On a rainy morning in November, Alberto Puerto Vallarta, Paul Windsor, and Herschel Steinberg share a table in Mona’s, the one and only bakery/café in Carmeline Creek, a small town on the far north coast of California.
Alberto is seventy-four, a performance artist with wavy black hair turning gray, Paul Windsor is fifty-nine, a writer and musician with short wiry gray hair, and Herschel Steinberg is seventy-two, a dream interpreter with spiky gray hair.
Alberto: I was walking the dogs on the beach yesterday and it came to me that maybe the purpose of dreams is to balance the mundane with the fantastic, the fantastic with the mundane.
Paul: Not sure what you mean.
Alberto: If you have a boring life, your dreams will be exciting. If you have an exciting life, your dreams will be about feeding your cat or doing the dishes. Maybe the psyche needs to maintain an equilibrium of…
Herschel: Excitement and mundanity?
Paul: I would think just the opposite, that an exciting life would give rise to exciting dreams, a dull life to dull dreams.
Herschel: It’s an interesting idea. Psychic equilibrium. After all, we need the right amount of salt to function properly. Not too much, not too little. The same is true of sugar, exercise, affection. Maybe dreams provide psychic sustenance, and different kinds of dreams provide different kinds of stimulation for proper neural functioning.
Paul: I think dreaming is the way our subconscious tells our conscious mind the truth, tells us things we’re unwilling to accept when we’re awake.
Herschel: Are we unwilling to accept them or simply unaware of them?
Paul: Might seem like we’re unaware, but we’re really unwilling.
Alberto: Which might be another way the mind is attempting to reach psychic equilibrium.
Herschel: I think dreams are the way we tell stories to ourselves, stories with messages that can help us if only we can decipher what those messages are.
Alberto: Are all dreams symbolic?
Herschel: Not necessarily. I have one client who has dreams he says are indistinguishable from his waking life.
Paul: Maybe he’s attained a perfect equilibrium between the fantastic and the mundane.
Alberto: I wonder if his waking life is both fantastic and mundane.
Herschel: Well… in a way everyone’s life is both fantastic and mundane, and depending on our state of mind, the mundane can be fantastic.
Alberto: So true.
Paul: I often dream I’m trying to get somewhere, but I never quite reach my goal. And by often, I mean almost all my dreams are about being diverted or obstructed from some destination, and yet I don’t feel I’m being obstructed in my waking life.
Alberto: Are people obstructing you in your dreams or is it things getting in your way?
Paul: Usually people. I’m often trying to reach a stage so I can perform. Tell a story or play the piano. But I don’t ever reach the stage because there’s always someone in the way who wants to talk to me or show me something, or there’s a huge mob blocking my way.
Alberto: I used to have those kinds of dreams before I began performing regularly. When did you last perform?
Paul: Three years ago.
Herschel: Aha what?
Alberto: Perhaps these dreams spring from his subconscious desire to perform, and his conscious self is the obstruction. As long as he doesn’t perform, his dreams will be about not being able to.
Paul: But I have no desire to perform again.
Alberto: Or so you think when you’re awake.
Herschel: A client once recounted to me an incredible dream that she had over the course of several consecutive nights, a saga of epic proportions involving huge battles and complicated love affairs and long journeys and countless brushes with death, all of which she remembered in fantastic detail. And at the end of this monumental odyssey, she arrived at an animal shelter where she chose two kittens and took them home.
Alberto: So did she go in her waking life to an animal shelter and get two kittens?
Herschel: Two kittens and a puppy.
Paul: And was that the end of her epic dreams?
Herschel: No, but ever after in her dreams, she was accompanied by two lions and a wolf.
Alberto: She found spirit allies to accompany her in both the dream world and the waking world.
Herschel: I think so.
Paul: Last night I dreamt I was at a party trying to get to a table laden with guacamole and chips and shrimp on skewers, but I could never get to the table because I was waylaid by one person after another.
Alberto: What finally happened?
Paul: I woke up, went to the kitchen, ate a banana, and went back to bed.
Alberto: I would have made guacamole.
Paul: We had no avocados.
Herschel: Dreams are often full of things we want and things we don’t want. Things we have and things we don’t have. Much like life.
Alberto: I think dreams are every bit as real as so-called waking reality.
Herschel: Yes, and isn’t it wonderful how often we dream of being in this lovely café together?
Paul: Shall I order us some guacamole and chips and a plate of spicy prawns?
Alberto: So sayeth your dream. And should anyone obstruct you on your way to place the order, I will come to your aid.
Herschel: I will too, Paul. In this dream no one will stop you from attaining your heart’s desire.