A Midsummer Night’s Digression [Part 2]

June 15, 2001

[This is Part 2 of my digression begun last week, and also a further installment of the sprawling series, "Summer: Why Are You Inside Staring At A Computer When You Could Be Climbing A Tree?"]

To me, the ultimate proof that it’s summer is that I’ve been seeing lightning bugs, which are small insects of the order coleoptera who have a bioluminescent abdomen that they use for attracting mates. A strange but true fact: there are several different species of lightning bugs, or "fireflies" as the elite call them, and each one has a different pattern of flashing their abdomen. This distinguishes them from bored teenage boys who drive around sticking their abdomens out of car windows at random. This does nothing to attract mates. There’s also one type of lightning bug that actually mimics the patterns of other species, basically saying, "Hey, sailor, wanna get lucky?" then eats the ones who are gullible enough to fall for it. You can come up with your own joke here.

Of course when I was five I didn’t know any of this. I just thought they were neat. I would put hundreds of lightning bugs in jars, take them in the house and let them go. (Hey kids, feel free to try this at home!) This was a lot of fun for everybody except my parents, although they eventually discovered that if they turned the lights off and on rapidly the lightning bugs would blink, allowing them to track every one down–several days later. As I got older I developed interests in things other than coleoptera (but I never flashed my abdomen), so it took me completely by surprise when a friend who had spent most of his life in England but was spending his first night back in the United States after several years grabbed me by the arm and said, "Chris, why are there little lights all over your yard?"

If I hadn’t been so surprised I would have said, "What are you talking about?" and let him think the time difference was causing him to hallucinate, but instead I just said, "Oh, those are lightning bugs."

Despite having lived in the British isles, he wasn’t familiar with area folklore about a phenomenon called "will o’the wisps." These are little dancing fairy lights which, according to William Hazlitt, were evil and dangerous creatures who led travellers off into the woods. Sometimes they even led them off cliffs. Of course we live in a more enlightened age, so if chasing fairies into the woods is something you like to do, it’s perfectly acceptable, although common sense should tell you not to go wandering around in the dark near cliffs.

Enjoy this week’s offerings.


  1. Most Blues begin, "Woke up this morning."

  2. "I got a good woman" is a bad way to begin the Blues, ‘less you stick somethin nasty in the next line, like "I got a good woman, with the meanest face in town."

  3. The Blues is simple. After you get the first line right, repeat it. Then find something that rhymes … sort of "Got a good woman -with the meanest face in town. Got teeth like Margaret Thatcher – and she weigh 500 pound."

  4. The Blues are not bout choice. You stuck in a ditch, you stuck in a ditch; ain’t no way out.

  5. Blues cars are Chevys and Cadillacs and broken-down trucks. Blues don’t travel in Volvos, BMWs, or Sport Utility Vehicles. Most Blues transportation is a Greyhound bus or a southbound train. Jet aircraft an’ state-sponsored motor pools ain’t even in the running. Walkin’ plays a major part in the blues lifestyle. So does fixin’ to die.

  6. Teenagers caint sing the Blues. They ain’t fixin’ to die yet. Adults sing the Blues. In Blues, "adulthood" means being old enough to get the electric chair if you shoot a man in Memphis.

  7. Blues can take place in New York City but not in Hawaii or any place in Canada. Hard times in St.Paul or Tucson is just depression. Chicago, St.Louis, and Kansas City still the best places to have the Blues. You cannot have the blues in any place that don’t get rain.

  8. A man with male pattern baldness ain’t the blues. A woman with male pattern baldness is. Breaking your leg cuz you skiing is not the blues. Breaking your leg cuz an alligator be chomping on it is.

  9. You can’t have no Blues in an office or a shopping mall. The lighting is all wrong. Go outside to the parking lot or sit by the dumpster.

  10. Good places for the Blues:
    a. highway
    b. jailhouse
    c. empty bed
    d. bottom of a whiskey glass

    Bad places:
    a. Ashrams
    b. gallery openings
    c. Ivy League institutions
    d. golf courses

  11. No one will believe it’s the Blues if you wear a suit, ‘less you happen to be an old ethnic person, and you slept in it.

  12. Do you have the right to sing the Blues? Yes, if
    a. you’re older than dirt.
    b. you’re blind.
    c. you shot a man in Memphis.
    d. you can’t be satisfied.

    No, if
    a. you have all your teeth.
    b. you were once blind but now can see.
    c. the man in Memphis lived.
    d. you have a retirement plan or trust fund

  13. 13. Blues is not a matter of color. It’s a matter of bad luck. Tiger Woods cannot sing the blues. Gary Coleman could. Ugly white people also got a leg up on the blues.

  14. 14. If you ask for water and Baby give you gasoline,
    it’s the Blues.

    Other acceptable Blues beverages are
    a. wine
    b. whiskey or bourbon
    c. muddy water
    d. black coffee

    The following are NOT Blues beverages
    a. mixed drinks
    b. kosher wine
    c. Snapple
    d. sparkling water

  15. If it occurs in a cheap motel or a shotgun shack, it’s a Blues death. Stabbed in the back by a jealous lover is another Blues way to die. So is the electric chair, substance abuse, and dying lonely on a broken down cot. You can’t have a Blues death if you die during a tennis match or while getting liposuction.

  16. 16. Some Blues names for women
    a. Sadie
    b. Big Mama
    c. Bessie
    d. Fat River Dumpling

    17. Some Blues names for men
    a. Joe
    b. Willie
    c. Little Willie
    d. Big Willie

  17. Persons with names like Sierra, Sequoia, Auburn, and Rainbow can’t sing the Blues no matter how many men they shoot in Memphis.

  18. Make your own Blues name (starter kit)
    a. name of physical infirmity (Blind, Cripple, Lame, etc.)
    b. first name (see above) plus name of fruit (Lemon, Lime, Kiwi, etc.)
    c. last name of President (Jefferson, Johnson, Fillmore,etc.)

    For example, Blind Lime Jefferson, or Cripple Kiwi Fillmore, etc. (Well, maybe not "Kiwi.")

     I don’t care how tragic your life is, you own a computer, you cannot sing the blues. You best destroy it. Fire, a spilled bottle of Mad Dog, or get out a shotgun. Maybe your big woman just done sat on it.

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