A modest plan for saving the country

Original Publish Date: August 29, 2006

It’s the best part of summer, the long lovely passage into fall. A procession of lazy golden days which my sandy-haired gap-toothed little girl has been painting, small abstract masterpieces in tempera and crayon and glitter, reminiscent of Franz Kline or Willem de Kooning (his early glitter period). She put a sign out front, “Art for Sale,” and charged twenty-five cents per painting. Cheap at the price.

A teacher gave her this freedom to sit unselfconsciously and put paint on paper. A gentle 6-foot-8 guy named Matt who taught art at her preschool. Her swimming teachers gave her freedom from fear of water. So much that has made this summer a pleasure for her I trace to specific teachers, and so it’s painful to hear about public education sinking all around us. A high school math class of 42! Everybody knows you can’t teach math to 42 kids at once, kids doped up on sugar and Coke, sleepy kids, Hmong kids, African-American kids who think scholarship is white bread. The classroom smells bad because the custodial staff has been cut back. The teacher is shelling out $900/month for health insurance, one-third of his take-home. Meanwhile, he must whip his pupils into shape to pass the federal No Child Left Untested program. This is insanity, the legacy of Republicans and their tax-cutting and their hostility to secular institutions.

Last spring I taught a college writing course and had the privilege of hanging out with people in their early twenties, an inspirational experience in return for which I tried to harass them about spelling and grammar and structure. My interest in being 21 again is less than my interest in having a frontal lobotomy, but the wit and passion and good-heartedness of these kids, which they try to conceal under their exquisite cool, are the hope of this country. You have to advocate for young people, or else what are we here for?

I keep running into retirees in their mid-fifties, free to collect seashells and write bad poetry and shoot video of the Grand Canyon, and goody for them, but they’re not the future. My college kids are graduating with a 20-pound ball of debt chained to their ankles. That’s not right and you know it.

This country is squashing its young. We’re sending them to die in a war we don’t believe in anymore. We’re cheating them so we can offer tax relief to the rich. And we’re stealing from them so that old gaffers like me, who want to live forever, can go in for an MRI if we have a headache.

A society that pays for MRIs for headaches and can’t pay teachers a decent wage has made a dreadful choice. But health care costs are ballooning, eating away at the economy. The boomers are getting to an age where their knees need replacing and their hearts need a quadruple bypass – which they feel entitled to – but our children aren’t entitled to a damn thing. Any goombah with a Ph.D. in education can strip away French and German, music, art, dumb down the social sciences, offer Britney Spears instead of Shakespeare, and there is nothing the kid can do except hang out in the library, which is being cut back too.

This week we mark the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina and the Current Occupant’s line “You’re doing a heckuva job,” which already is in common usage, a joke, a euphemism for utter ineptitude. It’s sure to wind up in Bartlett’s Quotations, a summation of his occupancy. Annual interest on the national debt now exceeds all government welfare programs combined. We’ll be in Iraq for years to come. Hard choices need to be made, and given the situation we’re in, I think we must bite the bullet and say no more health care for card-carrying Republicans. It just doesn’t make sense to invest in longevity for people who don’t believe in the future. Let them try faith-based medicine, let them pray for their arteries to be reamed and their hips to be restored, and leave science to the rest of us.

Cutting out health care to one-third of the population – the folks with Bush-Cheney bumper stickers, who still believe the man is doing a heckuva job – will save enough money to pay off the national debt, not a bad legacy for Republicans. As Scrooge said, let them die and reduce the surplus population. In return, we can offer them a reduction in the estate tax. All in favor, blow your nose.

Writing

Books

A complete lists of works, including sample excerpts

Columns

From the New York Times, Time magazine, and the complete Chicago Tribune syndicated columns

Prose

Stories from The New Yorker and other magazines and a few lectures

Sonnets

Sonnets of praise, some erotic, some lamentations, and some street sonnets

Verse

Poems on topics both serious and not-so-serious

Video

Videos from readings, interviews, solo shows and more

Radio

Albums

A complete list of radio and audiobook collections, with audio samples

Audio

Speeches, interviews, readings and other audio clips

Songs

Audio and lyrics for songs featured on A Prairie Home Companion.

A Prairie Home Companion An Evening of Story and Song Love & Comedy Tour Solo The Gratitude Tour

January 27, 2016

Wednesday

7:30 p.m.

Houston, TX

Houston, TX

A live performance with Richard Dworsky at Jones Hall

January 28, 2016

Thursday

8:00 p.m.

Richardson, TX

Richardson, TX

A live performance with Richard Dworsky at the Charles W. Eisemann Center

January 31, 2016

Sunday

7:00 p.m.

Newark, NJ

Newark, NJ

A live performance with Richard Dworsky at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center

February 1, 2016

Monday

8:00 p.m.

New York City, NY

New York City, NY

A live performance at the 92nd Street Y

February 14, 2016

Sunday

3:00 p.m.

Omaha, NE

Omaha, NE

A live performance with Richard Dworsky at the Holland Performing Arts Center

It’s the best part of summer, the long lovely passage into fall. A procession of lazy golden days which my sandy-haired gap-toothed little girl has been painting, small abstract masterpieces in tempera and crayon and glitter, reminiscent of Franz Kline or Willem de Kooning (his early glitter period). She put a sign out front, “Art for Sale,” and charged twenty-five cents per painting. Cheap at the price.

A teacher gave her this freedom to sit unselfconsciously and put paint on paper. A gentle 6-foot-8 guy named Matt who taught art at her preschool. Her swimming teachers gave her freedom from fear of water. So much that has made this summer a pleasure for her I trace to specific teachers, and so it’s painful to hear about public education sinking all around us. A high school math class of 42! Everybody knows you can’t teach math to 42 kids at once, kids doped up on sugar and Coke, sleepy kids, Hmong kids, African-American kids who think scholarship is white bread. The classroom smells bad because the custodial staff has been cut back. The teacher is shelling out $900/month for health insurance, one-third of his take-home. Meanwhile, he must whip his pupils into shape to pass the federal No Child Left Untested program. This is insanity, the legacy of Republicans and their tax-cutting and their hostility to secular institutions.

Last spring I taught a college writing course and had the privilege of hanging out with people in their early twenties, an inspirational experience in return for which I tried to harass them about spelling and grammar and structure. My interest in being 21 again is less than my interest in having a frontal lobotomy, but the wit and passion and good-heartedness of these kids, which they try to conceal under their exquisite cool, are the hope of this country. You have to advocate for young people, or else what are we here for?

I keep running into retirees in their mid-fifties, free to collect seashells and write bad poetry and shoot video of the Grand Canyon, and goody for them, but they’re not the future. My college kids are graduating with a 20-pound ball of debt chained to their ankles. That’s not right and you know it.

This country is squashing its young. We’re sending them to die in a war we don’t believe in anymore. We’re cheating them so we can offer tax relief to the rich. And we’re stealing from them so that old gaffers like me, who want to live forever, can go in for an MRI if we have a headache.

A society that pays for MRIs for headaches and can’t pay teachers a decent wage has made a dreadful choice. But health care costs are ballooning, eating away at the economy. The boomers are getting to an age where their knees need replacing and their hearts need a quadruple bypass – which they feel entitled to – but our children aren’t entitled to a damn thing. Any goombah with a Ph.D. in education can strip away French and German, music, art, dumb down the social sciences, offer Britney Spears instead of Shakespeare, and there is nothing the kid can do except hang out in the library, which is being cut back too.

This week we mark the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina and the Current Occupant’s line “You’re doing a heckuva job,” which already is in common usage, a joke, a euphemism for utter ineptitude. It’s sure to wind up in Bartlett’s Quotations, a summation of his occupancy. Annual interest on the national debt now exceeds all government welfare programs combined. We’ll be in Iraq for years to come. Hard choices need to be made, and given the situation we’re in, I think we must bite the bullet and say no more health care for card-carrying Republicans. It just doesn’t make sense to invest in longevity for people who don’t believe in the future. Let them try faith-based medicine, let them pray for their arteries to be reamed and their hips to be restored, and leave science to the rest of us.

Cutting out health care to one-third of the population – the folks with Bush-Cheney bumper stickers, who still believe the man is doing a heckuva job – will save enough money to pay off the national debt, not a bad legacy for Republicans. As Scrooge said, let them die and reduce the surplus population. In return, we can offer them a reduction in the estate tax. All in favor, blow your nose.

Writing

It’s Thanksgiving. Be happy.

For evolution, the Constitution,

And the ATMs of banks,

The Times and Post and the whole West Coast,

I want to give sincerest thanks.

A Mozart sonata, my inamorata,

And a first-rate BLT.

For Silverman (Sarah) and the Obama era,

I give thanks most thankfully.

I’m a fraud, a fake, a big mistake, a creep.

I’m over a barrel but I care a lot for Meryl Streep.

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A trip to New York

Slight panic in the airport out in Texas. Waiting to check a bag, pull out my billfold, no driver’s license. Check pockets, briefcase. Credit cards, no license. The brain flutters. Hotel? Taxi? Pickpocket? A teen terrorist from Izvestistan perhaps, trying to persuade TSA he is 75 and from Anoka, Minnesota?

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An old man talking to himself again

I’ve been confused about politics ever since Republican states became red states, which to me, growing up in the era of Red China, suggested commissars and gulags and thought control, which of course Utah and Texas and Georgia do not have. You can believe in God in those states, same as in blue states. Blue makes me think of Robert Johnson and Muddy Waters, but that’s another matter.

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Donald Trump is done

When his old campaign manager was indicted Monday, Mr. Trump called me on the phone, crying like a baby, and begged me to endorse him. I said, “You’re already president, Mr. President. You were elected.” He said, “I’d still like your endorsement.” I have a recording of the phone call. It’s so sad. Donald Trump is done. He couldn’t get elected dogcatcher in New York, his hometown. I was very very nice about it. Very nice. But New Yorkers love dogs and he does not. There are 14 recorded instances of him kicking small dogs, and I have documentary proof of all but two of them.

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A man walks into a bar in Oregon

I hung out in Eugene, Ore., last week where it rains every day, so the air is fresh and clean. Old people my age don’t care for rain so Eugene is not a retirement mecca — more of a youth mecca, a real alt sort of town for hikers and bikers and vegans and people with multicolored hair. A lifestyle town, with not so many suit-and-tie guys like me. That’s fine. My former father-in-law was named Eugene, and so the town feels friendly to me. And the university is there, so there’s plenty of ambition in the air.

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A former obituary writer contemplates life at 75

When I was 20, I dropped out of college and got a job with a morning newspaper whose city editor Mr. Walt Streightiff put me to work writing obituaries of ordinary men and women whose deaths were not considered newsworthy. Other reporters handled crime, natural disasters, City Hall, sports, fatal accidents, high finance, visiting celebrities, and what was called “human interest,” meaning heartwarming stories, usually involving children. I was in charge of ordinary cold death.

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Welcome to the abyss

I am off lingonberries for the time being and Volvos and flat white furniture from Ikea. No meatballs, thank you. Once again the humorless Swedes have chosen a writer of migraines for the Nobel Prize in literature, an author of twilight meditations on time and memory and mortality and cold toast by loners looking at bad wallpaper. It’s not a prize for literature, it’s a prize for nihilism. The Swedes said he’s like Jane Austen combined with Kafka with some of Proust, three other writers you’d never invite to a party. Well, at least they didn’t give it to Joni Mitchell.

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If only the TSA lady had been here my whole life

I went through airport security Monday and neglected to take my laptop out of my briefcase and place it in a separate plastic bin and was properly chastised by a TSA lady who put her hands on her hips and said, “I just got done telling you about laptops!”

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God has sent us a judge. Hallelujah.

The triumph of former judge Roy Moore in Alabama’s Republican Senate primary was a ray of sunshine for those of us who’d like to restore stoning to our legal system and remove the curse of profanity once and for all from our country. Scripture is very clear: “Thou shalt not swear.” But God’s chosen party, the Republican Party, has waffled on this issue, as it has on the issue of adultery and obedience to parents and observance of the Sabbath and the engraving industry. And that is why our country today is on the verge of destruction. The signs are everywhere. Judge Moore is the only man who dares say so.

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The gentle people shall prevail

I passed through Houston on Monday and found a lot of cheerful stoicism (“It could’ve been worse”) a month after Harvey had messed with Texas. Some boarded-up windows downtown, some houses awaiting demolition. A man told me his church was organizing volunteers to muck out houses hit by the hurricane. I only ever heard “muck out” in reference to cleaning a cow barn — in this case, they’d be ripping up carpet and rotten floorboards, pulling out sheetrock, spraying with fungicide. He’d gotten off light, so he was obligated to help those who hadn’t, he said.

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Radio

JCCSF: O, What a Luxury

Garrison discussed limericks, free verse, life in St. Paul, and the book O, What a Luxury at a November 2013 lecture at the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco.

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A Prairie Home Christmas — 1995

A Prairie Home Christmas — 1995

Originally broadcast on Christmas Eve 1994, A Prairie Home Christmas is a delightful compilation of all-time-favorite highlights from past holiday broadcasts of Garrison Keillor’s A Prairie Home Companion.

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The Young Lutheran’s Guide to the Orchestra — 1994

The Young Lutheran’s Guide to the Orchestra — 1994

Garrison Keillor and the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra perform one of Keillor’s most-requested pieces, “A Young Lutheran’s Guide to the Orchestra,” along with other musical and humorous selections. Originally conceived as a local fundraiser, this collection will delight any fan of A Prairie Home Companion.

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Guy Noir: Radio Private Eye — 1994

Guy Noir: Radio Private Eye — 1994

The first collection of skits featuring Garrison Keillor’s intrepid detective featured on A Prairie Home Companion. It’s a dark night in a city that knows how to keep its secrets, but high above the mean streets, a light burns on the 12th floor of the Acme Building, where Guy Noir—hard boiled, world-weary, yet surprisingly articulate—is trying to find the answers to life’s questions.

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A Prairie Home Companion 20th Anniversary Collection — 1994

A Prairie Home Companion 20th Anniversary Collection — 1994

Filled with gentle humor, down-home truths, and amazing depths of tenderness and meaning, these tales of “the little town that time forgot and the decades could not improve” are classics of American storytelling.

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Lake Wobegon USA —1993

Lake Wobegon USA —1993

This collection contains 16 touching, exquisitely funny monologues from Garrison Keillor recorded during American Radio Company broadcasts from tour stops all over the country.

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The Book of Guys — 1993

The Book of Guys — 1993

In eight tales, the old storyteller plumbs the lives of various guys—an aging god, a fallen hero, a confused cowboy, a jealous husband, an old lecher, a teenage leper, and more—and locates the true nature of guyhood today.

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A Visit to Mark Twain’s House — 1992

A Visit to Mark Twain’s House — 1992

This classic performance of Garrison Keillor’s American Radio Company was broadcast live from the Mark Twain Memorial in Hartford, Connecticut. The Hartford house is where Twain wrote many of his works. Guests included Roy Blount Jr. the Gregg Smith Quartet and singer Pamela Warrick-Smith.

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Stories — 1992

Stories — 1992

This audio collection includes Keillor’s own favorite stories from his many years as a contributor to The New Yorker and from two of his best-selling books, Happy to Be Here and We Are Still Married.

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WLT: A Radio Romance — 1991

WLT: A Radio Romance — 1991

In 1926, brothers Ray and Roy Soderbjerg plunge into radio by founding Station WLT (With Lettuce and Tomato) in order to rescue their failing restaurant and become the Sandwich Kings of South Minneapolis. For the next 25 years, the “Friendly Neighbor” station produces a dazzling—not to mention, odd—array of shows and stars.

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A Prairie Home Companion An Evening of Story and Song Love & Comedy Tour Solo The Gratitude Tour
Schedule

February 9, 2018

Friday

8:00 p.m.

Princeton, NJ

Princeton, NJ

A live performance at the McCarter Theatre Center

February 11, 2018

Sunday

4:00 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.

Ridgefield, CT

Ridgefield, CT

Two live performances at the Ridgefield Playhouse

February 16, 2018

Friday

7:30 p.m.

Elgin, IL

Elgin, IL — with Robin & Linda Williams

A live performance with Robin and Linda Williams at the Blizzard Theatre

More Information

February 28, 2018

Wednesday

7:30 p.m.

Prescott, AZ

Prescott, AZ

A live performance at the Yavapai College Performing Arts Center

March 15, 2018

Thursday

7:00 p.m.

Mobile, AL

Mobile, AL

A live performance at the Saenger Theatre

March 17, 2018

Saturday

8:00 p.m.

Long Beach, CA

Long Beach, CA

A live performance at the Carpenter Performing Arts Center

April 8, 2018

Sunday

7:00 p.m.

Marietta, OH

Marietta, OH

A live performance at the Brady Theater

April 10, 2018

Tuesday

8:00 p.m.

Tulsa, OK

Tulsa, OK

A live performance at the Brady Theater

April 13, 2018

Friday

7:30 p.m.

Portland, OR

Portland, OR

A live performance at the Oregon Symphony

April 15, 2018

Sunday

7:30 p.m.

Seattle, WA

Seattle, WA

A live performance at Benaroya Hall

Press/Clips
Press photo #2

Press photo #2

Download a photo for press or media use

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Press photo #1

Press photo #1

Download a photo for press or media use

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CBS Sunday Morning — Garrison Keillor signs off — June 26, 2016

CBS Sunday Morning — Garrison Keillor signs off — June 26, 2016

A profile of Garrison as he prepares to retire from A Prairie Home Companion

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Poems of Gratitude: The Fourth Annual Common Good Books Poetry Contest

Garrison and Common Good Books are sponsoring a poetry contest! Pour your love onto the page, shape it well, and mail your love letter to Common Good Books before April 15 — fame and fortune could be yours.

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Blank on Blank — Garrison Keillor on Humor — December 15, 2015

Blank on Blank — Garrison Keillor on Humor — December 15, 2015

An animated short taken from Garrison’s 1994 interview with George Plimpton

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The National Press Club — 5/22/2015

The National Press Club — 5/22/2015

Garrison spoke at the National Press Club on May 22, 2015

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The Late Late Show — 6/4/2014

The Late Late Show — 6/4/2014

Garrison visits The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson to discuss The Keillor Reader

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C-SPAN: 1999 Radio and Television Correspondents Dinner

C-SPAN: 1999 Radio and Television Correspondents Dinner

Garrison talks about civility in an address to the Radio and Television Correspondents Dinner in Washington D.C.

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CBS This Morning: 40 years of A Prairie Home Companion: Behind Garrison Keillor’s success

CBS This Morning: 40 years of A Prairie Home Companion: Behind Garrison Keillor’s success

Garrison chats with CBS This Morning about A Prairie Home Companion‘s 40th anniversary and his book The Keillor Reader

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AP: Keillor to celebrate 40 years on Lake Wobegon

AP: Keillor to celebrate 40 years on Lake Wobegon

Garrison discusses the 40th anniversary of A Prairie Home Companion in an interview with the Associated Press

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