Afterthoughts: The Sugarplum Chain Gang

Photo: Linny Morris

I may look like I’m snoozing peacefully, but I’m really putting in time at the office.

Some people remember their dreams, some don’t. I fall into the first group, experiencing vivid, wacky dreams almost nightly. I consider them a gift—enigmas wrapped in symbols mixed with Was that a giant lobster?—and they have always loomed large in my identity.

My poor friends and family are often regaled with last night’s dream dramas. “And then I had triplets, but I gave one away on the subway …” I’ll tell them, or, “You accused me of being like Axl Rose …”

In fact, shortly after meeting me for the first time, my now-husband asked a mutual friend, “What’s this Kathryn like?” and Steve replied, “She has strange dreams.” Pleasantries such as “she’s cool,” or more importantly, “she’s single,” didn’t occur to Steve when faced with the overwhelming evidence of three-legged-kitten dreams.

Photo: Jing Jing Tsong

My favorite dreams are when I’m eating chocolate-chip cookies or shoe shopping, awakening to smugly discover no actual damage to hips or credit card. And I love when I get to “visit” with loved ones who live far away. For example, I recently went to Philadelphia for a conference, and caught up with my friend Ronna over lunch. The sensation was exactly as if I had seen her, but the trip, the conference, the salad—all in my head. Think of the mileage I save!

Still, there’s a darker side to nocturnal soul wandering, and I’m not talking about nightmares.

Take the night I spent eight hours waitressing at IHOP, slinging trays of pancakes and eggs, dealing with grouchy customers. I awoke exhausted, and my feet hurt. The whole thing was puzzling, because I’ve never worked at IHOP.

Asking around, I’m not the only one who slaves away while asleep. My husband’s a director; he has production dreams in which he’s scouting for locations or casting. “I was worried tomorrow’s shoot script isn’t funny enough,” he’ll explain, “and that I wouldn’t have enough shots to edit it together in an interesting way. In my dream, the solution I came up with was to cast Alec Baldwin.”

Our assistant editor says she relives her time working as a lifeguard at the water park in Kapolei. “I was trying to save a Japanese tourist from drowning,” she told me, recounting a recent dream. “It was in this one pool—in real life I really did have to jump in for many, many tourists—but I couldn’t save this woman and wound up drowning myself.”

As for me? I edit copy in my sleep, going over pages and pages of HONOLULU Magazine. It seems a waste—I could be having “I can fly!” visions, but, no, I’ve frittered many a night away rewriting cover lines.

Dreams can be as memorable as real experiences, sometimes even more memorable. It makes me wonder: If the work feels real, does it count? Does being exhausted by a dream assignment make me eligible for overtime?

Lately, I’ve been branching out, dabbling in nighttime sales. I hand out media kits to clients who are figments of my imagination. I recently escorted a sales representative, who does not exist, from a ring company, which does not exist, to meet with the publisher of our bridal magazine. That … does not exist.

I even worked with Bob Guccione to create a special section for HONOLULU. (Yes, that Bob Guccione.) So while you people waste your nights with juicy sex dreams, I’m on the fast-track to dream-career success. Why count sheep when you can whip up revenue with the founder of Penthouse?

In my next dream, I’m asking for a commission.

For more of Wagner’s writing, see her “Guilty Pleasures” blog.