Recurring dreams are fascinating. I dream over and over that I am back in high school. It's the last day of my senior year, I haven't been to class all semester, and I have to take a series of final exams in order to graduate. I don't know the material, naturally, because I've been playing hooky. What really baffles me about this dream is that I seem to actually give a shit whether or not I will do well on the exams and graduate, which is the opposite of what life was actually like for me in high school. I barely made it through scholastically, but I also really didn't give it much thought. I guess I knew that junior college could save me — which it did. I got straight A's there, and then transferred to school out here, where I earned my degree with a 3.8 GPA. This fact also comes up in the dream: I tell myself that I have a bachelor's degree and that I did well in college, so if I screw up in high school, at least I have my B.A.
The dream has progressed, which is also interesting. In the beginning, it was me trying to find classes on floors of strange buildings, then trying to make sense of the tests themselves. Then it moved on to me never finding the classes at all. Then the dream would change again, and I would be at home and never even leave to go to school at all, again telling myself, "Fuck it, it's lost now, might as well just start over next year."
But this year the dream has really been bizarro: I actually find the class, take the test, and do well on it. Then I freaking graduate high school. After I graduate I realize, just as in the older dreams, that I already went to college and did well there, so I am, like, set, dude. When I woke up and realized this, I was so happy that I almost planned a graduation ceremony for myself.
But what happened in my sleep-brain to make me move on to another stage in my "night life"? Worse still, what's the next devious plan my cortex will cook up via drawn-out anxiety metaphors? Ack. Whatever it is will involve some all-or-none challenge, where I have to do something in a certain period of time or I am royally screwed. I call these Last Call Dreams.
You know where this is going, right? Yes, there is a bar in S.F. called Last Call. It used to be called the Men's Room, which someone thought was clever, but for the rest of us conjured up visions of urinals and doorless stalls.
The Last Call is aptly named, because it exists on the periphery of the Castro, down by Dolores Park. The ages of the patrons of bars in this neighborhood are directly proportional to their proximity to 18th and Castro: The farther you venture from the fulcrum, the older people get. Not that folks at the Last Call are geriatric, but they aren't in college. The place is small and cozy (genuinely so; it even has a fireplace), and the jukebox is full of cool '80s music, which is all that matters to me when you get right down to it. It's still a Castro bar, though, so that means a great happy hour that goes from noon to 7 p.m. every day.
"Last Call" is a brilliant name for a bar; it evokes the urge to immediately buy a ton of drinks. When the apocalypse comes, will you be ready? Or will you be empty-handed? This is your last chance: Buy now or go without. Get out of bed, find your class, take that damn test, or be forever doomed to the night shift at Big Lots.
The first time I went into the Last Call I sat down at the bar and was met with the visage of Queen Victoria peering down in all her dowager glory at me. Between that, the fireplace, and the guy wearing 6-inch heels talking about various breeds of super-sized dogs, I knew I had found my purpose. Now I dip in now and again after work and bankroll a salute to 1985 on the jukebox for an hour or two. Sometimes I chat people up; other times I just sit there. Either way, the bartenders are cool with me. A good bartender gives back what you give him; if you want to chat, he chats. If you want to smile politely and then go back to your nose-picking, he's down with that too.
Siouxsie was playing, and I was appropriately bobbing away on my stool. No one else seemed to dig the song, but perhaps their drinks hadn't hit them yet. Music sounds best at the end of the night, right before closing, when you know you only have so much time left before you have to leave. Everything is better when there is a risk involved, when loss is at stake. As for me, well, I had finally graduated high school, so I could coast. The music moved me like it was 1:59 a.m. instead of 8 p.m.
"Watch out for yourself," said a guy as I was leaving. Apparently there have been muggings near Dolores Park. I decided to walk up 18th and take the Castro Muni car instead of the J. Virtual do-or-die situations are one thing; real life-and-death crap is another.
I've figured out what my next anxiety dreams will entail, since I have already had one: I am packing for a trip to Europe for some important event, and I can't find my plane ticket or passport. I have 15 minutes to get to the airport. Hilarity ensues.