Un Rêve Parisien

In the wee small hours of Monday morning, I dreamed this wonderful, crazy dream:

I was in Paris, and I was with Lisa Ko. We were walking along the Seine, and decided to scale a building — one we had apparently scaled once before, back when I was in my 20s. We wanted to get to someplace on the top floor, no idea why we didn’t just go inside and up the stairs. We climbed the façade, then had to shimmy along a ridiculously narrow ledge the full length of the building. We reached the uppermost corner and had to go up and around it. There were decorative touches to the architecture that made crossing it hard — weird bits poking out that should have made good foot and handholds, except they were made of wood instead of stone, and they were frighteningly rickety. Lisa was behind me, giving me encouragement, but I was terrified. I made it about halfway then froze because the next several decorations moved when I tested them, and I knew they wouldn’t support me. Lisa was really good at giving me a pep talk, but I was still convinced I was going to fall. Finally, I decided to just go for it, that if the decorations had withstood big storms, surely they’d withstand me. [Writing this, it’s so clear how much sense that doesn’t make! My logic was that the storms had to have had at least 100 mph winds … first, I doubt Paris has had a single storm like that, let alone many … and, too, I weigh a good deal more than a hundred pounds, so how would any of those storms have been relevant?] I told Lisa that, if I died, I wanted her to “tell everyone I love them,” and then I started up the last bit, which turned out to be quite simple: I swung my leg up over the top of the corner — bypassing the scary bits entirely — and pulled myself over to slide down the smooth back side onto a much wider ledge. Lisa came over easily — despite the fact that she was wearing six-inch metallic gold platform heels! — and together we came down from the ledge and directly into someone’s apartment. Lisa looked a little sheepish and said, “We should probably get some writing done,” and I agreed. But first, she said, we should get some food. She led the way through the beautiful apartment to the great room. there were people at the dining table — a young woman and a teen-aged boy — and an elderly and middle-aged woman in the kitchen. The middle-aged woman was dishing up food while the older woman watched. Lisa went up and took a seat at the breakfast bar, and the woman put a plate in front of her. “Jay’s mother always feeds everyone,” Lisa explained, and that was when I realized the woman was Jay-Z’s m other. She put a serving of deep, green, delicious-looking cucumber soup into a tall plastic cup and set it beside Lisa’s plate then started on my plate. The older woman leaned over to read the side of the cup, which said: “Happy birthday, Bitch,” then looked at Jay-Z’s mom and asked, “Are you the bitch?” And Jay-Z’s mom nodded and said, “That’s right.”

And then I woke up.

I find this dream supercalifragilisticexpialidociously fabulous for a few reasons:

  1. I love that I was in Paris. I haven’t been in many years, so it was a lovely gift from my subconscious to suddenly be on the streets (and the façades!) of that city.
  2. I love that I was traveling with Lisa of all people. It’s true that we’ve been on a trip together once before and are planning a trip for early 2018, but nothing so grand as spontaneous wall-climbing in Paris!
  3. I love my subconscious’ decision to make Jay-Z’s mother so generous and welcoming. Other than the fact that she’s Jay-Z’s mom, I don’t know a single thing about Jay-Z’s mom — not even her name — so her appearance in my dream is both wonderful and hilarious.
  4. I love Lisa’s six-inch heels and here ability to scale that wall while wearing them. Lisa is fabulously talented, but I had no idea how for and in which directions her talents would manifest!
  5. I also love how patient and supportive she was when I was afraid to start the last piece of the climb. I generally tend not to tell people when I’m afraid of something, and don’t often ask for or admit the need for help (yes, that’s a problem, and it’s on the “Work on This!” list). So that moment in the dream was a nice illustration of what it can be like to let your friends step in and be your friends and help or encourage or support you when you need it.
  6. I love that, even in the dream world, Lisa – who is one of my writing accountability buddies – was still thinking about writing, and reminding me that I should be doing more of it!
  7. I love that the food that made the deepest impression on me was the cucumber soup. It was so green and pretty, and I just knew it would be cool and clear and tart and yummy.

One of the things I love the most is that I tried to encourage myself to remember this dream. Someone recently told me that if, as you’re falling asleep, you tell yourself to remember your dreams, you have a better chance of remembering. I don’t know why that would ever be true, but why not, right? So I said that to myself a few times as I was drifting off … and here I am, recounting this wacky dream. Obviously, I’ll be trying that again!

The other thing I love most is that being able to remember the dream also means being able to see all the places where my conscious self steps in to mess with whatever’s happening in the dream. Because I’m a lucid dreamer.

I’ve written a few times about my dreams and specifically about lucid dreaming. I got interesting in studying lucid dreaming … but then I got busy and tired and captivated by something else. So I didn’t do much study. I’ve learned the tiniest sliver of a bit about lucid dreaming. But this Paris dream makes me want to pick up the research where I left off.

In one of my older posts about lucid dreaming, I mentioned that it was a long time before I knew there was a name other than “dreaming” to describe what I experienced because I thought that was the way everyone dreamed, thought everyone dreamed and was aware that they were dreaming. It never occurred to me that there was anything special about it. Once I learned that it wasn’t so common, I won’t lie: it started to seem a little shinier, a little more special.

Because I’m aware that I’m dreaming, my conscious mind can alter things about the dream or pause and think (or, as is often the case, laugh) about particularly odd things I see and do in the dream. In the Paris dream, my consciousness stepped in a couple of times. First, I gave myself a play-by-play as Lisa and I climbed the building, wondering what the hell I thought I was doing climbing some building in a dress and pumps. I don’t have a great history with climbing things. I fell from a rock wall in southern Portugal. I got stuck on a different rock wall in Jamaica, hanging on for dear life above from unfriendly-looking surf, terrified to move forward or back. I’m not a climber, not really, so what did I imagine myself to be doing scaling that façade with Lisa?

The second consciousness intervention was during the scary part of the climb, the part where I convinced myself to take a chance because, if those weird and rickety wooden decorations could withstand 100-mile-per-hour winds, they could certainly support me and my not make of wind self. That was clearly my conscious mind on drugs, desperate to get me over that wall, even if the “how” of it made no sense.

The final moment of consciousness came when Lisa and I found ourselves in Jay-Z’s mom’s apartment. I laughed as I came down from the wall and saw that I was in a room. I have had so many dreams in which I wind up in strangers’ homes uninvited. And quite often I wind up in the kitchen. In one, I broke into someone’s house just so I could cook. In that dream, I was busy making a big pot of spaghetti sauce. Clearly, there’s something that needs interpreting about me and kitchens, me and breaking and entering, me and strangers’ houses …

* * *

Generally speaking, my conscious self only comments on what she’s watching dream-me do. There have been a few times when I’ve changed the course of the dream action. I usually only do that when things aren’t looking good for dream-me. I remember a dream in which I was being chased – when I think about that dream, I always say I was being chased by a monster, but as I type this, I’m remembering that I was actually being chased by the first wife of my most awful ex (talk about things to unpack!!). She was armed, I think with a knife, and wanted my blood. I was running through a wooded area and found myself face to face with a wall. There was no way around or over it (I guess I wasn’t aware at that time of my fabulous wall-scaling skills). I could hear her closing in … and then I just moved myself to safety on the other side. I didn’t want to see where that story was headed. I literally narrated myself beyond the problem: “Well, somehow I got over it,” conscious-me said in the dream as dream-me reoriented herself on the safe side of the wall and made her getaway. I do love the Deus-ex-machina-ness of that.

In a comment conversation on one of my other lucid dreaming posts, someone talked about being able to bring other people into her dreams and pointed out that I could use my ability to control the dreams to give myself a little Jamaica vacation whenever I wanted one. I haven’t tried either of these things, but now I’m inspired anew by the pleasure I felt at seeing Paris – the Paris I remember from living there decades ago, the Paris I know does and doesn’t still exist. I was happy, at home.

I’m interested in dream interpretation – because of course I want all this wacky fabulousness to also mean something – but I’m okay with the mystery of that. For now, I want to play with this blurred and blurring line between my conscious and unconscious mind, learning what kind of fun I can have poking into my dream world.


I’m following Vanessa Mártir’s lead, she launched #52essays2017 after writing an essay a week in 2016 … and then deciding to keep going.
I fell months behind on my #GriotGrind, and it seemed highly unlikely that I’d write 52 essays by year’s end. But then I decided to dedicate my NaNoWriMo writing to writing essays, and I’ve been catching up! Whether I reach the goal or not, I’ve written more this year than in the last two combined, and that adds up to a solid WIN in my book! Get ready for #52essays2018!

Detroit still on my mind.

My brain hasn’t entirely left Detroit.  There are still many, many things that my not-even-a-full-week’s visit left me to think about.  And many of those things are serious and solemn.  But then there the rest of what’s in my head.  Even on the bus tour that drove me to despair, there were distractions.  As if I could have forgotten what Detroit is famous for, we stopped at a light and in my face out the window was this:

 

And then there was the fabulous confusion of knowing that when I looked south out of my hotel room at the Renaissance Center, I was looking at Canada:

There was also this wonderful Cesar Chavez mosaic outside LA SED:

 

(LA SED is Latin Americans for Social and Economic Justice … and “thirst” all at once, which I love.)  I’ve forgotten how many tiles are in there, but each square in the mosaic is a mosaic and the tiles are super tiny.  It’s an amazing piece of work.

There was also this Frida piñata, which was weird, but I liked it all the same.  I’m still not sure I like the idea of beating Frida with a stick, but no one was going to be using this piñata that way, so I guess I’m ok with it:

  The piñata and the mosaic photos came from the last two stops on that bus tour, two of the nice moments from that spin around and through the neighborhoods of the city’s southwest side.  Sadly, sandwiched in between those two lovely bits was being caught in slow traffic and having the unfortunate display of seemingly half the police force arrive en masse to apprehend a kid who looked young enough to be my grandchild, forcing him off his bike and holding him face down on the sidewalk, towering over him as they crowded around his very small, thin body.  No, I have no idea what that child was supposed to have done.  I will acknowledge that he could easily have been a) much older than he looked, b) much harder and tougher and more dangerous than he looked, and c) totally guilty of something.  I will say, however, that he was already subdued before the legion of officers arrived and there was no reason to mash him into the sidewalk like that.

Wait.  I’ve gone off track, back to the dark side.  This is supposed to be about some of the nicer bits of my trip.  And so …

Though I took no photos — too busy marveling at the wacky wonder of it — there are the tigers outside Comera Park (Tiger Stadium):

       

But my most favorite thing of all, even more wonderful than that crazy collection of tigers was the gorgeous and fabulous sculpture down the street from the hotel:

Yes, that’s right: Joe Louis’ fist.  Joe Louis’ fist!  It’s outstanding.  It’s ginormous.  It’s beautiful and strong and silently powerful and bizarrely moving.  I can’t  explain why I like it as much as I do, but I do, I do, I do.  And maybe you’re thinking, “Joe Louis.  Big deal.  Joe Louis.”  Sorry, people, but yes: big deal.  Go watch his knockout reel on YouTube if you honestly don’t get it.  Seriously.  And this sculpture had my heart from the first second that I saw it.  Can’t explain it.  Don’t feel the need to.  Simply stunning.

Had a really great conversation tonight with my coworker about Detroit, about the work we do, about the choices we’ve made in terms of where we live, what careers we’ve chosen, what it means to work in certain neighborhoods and not others, to look like the people you serve or to look nothing like them.  She’s from Detroit (the suburbs of, as she often quickly points out) and still struggles with the fact that she’s not there but here in Brooklyn.  It made me think about the things I’d written in my last post, reminded me that I’d never put up my photos of this magnificent sculpture, reminded me that I still have so much to think about, so many things to wrestle with.

Detroit. Still on my mind.

Not making people invisible.

Molly from Reality Outran Expectation left this comment on my Small world post in which I wrote about talking to a man no one else wanted to talk to: 

I suppose that people push away “odd” people the same way that death and illness have been pushed away from our healthy, immortal well-being society in which everything is perfect. Your lost man seems to want to be let in on the secret of being well, last time by reading and this time by healthy living. Unfortunately, none of these are going to make him “like the rest of us.” But a smile and a chat with you include him in the human race, and that is what he wants and needs, just like the rest of us.

Years ago I heard an advocate for the homeless say that just looking a homeless person in the eye was a valuable act, to acknowledge that a person is standing in front of you is a gift to that person.  At that time, I was teaching a GED class in a women’s shelter, and I asked my students about that.  Only two students, Toni and Ida, had had the experience of being identifiably homeless — on the street with bags of their belongings — and both agreed immediately.

Toni explained that she had never asked for money, only for food, that she had wanted people to know that she was actually hungry, that she wasn’t interested in buying crack, buying a bottle.  She said it didn’t matter, that people would walk past her as if they could neither see nor hear her.  Ida nodded.  She told us that the worst thing about being on the street — aside from danger, fear and realizing that she had no one to turn to — the worst thing was people looking past you, through you, people moving on as if you weren’t there.  What she said was “the way people can make you invisible.”

I know this feeling.  I am made invisible all the time.  It’s hard not to see me: I am a big, tall woman who often has regally flamboyant hair, and yet there are so many people who look right through me, who walk into me not because they have poor depth perception but because they have made themselves truly unable to see me.  Black people, fat people, and people with disabilities are often rendered invisible, so I guess I have the triple whammy of diaphanousness.

But all the ways people don’t see me cannot compare with the way we don’t see street people.  Someone who chooses not to notice my cane so that they don’t feel guilty about not offering me a seat is ignoring me in a very different way than the person who closes his face and doesn’t see the woman curled up sleeping on the subway steps at Atlantic Avenue, the man moving through the train asking for help.  That closed face — with the hard-set mouth and the look of judgmental disgust — isn’t about racism or fat phobia or hey-I’m-tired-and-I-got-this-seat-first.  That face is the one we make when we step in dog mess.

Ida said she felt worthless when people looked through her, that it didn’t matter that her homelessness was no fault of her own, that it didn’t matter that she made every effort to keep herself clean or that she managed to keep her kids in school the whole time they were living on the street.  Who she was didn’t matter.  What she was eclipsed that.

I honestly don’t remember what I did before I worked at the shelter, whether or not I looked through the homeless people I encountered on the street.  I want to believe that I didn’t, that I saw them, that I looked at them, that I didn’t erase them.  I know for certain that, since my year at the shelter, I have made a conscious effort to see people, to look them in the eye and respond to them whether I’m giving or not giving.

Which can be uncomfortable.  It’s not always easy or pleasant to look people in the eye, to acknowledge that you are seeing them and seeing their situation … and still not reaching for your wallet, and still enjoying the snack you just bought, still reading your book or having your conversation with a friend.

Of course, in the case of my ‘lost man,’ looking at and talking with him is both easy and pleasant.  But even with aggressive people I’ve found that direct, I’m-seeing-you contact often changes their behavior, enables us to have a less confrontational interaction.  This effort is so small, as I said in the other post.  It takes so little to give that moment of visibility.   And part of my desire to do that stems from my work with homeless women, and part stems from my own experiences of being made invisible.  But hasn’t everyone been made invisible at one time or another?  Is that maybe part of what holds others back from making the same small effort I make — a kind of “no one notices me, why am I going to go out of my way for anyone else” thing?

I’m still puzzling this one out, and I’m curious to hear others’ takes.

“What do I mean?”

So we’re doing mid-term conferences this week.  While I have my one-on-one sessions in the office, the rest of the class clowns around in the classroom and works on our current project (gangs, violence, drugs, police brutality … yeah, we like all the quiet, gentle topics in my class).  Jeovany is doing a presentation centered around the 2006 film, Cocaine Cowboys.  He was deep in an article about the dealers highlighted in the film when I called him to join me for our conference.

“Jeovany, it’s your turn.”

“In a minute, baby, I’m not —  I mean Ma — I mean — ” at which point he dropped his head in his hands and pressed in on his temples — hard — then looked up at me.  “What do I mean?”