A wickedly disappointing book and travel plan…

For my upcoming vacation, I wanted to go somewhere I haven’t been yet. Sadly, this isn’t terribly hard as I am not particularly well traveled.  I have been to a few great cities, including Chicago, Boston, Atlanta and Miami. I’ve also hiked the Grand Canyon and spent a few days in Vegas but there are still so many amazing places I’m dying to see, both in the US and beyond. Top on my list is, of course, New York City!  The Big Apple! This is Gotham City and The Metropolis, for crying out loud! So, for this vacay, I decided I’d finally find my way to the Empire State to visit the Capital of the World.

NYC library

I texted up my gay bestie and favorite travel partner to see if he was up for a little romp in the Concrete Jungle. I’m not sure if it was the city itself or my excellent use of all of its nicknames that sold him but, obviously, he was ready to pack his best gold lamé pants1 and hit the tarmac.

I went into hyper Type A mode planning our trip. I wanted to do all the amazing touristy things like visit Ellis Island and Lady Liberty, ride the subway, stroll through Central Park, buy a lukewarm, overpriced bottle of beer in a bar that I waited 3 hours to enter, watch a taping of SNL and The Daily Show, hail a cab, eat sketchy street vendor food and buy a knock-off designer anything from a dude’s jacket. Hopefully, I would do all of these things without getting urinated on or mugged. And what would a trip to NYC be without a show (or 39, time permitting) on Broadway?

We decided to see Wicked so in my preparations for the trip, I headed to my local library and rented up the audio book that the show is based upon, Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire. I had previously tried to read the book but I just couldn’t get into it. I love audio books and thought this format might help me trudge through this beast of a book. My plan worked, I did finish the book but it was a real chore. At times, I dreaded getting in the car because I just didn’t want to listen to the story. But, I have a firm policy of finishing every book I start, no matter how much I don’t want to, so I drove forth, trying desperately not to crash the car as a means getting away from the fucking book. If that seems a bit harsh, I bet you haven’t read it.

Other than knowing that this book was based on L. Frank Baum’s2 The Wizard of Oz character, the Wicked Witch of the West, I had no idea what to expect from the story. As I have seen The Wizard of Oz, I knew going in that the WWotW would die and I expected to shed more than my fair share of tears when it happened. But, this was contingent on the expectation that the story would be full of magic and whimsy and give the WWotW a backstory that would make her a loveable villain, endearing her in my heart forever. Kinda like what J. K. Rowling did with Professor Snape. I could not have been more wrong.

I fully believe every book is great, that’s part of the reason I always finish whatever it is I’m reading. Each author has given something of themselves in the telling of their story and I will not fault them because I do not have an ear capable of hearing their voice. This point is fully illustrated with Maguire’s vision for Elphaba, the given name of the WWotW, versus my own expectation of reading the story of a Disney-fied witch that is merely misunderstood.

While I didn’t particularly enjoy the story, I do have to credit Maguire, he can absolutely turn a phrase. Two of my favorite quotes from the book are:

“But in the middle was an island-a tiny thing, the size of a mattress, sprouting one leafless tree like an umbrella that has lost its fabric.”

“The moon passed overhead in its path from the Vinkus, and she felt its accusatory spotlight, and moved back from the tall windows.”

For some reason, I am particularly partial to the imagery of trees and this first quote creates a beautiful, albeit morose, picture. For that matter, the second quote is also quite morose but it is also a very beautiful image: the heavy-hearted and guilty cannot even hide in the dark.

Not being a fan of Maguire’s take on the WWotW, I was inspired to check out the original Baum story. I wanted to see what in the hell Baum could possibly have written to inspire Maguire’s tale. I’ll save the full deets for next time but as a quick preview, the movie is quite a stretch from the book and there is a real shocker when it comes to Dorothy’s famous shoes.

As if the disappointment of the book wasn’t enough, my vacay travel plans also fell through.  My favorite ‘Mo was up for a promotion at work and instead of throwing caution to the wind and heading to the former New Amsterdam (just when you thought I was out!), he decided to be responsible and adult like. It’s total BS in my opinion but he got the job and now makes roughly twice what I do so I guess his strategy is paying off more so than mine. Literally, apparently. So, now I have to wait to see how the Broadway show compares to the written story. I’ll get to NYC eventually, I just know it. Hopefully, SNL will still be on air.

  1. He doesn’t actually have any gold lamé pants. I don’t know how it happened but I have the worst gays. None of them are trendy or stylish. They wouldn’t know Tom Ford, even if he tried to hook up with them via Grindr3, 4.
  2. Fun fact: the L. in L. Frank Baum stands for Lyman
  3. For the record, Glee is the only reason I know who Tom Ford is.
  4. Also, I have no actual knowledge of Tom Ford using Grindr or ever trying to hook up with my very unfashionable ‘Mos.

Photo credit: New York Public Library, focusing on one of the lions. I seriously love libraries and I always try to visit them on vacations.