dream sequence – part 81

It was our first getaway since the pandemic began, and only our second venture off Cape. The intent was to meet up with an old friend, her husband, and daughter for a relaxing weekend at a seaside resort. Embracing the new normal – or at least acknowledging it – we wore masks and didn’t hug or shake hands.

To our surprise, another mutual friend had made the trip, along with her husband and children. Mary and I looked at each other, but otherwise tried to hide our concern.

Then, another family we didn’t recognize came through the door. They clearly knew our friends, and quickly made themselves at home. The father thrust his baby at me in an apparent gesture of instant friendship. The baby cried immediately.

Our dog Tito, always nervous around new people, was quite agitated, so Mary took him outside. A minute or two later, I followed, realizing that we might have to rethink this whole weekend. I couldn’t find Mary in the yard immediately surrounding the house, so I thought she might have taken a walk nearby.

The neighborhood wasn’t nearly as upscale as we thought it would be. Very few homes appeared to belong to permanent residents, giving the community more of a transient vibe than we had expected.

The boardwalk and pier had seen better days. The arcade was sprawling and noisy, but only sparsely attended. A large food court and seating area was nearly empty.

I crossed a bridge from the boardwalk to a residential area on the other side of a narrow canal. Many houses were boarded up or abandoned, with some evidence of squatters past and present. A man came out of one of the houses wearing a mask and some freshly splattered white paint. Surprised to see me, he began muttering to himself, although it occurred to me that he may have been trying to talk to me. I didn’t stay around long enough to find out.

Retracing my steps, I passed a convenience store with an upstairs balcony. Leaning out was a man in a carnival barker’s uniform, shouting some unintelligible nonsense at me. I picked up my pace and crossed the bridge over to the boardwalk.

A small band of musicians began playing for the dubious entertainment of a virtually non-existent crowd. Their song lyrics were intended to parody old classics. For example, to the tune of “Has Anybody Seen My Gal?” they sang “Has Anybody Seen My Drink?” I kept walking, but woke up before reaching my destination.

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dream sequence – part 80

I was attending a conference at a hotel in a large city, along with several of my former co-workers. I sought out one developer with whom I had been friendly and sat next to her for several sessions before taking the elevator to a rooftop garden to grab a cocktail and chat. Before we reached the bar, she caught sight of another former colleague, at which point I evidently became invisible. I didn’t see her again.

At that point I had had enough of the conference, but was gripped with hunger on account of having skipped breakfast and lunch. I went looking for the hotel restaurant with the hope of grabbing something to eat before heading home.

A woman I didn’t recognize walked up to me with a pair of ping pong paddles and asked, with great enthusiasm, “Care to play?” Not putting up a strong enough objection, I found myself in a game that lasted much longer than I had anticipated.

For one, she was very good, slamming and curving the ball with great accuracy. In the dream, I was able to return everything she served, winning the first game. This seemed to infuriate her, but apparently this was only the first of many games, scored in the same way as a tennis match with games, sets and matches.

It got very competitive, and drew a crowd. Behind us, kitchen staff prepared Sicilian-style pizzas, temporarily distracting some of the growing audience. Perhaps, I thought, I could have some of that pizza as soon as I finished this epic ping pong match.

Sadly, I woke up before that happened, still quite hungry.

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dream sequence – part 79

My father had died in April, but there were still some loose ends to tie up. My youngest brother had already done the lion’s share of the work, settling the estate, selling the house and arranging for my mother’s care. There was yet one surprise awaiting at the bottom of a box of paperwork.

My parents owned a vacation home in Lake Luzerne, NY from 1973 to 1996. It became our summer getaway for many years, and once my brothers and I grew up, it became their mountain retreat. My father retired from the police department in 1992, selling my childhood home in Farmingdale, NY and then splitting their time between Lake Luzerne and a condo in Naples, FL. At some point, the time and effort it took to maintain both houses became too much, so they sold the house in Lake Luzerne and upgraded from the condo to a proper house in Naples.

Every word of the preceding two paragraphs is 100% true. What follows is entirely an invention of my subconscious, but given the context of my father’s recent passing, as well as the location in Lake Luzerne, it felt real.

The surprise my brother found in a box of paperwork back in California was a lease for a two-room apartment in Lake Luzerne. The lease was current through the end of 2020, and there was a key in a sealed envelope, with “#7” written in my father’s unmistakable print. The lease had a provision for early termination, forfeiting the security deposit. We decided that terminating the lease was the right thing to do. Unfortunately it included the formality of a landlord walk-through in the presence of the tenant. Given that I lived on the East Coast, I was nominated to make the trip.

I arrived in town on a Thursday night with the intention of meeting with the landlord the following afternoon. I spent Friday morning wandering around the town, amazed by how little had changed since my last visit in the mid-90s. The apartment building was an  old 2-story house that had been hastily divided into 10 modestly equipped apartments to accommodate workers at a nearby paper mill that closed decades ago. There were 5 identical 2-room apartments on each floor, each with a bedroom, half bath and small kitchenette. The 5 rooms shared a shower at the end of the hallway.

Envelope in hand, I located apartment #7 quickly enough. Not too surprisingly, the key required a little bit of persuasion to work, but after a few seconds I opened the door and stepped into the kitchen.

To say the room was spartan would be generous. The only cooking surface was a hotplate, supplemented by a microwave and toaster oven. The mini-fridge belonged in a college dorm and not an apartment, and the kitchen sink predated “mid-century modern”. The cabinets were made of plywood hastily painted white. In them were a few cups and plates. Likewise the drawers had a few utensils, but very little in the way of pots or pans.

When I opened the refrigerator, I noted a clear glass bowl with a black bean and vegetable salad that seemed fresh, neatly covered in plastic wrap. There was also a carton of milk and a few containers of yogurt.

I was startled by a greeting at the door, which I hadn’t closed behind me.

“Hey there! Are you moving in?”

It was a neat looking man in his 30s or 40s.

“Are you the landlord?” I asked.

“No,” he said with slight embarrassment, “I’m Curt. I live down the hallway.”

I guess I had expected any occupant of these dated apartments to be disheveled and down on his or her luck, an uncharitable misjudgment on my part.

“I’m sorry for the confusion. I have an appointment with the landlord this afternoon. Apparently this apartment was being leased by my father, and, well… he’s recently deceased…”

“Oh, my,” Curt said, “I’m very sorry to hear that.”

After about a minute of awkward silence, another man appeared at the door wearing only a towel. He had just stepped out of the shower and seemed as surprised to see us as we were to see him.

It was becoming clear that some sort of informal use of the apartment was going on, and while I had every right to an explanation, there had been no damage done, and the space had been kept clean and neat. If anything, the unsanctioned occupant or occupants had been doing my father, and therefore me, a huge favor.

“You know,” I said, “I think I might go back into town and come back at 1 to meet with the landlord.”

The men offered no objection, nor any sort of explanation. They politely followed me into the hallway as I locked the door behind us and walked out of the building.

Seconds later, I woke up, leaving me to speculate about the strange circumstances of an event that never happened.

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57 words

on_the_air

At first I thought I was merely being flattered; after all, I’ve been told that I have a “radio voice” before. Then, the request became serious, almost dire.

“We need you to read this on the air, with a tone that is dispassionate, and yet sincere.”

“Can I see the text first?”

The phone line went dead.

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52 words

The weed dealer was losing patience with me, as were the customers waiting in line behind me.
“I’m sorry,” I said. “This is my first time making… this kind of purchase.”
He smiled.
“In that case, here’s something I guarantee will make you happy.”
I smiled, as if that’s what I wanted.

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dream sequence – part 78

border_crossing_20200719

For reasons never made clear within the context of the dream, we were trying to cross into Canada from New York by car. After the obligatory “Bonjour”, the border agent looked briefly at my passport and handed it back to me. By contrast, he looked at yours for several minutes, typing furiously at his computer while we frowned at one another. When he picked up his phone and called someone, we were well beyond worried. He coolly handed me back our passports.

“Please drive up to the building on the right”, he said, pointing to an institutional beige building that apparently served as an office. Two agents were already waiting for us and gestured for us to park in a specific location. One agent had a tablet, never taking his eyes from it.

Madame”, the officer said matter-of-factly, “there is an issue with your passport.”

“What kind of issue?” I asked. The officer was not amused that I had inserted myself into the conversation.

“We were not given any further details, only that Madame will not be able to cross into Canada at this time.”

Naturally we were outraged, exclaiming that there must be some mistake, that we were entitled to know what anomaly there might be, and that we should be permitted to address whatever concerns they might have so that we could be on our way. They were having none of it.

Monsieur may proceed, Madame may not. That is all.”

You looked at me. I turned to the officer. “Well, we either proceed together or not at all.”

“As you wish,” the officer said. He pointed to an exit ramp and said, “This is the way back to U.S. Have a nice day.”

I let out a deep sigh.

“You’re mad at me,” you said after several minutes on the road.

“I’m not mad at you,” I replied.

You didn’t believe me.

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Fifty More Words

We had all returned to the workplace after over three months away. Most of us had private offices, reducing the risk of infection.
“I’m guessing disinfection doesn’t include dusting,” I said, more as an icebreaker than a critique.
You grabbed my hand.
“Are you okay?” I asked.
“No, I’m not.”

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Fifty More Words

Folding_chairs

My maternal grandfather died in 1946, 13 years before I was born. He and I were setting out folding chairs for my daughter’s wedding in 2007.

“Beautiful day for a wedding,” he said.

“I’m pleasantly surprised to see you,” I managed to reply.

“It’s still a beautiful day,” he said.

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Fifty Words

She walked in on me as I was shaving off my beard. Just staring at the mirror, emotionless. Once I was done, she asked why.
“No reason,” I replied. “I was just looking for a change.”
“You’re leaving, aren’t you?”
“That’s not what I said.”
Of course she was right.

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The Great Gig in the Sky

JetBlue_Dugout_20140315

Last week my Dad, Wilfred David Mena, was called up to the Big Leagues at the age of 87. Those who knew him knew of his love for gritty infield play and gutsy inside pitching as well as his disdain for free agency and the designated hitter.

Those who knew him also knew of his love for my mother Gladys, his wife of nearly 62 years. She remains his biggest fan, as do his sons, Joe, Mike and me.

This isn’t an obituary — that will come in time — but rather a loving snapshot of my Dad, whom I miss terribly.

curtain call —
the veteran pulled
for a pinch hitter

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