Dreamed 1999/4/8 by Chris Wayan
I'm in a puzzling town: little hills and streams with random skyscrapers rising next to shacks. I'm married, Latina, with my parents living nearby. We get along better than I do with the Anglo parents I have when I'm awake.
A man in my family recently got into trouble. He crossed a little dry streambed that's heavily polluted when it flows at all--a health risk. And... a legal risk? Is it a border? Anyway, to right the situation someone else in the family must cross it too, and bring back our car, on the hill beyond.
I do it. But the water's risen so I can't just walk across. Still shallow, ankle-deep at most, and I can hop on rocks, but I can't get across entirely dry. Exposed to whatever it is. A man walking by warns me it may be radioactive, though not very. Great!
I go on... to the car? No, now I'm supposed to go back over the stream bed, by hanging off the underside of a bridgelike cantilevered structure crossing... nothing. The water's dropped, it's just a gravel bar now. I could walk across, but... I must do this instead. I don't see why. It's not even a real bridge, just a grain- or gravel-loader for big trucks, with an overhead conveyer belt or sluice.
I climb up the tower, prepare to swing hand over hand 20-30 yards to the other pier. I've done it before. But suddenly... I can't. Not upper-body weakness, not inexperience, not failure of nerve. The handholds are wrong for traveling this way! Never designed as handles at all--just wedges a clever person can use. But they're angled the wrong way from this end. I've always come the other way, never thought about this direction. I'd have to swing backwards the whole way. It just can't be done. Have to find another route.
But I can't go back down, either--a man is climbing the ladder after me! I'm sure he's La Migra at first, but when he gets close, I realize he's just a neighbor I know slightly. I wonder what he's come to tell me.
He stops just below me and starts ranting about the space race during the Cold War!
"American and Russian cultural obsessions affected the outcome of the race to the moon in the 1960s. The Russians were obsessed with winning for prestige reasons, their metaphor was soccer or something--a zero-sum game with a winner and loser. Distribution of the pie. This focus came straight from Marx, who focuses on allocation and fairness, not factors underneath capital that can change the pie itself--the natural world, shifts in the nature of trade and production, social redefinitions of value and goods and even happiness... and most important, technological advances making the pie bigger or sweeter."
I guess his rant makes sense, but I don't like being lectured to while hanging off a girder! But he glares at me, blocks the way down, and rants on:
"The Americans were obsessed with change itself, new worlds, solving complaints of inequality by enlarging the whole pie. They bought off their ruling class by letting them keep their unfair share, but insisting that the pie really get bigger. So it did... they HAD to have quick progress to prevent populist anger against the rich. And that's why they won the space race."
It all sounds smug to me. Those plucky, flexible Americans. While here I am stuck on a loading bridge waiting for the cops to come drag me off because of my looks, even though I'm a citizen...
Because Americans don't want immigrants any more. No. More than that.
Americans don't want new worlds any more.
Americans don't want change any more.
They loaded their pie with preservatives, locked it in a glass case... and just sit around watching it go stale.
WHAT'S IT ALL MEAN, UNCLE SAM?
Bad pie. Bad pie. Bad pie.
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