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Introduction: This piece was originally published on thekyotokibbitzer here: https://thekyotokibbitzer.com/2018/09/21/on-a-small-run-in-with-damon-of-damon-and-naomi-in-a-kyoto-basement-alternate-title-a-minor-incident-aka-a-dis-track/

It is written in a tone of faux-pique, ginned-up outrage if you will. Damon is not my enemy–he’s just a foil within the dynamic of the piece. I do like this one.

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What follows is a true story.  Or, in the words of Damon K., formerly of Galaxie 500 and presently of Damon and Naomi, “Here are the dirty facts.”

It was sometime in the first decade of the 21st century.  I was minding my own business in my fair adopted city of Kyoto.  You see, I live in North Kyoto and unless I have good reason, prefer to stay in orb of the north-central part of the city.  The south is for business, the east for the occasional mountain jaunt, and the west too wild and forbidding for a humble man such as myself.  Mostly, I just try to stay north of Shijo Dori (positively 4th street, so to speak).  That’s my zone.

As with any excellent locality, there is plenty to explore in North Kyoto.  One place that the locals know is Cafe Independants–a cafe with a small bar which from time to time hosts shows.  Cafe Independants is located in a basement with exposed white pipes and stone walls.  It’s hip if you’re into that kind of thing, certainly not trendy though.  And, it features a kick-ass pair of staircases that are worlds into themselves.  I have enjoyed those staircases many a time my own self.

I have had the pleasure of seeing the great Bill Callahan open for the immaculate harpist Joanna Newsom there when Ms. Newsom was just breaking through.  Callahan was the bigger name, and his generosity in opening for her was striking.  That was a great night.  I may have even smoked a rare cigarette.  I also saw my mate Darren Hannah play bass there with a bow.  That was something–and the dude executed a beauty of a bow toss at the end of the show.  A bow toss for a bassist is like a mic drop for an MC.  Show’s over folks.  So you see, I’d had some nights there.

The Cafe runs an open kitchen which serves right through gigs and back in the day also had a record shop open in the back.  It’s a small place, seating maybe 35 on a good day, and when a show is on people tend to pack around the big pole in the center and squeeze into communal tables.  Smoking is allowed.  The Cafe, at the best of times, is not a quiet place.  This is to be borne in mind with what followed.

So one evening I had secured tickets to see Damon and Naomi play.  Damon and Naomi were members of the late 80s/ early 90’s band Galaxie 500 with Dean Wareham.  The band didn’t really know what it was doing at first, like many a band before, and kind of stumbled into near-greatness before Wareham walked and started Luna, the world’s greatest band.  Wareham details the reasons behind the break-up in his memoir Black Postcards.  Poe is supposed to have said that any man who tells the simple truth of his life would write a masterpiece.  Wareham gets pretty close to following Poe’s dictum.

The ending of Galaxie 500 came about, according to Wareham, essentially because Wareham was tired of being treated like a child by the other two, a long-time couple.  I think he wanted his own band, and wanted to chill a little.  From Black Postcards:

Traveling is stressful.  And with Damon tour-managing, it seemed like every hotel check-in, every seat assignment, and every rental car was a problem.  Damon would argue about what floor his room was on.  He would get annoyed if he didn’t get the seat he wanted on the flight.  I shouldn’t have let this bother me.  I should have minded my own business.  But traveling together highlights your differences.

At one show in late 1990, a techie shone a spotlight on Dean as he stepped downstage for a solo.  This seems to have been the breaking point.  Black Postcards again:

Damon: “In retrospect I notice that Dean chose the L.A. show to launch this new trick, when the audience was full of music industry people.  We hadn’t had any spotlights in Columbus or Dallas!”
Dean in his contemporaneous tour diary: “Damon said he doesn’t like me walking in front of his drum kit–it throws him off.  I didn’t tell him to go f*** himself.”

Things were rough, and Dean split in 1991.  (Wareham quotes a Damon interview saying “Here are the dirty facts!  What happened was simply that Dean quit, more or less out of the blue, on the telephone one day.”  Ah oui, les sales faits.)  Galaxie 500 is still an interesting band and has a handful of great songs.  Then, Damon and Naomi formed their own group, named eponymously.  They are pretty good.  I like “This Car Climbed Mount Washington,” from More Sad Hits, and the whole record Playback Singers is strong.  Still, they are a far cry from Galaxie, much less Luna.

Nevertheless, I was excited to hear they were coming to little old North Kyoto in fact to play the Independants.  I showed up early with a friend and we had a few drinks, as you do.  There were 30 or 40 people there, as normal.  People were chatting, eating, smoking, and a local warm-up act started preparing on stage.  Actually, there is no stage at the Cafe, just floor space.  The show, from my point of view, HAD NOT STARTED.  Additionally, I WAS BEHIND THE POLE.  I wish at this time to stipulate this very clearly in light of what followed.  I also wish to stipulate that no-one is a bigger fan of the idea of the local warm up act than my good self.  Nobody.  By god, I remember seeing the Tenniscoats, a much beloved Japanese band that you won’t have heard of, open up in Kyoto for someone, Bonnie Prince Billy maybe, and saw the great Saya Ueno play in her barefeet.  I even tweeted about it, for Christ’s sake.  I support the local art community with a whole heart.  And no blasted interloper will tell me otherwise.

Anyway, on the night in question I will admit I was talking to my buddy while the local artist was getting set up.  And yes, she may have said something into the microphone.  I don’t really know.  Because before I could do anything, here comes Damon K. bounding across the room, right in my face, and shushed me.  “Don’t speak when the ARTIST is talking,” he hissed.  Right…in…my…face.

Now, the human mind is a remarkable deal.  When Damon shushed me, two simulataneous and equally strong thoughts came into my head.  The first was, “wow, Damon from Galaxie 500 just shushed me.  Cool.”  The second was, “dude, f******** you!  This is my city you pompous SOB, the show HAS NOT STARTED, there is a room full of chattering people, and you are going to lecture me about the ARTIST.”

What did I do next, you will ask.  Well, in my mind I like to think I produced a gesture equivalent to Dave Moss’s finger flips in Glengarry Glen Ross.  The moment comes at around 2:26~2:28–the little men in the sales office are on the other end of a berating passing for “motivation” when just for a moment, Moss takes the upper hand.  See below:

Or, I may have stared dumbly at the guy.  One of the other.

On the Velvet Underground’s Live at Max’s Kansas City, the future poet and songwriter Jim Carroll famously “ruins” the recording of “Sweet Jane” by asking for “a double Pernod.”  You can find reference to this minor incident in works as scholarly as The Encyclopedia of Popular Music, published by Oxford Press.

“Excuse me can I have a Pernod, get me a Pernod’. Poet and author Jim Carroll’s boorish demands for a bloody Pernod ruined (this) illegal cassette taping.”  Well, let’s look at the (dirty) facts.  The fact is that Carrol’s so-called boorish demands are almost entirely heard between songs when the band is tuning.  On Sweet Jane, for example, Reed finishes the song and then we hear:

“Oh yeah, I wrote it, but it’s pretty new, yeah.  Did you get the Pernod?  You had to get the, you had to go to the downstairs floor.”

Sure, he is a little lit.  Sure he is close to the mic.  But the song is over.  There is downtime.  The man is thirsty.  The recording is “ILLEGAL.”  Now I ask you, is this “ruining” the song?  Only if you are an actual prat.  Otherwise, this is called local color.  Guess what Damon, buddy?  I’m a local.  This is my city.  I’m colorful.  And I’ll take my bloody Pernod whenever I goddamn well feel like it.

Works Cited/ Referenced:

Damon and Naomi,  More Sad Hits.

Damon and Naomi, Playback Singers.

Glengarry Glen Ross.  Directed by James Foley.  Written by David Mamet.

Oxford Reference, “Velvet Underground–Live at Max’s Kansas City.” http://www.oxfordreference.com/view/10.1093/acref/9780195313734.001.0001/acref-9780195313734-e-89759.  Retrieved 9/20/2018.

The Velvet Underground, Live at Max’s Kansas City.

Stylistic Note:

The style of this piece is deeply indebted to Eric Ambler’s The Intercom Conspiracy.  Inspiration from this master of form is acknowledged, with deep gratitude.

Image Note:

The image for this piece is Dean and Britta, not Damon and Naomi. It’s an inside joke.

Levels of Lucidity: A Close Reading © Matthew Thomas. Illustrations by Riko Kusuhara

Author’s Note: This paper was first presented at the International Association for the Study of Dreams (IASD) PsiberDreaming Conference 2018. Special thanks go to my illustrator Ms. Riko Kusahara, with deep appreciation.

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The difference between most people and myself is that for me the “dividing walls” are transparent. That is my peculiarity.

Carl Jung

The conventional scientific sentiment has become that—while we don’t totally understand why dreaming happens—the dreams themselves are meaningless. They’re images and sounds we unconsciously collect, almost at random {…} Which seems like a potentially massive misjudgement.

Chuck Klosterman

I: I awake in a warehouse. The bed is against one wall–on the other is a thirty-foot mountain of cantaloupes. I realize I am dreaming. I get up and run my hands over the cantaloupes. They feel absolutely real—as tangible as in life. I remember that tangibility is not a viable reality test— I’ve made that mistake before. Now fully lucid, I decide to levitate. The room dissolves, and I float suspended in dense, colourless space. Eventually, I feel the need to come back to earth but cannot locate it. I feel something beneath me. This is my bed, and I awake back in the warehouse, relieved yet exhilarated. The cantaloupes are still there, however I don’t question them. I just happen to live in a room full of fruit. Moments later I awake again, this time in diurnal “reality.”

The most common dream experience is of waking from a dream we take to be real, only to understand that it was “just a dream.” However, a subset of dreamers, probably more than we generally imagine, have experienced lucid dreams, dreams in which, to some degree, they are aware they are dreaming. Lucid dreamers may also experience “false awakenings” (1)— the sensation of waking progressively through dream “levels.” False awakenings can be disorienting {Robert Waggoner writes that after seven successive false awakenings he “would accept … any reality … as long as it stayed put” (2)}, or sought after {Daniel Love and Keith Hearne have independently developed techniques to induce false awakenings (3)}. Regardless of the desirability of the experience, the existence of dream levels, far from a simple oddity, provides a potential window into massive metaphysical questions.

First, we need to understand how dreamers use evidence to establish whether they are dreaming or awake.

II: I am in a dreaming contest with another dreamer. The contest begins and slimy amphibians begin to appear. Some resemble frogs; others are in shapes that don’t exist in nature. Their size varies from that of a pinky to that of a fist. All are very colourful. I am not trying to dream them, rather they are spilling everywhere around my feet. I sense this is a dream, and check on the other dreamer. He is standing to my right in empty space, yet to begin his dream.

This dream is non-lucid at first and becomes lucid because of the bright color and absurd number of the amphibians. An awareness beyond the dream senses a non-natural situation.

III: I am picking out fruit at a fruit stand. There are some huge avocados, almost too good looking. I wonder if I am in a dream, and touch an avocado to check. The one I choose is ripe and soft—I squeeze it a little. There is no doubt that I am having a tactile experience, and I conclude I am not dreaming. Of course, I am.

Two dreams, two types of evidence. In Dream II, I correctly identify the amphibians as anomalous, and become lucid. In Dream III, my attempt to test the lifelikeness of the avocado as an indicator fails. Simply put, realistic sensation is not sufficiently indicative of reality. Love agrees: “we are not looking for a qualitative difference in how realistic the experience feels {…} we are {…} on the lookout for issues with stability and plausibility” (4). In Dream I, at first the huge pile of melons in my bedroom appears implausible and triggers lucidity; after moving up a dream level, my mind overrides the implausibility and “justifies” (5) the anomaly.

Because we awake from sleep and dreams every morning, we are very familiar with the experience of awakening. It is therefore unsurprising that when we wake inside a dream we accept the new reality as the waking world, even if it contains anomalous elements.

IV: I am in a huge house where a large group of families on motorcycles arrive. The families are making noise all night. I realize I am dreaming and levitate to where the families are. Later I decide to wake up. I ease myself out of bed, bumping my nose into an ironing board. The room looks and feels exactly like my room. I don’t recall the ironing board being there, but whatever. Moments later I awake again—the scene is identical, only, the ironing board is gone. I feel a pit in my stomach, wondering what is ultimately real.

Dream IV is a good example of how dream levels can become increasingly realistic level by level. An ironing board in front of the bed is (for me) more plausible than a house full of bikers. Dreams such as this beg the question of how we can ever be sure we are awake. I have dreamt of getting up, walking to the front door, opening it, and emerging into the sunshine in my neighbourhood. At every point, this dream felt entirely realistic with no anomalies. After experiences like this, is it wholly unrealistic that we could dream an entire morning? An entire day?(6)

There are different ways to approach this kind of question. The first is to use rigorous reality tests (7). Using reality tests after each fresh awakening can help us filter anomalies in what may be an increasingly realistic dream state. The second is to open ourselves to a wider set of questions. Although space limitations make full exploration of these questions impossible, modern dreamers would do well to recall that throughout recorded history people have speculated on the meaning of the dream state and what it can tell us about space, time, life after death, and the nature of reality.

As dreamers, we know that dreamtime behaves very differently than waking time. Robert Moss distinguishes between Chronos (“linear time”) and Kairos (the “spacious now”). He writes that when Kairos operates in waking life, “ordinary time is {…} suspended or elastic,” and the world can “quiver or shimmer” (8). Moss’ Kairos time sounds a great deal like dreamtime.

Jung in his memoir writes “our concepts of space and time have only approximate validity,” (9) and “there are indications that at least a part of the psyche is not subject to the laws of space and time” (10). Jung makes multiple connections between dreams and life after death, suggesting that our waking world, in which we are “conscious,” may in fact be a projection of a more “real” and permanent, even timeless, unconscious (11).

In the Tibetan tradition of dream yoga, the yogi prepares for death through dreams and meditation, entering death consciously by releasing bodily energy in such a way that the body partially or entirely dissolves into pure light. This “rainbow body” is well documented in Tibet and China, and cases of this phenomenon have been reported across multiple religious traditions (12). Finally, Moss connects dreams with the much discussed Many Worlds theory, as does, in popular culture, Richard Linklater (13).

V: I am among a large group of people on the top floor of a building. We lie down on our backs and form bundles. As the molecular structure of these bundles dissolves we become lighter, then totally empty. This process is dictated by a power outside of us which doesn’t speak. Once empty, we have the choice to become anything we want. I choose to become white light. Suddenly I am transported through space in a burst of pure white light, my old body left entirely behind. This is the most peaceful and thrilling feeling in the world. Then, I am back into a new bundle, trying again to become empty. I make progress, but it is hard and I am over-concentrating. Progress ceases; I wake up.

Although I have thought at length about dreams, I am a normal person, with a normal job, dreaming anonymously night after night. I do not belong to a spiritual tradition, am not a yogi or a meditating hermit. As a lucid dreamer, like many of us, I am self-taught. While we anonymous dreamers are wise to suspend judgement about the particularities of a theory as mind-boggling as dreams as an interface to infinite parallel universes, it is perhaps not by chance that my dreams of ascending to a state of pure white light bear close resemblance to innumerable near-death experiences or the reported manifestations of a lifetime of dream yoga. Although admittedly outside of our normal rational mode of apprehension, the experience of journeying through multiple dream levels, and the energy and amazement which often accompany these experiences, may point toward worlds far above, below, or beyond our own.

Who are we in our trek through life? Are we the maker, or the made? The writer, or the page? The actor, or the stage? The happening, or the happened to? Perhaps our ability to exercise agency in the vastness of forever depends in part on learning to navigate levels of “reality,” however we encounter them. Or perhaps, journeying to the far side of the dream can bring us face to face with that which is actually dreaming us.

Citations:

1 Waggoner, 61

2 Ibid., 63

3 Love, 131

4 Love, 71

5 Love cites “poor reasoning skills” as one common reason for failing to recognize dream signs and achieve lucidity. Love, 73.

6 Cf. Klosterman, 141

7 Love, 78-79; Waggoner, 259. (Wagonner uses the term “reality check” instead of “reality test.”)

8 Moss, 49

9 Jung, 300

10 ibid., 304

11 ibid., 324

12 Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche, 314; Gyalwai Nyugu Rinpoche

13 Moss, 74-74; Linklater

Bibliography:

Jung, Carl. Memories, Dreams, Reflections. Vintage Books, 1989.

Klosterman, Chuck. But What If We’re Wrong? Blue Rider Press. 2016.

Linklater, Richard, director. Slacker. Orion Classics, 1990.

Love, Daniel. Are you Dreaming? Enchanted Loom Publishing, 2013.

Moss, Robert. Sidewalk Oracles. New World Library, 2015.

Rinpoche, Gyalwai Nyugu. “About Rainbow Body.” http://www.gyalwai-nyugu.com/about- rainbow-body/. Accessed 24 July 2018.

Rinpoche, Tenzin Wangyal. The Tibetan Yogas of Dream and Sleep. Snow Lion Publications, 1998.

Thomas, Matthew. “On Coming Through”: A New Meditation on Intention. https://craftfollowsconcept.com/2013/05/13/on-coming-through-statement-of-intent-on-the- approach-of-my-39th-birthday/#more-11. Accessed 24 July 2018.

Waggoner, Robert. Lucid Dreaming. Moment Point Press, 2009.

IASD PsiberDreaming Conference 2018 Matthew Thomas: Levels of Lucidity: A Close Reading

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