My Dead Chinese Professors: A Dream

My dead Chinese professors sit at the foot of my bed, crying.

What’s the matter? I ask.

Professor Liu says, You will never understand Li Po.

That may be, I say, but I have a son who loves Magic Cards and listening to Christian rock and Keith Urban.

While Chinese offered me nothing but books on 18th century market systems and tortuous lessons in calligraphy.

I never could tell if Professor Lyell thought I was good or not. He’d shrug at all my translations, the awkward marks of my pen on the yellow lined paper. Chicken scratch, he was probably thinking. But he never waved his arms and shouted, like some of the other professors did.

You are desecrating the temple of the holy, these others seemed to be saying.

You do not belong here. Begone, rank impostor!

So, why are you at the foot of my bed, I ask? Why don’t you leave? Stand up and walk out of the room?

Then I wake up. I realize I’ve spoken the words in my dream out loud. I feel the echo of my voice, reverberating in that stillness. The stillness of a white and empty room. I get up and descend the stairs. I’m still half-dressed. I go to the kitchen and make myself some coffee.

* * * *

Wherefrom the provenance of such a strange dream, dear blog reader? Self hasn’t a clue. As it turned out, both of self’s professors were rather diminutive in stature (though in person they looked nothing alike, for Prof. Lyell was Irish and had light hair and blue or grey eyes, and Prof. Liu was Chinese and had black hair and black or very dark brown eyes)

Both men did share a rather impish twinkle in their eyes when self visited them in their offices to discuss her papers.

And now self picks up a March issue of The New Yorker and learns that an enterprising Toronto novelist has created a website called


This is a site where anyone in the world can deposit their subliminal/ subconscious fantasies of the Democratic candidates. And, according to The New Yorker, the Hillary that emerges from the dreams (the collective unconscious, as it were) of people around the world is this:

Hillary “wears bad perfume but good lipstick, has great skin, is often hungry (she likes spare ribs) but has bad table manners, and, when doing the chores (say, cleaning the attic) is fun to be around. She is a dog-lover and an accomplished ice skater.”

Barack, on the other hand, emerges as “a teacher, eight feet tall, with a foul mouth, smoker.” He is “less active — a conduit.”

An example: “I started to write out the letter on the hamburger bun while Obama gave his speech, but with every few strokes the pen would break through the outer surface of the bread into the soft middle.”

A “Saudi woman imagined he was reading a bedtime story to her (classic father-figure role), and a lawyer from Zimbabwe dreamed of being chased by him (the pursuit of justice).”

And a Canadian film critic recalled the image of “Barack eating the votes that had been cast for Hillary like slices of smoked tofu.”

Fascinating, just fascinating.


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