Call me Mr. Halligan.
It's a recurring dream: I'm enjoying breakfast in the sky, with a 360 degree panorama of the earth below me. I think I can even see it rotating slightly, slowly. The blue is azure, the sun's blinging. It's quiet while I shovel a couple of delicious croissants in. The stewardess asks me if I'd like more coffee. I say yes, and then she proceeds to pour it into my lap. By accident – the plane has been hit by a missile it feels like. Or maybe a bomb blew up on board. I can't tell, because there's shattered glass flying all over the place and I can't hear anything. Then I wake up.
Just kidding. I may have just blacked out in the dream. I come to, and everything slides back into focus and I realize I'm not in an airplane at all, I'm eating at a restaurant on top of the world. I follow a couple of other people to the elevator and I keep pushing the button but nothing happens. It reminds me of a joke I used to tell about the "close door" buttons in elevators in NYC – they aren't connected to anything. The wires just hang down inside the panel. I go to the stairs to start walking down, but there are already people coming back up saying that that way is blocked.
There's a woman standing next to me asking "What are you going to do, cowboy?" I'm reminded of a line I read once: "To see her standing in the sunlight was to see Marxism die." I think she's being facetious since I look like Keith Richards, on a good day. I say I'm going straight to the top, baby. Oh, you mean today? I'm going to hit the roof. She looks bemused. Me too she says. We climb the stairs and get all the way up to the roof. Except we don't. The Emergency Exit door is locked. We try opening it but we can't. I take out my Leatherman and start fumbling to pry the hinges off.
She laughs and then voila I whip a huge crowbar-y mattock out of thin air. Where the hell did that come from I'm thinking, since I don't have any pockets in my pants big enough for anything like that, and the chiffon dress she's wearing is thinnish and maybe a size 2, and doesn't leave much to the imagination. In fact, I don't think I've got to imagine anything because I can see where her underwear would be if... I always say you have to have the right tool for the right job she says, and winks. I nod and bash the door hinges off and then turn around and shatter the DO NOT BREAK OPEN window and start to pull out the fire hose for some reason. I guess it's because I always wanted to do that in real life. But is it a metaphor? Some kind of symbolism? Foreshadowing? What does it mean, man?
I meant gingham I remember suddenly, not chiffon. Thank God for Project Runway. We kick the door open while ignoring the split infinitives along the way, and find ourselves on top of the situation I mean the city. There's thick black smoke all over the place, and it reminds me of the time I stabbed an octopus off the coast of Alexandria, Egypt with a jacknife and its ink spread out over the water in an amazing Rorschach way, and then we crawl on our hands and knees to windward and are finally able to stand on the edge of the far corner, in clear air. It's a long way down, and I feel real small like Philippe, the Man-on-Wire guy. I think 'Philippe the guy wire guy' and laugh out loud! That's so funny.
Then I hear chop chop chop and there's a police helichopper magically appearing overhead and they're lowering a rope and shouting something in Chinese it sounds like. Mindy, I think her name's Muffy or Bootsy maybe grabs it first because I don't have any shoes on and the roof's hot hot hot and my nickname just happens to be Cat and if it were tin we'd be whistling up Tennesse Williams wouldn't we? She fumbles with the rope and her hair between me and the rest of the city like a blonde Johns flag waves. I tie a double bowline on a bite and we've got a bosun's chair for two just like that. We hop (I wrote hope by mistake) in and the helicopter pulls up and we swing underneath into heaven, or maybe it stayed in place and the building just fell away. That's what it feels like anyway.
Have you ever been hanging onto a line, while tied to something dangerous and as fragile as an eyelash like the girl of your dreams, for dear life? Oh, you mean you haven't? Have you ever been in a train in the station, facing another train on the track next to you and then one of the trains starts to pull out and for a split second you don't know which one is moving? It's nothing like that; it's like trying to play chess against Gary Kasparov while wrestling an alligator. On a tightrope.
But seriously, we seemed to be staying still somehow while the buildings blast past, and pixelate and blurr. I'm not making this up: I saw someone jump out of a window right above us. Of course the cops can't winch us to safety, for some convenient dream reason, and then the rope starts slipping. Bunny wraps her arms around my neck lovingly I might add and I think I hear the tiniest whispered invitation in my ear. We just have to live she says. But we fall and fall. There's poetry in motion I think, but it's the stop motion where the painful begins as I'm imagining our bodies bursting apart spectacularly together when we hit the ground.
But the only thing that fragments and falls apart is the dream. Following the splash, bubbles gurgle up out of my mouth up, up, up and I follow them. Ambulance samaritan asking me if I want to be resuscitated. How do you spell resuscitated I ask, puzzled? Cameras and flashing police lights and sirens far away are soft/loud/soft/loud etc. Muffy turns out to be Donald Trump's daughter, for some bizarre reason. Yikes! I tell the medic I have to go to the bathroom and sneak off under the fence and walk up the deserted West Side Highway home.
Sitting in my apartment later and watching the news footage of the rescuer-of-the-century Spiderman saving Fay Wray with my wife who's shaking her head and asking "Who the hell is that nutjob?" I'm thinking I'd caption it instead "Urban Jungle Tarzan and Jane brachiate to safety" – or was that a Gary Larson cartoon I once saw?
Only my wife's not shaking her head she's shaking me and saying "Wake up, wake up crazyman." I come to, finally, with a huge happy-face grin. She's not smiling. "Did you save the girl again you big boy? she asks, rhetorically I'm guessing. "Ever since you became a goddamn VFF you've, you've... and do you have to sleep with that thing right next to the bed?"
Footnote: The Halligan Bar (or Hooligan Tool in Britain and Australia) is a special forcible entry tool used by most fire departments worldwide. It was designed in 1948 by Hugh Halligan, a Deputy Chief in the New York City Fire Department.