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333Matthew Thomas, Kyoto

This post originally published at

Dream: Series of loosely connected dream incidents, but in the dream itself they flowed seamlessly into one another. First, although of course something was happening before this as well, I am watching my son play in the PGA. He is on the 16th hole, and the only kid in the field. Later I learn that it is unusual for kids to play in the PGA championship, but at the time this does not seem odd. You do not have to qualify, only sign up. He is playing well for his age, but nowhere near winning. Suddenly, he slows up and shows signs of being tired. He walks off the course and his group moves on. The leader is in his group. I take him off the course and he says he wants to quit. I tell his that’s OK, but he only has two more holes. He jumps up and runs back to finish, but his group is already done (very fast) and the player from his group who was leading has won. He is accepting the trophy, and plays the two holes quickly. The course is mostly clear.

Jump cut to a field in what seems to be Venezuela, but is never absolutely demonstrated to be so. I am a soldier, probably an American, with a pack on my back. I am in a platoon and we are moving. The grass is pretty high and we are in a small valley, perhaps. There is a sense of tension, but not of great danger. We sit down and open our packs to eat. There is barely enough food to subsist, and I have a few dollars US and a few pieces of Venezuelan currency. Later, it will emerge that I have about 17 US and maybe 80 or so of the local currency. This does not seem sufficient, especially because I get the sense that this money will need to last for a while. Other soldiers have the same meager food rations, but appear to have more money.

Jump to a bar/ food area that same night. Still in the same country. I want to eat, and drink, so I circle the choices, but everything looks expensive. There are many people, some soldiers, some businessmen with women, maybe locals, and some random expat drunk types. The scene is not very dignified, but people appear to be having a good time. It is pretty loud. As far as food and drink go, there does not appear to be any other choice in the city. So, I order a red wine from a very nice woman at a bar. She says I can pay her a few dollars. I pull out my American money and the local currency, and she nods at the American. I lay down three, and she shakes her head. I add another five, which I feel should be sufficient. She shakes her head again and quotes me her retail price, which seems absurdly high. I pay her another five American which is nearly all I have. She is still not happy, but is placated, and I leave quickly. A few people are watching. I look at food stalls, especially one offering pastrami sandwiches. The price is quoted in the local currency, and I just afford one sandwich. Although I am very hungry, I do not purchase one. In fact, the whole night passes without my having anything to eat.

Sometime later, after more wandering and an interlude in another bar which is well lit (or is that later?) I find Kelly Rudd, one of my oldest friends. He is fully himself. We decide to go to an outdoor bar where there is a tent shelter structure, pretty large, which we sit in. I look at the menu and can afford just one drink. I tell Kelly this, and he halfway indicates that he will take care of the bill. I am unsure about this. I want to tell him about my life–maybe we haven’t seen each other for a while, but on the other hand maybe he is a soldier in my platoon. I begin to tell him about a shotgun I have smuggled into the country. Although I am military, he reacts like this is a highly dangerous act. Thinking more about it, I probably didn’t smuggle a gun, because my luggage is not large enough. Aware that I am probably fibbing, I continue with the story. A waitress asks us through the tent wall what we want to order. Kelly orders red wine, after a lot of trouble getting her to hear us. I look around the edge of the tent, but somehow it is clear that we need to communicate through the tent wall. Looking around the corner I get the sense that she has been listening to our conversation for some time. Maybe not so long, but long enough to have heard about the gun. I am concerned that she will go to the police. I tell Kelly about some of the things that are on my mind, and he seems only partially interested. He gives me little in return. We are drinking, and I am almost finished with my drink when I realize that it is a Corona, not red wine. I am mildly put out by this, but more puzzled by why I didn’t notice. All of the sudden we are no longer in a tent but on a blanket or ground sheet in roughly the same position. However, there is a large auditorium (whose shape I know from previous dreams, I think) behind us. I see the head of my high school, walking downhill toward us. I think that he is going to censure me about some various work issues, but instead he walks a short distance away behind some bushes and urinates. He is quite drunk. Several more people from work stumble by, some of them urinate. Then, the blind teacher, who retired last year, comes down the hill with his cane. He is looking for a place to urinate. My mother’s aunt, indicates a spot just a few paces past our blanket. I tell them that it is too close, but it is too late. Somehow I am given to understand that I am supposed to be in the auditorium for some kind of speech or ceremony. I decide to avoid this if at all possible and stall by getting up and milling around.

Jump to the inside of a large gymnasium. This may or may not be the same building, possibly not. Instead of the ceremony, I am at basketball practice. There are a couple of coaches, and the head coach is in a white T-shirt. I am kind of involved with the play, kind of talking to the coaches. John Innes may or may not be a coach. Practice seems to go on for a long time. Not much happens. Then, on the far side of the floor I am talking to the coach and see a play developing. A strong point guard is driving the right side baseline and beats his defender for a lay up. Most of the players are female, and this point guard may have been a female at the start of the drive as well. The defense gives up, but I can tell he/ she will miss the layup. I circle in from the left and, taking the rebound, I dunk it without coming down. The dunk transpires in slow motion. I expect everyone in the gym to be amazed, but only a few people notice. Practice is moving on, but I try to call it to a stop by explaining how the weakside defenders should have been blocking out and how when defenders don’t a player can get offensive rebounds. A few people start to listen, probably because I seem like a coach/ adult figure. Then, more people are listening, then they are sitting down, they they are all in the bleachers as I talk. I go through the matter in detail. My father becomes the coach. I can’t see his reaction to my speech, but at some point I realize that it is time to cut it off. Practice is over, and the players spill out of the gym. My father comes over and takes me by the arm. He tells me that some of the more intelligent players may have been able to follow what I said, but that most players are not intelligent enough to follow more than one idea at a time. I don’t really know what he is talking about, because, although I spoke for a while, the ideas were pretty simple and obvious. I try to push back a little, but he becomes increasingly strident. Finally, we are outside and I see my mother. I tell my father that he is obviously uncomfortable with complex ideas, and shake free of his arm. My mother makes an inquisitive face, but I just shake my head. Out of the dream, a little timer beeps, and I wake up. It is just after 6 AM.

That’s the end of the dream proper, but either after this of before it, or running throughout, there is anxiety on my part about how I will get out of this country (all the basketball activity took place in the same country). I visualize the border crossing, which I seem to have been to before in a previous dream. There are logs across the border and soldiers. It is not terrifying, perhaps because I have been there before and crossed, but it does create anxiety. Again, it is not clear when this anxiety comes to me, if it is a postscript to the dream or sort of a running commentary.

First interpretations: This dream is about communication, specifically my poor communication skills. At different turns I am frustrated by my inability to communicate clearly and with my audience’s lack of interest and/ or capacity to understand. Whether negotiating the price of a drink (small matter) or talking about my life to an old friend or giving a speech to a large group, what I expect in terms of a reaction and what I actually get are at odds. It is not clear who is at fault in any of these incidents, and in fact in the dream I feel an alternating sense of frustration with others and frustration with self. Especially with the bar woman, I am aware that I “do not speak the language” and should be more intuitive about what she means, but also in the basketball speech, even as I am speaking I know that I am going on too long, and insisting on the importance of what I am saying too much. This dream seems important in that it encompasses most of my life stations, parents, my own family, work, and friends. Interestingly, my communication with my son seems to be the most effective, and the golf is the only incident that does not seem to take place in Venezuela.

Impressions: At least two things in the dream reference other dreams–the auditorium and the border. Thinking about it while awake, I have memories of both of these dreams. Of course, not having kept a dream journal at the time, I am not absolutely clear whether these dreams really took place in previous months or if there were in fact part of last night’s dreams. I had a lot more dreams last night as I woke up from dreams several times, and this dream sequence here recorded was, I think, only the last tail end bit.

The drunk coworkers, one of them literally blind! are instructive. First reaction is perhaps overly positive–although I am poor at communicating, they are worse and require me to take control of communication. Finally, the long night trope is a staple of my dreams, especially those I remember well. This dream fits very well into the long night theme, although the basketball practice was in the late afternoon, and may have therefore been a flashback. Especially the drunken revelers, the various types of ladies of the night in the background, and the stumbling from place to place are characteristic of my “long night” dreams.

best00code46Matthew Thomas, Tokyo

Note: This post was originally published at

The TV was turned to CNN, which was focused on violence somewhere.  I could not tell where.  The experts in their suits and hairsprayed hair presented the conflict as if conflict was inevitable.  They agreed it was happening now and could be prevented, but at the same time at the conclusion of the piece they smiled politely and signed off as if the violence was also occurring in a land so distant it might as well be the past.

Emily Maloney

The post below is based on my own experiences staying in a variety of hotels while on business throughout 2008, and takes up the effect of CNN International on the psyche of the business traveler as well as providing a sort of psychograph of the business hotel experience.

Three features of business hotels that bear mention:

i) Like airports, all business hotels share a single ethos, an un-pindownable character that feels, wherever one happens to be geographically speaking, of a piece.

ii) The effect of the television offerings, in particular CNN International, on the business traveler, is one of overwhelming relaxation, bordering on complacency and even numbness.

iii) As a corollary to i), it is far easier to enumerate how business hotels resemble one another than to lay out any salient differences. Oddly, minor local variations only seem to further reinforce a central sameness.

Checking into an 11th floor room at a classic example of the species, for instance the Numzau Tokyu Hotel, half an hour south of Tokyo, Japan, one is affected at once by that strangely pleasant fugue state, a state of mind almost exactly halfway between bliss and malaise, attendant on “business” hotels. Once inside of a business hotel, especially those neither top-of-the-line nor down-and-out, one is confronted with a kind of disembodied space which seems at once connected to a global network of similar hotels–this accomplished largely through the simultaneously soothing and hypnotizing effect of CNN International–and disconnected from the local environment–one feels sucked in to global weirdness through a combination of the flat, post-political window of CNN International, the persistent low hum of the air conditioner, and the anodyne staleness, almost spartan, quality of the decor. Oddly, any “artwork” or decorative flourishes that a hotel room may have only serve to further this sense of featurelessness; the art in question being almost exclusively of the most banal nature–bland seascapes, abstracts denuded of all edge or verve, and those odd non-paintings that, try as you might, you forget the very subject seconds after exiting your room.

One has to remind oneself that being on a business trip means that there is work to be done–the TV, the slight high, which even the most weary traveler may not be entirely immune from, which results from contact with the bowing attendants, the men in black, the cute, blushing young lady who carries your bag, the knowledge that your company is footing the bill–all this lulls you into a kind of sleep of the spirit. Turning on the TV, you feels that you could spend years, lifetimes staring at CNN’s Larry King Live, their post-racial female anchors who bring that special Code 46 feel of the non-overt future, and the exquisitely paralyzing “World Weather,” before awakening in another age, the Rip Van Winkle of the travel world. When CNN finally wears out its welcome, my choices of pay channels open up the fascinating worlds of…Golf (the Golf Channel), silicone starlets (the Playboy Channel), intimate acts in close-up (the “adult channel”), and, most fittingly, drama set in outer space (the Battlstar Galatica channel). This profile of options, Golf, softcore, hardcore, and outer space, the result, presumably, of reams of data on the tastes of business travelers like me, the mobile working male, I want to find depressing, but the menu has something beautifully efficient about it. Not wanting to get sucked into the anesthesizing vortex of any of these choices, I have to force myself to rise from the supine contemplation of the only-vaguely Chinese news anchor to pick up Berger and Luckmann’s The Social Construction of Reality.

My senses are momentarily quickened by report of an attack on a hotel in Pakistan: a horrific assault which has taken place at a Marriott in Islamabad. Oddly, the reality of this event quickly fades, and what Richard Todd calls the “non-ness” of the Marriott up the road (“The Thing Itself, 101), strangely, becomes the non-ness of violence–the attack in Islamabad conveys, through the lens of the CNN International, not exactly shock, but a continuing and deepening sense of global weirdness only slightly tinged by fear resting on the realization that as a business traveler in exactly this kind of hotel, I am the target. Oddly, this realization is not as disturbing as it ought to be: the fugue state is such that I am more in, more of, Islamabad than Numazu, but not wholly there either–I am poised somewhere between Islamabad and Battlestar Galactica, cavorting with post-racial android news anchors who bring me news of a planet this 11th floor, air-conditioned bubble of a non-space has left far behind.

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