Sunday's lesson: No matter how brilliant his posts are, don't read David Neiwert while up too late and about to drop into four hours' sleep. His recent post on anti-Asian eliminationism in 19th and 20th-century America took over my brain and metastasized.
Sunday night's dream followed a quiet, middle-class black couple as they endured the incredible indignities of a merciless white world. Most of what I remember about it took place during a bus ride through what dream logic arbitrarily declared the Boston area.
The abuse started even before boarding, but one incident clearly stands out: The driver announced an offer to let anyone who could afford it -- anyone, not just whites! -- pay to pre-board the bus. After shelling out a dollar apiece (a quite princely sum for the time), the couple and their children got on, the first to board, amid the snickers of the whites who were later to be their fellow passengers. Then discovered, after they were the only ones to take the driver up on his offer, that they had paid for the privilege of getting on in place of the cleaning crew -- so that they had to tidy up the seats, place a pillow on each of them, and then get off again. The other passengers, of course, all knew about the scam, and stood outside jeering and mocking.
The couple performed their duties with quiet dignity, left, and joined the passenger queue again -- paying the $1/each bus fare again, because they had no choice but to use the bus to get where they were going. They settled in a little over halfway back, on the left, and tried to get through the ride without attracting too much attention.
Few other details stand out -- although one moment is clear in my mind. The bus crested a hill overlooking the bay, and off to the left atop it was an X-shaped pattern of cobblestone, perhaps 30 feet square, laid into the grassy ground. "Hey," I pointed out, "I've been here before." But if the place has a real-world analogue, I can't place it.
After cresting that hill, the road the bus was on took a precipitous plunge straight down the hillside toward the bay. At the water's edge, the road turned into a wide, transparent floating dock. (I believe it was made of ice.) The bus hurtled down the dock, aiming for a similar dock jutting out from the other side of the bay, but either missed the transition or couldn't catch enough air between the ice docks, and so plunged into the bay. Water roared into the bus as it sank almost up to the ceiling -- or, I should say, sludge; the water was greasy, oily, and so thick that the bus refused to sink any further. The poor black family was inundated with the stuff, ruining the suits and dresses they were wearing (their only set of good clothes). After the bus driver wrestled the vehicle back to land, they returned to their seats, stinky and defeated; the other passengers changed clothes and shrugged off the sludge.
After that, there was something about a cafeteria. And an alarm clock. Y'know. The real kind, not the dream kind.
Incidentally, if you're not a regular reader of Orcinus (Neiwert's blog), you just missed a jaw-droppingly haunting post on the scams run in American prisons. Mind you ... as Orcinus says, it's not that the prison conditions themselves are objectionable; it's the way these guys are nakedly fleeced (assuming that even half of what the guy writes is true, and I'd find it hard to believe it's all lies).
To those who would say that the treatment described is justified because inmates are there to be punished ... all I can say is, beware the law of unintended consequences. We've accepted as a society that removal of freedom is a just punishment; making them into victims of opportunism is a different thing entirely, and leaves both emotional and financial scars on them that linger long after our focus has turned from punishment to rehabilitation. Do we really want to teach all of our prisoners -- people who will mostly be out on the streets again one day -- that American values specifically condone ripping off the most fragile and vulnerable just because we hold power over them?
... On a less somber note, I happened to notice my old friend Noah leave a comment to the Orcinus post. So this seems like a very timely ... um, time ... to mention Noah's recent post on a creepy yet plausible Star Wars theory. So what really happened to Luke, Leia and Han after the Death Star blew up at the end of A New Hope? Review his provided stills and judge for yourself.
If you need a little time to reassemble your brain after reading that last link, go download some games -- the link points to a list of 101 modern freeware greats. Go ahead. You'll thank me in the morning ... and hate me next week once you come up for air.