Thursday, March 31, 2011

I'm dreaming

Walt had a tendency to speak about himself in the third person. "Well, I think it is about time for the Supervisor to sit down" he'd say, as he tilted back the old metal office chair with the busted cushion seams. Walt called himself the Supervisor, but of course he was more like the handyman. And he was the only one for the whole place. He Supervised himself alright though, I'd say. Not that there was too much to worry about. Walt was pretty straightforward in his needs. I believe he wore the same pair of corduroys every day that I saw him. And a flannel shirt. "Don't go underestimating the benefit of a good flannel," he'd tell me. Walt would wear the flannel over his uniform top, a standard issue blue short sleeve sporting a patch on the left vest pocket with "Abe" written out in red. Even though it had the wrong name on it, Walt always wore that shirt. "You don't say?" he would reply when I would point it out to him for yet another time about the name. The flannel was over the top most times though, probably to prevent confusion amongst people who didn't know him well already. But then, maybe he just liked that flannel. "A Supervisor has to have all his tools about him" he'd intone, and I have no doubt that his flannel was one of them.

I asked Walt once why he would talk about himself like that, in the third person. "Well, it's like in a dream" he said. "In a dream you most times see yourself going about things, just walking around or whatever, you see yourself going about this or that," he stopped for a bit, then continued "and you know that is you walking around, but you don't see like it was with your own eyes, direct ahead. It's from a distance, like somebody was watching you from somewhere else. But that somebody watching is you, sort of. You can see you, and you know that's you, even if you look different or whatever. 'Cause sometimes you do."

Walt talked a lot about dreams. And ex-wives. There had been three, so far as I could tell. He liked to say "There was dreaming, until Walter met his ex-wife, and then it wasn't dreaming no more, it was 'take out the garbage!'". Walt was funny like that. He'd say "you know, the thing about dreams is that anything is possible, except for really conscious control. I mean anything. No rules, whatever wants to happen can happen, flying, singing, dancing, turning into a spider, giant turtles, whatever, but you can't change anything about it. It's like you are watching this history, and you can't change a thing." And I thought that made a lot of sense. "That's why nightmares are so scary," Walt would go on "because you want to change what you see, you want so badly to be making a different decision, but you can't, and you can't do anything about that. That's when you wake up. You wake up because you can't accept the story no more. You fight against it." And then the classic take away: "It's like how it was with Walter's ex-wife, you know?"

I think about Walt and his dreams sometimes. I like that idea that you know who you are, and that you know who everybody else is in a dream, except sometimes they don't look the same as they do in the normal, waking, walking around world. I think maybe that's why we can identify with the heroes and heroines in movies and plays that we see. Even if they don't look like us, we can still think for a minute that that is us inside of the show. We can feel their emotions like they were our own. Because we have been trained to do so in our dreams. It is the same with places. We know we are in our old house or school building or whatever in a dream, even if it is ten stories tall in the retelling, or if every wall is pink. Somehow we still know. The recognition has nothing to do with the view.

But the part I like the most is that anything is possible in a dream, except control. I mean, imagine: no gravity, no solid ground, no bounds, but also nothing we can do for a change. We don't get to make the choices. The story doesn't follow the rules, doesn't have to, and it doesn't leave room for our decision making, either. We only get to watch from the side. We get to follow along. At least, we get to follow along until we wake up.

Recently, I was at a blind tasting. I can't tell you how bad I am at blind tasting. It's terrible, actually. Embarassing. There will be wines that I know well, that I have tasted many times, that I have served by the glass, and I just won't be able to come up with the name. There will be something I recognize in the smell, or the taste, something that I know I have witnessed before, but I just can't put the label on the liquid when all that I see is a paper bag. I realize now that I struggle too hard at these things. Trying to focus all my energy on categorizing the wine, instead of enjoying what is there, I do everything I can to exert control over the situation, and fail miserably. But I have come to accept that the story will be the story, without any input from me. I can come up with a thousand conscious reasons why the bottle under the tin foil should be Friulano from northern Italy, but it is still going be revealed as Chablis.

I think it would be better if I were sleeping through these kinds of exercises. Then I would recognize every liquid, no matter how strange and different it looked in the glass. I would know.

This person is an excellent blind taster.

I miss you, Walt.

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