Surrender Dorothy, and Your Little Friend Julie, Too

Does everyone have recurring nightmares, or is it only unproduced screenwriters? I have one where my teeth loosen so much I can yank one out and spit it into an ashtray. My Deeply Concerned Mother believes the teeth represent words, symbolizing my need to dole mine out to the world, whatever the personal cost. There’s another where I’m chewing this huge wad of gum and it grows backward down my throat if I don't keep blowing bubbles. Deeply Concerned, no stranger to the self-help section down at the Umatilla Barnes & Noble, feels certain this one is either about compulsive overeating or writer’s block.

My most frequent nightmare feels almost interactive—like some early Technicolor musical I’m orchestrating from the sidelines on my debut directorial assignment for MGM. I’m back in New Orleans as an undergrad; classes are about to start and I can’t find a place to live. In my desperate journey to find a home, punctuated with rousing song and dance numbers, old college friends pop up like the flying monkeys in The Wizard of Oz to taunt me with their real life successes. One has a husband and kids, the other a Connecticut farm house and a Ph.D. I haven’t discussed the underlying subtext with Deeply Concerned, but I’m guessing she’d say it’s more concrete evidence of my abject failure, over these many years, to land a man, get a job, buy a house and open a 401K.

Ironically, since the big life twister whisked me off to Munchkinland, my little Hollywood bungalow has been the only real constant. While I plan to fight my illegal eviction with all I've got, the city would mandate some handy “relocation" expenses were I to give in now. So I’m figuring some looking around wouldn’t hurt.

Yesterday, I visited what could have been the set of Melrose Place, only rendered in three-quarter scale. The apartment had a half-bath and a third of a kitchen, with a miniature refrigerator you could sit upon with your legs crossed and roll around paddling a broom. The smarmy owner, an "Argentinian film editor," who never said exactly what kind of films so I'm going with soft core porn, informed me he'd be running a criminal check on me. He said I may as well come clean, since he'd already backgrounded my neighbor the former stripper, a fellow evictee, revealing something "not so cool" in her past. He was obviously referencing an old misdemeanor conviction for lewd conduct, connected to her once having unlawfully touched herself during a lapdance. I wonder if the undercover cop she was straddling at the time has trouble securing adequate housing.

I moved on to a vintage building in the heart of Hollywood, near the storied Knickerbocker Hotel and the landmark Capitol Records Building. All very charming, save for the bars on the windows, the junkies in the communal courtyard and the warlock who hexed me for stealing his parking spot. "Don't bother, freak," I told him, jamming nickels in the meter. "It's really redundant at this point."

I went home and happened upon a dream setup on Craigslist, a charming, one-bedroom gate house with a screened-in sleeping porch on a ten-acre Malibu ranch. The rancher, who revealed himself to be a Certain Big Deal Producer managing to get away from it all, said the rent is so low because he's looking for someone who likes to cook and garden and could watch the dogs when he and the wife are in Aspen. "Maybe an emerging screenwriter," I hinted, "whose career you could gently nurture in the quiet of the countryside." I then realized that a film school chum had formerly been his assistant and ran his name past her. Her response, in summary, was that the guy is Satan in a pair of Osh Kosh B'Goshes. The only one of the seven deadly sins he hadn't committed repeatedly upon or in front of her was avarice, and that's only because she's never been exactly sure what that is.

I spent most of today on the phone with the Rent Stabilization Board explaining to the mouth-breathing morons why they might want to enforce state and local law on my behalf. In truth, I'm afraid to go to sleep tonight, knowing it won't be the toothless or the bubble gum dream, but rather the one where I'm homeless and tapdancing for my life. Another thing they won't tell you in film school is when you spend your whole day dreaming about the limitless beauty of what might be, your nights can't help but surrender themselves to the ugly reality of what actually is.


  1. "but rather the one where I'm homeless and tapdancing for my life."

    I always gave money to the homeless guys that put on a show for me. One guy played the harmonica for 5 minutes and wasn't bad. I skipped the guys who push their wheelchairs up to 711 for their shift and pretend they can't walk.

    Tapdancing I've yet to see.

    I had a friend who went to one of those gate house deals and the owner took his penis out during the interview. I guess he just couldn't wait.


  2. hmmm. I've had the tooth-loosening dream, too, fairly often. As I understand it, it's a fairly common stress dream, and generally means no more than that we are currently stuck in some situation where we feel badly out of control and utterly at the mercy of generally malign and incomprehensible Powers That Be.

    Similar common "powerless" nightmares are ones where you are staring into the mirror and gradually notice some kind of disfiguring mark on your face, which then becomes larger and more disfiguring as you watch in horror, helpless to do anything about it. Or those ones where people are chasing you around and they won't stop and you can't get away and it's all very existential and you don't know WHY they're chasing you but they clearly hate you and if they catch you it's going to be really bad.

    Sometimes... not very often lately, but I used to do this a lot when I was younger... I become more self aware while immersed in a dream and can then affect it more directly, because I realize that I am dreaming and somehow this gives me some modicum of control over the goings on there.

    It's always very unsatisfying. When this happens, I can then generally fly, but not very high or very fast, and it never really lets me escape from my pursuers, it just allows me to get a little further ahead of them for a brief period.

    Other times, I can sort of turn invisible... which is to say, I can tell myself "I'm going to turn invisible". Then my pursuers will all run up to me and I say "No, I'm invisible, you can't see me" and instead of doing whatever horrible thing they are going to do to me, they will stop and argue with me about it.

    If I'm insistent enough, they will sometimes humor me and leave me alone for a little while, running on lackadaisically in the direction I indicated that I buggered off to, but their hearts clearly aren't in it and they generally look back at me doubtfully and, after one or two halfhearted attempts to comply with my clearly deranged directives, they visibly shrug it off, say to hell with it, and start chasing me around again.

    I went on the worst date of my life once with this completely toxic psychobitch named Anne and over dinner at a much nicer restaurant than I could afford (she was a very good looking female comics and science fiction fan; how often do you meet one of THOSE?) she listened to me relate my dream experiences as above and then pronounced, in tones of irrefutable expertise, that I was a 'dream weaver' and clearly had vast untapped psychic powers.

    Now, by the end of that date I never wanted to see Anne again regardless of how good looking she was, because she was a truly mindbogglingly annoying person, but I suspect if we'd had a second date, she'd have worked around to telling me she had a must read series of books for me that would let me harness my vast psychic powers for only $59.99. Or perhaps she was genuinely as batshit as she seemed.

    But whatever the case, my point here (see, I do have one) is that I really do believe the dream where we lose our teeth is a dream about powerlessness, because I am a dream weaver with vast untapped psychic powers, and even though I can fly and kinda turn invisible in those horrible chase dreams... sometimes, anyway... I have never in my life managed to keep my teeth in my head in those goddam tooth-falling-out dreams.

    I will say this; those are the dreams I am really grateful to wake up from. Well, those and the ones where I'm trapped back in high school or Basic Training or some weird amalgam of both, where my old art teacher has a Smokey the Bear hat and an M16 while my drill sergeant is constantly giving me my book reports back with a big red F on them and demanding that I drop and give him 50.

    And, well, the ones where everyone in the world is a vampire but me. I really hate those.

  3. Highlander, I am submitting your comment to the producers of Buffy for spin-off consideration.

    JDC, yours sounds very Tess of the D'Urbervilles, with Linday Lohan in the Nastassja Kinski role.

  4. J,

    If anyone picks up the option, there's 20% in it for you.

    More seriously (well, I'm serious about the 20%, too) I took that post of mine, polished it slightly, and put it on my blog. So if you're curious to see the second draft, check out www.miserableannalsoftheearth.blogspot.com, or, you know, just click on the name Highlander and scroll to the bottom of my profile and then click on the blog link there.

    Right below that there's a pretty funny rant about my job you might enjoy, too. ;)

  5. I always have dreams about teeth. It's weird as hell and I even had one last night. I'm constantly waking up and checking to see if my tooth is lose or if I lost any. Might just be my fear of dentists though. Or maybe it's a hidden sympton of gingivitis.

  6. I hope no-one overlooks your last paragraph. I always wondered what Hollywood folks were thinking.

  7. Anonymous7:02 AM

    I am currently dreaming about my script, yeah the damn characters came alive and are living on their own now...bastards

  8. I once fell in love with one of my characters. He was a chef, who'd learned to cook in prison. Our relationship was doomed from the start, considering I made him up and all.

  9. One of my characters left me for another writer - bitch!



  10. Most of my main characters are based, to some extent or another, on me. They know better than to start up with me. However, my secondary characters have a tendency to do whatever the hell they want, just like the people I know in real life. I was typing along on ENDGAME, happy as a clam, describing a scene that had nothing to do with anything, when suddenly the cute little blonde who was supposed to be in love with my hero extruded tentacles and snatched up the alien bauble! I was as shocked as anyone; until the second I typed it, I hadn't had the vaguest idea it was going to happen (I thought the shapeshifting alien spy was most likely that rotter Karl Bukies, or his ever treacherous wife Amy).

    And then, when I was typing out ZAP FORCE, I never had the slightest frickin' clue what those bunch of hyperactive whackjobs in tights-n-capes were going to do next. It was like I was doing stenography or something.

  11. There is a great book called Writing Down The Bones by Natalie Goldberg that talks about how to get to that state where you feel like you're just channeling it. The mark of either genius or madness. Or maybe just time for a Haagen Dazs break.

  12. Anonymous4:28 PM

    Hey Julie,

    I get the teeth-falling-out dream, too. I'm told it reflects sexual anxiety.


  13. "I get the teeth-falling-out dream, too. I'm told it reflects sexual anxiety."

    I thought that's when someone chews ice all the time.

  14. Say, it's my birthday. I'm 44 years old today. Go to my blog at www.miserableannalsoftheearth.blogspot.com and wish me a happy 44th! Or, you know, don't. I realize it's just a blatant and pathetic piece of attention getting behavior. But a geek's gotta do what a geek's gotta do.

  15. Sign me up for the "has the teeth-falling-out dream" club. At one point, I had was spitting out bony bits frequently enough that I did a little Internet research on the topic. Surprisingly enough, the term pops up quite frequently in a Google search. The general consensus was, "fear of losing control."

    This dream was also depicted during the some-hated-it-some-loved-it twenty-five-minute dream sequence towars the end of THE SOPRANOS' fifth season. It was another brilliant job of humanizing a viscious mobster--going into his head and showing he has the same goofy anxities and fears and dreams we all do.

  16. I love your writing style. My only regret is that I didn't read the posts in order so I already know what happens. Damn!

    I have nothing but nightmares these days (that's what carrying three times the mortgage debt and fear of offshore outsourcing will do to a guy). Fortunately, my slippery mind drops them on the floor along with the rest of my creative ideas.

  17. Maybe reading them backwards and having to piece things together is more nightmarish. Did you ever see Memento?