“I'm in a weird situation 'cause I like rainbows, but I'm not gay. So I wear a rainbow on my shirt, but then under it I gotta put 'Not Gay.' But I'm not against gay people, so then under that I gotta put 'But Supportive.' I just think it's weird that one group took refracted light. That's pretty greedy, gays.” Demetri Martin, 2006
Rainbows are used in the symbolism of the LGBTQIA+ community as a way of showing the vibrancy of the community. Gilbert Baker, who designed the flag in 1978, said the flag represented an opportunity to be visible and was meant to symbolize the act of coming out and living one’s true life, to serve as a beacon of light. Different attributes are assigned to the colors of the rainbow (sex, life, healing, sunlight, nature, art, harmony, and spirit). These days, the rainbow also highlights both the diversity of the LGBTQIA+ umbrella, and the unity.
Rainbow Road is a difficult level in the Mario Kart series. It is the final course of the Special Cup in all the games of the series. The track is often made of scintillating colors and suspended in mid-air, making driving off the track a constant hazard and occasional shortcut, depending on the particular game.
Generations of gamers have raced the Rainbow Road. The course is a true test of skill.
“The Rainbow Bridge” is a poem given to people after their pet has died. It tells of a place where our dead pet waits for us and that when we pass over, we’ll be reunited with them. I first saw it when my dog Cain passed away. The vet’s office gave the poem to me with his ashes.
Dark Side of the Moon has arguably one of the most popular album covers ever created. Its construction is simple but iconic as a beam of light is split by a prism into a spectrum. It is in the collective cultural consciousness and also stands as a classic album, including hits Time and Money, both of which start with cacophonies of mechanical sounds. It is said that you can synch up Darkside of the Moon with the Movie Wizard of Oz, but this is claimed to be a rumor and not supported by members of Pink Floyd.
“Transported to a surreal landscape, a young girl kills the first person she meets and then teams up with three strangers to kill again.” Rick Polito, 1998
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, and the subsequent properties spawned forth from L. Frank Baum’s masterpiece, would become a household name thanks to the combinations of Judy Garland, a beautiful score, and Technicolor that captured audiences’ imaginations. While the success of the film was also accompanied by the wide success of the title theme, “Somewhere over the Rainbow,” the book does not mention rainbows and in fact the song was the brainchild of composer Harold Arlen and lyricist Yip Harburg, who envisioned a child living in a sun-bleached world devoid of color, imagining what those colors looked and felt like. The iconic song was almost cut from the film after it tested poorly with executives but a conglomerate of people who worked on the film, including the director, fought to keep it.
A famous ukulele version of the song is sung by Hawaiian Israel Kamakawiwoʻole, who was said to have recorded the version in one take at 3am.
Director John Woo was a huge fan of The Wizard of Oz and sometimes incorporated the feelings he got into later films of his own. In one of the dramatic shootout scenes in Face/Off, Woo uses “Somewhere over the Rainbow,” juxtaposed over the extreme violence and childlike innocence to cause dissonance and help us understand the particular perspective of a child going through something traumatic.
I can see Michelle run past the door, and then her and my parents run back. I am watching Scooby-Doo, sitting on the couch. I can feel as I pull my pajamas on, I’m pretty sure I am getting dressed because it’s the morning. I don’t remember smelling anything cooking but I’m pretty sure mom was making French Toast. It was hard for her for many years to make it after. I could hear the commotion and knew something wasn’t right. That something had happened.
I make it to the window. I look down and can see Katie laying on the ground. I am in her bedroom, three stories higher. I ask if she is ok. She says she will be alright. She dies the day before my birthday. Years later I am not sure if it is a dream or a traumatic repression. Or perhaps I talked with my sister the way children are able sometimes.
I actually profess I don’t know much about leprechauns, I was always more a fan of Germanic domestic spirits like kobolds, personally. I have more cultural connection there. But my understanding of leprechauns is probably most informed by the movie Darby O’Gill and the Little People, where a leprechaun king is captured and forced to give up three wishes to the titular O’Gill. To be entirely honest, while I can remember certain images from the film, such as O’Gill in the mountain cave surrounded by the film-magic-miniaturized leprechauns that taunt him, the ending escapes me and it strikes me as very confusing movie for children.
I also enjoy the performances of Warwick Davis in the hit Leprechaun horror series, with a total of seven films over twenty-one years, that has earned a dedicated cult following. The first film was the debut of Jennifer Aniston, later of Friends fame. The first film is about the dangers of winning a pot of gold from a vengeful leprechaun. The leprechaun kills and maims his way through the film in an attempt to recover his stolen gold. At some point in the film, the protagonists throw dirty shoes at the creature to distract him as he is compelled to clean them. This is in keeping with other domestic spirits.
In the book series Harry Potter, leprechaun gold is used as a “fool’s gold” of sorts in that it vanishes after a set amount of time. This allows for people to pay for items with leprechaun gold, which only temporarily absolves them of their debtors until the deception is revealed.
Ultimately, what is to be learned here, is that the gold of rainbows is not to be trusted.
“Why are there so many songs about rainbows and what’s on the other side?” Kermit, 1979
Noted as an unlikely hit, “The Rainbow Connection” was featured in The Muppet Movie and was created by Paul Williams and Kenneth Ascher, hot after their success with A Star is Born. They would struggle to find a way to articulate what would eventually be their chorus, and only in explaining the problem of trying to find “a rainbow connection” was the idea born. At the 52nd Academy Awards, Williams and Ascher would receive a nomination for Best Original Song.
I saw the word encephalitis today and it made me think of Katie. She died to a traumatic brain injury and the technical term starts with encephala- because it was brain related. Like Encephalatrauma. And I know my dad knows it but I hate asking him. “How did Katie die again? I mean what was the word for when your brain swells so much it breaks its own brain stem?”
I look it up. I don’t want to bother dad. Looks like they are actually called TBIs – Traumatic Brain Injuries. They cause Cerebral Edemas. That means brain swelling. I was confusing Greek for Latin or the other way around. Katie was young and so her brain was still very plastic, which means the brain's ability to change and adapt, and so the doctors had hope. I believe they drilled a hole into her skull to help relieve the pressure. It was actually because of the repeat cycles of swelling and healing and swelling that eventually caused her brain stem to break.
Trepanning, also known as making a burr hole, is an ancient form of medicine, as evidence shows that it was used even in prehistoric times. In a surgical intervention to relieve cranial pressure, a hole is drilled into the skull. It allows the brain extra space to swell larger than the cranial cavity would normally allow and relieve the head from internal pain. The holes are usually the size of a silver dollar.
Medicine as old as we have, and doctors were unable to undo the damage that gravity had done. She dies in the hospital a few days after the fall.
Rainbows are optical phenomena that occur when water droplets in the air at a distance from the viewer refract the sun to create a prismatic array. Full rainbows are actually circles but often we only see half of them from our vantage point on the ground. They most often occur after rainstorms.
I recall the YouTube sensation “Double Rainbow” and how awestruck this person was. How simple and childlike their joy and wonder was for this thing but also: how often have you seen a double rainbow and if it was your first, how would you have described them? Would you not simply wanted to have shared the moment as well, just to make sure you weren’t dreaming?
The dreaming is where I find myself these days. Locked away in the darkness that I have created in the land of my dreams. I hope one day that the rains will stop and clear, and give way to a sense of relief. A rainbow over the sky.
I have to find the gold. I have to keep running. Why does it move? Why does it make me chase it so?
When I look at the sky, after the rains have fallen, I think of you. In the distance, I can see the light bouncing back to me. Rainbow after the rain. After you fell, I saw you say you were alright. Or was that simply the sun behind me refracting your spirit as you traveled between worlds? Am I now touched, brushed by the psychopomps who move the souls? Or am I simply touched?
I guess regardless of whether the moment was real, I think of you often. When I hear songs that remind me of the video Uncle Matt made for your funeral. When Michelle and I wrote you Christmas Cards this year and burned them, hoping they’d reach you. When I get a good parking spot, remembering how mom would always thank you for the good fortune. When I think of finishing the memorial tattoo I got, my first ever when I was seventeen, with a portrait of you and some bite marks. When we watch Land Before Time because of how we each got one of the stuffed animals and yours was Cera. Or a million other reminders that are laced into the spectrum of my memories, blending effortlessly into the realities of every day.
And one day, I hope to stop chasing. I hope to meet you, somewhere over the rainbow.