Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Day 29: The Wonkavator



 The Wonkavator started in late summer 2006 because I was bored and kept finding random beer caps strewn around the contours of my apartment like stale New Years’ eve confetti and decided I might as well immortalize my drunken larks by plastering them inside the interior of my kitchen cupboard so every time I flapped open the lethargic eyelids of the diminutive doors above my sink in idle search of a clean coffee cup I would be nominally greeted with a favorable acrostic connoting all things hoppy and beechwood aged. I became a daily drinker in May 2005 but the Wonkavator was my way of justifying the realization that I wasn’t an alcoholic, I was an aesthetic connoisseur, an aficionado of quality ales. That I could jive beer-speak jargon with the best craftsmen in the country even while I was tippling out of control.

That when it came to the two things I loved more than anything else in life (namely books and beer, oh, and women) I could more than hold my own.  
The only rule to adding to the WONKAVATOR was that every beer cap had to be culled from the crown of a different brew and that no beer caps could be displayed more than once.

At its height there was close to 2000 different beer caps, each one chugged by a certain impecunious author with an overstuffed manuscript and an intractable liver, doting the interior of my kitchen cabinets like unblinking eyelids or failed political campaign buttons. 

original wonkavator....
The wonkavator (of course) was christened under the sobriquet of  'The Wonkavator' as an homage and allusion to Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, because, after drinking 2000 different beers your anatomy, unlike the anatomy of a regular elevator which can only go up and down, can suddenly find itself going sideways and slantways and longways and backways and frontways and squareways and gayways and straightways anyother way you can possibly think of.

Don't fuck with me when it comes to Willy Wonka.

When I left my apartment and moved back to West Peoria in early 2009 the Wonkavator was officially retired although I kept the beer caps in a vacant coffee can and once (when I was drunk and going through a serious Carl Jung phase) made a mandala out of them.



I hadn’t sifted through the collection of caps in three years. While scanning caps for this entry I was emotionally awash on a shoreline of sentimentality. There was the cap culled from the six pack of Spatens my Uncle Larry bought me on my thirtieth birthday.  There was the Kostritzer (love Kostritzier, german Guinness) I drank after I graduated from college. There was the cap from the pint of Svyturys (the world's finest Lithuanian lager) I always drink at Bernice's tavern on Halstead before meeting my best bro John (also Lithuanain) at US CELL to cheer on our beloved WHITE SOX twice a year.

The Killians my friend Scarlet planted outside my door on St. Patrick's day and told me it was from a Leprachaun.

The Shiner Bock I stole from my friend Matt Brown's fridge in Dallas when I was 19 and smuggled on the flight back home.
There was the aquiline cap from the bottle of  Imperial beer my brother Nick gave me when he returned from Costa Rica. The Alfred Hitchcockesque silhouette saluting the top of the Thomas Hardy Ale which I thought I would enjoy more.
There was capped emblems from the  (perfect )shipyard and the stalled evolutionary shark cosigning dogfishead, two of the best known IPA’s ever to have grazed the lips of mankind.

 There was the numerical cap derived from the Fullers 1845 bitter which I drank in the spring of 2007 which just destroys me. The feral feline coating the top of LION stout (from Sri Lanka) which was indelible. The Utenos cap which looks like it comes replete with a zipper. The New Belgium Fat Tire which I submit is completely overrated nutty and disgusting, like using a fecal sample in lieu of mouthwash (and also a testament to keen marketing).

Each cap seemed to be endowed with its own narrative. Each cap seemed to ferry its own story. Like the buttons on Willy Wonka's elevator, each beer cap reeled me slantways to a lost epoch of the past. 

There was the cap from the Pilsner Urquell I slipped in my side jacket from my friend’s Jasna art reception and drank the whole night as we walked around Bloomington-Normal lost in the crinkle of autumnal leaves.  The Amstel Light I drank a shit ton of cause my cousin Larry was peripatetically crashing with me because that was the only import that the gas station sold. There was the Ruddles which got frozen in our cooler the time myself and my best bro Hale partied in Chicago—Hale, unable to sleep, jacking the A/C so high in the hotel room that the ice INSIDE the cooler froze and we had to chisel the libations free and place them in the bathtub to thaw before consuming.

I have no recollection of drinking an Indian beer called Mahbaria or a Tazmania beer or any kind, which meant that I must have enjoyed them very much indeed.
There were sentimental caps. The vintage BLATZ cap that my cool girlfriend Tara made into a necklace for my birthday. The bottle of LaBatt Blue I was drinking in Traverse City Michigan when I got drunk and called my girlfriend from a payphone and told her I loved her.

The nostalgia. Slamming Leinenkugels on my backporch while listening to the SMITHS’ on summer nights. The Moose Drool I drank to divert the bartender’s attention so I could steal a Guinness chalice at Ulrich’s the night after Sully died.
The Grolsch with the bottle rocket cap I was slamming when the White Sox won it all in 2005.
The New Holland beer cap culled from the Mad Hatter IPA I was drinking when I kissed the proverbial one-that-got-away-elbow-nugde-to-the-rib-cage-eh-there-son girl of my dreams (there was candles lit) in my apartment. We were listening to Jospeh Campbell lectures on metaphysical realizations realizing that you and the other are one…it was autumn and wind was splashing through the lip of the window as if the seasons were getting off....What could be more sexier…more timeless…and I’m just talking about the beer.

The memories.
 ...of course, sometimes liquor is quicker.


 Since this forty days is an inward quest for enlightenment as well as it is a heavenly hiatus from alcoholic nirvana here is my own personal rendering of the hero’s quest via THE MOVIE version of WILLY WONKA AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY (I’m using Robert Bly’s IRON JOHN as a reference since that’s the closest epistle I have of a working Jungian text with me at work as I write this)…



In Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory the protagonist Charlie is emblematic of the hero’s journey.
From the outset of the narrative Charlie finds himself fatherless (movie version) pining for the elusive gold that is the rudiments of his telos.  He also finds himself (as all hero's do at the outset of their journey) enduring ashes and living in spiritual squalor. Even the name itself Charlie Bucket implies arduous work and hard times. In the beginning of Iron John poet Robert Bly, “The story says that once one goes down one has to work with buckets. No giant is going to come along and do the work for you: That magic stuff is not going to help.  A weekend at Easlen won’t do it. Acid and cocaine (note and probably beer) won’t do it. The man has to do it bucket by bucket.  This resembles the hard discipline of art. It’s the work that Rembrandt did, that Picasso and Yeats and Rilke and Bach did. Bucket work requires much more work than most men realize.”
This is our hero Charlie Bucket. Going inside himself on a quest in search of fairy tale gold, beginning with the color of his name.

Bob Dylan knew about Buckets.

It is interesting to note that it is only after Charlie psychologically divorces himself from the possibility of ever finding gold that he locates the last golden ticket (an alchemical sugary mixture of dreams and destiny) at the moment, in the poetic patois of Thoreau, "unexpected in common hours." This is reminiscent of the Gnostic Gospels in which when asked when the end of the world will appear Christ comments, “The Kingdom will not come by expectation. The Kingdom of the Father is spread across the land and men do not see it.” This is a psychological realization of opening one’s self up to the radiance of being that is all around us. It also implies “letting go and letting God.”
Being driven by spiritual desire by being divorced from earthly wants.
It is also of  note that the elders’ in Charlie’s life are bed-ridden and psychologically inert.  It is only when Charlie goes looking for gold (the creativity that is already latent inside of each of us) that he not only gives his life meaning but also  animates and influences the life of others’-- Grandpa Joe is able to walk again.

When we find what it golden latent inside of each of us others are healed and are able to realize their full potential and are able to fly.When Charlie is selected to enter the Chocolate factory it is intriguing that Willy Wonka makes tourists  sign an illegible pact. Hey many of us, when we convene on a journey, whether it is becoming an artist or a cementing nuptial contract, have no clue what the hell it is we are signing. We are blind to the fine print.
 We enter the journey just a little bit blind and not possessing the foresight to anticipate knowing what is ahead harboring the hopes that we might  see again, or as Joesph Campbell eloquently notes referencing a grail legend,
"You enter the forest
at the darkest point,
where there is no path.

Where there is a way or path,
it is someone else's path.

You are not on your own path.

If you follow someone else's way,
you are not going to realize
your potential.”
En route to the chocolate room (the earthly paradise of exacted human potential) the bevy of characters find themselves surfeited in an elevator that appears not to move when it is moving the whole time. A narrow plume then appears disconcerting the construct of periphery, “He’s getting smaller. No he’s not, we’re getting bigger.”
If this were to happen today everyone would be texting “OMG” and calling Wily Wonka a creep, perhaps even suing-him from trauma-inflicting psychological discomfort in a Kim Kardashian sort of way.
Change requires discomfort. Being born again into a life of creativity requires, as Nietzsche said, “ A break from sociological norms.” And when the path is narrowest and there is no exit is sight suddenly we find ourselves, if just for a moment, entering a chasm of bliss, or, in the case, the chocolate room, the earthly paradise.


The earthly paradise of the chocolate room is not only the realm of pure imagination it is the womb of unlimited human potential. It is the garden of Eden where dreams sprout from the sugary soil of infinite possibility. This room is emblematic of an artists' "epiphanic calling" a spiritual catharsis or vision or moment of ecstatic awakening experienced early (and briefly) in the artist's career.
It is this vision of paradise that compels the artist to create. But in order to create he must again  be re-born. The grotesque 'tunnel' scene is a re-enactment of rebirth, the tenebrous chunneling of following Persephone into the inscrutable wink of the underworld. The male initiation amidst the cave paintings at Les Tres Frere.  Christ being buried for three days in order to rise again.
 Once entering the underworld there are many trials Charlie and his vestigial cohorts endure.  They find themselves privy to a type of alchemical magic where metal is altered and dreams are reborn in cumulus wisps of longing. While being shuffled through the dream-like cogs and labyrinth of the factory they are given the gift of eternity matrix-molecule of an everlasting gobstopper.
As Stephen Daedalus notes in Ulysees, Am I walking into eternity along sandymount strand?" As Joseph Campbell pontificates, "“The experience of eternity right here and now is the function of life. Heaven is not the place to have the experience; here is the place to have the experience,” or as this impecunious wayfaring writer christened a blogg after a little known Wittgenstein quote, "If eternity is understood not by temporal duration but by timelessness, than he who lives in the present lives eternally."
In other words, each of us are freely given eternity here on earth although we have a hard time discerning it (mainly due to the sociological vicissitudes).
Slowly they begin to witness the music makers. The fumbling of frivolity. The dreamer of a single dream.
 My favorite scene (from  Jungian perspective) transpires when Charlie and Granpa Joe defy Willy Wonka's mandate and sip from the forbidden Fizzy-lifting drink as Robert Bly notes, "Young men when lifted up may become white swans, grandiose ascenders, "flying boys," just as young women similarly when lifted up become flying girls and both make love with invisible people at high altitude. (i.e., see Puer Aeternus)...flying people, giddily spiritual, do not inhabit their own bodies well, and are open to terrible shocks of abandonment; they are unable to accept limitations and are averse to a certain boring quality native to human life."
Unlike Icarus, it is the human element (music, the anatomical burp, fortissimo of flatulence) that saves Granpa Jo and Charlie.
We all yearn to sip something that is forbidden.
We all yearn to fly.

“Woman can change the embryo into a boy, but only the initiation of another man can change a boy into the man he is destined to become.” At the end of the movie Charlie finds himself dealing with a mercurial fisted Willy Wonka (note the duality/the halves/the evident yang in his office). Charlie is not fully formed. His last trial is (unselfishly) giving the gift of eternity back to its creator at which point the creator gives Charlie every thing he could ever want. The gift-return of the ever-lasting gob stopper is the final sloughing of ones ego, "DEATH TO THE INFANTILE EGO, BIRTH TO THE MATURE."
Charlie has passed the test, he has given back the gift that freely was given to him and, in doing so, he ascends (a la no beer wonkavator) into echelons of greatness he could never before fathom, a place where the pure dalliance and imaginative dance of  his every dream will come true.

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