I was born in southeastern Ohio in 1952 and spent my wild and reckless teenage years in a little town on the Ohio River called Portsmouth. Having later gained a modicum of maturity, in the summer of 1975 , while living in Germany, I began reading The Trial, a novel by the surrealist writer Franz Kafka, who was subsequently mentioned in some of my dreams.
Dream of: 24 August 1975 "Broken Sunglasses"
While in Portsmouth, I bought a pound of marijuana from Phil Lane (who also seemed a bit like other Portsmouth buddies from my teenage years - Leroy Maggard, Steve Buckner and Mike Walls - all rolled into one). Lane and I transported the marijuana to Lane's house and after descending to the basement (which resembled the basement in the home of Buckner's parents), Lane and I sat in a little cement-block room. Having already rolled some of the marijuana into joints, I pulled out a joint and lit it. Lane and I sat smoking until the joint became rather small. I then stuck the joint backwards into my mouth and blew smoke through it into Lane's mouth.
We decided to leave, walked outside and boarded a car in which someone else was sitting in the driver's seat. Lane sat on the passenger side of the front seat while I sat in the back seat. After I stuffed the marijuana under the dash, we rode off.
As we rode along, Lane told me a little story. He said some black fellows had attempted to steal all his marijuana and Lane's father (whom I pictured as looking like the father of Mark Upton,another Portsmouth acquaintance) had encountered the blacks in the basement and had paid the blacks $300 to leave. Lane said he afterwards pressed legal charges against the blacks, who were subsequently fined $430 and sentenced to 30 days in jail.
I asked Lane to pull the marijuana out from under the dash and hand it to me. Lane pulled out the marijuana (which was in a container resembling a long, thin, rectangular, candy box) and after he handed the box to me, I stuck the box in the inner pocket of the long, green, army coat which I was wearing.
As we headed for the state liquor store on Gallia Street, I remembered my father had earlier warned me not to go to the liquor store. When we nevertheless arrived at the liquor store, we stepped out of the car and walked inside. Lane wanted to buy two packs of cigarettes, but since I didn't smoke, I didn't want any.
While in the store, I looked at the bottles of alcohol and noted how expensive they were. When I saw a bottle of Tom Collins among the bottles, I remembered that Buckner used to buy that particular brand. I thought about buying a bottle, vacillated and decided not to. I then saw a bottle of whiskey which looked like a bottle of chocolate milk. Somehow the chocolate milk and whisky had been blended together. I thought about how good it must taste.
After Lane had ordered two packs of cigarettes, things became confused, and the store clerks tried to force Lane to buy 20 more packs. Somehow I became entangled in the mess and the clerks tried to compel me to buy 70 packs of cigarettes.
Cheap broken pairs of sunglasses were lying all around the store.
I tried to plead with a police officer who was in the store, but I had no success. I felt a trifle like Josef K., the main character from Kafka's novel, The Trial.
Worried about the marijuana in my coat pocket, I feared the people in the store knew I had it. I remembered my father's having told me not to struggle, but to simply give in.
When Lane and I were finally able to leave the store, we carried the cigarettes (and some broken sunglasses) in a plastic bag to the prosecutor's office, which was down the street in a building beside the old Laroy theater. After we walked into the prosecutor's office and told the prosecutor what had happened, he said that the whole thing was ridiculous and that we didn't have to buy the cigarettes. Relieved, we returned to the liquor store and informed the officer at the store of the prosecutor's words. We deposited the plastic bag with the cigarettes and broken sunglasses on the counter and left.
Lane and I got back in the car, which Walls was now driving. We rode off and bustled recklessly, drugged, through the streets.
I read more of Kafka's work, including The Castle.
Dream of: 17 February 1982 "The Castle"
A companion and I had gone to a house on Scioto Trail in Portsmouth where another fellow used to sell drugs. When my companion and I arrived, although the fellow who sold drugs wasn't home, my companion and I entered the house anyway. While inside, I found a billfold with money in it. Thinking I might simply borrow some money from the billfold and use it to buy drugs elsewhere, I thought, "Well, I'll have to go buy some."
Concluding I could pay back later the owner of the billfold, I took the money. My companion and I then headed for the home of Mike Walls (a Portsmouth acquaintance) to see if I could buy some marijuana from Walls. As we were on our way to Walls' house, I began worrying about the owner of the billfold; if he returned to his house and found his money gone, he would think someone had stolen it.
We reached the place where Walls was living; it seemed to be in the bottom of a large old building, perhaps a castle, which, in a way, made me think of Kafka's book The Castle.
The building was quite dark and grimy. I knocked on the door, but no one answered. Duke (my sister's Dachshund) was with me. When Duke escaped from me and began running around outside, I was unable to catch him. After another person and I chased Duke all the way around to the back of the building, I thought about simply letting Duke wear himself out and then returning for him the next day (by which time he should be ready to let himself be found), but I decided I needed to catch him now, because he might be killed if I didn't. Finally I saw Duke with a group of dogs, some of which were also Dachshunds. I had difficulty telling which one was Duke. One Dachshund had feminine characteristics and was apparently a female.
I finally managed to catch Duke. As I tested various notches on Duke's collar, trying to figure out which notch I should buckle so the collar wouldn't slip over Duke's head, Duke suddenly slipped out of my hands and took off again. I chased Duke back around to the front of the building.
Unable to catch Duke, I finally entered the building and walked down a long narrow passageway until I came to a door. As I opened the door, a man who was a judge dressed in a black robe opened the door from the other side. He was coming out. When he told me to go through first, I replied, "No, go ahead, judge."
After he walked through, I said, "Hello, judge."
He replied, "Well, hello Steve."
He was a muscular, formidable, impressive, good-looking man. Although he was probably in his early 40s, he looked young enough to be a college football player. I felt small and insignificant standing next to him. I even felt a bit despicable. I said, "I'm looking for my sister's dog."
Apparently he knew about the dog, because he said, "Oh, you mean Duke."
I replied, "Yea."
At that point, I could see all the way down to the end of the passageway, where Walls lived, close to where the passageway led to the street. I could see some dogs down there and referring to Duke, I said, "Yea, I think I see him now."
I took my leave of the judge, but as I walked down the passageway, I began wondering how the judge had known my name. I continued walking until I passed Walls' room on my left. When I saw Walls's sister, Carol, and a couple other people in the room, I thought to myself that Walls had probably returned.
When I neared the end of the passageway, I saw Walls at the end, and when I realized Walls had caught Duke, I said, "Oh don't let him go. Don't let him go."
Walls said, "OK."
Before I could reach Walls, he put Duke into a basket. When Walls took his hands off Duke, Duke jumped out of the basket and ran away again with a group of mongrels. When I reached Walls, I sarcastically asked him if he could do anything right.
I opened up the door leading out of the passageway to the outside. A bus was sitting there with some other people who apparently had either come to see Walls, or who had arrived with Walls. Looking back inside the building and down the passageway, I could still see the judge standing in a doorway at the other end of the passageway. I thought to myself that the judge was going to know that I was there with Walls and that the judge would probably know that Walls was a disreputable type who sold drugs. I thought, "I'll be guilty by association."
I knew a Portsmouth attorney named Marshall. I also knew Marshall's father was a judge and I asked someone there if the judge at the end of the passageway was Marshall's father.
The main characters who appear in my dreams are my family, including my father and my sister. Old schoolmates also make frequent appearances.
Dream of: 11 May 1987 "Creating Characters"
I was in a large room (probably in a factory), looking over a piece of electrical machinery which stood about two meters high and was perhaps one meter wide on each side. The machinery seemed to consist mostly of wires and other electrical equipment all fused together into a whole.
Holding a three-prong electrical plug in my hand, I finally found a receptacle on the piece of equipment into which to insert the plug. Almost immediately, however, I perceived the receptacle had a problem, as if a wire on it were missing.
A woman (probably in her late 20s) walked up. I had communicated by phone with the woman in the past, although I had never met her in person. She was an inspector of this kind of equipment. When I told her the receptacle had a problem, she began looking at it. She seemed to do a thorough inspection, and finally she talked about the problem in a serious tone, as if the receptacle could have caused more serious problems. She mentioned "fire" and I had the feeling she was going to take action against the management of the establishment because the equipment wasn't in good order.
She stood up in front of me and began talking to me. Concentrating on my looks, she told me how attractive she thought I was and she commented upon how good the gray jacket I was wearing looked on me. Flattered, I needed a few moments before I realized I hadn't complemented her in any way, but I wasn't really impressed with her looks; she had long brown hair and seemed rather plain. She was wearing a light-brown wool coat which fell to her knees and was buttoned to her chin, so it was the only clothing I could see. Her worst problem was that she was very overweight. Nevertheless I felt compelled to say something and finally I muttered, "You look nice, too."
I was in a room where a number of people were gathered, apparently having a party. I was sitting on a couch and was turned so I could see my sister standing behind the couch talking with another woman. It sounded as if the woman might have insulted my sister in some way. To my surprise, my sister suddenly hit the woman in the face with her fist. The people standing around seemed astounded and stepped up to intervene. Concerned someone might bother my sister, I quickly went to her side, and in a protective way I led her from the room.
I was in a car driving down a country road. It seemed my sister was with me. I came to a crossroads and tried to decide which way to go. Finally I turned around and headed back the way we had come.
My sister and I were standing in front of a rather large black building which appeared to be a night club. Two lines of words were written in large white letters on the front of the building. The words in the top line seemed to have some kind of relationship with the words in the bottom line. The top line seemed decent enough, but words in the bottom line seemed mostly vulgar.
The first two words in the bottom line weren't actually words but symbols. One was a swastika. One of the last words in the bottom line was "suck."
A party was going to take place inside the building for a woman whom my sister knew. My sister wanted to go in; although I wasn't thrilled with the idea, I decided it might be good for my sister. So we entered.
The interior resembled a night club, but subdued. I wondered if I was dressed appropriately. Most men were wearing suits and most woman seemed to have on formal dresses. I was merely wearing a black tee shirt. I didn't feel embarrassed by my attire; I simply wondered if it was appropriate. I also had stubble on my face from not having shaved in a few days. When I saw another man with stubble, I felt more at ease. I also saw a man not wearing a suit.
I looked at the faces of the many people and tried to find one I recognized, but I had no success. Finally my sister and I stopped along a railing or a bar near some other people. When a fellow standing next to me turned toward me, I immediately recognized him as Brian, an old friend from law school. I felt embarrassed, because I had been meaning to contact Brian for a long time and had failed to do so. I was uncertain how he was going to feel about me now after my long neglect.
Friendly, he seemed to want to relieve me of my embarrassment. He warmly shook my hand and introduced me to a woman with him. Brian immediately commented about how pretty my sister was and the woman with him agreed. I said, "This is my sister."
Brian said, "She's very pretty."
My sister said she was going to go somewhere else and walked away.
I hoped Brian and I could speak in German, but I hesitated to do so in front of his lady friend because I thought it would be impolite. Nevertheless, he and I began speaking in German and I felt rather comfortable with Brian.
I was standing in front of a large brick house where a number of college men apparently lived. It was early morning and the house had been the scene of an all-night party. Seven or eight men and women were standing or sitting on the porch. Several other young men were walking on the street toward the house and I heard one comment about the all-night party. Apparently the men who had given the party thought it was a sign of the party's success if it lasted all night.
I walked into the house and through the rooms. It resembled the night club I had been in the previous night, except now the rooms were brighter, and only a few people lingered about. I walked to the rear-most room of the house where I found my father sitting in a chair and watching television with a woman. He told me two educational shows were coming on. He invited me to stay and watch, but I declined and headed back through the house toward the front.
As I passed through the middle room I began thinking I myself had stayed up all night. It seemed as if I might as well try to stay up without any sleep at that point, although I was beginning to feel very tired.
When I reached the front room, I found Brian sitting in a chair. I sat in another chair close to him and we began talking. Both Brian and I had been involved in artistic writing. I seemed to have been working on a novel, while Brian was writing a play. I immediately began talking about the creation of characters for the writings. I somehow thought perhaps we could talk of our characters and perhaps even interrelate the characters in our discussion.
Brian told me the main character in his play was a publisher and he began talking about him. As he talked, I realized how empty my mind seemed when I tried to think of a character which could interact with Brian's character. Indeed it seemed as if I had also been trying to develop the character of a book publisher, but now that Brian was using that character, I needed to invent another one. But I couldn't seem to come up with anything. Finally I thought perhaps I could develop the character of a college student, but that seemed a bit weak.
I was also interested in discussing the way in which character development actually took place. I told Brian that once the place and the character are in mind, it is not absolutely necessary to have other characters interact. Of course if the writing were a play, interacting characters would seem to be almost necessary. I seemed to recall, however, having read a novel by Kafka which contained only one character. I thought developing a character without interaction with other characters would be extremely difficult. I said to Brian, "If you've got the person, and you've got the place, the next thing I suppose you need is people to relate with."
The characters in my dreams, including myself, are not faithful representations of their real-life counterparts. Dream characters develop their own personalities quite apart from real life.
So many woman have been with me, one after another. Most of my powers of imagination has been wasted on women.
Dream of: 23 September 1992 "Powers of Imagination"
I was watching a scene on a beach in Mexico. A small boy had been strapped into a seat which was going to be pulled by a boat over the water. The seat had a kite up above it, which would cause the seat to rise.
As I began to imagine what being pulled like that would be like, I realized my powers of imagination were quite extraordinary. I could actually see a person being pulled up and the kite up above him. I saw some electrical wires and wondered if he might hit them. I even began wondering what it would be like if my wife Carolina were pulled like that.
What amazed me most was the vividness of the images I was creating. I reflected that the images were as strong as dream images, and I wondered if there was any connection between dreams and my powers of imagination.
I was sitting in a movie theater with my arm around Birdie (my steady girlfriend during my late teens), who was sitting on my left. As a movie began, still pondering my powers of imagination, I looked at the screen and decided to test the powers. I wanted to visit Franz Kafka, whom I immensely admired. At once I found myself apparently in Germany. I was elated. Germany was where I most wanted to be. As I walked along a deserted area and saw ahead of me an old door, mostly of opaque glass, I realized I didn't even know whether I was inside or outside. I thought I would find out whether I was inside or outside after I passed through the door.
I swung the door open and saw the outside street ahead of me. I was so happy to be there, but I didn't let my joy interfere with my task, which was to find Franz Kafka. I thought about how Kafka had written a book comparing life to a trial, and how appropriate that seemed to me.
The street being deserted, I thought I needed to look for people. I thought I would look for the center of town and would seek a church to enter. Looking around, I saw what appeared to be a crowd of people on the street ahead of me and I headed toward them.
I snapped out of my imagination back into the movie theater. Birdie was pressed quite close to me. She seemed to realize what I was doing and I thought she might want to participate, but I was unsure she could. I felt close to her.
The movie was on the screen; I realized it was in German. I thought I would try to focus on it for a while, to see if I could pick up the plot.
I seemed to be in Germany again. I was in a house looking for a pen. I needed to write something. As I went through some things on a desk in front of me, I was interrupted by a young woman. Apparently the things belonged to her, and just as she interrupted me, I had my hand in a purse which apparently belonged to her. When I saw a $20 bill in the purse, I hoped she didn't think I was trying to rob her. I only wanted a pen.
As I picked up a camera, I realized I had once known the woman. I vaguely recalled having been with her years ago when she had bought the camera, but when I asked her about it, she said she had just bought the camera the previous week.
Suddenly a man in a strange costume which covered everything but his face appeared through a window. I realized he was Phil Lane (an old friend from Portsmouth). He looked ridiculous and I said something about how some things never change. I hadn't seen him in many years and I wanted to talk with him. The woman was apparently his wife or girl friend. But he didn't have time and he quickly left.
Not all my imagination, however, was spent on women. Kafka definitely captured my imagination. I could vividly relate to the imaginary world which he so astutely described.
Dream of:11 April 1995 "The Great Dostoievsky"
I was thinking of moving back to Gallia County, Ohio, and perhaps practicing a little law there. However I didn't want to practice much law, and would only practice on a part-time basis, perhaps only part of the year; the rest of the year I would travel.
I would need to have an office, but I didn't want to be right inside Gallipolis. Even though Gallipolis was small, I wanted to be out in the country where no one else was around. It was my experience that people would come to their lawyer even if he were out in the middle of nowhere; so why stay in town while so much forest beautified Gallia County?
Since I wasn't admitted to the bar in Ohio, I would have to take care of that, which would take some time. I would also probably have to buy a place for an office. I would like a large, old, two-story frame house which I could convert into an office. I could check with a local Realtor and see what was available out in the country.
Then I had another idea: I thought about Nebo Church, the pretty, one-room, white, frame church which sat alone in Gallia County's forested countryside. The church was still maintained in good condition, even though no services were held there any longer. Perhaps I could buy the church.
The idea intrigued me, even though I almost immediately realized it wouldn't be practical to put a law office in the church, because it only had one room. But now I was thinking of something different: I could turn the room into a large art studio. I could buy large canvasses and paint whatever I wanted on them. I didn't know where to buy such canvases or how much they would cost, but the idea of a spacious art studio out in the middle of nowhere was extremely pleasing.
Of course I realized I would probably only be able to work there in the summer. Heating the church in winter would be too difficult. In the winter I would have to go somewhere else.
I was in a car with two or three other men. We had pulled up to a church in the country which I was thinking of buying. On the door was a sign displaying the names of three men, and beside each name was a number. The three numbers appeared to add up to a hundred; two numbers were much larger than the third. I had seen this same type of sign at another church which I had visited, and I had concluded the numbers represented the percentages that each man owned in the church. I thought the men had probably been brothers and had inherited their respective percentages when their father had died.
One man in the car with me was George H. W. Bush, and he was one of the men whose name was on the sign – the one with the smallest number. I wanted to talk with him about the church and try to find out how much the church would cost, but he seemed quite somber and taciturn, and I decided not to bother him.
I was standing with a group of perhaps 20 men. It was cold, and snow was on the ground. At first I thought we were outside a church in Gallia County, but when I took better measure of my surroundings, I realized I wasn't in Gallia County at all: I was in Russia.
I had been thinking of living part of the year in Russia. Although I might practice law part of the time in the United States, I felt I could still spend time in Russia. Now I was confirming my idea, for I felt at home being in Russia. A few times in my life I had found a place where I immediately felt at home, where I felt I belonged – and I knew I had now found such a place: I belonged in Russia.
The men around me were dressed in dark clothing and seemed to be struggling to fight off the cold. I had the feeling they were all rather poor, but I also had the feeling that they were unbowed by their poverty, and that they were engaged in some stimulating, intellectual pursuit. This suspicion was confirmed when one fellow walked up to me and said, "Kafka is to __________, as __________ is to __________."
The man was drawing an analogy between Franz Kafka and another author, comparing them to still two other authors. But the only author's name whom I recognized was Kafka's. I knew I rarely heard anyone speak of Kafka. Since Kafka was one of my favorite authors, and I had read several of his books, I felt I was in good company with people with whom I would share a common interest.
I turned my attention to what was taking place. It seemed as if some kind of class was going on. One man standing in front of the others seemed to be trying to teach the class. The teacher was a tall, thin man (about 40 years old). He had a black beard and was dressed in the same poor, dark clothes as everyone else.
However he was having great difficulty maintaining order in the class, and to a large extent the other men seemed to be ignoring him. Finally three men in the back of the class stood next to each other and threw their arms over each other in a line. They then began singing and dancing a wild Russian dance, kicking their legs in the air. They were quickly joined by two other men.
I rather enjoyed the sight and headed back toward the men, thinking I might join in their dance. When the teacher saw I was going to join them, he lost his temper, for I, as a foreigner, was expected to show respect for the class. The teacher thought if he lost my attention, he would lose complete control of the class. Carrying a black cane with a silver handle, the teacher marched to the back where the five Russians were dancing and began striking the men with the cane.
I was appalled. I walked up to the teacher, wrested the cane from him and knocked him to the ground. He lay on his back looking up at me. Only then did I recognize the man: Fyodor Dostoievsky. I had read several of his books, including The Brothers Karamazov, the story of the four brothers. The book was so long, even by reading 20 pages a day, 50 days would be needed to complete the book. I now wondered whether reading the book had been worth the effort. With sharp disdain in my voice, I looked at the man, sprawled on his back where I had knocked him down, and I sneered, "Dostoievsky. The great Dostoievsky that everybody's read."
If I so appreciated Kafka's books, surely we must have had something in common. Fear of our fellow man seems to be the common emotion which we shared.
Dream of:29 February 1996 "Book Store"
I had been walking around in a second hand book store, and was just about to leave, when something caught my eye: arranged on the bottom rack of a nearby book shelf was a bunch of the little yellow paperback books know as "Cliff Notes." I knew these books contained shortened versions of literary works along with commentary about the works. I generally wasn't interested in this type of book, but the last book on the end grabbed my attention, for it was titled Kafka.
Franz Kafka was one of my favorite authors; I had read several of his books. I had even read Der Prozess (The Trial) several times, but I had never read any commentary about Kafka's books, and I knew little about Kafka's life. Even as familiar as I was with Der Prozess, I knew parts of that book remained unclear to me and I thought seeing seeing what someone else had to say about the book might be a good idea.
I stepped toward the shelf, intending to pick up the book, but unfortunately I encountered a bit of a problem. A black boy (12-13 years old) was lying on the floor right beside the book, so his head – with its short curly black hair – was almost right next to the book. I didn't want to disturb the boy by bending over and grabbing the book right next to his head. I hesitated, thinking I might just forget the whole thing. Then abruptly deciding to go ahead, I bent over and snatched up the book, managing to not touch the boy (who didn't seem to notice me at all).
I immediately walked over to a comfortable soft chair stationed in the middle of the store, sat down in the chair – sinking back into it – and opened the book. As I began reading the first paragraph I was surprised to realize the book was written in German. This was an added boon since I would much rather read German than English. I hadn't realized Cliff Notes published books in German.
The first paragraph mentioned that Kafka had written twelve books; I was surprised there had been so many. It was unclear whether any of the books had been published while Kafka was alive, but it was clear that Kafka had died young (around the age of 40). The first paragraph also said I would find information in this book about Kafka which hadn't been previously published anywhere. An example of this information was the fact that during his lifetime Kafka had painted twenty-some paintings, and copies of those paintings were to be included in this book.
Looking below the first paragraph at the bottom of the page, I saw some of the pictures which stretched over to the next page. There were actually four or five paintings which were set together next to each other to form an obvious series. The paintings were rather simple, in black and white, showing the interior of a room. The back part of the paintings showed windows full of white sunlight. In the foreground, in front of the windows, were black, featureless images (similar to dancing featureless women by Matisse) of women, dancing in a row, holding each others hands. Although the paintings were only in black and white and somewhat somber, they definitely were exuberant and joyful. I found them quite intriguing, and I realized I would like to have this book to read more about Kafka.
As I flipped through the pages to see what else I might find, I happened to look down between my legs and was surprised to see my penis and testicles completely outside of my pants. I quickly moved my legs and managed to cover everything up. Trying to regain my composure I looked around the store to see if anyone had noticed. Not seeing anyone looking at me, I lodged my private parts back inside my pants and zipped up my pants. I stood up, thinking I should leave the store as quickly as possible.
As I started to leave and I walked away from the chair in which I had been sitting, I realized I had left some other things lying by the chair. On the floor was a belt, a cap, and some gloves which I had been wearing. As I bent over and began picking up the items, I also noticed a small metal spade about 10 centimeters long which was used for garden work. I now recalled that once before I had brought this little spade to this store and given it to the store. So I left it lying there. I also saw some silverware which I thought I had left lying on the floor. Another person was now standing in my way and I had to grope around behind the person to pick up the silverware, but I finally had it all. When I stood back up, I laid the silverware on top of a rack.
Now I only had the book in my hand. I had decided I would like to buy the book, but now a new problem occurred to me. This bookstore was somewhat like a library, in that a person could borrow books and bring them back. I now remembered that I had already borrowed a book which was overdue and that I wouldn't be allowed to take this new book unless I first brought back the old one. I thought I could pay the fine for the old one, but I knew that wouldn't be good enough. I wouldn't be allowed to take a new book unless I brought back the old one first.
That meant I would have to leave the book and come back for it. I would need to try to hide it somewhere so no one else would find it. Or there was one other alternative: I could steal the book. Not many people were in the store. I could slip back between one of the rows of shelves and stick the book in my pants. My chances of being caught were very slight. But what if I were caught? That would be extremely embarrassing. I could just imagine being grabbed as I was walking on the stairs out of the store. That would be a disaster.
I also relate to Kafka because he wrote in a way which no one had ever written before. He passed through life unappreciated, yet still dedicated to his writing. Obviously, however, he was unconvinced of its value, directing that his unpublished works be destroyed after he died.
Dream of:15 March 1996 "What Good Am I"
I walked over to a small white sink on one of the walls of the room in which I found myself. In my hand I was carrying a flat brown cardboard pizza box which I set down in the sink. I didn't think of the box as a pizza box, but instead equated it with a book which I had read several times, Der Prozess by Franz Kafka. As I looked at myself in the small mirror hanging above the sink, a startling revelation came to me.
I recalled that Der Prozess had been the story of a man known only as K., who one morning had been placed under arrest and faced with trial. K., however, had never been told what his crime had been, and all through the book he had struggled to prove his innocence. Every time I had read the book I had strongly identified with K., and had always believed in his innocence.
Now in a flash, however, I realized something quite disturbing: what if K. had actually been guilty? What if all along, K. had known he had committed a crime and had known exactly what his crime had been? What if the book had been so cleverly written that K. would only seem to be innocent, when in reality he had actually been guilty? What if the book had been written so an astute reader would be able to discern K.'s guilt?
This revelation was extremely upsetting to me because I had been so certain K. had been innocent. It shook me to the core to think it possible that I could have been so wrong about something like that. What else had I been wrong about? Perhaps I was even wrong about some of my fundamental beliefs about myself.
I looked more closely at myself in the mirror. I had a thin face and a burr haircut. I didn't look more than 25 years old, but my face was in terrible shape. On different places of my face, something appeared to be moving under my skin, causing my flesh to move up and down in different spots.
I looked closely at myself – could I even be wrong about who I was? What was I doing with my life? I thought how my father had wanted me to practice law, and how I had given up my law practice to write books of dreams. I had abandoned a secure lucrative normal life to pursue some path that seemed fraught with uncertainty. I felt myself seriously looking at myself and saying, "Are you crazy?"
As if in answer, a song began going through my head. It was a Bob Dylan song which I thought was titled "What Good Am I." I recalled a line from the song which went "What good am I, if I'm like all the rest?" I knew immediately what it meant. I wasn't like all the rest, or at least I wasn't supposed to be like all the rest. I just had to accept who I was and what I was supposed to do, and go on from there.
In particular, I relate to the character K. in The Trial. He was a man overwhelmed with anxiety, yet he attempted to project an image of a person in command of his world. I intensely do not like being like this character, but I feel so much like him.
Dream of: 12 November 1997 "Herodotus"
I had just moved into a small one room apartment in Chicago and I was trying to arrange things. However, I was beset by distractions. For one thing, I had been sued by a young attorney regarding Franz Kafka's book Der Prozess. Originally the lawyer and I had planned to read the book together, but our plans had fallen apart. Now the lawyer had called me on the phone to discuss the lawsuit. As I stood at the window and looked out on the street below - I must have been somewhere around the tenth floor - I held the phone receiver in my hand and spoke to the attorney. I explained that I had read the book several times, and that I had even read it twice in German, but the attorney seemed unfazed by any of my arguments, and finally, I simply had to hang up.
Several other people were standing around the apartment; one was a man who was an acquaintance. He was probably in his 50s and lived in Chicago. In the past we hadn't been friends, but now that I was moving to Chicago, he had come over to help me move in. He brought to my attention that I had a luncheon date with his mother at 2 p.m. I had completely forgotten the engagement, but now realized I would have to go.
Some other people in the room seemed to have just come in to sit and wait for something. A pretty young black woman (probably in her early 20s) struck up a conversation with me. When I sat down next to her and asked her if she was on her way to work, she replied no, that she was on her way to school. I asked her where she went to school, and she said she went to a school called "South." I was unsure whether she was talking about a high school or a college. I didn't pursue the subject, and instead we began talking about books. She told me that the so-called father of history, "Heroitus," was her favorite author. I corrected her and informed her that the name was pronounced "Herodotus." I didn't say anything else about the subject, but I deduced that she clearly couldn't know much about Herodotus if she didn't even know how to pronounce his name.
Instead, I turned my attention to an even more attractive black woman sitting on the other side of me. She was dressed in purple and had on just the right amount of makeup. She quickly opened up the conversation by informing me that I had a problem of acting too stuck-up around people. I didn't take offense by what she said; instead, I sincerely thanked her for her observation. I thought that she was probably correct, that I did act too stuck-up, and that I would be much better off if I could learn how to overcome the problem. However, I simply didn't know how to be more humble. I would like to learn humility, but I was uncertain how to go about it.
My hope is that by seeing myself in the pitiful character of Josef K., I will somehow be able to free myself from the somber prison-like world in which K. found himself.
Dream of:18 January 2001 "The Trial"
A thin black-haired fellow (about 30 years old) was sitting in a chair in front of me. As we talked, he asked me what was my favorite book. I thought for a moment, and almost involuntarily, I blurted out that my favorite book was The Trial by Franz Kafka. I was surprised to hear myself saying this. Although I had read the book several times in the original German, and I was definitely fond of the book, it was so somber, so pessimistic, I felt almost ashamed to admit I liked this book more than any other. Yet, even on further reflection, I couldn't come up with another book more ingrained in my mind.
As I looked at the fellow more closely, I suddenly realized he closely resembled Joseph K., the protagonist of The Trial. The fellow was the right age and the right size. As I talked further, I told the fellow how much he resembled Joseph K., and I asked him if he were aware of the resemblance.
The essence of being Kafkaesque is being in a life-damaging situation without knowing how to extricate oneself. The cause of being in this situation, however, is one's self, for the knowledge of the means of escape is available.
Dream of: 10 August 2001 "Kafkaesque"
I was in a nice hotel room, probably on the ninth or tenth floor. I knew my wife Carolina would be showing up later to spend the night there with me, but when my lawyer-friend Jon (about 30 years old) unexpectedly showed up, I was happy to see him. He was in good spirits, smiling and laughing. I told him Carolina and I had stayed there in the hotel before. We liked to get away for romantic weekends; last week we had stayed in a motel in another city. We always ended up having good sex when we stayed in hotels like that.
I wondered if Jon would stay and I wondered if I would be uncomfortable having sex with Carolina while Jon was in the room. Regardless, I told him he could get a room of his own or he could stay there. Since my room cost about $75, I didn't think he would want to spend the money on a room of his own. I told him the problem with staying there was that there was only one bed. But there were plenty of blankets and I was thinking that to be hospitable, if he wanted to stay, I would give him the bed and Carolina and I would sleep on the floor on the blankets. I suddenly realized, however, that two other beds were in the room – three beds in all, enough for everyone.
When I heard a noise coming from one bed, I walked over to it, pulled back the blanket and saw my pet Dalmatian Picasso lying there. I had forgotten he was also with me. Even with Picasso, we still had enough room for Jon. So it was arranged: Jon would spend the night there. He could chip in for the room fee and pay me later. I hoped I didn't forget to get the money from him. At the same time, both of us pulled wads of money out of our pockets. In the process, he grabbed my wad by mistake. Our money had become mixed up, but neither one of us was concerned; we were laughing too much and having too good of a time. He handed me a wad of money, but he was unsure it was the right wad. I pointed out that he was just like me with money: he just kept it in a wad and he didn't keep good track of it. I began counting out the bills in the wad; some were large. But I had no idea whether this was the correct wad or how much money I had. Finally I made a joke of it. I held several bills in each hand as if they were drumsticks and began acting as if I were playing on an imaginary drum. I was trying to show how much fun we were going to have that night. Our plan was already beginning to develop: we would go out and get drunk on acohol,then return to the room and pass out. Of course I was planning to have sex with Carolina when I came back. It was going to be one heck of a fun night. I pointed out to Jon how nice it was to get drunk and not have to worry about where we were staying, to just have a place to come back and fall down in. Both of us were already in high spirits; in fact, it seemed as if we might have already started drinking something.
Something, however, was bothering me; several times, as we had been talking, some people had walked though the room. They entered through the main door and exited through a rear door. This last time one of them had been pushing a tray of food and had left the tray in the room. Jon took advantage of the tray and piled a plate of food for himself to eat. I pointed out that he must be hungry. But I didn't like these people coming in and out of the room – especially since by now I had taken off my clothes and was lying naked under the covers. When a woman who obviously worked for the motel once again traipsed through the room, I hollered out to her that I wanted her to stop coming through the room. She halted and said she had to come through the room to reach the kitchen because something was blocking the normal passage through the hall. I protested that this was intolerable; I stood up in the bed, still holding the cover in front of me, and said I was going to be walking around naked in the room. She acted as if my nudity didn't make any difference and she walked out. I stood on the bed, exasperated, and said to Jon, "We've got people coming through our room. Its like something ." I was going to say "Kafkaesque," but I realized Jon would have no idea what "Kafkaesque" meant. But the word seemed so apropos: this was like something that Franz kafka would write about, wasn't it? uninvited people walking back and forth through a room. Realizing my sentence was still uncompleted, hanging in the air, even though Jon probably didn't understand, I muttered, lowly, "Kafkaesque."
In the end, the route to conquering my alienation from the world seems to lie in accepting who I am. I am not Josef K., and I can be happy for that. I am from a little town called Portsmouth, Ohio. I have enough problems just dealing with that.
Dream of: 26 October 2001 "The Catcher In The Rye"
About 10 students, including myself, were in a classroom at Portsmouth High School. The teacher hadn't yet arrived; all the other students, except myself, were talking. Nobody knew me; I had been away from Portsmouth for quite a while. I could tell that everyone was curious about who I was. Finally I spoke; with an exuberant voice I announced that I had been living in Hollywood, California for the last two years. Everyone was amazed. When someone asked me what I had been doing in Hollywood, I replied, "I acted, I read, I worked."
I told them I had had a fabulous time in Hollywood. When someone asked me why I had returned to Portsmouth, I groaned as if in pain and put my hands over my face. Finally I lowered my hands, revealing that I was only joking about being sad to be in Portsmouth, and I declared, "I love Portsmouth!"
The words sounded strange even to me I didn't remember having ever said that I loved Portsmouth. I tried to explain that during the past two years I had learned that it didn't really matter where I was as long as I was happy with myself and I was!
The teacher (a dour diminutive man about 60 years old who resembled John Glass, a teacher who used to teach at Portsmouth High School) finally walked into the room. Most of the time I could only see his legs from the knees down, because the students and I were all sitting on the floor, and we seemed to be crouching down as if we were under a bed.
As the class began, I realized one of the students (instead of the teacher) would decide what our assignment for the day would be. Sitting on my right, in an equally cramped crunched-down position was a girl (who seemed to be in her late teens). On my left sat a fellow (likewise in his late teens); – he was given the task of choosing the assignment for the day. He apologized that he was going to assign the writing of a book report the most difficult assignment available and we would have to write the book report right now.
I immediately began thinking, trying to recall a book which I had read, but I couldn't think of anything. Surely I could remember something. Finally, Franz Kafka's novel The Trial popped into my mind – I could certainly write a book report about that book. But just as quickly I recalled that this was an English literature class, and The Trial was German literature. I promptly thought of the American writer J.D. Sallinger's The Catcher in the Rye. I recalled the novel quite well. I might even be able to write a book report in which I could compare and contrast The Trial and The Catcher in the Rye. My central theme could be "alienation," a trait shared by the heroes of both novels.
As I had been thinking about the book report, I had been moving closer to the attractive girl on my right. As I began massaging her soft neck, I could feel the thin light-brown sweater which she was wearing. Abruptly she told me to be careful because the teacher had lain down on his stomach on the floor and was crawling toward us. He finally tapped me and said, "Sir, see that her button falls off in the closet."
His words somewhat offended me, even though I didn't quite understand what he was trying to say. He seemed to have an unhealthy, somewhat lascivious air, about him. I didn't think I would comply with his request.
I love Kafka. Therein lies the dilemma. His work is somber and can be depressing. Seeing an exit from the angst which he describes is challenging. Yet I sense such an exit.
Dream of:19 May 2005 "The Hanging Book"
My father and my mother (each about 40 years old) were sitting on my right in a pew in a church. I didn't want to be here. I had brought five or six video tapes with me, but clearly I wasn't going to be able to watch them now. My father and mother began scooting away from me down the pew until they scooted out of the pew and sat down at a table. My father signaled me to scoot down and join them. Apparently he wanted to talk with me about something. He had tears in his eyes. He and I hadn't talked in a long time and I surmised he might want to smooth out our differences.
When I scooted down the pew and sat down at the table, however, he couldn't bring himself to say anything; he just sat there. I stayed for a while waiting, then I scooted back to where I had been and I picked up my tapes. I also picked up a copy of Franz Kafka's The Trial which I had with me. I opened the book, flipped through it, and saw some chapters which I had never seen before, even though I had read the book several times. I thought I should read it again.
With the book in hand, I stood and walked out of the church. As soon as I was outside, I saw some rope hanging from a pulley high overhead and I managed to attach the book to one end of the rope, while I held onto the other end. Now I was able to pull the rope and thus position the book right in front of my face so I could read it without holding it.
I opened the hanging book to the introduction. I was surprised to see the text written in French instead of German. I had been ready to start reading in German, but I found the French satisfying and I began reading. Somehow, while I read, I also would pull the book higher, as if the reading and the rising of the book were coordinated. I just hoped the book wouldn't rise so high I wouldn't be able to see the text.
Dreaming of writers of fiction and their works has proven the great solace of my life.
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