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  • A Sentimental Journey Back to OZ

    John classic black and white nudeI was a very sensitive and sentimental kid. Constantly overwhelmed by my emotions, to the point were I was paralyzed by them. I didn’t interact with other kids well and preferred solitude and really learned to be on my own at a very early age. We lived in very small town called Superior in the mountains of western Montana for the first 7 years of my life and then moved to the family ranch out near Alberton. As a young kid I was obsessed with The Wizard of Oz. It held such power over me and moved me at such a deep level. It would stir my emotions and overwhelm me at its mere mention. I most identified with the Scarecrow, because he wasn’t very smart and yet seemed to have the most compassion and understanding. My father always told me I was stupid because I was constantly getting into trouble. And yes I did things I shouldn’t, like trying to light a real fire under the easy bake oven to get the cookies to cook faster. Somehow the label stuck and I was always considered the dumb one from my family that god didn’t give the good sense of a goose to. I know looking back now that my father was just trying to protect me and I am thankful for that, but labels like these stick in a kid’s mind and it becomes a huge hurdle they spend the rest of their lives trying to overcome. I found solace with my friends from Oz merrily skipping down that Yellow Brick Road each year when it was broadcast on television. Oh how much I loved that world and identified with Dorothy not being understood and dreaming of something beyond herself “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” I was entranced. She sang from the heart of it was my life she sang about. We had a wooded hill behind the house and I would round up what kids I could gather and play that we were on the Yellow Brick road wondering though the forest. Now you see why I didn’t have many friends. But the heartbreak was always the ending when Dorothy had to say goodbye to the misfits and go back home. To click those ruby slippers and find within herself home the place she most longed to belong. I would burst into sobs and cry for hours and my mother threatened every year to not let me watch it if I was going to cry. How is it that a 4 or 5 year old who knows little of the world can be so sentimentally carried away that he becomes overwhelmed by his feelings that the near mention of the story creates emotion? I was so emotionally attached that my eyes would well with tears just to see the commercial.

    So I am in the 2nd grade, in Superior grade school, and Tanya Warnkin brings the movie sound track from The Wizard of Oz to school for show-and-tell. It’s the end of the day and the teacher puts it on for the class. It stirs that emotional response it usually does; I become overwhelmed by my emotions and burst into fits of sobbing. The teacher, I am sure in a panic is not sure what to do, and turns it off. The sobbing continues. In fact it worsens because now the rest of the class is watching me. The more I try to get it under control, the more overwhelmed I become, and the deeper my sobs become. The teacher lets all the rest of kids from the class out early to lessen my humiliation. She calls my mom and explains and asks if she can come pick me up. My mother explains that she does not drive and it’s a normal reaction for me and to just to send be home. I am still sobbing and still cannot get it under control. The teacher still not sure how to deal with it, decided she is going to take some newspaper, cut holes in it so I can see, and I should be able to make it home masking my emotional breakdown. So here I go, crossing the main street in Superior, with a sheet of paper in front of my face, finding directions through the eye holes, sobbing all the way home. After all there is “No Place Like Home”.

    Now I reveal one of the greatest horrors of my life and you can see why I spent so much time in isolation. Shortly thereafter we moved to the ranch where we had no television and I found solitude in my isolation and began to create. I did not see The Wizard of Oz for many years thereafter. And when I did it still moved me but not as deeply because I realized the powers that beguiled me as a kid were more of a fantasy. I still look for friendship in the oddest of mankind and am still sentimental at heart. I think as an artist it is at the core of my creation and connection to others. I have grown beyond being stupid and now reflect back with adoration to tell my friends of my crazy adventures into my own world of Oz. Billy today’s story is for you and all those nights we would lie awake on tour and laugh ourselves silly remembering all this sentimental sap. You always told me I should put these stories in writing; well here they go.

    VIEW FULL IMAGE: John #361

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