I left Oz for this?
If you think about Dorothy’s life in “The Wizard of Oz“, Kansas did not seem like a very good time. She was a lonely–a pest in everyone’s way–she had no friends, and had only farm hands/grown men to roll with, and she spent an awful lot of time talking to that dog of hers. She’s bored in the Prairies, and singing “Over the Rainbow” about the place beyond the bleakness. But that’s just the movie, I’m flipping through my copy of “The Wizard of Oz”, and L.Frank Baum really cuts to the chase. To sum up the first chapter in a sentence– “everything was gray and then there was a cyclone”. One could really make a rocking drinking game out of the word ‘gray’. Maybe the thesaurus wasn’t invented in 1900, but were there no other synonyms within reach? Rumor has it that L. Frank was going to name the book “Fifty Shades of Grey“, but God had something planned for that title. “Wizard of Oz will be more suitable to this generation, they just aren’t ready for S&M”– He thinks, stroking his mighty beard.
The first chapter is hardly something you’d find in a travel brochure for Kansas. Gray this, gray that; Auntie Em was once young and beautiful, and now she’s bitter and beat-looking, wailing and whining any time any fun is being had. When Dorothy first arrived on the scene, the sound of her childish laughter made poor Aunt Em (and I am quoting directly here) “scream and press her hand upon her heart whenever Dorothy’s merry voice reached her ears”.
‘Jesus Christ, calm down lady, I’m just having a laugh with my dog, who happens to be my best friend…and who, according to the book, saves me from growing as gray as my other surroundings. This little black dog is keeping me young and fresh–so just back off, bitch’. (Wow, Baum’s version is so different from the movie eh?).
Uncle Henry sounds a bundle of fun too, for he “never laughed…and did not know what joy was…and he looked stern and solemn, and rarely spoke”. Awesome.
So not only is the company not amazing, their homestead could hardly qualify for MTV “Cribs”. Its just one giant grey room with two beds in opposite corners. Seriously guys, are we so poor that we can’t afford a couple of throw pillows? Spruce it up a little? They don’t even have a decent cyclone cellar, it’s just a shitty hole in the ground. So generally speaking, the best thing that could ever happen to Dorothy was being swept away in a storm–although looked how well that worked for Madonna.
Yeah, I went there. Just when you think I’m going to zig, I zag.
Again, old ‘close the deal’ L. Frank Baum goes from Chapter One: “grey and stormy” and manages to expedite the story to Chapter Two: “the twister transports Dorothy to Munchkinland, Dorothy gets new shoes, all the information and encouragement she needs and is immediately on her way to Oz…oh and a house falls on a witch–no big deal”. Man, no wonder MGM had to pad the film version with musical numbers and emotional intent. In the book there are no farmhands, no one has a beef with Toto, there are very few Munchkins on tap…it’s just Kansas sucks and then then shit went down. Still, the common thread between the source material and the film is that Dorothy wants to go home. She is on her way to meet a powerful wizard who has the ability to give courage, brains, and hearts…and she is going to waste her one wish on Kansas? Silly girl, she had this amazing opportunity to explore, meet new people, and she didn’t seem to have any time-sensitive visa restrictions placed on her. Yes, she had the pesky task of murdering a witch, who was in turn trying to destroy her and take her fabulous footwear. And I can’t imagine being trailed by those damned flying monkeys. But there’s always stress in travel. But the whole time Dorothy is bitch, bitch, bitch, Kansas this, Kansas that. Uh, remember how dull and gray it was? You are living in a technicolor world and you’re best friends with a scarecrow, lion and tin man! You don’t have to talk to Toto all the time! What more could you want?
It’s like–uh hello girlfriend, you’ve got some brand new shoes, break ’em in a little!
But I can connect with that sentiment, wherever I am, I always want to go somewhere else. I call it ‘wanderlust’, my husband calls it ‘restlessness’. I was recently lamenting the limitations of the immigration process to a girlfriend; that our marital existence was in such a holding pattern; we can’t leave the country, we can’t make any long term decisions, all we can do is wait.
“Well…maybe that’s a good thing, maybe you just need to be present“.
But from the moment my husband and I met, we were on the move: working-holidays, mini-breaks, road-trips, and then we just stopped. Like you could literally hear the screeching of brakes. The plan was always to settle in Canada after Australia, but I couldn’t face the end of our journey. I suppose to me, British Columbia represented ‘reality’; with all the history and heartbreak, and the occasional dark shadow in certain pockets of the province. Instead we landed in Toronto, and drove through Ontario, Quebec, Newfoundland, Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia with my best friend Evelyn and her husband Craig. While the trip was amazing, we did take ‘money to make a home with’, and turned it into a ‘we don’t need no water, let the motherfucker burn’ type of situation. By the time we arrived at my parents’ place in British Columbia, we were pretty much like cartoon hobos with moths flying out of our empty pockets. Though it was never the intention, my parents opened up their home to us so we could gather our bearings, and save some money. And our first Canadian summer passed in my parents basement, in my old bedroom. Ben framed houses in the hot sun, while I worked at the local newspaper office and at Boston Pizza most nights.
My parents live in a small mill-town, and there is not…a lot to look at. I wonder how Dorothy coped with the sepia colored landscape after all the luscious hues of Oz. “I don’t remember it being quite this grey”, she’d think to herself. We missed so much about Australia: the city of Perth, the blue skies, the palm trees, the Swan River, the heat. Though my folks were so kind to take us in, it was occasionally difficult for all parties; especially when both couples are used to their own routine on opposite ends of the earth. I mean, Auntie Em and Uncle Henry probably kind of liked having that room to themselves while Dorothy was off gallivanting in Oz. And then Dorothy came home with one of the bears she saw hanging in the forest with the lions and tigers, and the space got even tighter.
Working opposite shifts with Ben meant we mostly saw the other curled up in slumber. We weren’t able to talk, we were losing touch, we were drifting away from each other. I told almost no one that I was home, I could hardly process it myself. Geographically speaking, it was like being “The Wiz”, and wishing you were “The Wizard of Oz” again….I don’t want to be Diana Ross, I want to be Judy Garland!
Of course, Canada is not a gray and miserable turn of the century Kansas farm; there was family, friendships and happiness before I left the country for nearly three years. But it was in being where the circle began; the indignity of being broke and dependent; losing touch with my husband during a period of long hours and hard work; the uncertainty of the immigration process that pushed me to a breaking point. Like Dorothy when she weeps for fear of never leaving Oz. Of never getting home. Where is home? There’s no place like home? What does that even mean? Home has become where my husband is and that summer he felt as far away as the Southern Hemisphere. When the seasons changed, we moved to a different town, and made a little home together, and we could finally think of embracing this country as our home.
I realize now that living in Australia was not always a fantasy land either; I go over old essays or journal entries and know there were our own metaphorical versions of flying monkeys, nasty fruit bearing trees that sassed you if you dared to pluck an apple, and forces threatening to spoil our adventures. Every country, every place will have it’s trials, there is not one perfect, untroubled destination. And I can rationalize that the grass is always greener and whatnot, wherever you go there you are and so forth, but that doesn’t stop me from wondering what else is over the rainbow. I suppose that where I am right now is exactly where I need to be, but my advice to Dorothy is to savour her journey and be grateful for the color, for there is a black and white horizon ahead.