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In My Dreams

Cartoon sketch of a barefoot bearded man standing in the grass on a sunny day beside a bird and a dog. All have question marks in thought bubbles above their head. Illustration by Earle Levenstein.

My earliest memories are fragments of scenes, of danger, fear, terror, the imminence of death, the end, the daily threat to survival.

To this day, right now.

Just a flash; a passing image of that time—when I was five or six and learning how to bob and weave, dodge bullets, perform, read my father, anticipate violence—and I have to stop, breathe, and bring myself back to now.

It's not easy. A flashback is invariably loaded, filled with the very same fears; they're all still alive, waiting in the wings, ready to rejoin the fun, revive my sense of impermanence, reopen my baggage that's never fully unpacked.

The downside of a creative imagination.

No matter that I've explored, reflected, relived, verbalized, and interpreted every inch of footage on the reel; it continues to steal my present, snap at similarities, call up a repeat performance.

Same old, same old.

Amazing. I mean, out of the endless stream of images flicking by each and every moment of my life, my eye will snap at and tuck away the guaranteed loaded one bound to produce a reaction.

Example: Yesterday.

I woke with an all-too-familiar feeling of anxiety coupled with rage; an undercurrent of something else. I was physically breathless, with tightness in my chest, reflexively punching one open hand with a fist. I paced around the room.

What's this about? Reviewing scenes, random images, TV, places, people, screening my records.

Then, there it is; I can see it: a photograph of a dog, in the newspaper the evening before.

I just couldn't read it; skipped over the piece and the murderous rage that invariably overtakes me when I encounter yet another abuse episode. I knew it would be a painfully heartbreaking story of a horribly abused dog.

You can run, but you can't hide.

The moment I acknowledged the event, I was overtaken by emotion and my rage emerged; punching my hand, shaking my head. There were some tears, and an overwhelming sadness. My pulse slowed; I sat and reflected upon the non-stop nightmare we're living today.

Surrounded by horror after horror.

The already dead, and the suffering and dying. Men and women and children; and more children, children, children.

Thousands. Millions.

I can rationalize; the world's never been different. Always enough suffering to go around.

But in fact, there is a difference.

Mind-boggling differences.

Thanks to incredible advances in technology and science, we have made enormous progress: exponentially greater efficiency in killing each other in huge numbers, destroying entire cities, exceeding the speed of sound by multiples. We have stolen secrets; intercepted messages, reached out to distant planets, harvested all sorts of sea life, big and small to feed insatiable appetites for innovative menus.

Then there's the internet.

One of the new essentials of life.

It's food, shelter, a few bucks, and the internet.

And friends.

Instant communication by millions of people with millions of people; Facebook and Twitter and Instagram and texting and alerts and a phone that never sleeps.

All or nothing.

No in-between.

Maybe just skip it. The whole deal.


Abandon ship.

Unplug the TV. Turn off the phone.

Peace. Quiet. No news. Zip.


Birds chirping.

Sun. Rain.




Give me a few more minutes.

I'm thinking.

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