Sunday, June 12, 2016

“Said hey old man how can you stand / To think that way” (BR Hornsby)

On the night that transpired between June 6 and 7, I had the following dream preceded by a series of dimly lit scenes involving groups of people mostly from school days, grade school to high school, and in every scene it was my (uncelebrated) birthday. The scenes took place in a bar, outside an office building, a lobby, the streets of Chicago, and in the library of the university I attended, in which there was now a zoo. Every scene left me feeling very much alone, as if I were an outsider. In the bar scene, the woman sitting on my right told me I was “bitchy” and the woman on my left did not speak to me. Then, I had this dream:
I am driving through a hard rain. All I see is the road and the rain bouncing off the road. A car in front of me fishtails, spins, stops. I slow down, pass it on the right, continue driving slowly keeping my eyes on the road. In the back of my mind I am thinking I should look up from the road now and then because if I don’t I might miss something. But I do not look up, and the road disappears. Below me, surrounding me, all white. I think: “Damn, I missed a curve.” I recognize the white as sky and realize that at some point I am going to drop out of the sky. I think: “I am just west of Negaunee.” Then I drop out of the sky, just me, no car, falling through the sky, and as I fall I see everything below clearly. My mind processes the information. Yes, west of Negaunee. Yes, a sprawl of businesses and winding streets, open space, now a building here, a car there, a tree to my right, open space below, thunk. I land on a lawn, in the middle of neatly placed stuff, like a yard sale. It is a sunny summer day. I believe there is a woman standing nearby, a customer, and she stares at me. I begin crawling toward two women sitting in white plastic Adirondack chairs. Their backs are to me; they are facing the street. I crawl until I am behind them. I can barely speak, but say, “I need the police. I need a doctor.” They stand up, turn, stare at me. I realize they must be suspicious of me. I have just fallen out of the sky. Maybe I said, “I just fell out of the sky.” I did say, again: “I need the police. I need a doctor.” The police were necessary because I knew my plane would be falling out of the sky, too, and it did, a little old-fashioned plane, red with a silver propeller on its nose, kind of like a toy. It fell out of the sky nose first, hit the ground, thunk. How did I get over to the plane? Maybe I ran. I was panicky, thinking about Josie, was he OK? I looked through an open door into the plane. Josie crawled out of a partially squashed crate. He crawled into my arms. I sat down in a chair, more like a bench, and then there was a policeman and he asked if I needed anything. I did not speak, just held on tight to Josie.

But for Elliott, this post might have ended here, with the end of the dream and the original studio version of “The Way It Is.” You see, the morning after the dream, I wrote it down and read it over many times, rewriting a bit here and there, trying to get it right, trying to capture it. Each time I read it, it made me feel sad. I was thinking, though, that it might be this blog post, so it had a title, “when dreams are the way it is.” By the end of the day the title had shrunk to “the way it is,” which is a song written by Bruce Hornsby, so I watched and listened to the video on YouTube (see above). I thought I might pull the album out, listen to it before bed, but then I got caught up in the Cubs game.

The next day I woke up relieved—the only dream I remembered was about sorting coupons, about thirty seconds worth of sorting big, fancifully drawn, sepia-toned coupons. I went about my morning, feeding Josie and Elliott, having tea, that sort of thing, and then I noticed an album pulled halfway out of the record case. It was Bruce Hornsby and The Range, “The Way It Is.” A small hole had been chewed through the edge of the cover.


The record albums are in the loft, pretty much at floor level, as are several of the bookshelves and cubbyholes up there, and every so often Elliott gets into pulling things out of these shelves and cubbyholes, but he’s always left the albums alone. But I had not touched the record, let alone chewed a hole in the cover, and Josie claimed innocence, so what other explanation but the cat?

I played the album—I know it well. Particularly the song “The Way It Is.” But suddenly a line from it popped out and got me thinking that maybe it could help me through what I am finding to be a trying time. We might call this time “Current Events.” That is what we called it in grade school, when we had to read the newspaper or watch the TV news and prepare a report and stand in front of class, deliver the report. What’s the news today? Well, just recently I have stopped paying attention, and, believe me, that has helped, but I needed more, and now I have this song to play, “The Way It Is,” and a line from it that I would like to put on a button.
Said hey old man how can you stand / To think that way
In other news, by Wednesday it was bye-bye birdies. I updated the bird nest slideshow, from egg to gone.


And I began to indulge in “The Way It Is,” discovered marvelous live versions on YouTube. One is from Woodstock 99 with a jammin’ full band (9:49); another is a 2015 performance at the PACE Center in Parker, Colorado, just Bruce, a Steinway, and eleven minutes of, well, it might be a shame to try to reduce it to words, but it’s kind of like falling out of the sky on a beautiful riff going places familiar and not and landing, thunk, safely, life intact.

Here is Bruce Hornsby’s latest, with Mavis Staples.