Las Vegas, NV
May 20, 2020
Garrison Keillor hits Las Vegas with a new solo show!
April 18, 2020
Garrison Keillor comes to the Rochester Civic Theatre for a night of stories, songs, poetry, and humor. Tickets $50 and up
February 19, 2020
Garrison Keillor with Heather Masse at the Dakota. Night 2 of 2. Tickets $30+
February 18, 2020
Garrison Keillor with Heather Masse at the Dakota. Night 1 of 2. Tickets $30+
Coming through airports this week it struck me how kind everyone was, ticket agents, TSA people, cab starters, and then light dawned: it’s Christmas. Charles Dickens had a big impact on the world and so did Frank Capra and Jimmy Stewart, not to mention St. Luke. I stood in a long winding line in LaGuardia and sensed no impatience; the TSA guy even smiled and asked how I was. And when I lost my ticket in Atlanta, I walked to Gate T7 and asked an agent and she made me a new one, no problem.
“I have always depended on the kindness of strangers,” said Blanche DuBois, and when I add to that the kindness of aunts and schoolteachers and the four men, Warren, Barry, Marvin, and Bill, who hired me despite lack of qualifications, then I feel I’ve had a Christmas of a life and if the plane from Atlanta had been struck by a giant meteor, nobody should grieve for me. But we landed and my bag arrived and when I told the security man at Baggage Claim that I’d lost my claim check, he shrugged and waved me through.
And so we Christians needn’t feel sheepish about the shepherds and angels. The day is a lavish gift, even if it comes with some wretched songs, the one about the rum-pum-pum-pum for one and others involving bells jingling that make you want to sue the radio stations. The beauty of the day is its story, however one chooses to read it.
It all happened back in zero A.D.
Two folks in trouble due to pregnancy.
She lay him in the manger
And she wanted to lie down
But shepherds and wise men
A few slices of bread
Would’ve pleased her
But they only brought spices,
Frankincense and myrrh.
They stood around singing,
These clueless men.
She thought, I’m never gonna do
Another virgin birth again.
Skip the adoring, be astute.
Bring some chocolate and a basket of fruit.
Thirty years ago I was the guest speaker at a Sons of Norway Christmas lutefisk dinner in Minneapolis and so was obliged to eat some, a pale gelatinous slab of former fish that looks like jellified phlegm and tastes like your mouth washed out with Hi-lex, but you eat a slice of rye bread, which acts as a plug to keep it down, and chase it with a shot of aquavit, which kills the taste. I did it because I wanted to make a good impression, but I don’t care what people think anymore, which is the beautiful part of getting old. You have the luxury of editing, dialing everything back, turning down the volume, eliminating the excess. And you discover that less truly is more.
You discover that you can sit in a quiet room and look at a small tree hung with white lights and the Ghost of Christmas Past will bring scene after scene, the wretched lutefisk but also the backyard skating rink and snow descending in the dark, Mother at the piano, the smell of gingerbread coming out of the oven, the games of Rook and Flinch and Pit, the dining table with all the extra leaves in it and Aunt Elsie and Uncle Don and Donnie and Bruce, and Mother slicing the bird even as she quietly disparages her own cooking, and the fabulous gift of a model gas station with crank-operated hoist and gas pumps, so perfect it’s a wonder I didn’t take up auto mechanics as a career.
All I need for Christmas is Christmas Eve in church, holding a candle, singing “Silent Night” a cappella in the dark with the others, walking home through the city, and waking up in the morning with my wife and daughter. Three gifts apiece, one useful, one odd but interesting, one ridiculous. Dinner is nice. We can make it at home or if we go out for a McTurkey sandwich, that’s okay too. Then we get out the board games. A pot of Christmas tea. Nothing more is needed.
Thank you, stranger, for your kindness. Stay warm, keep a candle in the window, be cheered by the visiting spirits, and enjoy your tea. All is calm, all is bright, shepherds quake at the sight.