Carlos and the golden elixir

Truck driving, dream symbolism, and the joy of producing a science fiction movie

Working all night long, and especially being awake during the prime Twilight Zone hours of midnight to 5 a.m., is indescribable. You are always flirting with the line between real-world and dream-time, between being alert and being semi-conscious.

The human mind and the human body are just not designed to be functional and optimal overnight. Even with plenty of rest beforehand, even with every possible safety preparation, unless there is constant activity, unless you are continually engaged, staying alert overnight is hard.

Staying awake all night is dancing with the devil: a mushroom trip and LSD trip and hallucinogenic experience one after the other. They once made a movie about truck driving called Black Dog. Carlos always wondered why no one in the movie engaged in a detailed discussion of the title itself. Maybe only a truck driver could understand, Carlos thought to himself. The “black dog” is the moment between sleep and awake, when your consciousness returns, when something comes out of the shadows of your mind like a black dog appearing ahead of you on the road, then you are jolted back awake, and you realize you’ve been driving while half asleep.

Driving in the middle of the night is like that. If you have ever driven in the dark, and an object or an animal or God forbid an unilluminated car suddenly appears on the road, it really gets your attention. No doubt about it. Jarring.

Being awake during Zombie Paradise hours makes getting into bed afterwards indescribably delicious. There just aren’t any words for it: the experience of trying to stay awake all night and the experience of face-planting in bed in your Home Sweet Home afterwards. The best thing about willing yourself to stay awake all night is the feeling of going to bed when it’s all over.

Carlos pulls himself back to the present. His truck driving work schedule is 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. four nights a week. He knows whereof he speaks. It’s about 400 miles from Los Angeles to Sacramento, and then 400 more miles on the return. Because his work shift is mostly driving long distance, and because freeway traffic is light at night, Carlos has very little distraction. That leaves plenty of time to invest in musing about his pet project, a science fiction movie.

Recently, Carlos has been fixated on the opening scenes from The Last Starfighter. Alex Rogan, the main character, lives in a trailer park where he is the resident handyman. Alex’s home, which is also his prison, is the “Star Light Star Bright” Mobile Home Park. He is trapped in a dead-end life.

There is something reassuring and comforting about home, even if, as in Alex’s case, you’re stuck there with no way out. E.T. The Movie and Back To The Future both also start and end in a residential neighborhood.

Carlos is fixated on basing his movie idea in a simple, common residential neighborhood of some kind. Sure, it’s tempting to use an architectural gem like the Gamble House in Pasadena for, let’s say, Dr. Emmett Brown’s house in Back To The Future. Sure, movie and TV characters from Magnum P.I. to James Bond to Batman get to use some super-expensive or space-age vehicle (Ferrari 308 GTS, everything from Aston Martin DB-5 to amphibious Lotus Esprit S1, and Batmobile, respectively). But Carlos wants cars and houses to be relatable, to be accessible. Part of the appeal of E.T. The Movie is that, even if you never lived in an upscale home as nice as Elliott’s, still with a slight mental adjustment, you can relate. It’s not farfetched. Nobody regular lives, or will ever live, in an Arts and Crafts masterpiece like the goliath Gamble House, designed and built for the ultra-rich Gambles of Proctor and Gamble fame.

For Carlos’s movie concept, Alex Rogan’s dumpy trailer-park house is perfect. Anyone in the U.S. can imagine themselves living in a mobile home: budget housing at its finest and most affordable. Marty McFly’s high-school-messy bedroom works great, too. Who can’t relate to an overwhelmed high school student trying unsuccessfully to keep up with a wild series of events.

Anyway, it’s just a movie. It’s a break from reality. You’re not going to show the mold and mildew, the field mice and roach infestations, the dilapidated siding and the foundation that is settling. Even if you did show the blemishes and faults, no one watching has to live with them. It’s just a movie, 2 hours of light entertainment before you return to the real world and your familiar life.

A few days after working all night on his movie concept, Carlos awakes one afternoon with a dream. In the dream, he is holding a uniquely shaped wine glass or cordial glass. The glass has a wide, round and perfectly flat bottom, giving it a sturdy base, and a matching wide, round surface at the top. In some ways, the cordial glass resembles a piece of glassware out of a chemistry lab more than an elegant gourmet drinking glass out of someone’s dining room cabinet. At the bottom of the drinking glass is a small quantity of some kind of golden liquid. Carlos sees himself drinking this golden elixir, which is rich and concentrated. When he asks what the drink is made from, the response is “herring bobbles” and “yeast.”

Unusual imagery and uncommon information notwithstanding, Carlos has an intuitive sense of what is attempting to be portrayed by this dream imagery. Ever since he had a life-changing moment a few weeks ago, he has been on cloud 9, some kind of extended high. His movie idea went from being a grind, before the turning point, an uphill chug hitting walls and dead ends, to coasting along smoothly on greased rails. The green light given to him, the open access to a steady stream of ideas and material for his movie, makes him happy all the time.

The golden elixir is some kind of special food, just like the constant joy and the magnificent feeling he gets now that the doors have opened on his movie concept.

Recently Carlos is driving his usual 400 miles when out of nowhere a book appears. For the longest time, Carlos knew that his science fiction movie would have a soundtrack. Over the past year he has been listening to the John Williams score from Star Wars, the Alan Silvestri score from Back To The Future, and the theme songs to, of all things, 1960s TV shows, everything from The Jetsons to The Man from U.N.C.L.E. to Mission Impossible, the classic Lalo Shifrin theme music. Now Carlos discovers that his movie has a book to go with it.


It takes a few days to grok this new development, but then: Clarity.

The science fiction movie and soundtrack and book are a package deal. A 3-headed creation, like, say, “Fluffy” in the Harry Potter movies. Remember Fluffy?

The movie, the soundtrack, and now the book constitute a 3-headed object. You can’t have one without the others, it turns out.

Dreams are the play of the unconscious mind putting things not easily understood into physical imagery. When you run your life through the filter or chemical reaction which is sleep mode, the subconscious mind generates physical images which correspond to activities and conditions and situations from real life. So you can think of dream stories and dream imagery as a product of translating the circumstances of your life into another language, a language that can perhaps be interpreted more readily than the life circumstances themselves. If you don’t understand something in your life, if you have questions or concerns, a dream story can help illuminate something which might be confusing or puzzling.

Example: what is the pandemic? How do we visualize, conceptualize, or perceive this phenomenon? A global epidemic of uncertain origin, with unpredictable symptoms for only certain targeted victims, is difficult to compute. Just the right item to run through the dream conversion processor.

Independently, on separate nights in the spring of 2020, Carlos and his wife each had a dream about the pandemic. The story for each of them was different, but in both dream scenarios, the pandemic appeared as a Tiger.

If you think about it, having a real physical symbol to represent this most perplexing of creatures, the pandemic, is a gift and a blessing. A tiger is a powerful creature, an animal, of Asian origin. Just like the pandemic. The pandemic as Tiger suggests it is capable of taking unpredictable yet deliberate action, just like any animal can do. So, now having a physical object, or in this case animal, at our disposal to represent the coronavirus contagion, we can ask salient questions based on our familiar physical life symbol systems: who let out the tiger? Or did the tiger get free on its own? Who does the tiger attack, and why? If the tiger sits back and does not attack certain people, what makes those people different than the ones who come down with disease symptoms, and why?

Dreams are naturally confusing or puzzling as well, just like real life can be. It can take time before clarity arises whenever reflecting on a dream story. However, in the continuing riddle and enigma that is life, certainly a 2nd perspective, an alternate view, has the potential of providing more clarity than just the one perspective from the physical human life itself.

Carlos has sometimes had difficulty describing his affinity for dream symbolism to other people, and even to himself. Eventually he arrived at a brief summary: he compares himself to Rudolf Steiner (1861), George Gurdjieff (1866), Carl Jung (1875), and Joseph Campbell (1904).

Symbolism, and the interpretation of symbols, is certainly an art, not a science.