Ned Bobkoff

january 2006

Oz in America

A Parody of Our Times

The Impervious Wizard sat in the Cat Bird Seat in the Egg Shaped Room of the Great White House in the Forbidden City of the District of Columbia.  The Great White House had been painted over in dollar green to fit the times and the Cat Bird Seat was a throne of ropes.  Each one tied to a constituency.  The Impervious Wizard would pull a rope and his Big Time Backers would appear.  Or the Big Time Backers would pull a rope and the Impervious Wizard would stand up and salute.  When the Impervious Wizard went to the Big Time Backer's meetings, he told them that they were his constituency.  The Big Time Backers applauded and said that being his constituency suited them just fine.  

Whenever the Impervious Wizard talked to the Munchkins, the other constituency, he would appear in a stock blue denim shirt with his sleeves rolled up.  He impressed the Munchkins with his hard working image, and told them what they wanted to hear - no more, no less.  We are all in this together, he'd say, and there is a power in the universe bigger than ourselves.  That power is on Our Side.  The Munchkins believed him.  Wasn't it true that the Good Lord Above had pulled the Impervious Wizard out of the weeds, like Moses, and sent him on a crusade to make the world safe for democracy? And who could speak to the Good Lord Above better than the Impervious Wizard himself, one of their own?  

When Dorothy and her three friends arrived at the Cat Bird Seat in the Egg Shaped Room of the Great White House in the Forbidden City of the District of Columbia, the Impervious Wizard told them to stop running around the yellow brick road spreading leeks. It was time to grow up, he said, skip on the red, white, and blue road.  They agreed and were reborn.     

The Cowardly Lion was chosen to roar behind closed doors.  He became a master of remaining unseen, even unto to himself. His job was to insure that the New American Millennium would last at least a hundred years, or even a thousand: a Fourth Reich.  Whenever he appeared on the Great Gargoyle With One Eye, he'd wear a thin smile and a smirk simultaneously.  For he knew he was the man behind the Catbird Seat and he didn't care what anyone thought. When he told the Media to go to Hell, the Media ducked behind their ads and conveniently forgot what he had said. They were already in Hell and they didn't need the Cowardly Lion to remind them.  

After the Scare Crow arrived at the Egg Shaped Room of the Great White House in the Forbidden City of the District of Columbia, the Impervious Wizard pulled the straw right out of him.  The Scare Crow collapsed to the floor dismantled.  He was now nothing but an old beat up hat, a plaid shirt, and a pair of corduroys.  The Impervious Wizard stuffed him into a white shirt, tie, and suit, and blew him up into a fat Architect.; his most trusted advisor.  The Architect let his gaze rove over selected subjects from the Munchkins.  They would appear out of nowhere; applauding the Impervious Wizard, waving flags in unison, or punching buttons on voting machines.  Why bother counting ballots, the Impervious Wizard said, when it's all being done for us?   

The Big Time Backers were amazed about how quickly the Architect had got it all done.  He was a real find.  They had bet their bottom dollar that he could do the job and he did.  For he was always seen standing behind the Impervious Wizard, off to the side, waiting for his next cue.  The Cue became the Architect's highest achievement.  Whenever the Impervious Wizard delivered a speech and sputtered "uh, uh", the Architect's whispered into his ear, and the Impervious Wizard would deliver a policy statement right on time.           

When the Tin Man arrived in the Egg Shaped Room of the Great White House in the Forbidden City of the District of Columbia, he froze in place as usual.  The Impervious Wizard asked the Cowardly Lion to squirt oil into the Tin Man.  Since there was no oil around in the Egg Shaped Room of the White House, the Cowardly Lion brought in a can of high-grade oil that a Big Time Backer had given to him as a present for a discount.  When he squirted the oil into the Tin Man, the Tin Man's face broke into a broad smile of Shock and Awe - like a movie star.  He would pull the smile back over his teeth, parade around the Egg Shaped Room, and say " kill 'em!"  Everyone applauded.  For the Tin Man was right on target.   

The Impervious Wizard told the Tin Man to go out into the Desert of Hussein with tanks.  Remember, he said, you're on a Crusade Against Terror. Smile your smile of Shock and Awe, calculate the Collateral Damage, and tell the Munchkins what they need to hear. Tell them that we are being welcomed in the Desert of Hussein with open arms.  And, by the way, if you find any weapons of mass destruction, let me know. We sure can use them, one way or another.    

The Tin Man went out into the Desert of Hussein with hundreds of tanks. He bombed the City on the Euphrates with Collateral Damage. And when the tanks rolled into the city, and the statue of the Saddam of Hussein was pulled down, the Impervious Wizard flew on to the deck of an aircraft carrier. Wearing a form fitting jump suit, with sailors waving flags in unison in front of him, he announced: Mission Accomplished! Was not the Imperial Wizard on the right track, the Munchkins thought, and had he not performed a miracle of the highest order? And was it not all done in the name of the Good Lord Above? Whether the Good Lord Above had consulted with the Impervious Wizard about the Crusade Against Terror was another matter altogether.

And what about Dorothy? Well, she was all grown up now, and no longer skipped about the yellow brick road like a child.  Dorothy had become the Impervious Wizard's pride and joy. She dressed like a well-groomed executive, wore her hair in a flip, and played classical music like a charm.  She was very intelligent and had the uncanny ability to read the Impervious Wizard's mind.  Even when there wasn't one available.  Now the Minister of the Exterior, Dorothy knew how to make a fashion statement to suit any occasion.  Why she even got to the point of calling the Impervious Wizard her husband.  For hadn't he elevated her to a high position? And wasn't serving him the right thing to do?  But there was one caveat.  Another woman served as the Impervious Wizard's wife, so Dorothy dropped the idea.  

The Impervious Wizard and his wife invited Dorothy out to their ranch in the great state of Texas to taste old-fashioned barbeque.  He taught her how to ride side-saddle to wherever the horses might lead her.  And when the horses stampeded, Dorothy learned how to switch directions in mid-stream, doing a complete turn around just like her boss.  Why be a Minister of the Exterior, if you can't keep up appearances, she thought.  In higher circles appearances are everything.  

One day, agitated by the noise in the Egg Shaped Room of the Great White House in the Forbidden City of the District of Columbia, Toto pulled a rope behind the Cat Bird seat.  Buzzers went off, sirens shrieked, and a cacophony of bells and whistles announced: Red Alert!  But the loudest noise of all was Toto's bark.  Scared out of his wits about what he had done, Toto stood in one place, spinning in circles with his ears flapping hither and yon.  When the door to the Egg Shaped Room burst open, hundreds of agents from throughout the Forbidden City converged in the Egg Shaped Room of the Great White House.  Hidden cameras revealed Toto barking away while hundreds of agents pointed guns at him. Lock Toto up, they shouted.  Toss him into a kennel, and throw away the key. But say ho, where is the Impervious Wizard?  

The Impervious Wizard had been catapulted out of the Catbird Seat and was now heading towards his ranch in Texas, free at last from his burdens. As he soared over the Forbidden City of the District of Columbia in a hot air balloon, he sighed with relief and dumped briefings to his inner circle below in a blizzard of pigeon droppings. For Toto had sprung the Impervious Wizard from his obligations, and he looked forward to playing yet another round of golf.  Suddenly the Architect whispered in his ear:  "Sir, a disaster has occurred, one we did not plan for".  "A disaster? What kind of disaster? Haven't we had enough of them?" the Impervious Wizard replied,  gripping his golf club. "Besides, there are no disasters in Texas, whack!"" Please, sir," the Architect said, "fly over the Big Easy and the neighboring communities for a look see.""A look see? What are you talking about? There's nothing down there I want to see, whack!". "Sir, count to five, and put your best foot forward," the Architect pleaded, straw dropping out of his pants into a hay stack. "Take over Prime Time, the bottom is dropping out of the barrel, Sir!  

The Impervious Wizard counted to five, took a U turn, and flew over the land of the Big Easy. He was appalled at what he saw. A hurricane had devastated the communities below. And the waters of toxic waste had risen to heights unknown. But he could not smell the stench, or see the faces of the grief stricken. Oh my, oh my, he said unto himself, is this the Apocalypse? The rapture that the prophets of the Good Lord Above had predicted? Punching in his cell phone, he snapped to his Inner Circle:  "Where is the Cherry Picker from FEMA?" But the Cherry Picker was nowhere to be found. For the Inner Circle had learned to walk in lock step and they would not dare bite the hand that fed them. So they told the Impervious Wizard that the Cherry Picker was out there doing his job with the best and the brightest, and keeping the ball rolling. We just can't see him, they said, that's all. The Architect jumped into the fray again:  "Sir, remember, it is in your power to say that it is so. Say it is so, and it will be so!" 

The Impervious Wizard bowed his head and asked that it be so. And lo and behold, it was so. For his prayer was answered by the Cowardly Lion, who had taken over the Catbird Seat while the Impervious Wizard was gone. He told the Impervious Wizard that the Big Time Backers had arrived in the Big Easy and the surrounding communities with a  clean up crew of No Bid Contractors, including his old friends the Halliburtons. "Go down into the streets and do the right thing," the Cowardly Lion said. "Earn frequent flyer points. Talk to the discouraged and disoriented Munchkins. Kiss their children, give them a hug, and all will be well. Remember, we must keep our numbers up in the polls. At all costs!"

 How often had the Impervious Wizard announced that he had paid no attention to polls? But now, feeling the urgency of the moment, he did a well-timed about face. He pulled himself up by his boot straps, went out into the communities surrounding the Big Easy, and hugged every discouraged Munchkin he could find. Except he did not do the one thing necessary to free himself from his hard earned burdens. He did not take on any degree of responsibility for all the disasters he was associated with. "Save Your Hide" had become the motto of his administration and the ground was falling out from beneath him. I must do something to redeem myself in the eyes of the Munchkins drifting away in falling numbers, he said unto himself.  He decided to step up to the plate like the good baseball commissioner he was. He stood in front of the Great Gargoyle With One Eye and announced: "Read my lips I was misled by Faulty Intelligence!" For the Impervious Wizard had prayed that the Catbird Seat was still his for the asking, and he ticketed upon his agenda a full return for his confession. But still his numbers remained low.

In a rage, he pulled out the putty, the bailing wire, the strings of cue sheets and hanging chads, the ideas pinned on a poster board to his chest, and the wire buried in his inner ear sputtering with the Architect's Cues. And he reached into the deepest recesses of his pocket, where he kept a magic keepsake, a golden key that his mother had given him. And he put the keepsake around his neck, like Ben Franklin's key on a kite, and it sputtered with electricity for Family Values, No Child Left Behind, Stay the Course, God Bless America, and I Was Mislead by Faulty Intelligence. That will do the trick, he said unto himself.  That will show them who I really am.

The Impervious Wizard lowered his head in prayer. He asked the Good Lord Above to remember him as the Man in the Catbird Seat who knew when to say the Right Thing at the Right Time. And the  Good Lord Above said unto the Impervious Wizard that he could, if he wished,  build himself a billion dollar Museum of the Impervious Wizard in Texas. His words would be elevated to heights unknown. And his  breathtaking sayings would echo in a chamber of Great American Sayings, like the voice of the Good Lord Above Himself. The Impervious Wizard stepped back from the plate with a deepening  sense of pride and shouted to the wind:   

Family Values! No Child Left Behind! Stay the Course! God Bless America, I Was Misled by Faulty Intelligence!   

For the Impervious Wizard knew he had done the job well. He had kept his dream intact with unshakable confidence. Now no one could  account for his actions but himself.  Come Hell or High Water.  Or Both.


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©2006 Ned Bobkoff
©2006 Publication Scene4 Magazine

Ned Bobkoff is a writer, director, and teacher who has worked with performers from all walks of life in a variety of cultural and community settings throughout the United States and abroad.
For more of his commentary and articles, check the Archives




january 2006

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