The dream with Diane Arbus and the commercial kitchen

I so wish I had time to study dreams full time – my dreams, anyway. Doubtless, other people have interesting dreams but mine alone could occupy a fair amount of a psychotherapist’s time. Come to think of it, my dreams DO occupy a fair amount of a psychotherapist’s time.

Last night the story began with Calvin and me heading to the opening of a gallery show of photographic work by Diane Arbus, which was reasonable enough. The plan, however, was for us to go to dinner after the opening with Diane Arbus and her girlfriend. Now, I have no idea without looking it up whether Diane Arbus even had a girlfriend, but that seems now to be a less significant point than the fact that we were doing anything with Diane Arbus at all, considering that Ms. Arbus has been very dead since 1971. (Being the more significant point, I just now looked that up.)

We did not see Diane Arbus at the gallery, and this could be for one of at least two reasons. First, because the opening was crowded it would not have been unusual for people not to see the artist. Second, it could be because the artist had been dead for over forty years. In that case it would have been completely my error in expecting to meet her for dinner later that evening. Not seeing her at the gallery, though, is not the point of the whole thing so I want to move on.

(Here is where the psychotherapist would say, “Well, let’s just look at this for a minute before you move on.” And he would then help me realize that maybe this is the point of the whole thing and why did I want to skip past it so quickly and what’s that about? Am I uncomfortable with something about this? “Let’s examine what you’re feeling. How does this make you feel?”)

Anyway we left the gallery and, still expecting to meet Ms. Arbus and her girlfriend for dinner, drove through a gritty part of a city that was not Los Angeles. Though we had woken up in Los Angeles and driven to the gallery in Los Angeles, the gritty streets on which we were now driving were definitely not in Los Angeles. The area resembled and had the feeling of certain neighborhoods near downtown Houston.

I don’t remember being aware of finding the address where we were to have dinner with Diane Arbus and her girlfriend, or of stepping out of our car and entering any building, but only of walking into what resembled a school cafeteria or industrial dining facility.

The cafeteria line ran along the right side of this large room and tables occupied the left half, or more than half. The nearest section of cafeteria line – six or eight feet long, where one would expect to find little bowls of cole slaw or Jell-o – was bare, as if it either had not yet been stocked for meal service or had already been cleaned for the night. Judging by the fact that no one else was in this large room I suspected the latter.

Midway down the food line there was one woman waiting for somebody to serve, like Lloyd the bartender in the film version of The Shining. We moved down to where she worked and saw that she offered only pancakes. But because we were hungry we asked for pancakes. The pancake-server lady wordlessly turned to the counter behind her, picked up a flat paper sack like they use at Starbucks to give you your second-rate chocolate croissant (there are few things worse than bad pastry), and, still wordlessly, used her tongs to slide a single pancake into the sack.

She handed it to me, and as I took my single pancake in its sleeve I glanced ahead to see if perhaps there were any other food servers because something savory would be nice to have since all I had so far for my dinner was a pancake in a sack. But no, no one else was working at the food line. The area ahead of me from which, presumably, hot entrees would normally be served was as bare as the section of the food line that had been nearest to me when I first entered the large room in which I now found myself.

I looked back up to ask the pancake lady if, because I was quite hungry, I might be allowed to have another pancake in a sack, but she wasn’t there anymore!

The section of the food line where the lady, only seconds before, had been serving pancakes in sacks was as empty as the areas of the food line nearest the door and farthest away from it. If you recall, the section of the food line nearest the door through which I entered this room, as well as the section beyond where the pancake lady had been working, were bare. Now the central pancake area was just as bare.

At the same time I realized that the woman who had just given me a pancake in a sack was no longer there, I also became aware that Calvin was no longer present. I was standing alone in a large school cafeteria or other industrial dining facility, holding a plastic tray with only a single pancake in a sack on it.

That is where my dream ended.

Neither Diane Arbus nor her girlfriend ever appeared.