Saturday, January 11, 2020

A Strange Dream, Part 1: You never know who you will meet at a bar

When one of your hobbies is colorizing old time black and white photos, you'll spend 6 to 8 hours per day for a week or two straight adding color to parts of the image and running colorize over and over until the photo is done. Do enough of these photos and you'll start to see them in dreams, not as photos mind you, but as if you are in the scene as it was in the past in living color. This part is true.

These are kind of cool dreams, time travel if only in your own subconscious. Even better if the dream is a lucid one as now you're a time travelling dream tourist with a list of spots you want to go see.

So I thought I'd try something different in terms of posts. If our mainstream media gives us fiction in the guise of truth, I would give you truth in the pleasant guise of fiction.

A Strange Dream, Part 1

This most recent dream I had was a bit strange and if in relating it, the reader say to themselves, "he's making this up"...well...maybe I am pulling your leg just a tiny bit. However stranger things have happened.

So this particular dream started off pretty much like the others where I am suddenly somewhere in the past. In this case, standing right in front of Nier's Social Hall, a rambling, two story yellow clapboard building with a copper colored awing adorning from front corner entrance. I felt my pocket and was reassured to find money in it and walked right in.

It was dimly lit but I could make out the ornate bar, old fashioned tap handles and shelves behind.  The place looked empty except for the bartender, a tall thin fellow wearing a stained white apron, collarless shirt with sleeves rolled up and a derby hat. He eyed me suspiciously as I took a seat at the bar but his demeanor softened a little bit as I plunked a few coins down. The bartender eyed the coins counting them up in his head and then asked curtly in an old-fashioned New York accent of the sort I haven't heard since I was a kid, "Whaddya'll have?". "A beer" I answered to which the bartender said "I got Eppig's beer". "That'll be fine" I said and then the bartender snatched up a nickel off the bar and chuckled as he said "it better be, cause that's all I got", grabbed a mug from under the bar and began to fill it. Well, okay, my subconscious didn't do a thorough job stocking the bar. But what the hell, it was still an excellent dream so far. The detail in it!

As the bartender was filling the mug, a voice called out from the other end of the bar, "hey Louie, whadda bout me? How 'bout another round here." I looked over to see who could be the only other patron and was surprised to see a middle aged Asian man dressed in a modern business suit glowering at the bartender Louie while holding up an empty shot glass. This dream is getting interesting, I thought and the Asian guy sure looked familiar. But Louie didn't even bother to look away from working the beer pump as he retorted "yeah and whadda 'bout you putting some dough down on this bar first". "You've been running up a tab all afternoon in addition to the tab ya run up here the last time". "You want a drink, cough up some cash now or hit the bricks, Ping" Louie scoffed as he put the mug of beer down in front of me.

"Aw, c'mon, you know I'm good for it" Ping shot back sounding a bit drunk and hurt by the bartender's insinuation of being a deadbeat. "Lemme get to a phone and I'll have my boys over at the embassy run over enough dough to buy this dump right out from under ya and the whole goddamn neighborhood to boot"  Ping continued petulantly. "Oh, yeah?" Louie shot back as he pushed up his shirtsleeves. "You can call your boys at the hand laundry and have 'em run over the fin ya owe me but until then..." Louie continued, pushing his derby forward and lower on his forehead as he strode over to where Ping was seated.

I sat there transfixed for a moment as this drama played out in front of me, very detailed for a dream and more than a little realistic what with the accents and the mention of a "fin" or five dollar bill. But then I suddenly thought I should find out more about this Asian fellow in a modern suit, Ping, and just how the heck did he find his way into my dream. I mean, there has to be something symbolic in this and as it was after all a lucid dream, it's a chance to access a part of the mind hidden from the waking mind. Maybe this dream character out of the depths of my own mind, Ping could further enlighten me or give me new insights to whatever was stored in a hidden corner of my mind. Or perhaps just some random neurons firing and randomly mixing memories of photos and TV news  together.

There was only one way to find out if some grand epiphany awaited or meaningless nonsense during REM sleep. Getting back to the matter at hand, I knew where this was heading: A bum's rush out the door. If I wanted to find out if it was something or nothing, I had to act fast.

"Scuse me, Louie" I said quickly. "If you'll pardon me for butting in, but if this guy, Ping owes you a fiver, I'd like to pay it for him. I'm having a swell time here having a beer, enjoying the day and it'd be a shame to spoil the mood over an argument about money and more unpleasantness" I continued as I pulled a convenient and old looking fiver dollar bill from my pocket and set it on the bar in front of me. Louie chuckled slightly as he turned to me and placing both his arms on the bar, leaned over looking serious and said "You sure about this? I don't think you know this guy too well". Louie shook his head slowly as he continued "sure enough this guy Ping is a real muckety-muck back in his home town but he's also a bum and a real piece of work too, I tell ya. Hell, I'd pay a damn fin to see the bulls lock 'im up and throw away the key".  Yet I still had a feeling that this could be important somehow and then answered seriously "Yeah, I'm sure". "I gotta hunch about this" I said as I pushed the bill over to Louie who sighed and shrugged his shoulder as he picked up the money.

"Well, okay pal". Louie said resignedly. "It's your money and I ain't one to kick cash outta bed" . Then turning to Ping said "It's your lucky day today, buddy boy. You can stay if you mind your manners and don't give me no problems" Louie growled as he put the money into the cash register and then wrote something in a small notebook next to it. "Swell, so how about that drink then, buddy boy" Ping shot back sounding irritated. "See what I mean?" Louie said to me jerking his thumb over in Ping's direction. "Get him one one me and I'll have a shot of what he's having too". I said as I got up and started over to the end of the bar where Ping sat and who didn't even look at me as I sat down next to him. "It's your dream, mack" Louie said as he poured out two shots of whiskey and set them in front of us.

We didn't speak for what seemed like ages as I looked at my newfound drinking buddy, Ping, who continued to look straight ahead, not even acknowledging me. I was sure I knew him from somewhere but couldn't recall from where. "Ping" I said as I mused it over. But then it suddenly came to me. "Hey, aren't you Xi Jinping, President of the People's Republic of China?" I said. Ping, slowly turned his head towards me and eyed me suspiciously as he downed his shot and growled " maybe I am and maybe I ain't. So who wants to know?".  "My friends call me Cav" I said holding out my hand. Ping looked sourly at my hand and snorted.  "Don't think 'cause you paid off my tab we're friends. I'll pay ya back when I get the chance." he then said derisively "but yeah, okay, I am Xi Jinping and I don't do autographs so why don't you just piss off". I had to laugh at that one. "I just did ya a solid and this is the thanks I get?"

"Relax, buddy, I ain't looking for your autograph. I just thought we'd shoot the breeze as it isn't every day I get to hobnob in an old bar with a world leader. Even if it is in a dream. Ain't like I'm asking for the moon, here." I said. Ping sighed, "Awright, tell you what, sport, you keep the booze coming and you can yak yer head off until I pass out. You pay for the pleasure of my company, understand?" Ping said sternly. Ah, finally I can get some answers I thought, satisfied. I called the bartender over and he obliged with two more shots of whiskey. "So, what brings you here? I mean here. In this obscure corner of world, Woodhaven of all places and at a rough guess, in the year 1900?" I asked. "Same as you, mack" Ping replied exasperated and picking up his glass said before tossing back the shot. "Just to escape the real world and all the problems in a nice, quiet time and place". Interesting and I considered this for a moment before replying. "No, I don't think that's why I'm here" I said. "If I were, it would just be me and Louie over there drinking a couple of beers. There's got to be more to this and I mean to find out what it is". Ping chuckled and said then pointedly "Ya sure about that, Cav?".

That caught me for a moment as this character is really a product of my own mind that's trying to tell me something but no, there's more to this. I could still feel it in my gut. Problems, maybe, but no there's more to this and I'll have to work for the answer. Then an idea came to me, it's not about my problem but a solution I might have to somebody else's problem. I pondered this for a moment as I tossed back the shot of whiskey which had a faint hint of fire to it. A solution? The outlines were starting to form. A solution, but it seemed more like a devious scheme hatched in some dark recess of my mind that like a mist rising up, bolstered by the ghostly heat of the dream whiskey. Symbols, man.

"So what're these problems of yours, pal? I'll bet Hong Kong tops the list, doesn't it" I asked with a sudden inspiration. Ping looked annoyed at this and snapped back irritably "Aw, c'mon, man, you wanna talk shop? Can't we just talk about the weather or something?" Ping turned to me and scowled for a moment then said "You really wanna talk about that?" Then picking up and thoughtfully contemplating his shot glass frowned and said "okay, kiddo, so it's your dream but if you want to talk shop you're gonna have to up this to doubles". Then he quickly added "of the top shelf stuff, mister, not this rotgut.".

I called over to Louie, who gave me a quick look that that said I was crazy as he got down a bottle from the top shelf where the more expensive liquor was kept and then dropped two larger glasses down in front of us and filled them. "Hong Kong" Ping spat the words out "everybody wants to free Hong Kong" he added sarcastically. "Naw, that ain't my biggest headache, but that prick youse Americans elected president, heh, what a hump that guy is. He's much higher up the totem pole of pain in the asses I gotta deal with." said Ping who started to sound much more sober despite the booze. Oh, no! I hoped this dream wasn't going to end with Ping and Louie turning into a couple of those gray NPC Wojacks saying "Orange Man bad" over and over until I woke up.

But no. Thankfully Ping changed tact.

"Hong Kong is just a bunch of wet behind the ears youngsters out to trash the place and tank their own economy. Sure, ya dumbasses, go wreck yer own economy ya spoiled brats. See if I care if you're all starving in the gutter. Hell, they'll all be begging me for help before long then I'll show 'em, those buncha prissy wisenheimers. Those kids got no respect for nothing, the little smug brats. Not their elders, not their government, not their people, nothing! Hell, the little bastards even took to calling me Winnie the Pooh, can ya believe it? Where's the respect?"

Ah, just have to play the hunch and ask the right questions. Now we're getting somewhere and I hoped it wasn't just a rehash of current events in Hong Kong. But I felt there was more to this considering the setting of old Nier's Social Hall circa 1900, Xe Jinping and his reaction to the subject. It all needed to be fit together to get some kind of meaning of this dream. But enough for now. I'll continue this story and its surprising twist later.

Donald Cavaioli

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