Currently, I am reading Jack Spicer’s The House That Jack Built: The Collected Lectures of Jack Spicer (Wesleyan U P, 1998), edited by Peter Gizzi. The first three lectures were given in Vancouver, Canada, between June 13 and July 14, 1965 (almost 45 years ago). I just finished the second lecture, and I was reading the endnotes to it. The endnotes, by the way, are good reading in themselves. For instance, I learned a lot about the Tin Woodsman from The Wizard of Oz. Like Spicer, I didn’t realize the Tinman was once a woodsman. There is actually a good story in the endnotes about the Tin Woodsman, how he became tin, his heart, and The Wicked Witch of the East. There are lots of good baseball endnotes, too, especially about Willie Mays.
Anyway, I just finished reading “Vancouver Lecture 2: The Serial Poem and The Holy Grail.” Then I began to read the endnotes that followed it. Then I got to endnote 32 on page 94. I thought the first sentence of it, which I’ll quote, was insightful, and I shared it with my girlfriend, who was reading Eugene O’Neill behind me on the couch I was leaning on. I keep having to defend the beauty of the pun, which my girlfriend and Krusty the Clown consider the lowest form of humor. Like Krusty the Clown (Herschel Shmoikel Pinchas Yerucham Krustofski), I consider the pun the lowest form of humor, and like him, I continually use puns. Oddly, all three of us are right when it comes to puns. Then, I read the rest of the endnote and busted up in laughter. Remember, this is an endnote in literature. An endnote to a lecture given by a poet. It’s supposed to be all intellectual and stuff. That’s the premise. Now, I will share that endnote.
32. The “I used to work in Chicago” song tells the story of someone who is fired from his job because of a pun or misunderstanding that changes an innocent request into a sexual encounter. Among sports clubs the bawdy song is still in play with infinite ad-libbed and updated verses available on the World Wide Web. The text is sung to a tune resembling “The Bear Went Over the Mountain.” A sample verse goes: “I used to work in Chicago in a department store. I used to work in Chicago, but I don’t work there anymore. A lady [or man] came in for some paper, some paper from the store. Paper she wanted, a ream she got. I don’t work there anymore.” Other verses include: “a balloon he wanted, blown he got” and “a translator she wanted, a cunning linguist she got.”
The last one is classic and so now is this endnote.//