Inspection- On Leaving and Returning to Oz

My Aunt Arley described a discussion with my father once about Old Forge, where they grew up. Arley started describing the somewhat dysfunctional relationship between a sweet, yet too submissive, father… and a mother who found misery where she could and rarely had a nice word to say to her own daughter. My father angrily interrupted and claimed that she was remembering wrong and how wonderful; perfect, it all was.

Many years later Dad retired and wound up living a tough life with little money and family angst surrounding him. I always wondered, much like the more progressive amongst us who voted for Barack Obama and expected his election to bring back more sane times; only to find maybe the times “they weren’t a changin” as much as they thought they should… how did he feel returning to what he probably considered his own personal Oz? Did he feel cheated? Did he find too much black and white? Were the colors less vibrant than he remembered?

I wish he was still here so I could ask.

I remember fulfilling my own dream: moving to the Adirondacks and shaking the chains of living near a dead, smelly, polluted river amongst children whose parents had left the City so they might have a “better” life in the country. Some of these teens “thanked” their parents by acting as if all life ended and began in NYC, just like I probably acted as if there was nothing of value in the town where my parents had chosen to raise me.

There’s almost nothing more obnoxious than a teen when they’re at that stage where they second guess every decision their parents makes or made for them… even before they were born. I know. I did.

I do have very fond memories of those times when I left Nyack, NY for Old Forge and Twitchell Lake, yet I also know a lot went wrong: I was a lonely teen who went through more than I should type here. My “Oz” certainly wasn’t perfect, and though I was reluctant to return to city life when I went to college… I thought things might get better once I left. My standard description of my demeanor those days would be a Bart Simpson quote…

“Ah, depressing teenagers: like shooting fish in a barrel.”

And I can’t help think of this and also go back to the hopes and dreams of progressives when Barack was running. Now that they have helped Barack win, I hear the anger. I hear their expectations crash upon the rocks that the lighthouse called “political reality” tried to warn them about.

They suffer from the deafness; the blindness, of the idealistic; like many of us do when dreams come true. After eight years of something completely opposite of what they hoped for, the more idealistic, the blind, the deaf, are likely to wonder just what the hell kind of “change” they actually voted for when “change” isn’t as significant as they thought it would be.

They arrived in Oz on the strong winds of promise: change, yet nothing satisfies. The landing was too hard… the beauty too mundane… the witch not crushed enough.

Why do I now have a picture of Dick Cheney in a dress; complaining about the house that landed on him and his party… and Ozians bitching that the house wasn’t big enough?

No one ever achieves all they dream. That doesn’t make the dream mean less. When we get where we’re going the next step is to find the best way to fly in whatever direction we feel we need to go: not waste our time moaning about how low the peak we have climbed is, or how the winds aren’t just right: unless we just wish to crawl back to the depths from which we came.

I too am angry; for example, that we won’t pursue those who attempted to turn “whatever ‘works'” into “enhanced interrogation;” when it’s something we as a nation have prosecuted; even executed people for, in the past. I both hate and fear the precedents we are setting. I don’t give a damn if Pelosi gets dragged down with it all: if she knew, and she’s guilty, the concept that the “good German” gets off should rarely, if ever, apply.

But this, and all my other disagreements, mean little when it comes to the change of course we have achieved: no matter how slight. These are better times. We need to appreciate that; now more than ever.

Dorothy both feared and cried her way through Oz. It should have been a marvelous time, but instead she wasted it. I spent my teens mooning over a lost love who, while older than me, was less mature when it came to the concept of love than I was. As Dad Carman said…

“This should be the best time of your life, instead your spending it moaning and eating flies.”

Now I have a picture of progressives at a dinner table; mouths a buzzing in anger, as they pick off more fly wings.

Yum.

Baum knew Dorothy could go back to Oz: he wrote several other Oz stories. But the return is never as sweet as what was; and rarely as good. Sequels rarely make better movies, or offer as much. Think very careful about where we go from here and what changes we have achieved: no matter how slight.

It’s time to moan a little less, and swallow less flies.

In three years and a half years there will be another election. In seven and a half there will be another. Will our dissatisfaction mean that we’ll return to the kind of bleak, tornado driven Kansas, where Auntie Em and her uncles are no where near as loving as painted in Baum’s work of fiction? Will we return to being the abused spouse, the beaten children of another Bush-like regime who thinks drowning people simply accused of knowing something about terrorists is a legitimate way to lord over others? Where the only thing the party not in power has a right to do is, “Sit down and shut up?”

We need to never forget the depths we have been slowly climbing out of.

There are far worse places than an imperfect Oz.

Dorothy
Written by Hugh Prestwood. As sung by Judy Collins

Livin in Kansas
A life alone
She never married
She’s hardly known
She stares out the window
Far away
Lookin for another
Windy day

Dorothy was a fool to leave
She should have stayed
She had it right in her hands
She had it made
She could have had it all for keeps
She was afraid
She could of stayed

It seemed like only
Yesterday
But 40 years have all but
Slipped away
Since a lonely
Black haired girl
Was taken for her one
And only whirl

Dorothy was a fool to leave
She should have stayed
She had it right in her hands
She had it made
She could have had it all for keeps
She was afraid
She could of stayed

Same old bluebird
Flyin high
Over rainbows
In the Kansas sky
Why oh why?
Oh… why?

I guess it only serves her right
For trading all that color
For black and white
All her sorrow
All because
There ain’t no way to stand Kansas
When you’ve been to Oz

Dorothy was a fool to leave
She should have stayed
She had it right in her hands
She had it made
She could have had it all for keeps
But was afraid
She could of stayed
She could of stayed
She could of stayed
___________________________
Copyright 1979
Interval Music/bmi
all rights reserved

-30-

Inspection is a column that has been written by Ken Carman for over 30 years. Inspection is dedicated to looking at odd angles, under all the rocks and into the unseen cracks and crevasses that constitute the issues and philosophical constructs of our day: places few think, or even dare, to venture.

Copyright 2009
Ken Carman and Cartenual Productions
All Rights Reserved