Recurring Themes.

I have a series of recurring themes in my dreams.

I do not say recurring dreams, because each dream is different in its details. While the dreams are often similar in their settings, situations and characters, they are never the same.  They seem to be most intense in the ‘waking’ hours or minutes, just before I wake.

The themes:

The auditorium: I list this one first, as it is the one that has occurred most recently – last night(or rather, today, as I overslept).

This is a large, dark space, semicircular, with an expansive stage and a deceptively low ceiling.  It features a large sloped seating area and balcony with much plush seating, a large, labyrinthine and very dark backstage, and occasionally a sound booth at the center or very back of the balcony.  It bears a passing resemblance to the sanctuaries of a few churches I’ve attended, and likely my mind is drawing from memory of those.  The most recent iteration of it featured massive expanses of golden-toned exotic wood on nearly every surface except the floor and seating. I always find myself sneaking about as if I’m not supposed to be there.  It is almost always empty; every once in a while I have a companion that sneaks about with me, or I am avoiding a small group of people working there.

Alternately, the auditorium is rather small and boxlike, has a flat seating floor, some high box seats close to the stage, is small, cheerfully lit, and features surrealistic productions of which I play a pivotal part, not necessarily as an actor, but sometimes the production staff.  The closest parallel my conscious mind can draw is the theater featured in the film, The Adventures of Baron Munchausen. I think that the memories of time I spent as a drama student in junior high and high school contribute significantly to the events.  I had a number of feature roles, but I also spent a fair amount of time in helping build sets or stage hand tasks such as follow-spotlight work.

The ship:

A large ship, old, alternately elegant or utilitarian in its interior.  I say large; it is huge.  I have visited a number of ships in my lifetime, among them the Red Oak Victory,  SS Jerimiah O’Brien,  USS Hornet and not the least of these, the RMS Queen Mary. I am fascinated by massive pieces of machinery, while I have no desire to become a mariner(ask any mariner that works in ship’s spaces other than public aboard a pleasure ship, and they’ll liken them to a self-propelled prison), I am intrigued by ships as a study in large-scale design and engineering.   When the interior of the dream ship is elegant, it usually resembles the Queen Mary’s more refined public spaces.  I say resembles, because the spaces aboard this ship never are identical to the Queen Mary; in fact, they are often a strange combination of basic shapes, rendered in exotic wood, glass, and bits of chrome, looking very much like an early 20th century interior design study, devoid of furniture.  It is often dark inside and strangely calming and unnerving at the same time.  Walls move on their own, passages appear and disappear, doors and stairs do the same.  When the ship is utilitarian, it resembles the U.S.S. Hornet , although only in passing.  Often in the dreams involving the ship, I will find myself in the water next to the ship, terrified by the prospect of its sheer size, or floating above it as it sinks, also terrified by the crystal-clear nature of the water and the size of the ship, or find myself aboard as it sinks, usually very, very, slowly, over the course of a number of days.  I often have a room aboard the ship, or am trying to find my room, or attempting to sneak on board and find an unoccupied room to dwell in.  I believe my mind is drawing all of this from multiple trips to the Queen Mary and dances / events aboard the Hornet, along with one particularly memorable visit to the Red Oak Victory.

Ships – multiple – appear often; last night, again, massive ships, greatly varied in purpose and design, sailed by at the edge of a fog bank off the shore as I watched from the wood deck/pier of a shore house with a pool and speedboat.  I was then loaded into the speedboat by the house’s occupants and taken to an event that I needed a suit for, not the swimtrunks that I was wearing.  While I was voicing my protest at length, the boat’s pilot, the husband of the couple that owned the house, repeatedly nearly overran swimmers in the water.

The car:

Throughout my life, I’ve owned cars that I’ve been passionate about.  Some didn’t last long, but they left a permanent mark on my personality. They’ve always been a bit unique; the first two were Plymouth Furies, a ’68 and a ’72. I wrecked the ’68 just 5 days before 9/11, the ’72 threw its timing chain and I didn’t have the money to fix it; I sold it to a collector and it was restored. The next was(and still is, as of this writing) a 1974 Datsun 260 Z.  The current chariot is a 1994 Mazda Miata, a car that I bought as economical, reliable transportation that could be treated as an ‘appliance’ vehicle, but has really grown on me as just good fun.

My car in my dreams is often a full-size sedan of late 1960s or early 1970s vintage, sometimes quite obviously a stand-in for my white 1972 Fury.  It invariably is damaged, wrecked, stolen, or confiscated by authorities, leaving me to spend the rest of the dream seeking retribution for the ills I(or rather my car) suffered. Occasionally the car is never used, but is stationary somewhere, and I spend much of the dream attempting to get into it and leave wherever I am for someplace I’d prefer to be.

Recurring along with the car at times is a dirt road or track, high on a coastal mountain range with seemingly impossible to navigate turns or slopes due to their banked or ridiculously steep, narrow nature.  I have found myself on numerous occasions attempting to take a steeply banked turn with a precipice immediately on either edge, or go down an almost vertical slope, the road getting narrower and narrower, steeper and steeper, impossible to track past the edge of the hood, and I wake gripping the edges of my mattress as if they were the edges of the road. Happened last night.  This time, I’m pretty sure I was driving a version of my Dad’s rust-red 1968 Ford Galaxie 500.

The city:

A strange mix of San Francisco, New Orleans, and Kindred, North Dakota.  Three places I spent time in as a kid; they left a permanent mark in my memories.  I still visit San Francisco often; this likely greatly influences things.

I’m always supposed to meet some friends at an event, or I’m looking for some friends.  I’m always dressed in vintage clothes.  The streets are always hilly, with many old buildings.  They are not often straight.  Bright interiors show behind large glass windows with hand-lettered signage.  I rarely seem to enter any buildings, I just wander the city endlessly, looking for some friend or event.  Streets twist and undulate, the night never ends.  The city is always coastal, and has bridges that pass thousands of feet above the waters, forming a latticework over each other, sometimes with great gaps that require much speed to cross, landing on another bridge. I once fell asleep in the dream and awoke – still in the dream – to find myself in a deserted version of Kindred, its layout changed, strange intertwinings of old industrial or farm buildings and homes, the town’s revival dependent upon my ability to find my way back to the Victorian mansion my father used to live in.  I had a bicycle, but I could not find my way through the town.  I used to ride my restored Schwinn Stingray all over Kindred in the three summers that I spent there in the 1980s.

The house:

I’m always the caretaker, sometimes unknown to the owner. The décor is decidedly upscale, sometimes trendy, but homely.  It’s expensively furnished, but comfortable. It’s a split-level on the ground floor, with a kitchen extending into the back yard and the living room off of the kitchen down a short set of stairs at a 90 degree angle.  The front rooms are side by side; a formal sitting room and a small entryway / drawing room.  The upfloors and rooms are numerous and never laid out the same way, but a large, open hallway connects them all. My room is either in the basement or in the attic, and accessible via a hidden passageway that requires much clambering over pipes, ducting and other bits, between walls and over beams.  My room is always well-lit and seems safe, and I get the feeling that nobody knows either it or I am there.  The room itself often has a hidden secondary space, often as large again as the first.  One version of the house had rooftop access from my room, and I could come and go as I pleased, almost as a comic book superhero.  Nothing I’ve ever lived in remotely resembles the house.  I can’t explain this theme, other than my room; growing up, I lived in the basement of my parents’ home, and it had a hidden panel that enclosed the house’s water heater, and another that opened to that crawlspace under the house.  My parents have said that if they had the money when they moved in, they would have dug out the basement to include the whole underside of the house.  I fantasized a lot about that as a kid.

The base / school / prison:

The worst of the scenarios; I always feel as if I’m back in school, years behind in my work, forced to repeat grades or make up for lost time.  I never know what’s going on, and I never know the material.  If it’s a military base, I’m out of uniform, don’t know where my unit is, I’m somewhere on the base where I don’t belong, or I’m late for roll call, or an appointment, or some other function.  The layout seems to invariably be a copy of the junior high school or grade school that I attended, with its playgrounds expanded into flightlines or warehouses. One dream featured a prison along the same theme, with large underground facilities resembling kitchens, showers, or bathrooms, all tiled walls and linoleum floors.  There is often a communal living arrangement, much as I experienced in basic training and technical school.
This one is simple, I was an awkward kid and a bad student.  Going to school as I grew up was a daily exercise in misery for me; I had few friends, often felt out of my depth with schoolwork and wanted nothing more than to be done with school and put it behind me.  Much of the old feelings of helplessness and awkwardness come flooding back when this theme comes occurs.

Are they nightmares?  No.  They’re not always pleasant; I often wake feeling saddened that I couldn’t find who I was looking for, or resolve the situation that I was in.  Occasionally I wake, wishing the dream wouldn’t end because the environment or situation, while not realistic, was something I wanted to explore further.  Every once in a while, the circumstances are so deeply emotional I wish I hadn’t dreamed them, or spend quite a while after waking still being moved. My dreams often make me feel as if I was in a distant alternate past; a history that never was, something I wish I could see out to its end.  That’s the most distressing part, not being able to see the outcome or live out the scenarios, especially when the environs sketched out by my subconscious are something I find appealing, such as the rich art deco interiors that occasionally occur.

I can identify much of myself and my personal history in my dreams, I can trace down the origin of much of what goes on.  Why my brain decided to throw those bits and pieces together in a particular place and scenario with a certain cast of characters, I have no idea.

The inner workings of my subconscious are surreal indeed.  Just reading this over makes me realize just how varied my personal history and life experiences are.  The end effect is to give me an impression that somewhere in the cosmos, my life is playing back as an epic feature film.  I hope the audience finds it a good watch.

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