Saturday, April 15, 2006

Strange dream

During the night, I found myself back in Japan to pay a visit to the junior high school where I taught a decade ago.
It was completely unrecognizable. The buildings were unlike those I remember.
Gone was the familiar oval dirt running track. In its place was a sprawling, rectangular expanse of manicured, deep-green grass on which the students were flying an enormous, diamond-shaped kite of a golden hue that was breathtaking in the sunlight.
The kite was so large that students were strapped to the ends of its cross-brace to give it stability in the wind.

Then I was ushered into a dimly lit building where a ceremony to honor Japan's military and civilian war dead was about to start.
On the steps leading up to the building, a fellow foreigner asked me to identify a Buddhist relic he had purchased, a kitchen timer in the shape of a lotus on a long stalk. It's from the Shingon sect, I told him, and he melted away.

Upon entering the building, the drone of chatter stopped and the room grew silent as a tomb as a square table was brought in. The table was covered by a dark cloth, and a similar cloth was draped over the centerpiece.
The attendees formed two or three single-file lines facing the table.
Officiating was one of the teachers I had known long ago, a short, stocky, cheerful fellow who had played American football for his college club team in Tokyo.
In the dream, he was of a solemn, deadly serious demeanor I had never seen during the years I knew him in real life.

The table was wheeled into place and the cloth was taken off the centerpiece: A World War II military hat encircled by several Homburgs and fedoras from the same period.
I thought to myself what a poignant tribute this was.
The teacher said a few words I couldn't quite catch and then bowed deeply to the memorial.
Everyone followed suit. In front of me was another teacher friend. His bow was so formal, so deep that it sent me, the last person in line, sliding clear out the door of the building as if I had been propelled backward on ice.

The last part of the dream I still remember is that I began to cry over the powerful symbolism of this memorial, hats whose owners had been killed.
Thank you for this dream, Mr. Guinness and your incomparable stout.

8 comments:

Kitty said...

Wow. Powerful dream, powerful blog post.

Michael said...

Hi Kitty,
Yeah, some of my dreams can be rather interesting.

Matt Kohai said...

Wow. This dream is pretty moving, to me. I was never one who was good at interpreting symbolism well - way too literal - but the hats on the table is a powerful image even to me.

And I, too, have thanked the esteemed Mr. Guinness for his porter and my dreams on many an occasion in my past, though I'm largely denied the pleasure these days by my condition. If you haven't ever done so, you should visit the brewery in Dublin, and perhaps make a side trip to the Irish Whiskey Corner museum a short distance from there, on the site of the former Jameson distillery...it's a worthy way to while away a day in a beautiful city.

Michael said...

Hello kny,
The Guinness brewery is indeed a great place. I was there about 23 years ago, and was really disappointed that we were given just one glass of stout -- and a small one at that -- following the tour.
I'd like to go back to Dublin. At the time, I was studying in England and Dublin was just a weekend trip away. Now, of course, it's different. And at that time, the Irish economy was very bad and there was a lot of poverty. It's different these days, I'm told.

Phats said...

I hope you had a happy easter michael.

Matt Kohai said...

Yes, Ireland is a very different place these days, though the wind seems to have drifted from the sails of the "Celtic Tiger" somewhat in recent years. Not long ago, there were contractors I'd heard of moving *back* to Ireland for better economic opportunity! And the Irish that were moving here were doing so because they couldn't afford living in Ireland anymore - they'd been priced out by gentrification!

Michael said...

Hi Phats,
Yes, I did, and I hope yours was enjoyable, too!

Hi kny,
There's a pretty big Irish expat community here in North Jersey. In some of the pubs, you'd think you were back on the Old Sod!

Matt Kohai said...

My neighborhood is exactly the same way - my wife's parents live near and are first generation immigrants from there. The local shops sell Irish groceries and even stock issues of the national and county newspapers. Most pubs have massive sat-dishes on the roof for tuning in soccer, Gaelic football and rugby matches. The local restaurants serve dishes like eggs with fried tomato and black and white puddings, shephard's pie and bangers and mash, and have H-P Sauce and other imported condiments on the tables.

I still recall one Christmas Eve wandering into a bar/restaurant for a late post-work supper around 10, only to look up and see by 1 AM that the place was packed - loads of people, even children. When I asked, the reply was "Oh, midnight mass just let out..." The pub is truly the Irishman's living room...