A Prairie Home Companion’s 50th Anniversary Tour comes to Akron, OH with Heather Masse, Christine DiGiallonardo, Rich Dworsky, Sue Scott, Fred Newman and Tim Russell.
New Philadelphia, OH
Garrison Keillor brings his solo show to Kent State University. Poetry, Limericks, Sing-Along and the News from Lake Wobegon.
A Prairie Home Companion’s 50th Anniversary Tour comes to the Grand 1894 Opera House in Galveston, TX with our favorite regulars, Rich Dworsky, Sue Scott, Tim Russell and Fred Newman. Additional guests to be announced.
A Prairie Home Companion’s 50th Anniversary Tour comes to the McCain Auditorium in Manhattan, Kansas with our favorite regulars, Rich Dworsky, Sue Scott, Tim Russell and Fred Newman. Additional guests to be announced.
A Prairie Home Companion’s 50th Anniversary Tour comes to Nashville with Heather Masse, Christine DiGiallonardo, Rich Dworsky, Sam Bush, Stuart Duncan, Sue Scott, Fred Newman and Tim Russell.
I go to the park because I don’t read the paper because there are too many celebrities to keep track of like Madonna, My Maia, Meghan Markle, Marla Maples, Mary Murray, Marilyn Manson, Marsha Mason, Marky Mark, Mike Marcus, Melissa McCarthy, Mo’Nique, Moses Maimonides, Lin-Manuel Miranda, not to mention Mitch McConnell and Miss Minnesota — the mind spins at the multiplicity of eminence and immortality that I’ve moved away from mass media and the megaworld and simply go walk in the park and admire the nameless walkers. benchwarmers, birdwatchers, ballplayers, and realize that celebrity being so widespread, it is anonymity that is special. Fame is an old story and the nameless are a delightful mystery.
It’s Central Park, 840 acres in the middle of Manhattan, land bought by the state legislature in 1856 at the urging of idealists like the poet William Cullen Bryant, designed by the landscape architects Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, and the work was completed in 1876, a peaceful paradise where a person can move at a stately pace or perch in a peaceful spot and observe vegetation, wildlife, humanity, or consult the heart, whatever appeals at the moment.
Timing is everything. In 1856, the tract was rocky, swampy, unurbanized, and had the legislature not moved promptly, developers would’ve figured out how to drain and level the land and the grid would’ve swallowed it and today it would be blocks and blocks of rectangles. Instead we enjoy this fabulous gift from the 19th century.
That the seed was sown by a famous poet is astonishing. Bryant’s “Thanatopsis” was his big hit; my grandma Dora knew passages of it by heart, especially his admonition to go to your grave unafraid, with unfailing trust, as one wraps a blanket around himself and lies down to sleep.
Well, they didn’t have TikTok back then so they had to do their best with what they had, such as poetry.
What they did have, besides poetry, was a sense of the common good, which New York legislators demonstrated when they bought the swamp and rocky hills and made Belvedere Castle and the Pinetum and Ramble and Great Lawn. Public parks are monuments to that sensibility, along with schools and libraries, the idea that with minimal police supervision, we ordinary folk can commingle peacefully on common ground, respecting each other’s space and dignity. I’ve sat on the benches near the reservoir where some jazz musicians like to gather when the weather is nice, a bass and sax and sometimes drums, and now and then a person has struck up a conversation with me, often starting with “Beautiful day” and then wending into something that happened yesterday or will occur soon, then maybe their life story. If you listen and respond, people will talk. It’s a city where everybody has a story they’d be glad to tell you. Notice their cane and they’ll tell you where they fell, chasing a cab, and the orthopedist that wanted to do surgery.
The daily mass killings have made plenty of people uneasy about public spaces but I live in the past, I don’t read stories about men firing assault weapons into crowds. There is nothing to be learned except that there are wackos around, some dangerous, which we already knew.
One of them was hanging out in Central Park on a December day in 1980 who’d flown in from Hawaii with the intention of killing John Lennon and waited for him at 72nd Street and accosted him and shot him in the back and killed him. He did it, he explained in order to become famous. He is still in state prison.
That corner of Central Park West and 72nd is vividly remembered by people my age and the power of the memory is not the death of a celebrity but the death of a 40-year-old man, a husband and father, a friend, a musician, robbed of his life, robbed of ten-thousand walks in the park. It’s the life that’s precious, not his fame or fortune.
The city created a memorial to Lennon in the park, with the inscription “Imagine,” after his famous song, but it was a bad idea. The park isn’t a cemetery and you can imagine on your own. You walk around and hear French and Japanese and Spanish and imagine the immigrants drawn here for centuries. You see the cellist sitting in a field playing a Bach sonata and you feel the soul of the city, wanting to do honor to greatness selflessly. You sit on a bench and someone says, “Beautiful day,” and you agree and you’re hearing a monologue about a crazy girlfriend and the treachery of e-bikes. Anyway, I gotta go. Thanks for listening. Welcome to New York.