The Dreaming City.

the dream cityImage shared on flickr via CC by moriza

Simon Ralph Goff and I are working on an extra little addendum to the Umbrella Project at the moment; a 6-track EP, with 3 shorter versions of the instrumental music behind each soundwalk, and 3 re-workings of the stories I found in the city for a shorter form performed over that music – about 4-6 minutes max. I sat down to work on that tonight, and this came out. I’m not sure if it’s quite right for any of the specific walks (commute, nighttime, daytime). But it is sort of about all of them. Perhaps we’ll make it a 7th track? Maybe this will just rest here. Largely unedited, fresh draft stuff, but I wanted it to have a life beyond my harddrive because there’s some ideas I like here, so here it is.


The city is a dream. A dream that lingers long after sleep has passed.

The kind of dream that hangs on the edges of our visions, reminds us of loves we have lost, people who have slipped past our fingers, that makes the places we walk through seem like the childhood homes we revisit in the night; that we turn a corner in and somehow certain things just aren’t right.

The city is a dream. It is the happenings of a thousand people’s days – arguments, small glimmers of kindness, tired stumblings, forgotten tasks, lists lost, and cracks in the pavement skipped – shaken up together, working their way out. The city is not a thing, it is a state of being – empty cities are ghost towns; they die. All that’s left are the dusty walkways where you struggle to recollect what has gone before.

The city is dreaming, it dreams you as you dream it. The city caresses you as you move through it, it lifts you and reaches into you in the way of an ex-lover visiting in the night. Insidious. Something you cannot extract yourself from. You are in the city and the city is in you. When you leave you relish the escape, but quietly know you’ll feel the pull to return to the neon visions of the night before long.

The morning commute is where you see this state. Also, motorway service stations. Those places between the dream, and awake.

And the city slips like dreams do too, one moment a rushing street, another a palace to consumption, the next an empty place designed only for passing through, then those nooks and crannies where old refrigerators, crisp packets and fallen bricks build up. Tombs to broken buildings mount next to the back walls of places that throng with coffee and china and steam and laughter.

The city sees you. It sees you and forgets you and feels your footfalls. The city remembers that it has missed you. Can’t imagine how it forgot. You touch its walls and stoop to pick up a glove that someone has lost.

You look at the glove. Small, but adult, probably a woman’s. You see the ghost of her running for a bus and dragging her purse from her bag, the glove falling to the ground unnoticed.

You hold it for a little longer than you expect. Then place it on the wall next to the pavement.

You look at the glove. Small, a child’s perhaps, you see the ghost of a harassed parent, barely maintaining consciousness through a haze of caffeine. The child throws it off and the pushchair runs over it. You briefly feel the milky texture of an infant’s skin. You gently place the glove on a nearby post box, then move on.

You look at the glove. And suddenly tears are falling from your face. Tears for the place you were 2 hours ago. Tears for all you have been holding back, all you continue to have to. All of the learning to un love someone. All of the extricating yourself from something with which you fit so well. You hold the glove tighter. Then fold it into your pocket.

For months later, when you feel like you’re falling, you reach into your pocket and grasp the slightly coarse fabric of that grey lost glove. That gift from someone who didn’t know they would give it.

You are never lost. Your hands are held by ghosts. The city sees you, in its dreams. Greets you like a friend both long and never forgotten. Still there when you wake up.


Lost gloves #48 another viewimage shared by Jeff Youngstrom on Flickr via a CC license.

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