burmese-python--python-molurus-3Last night, I dreamt that I “owned” a 12-foot python named Mike, who rode around my shoulders like a very long scarf when we had to travel together. Mike could talk, and was very witty.

We went shopping in NYC, where I found a couple of very pretty dresses. But even Mike was surprised when “he” gave birth part-way through that trip. Thoughts? Or do I need a shrink?


Space travel is here

Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter

Lunar Reconnassance Orbiter

I know you don’t believe me, but space travel is here. Last night, I spent some time out under the stars, thinking about the Milky Way (which we rarely see where I live).

And then PLUNK. I was in it. I was in a conical orbiter sipping, well, diet pepsi, although my peeps were drinking red wine. It was a special voyage, one that included my best friend, her boyfriend, and some other close friends. Our passenger area was a kind of seating in the round kind of thing. My best friend’s boyfriend had arranged for some wine and other goodies, and we were toasting them. And watching the stars. They were so bright. You couldn’t make out any particular constellation, because our position was so far up. So far into it all.

It was as roomy as a designer living room, with plenty of windows onto the stars. I think we’d taken a spin around the moon, but I can’t be sure.

It seemed that before we knew it, it was time to gather our things and “deplane.”

I’d done this before, but my peeps had not. The orbiter sailed into the Chesapeake Bay and into a whirling vortex of water … it was a hush hush kind of thing. No one knows about this! But the orbiter actually lands near the Naval Academy , is sucked into an underground installation, and then pops up in a narrow canal, bobbling toward our destination like a rubber ducky in a carnival moat. I watched, and even the Middies didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary as they walked by. We drifted for a moment after splashdown, then ended up somewhere near the Cathedral.

I asked the captain how long the voyage had been, because with the quick change of stars and venue, we couldn’t really tell the hour.

“An hour and a half,” he said. “But some say it was an hour and 10 minutes with the tailwind.” I think he was joking.

He told me that presidents and other statespeople had made this same trip.

To the moon, Alice

Lunar crater Daedalus

Did you know that there are already people living on the moon? Neither did I, until I went to sleep last night.

I took a special shuttle — about 50 people, very Challenger looking — and when we disembarked, we walked across a dusty black and white field. Gravity wasn’t an issue — I think we were under an enormous bubble.

And yet the field was “other” … littered with the detritus of the human race. Trunks, softballs, a car. All under a smoky dust.

We were clearly on the dark side of the moon. Perhaps the other side was too bright?

Our hosts took us into an office building and gave us a tour. This particular facility was a government office. We visited a lab, public relations, and the executive office.

I spoke extensively with a man who had tried to grow food on the moon, to no avail. Once I looked at his plans, I realized that he hadn’t enough light. I also suggested he try aquaculture to provide tilapia and other fish for the hundreds of people there.

At that moment I realized that I had forgotten to pack my camera, and I had to borrow one from someone else.

In spite of the fact that this was a secret operation of sorts, no one balked when I interviewed them for my story, “To The Moon and Back, Alice.” They let me take photographs and revealed quite a bit of information. I liked it there. I was told that great pains had been taken to create an absolutely diverse culture. There was an accurate head count for every nationality, age, and sexual orientation. Because people were often assigned for a minimum of one year, it was important that they had a “family.” I appreciated their foresight.

At first I thought that people lived somewhere in this particular office building. In fact, the government had built attractive, very affordable townhomes. I wondered how real estate on the moon compared to Earth’s, but didn’t get that far.

Suddenly we were whisked away to a steak dinner and our lodgings. I wondered how they managed to get steak to the moon regularly.

On meeting Tobias Wolff

Tobias Wolff

Last night I got to meet one of my rock star writer heroes. Tobias Wolff. You might not know him by name, but you may have seen a film that was inspired by his memoir — This Boy’s Life with Leonardo DiCaprio, Robert DeNiro, and Ellen Barkin.

Anyway, I was attending Harvard, and I was looking for my advisor, and I was going to need an extension for a paper that was due that day. I felt terrible, but I really couldn’t seem to get it done. It needed to be 23 pages, and that’s exactly what every other student had written. 23 pages. I poked my head around a corner, a corner near a door on which the name “Raymond Carver” was imprinted. Raymond Carver was my advisor. But he wasn’t in.

Instead, I found Tobias Wolff, amongst stacks of books, papers, and copies of Raymond Carver’s books. Literary posters covered the hallowed walls.

It was a surprise to find Tobias Wolff, because I realized at once that it was his class that my paper was due for. I fell all over myself telling him how wonderful it was to meet him, and how much his writing had meant to me over the years. Since 1981, in fact, when his landmark story collection “In the Garden of the North American Martyrs” was published. It bothered him not that I’d never attended his class and that I was only just meeting him now. He asked me out for coffee anyway. How gracious is that?

Thing is, he did want to know why the paper would be late. I had to tell him the truth: my roommate had had a baby in the dormitory room the night before, and, well, the process had consumed all available space and time. In fact, the dream began with this incredible birth. It seemed as though my roommate went from barely pregnant to delivery in a matter of minutes.

Tobias Wolff seemed to understand. He did request that I make my application for an extension on paper, and he found me a pen and paper. Lots of paper, as it turned out. Every time I tried to write, it was as if the paper was coated with butter, or the paper was too wet. It was an odd assortment of paper, and apparently I was writing on recycled pieces with things already written on the other side. But where the paper was buttery or wet, the backwards writing and my writing all coincided, and I seemed to fill up recycled paper after recycled paper with my attempts at an extension request.

There is some truth to this dream. I did attend Harvard for graduate work in the late 70s and early 80s. I never did meet Tobias Wolff, and I’m pretty sure he never taught at Harvard. At Harvard I did meet Robert Penn Warren, a guest lecturer, who had been a rock star writer hero of mine since high school. No college roommate bore children within the dormitory walls. A close college friend did have an abortion, which was, I’m sure, much more traumatic for her than it was for me, although I was there. I never had to get an extension for a paper, but I suffer angst about all things scholastic to this day, including, apparently, my choice of degrees.

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A good school dream

Resonance structures of benzene.

Resonance structures of benzene

Instead of the usual find-myself-back-in-college-but-forgot-to-go-to-classes scenario, last night I dreamed I had been brought in to a school for a special week. During that week, I was put with a small team who had been selected just like myself for some kind of science education.

We went to classes, we did experiments, we wrote papers. As a group, we were very tight. In our “free” time we even went shopping together.

It was a good feeling. I recalled how I wanted to major in chemistry in college, but had been put off by organic chemistry, especially benzine rings. Now was my chance. I was 55 and raring to go. All of my interactions with teachers and students were incredibly positive.

At the end of the week, they asked me and my team to fly to Cleveland the next week. After that, they wanted us to attend four years of school, and they would pay us (not much, but enough) to do so. It was a little unclear what kind of science I would study, but right then it didn’t matter. I would be a doctor! I had a shot at a new career!

My teachers couldn’t have been more complimentary or supportive.

I said yes, even though it meant calling a client after 5 pm on a Friday and telling him that I wouldn’t be able to fly to New England the next week for some kind of writing project.

I flew to Cleveland with my buddies and they put us up in an odd room together. It was kind of sweet — brick walls and plenty of room, even though we’d all be bunking together in four different beds.

We spent the rest of the evening getting organized for the next day, because we knew we wouldn’t have a minute to do anything else.

This was very satisfying, after my years of (dreaming-wise) showing up in classes without having registered. Sometimes with few or no clothes. Often regretting that I had decided to pursue an English degree for the second time.

I would finally get a degree that meant something. 🙂

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Alien hair

Rita Hayworth in Lady from Shanghai - great hair!

A man I knew, a doctor, told me that I was going away. Turns out I’d been selected by aliens to go to their planet. I had no choice.

Once there, I was told that I’d have to have an abortion (their word for a hysterectomy). I realized they didn’t want any offspring, and also realized that their men must have similar anatomies to ours.

I was also told I had to have my hair cut. The aliens told me my hair was too wide.

I resisted the abortion, in fact, talked them out of it … but didn’t mind the haircut idea at all. Well, at first.

I was being trained at a very specific task. Would I have to learn their language? Yes. I figured that I would sit up late at night and study the manual (yes, there was one) so that I could excel and that would help me find a way back home. I was worried that no one knew where I’d gone. I wanted permission to call my mother, and they granted that. I wanted to make sure she knew how to pay my bills, and that I was OK.

The task I was being taught had something to do with surgery, which looked very different on this nameless planet. I was eager to return home and pass the boards so that I could be Dr. Smith.

Their planet was really quite a bit like ours. Somewhat more exotic. A lot of earth people were there, especially Asians. And they liked to sell the food and clothing of their people. I had a hard time understanding the food, even though, as some kind of token of his gratitude, my doctor took me and another familiar woman out to dinner to celebrate my kidnapping. It was a lovely restaurant called “Lines” but it was a fancier name. And it was elegant.

During the day I had some time to venture out. There were no cars, only dirt paths (even though there were billboards along them) but I was free to walk. One day I set out to find food. I’d been given money for groceries. Some coins looked like quarters, but were worth much more. I was heading out to a farm. I’d seen some local produce, and it was beautiful. The melons, the vegetables were nothing like at home.

On the way, I found a small grocery store. But the point of interest was a young woman who came up and insisted she cut my hair. I was willing! I gestured about the kind of cut, which she approved. And there it was. I felt reborn. I had to go to another planet to find the nerve to have short hair again.

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