Water Cooler Faux Pas and Lady’s Fingers Grapes

Ξ September 20th, 2010 | → 0 Comments | ∇ Uncategorized |

Someone asked me today to tell them about the worst dream I’ve ever had1. On one hand, it’s an odd question… Actually, it’s a really weird question… especially in the break room on a Monday morning during football season. Whatever happened to just asking me about my weekend and whether or not I watched the game? Those are solid social rituals that we’ve been perfecting for thousands of years. We don’t need to mess with them, man. We don’t need to add an “i” to the front and give it a hip logo that highlights its individuality.

We don’t need to produce a no-sugar added alternative or make sure it’s energy efficient. We don’t need to force them into skinny jeans.2 These are time-honored traditions! You ask me how my weekend was, I say it was fine… I ask if you watched the game, you tell me you did but you were really disappointed by the gladiators’/bestiarii’s/jousters’/quarterback’s performances in the final quarter… and boom, social glue. You don’t actually care what my weekend was like and I don’t actually care that you don’t actually care. It isn’t about my weekend. It’s about social bonding! Reinforcing our tenuous social relationship in an ever-expanding web of social intricacies! We are ONE, brother!

Or we were up until you asked me about the worst dream I ever had anyway… because that was weird.

So anyway, the point is, someone asked me about the worst dream I’ve ever had and I wasn’t quite sure how to respond. Some of it was surely the fact that he’d taken a left al Albuquerque (“Oh, I know! Can you believe Randy Moss’s catch in the end zone? It… wait, what did you ask?”) but his little divergence from our regularly scheduled social reinforcement techniques didn’t account for quite all of my uncertainty.

What is the worst dream I’ve ever had? And if I control my dreams, as I do, does it even count? How much worse would they be if I couldn’t… Oh right, talking to the guy. I muttered something about being naked in public and escaped. And now here we are, trying to answer the question for real. (Incidentally, I’ve never had the naked-in-public nightmare before… but it was a safe and predictable enough answer, right? I mean, who even asks people about their dreams by the water cooler?! Someone who has no respect for social boundaries, that’s who! And I’ll bring the conversation back around to something known, familiar, consistent, and wholly impersonal, thankyouverymuch.)

So in any case, I know precisely what the worst dream I’ve ever had was. But in order to understand why it was so terrible, we’ll need to back up a bit.

I’m not sure if I’m technically a lucid dreamer or not. The totally, 100% reliable sources3 available on the Internet tend to agree4 that a lucid dream is one in which the dreamer knows that he or she is dreaming. I don’t always know that I’m dreaming. In fact, now that I think about, I’m not sure I’ve ever actively, consciously known I was dreaming… with the exception of one, terrible case. We’ll talk about that one in a minute. But other than that single instance, I can’t remember actually thinking while in a dream, “Hey, wow, I’m totally dreaming.”

Okay, fine, so… lucid dreamer. What is it called when you have control over your dreams? Is that just normal, everyday dreaming? Whatever that is, that’s the kind of dreamer I am. The level of control tends to vary for some reason but there’s always some level of control5. It runs the gamut from the Ubermensch option where I can change the dream entirely and do whatever I want to, wherever or whenever I want to do it… to the Censor option where I can just gray out the things I don’t want to see or feel… to just the normal, garden-variety stuff where I can either rewind/fast-forward to scenes in an existing dream, replaying the parts that I want as many times as I want to or fast-forwarding through parts that aren’t nearly as interesting, or make a change to the dream that is consistent with the universe as it exists in the dream.


The rarest option open to me is being able to do whatever I want while in a dream. This is depressingly rare. I honestly have no idea why it’s so rare. It doesn’t really make sense, does it? I mean, if I have some control over a dream, I should have all control over a dream, right? But maybe this is where the whole I-don’t-actually-consciously-know-that-I’m-dreaming thing comes into play. In any case, this happens in no more than, say, 5% of my dreams, probably even less than that… and to further complicate things, it happens only in the “nice” dreams. I’ve never had that kind of control in a nightmare… which is too bad since that’s probably when I’d most like to use it. (“OH GOD THE SPIDER IS ABOUT TO EAT MY FACE… YAY, PONIES!”)

The last time I did this was late last year. The dream was something about simply being in a grocery store, being unable to find the creamed corn6, and being utterly devastated by this failure… And at some point, I said to myself, “Self, you know what’s better than the Quest for the Creamed Corn? Steampunk. Maybe… action/adventure with a touch of high romance. And a mustache. And a blimp, definitely a blimp. Let’s do… steampunk Indiana Jones.” And a monocled man with a mustache of truly epic proportions, a perfectly pressed three-piece suit, and an impressively expensive timepiece with an engraving that read ‘To Anise’5 proceeded to invite me aboard a chartered dirigible to explore a Lovecraftian set of ruins across the sea. (Oddly enough, there were no Old Ones was not involved. It seems like this would’ve been their scene, right?)

This Film Not Yet Rated.

While the Ubermensch option seems to only be available for “good” dreams, this “censor” option appears to only be available for bad dreams. If something terrifying is happen, I sometimes, but not always, have the option of somehow censoring what it is I’m seeing or feeling. The funny (or maybe “perfectly normal”… I don’t know) thing is, it’s hard work to do this. I can’t simply just gray something out. It’s like the Dream Me has to get whip out the eye of newt and concentrate really, really hard… and maybe, just maybe my Fog Of War spell will actually work. The scarier/more traumatic the dream is, the harder it is to do this… and Dream Me knows she has to work her ass off to do this.

It’s like the flying dreams. Everyone apparently has flying dreams. I have no idea how these manifest for everyone else but for me, a flying dream is one in which Dream Me realizes that she has the general capability to fly; it doesn’t actually mean that Dream Me does fly. Dream Me may or may not be able to do it. It requires the utmost concentration and everything has to be perfect. Dream Me has to be running fast enough… there has to be enough of a wind behind her… she has to generate enough lift (and, by the way, apparently my dream flying does not involve flapping my arms; my arms have to be out to my sides but apparently that’s just for balance because I generate lift like a Jedi mind trick… that’s where the concentration comes in)… and even if she does happen to make it into the air, it takes more and more effort to get higher… and it takes constant concentration to stay in the air. If she doesn’t keep her concentration Just So, she starts floating back down… and it’s always a terrible feeling of failure. Dream flying is hard work.

Anyway, like flying, the censor option takes work. Everything has to be Just So in order for it to work. Dream Me has to tap down the fear or the horror or the crippling sadness long enough to make it happen and she doesn’t always succeed. That sucks for the both of us. (The one of us?)

In Order To Make Apple Pie, You Must First Invent The Universe

Most commonly, I just change my dreams within the context of the dream. I can replay scenes I really like over and over which is nice, albeit rather staid, or I can fast-forward to future events. (The latter description isn’t quite accurate. As it is, it presupposes that the dream is a constant and that I can simply shift from Point A to Point B along a known dream landscape. Somehow I doubt that’s how it actually works. It’s probably more likely that I’m just starting a new scene in the same dream universe that, as with everything else, is getting generated on the fly. That said, though… dreams as a constant, predetermined landscape. That’d be a good story. It’s probably already been done. Blast.)

Beyond simple replay/restart options, I can generally do anything in a dream that is consistent with the dream universe. For example, I had a dream a few nights ago that I was defending a fortress from invading forces. The fortress was the It’s A Small World castle except, you know, citadel-sized and… you know. MILITANT! POWERFUL! STRATEGICALLY SIGNIFICANT! Also, lots of water. Unsurprising, I suppose. Anyway, the citadel was the It’s A Small World castle and the invaders were apparently disgruntled Gryffindor students since they were wearing the Gryffindor Quidditch uniforms. Anyway, I was just a random stormtrooper in this thing (wearing a blue and white Quidditch uniform, I should note9) and at some point I decided we needed two items: trebuchets and flying carpets. (Pro tip: That clock tower thingie on the front façade of the It’s A Small World castle is actually a secret launching pad for aerial defense units.) Now, one could argue that flying carpets aren’t entirely consistent with the universe as I’ve described it. A flying boat with singing marionettes, maybe. A tricked out Firebolt, maybe. A flying carpet? That’s totally on the other side of the Disneyland park. But it was blue and white and bore the same standard as the rest of the It’s A Small World Defense Force, so I’m going to say it’s close enough. ANYWAY… so we start flinging pieces of our broken citadel walls at the Gryffindor invaders (yes, complete with recycled footage from Return Of The King), a bunch of additional blue-clad Quidditch storm troopers start pouring out of the clock tower on their magic carpets… and I decide I’m too old for this shit, hop on my carpet, and fly up to the command center that’s hovering over us exactly like a Naxxramas necropolis except entrants have to move the bricks around to get in like Diagon Alley.

I forgot where I was going with this last one.

The point is, though, that I can and do change my dreams all the time. I’m not necessarily aware that I’m dreaming – I never really have that flash of realization (“This is a dream!”) while in a dream – but I have enough control over things that the good dreams are really spectacular and the bad dreams aren’t as bad as they could be.

The Dream

Now that we understand all of this… we get back to the worst dream I’ve ever had. I had the dream the night of September 9, 2009.

I grew up in an agricultural area. My paternal grandparents lived on some acreage in the Central Valley, surrounded by their own almond orchards as well as peach and almond orchards in neighboring fields. You came up to their house on the appropriately named Peach Avenue. On your right, you’d pass by the high school (there was only one then and there’s only one now)… then on the right, the pool where I started swimming lessons when I was three and just past that, the park and rec center that the local Kiwanis club used for their annual Crab Feed… then on the left, the odd salmon-colored mom-and-pop market on the corner where Grandma Anne once bought my sister and me candy necklaces when we were visiting her… then on the right, an aging almond orchard that was past its prime… and then on the left, Grandma and Grandpa’s House9.

Grandma and Grandpa’s House was a sprawling, one-story affair just off Peach Avenue. There were two driveways: 1) the main driveway was a circular affair, running just in front of the house in a semi-circle around a beautiful, massive evergreen, both beginning and ending on the street; 2) the secondary driveway was a straight and unostentatious number, running straight past the house, the backyard, the grape vines, the neighbor’s well-trimmed hedge, to The Shop. The Shop was a huge building on one side of a huge open area behind the tree line, one filled with sawdust, spiders, massive machines, and Do Not Touch. If my sister and I were lucky, we got to play on the sawhorses, watch Grandpa make amazing things, play with Spot or Cat (Grandpa wasn’t one for elaborate names), or run around The Shop and pick up nails and screws from the ground outside so all the God Damned Tires would be okay.

Anyway… The dream took place on the driveway that lead to The Shop. It was a long, simple affair… dusty blacktop from the street until it faded into the sand by The Shop… a low brick wall separating Grandma and Grandpa’s property from the neighbors with a stubby little hedge running the length… and on the other side, a fence made of gnarled wood separating the driveway from the backyard. The fence was plain wood and about a foot of ground just on the other side of it was filled with flowers and grapevines before the cement of the backyard’s bordering walkway began. About halfway down the driveway, the simple wood fence rose into a covered walkway. The grapevines had covered his as well – though not so covered that the sunlight couldn’t get through – and Lady’s Fingers dangling through the top and along the sides.

If you’ve never gotten to smell sun-sweetened Lady’s Fingers on the vine, or to reach up and pull one off and pop it into your mouth, you’re missing out. The scent is warm and sweet, especially if the sun is out and the fruit is just a little bit warm. You can pop them off the vine, dusty and sun-warmed and perfect, and eat around the little triumvirate of seeds right in the center.

In my dream, I was standing on the driveway side of the little wooden fence, looking into the idyllic back yard of Grandma and Grandpa’s House. The yard has always been beautiful… bright green lawn, a cement path running around the perimeter of the yard, just inside the tree line… a beautiful maple tree rising out of the middle of the lawn with a swing dangling from one of its branches (I’d fed god knows how many silkworms from that tree)… a covered area with white wrought-iron tables and chairs… a few Queen Anne’s cherry trees on the far side… Shady. Beautiful. Perfect.

On the other side of the little wood fence stood Grandpa, Grandma Anne, and Grandma Mary. I wish I had the words to describe how they looked. They were in the sun, their skin just a tiny bit dusty, the way it always gets in that area if you’re outside for a while. Grandpa was reaching up into the grapevines to pull down a few handfuls of Lady’s Fingers. The best fruit was always the sun-warmed pieces that Grandpa picked fresh and wiped off on his shirt for you. Grandma Anne was wearing gardening gloves and was holding a pair of pruning shears. Grandma Mary was wearing that floppy hat of hers, the one she wore when she was gardening at Grandma’s House, and had a few grapes in her hand.

It was the most perfect thing I’d ever seen, ever experienced. I could smell the Lady’s Fingers on the vine, could feel the sun on my shoulders, could have reached out and felt Grandma’s dry hand close firmly over mine like it always did. I could have asked Grandpa for one of those perfect grapes… once again tasted that warm, dusty sweetness. I could have told Grandma Anne how sorry I was for breaking one of her favorite dishes when we were making cookies that one time or how much I loved the books she kept around just for us. I could have told Grandma that she was my hero, that I cry for her every day but try not to, that I love her so much it hurts.

I could have done all of those things. We could have gone back to sit on the covered patio and snacked on the dried fruit Grandpa always made. His pears were the best but the peaches were a close second. We could have walked down the street to the salmon-colored market and gotten a candy necklace. We could have done anything. I control my dreams. We could have done anything… something we’d always done, something we’d never gotten to do. Anything.

But we didn’t. I knew it was a dream. Suddenly, inexplicably, I knew it was a dream… that they were gone, that they had been gone, and that I would never see them again. This is the only time I ever actually remember knowing that a dream was a dream.

And I woke myself up and cried.

In some ways, it was the best dream I’ve ever had. I wish I could find the words to describe how real everything was… everything from the scent of the Lady’s Fingers to the warmth of the sun to the way I felt standing there. It was the kind of dream that would make you believe in the afterlife, in the eternal house of your forefathers, if you didn’t. It was that perfect.

But it was also a reminder of what was gone and what would never be again.

‘Bittersweet’ is used a lot to describe stuff like this but I don’t think it really does it justice. Is there a word to describe the bursting feeling in your chest, the burning of your eyes, the rush of gratitude, and the throbbing ache? If there is, that’s the word I’m looking for.

Anyway. I’m not sure how cathartic this actually turned out to be. But hey, bet the water cooler guy is glad that I didn’t really answer his question.

  1. Surprisingly, this was not my shrink. Even more surprisingly, I don’t actually have a shrink.
  2. Speaking of skinny jeans, I have constructed a helpful chart to aid in the decision-making process:

  3. lol
  4. It’s easy to achieve consensus when everyone’s primary source is Wikipedia.
  5. Or rather, there’s always some level of control in the dreams I can remember. I’ve never woken up, known that I’d been dreaming, and been unable to remember the dream… but if I don’t know in the first place that I’d been dreaming, well, those are outside my study sample, I suppose.
  6. Yes, creamed corn. It was that specific. Can you even buy creamed corn or do you have to make it yourself? For that matter, what is creamed corn? Clearly, this dilemma was at the forefront of my unconscious.
  7. I’ve heard a few times that it’s impossible to read in a dream. Since I’m not a lucid dreamer in the sense that I know when I’m dreaming, I can’t offer any insight into that. But whether you actually read the engraving on a pocketwatch or just know as the omniscient owner of the dream what the engraving says, is there any functional difference?
  8. Apparently my unconscious just assumes that two teams facing off against one another should be Red and Blue. I can’t decide if that’s a result of too many FPSes or too much Double Dare.
  9. This was its formal name: Grandma and Grandpa’s House. There were no naming conflicts with the maternal side. My maternal grandfather died before I was born so Grandma Mary’s house was just Grandma’s House. And yes, my grandmothers were Grandma Anne and Grandma Mary (though if anyone just said “Grandma” without the modifier, it was assumed to be a reference to the latter… unless it was followed by “and Grandpa”). Apparently this isn’t the only way to distinguish between grandmothers. My husband calls his maternal grandmother “Grandma” and his paternal grandmother “Granny”. That’s a pretty neat system.

    Original post by blah


Movie Review: Machete

Ξ September 19th, 2010 | → 0 Comments | ∇ reviews |

First off, I just wanted to mention nothing I say here will do this movie justice.

The movie itself was pretty cool. I came into the theater knowing Rodriguez’s style for this movie genre. It is akin to his work in Planet Terror, From Dusk Til Dawn, and even Sin City. If you don’t like humorous gratuitous violence and nudity then this movie isn’t for you.

You are introduced right away to the mexican BAMF who has been wronged, his daughter taken away from him and his wife had been killed by the “mexican” version of Steven Seagal. He is left for dead and then we come to several years later where we meet the real story where ‘Machete’ is now in Texas and he runs into a suspicious character hiring him on for a job.

Nudity and sex in this movie is presented in a humorous manner. Bringing the audience into the movie with the notion that “yeah, sex can be funny.” We often don’t see that in modern day movies where the writer / director will keep the subject light and the fact that somebody isn’t wearing clothes isn’t the end of the world. The US mainstream media still clings to the taboo that nudity and sex is wrong in a christian society when in all honesty its just a person in the buff and they can be fine to look at.

With that said, I have to say that I enjoyed Lohan’s bewbs in this film.

On the other end of this spectrum we get the violence factor. Now I’m a die hard fan of the Kill Bill movies and what they gave the movie watcher public. I think that Tarrantino gave us something that all movie makers should go off of. Bringing the bits and pieces of masterpieces of yesteryear into modern cinema. With this he also brought tons of gratuitous violence. And I have to say, if it is in jest, I’m okay with it. It’s not a horror film. You don’t have some teenage ditz running away from a guy with an axe, or a serial killer tormenting innocent people in a mind fuck. You have limbs chopped off, you have people getting impaled with swords. You have a force that cannot be stopped killing whoever the hell he wants to get some goddamn revenge. It’s great, it’s genious, it is just want I wanted in this movie.

Honestly I think he makes the Spy Kids movies just to even out the level of testosterone in his films.

So like I said, all in all the movie was very enjoyable. I left the theater with the sense that “wow, that was badass.” There were tons of good one-liners to quote for days and great moments in the film where it was so off the wall that you just had to slap your knee and laugh. In the end of the film there are a few hilarious moments if you can catch the references.

Just want to mention that I recommend this movie to any mature movie watcher. It was a great action trip and had a ton of humor to boot. I hope you’ll leave the movie pleased like I did.

Original post by mooch


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