2003/10/13 by Chris Wayan
I go see "Bubba-hotep" at the Castro--a locally made low-budget film. It's about Elvis, who fled his crazy life and drug addictions by swapping identities with an Elvis impersonator--letting him be Elvis. The real Elvis, impersonating the impersonator, gets to sing again on little stages--what he really enjoys. But he falls off a stage, and ends up crippled, broke and anonymous, in a Texas nursing home--a warehouse for the dying.
Dying faster than normal, too. Someone's bumping off the rest-home inmates! His roommate dies. The guy's daughter, a hot blonde, comes to pick up his effects, tosses it all in the trash. Elvis angrily points out she never visited, but then realizes "I wasn't there for my daughter or wife either." Doing drugs, half crazy, he just fled and never looked back... In the end, though, he saves his soul while laying to rest the one who's been killing his fellow inmates--an ancient Egyptian soul-sucking mummy, in a cowboy hat... yes... it's Bubba-Hotep!
Silly idea, sloppy editing, but great performances, and I gotta give them credit for chutzpah.
Afterward, in a bookshop, I buy Rick Veitch's "Rabid Eye", a collection of his ongoing comic "Rare Bit Fiends." It's all illustrated one-page dreams. Vivid, but choppy disconnected images, even more so than Jesse Reklaw's "Dreamtoons", and very guyish--machines, monsters, heroes, nightmares. Sample panel to right!
Except for his wife, Veitch's dreamworld is nearly all men! Half the world, missing...
The introduction (by Jeremy Taylor) raves about his dream-comics as being cutting-edge, though many of them I wouldn't even bother cartooning--not coherent enough for me. But maybe I should find that encouraging! My own dream-comics are so different--maybe I really am pioneering, in new territory. Reklaw and Veitch sure aren't reporting many dreams anything like mine...
About a year ago, I argued with a man. We lost our tempers and started to fight. I punched him in the face and he fell, hitting his head.
He died instantly.
I fled, my mind in a haze. I don't think I'm the one who hid the body. I vaguely recall two women did--my mom and my sister? I think...
But somehow it ended up suspended between the 7th and 8th floors of a big downtown hotel with a huge atrium. The body hangs there for months, yet no one sees it, no one smells it! Except, apparently, me.
At last, my victim mummifies in the sterile, filtered air.
The guilt gnaws at me for months. Keeping secrets is hard for me, and lying is worse. Though the longer this goes on, the less sure I am WHAT happened. Did I dream it all? It's crazy thinking a corpse could hang in public unnoticed so long!
At last, I tell my sister and my mom some of the truth--not all. They don't seem surprised, but neither confirm nor deny hanging the corpse in the lobby. They urge me to call the cops and at least report finding the body. I can't do it with them there, so I shoo them out of the room and try again to call a police detective I know. Even alone, I can't do it. I dial 420-, then stop, confused. It isn't just fear of punishment. It's more basic than that.
I don't know what to tell him, because I'm not sure of the facts. Unsure what happened, can't explain why the body is there... I'm not even sure it IS there. I need to confess, but before I can confess, I must VERIFY...
That night, the co-op gallery I belong to hangs a big show in a warehouse. The art's mostly dull, but I like a few effects: a grin made of a horizontal line with crossmarks, a colorful Aztec cartoon of a woman sitting, a medieval picture with an anachronistic Renaissance nude stuck in the middle--a rather pale, Pre-Raphaelite girl with straight blond hair. A woman in our co-op leads me around. She hates all the pictures with cute women--and they're the only ones I like. Her tastes are the exact opposite of mine!
Even now, as guests wander in, a skinny white guy is still scribbling on the wall--well, on dark speckled wallpaper. Since all his sketches are on one big sheet, they have no natural boundaries. He scrawls a border around each. But I wonder--if he sells one, how can he remove it? With a razor?
As guests wander in, I try to greet them and make small talk... but over and over, I compulsively twist the conversation round into confessing bits of my guilty secret. Talk vaguely of secrets, guilt, corpses, violence. The last person I semi-tell is a short girl with dark hair who I rather like. My talk of corpses gives her the creeps... she flees me, and I call after her "Happy Halloween!", pretending I was trying to tell scary stories, but that's a lie--she sensed it was no game.
As they'll all sense it--for I can't keep it quiet!
I leave the art show alone, and walk across a plaza between warehouses. It's night--lonely, silent, dark. Since no one is watching, I decide to practice the backstroke. It's been a long time since I've tried to fly, forward or backward. A lot of effort--I'm so rusty!--but I can do it. I slowly rise a few yards and climb steadily across the stone yard...
And then... fast-forward! A slender Scandinavian blonde with a strong jaw is leading me up Mount Everest. We're carrying the corpse, or what the corpse has transformed into: a severed, talkative head. Everest, true to its name, is the only place to lay the ghost to rest forever.
At last, we reach the summit, and it turns out to be true. As we stand on the roof of the world, the head transforms into a little pyramid, with protruding sphinx-paws and face! We lay it to rest on the summit, adding about two feet to Everest's height. With each person who makes the climb and lays a ghost to rest, the mountain grows... The crime, guilt, murder, and ghost are all laid to rest at last.
But I know this is merely an illustrated prescription--I have to go do this for real--when awake.
Whatever "this" is...
NOTES IN THE MORNING
Finish Rabid Eye by Rick Veitch. He draws 1/3 of his dreams, while I draw no more than 5% of mine--I write them all down but I'm too slow an artist to draw many. The appendix clarifies Rick's dreams--context, symbols, and psychic hits. His format--mostly one page per dream--excludes all that, making his dreams look less coherent than they really are. Anything stripped from context looks senseless. I prefer my more variable format--it's clearer. How much dream-illogic is really just poor recall or brutal editing?
The parallels with male dream-artists like Jim Shaw and Larry Vigon are startling. Incoherent, primal, even brutal, with mostly male characters...and machines, buddies, work, catastrophe, conflict, war. Dream-art more like mine is mostly by women: Julie Doucet, Katharine Metcalf Nelson; the only male dream-artist similar to me that I've found is Al Davison. Veitch composes his panels vividly--zeroes in on the drama, cropping down to the central action, where I stay safe, in mid-distance, and retreat from visceral feelings to explain.
Can I learn from his intensity? Find a middle way? Or... do I need to? My stuff may be as exotic and disturbing in its otherworldliness (especially to men), as I find their guy-dreams--their dream noir!
Oh, well. These four men's dream-art proves one thing. I'm not a man repressing my masculinity to be politically correct. My dreams bare the real me, and... I'm just not one of the boys.
If Rabid Eye is how most men dream, I'm not so sure they'll even believe my dreams ARE dreams! Maybe I should rewrite the intro to the World Dream Bank, and to the graphic novel of dreams I'm drawing, to acknowledge this difference--and reaffirm that my dreams are real too. Just of a different order.
And (to plagiarize Joanna Russ) "where the hell are all the women?" Back in the 1970s, a few dream-narratives in Wimmen's Comix got me drawing dreams in the first place. Those women's dreams resembled mine much more than these men's do. But since then, I've seen no women's dream-art or dream-comics published. Because these fields are dominated by men? Do ALL male editors find women's dreams as alien and indigestible as I find guy-dreams?
Maybe one of the selfless actions the mummy calls me to do is to edit and publish a collection of women's dream-art and comics. I don't know how. Or even if it's possible.
But I think I ought to try.
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