We are sitting in a cafe called the Red Flannel Saloon in a town in
the Upper Peninsula of Michigan called Paradise.
My son, Sam, knows exactly what he wants.
"A cheeseburger," he says.
I glance at the menu.
"The thing is two patties," I reply. "Half a pound. That's not a
cheeseburger. That's a meatloaf."
"How can I come to Paradise and not have a cheeseburger?" he
"We can split it," I respond. "You still will have had a
cheeseburger in Paradise."
"No, I won't," he counters. "I will have had half a cheeseburger in
Paradise. That's not the same thing."
"Yes, it is," I say. "A cheeseburger, whether half or whole, is a
cheeseburger. We split one. You had a cheeseburger in
"If you say you had a cheeseburger in Paradise," he says, "people
think you had a cheeseburger, not a half a cheeseburger."
"No, they don't," I say. "They wonder what you mean that you had a
cheeseburger in paradise. I mean, they get the part about the Jimmy
Buffett song. They don't know what you mean by paradise."
"True," he says. "Which is part of the joke. But they still think
you had a cheeseburger in paradise, which you didn't."
"Yes, you did."
"No, I didn't," he says. "Jimmy Buffett doesn't sing, 'Half a
cheeseburger in paradise.' "
"That's right, he doesn't. He doesn't have to. Even if he did only
have half a cheeseburger in paradise, he would sing, 'Cheeseburger
in paradise.' "