Sunday, January 8, 2012

Why Is a Raven Like a Writing Desk?

"But I don't want to go among mad people," Alice remarked.

"Oh, you can't help that," said the Cat: "we're all mad here. I'm mad. You're mad."

"How do you know I'm mad?" said Alice.

"You must be," said the Cat, "or you wouldn't have come here.”

People, in my opinion, are divided into two categories: White Rabbit Chasers (i.e., Alices) and Riverbank-Dwellers.  Alices know who they are.  If you need to ponder whether you exist on the riverbank or fall down the Rabbit Hole than you're not Alice.  Don’t get me wrong.  Everyone stumbles into Wonderland now and again, but Alices exist in a circular loop, always returning to the Rabbit Hole but never sure why.   

The difference between Riverbank-Dwellers and Alices is not creativity or a zest for life.  That's a line Rabbit Chasers peddle to boost their self-esteem and justify their existence.  No, the difference is MADNESS.  Riverbank-Dwellers have the good sense to refuse the bottle, ignore the rabbit, and avoid the Tea Party.  Alices just can't help themselves.  We don’t want to be mad, but then again we wouldn’t be here if we weren’t, so we suck it up, shoot the breeze with the Cat, bargain with the Hatter, and appease the Queen. 

As a lifetime Alice, I can say, without hesitation, that once you've chased the Rabbit, you'll simply have to wait out your time in Wonderland.  No short cuts or warp whistles.  My latest tumble down the Rabbit Hole coincided with a work trip to Chicago.  Here are my recommendations for surviving the surreal:

1.) Take Advice from a Caterpillar: Alices rarely make wise decisions.  We need philosophical direction from a hookah smoking Caterpillar to make make us grin and help us navigate.  Thus, first and foremost, if at all possible, locate your Caterpillar. Admittedly, this one isn't always doable.  Sometimes you must take your journey alone, but you’re in fucking Wonderland.  This is no time to trust your own judgement.  Once an Alice begins swimming in the Pool of Tears, she'll need coaxed back to shore.  This is where your trusty Caterpillar comes in.  I cannot emphasize this point enough.  Caterpillars are safeguards who will gently adjust the steering wheel as you weave out of your lane while flying down I-94W.  REMEMBER: If you weren't mad you WOULDN'T be here!
2.) Attend the Mad Hatter's Tea Party: Some Alices, like myself, lose their appetites in Wonderland.  However, giving into this mentality will only make the surreal seem macabre.  Thus, take your Caterpillar and go find a nice meal.  In Chicago, I'd suggest trying Burt’s Place.

Sure, Burt’s is a little off the beaten path in Morton Grove, but well worth the trip.  Anyway, people in Wonderland have time kill.  You're just waiting out the ride.  But back to Burt Katz, creator of the caramelized pizza crust, and owner of his family run pizzeria.   If you need more than the recommendation of an Alice than how about a shout out from Anthony Bourdain?  According to Bourdain, Burt’s is the only deep dish worth eating in Chicago.   So go ahead and attend the Mad Hatter's Tea Party.  You can leave when you're tired but missing out won't shorten your stay in Wonderland.  Attending will probably make your trip more endurable.

*You MUST call ahead a day in advance to eat at Burt’s.  Your pizza will be ready within five minutes of your reservation time.  If you are late then NO PIZZA for you.  Also they only take cash.

3.) Caffeinate, but Avoid the Cheshire Cat: No-brainer here but caffeination is key to survival.  You’re royally fucked!  You can’t change that but, in Chicago, you can go to Peet's, drink great coffee, and try to pretend you're not mad.  I know.  I know.  Why not Intelligentsia?  Because Peet’s is as good or better and the hipsters aren’t as annoying.  Listen, you’re UPSET and the last thing you need is jobless, snotty twenty something with mismatched clothes and an air of self-righteous defiance sitting beside you, playing with his IPhone, and pretending to read Nietzsche (he's Cheshire Cat, but he WON'T make you smile!)  If by some chance you find yourself stuck near one of these awful creatures then begin asking him to explain Nietzsche.  He’s a poser, so he can’t.  Once challenged, he’ll abandon his territory and retreat to his lair.

4.) Find Your Favorite River-Dwellers:  Yea, verily, you've landed yourself in Wonderland but the good news is that you're not alone.  Which River-Dwellers you need on your psychedelic trip to hell depends upon how far down the Rabbit Hole you've fallen.  Personally, I believe that backup parents are the optimum choice.  Mine happen to be my adviser and his wife, Mark and Maggie.  This weekend, in all honesty, I worried about my adviser listening to a paper I was not terribly confident in or proud of but looking up and seeing them after I'd finished my chore was comforting.  Yes, I stood before the Queen and offered evidence to stay my execution, but even in such circumstances backup parents make things better.

*Alices should always remember that crazy equals awesome (or at least less than suck-tastic) in pinch!  Madness can be beneficial.

**My second set of backup parents live in Lexington, Kentucky.  Much love to Jim and Dee!

5.) Dance the Lobster Quadrille:  There is no way out of Wonderland.  Sorry!  If there were, I’d have found it by now.  Hang in there, breathe, and remember falling down the rabbit hole is just a part of who you are.  Get comfortable, go along for the ride, dance the lobster quadrille, and keep in mind that even if you make it out, you’ll just end up back there in six months to a year.

Finally, my dear Alices, do not ask yourself why you're in Wonderland again.  Why is a raven like a writing desk?  We don't know.  All we know is that we're mad.  If we weren't, we wouldn't be here.

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