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'If You Want To Be Free ...' Share This on LinkedIn   Share This on Google   Tweet This   Forward This

4 July 2014

The rest of that Cat Stevens lyric from the 1971 motion picture Harold and Maude has always made us smile. "Be free!"

North Beach. Be free.

It's all in your mind.

At least for us, it is. Tomorrow we are traipsing off to AT&T Park (which we like to think of as the Bell, in contrast to the Stick, which it replaced) for a live simulcast of Verdi's La Traviata. For them, it was not all in the mind.

The movie and the opera are both stories of a young man in love with an older woman. But one is a comedy, the other a tragedy. We got our lyrics from the comedy.

There's a terrific tune in the opera, too, which we look forward to singing every September in Golden Gate Park at Opera in the Park. It's Libiamo, the drinking song from Act I.

Simulated freedom.

La traviata is Violetta, the older woman, who is forced to give up the young Alfredo so his sister can marry honorably. He doesn't know about her sacrifice, though. It was his father who demanded it. So Alfredo insults Violetta, thinking she didn't really love him.

When he finds out what a jerk he's been, he runs to her to plead for forgiveness. They reunite, she does forgive (she loves him, after all) but it's too late for them. She dies.

You see the shackles there? Violetta's age, Alfredo's blindness, a society where honor is based on class. It's the world many of our ancestors escaped.

To come here. Where a mere punctuation mark in the Declaration of Independence can throw its weight around.

Age? We have anti-discrimination laws. Blindness? Free education. Class? Ninety-nine percent of us think we're middle class. And we'll all do business with anyone if the price is right.

The young Harold in Harold and Maude suffers blindness like his counterpart Alfredo but his blindness is to life. He goes to funerals, simulates suicide, attends building demolitions.

He runs into 79-year-old Maude, played by the irrepressible Ruth Gordon, at a funeral and they hit it off. He gives her a ring in one memorable scene and she tosses it into the bay so she'll always know where it is.

On her birthday she takes an overdose of sleeping pills and Harold tries to save her. But it was her plan all along to depart at 80.

No shackles.

Our lyrics are not the song title. That's a bit different. If You Want to Sing Out, Sing Out. But today is not Choral Day. It's Independence Day.

Our photo was shot during the U.S.A.'s run in the World Cup, hanging from a building near Tony's Pizza in North Beach. ISO 400, 1/250 second, f11 at a 33mm equivalent focal length. We used Lightroom 5 to straighten it out and develop the drama in the clouds.

We imagine Harold hung it out as Alfredo sat at Tony's bar, inconsolable. If you incline your ear, you may hear Harold singing from the rooftop, "If you want to be free, be free!"

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