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SEATTLE and SYDNEY
ARE EMERALD CITIES

It's easy to see why both Seattle (Washington) and Sydney (Australia) are called Emerald City - just compare their towering skylines with pictures of the Wizard of Oz's home town.

As everyone knows, after reading The Wonderful City of Oz or seeing the 1939 film starring Judy Garland, a cyclone whisked Dorothy from her home farm in Kansas to the imaginary land of Oz (not our real land of that name). She and her friends followed the Yellow Brick Road to meet the Wizard, who lived in the Emerald City -  "a mass of towers and steeples behind green walls, and high up above everything, the spires and dome of the Palace of Oz."

In an article about Seattle, headed Liquid Sunshine in Emerald City, Sylvia Barnard wrote: "The Cascade Mountains rise to the east, dominated by snowcapped volcanoes: Mt. Baker, Glacier Peak, and greatest of all, the 14,410-foot-high Mt. Rainier. To the west lie the rugged Olympic Mountains. Other fascinating features of Seattle are the 300 and more parks. Trees, parks, and gardens are all around you, and when they are at their best, you can imagine why Seattle is called Emerald City."

Author L. Frank Baum, who  invented the original Emerald City,  was born in Chittenango, near Syracuse, New York, in 1856. He was living in Chicago, Illinois when his children's classic was published in 1900, and later moved to southern California. It seems unlikely that he ever visited Seattle.

"He [Baum] wrote out the story longhand and attached the pencil he used to the draft itself that was titled The Emerald City," says Linda McGovern, writing in The Literary Traveler:
"It was only because of the negative reaction he received from his publisher, the Hill Company, that the title was eventually changed, for they had some superstitious notion against a book with a jewel in its title and they would not publish it.  So after some reworking, after several titles lacking the vitality that Baum wanted to capture, he finally came up with The Wonderful Wizard of Oz."

In the real country of Oz, David Williamson, Australia's best-known and most widely performed playwright wrote a play called Emerald City in 1987.  Described as "a sort of modern Tale of Two Cities set between Sydney and Melbourne," it's a satire about power, corruption and the film industry.

"People in Sydney never waste time discussing the meaning of life - it's about getting yourself a water frontage" Williamson wrote in his play, which, like The Wonderful City of Oz, was later made into a film.

Since then, Sydney has enthusiastically adopted the name Emerald City. Dozens of businesses have registered names such as Emerald City Books, Emerald Surf City, Emerald Function Centre, Emerald Meat Supplies, Emerald Music, Emerald Plumbing Services, and the Emerald Press.

Williamson was born in Melbourne and has lived in Sydney, so he knows a lot about Australia's two great rival cities.  Emulating L. Frank Baum's move to California, he now enjoys life in the warmer climate of Noosa, a popular Queensland coastal resort. His plays have been translated into many languages and performed internationally, including major productions in London, New York, Los Angeles and Washington. (That's Washington DC. Not Seattle's Washington.)

And in Queensland, too, there's a town called Emerald. It's in the State's central west, 565 miles (909 km) from Brisbane by road. It's justifiably proud of its railway station, the small town's most impressive building. The Gemfields (28 miles or 45km west of Emerald) incorporate townships named Anakie, Willows, Sapphire and Rubyvale. Visitors can fossick for sapphires and other precious gems, and attend Gemfest and Wheel-barrow race festivals.

Links
  1. Seattle skyline
  2. Liquid Sunshine in Emerald City
  3. Be sure to see this marvelous picture of Sydney's skyline
  4. L. Frank Baum
  5. Dorothy and friends
  6. David Williamson
  7. Emerald (Queensland)

 

EMERALD CITY IN NEVADA DESERT

On August 26, hundreds of Americans piled into their cars and drove through torrid heat and dust to a campsite in a Nevada desert, for the annual Burning Man festival.

It was billed as "an annual experiment in temporary community dedicated to radical self-expression and radical self-reliance." This year's event was scheduled to be held in the Black Rock Desert, 120 miles north of Reno, from August 26 to September 2.

Each year, a theme is chosen for featured works of art and performance. Past themes have included Fertility, Time, Hell, Outer Space and The Body. This year's theme is The Floating World. An annual highlight is the Burning of the Man (a huge effigy), on the Saturday night before Labor Day.

Shortly before last year's festival, Dan Clark, of Soquel, California,  built above his house three pulsating neon towers, 20 to 50ft. high, resembling those in the Wizard of Oz film. Santa Cruz Sentinel staff reporter Dan White wrote "The towers are part of a 14-tower set-up he [Clark] will bring to Burning Man (the arts, crafts, body-paint, barter and mind-melting substance fest that lights up a Nevada desert every August). The fest ends with the ritual incineration of a neon totem, its arms raised to the sky."

Patrick Flanagan, 57  (who lives on a street called Emerald City Way) had commissioned Clark to construct the towers as part of a $100,000 Oz display at the festival.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"It was started by a guy named Larry Harvey," I explained to the camping store salesman, whom I hoped could guide me to the spot. "He was getting over a love affair, so he and a friend built an eight-foot man, took it out to Baker Beach in San Francisco, and burned it. It took off from there." ... Ten years later, the Burning Man is a four-story wooden figure in the desert a hundred miles north of Reno. The premise: light it with neon, pack it with pyrotechnics, party around it for three days, and then torch it. --from Call of the Wild - A Year of Living Riotously - Discovery Channel [1995]

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

A report of last year's Burning Man said: "We were met by a layer of dust an inch or more thick to wade through, and a dust cloud from the incoming cars that completely engulfed the Burning Man site. In addition to the usual goggles of the past years, many participants never left camp without their trusty dust masks. Even the slightest winds this year made such items a necessity.

"It wasn't all bad, and added to the magic of the experience, most notably right after the Man began to burn, when several small dust devils formed and began to spin all around the fire... We welcomed each other home in our usual manner: with open arms, gifts, drumbeats, shouts, wild outfits and with a sense of relief to be home...

"While law enforcement was equally as present this year as last, citations and arrests were a great deal fewer this year. Also improved this year was the porta-potty situation. The lines were shorter, the units themselves were cleaner, and people took care to make sure that 'if it doesn't come from your body, it doesn't go into the potty.'"

LINKS
Burning Man
Emerald City in Soquel, California
Burning Man photo
Counterculture Festival

By a happy coincidence, A Word A Day's illustrious wordsmith Anu Garg and his humble copy editor live in  the only two places that are called Emerald City. Anu, who, with his wife and young daughter, recently moved from Columbus (Ohio) to Seattle (Washington), says "I heard that author L. Frank Baum thought of the name of the imaginary Oz after looking at his file cabinet, which had three shelves, the bottom one named O-Z."

And here's another coincidence: the Australian airline Qantas is based in Sydney and flies a fleet of jumbo jets built by Boeing in Seattle.

Anu says BOEING is an anagram of BIG ONE.

FOOTNOTE. There's an online magazine called Emerald City, devoted to science fiction and fantasy literature. It's not published in either Seattle or Sydney, but in  the San Francisco Bay area. The magazine is the work of Cheryl Morgan, a freelance energy industry consultant and journalist. Cheryl was born in England of Welsh parentage and once lived in Australia. "I love both places and try to revisit them whenever possible," she says. Take a look at her elegant website  

Copyright 2002

Eric Shackle

Story first posted September 2002

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