Remember the old rhyme so many of us have often quoted, “Spring has sprung, Fall has fallen, Winter is here and it’s cold as hell”? Well, we sure got it this year. The wintry storm that blanketed Texas in mid-February certainly left its mark on Galveston Island. But slowly the sun arrived and the ice started melting. After much finger-pointing and responsibility dodging, the power returned and Texans rose from the icy tomb that had buried them for days.
To top it off, it looks as if masking and vaccinations are working in the battle against Covid-19. Hospital admissions and even deaths are down in numbers. And, Lafitte’s reopened! Galveston has survived yet another crippling blow and done so with the same great resilience that has sustained the Island for many years.
Normally, March is welcomed as an early entry into spring. It is noted for being windy (kite flying time) and a good time to begin preparing for the new growth and projects that come after a long winter. Galveston winter, when it does arrive, is very short and rather sporadic. This year it came and packed a wallop; with no water, power, heat, and groceries, Galveston might well have been an island crossing through the Donner Pass!
Years ago, before special effects and Star Wars changed the entire concept and make up of movies, the celluloid world was about all folks had for escape and fantasy and all done in a style to which they could relate: life stories, dramas, and even cartoons that were as intricate as movies. The Wizard of Oz, a beloved treasure, aired on television every year around the first of March. That 1939 classic was as anticipated as Christmas. At the time, and up until the late 1970s and early ’80s, it was, as the young people say, the bomb! Computer technology had not yet been employed to manipulate images and add surreal effects. What did come across on the screen, seemed more real and believable, especially to the millions of views that waited each year for the annual showing on television? It was not until much later that the picture began to resurface in revival movie houses and festivals.
Everyone knows the plot and the storyline for The Wizard of Oz. Little girl unhappy at home, runs away, encounters many hurdles, meets a bunch of interesting characters, wants to go home, and is given the challenge to meet in order to return home. It is good and bad and they battle it out with great symbolism and analogies to social situations going on in American then and now. Let’s see, who would the Wicked Witch of the West represent? Instead of green, might she be orange?
For me, and millions of others, the scariest component of the movie was the flying monkeys released by the bad witch to capture Dorothy and her companions. Seeing those things fly out of the castle, darkening the sky, combined with the witch’s shouting, “Seize them!” was enough to scare viewers to death.
When the monkeys caught up with the wandering band, they tore them to shreds and carried them away in running lift-offs. “They threw my legs over there,” the assaulted Scarecrow lamented.
With its wind, March has continued to bring the annual viewing of The Wizard of Oz. Every year, viewers young and old, have an opportunity to “go over the rainbow” once more with Dorothy, Toto, and the other characters. By today’s standards, the movie is simple and lacking in special effects; perhaps this alone makes it so real to the viewers. The tornado, the witch appearing in the fire, the scary wizard, a face in a crystal ball, and Technicolor — these are the effects. There are no lasers, no transformers battling it out on screens of star-dotted blackness, no rockets and no explosions that cover the screen, and all with deafening Dolby Sound. There are just people, albeit a little odd, but people dealing with obstructions that come their way.
There are a great many morals and lessons to be learned from the L. Frank Baum’s story became a great movie. Perhaps we are better in our own back yard and, in the end, good triumphs over evil. The messages are strong and even better at the end when one can simply awake from a bad dream and see that all is well.
It would be wonderful to suddenly wake up and realize that all the hateful politics, coronavirus, and nastiness that comprised the recent past, was only a dream. Sadly, and try though we may, there is no magical rainbow to cross over, nor an unhappy dream from which to awaken and find perfection. Perhaps this is why movies such as The Wizard of Oz and others, offer a brief respite from a troubled world. I think were Mr. Baum alive and writing today, he would have a whole new collection of good and bad characters with which to fill his story.
This March, it just might be a good time to blow the dust off the DVD, visit a theatre showing The Wizard of Oz, read the classic book, or if lucky, catch it on your television at home with friends. In these difficult times, everyone would love to go over that rainbow and, for short time, leave their troubles behind. Be on guard, and by all means, in life, watch out for the flying monkeys, they are out there and waiting to seize you. In the words of the Wicked Witch and Nancy Ford’s popular and long-running column, “What a world, what a world.”
The Galveston community recently lost an iconic figure in the LGBTQ world. Eldredge Langlinais passed away after a long period of ill health. Eldredge, ever the leader, was instrumental in so many ways. In his time, he owned several bars (usually some incarnation of The Pink Dolphin), created the beloved Krewe of Banners with its famous Banner Party, owned and operated a successful real estate company, and, for a time, was proprietor of a Bed and Breakfast. Eldredge was a delightful person, kind and generous to his core, and will be missed by many.
Somewhere in heaven, if there is a stage, some bright lights, make-up, and silliness, you can bet Eldredge will be there, emceeing and, as always, entertaining. Rest well, old buddy. A resident of Galveston where he can be found wasting bait and searching for the meaning of life, Forest Riggs recently completed a collection of short stories about his beloved island and is working on a novel.