I never understood the words to MacArthur Park, they seemed so silly as to be unbelievable, surely I was mishearing:
Someone left the cake out in the rain
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
Why would someone leave a cake in the rain? What happened to the recipe? Why such wrenching emotion about a wet cake? But together with high school friends I sang along anyway as I danced to the Donna Summer disco version and it has a little hook in my heart whenever I hear the soaring violins or the part where it suddenly speeds up from a slow soppy ballad to a dance beat.
Yesterday I was delighted on my way to work, and even more delighted on my way home, to see someone has staged MacArthur Park in Mander Park, Whangarei. Mander Park is one of the two parks I walk through between home and work. It is a big open square of grass bounded by two very busy roads and two very quiet ones, with a playground, some big old deciduous trees, one diagonal path through it and lots of daffodils right now.
And yesterday someone left a cake in the rain there. I always imagined Donna's cake as being a fragile yellow sponge (there's a yellow dress in the song too) melting in a drizzle, but the Mander Park cake was a big old fruitcake, the kind with about an inch of marzipan icing set like rock. The rain was pounding down on it for much of the day and it still looked as solid and impervious at 5pm as it had at 8am. I tell you, you could roof a house with that icing and stay dry inside. The fruitcake itself was holding up pretty well despite valiant efforts from flocks of sparrows and pigeons.
I imagine it as an wedding leftover that has been hanging around someone's cupboard for months or maybe years, solidifying to a stone-like consistency until they couldn't stand it anymore and took an axe to it, hacking it into chunks and then carrying the heavy, heavy sack of dismantled cake to the park before dawn and heaving each big piece onto the grass hoping the rain and the birds would just make it all go away. But that cake, man, that cake, it is shining on the grass like blocks of white marble. That cake isn't going anywhere fast.