I’m afraid it’s another non-surf post as I’m still not allowed within 20 feet of the beach by my evil dentist. However, I had a bit of a Synchronicitous Weekend (hello Sumner, Summers and Copeland.)
We decided since we couldn’t go to the beach without me bursting into tears or commandeering someone’s board, we’d go to the mountains. To distract me from my misery, the gallant husband drove us up to Figueroa Mountain Saturday morning for a bit of a leg stretch, some fresh air and views. (He got a bit carried away with the caretaker/invalid thing when he put a plaid wool blanket over my lap in the car. I’m not sure who I felt more like, Blanche Hudson or Dr. Scott…..”Don’t hurt her, Frank Furter!”)
Anyhow, on the way up we were listening to that old Belly CD, Now They’ll Sleep. Ever mindful of the great healing power of trivia (?) I asked the husband if he knew what that album title was in reference to. Naturally, he had no idea. So, rubbing my hands together in glee, I explained that it was a direct reference to the scene in the Wizard of Oz where the Wicked Witch of the West “plants” a poppy field for the foursome to cut through on their way to the Emerald City. As she gazes into her crystal ball, she cackles, “Now they’ll sleep…..now they’ll sleep.” Which always struck me as being a bit of an odd – and literary – line for the movie, which has surprisingly normal vernacular even by today’s standards.
Now, before I go on, I must mention that I have an obscenely accurate and long memory. I can recall much more than the average human. I cannot, however, make change. So it all sort of evens out. But when I was growing up, I had an album that was literally a recording of the film. And I listened to that thing daily for, like, a year. I have almost total recall of the entire film, line by line. I can even fill in the music if I really get into a groove. So it’s not that unusual that I would know this line.
But getting back to the synchronicity bit. When we arrived at Figueroa mountain, I looked longingly down, down, dowwwn past the land to the ocean, feeling peaceful just seeing that huge expanse of blue. I had the thought that the water is my Emerald City the instant I noticed the poppy fields. They were everywhere, bright orange California poppies.
Things got even weirder that night when we got home, turned on the tv and saw that The Wizard of Oz was literally just starting on AMC. That guy who looks like a brunette Jeff Daniels was just introducing it. (Did you know Shirley Temple was cast first and actually did some filming before Judy Garland was brought in? True story, according to dark Jeff Daniels.) So we settled in to watch. I have not actually seen the film since I was about 10, and I was pleasantly surprised that yes, I did actually remember virtually every line and every scene as it played out.
I guess I should explain that the reason I had that recording of the film was that when I was in 3rd grade, I was the Wicked Witch of the West in the school play. There were a grand total of two performances, the first being after lunch for the school and then again that night for the parents. I absolutely relished my part. Even back then, I found dark characters more interesting than light ones. I spent weeks listening to that album as “preparation.” And though I had not an ounce of pretension about it I promise you, I did find myself wondering what really made her tick. What must it have been like for her, I wondered. “Ok, let’s see….I’m ugly. And green. That’s not fun. And this Glinda chick is really cramping my style. She’s like the Marilyn Monroe of witches and everyone loves her. My sister just got killed. And the bitch who killed her hijacked the one glam accessory I could hope to get my hands on. And I’m surrounded by little monkey ushers with blue eyeshadow and epaulets.” No wonder she was such a miserable bitch, I thought as I glued my prosthetic nose on…..
So after watching the movie Saturday night, we went to get some coffee on Sunday morning and ran into someone I went to school with. And again with the synchronicity because as fate would have it, it was the guy who played the Tinman. He grabbed my arm and said, “I was just thinking of you last night! The Wizard of Oz was on and I was remembering how you played the Wicked Witch. And your nose fell off.”
Because, well, it did. It fell off. Right in the middle of the evening performance. Right in the middle of that line.
If you’ve ever been 8 years old and nervous and in front of a large room filled with kids and their parents and your teachers, you know how hard it was for me to stay in character and not to burst into hysterical laughter. Or tears. The total silence helped sober my mood, I admit.
So, so quiet. And there I was. My real nose – very white, very small and decidedly wartless – giving me away, ruining any shred of artistic credibility I’d garnered up until that point. What was worse was that it was somehow lost onstage, kicked away during the scene. And this being off, off, off Broadway, there was no backup nose. I had to scrape away some green makeup from my neck backstage and make do with my real nose for the rest of the play. My best friend, who was playing Dorothy, found the fucking thing during the scene where she threw the “water” on me (the water being a bucket filled with blue confetti streamers.) Panicked, and for reasons known to this day only to herself, she reached down and picked up the nose, hiding it in the bucket. Only to throw it over me two seconds later to an enormous roar of laughter from the audience who apparently found the witch being pelted with her own discarded nose funny.
So, yeah. Synchronicity. What did I tell you?
But I have to say, one thing that my 8 year old brain hadn’t really caught up with is how much metaphor is really going on in that story. Of course, the whole brain/heart/courage/home thing is a bit transparent. But watching it on Saturday night, I couldn’t help but laugh out loud at the genius of a toxic but beautifully hypnotic poppy field eternally springing up between you and what you want most in this world. It’s perfectly, really. It looks so lovely. How could anything that beautiful be bad for you? And you’ll just lie down and rest now. Because you’re getting sleepy. Who wouldn’t? And you can still see the city as your lids close and you drift off, never realizing you’ve been a victim of distraction.
It really got me thinking. In the real world, we do have those poppy fields. The only difference is that we make them ourselves and there’s no green nosed witch making them for us. We all have a poppy field, every one of us, at one point or another in our lives.