Friday, July 30, 2010

Special Edition #7: Dreams

I just had a dream about Key West and, of course, in the dream Key West was not the real Key West. But when I woke up, I was certain that I had dreamt about real places, a hotel and an outdoor bar that really existed even though I dreamt of them in my dreamworld Key West. It honestly took me quite a while to realize that these were not real places . . . But that's because I have dreamt off and on about the Florida Keys since maybe 1979 and in that dreamworld, that alternate Keys-world, there are different highways and islands and buildings, there are hotels and bars and even people and I've dreamt about it enough to have created this second place in my mind and my mind remembers, even if I do not recall the dreams directly, my inner mind still does so that now it has become difficult on sleepy mornings, now it takes a few moments of direct thinking to separate the Key West of my dream from the Key West of reality.
And this is true of other places I have dreamt of. Missoula has its own dream construction in my mind. Grayton Beach for sure. New York and Alaska for some reasons also show up in multiple dreams, as do other places and people. I do not dream the same dreams but it's not unusual for me to dream about the same places, for some of the same mind-constructed sets and characters to come back into other dreams. That's how--I think--they become so deeply ingrained in me, in my unconscious or subconscious mind. Indeed, they are like the stage sets, they are the stock players or character actors who show up in all my midnight movies. Who reprise their roles and the settings compounded upon in my dream sequels: Missoula IV--Dream About Searching for a Job.
I have always had vivid dreams, memorable dreams.
I recall as a child--the first dream I can really remember--I had a recurring one about my mother being chained in a dungeon and some very evil man who would not let me see her and I would cry and cry. It was more of a nightmare--I was maybe three years old or five at best--and I would dream this dream and cry and be disturbed by it, which is why I can still recall snippets of it to this day. But I've mainly had enjoyable dreams. Dreams of adventure and of humor, dreams that were like the plots of novels or the filming of a movie, where I was aware of plot construction and character development and visuals while at the same time I was in the story or production. I've had dreams of great agony and of great sex. Dreams that were a joy to have, of subtle travel, of interaction with old friends or family members, dreams of seeing my old pets that I loved, of seeing my father who has been gone for almost ten years now. I like my dreams. I like those repeating worlds where they often take place.
So. You'll have to excuse me as I get older and continue to dream my dreams, excuse me if I get a little confused about the real places and the unreal.
Excuse me if, sometimes, I'm in no hurry to clear my head.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Brock Comes To Town: Champaign 1992

The last time I had seen Brock was after Fru's and my wedding in '89, in Seattle. Before that, I'd seen him in '87 when Matt and I lived with him in Seattle. I'd met Brock in the late 70s in Iowa City, where he'd come out from the Seattle area to attend school at the University of Iowa. I'd always found it strange that he--a Pacific Northwest Westerner--would come all the way to the midwest to attend school, and choose Iowa on top of that, but that's what he did. Usually it's the other way around (midwesterners are notorious for escaping their region). But, Brock has always done things differently.
Anyway. I was established in Champaign by then. Fru was working at a bank, I was working part time at a place south of town called Agriseed. Fru and I had our baby and a house and--a while later--another baby on the way. We had a friend--Margaret--who was my friend from Iowa City (she had been the roommate of Cin, my girlfriend for a few years and had become my friend as well as friend of my friends like, say, Brock). Anyway, Margaret had moved to Champaign after graduating from Iowa--moved there because her older brother was living there and why he was living there is beyond me--and Margaret got a job at the bank where Fru worked and they became friends. In fact, it was Margaret who introduced Fru to me and me to her and that is another story. But Margaret had always had a thing for Brock and eventually Brock had a thing for Margaret. So, one winter I find out that Brock is moving to Champaign.
He's coming from Seattle to Champaign.
Washington to Illinois.
In the winter.
I was happy to hear the news. I mean, I was very busy with a baby, with my little world of Fru and I and First Daughter, and I did have some friends in Champaign--not close friends but nice people (I'll say this about Champaign, the town had some of the nicest people I've ever met)--but I didn't really have a close friend outside of my spouse. So, Brock drove into town.
And it was good to see him. He and Margaret set up house together and ended up renting a nice place just a block or two from us. He and I could walk up to Hubers and have a beer or six. But before that, they lived in a house closer to downtown. I remember that now--I went over and we put up a croquet set and played croquet one day. Brock hung out at a bar called the Ice House. I went there a few times but not much--like I said, I had a wife and kid.
But things were also different. In Seattle, in 87, I think we got sick of each other a bit, Brock and Matt and I. Yet, I saw Brock in Montana and back in Seattle and enjoyed his company. Just as I enjoyed his company when he came out to Champaign in the early 90s. But somewhere in the 90s we became distant. It was before Fru and I moved down to Florida . . . Ah, it happens. The best of friends move on.
So, Brock had come to town to see and live with Margaret. He had come in winter, in February as a matter of fact. He arrived in town on Valentine's Day, I learned. A very romantic thing to do. Except, one night at Hubers over a few beers, I asked him about that.
"You really showed up on Valentine's Day?"
"I did."
"But I didn't even know it was Valentine's Day."
Ah. That sounded more like Brock. An accidental romantic.
He and Margaret have been married for a long while. They have two kids--boys. They live outside of Minneapolis, Minnesota.
I hope they are doing well.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Garden of The Gods: Champaign 1992

Okay, this wasn't in Champaign but in southern Illinois, in the Shawnee National Forest. But it started in Champaign when Mike (Mike from L.A., Iowa City days, Mike from Chicago) and his friend Chuck drove down from Chicago so that we could go camping. From Champaign we drove--in Mike's truck--down to the Shawnee where there is this one area/campground called garden of the Gods (not to be confused with garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs CO).
I had not seen Mike in quite a while. He had been living in Los Angeles all the years but had come back to Chicago and had gotten married. Chuck--who I had met before and who I liked--was also married, but none of them had kids yet. First Daughter was but a year old or so. Anyway, I arranged the camping trip with them and had never been to the Shawnee before (though after this trip I'd return a number of times to camp solo and once with Fru and the girls to stay in a cabin) and I didn't have a big tent so I rented one and the guys showed up and after a night--I think--we got in the truck, all of us wearing different colored flannel shirts ("We look like a Kodak commercial," Chuck said) and did the long drive down to the Shawnee. This is way down in the southern smidgen of the state (Illinois is a surprisingly long state), where we turned east at the Carbondale exit (that small college town being west) and we stopped in Harrisburg for some foodstuffs and beer and such, then to a little hamlet called Herod--taking small roads in the hilly country--and then to the Garden of the Gods and a campsite there.
We hiked around, climbed the big rocks that jut out into a deep valley. I had a camera and took some photos and then the camera slipped out of my pocket when I jumped from a rock, it bounced, broke, fell down the steep wall into trees way below--but when it broke, the only thing to pop out was the film, so I saved that and had a few photos after all. Then we went to camp and had a fire and they played their guitars and we roasted dogs, drank beer. Evening came. It was peaceful. Nice. Woodsy. But, we ran out of beer.
Gotta have beer on a camping trip.
So, we got back into the car, drove back to Herod, stopped at a little store where the proprietor wore old clothes and had an old beard: he looked like some Amish guy.
"Do you have beer?" we asked.
"NO sir!" he said, almost offended. "You'll have to go to Harrisburg for that."
Okay then. A dry town, maybe a dry county then.
So, we drove all the way to Harrisburg for beer, then--night now--drove the dark roads back to camp.
And we had a good time. Food, beer, fire, jokes.
Mike told me that Chuck's father was dying. Chuck kept saying how this camping trip was what he needed and now I had an inkling why.
Then, that night, all three of us sleeping in this musty half-broken rented tent, I woke in my alcoholic-stupor-hangover-coming state and heard crying. I didn't say a thing, but there was no mistake it was crying. I pretended not to notice. I pretended to still be asleep. I mean, what are you going to do? We were guys. Camping. Guys camping don't cry.
In the morning we got up. Rekindled the fire. It was nice. Hungover but not too bad. made our jokes. Got ready for the long drive back (even longer for Mike and Chuck, who had to go to Chicago). No one mentioned the crying. I never even said a word to Mike. Knew it had been Chuck.
We took our time getting to the interstate, tried to take a side trip to see something called The Old Man in the Rock or something, but never saw it. Then we hit I-57 and that was a long ride (I remember the whole trip I was making noises, I could not stand still when I stood still but was always swaying, rocking, making weird noises--this was because I had a baby, and I told them so, said having a baby makes you go bonkers a bit, and because you're always holding said baby you're always moving your body, rocking and swaying and they took this without much comment [but they found out when they had their own babies, yes indeed]).
Anyway--that was it, the trip. I got home and they drove the last two hours back to Chi-town. Nothing was said of the crying. It hadn't happened.
I lost touch with Mike for a good long time, until about a year ago. he's divorced now. He's still in Chicago but travels. His two daughters are only a year or two behind mine. And not all that long ago--months ago--I asked him about Chuck.
"Chuck died," he wrote.
"He died?"
"Yeah, it's weird. I saw him one week and then next he'd died."
I forget what Mike said Chuck died from--heart attack, aneurysm, don't remember. But he was our age, probably a bit younger than me.
And so it goes. I'll have to ask Mike if he remembers that camping trip. If he recalls that night in the Garden of the Gods. Chuck was a good guy. Had a wife and two kids. His father died. He died. We all die.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Second Daughter Disappears: Fort Lauderdale 1996

When we first moved to Fort Lauderdale--after our stint at the Riverside Hotel--we rented a house on SE 10th Ave in Victoria Park. It was a decent small house in a very nice neighborhood with a wonderful Montessori elementary school (VSY) a few blocks away. We had a horrendous landlord--but that's a different story.
The house--like a lot in South Florida--did not have a laundry room. Many homes had hook-ups in little covered spaces in carports. Our house had hook-ups for a washer and dryer in a too-small garage attached to the house, though there was no door from the garage that led into the house. So, to do laundry one had to go out the front door, down the little steps to the walk, go to the driveway and to the garage door, open the garage door, and there was the washer and dryer. It was a bit of a process, especially when you take into account the carrying of dirty or clean clothes.
By September or October of that year, we had life pretty well settled after the move from Illinois. Fru was working at Sun Trust on Las Olas, I had classes at night at FIU in North Miami, First Daughter was attending kindergarten at VSY (Virginia Shuman Young) and Second Daughter stayed home with me during the day while I took care of all the mundane chores of regular life in America.
But one weekday, while I was doing the chore of laundry and only Second Daughter was home, I went about my usual routine, toting baskets of clothes back and forth out the front door, leaving it and the garage door open whilst doing so. But then, then I go back into the house and Second Daughter is nowhere around. I look and look and call her name--but no sight of her, no answer to my calls.
This is strange. We had never had issues of our daughter's whereabouts, of them wandering or running or hiding, of not answering when we called . . . I looked all over the two-bedroom house, went back out the front door and checked the garage, checked the yard, the whole while calling her name. Now I began to panic. Where was she? She was three years old at the time, but why would she run off? Had someone taken her? I held my thoughts together, but I was beginning to think some very dark things. It made no sense. I had been out in the garage for only minutes, if she had come out she knew what I was doing, where I was, she would have come to me . . . Where was she?
I was upset now.
Then, on one of my trips back inside and around the house, I heard her. I went into the girls' room. I looked in their sliding-door closet. There Second Daughter was. She had been hiding. She was giggling, smiling. I yanked her out of there.
I was so angry. I had been so worried. She--of course--did not fully understand this. I gave her a quick spanking, told her never to do such a thing again, to not hide and always answer when I called. She felt bad. I felt bad for swatting her. I was also relieved, to say the least. I calmed and talked to her, explained why I was so upset. She never did such a thing again.
But that's how it is having a child, having children. You create a thing that is so important to you, that you love beyond anything, beyond your spouse or yourself--you'd easily give your own life for your child. And this thing--this child--is a fragile thing, is something that needs constant monitoring, attention, affection, education, love. And if this thing were taken from you it would quite literally ruin your life.
That's the scary part about having a child.
If you lost them, life would be irrevocably altered--for the worse.
But for me, it had just been a game. She had only been hiding, playing a trick on me that she must of learned at some friend's house (there were other little kids right on our street that she was already good friends with--kids First Daughter's age, too--which was another good thing about renting that house in Victoria Park) or via a TV show or kids movie. It was not a crisis. It was not irrevocable. It was but a temporary panic.
And I never want to go through that again.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Walking Orange Street: Missoula 1990

When Fru and I lived in Missoula, we lived on Rollins Street. The closest main street from there was Orange. The city of Missoula is laid out in opposing angles, that is--I was told--because two of the founding fathers had differing ideas as to which way the streets should be gridded. So, one group laid them out one way, the other another way and when the opposing streets met it made for some interesting connections (Malfunction Junction comes down mind on Reserve Street). Anyway, Orange Street had its own direction as it headed towards downtown with its bridge over the Clark Fork River. But what I'm thinking of--remembering--is the street before it reached that bridge, the part of Orange Street that encompassed our neighborhood.
I had lived in walkable towns before: Iowa City, Champaign, Santa Fe, Seattle was a pretty walkable city. But I'd also been in places where walking wasn't done much: Los Angeles, South Walton County. So, it was nice to be in Missoula and be able to walk places--both Fru and I enjoyed it.
We often strolled up to the Orange Street Food Farm. This was a local grocery store. Nothing special, except the oddish name. But it was the walk that made it special for us, going to get a few groceries that we could comfortably carry. It was pleasant--even fun and romantic--to walk together to gather the ingredients for our meal, for snacks, a bottle of wine. I also used to walk up to the little laundromat that was there and do our clothes (we had a washer and dryer, which we'd used in the cabin in Stevensville, but there were no hookups for them in our little cottage on Rollins and they sat forlornly on the miniature porch off the miniature kitchen), and I'd walk with the dirty-to-clean clothes. We also often made trips up to the little Greek place. This place sold gyros and had an ivy plant inside that had been trained to go all around the wall. The people there knew us and we loved our gyros. (There was a more formal Greek Restaurant across the street where we went maybe only once or twice--probably owned by the same people.) Fru and I used these walks to keep life slow, to stay in tune with each other, to enjoy our own company. We used Orange Street to get to downtown a lot of times--to go to the Crystal Theater or the ice cream shop. We also walked back and forth to the University of Montana, but did not use Orange to get there.
I think of Chicago and New York, where I did plenty of walking, yet those huge cities also required the El and the subway. In Santa Fe and Iowa City I had no car, so walking was not just a choice but sometimes a chore. I had no car for a while while in Grayton Beach and had to rely on friends to get places, to get weekly groceries. In Seattle I, we--Brock and Matt and I--walked mainly by choice. We would walk long distances to downtown and Pioneer Square, sometimes we took the monorail. We all had cars but rarely used them. I didn't walk much in Des Moines--rode my bike a lot until I learned to drive. And L.A.? Are you kidding? Who walks in L.A.? But I've always loved walking places. I love the slow pace, the time spent observing and thinking, never thought much of it as exercise (walking wasn't exercise, running was [but as a kid running wasn't exercise either, it was just running]). So I enjoyed it when I lived somewhere where I could walk a lot.
But Montana--Missoula--was maybe the best walking town despite it's groveling winters. It wasn't just the mountains or its many trees, it's olden funky downtown, it's because--for me--Fru was there. We were in love. We were married. And we could go out our door, amble down the sidewalks to Orange Street, holding hands, chatting, looking at the world together, and go to the Orange Street Food Farm for some chicken and potatoes, cheese and bread, milk and wine, or we could go get a gyro. And we could walk back to our miniature house--the cottage--knowing that we'd walk somewhere again tomorrow.
Simple stuff.
Everyone knows the simple stuff is the best.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Birth Day #2: Champaign 1993

So, come the day Second Daughter was to be born, we--Fru and I--had already been through it. We had an almost-two year old and Fru had been through pregnancy before (we were Mommy and Daddy already) and we knew what to expect. So, when Fru woke up early on an early spring day and said she was having contractions, I was ready.
I think I went back to sleep.
I think she told me to sleep because she knew the contractions were far between and that it would be a while and that it would be a long day. Okay. So--I think I went back to sleep.
But, by a-little-less-early in the morning, I was up and about and getting things in order for the trip to the hospital: packed the bag, contacted the pediatrician, contacted Fru's sister and father so that one of them could watch First Daughter while I took Fru to have Second Daughter. Stuff like that. I was also writing a screenplay at the time--had just finished it--and was supposed to fax it out to Los Angeles that day for the co-writer to look over and shop around. (This sounds a lot more exciting than it was--it was a screenplay adapted from an unpublished novel of mine, co-written with Craig from U. of Iowa days, who was now a film/cartoon editor out in L.A. and a struggling screenwriter [nothing ever came of it, though manuscript is still out there to this day].) So, there was a little back and forth between Fru and I as she sat there with her contractions and I stood there with my screenplay and finally I went out and faxed it away--because her sister (I think) had come over--and then I was back and then we went to the hospital.
With the second baby we knew where the hospital was this time (unlike the 1st where we had to stop and ask someone in the street). So, it all went well getting there and meeting up with the doctor and all that. But . . . But, as we had known, the second baby in the womb had refused to turn. That is, she had finally turned but--according to ultrasounds--she had left one leg up and one leg down. So, the doctor decided that the safest thing was a Cesarian. C-Section.
So, I think they gave Fru some medication to stop the dilation and for the operation and I was given a gown and cap and booties and went in with her to the operating room and stood off to the side--held her hand--as the doctor opened her up (I recall seeing the tubes that must have been connected to the "suction" and the tubes were suddenly filled with red red blood--and I mean a lot of blood) and pulled out a baby. A baby girl. SECOND DAUGHTER!
And after cleaning her up a bit, she was handed to me and I held her and held her until they took her from me.

They tell you that a C-Section is easier but don't let them tell you that. Fru was in pain. She had a big cut and stitches and could not maneuver very well for weeks. It affected her ability to breast feed, her ability to hold First Daughter after Second Daughter was born.

As for First Daughter, who was about a month shy of being two years old, she was happy. There were no questions or resentments about having a sister. We--First Daughter and I--went to the hospital to visit Fru and the new baby and First Daughter was delighted with Second Daughter. In the confines of that little private hospital room, we were a family: Fru in the hospital bed, Second daughter either with her or in the roll-in crib from the delivery room (or wherever), First Daughter either curled up in the bed next to Fru or on the little couch and me, me there with all three of them. It was nice. It was March--March in the midwest being one of my least favorite months, what with the long winter trying to be over and the promise of spring and yet the undecidedness of the month as it shifted from warm to cold to messy--and it was just nice to be a father again, to have a new life for us to tend to and love.
And people came to visit and then Fru got to go home, where the house had been decorated for the arrival. And the day we got to bring Second Daughter home was a beautiful day. Spring had finally blossomed for real and it was sunny and light-lighted and the first flowers were up, the trees held leaves, and our new baby came home to the house on Miller Street in Champaign, Illinois.