February 2005


About a year ago I went onto some new meds that had the fringe benefit of clearing my head up and making it possible for me to gradually rejoin society. Quite a benefit, actually. Alas, nothing is free and there was a downside, a serious one, to one of the new meds.

Sustiva is known for provoking dreams, at least partly because, unlike the great majority of meds, it goes right through the blood/brain barrier. Most folks taking Sustiva report that their dreams are at very least “brightened up” a bit, not necessarily in a positive way. For many, including me, the dreams are usually nightmares and are incredibly persistent.

Normally, if I’m having a dream that gets so bad that it wakes me up, I can get up and go pee and then crawl back into bed and sleep, if not dreamlessly, at least with a different dream. On Sustiva, what routinely happened is that I remained fixated on that specific dream, and after I awakened and then went back to sleep, it took up where it left off. This occurred almost every night.

And they were horrible dreams. For example, one dream that I still remember clearly featured a creature about the size of a horned toad but a voracious flesh-eater, sort of a land piranha. An infestation of them was spreading over the planet and we survivors were being backed into the corners of our continents by the damn things and devoured alive.

Their mode of operation was to hide under objects, a rock or a shoe or anything on the floor…they could squeeze through thin openings like a cockroach…and then swarm all over their prey, which was any other animal but most particularly humans. You’d think you’d got away from them, and then you’d kick over a shoe or something and there one would be and you knew that others could not be far behind.

You could stomp a few of them, but they would eventually become so numerous that they’d get you when you became exhausted from lack of sleep. We called them “snakes.”

Somewhere along in this dream I woke up shuddering and went to pee and realized, wait, “snake” is already used in English to mean a different creature, so I’ll call them “skakes.”

I kid you not. I was half-asleep but still half in the grips of this dream, enough so that I consciously realized that I needed a different word than “snake” and made up a new word by simply changing one letter.  It was sufficiently logical at the time.

And then I went back to bed and for some hours continued semi-waking dream battles with the damn skakes until the next day, when I dragged myself out of bed still exhausted. After too many nights like that, I gave up and went on different meds.

Flash forward one year, when I discovered that by going back to Sustiva I could save a thousand dollars a month – at Canadian prices, yet. For a cool K a month, I’ll give it another whirl.

And this time, I’m going into it with my eyes open. It has occurred to me that I can use Sustiva’s blurring of the line between dream and reality to my advantage, that it might very well be possible when I awaken from a nightmare, to take conscious control of the dream and steer it in a more pleasant direction.

Take control of your dreams

New! Improved Sustiva with Dreamplanner

Also helps fight pesky AIDS while you dream

Coming soon: DreamplannerII, with greater resolution, brighter colors, more details, larger cast of characters, and more complex plots.

Well, folks, it worked. I am the captain of my fate, and the master of at least my dreams.

Sort of.

Last night I’m lying there and my mind is running while I’m waiting to drift off and suddenly I realize that this is not thinking, I have segued into a dream. And then I actually changed the plot for the better! It wasn’t a total nightmare, and I don’t recall it as well as the nightmares, but it involved my father getting on my case, and I changed it. Didn’t actually extract any praise out of ‘im, this is not a miracle drug, but still…..

And then, at some point before I was clearly thinking this morning, the concept floated that there might be DreamplannerIII with, ahem, adult themes. Oh my, can dream-time come too soon tonight?

Tonight’s proposed feature: In Rod Laver Arena, before a howling crowd of 30,000 Australians, Marat Safin grabs Lleyton Hewitt and spanks some sportsmanship into him. While Lleyton squeals his trademark, “Come on!”

[Background: Hewitt is disliked by many players and fans because of his on-court behavior. Actually, Esquire recently had a feature article about the ten professional athletes most hated by their peers, and Lleyton made the cut.]

Alas, the screen was dark and the planned performance didn’t happen. I picture (although I didn’t dream it) 30,000 gravely disappointed Aussies shuffling out of the stadium in sullen silence. Apparently, DreamweaverIII has some bugs in it.

I suppose I can just leave Lleyton to heaven.  Or hang him up outside the gym window:

Market St. Gym

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It started raining today around noon, and I just have a sense that this is going to be one of our multi-day winter sprinkles during which it never rains all that hard but it doesn’t exactly ever stop for more than a few minutes, either.

I’d gone out on the Segway and got caught in it. And then since I was caught, got stubbornly into this not-going-to-let-a-little-rain-stop-me mode, and persisted in my errands.

But then I found myself over on Van Ness along about Eddy or so and getting seriously soaked. So OK, I think, I’ll just go back to the Castro the quickest way for my last couple of errands… well, the quickest way short of running back down Van Ness to Market.

Van Ness is downright Segway-hostile. In the first place, it’s populated by vehicles driven by folks who really don’t want to be on Van Ness and are concerned primarily with making their stay on it quick and dirty. And since there’s no way a stay on Van Ness is going to be quick, dirty is all that’s left. Quarter is alien to them.

To make it worse, much worse, the paving on Van Ness is full of irregularities quite sufficient to down a Segway, a calamity that would guarantee being run over by at least one vehicle….unless I were lucky enough to have the 42 Van Ness in my wake. See, trolley buses and streetcars sense that all of us electric vehicles must stick together against the snarling mob of smog-spewing beasts, and so we treat each other with elaborate courtesy…which is an enormous pleasure to get from a trolley bus. After you, my dear Alphonse.

So anyhow, I cut over to Gough, which sounds kinda counter-intuitive at first, I realize, but actually, the parking lane there is so wide that there is enough space left between the stripe and the parked cars to work very well as a “bicycle lane” even though it is not thus designated. And then as I cross Hayes I realize that this would sure be an excellent time to hook onto little Linden alley and check out the new outlet just opened by Blue Bottle – that splendid, over-the-top coffee stall at the Saturday Ferry Plaza Farmers Market – perhaps even taking shelter while sipping a warming, aromatic cup.

So I do. And get to be entertained as I sip by some really cold and unloving guy talk between the counterman and the customer who comes up immediately after me, an acquaintance who had dumped his girlfriend the night before … Valentine’s Eve.

I pity the women who fall into these men’s clutches, not that they were monstrously evil or anything but that they were just so utterly devoid of any flicker of kindness, compassion, or generosity because they are both very young, very handsome, very buffed, very articulate, and in general very moth-to-the-flame attractive; so at this point in their lives they can just use one woman after another and discard them like tissues.

And I’m not being soft-headed just because it’s Valentine’s Day. I think the problem is that I spent the past two days in the company of good women, and this has made me more sensitive. Hmmm. Maybe I should stay away from women for a few days to build back some callouses.

Not encouraged to linger over the coffee, I sip it as fast as I can and saddle up, so bummed out that I decide to just go straight home. Besides, it’s raining even harder, and not just in my heart. The inbound lane of Octavia is now open to Linden, so I cut down it for the short block to Fell, dodging the oncoming cars by darting between parked vehicles, and then I get over onto the two-lane outbound part of Octavia all the way to Market. It really is pleasant to ride on because it’s smooth as glass and also has almost no traffic since it runs only four blocks and hasn’t been Discovered as a shortcut.

I get behind the J Church as I’m going up my last block of Market to Noe and am tracked by a man and his little boy in the back seat. I entertain the kid by swinging wide right around the back end of the streetcar so it runs interference for me against a cowering SUV as we turn left. Twenty tons of streetcar performs this role splendidly.

Straight up Noe home.

Oh, and just to brighten things up, here’s a couple of pics taken after the sun came out. Yes, spring has sprung. Here’s R. officinalis:


and A. nobilis:


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