A brief summer’s break from politics and such.
This week’s Inspection is a rerun of a favorite I thought had been lost because sites change names and owners. This edition uses dreams to explore how the mind works. Answers? No, this column provides more questions than any answers. Please feel free to offer either your analysis, or provide your own questions and dreams.
She owns a very small magic shop in downtown Douglasville, Georgia. The shop is on a little rise in the center of town; tightly packed between more standard fare. There’s a small turn around at the intersection two doors down from The Magic Store. The name isn’t very creative at all, but step inside and you’ll see the store literally reeks of creativity: both in the eyes of the owner and the way the goods are racked.
The parking is really quite horrible. So you have to be “creative” just to be able to walk in the door without also getting a ticket.
In her early 70’s, the shopkeep is short, mostly gray hair down to her shoulders that once painted her head with a deep, dark chestnut brown. She’s well endowed, stocky, has a quick wit and lips that move at the speed of light into a smile. We usually get right down to business after discussing how we’ve both been since I last visited. I would swear she’s never had a bad day, although like any of us I’m sure she has. She knows her store better than her life away from the store which, by now, are pretty much one in the same. She is here more than anywhere else. Her smile lights up the room like the most beautiful Christmas tree you have ever seen. If she were a church, she’d be an old familiar hymn like Easter Lilly, Amazing Grace or Rock of Ages, but her off center; somewhat risqué sense of humor, would probably prevent her from wearing a hat and seriously claiming she was a steeple… though she’d willingly do it for laughs. She is, after all, a purveyor of whoopee cushions, magic tricks and Halloween knickknacks.
But she doesn’t exist.
Neither does The Magic Store in downtown Douglasville, GA.
I go there, occasionally, in my dreams. I know all the seasons have passed more than five times since I last visited The Magic Store. I go when I need supplies and I’m performing locally. But I dream of The Magic Store in any place I happen to be at the time, this specific dream seeped into my sleepy mind a few days ago in a remote part of the Central Adirondacks; at my camp.
Enter the tiny establishment and you will find a long counter filled with magic and practical joke props, to the right. Prop items like mirror boxes and breakaways are on the shelves; though not very well marked. You have to ask. To your left are costumes, masks and fake edible droppings. Chocolate covered ants are there too. Continue walking the cluttered path that follows the counter, at the end, and you will find her office; no walls, with a swing up counter so she can direct customers to where they might find what they are searching for. It’s hard not to trip on the barrels filled with lightsabers, or nuns and dragons on a stick with mouths that can be moved at a touch of the finger. A different version features boxing nuns or kangaroos.
While my visit varies each time I dream of The Magic Store, all I have just typed is the same, though she has aged a little more with each dream.
This episode of The Magic Store Dream featured my father driving by on I-20 in the old blue Plymouth station wagon he had before he started buying trucks. We had gone a few exits past Douglasville when I cursed…
”Oh, damn, I need slush powder.”
Even though we were leaving in the morning, and running late, we cut back to Douglasville’s downtown. We got a little lost finding it, which happens occasionally. But I always find it. Soon, up on the little rise, I recognize The Magic Store. She’s open.
Dad pulls around on the little access street and promises to find a place to park. I hop out and walk up the hill. Inside we exchange the usual pleasantries. I mention that, this time, my father happens to be with me. As if on cue, Bill Carman jaunts in as the door chime makes its usual sick “moo” sound. Dad has trouble stifling his laughter. Then he picks up a Halloween prop that looks like a trash can that’s labeled “don’t look inside,” and peers through the five holes provided on the top of the prop. Five little witch faces; spring loaded, pop up at him and he jumps.
The proprietor swings up a small part of the counter on a hinge while saying, “So this is your father, Ken,” and greets Bill by firmly placing his head in a body hug between her two breasts. Then she announces, with a gentle laugh, “I call them my twin greeters.” My father, who hated forward women, is oddly happy: his grin; a lighthouse beacon that brightens the small shop. Even for The Magic Store lady this seems a tad extroverted; a bit more forward than she usually is.
By now you’re probably saying to yourself, “Ken, where the hell are the questions?”
Well: “How does my mind, or any mind, manage this?”
Here’s a little filler info to help you out…
The Magic Store Dream is not unique amongst what I refer to as “serial dreams.” I have many. The serial dream that makes the most sense is what I call “The DJ Dream.” It’s a task I must perform that can’t be done because, no matter what I do, things keep going wrong. It started as a repeat of an actual experience where, on my first day in commercial radio, one of two turntables broke down, then a cart machine, then another. I was left an impossible task: attempting to prevent dead air. After years of performing as a children’s entertainer I have always found ways to cheat my mind’s attempt to befuddle me, so The DJ Dream stopped. Others include a campground I am heading for on the panhandle of Florida that doesn’t exist and a building that I get lost in where the stairs keep winding down to an exit-less cellar. Sometimes I find my way out, sometimes I wake up before I do, usually because my half wake mind says, “Oh, this dream again. That’s enough of that.”
I have always had at least some control over any dream I have had.
Most of these dreams have incredible, exacting detail that is always the same: only the storyline varies. I can go many years without dreaming these dreams but the detail is always the same each time. I know The Magic Store so well the next time I might walk right to the counter where she keeps the flash cotton, or the color changing shoelaces.
How does my brain; or anyone’s brain, remember all these details and specifics when I forget a person’s name I was told two minutes ago, or forget the plug I pulled out of the boat three weeks ago: water spilling in through the transom as I attempt to pull the trailer out of the water? But somehow The Magic Store Dream returns again and again, often many years after the last one. I’ve even come to the store asking if the Professor’s Nightmare trick is in yet that I ordered when I dreamed this dream three years ago.
The shopkeep is always the same, although I can never remember her name. She knows I’m not good at names and it doesn’t bother her. Indeed, after she greets my father and makes the twins joke, she tells him her name which I hear, but quickly forget… despite her telling me over and over again.
All which leads me to believe that the human brain is an odd, quirky contraption. Despite the fact that we have explored the brain for many years; mapped every inch, dissected it: will we ever really understand it?
I have my doubts.
But, damn, the detail. Something tells me that there’s more going on inside our heads; or whatever other boat our dreams might float in on, than we will ever comprehend.
Now here’s what I find spooky. As this dream ended I felt The Magic Store lady really wanted me to share her story with you.
So I did.
So what are your dreams like?
Author’s 2014 note: after this was publish I never dreamed The Magic Store dream again. I hope I told her story well, and she’s happy at the telling: wherever she may be.
Inspection is a column that has been written by Ken Carman for over 30 years. Inspection is dedicated to looking at odd angles, under all the rocks and into the unseen cracks and crevasses that constitute the issues and philosophical constructs of our day: places few think, or even dare, to venture.
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