By Ron Scopelliti

Keep in touch

“All the orange boxes are scattered against a Safeway supermarket in the rain.”

It’s a lyric from Saint Dominic’s Preview by Van Morrison that I now associate with season seven of Game of Thrones, even though the song has nothing to do with Game of Thrones. In fact, it’s hard to pin down exactly what the song does have to do with, but barring the intervention of time travelers, I’m sure it’s not Game of Thrones.

However, there’s a connection in my mind, and I’m getting to it. It starts in the early eighties when Saint Dominic’s Preview was a frequent inhabitant of my turntable. In the summer of 1984, I was spending a few days with friends in New York, and at one point we walked over to a Safeway supermarket on a drizzly night. As we were walking in, I saw a bunch of orange boxes scattered in an alley by the building. I immediately felt this connection with Van Morrison, and with the other people who’ve listened to that song and had that line stuck in their heads, and I wondered how many of them have stumbled across a similar scene and had a similar feeling.

It made me feel in touch with the song, but more importantly, it made me feel in touch with the rest of the world. I don’t spend a lot of my time feeling that way.

Usually I feel out of step with society in general. For instance, when everyone was telling me I needed to get a CD player, I was still listening to vinyl. Now that I’ve developed an attachment to CDs, everyone else is going back to vinyl or eschewing physical media in favor of streaming or digital downloads. Meanwhile I stick to the middle ground of shiny, laser-etched plastic that I can easily transfer to a USB drive.

Usually I’m cool with being a bit divorced from society – being that guy who refuses to sing Sweet Caroline at Fenway. Why couldn’t they have chosen something by The Clash? But every now and then I lament this disconnect, and I think back fondly to those soggy orange boxes outside Safeway, and feeling in touch with everyone who’s ever listened to Saint Dominic’s Preview.

Lately I’ve been feeling that sort of connection again. For the past few years I’ve been watching Game of Thrones when it comes out on DVD, rather than subscribing to HBO. Since that puts me several months behind HBO viewers, I’ve had to carefully navigate around social media or web articles to avoid spoilers. And it’s not as easy as you might think. A lot of entertainment bloggers don’t seem to realize that putting “spoiler alert” in the first paragraph doesn’t help when the headline is something like: “Vader is Luke’s Father!”

But I recently scored a free trial of HBO. All of a sudden, after years of being time-shifted from the majority of GOT viewers, I’m in sync with them. I can now safely go online the day after an episode airs, and post a thumbs-up emoji when, TheHoundRocks37 comments: “the scene where ____ got his ___ cut off was the awesomest scene ever.”

I can actually chime in on the discussion about GOT costume designers making capes from IKEA rugs, and wonder when it will turn into a mutual lovefest about Swedish meatballs. Or maybe it will take that turn where people start arguing about how spear-resistant polyester is, and whether the Allen wrenches that come with IKEA furniture could be collected and effectively forged into swords. Maybe that’s the secret ingredient to making Valerian steel.

The IKEA/GOT connection seems natural – mass media meeting mass marketing and mass production. Ordinarily, I tend to think of anything beginning with “mass” as de-humanizing, but it all has a way of connecting us to one another. While I was eating at Taco Bell the other day I wondered how many other people at that exact moment were also reading the silly message on their packet of “Diablo” sauce. And how many only used half the packet on their first taco and puzzled over how to store the half-empty packet until the next taco without spilling any on the table. I also wondered how many looked at that half-empty packet and thought of it as half-full, but I decided I couldn’t relate to those people.

Whether it’s through art, industry, marketing, or all of the above, our individual existences are filled by these strange cultural touchstones that we tend to ignore or even deny. Like it or not, we’re a species united by the Mother of Dragons, particle-board furniture, soggy orange boxes, and fast-food restaurants. In a world where I feel alienated by Alt-Right loons and threatening videos by psychopathic NRA spokesmodels, it’s good to know that I can stay in touch with the heart of humanity through Van Morrison, IKEA, and HBO. Even though “winter is coming,” at least we’ve got Diablo sauce to keep us warm. I wonder if it can be turned into pepper spray.