We are off on our family’s first real vacation in exactly a year, with much happening in between that made time off together impossible. It happens that our trip to the beach is occurring in the doldrums of an otherwise pretty great musical 2014. And for a variety of unusual reasons, I didn’t bring any CDs along for the trip, so all we have are the tunes I have on my computer.
After cleaning out the last vestiges of stuff from our former North Carolina house Sunday morning, we drove to the beach after lunch. The kids spent the rest of the day in the surf, so they were tuckered out, and after some Mellow Mushroom pizza, we all crawled into bed and went fairly promptly to sleep, much earlier than we usually do. A lulling storm broke as we slept, so I had the first over-eight hour respite in many months. Which also makes Sunday night the first period with enough REM sleep for a truly epic dream, which I report to you here:
The setting is a European town—a small town, but everything is still packed tightly together into the town center, with curlicue streets and apartments on top of apartments. I’m thinking it's a place like Riquewihr in the Alsace. It’s dusk, and the town is beset by a creature, humanoid and somewhat slimy. Picture something along the lines of the Predator or the Toxic Avenger. For some reason, I’ve been chosen by the people of the town to take on their interloper, not really like I’m their savior or anything but it's just the way the story is going.
A long battle ensues through the streets of Riquewihr that I won’t bore you with, but the Toxic Predator trounces me nearly to death. As he is about to do me in, the people of the town deftly trick their nemesis into getting on board a rocket ship, on which they intend to blast him into outer space and out of their lives. (This is a dream, after all.)
Unfortunately, the rocket doesn’t work all that well, and only makes it just outside the town, into the foothills of the Vosges. The Toxic Predator is badly injured and crawls out of the spacecraft, whereupon he is rapidly surrounded by wolves, the snarling kind. The people of the town head over to the wrecked craft, dragging me along, and circle the Toxic Predator in preparation to finish him off.
I step forward, as if to lead the charge or say something profound. I scan the crowd, and suddenly--- Donny Osmond appears. Late teenage-era Donny Osmond. I’m trying to make sense of all of this, and whether to tell him that he’s annoyed me my entire life, but I can’t—it’s not like it’s his fault. So I say “That song “Crazy Horses” is my jam!” And suddenly the Osmond Brothers are there, plus Marie, and the people of the town are jamming to “Crazy Horses” and the Toxic Predator is doing that weird thing with his knees and elbows like the striped-shirt Osmond Brother in that music video, and everyone is having a mad time like some pre-Enlightenment rave.
And then my son woke me up because he wanted to go to the beach. I told him to give me five minutes and I laid in the bed to gather my senses. And I wondered why Donny Osmond showed up in my dream when the Jackson 5 were so much more talented and such a bigger part of my life. But the Jacksons cumulatively, and Michael Jackson specifically, eventually sold many more records and surely made much more money and undeniably changed the course of popular music long after the Osmond family faded from the memory of popular culture, so there’s some justice.
And yet, Michael Jackson was tortured into a slow death and the Jackson family is at best a spectacle, and at times an advertisement for the depths battered human spirits can sink. I thought about Donny Osmond, the adult Donny Osmond this time, and the smile he has on his face, and the fact that he (and his sister Marie, in spite of troubles) seem to have adjusted to their lots, even if one or two of their brothers may be bitter slobs. I think about my own kids and what they will be when they grow up, the importance of how they are being raised, the effects of fame and money and drugs. About what it will really mean to be a winner or a loser in this world and in their own lives. And how they’ll need to learn lessons from history but also from what they see in their own lives to understand the impact of race in America. And that, if the past 100 years are any guide, they'll learn a lot about all of these things from the world of pop music.