Thursday, March 13, 2014
The Lonely Mayor of Cincinnati
Normally I don't remember any of my dreams.
The only dream I do recall is the one where I imagine that there is some sort of a large spider or a bug in my bed. In this recurring scenario, I jump out of my bed, scattering my blankets and throwing pillows out of the way as I make my ridiculous escape. One time I even ran down a few steps of stairs, gripped by some animalistic fear of the non-existing insect lingering in my bedroom.
I am a grown man, weigh over 260 pounds and stand around 6 ft 3. The sight of this huge monstrosity leaping out of his rest definitely looks farcical. Before I am even fully awake, I realize that my bed is only in the habit of holding one organism at a time and I return back to its warm embrace. The fear I experience in these moments is so instinctual and dreamlike that I don't really feel it on the conscious level, because when my higher mental faculties kick in, they immediately alert me to the idiocy of the whole thing. Thus I have no problems returning to sleep.
Recently I tried to reset my dysfunctional sleeping rhythm, I've been going to sleep at 8 in the morning and waking up around 6 pm. If you are depressed, there is something soothing in existing outside of society -not only in spirit but in sleep cycles as well- you wake up at 6 pm, the darkness is setting over everything. You feel free to procrastinate more, your only duty is to procure food and then you can fall back into bed and watch documentaries on your laptop, check the visitor stats on your blog and catch up on the recent developments in Ukraine. The disappearing sun light takes with it the burden of responsibility.
Finally as you see the first rays of sun peaking through your closed curtains (reinforced with garbage bags and t-shirts to minimize the light's presence) you head back to bed.
"Tomorrow," you say to yourself, "tomorrow, I will take concrete steps to improve my life. But not yet, not yet..."
I am one member of the melancholy tribe that worships the idea of sleep. Sleep absolves you as you vanish into its forgetful mist. Sleep gives you everything and takes nothing.
Nevertheless, I am beckoned back to the world of the living. The need to move out of my apartment later this week has propelled me to try to return to normal human hours or at least to wake up at around 1 pm which -at this point- would be a major achievement. In order to make this dream a reality, I have resorted to the bottle of generic sleep aid I got at Walmart a while back. I found the bottle under some papers on the floor of my apartment. I found a few pills and used them to go to sleep earlier than I would normally.
The plan worked but the chemicals exacted a price, for the past two days I remembered my dreams and none of them were pleasant.
Last night's dream was particularly absurd, I dreamt that I became the mayor of Cincinnati, Ohio - "Queen City of the West."
I have spent my first years on American soil in Cincinnati and my mother still dwells in its suburban periphery. Cincinnati is forever linked in my mind with my adolescent awkwardness and alienation. I left it as soon as I turned 18 and have done my best to live outside of its borders ever since.
The suburbs of Cincinnati are the stronghold of the Republican party in Ohio. The current Speaker of the House, John Boehner, has his distinct there. I'm pretty sure that Cincinnati is one of the most conservative metropolitan areas in the Midwest. For these reasons and many others, the idea that I would start my political career here seems particularly unlikely.
In my dream, I managed to become the mayor of Cincinnati without running a campaign. No friendly volunteers, no annoying television ads, no press interviews, no platform, no "Ivan for Mayor" bumper stickers.
It seems like the whole city just forgot about the election and I simply submitted my candidacy and -with no other names on the ballot- claimed my prize.
I discovered that I became the mayor of Cincinnati when I received a packet in the mail. I got this packet at my Columbus apartment thus proving that even in my dreams I tried to delay actually moving back to Cincinnati until the last possible moment. The packet contained my salary information, pension booklet and (yay!) health insurance paperwork. I felt very pleased at this point, finally I got a good job with solid benefits and felt like a fully-formed and productive member of society. This was the highlight of my dream and it all went down hill from there.
Basically the city I inherited seemed almost completely devoid of people. I couldn't see any of the citizens I had to govern. Yet their absence didn't mean that there wasn't friction between us. I knew the people were hiding from me somewhere; I felt their dislike for me. I was the usurper who got to rule them through a trick.
The Cincinnatians weren't there but their resentment for the new city executive hung heavy in the air and made me uncomfortable. I knew that a Buddhist Russian liberal was not the mayor they wanted... but was he the mayor they deserved?
In order to win their love I decided to fight corruption and waste in city government.
In my dream, I saw a portly, ancient black man. He looked to be around eighty-years-old but was in good shape and dressed sharply in a three piece suit. The man has a big stack of wrinkled Tibetan flags, he would iron the flags and then laminate them. Each flag looked neat and straight when he was done with it.
Somehow this Tibetan flag business was interconnected with the Cincinnati government. I deemed his business wasteful, picked up the phone dialed some number and ordered his arrest.
I felt uneasy about this act. After all, Ivan loves black people and loves Tibet, so why would I make war on a man who united the two in his peculiar business? Nevertheless, some mysterious clerk calculated that this arrest saved the Cincinnati government two million dollars.
I immediately called a press conference to announce this triumph in government efficiency. When I stood at the podium with my graphs and a prepared statement, I realized that no one was there to hear it. A camera stood at the center on the room, I knew someone was watching me but the camera's glare was cold and distant. I read my statement, stood by for a few minutes waiting for questions that never came and left.
Now I sat alone in my empty office plotting to leverage my feeble victory in Cincinnati into somehow becoming the mayor of Los Angeles. At this point I felt a heavy restlessness flood my mind. I had to make something happen to prevent an uprising from my hidden, silent citizenry. I walked around the empty administration building until I saw a door with a light under it.
I opened the door to see the familiar face of Bob Fitrakis. Bob was my Political Science professor at the Columbus State Community College. He filed a lawsuit against president George W. Bush in 2004, claiming that the Ohio election was stolen through a conspiracy between the Bush campaign, Republican state officials and the conservative businessman who manufactured the electronic voting machines. Bob also ran as the Green Party candidates for governor of Ohio in 2006 and got one percent of the vote.
I felt that Bob was the wrong ally to have in this simmering and invisible conflict. His politics were too radical to win over the good people of Cincinnati. But he was the only human I could find in my strange kingdom and I wanted him to put me in touch with pragmatic, practical Democrats so I could plot my next move.
Bob quickly realized that I was the type of a week-kneed moderate, too eager to compromise with the forces of evil. He didn't state this openly but his reluctance to help was evident.
"Listen, Ivan, I'm not that interested in politics anymore, I don't know any Democrats that could help you. You have to look for them yourself. What I do have is stories. Do you want to hear a story about the march I went on with Jesse Jackson?"
"No... no thanks," I replied. Whatever good will he had toward me was now gone; Ivan just lost another voter. Now Bob was also a part of the silent army of resentful humanity, quietly scheming against me.
But when will this army strike against the mayor? When will it strike? When!?!
I woke up sweaty but it wasn't a cold sweat. Just a little sweatier than usual. Normally, I toss around a lot in my sleep but it seemed that the Walmart pills have steadied me into stillness, submerged me into an incoherent, sweaty and poorly-written story concocted by some college freshman eager to imitate Kafka.
Here I was- an illegitimately elected mayor of a city I don't particularly fancy: my reign defined by a struggle with a mystical resentment of invisible people.
Ivan the lonely mayor of Cincinnati: arresting old minority business owners, reading prepared statements to no one in particular, roaming the empty halls looking for moderate Democrats he could work with.
Its almost 6 am in Ohio right now... time for bed.