Dream of:21 March 1997 (3) "Taking Pictures"
I was walking south on Chillicothe Street, the main downtown street of Portsmouth, the street that ends at the U.S. Grant bridge over the Ohio River. One or two other people were with me, perhaps my sister or my mother, perhaps Carolina. I wasn't paying much attention to them, as I was more interested in my surroundings, particularly some of the large old buildings which towered over the street. I had never paid much attention to the buildings in downtown Portsmouth, but now I found my interest piqued by what I saw. I was particularly awed by three looming bank buildings which shadowed the main esplanade, and as I walked next to an imposing gray-stoned structure, I ran my hand along the facade, seeking closer contact with the stone, yearning to know the building better. I knew I often wrote about Portsmouth, and touching the rock seemed to bring me closer to the buildings and thus to the town. I also looked up at the name of the building, carved in wide sandstone slabs across the front. I thought my tactile contact, as well as knowing the name of the building, would help me better remember the building when I wanted to write about it.
Finally, however, I had to fetch myself away, hurried along by those waiting for me. As I continued through the street, a troupe of my relatives seemed to be walking along with me. Most were indistinct, and the only one who made a memorable impression on me was my step-aunt Lou. I had never felt much kinship toward Lou. I had always found Lou's relationship to me to be extremely tenuous (her father, my step-grandfather Clarence, had been my step-grandfather, and thus Lou had been my step-aunt). Maybe her relationship to my father ( Lou's step-brother) was somewhat stronger; but for me, Lou and her children had never been important. Now, however, I felt drawn to Lou, and I wanted to spend some time talking to her. Before I had a chance to say more than a few words, however, we reached the restaurant for which we had been headed and we walked inside.
We were supposed to meet my father at the restaurant, and due to my dallying we were already late. We all quickly took seats at a long table – there must have been 10 of us all together – and we settled in. My father (sitting on my right) appeared to have been waiting for a while, but he didn't seem upset by our tardiness. For myself, I wasn't hungry anyway, so being at the restaurant was more of a formality than anything. I was mostly just interested in seeing here with us, and again I looked at Lou, sitting at the other end of the table on the side across from me.
My father also seemed focused on Lou, and he leaned near my right ear and whispered into it. He told me he had reassessed his opinion about Lou, and that he had welcomed her back into his life. He continued to explain that he had only recently learned that Lou had had a much more difficult childhood than he had previously known. Apparently Lou's father, Clarence (my step-grandfather and my father's step-father), had been quite mean to Lou when she had been growing up, and Clarence had even beaten her at times. Lou's subsequent sometimes erratic and bizarre behavior and lifestyle had therefore not been completely her fault, but a result of her warped upbringing. Now as I looked over at Lou (she seemed so frail, her black hair turned white, almost ghostly), as she humbly bent her head over her food and slowly ate with lowered eyes, I felt more than ever that I would like to get to know her better.
My attention, however, was soon drawn to something else: the background music playing in the restaurant. The music had become significant to me because I had noticed Paul McCartney sitting right across from me on the other side of the table – and I thought the song being played in the background was an old Beatles song. John Lennon was also sitting down at the end of the table, on my side, across from Lou. As I continued listening to the song, I thought the singer of the song had been Lennon. I turned to my father and commented how strange it must be for a person like Lennon to come half way around the world and hear his own voice in a restaurant. However, I was unsure my father knew who Lennon was, or that my father understood what I was talking about.
So I turned toward Paul. I was still not completely sure the song in the background was a Beatles song. The song sounded like a Beatles song, but I couldn't exactly place it. Finally I simply asked Paul if the song was by the Beatles. He stopped what he was doing and listened. He seemed to become quite angry and raged that the song wasn't by the Beatles, that it was by some other group. He seemed completely incensed that I could have mistaken the song for a Beatles song. I didn't know why he would be so irate about it, but I decided it was better to just let the subject drop.
So I focused on John. I was particularly impressed by the way John was dressed in raggedy old clothes like something a homeless person might wear. His old brown leather jacket looked as if it were falling apart. And yet, although his clothing looked shoddy, it was quite clean, and indeed it appeared as if he were studiously dressed, as if great effort and expense had been expended to make him look as if he were wearing rags.
I felt a strong affinity toward John. I also was dressed in similar attire. I had fairly long hair and I wore a beret-like cap which kept my hair in place. Like John, I was dressed in raggedy old clothes which were actually much more expensive and trendy than normal clothes. But not only his clothes and appearance drew me to John – I felt a certain consanguinity of spirit with him that pulled me to him.
I hoped I would be able to spend some time with John while he was in Portsmouth. I remembered that I had talked with him earlier, and that we had planned to work on something together this very afternoon. I feared those plans might cause a problem, because I thought my father also wanted to spend some time with me this afternoon. As the meal was drawing to a close, however, and my father stood up to pay, I mentioned to my father that I needed to spend some time with John, and my father didn't seem to mind.
I walked down to the end of the table where John was. He was no longer sitting, but standing next to about a dozen large brown cardboard boxes; he was examining some diagrams on the covers of the boxes, diagrams which apparently displayed the contents of the boxes. I also stood beside him and looked at the diagrams. I needed a moment to discern what the boxes contained: flat gaskets of many sizes and shapes, gaskets used in sophisticated cameras.
Now I began to remember and to realize what was going on. John had bought all these gaskets to be used in some camera equipment which he had. With the cameras, John was planning to take extensive pictures of the Portsmouth area. The picture-taking was going to be an ambitious project, although apparently fairly routine for John. I marveled that he could simply go out and buy whatever he wanted, just on a lark, for whatever project happened to occur to him. But then I reflected that he was one of the richest men in the world, and he could do whatever he wanted with his money. If he wanted to spend his money on camera equipment, nothing was stopping him.
Although most boxes seemed filled with the gaskets, one box apparently contained camera hardware. Obviously there must be a lot more equipment elsewhere. The assemblage of equipment seemed so impressive, I only wished I could help take the pictures. In the back of my mind it seemed as if I had already discussed with John the possibility that I would take pictures with him. But I was uncertain any plans had been firmed up. Thus, with some trepidation, I nervously asked John if I could take part in his project. He seemed a little surprised, as if I should have known it was obvious that I could help, that in fact part of the reason he was taking the pictures was for me. Realizing my fortune, I clinched my hand in a fist and blurted out, "Yes." I wasn't saying "yes" in the sense of answering a question, but in the sense of saying "I'm so happy I can't believe my good luck." Indeed, I could hardly believe I was going to work with Lennon on the project. I couldn't wait to start.
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