A Tramp Shining

Richard Harris: A Tramp Shining"

The inspiration for the song “MacArthur Park” was the relationship and breakup between Jimmy Webb (the writer) and Susan Ronstadt, a cousin of singer Linda Ronstadt. MacArthur Park was where the two occasionally met for lunch and spent their most enjoyable times together. At that time (mid-1965), Ronstadt worked for a life insurance company whose offices were located just across the street from the park. Webb and Ronstadt remained friends, even after her marriage to another man. Given that Susan Ronstadt married a phone engineer, the breakup may also have been the primary influence for “By the Time I Get to Phoenix,”, another Webb composition.

The song begins as a poem about love, then moves into a lover’s lament. When asked by interviewer Terry Gross what was going through his mind when he wrote the lyrics, Webb replied that the lyrics were meant to be symbolic and referred to the end of a love affair.

Richard Harris was the first to record the song on his album “A Tramp Shining” after others rejected it. (All of the above from Wikipedia)

Here are the lyrics:

“Spring was never waiting for us, girl
It ran one step ahead
As we followed in the dance
Between the parted pages and were pressed,
In love’s hot, fevered iron
Like a striped pair of pants

“MacArthur Park is melting in the dark
All the sweet, green icing flowing down…
Someone left the cake out in the rain
and I don’t think that I can take it
’cause it took so long to bake it
and I’ll never have that recipe again
Oh, no!

“I recall the yellow cotton dress
foaming like a wave
on the ground around your knees
The birds, like tender babies in your hands
and the old men playing checkers by the trees

“MacArthur Park is melting in the dark
All the sweet, green icing flowing down…
Someone left the cake out in the rain
and I don’t think that I can take it
’cause it took so long to bake it
and I’ll never have that recipe again
Oh, no!

“There will be another song for me
For I will sing it
There will be another dream for me
Someone will bring it
I will drink the wine while it is warm
and never let you catch me looking at the sun
And after all the loves of my life
after all the loves of my life
You’ll still be the one.

“I will take my life into my hands
and I will use it
I will win the worship in their eyes
and I will lose it
I will have the things that I desire
and my passion flow like rivers through the sky.
And after all the loves of my life
After all the loves of my life
I’ll be thinking of you
and wondering why.

“MacArthur Park is melting in the dark
All the sweet, green icing flowing down…
Someone left the cake out in the rain
and I don’t think that I can take it
’cause it took so long to bake it
and I’ll never have that recipe again
Oh, no!”

So, why am I writing this? I am not sure, but maybe as I write this it will become more apparent to me.

In 1968 I was stationed at Otis Air Force Base in Massachusetts, on Cape Cod. I was surrounded by other military personnel. I was drafted in the U.S. Army, but selected the U.S. Air Force. I was proud to be serving in the military. Outside the perimeter of the Air Force Base, we were all surrounded by hippies on Cape Cod. In the summer there were people of all ages running around with long hair and an attitude that said we were evil people. I was torn at that point. We were being treated badly by the rich hippies and yet we believed we were doing the right thing by being part of the defense of our country.

Although I believe we were doing the right thing, I still had some conflict and bought an album by Richard Harris (A Tramp Shining). I could not figure out the meaning of the song “MacArthur Park”, but it meant something to me. Sort of a rebellion…sort of a personal undertaking to figure out what was going on with me and with our country.

When I went into town, I envied the hippies who had long hair and didn’t have to obey the rules. At the same time I resented them. How could they get away without having to serve their country. I was angry and yet the song MacArthur Park still made me think. Yet I still didn’t know why.

In 1969 I was sent to Vietnam. People were condemning us for going. Students were protesting. I spent a year in Vietnam. The people of Vietnam treated us as a necessary evil, but were clearly not happy with your presence. In fact, some of them were killed for even helping us. Some of them who pretended to be our friends tried to kill us. My experience was less than pleasant but much better than other American veterans and Vietnamese experienced.

When I returned from Vietnam I was treated badly at the airport. When I got to college I was looked down upon by the other students and had a tough time dealing with their arrogance. Either I had to strike out, which I did on occasion, or I had to stuff it. I did both at different times.

I had never forgotten MacArthur Park but hadn’t listened to it for some time. I listened to it again. I know that Jimmy Webb meant the lyrics to represent the end of a love affair. In some ways that song was the end of a love affair for me. It was the end of my love affair with innocence.

After Vietnam and the way Americans treated many of us who returned, there was no more innocence. After the way the 58,479 Americans who died in Vietnam were treated there was no more innocence.

From that point on, I have been on the offense. No one gets away with attacking me. No one gets away with attacking other innocents if I can help it. As the lyrics say:

” I will take my life into my hands and I will use it”

From that point on, no one gets away with allowing America to be condemned, either from within or without. That was the problem during the Vietnam war. We were attacked not just from without but from within our own country. Antiwar protestors from the Vietnam era have admitted to being communists, trying to undermine our nation.

From that point on, no one gets to abuse innocent children. That is where we are failing our children. We need to stand up and empower them.

“MacArthur Park is melting in the dark
All the sweet, green icing flowing down…
Someone left the cake out in the rain
and I don’t think that I can take it
’cause it took so long to bake it
and I’ll never have that recipe again
Oh, no!”

I will never have that recipe for innocence again. “It took so long to bake it”. Sometimes, I don’t think that I can take it. But I WILL take it and I will not allow the antiwar protesters, the child abusers, the oblivions, the communists, the socialists, the islamofascists, or any other moron to hurt the innocent, as long as I can stand up and empower the innocent.

But I also know that I have failed in many ways. I have been loved and I have been hated. I have lost friendships. I have not been able to win every battle and I have chosen some battles I shouldn’t have. Some people detest me for my views and the battles I have chosen.

“I will win the worship in their eyes
and I will lose it
I will have the things that I desire
and my passion flow like rivers through the sky.”

But despite my failures, my lost friendships, and my lost innocence, I will remain passionate about what I believe. Ending the victimization of innocent children. Ending domestic violence. Ending the “blame America first” attitude in this country. And ending the change toward “progressivism” that this country is facing.

So now I know why I am writing this. It is a healing. I know the song had nothing to do with my interpretation. But I know that Jimmy Webb sent a message to me through that song.

I will never have the recipe again for the innocence I started out with. I believe many of us have that same feeling. I know that many of us need to ‘take our life into our hands and…use it’.

And we need to remember hope. Although it seems so overwhelming sometimes, we need to hold on to our strength and our hope.

“There will be another song for me
For I will sing it
There will be another dream for me
Someone will bring it”

We may never find that innocence again. But, we need to stand up against those who want to take away our rights and our innocence. We need to stand up against those who condemn us for defending America. We need to stand up against those who want to turn this nation into a progressive, communist, socialist country that does not respect our flag, our values, or our constitution. We need to stand up against all those who condemn our military. And we need to stand up against those who abuse children and other innocents. There comes a time that we need to draw a line in the sand.

Now is that time.

About Doc

I am a Psychologist and a veteran of the Vietnam War. I work with abused children and with agencies which try to both prevent abuse and to empower those who have been abused. I feel strongly about child abuse and take every action I can to prevent it and to support the children I work with who have experienced it. I also feel strongly about politics and especially the course being taken by our nation. I believe that America is at a critical point in its development. How we answer the challenges from Islamic fascists and from our own internal enemies in the media, government, and academia will determine America’s future and the future of our children. I believe that if we don’t take the correct course now, America will go the way of Europe and that we will not reach the potential set out by our founding fathers. I believe that it is now getting serious. My gravitar is from "Darkman".
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One Response to A Tramp Shining

  1. Greg says:

    Very powerful, well-written message. Proud of you, Dad.

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