This post is about the cringe worthy memories I get before falling asleep and those dreams that disturb a good slumber. Some of my best ideas come from dreams. Some of my worst night’s sleep come from past thoughts entering my mind from out of the blue right when my head hits the pillow. It is strange how the worst or most awkward memory can just appear out of nowhere. I often stop and try to trace my thoughts back to see how I got there. But no matter the process, the thought is now there and you have to deal with it to get a good nights sleep.
I had a recurring dream throughout my childhood and up until my early twenties. It wasn’t every night and it actually took a few years off in my late teens. It hung out until I took a community college course in creative writing. For some reason once I wrote the dream out on paper and analyzed it over and over, I never had the dream again. The assignment was to leave a notebook by the bed and try to write down your dreams as soon as you woke up. I didn’t have to. I knew the dream I'd write about and every detail of it. I still know it today but not as well. I’ll give you the short story.
In the dream I’m a small stick figure standing in a black and white hallway. It feels very sanitary and institutional. I begin to walk around searching for something. The walls and floor start turning colors and mixing together. The colors are bright and beautiful. There are doors with windows that look into rooms. I can’t make out all of what is going on in the rooms, but I can see past the rooms to the outside. The outside is blue skies with bubbly clouds and big orange mountains. I notice something is happening behind me and turn around. The walls begin to drain of color and start to crumble together into a great ball. The ball reminds me of the large rolling stone in the beginning of Raider’s of the Lost Ark. But, this stone has no color and looks like a big ball of tin foil. The ball gets bigger and bigger as it pulls in every thing around it. It slowly begins to roll towards me. I move down the hallway. The ball keeps coming toward me. I begin to move faster and so does the ball. Eventually I’m running and the ball is right on my heels sucking in everything behind me. I feel as though I’m running for my life. Then I wake up with a weird sensation of chewing on tin foil.
The first time I remember having that dream was in 1976. I was around seven-eight years old. The last time I had that dream was in 1992. The dream would change a bit. Sometimes I could see people and things happening in the rooms. But it always ended with me waking up, many times in a sweat, with that taste or feel of chewing on tin foil. When I wrote about it in a creative writing class I was able to examine it and discover why and what was happening in the dream. After that it was gone. I never had it again. That is one reason I am writing this blog. By writing about these topics I’m hoping to put somethings to rest. I have fifty years of bullshit to sort through. I’m also putting it on record so when I start losing my memory I have some interesting things to read.
After that dream ended the rest of the 90’s were good for sleep, most likely because I was exhausted or drunk. In 2000 we moved to NYC and the first few years of sleeping were pretty good. But in 2002 things got weird again. I think 9/11, blackouts, city life and moving around started effecting me. My mid thirties through my early forties brought night terrors. Waking up in a cold sweat, silently screaming, pushing and punching the air. Sometimes I couldn’t go back to sleep because I would land right back into the dream. That’s some weird shit. I’m hoping those nights are in my past.
We may not all have recurring dreams or night terrors, but I bet we all have had that messed up thought while lying in bed, of something from the past that really fucks with your mind. I have one. Back in the 90’s I worked for a landscape construction/tent rental company in Pennsylvania. We would travel around eastern Pennsylvania erecting huge Octoberfest sized tents for all kinds of events during the summer months. Music Fest in Bethlehem Pennsylvania was one of the big events. These tents were huge. If possible we would take a front end loader or skid steer with us to help erect the tents. But sometimes the location was several hours away and a small crew of four or five was all we had available.
Once a year we would travel to a small town in the north eastern part of Pennsylvania to erect a 80’ X 140’ tent for a local fire department’s fund raiser. I believe the town was called Tunkhannock, which according to Wikipedia means ‘Bend in River’. A crew of five of us would pack up a large 24’ straight truck and a pick up truck to make the trip north. We would start out at around 6:30am. The trip would take about 2 ½ hours. It was a pretty good gig. The tent went up in a open field near a baseball diamond. Nothing was in our way and no one to bother us.
One of my coworkers grew up in that area of Pennsylvania and this particular year his parents came by for a visit and to watch us erect the large tent. We were all seasoned tenters and this trip was a cake walk for us. By lunch time we had everything laid out and ready for erection. The process was pretty standard; Show up, measure the site out, lay out the 500+ pound tent pieces, lace the 20’ X 80’ pieces together, then place all the stakes and side poles in the correct spots. After lunch we would jack hammer all the stakes into the ground, lift the tent, tighten it up, hang the side walls, pack up and head home. It was a good summer day’s work. But this day would involve a near death experience.
The process of lifting the tent can be a bit tricky. It takes double the amount of time when you don’t have a skid steer or front end loader. It is very heavy. I’ll explain it the best I can. After all the stakes are hammered into the ground, the 8’ foot side poles are placed and then tied to the stakes with a long rope. After all the side poles are tied off to the stakes you can begin lifting the tent with a quarter pole or center pole and gradually lift it by hand. We start at one of the 80’ ends and continue to lift until all the quarter poles/center poles are in place. Everyone has a role and everyone looks for problems and safety issues.
On this day we may have been a little to relaxed. We had a good lunch and an audience. My coworkers parents were there watching the entire process. We were talking and goofing around. Each of us had a job. I was pulling up the center poles. The center poles are aluminum, around 32’ - 48’ high, depending on the tent size, and weigh hundreds of pounds. Sometimes the top part of the pole may contain concrete. The top of the pole has a pin. The pin is placed through a pipe flange that is laced into the tent pieces earlier that day. Connected to the flange area is a long rope called a tie down. The tie down is extremely important. The tie down is looped and tied around the center pole. This is done so that if the tent moves up and down in the wind it is attached to the center pole and hopefully won’t move. If it is not tied down the tent can move and the pole will fall out and crash to the ground. You may see where this is going?
To pull up the center pole you must attach a lifting bar to the aluminum pole using a pin. The lifting bar is about 4’ long and can accommodate four people to pull up the pole. That day it was four of us doing the pulling. Two of us on either side. We were halfway through the tent erection and had two center poles in place. My coworkers and I began to pull up on the third pole. We were kinda showing off doing the muscle work. Moving these poles is not an easy task. As we got close to the placement of the pole and the tent lifted higher and higher, the pin on the pole in front of us pulled out of the flange. It fell about twenty-eight feet. The fifth guy who’s parents were watching, had not tied down the pole in front of us. It dropped fast. I saw a blur and felt it brush my ear then hit my shoulder, taking me down. The pole bounced off my shoulder and landed on the hand of the guy next to me, smashing his two fingers on the steel lifting bar and coming to rest in front of us. I was momentarily dazed and sprawled out on the ground. Everyone panicked for a second. I came to and sat up. That could have ended me.
Since then, I’ve thought about this while lying in bed at night many times. That day could have changed my life forever. I have had a few other near death experiences, but this one just sticks with me. I think it is because it wasn’t me who caused the incident. Maybe by writing it down I’ll stop thinking about it?