A Riddle In A Dream

I had a dream in which I ended up wondering, while in the dream, if I’d dreamed what I was thinking. I’ve gone similar routes to this before, but this one ended up as a laugher to me.

I was racing at LeMans in a D type Jaguar. The race had just begun. My co-driver (name not given, never seen), had qualified us, putting us at the front of the grid (but not pole). I was starting the race for the team. I managed a great start, and was battling for the lead.

From my point of view in the open cockpit, another driver and I raced our cars down a long straight, engines screaming, car shaking and vibrating around me. Taking the car to the absolute limit, holding it there, I edged my car’s nose ahead past a competitor on my right.

Now for a surreal bit. There was a small, bright green, bean bag hanging to the left along the straight. Whoever reached the bag and pulled it down was the leader of the first lap. I raced toward it, pulling ahead of the other car. Veering left, I threw my hand up and caught the bean bag.

Wasn’t over, though. We were hurtling toward the final corner. My competition wasn’t making it easy for me. They were holding back to brake at the last second; they also had the inside line, the true racing line. Coming up on the corner, I counseled myself, “Wait, wait,” watching the competitor. When he finally braked I told myself, “Now, brake, downshift, turn.”

I guided the car into the turn. Teetering on the edge of cohesion, the car progressed through the long righthander. Then I was through, in the lead, leading the first lap of LeMans. Jubilation roared through me as crowds cheered me on.

Then, as the segment ended, I pulled into victory lane.

I’d won the race.

Still in the dream, I was stunned. I’d won LeMans. As it was a D type Jag, that was in the fifties. Sitting before my computer, I searched on “Seidel Wins LeMans”.

Then, I thought, hold on. I couldn’t have won LeMans in the fifties; I wasn’t born until 1956.

And in the dream, I wondered, did I dream that? It seemed so real.

As I was about to tell this to my wife, she brought a tall white man and his daughter into the room. I was like, “Excuse me, WTF, who are they, why are they are?” My wife brushed aside my questions.

The child went to play. The man joined me. Reading a newspaper on the desk beside me, he scoffed. “Mansfield is in trouble.” He scoffed again. “I’ve seen this happen before.” He blithered on about some other companies who’d been in trouble. “They’re going to need help. Search for Mansfield and help.”

I did as he directed. I was only typing with one hand, however, and kept screwing up the search. Then, dream shift, I’m in a writing class with other students. The instructor is telling us about four elements. I’m taking notes.

A man comes in and calls my name. He wants to know if I’m okay. “Yes, fine,” I reply, puzzled. The teacher tells the man that I seem fine, why is he interrupting the class to check on me.

“Because he sent a message that said ‘help’ on a computer,” the man replied. “We received his message.”

Realization rising about what happened, laughter spilled out of me. I explained that I’d been trying to do a search on Mansfield needing help but kept screwing up.

Two other men, stocky, with crew cuts, in suits, solemnly brought stacks of books to me. “What are these?” I asked.

“Help books,” one man replied. “You sent so many messages for help, we thought you could use these books for help.”

End dream.

A Coffee Shop Dream

A pleasant and sunny day had emerged. In shorts, I was out walking through some thin woods and arrived at a stone and wood building I knew. Pausing on some steps, I cleaned off my shoes. Cat hair was just coating them. As another couple — strangers — passed, I briefly attempted to explain to them that I was cleaning cat hair off my shoes — but why would it matter to them? Stopping, sitting down, I removed my shoes to better clean them. At last, I continued, in socks, shoes in hand, up into the building.

This was a cozy book store-coffee shop combo. I visited the book store section first. A white male with glasses was behind the counter. I told him I was looking for fiction books. He asked for more details. I then asked, “Do you have a McCall’s? It lists every fiction book ever written.” He went off in search of, then returned with a red book with white lettering.

I moved to the coffee shop. It was a tight place — large counter dominating one corner, a waste can and several small, round tables taking up the rest of maybe a twelve by twelve foot space — and busy. I took a tall chair between two male customers at the counter. The woman behind me was a pale, slender redhead. She said, “Everyone was here dancing last night, Michael. You should have come. You would’ve had a good time.”

I thought I recognized her. She knew me but I didn’t know her name. Stalling, I replied, “Who was everyone?” She began reciting names as I wondered what her name was. Then a large man threw the remains of a scone and hit me in the chest. He began a string of earnest apologies. I realized that he’d been trying to get the scone into the trash can behind me but it was so tight and crowded, he’d instead hit me. It bothered me not at all. I took the scone and turn to put it into the trash.

I struggled. The trash can was carved out of a thick and twisted tree trunk. Two holes were there. An upper one was for recycle and the lower was for the waste. I figured this out along with other people who were attempting to use the trash. We all talked it through out loud. Then, scone dropped in trash, the dream ended.

Amazonitis

A brief bout of Amazonitis hit our house this week. Don’t know if you’ve ever been afflicted. Essentially, it’s a common medical condition brought on by something that Amazon or its affiliates do. First, someone’s mood grows foul. The person is then often afflicted with spurts of anger and short temper, accompanied by swearing at the computer. Side-effects include swearing at other people, the news, and animals.

My wife was afflicted first. Her book club is meeting on Wednesday next week. The book chosen for 2021 is Girl, Woman, Other. As soon as the announcement was made in early December, I went online to the library, checked for copies, and put it on hold. I was number two billion on five copies. (Yes, that’s an exaggeration for effect; actual number was seventeen on six copies.) (My wife’s library card doesn’t permit her to put books on hold online. Her card is part of an older system. The system was revamped five years ago. One needed to go in and get a new card. She never did that, so my card is used for her requests along with my requests. I don’t mind; I need to keep the karma points.) (Okay, I mind a little.)

I tracked progress of the book on hold. I’d reach number nine by the last week of December. Okay, the library book wasn’t going to be received in time. In lockdown, finding it locally was something she shied away from doing. The book was ordered online from Amazon.

Amazonian wheels began turning. The order was processed. Shipment took place. Estimated delivery was by 8 PM on January 8th. Candles were lit. The vigil began. Shipment notifications claimed it was out for delivery. The front lights were turned on to help the deliverer find their way.

Eight PM passed without a delivery. “It’s not here,” my wife growled, the first stage of Amazonitis. “Let me see what the tracking notification says.” She opened her computer. “What the actual fuck! They say it’s in Hillsborough, Oregon.”

Hillsborough is a suburb of Portland, about two hundred ninety miles away.

My wife turned to me. “It’s not going to be here until between the twelfth and fourteenth now. Book club is on the thirteenth. I won’t have time to read the book. Where can I get it?”

I did online searches of local bookstores to see what could be done. Wasn’t in.

“Can you order on Kindle?” my wife asked. “Do you have an app? Can I read it on the iPad?” Lots of questions, for which I thought, sure. That’s when my Amazonitis struck.

I went to Amazon, found the book, and ordered a digital copy. Amazon said, “Download our free app and read it now!” I downloaded the app. “Your devices don’t support the app,” Amazon answered. “Want to buy a new device that does?”

WTAF? You’re telling me that I can’t read it with your app on my ‘puter? WTAF?

I didn’t realize it then, but I’d already caught the Amazonitis.

The bug was spreading fast through me. Two of our floofs, Tucker and Boo, started a hissing and growling contest under my desk. “If you two don’t stop now, I’ll give you two something to hiss and growl about!” I yelled.

My wife laughed. “That’s something that I bet your Dad never said to you.”

The Amazonitis had attacked my sense of humor. I wasn’t in the mood. I’d followed a link to another app they recommended, downloaded and installed it. Then I clicked to read the book.

Unfortunately, the book was completely blank. Hundreds of blank pages. In fact, there were no pages with any words, letters, or numbers.

The Amazonitis crept deeper into my muscles. “What the actual fuck?” I snapped. On the Kinder app, my newly purchased book didn’t even show up. As Amazonitis wrapped its tentacles around me and my anger surged, I went back to my orders. Under the book on my order page was a little ‘Read Now’ button. I clicked it to see what would happen.

The book opened.

That was it? Why, oh ‘great Amazon’, I snarled in my angriest internal voice, did you have me go through all that shit about downloading apps and chasing links if I could just order it and click and read it right there on the page? Huh? Why? Why, why, why?

The crises had been averted, more or less. My wife couldn’t read the book on the iPad but she could read it on her Mac. (None of the apps had been downloaded and installed on her Mac, BTW. It was all done on the iPad or my Dell. So, she could read it on her Mac without any app.) No, she couldn’t take it to read in the bath, but, oh, well. The Amazonitis began to creep out of our systems.

Today, she checked on the tracking notification for the other book. You know, the hard copy that was supposed to be delivered by 8 PM on the 7th. The one which had suddenly been changed to a delivery date of between Jan 12 and 14.

“They say it’s been delivered,” she said.

“Where?” I asked. It was about two PM. I went to the front porch.

There it was, sitting on the mat.

I felt a new bout of Amazonitis coming on.

Next Year

Picked up some library books the other say. The library set up is working for this lockdown era: go online, put a book on hold on my account. They send an email when it’s ready. I have a window before it’ll be put back on the shelf, giving me time to plan when I’ll go down there to pick it up.

I go several times a month. There’s a table set up outside, under a canopy, Saturday through Thursday, noon to four. Tape is used as markers to indicate the traffic flow and safe distances. Patrons line up six feet apart. The librarian comes out. We’re all masked. You give your name; the librarian goes inside and return with your books. Your account number is verified verbally via the last three numbers. They give you your books and you go on your way.

As part of the process, a slip of paper with the book’s title and its return date is printed. On that little slip are also two little financial gems. One states how much money you’ve saved yourself by borrowing from the library. The other tells how much you’ve saved this year.

The first is $26 on my slip of paper today. That was for two books. Both are hardcovers. Neither were published this year. I suspect I could get them for less than twenty-six dollars used.

The second number is $660. That’s how much I saved this year, they said.

Well, I don’t know about that. I pay a little in taxes each year for this. It was a bond issue for the county library system, and it’s part of my annual property taxes. I don’t think they take those taxes into account when they tell me how much I’ve saved.

But I like the system. I’m a writer. I’d like people to buy and read my books. It’s great that the library system pays books to fulfill that for writers. I hope my books end up in the library some day. It’s also an excellentway to save on trees, innit? Buy a book and let multitudes read it.

All that led to ebooks. These books were available to be borrowed as ebooks. ebooks do even more to save trees, although we then get into the sticky situation of electronic waste.

I don’t do much ebooking; I like the personal heft of the thick books in hand as I carry them around and read in various postures. I know I’m silly and sentimental that way. I could use ebooks and save more trees. Yet, I resist.

I blame blue light for some of that resistance. I watch television (so cut down, you reply) while I’m running in place (oh, you answer, that’s a little different) or using the Stairmaster as part of my exercise. I’m not good at reading while walking (though I’m trying). I also spend a lot of time on the ‘puter reading news (so cut down, you suggest) (I probably should, I answer, as not much of the damn news is good for my spirit), writing, and editing. I don’t want to add the strain of reading ebooks to the strain I already thrust on my eyes.

Nothing is as clear cut as it first appears any longer, whether it’s environmental impact, saving money, or selling books. Our lives are choices, decisions, and compromises. I could, instead of running in place or exercising while watching television just curl up with a book. I could, instead of using a hefty volume, make it an ebook and reduce other strain on my eyes. Or I can go to audio books —

Yeah, don’t even go there. I am a fan of audio books; I’ve used them when driving long distances, and I’ve used them while exercising. I’ve found, though, I prefer the inner voice that I create when I’m reading something.

So, I’ve thought about these things. I recognize some of my habits are comfort ruts. Comfort ruts can be pretty useful in periods of stress, such as, say, a global pandemic. Then again, it may be that I’m just too lazy to change, modifying that ‘too lazy’ to ‘too old and set’.

This is just one facet of existence. These same sort of exercises go on with other things as we live, from medicines to using plastics to cars to public transportation to fossil fuels to recycling to GMOs to organic food to nutrition to healthcare to eating healthy to money to politics to welfare to taxes to social security to war to equality to fashion to music to film to being healthy to relaxing to having fun to —

Well, that point is hammered in. Life is a busy process of constantly re-balancing all these choices. I wonder what’ll it be like in another hundred years.

Strike that: let’s just see what it’s like next year.

The New Reads

This week’s reading list:

The Dome by Suzanne Craig-Whytock

The Memory Police by Yōko Ogawa

A Death of No Importance by Mariah Fredericks

Golden Son by Pierce Brown

Great to have a new stack of books to occupy me. All are non-fiction. Now to carve some time to read them! I think I can, as I’ve received my ballot and will voting this week, freeing me from researching issues. (We vote by mail in Oregon; that’s the way it’s done.) Three of the books are from the library books, so the clock is running, but the one that isn’t a library book, The Dome, is calling me. I’ll begin there. Its premise sounds enticing and it’s a smaller book. After the giant Tombland last week (eight hundred pages), I want something smaller.

Tuesday’s Trivia

Politics and books took over my bandwidth last week.

  1. Books are such time thieves. Writing them takes time, energy, and attention. With energy, I’m referring to intellectual, emotional, and physical energy. The effort absorbs everything. Don’t know if that’s true for other writers, but this is how it is for me.
  2. Reading books also sucks away time and energy. I read a C.J. Sanson novel last week, Tombland. Tombland isn’t a small novel, registering at eight hundred packed pages. The latest in the Matthew Shardlake series, like the other novels, I was compelled to read, almost as if I’d been cursed. The mystery is relatively thin but that is incidental to the history, period, and characters. His voice is authentic, and the characters are alive and shifting. You feel it all.
  3. But reading that book meant I was doing almost nothing else. It was that consuming. I was also trying to read it to return it to the library. It was due 10/22, but I had other books on hold. My wife also had library books to return (The Plover, and The House in the Cerulean Sea). (She’d read Tombland before me.) So I was pushing to finish to turn the books in, limiting our library visits and its potential COVID-19 exposure. They do a good job at the library, but exposure is exposure, right? Right. After returning Tombland, I returned home and had an email from the library system: they’d extended Tombland for me. Nice of them but unnecessary.
  4. I recommend Tombland. This particular novel swirled around murders in Norfolk in 1549. Somerset was the Lord Protector for the young king. It being England and that era, politics around rights for the common people the Kett Rebellion, differences in the church (Protestants vs. Catholics), power struggles among lords and ladies (including Edward’s sisters), and enclosures – fencing off common land that set aside for animal crazy. All the sinister and cynical conniving among the wealthy to increase their power and wealth, and their attitude toward the lower classes, and the subservience expected from the upper classes strikes amazing similarities to what’s happening in the United States in this century.
  5. Tombland was a fresh reminder of what England endured and how they prevailed and developed as a democracy. Turmoil and bloodshed are occurring in the U.S., but not at the levels seen in England at that time. I want to add, yet. It may come to that.
  6. The monstrous poverty and homelessness of the era also brought out sharp comparisons to here and now in America. It provided rich fodder for heavy thinking.
  7. Of course, reading a book that I enjoy helps inform the novel that I’m writing. Nothing I read made me want to tear up my manuscript (or delete it) or start anew. It did inspire nuances and new flavors to fold into the blend, and of course, fuel up the need to sit down and write.
  8. The skunk and I (and my wife) continue our non-violent confrontation. I don’t want the skunk to go under the house to live; the skunk wants to. I’m not a violent person, and love animals. Watching the skunk (and studying it through the window as it emerges at night) gives more appreciation to who it is. Yet, I know it’s damaging our foundation, insulation, and weather barrier. I empathize with the little critter, though. It’s a tough life out there, and it’s only trying to exist as I’m trying to exist. It certainly has the same rights as me.
  9. I blame some of my sympathy to the skunk to the Netflix documentary, My Octopus Teacher. A wonderful love story, it revealed standard details the octopus and its tough existence. Naturally, after watching it, I transferred the octopus’ struggles to ‘my’ skunk. There is a difference between the octopus and skunk: the octopus isn’t invading ‘my’ territory. Anyone can argue, the skunks were there first, and that I’m the trespasser. I know; that doesn’t make my job dealing with the skunk any easier.

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