St. Michael, MN
GARRISON KEILLOR and some friends from Prairie Home Poetry, Stories, and Classic Duets Featuring: Prudence Johnson Bob Douglas and Adam Granger Dan Chouinard, music director JULY 4, 2021, 4:00 PM SUMMERFIELD AMPHITHEATER 4300 O’Day Ave. NE, St. Michael, MN 55376 $42/$15 Outside concert FAQs In 2021 we are going bigger, better, bolder, and in the […]
GARRISON KEILLOR and some friends from Prairie Home Poetry, Stories, and Classic Duets Featuring: Prudence Johnson Bob Douglas and Adam Granger Dan Chouinard, music director July 2, 2021, 7:30 PM BIG TOP CHAUTAUQUA, BAYFIELD, WI Reserved $60/$52/$42 The Lake Superior Big Top Chautauqua is a 900-seat music venue and performing arts center, located near […]
Stillwater, MN 6-30
GARRISON KEILLOR and some friends from Prairie Home Poetry, Stories, and Classic Duets Featuring: Prudence Johnson Bob Douglas and Adam Granger Dan Chouinard, music director June 30, 2021, 5:30 PM – 8:30 PM THE AVALON, STILLWATER, MN St. Croix Boat & Packet Co., 525 Main Street South, Stillwater, MN 55082 DINNER, CRUISE, AND SHOW […]
Just Added: Stillwater, MN 6-29
GARRISON KEILLOR and some friends from Prairie Home Poetry, Stories, and Classic Duets Featuring: Prudence Johnson Bob Douglas and Adam Granger Dan Chouinard, music director JUST ADDED June 29, 2021, 5:30 PM – 8:30 PM THE AVALON, STILLWATER, MN St. Croix Boat & Packet Co., 525 Main Street South, Stillwater, MN 55082 DINNER, CRUISE, […]
The life of an honest satirist is a hard life and so there are few of them. We cherish our delusions — I am very fond of mine, especially the belief that I am master of my house and captain of my ship, but on Tuesday, sitting on the throne, I saw that the toilet paper dispenser was empty, no extra rolls of Scott tissue in sight, and the Chief Provisioner was off on her daily walk, and so I had to hike around the apartment, pants at half-mast, looking for the goods.
A man who doesn’t know where the toilet paper is kept in an apartment he’s lived in for many years is in a ridiculous position. He knows this as he wanders from room to room, opening cupboards, looking in drawers, hoping she does not walk in and see her husband the noted author in this delicate moment. He has lived with his head in the clouds and lost touch with the essentials of life.
The satirist H.L. Mencken would have cherished the thought. He was an old newspaperman who wrote for blue-collar freethinkers who rode the streetcars and enjoyed Henry putting down the authorities. “A judge is a law student who grades his own examination papers. A historian is an unsuccessful novelist. A philosopher is a blind man in a dark room looking for a black cat that isn’t there. A theologian is the man who finds it. A cynic is a man who, when he smells flowers, looks around for a coffin. An author is a man who, in the absence of toilet tissue, is forced to use his own manuscript and regrets that he wrote on such stiff paper.”
The last one is mine; the others are his. I discovered Mencken in high school and admired the snap of the short sentences: he wasn’t out to persuade, only to poke you and get your attention. I was 18, the son of gentle evangelicals whom God had entrusted with truths not shared with others, a bookish boy, seriously shy but feeling my oats, and Mencken was my liquor. He wrote: “I am a newspaperman. I believe that it is better to tell the truth than a lie. I believe it is better to be free than to be a slave. And I believe it is better to know than to be ignorant. I am strongly in favor of common sense, common honesty, and common decency. This makes me forever ineligible for public office.”
Years later I visited his rowhouse on Hollins Street in Baltimore, nicely restored after his death in 1956, an important house in American letters and culture, a hotbed of agitation for civil rights, new writers, intellectual freedom, journalistic integrity, and that afternoon I was the only visitor. His office on the second floor was a pretty ordinary office. A battlefield is fascinating — go to Gettysburg and even with the odds and ends of monuments you can imagine what took place there — but an intellectual battlefield is found in books, not in offices.
He loved Baltimore. He was good to up-and-coming writers. He was the man who said, “Marriage is a great institution but who would want to live in an institution?” but when he was fifty he married Sara Haardt, a writer from Alabama, and loved her and was grief-stricken when she died five years later. I met my wife when I was fifty.
He was a conservative, anti-New Dealer, he loathed FDR, and he was opposed to World War II, a serious moral flaw that cast him into outer darkness, and he wrote too much, but Google bestows immortality and Mencken gave good quotes. He wrote: “The urge to save humanity is almost always only a false-face for the urge to rule humanity. Idealism — not materialism — is the chief curse of the world. People get into trouble by taking their visions and hallucinations too seriously.” You can argue with that, and you should, but the clarity is admirable. This is the advantage conservatives have over us liberals. We write long windy misty twisty sentences. They write succinctly. He said, “All we know is that we are here and it is now. Other than that, all human knowledge is nonsense. Time stays, and we go. Life is a dead-end street.”
The toilet paper was in the laundry room, on top of the dryer. Now that I know that, there is no stopping me, I’m good to go on for years and years. Repeat this story to anyone and I will deny the whole thing.