"I'm going to speak my mind because I have nothing to lose."--S.I. Hayakawa

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Dreaming in Poetry, Hallucinating in Doggerel

Beth’s dreams are like gossamer illusions in poetry; mine are more like histrionics in doggerel.
Her dreams soar, like the allegorical eagle in the morn. Mine, to complete the equation, hoot like a screech owl at midnight. When she writes of her phantasmagorical dreams, her prose is lyrical, pastoral, and enchanting.

Listen—don’t simply read, but listen—to what she’s written of her last dream, posted on her blog at “Switched at Birth:”

“…I awoke in the morning …with my head singing, full of fantastic, colorful, music-filled dreams. There were children playing in a sprinkler and a young couple bathing their baby in a small robin’s egg blue Victorian bathtub that had gorgeous flowers painted on it. I saw an old couple holding hands, sitting side by side, their thin legs touching, in a white wicker glider. I met an elderly judge in a l9th century suit complete with ornate pocket watch who flirted with me over tea and scones in a most courtly manner. People gathered for ice cream under the canopy of huge spreading oak trees, and I enjoyed conversations with many of them.

“Last night Aristotle visited. We walked in a grove and talked about some of his favorite subjects: change, movement, purpose, and potential. I practically sprang out of bed, fully rested and recharged.”

She sits around in those bucolic dreamscapes chatting with cool dudes like Aristotle. Of course she wakes up refreshed.

I think if I had dreams like that, I’d jump out of bed fully rested and recharged, too. Instead, after I summon the strength to roll over and manage to pry open one eye and so I can see the big red numbers on the bedside clock, I mutter, “Oh, crap.” I’ve slept late again. And each day, it seems, it gets later and later. Yesterday I briefly entertained the idea of letting this insomnia/late-sleeping thing just runs it cycle. Then some day in the far off future, I’d go through sleeping all day and getting up at night, to finally getting up at a decent hour of the morning. Impractical, I thought, and abandoned the purposeful chase of that strategy.

I know exactly why I don’t spring out of bed “fully rested and recharged” like Beth. I work all night. I’m worn out by morning. Take last night, for instance. It started out with just one big white sulfur-crested cockatoo that someone found alongside the highway in sub-zero temperatures, and brought to me because they knew I’d once tried to live with one. I located a cage and placed said cockatoo inside. The bird disassembled the cage in seconds. I put it back together and put the bird inside. As soon as I turned away, the bird took the cage apart again. If you’ve never had the experience of knowing one of these Australian parrots, trust me when I say they can escape from anything.

Soon there was a second cockatoo, and putting them in the same cage was a mistake. I found another cage, and put the second cockatoo in that. While I was reassembling the first cage, the second bird was disassembling the second cage. All of a sudden, there were cockatoos of all sizes running about. I spent all night putting cages back together and chasing cockatoos.

When I woke up at ten this morning, I didn’t say, “Oh, crap.” I said something else.

And while Beth was sojourning with Aristotle in a diaphanous arbor and waxing philosophical, I was doing my darnedest to get hamburgers to hold together. Then some moron orders Bouillabaisse.

Bouillabaisse! Come on, the two menu choices were spaghetti and hamburgers. It was bad enough that the woman I was working for insisted that I put a paper towel on the grill and cook the darned hamburger on that. Then she nixes the spaghetti because everyone’s ordering hamburgers that won’t hold together because the meat’s too lean. So, half the night I’m trying to peel pieces of paper towel off chunks of hamburger that won’t ever get done because of the paper towel.

Then in comes this Gregory Peck kind of guy, and my boss takes a shine to him, and lets him order Bouillabaisse. I’ve never eaten Bouillabaisse. I’ve never ordered Bouillabaisse. I will never cook Bouillabaisse. But I ruined what might have been a halfway decent night’s sleep by attempting to fake my way through Bouillabaisse. Of course, she didn’t have most of the ingredients for what I thought Bouillabaisse contained.

In case you’ve never eaten, ordered, or cooked Bouillabaisse, you can do what I did: do your research in “The Joy of Cooking.” I knew that it was a fisherman’s stew with its genesis in the Mediterranean. I knew it had a tomato-based broth, and had shrimp, fish, and clams and mussels—shells and all. I never would have guessed the saffron, though. Onions, yes; leeks, no. I’m not a stranger to leeks. I’ve used them many times in my previous life, the one in which I cooked, as opposed to my present life in which I lean heavily on microwave magic.

I never did get the Bouillabaisse cooked in my dream. When I woke up, I was still searching for the harvest of the sea ingredients. The closest I came was freeze-dried salmon and some foil-wrapped leftover scampi that the boss had brought home from a restaurant back in the Pleistocene era. But, the secret to authentic Bouillabaisse is this: you need to use a rock fish that can be found only in the Mediterranean, and which is high in gelatin content.

I should tell you something else about Bouillabaisse. First, you heat some olive oil in a casserole then sauté all the non-fishy ingredients—the veggies and the spices. Then you add cut-up pieces of fish and cover all that with Fumet and let it boil. Now, Fumet is a fish stock, and it’s the piscatorial version of all the pieces you always suspected hot dogs were made of.

Bouillabaisse has its devotees. I am not one of them. “The Joy of Cooking” is, though. In fact, in the three long paragraphs of something Beth could have written, is this: “We offer a free translation of bouillabaisse into American—realizing fully that we have succeeded only in changing poetry to rich prose.”

1 comment:

  1. I love it. We have become an antiphonal choir!

    Listen -- I'll be back to say more. We've been on a 6 hour drive from home to Jacksonville for our annual physicals at Mayo (Mayo lite, we hope). Just arrived and have to eat quick before fasting!:)