The first record album I ever owned was by The Beatles. I might have been too small to understand it, but I played Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band over and over, drawn to the strange, surrealistic lyrics in songs such as “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,” painting a phantasmagoria of worlds to imagine. Picture yourself in a boat on a river/With tangerine trees and marmalade skies and Picture yourself on a train in a station/With plasticine porters with looking glass ties.
I didn’t know what psychedelia was—or surrealism for that matter—but I did grasp that these guys were creating new worlds worth exploring. My unknowing fascination with the changing realities, shifting cadences and curious phrasing in “A Day in the Life”—He blew his mind out in a car/He didn’t notice that the lights had changed—was later eclipsed by the single “Strawberry Fields Forever.” It was the curious lyrics—Living is easy with eyes closed/Misunderstanding all you see—but much more the hard-to-grasp, slowed-down vocals and soundscapes that drew me in and made a little boy yearn to know more.
You might wonder what this all has to do with Thanksgiving. Well, I started to think about who I’d like to invite to Thanksgiving dinner if I could choose anyone, living or dead. It would be a little easy to say all of the Beatles, just so I could watch them talking to each other and occasionally including me in the mix. Oh, how I longed as a boy to be in their company. Their breakup and then John Lennon’s assassination in 1980 didn’t end that hunger. Quite the contrary. But the idea of having a chat with John Lennon to talk about writing or surrealism or song craft or politics—imagine his contributions to the public discourse these days—would be a dream. The fulfillment of a wish.
On the other hand, how I’d love to have even one dinner to talk to Ottokar, the grandfather I never met, who was born in Vienna, served in WWI, became a doctor, came to Berlin and married, escaped to Havana from the Nazis, eventually rejoined the family that had fled to America, worked as a country doctor in a farming town in southern Illinois, and died too young before I was born. How many questions I have for him.
So what about you? What special visitor would you like at Thanksgiving dinner, living or dead? Pick one if you can or a couple if you must. I’m excited to hear who comes to mind. And, given the complexities of Thanksgiving dinners these days for many families, what with the divisive realities spurred by politics, why not let yourself imagine the best holiday dinner ever? As always, please do be respectful of each other’s comments.
One other note: Not sure who you would invite? Have a look at the Sgt. Pepper’s cover. There are plenty of ideas there. Edgar Allen Poe! Bob Dylan! Marlon Brando! Marilyn Monroe!