Spring Cleaning the Clutter in my Mind

Since this is the time of year for such grandiose events as cleaning out attics, basements and gutters, I’d like to do a little cleaning of the attic in my head. I’ve got this dream that keeps popping up and I need to get rid of it…

It always starts simple enough: hanging out in Old Havana with Ernest Hemingway while we sip mojitos and discuss politics, a topic which Papa always dismisses with a wave of his hand and a gruff noise in the back of his throat that sounds like the last stroke of an old lawnmower that has run out of gas. Then, out of nowhere, in burst the revolutionaries, and they quickly recruit us all to go topple the existing regime in the capitol building. I turn to say something clever to Papa — possibly even something sarcastic and biting at the old man’s resolve and the deep irony that we’re now in — but he’s long gone. Out fishing, no doubt.

Then instantly I find myself rocketing through the city streets of Istanbul on a Husqvarna 250 Enduro through a narrow, open strip of Turkish belly dancers on both sides of the street, wearing white and pastel-colored sarongs and playing finger cymbals. Trying to maneuver between the shrieking masses is maddening enough, but then I look down and see that this motorcycle has a sidecar. And there is Jack Kerouac, sitting upright and perfectly calm, dressed in thick, oily-looking goggles and a heavy white scarf that is snapping in the wind. He is looking at some sort of map, but man — my navigator is Kerouac? The guy never found himself, how are we going to find our way out of Europe?

Kerouac turns to me and smiles, and when he does I can see the fissures in his dry, wind-chapped lips. I think to offer him some lip balm, but before I can do anything of the sort, he opens his mouth, and all of this terrible noise comes out. It sounds like all of the lectures I attended in college, and all the traffic classes I’ve sat through, are all being replayed back to me in one colossal sound bite — and it’s blasting out of this one heavily cracked, screaming, mouth/speaker that he aims at me like a gun.

In the distance I spot the German Luftwafte bombers coming and I point it out for Jack, so he can get us out of this mess. Kerouac looks dumbfounded, and the noise coming out of his mouth starts to fade, like an air-raid siren that is powering down…. And then it turns out that I’m listening to some stupid DJ and his incessant cackling — acting like some sort of schoolgirl at recess. Oh, right — my alarm — time for work.

No point in trying to analyze it — I just wanted to pass the goods along to you, gentle reader. Think of this column as my little yard sale — just like everyone else has when they spring clean their attics.

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