Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Homing Instinct


Teebs posted about dreams the other day and it got me to thinking about my own. I think I've previously written in this space about the way I dream at night. Unlike Mr. Half, I don't dream about accomplishments or abilities. I'm unable to summon the kind of fanciful attitude--even when unconscious-- that allows me to achieve greatness. In my dream life I never become a leader or a famous person. I can't seem to remember that, because it's a dream, I can do the impossible. I don't take control of any situation. Ever. I'm incapable of flying.

The dreams I remember usually find me at the mercy of forces that move me like a chess piece around the board of life. In them I'm usually trying to extricate myself from a situation involving a bad choice or mistakes that cost me indepenence and that threaten my safety and that of those I love. Fear and regret are constant themes and the nightmares which don't feature me running from danger or dogged by authority figures that would tie me down and limit my physical, emotional or intellectual movement are few and far between.

I never dream about my childhood or early adolescence. I don't dream about high school. I'm like a person who has experienced a traumatic head injury and my memory will only go back just so far. My sophomore year of college is where it starts...maybe because I probably didn't start thinking for myself until then. It's the year I made friends with guys from a particular dorm...one of whom would end up being my husband.

My one consistent dream theme is this place: J.C. Hotard "Hilton" Hall on the campus of Texas A&M University. It mostly involves a scenario wherein I've forgotten to Q-drop a particularly challenging or boring class and I've just stopped attending class at all. (I used to dream that I'd forgotten to check my mail for so long that I could no longer remember the mailbox combination, but that's another post) It's a few weeks before the final and I need to find the professor and beg for clemency...either that or begin a cramming session of such spectacular proportion that food and sleep become minor annoyances, rather than necessities. But every dream that involves college finds me walking/driving/running/biking in a northward direction to the Hilton.

"The Hilton" was a guy's dorm. Built in 1923 it originally housed men and women who worked in the Food Services department for the university. It didn't become Dorm 13 until the 1950s and it didn't get air-conditioning until 1981. It was the cheapest dorm on campus and, esthetically speaking, it was the crummiest. Still, it was surrounded by two grassy lawns and trees. It had those cool windows that cranked open and outward. On Spring evenings you could turn up the stereo, prop your feet up on the sill, drink a cold beer and feel the breeze on your feet. The Hilton was also conveniently located a stone's throw from The Dixie Chicken.

It was rarely silent there. Sound traveled down the uncarpeted first floor and up the concrete stairwells. Guys shouting or laughing or singing...badly. One guy in a first floor corner room played the soundtrack to "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" almost constantly. The sounds of people watching "M*A*S*H" in the tv rooms or that of someone bouncing a basketball. People playing volleyball in the yard or grilling burgers outside the RA's room.

Christmas featured fir trees hung upside down from the ceiling in hall windows and decorated with lights and women's underwear. Bong water ritually dumped out of the windows produced spectacular results of a horticultural nature. When the men of Hotard conducted a panty raid, they made sure to call on a couple of southside men's dorms which harbored a good portion of the campus' "frat rats", a fact that allowed them to pretend-- with wicked antagonism--that these guys were panty-wearers as well. And when the yearbook called for each residence hall to name a sweetheart, the Hilton's residents decided one particular year on the dorm's housekeeper, Louise.

Mr. Half's room sported charcoal sketches on the cinderblock wall. Steely Dan's "Bodhisattva" blared from the speakers. The first time I ate venison was in a stew he made for me on a hotplate in his room. Don't ask me how. In these dreams I'm trying to get back to a place where the lights are always blazing...even at night. Where you could always find a friend and a bit of interesting conversation. A place where the curfew rules were lax and women were always welcome. Some of my best studying was done there. The guys who lived there back in my day are, of course, long gone. They're scientists and engineers and university professors. And one just left a position at the Pentagon. Regardless of political affiliation or socio-economic status, they would all tell you that there was literally "no place like the Hilton". In fact, when the circa-1923 doors were replaced with new ones, one former resident kept his. It now functions as the door to one of the bathrooms in his home. Mr. Half rescued the plastic number #109 from the door of his freshman year room.

I can't tell you why the source of my best dreams center on a place I never lived. What does it mean when I say I've thrown away my own dorm shirts but that I own two vintage Hotard Shirts and bought a third one that says "Save Hotard" when the university threatened to turn it into office space? It's a threat which became a reality last year. Perhaps it's because Hotard was a place where I began to get the impression that maybe...just maybe.. guys had a better shot at a bigger life than girls did. More freedom. More latitude to experiment and make mistakes and perhaps I'm thinking that getting back to Hotard will allow me to grab some of that freedom for myself.

Maybe--in those dreams--I'm just trying to get back to the beginning. Maybe I want to see the way we used to be...Mr. Half and me...untouched by worries of kids, paying for college, overwork or getting older. Maybe in one dream I'll change my major before it's too late and become something that actually makes me happy. Maybe I'll learn to be brave or original or daring. Or maybe I'm just looking for a young, long-haired guy with a red beard and an earring ambling towards me with his hand outstretched. When that happens, it'll be the best dream of all.

Paging Dr. Freud. Paging Dr. Freud...

Where do you go most often in your dreams?




27 Comments:

Blogger Dawn said...

It's funny. One is the apartment my mother moved into when she left my father. One is an old boyfriends apartment. I also have a "dream lake" that I swim in a various times.

I find that the people who show up in my dreams hold as much signifigance for me as the places. Usually when I need to resolve something, a particular person pops up - over and over until I get my mind around it.

I also take a lot of physical agression out on people in my dreams...

7:49 PM  
Blogger mama_tulip said...

The house I grew up in. I also dream about being outdoors a lot, which kind of makes me laugh because the last thing I'd say about myself is that I'm "outdoorsy".

8:03 PM  
Anonymous jess said...

I am always losing things, kids, love in my dreams and often wake in a panic. I do dream i can fly sometimes - which i love.

9:02 PM  
Blogger Janna said...

Wow-- As I read your post and saw the pictures, I kept thinking, "Why does that look so familiar?"

It's because last year I lived in Neeley Hall, right next door to Hotard. I lived on the Hotard sign and once my roommate and I dared each other to call the phone numbers that were posted in the windows-- let's just say that we made sure our blinds were shut before bed every night after that.

There's a city of great significance in my dreams: I'm always chasing through it or searching for something or just wandering the streets or the hilly desert that surrounds it. It's nowhere I've ever been in real life, but I go there every few nights or so and try to figure out why it feels so important.

9:30 PM  
Blogger Janna said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

9:31 PM  
Anonymous Neil said...

You have an amazing memory of your dreams. I would love to participate and talk about my dreams, but I never EVER remember them. I wonder what that says about me. I've even tried keeping a pad and paper nearby, but the minute I awake, I seem to magically lose my dreamworld.

9:50 PM  
Blogger lildb said...

Your words always touch me. I don't *quite* feel like crying, but then again, I almost do. Nostalgia tied up with a bit of melancholy, it's a delicious, shivery combination. I really enjoy the image of the young Mr. Half reaching toward you. It's evocative of a freeze-frame; it's really nice.

My more chaotic dreams tend to center around vampires; I'm usually being chased by them, and I'm usually flying - just high enough to be out of their reach, but not totally out of danger. There's a lot of death and dismemberment in them, but I don't usually see any of the gore. Just have the awareness that it's occurring. There is no one specific location I head toward with any regularity. Only the vampires and the flying. And the death.

No - wait - there *is* this place, it's kind of an apartment building of sorts, or a series of interconnected homes, that I weave in and out of, and... oh, this isn't interesting to anyone but me. But I just remembered, too, that I find myself often climbing hills, either on foot or in vehicles, and eventually the hill becomes a greater-than-90-degree-angle, but somehow I'm still clinging to it. I *hate* that dream. Yuck. I have it all the time, too; that is, when I'm not being chased by bloodthirsty scoundrels.

10:13 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

A lot of times it's doing something like going to work, and I move in the wrong direction, and I have to find my way back.

Except for the Sci Fi monster I have been tracking down lately, I dream of familiar places such as home and the neigborhood.

I think life's pressures make an impression. My father onnce had an Indian chief chase him around his commercial property.

4:37 AM  
Blogger Marcie said...

"And I'll be there, the shine in your Japan, the sparkle of your China...." Sorry, that's one of my favorite Steely Dan songs. I think it's so cool that you guys were college sweethearts. So cool.
I had a dream about my grandfather the other night. He has been dead for 7 years so it was like a visit from him. I love dreams.

5:53 AM  
Blogger Mother of Invention said...

As many others have, I usually dream of trying to find my way somewhere. Maybe we're all trying to find the road we should be travelling regardless of our age! I've taught school for several years and I always dream in school settings, like I can't control the kids! Many take place at University where I can't find my schedule, or the classes, and the semester is almost over, exams are coming and I've never been to class! Then they tell me I never really got my degree so can't be a teacher. Maybe that's because I don't fit the typical teacher role. Never quite feel I'm really great. Sometimes I'm 1/2 teacher and 1/2 student..my identity blurred!

Yikes! Take a number please in the Freud line-up!

6:45 AM  
Anonymous TB said...

You must be channeling Conroy today. I was right there with you.

I love this post.

7:27 AM  
Blogger Tink said...

"decorated with lights and women's underwear" *Snort* That's funny!

It's so sad that your dreams consist of changing things in the past to make the future better. It's not too late you know. You can still get into a job field that's more fulfilling!

I dream of tornados and odd places and situations that aren't real and won't ever happen.

7:48 AM  
Anonymous mothergoosemouse said...

Great story. I also dream about being enrolled in college classes that I don't actually attend and then realize that I have an exam coming up and I'm completely unprepared. Unfortunately, that happened all the time in real life too. In my dreams though, I'm not actually at any of the colleges I attended, but back in my old high school.

8:57 AM  
Anonymous V-Grrrl said...

I have many school-related dreams, sometimes set in high school, more often college. I was a good student in reality, but in my dreams I'm always discovering I was enrolled in a class I didn't know about.

I also have lots of dreams where I'm at the wheel of a car I can't control. Either the steering or brakes aren't working or for some reason I can't reach them even though I'm in the driver's seat.

My dreams are often cast with people from many different times in my life, as if all time existed at once. The living mix with the dead, my 16 year old self appears in my current life circumstances, guys I once loved reappear in my life in a good way, friends from elementary school mix in scenarios with college friends. It's all very surreal and yet often pleasant, bringing back relationships and emotions I've enjoyed.

9:17 AM  
Blogger Mignon said...

Beautifully written. I think I'll visit Hotard in my dreams now.

I think it was a place you felt truly comfortable and accepted, and that's where your mind likes to go. Your life now seems similar, in that you're comfortably surrounded by boys who love you - but the immediacy and reality of your life doesn't reach your subconscious. Your subconscious dwells in the memory of a similar feeling and conjures up Hotard as the manifestation of that feeling. That's what I think.

"Bong water ritually dumped out of the windows produced spectacular results of a horticultural nature." Jim's room sophomore year had an amazing array of wildflowers outside it, amongst the robust volunteer Hosta and weeds. In the middle of New Haven, no less! Bong water does some wonderful things in gravel in barkdust.

9:55 AM  
Blogger Nilbo said...

I loved this piece (as I do so many of your pieces). The images are so crisp and clear, the writing has such a nice bite behind the wistful tone ...

I sleep so little at night - perhaps four or five hours, at most - that when I do, I sink very deeply into it and if there are dreams, I can never remember. I daydream - more than most people, and probably more than is good for me - but you can direct daydreams and make things happen that otherwise might not.

I have no idea what you majored in. I'm guessing English. You're an extraordinarily talented writer ... so the wings are there when you're ready to fly.

12:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm forever struggling to do math in my dreams. Then I wake up and realize the equations are impossible to solve...like 3+red/pi.

I hate it.

~jenny
http://blogs.chron.com/mamadrama/

3:09 AM  
Blogger Heather said...

I don't remember most of my dreams- guess I'm a bit stunted in that way.

I very much enjoyed your post - it definitely brought me back to my residence in university - a co-ed place that sounded very similar (except we had balconies that we used to funnel beer from which were integral to the full residence experience).

4:46 AM  
Blogger DebbieDoesLife said...

I have never found any rhyme or reason for my dreams. They usually are fraught with emotion though. I'm searching/missing something.

The Dixie Chicken. Heh, heh. Spend a little time there, did ya? You're such an Aggie.

8:27 AM  
Blogger Arabella said...

You're fortunate that you and your husband have common memories of college. It's such a formative time. It's great that you two are able to share it.

I think memories of one's early days with one's spouse take on an epic quality as the years go by. I love that.

I often dream about having forgotten to drop a class and having simply stopped going, which is something I never, ever would have done in real life. I wonder what it means.

9:10 AM  
Blogger toyfoto said...

I also don't remember too many of my dreams, but the ones I do remember tend to be unsettling.

I dream about forgetting to attend entire courses in college; having return to high school to take gym class in order to get my diploma (even though I've got college degrees); and walking through water never getting anywhere (but also not having anywhere really to go.

12:54 PM  
Blogger Lilian said...

This is from funo
I am an old woman with lots of hair (It came back after chemo). I found your blog from the aol news page. I enjoyed the input from FAMA. Indeed Fama is a Roman Goddess, and I have been thinking of the concept of fame for a long time. If I could find Fama’s blog I would read it. Now the second question: who picks the salad out of the ground? Oooo, got to go, the minute men are coming…

Fama said...
Study the Goddess Fama from the Ancient Roman Gods: I think it is important to note what the "collective" in the form of these two couples represent, in a way they aspects of all of us. Our confusion, our lack of vision , our lack of commitment our love of money vs substance, real knowledge vs phoney plastic hype and I do mean literal Plastic Hype as they will be BUYING lots of it as they age Tom already has at least minor work. Even bagging Katie like some thro-back to the days the hunters bagged wild game and then hung the head so proudly on their walls. To brag is a form of continued refusing to grow up - meaning to be a wise elder. Instead Tom and cast are as inflated as they get with pompous abusive money they think they buy religion and enlightenment and to some sainthood. Only in America where phoney gods become golden idols and we worship the Tom's and the rest of them. What is it in them that we live out in ourselves? Our need for fame entittlement power real spiritual valules, because we are losing them all fast - The tomes and kates brads and angies are just our scapegoats we will send them out to the desert with our scorn, only to have their damn children return Apple Suri whatever those names mean? It is theater of the Profame!

8:22 AM  
Blogger wordgirl said...

I don't think Fama has a blog. Neither do most of the other commenters after about #33 or so. Some just set them up so that they can comment...with no intention of allowing contact from others and no intention of publishing their own thoughts. Registering does allow the Blogger people to monitor the more abusive/obscene comments...even those who've set up fake blogs.

8:50 AM  
Blogger Lilian said...

Whether Fama has a block or not - it was still the most interesting part of all. It was not cheap gossip. Fame carries a burden,as you now know; and if I were Jolie, Katie, Brad, or Tom, I would be as hurt as you are now.

5:34 AM  
Blogger wordgirl said...

Feelings can only get hurt if you care what a party thinks. A mob of people who can't follow the rules of civil discourse don't hurt me.

I was, however, angry that so many people wanted the privilege of throwing rocks (without discussing things first) but they also wanted diplomatic immunity by staying free from any criticism headed their way.
It's one thing to defend a "movie star". It's quite another (and a little unbalanced and hypocritical) to defend them as though someone like Jolie was his/her best friend and then wage a war on me in the same manner.

Do you have any real intentions of starting a blog?

6:50 AM  
Blogger Ben Dolan said...

Hotard! Ha.

11:04 AM  
Blogger Lilian said...

This is what I learned when I had a website, oh around 1997. When you have a blog or website you put yourself in a leader situation. In your group there will be two types. The quiet ones and the noisy ones. The natural leader cares for both, like a mother would care for all her 3 handsome boys. I did not mind the “flamers” because I know that flaming comes from pain, and love of change. The quiet ones had stability and orderliness, and I was a little bit impatient with their “picket fence Hallmark” type of views. Life is growth and change. Actually I was more than impatient, I felt I was in BBB hell (= Brunch with a Boring Bourgois). I stopped. I may take it up again when I retire. Create, maintain, destroy…just like biology…what is ir called…anabolic…catabolic…..don’t remember….
It is good to be defensive, it means that you care for yourself.

6:04 AM  

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