A Dog’s Life


I awoke dreaming of Pat Sajak. Actually I couldn’t be sure if it was really Pat Sajak, as I only saw male hands turning oversized cards to reveal a particular letter. The peculiar thing is that this has been a recurring dream. Sometimes the hands turn over several letters, enough for one to guess a word, but I always come up empty.

In my sleep I strained to see the edges of my dream perimeter. As usual it was all in close up. There was no way to see anymore than I was seeing. In fact the outer edges were slightly distorted, making the material of his suit seem warped, like a nubby raw silk, yet it was more likely gabardine. A very fine gabardine as a matter of fact, and he appeared to have a manicure, a tasteful one, neat and trim, and he was wearing a gold signet ring on his pinky. I noticed this same ring a few dreams back but failed to examine it more closely. It may be stamped with his initials but I always forget to check and this morning was no exception.

Later over lunch I remembered that Pat Sajak doesn’t turn the letters over in real life. Though it’s debatable whether a game show counts as real life. Everyone knows that Vanna White, not Pat, turns the letters. But I had forgotten and even worse, could not, for the life of me, conjure an image of her face. I was able to summon a parade of shiny sheath dresses, but not her face. A fact that bothered me, producing the same uneasiness one might experience if questioned by the authorities about ones wherabouts on a specific day and having no substantial alibi. I was home, I answered feebly, turning the channels, watching Pat Sajak turning letters forming words I could not make out.

I went to my café and got my usual fare—brown toast with olive oil and black coffee. I brought my own pear. I noticed the date on the Times. May Day. A day always like. So I decided to sit there all day if I wanted, just drinking coffee and reading Murakami. In the middle of a really good sentence I got to thinking about words. Lately I’ve noticed a disturbing thing in my awake-world. My vocabulary seems to be shrinking. I have to stumble through a sentence because I lose a word and have to clumsily flip thru my thesaurus—meaning my brain—for a replacement. The replacement word is always off but close enough for the listener. Words like eliminate or coordinate. This has been going on for several weeks. I had some grueling acupuncture sessions. I decided not to think about it. Not to worry that my brain may be tunneling and chalk it up to sinus, stress or murky kidneys. But I was thinking. Maybe it’s all the travel. Finding common denominators for global communication. Or perhaps language is just slowly morphing.


This morning, heading to the airport, I got to thinking about Pat Sajak’s hands in my dream. There is a theory that it is good luck to see one’s own hands in a dream. I have in the past experienced this in the most miraculous of ways, but not lately. Lately it’s just the hands of Pat, in close-up, doing Vanna’s thing—turning over letters that never add up. Then I dozed off and had an entirely different dream. I was in a forest and the trees were laden with tiny silver ornaments that glittered in the sun. They were too high to reach so I shook them down with a long wooden staff that was conveniently lying in the grass. I saw my hand grasp it and when I poked at the leafy branches scores of tiny silver hands rained down and landed by my shoes. I noticed they were scuffed up brown oxfords like I wore in grade school and when I reached down to scoop up the silver hands I saw a black caterpillar crawling up my sock.

I was disoriented when the car pulled up at Terminal A. Is this where I’m going, I asked. The driver muttered something and I got out, making sure I didn’t leave a watch cap or my copy of A Wild Sheep Chase behind. I did drop my bandana on the floor and was happy I retrieved it and headed into the terminal. I was at the wrong end and had to snake through hundreds of people going who knows where and found the ticket counter. I thought because I had a business class ticket I would be well taken care of but the girl behind the counter insisted I use the kiosk. Now I don’t know where I’ve been for the last decade but when did the term kiosk become the big thing. I didn’t even know what one was some months ago and now the word is all over the place and it’s suddenly firmly implanted in our culture. Is it a post 9/11 thing? I just don’t know and personally the word gives me the creeps and I don’t want to be forced to use them. I want a person to give me my boarding pass. There was a person there and she wasn’t doing anything but she insisted I punch in my information in the damn kiosk. And then after answering all the questions and scanning my passports it asks me if I want to triple my mileage for $108.00. NO, I pressed, and the damn thing froze. So I had to tell the girl and she said keep pressing it, which I did for five minutes while she chatted with a co-worker. Then she suggested I try another kiosk and I did, though I was getting pretty steamed, and damn if it didn’t jam up. She had to fork around with a friendly skies pen to get my boarding pass, which arrived in a crinkled dead lettuce kind of state. In any event I shook it off, trekked to the next station, removed my guitar, took off my boots, went through security, then boarded a plane to Mexico City.

The flight wasn’t bad. I reread parts of A Wild Sheep Chase as I didn’t want to exit the atmosphere of the book and I was saving The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle for sleepless nights ahead. Murakami is not perfect but he flashes brilliant like small fireworks every few pages. Best of all he offers an atmosphere you may enter in a guarded way, but then you're hooked—the similar effect of a good crime novel. In any event I hardly noticed the flight and found myself wandering the halls of his Dolphin Hotel, inspecting several small rooms harboring nothing but dusty filing cabinets.


I arrived in Mexico City and got a ride to my district. I checked in my hotel and set up camp in a room on the second floor overlooking a small park. There was a big window in the bathroom and I noticed the people I was looking down at could also randomly look up at me taking a piss. I hate closing curtains once they’re open; it just feels unlucky, so I went to the bathroom downstairs in the bar.

Lenny Kaye checked in. We met for a late lunch, hoping for Mexican food, but the hotel menu was dominated with Japanese fare. This confused my sense of place. I am reading Murakami in a Mexican hotel that specializes in sushi. They did have a form of shrimp taco with wasabi dressing that was quite good. The coffee was fair but set me longing for the coffee of Veracruz—the coffee of 1971. This I have discussed in a former coffee break missive so I will not elaborate, save to say I had the best coffee of my life in 1971, in the café of a coffee dealer in Veracruz, and it has never been surpassed.

Afterwards Lenny and I stepped out on the street and noticed we were on Veracruz Avenue, which gave me hope. We roamed around awhile and I saw a shop window filled with hands. They were not the silver talismans in my dream but there were a lot of them. I reasoned I must be where I supposed to be. I had wondered, as there is a spewing volcano not far from here. But the hands seemed to be saying yes, so I tabled all reservations. Yet I notice, even at this moment, that everything is just a little offset, like a poorly printed Sunday comic image of Mandrake the Magician.


Twilight was approaching as we took a walk in our quadrant. We are near the Roma Police Station so I guess we are in the Roma district. We walked up and down several shaded streets and passed rows of Taco trucks and newsstands that sell wrestling magazines, flowers and lottery tickets. We were both tired but thought it would be nice to stop in the park across Veracruz Avenue. The weather was pleasant and we sat on a bench and talked and then noticed a monument. We went over to examine it and we were astounded to see no less than twenty dogs. The gathering of the dogs was a good omen for us. Twenty dogs greeted us warmly. I fell in love with a white dog. He was medium size, just a dog, but I fell in love.

I turned in early, as I had been awake since five in the morning. I lay in bed wondering if I could sleep. I cracked open The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle when someone began speaking on a megaphone outside my second floor window. The voice seemed to generate from the park across the street. A voice caught in the branches of the trees disengaged by wind and parked on my windowsill like a homing pigeon. It was past eleven and I couldn’t imagine why anyone was speaking through a megaphone on a Tuesday night as no one save myself seemed to be listening, and since I don’t speak Spanish it was just a string of phrases lacing my half. Wasted words, I remember thinking, and then I nodded off. I did not dream.


press conference
In the morning I had a press conference at Casa Azul—the Frida Kahlo house in Coyacon. Her father built it and after his death she shared it with Diego Rivera. My relationship with these two great artists began when I received The Fabulous Life of Diego Rivera from my mother on my sixteenth birthday. I was very moved to be greeted by the press there. After answering many questions Lenny and I performed my song Wing for Frida and People Have the Power for everyone.

Afterwards we visited the American Embassy. We had tepid coffee and successful cultural conversation. But what struck me were the few sentences a woman said before we got into our car and drove away. Three journalists and a child were found murdered in Veracruz. The woman and child were strangled and the men disemboweled —Bolano stuff that is not Bolano, but the world around him. It set me thinking of him writing 2666 with the clock ticking, and produced the usual pain of loss. Had he lived he would have chronicled everything, working with the incessant industry of a monk turning the prayer wheel on the summit of a mountain in Kathmandu.


It’s funny to feel the constant presence of someone you never knew. But I feel I know his 2666 backwards and forwards. I can’t reason out why he had to die. He could have just kept writing. He could have just stayed in in a state of productive limbo creating masterpieces. But then again, why did Rene Daumal have to die? Why did Lizzy Mercier have to die? True, everybody dies, but is it really necessary that they die at a particular time? Couldn’t it just be more down the road? One child and three journalists, she said. Actually there were two journalists, as one was a cameraman. He sat up in the dark and noticed the blanket on his bed was made of sod.

Lenny and I went our own way. I went to the San Miguel Chapultepec neighborhood to visit the Contemporary Gallery Kurimanzutto, just steps away from the Luis Barragán House and Studio. The Barragán House is an architectural jewel. The skylight and windows naturally illuminate the divided space. Every angle inspired. I was standing gazing at a crucifix floating on a wall of light when Michael Stipe sent me a message that Adam Yauch passed away. I always liked Adam. He had a beautiful smile and was gentle and considerate, but never weak.

Later I took a walk in the park. The dogs were out in full swing. I couldn’t stop thinking about the loss of Adam amongst us. In relation to the balancing game we continually play with the universe, we lose, the universe gains.


On Cinco de Mayo we had an outdoor concert before the Anahuacalli Museum, built for Diego Rivera’s collection of the art and cultural artifacts of his people. It was a privilege to present a concert having the magnificent structure as a backdrop. Oliver Ray’s band Saint Maybe opened to an enthusiastic crowd of over four thousand. It was a wondrous night. Both bands played great and the people’s energy was electric. Their love filled the grounds, and seemed to satisfy the gods as the rain that threatened did not come. Magically the clouds parted to reveal the full moon as we began the song Wing, for Adam, as Oliver Ray joined in for the solo.

Our band played for two hours. The moon was nature’s spotlight on the bright faces of the people. We played for Adam. We played for Diego Rivera. We played for the slain journalists. And we did not forget the women, murdered by the hundreds, and left to rot in ditches, landfills, and junkyards like fodder for a Bolano story he has already written, but can never add to, nor subtract. He can only usher them to the perfect patch of heaven he has prepared in their honor. That thought passed through my mind as I looked up at the moon. The people were joining in on People Have the Power. Everything felt in place and for a brief moment there was no sorrow, no suffering, only unity.