New York Orientation: Part One



From Chicago to Greenpoint

Neighborhood: Brooklyn, Greenpoint


Next Wednesday, Mars will be closer to the Earth than it has been in 60,000 years. Already it’s the brightest object in the night sky. I assume by then I will be no closer to having a job. That’s not so bad, really — by next Wednesday, I will have only been living in New York for a week. People born in this city have been waiting to work here for months in some cases.

Back in Chicago, my sister attributes the nearness of Mars to the strange and terrible dreams she’s been having. She says there’s an extra gravitational pull on her brain that’s making her crazy at night. The night before I got on the train she told me she had a dream in which murderers were repeatedly stabbing our mother in the chest. My sister was powerless to stop them, she said, and she grabbed my arm and made her eyes distressingly soulful in the way she does whenever she wants to emphasize something unaccountably but deeply personal. Now, my sister’s an extraordinarily sensitive kid, far more sensitive than I am, and I’m inclined to take her weird astronomicism with a grain of salt. Still, I have to admit that odd dreams have been rearing their heads everywhere these days. For instance, my friend Matt had a dream a few nights ago that I doused myself with the contents of a gas canister, and that, when he protested, I laughed and began drinking straight from the spout.

On Monday, I had a dream that I was recruited by the mob to hold up a bank. Our approach was through the roof, and our means of access was dynamite. Something went wrong, however. The job was botched, a bank employee exploded — and, to make a long story short, I eventually found myself in dutch with my employers for screwing up and in trouble with the law for having robbed the bank in the first place. I was unmoored in the way one can only be in a dream. When one of my bosses found me, however, I did not fold under the pressure. Quite the opposite — I eviscerated him. With only the slightest sense of panic, and mere minutes before I woke up, breathing hard, to my last morning in the Midwest, I sliced my mobster friend apart as one would a frog in a seventh-grade biology class. The act of killing — of taking absolute control — was in this case so momentous that it had to be prolonged.

Oddly, I feel optimistic about these murderous dreams, and I attribute them less to the gravitational pull of Mars than to the love my friends and family have for me and to the imaginative New York that exists in the dreams of all Midwesterners. In my interpretation of these dreams, gasoline is the combustible stuff of life, my mother is alive and well in her Michigan home, and I am her murderer only in as much as I am making her nervous about moving here. And though the mobsters of New York may never chase me down, they may still, I hope, be susceptible to the explorations of my scalpel. Everyone who comes to New York feels extraordinary for being here, I guess. Perhaps even the natives feel extraordinary about it, and have dreams in which they douse themselves in gasoline and get chased by mobsters on a daily basis. I suspect not, however.

All of this is pretty sophistic. Still, if given a choice between Mars and New York as the source of unusual dreams, I’m inclined to choose New York. Especially for the jobless. We sleep later.

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