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  • Mark Shupe



Me and Juliette down in the Courtyard

(With apologies to Paul Simon)

The Mama Capulet rolled out of bed

and she ran to see me at the train station

when the papa found out, he began to shout

and he started the investigation

He's got a flaw, a great big flaw

Whom the Mama saw, his humour was not ha ha

The mama looked down and spit on the ground

every time my name gets mentioned.

The papa said "Oy, If I get that boy

I'm gonna stick him in the house of detention."

Well, I’m travellin’, I’m on my way

I don't know where I'm going

I'm taking my time but I don't know where

Goodbye to Markus, King of Verona

See it was me and Juliet down in the courtyard

See it was me and Juliet down in the courtyard

The Adventure of a Pun

My mind is wired kind of funny. Funny, funny, I think. Funny peculiar others might say. And I’d agree. This is especially true to my connection to words. When I hear a word, I don’t immediately think of the meaning of that word, or what it means to me, I think of the pun or puns that are connected to it. I do not do this consciously. It happens automatically. In fact, I have tried to rid myself of this terrible tendency so as I don’t annoy others. (And annoy them I do, though some more than others.) This year I wrote on the beginning page of each month in my journal in big bold letters “no more puns”. It hasn’t helped. The fact that as per usual I stopped writing in the journal Jan 15, means I haven’t looked at the journal since Jan 16, so those coarse instructions have not helped. Even when I did remind myself of those instructions, it hasn’t worked. It’s particularly bad if I’m travelling, or nervous, or happy or sick or excited…. The more peculiar the word, the more likely it’s going to take over my mind and stop any other thought. “Wait, hold, pun loading,” says my mental operating system. Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night thinking of a pun, even if I have no idea where I had heard the original word.

I have been like this since I’ve been eight. It’s like an automatic disease. I’ll say the pun immediately as it comes into my mind. There is no self-control. Sometimes I get a laugh, sometimes peculiar stares. Sometimes people just walk away, and I never hear from them again. I guess that’s my punishment. - See I can’t’ stop myself. I know there are others like me out there, roaming the streets of the world in a daze, some trying to avoid words, some trying to find an audience.

Oddly, I find it an escape from stress. It’s a way of making absurd sense in an absurd world.

That’s all to say, when I was planning a trip to northern Italy at the last moment last year, a kind of pun entered my mind. And with the pun a whole song. The notes wouldn’t start coming. You see I decided to go to Verona. When I decided that, I remembered that was where Romeo and Juliet was set. And before the name Juliet was past the first syllable, I was singing “Me and Juliet down at the courtyard.” It played over and over in my head. It was hard not to think about any other place I was about to visit.

So, I scheduled two days at the end the trip as a highlight. Arriving in Verona by train from Venice where I had heard and seen many wonderful things, I was disappointed to learn that the balcony where tourists go to see where Juliet conversed with Romeo was in fact a fake, a representation, not the real McCoy. I decided I am not going there.

But while I was waiting for an extremely long night at the opera, I happened to walk along the street where the courtyard that contained the balcony lay. It was packed, but I could see the balcony in the distance, above a courtyard.

My mind was full of Paul Simon’s twisted words once again.

It was too crowded to go in, but I was able to get a glimpse.

I stopped at the Rome and Juliet store though and bought a Romeo-and Juliet notebook.

And a Romeo Juliet T-shirt.

And sang in my head “Me and Juliet down in the Courtyard” over and over again. Until of course I had the “Extremely long night at the Opera” and couldn’t get the arias out of my head.

The next day was Sunday. I had just the morning before I had to catch the train back to the airport at Venice. I had a lot to see. But maybe I could sneak past that courtyard one more time….

I strolled up nonchalantly, embarrassed people might be thinking I was stalking Juliet, rather than just trying to understand the mind of Shakespeare. (Who, by the way, was not afraid to use puns in his literary works and, as I recall, wrote quite the interesting blog.)

There were four people in the courtyard. Only four. So, you know what I did?

I went in.

And stared at the balcony as if making a speech of magical words in iambic pentamer up to that lofty perch. In the courtyard was a magnificent statue of Juliet, looking lovely in bronze.

She was so welcoming I held her hand.

I lingered awhile then left reluctantly of course singing, “See, it’s me and Juliette down in the courtyard.”

As I took my leave of Juliette and the courtyard, I thought, "Someday, when I can ever figure out how to build a website and make a blog, I will write substitute lyrics to the song. It will be hilarious."

But then I read the original lyrics.

They are kind of creepy in context. Because the Me of Me and Julio kind of suggests that he and Julio may have gotten into some kind of naughty shenanigans.

It is not a look I’m going for.

Because in the play Juliet is kind of young. Like 16 (or 13).

That just wasn’t going to work.

But I had spent all that time on those alternative lyrics….

And then it hit me, Juliet had been born in 1500. She wasn’t 16, she was 522. She wasn’t just a cougar; she was so old she was a puma.

The lyrics were somewhat less creepy. Because a middle-aged guy like me being stalked by a 500-year-old succubus is surely more comforting that the alternative. Even if that succubus can speak in iambic pentameter.

Some people just want to fill the world with silly pun songs….

“Me and Juliette down in the courtyard.”

If you want to know more about the lyrics about this great Paul Simon song, check out the link below.

Next Sunday: A trip to a Calgary Bookstore. It's not as dull as you might think.

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Mar 27, 2023

I adore puns and the way your brain works. Clearly you're just not finding the best of people to appreciate your punny ways. I bet you Juliette adored them and was very attentive and didn't move as you shared some. Sarah Butland

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