I once was in downtown Chicago with some friends to check out an amusement park inside one of the buildings there, where the main attraction was a leap into Lake Michigan from five stories up. After the jump, I was going to swim up the Chicago River to find a bus station where I could get a ride back to my home in the suburbs. While I was nervous about the danger and difficulty of these activities, my father had assured me, like always, that there was nothing to worry about. That’s what he always said, but this time seemed to be different. But I never got around to making the jump, because the story ended before I got that far. That is, the night concluded with the old standby ending of unlikely stories, the backdoor of cheap sitcom plots: the realization that it was all a dream. We all have dreams, whether we realize it or not, and their very nature is to be strange and confusing, at least once we wake up. Because as they’re happening, they often seem like the most normal thing in the world. It’s like “Oh yeah, I’ve always lived on a barnyard, and my best friend is a lizard named Howard, but why do you ask?” The very strangeness that is innate with dreams is also what makes them intriguing and useful. Dreams are not just our minds playing games with us; they do have some relation to our waking lives. Dreams-and I am among at least five or six others who agree-are a pathway to our subconscious, a window to our deepest selves that we as individuals can barely know. The world beyond our eyelids contains secrets that can unlock our inner minds. Dreams are a valid way to access this inner self, especially when examined carefully. Before I go any farther, however, let me state that there is a limit to all of this. While dreams are worth examining with a fairly fine-toothed comb, over analysis does exist. To make rash decisions and destiny determinations based on dreams alone should be done at the dreamer’s own risk, if at all. And some dreams turn out to be just a circus of the subconscious, and their only point is to give you something to talk about at breakfast. But the bulk of our dreams contain more than it may seem, which brings me to my reason for occupying this space on your newspaper page. I intend to provide something of a service that can shed light on the meanings and reasons for dreams, one dream at a time. In doing so, I hope to show that analyzing one’s dreams is no Herculean task. While it may seem from dream books of Freudesque lore that dream analysis involves strict formulas of symbol interpretation, and answers that are one step removed from fortune-telling, dreams need not be so complex. There is no foolproof decoder ring for translating dreamy events into the corresponding issues, feelings, or random events from real life. Yes, dreams are, if you will, open to interpretation. The best analysis of dreams begins with a basic look at what is going on in the dream, with particular attention being paid to anything out of the ordinary, no matter how small. What are the main events? Who else is there? And most importantly, how does the dreamer feel about the situation? If you’ve had a dream that you would like some help in making sense of, feel free to send me an account of it, and my team of experts will carefully dissect each part of it and respond to you with all you need to know about yourself. Not really, but I’ll see what I can make of it. I hope to respond to as many as I can, depending on the number of responses from out there in newspaperland. One dream from these, then, will be printed in this space each week-anonymously, of course- followed by my deep yet lighthearted comments on it. Where do I get the expertise required to interpret dreams, you ask? If my Phd. in Dreamology from Northwestern doesn’t cover it, I’ve thought a lot about them. I mean, I’ve made sense of a lot of my own dreams, as well as those of others. Really. Okay, maybe you’ll have to go out on a limb with me on this one. But seriously. There’s more to dreams than the funny stuff we do in that alternate reality. So dream away. The only cost we have to pay is a greater awareness ofourselves. Which, I’ll admit, is scary sometimes, especially when seen through the smoke and twisted mirrors of dreams. You don’t need to be Tom Cruise to know that the creations of our subconsciousnesses aren’t always presided over by a vanilla sky. But the risk is worth taking. After all, what else is knowledge but a greater ability to make impossible dreams come true? Send dream accounts to firstname.lastname@example.org, with “the dream guy” in the title.