I’ve never been to New York, but I’ve obviously seen it countless times on TV and in films. Even so, I don’t remember ever dreaming about it before. Most of my dreams tend to be located in places I know reasonably well, or which might conceivably be real towns in the UK. The dream I had in the early hours of Monday morning was different.
There’s a district of New York called Far Rockaway, where a lot of Jewish families from Eastern Europe and Russia settled in the early decades of the last century. I’ve absolutely no idea what Far Rockaway is like today, but the dream went some way towards confirming Freud’s Tagesreste (day residue) theory of our subconscious and unconscious adventures. Far Rockaway was the childhood home of one of my heroes – the brilliant, eccentric, wildly original physicist and Nobel laureate Richard P. Feynman.
I’d been re-reading Surely You’re Joking, Mr Feynman!, a collection of stories told by Prof. Feynman to his friend Ralph Leighton and first published in book form in 1985. My night-time reading had obviously carried over into my fitful sleep.
In my dream I was trying to find the house where young ‘Ritty’ Feynman had built his electronics laboratory, tinkered with chemicals, pored over advanced science books borrowed from the local library (those were the days, eh?), and fixed radios by thinking. I was disappointed when none of the inhabitants of Far Rockaway had heard of (arguably) their most famous son. I decided to catch the train and explore the city instead.
I disembarked somewhere in the centre, which was almost deserted, and walked through the eerily silent streets for a while. At one point I came to a large hospital and decided I could probably get a snack and something to drink in the cafeteria. The foyer was filled with shops and stalls, and lots of people were milling around, some in street clothes and others in dressing gowns or hospital-issue pyjamas. I remember spending some time browsing at the books and magazines in a large open-fronted shop.
I emerged into the street and decided to photograph some of the buildings. A young white guy wearing jeans and a hoodie asked me for money, and when I refused he threatened to steal my camera. I gave him a handful of change and he wandered off.
I found myself on a footpath overlooking a wide river, with a spectacular skyline behind and an impressive bridge which would have made a great focal point for a photo. As I was lining up the shot, a sleek modern train sped across the bridge and into the centre of the frame.