Thursday, October 25, 2012

London: a Short Story (or Two-?)

Every time I’m in London, there is a particular restaurant I like to go to. This is a bit odd, because generally I don’t much care for the food in London. But there is that one restaurant I never let myself miss—in fact, just to make sure I get a chance to eat there during my visit to London, I might just go straight there from the aeroport.

I know exactly how to get to this restaurant from various parts of town. Up ahead to the next corner, turn right, and it’s only two blocks down the street from there. I’m not very familiar with the layout of London (it’s a big city and I’ve not been there very many times), but I never have trouble finding this restaurant whenever I’m in town.

Despite the fact that I don’t much care for the food in London, there are, of course, exceptions to this. They use Irish beef at most of their burger joints, which is very different from—and I’d say better than—American beef. Even the McDonald’s restaurants are better in London, not only because of the Irish beef, but also because they serve Cadbury Crème Egg McFlurry’s and curly fries. That said, as odd as it may sound, McDonald’s is still worth a visit whenever I’m in London.

I find it of special interest how sometimes our dreams can taint our memories, sometimes even making the two nearly indistinguishable.

An example: My first time in London, there was a specific McDonald’s I went to. I no longer remember exactly where in the city it was, but I want to say it was on a side-street off of Trafalgar Square. The other buildings all around it weren’t very distinctly marked—I suppose they must have been residences, though I’m really not sure. While at this McDonald’s, I remember thinking I’d rather work at a McDonald’s in London than have a nicer, higher-paying job in the U.S.

But here’s where it gets fuzzy:

I rather clearly remember ordering a Happy Meal in that specific McDonald’s and getting a Super Mario Bros.-based toy. It was, if I recall, a Lakitu in his cloud on wheels (for those of you familiar with the Super Mario Bros. games, you’ll recall that Lakitu is the turtle-ish creature that moves around in the cloud and throws the spike balls down at you from above. In later Mario games, he also serves as the "cameraman").

This may sound alright so far, but here’s the problem with this memory:

Yes, I’m pretty certain that this Lakitu toy is real, but it came out over ten years before the first time I was in London. In fact, I have another memory of when I got that toy, but it was in California, at a McDonald’s inside of a mall. I was with my parents—I couldn’t have been more than nine or ten years old. Of course I no longer have the toy.

How did this memory get mixed up with my memory of the McDonald’s in London? I think a dream must have connected them, though it’s hard to say. But now, for whatever reason, I can’t think of that specific McDonald’s in London without thinking of the Lakitu toy, and the memory gets all muddled.

But back to this special restaurant in London

Though I always know how to get to the restaurant when I’m in town (and though I’ve been there several times), I could never give anyone else directions to it. I don’t know the name of the street it is on. In fact, I don’t even know the name of it. When I look at the sign hanging above the front door, I can’t read it. The first letter seems to be a ‘P’, but the rest is hazy…

…the classic sign of a dream.

When I woke up, I realized that the restaurant isn’t even real.

Shortly after waking up, I met with a friend at a New Mexican restaurant here in town and told all of this to her. I told it to her just as I’m telling it now, acting as though the restaurant is real before I finally drop the surprise that it’s not real; it was all a dream. I feel like it’s more fun/dramatic/interesting that way, I suppose.

Interestingly, I’ve dreamed about the restaurant several times though. She, too, thought this was interesting: Is it a sign? Does it mean something? Is the restaurant actually real, and I’ve actually been there, but I’m just not remembering it from reality?

I told her that I don’t think any of these things are the case. The entire premise was a bit silly anyway—me thinking that every time I’m in London I go to this one specific restaurant. In fact, I’ve only been to London twice. Two times hardly qualifies as saying something happens every time.

Mind you, I’ve had many dreams about London. And in those dreams, yes: I’ve gone to restaurants. And parks and malls and bus stations and aeroports and special city streets. The dreams of the malls are the most interesting, because I always happen to know where the malls are (I never stumble upon them by mistake, unlike every other type of place in my London-dreams), and they usually have crazy layouts and architecture and stores.

Also, this is especially odd because there are no malls in London.

In fact, before going to the restaurant, I went to one of these whacky malls. Weird.

A question: Is there an archetype for dream symbolism regarding unique malls or restaurants?


The other thing odd about the entire London-dream-restaurant idea is that the restaurant was a New Mexican restaurant. I don’t like New Mexican food. And there are no New Mexican restaurants in London. At least, as far as I know, there are no New Mexican restaurants in London. I certainly can’t imagine there being one (though my psyche may disagree with me on that).

While sitting there with my friend, she asked when the more recent of the two times was that I had been to London. I told her it was last night.


That doesn’t make sense.

And just how did I get to this restaurant with her? I don’t remember waking up or getting ready or agreeing to meet her or driving here. In fact, this girl isn’t even a friend of mine…

It turns out I’ve only been to London once.


Michelle Dyer Peterson said...

Nice! I like what you're doing here. This concept of memory seems to be something i explore in my own writing... and I don't consciously do it. Where is line that is drawn between dream and memory? I have a memory of being on top of a giant hill, with a street down below -- an almost mountain like hill, with trees and fallen leaves. I remember seeing the cars, how tiny they were, yet I couldn't distinguish anyone inside of them, so I thought they were cars that had no drivers or passengers.

But where in the world could I have been? I have no idea. I believe I was at a house, someone's house, but whose? How old was I? My memory says I was less than five. But I don't really remember anything before age seven *really*. And how could cars drive without people in them? It's an interesting concept, to be sure.

I like that I kept on being surprised throughout this blog, even though I shouldn't have been. Great work! (Is this what your November novel will be about?)

aaron searle said...

I actually have a very similar memory to the one you shared here. For years I've been playing with the idea of how to turn it into a story, but I just haven't found the right way yet. I remember it so distinctly in my mind, but I just can't make sense of when it happened or how old I was or where it happened or anything...

After writing this story, I researched online about this Lakitu toy. Based on what I’ve discovered, it turns out this toy doesn’t actually exist. However, I think I’ve discovered what I was confusing it with…

In 1990, McDonald’s released a series of four toys with their Happy Meals based on the video game Super Mario Bros. 3. It featured Raccoon Mario sitting on a spring, a Koopa Troopa which had a little air pump to make it “leap,” a Goomba who could “walk” by winding it up, and Luigi holding a star and sitting on a cloud with little wheels. I think it must have been this Luigi that I was confusing with the Lakitu:

So there you have it. Funny how memory can change so many details…

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