“The Wizard of Oz” makes me think of the time I ran away to join the circus

Nov 10 2014 City Paper

When I was a teenager, I dropped out of school and ran away to join a circus. It took me months to save and get to San Francisco, and a month to get back, and I didn’t actually stay in the circus very long, because by the time I got there it was fall and the last hangers-on were too sad and stuck to be intriguing or poetic, and that was the whole reason I wanted to go in the first place. But I saw mountains for the first time, and I fell in love for the first time, and I slept in my car in a truck stop, and I met so many strange people along the way. Some of them stole from me. Some of them gave me things. Now, whenever  I watch “The Wizard of Oz,” I think about myself at Dorothy’s age: headstrong, adventurous, and too young to be told what she could and couldn’t do and looking for something more.

From this perspective, it’s no wonder Dorothy (Judy Garland) wanted to run away. Her parents left her to be raised by her aunt and uncle on a farm in the middle of nowhere, Kansas. And her only friend, her dog Toto, had a habit of getting them both into a heap of trouble. So much so that the town’s crazy lady wanted to have the dog “destroyed.”  This sepia-toned section culminates in a twister that knocks Dorothy out cold. When she comes to, she’s transported to the Technicolor world of Oz and almost immediately she wants out. You know, because “there’s no place like home.” The way back to Kansas, however, isn’t so straightforward when flying monkeys show up and attack you and the wizard turns out to be just some empty brand manager. You’ve undoubtedly seen it already, but seek out “Wizard Of Oz” on the big screen this time around and take in its eccentricities: a glitter-bomb queen descending from the sky in an iridescent bubble; little people in colorful frocks licking large lollipops; scrappy character actors/best friends Lion (Bert Lahr), Tin Man (Jack Haley), and Scarecrow (Ray Bolger); and of course, the evil Wicked Witch (Margaret Hamilton) hunting Dorothy down and serving as probably the best villain in movie history (John Waters has long cited the Wicked Witch as an attitudinal and stylistic inspiration). Also, try to see yourself in its imminently relatable story about wanting more than what is offered to you.

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