Dinner with Herbie

Last night, I dreamt I had dinner with Herbert Allen. I knew it was a dream immediately because he was a person, whereas, in reality, as everyone is aware, he is the fictitious figurehead of a conglomerate of large corporations and does not exist in corporeal form. But, like those nighttime scenarios when you find yourself naked, toothless and flying, it all seemed to make sense.

We were seated at a round table in the middle of the woods, mysteriously lit by an unidentified light source and surrounded by hordes of phantasmic wait-people who vacillated between hovering over us and silently breaking apart into individual atoms. Distracted by these random combustions, I did not reexamine my immediate surroundings for several minutes.

When I did, I noticed other people sitting at our table. These people were not the usual citizens of certain childhood memories better left repressed, but were actually people I knew and loved. This was a relief as such bizarre dreams can easily decompose into nightmares of fifth-grade math class in which you are forced to stand at the blackboard and recite your multiplication tables for eternity as an evil nun with a sour nose watches over you with a long white piece of chalk because you and she both know you will never get them right and life is worthless if you cannot grasp nine times nine.

But no sooner had I recovered from a panic-stricken moment in which I realized I did not have a calculator than I realized that everything was under an incredibly dense atmospheric pressure. The candles (not the source of that mysterious light) flickered more slowly and the tablecloth waved in the wind like the flight of a gazelle whose flight speed has been reduced in order for the lucky viewer at home to receive the maximum effect of its disembowelment by the lion who is close behind. Words took half an hour to form, and once they left our mouths we suddenly realized they were insults of the most degrading sort. Horrified, we would jump out of our seats, scrambling over china and crystal in a vain attempt to grab the spoken word as it floated slowly across the table and hit Mr. Allen in the face. At this point, he would always break apart into several letters, Sesame Street style. Except instead of such useful words as “kit” or “kite,” the caped crusader “Silent E,” or that rather shady vowel Y, the word formed was always “Kraft,” “Hershey’s” or “Coca-Cola”.

Initially this proved rather embarrassing, as no one was medically equipped to handle such a situation and we did not want to attract attention from a waitstaff that was growing steadily creepier. But the situation was taken off our hands by a little, old bird-like man in a cowboy hat who was also sitting with us. It appeared to be his job to put Mr. Allen back together. Though toothless, Allen was eating Campbell’s chicken noodle soup out of the original tin can and laughing hysterically at absolutely nothing. The rest of us were eating chocolate coins covered in gold foil.

They tasted terrible but the atomically unstable waitress kept bringing trays of them, and somehow we knew that we were going to have to eat billions of them if we were ever going to get out alive. My last recollection is of gold-covered chocolate coins falling like rain through the air as the waitress lay sprawled upon the ground and all of us (including the little old toothless man, cowboy hat grasped firmly in hand) running with one mind in the direction a door would have been.

As I glanced back over my shoulder, I noticed that the Y from Sesame Street had indeed renounced the forces of good and was cavorting with the large Kraft trademark formerly known as Herbert Allen. Together they spelled Kraft-y.

The meaning of this dream is as yet unclear to me, but since it is my dream, I can interpret it as I choose. I like to think of it as reducible to tin cans versus gold foil.

Gold foil may be more tempting at first (especially if you are any type of rodent) because of its initial shininess, but then you realize that a chocolate coin’s worth of gold foil can be compressed into a square exactly one nanometer in length. At this point, you can’t even discern a gold tint, and you are left with a piece of chocolate that would make all the cacao farmers in South America shriek in agony.

Tin cans, on the other hand, recycle, so you can get five cents, or if that is not your style, you could make a pretty serious weapon which could annihilate all the gold foil in the world as well as the disappointed souls who had picked the gold foil over the tin can when they were faced with the choice.

It would make a nice parable. It could have one of those great parable titles like “The Tycoon Whose Gold Coins Could Not Keep Him From Disintegrating into Consonants and the Little Old Man Who Made Five Cents Off His Can of Chicken Noodle Soup.”

But no such parable exists, which could be a good thing as no one would have time to read it now, when they need it most. So here it is, all distilled into one easy title that your brain can process without much help from you. And as you’re running around from various important places to other, even more important places, frantically spreading seasonal insanity, ask yourself, “Gold foil or tin can?”