Articles

PHOOEY ON FREUD!

He slugs Scotch with Stalin, chats with kings. Once they cut his head off. His dreams keep getting better all the time

PIERRE BERTON May 1 1949
Articles

PHOOEY ON FREUD!

He slugs Scotch with Stalin, chats with kings. Once they cut his head off. His dreams keep getting better all the time

PIERRE BERTON May 1 1949

PHOOEY ON FREUD!

PIERRE BERTON

SURE I’m relaxed, Dr. Weischbaum. Very comfy. I like the dark. Now let’s get, started about these dreams of mine.

There was the time I took Joe Stalin on a cross-Canada lecture tour and he got tight on Scotch. Then I keep on running across King George. Oh, yes, and a stuffy old profeasor keeps tagging along . . .

What’s that, doc? Start from the beginning? Okay, you’re calling the plays. But first of all there’s something I want to make clear to you. These dreams of mine are perfectly normal affairslogical, well-developed, genuine incidents from real life.

Now you take these Hollywood movies about dreams where the main actor—let’s call him Gregory Peck— has dreams which are psychoanalyzed by this lady doctor, whom I shall call Ingrid Bergman. Now this Peck’s dreams are obvious phonies, invented by Salvador Dali, whom I personally believe has never had a genuine dream in his life. Whoever saw a flat plateau with lines coming to a point in a reallife dream? Whoever saw beaverboard cliffs?

I want to say here and now that you meet a better class of people in your dreams, as Fats Waller so aptly put it, and these people would laugh a beaverboard cliff right out of any one of half a do7,en productions in which 1 have had a leading part recently. Cliffs in my dreams look just like ordinary cliffs and, believe me, when you fall off one you land just as hard.

Now there is another misconception I would like to clear up right away. There has been a lot of loose talk lately about people in dreams who fail off cliffs never landing at the bottom but always waking up halfway through, because if they land at the bottom they will never wake up, meaning they will die. Well, I have fallen off my share of cliffs between the hours of 2 a.m. and 6 and down a few wells, too, and off a couple of 50-story skyscrapers, and 1 have always landed up at the bottom except once, when 1 woke up briefly, drank a glass of water, went back to sleep and fell the rest of the way.

So you see, Dr. Weisehbaum, my dreams are quite realistic. In fact, I might add that I belong to the harshrealism school of dreamurs, indulging in a fantasy only on the odd Saturday night, when 1 usually allow myself a double feature anyway. Asa matter of fact, if a dream isn't good and realistic, the whole thing seems pretty silly.

The other night, during the course of a dream, I tested myself and 1 am gratified to say that the test was highly successful. In the middle of t he dream I became somewhat suspicious, feeling that the whole thing mightn’t be real at all, but just a dream. This was a matter of some importance to me at the time, as I had just taken refuge in the hold of a ship and the lynch mob was at that very moment trying to obtain permission from the first mate to come aboard.

“Perhaps the whole thing is just a bad dream,” 1 told myself. To find out I went up to the canteen and bought an Oh Henry bar, knowing that if I

couldn’t taste the Oh Henry bar it would be just a dream. Well, as a matter of fact, the Oh Henry bar was delicious.

The first mate allowed the leader of the lynch mob on board, but not the others because they would dirty up the decks. I pushed the leader over the side and an hour later I woke up. That's what I mean about realism.

1 don’t suppose there’s been a night in my life since the age of five when 1 haven’t had at least one full-length dream and an assortment of short subjects. On a good many occasions these dreams have been continued over to the next night. In one of these serials I was forced to hide in a swamp from the sheriff and his dogs, up to my neck in algae and entirely surrounded by bulrushes. I spent three days in

this swamp. Every morning I would wake up and go about my work and live a normal life, and every night I would go to bed, fall asleep, and go back to that blasted swamp. This was one of the dullest dreams I ever had, and since then I have tried to discourage serials.

It is a myth to insist, as some people do, that you cannot dream in Technicolor. I have had some fine Technicolor dreams, mostly short subjects. The first dream I ever had, at the age of five, was a very simple production in which a brilliantly scarlet devil sat at the edge of my bed and waggled a finger at me. At the age of seven I dreamed of Manitoba, which I had never seen, in green. Actually Manitoba is brown, except on some maps, but it was a beautiful dream.

Lately my dreams have been a riot of color, culminating in a lavish waterballet dream in which the girls wore costumes of red and gold, and blue and green neon lights flashed in the background. If I had known the steps of the water ballet it would have been less

embarrassing, but it was a pretty dream.

As I remarked earlier, you meet a very fine type of people in your dreams and I have met my share, all the way from Bennett Cerf to D. C. Coleman, former president of the CPR.

Lately I have had some embarrassing meetings with King George, usually in the hallways of Buckingham Palace, but once or twice on Granville Street in Vancouver. During the war these meetings were quite simple: the King and I were both in uniform and I merely saluted and said “Sir,” which I felt covered matters pretty well, and the King asked me what that ribbon was on my chest and I told him it was a CVSM and he congratulated me and strolled on. Now, however, I’m in civvies and the King is usually wearing baggy tweeds and I’ve never been able to call him “Your Majesty,” so usually I pretend I don’t see him and stare into a window1 or something, not knowing whether I should curtsy or bow or what.

My relations with Joe Stalin were far

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He slugs Scotch with Stalin, chats with kings. Once they cut his head off. His dreams keep getting better all the time

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more cordial. In one long dream I took Joe on a cross-Canada lecture tour, which was very unsuccessful from the lecture point of view, but good fun. Stalin kept, insisting on drinking Scotch whisky right up until the time he was supposed to deliver the lecture, at which point he was in no condition to lecture anybody. He kept saying that the whole idea was silly anyway, and that lectures were dull. He would end up pleading for another bottle of Scotch.

In one wartime dream I was surprised to get a phone call from General Joe Stilwell. I was at that time struggling through an officers’ training school, and Stilwell had apparently heard of this because he told me on the phone that he wanted me to make a military appreciation of a tactical situation. I replied I would be glad to, but would have to ask my mother first. Stil well appeared later in a low black car and we drove off, whereupon Vinegar Joe leaned over and whispered: “Forget

the military stuff—I just wanted an excuse to get out of the office and down to the Licensed Premises for a while.”

I Was a Nazi Prisoner

My relations with D. C. Coleman were less cordial. During the war army men were given meal tickets for traveling on trains. On the backs of these tickets was a printed note pointing out that they were good only for 30 days from date of issue. In this dream I got on a train with this one meal ticket. I was about to order a meal when I noticed to my horror that the meal ticket was 31 days old. The waiter agreed to ignore the extra day and had just handed me a menu when D. C. Coleman, president of the CPR, leaned over my shoulder, produced a large scissors and cut the table d’hôte section neatly out of the centre of the bill of fare.

“You used a ticket 31 days old,” D. C. Coleman snarled, his pince-nez clouding up. Two henchmen appeared. “Put this man in irons and throw him in the hold,” D. C. Coleman, president of the CPR, shouted. After that everything went black.

Oh, the misconceptions that people have about dreams. Dr. Weischbaum! Time and again I have heard learned scientists argue that you cannot die or be killed in a dream. Leading scientists, mind you—the same men who make those cigarette tests. Fools!

Take the Escaped Nazi Prisoner Dream, for example, in which ! was the escaped Nazi prisoner. A blond girl spy helped me escape from the barbed wire and I fled across a stubble field to a beach where a boat was waiting for us. The Professor and I (don’t ask me how he got into this' boarded the boat and headed out to sea only to find the entire British fleet waiting for us outside the bay. “Turn back—we’re trapped!” the Professor shouted, rather unnecessarily, I thought.

I was getting awfully tired of the Professor anyway, so I threw him overboard to hasten my own escape. But it was no use. I had scarcely reached a sandy beach when the dogs, whose moody howling had set the tenor of the whole episode, were upon me, sinking their fangs into my flesh. A moment later I was dead. You can’t have a happy ending.in every dream.

I also had my head cut off during a Period Dream (the French Revolution I think), but there was something spurious about this as I distinctly remember walking around without a head in the ensuing scenes.

Last summer’s hot spell was a source of peculiar embarrassment to me in my dreams. Usually, in most dreams, I

am dressed, as one might expect, in pyjamas, which I am almost invariably wearing at the time of the dream. I find that if you wear a better class of pyjama, and keep it tightly buttoned up, it will not excite any undue comment, although once or twice people have come up to me in my dreams and said, “Why don’t you get yourself some decent clothes?” However, when 1 took to sleeping in the raw last summer I found my position practically untenable. There are one or two off-color dreams in which this sort of thing is allowed, but in the usual run of dreams people are bound to talk.

The Jap Kept Coming

My life was a nightmare during that hot spell. Policemen chased me down the street and pretty women screamed. A man I met in a bar during one of these dreams solved it for me. “This is a dream, isn’t it?” he said. “Then it’s simple—just produce some clothes out of thin air.” I did this a little guiltily, but I was desperate and it worked.

The practiced dreamer, however, should beware of such subterfuges. The other night I was attacked by Japanese and had no weapons to defend myself. Once again the same insidious little man, whom I’d met in the bar, turned up. “This is a dream, isn’t it?” he said, with a leer. “Produce a machine gun.” I produced a machine gun in the nick of time and opened up on the leader of the Japanese, a toothy man who was waving a samurai sword and shouting “Banzai!” in English. I let him have 50 rounds in the breadbasket, but he still kept coming. I chided him about this, but he had a ready answer. “This is a dream, isn’t it?” he chuckled, and sliced me into hamburger with his sword.

If there’s anything I have a phobia about in my dreams, it is elevators. Sooner or later in every dream an elevator is brought into play. These elevators are flimsy affairs, mere platforms suspended by four fraying ropes which sway backward and forward in a shaft that is invariably far too large.

In a recent dream, an extremely wellplotted affair, an elevator formed the basis of the chase sequence of the dream (every dream has a chase sequence). In this instance I was fleeing from a rich but wrinkled old woman hotel owner, who wanted to marry me, and the chase took place in two hotel elevators. The woman had commandeered one; I was trapped in the other. I would rush to the 19th floor, run out into the hall, only to find the enemy elevator indicator relentlessly moving toward 19. Then I would leap back into the elevator and plummet to the seventh floor, only to discover that the pursuing elevator had beaten me to it.

At one point both elevators were in the same shaft and it was touch and go. “We’re trapped,” shouted the Professor. Those were his last words. I kicked him overboard to make good my escape.

All night long I rode this elevator up and down with the hot breath of the old crone on my neck. When I woke up the next morning, I tell you I was physically tired.

I could also tell you about the time I started out counting sheep and ended up tending the whole flock, but I’m a little weary now, Dr. Weischbaum, and if you’ll just unstrap me from this couch and turn the light back on you can decipher your notes and I’ll toddle off home to bed.

Tomorrow, I’ll tell you about my childhood, but in the meantime— pleasant dreams, if