Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Or Is He Just Crazy?

Here's the original epilogue to my book, DREAM ROADS, which was doing just fine until rudely interrupted by a little dream-adventure worth mentioning. So now the epilogue from Roger Ebert's Ebertfest, next blog down, will make a little more sense, if it's going to. Here's the epilogue to a book written largely in solitude, tho' surrounded by people.

(a bit of the previous, final chapter:)

There's no need to "program" yourself to do all this. It doesn't take a movie-star-strongman's heroic effort, forcing psychic exercises on the 96-Pound spiritual weakling you too often fear you really are. Exercise is good, so long as your main exercise is to pay attention to the reality you alone know.

Most important is your willingness to dream whatever comes, and act sanely on what you can of it.

Or am I just crazy?

Epilogue It's 3:55 P.M. Or is He just Crazy?

Doorside table, Shot in the Dark Cafe, Tucson AZ, usual cigar and espresso and notebook, Ides of August '07 ...these days here feel numbered. My favorite characters have all gone different directions, even Junkiepants, who is on YouTube. Dreamed the other night that I chased the rest of them out of my home.

Eatsy, wearing the same black shoulder strap dress daily, cooking, pulling espresso, is a sweet chub. She is so rooted she must not have been born so much as plucked like a plump fruit from a tree. Once I brought her a rose and gave a dillydally speech declaring she alone did I love! And no other! Here's your rose.

"You're a lying cocksucker," the twenty-year-old replied neutrally. Months later I recalled that to her. She didn't remember. I reenacted it. "Yeah, you're a lying cocksucker," she repeated, judiciously. I agreed. Always agree with anyone who sounds rooted.

We sat together on her break yesterday, where I'm sitting right now. I flirted a nonsense observation to her, adding I didn't want her to think I was crazy for it.

"You ARE crazy, Tom," she replied, neutral, judicious, rooted.

"You're right, I AM crazy, but... this thing is sane!"

My joke played on a dream I'd had of her and two glasses of water that she was trying to balance. Is that sane of me? In my gravest parental tones, I've assaulted myself with rationale about what I've been up to all this time.

"You. Are. Telling. People that you live out what you DREAM AT NIGHT??

"Are you Ka-rrrrrrrrrrAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAZY???”

"Just how much more an irresponsible, unwashed old hippie do you mean to be, young man?"

My father would have been blunter. "Great Scott!" he'd have said, invoking an expletive from the Civil War. That's all he would have advised. Still, he showed up in a dream two months before he died to say goodbye, pleased to be done with life. He pointed out that my eldest brother was going to die in a year. One year later, that too happened. Wide awake, the Old Man wouldn't recall a thing about it. "Great Scott!" he would suggest. That's how engineers are.

What craziness I have visited upon my son, Ben, who has put up with me and this since his birth? I'll leave a slot here for his answer and put it in later. What say, young man? Is your strange old dad crazy for following what he dreams at night?

(Ben replies) "It's funny because I sneaked into your Yahoo e-mail the other day and found this other essay of yours about being crazy! Here are my thoughts, I saved them:

"...I think cultural/psychological rigidity is the product of institutional saneness.

---Wow. And he's my only son, too.

"You old Obe-Wan Kenobi sonofabitch, in this strange place where SANENESS has become the ultimate personal sin, but the best manner of societal compliance -- I'd say you're an arch fuckin' criminal (with Joe Pesci Mafia accent)."

---That's my boy!

Back to the cafe here and now. Meant to to sip espresso and sketch an epilogue about being crazy.

Where Eatsy sat yesterday, the only table open today, now sits a crazy man. Red's a banged-up skinny old fellow, stringy grey locks and straggly beard, a haunted look and a nicked forehead from falling off his crutch drunk. He looked up. Welcome, sit, he nodded. I did. His crutch is leaned against the wall next to the seat. He's looking at a magazine and muttering quietly. We like each other. I'm jotting all this down as we sit across from each other.

Legend has it Red was a physicist who lost his mind. It went "sproi-yoy-yoinnng!" one day and hasn't been the same since. That's a nice legend.

Later, I found out it was pretty close to true. He was a nuclear specialist in the Navy. Red is now scribbling some indecipherable symbols onto that magazine page. He's muttering with discovery as he writes.

"Barren? Barren. That's it," he says, glancing at me for confirmation. You bet, Red, I wink.

"Volkswagen..." he continues, "barkus. Barkus... highly screwed. Highly screwed." Barren, Volkswagen, barkus, highly screwed. No doubt Red's right.

At this penlight point in time Red's in full-dream speech, stringy grey head tilted back in sudden high revelation, eyes wide like Frankenstein, straggly jaw waggling importantly, hands gesturing: Stand by for important transmission.

"They're planning to take over this country, is what..."

"...that's the law, there's punishment. That's the law..."

"They'll vaporize you, BOOM. We're seventy five percent water. BOOM. High red count, low white count..." Red quickly scribbles a formula on his magazine. I'm scribbling this from across our table.

Red's an excellent lecturer, with his gestures and expressions. Replace the gibberish with a coherent curriculum and you've got a really good physics prof right there. But who is he lecturing?

I'm not sure Red --

"Perry Mason! Perry Mason. J. Edgar Hoover! Well, sure!"

-- pays much heed to what he's telling the air and me. I sure do. Like Red's, my thoughts flash along in a speed-blurred matrix from reality to dreams to associations and back; sometimes I'll take a few hours trying to write out things that occur in less than a flick of a camera lens, mentally and emotionally. Red has this down to a simple formula of coded inscriptions on his magazine. I hear the employees here have saved dozens of Red's scrawlings on magazines, in the back room. They think of them as the art of a crazy man.

So there are now two crazy men seated at this table: Red quietly lecturing into the air and scrawling secret salient points across his magazine, and me scribbling hastily along about him and dreams in my notebook. I write to you while Red lectures his equally imaginary audience.

I want a glass of ice water. "Be right back," I say, into the midst of his muttering. "Okay," he replies, not missing a beat of his sermon of subconsciousness. He's been perfectly aware of me all along.

This crazy is interesting. Both our audiences are in some other reality, remote from this time and place. Red lets me listen in to his broadcast. I'm not telling him what I'm writing to you.

Most of us talk to each other mentally before and after we open our mouths, picking automatically from our thoughts what to say -- and often, deciding afterward what we'd have said better. We broadcast our raw thoughts invisibly, with no more awareness of it than sleepwalkers. Were we to start speaking those chunks of raw thought out loud we'd call ourselves crazy. Yet it's easier to follow Red's muttering than what most of us think across the course of a minute, hardly mindful that we're thinking. Most of us are even less aware of our dreams, which frequently adjust these associative monologues, or attempt to.

"You'd have to be three percent" -- Red's scrawling the figure on the magazine page now -- "you'd have to be three percent of the population... and that's bullshit. Total bullshit." He crosses out the figure. "Hell, five years ago the Pentagon -- well, it depends on what your religious beliefs are."

Damn straight, Red, it all depends on what your religious beliefs are. He gets up now.

"I'll be back," he says.

"Okay," I say.


We presently live in a culture where taking guidance from dreams is considered crazy. I have a friend from a respected academic family, a stylishly lapsed Episcopalian, who considers herself among the cutting edges of popular “spirituality.” She wrote to me that it's "obsessive" to jot down dreams daily. So, she never will.

She is crazy, by clinical standards to which she’s been and so diagnosed. She confided to me recently that the CIA is drilling holes in her basement. This is only the latest in twenty years of fantasies; the first one I heard, from her husband twenty years ago, was that he was poisoning her tea a little every day. I'd stop and discuss this some more, but nah...

I would like you all to try being this crazy. I don’t mean refusing to call the county hole-drilling department or driving yourself nuts trying to solve the world's problems at a table in a funky old cafe, I mean paying attention to your nightly dreams and what meets your daily attention in comparison. Routinely “crazy,” relative to the going wisdom of the day.

Current political “sanity” dictates that we must keep more useful nuclear weapons ready to launch at "terrorists" hiding among hundreds of millions of ordinary, peaceable people. The peaceable people are supposed to understand that threatening them with instant extinction is a reasonable precaution for us. We annihilate peaceable people only when it comes to achieving the right brand of peace.

The religious literal-minded expect that launching these massively destructive weapons will "serve God" in ending the world in a mighty conflagration, obliterating all these nice peaceable people who have, unfortunately, erred by not loving this God to their satisfaction.

Neither proposal comes of sanity. If we must all be crazy, I'd rather spend my madness exploring my own dreams and I'd rather you did, too.

The End, Beginning, or Middle