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+
Days of social isolation have told us things about ourselves that we don’t want to know. Instead of using the time to read Tolstoy or listen to Beethoven, we watched a video of a cat sitting on a whoopee cushion.
It’s an extraordinary moment in history when the American family is brought together by the threat of contagion and I, the eldest of my family, sit in the chimney corner and wait for my offspring to say, “Tell us about your life when you were young, Papa,” in which case I’d tell about Uncle Jim’s farm and his horses Prince and Ned and the haymow and the cistern where we lowered the milk cans to cool, but nobody asks, which is okay by me. In the 21st century, a city boy’s experiences on a farm in 1946 are not so riveting and it hurts to tell a story and see your audience look around for a route of escape.
So how did it happen that in my childhood I loved to hear my elders’ stories, especially if they had no obvious moral? My prim and proper Aunt Ina told how she’d gone to a car dealer in Minneapolis in 1928 and though she’d never driven a car, she bought one and she and two girlfriends drove on country roads all the way to Yellowstone Park to see the geysers and then sold the car and took the train back to Minnesota to resume a circumspect life. Aunt Ruth told how Grandpa woke his children on a winter night and bundled them up and took them into the woods to see a silver timber wolf who was howling at the moon. Aunt Jo told about sitting in the schoolhouse doing her math problems and a girl said, “Look, your house is on fire” and Jo looked and it was. Adventure, wonder, disaster.
It was women who told stories in my family, the men did not. Men felt responsible for upholding authority and maintaining orthodoxy, and good stories are seldom about orthodoxy. When you tell a story on yourself, you are open to ridicule.
A few years ago, I did a tour promoting a book of mine and was put up in a private lodge at Sundance with high windows and views of snowy peaks and tall pines, where, alone on a chill March afternoon, I took off my clothes and went out to the hot tub. I stepped out on the deck and the door closed behind me and clicked a definite ker-chunk of a click. It was locked. I had no key. Naked men often don’t.
I sat in the tub for a while, hoping a cleaning lady might drop in, or the Lone Ranger, or St. Jude, and when nobody did, I wrapped myself in a blue plastic tarp I took off the woodpile and trudged barefoot down the gravel road and knocked on the door of another lodge to ask for help. I learned that a naked man wrapped in blue plastic does not win friends easily. I knocked on the doors of five lodges with lights on and cars in the driveway and nobody showed their faces though I did see curtains move slightly. I waved in an urgent way to three men driving by in a pickup and they avoided eye contact and drove on. The blue plastic was cold. My feet hurt. I was contemplating the idea of dropping the tarp and getting myself arrested for public indecency and getting warm in the back seat of a squad car. At the sixth house, a woman came to the door and opened it a crack. She agreed to call the resort office. She didn’t invite me in, so I walked back to the hot tub and was rescued an hour later by a security man, and that was the parable of the naked author in the blue plastic. Moral: a best-selling author is Somebody and a naked best-selling author is nobody in particular. You may be distinguished but don’t forget to wear pants.
I told this story at dinner last night and it was appreciated. A barefoot naked man wrapped in a plastic tarp walking down a gravel road in March seemed like a fitting metaphor and what else is a metaphor for? Onward we go. We face something between Napoleon’s invasion of 1812 and a whoopee cushion, and whatever it is, let us show what stuff we are made of. Or whereof we are made. Ppppppppp. (Was that you or was that me?)