Toy-Collecting Bartender From Centralia Writes Book of Weird Dreams and Introspective Poems

Playing Around: Now 10 Years Clean from Drug Use, Zane Verley Seeks to Inspire Others to Live Out Their Dreams


Centralia resident Zane Verley, 43, has overcome decades of drug use to give voice to his dreams and pave the way to his future, when once he thought that future seemed like it would only be the stuff of nightmares.

Verley, the managing bartender at McFiler’s Bar & Restaurant in Chehalis, spent 20 months in prison starting in 2012 for selling drugs, and while he was in the minimum security institution, he began writing down the dreams he had each night.

Late last year, he compiled all his writings — a year of dreams, poems and even the start of a screenplay — and published a book titled “One Dream at a Time” with Gorham Printing.

And like the book’s name, Verley is living day by day, dream by dream, metaphorically speaking.

One dream he had for himself was his possible rejection of a life spent dealing and doing drugs.

“It was 2012, was the last time I was on drugs,” Verley told The Chronicle. “It was pretty bad and the SWAT team raided my house in Chehalis on Fourth Street, and I went to prison. And coming off drugs, your dreams get pretty lucid and pretty twisted, too. For me — a comedic — I was like, ‘That was a pretty funny dream. I feel like I should write this down just to capture it.’ So I did, and then the next day I had some more crazy dreams, so I said … ‘I’m going to be in here for a while, so I’ll make it a routine.’ After six months, I was like, ‘OK, I’ll do it for a year and see what happens.’”

He said writing down the events of his dreams while he was detoxing from drugs and learning to live a new way of life was therapeutic.

Ultimately, the task gave him something to do while he was locked up, he said, but in doing so, he was able to work out in his conscious mind the matters of his present and future that his subconscious was working through each night.

The content of his book suggests that his dream state was preoccupied with how his future would look when he got out of prison.

In one recorded dream, which he had during the night of Nov. 21, 2012, he followed a stranger to a sinkhole and asked the stranger if folks often fall into it. The dream-stranger told him that people do fall into the sinkhole, before the scene abruptly changed to that of a graveyard, with the stranger digging up a grave.

“How are you supposed to read my future when it is true I have no future?” the dream-Verley asked the stranger, according to the book.

That’s because the man had returned from the grave with a bucket full of bones, and declared he needed silence to read them in an attempt to suss out Verley’s fate. By this time, the scene had transformed again to that of an empty warehouse, which was ostensibly where the bones would be read.

In actuality, Verley didn’t need the talents of a gothic fortuneteller to help him choose the right path for his future or to begin achieving his dreams. The proof is in the life Verley has lived since his time behind bars.

He successfully left his life of drug use behind while in prison. Now, 10 years clean from hard drugs as of April 26, he told The Chronicle he has achieved that first, very real dream.

That’s where a second dream came in. Verley wanted to use the dedication and focus he put into his harmful habits to construct a prosperous life, he said.

“I’m just a workaholic,” he said. “All of the energy I used to put into my drug use, I now put into work. It’s got me a lot farther and better results.”

The book also contains dozens of poems Verley wrote while in prison and for a short time afterward.

One poem speaks about how his life was fragmented and broken by his own hands.

“Would it be OK with you if I broke my soul in two,” the poem begins, before saying later, “Look into my eyes and bury your hopes within them; I’ve had the door of promise shut in my face so many times.”

Still later, the poem states: “So yeah, like I said, I’m gonna break my soul in two; I’ll put half on display in some museum that no one visits.”

With gainful employment and his turn as a published author, Verley told The Chronicle that he’s put his life back together.

However, intentionally or not, he does have a museum of sorts that the public doesn’t visit.

And that museum holds in it a third dream: To open up a vintage toy store someday.

When The Chronicle walked into Verley’s Centralia residence, the first thing seen was the entire front two rooms brimming with all manner of toys from the 1980s stacked on shelves and makeshift pedestals that dominated the space.

“If you’re not from here and you Google Centralia or Chehalis, the first thing you are going to see is antique stores. We’re known for antique stores. One thing that we don’t have that all big cities have are vintage toy stores,” Verley said.

He said whenever he travels to other cities, he seeks out the resident vintage toy stores.

“More than not, they’re packed, too — it’s insane,” Verley said. “People don’t think you get a lot of business in vintage toy stores. (But) they do. And it’s something we don’t have here.”

Verley said he has over 600 individual pieces. They range from hundreds of “Masters of the Universe” action figures, figurines and playsets, to “Garbage Pail Kids,” “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” and “Star Wars” toys, among others.

“In the 80s, when I was a kid, my dad and I would take a trip to Yard Birds,” Verley said. “I would go to my dad’s on the weekends and he would take me to Yard Birds and he would always buy me He-Man figures. And so that was the main toy that I had. … I destroyed them, took them for granted.”

Many of the dreams detailed in Verley’s book reference these 1980s marketing mainstays, with one talking about a video game that had a playable, physical toy set attached to it in the shape of “Castle Grayskull” from “Masters of the Universe.”

One of Verley’s poems details his yearning to capture times from his childhood when things were simpler — a pursuit that Verley told The Chronicle he realizes in part through his toy collection.

A section of the poem reads: “If I could take it all back for you, trust me I would; Maybe I’ll go on the offensive, yeah I think maybe I should; And bring back the fading days with all of our memories; Just for fun climb way up, way up high in the deciduous trees; Play in dirt and go feed the duck and stare at the stars in the night sky.”

Now a published author — yet another dream Verley has realized — he spends his nights tending the bar at McFiler’s. Through the relationships he cultivates there, he said he works to give those trapped in the nightmare of drug use and the desolation of dead-end roads an example of what can happen when you live “One Dream at a Time.”

Copies of Verley’s book can be found at McFilers Bar & Restaurant, or by calling Verley at 360-523-4804.