Arriving in Oz
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How to Arrive in Oz<BR> By Marc Porter Zasada <P> THERE-S A RIGHT WAY to arrive in any great city. You should arrive in New York by ocean liner, removing your hat to the Statue of Liberty. You should enter Paris by train, and light a cigarette in the Gare du Nord. But you have chosen correctly to enter the land of Oz by airplane on a hot day, soaring over the endless prairie of housing grids and gaping at the spot where the ends of all ribbons of highway curl together. <P> Once at LAX, find a grimy taxi and say you want to be taken directly to the Emerald City, where you have business. <P> Your taxi driver will be turbaned, sun-wrinkled, and graced with a gigantic moustache exactly like the gatekeeper in the MGM version. And though he may grunt and turn up the volume on his scratchy tape of Urdu folk songs, he will understand. <P> Roaring east on the I-10, the towers of Downtown L.A. will rise up just like a movie set -- but like all local illusions, it will come and go as the angles change. Sometimes you-ll see just a hodgepodge of buildings, smogbound above the scattered palms. But lo, sometimes that big round tower appears briefly between two lesser peaks and you may voice a hearty Tin Man wonder, -There it is, rising above the field of poppies.- <P> Once on Upper Grand, you-ll emerge unheralded in the curious half-shadows of empty corporate plazas. But fear not. In L.A. anyone can make a big entrance, anytime he likes. Make yours just at lunch hour, heading down the landscaped glory of the Bunker Hill Steps that curl below that big round tower, and there you may hear trumpets after all. Not a herald perhaps. Maybe just an explosion of sunlight off the polished granite of the skyscrapers. <P> But the trumpets announce a big stage number, just like the arrival scene in Oz. Pastel-suited women exit office towers singing of ceasar salads. Bow-tied waiters rush to back them up. Now follows a gaggle of polo shirts, jostling to stay with the peaked white eyebrows of a CFO in full pinstripe. Here-s a bicycle messenger, carrying a horse of a different color up the escalators. He dodges a slow beggar, scratching unhappily under three weathered coats, but dancing to the jaunty tune. At last, rising from the echoing public library comes a loud cloud of high school kids in oversized clothing. They rumble and rock each other with happy fists, and their teacher removes her green sunglasses. <P> At the foot of the Steps, you may dismiss this happy chorus, along with all misleading local illusions. On Fifth Street, you may turn east or west, but I-m sorry, you won-t find the wizard. No, either direction will take you directly into the bright noontime chaos of the real city. <P> Copyright - 2004 Marc Porter Zasada, all rights reserved. <P>
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