Archive for category Dreams

Heavenly Visions From Back Here on Earth

Here is my vision, my personal wish list, in order of priority.

In Heaven there will be:

1) No leaf blowers or other noisy garden tools

2) Universal peace and love

3) An independent brick and mortar bookstore on every block, wedged between a coffee place and a really yummy restaurant.

The bookstores would all be different from one another. Some would specialize in a genre, such as speculative fiction, or lit fic, or mysteries, or whatever. There would even be a store specializing in books I would absolutely hate and think are pure trash.

Each store would be owned and operated by an individual, or couple, or very small group of partners, and would represent the taste and interests of the owner/operators, whose decisions would reign supreme. They could do special orders for anyone who asked, but would not be guided by popular taste in which books they would put on their shelves. No one could ban a book, or be able to remove a book from a store window. The bookseller’s decision is absolute. Blindfolds and white canes would be provided for the easily offended.

I want to be surprised by what I see. It’s great to know what I want and be able to get it, but I also enjoy not knowing what I want, the pure entertainment provided by the idiosyncratic collection of books someone else finds interesting. It is Bookstore as Art. I don’t like everything I see, but I love that it exists. I would visit the genre stores I liked, but would also tag along with my historical romance friends to the stores they liked. I love ideas, variety, comparing and contrasting, and finding the occasional treasure I never would have known existed without the unique perspective of one individual bookseller, not to mention my fellow book buyers.

That is Heaven.

Back here on Earth, we must make do with less. People do try. At B&N, we are familiar with the shelf dedicated to staff picks. It’s not nearly enough; it seems like a minor indulgence, and the individual picks do not form a whole. B&N varies by store, with some locations pretty fun to look at, and others oddly devoid or what I call “real books.” A celebrity weight-loss book by an actress is not a real book to me. Neither is a memoir by the adolescent daughter of a former governor. I wish they wouldn’t use their space so poorly. Give me real books, please. (Yes, I did┬áspecify that there would be a bookstore in Heaven specializing in books I hate, didn’t I?)

Bad bookstores need no longer prevent us from having what we want. Just about anything every published is available online, but how does one browse anything so vast? The search functions don’t do it for me.

These days, I do buy most of my books online, some ebooks, some traditional. I buy a lot of books from Mark and Cindy Ziesing, at http://www.Ziesings.com, and they are able to give me that “browsing” experience, minus the good restaurant and coffee shop next door, alas. The Ziesings are wildly idiosyncratic in their tastes, offering a fair amount of speculative fiction, but also mainstream, slipstream, erotica, downright silly, and unclassifiable. And if they bring a book to my attention, I feel I must buy it from them, and not from Amazon, even if it costs me a couple extra bucks. Call it a finder’s fee. Without booksellers like these, I would have only my own taste to rely upon.

(Examples of books brought to my attention by the Ziesings: Amberville, by Tim Davys, Swamplandia, by Karen Russell, and The Manual of Dectection, by Jedediah Berry. I recommend them all.)

From my non-professional viewpoint, I do believe independents can survive and even flourish online, as long as people know they are there. I suspect the non-ebook will become something of an artifact, that future readers will not have as many books on their shelves, but that those they have will be prettier, perhaps signed, or special editions of some sort. I don’t see quickly-yellowing mass-market paperbacks in our future. There is simply no need for them. Trade paperbacks and hardbacks will survive, and I will enjoy them for the rest of my life.

I’m not willing to speculate what happens after that. But if I awaken from death surrounded by celebrity bios, political blowhard tracts, and weight-loss books, and if that’s the only bookstore there is…well, I’ll know I didn’t make it to Heaven.

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The Kangaroo

I didn’t want to get up; I turned off the alarm. Between 7:09 and 7:50 AM, I had the following dream.

Mike had arranged for us to adopt a young kangaroo. Then I, Mike, and our daughter, Michelle, went to Disneyland for a day of fun. We took the kangaroo with us.

At the end of the day, the four of us were headed back to the gate. We were at the top of Main Street, in front of Sleeping Beauty Castle, when the kangaroo, who had no name, began to misbehave. It lay down in the middle of the street, and was nearly run over by a car. There were cars on Main Street, not old-fashioned, antique cars like they had back when the real Disneyland opened, just regular cars. I put a leash on the kangaroo. I did not know the gender of it either.

Just after we exited the park, I saw the leash was empty. The kangaroo had escaped. Michelle told me emphatically I would find it where the candy was, which I recalled was somewhere in Fantasyland. She and Mike continued to the car, and I reentered the park. Night was falling. I thought about following Michelle’s advice, to go where candy was being sold, but thought it better to seek help closer at hand. This was Disneyland. They found lost children. Why not a kangaroo?

But as I stepped back into the park, I discovered Main Street had changed. It was deserted, run-down, and derelict. I thought, It was so much nicer here when I was a kid. I looked in vain for the buildings I remembered, the Lost and Found, the City Hall. I entered a gray, unlabeled building to my left.

There was a short line inside, although there seemed to be no ride or show on offer. I told a pleasant woman I was looking for my kangaroo, and she asked another woman, who said that she had heard about it, and that the kangaroo had been taken to the pound.

She did not say which animal shelter, and I did not ask. Logical questions don’t occur in dreams. And at this point, I came upon that common point in dreams–paralysis. In some dreams, it’s physical. Something is chasing me, and suddenly, my body is unaccountably heavy; I move in slow motion. In this dream, the paralysis was mental. I was unable to do anything about finding the kangaroo; I could only worry about it.

So, next I went home to a shabby unchic apartment in an old building. I walked back and forth from the bedroom to the kitchen, and thought about how I would have to call all the animal shelters in Anaheim the following morning.

And in the morning, I thought about how, later, I would sit on my bed with my laptop, and I would look up the locations of all the shelters in Anaheim. But I never did that. The last scene of the dream found me with my laptop, at a large work table with a number of other people in a large work room. I placed my purse on the floor, began my day of work, and thought about how I had to rescue my kangaroo.

I woke up.

I looked at the time, and it was a second or two before I said, and I may have said out loud, “Oh. There is no kangaroo.” I ought to have been relieved, but in fact I was disappointed to have the responsibility of my dream pet lifted from me, and sad that the dream didn’t last long enough for me to be reunited with it, that the suspense was never resolved.

I’ve occasionally used dreams as jumping-off points for writing short stories, but they’re always a problem. I’ve only been successful when I’ve been willing to let go of the dream completely, and its meaning, and be satisfied with only using an image or two from it. The main problem, I think, is that my dreams are not stories.

In this instance, I have no recollection of the first part of the narrative–acquiring the kangaroo, my agreeing to adopt it, the rest of the day at Disneyland, which had apparently gone well enough for us to still be there by dusk. It’s a deeper problem than not making sense. And although ambiguous endings can be effective in stories, they aren’t supposed to just drop off the edge like that dream did. I mean, why was I procrastinating my search of the animal shelters? Why didn’t I call them? For that matter, why didn’t my husband, who brought the darned thing home, take some responsibility here? Because this was not a story about a kangaroo. It was a reworking of the life I am leading, which, like my dream, lacks a pleasing narrative arc.

Dreams never have clear resolutions. They’re never meant to. I can’t have a clearly resolving dream until the moment I die.

So I’m left with this fragment. I’m haunted by uncertainty, and by the feeling that, somewhere out there, a young kangaroo still waits for me to rescue it from its jail-like cage.

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