Monday, May 10, 2010

Want to hear about my boring literary dream? Well too bad if you don't – this is the charm of blogging.

In my dream I was walking through a park with Tim and Amanda, talking about literature. I remember that there were lots of fallen branches in the park that council staff had arranged into tidy piles ("Oh, there's the gum-tree-branch pile!" I remember joking).

At one point Amanda said something and Tim and I replied at the same time, "Have you read Crash by JG Ballard?" I was pleased that he and I we would both be 'on the same page', literarily speaking. I then remember discoursing at length on the themes of the book Crash while the others listened respectfully, which just shows that my dreams reflect my real-life fears of boring my companions with my long-winded conversational tangents.

Our walk went through an avenue of elm trees and turned a corner, and I realised we were at a posh café in the Carlton Gardens. Even though there is no such café it turns out that we were all familiar with it, and our conversation turned to how the coffee was actually quite good there, and the food was not as expensive as you'd have thought.

I spotted an author whom I recognised in the dream as John Marsden (even though he did not at all resemble the real John Marsden), which reminded me to tell the others about an episode in my precocious past, in which a children's author had invited me, then actually a child, to collaborate on a book. But this revolutionary literary experiment had ended badly when the famous author slapped me. (This is an absurd combination of some wish-fulfilment fantasy – I idolised various children's authors – and the plot of The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas.)

The three of us got into a car that, in the dream, belonged to Tim. At first I was driving with the other two in the back seat, but then Tim said, "I'll drive," but instead of him getting into the drivers' seat, he just started driving from right where he was sitting and I realised the car itself had turned backwards – I was now in the back seat, with Tim and Amanda in the front. The car was now a left-hand drive car, which made me muse, "Hmmm, don't they drive on the right in Japan?"

And amazingly, we were now driving in Japan. We drove through picturesque country until we started to drive past blocks and blocks of depressing Commish-style flats and I realised we were in the Tokyo suburbs. (I saw two Western hippie-punks graffiti-ing one of the apartment blocks.)

Then I realised that there were queues of people lining the road, and very few cars. With a jolt of the-rangas-in-MIA's-'Born Free'-video fear I realised all the people were gaijin – not a single Japanese person except for the uniformed police marshalling the queues and shouting in stereotypically bad English, "YOUR PAPERS PREASE!" – and I feared what was happening.

But a policewoman simply handed us a stiff sheet of paper and waved us forward. I felt very pleased not to be queueing with all the suckers. I looked at the paper and it was a sticker, similar to a registration sticker, designed to be attached to the vehicle. It said something to the effect of, "This foreigner has a three-day tourist visa in Tokyo and is entitled to park anywhere for those three days."

By this stage the others had disappeared (had I dropped them off somewhere?) and I was driving the car. I steered it between some buildings and parked it in an obscure car park, being careful as it wasn't my car and I didn't want to damage it. Then I faced the dilemma of where on the car to paste the sticker. I tried several places but changed my mind and had to peel the sticker off, but it ripped like a price sticker and eventually disintegrated altogether.

I was panicking – I was in Tokyo without a tourist visa, without any idea where I was, anywhere to stay or any way to contact my fellow tourists. I wandered through an anonymous city district (including an American-themed diner where the waitresses dressed a lot like the staff of Merlotte's) trying not to panic.

Then in the foyer of a plush hotel I ran into some people I knew. They greeted me heartily ("Are you in town for the ____ conference?" they asked) and reassured me that if I'd parked the car in an out-of-the-way spot it would be fine for the three days. They said, "Have you heard of a writer called Tim Howard?" and I said, "Of course, he writes for me at The Enthusiast," and they said, "Oh really? Haven't you heard? He was shortlisted for the ____ Literary Award but nobody knows who he is."

At this news I thought, "Wow, what a dark horse!" and also "Yay, we'll be getting great pageviews!" Presumably Tim also didn't know about his shortlisting, since he was also lost in Japan somewhere. I wandered on and on, and eventually ran into Sophie, who was staffing a flower stall. She assured me she could book me a cheap hotel room, but it turns out the place she had in mind was fully booked.

I woke up from the dream with an anxious, disorganised feeling. Which, really, is the way I feel most of the time.

Brilliant! I always like hearing about my appearances in dreams, especially dreams in which I am driving a shapeshifting car and winning literary awards.

"...but nobody knows who he is"

That sounds like the kind of thing people say about me in my own dreams.
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