Wednesday, January 27, 2010
Lately I've been having the most amazing dreams. Some are so vivid and seemingly real that I often have to go look up what all the symbolism means. But of course, all those dream interpretations are pretty generalized and subjective. Dreaming about a dog could mean one thing to one person, and something completely different to someone else. So I tend to pay attention to what's happening in the dream...if I even realize it's a dream...and see what it is I'm feeling when it's happening. Sometimes it all seems so obvious. But mostly I try to sit back and enjoy the show, as if I'm in a grand Dream Theater.
Last night I dreamed I was in a theater! An old Art Deco movie palace, which at first was a regular movie house. I walked in with my old roommate Gene from college. We hadn't decided which movie to see yet, so we looked up at the marquis. "Which one you wanna see?" he asked.
"I don't know..." I didn't recognize any of the titles, most of them were action type movies.
"Well how about that one, 'The Moon Mock"
"Sure, why not."
We waited in line and walked into the theater, but as I walked down a row of seats, Gene and the rest of the crowd disappeared, and a guy dressed in maintenance overalls called me over. "There you are! come on, this way!" I recognized him as the guy who played Horace in the tv show 'Lost'. I followed him down a corridor and into an empty lobby, with Art Deco furniture and ornamentation, soaring in smooth lines along the walls and ceiling. I looked around the room, impressed with the decor, but also noticed it was dusty and in disrepair from years of neglect. "Look at this place!" he said, gesturing around. "It really had potential at one time. But it was never really finished. Part of it is a museum now....follow me."
We continued walking down another corridor to an open area that had a deep pool of water in a square hole in the tile floor. "You hungry?"
"Come to think of it, yeah! I'm starving!"
He held out a bunch of green grapes. "Take some!" So I plucked a few and ate them, they were juicy and delicious...I asked for a few more, but he threw them in the water and they sunk to the bottom. "Hey! What'd you do that for?"
"Look down into the water and see if you can see them." So I looked down, but could just barely make out a blurry shape, among other shapes down there. "If you want any more, you're going to have to go down there. In fact, you have to go down there anyway, to the bottom."
"How do I breathe?"
"It's okay, the water is oxygenated, you'll be able to breathe. And I'll be jumping down there too, so c'mon, let's go!" Horace jumped in and I jumped in after him. We sank down to the bottom, under the water. "Okay, try breathing." I reluctantly inhaled and was alarmed as I could feel water enter my lungs, but I was still getting oxygen, I could still breathe. Looking around, I saw all kinds of artifacts from colonial times...furniture, swords, mannequins dressed in costumes from the time, all laying around. There were also windows in the room, and outside it was a clear sunny day in a park setting. I recognized some of my old bosses from Mindscape out there sitting at picnic tables, enjoying the sunshine. I wanted to call out to them. It was odd to see them from a room submerged in water.
Horace handed me a colonial suit of clothes. "Put these on. We have to dress up like the mannequins in case tourists come by. And we need to straighten all this up for the museum."
He pointed to an antique desk, stacked with old letters. "Start with those. They're letters from Ben Franklin. Some of them are worn and illegible, so you'll have to rewrite them." He handed me a quill pen and a pad. "But...I don't..."
"Go ahead! it'll be fine. I'll be back in a while." He left the room and I started writing. Automatically I scribbled line after line, and soon I had an entire page filled. Looking at it, I was astonished to see that the handwriting was the most clean and exquisite calligraphy I had ever seen. "Did I do that??" Amazed, I wrote some more and saw that the words flowed from the pen in perfect lines and margins, and the curls and flourishes on each word were effortless. I was actually impressed with myself, that I was capable of writing that way. "Wow, I wish people could see this...they'd be impressed too!"
Horace returned to the room...all still underwater...he asked how it was going and looked at the writing, "Ah! very good!"
Then he turned, as lights came on from another window within the building. "Oh! they're here already...okay, stand up and assume a pose, like you're a mannequin..." The water started to solidify and harden, like gelatin. "Don't worry, you can still breathe, but you won't be able to move..." The water completely hardened into a clear solid plastic, and I was frozen in it...alarmed, but I could breathe. Through the window, a group of tourists came by, and I recognized all of them! "oh my gawd! it's Shawn! and her mom!...Mimi, Jim, Mike and Berta! hey! you guys, it's me! can you see me?"
But they couldn't see or hear me...they looked around at the artifacts and moved on to another room. The solid plastic that encased us returned to liquid, so we could move around again. "There's still a lot to be done," Horace said, "so let's move on to the next room." We walked up a staircase and out of the water, and our clothes were completely dry. Arriving at another room, I noticed a ton of canvases and frames, all leaning against the walls. Some of the paintings I recognized as my own!...others were unfinished, but I could see they were going to be spectacular...majestic mountain ranges, cityscapes with buildings that looked as if they were miles high. Paintings of simple leaves and grass, with detail all the way down to their molecular structure, yet still natural looking. "We'll get to those later...there's this entire building to consider first. It's not ready to be a museum just yet."
"You're the guy from Lost, right?"
"I'm the guy who sends the boats."
As we walked through a corridor of arches, I had the feeling that I'd been here before, maybe from a past dream...it was all becoming familiar. "I know this place...I've been here before."
As I looked up, I saw that the roof was open, and the stars beyond.
"Yeah, now I remember...A year ago I thought this place was a ruin, that it was better off being torn down...but that was wrong...the place is unfinished."
"Yes...like I said, it had a lot of potential once...and I think it still does...but first, it needs to be cleaned up. A lot of dust and cobwebs..." He handed me a broom. "Come on, let's get started."
Then I woke up....wow...
Friday, January 22, 2010
Friday, January 15, 2010
Friday, January 8, 2010
Wednesday, January 6, 2010
Way back in 1982, I traveled through Europe for months, which was an experience of a lifetime, the history buff that I am...Things that I had wondered about in pictures and books when I was a kid, I finally saw them in person.
For example, when I was around ten, my dad and I would still go to the barber shop together to get our haircuts. There was a poster on the wall at Phil's, it was the Matterhorn, a very steep and majestic looking mountain in faraway Switzerland... I knew about the one at Disneyland, but no, this was the real one...and there was a small town in the foreground in that poster. I wondered what the people were like there, to live in the shadow of such a monumental thing...by the looks of the poster, I imagined the people leading donkey carts, milking cows, while blowing their long Alpenhorns from valley to valley, like in the opening notes of 'The Sound of Music'.
Images like that poster would drive my imagination...another one was Stonehenge, a neolithic circle of stones in southern England, and yet another was the Sistene Chapel, where Michelangelo painted the ceiling...on his back on scaffolding for 4 years...the Pope would ask him, "When will this be done?"
He would answer, "When I am finished."
Yet another one was Neuschwanstein Castle, in the hills of southern Germany. It's a fairy-tale looking castle that was the inspiration for the one in, yes again, Disneyland...Going on a tour through the castle, which was built by an eccentric King Ludwig, each room had a different theme. One room was done up like a medieval castle, another like a middle-eastern casbah. It was almost like the Disneyland of its day, or Las Vegas in all its make-believe surroundings. But this was all built 300 years ago. How astonishing that all must have been way back then, but even more amazing is that here we were...still gazing around. I wonder if whoever built that castle knew it would be admired by people, 300 years later.
When I visited Sainte Chappelle in Paris I was astonished. The walls of the entire cathedral were covered in stained glass. When the afternoon sun came through the walls, the interior glowed as if from within. The intricate details of the windows must have taken years to create, slowly, painstakingly, and with an obvious care and dedication. I stared at each window for what must have been hours...and, being a budding artist myself, I wondered what it must have been like to be there, creating these.
But of all the things that I saw when I was over there, even among all the art galleries, it was the stone carvings on the walls at Salisbury Cathedral. In one of the rooms, there are depictions of the Garden of Eden, the Great Flood, Noah's Ark, Tower of Babel, Abraham, Moses, and on and on along the walls. The carved reliefs were all in stone, but they were fluid, flowing pictures full of movement and life. And it was all done by one person...no one knows who...way back in the 1200's. It was beyond anything I'd ever seen, first-hand, and nothing has inspired me as much since. The artist is long gone and forgotten, but here his work remains. As if he was still saying, "This is who I am, and this is what I did."
I never made it to the caves at Lasceaux, where cave paintings go back 20,000 years. But there's a bear skull sitting on a rock, like an altar, and among all the depictions of bears and mammoths on the cave walls, there's a single handprint. Before there was writing, or even language as we know it, 20,000 years ago someone put their hand on the wall and said, "I was here, this is my mark."
Since then, I've found myself moved by other sights. Some made long ago, and some only recently. I'm moved by humanity's desire to make these things, as if to deny the harshness of the rest of the world that must be daily endured...In every palace and every work of art, men and women have given great thought, effort, and care in creating them. Because they hope, I think, that sometimes against all evidence, their lives have a special meaning and in their talent lies a purpose larger than themselves.
Sunday, January 3, 2010
Anyone who has lived in California, or has spent time here long enough to drive from SF to LA, must know about The Grapevine, or 'grapevine hill' as the old timers called it. It's a mountain pass near southern California, named after the small town at the foot of the hill, south of Bakersfield. The Grapevine is a steep stretch of highway that climbs over 4,000 feet in less than 12 miles through Tejon Pass...Today, it's part of I-5, and with today's efficient engines and transmissions, most cars make it up the hill with a minimum of effort. But not too long ago it was the stuff of legend, for decades, when cars blew radiators trying to get up that hill. My parents remember riding to LA when they were kids, and it would be a two-day trip, either sleeping in the car, or at the motels near Fort Tejon, and this was in the early days, when it was a two-lane road, and moter hotels became an obvious necessity...
When I was a kid in the 60's, my parents would drive to LA from San Jose, with me in the back seat, and for me at the time, it meant fun times ahead...Disneyland, Knott's Berry Farm, and visits to my cousins Larry and Gary...they had a pool, and they were always a blast to hang out with...so that's how going to LA always involved going somewhere fun, and also the grapevine experience.
I remember that divide in the road, when you could see it go uphill. My dad would say, "okay, here we go!" and even then, in the Ford Fairlane with its V8 engine, cars at that time didn't have the fuel efficiency or the ability to deliver enough torque to zoom up the hill like they do now...he shifted to D2 and even D1...as we watched the rest of the cars slow down too...some were parked on the side of the road with their hoods up, overheated...and the trucks! oh man...they crawled at 10 or 15 miles an hour...and to this day, there's still signs like, 'radiator water ahead'.
Fast forward about 10 years, I had my own car, a Pinto...all four cylinders, ha! Looking back, it was a great little car, I drove it countless times between Chico and San Jose, to Seattle even...I learned to maintain it, work on small repairs...and yes, I drove it over the Grapevine a few times.
Going up the hill it was okay at first, then I had to shift to 4th gear, still losing power and speed, I shifted to 3rd....oh maaaan...I was only going 45 with my foot to the floor, and cars were coming up behind me...I tried to move over, but the two right lanes were reserved for trucks that still carried their heavy loads at that same snail pace...other cars were going slow also, as if we were in a race through molasses, it was very frustrating as other cars still tailgated...
Then the temperature gauge I installed said the engine was getting hot, and I was at only 2,000 feet...okay, second gear, 'wawooooom' the engine kicked in a little more as I poked along...maan! I watched the more powerful cars with bigger engines drive past with enmity, as I said, "sorry car, sorry to put you through this..."
At Tejon Pass, it finally started to go downhill, a welcome relief to both me and the Pinto, and indeed, its temperature cooled. I thought at the time, no wonder they called these things Pinto's...faithful little horses in the Old West, and as I always do with my cars, I placed a faith and a certain spirit within what is just a machine...but still...my cars have always been 'friends' to me.
And so, like any roller coaster, you go up...you go down...
On the way back down, going in the other direction, it's important to know how fast your car can take curves, and how good your tires and brakes are...because before you know it, you're going 80 or 90, like you're literally on a roller coaster, only not on fixed tracks, but on a slippery downhill road with a few dozen other drivers along side going 'whoooaa nelly!' The runaway ramps for trucks are always a reminder...but it's all good if you know what your car can and can't do...and if you play your brakes like a finely tuned musical instrument, you're fine...
Even a couple weeks ago, driving up the grapevine with zero effort this time, I still remembered that part, driving down...it's still the same.