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Perry Mason Lucid Dreaming

October 9, 2017 • Los Angeles

Raymond Burr as Perry Mason, 1959A local TV channel has been playing reruns of Perry Mason from the 1950s, late at night, and I find the plot lines are melting into my dream life.

If you’ve never seen Perry Mason or read the books, he’s a sharp-as-a-razor Los Angeles lawyer who defends a lot of innocent people from murder charges. He always gets them off, usually by tricking the real murderer into a spontaneous confession on the witness stand. His staff are Paul Drake, a private investigator who’s a little coarse but still quite moral, and Della Street, his extraordinarily competent private secretary. She’s so with it that she picks up the phone, waiting, and then Perry says, “Della, call Paul.” There’s a fine line between anticipating your boss’s thought process and totally being psychic, and Della seems to stray back and forth across that line with pendular regularity. I love that Perry’s office is in a fictional office tower in the Civic Center, with a view of City Hall and the Hall of Justice. As a side note, the TV version of the famous lawyer was played by Raymond Burr, who seems to have been closeted back then, but maybe kinda came out later in life, after his TV career.

The protagonist in my series, Mason, uses lucid dreaming as one of his paranormal tools, and he sometimes gets insights that help him figure things out. I’ve been experimenting with it too, and I found Perry Mason bleeding into them, or maybe the lucid dreaming was bleeding into Perry Mason. Della comes into Perry’s office one evening, when he’s burning the midnight oil—he’s even loosened his tie and unbuttoned his collar, so we know it’s hard work. He says to her, “I thought you were going to the beauty parlor.” Della looks ever so slightly offended, and replies, “I just got back.” Sick burn, right, but then it gets weird:

“I don’t know how to tell you this,” Della says, “so I’m just going to out and say it. I eat dryer sheets.” Perry stares at her blankly for a minute, his expensive-looking lawyer pen still poised over his pile of legal paperwork. “Della, what are you saying?” he manages finally. She says it again: “I eat dryer sheets.”

In Signs Point to Yes, Mason’s first mystery, Mason and his boyfriend, Ned, watch a cringe-inducing TV series on the Learning Network called Pica Confessions, where people confess their pica behavior to loved ones, including someone who ate dryer sheets.

The takeaway here, I think, is that powerful tools demand great responsibility—and watching television before bed comes at great risk. Science tells us dryer sheets didn’t exist in the 1950s, and we know that Perry Mason wouldn’t have touched a case with pica in it with a bargepole. It’s possible that there’s something meaningful buried in the mashup, but more likely it’s just a case of too much television.

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