Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Jazz and narcolepsy: three dreams influenced by what I've fallen asleep to.

For a class, I listened to a jazz album called The Complete Science Fiction Series- a compilation of two albums put together in 1971 by avant-garde saxophone musician and composer, Ornette Coleman. The full album is available for free listening on YouTube here.

I thought it would be interesting to see whether or not unusual music like this would influence my dreams, so I left the YouTube playlist on shuffle and repeat as I went to sleep.

This is the first track.

I haven't formed a stable opinion about the album yet, but if anyone else has, I'd like to hear about it! Leave a comment, a private message, or send an e-mail.


I'm on a high-speed bullet train, sitting in a spacious dining car booth, watching a woman standing in the aisle. She's looking through the window with her back turned to me. It's the 1930's. A coiffe of her polished, hay-blonde hair peeks out of her wide-brimmed hat. The hat matches her green-blue dress, although it's trimmed with feathers, lace and sprays of pearls, lending a femininity to the crisp lines of her outfit.

The winter landscape streaks by.

Now I'm in a house. It's the kind of house that doesn't want to offend visitors. It has white walls, a preference for khaki, and pastel wallpaper accents underneath matted and framed embroidery and landscape giclees. It's lazy, calm, day, insulated from extreme cold by the snow.

I've been sitting on a window seat, looking outside for several minutes now, allowing my thoughts to dither. Rotund snowflakes fall from the cobalt sky.

It's the Christmas season and I'm enjoying the warm nostalgia in the neighborhood. Friends and neighbors I've known for years in the sleepy cul de sac are milling about, showing off new winter coats, gossiping, throwing snowballs, picking up groceries and I even catch a couple flirting with each other...


These two dreams were influenced more by the last major thing I felt before going to bed than the music. It was the day before Valentine's Day and I thought, I like Valentine's Day. I can see why other people don't, but it's a holiday, and something about repeated celebrations across a large body of people I have connections with creates a pleasant sense of nostalgia. It's not the same as Christmas though. Christmas is a nostalgia-gasm. 

So I suspect that I was secretly yearning for Christmas. However, the train and the 1930's feel was influenced by Cubist and Futurist paintings related to other course material for this class.


It's night. I enter the same small strip mall I used to enter almost every month for 20 years. I'm annoyed that so little has changed. I walk up and down the same aisles. The stores cycle as I walk. The businesses often aren't the same for five seconds, but the same, uninspired architecture and peeling, off-white walls remain. I feel contempt for the city for its inefficiency and lack of innovation.

I wander through an old grocery store that's always been attached to a different, much larger mall. It's overcrowded and dirty. I don't think anyone here cleans. I don't buy anything. I move through it in order to go deeper into the mall.

I pass by one of the eternal dollar stores that pop up and drift away in these sorts of malls. This one has been around longer than usual. I enjoy looking for deals on cheap chintz I don't need. It feels satisfying.

I exit and wait for a bus at a corner stop that's nearly buried in the snow. It takes forever to get there, but when it does, it's large and sturdy. I enter. It's heated. I enjoy watching the city go by and feeling the warm air blast on every now and then. Everything is coated in white and gray due to the snow, the gray skies and the concrete and metal.

I arrive near the first strip mall again and walk back to the parking lot where my car is. I enter an old, dimly lit bar I used to frequent. Not much has changed. I exit and start walking down those same halls. They turn white and dirty.

I'm in the hall of a horrible grocery store I used to work at. I hate those sorts of places. They aren't bad to shop at from a consumer perspective, but you don't realize the sort of everyday evils people are put through until you look behind the scenes at places that expose minimum-waged workers to the general public.

People sit in break rooms having uninteresting conversations. Bosses monitor silently and fill in reductive, restrictive and inefficiently-designed forms for the business.

The hall changes again and I'm in a warm, beautifully-designed hallway that reminds of the Los Angeles train station. The arches, tiles and incandescent lighting are Gothic and Art Nouveau. I open the door to a cafe to get my homework coffee. I'm immediately hit by a long line going right to the door. The hiss of commercial espresso machines- steam forced into metal-ensconced milk- is a familiar comfort.

I look to the left and see one of my best friends from high school. She was about 6 years older than me. I forget exactly how much by now. But she looks young- maybe only sixteen! I never knew her then. I was sixteen back then and she was my age now. We have reversed positions.

"Cheryl, what are you doing here?" I asked.

She looks at me, totally unphased, not at all surprised to see me. She seems exhausted. "I decided to move to San Francisco."

"Oh wow- I know you always said you wanted to have a cafe in San Francisco!"

She doesn't pause in her quest to dust the mugs and syrups sitting on the shelves. "Yeah," she says. "I'm finally doing it." There's no excitement in her voice or demeanor.

We catch up a little and I continue to marvel at how young she seems in both appearance and in terms of the life questions she is resolving for herself. It feels extremely bizarre to me. I ask if I can continue to stop by and talk to her in the future.

"Of course!" she says, busily pushing chairs in and fixing up the flowers in their vases on the tables.


I fell asleep while typing a message on Facebook and I must have been thinking about writing to this friend. She wrote to me the day after I had this dream.

I often wonder how strong the influence the analytics the internet runs on us is. If you want to try something scary, search for the names of private individuals you know personally under Facebook's "gifs" option in messaging, or see what YouTube thinks about you by seeing how its suggestions change if you leave YouTube on autoplay all day.

I seem to be comparing and contrasting where I was and where I am. When I was good friends with this girl, I was in a very inbetween place in my life- just graduating from high school and having gone into my counseling program- not having a clue as to what I was going to do with the degree, while soaking in all the life challenges she went through as someone just old enough for me to get a good, solid preview of what I could expect to deal with in the next 10 years. I look back on those experiences and consider them invaluable. I am looking at the lives of older people now in order to see how they end up dealing with the challenges of parenthood and whether or not the choices they've made drive them to change careers or to invest more into their careers or to do the same things they've always done (symbolized by the shifting businesses in the same architecture).

I'll probably have to move in the next few years since I know I'm going to grad school. I'm thinking a lot about where I would prefer to live for six years of my life. I will have been in this part of LA County for about that long when I finally graduate with my first fully-accredited degree. A lot of experiences pack themselves into six years, although I'm at a point at which six years seems to fly by very quickly.

I don't understand how so many people go straight from high school into college and into grad school. I wouldn't have had enough experience with how the world really is by doing things that way- not enough to feel satisfied with my long-term career plans. I think they are fortunate in many respects.

I think of how I've burned through a third or so of my life and it amazes me. Was any of this real? What will my experience of life be when I'm 90? Will I retain all my memories? I'm already stunned at how much I retain (and I'm also surprised and dismayed at how this is generally not information of a productive variety).

I never hear anyone exclaim their surprise at how predictable their lives were and how they knew just how things- even the most mundane, technically predictable things- would end up feeling. The feelings that arise out of the inevitable death of a parent or inevitable breakup or birth or career decision always seems to take people by surprise, emotionally. Will there continue to be an "I" to understand that we once existed the way we have, or will everything simply turn off the way a computer does? A computer doesn't dream once it's been shut down. That's the nature of the things this friend tends to make me think of. She's a very spiritual, beautiful person.


I was editing a couple of personal statements for an application, that a friend had generously agreed to help me with, when I fell asleep mid-keystroke.

I was in a class, looking at one of my professors in the center of the room. It was a new-fangled room that incorporates computer monitors at the front of various pods of desks. The walls and tables and furniture are all covered in dry-erase paint or coated in dry-erase materials, but none of the classes that meet in these rooms take advantage of it. It's a pity! I'd like to scribble all over the walls and the furniture. That was a lot of fun when I was three. The walls definitely seemed to exist in order to be livened up. After all, that's what paper and coloring books were for. My parents didn't seem to want me to take advantage of our blank walls back then, but that made a lot more sense.

The professor starts the lecture by discussing why he believes he is different. An flurry of questions runs through my mind about what would make someone different. While he is explaining, I am talking to myself:

What scale of measurement are we using to justify calling someone different or normal? Why would that scale be valid? Is the statistical average enough to call someone normal? What if the majority had a genetic abnormality? Which would be normal; the people conforming to the standard or the statistic?

What could have someone feeling this way about himself? What would be the effects of someone feeling that way? Have we done anything to encourage this feeling he has about himself? Have I personally done anything to encourage this feeling he has about himself? How does someone else feeling this way about himself make me feel?

What are the moral implications of my knowing that someone feels this way? Is action or inaction the more socially appropriate course of action?

Is this simply a way of communicating that I am not interpreting correctly? Is calling oneself first different then calling oneself weird at length and in public... not actually something that causes this individual distress?

Does he actually believe this? Does he believe this in the way that I believe he is believing this? Do most people feel this way?

Does this person feel this way due to circumstances or is this feeling due to a chemical reaction that would have taken place regardless of the circumstances which create a narrative for the feeling?

If a person speaking this way about himself bothered someone in the classroom, would it mean that self-disclosure in the classroom is wrong? If it's wrong in the classroom, is it always wrong?

Would someone feeling offended about this self-disclosure be wrong if it inhibited authenticity?

I go on and on and on like this for at least an hour while the professor's speech about himself continues. When the speech is over, the class is over, and I wake up to my computer screen. I look in the corner and see that it's 2 AM, and I haven't sent any of my personal statements to my friend!

I think this dream came about due to my looking up someone on campus who studies psychopathy. I was alarmed to see a documentary that featured a building I pass by every day housing unfettered psychopaths. I'm sure the unfettered "psychopath" was an actor for the film featuring the researcher, but it had me thinking! My friend has mentioned that I am interested in "different" people and I think that fueled the flurry of questions in the dream.

So I guess I'm very strongly influenced by what's happening around me while I sleep (or what happened just before I sleep)! That's not too surprising, but I just looked up "oneirology" and it suggests that these are "authentic" dreams and "illusory" dreams. I can't really tell the difference. It seems to me that one is more well-interpreted than the other, that's all. Please let me know if you have ever had an illusory dream! I would love to hear about it!