Letting Johnny Depp Out of the Basement

Inspiration strikes in the oddest places – like in your bed while you’re asleep – and at even odder times – like at 4 a.m. while you’re dreaming. 

When I woke from the dream I’m about to recount, I was laughing – really laughing. That’s the only time I can remember laughing in my sleep.

So you’re asking yourself whether I’m a psycho and this is some Depp-stalking fantasy. I commend you on the question, but the answer is no. What’s Johnny DOING in the basement, and why do you have to let him out? I shall unfold the tale unto you.

A couple of years ago, when I had been on an unwilling 13 year hiatus from the written word, I dreamed that I was back in grad school. We were having one of those MFA-nerd parties at my house, in the bleak midwinter, and guests were sliding around on the ice outside, and gathering in the kitchen (which is where all MFA-nerds wind up as if subject to some stronger gravitational pull), and generally having a good time. 

We’d been partying away for a couple of hours when I heard a sudden crash reminiscent of a lamp breaking, or to more precise, having been broken by someone. And that’s what it was, too. It was Johnny Depp, decked out in his Captain Jack Sparrow duds, and he was causing all sorts of trouble: fondling those who did not wish to be fondled, bogarting the weed, and yes – breaking not only my favorite lamp, but all the others too. Causing the party to be plunged into darkness and disorder. 

A couple of larger nerds and I wrestled Captain Jack rather roughly down the stairs and locked him in the basement. That problem solved, we lit candles and had a bit more to drink. Then someone suggested that a midnight trip to the local Lard Bar (which was what we called Denny’s) would be a plan. We climbed in our vehicles and started wagon training down the slippery road. 

Halfway there, I felt a terrible pang and turned back. How could I have left poor Captain Jack locked in the basement with no means of warmth in the dead of a South Bend winter? He was fine when I let him out, though. Happy! I was happy too! I woke up laughing.

The message my subconscious was sending was perfectly clear to me. I had to stop locking up the part of myself that represented passion and disorder and humor (in this case Captain Jack, but could as easily have been the norse god Loki, or a trickster of any stamp whatever.) My passion and disorder and creative impulse had been languishing for years in the basement.

This last bit sounds made up, but it isn’t: I started writing again that day, and I haven’t stopped since. 

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~ by Leigh on June 20, 2009.

One Response to “Letting Johnny Depp Out of the Basement”

  1. Hilarious! Glad you are back where you needed to be, wrestling the page, not pirates 🙂

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