Tuesday, February 01, 2011


Grandmommy and I were standing in her front yard, while she pointed out a series of dead or diseased pine trees at the edge of the grass close to the road. One which was not dying, the one nearest the end of the driveway and the mailbox, was split in two partway up the trunk, and a large plant, with a bulbous bottom, had taken root in the “v.” Above the bulb were succulent fat leaf-stems, like an aloe plant, and what on closer inspection what looked like the baited sections of a venus fly-trap. As we watched, the plant did trap insects, luring them in while the base swelled correspondingly. Then, as a squirrel ran up a neighboring pine tree, one stem of the plant caught the rodent by its fluffy tail and folded it into its needle-edged green taco shell for digestion.

People began coming to see this plant and eventually as it attempted to expand its diet to include bipeds, it was pruned like the hydra, and its bulb was neatly sectioned using Granddaddy’s old grey metal scroll saw. The slices looked like smoked salmon and tasted like melon, and the people eating it trailed seeds all over the yard, which I pointed out, but nobody seemed to care.

The next generation of this plant morphed into an aggressive spider plant, with tricycle-size suckers like tarantulas on tethers chasing people into the carport at the back of Grandmommy’s house, but before I could be grabbed by one of these awful things, my dreams were interrupted by the sound of my name being hollered repeatedly by my resident manager over a scatter of strangers’ voices that seemed to be coming from the front room of my apartment.

I crawled out of bed and staggered into the hall outside my bedroom, opening the door to the common area. Mr. B. was there, as were three firefighters, in full professional regalia, who seemed to be milling around my messy living room. One of them jocularly assured me that I wasn’t dreaming, “There’s a gas leak upstairs,” Mr. B. said. I thought blearily that I needed to put on shoes and a robe. But the firemen said I should stay put. So I took two aspirin and went back to bed.

Eventually, the festival lights of the fire truck on the ice-hemmed street went away and I settled into another odd dream about a monster—enormous, terrifying and always off-screen (though I got the impression it was something like Godzilla)—which gulped down cowering people among the marble buildings of downtown DC.

Then I got swallowed myself and discovered there was actually a Victorian inn inside this terrible beast, complete with handmade doilies, tea things, and so forth. It just got weirder from there.

When I finally emerged (after “snoozing” my alarm half a dozen times) from under the profoundly comfortable weight of five Grandmommy quilts, I wended my way to Georgetown for the second of the Russian History job talks. There, I set up the tiny HD camera I am using to record these events (I burn DVDs for the search committees after the fact), and sat down to listen to a history of the machinations surrounding Sino-Soviet relations. My recording was somewhat spoiled by the incessant rattling of crisps-bags as faculty members attempted to access their potato chips. The speaker, too, was somewhat rattled at first as he hunted unsuccessfully through his unnumbered notes for “fascinating quotes” that he’d referenced and then lost.

Lessons: Never watch "Little Shop of Horrors" (I haven’t seen it, but it might just reinforce my own fear of the vegetable menace). Always number presentation-pages and have quotes highlighted. Firemen really are cute in uniform!

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