Day 212: Put the Book under your pillow, and record your dreams.

I have this thing: I don’t remember my dreams.

I’m sure I have dreams, and they’re probably interesting; there are plenty of times when, in that groggy state between waking and sleeping, my conscious mind watches the last pieces of some dream or other drift away, and they always seem awesome in that moment, but then they’re lost forever.

If I didn’t like sleep so much, then I could probably make myself jot down notes in the middle of the night about whatever odd dream I’d just woken up from — I’ve even kept a pen and paper on my bedside table in the past — but really, I’m lazy and lack any sort of self-discipline. So most of my dreams are lost forever: most, but not all, because every once in a while one sticks with me long enough that my conscious mind can process and reconstruct it.

A few weeks ago, I had one of those dreams that stuck with me.

In it, I was in an elevator — one that was fairly large and actually kind of nice, as elevators go — carpet that had been recently cleaned, nice wood panelling, good lighting —— and I think there were a few people in the elevator with me, but I don’t remember who. So far, pretty exciting, am I right? Nothing more exciting than being in an elevator.

Three of the elevator’s walls — minus the door, of course — were lined with urinals, maybe three or five per wall: an odd number, anyway. The first thing I remember happening is the center urinal on the back wall exploding: well, it didn’t explode in a blaze of glory and porcelain, or I don’t think it did, but the metal hardware at the top burst, and water geysered out, and it was less than pleasant for all involved. At least it was water, and not piss.

We opened the doors, and exited the elevator. I think the water must have stopped, though, because then I was sweeping the water out of the elevator and into the gap between the elevator and whatever room the elevator had stopped at. I looked down into the gap, and caught a glimpse of some sort of subterranean cavern below us — and then I saw giant lobsters scuttling back and forth in that cavern, lobsters big enough that they could have eaten me.

Then I woke up, got up to piss, and tried not to think about the giant lobsters.

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Day 180: Pretend to be a tourist.

tourist, n. One who makes a tour or tours; esp. one who does this for recreation; one who travels for pleasure or culture, visiting a number of places for their objects of interest, scenery, or the like.

I recently read Warren Ellis and John Cassaday’s “limited series” comic book, Planetary — and someday I’ll write a post about it — which is about an organization named Planetary, and specifically Planetary’s three-person field team, who are “Archeologists of the Impossible.”

Why do I bring this up? Because I am a tourist of the improbable.

Well, a tourist of the mildly improbable. Maybe even just a tourist of the coincidental, or slightly odd.

The thing about this sort of tourism is that there are improbable/coincidental/odd things everywhere you go, especially if your definitions of those terms are inclusive (not to say capacious), and if you’re willing to make much of out of very little. Also, because it’s tourism, it’s perfectly acceptable for an initial burst of enthusiastic interest to taper off quickly through indifference and into total forgetfulness (which has the added advantage of allowing one to notice the same oddity several times, without remembering that one has already noted it).

Today has, so far, been a good day for coincidences and oddities. As I was walking to campus, I met a one-armed man on the sidewalk: he was lying on the ground, looking sullen, refusing to move. I took him back to my office, and strung him up by his good arm. Then I took a picture.

My discovery raises, of course, a number of questions.

How did a Lego ninja end up on the sidewalk? How did he lose his arm? Where did his head-wrap go? Is he always so angry? Is whoever abandoned him on the sidewalk going to regret it, come back, find him gone, and fall into a weeks-long fit of uncontrollable weeping? Most importantly: Is he still going to be hanging on my corkboard when I come back to the office, or is he going to climb down, hide, wait patiently, and then kill me when I least expect it?

That last one seems really unlikely, which is why I’m the most nervous about it. One doesn’t devote one’s life to being a tourist of the improbable without seeing some improbable things, and an unsuspecting grad student being killed by a one-armed Lego ninja is pretty improbable, but not anywhere near the most improbable thing I’ve ever seen.

Maybe I should take him down and release him into the wild before something bad happens.


Day 78: How politically correct is your circle of friends?

The Book is referring to the ethnic diversity of my acquaintances, not the political correctness of their views and opinions.

Do I have enough friends to make a circle? How many does it take? Surely if I can count my colleagues and casual acquaintances I can put a circle together…

I have to confess that this one has got me stumped. I have no idea what to say. I mean, there are a lot of white people in my circle, and no Pacific Islanders. Is that a bad thing? I mean, white people aren’t all that great, and I’d be happy to trade some of them in – especially today, because today I heard the “Friday” song, which I hate with the fire of a thousand suns. Seriously, this song is so aggressively asinine that it makes me embarrassed to use the same days of the week as this girl.

There was a time when my circle was more diverse than it is now, I guess, when I worked with a more diverse group of people. The reason my circle is so pasty these days is that most of my fellow grad students, and many of the folk in the English department at large, are white – as are most of my students, though I’ve got a really small subset of the entire student body.

This is less than optimal, but I don’t have the time to go out and acquire friends of different ethnicities like they were baseball cards or Pokémon – I barely have time to keep up with the people who are already around me. Shit, there’s one of the new(ish) grad students who’s been in the department since late last August, and I still haven’t met her.

So what am I going to do to rectify the less-than-diverse diversity of my circle of people I know? Nothing. Why? Because that would involve meeting new people, and pretending to be interested in them, which would be a lie, because I don’t have time for anyone new, and I don’t want to lie to people just to check off boxes on a checklist.

It’s just too much work, and I’d rather take a nap.


Day 69: Downsizing day.

Office space in the department is at something of a premium, and grad students are at the bottom of the pecking order – which is, I suppose, as it should be. I currently share an 8′ x 10′ office with two other people – or, rather, I shared that office with two other people until today.

The group of grad students who started back in the fall have been without offices up to this point, because there hasn’t been (and, really, still isn’t) room for them – but, since they aren’t teaching, they’ve been able to muddle by without a permanent place to stack their books. But they will be teaching next fall, and a new group of bright-eyed, as-yet-uncynical students will be taking their places as the departmental nomads, and so the current nomads will soon need office space – and that soon is now, apparently. Why this couldn’t wait until the summer, I’m not sure, but nobody asks my opinions about anything.

We all got an email from the departmental secretary to this effect this morning – “blah blah blah, limited space, appreciate your cooperation, &c” – and I scanned it briefly and moved on, having more important things to do (like catching up on Dinosaur Comics).

But then I got another from said secretary, informing me that I was going to have to move out of my office, because one of the soon-to-no-longer-be-nomads was moving into it.

The email informed me further that I’m not being moved into a different office, not being shuffled around in a pointless manner. No, I’m being displaced. Ousted. Banished. Exiled. Downsized.

Not “downsized” in the sense of being asked to leave the program – nothing that bad. No, I’m just being asked to move out of my office, and into a closet. That’s right: a closet. It’s so small that I can touch one wall with my right elbow and the opposite wall with my left elbow. There’s one shelf, barely deep enough for my laptop and too low on the wall anyway, that will serve as a desk. No room for a chair, obviously, and no way to hang more shelfs, as the walls are cinderblocks. There’s a door, but it doesn’t lock. It’s unbearably hot with the door closed, and there’s an unidentifiable and incredibly, pungently unpleasant odor that seems to be coming out of the walls themselves.

Also, did I mention it’s in a building on the other side of campus?

It is at least in a building, though; I heard that a few people will be officing in tents on the lawn.


Day 47: Tonight, count sheep and cure insomnia.

Insomnia is not a problem I have.

I rarely have trouble falling asleep, and the only troubles I have staying asleep are my kids and my dogs – and they’re (usually) only temporary interruptions. On those rare occasions when I do have trouble falling asleep, though, I don’t ever count sheep – it’s so damned boring, I just can’t stick with it.

I know, I know – the point is to bore oneself to sleep. I still can’t do it. I get distracted, my mind wanders, and the sheep starve or get eaten by wolves, who knows.

For the sake of trying, though, I counted sheep last night. I mean, it was after one in the morning before I went to bed, so it was technically today – or tomorrow from yesterday’s perspective, if you catch my meaning; because, well, it’s always tomorrow somewhere, right? I have trouble with that whole “International Date Line” thing…

—where was I? Oh, yeah, sheep. I attempted to count them last night, though it wasn’t really necessary – it was, after all, somewhat late, and I’d had a long day, and a few beers – but, as I say, I counted them anyway. As usual, I was only a few sheep in before I got distracted.

Shortly before going to bed, I’d finished The Farther Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, which, near the end, includes a scene of sheep-hunting somewhere between western China and eastern Russia (Crusoe is rarely careful about the details) – so I thought about that for a bit, and how strange it seems to me for Crusoe to be traveling on land from China to Arkhangelsk, because I always picture him at sea. Then I thought for a bit about Spenser, because he wrote about sheep, and because I have to re-read the first book of The Faerie Queene for Friday. Then I thought about all the other things I have to do this week, and how little time I have to get everything done in, and I had a few minutes of panic.

Then I said – out loud, in fact – “fuck counting sheep, I’m going to sleep.” Then I felt stupid for rhyming ‘sheep’ and ‘sleep’ in such a fashion, and then it was this morning.