Welcome one and all to the Last Door on the Left – a travel agency for the adventurous soul. Have you always wanted to see the world beyond the wardrobe? Longed to wait for the train at 9 ¾? Pined for tickets to hear Plava Laguna sing at Phloston Paradise? Look no further.
Hello, my fellow enterprising explorers and partakers in peregrinations; the Last Door on the Left is open for you! Where our last adventure found us extolling the virtues of a scholastic schema in Gotham, this week I’d like to extend an invitation to the stout of heart among you, and delve into the intrigue, blood, and horror that is the world of self-help author/guru, Astrid Mueller.
Born and raised in a mid-sized town in West Germany, a 5-year-old Astrid Mueller began her long trek toward her Chicago headquarters on a cloudy day some 30 years ago, when a disenfranchised truck driver ran her over on a sleepy Sunday street. Twice. As such experiences are wont to do, the trauma of this event had a profound effect on young Astrid’s perceptions of the world and the people around her. But one can’t create a diamond without using the weight of the earth, can one? And Astrid Mueller and her organization – An Honest World – can exert some pressure.
Packing Pro-Tip #1: A sharp suit. A visit to Astrid’s HQ means doing Chicago in style if you want to fit in. And while, as precocious patrons of the Last Door on the Left, you very often want to stand out, we feel it is…safer… to blend in for this *particular* tour. Besides, there’s never a reason to not be one of the best dressed people in the room.
Astrid has come a considerable distance from that blood-soaked road in Germany 30 years before, and finds herself quite comfortably ensconced in a classic Chicago edifice worthy of Wicker Park. Her demesne is designer from its decor to its denizens; nothing but the best for the leading lady of self-help lore. You have to admire anyone who installs a MOAT in the main lobby of their headquarters. A MOAT.
Savvy Traveller Side Note #1: Keep a sharp eye on the details. Ms. Mueller is a brilliant strategist and a master manipulator, and you can bet good money that she’s 3 steps ahead of everyone around her. Every item is planned down to the minutiae; from the office knick knacks to the extra pieces on the chess board. Each component has a role to play in a story that most people aren’t even aware is being told.
The vast majority of those who find themselves within the vaunted auspices of An Honest World HQ are there because they are True Believers. They have found themselves bereft of hope at some point in their lives and found solace in Astrid’s words. They’ve been led – whether into the light or the slaughterhouse, it remains to be seen – in droves.
Savvy Traveller Side Note #2: Learn the lingo (but don’t drink the Kool-Aid). Referring to themselves Blue Utopians is only the beginning. A key way for individuals in a participants-only group to identify themselves to one another – and exclude non-members – is through language. The sooner you pick up the jargon, the sooner you’ll fit right in. No pre-emotic barbed sits here!
Of course, a visit to Astrid’s headquarters could never be complete – no matter how comfortable the furniture, well stocked the bookshelves, nor how distracting the staff may be – without a trip to the Clean Room. You will be required to change out of your sharp suit and into Clean Room-specific attire. A full body scrub, including hair wash and dry, fingernails cleaned with alcohol, and the removal of all body jewelry is necessary prior to entry through the airtight portal. A giant, stark, white paneled room looms, waiting.
Astrid Mueller is inside that stark white room, waiting.
Now is when you’ll be happy we suggested that you blend in, that is if it’s not you sitting in the interview chair. The Clean Room, like Cerebro, is waiting for input. Unlike its more benign analogue, the Clean Room is waiting to show you your nightmares, your worst memories, the crisis points in your past that your conscious brain is trying to forget. And *very* unlike Cerebro… if you’re deemed EXTRA special… a little bit of the Clean Room just might go home with you.
Packing Pro-Tip #2: Prayer beads, anti-anxiety meds, a soothing selection of teas/scotches, and/or whatever gets you through a rough night. One is coming, after the Clean Room.