torsdag, september 21, 2006

Dreams (But Not About Kurasawa)

That all experience is incomplete. That the curve of the earth and ten hashes of latitude makes sunlight seem to fall from a different star. That a life’s distance from Japan makes everything in Japan seem new, and this newness makes the eyelids defy gravity.

One does not need sleep, not yet. Not yet.

But for the first time in a week on this side of the Pacific I could really sleep. I couldn’t do anything else. My head buzzed from so much food last night that I fell under, deliriously poisoned. I slept so deeply that when I woke at 5:15 a.m. with the sun, which burned orange as an overcooked egg yolk in the harbor's white haze, I could not find the episodes I’d dreamed but knew I’d dreamed them. I’d left them far back in my head, on a beach, in a cave, at the bottom of a small blue bowl full of rose petals and dead bees. Or perhaps I'd left them far forward, since dreams come in the rather light and generally concluding stage of sleep.

I'm scattered now. Maybe it’s because today comes after a sudden sleep in the wake of so little sleep. I feel wonderful, but I’m reaching the point in a conference at which I know my best efforts are not there and that I have to choose carefully where I direct my energy, lest I do damage to either my company’s image or my own, the latter scenario also negatively impacting the company, which would not be so bad if the company was not small and the child and charge of good friends.

I’m at the stage of the conference at which the coziness of this professional community begins to feel like a small town. One is greatly attached to many of its characters and intrigues but longs for space at certain times.

The opening of the elevator doors accelerates the heart. No bathroom is private. The eyes may not rest.

But small joys gather on the other side of the scale. Colleagues break from the academic discourse and tell stories of embarrassment. You're shown baby photos on cell phones. The waitress in the hotel's bayside café seems ready to laugh that for the third—or is this fourth?—day in a row I’ve ordered an iced latte in the afternoon. She smiles in a way that says, “Yes, I know.”

Travelers are curious people. I watch them, I adore watching them, but I’m not silly enough to think I’m immune to being shelved in another's curiosity shop.


Russia is Another Story

The now-very-dead Russian writer Daniil Kharms wrote a great number of short stories. Joyce referred to his as epiphanies. Kharms referred to his as incidences. Kharms’ work was very short, many of the stories not exceeding 500 words. (Most, actually, were probably sub-300.)

I like Daniil’s writing, but it's rarely forward in my thoughts. I had occasion to recall him yesterday when a Russian colleague (now happily based in New Zealand) told me two jokes, after the first of which he apologized once his shoulders had stopped shaking from the laughter.

“I’ve a strange sense of humor,” he said. “Dark, I think.”

I shook it aside. I said, “It’s not unusual, but it is very Russian.”

(This was not a comment about his background, as he knew it better than I, of course. It’s just a cultural note that acknowledges how language and shoes are not the only divisions in this world.)

And then he told the second.

The First Joke

Winnie the Pooh and Piglet walk into the woods. Winnie walks in front. Piglet walks behind. Now the forest is getting dark, the trees are really thick. Suddenly Winnie turns around and smacks Piglet right in the face! Piglet says, “Winnie! Why did you do that!?” and Winnie says, “Because you never know what the pig behind you is thinking.”

The Second Joke

A woman is walking at night. She’s in a city and the sounds of her footsteps echo against the walls. But she hears someone else’s steps too. The steps are behind her. So she walks faster but the other person walks faster too. She turns many corners, so does the other person. She starts to run. The other person runs. Now her heart is racing and she runs around a last corner. She finds herself in an alley with a brick wall at the end. She looks around wondering what to do. She turns. There’s the shadow of a man. She shouts, “What do you want with me!? What are you going to do!?” and he says, “I don’t know. This is your dream.”
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