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Banana Slugs

Dreamed 1994/6/9 by Chris Wayan

THAT DAY

My housemate Lily and I go to our friend Teresa Camozzi's art show in San Francisco's civic center. She thinks women artists support each other more than men, so she's assembled pairs of paintings, one by a woman, one by that woman's mentor. She even has some triplets: artist, mentor, mentor's mentor! But she's guaranteed her premise men won't mentor: male mentors need not apply!

I do like one big picture with animals and people driving around a loopy tangle. And a fuzzy brown mountain feels good. But a lot of the paintings are just squares and rectangles and abstract minimalism that I can see out the window, just by looking at all the big stupid boxes of Corporateville. Just as dull as guy art!

Li and her friend Sue meet us near closing time, and we all go to Squat and Gobble, a cafe in the Lower Haight. I'm stuffed so I just squat while the three women gobble.

Sue's an oil painter with allergies as bad as mine. Rather than switch to another medium, she wears a respirator! Big eyes, pale skin, tall, attractive. And married. Sigh.

Notice something strange. Sue ignores every word I say, tunes me out over and over. Several times, when we all speak at once, Sue apologizes to Lily "I'm sorry, what was that again?" as if I'm a loud bus passing. Dismiss it the first few times: "With my history I'm unusually insecure, that's all." But she does it consistently. What it means I don't know; but it's real, and it's rude. Not sure if she's doing it out of instant dislike or reverse sexism. I AM sure that it hurts.

The other two act as if they don't notice anything odd. I decide not to be rude back, and fall silent. Try to put the anger and hurt aside and just listen for what I can learn. Three experienced artists at the table.

The talk is endless--contacts, organizations, grants... Slowly I realize I don't care anymore, I've given up on art as a business. A dismal inner litany starts looping: "I can't paint well enough, can't get my digital art printed well, and can't display my art anywhere."

Anything to distract myself from the hurt underneath.

THAT NIGHT

I'm hiking with Li's friend Sue, up a snowy mountain, through recently melted off meadows. Flowers. Come to an iridescent plush fungus covering whole logs. Beautiful. Deadly too: it's an infectious mold that turns people into gargoyle-like spore bodies. The cure rate is low--I was lucky to survive. And it's gotten loose--it must have spread a lot if we find it in this national park. We have to report this and be checked; even survivors like me may be weakened by reinfection with a slightly different strain. Like HIV, it mutates a lot.

Down to a hospital. But the clinic is staffed by Pod People: they've clearly been infected. This strain seems to convince people they must evangelize--they don't hide their infection, but they try to convince us it's a great thing, one we should be glad to get. I'm not convinced; I went through hell with the last strain. It gave me the power to shapeshift, but it took a long time to control. Besides, that means I don't need this strain--that's the main benefit they're touting this time around too. These people don't seem to have full control over their shifting either. And they're the good ones; most victims just turn into spore bodies and shelf fungi.

One pushy orderly keeps trying to get me to put on a wedding ring made of plague-impregnated wood. I jerk my hand away, yell "NO!"

NOTES

LATER THAT NIGHT

I dream I'm a truck driver in a convoy heading for a pass in forested hills. Beneath us are dense redwood valleys with huge trees. Why, the banana slugs alone average twenty feet long! That's even bigger than in Santa Cruz! I see them slithering between the trees. Big as some of our trucks. Yuck...

I listen idly to citizens' band radio. One driver puns on the word "pass"--I forget the joke, but the next truck back is driven by Bill Cosby, who starts a whole routine of puns... Then another truck driver, Woody Allen, cuts in and does his self-deprecating number. The host for this radio show, Fidel Castro, finally shushes them because it's time for the featured comedian: Joe Stalin!

Wow, I didn't think Joe was still around. He's not as funny as the others...

Dour guy, old Joe.

THE NEXT MORNING

Still feeling down, and wanting escapism, I pull a random fantasy novel off my housemate Alder's shelf--Gordon Dickson's "Dragon on the Border." A real potboiler--after three hundred tepid pages, I reach its climax to find our knightly hero must fight a monstrous, ravening... banana slug?

Monster banana slugs slither out of the redwoods.
So that's where the truck-size banana slugs in my dream came from! Predictive...

And my gloom starts to fade at last. OK, so women can be as sexist and clannish as men, OK, so I'm kept out of the old-girl net, OK, so most of that art was dull. But I still don't have to get like Joe--dour and paranoid. I don't like his old schtick.

And I'm still psychic, so nyah nyah nyah, girls! I got MEN's intuition. Keep your stupid club.

Banana slug!



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