Saturday, January 15, 2005

"What would you do with a brain if you had one?"

The Movie: The Wizard of Oz, 1939 (Noel Langley, Florence Ryerson and Edgar Allan Woolf, screenwriters, from the book by L. Frank Baum; Victor Fleming, dir.)
Who says it: Judy Garland as Dorothy Gale, tornado victim and Oz petitioner
The context: The Scarecrow (Ray Bolger) has just confided to Dorothy that he longs for a brain. In response to this question, he sings "If I Only Had a Brain."
How to use it: It's an easy insult, but you can also use it to examine the reason for any strong desire.

See what I mean about The Wizard of Oz? I could probably do a line a day from The Wizard of Oz for an entire year.

This morning I'm just waiting for the parking lot to thaw a little, then I'm heading down to Cambridge to see Kate, Mikki and the Ehrenfelds. It's a lot of driving for a day trip, but I don't want to spend any more nights away for a while.

And as for what I'd do with a brain if I had one... well, get myself into trouble, that's what.

Up the street from me is a big, ramshackle house that looks like it might even have some fire damage. Above the front door, a hand-lettered sign reads, "Source of Light MAILBOX CLUB." Dizzy and I walk by it most days, and I had never seen anyone go in or out, although I'd seen a newish-looking station wagon parked in the driveway. The house is spooky and out-of-place on its block, where most of the houses are refurbished and extremely well-kept.

I asked a few neighbors about the sign -- "Source of Light Mailbox Club"? What could that be? Maine is a notorious refuge for survivalists, and has a long history of wacko -- excuse me, creative and ardent -- religious movements. It's one of the few remaining places in the country where it's actually possible for someone with no money to live "off the grid" -- that is, without electricity or phone service or even a formal mailing address.

So, speculating with one of my neighbors, I developed an elaborate theory about the Source of Light Mailbox Club. Maybe the Source of Light was a survivalist group, even a cult. Maybe its members live somewhere out in the woods, off the grid, and don't have mailing addresses. Maybe its members give out that Oak Street address to family members just so they have a place to get some mail, even if they don't want The Man to find them. I had half a novel plotted out in my head, all about the desperate members of the Source of Light Mailbox Club and how an unwitting dog owner puts herself in danger by asking too many questions.

And then the other morning, Dizzy and I were passing by the house when someone was loading up his truck in front of it, talking to an elderly man who was shoveling out the driveway. The man loading up his truck was someone I'd seen before, walking a yellow lab and a Rottweiler, so I stopped to let Dizzy say hello. His name is Tim, and the older man was Barney.

I asked them about the Mailbox Club. "Ah, this is my house," said Barney, the old man. "It was my mother's before, she passed on a few years ago. She used to hold church services in her house, and that sign's left over. I just never got around to taking it down. I forgot it was there, I never even notice it any more."

I'm still thinking about the novel possibilities, though.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Well he explained the "Source of Light" reference but what the heck is a "mailbox club?" Keep working on the novel idea...I'd read it! -Kathleen