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Posts Tagged ‘Alice in Wonderland’

Aug 10 2012 003

We came across a row of mysterious doors in the park last Friday evening. There was no explanation for them, although signage is abundant everywhere else in the park— especially next to the creek, which the locals call a river. Stern warnings advised us repeatedly not to swim, fish, or dabble in the waterway, which is a possible conduit for sewage when the rains fall heavy.

If playing in the water is forbidden, maybe it would be all right to play with the doors. There is no posted warning not to, nor is there any explanation of what they are for. A child’s elaborate play village?  Representative of a pretend motel or apartment complex?  I decided the doors must be part of an art installation, perhaps in the process of being dismantled. I went online to see if I could find anything about it. I couldn’t.

What I found instead was artist Jeff Waldman, who installed tiny, unexplained portals around the San Francisco Bay Area. He sent out a call for artists to create little Alice-in-Wonderland fairy doors, and then he attached them randomly around town for people to discover and enjoy.

Jeff Waldman is all about joy.  Here’s how he describes another of his Happiness Projects, one that involved swings:

To start, we set out across San Francisco and installed swings. A lot of them. The first in a series of projects aimed at discovering the unexpected, lost and often ignored pleasures that make life so amazingly joyous.

The moment when you first surrender yourself—for many, the first time in decades—your stomach rises a bit, the wind catches your hair and at the apex of that first swing it’s instant smiles. Lying on your back, staring up the sky through a few lofty branches and for a second gravity is only teasing about pulling you down. Some giggled. Most laughed. No one walked away without a huge grin and sunnier disposition.People passed these on their way to work. Walking home. Running errands. Going through the motions of a mundane existence. Almost all of them stopped to see what we were doing. Some asked to try them. Others had to be offered an excuse to succumb to something so child-like. Every one of them learned an incredible lesson in giving yourself up to simplistic delights that every child knows so well and so many adults have dismissed and forgotten.

The man in the parting shot of the video let his young autistic son try out our second install of the day. You could see Dad eyeing the swing the whole time with a little jealousy. That itch in the back of his brain that hadn’t been scratched in forty years. We asked him if he would please get on it…that it would make our day. He didn’t require much goading. He wedged himself in and gave a little shake to get going. He didn’t have much luck so we offered to give him a push. He scoffed just a bit. Everyone old enough to have a mortgage thinks they’re above a push. But he relented. Surrendered to that basic urge to indulge in something joyous. The very second he took off there was a giggle. I swear to God, a giddy little scream escaped that man and his legs kicked out instinctively. His son laughed near the point of tears, probably not having seen his dad let go like that in quite some time. Instant and utter happiness.

We could all use more happiness. So get out there. Open a mysterious door. Swing. Let yourself be pushed, especially if you have a mortgage.

Enjoy the ride.

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The Mad Hatter said, “You might just as well say that ‘I see what I eat’ is the same thing as ‘I eat what I see’!”

“You might just as well say,” added the March Hare, “that ‘I like what I get’ is the same thing as ‘I get what I like’!”

– Lewis Carroll,  Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

Two days after Christmas Ernesto and I took a short road trip to Jefferson City, Missouri. We have lived here nearly five years and haven’t seen our capital city, and it seemed like a good idea to check it out. We woke up Tuesday morning to find a healthy dusting of snow on everything, but the temperature was rising and the sun shone brightly, so we headed west.

As we crossed the river and entered Jefferson City, we saw the capitol building right away. We began with a visit to the capitol museum. We naturally parked across the street from one of the building’s non-functioning entrances, and had to circle the building to get in. We walked up the stairs to a sort of portico, and I applied a lip salve as we walked. Ernesto lamented not having his chapstick. “You can use this,” I said. “It’s for girls, but it doesn’t really have any color to it.”  He applied my lip stuff liberally, not bothering to stay within the lines.

“You know what?” I said, digging in my purse for a mirror, “it’s actually got more color to it than I thought.” I held the mirror while he checked himself out, and soon he was scraping off the lip gloss with the same facial expression as a little boy who has just received an unwelcome kiss from a whiskery old lady. He wiped his finger on the white marble of the portico, leaving pale rosy smears behind. I’m sure it’s all on a security camera.

I liked the capitol itself very much; the rotunda was beautiful, rich with blues and heavy with carved-in-stone scripture (“The earth is the Lord’s and the fulness thereof”). We wandered through the museum’s exhibits on the history of Missouri and a special Civil War exhibit, and then headed out. We saw the beautiful, gingerbready governor’s mansion multiple times as we drove around trying to find an on-ramp to 54 westbound. We finally found our way and drove to Lake of the Ozarks.

By the time we were in the little village of Lake Ozark it was quite dark. Neither of us has decent vision in low light, so we are no good to anyone after night falls.  But we did manage to see a sign for the Lodge of Four Seasons. I knew from my visitor’s guide that it was located on the lake and was in our price range during the low season, so we followed the signs to the Lodge. I loved it as soon as we walked in. A cozy fire burned in the center of the lobby, and we received a special rate with free breakfast. The Lodge even had a steakhouse called HK’s on site, meaning that we wouldn’t have to drive around in the dark anymore. We decided to eat.

Here’s the thing: The Lodge was really not expecting many people to show up, apparently, but several of us did, and the result was a sort of minor traffic jam in HK’s.  I didn’t quite catch the reason–something about a problem in the kitchen, insufficient staff–it was all a bit of a mystery. We were invited to wait at the bar.  Instead, we took our luggage up to the room and got settled. When we returned we only had to wait about 5 minutes to be seated, but the service was amazingly slow. Fortunately, we were in a mood to be more entertained than irritated.

I wish I had kept track of how long it did take between ordering and receiving our meals, but I didn’t. It was a mighty long time, that’s all I know. Some tables received baskets of bread; we received none. I suppose we should have asked for bread, but it was as if we were in a dream and could only watch in amused bewilderment at what went on around us. Our waiter was enthusiastic over every item we ordered, and when he finally, finally delivered our meals he set the dishes down with a flourish and said, “You’re in for a real treat.”  We were. I had flat iron steak and Anson Mill grits, and the combination was fantastic. I loved every bite and even shared a slice or two of my fabulous beef with Ernesto, who had ordered lamb shanks. We split a delicious warm chocolate cake with ice cream for dessert.

The next morning, we watched the sunrise from our lakeview room (see photo), and then enjoyed a free breakfast. “And the chronic under-staffing continues,” Ernesto remarked. It did. The wait wasn’t as long as it had been at dinner the previous evening, but we had trouble getting the food we ordered. Ernesto said, “After all, they ask the customer, ‘What would you like?’ We tell them what we would like, but then we must eat what is set before us.”  I ordered orange juice and received milk. Ernesto ordered a side of French toast which never appeared.  We had to inquire about my bacon, and something had gone wrong with the toaster which meant that part of Ernesto’s whole wheat toast came a bit behind the rest of our food. It felt Alice-in-Wonderlandish, which is not necessarily a bad thing if you’re in the right mood. And we were. We decided it was like Alice in Wonderland even before we got back home and I found the quote above, which is a nearly perfect transcription of our breakfast conversation.

I hope that 2012 is filled with a similar magic.

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