The Passing Parade: Cheap Shots from a Drive By Mind

"...difficile est saturam non scribere. Nam quis iniquae tam patiens urbis, tam ferreus, ut teneat se..." " is hard not to write Satire. For who is so tolerant of the unjust City, so steeled, that he can restrain himself... Juvenal, The Satires (1.30-32)

Monday, December 04, 2006

OVER THE FINANCIAL RAINBOW: In other news, which seems an odd way to start since I haven’t given you any news to start with, there is, as you might have heard, a surfeit of homes on the market. The bloom has gone off the boom, as it were, as thousands of people who invested their life savings in residential real estate in the hope of making a killing have found, to their absolute financial shock and chagrin, that while there’s lots of residential real estate to go around, the one thing that’s in fairly short supply these days are actual residents.

The problem extends far beyond the city limits of our happy little burg, even beyond the shores of this our Great Republic, all the way to the halls of power of Munchkinland, where the long decades of debate about what do to with the house of the good witch Dorothy are finally coming to a conclusion. The debate has lasted for so long for any number of reasons, the most important being that the great and powerful Wizard of Oz, to whom the Munchkins usually referred such weighty macroeconomic decisions, has busted a move, hit the highway, taken a powder, flown the coop, and has otherwise made himself unavailable for immediate consultation. Without the Wizard to guide them, the Munchkins did what the Munchkins do best in times of political turmoil: bicker endlessly after sucking on the helium hose down at the Lullaby League national headquarters. As you might imagine, not much gets down in Munchkinland when the body politic goes after each other with squeaky voices. A Munchkin high on helium is not one of nature’s prettier sights, not by a long shot.

After a few decades of this, the mayor of Munchkinland, a sensible sort of chap named Herbert Hempflannel, figured that things couldn’t keep going on this way, and so he decided to ask Glinda, the Good Witch of the North, for her opinion of the matter. The trouble was no one in Munchkinland had seen much of Glinda since Dorothy left Oz; in fact, a good many people wondered whatever became of Glinda. The mayor and the chief of police went looking for her, no easy task as witches are not easy to locate unless she finds out you’re dating her best friend behind her back. Eventually, they found Glinda living in a rundown trailer park out along the yellow brick road about twenty miles outside the Emerald City, near where the yellow brick road intersects with Interstate 10, telling fortunes for ten dollars a pop and downing a quart of vodka a day, still bitter about how Louis B. Mayer shafted her all those years ago.

MGM, it seems, was going to make two movies about Oz, one about Dorothy and the other about Glinda, or so she told the mayor, and she was going to star in the movie as well, not at all like the first flick, where they had to bring in some kid named Judy to play Dorothy because Dorothy, who, just between you and me, Mister Mayor, was not the smartest kid who ever lived—dropping that house on the Wicked Witch of the East was just her dumb luck, which, to be fair, the kid always had a lot of—and she couldn’t act her way out of a soaking wet brown paper bag. They tried to make her a star, you know, but the kid just didn’t have the chops, she froze like a deer in the headlights during her screen test; the only thing they could get her to say was she wanted to go home. Maybe she was ahead of her times, who knows? She could have played E.T. with that go home shtick. She couldn’t sing, either; that’s why they had to bring the Judy kid in.

Mayor Hempflannel tried to bring the subject around to the question of what to do about the house, but it was half past ten in the morning and Glinda was already half in the bag, so he had to keep listening to this boozy rant, which he found embarrassing at first and then a little disquieting, as Glinda apparently began to think he was Louis B. Mayer. This was an easy mistake to make, for the mogul and the Munchkin looked a good deal alike, although the Munchkin was considerably shorter than the man, as Munchkins tend to be. MGM never made the second movie—something about the special effects costing a fortune—and then the war came, which threw everyone in Hollywood for a production loop. Movies about good witches were out and heroics and patriotism were in, and so she had to spend the war years making an occasional USO tour doing card tricks for the boys and laying by a poolside in Beverley Hills knocking back whiskey sours and Manhattans with Bill Faulkner and Bob Benchley. The story about the special effects costing a fortune was a damn lie, Glinda said—she would have done them for nothing just to get the film made and to hell with the unions—and to prove her point she turned the chief of police into a three-legged frog and fed him to Wilbur, her pet piranha. After that Glinda started crying and cracked open a bottle of beer with her teeth, and then began singing ‘Over the Rainbow’ in a voice you couldn’t call off-key, as that term suggests some vague proximity to a key, and that wasn’t really true in this case. The mayor chose this point to beat a hasty retreat from the Good Witch of the North and followed the yellow brick road back to Munchkinland, a sadder and no wiser public servant, wondering the whole long way how he was going to explain the chief of police’s sudden disappearance to his wife and family.

So, the debate about what to do with the house raged on. For a while, the Munchkinland Housing Authority planned to turn Dorothy’s house into a low-income housing project, but the local homeowners did not want any socioeconomically deprived riff-raff in the neighborhood depressing their property values, so that idea didn’t really go anywhere. Rehabilitating the house would have cost a fortune as well, as no one ever bothered to fix the damage the police and the army caused forcing the Dorotheans out of the place.

The local authorities dislike talking about this episode—few governments enjoy talking about their mistakes and many Munchkins find the whole matter a bit distasteful, to put it mildly. The Dorothites, or Dorotheans, as they preferred to call themselves, were, in essence, a cult for very short people who, one fine day, marched into the broken down old house and told the authorities that they were not leaving; they needed the house for their worship services. The major tenet of their belief was that the good witch Dorothy (N.B.: Munchkins, even non-Dorotheans, did not then and do not now believe Dorothy’s protestations that she was not a witch; nobody just dumps a house on top of one wicked witch and melts another one like Cheez-Wiz over an open flame without some powerful mojo of her own) would return someday for the good Munchkins who had faith in Her and bring them back with Her to the mystical land of Kansas, where there would be a hundred slightly over the hill virgins named Tricksy Trixie LaBelle for all the believers, as well as hair for the bald, booze for the bibulous, and free checking on all accounts over a hundred dollars. In addition to all of this, once in Kansas, Dorothy would raise all true believing Munchkins to the staggering and hitherto unimaginable height of five foot five and seven-sixteenths of an inch without the use of platform shoes. The believers could have all of this and more if only they held true to the Faith, especially the parts where they dressed up as Dorothy and sang all the hymns on the Live from the London Palladium album until they fell unconscious to the floor in a state of religious ecstasy.

Clearly, no one wanted to persecute a religious minority for their beliefs; Munchkins are a fairly broad-minded lot, all told; but there are only so many renditions of ‘When the saints go marching in’ anyone can listen to on any given night before it starts getting on your nerves. The complaints from the neighbors, which the authorities had ignored up to that point because they like collecting their boodle without having to do too much for it, and the actions of the Dorotheans themselves finally forced a confrontation with the government. A theological dispute between those who held that Dorothy was one in substance with Toto and those who held that Toto was a lesser, dependent entity turned violent, with rioters in the street smashing windows and bludgeoning each other into unconsciousness with oversized lollipops. The rioting lasted for the better part of a week and the government finally had to call in the army to quell the disturbance and clear the cultists out of Dorothy’s house. The cult still survives in the more rural areas of Munchkinland, where the landscape is dotted with shrines to the good witch where the locals can come to pray and sacrifice their old shoes and Fats Waller records in hopes of gaining Dorothy’s favor and a good harvest.

At this point, the government despaired, as governments are wont to do when confronted with a problem that raising taxes cannot solve. Just when things seemed darkest, however, Mayor Hempflannel’s son-in-law, Mortimer Twiddlefist, found a solution acceptable to almost everyone. Consequently, next week the government of Munchkinland will cease operation under its current name and will reconstitute itself as the tribal government of the Munchkin Reservation. The lawyers and the diplomats are still working out the details of the jurisdictional transfer of sovereignty from the Emerald City to the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and in the meantime scriveners from one end of Munchkinland to the other, an admittedly short distance for most non-Munchkins, are busy writing gaming licenses as fast their small fingers and their quill pens can stand the strain. Plans for the Good Witch Dorothy Historic Site and Casino are already in the works and last week Mayor Hempflannel reported at a meeting of the Munchkin Board of Aldermen that at least three other companies expressed an interest in the possibilities of Munchkin gaming. Things in Munchkinland, for the first time in many a year, are finally looking up.

Not everyone is thrilled with these changes, however. Many older Munchkins point out that Munchkins are neither Indians nor Americans, but citizens of Oz, and the Dorotheans regard the United States as a sinkhole of vice, depravity, and sin; after all, no matter what the American government may tell you, the true believer cannot reach the perfect spiritual state of Kansas by catching the 9:27 a.m. flight from Chicago to Topeka. The idea is absurd, too absurd to even bother thinking about.


  • At 2:19 PM, Anonymous Neil said…

    I've always wanted to buy a second home in Munchkinland, for weekend "mini-vacations."


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