Weekend in Oz
In a dark downstairs room, I examined an hourglass full of red glitter, wondering if it had magical properties.
This was the hourglass The Wicked Witch of the West used to countdown to Dorothy's murder, not knowing it was her own time that was running out. I never realized until I visited the Farnsworth's exhibit on Oz this weekend that there was a little severed hand on the witch's magical text in that scene or that the red dust in the hourglass was red Jell-O powder, nor did I remember that the Scarecrow came to the monkey-infested wood armed with a pistol until I watched the original film Sunday at The Strand.
All of this, and the book I've got going right now is "Son of a Witch," the second book in the "Wicked" series by Gregory Maguire. I basically spent my weekend in Oz, by way of Rockland.
The festivities started Saturday at the Farnsworth where they were having an autumn festival. Samantha carved a pumpkin along with a large number of local children.
While she took her time with this, I had time to wander around, drink hot chocolate and take in the sights and sounds.
The band that was playing while I was there was called "The Rusty Hinges," a folk-oldies-gospel group. I sat on a bale of hay and watched them. The sound was something out of the '60s, the voices high and maybe a bit reedy. There were two women in the group with Earth-toned clothes and braided white and gray hair.
The mandolin player had long white hair and the bushy beard of a folk singer, but was wearing a Red Sox shirt and hat, reminding me where we were. He sang one song about working in the fish canning factory. It was a song appropriate for our city where sardines were once packed in canneries on the waterfront and anyone who needed a paycheck could get work cutting the heads and tails off little fish all day. With songs like that and old ones I recognized, I felt the band had street cred in Rockland.
While I watched, a little kid, maybe 3 or 4 years old danced in front of the players. She stopped now and then to scoop up dirt and rocks and put them in her pockets. I thought about the times I had found rocks in my own kids' pockets doing laundry and finally had the answer why.
Off to one side, there was a little patch of yellow bricks, advertising the exhibit.
When Sami was done with her pumpkin, we went down into the museum itself to see the exhibit. Sad that I live in a national arts Mecca, but it still takes a pop culture reference to get me into the museums or galleries.
Dorothy's blue gingham dress and the green Munchkin outfit belonging to one member of the Lollipop Guild were displayed on a pedestal and guarded with almost holy reverence. More interesting to me was the hourglass and the ruby slippers worn in "Return to Oz," which I like better than the original Oz film, truth be told.
My favorite image was the enlarged drawing of Jack, the pumpkin-headed fellow from one of the books, being approached by Dorothy as he sat in his Jack-o-Lantern cottage. Nearby was a display of all the old Oz books, though I much prefer "Wicked" to the originals.
Christine and I, both fans of the new book series, looked at a map of Oz on the wall and realized it was a mirror image of the maps in Maguire's books, as if he were saying, "This is an alternate reality to the originals."
The next day the line to get into "The Wizard of Oz" at the Strand was all the way down the street to the Brass Compass. Some were undoubtedly turned away.
I had never seen it on the big screen, and it was a beautiful 35mm print of the film. It was different from my usual movie experience. The large audience, mostly friends and neighbors, laughed together companionably and applauded at the end of the movie. Whenever the witch was on screen, the kids squirmed and clung to their parents.
After the movie, we drove out to the new super-sized Wal-Mart store in Thomaston to get a few odds and ends for dinner and get a look at the situation. It was a little surreal exploring a store the size of a small city while "Ding Dong the Witch is Dead" was rolling around and around in my head. It's even catchier than "Love Shack" frankly.
Everyone was wandering around in a haze, overwhelmed by the sheer scale of the thing. I felt something akin to panic approaching a strange deli area and wondered if our community even has enough people to support this business.
On our way out, I noticed Wal-Mart had a truck parked outside and its only job was to advertise Wal-Mart. The sign said it was a National Mobile Billboard.
Suddenly I had the feeling I wasn't in Kansas anymore.
Daniel Dunkle is editor of The Courier-Gazette. He lives in Rockland with his wife, Christine, and their two children. Email him at email@example.com.