Author’s note: This repost of an October 19, 2008 post on my old WordPress.com site will commemorate the third anniversary of my having passed a critical milestone in my own blogging history. Some of you may recognize a few of the details — and no, neither of my grandfathers were vaudeville performers, or wore gorilla suits. If you’re a writer, then the next time someone asks “Where do you get your ideas,” you can truthfully say “From somewhere less weird than wherever Thomas Roche gets his, thank God.” To that end:
Dreaming About Blogging About Dreaming About Milton BerleOctober 19, 2008
Last night I passed a milestone in my career as a blogger. I went to sleep and dreamed about something happening, then realizing it was a dream, and so I took what seemed like a reasonable course of action…without waking up, I dreamed about composing a blog post about Milton Berle in my head. This is a new thing.
Now, don’t get me wrong: I’ve composed plenty of blog posts in my head; I’ve also dreamed of writing blog posts. I’ve never blogged about Milton Berle, but I could have, as easily as I could have blogged about George Burns. And yes, in fact, I have dreamed about Milton Berle before– I have no idea why, these things just happen. But this is different than any of that. I was dreaming about blogging about dreaming about talking to Milton Berle about antacid, because my grandfather owed him for all those nights in a dress and gorilla suit, respectively. This is an important distinction.
The variation may honestly be too subtle for non-bloggers (or non-obsessive bloggers) to get, but here’s the thing. I wasn’t dreaming about blogging. I wasn’t thinking about blogging. Nor was I blogging about dreaming. I was dreaming about blogging about Milton Berle. I was dreaming about thinking about writing down something I just dreamed, and yet I was dreaming it. Back in the ’90s we used to call this “meta.” Now, for bloggers, “meta” means something else, and when I start dreaming about that, somebody shoot me. Instead, I just call this “pulling a Kafka.” As Kit said in The Sheltering Sky, “There’s nothing duller than other peoples’ dreams,” but I’d lay odds her friends weren’t dreaming about Milton Berle; they were dreaming about boring-ass crap, of course, which was why The Sheltering Sky had to be written in the first place, right?
In any event, it was a hell of a mediocre blog post:
Well, there you go, there’s Milton Berle down at the end of my bed.
Really more of a Tumblr post, I guess…dadaist, indecipherable, inexplicable, self-indulgent and annoying. However, there wasn’t an iPhone pic of me staring sadly into the distance with my emo hair blowing in the wind, so it wouldn’t have fit in on Tumblr.
In the dream, Berle was an old family friend, and he was in town for a show and asked if he could crash with me rather than staying at the Ritz-Carlton. I said “sure.” For God’s sake, this was Uncle Milty. Of course he could crash with me. Never let it be said that I turned away a buddy of my grandfather’s who wore a dress while Grandpa chased him around with a pesticide sprayer wearing a gorilla suit! (Neither of my grandfathers ever wore a gorilla suit, nor did they work with Berle in the closing days of vaudeville, or any days of vaudeville, or with any performer on any performance ever, as far as I know.)
Anyway, so Milton’s on the couch, and I’m crashed out sleeping the sleep of the just. Late at night, Milton comes into my bedroom to ask if I have any Alka Seltzer.
I’m all, “Alka Seltzer? I hardly knew ‘er!”
And the rest is blogger history.
Even were Milton Berle really down at the end of my bed, I would be inclined to say that’s a pretty lame way to blog it, without the one-liner that makes no sense. I’m not sure if it’s good or bad that Milton wasn’t down at the end of my bed asking me if I had any Alka Seltzer, since he had passed away six years earlier in any event. Spotting him — credibly, mind you — down at the end of my bed asking about antacid would have required me to rethink my views on life after death, paranormal experiences, my own sanity, inexplicable vaudeville one-liners and maybe antacids, too, since I always figured Milton for more, like, a Tums kind of guy.
The very remote possibility exists — remotely — that this was a quantum flux that caused my dog Elroy to actually transform into Milton Berle. (Or possibly my girlfriend Bridgitte to do the same, but I’d rather not go there if it’s all the same to you.)
Alternately, it could have been another sort of quantum flux — a visit not from the long-dead, but from Milton in the past.
If that’s the case, then why is it that Cyd Charisse or Ava Gardner never drop by in the middle of the night imposing on my loyalty to grandfathers I never had to ask me about things far more interesting than antacids? It’s far more likely I’m the one who needs an Alka Seltzer.