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Dream Delivery Service Comes To San Diego

Mathias Svalina delivers a poem to Adam Deutsch, January 26, 2018.

Photo by Nicholas McVicker

Above: Mathias Svalina delivers a poem to Adam Deutsch, January 26, 2018.

The sun is coming up over the streets of North Park as buses and delivery trucks make their rounds.

Meanwhile, someone else is finishing his deliveries for the day. Like Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy, he works through the night while you are asleep.

But he distributes a different type of gift — a typed out dream, left on your doorstep.

The delivery man is named Mathias Svalina. He is a poet with several published books, and began what he calls the Dream Delivery Service three years ago.

His poems, which he delivers by bike, recreate the feeling of waking up and remembering a dream, whether it is random or meaningful, funny or strange.

"To me it's very ephemeral and intimate," he said. "What's interesting to me is this little piece of paper shows up in your mailbox or at your door every day, and over the course of 31 days we create this event and this text together as a reader and writer."

Nicholas Mcvicker,

Here is how it works. Svalina arrives in a city and gathers subscribers through his website. For $45, each subscriber gets a dream every morning for a month, including weekends. Svalina came to San Diego mid-January and has about 65 subscribers.

The idea started while Svalina was living in Denver.

"I was broke and was having beers with a friend and said that my real skill set is writing about a lot of weird stuff every day," he said. "And that I had to figure out a plan to get people to pay me to write weird stuff every day."

His work makes for an unusual schedule.

"I get up around 3 a.m., try to get on the road by 3:30 a.m.," he said.

He then bikes through the city for four or five hours, delivering dreams, then "start drinking as much coffee as humanly possible, and try to write for eight to 10 hours a day."

Then he prints the dreams and puts them in little pink envelopes.

Photo by Nicholas McVicker

A poem delivered by Mathias Svalina, January 26, 2018.

On a recent morning, Normal Heights resident Adam Deutsch was one of the last stops on his route. He opened his dream and read it out loud.

"You buy a new car," he read. "It is a red Mousteang, which looks just like a Mustang, but has a long, hairless rodent tail growing out of the rear bumper."

The dream continued to say the car is called a Mousetang even though the tail looks more like a rat's tail.

"But you can't call the car a rat-tang of course."

Deutsch laughed as he finished reading.

"Now we have a red mousetang," he said. "I mean, I've never seen a mousetang, and it makes sense that it can't be a rat-tang."

These random, sometimes silly pieces of poetry are worth supporting, he said.

"They're humorous, and they're looking at the world in unique ways," he said. "It's a project where a guy is biking around the city, hand delivering poems, it just seemed worth it."

Svalina has encountered some obstacles in San Diego. Just like seemingly everyone else in the city, he caught a bad cold. And he said San Diego is hillier than he imagined, and biking here can be treacherous.

Later in the afternoon on the day we met, Svalina was hit by a pickup truck. He is ok, but his bike had to go to the shop for a few days.

All of these hazards mean Svalina has not always had time to write a unique dream for everyone, though he aims to.

And, like so many real dreams, the ones he has written seem to slip from his memory. But he does remember one from a few years ago.

"The subscriber was at a karaoke night at a bar, and he'd put in his song that he wanted to sing, and was waiting and waiting, and all these people who showed up after him got up to sing," Svalina said. "And he was starting to get frustrated. And then this group of Galapagos tortoises came in, and they put in their songs. And he's like, 'oh man, come on, those guys came in an hour after me.' And the first tortoise who gets up sings the song he wanted to sing."

Like many dreams, it could have a deeper meaning. The tortoise getting called first could mean the subscriber always feels overlooked. But Svalina does not see his work that way.

"I'm more interested in how worlds of dream logic play out than in their significance or some kind of psychological reflection of them," he said.

He is also always looking for inspiration. When we first met, Svalina asked if I had any dreams the night before. I said I had dreamt my mom went into my baby's room and woke him up, and I was really mad at her.

The next day, Svalina sent me a dream poem:

You carve a pumpkin for Halloween, but you carve it so well & with such artistic skill & emotional tenderness that it is more than a jack-o-lantern. It is a work of art. No, it is something you love. You redecorate your room to make it a nursery & you buy a crib & you keep the carved pumpkin in the crib. Each day you tend to the pumpkin to keep it fresh & firm & lively. And slowly, over the weeks & then months of care, the pumpkin stops being a pumpkin & becomes a statue, & then the statue becomes a living statue that lives in the nursery. Your mother comes to stay with you with & she dresses now like Stevie Nicks—that’s her new thing. One morning you walk into the nursery to tend to the living statue & find it dressed up like Stevie Nicks. Mom? you say. Did you dress Pumpkin up as Stevie Nicks? Your mother walks into the nursery. She looks at Pumpkin in the layers of hippie skirts & necklaces & feigns shock. Oh dear! your mom says melodramatically & presses a hand to her chest. What on earth?! But you can tell that your mom did this. And even though Pumpkin does look pretty good in the Stevie Nicks outfit, you’re upset with your mom.

That does feel like having had a strange dream.

Riding into the early morning hours on his bike, poet Mathias Svalina delivers customized poems to his subscribers.

Correction: An earlier version of this story stated the wrong neighborhood where Adam Deutsch lives.

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