I have not remembered much of my dreams lately. It’s been months since I added anything to Dream Radio. Possibly on account of having tuned in to that radio stream yesterday my nocturnal mental acuities piqued, and thus I remember at least some of last night’s journey into day.
Many of my dreams take place in sprawling compounds. These are massive expanses of intraconnected structures, where a shopping mall merges with a church, which merges with a swimming pool, which morphs into a cemetery, that itself becomes a shopping center. These spaces flow like mental streams of consciousness, impossibly connecting physically and functionally disparate structures and even societies.
In last night’s dream I entertained a couple of inspectors who, for reasons I don’t recall, came around once a year with clipboards and carefully prepared questions, to survey what I had done with my life in the past 365 days. Their survey may have had a financial component (why else would they do this?) but they never explicitly described their exact intent.
As we neared the end of this survey/interview one of the inspectors expressed how he and his partner looked forward to their annual meeting with me more than any of their other subjects. Evidently they interviewed people year ’round. He further added “We have the most livid memories of you and your activities.”
I took the comment in the spirit intended, but asked for clarification: “Livid?”
He said “Yeah, man, you’re always the highlight of our year and we talk about your stuff almost every day.”
I asked “Are you sure you know what ‘livid’ means?” Someone standing nearby echoed my question with a faint “Yeah, what the hell?”
No clarification came but, given the jovial manner of his delivery, and the congenial tone of our hours-long interview, I took him to have meant “vivid”.
The interviewers trailed away from my presence, to write up their summary findings of what we had talked about that day. We had been in an office building where opening any door connected not to a hallway or another office but to a hilly field of grass where people threw Frisbees, blew soap bubbles, and played soccer.
Someone kicked one of the soccer balls in my direction. As I attempted to catch it the soccer ball turned into a raisin, falling into the thick grass beneath me. Here, I thought, a raisin tree will grow.
The people playing soccer, preparing to chastise me for almost breaking a cardinal rule of soccer (using my hands), themselves turned into extremely large, misshapen raisins, some moaning in agony at the sudden, unwelcome transmogrification.
I approached the house of which I had personal knowledge. I did not live there but knew its residents well enough to walk freely on its premises without feeling like a trespasser.
The surface of the house’s first floor echoed the contours of the hillside on which it stood. To get from the kitchen to the living room one had to cross an uneven terrain of linoleum flooring lined with an adhesive spray that prevented slippage. It was a household chore for the children of the house to reapply the spray every few days to keep the elders from slipping on the linoleum hillside.
Floors of the second and third floors of the house were flat, but ceilings were made of rich, deep dirt, fertilized by unexplained droppings of cow shit that fed fast and always fresh growth of bushes and shrubbery.
Bedside objects included the usual clock radios and cell phone chargers, but also garden sheers, lawn mowers, and hedge clippers. Foliage grew quickest during the overnight hours, routinely interrupting the sleep of all who lived there, like a giant infant child. Trees presented a particular concern, and had to be chopped as soon as possible upon detection, lest they grow quickly enough to explode the floors below.
I entered the back yard, a small but hilly and rugged space bounded by a log fence so high it disappeared into the sky. No one knew its height but legends claimed the fence rose into eternity, its upward growth never ceasing.
I found new additions to the yard. Someone had picked several centuries-old tombstones and funerary decorations from a cemetery on another planet and placed them here. The names of the dead, erased by the seemingly vindictive passage of time, were completely and frustratingly unreadable.
No exhumations and reburials of the dead took place. Only the markers were moved, sending all parties into the profound, dislocated silence of being completely forgotten.
One flat stone had already settled in to its new home, with grass grown over its edges and bird shit splat on the barely discernible engraved likeness of Jesus.
Another more formidable marker rose about 8 feet in height, with a complicated tangle of stone meant to resemble a thorny bramble but which, through centuries of exposure to the elements , looked more like stone tumbleweed.
A couple of other less impressive markers faded from my attentions when I found the centerpiece of this little impromptu cemetery. Among the ancient markers stood a LinkNYC kiosk, a real-world piece of street furniture that had been something of a fixation for me since they first appeared on city streets a few years ago.
The kiosk’s central innards, mostly gutted, showed signs of life, with a continuous humming noise and some blinking diodes. But mostly the middle guts of the machine, which formerly comprised a complex digestive system and three brains constantly being eaten by it, were gone.
The two advertising screens tried with all their hearts (there were three of them, weakly pumping blood into the screens) to display context-aware advertisements for cemetery plots and cremation services. But any time an ad appeared a cow would shit all over it, or a dense bonsai-sized rain forest grew in its place.
The kiosk, even with its signs of life, looked older than the adjacent tombstones.
I rarely wake up laughing from a dream but that happened this day. How a LinkNYC kiosk got into my dreamscape is not hard to fathom. But I would not have expected an appearance as richly symbolic as this: A Smart City kiosk dubbed the “payphone of the future” moldering away among dislocated tokens of death, decay, and the profound silence of lives completely forgotten.