Without going into too many crazy details, I’m not feeling so great. I’ve resisted surgery and similar work because I know, from long-gained experience, that I recover slowly and every day of recovery is just absolutely horrible. I have slept for only 3-4 hours at a stretch, I still can’t quite talk, and let’s just say that once you start to head past my chest and stomach downwards, there’s warning signs and releases you have to sign. So let’s not go there.
What interests me, though, is what my brain just did.
I’ve hosted at a number of facilities for both my COW.NET ISP start-up that imploded and the textfiles.com family of sites, as well as a bunch of friends, stalwart investors, and so on. I’ve been doing this since 1995. One of the first was an artist colony in South Boston called The Distillery, which was, entirely, awesome. I’ll go into detail about it someday and you won’t believe how awesome it was, but it was awesome. I wish I’d owned a car so I could get there more, and had more money so I could have bought it more things. But that’s a personal, unrelated failing, not related to the awesome. Eventually, I moved out of the Distillery and hosted with my job. I luckily did not have to learn the hard way about why you don’t do that, I just happened to get a cooler deal and went elsewhere and then when the forces came to destroy me, there was no hosting at work to blend my two worlds and eat my face. So for that matrix-like dodging of that bullet, that was pretty awesome, but mostly luck and coincidence awesome, not a great awesome.
The place I hosted wth for years, Dreamcom, was in the other half of a domino’s pizza in Quincy. This was in some ways awesome on paper, but also not really an astounding technological fantasyland. But it definitely did the job for me, was dependable, and helped me through a lot of things. There are also photos of this location, which are here, and make it clear, like I said, that the awesome was in their dependability, lack of downtime, and good price for me, a long-time customer (at one point they were losing money on me). We had some rough patches, but yeah, they were, when you finally racked up all the tally, awesome.
I now host both at a location called Tranquil Hosting and out of my basement. My basement is, actually, pretty awesome in its own way, especially in a “this is just one flight of stairs away from me” level of awesome, which reminds me of all those times I had to take the subway or drive in my car to reboot a server or check a connection. Also, obviously, I fill it with toys and wonder of a historical nature, so it’s pretty awesome that way too. Two handfuls of awesome.
Anyway. What my brain just did.
I’d gone in for another horrible sleep, where no position is really comfortable and a lot of me hurts. I had to keep getting up to use the bathroom (which hurts) or go down the stairs (which hurts) to get some water (which hurts), before trying to get back into bed (which hurts). So I’m not really sleeping well here, at all.
Now, my brain… Well..
I now have to assume my brain concluded, based on all this incoming pain data, that I am dying, finished, over with. This is serious business to the brain. The brain doesn’t want to die, but the brain also has to buck up and run the damn show until it’s released from duty. So Body was obviously trying to get some rest and Brain was on sleep duty until Body finally perished.
Brain had several approaches at hand here. Either make me sleep in a deep blackout, trying to ignore the twinges of pain and misery, or load itself up with a dream so stimulating, so full of neat shit, so totally awesome, that my body, completely and utterly distracted by the awesome, would ignore the pain and be truly transported to another place and time and not even notice the whole “urk, I’m dead” part. So brain decided to push all its chips to red and bet the farm on Awesome.
I’m one of those people whose primary, big-sky kind of dreams all take place in one of several locations, probably a dozen or two. I could list them out or be pithy, but they don’t all have names. I return to them year after year. Some of them I’ve been stopping by for about 20 years or more, that I know of. In some cases they’re idealized places I’ve been, other times they appear to be totally made up out of wholecloth, but I really have returned to them over and over again until it’s gotten to the point that they’re old friends.
I was lucky enough to interact with the l0pht of old, the enclave of hackerdom and history in Boston that flourished in the early 1990s before moving a few times and ultimately exploding against the side of the @STAKE security company. I was nearby but not involved, so to speak. Setting aside the conflict, drama and issues this history holds (which is worth getting into at some point), I was able to visit that first warehouse, and helped get some electrical stuff for them that gave them a cool circuit box for a few projects, and an old Vax, and so on. I got to hang out in this sea of couches and computers and music and lights, and it was, absolutely awesome. Certainly, in the context of the world out there, this was an awesome place.
But I was never a member of the l0pht, nor would it have made sense for me to be. I am a loner and I don’t play on teams very well and the l0pht was at various times a team or a collective, so it would have been a disaster. But I always wanted, in the back of my mind, something that awesome.
Hence, when I set up my own places, like at the Distillery or so on, I tried in some way to keep some of that awesome in a jar, even if my awesome was, by its nature, nowhere near as awesome. If the L0pht’s awesome saw my awesome out of its limo window, it would totally roll up the window and keep driving without slowing down. You just can’t simulate the best part of these things, the people, where you’d come in and someone would be doing something amazingly cool and twirl around and show you what they were doing and you’d become, by dint of having walked in the door, the first guy to see something that changed the world; you’d walk in and there’d be two people of such intense worldwide fame, right there, people you had just read about (and would continue to read about), but they were right here talking with you, like you were somebody special. This was high-grade awesome, and the l0pht burned it like a locomotive burned coal.
So one of the places in my recurring dreams was a sort of hosting facility, a kind of idealized place that was sort of in a strip mall but kind of not, kind of on a hill that wasn’t, nearby some cool houses that were there and not there. Dreamstuff, the usual. Dreams involving this idealized hosting facility were sparse but definitely occurred over the years, especially when I was having issues or something at the real places I was hosting. There were the barest of plot threads moving through this set of dreams, mostly involving that at some point the facility changed hands, from one nice enough party to a more gruff but hands-off party. So I had a shadow of the same worries I’d reach elsewhere but would, in fact, have them all work out great, because the new guy didn’t try to butt in and just let my stuff run.
In this hosting place of my dreams, I kind of had a vault, a room that was full of neat stuff, and there was a foyer area (which kept changing) and of course the light would change so things had fiber-optics and cool shadows and computer screens, and there were friendly folks who also hosted there, and I’d bump into them and we’d get along, and maybe they’d play the parts in stories I was experiencing in the day, and they were just great. Dreams are like this, sometimes.
In fact, at some point over the years, I noticed a door next to my vault, and going through it, ended up in this whole other apartment, where it was kind of like the greatest lodge/modern/medieval decoration, this great place that had other friendly folks (more gothic, more like those to-themselves people wearing leather that float around at the DEFCON conventions and then disappear into wherever for another year) who were weird and unusual but friendly, too.
So what I’m saying here, is that this dream was one I’ve had for a long time, involved computers and hosting and facilities, and also wanting to be a part of the L0pht and the idealized images of hacker culture that were shoved down a lot of innocent throats throughout the last few decades. It’s one of my favorites, except of course for the rest of these recurring dreams. These dreams renew me and I love them.
So here I am, obviously dying as far as Brain is concerned. Brain wants to give me some of my favorite dreams. Brain has a problem.
Obviously, based on all this pain, Body is not going to stick around much longer. Brain has to work fast. So Brain puts on its little Dream Chef Hat. cracks its knuckles, and gets to work.
First of all, I arrive at the facility, and once again, it is awesome; my stuff is running fine, I have a little place of my own, and there’s even a little chance for me to do some cleaning, putting stuff in order, making myself useful. I am happy and I am content. Awesome.
But what’s this? There’s other people here! It’s late and the lights are all indirect and things are humming, and cool folks, the kind of folks I’ve run into at many hacker meetings or at conventions, are milling around. They’re happy to see me but also very happy to be working on their stuff, which is going well, so nobody’s really bothering me, we’re just all doing our own thing. Awesome.
But then I see that the place is bigger than I remember, which is odd, because it felt kind of big before. But I remember that Ivan, the guy who runs it, is always looking for new business, and doesn’t care about zoning (because it’s a dream, dreams have great zoning laws) and so he keeps sticking on all these other related places. So as I walk along, there’s beanbag chairs and the combination of a bunch of neat little spaces I’ve seen at startups over the years that I’ve visited or browsed or seen photos of. I see people I recognize, old friends who I’ve missed out on years of seeing or whose friendships are faded in reality but here we’ve not missed a beat of our separate lives and we’re just happy to see each other. Totally Awesome.
But what’s this? Through this door, I pass a couple posters. One of the posters has a girl wearing a classic mid-1990s hacker girl persona green wig and tight outfit, one of those unrealistic things that photograph well. She apparently is some famous pop star. Apparently she signed the poster! To me! I look closer…
This is the girl whose cheek I kissed after working myself up over it for two weeks at a summer day camp I went to when I was 11 and who I never saw again because I forgot her name and didn’t know how to find her again and whose face I could barely remember. There she is, as beautiful as I remember her sitting by the swimming pool, twenty-five years ago.
At this point, Body realizes Brain is not just phoning in the performance.
As I walk through to the other parts of the building, I’m seeing that there’s a party going on. The best kind of party, loaded up with folks who are interesting and cool but not annoying. Imagine someone centrifuged the uncomfortable silences and poorly-made costumes out of a science fiction convention and injected 400 gallons of self-assurance of comfort in one’s own skin into everyone. This was that kind of a party, and I wasn’t the center of it, just another person drifting around through this large amazing apartment with Quake-Level-Like ceilings and flying buttresses, and staircases and, again, indirect lighting. It wasn’t loud, it wasn’t mean, and folks were there as long as they wanted. The party was going to go on forever.
I dipped into a side door, and went “huh”, as I could see there was some sort of rehearsal going on. Apparently over in the corner of this apartment was a door leading into a world-class stage, where actors in costume were working out a dance number involving complicated steps and twirling and it looked like they were getting it all right. I could see that out on the audience there was an amazing, totally unrealistic table, almost floating above the other seats, where I and a bunch of friends could sit and eat and watch this performance in perfect view and sound, anytime we wanted to. Awesome.
I went back in through the party, waving, moving along to the door that only I tended to go through, back through to the hosting facility, where my door with my cool little hosted machines was, back out to the lobby area.
Sitting around are a bunch of people, big fans, all happy to see me, as I sit down. In a voice that sounds weird (because I’m choked up from pain currently, in my throat), I say “This place… is so awesome. You don’t get all this awesome in a natural form, you have to pump in the awesome until it reaches some sort of rareified awesome that causes a sort of superconducting atmospheric event of awesome.” This is a lame joke, but everyone laughs, they’re happy to see me.
I see a ramp. What’s with the ramp, I say, sipping whatever nice drink I have.
“That’s the casino,” says one of my oldest, best and now long-gone-out-of-my-life friends, and presses a button where the door opens and there’s an actual casino down there, lights going but sounds not too loud, the kind of mid-level casino I love that isn’t flooded over with gimmicks and floods of crowds but which also isn’t so small and dinky that you can barely find anything happening.
A perfect casino on a ramp down from where I’m sitting near my machines and my friends of many forevers, down the hall from the never-ending parties and performances and sweeping architecture, in a building of indirect lights and a perfect night temperature, near a poster of a girl I once loved but never met again or told her so, connected to the internet forever and ever.
Brain obviously thought that it was time to give me a good send-off, and all things considering, that was one hell of a double-downed dream to pull out. I suspect my actual last dream will be of similar caliber, if this is any indication.
But to Brain’s likely great surprise, I did not die, but in fact woke up, enjoying the restful 3 hours of sleep I just got, amazed at what I’d just seen, and distracted, ever so much, from the horrible pain for a while.
So thank you, Brain. You are, totally, awesome.
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