No Place Like Home

My meeting downtown finished early, and so I arrived at O’Hare hours ahead of time for my evening flight to Atlanta.  I settled in to read, and then deep into my novel, I became irritated at the flashing lights above me.  As I got up to move my seat, I realized that I had been at the airport so long that I was now in the midst of an entirely new weather system, and what I had assumed was the malfunctioning flicker of fluorescent lights was really a tremendous thunder storm.  I was disenheartened to realize that I was in for a long vigil at the airport.  No book can be that good, and lets face it, it is just too hard to get any work done.  I immediately began to ponder my professional and ethical obligation to attend this all day Saturday meeting.  Did my commitment to attend really extend to an all nighter at the airport?  I was just one of many, would they really miss me?  Just as I concluded that the answer to those questions were unfortunately yes, the departure board twitched and my flight came up CANCELLED!  And then in a fit of due diligence I confirmed that there was no later flight that evening, and no early AM flight the next morning that could get me there on time.  I was free!  I called the conference organizers to relay the sad news and also ask them what to do with the ticket.  The ticket was nonrefundable, so they told me that it was mine to keep.  I was free and had a free ticket!

When I got home the house was dark, as Nick had made other plans in my presumed absence.   As a NetFlix subscriber, a couple of movies were awaiting me, one about an immigrant who tries to eke out an existence by being a drug mule, and the other was about a hardworking 1950s British housewife who was an abortionist on the side.  When I established my movie queue on NetFlix, I clearly had put myself on too high a plane.  I had selected a steady diet of movies that were supposedly thought-provoking, unsettling, unflinching, tragic, long-suffering and ennobling.  Not a guilty pleasure among them, just the ticket for the end of a long tiring day.  Therefore, I turned to network and cable TV, a vast wasteland since we had cancelled access to the movie channels in lieu of NetFlix!  

I despaired as I scrolled through dreary options, but then joyfully stumbled across the Wizard of Oz, and I thought this would be a perfect evening to relive my childhood.  Before the days of cable, VHS or DVD, you had but one chance per year to see the Wizard of Oz on network TV, and it was an occasion you really didn’t want to miss.  I remember that it always seemed to be on at the beginning of November on a late Sunday afternoon.  You would be horsing around outside, playing in leaf piles or playing touch football, when someone would announce, “Hey isn’t the Wizard of Oz on tonight?”   We would rush inside, trailing the fresh air inside and get cozy in the TV room, still slightly feeling the autumn chill.  My most salient memories of the Wizard of Oz were the flying monkeys which always scared the Beejeezus out of me, and that I always got misty eyed at the end when Dorothy said goodbye to the scarecrow.  Now I would get to see the movie again after a span of about 20 years.

My first discovery was that I don’t think that I had ever seen the very beginning of the movie before; I think I missed the part were the farm hands Hunk, Hickory and Zeke clearly established themselves as the future Scarecrow, Tinman and Lion.  All these years I thought that I was a most clever girl to figure this out at the end; it was something that I always kept to myself as my secret insight.  I also never stopped to wonder whatever happened to Dorothy’s birthparents, which would certainly be a ripe topic for a prequel, given Hollywood’s formula for creating movie franchises.  Additionally, Auntie Em and Uncle Henry are quite old enough to be her grandparents, so it would seem that an entire generation of relatives got wiped out somehow.  Perhaps a prior tornado, which would certainly be ironic, since Dorothy’s last name is Gale.

Apparently in one of the earlier stage versions, Dorothy was accompanied not by a dog, but by her pet cow Imogene.  While Toto is an upgrade over a cow, I admit that I find common ground with the crabby Almira Gulch – Toto is yappy and annoying, albeit loyal.  As I watched Dorothy pop Toto into her little wicker purse, I realized that she might have been the original trendsetter for toy dogs as fashion accessories.  I am not proud to admit that I indulge in People magazine from time to time, but this is how I know about those wretched anorexic starlets whose little hairless dogs are peeking out from their oversized Birken bags. 

Of her traveling companions, I think that I was most mystified about the lion, mainly because he walked on two legs instead of all fours.  But it must have been something more, because if I was willing to accept a man made of tin, I should have been able to accept a bipedal lion.  And now I think I figured it out.  As a child at the zoo, one could not help but be impressed with the manly attributes of the king of beasts, not only his glorious mane of hair, but his readily apparent male anatomy.  And so, when the lion emerged from the woods and stood up, something was missing, the full frontal as it were.  And if we may succumb to the obvious stereotype, perhaps that was why he lost his courage.

My respect for Dorothy grew enormously as she moved on down the road.  In the sepia world of the Kansas farm, she was helpless, frantic and casually dismissed.  In her fantasy world, she became a better version of herself, formulating and sticking to a plan, and developing a mentoring and equal relationship with men.  She was a brilliant role model clearly ahead of her time. The original actress slated for the role was Shirley Temple, who charmed audiences with her perky cuteness.  How fortunate to have a plucky and confident Dorothy instead, a picture of undaunted and competent courage.

Was the Wizard of Oz the first movie to use the ticking clock?  This race against time is certainly a staple of every single James Bond movie.  Perhaps 007 owes a debt of gratitude to the Witch, who inexplicably doesn’t dispatch Dorothy forthwith.  While the special effects of the grotesque flying monkeys are clearly very primitive, I don’t think that I have seen a better death scene than the melting witch.  Brilliantly nonviolent.  How many times has this been reenacted in community theaters and school gymnasiums?   What fun to scream out a tortured, “Help, I’m melting,” and then slowly slip down through a trap door.

The good bye sequence at the end always left me teary, though I tried mightily to conceal it, perhaps pretending to scratch my eye, or attending to an itch along the side of my nose.  This time as I listened to Dorothy’s earnest explanation of the key to returning home, I realized that it was basically incomprehensible.  Here are the verbatim words, “If I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I won’t look any further than my own backyard, because if it isn’t there, I never really lost it to begin with.”  What?  Somewhere there is a starchy grammarian who is shuddering at the triple negative: “won’t look/isn’t there/never lost it.”  Try as I might, I can’t decipher this, but fortunately, by the time she clicks her heels together, she has condensed this to the more memorable, “There’s no place like home.”  I think that from time to time, we can all agree with that.  

The missing words in the following poem are all anagrams (i.e. share the same letters like spot, stop, post) and the number of asterisks indicates the numbers of letters.  One of the missing words will rhyme with the preceding or following line.  Your job is to solve for the missing words based on the above rules and the context of the poem.  Scroll down for answers:

Why Dorothy is a Good Role Model

Dorothy was not really scared as she was tossed and turned in a tornado ****

And when she landed amongst the Munchkins she was briefly nonplussed

Forthwith she became a problem solver, and headed to Emerald City in competent style

Relying on **** and brians instead of the more typical coquettish smile and guile

She  made true and equal friends with men like the Tin Man, Scarecrow and Lion,

And her farewell to them at the end **** at my heart and makes me feel like crying.







 answers:  gust, guts, tugs



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