The Persistence of Memory, Salvador Dalí’s masterwork of surrealism.
Salvador Dalí’s painting The Persistence of Memory is familiar to anyone who has studied Modern Art - a strange term, by the bye, for something over a century old.
But I wasn’t thinking of Dalí last night when I was meditating on the persistence of memory. I was thinking of Mad Magazine. Really.
The neighborhood, you see, was echoing with the sound of various explosives - firecrackers, cherry bombs, et alia - as the locals celebrated the arrival of the New Year in their time-honored fashion. Occasionally you would see the colorful burst of an aerial shell, but mostly it was just the sharp report of a noise-making device.
Inevitably, when I hear the sound of fireworks, I think back on an article that appeared in Mad Magazine. Specifically, it was the October 1960 issue - number 58 - and the article was the kind of thing that only Mad Magazine would think to publish: “Carols for All Occasions.” Written by Phil Hahn and illustrated by the immortal Mort Drucker, the article’s premise was that singing Christmas carols was so much fun, there should be carols for other occasions during the year. By way of example, the article had carols for Valentine’s Day, April Fool’s Day, Tax Day, and so on. But the one that stuck with me was the carol for the Fourth of July:
(To the tune of “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing”)
Boom! The cherry bombs explode,
Blowing potholes in the road;
Tiny bits of dynamite
Sure can give a guy a fright!
One went off by Irving’s mama;
Poor thing almost had a trauma!
Gad! What simple-minded Je-erks
We turn loose with fireworks!
Boom! The cherry bombs, etc.
Never mind that when this first appeared in print, I was all of eight years old. (If I remember properly, I had to look up the word “trauma” in the dictionary.) But here it is fifty-six years later, and I can recite this little bit of doggerel word-for-word. And whenever I hear a fireworky explosion, I do... at least, in my head.
Persistence of memory, indeed.