Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Ren Faire Nightmare

We're finally getting around to one of those castle dreams that have been so en vogue these days. Don't forget that you can see what people tend to dream about most often in the "browse dreams by subject" section in the sidebar on the left. This dream puts bathrooms neck-and-neck with mothers, who have been tailgating houses for a while now. But I predict that possession (you know. by witches, ghosts, demons, etc)  is about to be all the rage.

Dream blog #21 brings us Sarah from Alabama, who writes:
We are at the opening of a new Barnes and Noble-type bookstore, in Alabama I think. It is faux castle style. There are lavish food spreads—cured fish, herbed butter balls whose melted moat we sop up with fluffy bread. There is velour on the walls and fur lining the bookshelves. We walk down a very long hall where there are many doors. It was all obviously expensive to make but also the drywall is barely masked. We go into a room. There is a fireplace and many levels of shelves. The books are big and elaborate but also gimmicky and fake, like Pirates of the Caribbean pop-up guides and big other kinds of guides with fake leather spines. We go back into the main room and I see a small man sitting in a cut-away space high in the wall. He is smoking a pipe and surveying the scene. His front is flickeringly lit, which I note must be the light of his faux fireplace. I go to the bathroom, which is incidentally divided from the food by only a partition and when I come out three women in "castle period" dress follow me to tell me a "prophecy." I edge away from them thinking it a sham and at this point wake up.

What is this world coming to Sarah? You can't just go to an old-fashioned neighborhood bookstore anymore. Everywhere you look it's big towering chain outfits the size of palaces that net people in with fancy food and slick decor. When folks go shopping nowadays, nothing less than Disney World will do. And just like The Magic Kingdom, if one takes a peek behind the scenes, one can see the peeling plaster, the shoddy workmanship, the sweatshop child labor, and the empty ideology whose fetid odor is only perceptible to a sharp and inquiring mind. That's where you come in, Sarah. You're open, but skeptical. In your dream you eat the food and marvel at the decor, but see it for the fluff that it is. They've given you so many choices: books to read, shelves to peruse, doors to open, but it's more amusing than tempting because you know that it's all just substanceless cardboard. 

Sarah, you don't trust anyone in this establishment, nor do you jive with those who hang about the bookstore/castle's institutional equivalent in your awake life. What that place is and who these assholes are you know better than I. Like this illuminated little man peering down from above—he can watch you if he wants to, maybe gaze into your mind and judge your ideas, even listen to you taking a tinkle in that joke of a restroom. But his power is as ersatz and petty as the cheap Little Golden Books he peddles. Outside of this place his reign is but a figment. Others have bought into his scheme, like the three renny-faire wenches who accost you with their take on reality. And you want so little to do with them Sarah, that you leave the dream world entirely.

Sara, whatever this place is and whomever its denizens of authority and placid conformity may be, I see a couple of paths for you to take. Not via the doorways in your Barnes-and-Disney-Magic-Castle place—you know those all lead to the same end. No, you can either leave this place, or you can eat your butter balls and bear it. Leaving seems like an eventuality for you, so it might be "eat your butter balls, bear it, and then kiss its ass goodbye." But where will you go? The dream you've created makes a strong case for a version of things you don't want, so then what's the version of things you do want? Dreaming that is tough enough, actualizing it is another matter altogether.

Despite their effed-up history and relationship to warfare, castles are pretty cool. When I was a kid I hung out at my neighborhood bookstore. There were lots of 'em back before Amazon and other online outfits usurped people's desire to rummage the dusty shelves of second-hand shops, or to chance a mom'n'pop having a certain title in stock. Anyway, the children's book author David Macaulay was doing a book signing right in that little bookstore in my neighborhood! Macaulay wrote and illustrated all these great books (including one called Castle) that explain the relationship between architecture and civilization, how each shapes the other, and how human beings create the version of things they want. What that too often looks like is, "how human beings with money and power and corporate backing create their version of things they want." But even though we see the phallic remains of some great big military castle, and not the humble ghosts of the homes that stood in its shadow, those homes and the lives they embodied still had a substance and a richness that was far warmer than the cold ramparts of some embattled tower.

Dear Sarah of Alabama, I hereby knight thee. Go forth from thine dream and hence endeavor to erect your own "castle," be it of stone or or paper, of butter balls or of dreams. Make thy realm in thine own architectural image. Then, send the blueprints to 31 Dreamers.

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