I dream of Jenny

by Eva Amsen

I often have very funny dreams. There was one where an alternate reality version of Dumbledore (from Harry Potter) drove a Vespa and wore a “The Who” T-shirt. Other dreams have seen me living on the 11th floor of an oceanside apartment with whales swimming outside my window, or featured a running, cross-dressing Jesus in a white terry-cloth bathrobe who rescued a baby from a boat. In my dreams I have steered a discount jet-ski, received ten dirty cat litter boxes from author Diana Wynne Jones, sold a friend’s furniture on eBay, gone on an adventure with Bill Murray, used a violin-rental machine at Utrecht Central Station, read blogs, bought bread, had my shoes stolen on a bus, and danced in a movie with someone called “Tony Vaio”. I remember all this because when I wake up from a dream that is worth recalling, I write it all down in a journal that I keep in the top drawer of my night stand.

Often, I can connect the dream situation with something that happened in my life recently. I dreamed about the apartment with the whales after I had visited friends at their new (whale-less) apartment, and the Jesus dream came days after I had finished reading The Da Vinci Code…

Unsurprisingly, I have had lab-related dreams as well. I’ve been scooped and rejected from a scholarship while sleeping. I’ve accidentally done an electroporation instead of a lipofectamine transfection, scooped agar out of LB plates (what???), asked for a UV lightbox to cut out a gel band in front of a live studio audience, and explained the significance and ingredients of a blocking buffer in western blotting – all while fast in REM sleep. (That last dream was pretty boring, but at least I can say that I literally know how to do a western in my dreams!)

Late one night this weekend, before going to bed, I decided to update my LibraryThing profile with all the new books I had recently acquired, and will be reading over Christmas break. As I entered Experimental Heart, I noticed that someone who had already added it earlier had tagged it with “lab lit”. I clicked the tag, and found a list of books all tagged by different users with “lab lit”. I was pretty impressed with that – pretty impressed with Jenny for popularizing a new sub-genre of literature. I made a mental note to let her know this, and then went to bed…

…at 6:45 AM I woke up, laughing, from a dream.

The dream started with me waking up in the morning and sitting down at the laptop. I opened the Nature Network page, and as usual there was a bunch of activity from people in other time zones to catch up on. It was here that I found out that Jenny had been awarded the honour of Officer of the Order of the British Empire for the concept of lab lit. She had changed her display name to “Dr. Jennifer Rohn, OBE” and everyone was congratulating her.

(The lucid part of my brain thought: “But she’s not British! You can’t get an OBE if you’re not British!” I also tried to remember, while dreaming, who had OBE’s. I knew Hugh Laurie got one recently… )

…and someone said that Hugh Laurie had written about Jenny on his website.

(“I don’t think he has his own website” protested the awake part of my brain, in which I apparently stored the entire internet.)

The dream shifted to third person perspective, and Jenny was living in a house that was built on the very edge of a tiny, tiny island – The door opened directly to water, but there was a yard behind the house. In the yard, Jenny was hanging out with Hugh Laurie (with whom she had been friends all along) and her two pet elephants. They had the following conversation:

J: “I’m taking both elephants into town next Sunday.”
H: “What? Why?”
J: “I’m going to an official ceremony.”
H: “What kind of ceremony”
J: “I’ve been awarded an OBE.”
H: [speechless gasp. Seconds pass.] “That’s fantastic!” [pauses, then sternly adds:] “You’re only taking *one* elephant.”

…and that is when I woke up, giggling madly and scrambling to find the pen in the night stand.

Epilogue: I still haven’t read Experimental Heart, but in light of the dream I bumped it to the top of the reading pile and am now about 4 chapters in I think. (I’ve encountered the phrase “lit lab” twice so far, which made me smile both times.) As far as I can remember, I haven’t dreamed about it yet.

Merry Christmas, and sweet dreams!

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Henry Gee December 24, 2008 - 2:09 AM

_received ten dirty cat litter boxes from author Diana Wynne Jones_
Didn’t that one really happen?
If I were you, I’d stay off the pickled onions so close to bedtime.

Eva Amsen December 24, 2008 - 2:16 AM

Bedtime, bedtime…. Henry, why are you even awake? Isn’t it 2 AM where you are?

Richard P. Grant December 24, 2008 - 2:56 AM

Ow ow ow. Please, to stop the laughing. It _hurts_.

Eva Amsen December 24, 2008 - 3:05 AM

I woke up laughing, I almost dropped the laptop because I was laughing so hard when I e-mailed Jenny this story earlier, and I finally was able to relatively compose myself when I wrote this post. It wears off, eventually.

Bob O'Hara December 24, 2008 - 6:02 AM

I haven’t read Experimental Heart yet, so can someone tell me – does it have elephants in it? I do know that the protagonist, like all of his clan, is as witty and looks as dashing as Hugh Laurie,though.

Jennifer Rohn December 24, 2008 - 9:08 AM

Well, he does tend towards Laurie-as-House-MD-style facial stubble, right on the first page. No pachyderms, though if Eva is very nice to me I might work one or two into my third novel. (The writing of which, so far, is nicely occupying my time off here in the Suffolk countryside, though my brain does seem to be composed largely of treacle. I think I have not yet caught up after six months of solid sleep deprivation!)

Scott Keir December 24, 2008 - 10:07 AM

_I think I have not yet caught up after six months of solid sleep deprivation!_
You are allowed a day off, Jenny. Maybe Thursday?
Eva, that’s brilliant. I often have very lucid dreams too, and always tell my friends if they are in them (I leave out some of the details). I’ve never dreamed of lablit though…

Henry Gee December 24, 2008 - 11:25 AM

_Bedtime, bedtime…. Henry, why are you even awake? Isn’t it 2 AM where you are?_
The Eye of _Nature_ never sleeps. Its gaze can pierce earth, fire, cloud and … flesh.
But seriously, I was awake, waiting to ambush Santa. Then I realized I was a day early, so I checked NN instead.

steffi suhr December 24, 2008 - 1:07 PM

I’ve always been a bit nervous telling people some of my more lucid dreams – they might be able to interpret it and conclude that I’m mad or something. I mean, I am, but don’t necessarily want people to know that.
Excellent, Eva!!

Eva Amsen December 24, 2008 - 5:50 PM

The elephants are the only thing I can’t quite place in this dream, although I have a theory: Based on the fact that she was sternly told to only take one, I think the elephants symbolize that Jenny does way too much! Scroll a few comments up for supportive evidence =)
The island seems weird too, but many of my dreams are on or near water. See the first paragraph for three explicit examples: the whale apartment, the baby on the boat, and the jet-ski. The adventure with Bill Murray was also all on water, but I _had_ just watched The Life Aquatic at the time so I’m not sure that’s relevant. I don’t know what the water means, but since it’s pretty much always there I just tend to take it as a regular dream setting. In 2000-2001 when I had recurring dreams about pigeons, in the sense that every single dream had at least one pigeon in it. Sometimes I thought “Hey, no pigeons in this dream!” and then there would be one sitting on a window sill just around the corner. Water is the new pigeons.

Henry Gee December 24, 2008 - 6:00 PM

Many of my dreams are set in monumental but often rather dilapidated interiors. I tend to get these more often during a house-move. The Institute in _By The Sea_ is a first approximation of a Gee dreamscape.

Cath Ennis January 5, 2009 - 11:47 PM

Awesome post Eva. I _love_ dreams and I occasionally have a crazy hilarious one – but none quite like these!

Heather Etchevers January 6, 2009 - 8:04 AM

@Henry – I knew I recognized it! (And am relieved that you won’t write _exclusively_ in rhyme.)
@Eva – I _thought_ Laurie had an “official” site – I thought I had seen it through a link from Stephen Fry’s old site – but everything is now drowned in House references.
I’d be quite keen to hear about your adventure with Bill Murray, though.

Henry Gee January 6, 2009 - 10:52 AM

_I knew I recognized it! (And am relieved that you won’t write exclusively in rhyme.)_
You’re referring to a contribution
That antedates my resolution.

Heather Etchevers January 6, 2009 - 10:56 AM

Yes, but since you can always invoke free verse, I can have my cake and eat it too.

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