We’re All Mad Here

“I wonder if I’ve been changed in the night? Let me think: was I the same when I got up this morning? I almost think I can remember feeling a little different. But if I’m not the same, the next question is Who in the world am I?” — Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

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“mad tea party” — one of salvador dali’s alice in wonderland series.

Recently, one of my friends celebrated her birthday on a day which was not actually her birthday. Instead, she held the party on one of her many un-birthdays of the year, using the theme of the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party.

“Oooh! I want to be Alice!” I exclaimed when she first invited me. This was before she’d even decided whether the party was to be fancy dress. (For the record, it did up end being fancy dress, but I would have dressed like Alice regardless.)

“Perfect!” she generously agreed. “And Sweet Baby can come as the Dormouse.”

“No, he’ll be the White Rabbit,” I immediately declared. Because why simply decide to dress as the heroine of your friend’s party when you can hog up TWO of the main characters? Umm, oops.

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white rabbit mug, royal albert saucer, and alice in wonderland book atop kashmiri table (all from various thrift stores and now part of our home).

I guess I’m a little bit of a jerk when it comes to theme parties. In fact, the one — and only — time I ever crashed a party was about a dozen years ago when I noticed my neighbours were having a costume party. I put on the long, cream-and-gold Renaissance costume I’d dubbed my “Princess Buttercup dress,” (and which I’d rescued from a thrift shop just for such an occasion) and joined the throng of strangers mingling next door. I don’t mean to be a jerk about costume parties but I just get really, really excited about dressing up.

Even when I put on my day-to-day clothing, there’s the distinct chance I will be secretly emulating some character or another. Fashion — even the non-costume sort — is really just a wonderful opportunity to try out different personas. It’s a weird little way of entering into the cusp of other lives, the different people you might have been, if you were not born as yourself.

For instance, after looking at Vermeer’s painting Girl with a Pearl Earring, I swathed my head in a filmy scarf, put on a plain top, and of course, wore pearl drop earrings. After seeing the movie Frida (based on the life of Frida Kahlo), I made myself a choker from large, chunky pieces of amber, wove my hair into plaits and pinned them on my head, nestling fresh red roses into them. For my office job. When I dress up like characters, they are never exact replicas — that would look quite mad, no? — but rather, interpretations using mostly modern clothing. Sooo, only a little mad. I like to think of it as whimsical.

When I first began to put this post together, I was thinking only about sharing a few photos from the Mad Hatter Tea Party. But then I thought of a different Alice photo I could use for my intro. And then another one. The more I thought about it, the more I realised I have been encountering Alice in Wonderland in various places around the world. It’s a little random –but then again, I don’t imagine Lewis Carroll would object to things being random.

To begin, let us take to the streets of my adopted hometown: Melbourne, Australia. Melbourne’s graffiti is some of the most creative and carefully-crafted street art I’ve ever seen. One day, while in pursuit of a food truck selling po boys, I stumbled upon this wonderful series of graffiti featuring characters from Alice in Wonderland.

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white rabbit chessman with the grinning cheshire cat.

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a pair of simple pawns, tweedledum and tweedledee.

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the red queen.

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dormouse peeking from a teapot.

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the mad hatter.

I discovered a more simple Wonderland graffiti while walking along the streets in Sydney, Australia. The White Rabbit referenced here is actually a popular type of alcohol — but also, quite obviously, a more-than-subtle reference to Alice.

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shadows and the white rabbit.

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Next are some photos of paintings done by the Spanish surrealist Salvador Dali. (Please excuse the glare.) A tiny art museum in the Montmarte district of Paris, France holds a small but exquisite collection of Dali’s work, including a suite of paintings he created in the 1960s as a tribute to Alice in Wonderland.

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“down the rabbit hole”

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“a caucus race and a long tale”

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“who stole the tarts?”

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“advice from a caterpillar”

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dali’s bronze alice shows an adolescent girl with hair and hands made of roses, and perennially skipping rope.

At another time and place, while sitting in the back of Nescoffee Shop in Ella, Sri Lanka, sharing a plate of delicious lamprais (meat, veggies, and rice wrapped in a banana leaf and then slow-cooked), Liam and I noticed a partial quote from Alice in Wonderland painted on the slanting wall.

“One day Alice came to a fork in the road and saw a Cheshire cat in a tree. ‘Which road do I take?’ she asked. ‘Where do you want to go?’ was his response. ‘I don’t know,’ Alice answered. ‘Then,’ said the cat, ‘it doesn’t matter.’ ”

“Begin at the beginning,” the King said, very gravely, “and go on till you come to the end: then stop.”

And here, just before it’s time for me to stop, I’ll share a few photos from the Un-birthday Party I attended, and which was really the beginning of this whole post. And what is the use of a blog without pictures or conversation?

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me and sweet baby playing as alice and the white rabbit.

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sign at the mad hatter’s tea party.

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the un-birthday girl herself as an uncharacteristically joyful red queen.

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alice helps the white rabbit ride a miniature pony.

“Alice had got so much into the way of expecting nothing but out-of-the-way things to happen, that it seemed quite dull and stupid for life to go on in the common way. . . .

So she sat on, with closed eyes, and half believed herself in Wonderland, though she knew she had but to open them again, and all would change to dull reality.”

 

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