Dream of: 13 April 1999 "Nous Sommes Nus"

While I was in an upstairs room of the Gay Street House, the phone rang and I answered it about ten different times. Each call was from customers of my father's business. It seemed that my father was in the business of building certain kinds of buildings, and that all the callers wanted to know how much the buildings cost. One woman even wanted to know if my father had any buildings in progress because she would like to first take a look at the building. Since I was unsure any buildings were in progress, I wrote down her name and told her I would call her back.

I had been thinking about going to work for my father – I knew he wanted me to work for him. I recalled I used to work for him when he had owned a factory which manufactured cellulose insulation. It occurred to me that constructing buildings was somewhat similar to the insulation business. If I were to work in the construction business with my father, I might even operate an insulation business on the side. I could envision making much money by combining the two businesses. Although I knew most houses around Portsmouth had already been insulated, I thought I might be able to supply the insulation for large construction projects.

Of course I wasn't overly excited about moving back to Portsmouth, but I figured my wife Carolina and I could build ourselves a large modern house which would make life pleasant.

I walked downstairs, found my father, and began talking with him about the idea. I was still unsure how much money I would earn. Clearly my father was interested in my going into business with him.

Still pondering the idea, I left the House and walked downtown, only about five blocks from the House. I entered a building which seemed somewhat like the interior of a mall, somewhat like the lobby of a bank. When I saw Seeley (an employee of my father whom I had known for many years) standing in the lobby, I hollered out to him. I thought to myself how Seeley had worked for my father for so long, but how Seeley had only remained a laborer, and had never tried to make money by rising in the business. I also felt a little guilty when I saw Seeley. I recalled the last time I had been in Portsmouth, I had told Seeley I might come to his home to visit him, but I hadn't gone.

When Seeley saw me, he was obviously still angry because I hadn't gone to see him. He shrugged his shoulders, turned and walked away. I hurried after him, and with two fingers of my hand, grabbed his sweater. But he didn't stop, and as he continued moving along, it seemed as if he were riding a bicycle, and as if I were airborne, flying in the air behind him, holding on. I floated along for quite a while. Finally realizing he wasn't going to stop, I let go, and Seeley disappeared into the crowd.

I had a specific reason for coming to this mall: I was supposed to meet some members of my family for a meal in a restaurant. When I saw the restaurant, I hurried inside. After I had found my family, including Carolina, sitting at a table, I sat down and joined them. My maternal grandfather Liston was sitting on my right and he and I began having a conversation in French. Liston made a statement that it didn't matter which language one used, as long as the person got his message across. He carried his point even further, and maintained that it didn't matter which language a poem was written in, that the message of the poem would be the same whatever language was used. He said any English poem could be effectively translated into French.

I however, adamantly disagreed with him about this. I specifically thought of the T.S. Eliot's poem "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock." I knew this poem by heart, having memorized it many years before, and I knew the poem had nuances which simply couldn't be translated into French.

I carried my argument even further, pointing out that we were now speaking French, and that some of what we were saying simply couldn't be conveyed in English. For example, the extremely pleasant feel of the language couldn't be duplicated in English.

Liston, who looked increasingly like Cosmo Kramer (the character played by the actor Michael Richards in the television series "Seinfeld"), finally agreed with me. He now understood that indeed, the way we were speaking French to each other, and understanding each other so well, allowed us to experience something which we couldn't experience in English. To emphasize his point, he said, "Nous sommes nus dans un monde of people wearing clothes."

I understood what he was saying: we were naked in a world of people wearing clothes, that our speaking French to each other set us apart, and made us different from the people around us. Clearly, therefore, we were able to communicate something in French which we couldn't possibly communicate to each other in English. In approbation of what he had said, I held my hand up in the air for him to clasp, and I exclaimed, "Oui mon ami."

He grabbed my hand and we smiled at each other.

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