“It’s something you wear” -a prologue
The other night I dreamed I was back on the campus I grew up on in Nigeria. I was the part of campus used for agricultural research; I remember its manicured lawns and calibrated sprinklers as sterile during the day: at night it became a surreal moon unit of glitter asphalt and sparkling pools. This is where I find myself strolling with a more recent New York acquaintance, let’s call him ”C.” “C.” and I somewhat courted each other over the summer, but for arcane reasons, nothing came of it. I was frustrated at being made to date, and we eventually lost touch.
In the dream “C.” and I stroll past the sparkling ponds and in the background is a chorus of girls I went to elementary school with. A ribald lot, they tease me and call him names like ”Jesus.” And I’m embarrassed: I’m the only one walking around with a white guy. “C.”, unfazed, turns round and embraces me. This is no ordinary embrace—at his touch a sheath of golden ions envelope my body. It is like tingly skin gliding over my own and I realize that I can feel this in my actual body. Then I realize I am not actually asleep, in the living room I hear my roommate rousing, getting ready for work. The shimmery ions persist moments longer. And then I am falling into the deep ether of sleep, but not before thinking of what Brian Eno had said somehow, somewhere:
African technology is something you wear…
Up here twirling twirling in the ether.
Orbit at last.
Look mom I’m twinkling!
—Yes you are, up here Everyone wears twinkle suits.
— Hello, did someone say something, Is anyone out here?
— You are.
And so is Everyone else.
Everyone is Everyone in twinkle twinkle little suits
— If I’m Everyone, who are you?
— ONE BRAIN
— I get it; you’re my guide or guru
— Not so, your twinkle suit is programmed to guide and guru you.
It is the luminescence of everything you know.
Your customized twinkle suit is fabricated from myth-particles.
(Too late, Timothy Leary collides into me,
Aaargh…. star/ash splutter,
Now all his stuff’s in my stuff)
This is the way it works says, ONE BRAIN,
sometimes you crash into Stars and
sometimes you collide
with the earth…
I. There Are No Civilians in Outer Space
My mother with mysterious foresight set the stage for my celebrity twinkle suit. It stems from a Kodak moment in 1972: the tenth (or ninth or eighth) man has landed once more on the moon, my mother captures this historical moment by having me and my brothers pose with him in front of the TV. Care is taken not to obscure the little figure planting the US flag on lunar soil. I strike a ballerina pose; my brothers strive for the same.
Thus we became a part of recorded history.
It’s ironic, I think, years later, when I find myself working at a magazine which catered to ”senior citizens.” At an editorial meeting, the Senior Editor looking for a “story with more spunk” says:
”How about the one with the first grandma in space?”
Everyone looks at her like she’s crazy, except me, because I had heard that on the radio too, the day before on 1010 WINS— the news and weather station. I was getting ready for a friend’s concert and turned on the radio, to figure out the weather and caught the tail end of a newsbyte: blah blah blah ”making her the first grandmother in outer space.” And I thought how cheesy to frame it that way— so what if the woman is over fifty? I was assigned to research the piece and come up with a name and bio for this septuagenarian astronaut. It wasn’t on the NASA website.
I posted inquiries, the system administrator— she had never heard of such a thing—said to try the PR department in Fort Worth, Texas. In Texas I was bounced over to Washington DC. Then back to Texas. No one had heard of a first granny in space. Most laughed outright at me. Forty-five minutes later a PR rep from NASA explained to me:
”Honey, we don’t send civilians up in space.”
But she wasn’t a ”civilian” (what do they mean anyway, as if the astronaut is not like you or I?), she was a trained professional who just happened to have grandchildren. Finally the Editor suggested I call 1010 WINS, the radio station that aired the story in the first place. I talked to a woman at the News Desk and she vaguely remembered something like that on Sunday (by now it was Tuesday.) She put me on hold, when she came back she said: ”We definitely didn’t have that on our news segment,”
”Excuse me, but you yourself had some vague recollection—”
”But we didn’t air that story” replied the zombie.
Yet another case of Unidentified Flying Objects, but nothing compared to the more shocking events of a few years earlier…
II. MR. BRADBURY
It had to have been early in 1990. It was a Friday evening, my younger brother and I were watching TV when it was announced that Sci-Fi writer; Ray Bradbury had died that day. So moved was I by this information that the next day I went out and bought everything of his I hadn’t read. So imagine my consternation when, six years later, on late late night TV (it was Later with Tom Snyder, insomniacs only)- who should be conversing with Mr. Snyder, but Ray Bradbury himself. This wasn’t a rerun, in fact the Tom Snyder show was taped live and you could call in using the 800-number on screen. I dialed, but it was busy. How many of us were awake watching TV and calling? I couldn’t get through, but I watched hoping that one of the callers would bring up the subject of Mr. Bradbury’s death and he could say it was a mistake. No go. Frustrated I called a friend, and she said perhaps I was thinking of Isaac Asimov. But no, Asimov was not a writer for whom I brooked any particular affection, I could tell the difference, plus, I remembered his death notice clearly. I called my brother the next day, “Remember when Ray Bradbury died?
“Well I saw him on Tom Snyder last night. Live”
“Maybe it was an old one.”
“No. That show wasn’t even around three years ago, so how is that possible?”
My brother’s memory became vague, maybe it wasn’t Ray Bradbury, or maybe they announced something else about him. I was exasperated,
‘What do you mean? We read books we didn’t like based on this information!”
I asked around, one friend actually recalled hearing it on the radio— she had been out in the woods camping with her girlfriend— who was a Sci-Fi aficionado and was thusly affected. Other people remembered, except when I mentioned the Snyder show, recollections became fuzzy. Finally it became the running joke that I was visiting from a parallel universe where Ray Bradbury was dead. One day, a friend who worked at bookstore downtown called me,
“You’ve got to come down here quick! Ray Bradbury is in the store autographing his books”
Of course by the time I arrived, Mr. Bradbury had left the building.
I am still waiting to meet Mr. Bradbury.
Circling the earth,
Everyone wears Everyone, it’s unavoidable
I am constantly barraged with star debris of celestial objects,
the stardust quickly assimilates into my twinkle suit.
What use is my celebrity skin, I want to know
by now I have figured out that ONE BRAIN is actually ENO’s BRAIN.
This strips away half the awe and most
of the mystique, since I’m dealing with a human persona.
Not a universal precept.
A conversation on the machinations of the twinkle
Isn’t this suit supposed to protect me from what’s out there? How come it keeps absorbing all the celestial trash?
Your suit is meant to integrate you and make you function within the cosmos.
See all these little gold ions, milling around all the cosmic dust?
Well they’re interactive celeb ‘bots.
They all talk to each other, and determine your actions here in space—
Do you mean these things make us behave the way we do?
-Yes. And sometimes we act not out of love, but stardom…
What Would Joanie Do?
As a teen, I was fascinated with MGM star, Joan Crawford. As an adult my enthrallment grew—this after having seen and read Mommie Dearest and other scandalous exposés. Such was the depth of my involvement: I had a dream I was a glamorous 40’s actress with shoulder pads, we were out on location— somewhere in the trailer parks of middle America. In this dream while wandering around the trailer park, I run into my (then) boyfriend—except now he is a director I used to know, someone I might have worked with in the past. We make small talk and then he disappears into a sprawling parking lot outside a mall.
In real life this is what happened: I mentioned that I going to a screening of the new Robert Altman movie-and voila! I had never seen my beloved so eager:
“Can you get me a pass too? Robert Altman is my favorite director!”
I was scornful,
“What sort of favorite director is that?”
I should have seen it coming. Later, reading yet another Crawford bio, I discovered she had worked with Altman early in his career (late in hers). Hated him. Called him a no-talent.
Obviously the battle lines had been pre-fabricated. Imagine Joan’s fury if she ever discovered she was dating Altman in her present incarnation (as me). As it turned out, it was a mistake: I had confused Robert Altman for Robert Aldrich. It didn’t matter: before long I was sans boyfriend: passed over for an existence that featured wife, condo and a grey mini-van. I was much consoled when a friend gave me one of those born-again Christian bracelets with ‘WWJD?”—WHAT WOULD JESUS DO? Except in this equation Jesus was Joanie.
IV. The Princess Di(e)’s
Dreams are trickier than Celebrity sightings, because they smack of prescience. And you believe them. We have learnt not always to trust the Media, but dreams…
Dreams are personal. They have Truth. They are the parallel universe in which Ray Bradbury lives or dies. At 16 I dreamed I was a photographer on assignment for the London Observer, in Kenya no less. My mission was to do a photo essay on a well-known prostitute in Nairobi. I was given a contact (who turned out to be a traffic warden), but it became clear that this woman had no intention of being on camera. After a week of being thwarted, I called the London office and told them I’d be on the next plane home. No no no they said-they had another assignment for me. The Observer was owned by a newsgroup that also housed Woman’s World or Woman’s Weekly (I’m not sure if this was true in reality)—some women’s’ magazine and they wanted me to do something for them.
When I heard what it was, I said no.
They reminded me I was under contract, and I was in East Africa anyway, there would be no point sending another correspondent. Then I said okay. This was the assignment: Princess Diana (who was only a few years into her princess-hood then) was vacationing on the Royal Yacht at Lake Victoria. Now the Princess had just recently revamped her style to accommodate a whole slew of Italian designers: Ferragamo, Fendi, Krizia… I was to go and do a fashion shoot with the Princess. I was apprehensive because I wasn’t a fashion photographer and had no interest in royalty. It went well, the Princess was gracious and friendly, we discovered we shared the same birth sign, and she even agreed to wear her hair up for the photos. In the next dream segment, my mother was looking through the fashion spread in Woman’s Weekly (or World). The pictures were grainy amber/sepia toned; clothes and princess all tawny lion gold. My mother was pleased:
‘You met the Princess,”
And I said something like ‘She was nice.”
Years passed and the dream was forgotten, then one morning I came home from dancing all night and switched on the TV. And there was Diana’s funeral. I had kept a distance to the entire media blitz around her death, because I couldn’t see what it had to do with me. Until now, the memory of the dream rose up gently, like a eulogy. And I couldn’t believe I hadn’t met her.
I did meet that other Diana, in a dream as well. Diana Ross.
This time I was coordinating her 54th birthday in huge 15th century chateau in Burgundy, France. After the birthday candles were blown out there was dancing, she came over and hugged me. Apparently Life Magazine was doing a special edition on Miss Ross: she got to photograph fifty-four of her favorite young people. People who reminded her of herself, when she was younger; “And you’re one of them,” she said ”cause you’re delicious.”
The oracle out here in outer space is known as RAIN BONE.
RAIN BONE speaks in spectrum, which makes each sentence an entity
a ‘bot unto itself interacting
with other ‘bot-tenses
meanings like this:
You are what you wear
(you are always wearing it)
(and you can take it with you)
All this cosmic stardust (technically ash)
is the people you meet
(and the people they met)
are the ones that you meet
You are all eternally famous in the skin that you’re wearing
(you are always wearing it)
Epilogue: What’s In Your Twinkle Suit?
And so you might be wondering after all this, ‘what was the point of the prologue?’
Ah, but I hadn’t finished my story—
Where we left off, I drifted to sleep with Brian Eno on the brain; African technology is something you wear… An interactive skin. I thought about it later, when I was awake. It occurred to me that this dream was of no ordinary mien, it was probably one of those See-U See-Me type deals. In which case, “C.” must have dreamed about me. I called him
“‘C.”, it’s Onomé”
“Hey! This is so bizarre, I was just thinking of you—I had a dream with you in it”
“I know, I had the same dream.”
And for whatever benign or irrelevant reasons, we never ascertained that we did indeed have the same dream. We discussed other things. Now one of the reasons C. and I never got it together was because there was a tendency to become arch-competitive around each other, striving to one up each other to the point of obnoxiousness. Name-dropping, which I scarcely tolerate in others, would be deployed incessantly as a means of pulling rank. At some point in this conversation, C. mentioned that he had spent New Year’s in Cambodia—
“Brilliant” I said, “I stayed home”
“I ended up hanging out with Matt Dillon”
“Yeah. He was cool, we sort of bonded—he wants me to work on this project,”
Was that so?
“Now all my female friends keep bugging me about him.”
I said this because
a) I have no interest in Matt Dillon’s decaying stardom,
b) I could not foresee C. and I communicating in the future.
We got off the phone and I ruminated over the usefulness of Matt Dillon particles transmitted to me via C. It had once occurred to me that most of our grey matter (and thus most conversation) was akin to styro-foam, filler to pad the more expensive processes. So also with the Celebrity Twinkle Suit—the stardust trail accelerating at a joint pace of status glitter and social debris. By reason of distribution, we are all luminaries by now—some of us in uncharted galaxies, and other constellations overexposed. And some with instinctive finesse, as my mother displays when she makes us pose with the man on the moon, spawning a new breed of astronauts in the cosmos.