I keep having this dream. It won't go away. At least once a week it comes to me. I used to push dreams away just a bit of undigested enchilada, a repressed wish, the compression of neglected memories. The thing is, more people smart people keep telling me that you shouldn't ignore dreams.
So, whether they're a form of communication or just an illicit venture of unattended imagination, they ought to be out in the open. Let me tell you about this one.
I'm sitting at an outdoor cafn this small Western town. I recognize the place, but it isn't at all the way I really know it. The main street through the little city has lost all its billboards The shops and garages are set along the road in a neat and orderly manner. They are fronted by pines and junipers, lilac bushes, clematis, roses. There are no gaudy signs, no jumble of raucous and random lights. No junk. A very un-Western picture, don't you think? But, after all, it's only a dream.
This cafhere I was sitting, sipping a glass of chardonnay well, it was near the intersection where two main highways had once come together. It was all so familiar, but very strange. The highways were gone. There were no strip malls, no rambling supermarkets. There was no awkward shell of a building that once housed a macro-mart, now trying to adjust to its consumerist abandonment. The entire townscape, at least a half mile in diameter, was dotted with pedestrians, walking along flagstone paths bordered and sheltered by wisteria and oak trees, pines and flowering bushes. Next to the cafas a small bakery, tended by a middle-aged couple who stood talking with the passersby, as the man swept the dust off the stones. Among the trees and walkways were small dress shops, a cheese market, and a place where they made nothing but cheesecake New York style. Small apartment buildings, none more than four stories high, were nestled in among the shops. The windows were open and a young woman stood at her door talking with an artist and a potter, whose workhouses and tiny bazaars lodged along the promenade. There were no cars to be seen anywhere, only a few bicycles.
I sat chatting with some visitors, who were very excited about the quaint apartments, the clean and pleasant gardens, the trees almost like hedges among the paths. We shared some brandy, some cheese and twisted bread from the shops next door. The sunlight on the leaves faded into shadows, replaced by the sparkling lights of street lamps waiting like well-proportioned sentinels along the walkways.
I turned to the owner of the cafwho sat at a table next to ours.
"When do you close?" I asked.
He answered with a line from Ernest Hemingway's "A Clean, Well-Lighted Place:" "Each night I am reluctant to close up because there might be someone who needs the caf
Remember, this is a dream, a crazy dream I can't seem to exorcize. But you know, I think I know where this place is.
Richard E. Wentz is professor emeritus at Arizona State University and resides in Strawberry. He is the author of numerous books and articles and also is a professional storyteller. His column appears on the first and third Fridays of each month. Dr. Wentz welcomes comments and questions. Send them to the Payson Roundup at P.O. Box 2520, Payson, AZ 85547 c/o Richard E. Wentz.