At a house I was staying at earlier this year, the entire wall of the master bedroom upstairs is closet space. Inside the closet, just right of center, there is a hidden door leading to a secret room with a sunken floor. In that room, there is yet another hidden door leading to an even more secret room, encased in sweet cedar. It is there that I found something amazing.
Using the flashlight app on my iPhone, I was at least able to tell that the painting was upside down. Flipping it over and scanning it with the soft glow of the phone, I was quickly in love with it. On the right of the painting, Alice sits upon a sunlit hill. Looking out from under a mushroom shaped tree and a brunette bob, she and her yorkie peer beyond the sunset in the valley to the brick wall that hides the night. From behind the red rose bushes, next to a six foot cactus, Raul Duke peers at me and swings his stop watch. He treats the fireworks in the sky above him with the same regard as he does the Cheshire grin, and he shares the same twisted glare as the one above the moonlight smile. The bottom eighth of the page is white except for the color dripping down as if it were painted on one of the Queen’s rose petals.
The painting is rather special to me because I’ve often regarded Hunter S Thompson, aka Raul Duke, as one of the inspirations behind The Rucksack Letters, right alongside Jack Kerouac and Jesus Christ. I’ve often imagined the four of us taking a top down cruise through the desert on a red Cadillac. Since I no longer have a valid driver’s license, I think it would be best to let Jesus drive.
The painting offers up a brilliant portrait of life in the Ordinary World and the Call to Adventure just around the corner. And although there is a pretty remarkable delineation between night and day, they don’t stand as perfect opposites and seem to blend into one another. Alice’s Wonderland, just like The Unbroken Path, doesn’t bring with it that sort of moral absolutism, but just different shades of crazy, making it another perfect fit for a Johnny Depp character.
Even the Queen in Wonderland isn’t an absolutely evil person, but a woman who is driven mad by her broken heart. Although most of us have been trained to see the world in a good versus evil scenario and judge its inhabitants as such (the knowledge which keeps us from realizing the perfection of the world), each of us is actually just our own brand of crazy, usually stemming from a broken heart or few bad lessons.