A walk down the aisle

There is a long aisle at our grocery store with soda pop at one end and tea and coffee at the other, which my love and I get to after the butter and eggs and 2% milk. We come to the beverage aisle and she selects the coffee, dark ground, with names like Swan Lake and Machiavelli. I notice the can of Maxwell House percolator grind and think of Mother and Dad. And there between the coffee and the soda pop is an extensive collection of waters.

In St. Paul, where we live, water comes out of the tap. You pay for it, of course, but the price per serving is miniscule compared to the serious money you shell out for fruit-flavored water, sparkling, caffeinated, antioxidant, and even hydrogenated. One water, enhanced with green tea and ginger, promises to create thermogenesis to increase metabolism and burn body fat.

It’s interesting to walk through an enormous grocery store on the evening of a day when I’ve been reading about the end of World War II, when most of the world except for America was badly damaged and people in Europe and Asia were hungry, many on the verge of starvation. People were eating rodents, crows, dogs, scavenging in the ruins for edible garbage. If you wanted good food, you had to pawn the silverware and go to a black market. This happened within the lifetime of some of us.

No wonder my parents in 1947 bought themselves an acre of land and built a house on it, keeping half an acre for garden, and every summer, we went through a frenzy of canning to fill the basement shelves with jars of corn, peas, beans, tomatoes, squash, and jams and jellies. Six children under their roof and we never went hungry.

My generation, which came of age in the 1950s, was the beginning of teenagerness: we adopted our own mode of dress, our own music, our standard of coolness, which was based on alienation from the previous generation. Adolescence, as we defined it, would not have been tolerated in a time of hardship and scarcity, but we reveled in self-consciousness. Some of us maintained immaturity right up to retirement. We called it The Arts but really it was adolescence.

And now we discover that old age is utterly anonymous. Past 70, we’re all marching into the swamp and it’s the same swamp for everyone. Bombs are falling around us, friends are struck down, eventually we will be, too. We live day to day, the huddled masses of the aged and infirm, watching our successors march on ahead.

What bothers me is that we’re cutting music and drama in the public schools to pay for Gramma to get an MRI if she has a headache and pay for Viagra at $10 per pill to give men in nursing homes to keep them from rolling out of bed at night. Why? Because we old-timers vote and children don’t.

The old need to look after the young and honor the future. I run into people who retired on lovely pensions at 62 and now enjoy making bad art and writing stuff nobody wants to read, an enormous bulge of aging boomers squeezing through the pension pipeline, their expensive health care paid for by semi-literate 30-year-olds penalized by lousy schools where languages were dropped and tests dumbed down and class size rose past 30 and 35, who are now forced to support a growing population of seashell collectors and bad poets and people making videos of the Grand Canyon. After 27 years as Assistant Vice President for Institutional Advancement at the Associated Federation of Organizations, you now get to be a teenager again.

That is what I think of as I look at the $6 can of hydrogenated citrus-flavored organic zero-calorie caffeinated water guaranteed to whip up your metabolism and make you skinny and youthful again. And so I don’t buy it. I go home and, out of solidarity with my ancestors who endured hardship of many kinds, I put a glass under the tap and fill it with water. No ice, no lemon, no sparkle. When you can appreciate a glass of pure water, you’ve touched base with reality. You are back in 1950, on Grandma’s back step, pushing the pump handle down, holding your tin cup under the spout. The chickens cluster around for their share and the barn cats. Some places in the world know terrible drought, but not us. Praise God for His grace and goodness.

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"Minnesota Public Radio, Garrison Keillor Settle All Outstanding Issues"
St. Paul, MN - Garrison Keillor and Minnesota Public Radio have reached an agreement reopening public access to thousands of past shows of A Prairie Home Companion and The Writer’s Almanac.

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"Emily Dickinson – A Light exists in Spring"

A Light exists in Spring
Not present on the Year
At any other period —
When March is scarcely here


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Garrison Keillor

Advice from Mr. Blue

"Exes, etiquette, and losing a spark"

Dear Mr. Blue, I can’t get over my ex. We dated a few years ago and when we broke up, even though it was mutual, I was devastated. At 22 years old, it was my first time being in love, and my first time being heartbroken. The relationship itself had been turbulent: he was a night owl and an alcoholic…


Weekly Column

A winning candidate for 2020

Finally we see some spring in Minnesota, temperatures edging into the 50s, maybe 60s, snow gone except in the crevices, green grass, the miracle of going outdoors in shirtsleeves. It’s like the Rapture except that everyone gets to enjoy it, not just the select few. We who were brought up not to complain have been moaning for a month, and we feel bad about that and intend to atone for it by being good to people who have not been nice to us, if we can think of any.

James Comey has come and gone, an example of the danger of oversell. After seeing him everywhere all the time for a week, there was little need to buy his book. I own a bookstore and it only sold 24 copies: people had already heard six times what he had to say. As the gentleman knows, he did at least as much as the Russians did to elect No. 45, and he certainly has a right to try to make amends, but when he told The New Yorker at length about the “emptiness” of the man — good Lord, when did FBI directors acquire X-ray vision? Leave emptiness to the Buddhists.

This, you understand, is coming from a cranky old liberal who is tired of hearing about the #real and prefers to talk about the #imaginary. I go to dinner with Democrats and when I hear somebody say, “I can’t believe the way T—” I am out of my seat the moment their tongue hits the back of their teeth to make the T. There are plenty of smart people who are paid to talk about him and to say new and interesting things and I wish them well. But not at the dinner table, please.

...

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News
New Garrison Keillor Online Shop!

New Garrison Keillor Online Shop!

Pretty Good Goods junkies rejoice: there is a new one-stop merchandise shop for all your needs related to Garrison Keillor, A Prairie Home Companion, and The Writer’s Alamanac. Today’s featured product: the complete final performance of Garrison Keillor’s “A Prairie Home Companion,” live at the Hollywood Bowl on July 1, 2016 and collected on a […]

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The Forum at Grace Cathedral, September 2017

The Forum at Grace Cathedral, September 2017

The Very Rev. Dr. Malcolm Clemens Young of the Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, CA, sits down with Garrison Keillor for an in-depth conversation as part of the Cathedral’s program The Forum on September 17, 2017.

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Minnesota Public Radio, Garrison Keillor Settle All Outstanding Issues

Minnesota Public Radio, Garrison Keillor Settle All Outstanding Issues

St. Paul, MN – Garrison Keillor and Minnesota Public Radio have reached an agreement reopening public access to thousands of past shows of A Prairie Home Companion and The Writer’s Almanac.

“MPR wants fans of A Prairie Home Companion and The Writer’s Almanac to have free access to the thousands of wonderful performers and artists, musicians and poets whose work is included in those archives, and we want your fans to have free access to the decades of terrific material you created,” MPR President Jon McTaggart wrote in a letter to Keillor on April 5. A full copy of the letter is available at www.garrisonkeillor.com.

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Letter from Jon McTaggart to Garrison Keillor

Letter from Jon McTaggart to Garrison Keillor

Dear Garrison,

I could never have imagined the surprising circumstances you and I’ve been in for the past few months. But here we are, and I’m hoping this personal appeal can help to move us forward.

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A Prairie Home Companion 40th Anniversary: Let’s Have a Party

A Prairie Home Companion returns to the Macalester campus for an anniversary celebration with three days of music, comedy, food, and festivities, July 4-6th.

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The Daily Circuit — O, What a Luxury

Garrison talks poetry and O, What a Luxury with MPR’s Kerri Miller

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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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ABC: What Makes St. Paul So Great?

ABC: What Makes St. Paul So Great?

Garrison gives a tour of St. Paul during the 2008 Republican National Convention

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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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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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Writing

A winning candidate for 2020

Finally we see some spring in Minnesota, temperatures edging into the 50s, maybe 60s, snow gone except in the crevices, green grass, the miracle of going outdoors in shirtsleeves. It’s like the Rapture except that everyone gets to enjoy it, not just the select few. We who were brought up not to complain have been moaning for a month, and we feel bad about that and intend to atone for it by being good to people who have not been nice to us, if we can think of any.

Read More
Exes, etiquette, and losing a spark

Exes, etiquette, and losing a spark

Dear Mr. Blue,

I can’t get over my ex. We dated a few years ago and when we broke up, even though it was mutual, I was devastated. At 22 years old, it was my first time being in love, and my first time being heartbroken.

Read More

The true story of last weekend’s blizzard

A yuge blizzard descended on Minnesota over the weekend and all of our people who went south for the winter got back home in time to experience it. It was truly yuge, a fabulous blizzard and the snow was up to the housetops and the highway patrol said, “Stay in your homes. Do not drive on account of rabid wolves and jackals running loose.” But some of us went out anyway because that’s how we are. America was not settled by the timid.

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A walk down the aisle

There is a long aisle at our grocery store with soda pop at one end and tea and coffee at the other, which my love and I get to after the butter and eggs and 2% milk. We come to the beverage aisle and she selects the coffee, dark ground, with names like Swan Lake and Machiavelli. I notice the can of Maxwell House percolator grind and think of Mother and Dad. And there between the coffee and the soda pop is an extensive collection of waters.

Read More

A remaindered sermon from Easter Sunday

I’ve been reading a fine book for Holy Week, Short Stories By Jesus, by Amy-Jill Levine, about the parables in the Gospels, and thought how much better Sunday School would’ve been had it been taught by a Jewish scholar rather than the rigid joyless fundamentalists of my youth. Jesus was Jewish, He wasn’t a Protestant, for God’s sake. Levine covers the whole string of them, the runaway boy, the tardy workers, the kindly alien, the good CPA, the mustard seed, the rich man and Lazarus, and respects the mysteries they represent.

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Looking at snow, thinking of crocuses

Late March is a time of rare unanimity here on the northern tundra when everyone — socialists, monarchists, anarchists, humble peasants, mighty tycoons — is ready for the snow to melt and green grass to appear and a warm breeze blow through the open window, which is unlikely to happen anytime soon and so we must live with the fact that the world is beyond our control.

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We were wrong and we should say so

Now that the 17th is behind us, the pipes have stopped calling from glen to glen, Danny is gone until next March when the valley is white with snow, I look at my calendar and don’t see much to get excited about. Easter is two weeks away and what with church membership in decline, the day is more about jellybeans and less about the Resurrection of Our Lord. And ladies don’t wear big hats as they used to do.

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Too much information, baby, I love you

Stormy Daniels is going to tell her story and if it is true that she whispered in her lover’s ear to meet with Kim Jong-un and talk about denuclearization and if steel tariffs were also part of the discussion, it’ll be news for a week and then something else will come along and she will be forgotten.

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Press firmly and I’ll go away

The beauty of Facebook, to my way of thinking, is the ability to unfriend people and make them disappear from your life. I wish we had a button on the steering wheel of our car that would do that. The people in the red car waiting to enter the parking lot at the concert Sunday who didn’t understand the basic principle of Taking Turns: one click and they go back where they came from.

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What’s that shaking in my pocket?

There is a power imbalance between the president of the United States and me, and so I am loath to criticize him lest he smack me down. Same with my mayor and city council, who could, if I offended them, send dump trucks full of snow and make a mountain at the end of my driveway and I might spend hours shoveling it and then collapse with a major coronary. So I am going to write about telephones instead. With all due respect to you in the telephone industry.

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Radio

Edna St. Vincent Millay – Spring

Spring by Edna St. Vincent Millay As read by Garrison Keillor To what purpose, April, do you return again? Beauty is not enough. You can no longer quiet me with the redness Of little leaves opening stickily. I know what I know. The sun is hot on my neck as I observe The spikes of […]

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Interview with St. Louis Public Radio

November 2, 2018 episode of St. Louis on the Air, on which host Don Marsh talks with Garrison Keillor ahead of an appearance at the Fox Theater.

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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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