Wednesday, May 31, 2006


I was driving down a road I know, and somehow got into a turn lane when I meant to go straight. But I knew that this crossroad also would end up close to where I wanted to go, so when the light changed I took the turn without much concern.

All of this was a rough overlay of a district I used to know pretty well, as I lived near there when I was in my 20s. For a long time I've noticed my dreams tend to take place in landscapes that are recognizable as real places I've lived; if I could remember the dreams better I am sure I could map it.

It is based on real geography, but only some parts of it are true to the real places. Others have quirks -- in some places it's always morning on a summer's day, or there's always an ominous feeling. My high school had no elevators, but in the dreams of it there's always an elevator, in the same place.

Other sections of the dream-map bear no resemblance to the real places, but are always there and are consistent from dream to dream. In the dream, if I go west down the road that ran through my college, I know I will end up in a neighborhood of very tall townhouses on very narrow streets and a port quay with sailing ships -- none of which exists in reality in my college town, which is landlocked. But always in the dream, the flying pterodactyls and the field perpetually under flood always are right where I left them.

Do other people dream like this?

Maybe I only remember remembering them in the dream. But no, I've written these things down occasionally, when I woke and had time and a pen handy. So I know this is how it works.

Yet every once in a while I encounter a dream that is new and stunningly detailed.

I drove for a while down that side road, seeing what I expected, but then I found myself in a parking lot at an old brick warehouse-type building that had once been converted to a nightclub. And I suddenly realized, I used to go there and dance and drink and have adventures. And it all came back to me, all the people I had known there, the clothes I wore then, the scene, the DJ, the music. And I looked up at the peeling letters of the club name on the wall, half covered in ivy, and I looked in the window and I knew every inch of that club as it used to be, but now it was something else -- a fancy restaurant, and the people inside were dressed in Victorian garb for some occasion.

And none of it was real; there never was such a place, or such people. Yet my head conjured it all up, right down to the style of the lettering and the shape of the ivy leaves and the memories of what I could not see in the dream.

What an amazing creative force; and all our minds do that constantly, every night, imagining whole novels and films in full detail.

I sometimes dream I find an old photograph, and it suddenly opens a floodgate to some episode I had totally forgotten -- a place I once lived, a set of people I hung out with. All the social relationships among us, the jokes, the houses, the stories. Fully realized in dream, yet nowhere in reality.

When I'm awake, I feel it so vividly in my head it seems more real that the actual sealed rooms and dead ends of my life: the girl I dated for half a summer in '84; her apartment, her friend, the places we'd go. That was real, but what came back to me in the dream seems more complete than my memory. And the longing for those people is more acute. And it never was.

Do other people dream like this?