December 10, 2011

"But it wasn't a dream. It was a place. And you - and you - and you - and you were there!"

I need a dream analyst. Here’s why:

I dreamed I was on a train to Kansas, coming south from Chicago to visit my mother. She had moved from Vermont to somewhere on the plains, but I couldn’t remember the name of the town. The train stopped suddenly and we were ordered into a diner to sample the pie. It would be a long wait, they said, and the pie was “the Best in the West.” I didn’t eat it. I kept wondering why my mother had moved to Kansas and what town she lived in. I saw a pay phone and tried to call her, but the machine repeated, “12 cents, 12 cents, please,” over and over, and I didn’t have correct change. I pulled out my cell phone but the numbers had been moved around and I couldn’t dial it. Then I saw that the train had left. A waitress came up and said, “We’re sending you to live with a Christian family but you need to take a Biblical name.”

“Peter,” I said. “Isn’t that Biblical? It’s already Biblical.”

“Old Testament only,” said the waitress. “Sorry.”

I awoke, as they say, with a start. In another dream last week I was buying a pack of cigarettes and overpaid by thirty dollars. The woman at the counter said I could have the money back if I asked the Baby Jesus.

Help me, please.

I’m used to dreams where I’m trying to get somewhere and can’t.  Usually it’s Paris, sometimes London or New York, and sometimes a town on the ocean that I seem to know intimately but can’t find my way around. Every time I head north I end up south, like Alice through the looking glass. These are standard anxiety dreams, involving lost passports and airline tickets, broken clocks, missed cabs, no money and suitcases that haven’t been packed. I accept them as part of the general conundrum, a way for the unconscious to work its stuff while the mind is busy snoring. I don’t feel frustrated in my daily life and, awake, I’m not too anxious about anything.

But Kansas? I draw the line at dreaming about Kansas. Even asleep it was a stretch to think that my mother might have moved there, a state she insists was originally settled only because a lot of pioneer women mutinied on the wagon train and refused to go a step further. I did have a great-aunt, Roberta – we called her “Aint Bert” — who lived in Wichita and said it was “God’s country.” She was born in Possum Trot, Texas, so you can see her point. And maybe it’s some atavism that has me dreaming about the Lord of the Hogs, the Corn and the Westboro Baptist Church so near to Christmas in New England.

Or maybe it’s the Republican presidential contest, a field so loaded with hucksters, charlatans and cash-soaked knuckleheads as to pop the corks of even American hypocrisy. You can see that I prefer this theory. I’ve stayed away from “politics” so far on this blog because the Web is already crawling with comment and I still haven’t recovered from eight years of Bush.** But I’ve just watched Rick Perry’s “I’m-not-ashamed-to-be-Christian” commercial and won’t be the last to observe that he looks really queer, in a Log Cabin kind of way. I think all these dudes obsessed with homosexuality should be goosed till they cough up their wallets. I don’t see how same-sex marriage and prayer-free schools amount to “liberal attacks” in a nation that forbids state religion, but they can tell you in Kansas, I’m sure. Which is why I woke up. Thank God.

**If you want to play ”Falling Bush” you can still do it here





5 Responses to “Hinterlands”

  1. Harry Blanton-Binkow Says:


  2. Kate Olgiati Says:

    Dear Peter,
    You confirm once again that your Mother is a powerful archetype!


  3. John Hayes Says:

    Did you know the Garden of Eden is in Kansas (Lucas, Kansas to be precise)? I came within several godforsaken miles of it on one unbelievably hot July day many years ago.

    & you scoff at Kansas being god’s country!

    Always a pleasure.

  4. Peter Kurth Says:

    I’m surprised they haven’t found Noah’s Ark in Kansas!

    • John Hayes Says:

      Laurie Anderson conjectured that Noah’s Ark actually came to rest in Manhattan, but then, she conjectured that the Garden of Eden was in western New York state. The mysteries of these United States.

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