In the dream, I was doing a favor for Billy Dee Williams. At 79 years, he was getting tired of being harassed by an obnoxious Star Wars fan in a Greedo mask who kept demanding that Williams drink Colt 45 with him and answer inane questions about Cloud City. I offered to meet the fan at a municipal airfield; he was going to show me an invention in the trunk of his car that he was working on in strict exchange for a promise to leave Billy Dee alone.
Instead I found myself at a hotel called Underworld, which had been featured in an interactive article in the New Yorker with illustrations by Ralph Steadman. The reader could guide their fingers across the pages and “feel” the history of the hotel, experiencing each and every detail telepathically. The feel of the lobby and front desk was sumptuous, old world, with Oriental carpets and brass and cedar wood trim. The top 666 rooms were private and unreachable by stairwell; the murals lining the halls described yawning chasms of Hell painted on real stone, lit by flickering torches lining tunnels that branched out to different parts of the world. The first seven levels featured hand-painted nightmare tiles in each of the rooms, individual details to the nth degree. No two beds, chairs, coffee makers or even towels were the same.
I woke up in the middle of the dream into another dream where I was trying to explain the first dream to someone but it was raining so heavily that we got distracted watching people in cars being flooded out of their driveways like helpless ships. Concerned expressions abound.
I remember my first boombox. I’d save up for weeks to buy each tape, anguishing about the choices. This album or that one? Long winter bus rides between Harrisburg, PA, and Columbus, OH, my shitty foam headphones, staring out the window watching the miles whip past, flipping the tape over and over until the batteries died. Aware of the drone of the engine, the hiss of the tires, the Christmas lights and endless slush, sitting in the back of a Greyhound with the weirdos and raspy old drunks. “Hey, kid. You wanna sip?”
InstaDate — powder-based clones, just add water, a product readily available at your local 7-11 about a week before Valentine’s Day. If you don’t follow the instructions to a tee, they’ll turn to sludge before midnight, the consistency of cremated remains.
Today. Sunday morning breakfast at Rincon Criollo in the industrial alleyways just west of MIA. “Huevos y pollo y un rollo con café con leche, por favor y gracias…” That’s me, the giant gringo with the good hair sitting at the tile-lined counter, sandwiched between Uber drivers and local cops, the air full of rapid-fire Spanish. The women are wearing tight red t-shirts and blue jeans. They talk a mile a minute, their hands move even faster, wiping down surfaces, making coffee, carrying platters of food out from the kitchen. I’m in town to help fake a mass migration exercise, just one of many assets enabling a group of government agencies with the means to plan, design and wargame the scenario; coaching participants toward what right looks like, organizing the information flow, asking those leading questions. The irony of sitting between these Spanish speaking locals in this pleasant breakfast venue so close to the airport and so far south in Florida is not lost on me. We are all aliens here.
Dear 9-year-old me,
Please know that there will be dark and terrible nights but sometimes when the lightning flashes you’ll catch sight of your other self through the trees, motioning you toward a path you had not previously considered.
Try to remember that this is not the end. There is no end. This is not the beginning, nor the beginning of the end. It is the end of the beginning. Your doubts are my doubts. My doubts are everyones’ doubts. Our combined doubts are available for checkout from the local library.
These fragments of insight are the secret to your survival, your painting of Dorian Grey. Don’t be afraid. Everything must change. This is both a warning and an explanation. The sky must change. The mountains must change. All must evolve of their own accord; all things are always moving toward their end. Remember to look for the infinite. Spend time looking up. This must be your motto, just as you’ve adopted saying “not yet” instead of “no”. Everybody knows about you but no one can Google exactly *why.
I just did a favor for a Navy chaplain. He said “blessings” in his email reply. That gives me +2 armor when rolling for damages against orcs.