Wednesday, July 22, 2015

I own 'Brothers in Arms' by Dire Straits because of some lady in a swimming pool

Believe it or not, it has to do with this woman.

Years ago, and we're talking decades here, my mother and father got me a whole stack of books they'd found in a remainder bin,  One of them was this collection of funny and unusual vintage photos from Life magazine. Now, Life has been kind of a mini-obsession with me for a long time. Not the magazine's sad final years of dwindling sales and cultural irrelevance, of course. No, I mean the mag's heyday as a weekly publication, right up to the early 1970s, when it was such an easily-identifiable piece of Americana that even MAD spoofed it. When I was in college -- and I realize how nerdy this will sound -- I spent many hours poring over old Life magazine back issues, which the library had bound in volumes. I was especially transfixed by the photos, but I read the articles, too. I can remember being really psyched to find the issue which contained an article actually written by Frank Zappa called "The Oracle Has It All Psyched Out." To me, issues of Life were much more interesting decades later than they probably had been when they were brand new.

So I usually read before I go to bed, and one night I decided to browse through the aforementioned volume of funny Life photos. One of them was a 1962 black-and-white snapshot of a girl swimmer in what looked like an Olympic-sized pool. She was spitting water like a fountain, and the water in the pool caused a distortion which made it appear that her head had come loose from her body. I noticed a weird detail in the picture, though: a big crucifix on the wall behind her. For some reason, I decided that this was a swim meet at a Catholic high school or college. I was brought up Catholic, so maybe that had something to do with it. With a little Google-fu, I found a site which identified the girl as Kathy Flicker and the locale as Princeton University's Dillon Gym.

Anyway, I was looking at this book before bed, and it made its way into my dreams. I had a very vivid dream in which I was competing in a swim meet at a Catholic high school. In reality, I can swim, but I have never even come close to competing in a swim meet. But, still, that's what was happening in this dream. Before the competition started, I noticed that all the other competitors had these special little slippers that they put on over their feet. I didn't have a pair, and I started to get nervous. Then I really freaked out when the race started, and my competitors were all able to walk on water with their special slippers. I tried it, and I sank to the bottom. And all through this experience, the song "Walk of Life" by Dire Straits was playing in the background. I could still hear it when I was underwater, except it was a bit muted and distant.

The next day -- maybe the first thing, since it was a Saturday -- I drove to a second-hand CD store and bought a copy of Brothers In Arms by Dire Straits, specifically to get the song "Walk of Life." And it's still in my collection to this day. I don't know if I've even played the other songs on it, except for maybe "Money for Nothing." I've told a version of this story to all the therapists I've ever had, and by my count, I'm on my fourth one of those.