So I had a dream this morning; this morning because, as usual, after waking up at 07:00 and taking a 45 minute shower, I found myself lacking the motivation to make it out the door on time for my first class of the day. So back to bed I went, asleep at roughly 08:00 and awake at 09:15...and then back to sleep and awake again at 10:25. In that hour, I had this dream:

I am executing two men in the woods. They have done something horrible; I do not know what, but I know they have to die. I kill the first one cleanly, with a shot to the back of his head. I turn my gun on the second one...but he is gone. Suddenly I am overwhelmed with panic and begin to flee.

As I run, aimlessly, the geography around me shifts - I am now among a group of people.

And there she is.

I see her, and immediately feel compelled to take her with me. She's short - roughly 5'3", with a lean frame. Her hair is a dark auburn, chest length, with traces of curls towards its end; her face is freckled from endless days spent exploring in the sun. I grab her by the waist and stare into her eyes; she takes my hand and we run.

Endlessly, aimlessly, we run. Through forests, fields, populous cities, deserted towns, we run. We stop occasionally, resting on hilltops, mountainsides, in meadows under the stars. We hold one another, kissing, whispering our stories in hushed breaths, our faces serious and solemn. We have no direction, no purpose, no identities. We have no money, no possessions. No food, no families, no friends, no trappings of any sort; yet, we have one another, and we subsist solely by virtue of our presence, though we are strangers of a strange sort - I will never know her name, nor she mine, but it doesn't matter. We have someone to clutch at night and feel our hands clasped around their waist. We have no need of tears; worries are some ethereal presence, locked in a world that is foreign and unknown to us.

We travel alone. No matter where we rest, we never meet with anyone else; the rolling prairies always lend themselves to us at night, void of all inhabitants, human and animal alike.

And then he comes, swift and terrible - the survivor. We have run hundreds, thousands of miles, never staying in the same place twice, yet he has found us.

Panic envelopes every neuron in my brain, welling up rapidly until I am paralyzed with fear and anxiety, buckling to the ground. She grabs my hand and stares into my eyes, her eyes welling with tears, her face a tapestry of worry and anguish. She knows that I must fight. And should I lose, we will never meet again.

I force myself to my feet and size him up before throwing myself at him. I don't even care about winning or losing - I just want her to be safe. I have to protect her no matter the cost; she is all I have left, my only confidant in this world.

As my fist connects with his face, I bolt upright in bed, breathing heavily and slick with sweat.

I have had many, many dreams since registering on E2, several of which I considered noding; yet none of them have impacted me so profoundly as this one. I have always been one to analyze my dreams, and this one immediately reveals several needs and insecurities that I am certainly experiencing and am aware of in my waking life. But this is not why this dream resonates with me so strongly.

This dream hurts me. It hurts to think about; whenever it comes to mind (and it has done so hundreds of times today), I feel an unbearable sense of loneliness and my chest aches. The moment I awoke after my conflict with the survivor, I felt a sense of isolation so paralyzing that all I could do was lie in bed, trying to convince myself to get up again. Even now as I write these words, I am fighting the urge to crawl back into bed and bury myself in my blankets, though I know I will never meet her again. In the short hour I was asleep, I fell in love with her, and the extreme sense of attachment we developed has followed me into the physical realm.

No other dream I have ever had has caused me to reflect so deeply on my situation in this world; despite all of the friends I surround myself with, all of the activities I partake in with them, and all of the love I give and receive in return, I have absolutely no-one that I can confide in the way I could with her. And it makes sense; she is my subconscious manifestation of my ideal mate - my literal dream girl. This hurts worst of all - to this day I have never felt the sense of comfort that I found in my own head.

I just hope I meet her again someday.

This weekend, my university spins up its annual dance of fantasy and fundraising known as Reunions. We have big ones; the Reunions at my alma mater last three days and are famously second only to the Indianapolis 500 on Budweiser's beer order bookings.

This will be my class's 20th reunion. I'm not going.

Unfortunately, this means that I'm doomed to deal with half a week or so of tsuris. I'm not going because given my current mental state and the state of my life, I'd make it perhaps half an hour before either leaving in a pit of black depression or trying intently to murder some drunken annoying bastard intent on explaining to me why their life was so fulfilled.

That's really the problem. I've seen the 20th reunion class at my university. The emphasis changes, sharply, from being about reliving the glory days to aggressively showcasing how successful and happy one is. Look, these are my 2.4 perfect children. This is the older and very successful me. This is my lovely spouse.

Or, 'yes, I'm absolutely married with children but I'm taking the time this weekend to get off on my own so I can really party! WOOHOO! Isn't it great pretending to be single?'

Either one would, pushed with enough verve, provoke me to attempted murder at this point. And I guarantee: while my class isn't that large by university standards, it sure as hell contains more than its fair share of stereotypical success junkie assholes.

So no matter how many people I saw that I might want to see, I'd be sure to have to put up with a torrent of those others. Because one of the things they can't resist (and I know this from experience) is finding someone who isn't wildly successful and isn't incredibly happy with their lives - because just being around those people makes them feel better about their own existences.

Like I said, murder.

The problem is that a bunch of my friends are all now in full 'what do you mean you won't be there!' mode. And no matter how hard I try, I cannot get them to understand that not only would being there be a bad idea, but their insistent nudging to be there and the need to respond politely to them is exacting much the same sort of cost.

Because all of them are happily married, have kids, etc. and will be there either because they're proud of their families or because they'll be demonstrating how happy they are by loudly declaiming that this weekend is their 'escape from the family' - an escape they'd never consider other than in this artificial realm of Perfect Excuse for a Temporary Pass.


This weekend is going to suck, even if I sit at home and field snide references via Twitter and SMS.

April 2011 broke the record as The Warmest April Ever on the global scale! This record global warmth has, with little doubt, contributed to a particularly active and violent beginning to the tornado season.

In the classic pattern, warmer than normal gulf air colliding with cold frontal boundaries along a fluctuating jet stream, has resulted in wave after wave of severe storm outbreaks. These storm systems have caused widespread flooding spawned killer tornadoes in their wakes. Tuscaloosa, Alabama; Joplin, Missouri and far too many other communities are in need of assistance.

Here in Chicagoland, we have been spared the worst of these storms which, for the most part, has kept us in a perpetual state of March-like cold and gloom until the end of the first week of May. In fact we have a new record of our own. This year has been Chicago's Darkest April on record.

When I last wrote my gardening log for April 18, 2011 I was waiting for seasonable warmth necessary to start growing potatoes. I waited and waited with nothing to do but watch the cold weather crops sit in the soil without any sunlight to make any real growth.

I was especially eager to see some asparagus, as my beds are now three years old this year and should produce a heavy harvest for the first time. Not a spear, my friends and neighbors, not a spear.

My father remarked that he has never seen the leaves on the trees leaf so late. The first of May rolled around and most of the tallest trees remained dormant and skeletal against the perpetually grey sky.

Mom was at least pleased that "for once" her fruit trees would not be "foolish" and bloom to early only to get nipped by a late frost.

Finally in the middle of the first week of May, the long term forecast called for warmer weather for the weekend.

I stopped by Klein's farm market and bought two zucchini plants, two yellow summer squash, two Early Girl tomatoes, two Better Boy tomatoes, two Roma tomatoes and two Sunsugar tomatoes.

Once home, I brought out some mason jars to germinate seeds in: Red Burgundy Okra, Kandy Korn Sweet Corn, Quickie Sweet Corn, Fortex Pole Beans, Big Mama Lima Pole Beans, Marketmore cucumbers, and Savor Melons. I soaked the seeds in water for 24 hours and then twice a day thereafter, I rinsed and drained the jars with clean water. By the weekend, I had good germination and the seeds were ready to go into the garden. The exception was the lima beans which seemed to ferment instead of germinate and I tossed them out when they got smelly.

That Friday I received another surprise. For more than a month I had been looking for a new tiller. Not a "new" new tiller but specifically, a good used Troy-Bilt pony (which you may read all about here). Just in time too as the weekend warm-up turned into a two day heat wave!

To my delight, the asparagus grew up about a foot overnight. I harvested well over three servings over the weekend. I tilled the soil with my new tiller and, boy-I-tell-you-what, having a rear tined tiller means all the difference. The soil was so fine and fluffy when I was done you could sleep on it. I sowed all of my seed and planted all of my plants. Then the storms came in the night and I was lucky that everything in the garden was spared the hail that fell to the north and to the east.

Most of the seeds that I planted had sprouted quickly in the heat due to my careful pre-germination. The corn was up within a few days followed by the pole beans the cucumbers and the okra. The melons did not come up that week and the lima beans did not come up all.

Everything in the garden really thrived in the sun and heat that week. Including the weeds. Hundreds of little unwanted seedlings. As I keep a mulchless garden so as not to overwinter nasty pests. The drawback is I have to really be on top of my weeding.

My favorite tool for weeding is a scuffle hoe, also known as a stirrup hoe because the blade is shaped like a crude stirrup. The advantage of the scuffle hoe is that the action of its stirrup like blade is roughly parallel with the soil rather that perpendicular to the soil as with a common wedge hoe. The latter merely scrapes the surface of the soil and the user is likely to take up carelessly hacking away at the earth which can damage the roots of row crops. The scuffle hoe actually skims just underneath the soil as you weed with a pushing and pulling motion which does a fine job at breaking up the new roots of young weeds without damaging roots the adjacent row crops.

I keep both edges of my scuffle hoe nice and sharp with a sanding drum bit for my Dremel drill. This makes the action nice and easy and makes the hoe just as effective for bigger weeds as well. I can cut through a thick dandelion root with one whack. The scuffle hoe works best when the soil is on the dry side. I usually have to go over the whole garden at least once every other week from May to July. If I don't I will quickly have a jungle that will steal all the sunlight and soil nutrients.

The weekend's heat was short lived. The cold returned with the usual passing of the thunderstorms and by the following weekend frost was threatening. This was especially annoying because that weekend was the average date for the last frost. That weekend was blustery and cold. My cucumber seedlings were damaged by the frost. Everything else seemed to survive.

It remained on the cool side for a bit. Good healthy potato plants had emerged from their beds. I replaced the cucumber seedlings with some very nice looking plants I found at The Red Barn farmstand outside of Woodstock, IL. When the next heat wave came through I received another burst of growth from the asparagus beds. I am very pleased with the asparagus and I hope to have a healthy bed for years to come. To my annoyance, however, the unusually Summer-like heat caused much of the Zamboni Broccoli Raab, which was barely a foot high, to begin to bolt.

Cold weather crops are called as such because they grow nice and big and leafy when the air temperature is cool (so long as there is sunlight for such growth). But as soon as the heat hits, the plant makes a transformation and will grow as stalky and tall as possible in anticipation of producing a flower head.

This is the whole point for all annual plants: germinate, get big, get tall, make flowers, make seed, die. We plant eaters strive to make the cool weather, big and leafy stage as long as possible and our horticulturalists attempt to breed plants with slow-bolting attributes. When the plant begins to bolt, the leaves turn bitter tasting. Cutting off the emerging flower head can slow or even stop bolting but usually not for long.

Broccoli Raab is a cabbage green in that is good sautéed or prepared like turnip greens, kale or collard greens. When it bolts it makes a flower head very similar to a loose broccoli head. It is best harvested just before this head is about to flower. At only a foot high, I just harvested the entire plant of those that were in this state. In the kitchen, I blanched them momentarily and then sautéed them with some garlic and white wine and served it with sautéed jumbo shrimp as dinner for two. The Musclun mix salad greens also bolted when they were barely 8 inches tall and ware only fit for compost. The Harmony Hybrid Spinach also bolted some. They were made into salads and sautéed for spinach pizza.

Well, I guess that is all for now. It has been continued cool this past week. Up north in Wisconsin they had a freeze warning last night. It has warmed up today and, once again, we are going to get up into the 90's again this Memorial Day weekend.

I hope everyone has a good weekend.

Everyone out on the road, drive safe and sane.

And, please, do not forget to do something to honor our veterans.

"No", we said, huddled and shivering. "Not us, not now." It was as much a plea now as it was what we believed before, never us, no matter how bad it got anywhere else. Never now.

The sky laughed. It replied so loudly as to awaken primal fear in everything, in existence itself. All of our petty words, so small and cliche for what was truly happening. To say it "roared" to say the din was "thunderous." They say nothing of the truth, as they came from that state of mind we had, where it was a thing to be studied from a distance of time and space. We were as removed as a sociopathic killer from a victim, performing the autopsy himself. The very noise of the sky was enough to shake houses to their foundations. We should be afraid. Somewhere right now, a tornado could rip lives to shreds. It could be brewing out this very window.

Just as quickly, that intensity is gone. Now as soon as the thunder stopped, no. Maybe a half hour later, it feels like we're in the clear. I can hear it far away, but no longer in my backyard. The storm isn't over, but there is no sense of imminent danger. I wonder if we're missing a tree?

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