Perchance To Dream…

It feels like summer’s fever has finally broken. The weather is just a little bit cooler, even if only by a few degrees, and this morning when I first stepped outside there was a cool breeze that definitely said, “Winter is coming.” Then it added, “Oh, it’ll be a couple of months at least before you have to turn on the heat or even get out blankets, and right now we’ve got a large low pressure system moving in an easterly direction,” but I went inside before the breeze could pull down a large complicated chart with the names of towns I only hear about when tornadoes hit.

With the change in the weather I feel like my dreams have gotten more vivid, or maybe the cold is waking me up out of them right in the middle of a REM cycle so they don’t fade away, although I have yet to sit up in bed asking, “What’s the frequency, Kenneth?” George Carlin said, “There’s nothing more boring than listening to someone describe a dream.” That’s a sweeping generalization and I have to disagree—for one thing I think it depends on the dream, and for another George Carlin had obviously never taken an economics class in college. Granted most of the time when movies or TV shows have dream sequences they do seem pretty boring. Even if you can’t tell right away that it’s a dream sequence—even if the main character walking alone down a dark hallway or empty street in broad daylight, or the unusual camera angles, or everyone around them speaking really slowly, isn’t an immediate giveaway usually they’ll be stabbed or die in some way, or something so far out of the story’s parameters will happen that it won’t come as any surprise to us in the audience when the main character sits up in bed and says, “Oh, the scriptwriter needed something to pad out the runtime!”

Like I said, though, there are exceptions—times in movies or TV shows where dream sequences can move the plot forward or just provide insight into the characters, like that haunting M*A*S*H episode from the eighth season where Houlihan, Hunnicutt, Colonel Potter, Winchester, Father Mulcahy, Klinger, and Hawkeye, catching brief naps during a surgical marathon, all have disquieting or outright terrifying dreams that reveal some of their deepest fears. I just looked up that episode. It was titled “Dreams” and was supposed to end with a cut scene where Hawkeye sits up in his cot and says, “You’d think the scriptwriter could have come up with a more original title!”

I still remember a dream from when I was just four years old. I was outside our house under the naked yellow bulb over the garage door, which was locked. I couldn’t get in. I went into the backyard. It seemed like night but I could see the outline of the round sun surrounded by triangular arms, a slightly lighter shade of blue against the dark sky, as though it had been painted over. I went to the front of the house. We had a long front yard that sloped down to the street. I wasn’t allowed to cross the street but in the dream I knew it was safe. I looked up over the house across the street and could see the moon and all the cars in the world driving around it.

It was late summer when I had that dream. The next day I told my friend Paul, who lived next door about it. He said, “Oh yeah? I had a dream too that there were tigers and polar bears in my room. They were biting me!”

Paul’s dream sounded pretty boring, especially compared to mine. For a long time I thought maybe it meant I was more imaginative, maybe even smarter than he was, but in the cold morning breeze I don’t think so. We each have our own dreams and mine might have sounded boring to him too.   

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  1. mydangblog

    I have a lot of weird vivid dreams—in fact, I get some very good story ideas from them!

    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      I’m not surprised! I get some good story ideas from weird dreams too. And sometimes even a seemingly mundane detail in a dream will spark a story idea.

  2. Allison

    Even my terrible dreams are good for something- but I’ve had dreams so funny, I woke up laughing, so I can’t complain.

    I know the MAS*H episode you’re referencing, and it was impactful, for sure. I can’t remember each of the dreams, but the ones I remember were bad. I need look that up.

    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      It wasn’t too long ago that I saw that MAS*H episode on MeTV and it’s amazing how well it holds up. It really is one of the few cases where a TV show got what dreams are like right–at least from my perspective. Dreams are such personal things it’s hard to say but the quick cuts and incongruity really got the weirdness of dreams.


    Nothing you write is boring, Chris, and — since I’m a therapist — dreams are my bread and butter. One of my favorite things in a therapy group is when the group responds to somebody’s dream — there’s a technique that’s very respectful and illuminating. To me, dreams — if we’re open to letting them in — take us to a deeper and productive place. So thanks for sharing yours. And George Carlin isn’t right about everything.

    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      I find listening to other people’s dreams fascinating myself and if they ask what I think I try to be respectful and thoughtful. I want to be honest but hopefully in a way that’s helpful without hurting. Maybe I should try group therapy sometime.


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