Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Tales From a Great Indoorsman

Here's the first in an ongoing series from prolific blog poster J.S. Bankston. I have respected his writing for years and I continue to be amazed and , at times, shocked by the goings-on in his world -- most of which take place within the four walls of his North Austin apartment and in the company of his beloved dog, Fred.


Wherein I See The Apocalypse

I dreamt about the end of the world the other night. The dream started in the daytime in a building where there were lots of young children, from pre-school ages up through the lower elementary grades. The floor was divided up into specific sections, each devoted to a certain game or craft activity.

I thought at first I was in a school, but I later learned this was an activity center. The strange thing was this place was only open for thirty minutes a day after school. I asked some adults on hand what the point was in having a whole building that was only open for such a short time every day.

Then a five-year-old begged one of the adults to take him to see Randy Newman in concert that night. I asked the adult, "What on earth is a five-year-old doing being a fan of Randy Newman?" (Understand, I was only thinking of Newman’s adult work, not all the songs for kid’s movies he’s done lately.)

Then suddenly I found myself in the middle of nowhere, on the plains of South Texas, at a diner/beer joint late at night. All the kids from the activity center were there, along with a variety of other people, at least 200 in all. The building faced north, and was located on the south side of a deserted highway that ran east and west. I suspected I might be near my old childhood home of Katy, Texas, but this place was remote, and Katy is now a populous Houston bedroom community.

We all were gliding easily between the indoors and outdoors, when we heard a series of tremendously loud noises, including the screeching whistle of a bomb being dropped. Far, far north, many states away, up on the horizon, a sharp, brilliant light appeared which quickly became a bright, narrow column of light shooting into the heavens. And from that point of origin there emanated semi-circular waves of light, each one larger than the last, each accompanied by terrible booms. It looked like a geometrically precise, symmetrical Aurora Borealis.

Somehow we all immediately knew what this was. Terrorists had gotten ahold of powerful bombs that would destroy the world. At this point nothing could be done–the bombs had gone off and we couldn’t fight back. We were all going to die.

I looked to my right and saw my mother from behind as she ran east down the road, looking for her husband. She didn’t even bother to say good-bye. (I guess you don’t have to be Freud to figure that one out.)
Then I thought about someone whom I wished was there with me for the end of the world, someone who was far away, involved in other things, and who I knew would probably never even give a second’s thought about me at a time like that.

Oddly enough, my beloved dog, Fred, was nowhere around in this dream, and I didn’t actually think of him either. That is most unusual.

There was a degree of panic amongst the crowd, but at the same time some of us realized that there are worse places to be when the world ends than a bar.

I milled among the people. It looked like the Randy Newman concert would be cancelled, I thought, when passing that five-year-old.

At some point I found myself with my arm around the shoulder of Ezra Levin, who had hurt his leg or something and needed assistance walking. Ezra was one of my students when I worked as Librarian at a private school, and he was a fat, disrespectful, disruptive pain in the ass. When he wasn’t challenging my authority he was vandalizing my computer in the school library.

And then when I’d call him down he had the gall to say, "Mr. Bankston, you’re singling me out because I’m a Jew. You’re anti-Semitic !" And I’d respond, "No," (taking great care not to add, "you little bastard,") "I’m not singling you out because you’re Jewish. I’m singling you out because you’re acting like a jerk." (The last I heard, Ezra had matured somewhat and was studying International Politics at Georgetown University and working as a Congressional Aide.)

And yet, here I was, at the end of the world, helping this brat walk. He looked at me with a sneer and said, "So, Mr. Bankston, I guess this means you like me now?" And I, smiling through gritted teeth, said, "No, Ezra, it means I’m sad we’re not gonna live long enough for me to kick your fat ass through a hedge!"

When the bomb failed to have immediate effect we all wondered what was going on. Maybe it would take a series of bombs to actually destroy the whole earth.

There was a small TV in the bar, and I turned it on and we gathered around to watch the news. But the set only got three channels, and they were all showing late-night info-mercials, including the one with those freaky midget twin brothers who wear tiny black suits and claim that anyone who uses their patented techniques can become a millionaire from selling real estate.

We were all disgusted by this point, and resigned to the idea we would all be dying in the next few hours. As it turned out, I had a little bedroom in the back part of this diner/bar building, and I headed back there to collect my thoughts. It was a small room, crammed with the most important of the "treasures" I have collected in this life.

But when I opened the door, I found Troy Collier rummaging around. Troy was the First Chair cornet player in my high school band a quarter century ago, an arrogant rich kid who lived with his grandparents and juvenile delinquent brother. He also had a huge "Toucan Sam" nose about which he was very touchy, and a fondness for being fellated while driving his car up and down Interstate 45.

Troy was thumbing through my library catalogue and sniggering at some of the titles. Enraged that he was violating my privacy, I leaped upon him, ripped the catalogue from his hands, throttled him, and pushed his face down into the pillows of a blue Edwardian armchair in an attempt to suffocate him, all the while screaming obscenities at him.

The funny thing is that lately I’ve been having all these violent, rage-filled dreams, while in my waking life I’ve been calm and happy. And although I’ve not seen Troy Collier in decades, I never especially disliked him. And finally, I should mention that I woke before the next wave of bombing started, so I technically did not get to see how the world ended.


At 9:32 PM, Blogger tj1972 said...

Wow, half of me wishes I could remember my dreams as vividly as you and the other half is quite glad that I don't. Sweet dreams, Bankston.

At 9:58 AM, Blogger lilihammer said...

"I’ve been having all these violent, rage-filled dreams, while in my waking life I’ve been calm and happy."

I'm glad for you (and people around you) that it's not the other way around.

At 12:44 PM, Blogger sasefina said...

Bankston, wow. It's strange that you say that - I too have been having really fucked up dreams lately, at a time in my life where I'm happier than I've been in years.

Although this is not as eloquent as your post, I had a very disturbing dream the other night in which I killed a madman in hand to hand combat, but was mortally wounded (stabbed) in the process. Said madman had been terrorizing an island of people, but even though I managed to defeat him, I got no thanks or credit. And then the worst part was that my parents (!) came to pick me up afterwards and refused to take me to the hospital. They were all, "we'll go, we just need to run some errands first." It was terrible, I kept looking down to see an open wound.

Not quite the apocalypse, but not a good dream either. And parental betrayal is never fun.

At 4:09 PM, Blogger jsbankston said...

When I was in high school I dreamt I visited the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem and found there was restoration work going on. I crawled out onto a "balcony" which was nothing more than a sheet of plywood that wasn't even nailed down.

When another tourist got up off the plywood to leave, it upset the balance, and I plunged to the floor, dying on the stone floor near the silver star they have that supposedly marks the hole over the original stone floor of the stable where Christ was born.

And TJ and Lille, I was reluctant to post that dream, lest people think me crazy, but what the hell, right?

At 4:41 PM, Blogger jsbankston said...

I was reluctant, I mean, to post the first dream.

And if you think that was bad, the one I had last night will land me a rubber room for sure.

Now normally, the worse my waking life is, the cooler and more interesting my dreams become. In 1986 I was going through a rough patch and dreamt I ran into a kid on the street who looked like a younger, better-looking version of me. We hit it off and began running around town having adventures, but we seemed to have a somewhat deeper bond.

At the end of the dream, I discovered he was a long-lost brother. When I woke I had a spooky sensation the dream was real, even though I knew I had no other biological siblings.

Fast-forward to 1991. I get a letter from my mom. She'd spoken with a college friend of hers, a music instrument salesman. This guy was at a junior high school to sell instruments to kids starting out in band, and who should walk in to this sale but my biological father, who this guy also knew from college.

My biological father, whom I'd not seen since the early '70's, and who was supposedly bisexual, had come to buy an instrument for his son---who was the exact age of the kid I met in the dream in '86.

Spooky shit.

Only a couple years ago did I find out this kid's name and that of his sister, as well as their dates of birth. (I had a friend run a check of their driver's licenses.)I'll probably never get to meet them because our only point in common is a man I hate and who may've molested me as a kid.

Ah, such cheery talk....

At 5:10 PM, Blogger Martin McFriend said...

Holy Zod, I think I just shat my pants. You are one imaginitive dude, Bankston.

I'm sorry if some of your visions are painful to you, but you have a pretty interesting outlook on things, and you are endowed with an excellent grasp of the ideas and details of your dreams. I retain next to nothing from mine, which is a shame, since I vaguely recall them being quite colorful.

Great story fodder, man. Well done.

At 6:40 PM, Blogger jsbankston said...

Thanks Martin, I am indeed endowed.

At 9:41 PM, Blogger princessmalin said...

bankston. immediately, from this point forward, send me anything and everything that you write. it's fabulous. creativity paired with intrigue all spun with an amazing writer's wit. not to go back to xavier college prep-isms, but: you rule. clearly.

At 10:25 PM, Blogger jsbankston said...

Again, many thanks, Princess M.

My computer brain trust is currently working on making my blog site attractive and user-friendly, as well as weeding out copywritten material from my crazed, tendentious ransom notes. It should also have all my recent Austin history columns and anonymous op-ed pieces. I'll continue sending you my stuff, and will also let you know when the site is ready.

At 10:26 PM, Blogger jsbankston said...

And yes, Triplej, I do indeed have a copy of Kerouac's "Book of Dreams."


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