6 September 2010

Urban Dreamscape

Filed under: Reflections — ktismatics @ 11:43 am

I had gone to bed early, feeling achy and feverish. After reading several pages of Proust I fell asleep. An hour or two later I woke up drenched in sweat — the fever broke, I figured. I mopped myself off and went back to sleep. I awakened again in the middle of the night, with my last dream still quite vivid in my awareness. Acknowledging that dreams are of interest primarily to the dreamer, here it is anyway.

I’m driving a car in downtown Indianapolis, on my way to a meeting. (In my consulting days our biggest client was headquartered in Indianapolis, so I traveled there often.) I park and walk along a street lined with tall office buildings. I go through the glass doors of the building where my meeting is to be held. As I stride across the pinkish-gray polished granite floor of the expansive lobby, I realize that I’ve forgotten who it is that I’m supposed to be meeting. The information is in my notebook, but I discover that I’ve left my notebook in the car.

Now I’m up a few floors inside this office building, walking along the corridor. I enter the door to an office, large and well-appointed in dark wood and leather. It seems to be the office of Hutch, or someone quite like him. (Hutch was my boss in the first job I had after grad school. He was a living stereotype: a red-faced, corpulent, loud-talking, back-slapping, hard-drinking, hard-driving businessman. Hutch and I got along great, as it turned out.) There’s a meeting going on, with three or four other men I don’t know in addition to Hutch. I take a seat at the conference table and join in. The meeting seems focused primarily on the planning of some vague and shady scheme. The discussion goes on for some time; at some point I move from the table to one of the leather-upholstered armchairs. Finally I get up, leave the meeting, and head back downstairs.

I pass by a receptionist who is evidently surprised to see me. Where have you been, she asks me; Dr. ___ has been waiting for you. Ah, Dr. ___: so that’s who I was supposed to meet. I go down another corridor looking for Dr. ___’s office, only to find myself in a locker room. Two women, partially undressed, pass by without acknowledging me: I realize that I’m in the women’s section of the locker room and that I shouldn’t be there. I find a door and walk out.

I’m back on the street. Now, however, instead of the busy downtown office-scape from which I’d first entered, I find myself entering into a carnival. It’s crowded, lively, noisy, colorful, filling the street. Puzzled, I walk back through the door and into the office building again. I find another door and exit through it: this time the street is deserted, ominous, lined with the boarded-up, ill-maintained buildings of urban decay. Again I pass back through the door and into the building. Now, though, instead of an office building it’s a hospital. I wake up wondering whether the same building has offices on one side and a hospital on the other.

What’s odd is that I’ve remembered three dreams in the past week in which I’m confused or lost and in which the world I occupy suddenly turns into something else altogether.



  1. The Instituta of Glib Dream Analysis has computed an answer. The ticker tape says:

    In Search of Lost Time. You must conceptualise your shady deals more effectively before they are lost to carnivalesque distraction or laid waste to depression. Do not allow your time to be governed by shady father figures like Dr X; it is easier but you will be feminised and screwed. Follow Hutch: live hard and drink booze. Although, it may lead to hospitalisation.


    Comment by NB — 7 September 2010 @ 5:40 am

  2. Who needs horoscopes once the IGDA takes an interest in your case?


    Comment by ktismatics — 7 September 2010 @ 10:45 am

    • You will also meet a dark stranger. Who will lend you a hammer. And you will forget where you have put it.


      Comment by NB — 7 September 2010 @ 1:01 pm

  3. of the busy downtown office-scape

    That reminded me instantly of the ‘office-scape’ (first time I hear that term–nice and very useful) of Jersey City, which has almost all been built in the last 25 years. About 2001, I took the ferry across there and walked through part of this true office-scape: There is nothing quaint about this newer kind of cluster of office towers–you see them in suburbs as well, in Stamford, Connecticut or in Long Beach, California, and they always have a more ‘pure-corporate’ sensation than the central parts of the huge cities, which also have theater and cultural institutions a good bit more. These may eventually get some, but they usually have these little bits of somewhat uninspired park with some begonias perfunctorily in strips every here and there, and with little imagination. I don’t know if Indianapolis’s is like that, having seen it only, I think, once from the air, landing there briefly. But most of the newer ‘office tower scapes’ are like that for awhile.

    The return to the building is very evocative, because for me it would always represent the centralized metropolis from which all those other forms would spring, and even the hospital: I’d been reading about someone who spends most of her time either in her office downtown or in hospitals visiting patients in her crisis programs. I don’t know what it means for you since you think it’s about being lost, but the building itself is more interesting than the variations just outside it, or rather, they’re not the powerful ones. The office tower has magnetism when I hear it, and it grounds one–comes across to me as something that keeps one from getting lost.

    Just got back from The Martha Stewart Show. THAT was impressive–the seamlessness of the taping, the fact that you really do see that she can do all those things hand-on with the foods and crafts and deal with all the crew without the slightest ruffling. Extraordinary talent.


    Comment by Quantity of Butchness — 7 September 2010 @ 11:41 am

  4. I see a Kafkaesque television series set in this office building. Maybe Our Hero opens another door and finds himself in the Martha Stewart studio audience, where she’s efficiently preparing some complex and inscrutable frippery. My first job after college I worked in a downtown Chicago office building on the 17th floor. After I’d been working there for a month or so a guy going up in the elevator with me pushed the button for the 7th floor. The doors opened onto a swarm of guys in suits yelling at each other: it turned out to be the Commodities Futures Exchange. All sorts of strange activities go on in these buildings.


    Comment by ktismatics — 7 September 2010 @ 1:52 pm

    • where she’s efficiently preparing some complex and inscrutable frippery

      I just looked up ‘frippery’. So you think that she’s only up to fripperies? I was going to tell you what she was up to, but the bleugs seem to be full of such foreordained sourness about everything, maybe I’ll just say that the show was one of the most fascinating things I’ve ever seen. I thought it was usually tourists that formed the audiences for these shows, and maybe they do when they are sure they can be seen on camera; but it was one of the most extraordinary pieces of live theater I’ve ever seen in some ways, tons of cameras and other television equipment hanging and all. Her own performance was as seamless (and yes, inscrutable) as possible, and I think she tapes 7 of these a week.

      She’s not nearly as rich as Oprah, though, who is worth $2,300,000,000. I didn’t know Mayor Bloomberg was in the top 10 richest in the country, just looked that list up. Oprah was the big ‘blessor’ of Marianne Williamson, who was herself the popularizer of the New Age ‘understated and serious text ‘A Course in Miracles’, which the late Columbia Presbyterian professor Helen Shucman claimed was ‘dictated to her by Christ’s voice’ from 1968-1978. In fact, it was nothing of the kind, and I’ve read it cover to cover: It’s Ms. Shucman’s own ‘religious fiction’, if not part of her own very real psychosis, which ended her locked up in hospital the last 2 years of her life. Maybe being ‘understated’ about how she was ‘just writing down Christ’s words’ and not trying to make it into a money-making cult was what sold it to people. But that’s my idea of ‘frippery’. What Martha is doing is exactly what it seems–which doesn’t mean everything I saw today constituted what I would say are necessities exactly.


      Comment by Quantity of Butchness — 7 September 2010 @ 3:36 pm

      • Had meant to say that it was not mostly tourists after all, most were from the tri-state area, with a handful from Australia and one from London.

        Was fascinated that you can see all of these talk shows for free, just fill out a form on the website, they email you, you confirm that, and pick up the ticket on the day. You do have to go an hour and a half early, and go through security, and sit in waiting rooms for awhile, so the experience is more like an airport than going to any kind of show or theater.


        Comment by Quantity of Butchness — 7 September 2010 @ 3:39 pm

  5. I’ve never seen Martha Stewart except when she was going to jail on insider trading. Doesn’t she go in for how to fold napkins exquisitely and so on? I have no idea really, but I can imagine that watching this sort of act performed professionally on stage with the cameras rolling would be entertaining.


    Comment by ktismatics — 7 September 2010 @ 5:09 pm

    • Yes, that was what was so eye-opening about it. I’d seen an earlier mutation of the show (I don’t think it was in this studio back then, or I’d have noticed it–Rikki Lake used to do her show there), but I have never seen it in recent years, and not more than twice back just after 9/11.

      All those television cameras and equipment hanging from the ceiling when they weren’t operated by crew (over a hundred just hanging), and the studio is up some flights of stairs (although it’s not in a high-rise building, the studio is the whole thing, no more than 4 storeys at most), they make you show I.D., you wait, then they sit you most professionally, and the whole operation is flawless. The actual studio is quite breathtaking with the walls covered with huge photos of New York cityscapes, and it’s very spacious, with a big restaurant-like kitchen to the far left for all the assistants working on things for that and upcoming shows, a middle more domestic-size kitchen where she frosted four cakes with a member of the audience and kept putting a finger in all these cakes (I guess that’s part of the act and the privilege, she clearly couldn’t stop fingering the frostings, and here it was 10 a.m.), and to the right of that another counter where she does these craftsy things with various guests. Beyond that to the far right is a huge greenhouse when she wants to concentrate on gardeing number and house plants.

      They have a warm-up guy who’s very much the squat ‘cute type’ that one finds in lots of shooting projects of the sort I’ve seen outdoors here, ‘Law and Order’, etc., commercials. He revs you up about applauding and hooting, although it’s not that grotesque here as it would be on the old ‘Let’s Make a Deal’ or ‘The Price is Right’, etc., there’s not that much audience participation in this one. We’re mainly for the sound and enthusiasm.

      She did talk about folding napkins in Sweden’s Royal Palace over the weekend, quite off-handedly, this was after the cakes were frosted, the audience girl given a piece of cake, the Hosta Leaf dishes made with cement so you could put even MORE chocolates around (they all seemed to be chocolate-oriented), and that ‘Figgy Newton’ craftsman finished. It was being filmed ‘as if live’, with commercial breaks that just had music played instead of the real commercial (this one will air sometime in October), and during those Martha would easily ensconce herself for the next ‘tableau’, tended to by various combers and makeup artists and dressers. It all had the most effortless imaginable look to it. Once the applause didn’t die down quite enough for her to begin talking with her guest quite enough, so it was re-done to make it perfect, since it wasn’t actually live.

      Then after another ‘commercial’, she relocated back to the middle kitchen and had a chef Michael White, who is a big pasta specialist with several big Manhattan restaurants and has eaten way too much of it himself, come in and talk about tortelli, tortellini and tortelloni. She wanted names of Italian rivers, specifics of place and address, she talked about her yogi, offhand as before, and then ate this Creamy Raddichio Tortelli about 10:30 a.m. She was so eccentric and made it look so normal, I felt very comforted about my own weird life. She’s very svelte at 69, gracious when she’s working before the cameras, and expressionless when she’s just standing waiting for the filming to begin.

      This was the beginning of a new season of the show, which has also just expanded to Hallmark Channel. As a result, after the basic show was over, she did a bunch of promos for the camera with teleprompter, just because it was convenient; the audience really didn’t need to see that. She had a girl coach tell her if they needed to be re-done, and she did ‘See it today at 4 p.m.’ maybe 10 times once. When she left, she made only a minimal gesture to the audience, then stayed in the restaurant kitchen while we filed out. They made sure we didn’t try to go and approach her–not really a publicity thing like a book signing with autographs, esp. since there are so many shows done with new audiences weekly, often two a day (I think I read she was also doing another one this afternoon.)

      She is completely comfortable with being this kind of machine when she’s working, and that was always what came across, even when I saw it on TV. It’s all very easy for her, both the manual things and the business things. Hell, she even made her prison time work–giving classes there, improving the cafeteria, and even worked out and exercised up till the day they took her to the joint. So it was very interesting to see, 6 years after I saw that perf. artist do that play about her with a fictional Geo. W. Bush having an affair at a hot-sheet motel on the night before she went to jail, the real Martha at work. Karen Finley’s fictional Martha was always being accused by her fictional Geo. W. Bush of ‘nothing matters to you but the money’. Karen as Martha in 2004 was the funniest thing I’ve nearly ever seen, but the ‘Martha’ would go into these seizures about Bush, ‘GEORGE! You’rs just so STUPID! You’re just so, so, so STUPID!’ And all of the accusations of Bush’s stupidity Karen would bit off in a way I can’t reproduce in writing. Plus, having done it nude, and at the end, she got out there with this Diva Finale screaming ‘I got breakfast, and I got BRUNCH! and I got Chairs, and I got COREOPSIS!’ She went through this screaming hilarity, all alphabetized, of every domestic item–maybe a hundred. So then I see the real one, and it’s this almost frighteningly commanding and in-control figure. I read in her Wiki entry that she still has to wait a bit longer before she can accept certain head positions in companies, but that’s almost over. But in 2008, the U.K. denied her entry, wouldn’t issue her a visa as a result of her obstruction of justice. That only adds a nice dissonant spice to this incredibly extravagant outfit she’s got going. And $638 million net worth isn’t all that bad.


      Comment by Quantity of Butchness — 7 September 2010 @ 5:56 pm

  6. It’s never too early to finger the frosting. Creamy radicchio tortellini doesn’t sound good, although I’m sure it’s essential to bring something new to Martha’s show. I seriously laughed out loud at the coreopsis.


    Comment by ktismatics — 7 September 2010 @ 10:07 pm

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