, her sister’s husband, their 2 year old and their 9 year old great dane, Zoe. Honestly, if anything drives the point home more that this was the right move for us, it was that. Being closer to family was always Holley’s goal and we got it there in spades.

Today, sister and husband and kid are heading back home to Atlanta, but it’s only 4 hours away and we’ll no doubt see them again in the next two or three weeks. After 10 years away in a place where we were only able to see family once or twice a year due to geography, wrapping your head around this is no small feat.

So, today means that first day where things will be relatively “normal.” Still not totally normal, but it lacks the party/family reunion atmosphere that marks every visit. Like a medieval carnival, the visit means a suspension of normal rules, where we eat and drink as much and as poorly as we like, we play games and visit and just generally forget that there are obligations.

My Plan for Monday

My Monday Plan in Google Calendar

Of course, I’ve been sort of on that kick since we went to the beach at the beginning of June, as I knew we’d be moving anyway and I don’t do so well right in the transition and it shows. Since the start of June, I’ve easily gained 7 pounds. I’ve been enjoying a healthy bit more beer than usual, allowing myself to eat complete crap without a thought to calories (often with the excuse of saying ‘goodbye’ to some of my favorite restaurants in State College and then saying ‘hello’ to things I had missed about Nashville, such as Krystal hamburgers, the most addictive burger there is).

Breakfast today will be a strict 2 eggs and a slice of toast, lunch just a sandwich, a snack like yogurt in the afternoon and then a reasonable dinner (control the portion). Water all day long and no beer. That’s the big plan.

We also have a number of things to get set up today: library card, checking account, registering in the new parish, getting signed up at the YMCA. The library card has been a pretty sticky thing for our daughter, who is doing an okay, but not great job of handling the move. It’s been stressful on her and she’s been a little rebellious. More on that later. For now, I kick off my planned-like-an-insane-person schedule:

New Routines

18 07 2010

Establishing a new routine from scratch

I am a planner and I love having a routine. It makes me feel safe and I’m much more productive when I have a set time to do things. My day may not always work out according to plan-in fact, it seldom does-but I have to have the reassurance of thinking ahead of what I’m doing on any particular day. That doesn’t mean I can’t be spontaneous, I just tend to schedule the times when I can be spontaneous-I hope you enjoy the irony that is the soundtrack of my life.

Several months ago, I read Time Management from the Inside Out by Julie Morgenstern, which was a really helpful book, by the way. Writing down every chunk of one’s time was a tip she put forward and I found it interesting that there were several chunks of time that were left specifically vague. These would be times put aside in a busy schedule to just hang out with the family, go see a movie, do whatever. Other times were more specific. A work day was broken down into various phases: writing here for a few hours, answering emails for an hour, a lunch break, meetings for an hour, reading ahead for an hour, etc.

The problem now, however, with this move now finally behind us is that I find myself trying to establish a routine all over again in a vacuum of much to do. I’m purposely not giving myself “time to adjust” as one might call it and there’s a reason for that. If I did, I fear that I’d settle into a do-nothing routine and a month or two might roll by without my realizing it. Nope, I’m dead-set on being proactive and getting things rolling, but it’s a process of figuring out which tasks need doing when and when the best time is to be leisurely.

Things to plan include:

  • Time to exercise
  • Time to work on the never-ending dissertation
  • Time to hunt for jobs
  • Time to dig up work for my baby freelancing business
  • Time to write
  • Time to hang out with the family, watch movies
  • Time to shop and cook
  • Time to just chill, listen to music, play computer games
  • Time for reading
  • Time to sleep (which is a touchy one, because I never know which nights I’ll sleep like a baby and which I’ll have insomnia)
  • Time to every purpose under heaven. You get the idea.

One of the best suggestions that Julie Morgenstern makes is to follow your own body’s cues. I write my best in the early morning, as that’s the time I’m most active both mentally and physically. So that’s when I’ll likely do most of my writing. Workouts come after that, then lunch and some job hunting followed by reading and then the evening plans. It sounds comfy, but there are always kinks to be worked out.

The only thing right now is that I’m not sure how it will all fit into the harmony of the household at large. But this time, unlike I did in State College, I’m making a conscious decision that my schedule isn’t going to be subject to everyone else’s to the degree that it was, such that anytime anything out of the usual occurred (which is pretty much every day), it was always my plans that took it on the chin.

I do realize that my schedule is always going to be more “nebulous.” My work when I’m writing is fairly invisible and occurs at strange times. I envy people who have a set place and time they have to be to work every day, because that just seems much more straightforward and easy to appreciate and respect.

Side note, I had a great idea for a short-story (horror, zombie fiction, yay! fun!) and a new idea that adapts an old idea that I had a while back about a novel. I’d like to invest some real time into both of these in the next month or two.

Packing my Library

10 07 2010

This is probably the worst time to start a new blog and that’s why I’m doing it. It’s doing things the hard way.

We’re packing up our home and getting ready to move 800 miles to Nashville after living in State College, PA for the last 10 years. I’m surrounded by boxes, rolls of tape, and a metric ton of assorted knick-knacks I haven’t seen or thought about in what seems like ages, even though it’s only been 3 years since our last move.

The deepest impact so far is coming from packing up my books. I maintained a pretty impressive library of high-falutin’ German literature books and a fairly-good-sized-for-graduate-school library of books on theory, mostly psychoanalysis from my old homeboy Lacan and those who came later and Frankfurt School, Benjamin (probably my favorite of all) and Adorno, a mish-mosh of postcolonialism, and a healthy dash of Foucault. Less remarkably, they haven’t seen much use in the last few years and with each one, I blow off a cloud of dust and whisk away the spiderwebs.

This feels really, really real now. It feels significant, in a way. I was reminded, as I was putting a copy of Benjamin’s Arcades Project into one of the boxes of the essay he wrote, “Unpacking my Library” in Illuminations:

Every passion borders on the chaotic, but the collector’s passion borders on the chaos of memories.

For Benjamin, he was unpacking his books from wooden crates, allowing them after 2 light-less years to once again see the light of day. The disarray and chaos crystallized for him into a whole meaningful arrangement of ideas about what it means to him to be a book collector and on what the relationship is of the collector to the thing collected and, well, you get the idea. It was moment of chaos, but order was formed out of the disarray, even before they were put on shelves.

I’m not comparing myself to Benjamin by any stretch. I’m just reflecting now on what it means to be boxing my books up after they actually have been sitting on shelves, unused long enough to gather an inch of dust and spiderwebs. This manipulation of them is the first they’ve had in a good long while. But as I put them down to sleep in their cardboard coffins (more like mass graves, I just need a little lye to throw on them), I remember how much I loved them (and I still do). Even writing this, this inspiration, immediately leapt into my head as I went through the process, my thoughts lingering on all of the Benjamin I read over those early years of grad school and how much, in retrospect, I really enjoyed being that person.

I’m not that person anymore, but that person is still around in me. I enjoy who I am now, too, of course, but it’s just different. I think at the time I felt more sophisticated than I do now, divorced as I was from the concerns of the everyday, from having to deal with diapers and daycares and parenting and cooking healthy but delicious dinners, but really I was just insulated from it. It’s very clear to me that I’m a different person now than I was 6 or 7 years ago, but then, that’s the reason for this move. It’s time for us to shuffle off into a new life and packing and the resurgence of the memories of who I was and who I’ve become and who I will be are what give this moment some significance for me. Without this move, I might’ve missed it. It’s a good time to reflect.

We’re saying goodbye to a lot of things, but this has been the week for that. How terrible it was that we had to say goodbye to our 15 year old Schnauzer, Pirate, last Thursday when he passed away. Our hearts are broken over that and part of this move feels like we’re leaving him behind. We’re saying goodbye to a lot of places we adored, to the birthplace of our children and to a community that we had become a part of. The realization I’m coming to is that we take a lot of that with us still.

It’s been suggested that I part with some of the books that I won’t use. I’ll probably never admit again to not using these books, though, even if they just sit there for long periods. I’m promising myself now to look at them more and remember, once they are unpacked again in a few months. I’d rather sell the Harry Potters out there. I like my make-me-feel-smart books and I’ll keep them, thank you very much.

And welcome to my new blog. I’m pretty sure this will be the only post with Benjamin or Frankfurt School or anything that artsy-fartsy for a while, but figured I’d get it out of the way. It’s part of who I am.