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By Ron Scopelliti
Red, white, and blue
(with sweet green icing)
Perspective. I’m having a hard time putting things in perspective. It’s not unusual for me to have this problem, but this time there’s a specific cause: Independence Day
I’m planning to celebrate July Fourth with a group of friends who I don’t see as frequently as I should, but this year I’m faced with a particular question: is it appropriate to celebrate our independence from England, when our current leader appears to be as unhinged as George III, and seems equally happy to rule as an autocrat?
Though I still have faith in our Constitution, ever since Trump and his crew took over, I feel like I’m no longer living in the country that I grew up in. It’s like I’m an exile in my own nation. At least I speak the language, apart from the secret code-word “covfefe,” which apparently only a select few understand.
What is there that I can celebrate? Since I no longer feel like part of the country as a whole, maybe I should belatedly celebrate Rhode Island Independence Day, especially since it finally occurred to me that it coincides with Star Wars Day – May the Fourth be with you!
I could celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” along with the rest of the world, even though it’s a bit incongruous to celebrate a British Invasion band on the Fourth. Apart from being generally ground-breaking, the album includes one of my favorite Beatles songs, “A Day in the Life,” which is not only the best-ever closing song for an album, but also has the best closing chord.
I’ve been thinking a lot about “A Day in the Life” lately. Apart from being a great slice-of-life song, it brings up the classic question of how many holes it takes to fill the Albert Hall. Lennon implies that an answer’s been found, but never tells you what it is.
I’ve narrowed it down to two possible answers. My preferred theory is that it, if you’re talking about filling it with holes, then it would only take one big hole to fill the entire place. If you had multiple holes, there’d always be a certain amount of non-hole matter in between them, interrupting all the lovely negative space.
You could, however, argue that the answer is zero, because filling something implies that the space is filled with matter, and filling Albert Hall would require a complete lack of holes. My problem with this theory is all the empty space within each atom – do those spaces count as holes? Maybe the answer is beyond my mental capacity, and I should go back to figuring out how many licks it takes to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop.
As great as Sgt. Pepper is, it’s not the only groundbreaking work to come out of 1967. That was also the year of the first Pink Floyd album and the first Velvet Underground album. And it was the year Jimmy Webb wrote the classic song “MacArthur Park,” though it wasn’t recorded by Richard Harris until 1968.
People think I’m being sarcastic or ironic when I tell them how great I think “MacArthur Park” is, but I’m dead serious, and I only recently discovered how many fans the song has. If you go on YouTube and type Richard Harris, you don’t even get to the last letter of his name before “MacArthur Park” comes up as the top selection. Take that, Dumbledore.
As a kid, the song actually scared me – all that bizarre imagery of MacArthur Park melting, and the classic bits about someone leaving a cake out in the rain, and the “sweet green icing flowing down.” I felt like the singer had been on the verge of a nervous breakdown, and the cake incident was the thing that drove him over the edge. Maybe that’s why I never learned to bake.
Webb said that the cake bit was based on something he actually saw at MacArthur Park, and I’m curious how many cakes actually do get left out in the rain. The closest I’ve come is leaving a Ricola in my car on a sunny day so that it melted onto a Hoodoo Gurus CD. I managed to maintain my sanity, but just barely.
Now that I think about it, if I found that many things to celebrate just in 1967, and just in the field of popular music, there must be a tremendous number of things that I can celebrate on July Fourth. Instead of obsessing over the deficiencies of our electoral process, the results of which we’re now dealing with, I should focus on the positives that survive.
So while our orange-faced overlord talks about making America great again, I’ll celebrate all the things in the world that never stopped being great, like “MacArthur Park,” and The Beatles, and a cookout with good friends on the Fourth of July. We’ll just have to hope that it doesn’t rain, and that, if it does, someone remembers to take the cake in. Maybe we can even spend some time speculating about how many holes it takes to fill the halls of Congress…