I remember going to an Alice in Wonderland party in costume. When my old girlfriend and I saw the crowd in the living room, we thought we were the only ones dressed up. Luckily, there were people in the kitchen and on the back patio who were dressed for the theme party.
When I shared this story with my current girlfriend, we decided that we wouldn’t bother dressing up for a Shakespeare party, which worked out fine. When we walked in and were ushered to the back, there was a closet full of Shakespearean attire. One of the women hosting the party handed me an outfit. I said, “I don’t want to look like a jester. What else do ya got?” She handed me a pirate-style shirt with a vest. My girlfriend was given an outfit, and after dressing we stepped back into the party.
As I walked by a woman trying on an outfit, I heard her say, “This doesn’t show any back fat, does it?” A concern I didn’t have, though my outfit did show off chest hair.
We arrived too late for the food, but there were wine and desserts set out.
I talked with a pregnant woman and asked her how annoying it was having strangers touch her stomach. I asked her if she’d ever tricked anyone by saying, “What do you mean? I’m not pregnant.” I don’t think I convinced her to try it, but she agreed that there was nothing gained by a stranger asking her how far along she was.
I was on the porch getting a glass of wine when the lights flickered. They were getting ready for someone to do a scene from Henry V.
We all crowded into the house. I have to admit, it was fun seeing Shakespeare this way. I was surprised that the younger kids were so well behaved. I remember my brother performing in The Taming of the Shrew in high school — the little kids wouldn’t shut up.
Over the course of the evening, there were various pieces acted out and several songs. One even had lute accompaniment.
I went outside for a cigar and met a woman from Huntington Beach. Her friends called her Smokey. We talked about movies and music, artists as varied as the Talking Heads and Emmylou Harris.
We saw a greyhound run by, and I called it over. As we were petting it, I said, “This dog is the perfect breed for a Shakespeare party.” We didn’t see an owner around, so I suggested we call the number on the collar. The owner, who looked a bit like Jimmy Buffett, showed up and said it was the second time in a week that the dog escaped from the back yard.
He looked at everyone and asked, “Uh, why are you guys all dressed like that?”
I heard a soprano singing in the living room and decided I should keep it down a bit. Even though I was outside, I’m sure it was a distraction for people listening.
I glanced at the party’s program and saw that pieces from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Macbeth, and Julius Caesar would be performed in the third act. I would’ve liked to see someone do a piece from Twelfth Night. I made the mistake of mentioning that to someone, who said, “You can perform that, if you’d like.”
I went back outside to relight my cigar and talk with Smokey, who was going out to have a cigarette. When she couldn’t find her lighter, I called her an “errant knave.” I had heard it used in one of the pieces performed, and I figured I’d use that as my newest insult for people.
Smokey told me she was a Christian, and we talked about religion. I wished all religious people could talk about their beliefs in the manner she did. It was interesting, not pushy; she wasn’t trying to “save my soul.”
She had saved one soul, though. She told me a story about donating a kidney to a friend’s sister.
Somehow the conversation turned to a joke I told earlier. A few people didn’t laugh. I insisted they didn’t get it. My girlfriend said, “Tell her. She’ll decide if it’s funny...” Smokey seemed uncomfortable, but I told it. It’s about a ventriloquist looking for work. His agent tells him about a job reading fortunes. The agent says, “Just get some crystal ball and go through the motions. Nobody will know the difference.” Reluctantly, the ventriloquist does this. When a woman comes up crying, saying she lost her husband the previous week, she asks if he can see how he is in heaven by using the crystal ball. The guy says, “Sure, lady. It’s $10.” Then, realizing he can utilize his ventriloquism skills, he adds, “For an additional $5, you can hear your husband’s voice coming from the crystal ball.” The ventriloquist then says, “And for an extra $15, you can hear his voice while I drink a glass of water.”
Smokey smiled and gave a polite laugh. Two Latinas nearby didn’t laugh. My girlfriend laughed, realizing she was right, that nobody finds the joke funny. I called her an “errant knave.”
We heard some neighbors screaming at each other. A mom was telling her daughter that if she didn’t get back in the house, she was going to call her probation officer. We heard doors slam. Two cop cars soon pulled up to the house where we were standing. My girlfriend said, “I probably shouldn’t be drinking a beer out here, should I?” She set it down, and an officer asked us about a call he got. We pointed toward the house next door.
When the party was ending, our hosts told us more about the neighbors and said that the cops were there frequently.
My girlfriend and I changed back into our regular clothes and headed home.
On the way home she said something about me seeming interested in Smokey and how she thinks I would’ve asked her out if we weren’t dating. I said, “She lives in L.A.” Her response: “You’ve dated women in L.A. before.” I then said, “She’s a Christian. And I’m not religious.” She replied, “You’ve dated women of other religions, even a few Christians.” She was right. I was grasping at straws as I said, “She doesn’t laugh at my jokes.” She smiled and said, “Neither do I.” I snapped, “Yeah, well, you don’t get them, you errant knave.”
I then said, “Hey, I have another ventriloquist joke I forgot to tell her. A blonde woman is watching a ventriloquist perform. He tells blonde jokes until she’s had enough. She stands up and says, ‘I paid good money to see this show, and all you do is insult with dumb stereotypes.’ The ventriloquist says, ‘You’re right, ma’am. I apologize.’ She snaps back, ‘I’m not talking to you! I’m talking to that little guy on your knee.’”
My girlfriend laughed and said, “That one’s funny. You blew it with Smokey. You told the wrong ventriloquist joke.”