The President of Turkmenistan hosts me himself for a bit of an athletic tour. He takes me on the continually-upgraded Walk of Health — here taking the form of a paved white path of several switchbacks up a scenic steep hill. In his matching white shorts and running trainers, he discusses health benefits. He notices, after one of the sharp curves, that I have been issued the old shoes which he insists are no longer the standard, and will set me up with the upgraded shoes they now provide their government workers and a towel. I speak with a frumpy officiant at a white marble desk (naturally) who goes about doing just that. I hope I might speak with her more plainly, to actually get context for what things are like in the country. Perhaps that’s because I’m some kind of reporter or distinguished guest, and the kind of person the success show is intended for. Interacting with the President is a very strange experience, but not unimpressive. And I do get the new shoes, formed of white mesh and white foam.
Aboard a large vessel docked in port, I move deeper inside, closer to the bow, closer to a view of the sea. Along the way I’m dropping pennies from a bag. When I’ve finally reached the open balcony at the front of the vessel I toss a final quarter into ocean near the ship. It’s an interesting gesture, one of willful letting go and freedom, but I also know I felt lucid doing it — that it, I knew the material didn’t matter as I was dreaming. Someone has followed me onto the bare metal balcony, a middle school crush and high school friend, Alexx S. I find myself gazing into her face, and understanding that this person is someone else — perhaps not someone who no longer exists, or someone that I no longer know (we lost touch decades ago) but that I’m keeping alive the memory of who she was when I was someone else, too. She is the echo of me, who I was when I was attracted to her. Later, in remembering this dream, I even think of her name as someone else, some even earlier crush perhaps. As we stand on the bow in the brisk seaside breeze, I reflect on how in San Francisco the ocean makes the weather never too hot (like in Los Angeles), but instead sometimes it makes it too cold. That’s the bargain, one I’d still choose.
She and I watch a large shipping vessel coming into port at unusual speed. I almost don’t believe what I’m seeing. It fails to veer and plows into the front of our ship, not far back from where we stand, with tremendous noise and chaos. Immediately before it struck, I remember thinking that I almost have enough time to record it — but of course I didn’t have enough time.
Walking across war-torn Ukraine. Part fact-finding, part direct-support mission that I’ve taken on by myself. The road is long and curved, the sky forever cast in dark grit. I peer into the ground floor of a residence hall of a university. I see only food aid in the grimy kitchen and a few grateful young people skittering to and from their rooms. Somehow I walk quickly enough that I’m halfway across USA. Looking down the slope of a steep levee, an old guy with long hair, beard, and glasses notices me and gives me a nod. I’m amazed he recognized me from long ago and at such distance, but I can’t place where we know each other. Reminds me of Tom Hanks, or one of the old men who garden in my neighborhood.