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What Easter means to me

That’s right. It means the Wizard of Oz on television again.

My original interpretation of the afterlife was eternity in a large, barn-like structure with picnic tables inside, where I hung out with my grandmother and ate icecream. That’s the best infant me could work out the “heaven” concept.

Then I saw the Wizard of Oz and instantly recognized it as the afterlife; it was a dangerous, sparkly place full of scary midgets and wingèd monkeys and evil green ladies in striped socks. Oh, it’s so obvious: Oz was in color, Kansas was in black and white. Dorothy gets smacked on the head, falls into a coma and is transported to a beautiful, horrible place. When she wakes up back home, Uncle Henry says, “we thought we would lose you.” Ergo, Oz is where you go when you go. Plus, they put it on at Easter (“…and on the third day, Dorothy arose crying, ‘verily, there is no place like unto home!’…”).

I never missed it. Never. Not once. It’s hard to remember the sense of specialness movies had in the days before VCR’s and DVD players. Most movies came around once a year. Some less. But Oz was a unique occasion, a religious holiday. I never got over a sense of trascendant awe on WoO day. I’m no friend of Dorothy, I’m an acolyte.

In college one Spring, I decided to treat my friends to an evening of Oz and LSD. Yes. That was every bit as bad an idea as it sounds.

Oh, Oz went fine. It was afterward that the flying monkeys truly arrived. I knew my party wasn’t going well when the girl from downstairs stood up and declared, “welp, I’m going to go nail myself into my room now.” Then we heard the sound of her footsteps and nails being driven into the doorframe.

Hoping to lighten the mood, I put on the soundtrack to the Sound of Music. For, like, eight straight hours. I’m pretty sure there are one or two people who still haven’t forgiven me for that inspired act of cruelty.

The hills. The hills are alive, man.

I permanently ruined recreational drug use for myself that night, but I didn’t ruin Wizard of Oz. Once, not long after, I even saw it on the big screen; a brand new print that had arrived at the theater that afternoon. It was amazing: you could see the strings holding up the Lion’s tail and those odd bird creatures in the background and everything. It was only when we got to the end that the projectionist realized the last reel was missing. Crucifixion without resurrection. Oz interruptus.

I kept up my annual pilgrimage to the Merry Olde Land faithfully for another five years, until I got my first VCR. Then, somehow…once I had it on tape, I never watched it again. It didn’t seem right that I could watch it any time I wanted to. It was subversive and dangerous. Once I had the lightning in a bottle, I was afraid of it. Afraid I’d wear it out. Afraid I’d hear the overture and not get all chuffed. If ever that happens to me, the last vestiges of my spirituality will be swept away forever.

So it is a Very Big Deal that I ordered the (three volume collector’s) DVD this morning. It’s been almost 25 years. I’m bringing Xanax. And a hanky.

April 10, 2007 — 12:13 pm
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