What are the lives I would want to live in my next life?
I have always wanted to be a pastry chef and a bread baker. Baking is my meditation. I like making things that please people. I don’t eat what I bake, except to taste it and make sure it will please. Therefore, I would never get fat on what I make. (Except bread. I would have to limit my bread.) I would open a small bakery in my little town. My ovens would be top of the line. I would offer my challah, French bread and an orange fennel rye given to me by a friend years ago. My sweets would be Linzer tarts, elephant ears, perfect chocolate chip cookies, and peanut bars. I’d offer three pies and three cakes: blueberry, apple and cherry, pound cake, lemon cake and sour cream coffee cake. Money would not be the object, but I would probably become very successful and then get very rich.
When the rigors of the bakery got too much for me, I would mentor the next generation and keep the quality up while I wrote cookbooks about it. I could write about food forever. I could also write recipes, menus, instructional manuals, restaurant reviews, and poems about what I crave and what I just ate.
But if I wasn’t a pastry chef, I would probably be a Broadway star. I have been dying to star in a Broadway show forever. Once I might have been Anita in West Side Story, or the young Gypsy Rose Lee. Now I would take on Dolly Levi, or Mama Rose. I would fit into the life easily. I’d have a small pied a terre on the Upper West Side. Eat after the show dinners at anywhere but Joe Allen which I would know is now a tourist stop. I would be good friends with a lot of talented performers. My pre-show ritual would be a teaspoon of honey in a tablespoon of bourbon. I would eventually bottle and label it and give it to friends for Christmas.
If not, I would make jewelry. I adore making jewelry. There was a bead store on 21st Street and 7th Avenue in New York in the nineteen sixties. It was very bare bones, to-the-trade, with like-size and- color beads separated in big tubs and cartons down the long narrow storefront and shoppers would scoop what they wanted into a basket and take it up front where it was weighed for a price. I bought far too many beads in those days. I still have a small container of those original beads, which I have added to from time to time. In my dreams, I would know how to string a necklace that did not have a little gap where the stringing material showed, because I couldn’t get my fat finger out of the loop of the knot. In my dreams, I would make necklace after necklace of professional looking necklaces. I would create paper beads that were just symmetrical enough yet looked homemade enough to be interesting. I would know what tools to buy, and throw the rest away.
Or maybe I would be a piano tuner.
I have always wanted to be a piano tuner. Why? Because when my piano was enough out of tune to actually hear it, I wanted to be able to fix it. Because it seems an uncommon specialty and a dying art, and I would become one of the few who knew its secrets and carried it on. It would take me into houses with pianos which I could help. And pianists, too. I would administer first aid and play music, get to know the keys and the insides, the felt hammers, the strings intimately. They would yield to my knowledgeable touch.
I exercise my dream muscles from time to time, like this. It is both exhausting and refreshing.