Tuesday, February 17, 2004

"Dreaming her dreamy little dreams"

A Monty Python quote is good title for dreams I had when I fell asleep listening to the BBC World Service. I can't find my "All the Words" books to figure out which episode it came from, though.

And I know, shamisen aren't Chinese, but you try telling my subconscious that.

Where was I? Oh right, fell asleep listening to BBC news...

I had a dream I was playing a stereotypical Final Fantasy knock-off with GBA-quality graphics, but the world was confusing. It was some planet with two layers - a whole maze like arrangement of earth floating a mile above normal ground. I couldn't keep track of where everything was, which made it really hard to play the game.

An apartment-sized set of rooms with clean white walls is part of a therapeutic experiment for patients with limited mobility. Caregivers can move some doorway-sized white walls of this opaque fiberglass-like material near to the patients, and these panels take paints and pencils as well as paper. It's a creative outlet for those who can move their hands and wrists but can't sit up. A set of these walls are assembled so that they look like a whitewashed bus stop enclosure on wheels, and there I am, sitting on a bench inside them, trying map out in acrylic paints this stupid game's twisty landmasses so I don't lose my place. I'm using a lot of green.

* * * *

I'm touring the world with two BBC reporters, a man and a woman. I'm along for the ride as they track down their "human interest" stories. I can't recall the first countries we went to.

In China we met the Party chairman in what maybe once was a temple room. Maybe we were in the Forbidden City. To the chairman's back was an ornately decorated wall with filigrees and small bells and places to put lit incense sticks. The floor was padded and covered in red silk. The chairman sat on a raised cushion and held a white acoustic folk guitar. The fret board was painted white, the back was painted white; the whole thing was except for the wire strings, the gilded frets and the steel tuning pegs. He played the guitar and it sounded like a shamisen.

My view panned around, turning 180 degrees, so that I saw his only audience member. The chairman's nine-year-old niece sat on the silk floor, listening attentively. But the two BBC reporters were kneeling down towards the back of the room. And behind the reporters sat two actors from MAD TV in character as annoying husband and wife tourists who wouldn't shut up. The woman from MAD TV actually reached forward and strummed the guitar near the base of the frets so that it played a western-style chord. The chairman was incensed, but suddenly Ben Stiller walked into the room, singing a song that poked fun at himself that our Chinese bus driver made up. The chairmen and the comedians from MAD TV joined in. I think there were cameras rolling and it was all staged, to be aired later on FOX™.

* * * *

Then we went to India, the reporters and I. We were at a resort beach with a half km of yellow sand leading up to the ocean; a kind of beach I don't think exists in India. I had to ask twice which hotel we were staying at ("The fifth one from the end"). It wasn't so much a hotel as a themed bed and breakfast, a marriage-themed bed and breakfast designed for post-wedding parties. There was a grand sloped entranceway shaped like a wedding cake, and a master of ceremonies who announced everyone who walked up the entrance ramp. Everyone looked Hollywood-beautiful, but I don't, so I didn't get a very good intro when I walked in - the MC just said I was smart and witty or something. I was also the only one for whom the entranceway wasn't fake but actually made of cake. I kept sinking down in it as I tried to scramble up into the hotel, and got icing all over my tux lapels. My only consolation was an unavoidable rear view of the shapely BBC reporter as she walked in front of me.

I sat down on a bench on the sea-facing upstairs balcony to admire the bright, sunny day. A middle-aged local with a very bushy but well-trimmed, curly beard and a head of hair to match sat down next to me after coming back from what was clearly not his first trip to the cash bar. He vaguely resembled a rabbi I once knew. He also vaguely resembled Saddam Hussein. He leaned over to confide in me, "India, you know, wouldn't mind going in to space if it has to." I thought about this. I said, "You know, I wouldn't mind going in to space, either."

Fade to: midday in a nearby city. A man who looks like Kurt Russell walks down a wide, empty cobbled street in a nice neighborhood in the heart of the city. The monsoons have started, but nobody acts as if they mind getting drenched. Several Indian men in dark suits pour out of a limo as it peels into view. These gangsters each have pistols, and as they surround the white guy, they aim for his chest. Their unarmed target raises his left arm and points out his index finger like his hand is a gun, too. He aims at a black wrought-iron fence in front of one of the well-architected stone townhouses and "fires". The fence gate bursts into blue flame despite the rain, and it bends and warps until the top rail almost reaches the ground. As the fire goes out, a hooked fishing line from above lowers to catch on the tiny circle of burnished metal on a twine necklace around the accosted man's throat. The hook snags a bit of skin and draws blood as it's raised up and tugs at the necklace. The protagonist points his hand again, upwards this time. The hook and line burn up, all the way up to a fishing rod held out a third-floor window by an unseen hand. He then runs down the street, turns, and escapes into traffic. The leader of the group that tried to kidnap him, the only person at the scene with an umbrella, steps out of the car. "He can not handle the Soul of India," the leader says. "He must be stopped."

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