Different Slants

Seeing the World from a New Angle

Last Night I Dreamt in Russian

Filed under: Uncategorized — Bob at 4:34 pm on Tuesday, March 15, 2022

by Robert M. Katzman © March 15, 2022

Deep in sleep, I was in a small bookstore, where everything was in color, which is supposed to be unusual for men. I once owned a foreign language world travel bookstore named Grand Tour, in Chicago’s Lakeview from 1988 to 1994, but regardless, I don’t speak Russian. Twelve years of frustrated, antagonized and likely suicidal teachers attempted to teach me French, Hebrew, Spanish and German in both public and private schools.

There was a big company who supplied my real store, Langenscheidt, a German distributor of language systems and dictionaries in 100 languages, in both small pocket size and heavy bookshelf size. The books were all in a distinctive mustard-yellow color. The printing on them was black and in the English alphabet. They were all over my store in whatever country matched the language.

But in this dream, all of the books, only a few at first, were all in the Cyrillic alphabet. I cannot read or speak Russian. My Jewish family did everything possible to escape Russia between 1900 and 1918. However, in my dream, I was somehow able to know what the words meant. I matched all the initial handful of yellow books with reverse English to whatever other language it was and began straightening up the messy shelves.

But every time I cleaned up an area and then looked up, the store was larger, with yellow books sprinkled among all the other books written in English. Like daisies in a dark forest.  I kept at it. The more I straightened up — in real bookstore life a constant struggle — the larger the dream store grew and the number of yellow books became a more significant percentage of all of them. This went on and on until this enormous store – which I was unable to leave, somehow – was just about completely in yellow, of all sizes and it seemed all in Russian.

Not all the same words repeated on those covers in Russians. But a vast array of different words printed on the covers I could never have read if I was awake. The situation became overwhelming and as I seemed to be encircled with hostile yellow books, my phone rang. My real phone.

It was a nurse calling me to hurry up and come into the hospital where I’ll be having minor surgery next week. 

I had no idea what she was talking about, having miraculously just escaped from an endlessly reproducing whirlpool of a German publishing company’s menacing yellow dictionaries.

But the nurse persisted, ignoring my momentary inability to figure out who this demanding woman was. At least there was no yellow anything near me. 

She kept on, said a chest x-ray, and EKG, a blood sample and a urine sample would be needed, and to haul my ass in there right now. Ok, she didn’t say that, but it seemed like it. And then, suddeny recalling that urine was yellow, I didn’t want to go there. No more yellow.

But I did go, everyone was very nice and the blood taker didn’t hurt me. Amazing. I found her boss and complimented her and said he should give her a raise, which pretty much terminated our conversation.

I haven’t the slightest clue where this so specific dream came from. All my immigrants spoke Yiddish, Polish, ‘Ukraina’ (a dialect) and some read Hebrew. They lived in separate areas from the Russians and eventually all of them became somewhat fluent in English.

This menacing dream was frightening. Later I noticed on my calendar that I was first working in that real Chicago bookstore in the middle of March, 1988. Or thirty-four years ago right now. Except I only knew that by reading the small note later this morning. Jesus Christ and Dasvidanyia!! Ich bin eine meshugganer !!


Comment by Brad Dechter

March 15, 2022 @ 6:49 pm

Ich sprekie kine Deutsch. My grandparents came from similar areas.
Hope the phone call didn’t cause you to go Russian to the hospital!
Thanks for sharing. I appreciate you and your stories!

Comment by cynthia Andersen

March 15, 2022 @ 8:55 pm

Great story, and a little crazy, but I really liked it. Held my interest all the way through. He is a very talented writer.

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