Original story By John O'Brien
Adaptation for sequential art by Max Douglas aka Salgood Sam.
[Note: This is an early draft of the script for the Graphic Novel,
i'm planing on editing it for length in the next few months.]
This is a story about those of us who find ourselves on the out side of society and of our own selves, the rise and fall of it all picks up where Life at night left off.
Elliot, a 40 something directionless soul relegated to the dreariness of data entry, is laid off. Again.
With the bubble burst and inertia setting in, Elliot finds himself spending more and more time on the streets of Chicago. Seeking out the music and company of an Ishmaelite horn player.
Unlike Elliot, Elmo is of the street, of the land under the pavement. His Houselessness is of choice; that of life on his terms and his timetable. He chooses freedom over the material world.
On crossing paths these two friends find truths in each other's company and new purpose in their dreams.
'life at night'
Last year Elliot worked in an office down town, where he entered data blindly to earn his pay. He dreamed of endings and mortality, and made his way slowly while others seemed to just get it.
As his friend Artie had said, "some guys just knew things automatically, while others could learn". "Which one am I?" thought Eliot.
Then the slip on the desk and he was out. Replaced by a machine. A paper bag of ephemera from his desk in hand, he was on the street, confirming his status as a member of the ranks of the ‘chronically unemployed'.
He drifted for a while, living at his mothers to save money.
Then the sound of a horn calls him back from the edge. The player, a ominous seeming figure to Elliot, sewed to be everywhere. Hunting him with his song.
Still, he drifted; the weight of the hot summer sun slowed everything down to a languid pace. He needed to move, he needed to get a job!
Still, he admired his friend Artie, who seemed to know how find purpose in just being somewhere, anywhere. He would sit on the El platforms all day, just weighting for nothing, and observing the buildings of the city.
The rest of that summer he hid in his attic, peering out of the small round window watching the nightlife in his neighborhood, winding up as the sun headed west. He dreamed of loosing control, of falling, of death. Again and again.
He tried to escape. He drank. Nothing helped.
Then the horn called. It gave him a dream, of music and beauty. Of the joy of freedom of the soul.
And the dream asked him a question.
'Have you ever been that happy?'
Then he dreamed of the beach, the lake filling the horizon. The horn player was there. His dream tries to tell him something, something about living...
"Living requires a leap Elliot, a leap of faith. If talking about it were sufficient, what would the point of living be? Elliot! How can you observe infinity, and do nothing in response!?"
But before he could understand his dream, the phone woke him.
It was his old boss at the office, they needed him back! Business was booming and they needed him back.
He returned to the life he knew before, not quite the same but not yet changed. But still he's happy to back at work, able to move out from his mothers and into a new place on Fullerton just up the road from the beach. When he saw him on the beach, the horn player didn't know him. He was only in Elliot's dream, Elliot wasn't in his, not yet.
I. Cube with a view
Elliot retuned to his old job. But it doesn't last. The bubble bursts and he's back on the street. This time for good he thinks. He tries to get a job, but no one's is hiring, especially not him. He tries to support get befits, only to find he's used all his. His time is up. What does it mean, when your time is up? He falls between the cracks and finds him self on the streets. Practicing at his new job, trying to just be.
1. When I got back to work, they gave me the cube with a view
2. They gave me the window.
1. I asked for the window when they called me back to work but they'd said forget it- Forget the window.
2. I said what the hell- I'd like a window but what the hell- I didn't need it- I needed a job.
3. They laid me off last year- the same people- the same guy! But when they called me back then they said, "forget the window."
4. ... I don't know.... the whole thing surprised me.
1. You can see it- up there- under the 910 South sign, my window is right up there.
2. Whenever I look up there I wonder what happened.
3. And why me?
4. You know the typical stuff people ask when things go wrong.
5. But really, of all the people who worked up there' I'm the only one here."
1. After I was let go, I continued to come downtown every day.
2. At first I investigated other opportunities in my field, computers, programming- data, that sort of thing. Nobody was hiring.
3. They had learned to do whatever they did here with fewer people and more computers and so they were busy joining forces with their arch rivals, like Germany and Russia or whatever, marshalling their combined forces under one great new banner- awkward names, amalgams of the originals appeared atop the great sphinx like mausoleums of important business.
1. So then I came downtown to apply for unemployment
2. but found that since I worked as a contractor I wasn't eligible for benefits
3. and in fact had used all my benefits that I had accumulated as a full time employee while I was working as a contractor, that is,
4. my time had run out.
1. What did this mean? My time had run out.
2. The woman behind the glass partition at the government centre with the flat hair and blank look repeated this a couple times to me-
3. I was considered to BE a business, now that I was a contractor and the government didn't payout these kinds of benefits to businesses only to workers.
4. When she repeated this I noticed she used the exact words and lack of inflection each time except for how her voice trailed off at the end the second time, being done with me.
1. "Those are the risks. You take your chances."
1. At that time I felt, Chicago is no place to run out of luck.
2. Still I came downtown.
3. There was no particular reason except to hear the trumpet man blow
1. in the plazas, the alley ways through the tunnels and viaducts. It has been two full years now since I was laid off the first time and since I first heard his horn wafting up through the drafts and flourishes of wind that howl along the well worn paths through the loop.
2. Under the bridges and over passes, across the river canyon and through the streets.
3. I liked to stand and listen to the trumpet mingle with the other sounds of the whole production.
4. I'm certain now that's just what the trumpet player had in mind.
1. Now I had grown apart from these people
2. Their buildings, their jobs, their symbols and obsessions. This privet privileged scene of theirs.
3. I might have disappeared before their eyes and they would see it and not believe it or care.
4. I wouldn't matter to them in any way imaginable.
5. My time was out, & I was out.
1. This was very hard on me a first,
2. but then, after a long while something changed-
3. as if a motor humming - some low droning thing going on and on so that you had stopped noticing had all of a sudden quit.
4. And miraculously everything changed and sounded clear and open again.
5. Today I watched the buildings reflect the late morning light.
6. Smoked glass, deep blue and burnt orange.
7. These steel structures looked powerful, mute invincible.
8. A new one could be completed before you even knew it had been started.
9. They just appeared out of nowhere was as if someone were feeding the rest of the city to them gulp by gulp.
1. Now in the heat I imagined their facades yielding a bit, swaying, billowing out and back like sails as if only a temporary backdrop, or a theatrical illusion, or a curtain that now lifted'.
2. I tried to hold this thought and closed my eyes.
3. I sensed them fading until step by step, increment by increment...
4. ...the scene of original Chicago returned.
5. A fertile basin flourishing off the foot of Lake Michigan say, five hundred years ago- this took over my imagination.
6. The lush wet prairie with marsh grasses edging off the beach- gulls picking their way through the beach washed seaweeds
7. The hickory, oaks, walnut trees and the wild cherry trees
8. The sky itself filled with the migrating blue herons, orioles and black crows- all brilliantly etched across that sky-
9. The roar of the crashing majestic surf of the pounding lake front filing the air with a glorious dynamic coming and going of sound.
2. A child's singing voice rushed back to 2001.
3. It was Middy, The daughter of a co-worker of mine, holding her mother's hand. Looking up at me,
4. Before I could return her greeting Her mother had whisked her out of sight. Yanking her away by the arm.
5. Byyy Elliot!
6. It must be the beard I thought.
7. Beards scare people if you don't keep them trimmed -
8. The neighbours don't like it when the prairie starts growing in your back yard
9. It would have been absurd for me to shave or trim my beard now!
10. Why should it?
1. Still, I had to wonder, whether Maddy's mother recognized me and therefore took her daughter away?
2. Or whether she didn't recognize me and did the same.
3. This was the kind of question I ask by myself so many times these days.
4. Questions meant to be just questions.
5. Questions with no answers.
6. My life had become a new practice-
7. I was at work again, practicing to be,
8. Just to be,
9. And to let my mind off the hook, free and to wander.
10. It was not an easy job, but somebody had to do it
Eventually Elliot becomes invisible. Only he can see him self, and even then sometimes...how had he gotten here? He thinks back, about before, about what happen, how he had lost his job. He was doing ok, good even! It was to be his big day, giving a presentation to the consultants in from Dallas. He went out to gather his thoughts, looked for the horn player to listen to his song. But then he'd gotten involved, stood up for the minstrel when the cops busted him. For all the good it does. He gets booked too. Only the horn player, Elmo, pays his thanks for his act of social duty. By the time he gets back to the office it's too late. And the excuse doesn't help much either.
1. After sliding and sliding endlessly for months on end....
2. ...all of a sudden stopped sliding and stopped being scarred and the place in me where fear had been was just parched and that was pretty much it.
3. I wondered how long nothing could happen, I mean technically. How many days, months or even years could go by before something - anything- might happen to change a man's life?
4. For me, little had changed since the trumpet man- the guy always playing in the streets.
5. The guy everybody but me seemed to completely ignore.
6. It wasn't his fault ...not at all. It was all my choosing- all of it could be traced back to me, somehow, something in me, nothing obvious but something there- deep in me- something that put me out here...for good.
1. I was riding the coattails of the new economy. It boomed and included guys like me ... If you did something - anything, there was something for you to do.
2. Consultants were coming in from Dallas and I had prepared for their arrival. It had to do with a particular computer system that I knew well -or better than anyone here.
3. If the consultants had magic to make life better - this was the day they could prove it - to me and everyone else.
1. I was as ready as I was going to be.
2. So I took a break and strolled downtown enjoying the warmth and sights of springtime in the city. I listened for the trumpet man and his horn.
1. I crossed Adams and then State.
2. The flood of workers washed in and across the scene bobbing through the tides of yellow taxis.
3. I zeroed in on the sound. I had become more skilled at locating the man by the sound of his horn- not as easy a thing as it sounds.
4. I picked up the reflections bounding through the geometry of smoked glass windows and thoroughfares.
1. I sat at the corner on a bench at the edge of plaza where he was at work and lit a smoke.
2. Even at close range the music was nearly swallowed up by the sound of the street.
3. No one took any notice of this man's act.
4. He stood only about 5 ft 3 or 4. His face was broad and his hair was dark- red almost black and tied in braids.
1. He wore a brightly colored smock. His pants were gray and baggy made of something ancient looking, soft and comfortable.
2. There was no hint of him being put on. He leaned into the sound, his knees bent- the horn yelped, cooed, soared, slurring and screeching a particular song sung to no one in particular.
1. Suddenly a couple of cops arrived. They grabbed the trumpeter; tied his hands; they shoved his horn in what looked like a pillowcase; for a second I watched- I strained to retain my observer status.
2. And then, finally, I stood up...
3. "Hey, Wait - just a minute! "
4. And everything stopped--
1. "Who the hell was this? "
2. They ALL looked at me. The cops, the trumpeter player, the taxi hacks even the pedestrians.
3. I had made my entrance.
4. And for my troubles I got a ride downtown with Elmo- that was his name or at least what he told the police. I was supposed to be at work.
1. I looked at him and he, at me like I was something, odd or foreign.
2. He says:
3. "What are you the last of the angry white men?"
4. What was he?
5. He could have been anything: White, Black, an Islander, French, and Palestinian? Indian? I was lost here-
6. " what difference does it make."
7. The value of my diversity training was kicking' in.
8. "The old race thing's got you down, man?"
9. Elmo grinned. I noticed how much he was enjoying himself for a man in custody.
10. I would have been more uncomfortable if not for that smile.
11. I would come to understand that people meeting Elmo always wanted to know what he knew.
1. In the end he made a point of thanking me and took off with his horn slung in a cloth sack across his shoulder the second they motioned us toward the door.
2. It was the beginning of the end.
3. I pictured the scene at the office without me.
1. "Have you seen Elliot?"
2. "Where is Elliot?"....
3. The consultants would have arrived, the ticker, ticking,
4. while management checked watches and the guys would be regretting how, against their better instincts, they had, after all, decided to depend upon me.
5. And then I would show up.
6. The staff listening first with heads bobbing up and down expectantly waiting for the explanation
7. and then back and forth in disbelief and disgust learning my excuse had been" jail"- that I had been locked up in jail.
1. How could I have been there! Given the circumstances? What would they have done?
2. But I knew what they would do-because "they" had been there- everywhere.
3. And of course, they had no mercy.
Winter rolls in and does nothing to help him out of his predicament or his state of mind. He tries to blame his situation on others, on the trumpet player Elmo, but in the end he finds himself guilty. He moves from his new place near the beach into a forgotten outpost of a neighbourhood surrounded buy the expressways of the south side of Chicago. A crumbling polluted transitory stop on the way up, or the way down for people chasing the American dream. He observes his new surroundings, and despite himself he finds beauty there. In the people, and even in the place itself; in it's desolate grace.
1. Spring blew right passed me and I settled in a swelter, numb for all that had happened and to make matters worse I hadn't seen Elmo all season.
2. Sometimes I resented how he "ruined" things for me...
3. ...but then I would come to and I could blame only myself.
1. I looked and looked for a new job and I eventually moved south to cut expenses.
2. My new neighbourhood was just a 7 or 8 block settlement standing like a colony in the ravages of a disappearing old city.
3. I lived on one of the thoroughfares dotted by familiar fast food and liquor stations.
4. These, I figured, were among the few things that kept everyone around here feeling OK.
1. I was in a small white house with a short picket fence!
2. I paid my landlady cash on the barrel- that was our language-- and moved my few possessions into a back room of this frame house.
1. She would appear in person on the first of the month to collect.
2. We sorted bills in and out of piles - smiling all the while I tried to pinpoint her nationality too-
3. I figured she was European- Spanish or Portuguese maybe- Basque even- or sometimes South American.
4. She was roundish; had soft loving eyes and was in an apron and a smile just about every time I saw her.
1. This neighbourhood was changing so fast and with people from so many different parts of the world that I had no trouble fitting in.
2. There was a back entrance so I didn't have to busy myself with her world at all.
3. An interior door opened into her home and was locked only from her side.
4. I never let that bother me.
5. When it became difficult to pay and I was late with the rent only her smile would let me know that I was still OK.
1. But then I sat on the step one day and I felt things begin to change again.
2. The freeway overhead spread out like the wing of giant bird.
3. I watched a fine mist of black soot settle in a kind of reversed snowfall.
4. I sensed things were undergoing an unsupervised return to the pure granulation of earth itself but I managed to see optimistically, a flowering a few years off of the original native prairie.
5. In that place I could somehow imagine a role for myself.
1. Was this such a stretch? I could see it the prairie growing up all around me- everywhere -even now.
2. The sidewalk at my corner had erupted.
3. It was in a kind of archaeological ruin with concrete slabs disintegrating at various rates and angles side by side
4. Weeds shot by default through every available crevice.
5. Mice darted in and out among the sprawling ground covering vines -
6. The curb towered 18 inches above the street--- which had been sinking slowly over the ages-
7. The concrete at my feet held thousands of bits of broken glass in the pits of its surface and I brushed some of this sparkling stuff into my hand
1. And adding a bit of the surrounding mix of pebbles, asphalt and cement....
2. It all gleamed in a surprising, way- catching the glow now from the amber street lights ... Rubble.
3. It was rubble that sparkled like diamonds... that really was, momentarily....
4. just like jewels.
IV. Elmo Society
Elliot meets up with his old friend Artie, who being wise to Elliot's state of mind gets him to come out to a show that's dedicated to some one he knows Elliot is intrigued by. Elmo the horn player. Through a series of three readings by some young spoken word artists we're introduced obliquely to the mythology of his family tree, the Ben Ishmael tribe. A long lost tri-racial nomadic tribe that once called the land south of Chicago all the way to Indianapolis their home. They were hunted to extinction buy the early eugenics movement and while their mark can still be found on the face of American culture, they are mostly forgotten in the vapor of history. They forwent ownership of land and believed that a man's worth was in his hands and skills, not in the money in his wallet. And being so at odds with the American dream of wealth and power they were wiped out. Elliot learns he isn't the only one who's noticed Elmo it seems. His are not the only dreams Elmo haunts.
1. Later that same night, my old friend Artie called. There was something going on at the club he thought I should see and hear for myself.
2. I met him at a nightclub on the near south side we both knew well-- the club was in a flat roofed one story building and was the only establishment of any kind on its block.
3. The grade dropped immediately from the rear of the place to the sloped contours of what was being excavated for yet another massive something or other.
4. Construction lights already hung across the perimeter of the area like holiday decorations adorning the presence of the earthmovers and construction shacks.
5. Roads cut deep into the soil-
6. only the soil, I thought, seemed more ancient than the old city.
1. I couldn't understand all the new buildings... who would work there?
2. After 20 years of automating everything it was a wonder anyone had a job or that any one was surprised to see people like me.
3. We sat next to a table of young people- men and women college aged- I guessed....
4. They were costumed- makeup- military garb. ....
5. Interesting- I supposed- but hadn't we been through all of this so long ago....
1. "Why did everything have to be constantly repeating itself?"
I wondered out loud.
2. "Just listen," Artie said, as a tall woman rose to speak...
3. She was young-
Her skin appeared luminous--
where you could see it....
but her makeup reminded me of the bride of Dracula.
4. She started --like speaking...
as if someone had asked...
5. "I met him once in a flood of light on a cold day," she began --
6. Right away, something about this was odd, put on...
It was measured and rehearsed ----
7. I felt my patience automatically shrink to a minuscule size....
1. She went on:
2. "We stood underneath the el.
He wore a topcoat that was calf length.
The light cast down in alternate black and yellow bands through the tracks above, cutting across his face in a sharp diagonals"
3. "His hair was still wet and combed back."
4. "He was too pale-- as if--- new to the light."
5. It was very cold and his breath streamed ahead in white clouds"
6. "The el strained along quickly above us and the lights blinked by in spotted codes across his brow."
1. "Except for a faint, muted green in the weave of his topcoat there was no color."
2. "We never spoke."
3. She sat down.
4. "So...what the hell is this?"-- I say to Artie.
5. He gestures to say Its not over...keep listening....
6. Now - a young man, round with a beard and wire rims- earnest and overly serious stood for his recitation which began:
7. "Born into an American Tri-racial fugitive society"
8. "all fugitives"
9. "from... insanity..."
10. I listened now - my patience increased.
11. "Natives to this land mass. ---the young man went on.... Africans, indentured & European. Escaped from reservations, from plantations from servitude"
12. "but none could escape ....amerika"
1. "Anarchists? They were wanderers... not pilgrims"
2. "expelled from Florida"
3. "pushed up through Kentucky and outta Tennessee"
4. "floating shacks in river bottoms, tents and thatched- roof longhouses were their homes"
5. "traveling by foot by wagon and then by car"
6. "Mecca , Morocco, Mahomet became their place names in Indiana and Illinois"
7. "persecuted and sterilized"
8. "they were trash in the south"
9. "savages in the west"
10. "and everywhere: lascivious and reviled by the so-called Christians"
11. "they disappeared into the lost-found wilderness"
12. "beyond the reach of propped up Amerikano."
1. Now this guy sat down.
2. By the time the third one rose.... gathering his notes, straightening up his fatigues... I knew they were talking about.
3. Elmo, the trumpet man.
4. The next recitation began:
5. "Drums did his walkie- talkie
Mother was black
Mother was French
Mother... a Seminole
Mother... from London
Mother could sing like Bird
And Mother could dance"
6. "Father was black,
Father was in Indiana...
7. "Storytellers, mythologists and magicians..."
8. "...Our third fourth fifth world tribal scientists"
blew in from North side to the South
He: to New York he: to Paris
He: from Tokyo to Zaire"
2. "He maybe: gone, man -- way gone....
but maybe not!
3. If there was anymore of this, I didn't need to hear it just now.
4. I felt like being alone and skipped out with a quick "later" to Artie.
V. Escape from History
With his newfound knowledge of Elmo, he seeks him out, believing that they have something to share. Or at least that Elmo has something to share with him. He finds him on the beach at Fullerton, playing into the wind. They get to talking, and he tells Elmo about the show the night before. Elmo warns him not to believe everything her hears... "Don't mess with dead culture clicks, Elliot. They have no use, for the living."
Elmo tells him about how he survives, playing in the city by day and commuting the suburbs by night. Sleeping under the stars under the trees in overgrown, oversized lots of the wealthy. He tells him that he thinks people who sleep in the city are trying to cling to something. They were locked out people, exiles, fighting to get back in. Elmo was no Exile.
1. I often took the bus or train downtown and sometimes I rode on a while, drawn to the familiar surroundings along the north side
2. especially along the lakefront there.
3. Considering what I had learned about Elmo that night - I believed we now had something in common.
4. We were both escaping from rather than making history.
1. I found him one morning blowing his horn into the wind along the beach at Fullerton.
2. The sidewalks there fan out into large pavilions that hang off the lakefront like bandstands above the water.
3. He told me he liked to play there that way- into the wind and especially after he'd just gotten up.
4. He pointed to the spot -under a good-sized tree, near the sparse cover of a short row of shrubs that followed a bike path along the arabesque of the lakefront.
5. There was his sleeping spot.
1. I mentioned the story about him I'd heard at the club.
2. He told me to believe what I said- not what I heard and then added- his hand now on my shoulder
3. "don't mess with dead culture clicks, Elliot, they have no use, for the living."
1. The most obvious things to tell you about Elmo--- would include that he had no known identity, no visible means of support.
2. No social security card or Drivers License.
3. And these were all tactical advantages in his game of survival that was waged with his adversaries - all the various kinds security personnel and police.
4. And they were all totally overmatched.
5. He was playing and a game worth winning that they were merely annoyed with.
6. In essence it was always victory by default- where he had motivation and they just amused themselves hassling him occasionally.
7. He was a successful entrepreneur.
8. Only the currency of his business wasn't really money. It was time, air and sun and earth and freedom.
9. "It is the nature of the musician to seek freedom."
- he told me.
1. Elmo preferred sleeping in nature.
2. In the woods- especially on clear moonlit summer and fall nights.
3. "There are plenty of places in town, " he'd tell me-
4. " walking distance from the loop where you could get a fine nights sleep under a big sky and no one would bother you."
5. It was all in how you considered it and he considered it all quite simple and rarely worth discussing.
6. "Some guys," he told me once, "preferred sleep under viaducts and bridges or on subways or buses."
7. He hated these places and felt that the place you chose to sleep said a lot about you and where you felt you really belonged.
8. Bridge sleepers were locked out people, exiles, fighting to get back in or stay close.
9. He never really felt that way, I gathered.
1. He made a few bucks playing on the streets.
2. His main expenses were food and transportation. I was surprised to learn how he often "commuted" to the suburbs.... where it was quieter.
3. He knew the lay of the land in a number of suburban settlements, where it was easy to slip away to the woods directly from bus and train stops, or he'd find a wild place in the forest preserves.
4. He especially loved to sleep on private properties on the beaches above Wilmette and in Lake Forest- where people owned the land but rarely left their houses.
5. It was all quite simple
6. Just a particular way of considering things and hardly worth discussing.
7. He always said this.
1. He saved money for seasonal migrations but he told me once that he preferred the Chicago area because he still had people here going back 7 generations.
2. Now that I was edging out here myself I had to admit that I would prefer park benches & subways.
3. I couldn't imagine relaxing under a tree.
VI. First Night Out
Exile. Falling farther and farther behind with his bills one night he finds himself avoiding a feared confutation, trying to fend off the inevitable. His landlord's son is waiting for him in his apartment, listening to his stereo and reading his magazines. He tries to wait him out, walking around the street for a while. Only to find him asleep in his bead latter. Elliot spends the night on the El, traveling in circles, watching the other night passengers, wondering about their stories. Eventually he comes home and finding it empty, goes in and locks the door, sleeping for days in a deep depression.
1. One night, my rent in arrears as usual, I came home late and noticed a light on in my room.
2. I peered through the window- eavesdropping on my own existence.
3. There in my room was the landlady's grown son
4. He had on my headphones and was listening to some music on my stereo.
5. This made me scratch my head.
1. I sat in the warm night air- under the whining ramps and traffic chutes before deciding to walk for a while.
2. During my walk, I calculated the value of the few things I had in the room and found not by surprise that they equaled what I owed my landlady in rent- more or less.
3. When I returned an hour later, I found the light was out but when I peered through the crack in the window above the sill.
4. I saw the man asleep in my bed and this sent me into a new world.
1. This night I spent without a place to sleep- was the first in my entire life. I wandered and stayed awake the whole night
2. I spent some change on bus fare and transferred to the northbound subway downtown riding for hours and hours contemplating not so much my options but the incredible circumstance of having none.
3. I carefully managed my progress on the one fare I paid so that I never left the two-way platforms thus allowing me to travel continuously.
4. By about 5 am I began to notice a few faces becoming familiar.
1. I'd seen a balding guy about my age two or three legs ago on a platform on the NW side
2. We were definitely out here together.
3. Another guy I took for a cop and decided to keep my eyes to myself and mind my own business.
1. By about 9 am I had a desperate feeling returning to my apartment. I peeked inside the window to my room and saw that my bed was empty-.
2. I stayed in that bed for the next 24 hours, dreaming in the kind of vivid qualities that shallow, needless sleep can sometimes produce.
1. Finally I got up deciding that it was time to give the world another try.
- I had to find a way to pay the rent and what really bothered me was the big trouble I was having coming up with so little.
VII. The final attempt
Facing the facts he tries once more to climb out of this whole, to get a job so he can buy his freedom. But on his way downtown he comes across Elmo, who's observing the workers mad race too and fro. He stops to talk with the wandering musician, looking for some insight into the path he suspects he is no on. "Don't worry, Man, it takes a while to make it here - No different than anyplace else. You'll get it. Everybody makes it to the street in stages". "How did you end up out here, Elmo?" "Rage and circles, Elliot. And the repeats, man- so unnatural and wrong." Elmo asks him about his dreams, suggesting that he should listen to them, that they will tell him want to do.
1. I dressed the next morning intent upon finding something permanent once again.
2. I couldn't afford everything I needed to look professional but I gave it my best and producing a facsimile of myself that was bearded but clean and dignified. I was still one of them and determined to prove it.
3. I rode the bus into the loop intending to drop off my resumes in a couple of inboxes I had noticed advertised in the paper...
1. ...but when I saw Elmo sitting by himself in the plaza I got off the bus early and went to see him.
2. There were the thousands of workers rushing about in the usual manner at their wind up pace.
3. Elmo looked kind of glum.
4. I could not remember him in such a mood.
5. It was so unusual to see him without his horn.
6. He brought his arm down across the scene in a gesture that could only have meant disgust or scorn...but he let no words pass his lips.
1. "Ah," I said,
2. "Condemnation, derision--"
3. this had become my specialty....
4. "If only they could be programmed to do and think like one another completely then they wouldn't have to come and go, just change task depending upon where they happened to be...."
5. I started like this... and then...referring to another new skyscraper
6. "Now that they've got the new one built all they need is to install the people- I heard they've already been ordered"
7. and then:
8. "Do you know what they want Elmo? Nothing. I figured it out- nothing!
9. Nothing but padding, comfort, leather, remote controls and touch screens- they've mistaken being pampered for being civilized.
10. Culture is just another menu item...
11. ...its something you can have now with established credit."
1. "Elliot! Cool it, man."- Elmo raised his voice:
2. "don't become bitter, - use the spirit- let the game come to you. You're here because you're here and they are where they are."
3. "Because they have been duped" I suggested.
4. "It's your fortune or misfortune: however you see it- so be it. You had your chance with the ruling class, man and you split. Am I right?
5. It was a point I couldn't contest.
6. Don't worry, Man, it takes a while to make it here. - No different than anyplace else. You'll get it. Everybody makes it to the street in stages.
1. "How did you end up out here, Elmo?" I asked him.
2. "Rage and circles, Elliot. And the repeats, man- so unnatural and wrong."
3. His explanation stalled.
4. He looked at me- thinking, I guessed, that I wasn't quite ready- after my ugly diatribe against all living things to hear anything quite so personal or real to him.
5. "You just decided to try it, huh?"
6. "No one does that Elliot. Everyone is left here. Every one of us."
7. "Well, what, then, what happened?"
8. I set my folder of resumes down and barely flinched as the wind pried at its edge and quickly wrestled a few pages up into the air.
1. Elmo looked at me and - as if to make sure I was there and staying put- and then he stared off into bustling plaza.
2. I got the feeling that he was getting around to it- to telling me.
3. I walked about a bit kicking at the debris and leaves here and there.
4. When I turned back to him, I saw the street reflected in the both eyes of his sunglasses.
5. They glowed like two little TV sets processing this artifice of reality we found our selves in.
1. But instead of a story, I got a question.
2. "Have you started to dream? Elliot? Dream about all this stuff"
3. "All the things of the world?"
4. "Have they begun to haunt you?"
5. "Because then, maybe you'll pick up a horn too. Or maybe you'll just stand on the corner and preach and scream like so many cats do- whatever language you know..."
6. I was a bit startled by this revelation of his some true and human nature but I wondered whether this was meant as a challenge to me-
7. a statement of some threshold criteria I had to meet to just be here and belong-
1. Was I joining a society of losers and losing now even among them?
2. I saw Elmo standing there and the way he looked over at me -
3. I remembered that here was no loser.
4. There was more in one cock-eyed look from him that I would find in a month of meetings with the receptionists, HR people and anyone else I may have been deemed fit enough to appear before in the establishment and I knew it.
VIII. Elliot's Dream
Sitting on the street, Elliot tells Elmo about his latest recurring dream. Of being back at the office, promoted and then relocated to Texas. He buys a car, and a 10 gallon hat. One day he's asked to represent the firm at a conference in Montreal, him of all people! And why not!? He's earned it. But on the privet jet he fall asleep, only to wake to alarms and chaos as the plane fee falls with a flock of birds. Then he finds himself stranded on a strange misty shore, alone, and strangely at peace. Then he finds that his right back where he started, here, in Chicago. Where he was all along.
1. "Yeah they have- the dreams have started", I said
2. He sat down and looked at me, waiting.
3. ‘Alright, ‘ I said and I began.
1. It was like this: One day- early on, just after I had returned to work, the boss called me.
2. Would I consider a position as manager in a new department?
3. Were they kidding?
5. I asked them to check the name
and then the number on the employee paper work.
6. Let's start, I thought, before you figure out what the hell you're doing.
1. I was humbled and appreciative and I did a good job.
2. But to me, it was just about the data.
3. Of course I was able to see that the data was about something...sales, ...uh... money... But it was just DATA to me-
4. It never really rose to the level of, say, information...
5. but I did not complain and THEY did not complain.
6. I mean they paid so and me so well...
I made money so fast than I couldn't spend it.
1. I was so used to living at my mothers house
that I had lost any real use for money-
2. And with the kind I was making now, I felt compelled to change my lifestyle just in order to spend it.
3. But really, I deposited my checks only after I began to wonder how long they might be good for - piling up, as they happened to be on my dresser or nightstand.
1. I managed the data- the data managed me...
I modeled the data - the data modeled me.
2. I normalized the data - the data normalized me.
3. I programmed the data - the data programmed me.
4. I secured the data and the data secured me.
5. I saved the data and the data saved me....
I converted the data...
6. And they relocated me to Texas.
1. I pledged that: I would force myself into a way of life compatible with my newfound importance as a Data Manager 1.
2. I would spend that money. I promised.
3. And I figured this was alright-
4. I deserved to be treated this way.
5. After all - it was me doing the job,
not that guy or that other guy...
It was me.
1. Things changed in the usual, expected ways.
2. I shopped at places called "outfitters" I bought stuff referred to as gear, and a ten gallon hat...
3. I hated Texas, but loved my hat-
4. Then one bright Texas morning I received a memo containing an itinerary to the "For Data's Sake" conference in Montreal. Here I was being sent to a convention.
6. I pictured my self in a fancy 300 a night closet in the sky spending vast amounts of someone else's money. Clothes, more gear, hotel movie rentals, meals brought by kind waiters....
7. So I happily boarded the corporate jet with my palm pilot, my laptop and my pagers and cell phones.
8. How could this have really ever happened to me I wanted to know-
9. But it did, it really did....
1. It was to be my first private jet flight.
2. The interior was compact- three seats and a luggage area behind the single pilot's cockpit. The upholstery- a gray- mauvey tight nap gave way to dark crème leather on the seats and side panels.
3. There was a video player and among the controls; a headphone set and a personal set of climate controls.
4. The windows were a little bigger than what you get on the big jets and the comfort was much greater. I could think. I finally could think!
5. It was to be just me and the captain- I was that important...
6. We nodded and did a mock toast of our canned sodas.
7. The pitch of the engines made it difficult to speak.
8. We'd be flying NE for about 4 hrs I was told and that was the last thing I remember.
9. I quickly fell into a deep sleep.
10. I woke to a surreal scene....
1. The plane was freezing cold- the windows had frosted over.
2. Alarms sounded and dull yellow lights flashed of and on miserably in the cockpit. The captain seemed to have disappeared altogether.
1. The plane was floating, spinning slowly—effortlessly, even rising now in the ether.
2. I scratched feverously at the pane. The sky was barely lit. A squadron of gulls circulated easily about the spinning jet in slow motion circles in the night sky. Something was very wrong.
3. For the first time in my life I seriously believed that I was dying.
4. I shook my head. This is so unlike me, I thought.
1. Next- I found myself standing in about three feet of water. I never considered myself a religious man but I felt saved now...
2. I might have been blown to bits but here I was alive.... and let me tell you- It felt damn good-
3. I could see only a few feet in any direction.
4. I was shrouded in a mist-I felt warm- warm and safe.
5. I watched the sandy beach curving gently down to a brief embankment and then fall gracefully to the edge of the surf –
6. Now full of force splintered into cymbal crashes left and right while a steady drone prevailed beneath.
7. The scene seemed as though it were lit from the inside out. The beauty was truly indescribable.
1. What wonderful place is this I thought?
2. I truly had been saved. The thought occurred to me that I had died.
3. If I was still alive- then I'd made a remarkable discovery: there was heaven right here on earth- but who could I tell?
4. And then: Who'd believe me?
5. I thought how dangerous a journey I would have- although it was unlikely that the geography I would encounter could be so unfamiliar-
6. still I realized that my job, my career was done for- and who would really care- certainly not me!
7. I would take this new circumstance in a second! But how would I live? What would I eat? Those were the questions.
8. As I reached the shore I still could see but a few feet of my new world no matter which direction I turned-
9. and I curled into a ball on the cool sand and fell asleep.
1. As I woke the sky about me was pitch black
2. I could barely see my own hand in front of my face- not a single light prevailed in any direction.
3. The beach was beneath me - except for that I might have been swallowed up by the void,
4. as only the crushing of surf could be heard and this was such a constant din so as to disappear from any
5. expectation of change or real experience.
6. I sat in my spot, my arms wrapped about my legs wondering whether this place had the sun I was used to seeing and the moon and stars were in my mind too but only there.
7. I was in a deep black pocket being rocked gently by the neighbouring sea and I could only wait.
1. Finally the light began to bleed slowly through the night
2. I watched the world appear and grow familiar again- when enough light had fallen to the beach I stood and faced the new continent I had arrived upon-
3. So great was the mystery of my location that I automatically ascribed to it all the primitive nature and density that it need not necessarily have deserved-
4. and So it turned out.
1. The first clue arrived just beyond the greenery I noticed the evening before-
2. It came as a darting light sharply panning across the short horizon from the left and quickly then to the right.
3. Soon I realized these lights were arriving and departing in pairs.
4. Headlights we call them- I remembered now.
5. OK...Still I was saved- but where was I?
6. Had I really expected to be emerging from some primordial sea as the first new man?
7. Then things appeared, familiar things- specifically familiar ones in fact.
1. I was home, standing on the beach along the south Shore drive.
2. The early foggy surf and dew prevailed but not for long.
3. I had arrived where I started. And just blocks from the hospital where I was born 50 years ago...
4. I started to walk back into the city and the buildings looked long faced, sad and droopy-pocked by age and grime they returned little of the light cast upon them- the Illinois Central rails caught the early rays of light across the horizontal plane and lit up the isle
1. I followed into the city.
2. Traffic raced by on my right, the IC stormed past on my left.
3. As I arrived downtown, I caught a glimpse of myself in the plate glass facade of my office building. I looked as you would expect.
4. Wrecked and cast away. And then I woke up.
IX. Locked Out
Eventually, the door is locked. No landlord in his room waiting for him; It's empty, his stuff is gone, a new coat of paint dries on the wall. He spends his first day on the street in a sedate state of surreal philosophical panic. That night he sleeps on the trains, and dreams of dancing with death, skipping lightly over his scythe.
1. One night, I came home and found that the key wouldn't turn the lock.
2. I tried and tried while coming to grips with the terrible meaning of this situation.
3. Finally I looked in the window and found that the room was being painted- there was no sign of my stuff and I suddenly regretted not being having been able to get ‘hold of a few things- some clothes, my toothbrush in some contingency plan.
4. But, indeed, this was not a path anyone planned for.
1. So, I sat all day in the sun. The warmth suddenly meant everything to me.
2. I absorbed the heat in an almost greedy manner and tried the simple contentment of warmth itself.
3. By late afternoon the sun was fading appearing now and then - over bright bathing a few tall buildings it spotted along its way in the west.
4. While these towers etched their heroic themes across the elevated plain the dark and untidy addresses of the old six and eight stories that lined the streets heading west remained dark - and a cool wind came prowling close among them low to the ground and I sank a little lower against the wall and into a tighter bundle searching for my last train of thought
1. The sun kept shedding its glory in the course of existing the blanching sky.
2. I felt the cold- it got under my shirttail and made me worry about the week - the months to come. There had to be someway outta here.
3. That night I returned to the subway and this time, I did fall asleep-
4. on a southbound red line
5. and luckily I woke up in time to switch trains back downtown.
1. Still, when I got to the long downtown platform- one that goes on and on for a couple of blocks under state street, I got off and walked the long and mostly deserted platforms-
2. switching from the upper N-S
3. to the lower E-W lines to appear...
4. like anything other than what I really had become.
1. With sleep creeping on me now I made gradual concessions.
2. First, I sat after walking for so long.
3. Looking back now, I realized that I had confused sleep with death. I was healthy just unemployed.
4. Not a likely candidate for the grim reaper just yet.
5. When I finally did fall asleep I dreamed that I danced with him-
skipping over his scythe like jumping rope and after that I never dreamed about death again that way.
X. Waking Up
Elliot wakes to the sound of Elmo's horn. A few days latter they meet, as peers now, both living in the same shallows around the edge of the tide pool of the city. Elmo talks with Elliot about his family, how they survived, how he survives. He tells them about their migration, and as if to make his point, takes Elliot on a migration across the south side to a forgotten field of wild grass. There he tells Elliot a story of the land under the city, of the way it once was. Then Elmo starts to tell him about a reoccurring dream he's had. A dark one, Of ostracization and exile. Of pain, and of loss.
1. Elmo's horn woke me up-
2. at first I was sure it was a dream; in fact the dreaminess of the horn cast my circumstance into question.
3. Could ALL of this be just have been a long dream?
4. But in fact- Elmo's horn lit up my head with the lights and colours it always did.
5. My question was now only- where was he?
6. And did he know I was there?
7. I made it my business to find him but had trouble tracking the source of the sound.
8. The comings and goings of the trains was increasing and the trickle of early risers was turning already to its daily tide.
1. A few days later, when I did see him things were different between us- there was no - last of the angry white guy thing in the way he approached me.
2. In fact he surprised me once right after that - by all of a sudden volunteering information about his background, his life and his way of thinking that I was always pestering him for.
3. "My people, Elliot-
4. my people were... were wanderers.
1. They walked in a annual migration that came right through here and they worked for these folks doing odd jobs, contracting but never taking wages-
2. it was their simple belief that no man could own the land and thus they considered the people you see around here all the time to be squatters-
3. illegally occupying and willing to violently enforce ownership of this territory---all under made up and false pretences-
4. but you already know this - so- what's the point.
5. Now you all know it but that knowledge seems to make no difference."
6. Do you see all these people that way, Elmo?
7. "Yeah, I do... I guess I really do."
1. "Elliot, you get here in stages."
2. No one learns the street overnight.
3. There are many steps and many dreams along the way-
4. "Let's walk" -I'll tell you about dream that helped me out of a trap I was in.
5. We walked west and then south and then for a long time, west again and -we walked with purpose.
6. We were headed someplace. The landscape was increasing desolate.
7. We were following the frontage roads of the west freeway
and were soon covering ground I had never walked.
8. There was no talk just walk.
1. We followed the path of the elevated roadbeds, past stanchions and grates-
2. through holes cut in fences, both old and new.
3. At times beams of an orange light filtered down from 75 foot light supports reflected in rich rainbow'd puddles of oil and water in the path along the way.
1. Machine shops, salvage yards, repair shops,
junkyards faded in the distance behind us.
2. Pegasus flew over a Mobile station half a' mile to the right-
3. and 16 wheelers roared overhead trailing thunderous clouds of noise into the empty spaces all around.
1. Finally, as we passed under the elevated on a dirt footpath
cutting through thick brush,
2. my eyes confronted, in the middle of the city, a vast expanse of open prairie,
3. a swath cut 800 or 900 yards wide spread out in front of us.
4. The city virtually vanished here-- spilling into a vast emptiness to the west.
1. The grass in these fields was between two and four feet high and there were trails cut in various directions.
2. As we took we these trails I was no longer in Chicago.
3. I suddenly felt I was back among Elmo's band of wanderers in the 19th century.
4. The green grass wavered in deep slow bows to the wind.
5. We soon stopped at a place where some rocks had been gathered in a circle that suggested rest and talk.
6. I didn't know where I was.
1. Elmo lit a pipe and relaxed.
2. Panic began to flood my veins...In the far distance, the flecks of a million little yellow apartment lights flickered in the heat rising up off the floor of the city.
3. They looked to me like campfires lit for the returning night and the wind. I was starting to get cold and we were so far from ---anywhere.
4. He fixed me in a short stare and my attention narrowed...
5. Elmo gestured toward the plain.
1. See, Elliot, this is the scene ...the set of 200 years of Chicago slowly disintegrating under foot- turning grayer and losing strength with each passing moment, losing color by imperceptible degrees.
2. With years kept sloshing by emptying buckets of rubble
and dust into the sloppy chaos of matter itself.
3. Now as the Prairie struggles up all around you-
as it crawls forward inch by inch....
4. The city has a history you can still smell -
5. a history that can still hurt you.
1. Elmo filled a pipe and smoked for a while.
2. I didn't know if this was the end of something or the beginning.
3. I looked around me and saw nothing but this tall prairie grass in all directions.
4. I wondered about his dream
XI. Elmo's Dream
Elmo continues to tell him about a reoccurring dream he's had. In the field they are joined by some wandering musicians in an amphitheatre created by braids of freeway passages above, slab wall embankments and a 30-foot chain link perimeter that comprised the sides. Around their fire and play to the stars. And Elmo continues to tell Elliot about his dream. A nightmarish race from a frantic fight with a bag lady on the El. Captured on the nightly news he escapees to a local bar, only to be hounded by the instant replay of his treachery. Finally each time he's taken by the police back to the start to do it over again, until he gets it right.
Elmo on the El at night, somewhere under the loop.
1. I was on the subway dreaming
2. ...I dozed --overtaken by the lull and sway of the train's rhythm.
1. Music came to me.
2. A woman and asked me where I was going.
3. I slept -but it wasn't for long
4. And I believe I woke up exactly where I sat down.
5. To say that I "passed out" would be an overstatement...
6. ...As I awoke in time to exit as always...
Back in the field, Elmo contemplates the space in front of him.
7. There was a long pause. The wind had picked up.
1. I watched Elmo for cues about our strategy for the night and how were we going stay warm-
2. but there was a just peacefulness drifting down upon Elmo in that place...
3. After a few minutes we crossed the prairie
4. and stationed ourselves in what resembled a strange amphitheatre created by braids of freeway passages above, slab wall embankments and a 30-foot chain link perimeter that comprised the sides.
1. Beyond the southern edge of this location was the long and surprising field of grass stretching for hundreds of acres from left to right-
2. my eye kept being drawn back to that scene.
3. It was blanketed in a light from the freeway above that turned the grass into a silvery crop waving with the slightest hint of green-
4. perhaps a psychological remnant of colour my mind insisted upon placing there.
5. I was haunted by the appearance of the ancient frame of the West Side El that we had earlier passed beneath.
6. There the El traversed the prairie needlessly ascending the grasses-over what had been the neighbourhood below.
7. The city now exuded impermanence.
1. Now I saw figures reflecting the moonlight wading toward us through the tall grasses and I realized that people must live in this prairie or near it.
2. The arrival of the newcomers hastened my desire to get going.
3. This was the dream, Elmo?
4. The dream you were going to tell me?
5. No. That started the dream, and it continued on for many nights.
6. Every night the same. It was like this:
1. I left the station at Chicago and state and crawled up the subway stairs- like stairs of an ancient ruin.
2. I was too weak to pull up out of there any other way.
3. Nobody noticed me.
4. I musta looked like so many bums.
5. With a grunt I threw myself around so that I could sit on the top step.
1. My head was up in the air with the flying rubbish and grit---
2. My hands were pretty rough- why?
3. From here I peered back down the stairwell- and planned my next move.
4. I noticed how blood was caked on my lip and chin-
5. I tried wiping it with my sleeve but it was dry.
6. I was like a snake now venturing out of his hole for a good look-see.
7. A couple of stitches here and there would do me good - but I needed time more than stitches.
8. And some place to piece this all together.
1. The lights were bright- too bright-
2. The street was incredibly lit up and crawling with wild activity: people, cars screaming and music everywhere like Mardi gras or New Years Eve.
3. I hit the first tavern, a little basement joint and climbed a seat at the bar-
1. I don't even remember the name of the place--
2. Down a flight of stairs- beer signs in the window- nothing upscale just an ugly yellow painted door propped open- no fanfare
3. a dark wooden bar with too many coats of something on it,
4. low light, a TV flickering in over-red blurs above the 100 best sellers, all half gone-
5. a fat & unfriendly bartender, the tooth pick, the "you look like hell -----what'll ya have approach-"
6. I order the one shot I'd be having and began sitting through a round of the sideways stares you always get in a dim and quiet joint full of regular rummies...
7. In a few minutes I must have disappeared into the wallpaper.... They all stared into their drinks and I stared into mine.
1. But, then,
2. my eyes met the TV just a couple feet above the bartender's head at the end of the bar, where...who da'ya think the news is ...
3. it's ME on the TV ---one of those real life cops and robbers routines -
1. its me- I'm the guy...
2. I'm back there on the el train between the two cars only this time
3. I'm there with the muse and she has me in a choke hold and she's trying to push me back over the flimsy chain that's there as a kind of barrier.
4. At this point all of this is somehow being covered live by some goddamn TV news crew-
5. I get my right free and paste her not so much with a punch- but more of a push -just enough to get her hands off me and she struggles for her
6. balance falling backwards;
7. a crowd has formed now and they are cheering for more:
1. I'm diving to the foot of the door of the front car and from my right side
2. I watch her slip quietly off the edge of the riveted steel platform-kinda in slow motion
3. I see her losing her grip and she slips suddenly-disappearing away straight back up into the darkness.
4. Now, there is no crowd, I'm alone- I don't know why.
1. The camera follows me into the next car and I sit down.
2. I wait but the car won't move.
3. So I leave and disappear out of sight.
4. I struggle to get up the two flights of stairs to the street above...
1. The lights were bright-
2. too bright-
3. the street was lit up like a carnival and crawling with wild activity people, cars screaming and music everywhere like New Years Eve or something-
4. Wait a minute---
5. I look around the tavern—
6. don't you get it I say-- it's all starting over! -
7. I'm in circles- I yell to them ...I must have been looped, I thought--...
1. The street was level from my ancient view.
2. The splashing wheels at eyes height, a bright yellow and wettened hue.
3. I saw the street the way the sleepers must- full of grit and mud... oil and dust.
1. Next in the yellow light I sit- cops ask how remember it? It's clear, but hard to say somehow.
2. I left her cursing from the car behind with the lock click cadence of doors jacked open into a screaming lost and angry mind.
3. Then hard fast footsteps over and through that shaking tin I'm fighting fast the closing the interval within.
4. Then settling back, closing in the muffled, drumming blur And THAT was the last I ever saw of her.
5. At last alone in the final car I pivot-ready back to see:
1. But no- no sign- just empty body-blanks staring well past me deep in memory sinks a pale green and yellow hull.
2. It was at Grand and State. I remember it all
3. And I dig in alone- hunched over, some kind of cover blown.
4. From the stiff and frozen silence, stoned, cool and smiling cats from Newport and Kent in murals damp and plastered these friends are mine now,
5. see I'm lost in the underworld.
1. And I sit there waiting for it all - so familiar, to begin-and I sit
2. But it won't start up again.
3. And the train won't leave.
4. And the train won't go
I try for a while to wait it out and sit but my blood won't cool and I have to quit
5. And the second I got off, it split.
6. The second I get off, it splits.
7. A bar was near- for those from here
8. A silent and lacking crowd who wouldn't share a laugh out loud-
1. But stared in silence where I sat and watched my fumbling time I tried my best- but they still offered just their staring test...Then:
2. Then the cops come back with music ----in tow
3. They're all the time shaking their heads and yelling no, no.
4. It's not you man, go try, back to the subway-back to the car and sit ---
5. go back and sit till you get it.
Elmo and the other musicians start playing in the windy amphitheatre on fanciful home made flutes made from pipes, played with lungs full of their own wind. He laves them that night and doesn't see Elmo again for a while. His new way of life is strangely healthy for him, he gets lean and strong feeling, having no money for junk food or cigarettes. But still he's not happy. He feels directionless, pointless. November, the snow starts blowing and he runs into Elmo on his way out of town, south for the winter. Elmo can tell his friend has not yet found his way, and reminds him of His dream - telling him it helped Him out of his own funk that day - the dream of finding a bit of heaven in the midst of the city.
1. Elmo and the men who had arrived had started playing together.
2. They had arrived with large flutes made of pipes and tubes and they took huge, deep breaths-
3. Blowing the wind back across the prairie.
1. I left them sitting there playing into the wind
1. After that night, I didn't see Elmo, not for a long time—
2. until the first snow began to fly and the air had picked up more and more speed off the lake.
3. It was in this interval that my fear gave way.
4. I learned tricks and avoided trouble.
5. I became a healthy man again for the first time since I started work 20 years ago.
1. The paunch disappeared- I couldn't afford junk food or cigarettes and I was moving all the time.
2. Still the winter loomed ahead and I couldn't shake the feeling that nothing else awaited me- no event of note, no change of status was around any of these corners I knew so well.
1. I finally ran into Elmo in early November and of course, I was very pleased to see him but I could tell that he was concerned about me.
2. It was probably my clothes, my unshaven appearance and so on.
3. He asked me what was going on and I told him I didn't have much to say.
1. We walked for a while...He smiled-
2. "Elliot, you look good. You've got some color in your face and I like how your hair is blowing around you look more relaxed, wise...!
3. And when that didn't cheer me up he got that serious look I'd see from time to time.
4. When he stopped I walked ahead he grabbed my arm to stop me.
5. "Elliot- how can you have forgotten your dream?"
6. "What dream?"
1. The dream....
2. The one you told me! ...See you have forgotten.
3. Oh that one---- how I want to forget!
4. No- man- I mean, how could you have forgotten the one thing there that blew my mind- that really changed me?
5. What!? I said, I changed you?
6. Yeah you did!
7. You helped me OK, I lost it and you found it!
8. Elliot I was so down, man and you showed me the way, man, you and your dream—
9. you woke my up and straightened me out.
10. And he quoted me word for word: there was heaven right here on earth- but who could I tell?
11. And then: Who'd believe me?
1. I remembered now
2. Well you said it and I believed it and you know what?
3. Its true man- you're right, man- and I see it all the time- wherever I go.
4. Elmo told me how was heading out of town again- the cold was blowing in and his plan was to be gone before it got here.
1. I thought it was here and that worried me for a second. But I was seized with a task that I now had to complete.
2. It was risky business but the thought of it kind of lit me up.
3. Elmo smiled again and gave me another big hug.
4. He sauntered back to the plaza and I watched him disappear...
5. ...and then I headed back to the beach.
Elliot takes off in search of the beach in his dream, his bit of heaven here in the city. "I'm standing here now...there are Ten million people within walking distance and now as I look around me...I'm the only one here."
1. If Elmo was right,
2. If I had been right, if there was "heaven on earth", I at least should be able to see something- ya' know?
3. to see what I thought was there what I dreamed of- if I went back---- it had to have come from somewhere. right?
4. I knew that if there was just a grimy polluted swamp scene with oil barrels bobbing in the water then- well, I was sunk--- but I had to find out.
1. There is a spot-
2. maybe many of them- where as you come off the hard wet sand packed at the edge of the lake and head up and climb through the loose beach toward the city-
3. that- just for a moment...
4. and it may have to be the exact right time...
1. I mean, the early fog will have to hang in the air and knockdown the skyline from you view-
2. the short sight line will be stopped by rows of six foot high bushes at the edge of the outer drive-
3. their diffuse green will bleed into the sliver haze and catch the first bolts of sunlight-
4. the effect will be startling.
1. The city- only yards inland will have disappeared altogether!
2. This won't last- you know that- but if you have any imagination at all you will pretend...
3. The wind moving off the lake doesn't rise- traveling low to the ground. And it helps that the light is low.
4. The waves will break at a pace that masks the percussive din of traffic stretching left to right But there it is.
1. The city has disappeared and with it the funk and grime;
2. the loneliness; all magically transformed in a mist so ancient it became like most of the city's innate and natural beauty--passé.
1. I'm standing here now...
2. there are Ten million people within walking distance
3. and now as I look around me ...
4. ...I'm the only one here.