Last night I had an Army-college-work dream, and I woke up exhausted this morning.  On any given night I’m liable to dream that I’m still a uniform-wearing Combat Medic/human guinea pig, or that I’m back in college as usual trying to get out of class, or that I’m either driving a taxi or working patients up for a doctor.  But all in one?  Remind me not to mix Rice-A-Roni with gummy bears again.  And extra fudge.  Gotta have the fudge.

Dreams have always fascinated me. As a child, I had this recurring dream that I was in a strange house rummaging around in an upstairs bedroom where I found a secret door, and upon opening it was able to see into a completely different world from the sky as if I were looking out of an airplane window, except it was, you know, a door.  I stepped over the threshold like a big dummy and began to fall toward the ground.  My dream sight is a heck of a lot better than my waking peepers, because I instantly noticed that everything - the clouds, the birds, the idiots that followed me, the forests and mountains below - was made entirely of cotton candy.  What a freakish coincidence!  I happen to love the stuff.  As I plummeted, I reached over and grabbed a couple of handfulls of clouds and munched them down.  The cool thing about cotton candy is that it dissolves in your mouth and disappears.  Food's little magic snack!  When I awoke (right before landing on a pink and blue cotton candy Jersey cow which would have been cool) my pillows were gone, and from that day on have had an aversion to chicken feathers.  But not cotton candy.  As a matter of fact, when National Left-Handed Writers Day rolls around again you can send me as much of that manna as you wish. It weighs next to nothing, and that keeps shipping costs down.

Let’s talk about the meanings of dreams.  I’ve already suggested that our dreams can be influenced by what we eat prior to going to sleep. But that only goes so far.  You can’t blame every chased-while-naked-in-Times-Square dream on pizza.  There is a gaggle of ‘experts’ who try to make a living telling you what your dreams are all about.  Buy one of those “Dreaming for Dummies” books and you’re liable to be turning over your next paycheck to some psychic with a third grade education who will read your palm and the bumps on your behind as they're gazing at your stars and wallet.  Look, if you've dreamt that your teeth are falling out, those guys will try telling you it’s all about hidden anxieties, fear of rejection or menopause. What a bunch of hooey.  You probably forgot to brush your teeth before you went to bed, or else you’re worried that jerk living next to you will catch you peeking at his girlfriend sunbathing and deliver a knuckle sandwich, heavy on the mustard minus the pickles.  Bottom line is this: they’re your dreams, and they’re custom fit for you.  It’s silly to think that everyone on the planet that dreams of being naked in Times Square (ok, that’s the second time I’ve used that metaphor, but that’s the image in my head, and I’m stickin’ with it) is afraid of being exposed about something or another. I may be having that dream because I left my clothes at home, or forgot to pay the laundry bill, or want everyone to see my marvelous physique.  Well, ok, that may be stretching it a little, but you get the idea.  The body of a God: Buddha.

The coolest dreams have got to be the ones where you can fly (I'm talking about telling gravity it can shove it while you leap tall buildings in a single bound or beat up a truckload of redneck demons with one foot tied behind your back. If cotton candy gives me that kind of dream, I’ll take seconds.  I love it when I somersault out of a car doing eighty miles an hour, have time for a full manicure and pedicure while sailing through the air, and then land in the middle of an earthquaking tornado without messing up a single hair on my head. Those kinds of dreams are awesome, and for the record, you should never be afraid of dying if you fall and land in your dream.  Just be afraid of where it bounces you.  Have you ever been just on the shy side of barely asleep, headed there with a big gob of cotton candy,and find yourself walking down a flight of stairs and trip, and that makes you jerk awake like you’ve just been tazed?  I hate when that happens, especially if I'm headed down to the kitchen for another helping of that sweet nothingness.

I've been told I speak in my dreams, but that I mumble so low no one can make out what I’m saying.  What you don’t know (well, I mean, what you're actually about to know as soon as I stop this blather) is that in the dreamworld I’m proficient in mumble-speak – all fifty-four dialects.  I also know a smattering of gargleese and can snore in twenty nine different languages.  For me, the weirdest dream is the one where I know everybody and I’m familiar with my environment like I’ve lived there all my life, but the moment I wake up I have no earthly idea where I was or who those freaky people were.  Usually that sort of dream is so real I’m discombobulated for awhile upon awakening.  Reminds me of Chuang Tzu when he said, “I dreamed I was a butterfly, flitting about in the sky; then I awoke.  Now I wonder: Am I a man who dreamt of being a butterfly, or am I a butterfly dreaming I am a man?”  I’m not sure, but if I were you (and I might very well be) I’d lay off the Moo Goo Gai Pan for at least an hour before you go to bed next time.

I’d love to continue this conversation, but there's a world of cotton candy just waiting for me in my dreams.  A word of warning:  Cotton  candy rots your teeth out, but that's ok because you don't need teeth to gobble it up. Sweet dreams!

(originally published in the 7-24-09 edition of Free Ads Weekly, Florence, Alabama)

      There was an article in the news recently that said a study was done which proved that cats are in control of their owners. This causes me to wonder if there’s a gaggle of scientists somewhere who sit around all day thinking of ways to spend money on obvious things.  I could speculate on a wide variety of subjects that would make for easy studies, such as finding out if the sun really does rise in the east, but my cat wants me to stay on topic.

     The study says felines have a particular way of mixing a purr with a cry when they want something like food or your favorite shoes, and this somehow reminds their owner of a hungry baby, causing the human to stop whatever they’re doing and look for a bottle and diaper.  I’m not smart enough to make this stuff up.  My cat, Jack, makes this precise sound whenever I get up in the morning, and it works like a charm.  I toss him one of my favorite shoes so he’ll shut up and let me have a peaceful cup of coffee.  I think he’s got me trained well, because I know what will happen if I don’t give into his demands: he waits for me to get comfortable and then pounces out of thin air to use my leg as a scratching post.  I’ve tried tricking Jack by putting scratching posts where my legs should be, but it’s hard to get comfortable when you’re hiding your legs behind your back, all the while trying to cross your scratching posts.  In times like this Jack looks at me as if I’m brain damaged then sneaks around behind and shreds my bent, folded and spindled legs.

     Have you ever tried to get a cat to do anything? They know who rules the roost. Jack will toy with me by standing in front of any closed door and making that hungry baby sound, but when I run over to open it, he just stares at me as if he has no idea why I opened the door that he’s refusing to go through.  Whenever I call him by name he acts like I must be talking to the doorknob, so I have to resort to inhaling helium and yell “Here kitty kitty kitty!”  Usually by the time he saunters over to me, I’ve forgotten what I wanted him for.  It’s no fun getting old, especially if you’re slave to a cat.

     My son told me about this cartoon he saw once where this dog and cat were laying side by side and thinking.  First of all, I know it must be a cartoon, as any respectable cat will tell you that dogs don’t have the capacity to think because all they have in their cranial cavity is a huge drool gland.  Secondly, it is highly unlikely that a dog and cat would lay side by side.  The cat demands top billing and must be at least two feet in front of the dog in the event the dog’s drool gland activates.  Anyway, my son said that in the cartoon, the dog was thinking, “My human feeds me, brushes me, bathes me, plays with me.  He must be a god!”  The cat has similar thoughts.  “My human feeds me, brushes me, bathes me, plays with me.  I must be a god!”  Even though the cartoonist’s fundamental message is sound – that dogs looks up to us and cats look down on us – I would never have imagined a cat thinking such things. Instead of thinking “my human”, the typical cat regards us more like minions created to serve.  Finally, I’m not going to mention the obvious logical flaw that a cat would think his minion bathes him.  I’ve got permanent scars on my arms from the only time I attempted to bathe Jack.  A co-worker asked me once what was up with my arms, and instead of humiliating myself with the truth, I said I had been involved with an industrial paper shredder accident.  I still haven’t figured out what to say about my legs, though.  There’s no way a paper shredder could attack both my arms and legs, unless a couple of them ganged up on me.  Now that’s a disturbing image.

     The study quotes a Karen McComb of the University of Sussex who says, “Solicitation purring is probably more acceptable to humans than overt meowing, which is likely to get cats ejected from the bedroom.” That’ a funny phrase, “solicitation purring”.  I can just imagine getting a knock on my front door and finding a cat there trying to sell me a magazine subscription.  I probably would but a subscription to Cat Fancy just to make the cat stop that sound.

     Any respectable cat slave will tell you that cats are just too smart to go around soliciting in public.  They get the humans to do that for them.  I bet behind any successful salesman sits a cat on his or her throne, pulling the strings.  Home is another matter altogether, though.  Jack does not hesitate doing his cry-purr thing whenever he wants the refrigerator door opened, for instance, or when he wants the toilet seat left up.  That reminds me of the time I found him squatting over my can of Mountain Dew one day, and when I confronted him about it, he answered with, “Well, you do that in my drink bowl.”  Since then I’ve switched to bottles.  I hope he doesn’t know how to unscrew a bottle cap.  On the other hand, any creature that can manipulate a human as much as cats do would find a bottle cap child’s play.

     Time to go.  Jack’s making that purr-cry sound again, and if I know what’s good for my legs, I’d better to attend to him quickly.