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Monday, October 31, 2016

Just Play the Hits

Bear with me. This is trivial. And then maybe it isn’t.

Last night I dreamed I drove down a long, winding highway in the dark to a great lodge, festively lit. Upon parking, I was greeted deferentially and shown to a huge stage with sound, lights and seating for thousands. People with tickets and drinks in hand were gradually being seated, talking among themselves. A crew was wiring up mics and amplifiers, a sound man was testing levels. A buzz was in the air.

I looked at my watch: it was 7:25. My host said, “You’re on at eight.”

He continued showing me the facilities, chatting away genially, explaining that I was expected to fill thirty to forty minutes before the main act. “Eight songs will probably do it,” he said, patting me on the back in what I took for restrained awe. “Just play the hits.”

A Small Problem

That would have been fine, but remember, this was a dream. It had to go south somehow. And it did.

It occurred to me that though I was carrying a guitar case in my right hand, I was not actually a musician. I had no idea whether I could even sing. I had no band. I had written no songs. I could offer absolutely nothing to these gathering “fans”, people who had evidently paid to see me. I shook the guitar case a little ... and discovered it was empty.

I was starting to become more than a little concerned.

My host was obviously mistaken about my purpose at this event, and I decided to tell him so. Now, up to this point we had been carrying on a perfectly normal conversation, but the moment I decided to correct his misimpression, words utterly failed me. I mean that I couldn’t open my mouth at all. So instead of protesting as I desperately wanted to, I found myself passively nodding along with his instructions and ushered to the front desk of the lodge to check in.

Great Expectations

In front of the desk stood a full-sized cardboard replica of me with my non-existent guitar, posing like the rock star I wasn’t, hair neatly coiffed, one perfectly lacquered lick falling across my star-spangled forehead. An old man in a bowtie puttered behind the counter, ignoring me. I looked around to find people were staring at me and whispering. Someone produced an autograph book for my signature. I looked at my watch again. It was 7:45.

I had the passing thought that if I could only get to my room where it was quiet, perhaps I could think of something — anything — that I could do to fill a thirty minute set. Tell stories from my childhood, perhaps. Maybe a comedy routine. But the old man refused to come to the counter. I could see the hands on the clock behind the counter moving closer and closer to 8:00 p.m.

You Can Check Out Any Time You Like ...

I looked through the window of the manor down the driveway to where my car was parked, thinking to make a run for it. But the road, the parking lot, and my car had all disappeared. All I could see in every direction was pine trees and darkness.

A bead of sweat trickled down my forehead. It was now 7:55.

Finally, in an exceedingly meta moment, in my dream I heard myself saying Clearly, what you need to do is WAKE UP! ... whereupon I did precisely that. I found myself in my bed, running a low-grade fever, covered in sweat, and greatly relieved to realize my appearance had been canceled.

At least for now.

Then I Saw a Great White Throne

This world is full of people who are headed toward a much more embarrassing engagement; an appointment for which they are as unprepared as my dream-self. They will find themselves in a place they do not know, where the conventions by which they perceive reality no longer apply, where their minds are incapable of generating plausible excuses or explanations for their conduct, and their lips and lungs incapable of enunciating them in any case; a venue from which there is no road out. They will find themselves confronted with expectations they have never anticipated, subject to assessment by standards they did not set, on a schedule over which they have no control.
“It is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment.”
And there will be no waking up.

What “hits” will you play?

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