Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Excowsions: Dream Country

Dream Country. Neil Gaiman may or may not have coined this phrase, but the title of his Sandman arc has a different meaning in my little stuffed-with-beans head.

I like dreaming. Cause dreamin' can make you mine. I like dreamin', closing my eyes and feeling fine. Oh wait, I'm channeling seventies pop radio there for a minute. Let me start again. I like dreaming. It's a dandy way to have a vacation without ever leaving your bed. I especially enjoy those dreams—c'mon, you know you've had 'em—where you're in some new and detailed oneiric landscape that is both vaguely familiar within the context of your actions in the dream and at the same time someplace you've never been in before. It's a fictional environment, not necessarily a fantastic one: there are houses and hills and roads and trees, not aliens and time machines and dinosaurs. In short, it's like the world around the corner, but you've never seen it before, and after you wake up, you'll never see it again unless you fix it in your head, which I like to do when I jot down my dreams (don't worry, I'm not gonna blog 'em—I know how boring dreams can be if you haven't dreamed 'em yourself). I call these fictional landscapes my own Dream Country.

Of course, I dream about London a lot—y'all know how much I love England's capital city. But more often than not I'm not dreaming about St. Paul's or Big Ben or the Thames or Hyde Park, I'm dreaming about out of the way corners I've never been in before, mundane and ordinary London locations—and nearly always set in a London Underground Tube station or catching a big red London bus. Not surprising, if you know my obsession with London Transport. I will be happily wandering in my dream and come across a London bus in an usual locale and run to hop on board even though I don't know where it is going. I love dreams like that.

What's this got to do with my drive around Seattle last Friday, you ask? Well, imagine my surprise riding in the big rental car down the Bothell Everett Highway towards the home of fellow bloggers Laura and Eric, idly looking out the window while John drove, and spotting this:

"Stop! Stop!" I screamed, and John swerved and pulled off the highway with a crunch and spray of gravel into the parking lot of Country Village, an antiques and craft market. After John scolded me for yelling in the car, we hopped out and ran up to the mirage only to discover that yes, it is indeed an authentic London Routemaster double-decker bus:

Now, it's not that I've never seen a London Routemaster outside of London before. They're all over the place in Manhattan as tourist buses, for example. But it was just the surprise of finding one purely by serendipity, added to the fact that it's basically unrestored, that gave me that weird and uncanny feeling of déjà vu. Why, you could even see where this bus was supposed to go, the wonderful Dream Country of Clackney Wick:

Or maybe I'm misreading that crumpled destination roller and it says Clapton and Hackney Wick. But...no. This is a Dream Country bus, and it goes to a place only in my dreams, that you can't find on Google unless I'm talking about it. (See?) That's the joy and the delight of Dream Country: a place that doesn't exist but ought to.

Maybe this only matters to someone as captivated by London Transport as me. Maybe it only felt spooky and mysterious because there was no one else around, and whatever the Routemaster had been turned into (I thought it was a photography studio, although someone on one of my Flickr groups thinks it's a bead store), it was closed so I couldn't find out its true purpose. Or maybe the utter surrealism of the place was due to the freakin' giant chicken behind us in the parking lot:

Whatever it was, that's one of the things I love best about excowsions: finding the usual and unexpected around every corner. Just like in Dream Country, real-world travel is the journey, not the destination.


Anonymous said...

The vehicle in these pictures is not a Routemaster but a low height postwar RLH. These were used on routes where there were low bridges and required a double deck vehicle.

Bully said...

Thanks for the correction, Anon! I'm not as well-informed on the different models so I appreciate the technical know-how!