The Yellow Brick Road
For the past several days, I have been pondering the symbol of the yellow brick road. I finish nannying about the time the sun is straight overhead. On a clear day, the sunlight is buttery yellow and the forest is aflame with yellow tulip poplars. I drive to the end of my road, park my car beneath a towering oak tree, and hop in my old Ford truck for the rest of the trek.
It’s that final ½ mile on the rugged road that’s got me humming from the Wizard of Oz: Follow the Yellow Brick Road. Follow the Yellow Brick Road. Follow, follow, follow, follow, Follow the Yellow Brick Road. Days like today, the yellow leaf road of Fork Mountain seems a symbol of hope and inspiration.
But this golden vein has also been notarized as a symbol of capitalism, as per Elton John’s top hit written by Bernie Taupin. Here, the road leads to a society that misunderstands the well-intentioned, hard-working farmer. The golden lure of the moneyed life is presented as something to overcome in his simple tale:
So goodbye yellow brick road
Where the dogs of society howl
You can’t plant me in your penthouse
I’m going back to my plough
Back to the howling old owl in the woods
Hunting the horny back toad
Oh I’ve finally decided my future lies
Beyond the yellow brick road
Later, rap star Eminem gave us his own interpretation, in his song titled “Yellow Brick Road”:
So lets go back
Follow the yellow brick road as we go on another episode
Journey with me as I take you through this nifty little place
I once used to call home sweet home
The verses are teen memoir, as Eminem recounts throwing away perfectly good shoes when they weren’t in style, being picked on for dressing like a gangster, and being chased across the tracks out of the “wrong” side of Detroit. He presents the yellow brick road as a path to nostalgia, but it’s laced with irony as he didn’t have many hopeful experiences to guide him when he was growing up.
All of which is to say I suppose it’s simply how you look at it. The yellow brick road is undeniable as a symbol in our culture, but the metaphor can be catered to various lifestyles. I suppose it all depends which way the leaf falls.