StreetLegalPlay by Kyle Thomas Smith

Sinbad, The Glittery Silver Jumpsuit and The Glittery Silver Service Car (Last Night’s Dream)

Posted in Uncategorized by streetlegalplay on July 31, 2008

Last night’s dream was even stranger than the one about the serial killer in the hanging-file folder.

In it, the comedian Sinbad’s wife had kicked him out of their house, so he took a room at the Y. At a press conference on this scandal, the melanin in Sinbad’s face faded out, making him look as white as Michael Jackson but with more meat on the bones. (Actually, at the press conference, Sinbad looked more like Bernie Mac, but I still knew him to be Sinbad.) I went to go visit him at the YMCA.

When I went to the check-in desk at his floor, I saw that the people working behind it were part of that breed of post-grads, who defer the “real” world by working in video stores and other low-impact jobs. They were playing Gameboys and had their feet up on the desk as they listened to Modest Mouse or whatever. They asked me to have a seat in the waiting room while they called Sinbad’s room.

The waiting-room area was a self-service Barnes & Noble. On the teak-wood coffee table, there was a stack of comic books. As I picked each one up, I scanned them in on a hand-held bar-code scanner. I had no intention of buying them, though. When the Asian-American chick behind the counter told me that Sinbad had asked her to send me in, she also presented me with a bill for the comic books. I told her that I’d left them on the table and didn’t want to buy them. With a let-down look, she said, “Oh, and I’ve been wanting to see those comic books too.” (Why she couldn’t just walk over to the table herself and see them, I don’t know. Then again, my dreams tend to not make any sense.) With that, I walked through the YMCA doors to go see Sinbad.

In the next segment of the dream, Julius and I were arguing over whether or not Bob Dylan is a genius. In waking life, I would find that contention indisputable, but, in the dream, I was on the other side of the debate. Julius said, “How could you not call it genius when someone writes…?” And he went on to recite two lines from a song that I’ve never heard and whose words I don’t remember.

As he recited those words, though, he held up a leaf from a morning-glory vine that was split down the middle and he let the leaf fly in the breeze to a field that looked like the ones near the Brideshead estate in Brideshead Revisited.

I then switched sides and started giving this oration on how Dylan’s John Wesley Harding was a masterpiece, how it changed the face of music. Then, I picked that CD out of my collection and walked out the door to bring it to my friend Mike’s house, so that he could tape it.

In the next segment, I was walking through the wintertime set in the penultimate scene of La Boheme, where Rodolfo finds Mimi just before she dies of consumption. As I trudged through the snow, I was wearing an overcoat and a saturnine face like a character in a Chekhov story or a Tolstoy or Dostoevsky novel.

All of a sudden, who is the only person coming my way on the road but Justin Timberlake. (I seem to be alone in loathing Justin Timberlake. I think he’s a spoiled, overpraised brat whose music sucks. But if I state my opinion of him to anyone, even people twice his age who otherwise have good music taste, they act like they want to send me to my room without supper.) He had a Richard Simmons’ afro and was wearing a pink tie-died sweatsuit. He was singing some pop song, but then busted into a rap that was an all-out jam. As Justin Timberlake passed me, for the first time ever, I looked at him with admiration. (Again, let me qualify, this was a dream, not real life.)

Then I found myself in a silver glittery jumpsuit, complete with a glittery silver headband. I looked like a Solid Gold Dancer (embarrassing factoid: when I was seven-years-old, I wanted to be a Solid Gold Dancer with all my heart; that phase only lasted a year, the statute of limitations has run out, so don’t mock me!). I saw myself in the mirror. I said, “I gotta get a new look,” so I changed back into my usual clothes.

Then I saw sunlight pouring in through some prison bars. The lyrics to that song by The Flaming Lips started up: “Do you realize – that everyone you know someday will die?”

7th Avenue and 9th Street, Brooklyn

7th Avenue and 9th Street, Brooklyn (site of Uncle Moe's)

Then I wound up at my parents’ house. Their garage was the same, but the kitchen table was on an upper landing like the tables at Uncle Moe’s (the gay symbolism is killing me) at 7th Avenue and 9th Street. Father Mahon was over for dinner. Now, Father Mahon is not long for this world, but, in the dream, he was looking a lot better than when I saw him at my parents’ 50th Wedding Anniversary.

(In real life, the moment I introduced Father Mahon to Julius at the Anniversary party, he asked us point-blank, “Are you living together?” I smiled and said, “Why, yes, we are, Father.” He nodded and said, “Well, I wish you both all the best.” I was going to ask if I could take that as an endorsement but stopped short.)

In the dream, Father Mahon asked me if I enjoy being a sodomite. I lit up, “Yeah, it’s great!”

As if to draw me back into the Catholic fold, he proclaimed that the Buddhist Sutras were inspired by the Bible. I responded, “That’s bullshit! Buddha delivered the Sutras about 500 years before Jesus was born. As for the Old Testament, well, that was still in the hands of a small tribe of Israelites and there’s no way it could have made its way over to India. Besides, the Buddhist and Christian holy books are completely different in philosophy and precepts. Sorry, Father, Christianity doesn’t have a monopoly on Buddhism.” Oddly, Mom nodded her approval at my denunciation (again, this was a dream) and Father Mahon went back to eating his sweet potato.

In the final segment of last night’s dream, I was waiting on the Northbound platform of the Red Line L at Fullerton in Chicago. I was thinking about how Chicago isn’t as cosmopolitan as New York. Right behind me, though, these Arab guys were speaking French. They were all discussing which parts of the city they live in. I thought, “Well, they’re Arab and they’re speaking French. Isn’t that pretty cosmopolitan too?”

Then, an Arab girl wedged her way into the conversation. She was wearing white face-paint and black makeup like I had to wear when I played Humpty Dumpty in Alice in Wonderland in my sophomore year of high school. She had pockmarks all up and down her face like this one goth guy whom I used to see at this one cafe on Belmont in Chicago. (Come to think of it, he also wore white face-paint and black makeup.) The Arab girl was talking about how her rabbi (?) told her that she should move to another part of the city.

Then, a glittery silver service car, which looked like the old edition Rolls Royce that was in Brideshead Revisited (except glittery and silver like the jumpsuit I broke out of in an earlier segment), pulled up on the tracks to take me for a ride. I didn’t know where we were headed but I got in.

Weird, huh? What do you think that dream means? (Besides that I’m a big Uncle Moe who sins bad?)

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The Serial Killer in the Green Hanging-File Folder (Last Night’s Dream)

Posted in Uncategorized by streetlegalplay on July 29, 2008

Last night (or, early this morning, if you want to split hairs), I had a nightmare. There was an office off to the side of a hospital hallway, which looked like the one in the hospital where Briony worked in the movie Atonement. The bottom drawer in the gray metal office desk was open. It had green hanging-file folders in it.

I somehow knew that a serial killer was hiding in one of those hanging-file folders. I further knew that he waited for people to enter the office and then, once they’d close the door behind themselves, he’d jump out of the hanging-file folder, wielding a letter opener. Out of the drawer, he’d instantly grow to full height, maybe six feet tall. Then, he’d use that letter opener to slash his victims to death.

In the dream, I alone could see him poking the letter opener’s blade out of the green hanging-file folder. Nobody seemed to listen when I warned them that a serial killer was in there, so they got killed.

The Art Institute of Chicago

The Art Institute of Chicago

In the next part of the dream, I was at a reception at The Art Institute of Chicago. My sister Colleen was there with my niece Elizabeth (her daughter) and my nephew Patrick (my brother Kerry’s son). Elizabeth is a recalcitrant 13-year-old, but, in the dream, she was just about to graduate from high school.

I already knew that my nephew Patrick – an 11-year-old squash player who lives in the Bay Area – has been dead set on going to Yale from the time he was eight years old. (No one knows why. No one in my family or in my sister-in-law’s family has ever gone to Yale or any other Ivy League school.)

I asked Elizabeth where she planned on going to college. I hoped she’d say something refreshing like, “I want to go to the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.” Instead, she replied, “I’m joining the Marines.” I did a double-take. Sure enough, she still had a straight face. Elizabeth looked away. Normally, my sister would be loath to support such a decision on the part of one of her children, especially during wartime. But, in the dream, Colleen put her arm around Elizabeth and proudly assented, “Yes, she’s going to join the Marines before she goes to college.”

I woke up from the dream wondering if I should join the Marines. There are a few hitches, of course. Number one, I’m gay. I’ve published article after article citing my sexual orientation. I couldn’t be more open about it if I threw a circuit party in the middle of a Teamster’s meeting. Secondly, I’m morally and mortally opposed to this war. Third, I’m 34 years old. Fourth, if it was a choice between the military and hara kari – well, guess which one I’d pick (hint: the latter). Still, I wondered if the Marines might help me to later become more capable of plugging myself into the round hole of a mainstream profession. Then again, my Dad was a marine sergeant and he wasn’t able to straighten me out and, boy, did he work at it. (High five to my younger self.)

But, then, what is/was there to straighten out? I was a dreamy artist, a Romantic, that’s all. Even when I tried fitting in, my attempts were about as successful as those of someone trying to play an 8-Track tape in a CD player. I wasn’t on drugs (which means that I can’t put out daredevil memoirs like David Sedaris, Augusten Burroughs and James Frey), I just wanted a more creative, a less regimented, by-rote existence. In the movie Deconstructing Harry, a therapist asks Harry Block (Woody Allen) why his alma mater threw him out. He says:

“Because I was not interested in [school]. I wanted to be a writer. All I cared about was writing. I did not care about the real world. I cared only about the world of fiction. And, plus, I tried to give the dean’s wife an enema so they didn’t take kindly to that.”

My life has run somewhat along the same lines.

But I have another nephew named David, who is my sister Colleen’s other teenager. He has just graduated from high school and will be going to college at, I believe, DePaul University. Since the tenth grade, David has wanted to be a history teacher at his high school in Palatine, Illinois. David hasn’t striven to be the next Thom Yorke or Kanye West or, let’s throw in a “now” writer, Junot Diaz. He doesn’t want to throw a sack over his shoulder and head out to New York or Europe to lead an artist’s life. No, he wants to grow up to be a high-school history teacher in the suburb where he grew up. David has set himself an attainable goal that has all the trappings of stability. Some might yawn, but I cannot help but admire the wisdom in his choice. If only my heart had such simple yearnings! Alas, it doesn’t. I’m too much like Harry Block.

Julius tells me I’m bourgeois when I say things like that. He’s right. I am. I was raised in an environment where you go straight from a Big Ten school to a job in a bank or an accounting firm. If you want to dream big, then work your way through law school or maybe get your MBA at night. It might seem drab and colorless, but at least it’s stable. But, no matter how hard I try to convince myself that quiet desperation is the way to go, I keep having dreams like the one about the serial killer in the green hanging-file folder.

Here I must remind myself of some wise words by former tearaway and venerated Buddhist teacher, Susan Piver:

“One’s own mind is the only reliable guide. The place to start is with who you already are and what you are experiencing right now. No doctrine. No ideal to emulate. I had never heard anyone say that before. On the Buddhist path particular qualifications, beliefs, or vows are not necessary. Strength and independence of mind are the qualities that are required. Maybe my inabilities to toe the line, fit in, succeed in conventional life were not such bad things after all. They were just me, and on this path, ‘just me’ is the path. You start with who you are, and the goal is self-discovery.”