My last stop takes me up Judah Street, which undergoes its daily conversion, from Judaism to Greek Orthodox Christianity, when it becomes Parnassus Street. I bike farther still, up Stanyon to the Haight. I travel up the Haight to the bookstore The Gifts of the Goddess. I feel and appear out of place; I am a stranger in a strange land. I’m way too normal compared to the Druggies, the street walkers, burnt out dreamers, revolutionaries, the nevus-Hippies in their tattered jeans, sandals and tee shirts, or the safety-pinned, leather clad and green, or purple-dyed hair of the Punks. The Haight collects all kinds, even the likes of me. Hmm? Maybe as a dreamer of a literal kind, coming to this street does mean I fit in. It’s only my outward appearance that sets me apart.
It was my dreams that first brought me to the Haight. I’ve always had vivid and colorful dreams. I thought everyone did. Since I had no one to confide in, how was I supposed to know differently? Anyway, it was after my dad burnt my books that I had this dream, which drove me to the Haight.
WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 14, 1973
The dream was a frightening and horribly real experience of me
being captured by the Inquisition and being tortured. All day long, the horror of it stayed with me. I couldn’t escape it. My response to any problem, big or small, is to go off in search of a book for an answer. Someone, somewhere, or some-when, must have faced a similar situation and lived to write about it.
The school library and the nearby branch of the public library were no help. For the first time, Mr. Wells’ collection didn’t offer any satisfaction. He had books on dreams, but they were like Some Must Watch While Some Must Sleep by Dr. William C. Dement, books about the physiology of sleep and dreams. This was the first time that science, the Classical Quality approach to a problem, was not satisfactory. As for the “science” of Psychology, Freud’s The Interpretation of Dreams and his follower’s writings were thick, heavy, presumptuous, and useless academic mud. It hurt my head to struggle to read the stuff. But for all the effort, it didn’t ring with the familiar sound of truth that I was accustomed to hearing when I read other works of science and philosophy.
Mr. Wells mentioned the works of Carl Jung, but he didn’t carry such stuff. I asked him why not, and I ran into Mr. Wells’ own philosophical blind spot. Mr. Wells dismissed the work of Jung as religious nonsense and superstition. I yearned for answers. So, I had left the store for the first time still feeling the hunger for knowledge and understanding. I allowed myself to roam the streets blindly in search of another bookstore. Meandering, as I would do occasionally, amongst the book stacks. I realized I had traveled far, when I came to the otherworldly Haight district. I stopped and walked this exotic place in culture shock. I was surrounded by the irrational. I wandered in what I thought was aimlessness.
I came upon a display window with a gray calico cat sleeping in it. When I took my gaze off the cat, I saw these mysterious picture cards and exotic statues of women. They were images of the Goddess from around the world. The picture cards were Tarot decks. That first day I barely noticed the nearly naked or completely naked statues. I was instead mesmerized by the cards. I had no idea that cards like that really existed. I had only read about such stuff in the sci-fi novel by Samuel R. Delany: Nova. I thought Delany had made the whole Tarot card thing up. I had no idea that they really existed.
The store was called: The Gifts of the Goddess. The owner, Miriam, greeted me in such a warm manner when I first stepped into her store. I had a feeling of déjà vu. She was a large curvaceous bountiful woman, like an ethnic version of Dolly Parton and Mae West, in one body. She filled the store with her physical being and joyful presence.
She had red and gray wavy hair, which cascaded over her shoulders and down her back. Her hair had wildness about it. A daring sense of freedom, as if the displaying of her hair was the flaunting of some taboo. Her long autumn leaf-patterned dress had a wide neckline, which displayed her ripe melon-sized bosom. She had cleavage for which the phrase Grand Canyon seemed the only fitting description. They were such an amazing feature of Mother Nature. Her bare arms jiggled, as did the many bracelets she wore, as she gestured whenever she was speaking.
Miriam’s open demeanor encouraged and overcame my usual reluctance to approach strangers. After asking her about the cards in the window, and being told and shown the dozens of differently designed decks, I saw all the shelves of books and asked if she had any books on
dreams. She asked me why? For some reason, I found myself telling her my dream. This was not to be the last time either that I would recount the description of a dream of mine with her.
MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 10, 1979
I came back to her store many times in trying to understand my dreams. Here I discovered the realm of shadows, a world of ancient Gods and Goddesses, shamans, magicians, witches, the occult, ghosts, and other things left outside the searching lights of science. Now, once again I travel to Miriam’s bookstore, seeking to share my concern with her about my strange jungle-temple dream.
I walk into the store and sense anguish and agitation.
The emotions emanate from the store’s only other customer. Odd? The sight of a lithe Filipino young woman causes the hairs on the back of my neck to tingle. I have that déjà vu feeling. Hmm?
The Filipina is probably 17 or 18 years old, a simple deduction, given that she has my high school emblem on one of her notebooks, which juts, out of her backpack. She’s very pretty, with straight ebony hair falling below the shoulder. She wears tiny black and white cow earrings, an oversized gray sweater, designer jeans, and black running shoes. A gray-blue backpack slings jauntily over her shoulder. She has the poise of a dancer. She’s crying and Miriam is comforting her.
I go up to the gray calico. According to her, he owns the store. I start to play with him, trying not to be obvious as I eavesdrop on her conversation with Miriam.
“Jon is missing. Gone,” she says with complete despair.
“Oy. Do you mind telling me how this happened?” Miriam asks.
“I don’t know. I mean...” she starts to cry again.
“Now,” Miriam says in a soothing voice says, “Take this advice: ‘Begin at the beginning and go on till you come to the end: then stop.’”
The young woman takes a deep breath and settles down onto the stool next to the counter. I feel that she has told this story many times hoping that it would do some good and, so far, it hasn’t.
“It all started out so wonderfully. I remember how on that day the air was filled with the moist cool scent of the trees. We were in the Park, checking out the top of Strawberry Hill. Jon was a little upset because of an argument we’d had. He must’ve gotten up and walked down the hill. I was watching him start to walk away when suddenly I noticed something was not right. The air became still, like how it gets before a lightning storm. I also remember the air smelled different.”
The hairs on the back of my arms are signaling a four-alarm fire! Oh, my God, I know this. That’s her. That’s the girl! Holy déjà vu! I saw this in my own weird dream! I can’t believe this. She’s real. I need to figure this out. Need more data to make this make sense.
“What was this smell? Describe it to me, Lana,” Miriam asked.
“It was a strong, vanilla sweet scent. Besides the smell, there was a cold breeze, icy cold. I stopped. I was very confused. Jon was ahead of me, I think. Maybe just behind some trees. I’m not sure. It’s sort of fuzzy. Then I heard him call my name. He sounded worried and very distant, like he was calling to me from the end of a long tunnel. I ran to catch up with him, but...” her voice starts to well up with emotion.
The hairs on the back of my neck feel like they are standing straight up.
“But what, Lana?” Miriam asks.
“He was gone.”
“Gone? Where?” I blurt out.
“I don’t know!” she whispers, sounding lost. “I searched around. I called out to him. He had been only ten-maybe twenty feet, away from me. He was in a clearing, I thought. But I didn’t see where he went. I spent the rest of the day wandering around the whole Park calling frantically for him. It was no good. I went to his apartment and he wasn’t there.”
She’s worn out. Miriam and I wait.
“There were some cops I met,” Lana regains her strength and continues, “They said he couldn’t have just vanished. They said he must have hid from me, met up with someone, and got a ride out of the park. I yelled at them. I wouldn’t believe them. Jon loved me. But I can’t explain it. Why would he leave me and not tell me where he was going? I thought he loved me. I don’t know what to do.”
“Lana,” Miriam asks, “have you ever dreamed about Jon after the disappearance?”
What an odd question for Miriam to ask.
“Yes! I can’t stop dreaming about him. Every night I fall asleep and dream about being with him. We are doing little things, shopping, doing laundry together, and getting the groceries. For a moment, everything feels right. Then it happens. I stretch out to him in my sleep and find nothing. I touch an empty pillow. The shock of it rouses me out of me sleep, frantic and disoriented. I expect him to be there and he’s not! Then it comes back to me. He’s gone. He left me! I try to go back to sleep. But I can’t stop thinking about him. Dreaming about him.”
She stops for a moment to wipe away a tear. She’s frustrated, fighting with herself to keep despair in check.
“The worst dream is the one when I do relive it all. I can see everything as it was on that day. I remember every leaf, every smell. I see him walk ahead of me, all in slow motion. I call out to him! I try to get to him. I try to stop him from walking toward something. I hear him call my name. Then it starts again. Those last few moments repeat. I’m with him. Then, all I’ve left is his voice calling to me. Why did he leave me? What did I do to make him so upset? I wake up crying. Exhaustion is the only reason I get any sleep. I almost wish I could stop dreaming about him.”
We silently try to take it in. Much earlier in her recounting I gave up the pretension of not listening, openly pulled up a stool, and sat down. Lana wipes away the remaining tears. Lana’s story gives me the shivers. How can this be? What does it mean? I dreamed I was she; now I am certain of it. Lana is embarrassed by her display of emotion and tries to make light of it.
“Well, I came here to ask if you’d seen or heard anything about him. If you could ask around for me, I’d appreciate it. Everyone comes here. So, maybe somebody has seen him or heard something about where he is.” Lana asks.
“Of course, Lana. As soon as I hear something I’ll give you a call,” Miriam replies.
“Great. Well, I got to be going. I have to check in with some of the other places he hung out at,” Lana says.
 Reverend Charles Lutwidge Dodgson a.k.a. Lewis Carroll, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, pg. 106, Oxford University Press, World's Classic Paperback Series, 1865, 1982
KEYWORDS: H P LOVECRAFT, LOVECRAFT, DREAMLAND, DARK FANTASY, FANTASY NOVEL