Here I Dreamt I Was An Architect



And here I dreamt I was a soldier
And I marched the streets of Burkenau
And I recall in spring
The perfume that the air would bring
To the indolent town
Where the barkers call the moon down
The carnival was ringing loudly now
And just to lay with you
There’s nothing that I wouldn’t do
Save lay my rifle down

And try one, and try two
Guess it always comes down to
Alright, it’s okay, guess it’s better to turn this way

And I am nothing of a builder
But here I dreamt I was an architect
And I built this balustrade
To keep you home, to keep you safe
From the outside world
But the angles and the corners
Even though my work is unparalleled
They never seemed to meet
This structure fell about our feet
And we were free to go

And try one, and try two
Guess it always comes down to
Alright, okay, guess it’s better to turn this way

And here in Spain I am a Spaniard
I will be buried with my marionettes
Countess and courtesan
Have fallen ‘neath my tender hand
When their husbands were not around
But you, my soiled teenage girlfriend
While you furrow like a lioness
And we are vagabonds
We travel without seat belts on
We live this close to death

And try one, and try two
Guess it always comes down to
Alright, it’s okay, guess it’s better to turn this
But I won, so you lose
Guess it always comes down to
Alright, it’s okay, guess it’s better to turn this way

THE DECEMBERISTS, ‘Here I Dreamt I Was An Architect’

Tonight at our writing meeting, I read my new chapter I worked on this week, where the main characters meet for the first time and hook up on a kind of whim. At a Freshman orientation mixer in a dorm center at MIT.

I got a lot of good feedback, and know right away I need to work on some things. Including more scene context, more of what the characters are thinking as they have this impromptu conversation, and more of Crystal’s perspective and character.

I’ve been asked what Crystal’s motivation is in the book, what she wants, what she’s doing there– if she couldn’t simply be replaced by a sexy lamp.

I’ve argued that my work is more thematic than plot driven, that I discuss and experiment with ideas rather than focus on action. I’ve called this novel a contemplation on the intersections of technology and spirituality in today’s tech- ubiquitous culture. And I’ve tried to say that Crystal is the other half of Shungyosai’s flawed philosophy, that she is the foundation to his faulty architecture in building a virtual realm, which most likely, in my opinion, should not even be attempted. But what does she do? What is her arc? Her story? Is it just to be the philosophical completion of a duality?

So I’ve considered.

At the very least, I need to give her more time investment in the story, which I have planned on doing, to make her fully the ‘half of the thematic dichotomy’ or whatever I’m attempting to make her out to be. But also, her desires, goals, need to be something that moves apart from their meaning to Shungyosai’s character.

Shungyosai thinks he’s the boy genius, who puts his faith in technology, and longs forever to see over the next crest of horizon… and Crystal is the grounded earthly child of God who shakes her head in pity at him as he wanders over the cliff, that much is clear. But she wants to be an architect. Why is she more than a minor character in the plot? I’ve said she has a lasting influence on Shungyosai, a very large impact that he doesn’t fully understand at first. But making this happen involves her being active.

Does she want to save him? What does that even mean? Is she aloof from his technological pursuits? I have her as a woman of faith who has attended church services out of high school of her own volition. She finds something in them that give her life structure, meaning, which is amorphous to an institutional capitulation of autonomous identity. She doesn’t belong to the church so much as use it as a vehicle to connect to God. Is this a parallel to Shungyosai in some way? As Crystal mocks inwardly the old men grumbling at her short skirts as she attends services, so does Shungyosai troll the internet as the true culture bearer who knows the way to salvation.

Or is one an inhering of one’s spirit and being. And the other finding more and more ingenius ways to chase one’s own humanity to more dusty silicon-corners.

I’ve considered Shungyosai and Crystal’s attitude toward his question for his path in terms of the ending of Jack Kerouac’s first novel ‘The Town and the City’, partially autobiographical, where the character who represents Jack, having quit football after an injury (as Kerouac did) becomes interested in literature, his inner life, and in the end walks off from his familiar life in the small town to pursue… something blowing in the wind, a ghost, a breeze of phenomenal change he senses preternaturally.

“Don’t worry about me,” he cried, waving. “It’s not raining hard at all. See? Just a drizzle, just a little drizzle. I’ll be all right.” The driver of the truck, enshrouded in his high cab, sadly called out: “Well, I guess you’ll be okay then. Remember what I told you now. Walk a quarter mile down the road, just follow the river, till you get to the railroad overpass. If it starts raining hard you can wait there. Then you come to the red lights at the big junction, and there you’ll see the gas stations and the diners, and there’s the main highway that’ll take you right in. It goes over the bridge. Got that straight? Good luck to you, man!” He shifted into gear and lumbered off the highway. 

And Peter was alone in the rainy night. 

He was on the road again, traveling the continent westward, going off to further and further years, alone by the waters of life, alone, looking towards the lights of the river’s cape, towards tapers burning warmly in the towns, looking down along the shore in remembrance of the dearness of his father and of all life. 

The heat-lightning glowed softly in the dark, and crowded tree-top shores and wandering waters showed through shrouds of rain. When the railroad trains moaned, and river-winds blew, bringing echoes through the vale, it was as if a wild hum of voices, the dear voices of everybody he had known, were crying: “Peter, Peter! Where are you going, Peter?” And a big soft gust of rain came down. 

He put up the collar of his jacket, and bowed his head, and hurried along.’

Jack Kerouac, ‘The Town and the City’

This kind of lone wolf introspective bit ain’t selling particularly well right now with the ladies I’m finding. For one thing, it belies a threat that introspection and brooding harbors an outburst of untelegraphed moves. This way lies madness, thinking, oh poor me, so misunderstood, so brilliant, so alone in my high towered thoughts.

And mostly this view is accurate.

But the lonely pensively beating heart wonders aloud in its quiet moments, if the high towers that people like Crystal live in, of their spiritual homes and perches of archimedian points of stability, were not built by mad men long ago dreaming spires, and spires, from nightmare visions.

This world is not finished. Stay awake. Be ready. You do not know the hour. So goes the received wisdom of burning clouds of incarnadine revelation.

And also, as the hymn says, and all peoples must receive as relateable wisdom,


Perhaps what Crystal wants is peace, or at the least, serenity.

Something thus far, Shungyosai knows not whether his heart is capable.

I just want to believe
I just want to believe
I just want to believe, in us

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