My Florida

The little Pontiac is a mid-engined two seater, and 20 years ago it was bordering on the exotic. Today, well, it goes from point A to point B, with an acceptable level of reliability. I let her warm up as I loaded up some supplies in the passenger seat and in the small cove it calls a trunk. When we were both ready I hopped in and drove south out of town, past the edge of civilization, and the antenna farms that lie just beyond. Through the jungle and into the Florida savannah that stretches southward towards the Everglades. The open landscape is flavored here and there with farms; growing oranges, tomatoes, strawberries, and tropical fish. And everywhere cows, always cows, and stands of live oak, and the occasional palmetto bush.

There are a few little towns along the way, a curious miixture of retirement communities of old people from the Northeast and Midwest, where polyester is still a viable fashion choice, and the best parking spots at the Publix supermarket are reserved for golf carts; and immigrant enclaves, where Mexicans and Guatamalans and Hondurans and others are busy chasing their own version of the American dream, which for them is little more than working in the fields by day, to put food on the table and a roof over their family’s heads at night. In between these villages you find the good old fashioned Florida crackers, the spiritual descendants of the original farmer/ranchers who were the only ones willing to settle this land from the time of the Spanish until the invention of air conditioning. This is red state country, land of Jesus and Budweiser and Nascar and Marlboro.

Here moss doesn’t grow on the north side of the tree; It hangs thick and silvery from every branch. Here a Cuban may be a person, but more often than not it is a sandwich. It is rarely, if ever, a cigar. It is hot here, and unbearably humid, but most years the summer rain comes and goes in the afternoon with a regularity that the retirees envy. Most true Floridians do not own an umbrella, for to carry an umbrella is a full time commitment with little payoff.

If you ever come here, you should know – the people here are insane, but for the most part harmless, and they can be quite fun if you get to know them. For lack of a better word, they are “kooky”. They, like the state itself, are a confusing mixture of oddities that make no sense together, yet somehow, it all works.

The Meaning of Life

When I was a child, I had a dream that I looked up at the stars, and in the stars I saw the answer. THE answer, the ultimate answer to everything. It was perfect, it was beautiful, it was complete. Suddenly, the Universe, and everything in it, made sense. Then… I woke up.

Of course the answer was gone. It evaporated the instant I opened my eyes to this reality. I could remember having the dream, and that there was an answer. I could remember how it all made perfect sense. But I could not remember, not even the slightest detail, what that answer was. It was gone.

When I was a young adult, I experimented with cognitive dreaming. This sounds more impressive than it is. It’s nothing more than the ability to recognize the fact that you are in a dream, while you are in a dream. It’s easy enough to do, you just “will” it to happen every night before you go to sleep. It may take weeks, but eventually you will wake up in a dream, so to speak.

Once you realize your current reality is a dream, you have options. You can just let it play out, and see where it goes. You can guide it, direct it, change it, push it in whatever direction you like. Or, once you’ve had enough, you can simply end it, and return to our other, less malliable reality. (Freddie Kruger will NEVER get ME.)

I’ve always felt there are answers to be found in dreams. There’s nothing necessarily mystical or supernatural about it. Dreams are a doorway into our own subconscious. And our subconsious is quite good and putting things together, working out the details, and coming up with interesting answers for us. If we just tap into these answers, they can be very informative.

Many years later, when I was a not so young adult, I came up with a plan. The next time I was dreaming, and became aware of the dream, here’s what I would do: I would find the closest telephone, dial information, and ask the operator, “What is the meaning of life?”

If she gave me any crap about only supplying phone numbers, I would gently remind her that this was MY dream, and in my dream you could call information and get ANY information you wanted. (The ability to change the rules of your current reality can be both useful and exhilarating. Really. Try this sentence on for size: “Oh yeah, I almost forgot… I can fly!”)

It took a while. There were many false starts. I didn’t realize was how hard it would be to remember to do something once you’re in a dream. In all fairness, I have a hard time remembering to do things as it is. Let’s just say I had many, many dreams where I wandered around with the nagging sensation there was something I was supposed to do, but couldn’t remember what. But I did go flying a lot – I highly recommend it.

Then one night it happened. I was in a dream. I knew I was in a dream. And, I remembered what I wanted to do. Yes! This was it! I was on my way now. I was both nervous and excited, and very pleased with myself for having finally remembered. I found a phone quickly and with little difficulty. I picked it up and dialed information, so I could finally ask my question. THE question.

Well… You know what I got?

Boop-boop-booooop. We’re sorry, your call cannot be completed as dialed. Please check the number, hang up, and try again.

Silence. (The long awkward type.)

Fuck! Okay. Don’t panic. Maybe I misdialed. That’s possible, right? Sure, I never said I couldn’t misdial. You can misdial in a dream, right? Let’s try this again…

I tried again. I tried every number I know for information. Twice. I dialed the operator directly, and asked her to put me through. I made up a special number that only worked for my reality, that always, always, always connects you to information, and dialed that. It was no use. No matter what I tried, the result was always the same: A recording. THE recording. “We’re sorry, your call cannot be completed as dialed…”

Then… I woke up.

I couldn’t hear it, but I know, I just know… Somewhere, the Universe was laughing.