HIS NORI SUIT
Dreamed 1992/9/4 by Chris Wayan
It's the early twentieth century. I'm in San Francisco, down by the waterfront. A man sits fifty feet offshore in the Bay, clad in a seaweed suit and cape. It's high-class seaweed--that distinct dusky purple of raw nori. Wow! He might as well be wearing dollar bills! But we're long before the sushi craze, so no one passing by can realize how valuable that seaweed suit is. Will be.
The nori man is impersonating a new islet, a tiny Alcatraz or Angel Island. And most people are fooled, for he looks quite mountainous in his nori suit--far bigger and craggier than he is.
Funny, I wonder if nori does that. After all, sushi wrapped in nori seems bigger than it is, makes a small meal seem generous. Is nori a psychological magnifier?
Around us, all the sea-life is out for a stroll: stars, lobsters, crabs, anemones--all unusually exposed. Every surface is thick with colorful life. The bay must be pretty clean... I'm surprised, in this sooty century. Maybe the pollution-era was later and shorter than propaganda has it.
Curious, I wade out on a sandspit and ask "Aren't you COLD?"
"Oh, no, not a bit," says the nori man. "I wear an inner close-fitting layer of seaweed to act as an insulator. The water gets in, but it warms up and is trapped..." Wow--he's invented an early wetsuit--before the term even exists!
Suddenly waves wash in, flooding the spit where I stand. Knee deep, thigh deep! Brrr! I hop rock to rock, back toward shore... knowing now, in my chilled, soggy bones, that John Donne was wrong.
ONE man IS an island.
Nori is also called laver. This sea vegetable, a purplish alga, unbelievably rich in protein and highly valued for sushi, really does grow on rocks all around San Francisco. It might as well be dollar bills. It's true that money doesn't grow on trees. It grows on rocks.
A friend of mine just told me of her adventures at the Burning Man festival, in Black Rock Desert, near Pyramid Lake. My nori man sitting in the water looked suspiciously like a miniature version of the pyramid in the lake. If Burning Man, why not... Soggy Man?
I'm not sure what this dream was suggesting to me, but one thing's clear--solitude, like seaweeed, has value. More value than the Americans round me recognize. Nori's time--my time--is yet to come.
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