A Midsummer Night’s Digression

June 18, 2004

Up and down, up and down,
I will lead them up and down.

-William "Wild Bill" Shakespeare

Every summer there’s a production, version, adaptation, or interpretation of "A Midsummer Night’s Dream", Shakespeare’s play about a group of people who go into the woods and get Puck’d. Maybe this play’s so popular because, four and a half centuries later, most of the jokes are funny without the help of a dictionary. Every time I hear the title I can’t help wondering when midsummer is. I don’t plant beans so I don’t have an almanac, but it always seems to be that midsummer is some time in late June. That can’t be right because, where I live, anyway, summer starts in June. It’s preceded by "early summer", which is April and May, and followed by "barbecue", which is August through September. September to November is "late summer", and from November to March it’s "winter". Winter starts to act a little funny in March, since one day it’ll snow and the next day you step outside and lose six pounds just by sweating. Technically this should be "spring", but really it’s sort of like winter and spring arguing back and forth over who’s going to take the keys. I’ve tried to come up with a name for this intermediate season, but all I can come up with are Springer, Sprinter, and Wiring, none of which sound right. Wiring is the worst because, around here, if your wiring is going to go bad it’s going to happen in the middle of summer when you really need air conditioning. Besides, I consider myself lucky to live in a place that has four distinct seasons, unlike, say, Sri Lanka, which has two seasons. Those seasons are "hot and dry", and "hot and rainy". Then there’s Antarctica, which also has two seasons: "cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey", and "the brass monkey’s packed up and left".

But I digress. When I was a kid summer started when we were released from school. Technically it started a week before we were released from school, when we’d all absorbed so much information that we couldn’t hold any more. That’s when the teachers started throwing things at us they knew we’d never need, like how to determine the volume of a rectangular solid. By that time the only volume we were interested in was what was needed to make Pink Floyd’s "Bricks In the Wall, Part 2" heard through every part of the school.

But I digress. In the old days summer was when plantation owners would change into their white three-piece suits and sit on their front porches. They had to wear white suits because this was before deodorant was invented, and anyone wearing a three-piece suit in the middle of summer would have B.O. that was more toxic than cyanide. The glare from their white suits served as a warning to people not to get too close. This is why whenever you see pictures of plantation owners sitting on their front porches there’s always just one, and the picture is taken from a distance. Maybe it’s because of their insistence on wearing three-piece suits in summer that there are no plantation owners any more. I think that’s a good thing, partly because plantations sound like they were pretty awful places to work, sort of like a mega-store but without the comforts of fluorescent lighting and nylon vests, but also because, even though a plantation owner would probably be able to tell me when midsummer is, I wouldn’t be able to get close enough to ask.

Enjoy this week’s offerings.

A rich Australian decided that to throw a party and invited all of his buddies and neighbors, including his friend Jimmy. He held the party around the pool in the backyard of his mansion. Everyone was having a good time drinking, dancing, eating shrimp, oysters and BBQ. At the height of the party, the host said, "I have a 15ft man-eating Crocodile in my pool and I’ll give a million dollars to anyone who’ll jump in." The words were barely out of his mouth when there was a loud splash and everyone turned around and saw Jimmy in the pool! Jimmy was fighting the croc! Jimmy was jabbing the croc in the eyes with his thumbs, throwing punches, doing all kinds of head butts and chokeholds, biting the croc on the tail and flipping the croc through the air like some kind of Judo Instructor. The water was churning and splashing everywhere. Both Jimmy and the croc were screaming. Finally Jimmy strangled the croc and let it float to the top like a K-mart goldfish. Jimmy then slowly climbed out of the pool. Everybody was just staring at him in disbelief.

Finally the host said, "Well, Jimmy, I reckon I owe you a million dollars."

"Nah, I don’t want it," said Jimmy.

The rich man said, "Man, I have to give you something. You won the bet.How about half a million bucks then?"

"No thanks. I don’t want it," answered Jimmy.

The host said, "Come on, I insist on giving you something. That was amazing. How about a new Porsche and a Rolex and some stock options?"

Again Jimmy said no. Confused, the rich man asked, "Well, Jimmy, then what do you want?"

Jimmy said, "I want the name of the guy who pushed me in the pool."

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