HORSEFALL... AND WORSE
Dreamed 1997/5/16 by Chris Wayan
I'm in San Francisco, up in wealthy Pacific Heights, looking down on the Marina. It's changed: out on the Yacht Harbor breakwater, near the Wave Organ, there used to be a tiny lighthouse. Now a round tower rises 250-300 meters, needle-thin, with a raised disk or terrace around its base, almost like a falling water-drop frozen in splash-back. A billionaire built it recently. Around it loops a cablecar track; it's a transit extension he personally built and donated to the City. Literally self-serving: no other transit line came out here, and few others live along the line.
He stages an opening ceremony for his new tower. He has a beautiful white horse taken up into the tower, in the elevator. Up top, a fanfare. The horse is supposed to parade around the parapet, symbolizing something in the City's history. But the horse is afraid of heights, gets dizzy, and panics. Runs blindly and leaps over the edge. Long seconds as the whole town hears the horse scream, and then hit the water in a terrible impact.
The rite was meant to augur good relations between billionaire and city, and unfortunately, it IS prophetic. The billionaire turns troubled and reclusive, then angry toward city government, especially the transit district. Feuding. Within a month he's in such a snit he declares a one-man transit strike! Pulls out all his subsidies and pressures all his subcontractors--ties up half the city's services. He'll show them who owns this town!
I hope mayor Willie Brown has the strength to face just how socially harmful his rich buddies have gotten, and kick them out, the way way Emperor Mahmoud kicked out the corrupt Janissaries. But I don't think Willie has the guts.
Social unrest spreads. The trickle-down theory in action! As above, so below...
On my block, a group of young men go around emulating Columbus. "We've discovered your house. Move your stuff out." They plant a flag and your house is theirs--by right of discovery. And why not? The big boys steal and cheat and blackmail and run right over us. And pundits ask why the young don't have heroes! They do: thugs. Since we're led by thugs.
I admit my neighborhood's rough. I have a friend who's a big guy, but when he learned my address, his voice shook: "You live ALL THE WAY out by the Bay?" Appalled at me. Almost, well, impressed. The road leads down to the water, but the last hundred yards is such a rough sailors' district, few outsiders dare to enter, even in daylight. I don't live down by the water, just on the zone's edge. But I do shop there, have friends there. No worse than the rich, really. Dockside crimes are passion-based and immediate... and small. Rich thugs are the ones to fear!
One evening I lead my big friend through the zone out onto a pier, to visit a guy who lives on a houseboat. It's dusk. Brilliant magenta. But as soon as my friend emerges on deck to greet us, the color of the sunset adjusts as if someone's playing with TV controls. Pales from lurid sunset to a mild twilight in seconds. The air's glass-clear, though, and in the low light we can see every detail of kids in small boats off the beach to the north. How they dance and leap, flinging their long hair and big shaggy tails. Horse or fox children, not human. Magic dancing... I muse "Life wants to dance, if we can just give the kids room to!" For a moment it seems peaceful. Possible.
East across the Bay, a big ship is silhouetted against the rising sun. The rising sun? I thought this was dusk! Is this a false dawn or a true?
Peering into the glare more closely, I see the carrier has the masts and sails of a pirate ship. THE Pirate, I should say. I've heard bad things about him. I can respect an honest pirate, especially one who robs from the robber barons... but he's one too. A crooked crook.
The air's extraordinarily clear, yet I scent a trace of smoke already. It's not peace. It's just the still moment at dawn--before it all begins.
I just hope the whole city won't burn in the coming struggle. Poor against rich, and rich against... well, everyone.
NOTES IN THE MORNING
In 1997, the dream's bitter tone--the slums, the billionaires, the hints of war--merely startled me. Sure, there was corruption; but life was still tolerable for most people under Clinton.
Tell me the dream was wrong.
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