Wednesday, August 20, 2008

A career parable

in the dream, i start out partying. all sorts of people are there, including the beautiful tim kulak, a former student of mine. suddenly i look around and realize everyone else has gone home. the party has ended when i haven't been paying attention. i'm still a little drunk, but i have to deal with an overflowing toilet: ugly. the place i am is nice stylistically -- it's all white plaster and oiled beech, a good design concept when it was put together but a little bit shabby now. the wood is not quite rotten but spoiling and the whitewash is grubby. dirty california.

not quite sober, i have to drop something off to a rich patron of the arts whose condo is way up on the fifth floor, and to get there, i have to take the tiniest elevator in the world. even before the doors close i feel myself panicking with claustrophobia. i calm myself down: relax, you can do this, you have to do this, it's only four floors up (only it's actually five floors up because, i realize, there's an extra floor stuck in there, a ground floor and a first floor). the doors close and the elevator starts to rise. my eyes are glued on the numbers. i can do this... then we stop at 2 and a janitor gets on with a big cart of stuff. i'm now shoved into the back corner, sweat trickling down my spine. i can't see anything where i am, just the back of the janitor. the doors close again. i panic, i wonder if i can push myself out the walls of this elevator, this dream -- and then the doors open again on the next floor, where a lawyer pushes himself in, holding sheafs of important-looking legal-sized paper out in front of him. i'm really angry at him; can't he see there's no room? can't he wait for the next ride up? is he really so oblivious to everyone but himself? i honestly don't think i can make it, i've got to get out of the elevator, there's no air here. but then we arrive at the fifth floor, the others disappear and i walk gratefully out of the elevator, only to find myself standing on a platform the size of a diving tower, a full storey above my destination. i can look down and see the condo i'm supposed to be at. around me there is nothing, not even a roof, just me all alone, dizzy and scared, on this tiny swaying platform in a terrifying wind.

it's back to the awful elevator to get down, and now i'm worried i'm late, have let too much time go by, won't be accepted where i'm going.

by the time i knock on the condo's door, i am stone sober. and here's the thing: it's gorgeous. totally worth it. the condo is made of wood and glass; it's decorated in mid-century modern teak (remember teak? back when we still grew hardwoods on this planet?) and everything is lit beautifully. through the floor-to-ceiling plate glass windows you can see city hills dotted with other beautiful houses. it looks a bit like sydney. there are a lot of people standing around in the condo having elegant conversations and drinking wine. the patron is generous and kind, funny and deft. she plies me with canapes, even though i'm more or less just a messenger, and she offers me a tour of the premises. the most beautiful room of all is what should, structurally, be the kitchen, but she's turned it into an artists' studio. this is where her artists come and work on extended contracts. here even the ceiling is glass. the view isn't quite as stunning as the view from the main room in the condo, and for some reason the entire place is covered with faux-leaf chandeliers, green, some strewn on antlers and some shaped like grape clusters and all of them, to my eye, ugly. i can see immediately that you'd want to remove all those light fixtures to let the room be itself. it's as big and as lush as a muttart conservatory greenhouse. the patron smiles and says, "you should come back sometime, for real," and then she gestures to the gift bag that all of the artists in residence receive. it's wrapped in yellow paper.


i have had three conversations with three trusted friends in the last three days on the topic 'what will become of heather.' and here, delightfully, is my unconscious with a droll little complicated narrative in answer. i won't decode this here entirely (though anyone who reads it is welcome to offer observations). i am left with a few key questions, though -- like when, exactly, did the party end? why can't i go to law school? and, finally, what is in the gift bag, wrapped so tellingly in UofA colors, and why am i so tragically curiosity-bound that i still, still want to know?

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