wherein I dream about school, time travel, Saabs, girlfriends ex and otherwise, Hustle and Flow, and the Pacific Coast Highway....
At some point (mid-point? I can only recall the second half of the dream) I decide I need to research successfully sold and produced screenplays if I'm ever to become a screenwriter. [Some solid backstory: Wesley had called me the previous day to discuss a film idea.] Towards this end, I somehow identify (Craigslist? Black Filmmaker's Yahoo group?) a guy who can help me, who I then meet on a street corner somewhere in LA - West Hollywood-ish. He's brown-skinned, short, skinny, bespectacled. His hair is oily, post-curl. He carries the screenplay for Hustle and Flow in a ziplock-type plastic bag with a handle, a disposable briefcase. In another ziplock bag is the fat stack of index cards which preceded the script, dude obviously having run into one of the innumerable writing gurus who recommend the index card thing. (Think Robert Mckee.)
<div id="a000013more"> <div id="more"> <p>Dude hands me the materials and walks off. He isn't <A Href="http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2005/07/20/DDGLKDPUAU1.DTL" target="new">Craig Brewer</a>, the white writer-director who actually made <b>Hustle</b> in the solid, but I accept the work as his own and promise to get it back to him in the next few days. Why he is doing this for me isn't made clear in the dream. </p>
The dream shifts and I am visiting my high school/college. It's only a physical shift: I'm still my own age and know that I graduated successfully with my high school diploma and BA years ago. What few students I encounter all seem old enough to be college juniors, but the physical plant is that of my solid high school back in Queens, NYC. I wander the halls until I find the wing (east? west?) that looks down Francis Lewis Boulevard. I stand at the window at the end of that hall for a spell, staring south with some sadness towards what used to be my home. I'm not sure what year it is outside the window. 2005? 1986? 1995, perhaps? I try to deduce my temporal location from the gear on the street (I am pulling for 1986, hoping to spy some pinstripe Lee Jeans) but there are too few kids out for me to make any judgments. The best information I have is the lush green of the trees along Francis Lewis and the angle of the sun. They suggest that I'm visiting late in the day in July or August. School's out and the summer session doesn't take the entire day.
I press my nose against the window. It's refrigerator cool. I imagine throwing myself against the pane and falling, take stock of the height and run a mental projection of glass spray backwards and forwards. I don't intend to kill myself, thrilling instead at the thought that breaking through the boundary will somehow turn the clock back, make me new again.
There is a sudden commotion in the school behind me. One of the students, a tall, lanky Arab/Mediterranean/Latino/South Asian kid (reader's choice, as long as he's brown) has been stung by a bee. He's allergic and his distress takes the form of hyperventilation and a fakey paralysis. He can't move his arms or legs, can't get out of his chair, but he does manage a dopey, secretive half smile. It strikes me as a strange expression for a potentially dying man. It reminds me of the mugshot of the British terror suspect under arrest in Italy. A few days later someone had made a joke about his lawyer being do-able in a uniquely Italian, MILF-ish kind of way, which, I had countered with the observation that the mother in last season's 24 was a TILF - i.e., a Terrorist I'd Like to Fuck.
This isn't a sex dream, so soon I find myself helping the bee-stung boy's teacher and some of the other students carry him down the back stairs to the nurse's office. He's about 6'4" or so, making for slow going. One of the people helping turns out to be my ex-girlfriend Rachel. We carry the kid into the nurse's office, which doubles as the nurse's bedroom. She's kind of an old bag, the nurse, but she reclines on a mid-century modern daybed in a parody of seduction nonetheless, her white skirt riding up ancient thighs, her flesh-colored stockings a wrinkled ruin due to an unseemly loss of elasticity. She's smoking and doesn't bother to get up, telling us to leave the bee-stung boy on the matching daybed that has previously been hidden under a huge pile of junk - ashtrays, empty cigarette cartons, magazines and old pantyhose. As I leave, I glance back into the office and decide that the nurse bears more than a passing resemblance to one of the nuns who taught at my high school.
[In the solid this particular nun also ran the college admissions office and for years I'd held a grudge against her for her failure to urge me to apply to any Ivy League schools. It was another counselor (Mr. Milano?) who pushed me towards Yale at the last possible moment in spite of what I remember as the nun's vague disapproval. Left to her devices I'd have gone to St. Johns, NYU at best. Not the worst of fates - NYU's film program had been my dream until Mr. Milano introduced me to Yale and its various deconstructions - but I never shook the feeling that had I been Irish or Italian she might have been better able to imagine me in New Haven.]
Next up: I'm sitting in the dean's office with Rachel and some other people. The change in scene effects another geographical shift, as the dean's office is in California. I take note of the air temperature and the moisture and make an internal declaration that we're in Santa Barbara, maybe Ojai. The dean is Rachel's father, an odd thing seeing how the man in my dream is an addled, desiccated, British snob and solid Rachel is one of those wry, livewire Jewish girls from a Michigan college town. For some reason or another I lend the script and the cards to Rachel and decide to drive back down to LA. I'm in Ingrid's car, a sporty red Saab, and it's a beautiful day. I don't know how to drive a stick but I'm flying down the Pacific Coast Highway in fifth gear anyway. I'm a little filled with awe at the ocean off to my right even though I know that behind me to the north sit stretches of mountain and water unlike any I've ever seen and that, moreover, I've been ill-equipped to properly imagine by years of city dwelling. I make a mental note to take the drive north with Ingrid when I get a chance. I get to thinking it would have been foolish to jump out that window back in Queens.
The dream starts to sputter and shake just then like a car running out of gas. Three things happen nearly at once:
1 - Dude who gave me the screenplay and the index cards calls my cell and asks for them back. He explains that Hustle and Flow opened #1 on the box office while I was away (back east?) and for some reason this means he needs the materials back ASAP. Even though I know the movie didn't open that well, I congratulate him and tell him I'll have the Ziplock bags back in LA by evening. As I turn the car around, it occurs to me that if I'm stopped for speeding and my car is searched the bags could be mistaken for drugs. I take note of the speed limit, lay off the gas.
2 - The dean's office in Santa Barbara/Ojai turns into a publicist's office. Rachel turns into an imaginary British film publicist named Thelma and her fake father, the dean, turns into a writer/editor I know in the solid. As I walk into the room Thelma announces that I'm not to worry: she has already shipped the script and the cards back to Craig Brewer. This gives me a moment's pause and I spend the rest of the dream waiting for an angry phone call from the dude who actually gave me the script and cards. It never comes.
I try to make writer-on-publicist chitchat with Thelma in hopes of getting back onto her particular advance screening list, but I'm inhibited by the awkwardness I feel around the writer/editor. A few years ago he had asked me to write a piece for an anthology he was editing and I'd never delivered. Unfortunately, a number of websites had promoted the upcoming book using an early, pre-publication press release that listed me as a contributor, and these pages sit in my google results to this day like non-disputable negative entries in some unholy editorial credit score. The pages are like virtual thorns embedded in the skin of my ego and self-esteem, and anyone associated with the project could easily pluck them out - if only they hadn't moved on with their lives years ago. The thought of those pages being out in the world makes me crazy, makes me feel like the web itself is some kind of malevolent antagonist, makes me feel sick with self-disgust, all of this despite the fact that there were other writers listed on that press release who also didn't make it into the solid anthology. Do they cringe every time they see those false positives, I wonder?
3 - Ingrid is in the Saab with me. We're somewhere between LA and Santa Barbara/Ojai. In the solid the two of us had taken a trip north along this same coast this past spring, spending a few days in a B&B in Santa Barbara. I had driven a rented car and she had videotaped me as I sang along to the radio, my tunelessness inter-cut with great swaths of majestic, empty ocean. This time around she's driving and I sit camera-less, watching her and watching her until morning.