With your permission, I shall give a short speech

I skipped the news today and clicked on Zoom where my church held Morning Prayer for Holy Week and there we all were in little boxes on the screen, like pastries on the grocery shelf, and we prayed for forgiveness — though in self-isolation, there’s not much lust or anger, just gluttony and sloth, the usual — and I prayed for my friends who are alone, the one who said, “This is a great time for introverts” and the one who told me she’d instructed her doorman that, if she dies, she should be hauled away in a cardboard box and cremated, no ceremony.

Meanwhile, it is spring in New York City. Bright green grass is growing in the planter boxes on our balcony and a loud bird is hanging out there. We are three people isolating ourselves in five rooms, one reading, one Facetiming, one typing these words. We have groceries, running water, WiFi, all the necessities, and we’re on the 12th floor and can open a door and sit outside in the sunshine, the ultimate luxury.

It’s an easy life compared to what many people are going through and skipping the news lets you ignore a president who, as the British writer Nate White points out, “has no class, no charm, no coolness, no credibility, no compassion, no wit, no warmth, no wisdom, no subtlety, no sensitivity, no self-awareness, no humility, no honor and no grace” and now, in a national crisis, shows himself to be an ignorant  bumbler and con artist focused on weeding out non-yes-men in the White House.

The Founders never considered this. They provided for impeachment for high crimes and misdemeanors but not for blinkered stupidity. So we must depend on the heroes in our midst, the hospital workers and truck drivers and grocery clerks and crucial employees, the people the Queen thanked in her speech, to get us through the next few weeks or months until, God help us, the rate of infection declines and life can resume.

In the summer of 1942, the year I was born, a terrible storm hit my hometown in Minnesota and our cousin Florence Hunt ran out of her house with a baby in hand as a tornado blew the roof off and blew mother and child into the limbs of a tree. She climbed down, bruised, the baby unhurt, and took shelter next door at her father-in-law Rozel’s whose father had died of TB when Rozel was a boy. My aunt Jo lived nearby on a farm where my father almost broke his neck his team of four horses got spooked and took off at a wild gallop. His cousin Joe Loucks drowned in the Rum River and my father and his brothers formed a human chain but couldn’t save him.  My father who, as a boy, looked out the schoolhouse window and saw his family’s house burning down.

My people were no strangers to disaster. I grew up knowing strong farm women who had driven tractors and handled guns and slaughtered chickens and dealt with troubled men and as a child I could sense their capability. They set high standards but practiced forgiveness. Florence was a cheerful woman and once she’d been blown into a tree, she was fearless. My mother was a worrier and every time she left the house she imagined she’d left the iron on and the house would burn down. The tornado did Florence some good.

My school, Anoka High School, adopted that storm of 1942 as a symbol and our teams became the Anoka Tornadoes. Other teams were named for zoo animals, bears or lions, but we intended to cause devastation. My university, Minnesota, was named for a burrowing rodent, but never mind that. These are brands, and they mean less than nothing. Washington is full of men who think in terms of branding and study opinion polls to gauge their own credibility. Churchill didn’t do that in 1940 as Britain stood on the brink. We don’t need it either. Our country is in trouble and it lacks coherent leadership and this obligates us to extend ourselves to each other. Love your neighbor. Gather your family close. Prepare for hard times ahead. Pledge allegiance to each other. This country is so much better than it appears these days. Now is the time to come to its aid, before it sinks.

Sing Along (Click image)
Sing Along at the Ryman 2022
BOOM TOWN by Garrison Keillor!

In Garrison Keillor’s 2022 novel, Boom Town, we return to Lake Wobegon, famous from decades of monologues on the classic radio show A Prairie Home Companion.

**Available in Hardcover, Audiobook, and eReader formats**

Lake Wobegon is having a boom year thanks to millennial entrepreneurship—AuntMildred’s.com Gourmet Meatloaf, for example, or Universal Fire, makers of artisanal firewood seasoned with sea salt. Meanwhile, the author flies in to give eulogies at the funerals of five classmates, including a couple whom he disliked, and he finds a wave of narcissism crashing on the rocks of Lutheran stoicism. He is restored by the humor and grace of his old girlfriend Arlene and a visit from his wife, Giselle, who arrives from New York for a big love scene in an old lake cabin.

 

Praise for Boom Town:

“Wonderfully over-the-top. Blisteringly funny, acute, and true. Keillor’s speaking to us with encouragement and empathy about the American life. But at the same time, he’s got our number that way he’s always had it. This book is a tonic.” —Richard Ford

 

“You can’t go home again unless you’re Garrison Keillor and home is Lake Wobegon. Then, of course, it is imperative that you do so—and we are fortunate indeed to tag along and share in the final chapter of the most fascinating and compelling characters ever conjured from the most vivid imagination of America’s greatest storyteller!

In Boom Town, we are invited to catch up as Garrison gets caught up with all of those beautifully flawed human beings that populate and promulgate their mythical town where all the women are finally accounted for, all the men are self-realized or died trying, and all the children are still way above average.” —Martin Sheen

 

Read the first chapter for free >>>

Purchase Boom Town Hardcover >>>

Download the audiobook as mp3s  >>>

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The beauty of a bitterly cold Sunday, 8 a.m.

I couldn’t sleep last Saturday night due to anxiety caused by rewinding various lowlights of my long life that hit me like a brick and I lay in bed and watched the hours go by as I contemplated my imminent demise leaving my dependents impoverished and homeless so when the day dawned I put on a suit and coat and I went around the block to the solemn 8 a.m. Mass rather than wait for the more festive 10:30 and walked through the bitter Minnesota cold into St. Mark’s Cathedral where a couple dozen souls sat, widely spaced apart, perhaps to guard against communicable disease, or maybe to avoid the Exchange of Peace after the absolution of our sins.

My sin was dread, anxiety, nameless unreasoning fear, but never mind. I remembered as I came into the cathedral that there is no music at the 8 a.m., no chipper Bach chorale to brighten the mood, no rousing opening hymn, just this scattering of folks in the vastness, like the Church in apostolic times, a few believers hiding out in the catacombs, hoping men in heavy armor don’t break in and bust our heads.

I knelt and prayed for my loved ones, that they be spared my anxiety. I could hear my own voice proclaiming the Nicene Creed, the whole megillah, including the unbelievable part about God coming to earth and becoming incarnate by the Virgin Mary, and it did nothing for the lead in my heart nor, as it turned out, did the homily.

What I found inspiring were two Scripture readings, one from the prophet Micah, where the reader faced the line, “O my people, remember what happened from Shittim to Gilgal that you may know the saving acts of the Lord,” and she slowed down when she saw “Shittim” and got traction and very carefully pronounced it “shi-team.” I was the only one in the sanctuary immature enough to enjoy this moment. There were no 13-year-old boys there, just me. I could tell from her voice that the reader had been dreading this for an hour, trying to decide between “shy-tim” and “shi-team” and fearing that she’d slip and pronounce it phonetically and a marble angel would fall and crash and red lights would flash and people would require treatment for post-traumatic stress.

And then moments later she read from First Corinthians that we do not find God through wisdom. No, God chose what is foolish to shame the wise, for God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom. The thought of God’s foolishness is a radical one, seldom mentioned in church, and near me were some highly educated people, including a man who got his Ph.D. in classic philosophy from Harvard and here I sat, a writer of limericks and a lover of juvenile jokes (Knock-knock. “Who’s there?” Eskimo Christians. “Eskimo Christians who?” Eskimo Christians, I’ll tell you no lies.) and when I went forward for Communion I felt foolishly happy. The wafer was not artisanal, the wine too sweet, but I received it with a good and grateful heart.

I went downstairs for coffee. People were gathering for the election of church officers and I joined them. It had been an austere service but it took a big load off my mind, the woman navigating her way around “Shittim” — it’s in the sixth chapter of Micah, look it up — and the words “God’s foolishness” — the playfulness of the Creator of the universe who 13 billion years ago, from a little speck of matter, suddenly produced an infinity of galaxies of which our Milky Way is a small specimen and the solar system turning around our sun is but a kiddie amusement park and our little planet is a jungle gym and hot dog stand.

I sat down and someone said, “Welcome home.” I live in New York but I used to be from here and that was nice. Two candidates for church warden stood and gave brief speeches and I wrote a limerick:

I am not running for warden:
It’s a job I know I’d be bored in,
Running a prison.
My calling is in
Enjoying the journey toward Jordan.

A dreadful night, a cold day, a juvenile joke, I’m a happy man. The Greeks and Romans loved poop jokes: go ahead and google it. The world is a mess but dread gets us nowhere so cheer up and then go do what you were put here to do. I was put here to cheer you up. So smile.

 

What I did when you were asleep

I just heard the story of the professor who refused to have “(he, him, his)” after his name on correspondence and his chairman who said, “You must. It’s policy.” And the professor said, “I don’t care. I won’t.” I understand that the policy police haven’t been called yet to haul him away for genderphobia and I salute him for resisting: the policy has no purpose, it’s about appearances.

Here is one more good reason to avoid a career in Academia. I write “(me/us/hers)” after my name and nobody can tell me otherwise. This is America, not Argentina. When I walk into the clinic and a sign says “Masks required,” I put one on, because there is science behind it. I go to the public library and turn my phone off out of simple consideration for the readers and writers at my table.

If you take a look at me, you’ll see a guy with short hair, in a brown pinstripe suit, wearing shoes with low heels, no necklace, and from that you can deduce whatever you like, monarchist, Mormon missionary, male model, whatever amuses you. What matters more is that you say, “Good morning,” “good to see you,” “like your red socks,” the little mannerly murmurs of daily life.

That’s the end of today’s lecture. Let’s talk about morning instead.

I’ve been going to bed at 8 and rising at 4, due to a construction project going on across the hall, which begins around 9 and which sounds like the walls of Babylon being knocked down by Vandals using battering rams. I’m a writer by trade, even though I don’t put it in parentheses after my name, I let people think what they want, and we writers don’t do well in scenes of battle and wholesale destruction. So I move bedtime up a few hours. Ten years ago my family sailed to Southampton aboard the Queen Mary 2, an expensive cruise, but an excellent investment because every night I can put myself to sleep by imagining myself at the rail sailing past the Statue of Liberty and inching under the Verrazano Bridge and by the time we’re at sea, I’m asleep.

Four a.m. is a peaceful hour. A person is unaware of time. If what you’re writing is of interest, it wakes you up. If not, you’re in the wrong line of work. It’s the hour of freedom. Around six, if the work goes well, I reward myself with breakfast. My sweetheart is a somewhat-vegan but she is asleep and so I can roast up a sirloin with fried eggs and feel a kinship with Beowulf and Hrothgar.

When, in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes,
I do not feed on roots or lettuce leaf
But microwave a bowl of frozen fries,
To eat with eggs and half a pound of beef.

Man is a hunter — women could thrive on a diet of nasturtiums and leaves of grass, but men cannot, and there are millions of cattle wandering around and what else are they for? They’re not going to work out new algorithms. My sweetheart thinks I eat too much red meat. Maybe so. So I’ll skip it this morning and make oatmeal instead and enjoy a sense of righteousness. Meanwhile I have three hours of peace until Armageddon resumes.

The owners of the apartment across the hall are going to feel a definite chill when finally they move into their luxurious quarters. When they invite us over for drinks, I’ll think up a communicable disease. And I may buy a couple speakers the size of VWs and turn up the volume on Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring” and maybe leave town for a month and have a crew come in and tear down some walls.

But I have decided to give up anger in my old age. I decided this months ago and I am sticking to it. I gave up looking at the news, and now if wars had ceased and Martians had located us and a cure for cancer had been found and the Vikings had won the Super Bowl, I would be unaware of it.

And so in this new spirit I am writing a book about cheerfulness, which is due out in the spring. I’ve looked around bookstores and found hundreds of books about clueless parents and bad boyfriends and the imminent demise of civilization, and I could write one about noisy neighbors, but I choose to write about gratitude and lightheartedness. I think they/them/those might need something like that and if, like the Queen Mary, it puts them to sleep, that is useful too.

 

I am giving up anger, so should you

The apartment across the hall from where we’re staying in Minneapolis is undergoing extensive renovation, walls being moved, floors torn up, and every day last week the noise from there was seismic, volcanic, like they were throwing pickup trucks into a giant grinder, and when I walked out of our place and saw a workman I asked him how long this racket would continue and I used, as a modifier to “racket,” a word not seen in your family newspaper, not yet, God help us, though I’ve heard it used by small children in New York attending schools named for saints. Kids grow up faster in New York. I felt bad about my cursing. I still do. I am trying to give up anger. It’s poisonous and it has no effect other than to make the angerer feel bad and perhaps do something truly stupid. You sit in a traffic jam yelling at other drivers and where does it get you? You read about Kevin McCarthy online and in your fury you hurl your laptop out the window and how does this change anything? (I didn’t do that, only considered it.) So I am skipping the front page and enjoying reading the angry comments on the editorial page and the obits and stories about minor crime. From this, I learn that (1) Americans aren’t adept at cutting people down, like whoever said of Endicott Peabody that he was the only Massachusetts politician to have four towns named for him –– Peabody, Marblehead, Athol, and Hyannis. We tend to mutter. (2) Good obits are few and far between. They’re over-the-top laudatory and they leave out the delicious details. Minor rock musicians die and you read that they “had a profound effect on music at the time” when what you want to know is exactly how many hotel rooms did he destroy. (3) There’s a great deal of outright stupidity in the world of crime. Last week I read about a bearded man wearing a mask and dark glasses, gloves and tan sweater, carrying a handgun, who walked into a bank in St. Paul and demanded money from three tellers in turn, his pistol aimed at them, and he followed them as they went to a safe for more. He wound up with $28,000, which he put into an Aldi grocery store bag and departed, unaware that a tracking device was included with the cash, which led police to find him a half mile away, on foot, carrying the Aldi bag with the money in it and also the mask, wearing the sunglasses. He claimed to have found the bag with the money in it and he declined to answer questions but they found a library card with his name on it, which corresponded with his fingerprints on the bag. He also carried an unloaded Ruger handgun. He was bearded. The reporter Nick Ferraro wrote the story beautifully, with all the fine details, the library card, the grocery bag, and also the perp saying to the tellers as he departed with the cash and tracker, “Have a nice day. Stay warm.” And his refusal to talk to police. You’re holding the Aldi bag with the dough in it and you fit the description and you walk away from the scene ¬¬— were you planning to wait for a bus? He is in jail now, with bail set at $500,000, charged with robbery and assault. A public defender will do her best to make a case for leniency — maybe he had a poor relationship with his father, maybe low self-esteem, poor reasoning skills, but how do you defend outright stupidity? The man is destroying the bank-robber mystique: John Dillinger and Bonnie and Clyde would be embarrassed to be associated with him. If you’re considering larceny, my dear reader, stop and think this through. Cellphone towers can track your whereabouts and there are surveillance cameras everywhere. Twenty-eight grand is poor compensation for three years in prison. You can do much better by setting yourself up as an advocate for the math challenged and bringing a lawsuit against Apple and Microsoft for writing instruction manuals that make you feel unwelcome and marginalized. They are practicing normaphobia and the letttter tt keeps repeattting on your laptop and itt’s causing you menttal disttress and you can’tt fix ittt. Ask for a million and hope for tttttttwo hundred grand. Have a nice day and keep warm.  

Why I am in Minnesota, if you wish to know

We came back to Minneapolis to see snow on the ground, there being none in Manhattan yet, and to drive around the old neighborhood where I lived when I was broke. It was 1969, I’d quit a comfy job at the U so I could write a novel and become famous. I had an infant son and he and my wife and I lived there for several months, then the money ran out. She suggested we live in her parents’ basement and instead I applied for an early-morning shift at KSJR at St. John’s University and Mr. Kling hired me. I was the only applicant, I discovered later. That shift led to “A Prairie Home Companion” and forty-two years of amusing myself on radio. So when I drive by that house, I see an enormous canyon between what might have happened and what actually did, and I say a little prayer of gratitude.

Gratitude is one good reason to come back and another is to be with my sweetie who is playing in the orchestra for the opera at the Ordway in St. Paul. One effect of COVID and the monastic life it imposed is that it’s painful for me to be without her. So I tag along. I also see some old friends though I wish I had some young ones too.

(Did I write about this last week? I forget.)

I’ve told my friends: no talk about knee replacements or an ophthalmologist sticking needles in your eyeballs or a colonoscopy or even a semi-colonoscopy. These are not things we discuss over cheeseburgers and fries. And please, no politics. I’m done with all that noise. I’m tired of listening to old liberals moaning and regretting and reminiscing about Gene and Arvonne and George Latimer. I wish I had some Republican friends so I could hear all about the stolen election of 2020 — that is better than “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” — but there are no Republicans in the city of Minneapolis, only young progressives who are devoted to diversity now that they’ve driven the Reps out to the burbs with the botanical street names.

Minnesota is a crystalline paradise in January, especially since my sweetie won’t let me go outdoors for fear I’ll slip on ice and fall and break a knee, which will need replacement or, worse, hit my head and damage my brain, which is irreplaceable and I’d wind up in a locked ward in a nursing home staffed by former kindergarten teachers who will teach me about shapes and sharing. So I look out our dining room window at the snowy landscape and I work on my book about cheerfulness and when I have finished a good passage, I reward myself with a Pearson’s Salted Nut Roll.

The Pearson’s factory is over in St. Paul. It’s a local delicacy. I googled “Salted Nut Roll” when I was in New York and the spinner spun and there were beeping sounds like crickets in the weeds and then my phone went dead and it’s been dead ever since and that’s another reason I came to Minnesota. I know my way around Minneapolis and St. Paul. Without the GPS on my cellphone, I’m lost in Manhattan, but here in Minneapolis we have a telephone with a curly cord on the kitchen wall and when I pick up the receiver I hear a comforting dial tone and then Sharon the operator comes on. “How are you doing today, Mr. Keillor?” she says. I am one of her few remaining customers; the others have died or gone gaga.

I say, “Connect me to Stephanie Beck, please.” And she says, “Stephanie isn’t home, she went to Virg ’N Don’s grocery in Dinkytown to buy veal cutlets, she should be home in an hour. Anyone else?”

“Hillary.”

“Hillary Speed’s phone is disconnected.”

“She isn’t at St. Olaf college?”

“She married and moved to Tallahassee and has two kids. Write her a postcard.”

Sharon is a miracle. She’s a saint. (Have I written this before somewhere? I apologize if I have.)

“Sharon, is Pearson’s making a salted nut roll that is non-GMO and substitutes lentils for nuts so it can be eaten by kids with nut allergies?”

“No,” she says. “It’s the same as it’s been since your parents were dating, it’s peanuts with a marshmallow nougat and caramel core. If you like, I could call Virg ’N Don’s and have Stephanie bring you a couple.”

I made a little joke about Don not being a virgin and she said, “That’s an old joke. Find something new.”

An operator who will tell you the hard truth. We need more of that in this country. I’ve said it before and now I’ve said it again. Anyway, it’s snowing here and it’s beautiful and I’m indoors, safe and warm. Let’s have lunch.

A Prairie Home Companion An Evening of Story and Song Humor Love & Comedy Tour Old Friends Poetry Prairie Home Christmas Show Solo Songs Stories The Gratitude Tour
Schedule

February 3, 2023

Friday

7:30 p.m.

The Holland Theatre, Bellefontaine, OH

Bellefontaine, OH

Keillor & Company with Prudence Johnson and Dan Chouinard bring their show to Bellefontaine, OH for a performance of classic love songs, poetry, The News from Lake Wobegon, and a conversation about Why You Should Go On Getting Older

February 8, 2023

Wednesday

8:00 p.m.

Uptown Theater, Kansas City, MO

Kansas City, MO

Keillor & Company with Prudence Johnson, Dan Chouinard and Dean Magraw bring their show to Kansas City, MO for a performance of classic love songs, poetry, The News from Lake Wobegon, and a conversation about Why You Should Go On Getting Older

February 9, 2023

Thursday

7:30 p.m.

Gillioz Theatre, Springfield, MO

Springfield, MO

Keillor & Company with Prudence Johnson, Dan Chouinard and Dean Magraw bring their show to Springfield, MO for a performance of classic love songs, poetry, The News from Lake Wobegon, and a conversation about Why You Should Go On Getting Older

February 10, 2023

Friday

8:00 p.m.

Orpheum Theatre, Wichita, KS

Wichita, KS

Keillor & Company with Prudence Johnson, Dan Chouinard and Dean Magraw bring their show to Wichita, KS for a performance of classic love songs, poetry, The News from Lake Wobegon, and a conversation about Why You Should Go On Getting Older

February 11, 2023

Saturday

7:00 p.m.

Bowlus Fine Arts Center, Iola, KS

Iola, KS

Keillor & Company with Prudence Johnson, Dan Chouinard and Dean Magraw bring their show to Iola, KS for a performance of classic love songs, poetry, The News from Lake Wobegon, and a conversation about Why You Should Go On Getting Older

February 22, 2023

Wednesday

8:00 p.m.

The Parker, Fort Lauderdale, FL

Fort Lauderdale, FL

Keillor & Company with Prudence Johnson and Dan Chouinard bring their show to Fort Lauderdale, FL for a performance of classic love songs, poetry, The News from Lake Wobegon, and a conversation about Why You Should Go On Getting Older

February 23, 2023

Thursday

7:30 p.m.

Clayton Center for the Arts, Maryville, TN

Maryville, TN

Keillor & Company with Prudence Johnson and Dan Chouinard bring their show to Maryville, TN for a performance of classic love songs, poetry, The News from Lake Wobegon, and a conversation about Why You Should Go On Getting Older

February 24, 2023

Friday

7:30 p.m.

Grand Theatre, Frankfort, KY

Frankfort, KY

Keillor & Company with Prudence Johnson and Dan Chouinard bring their show to Frankfort, KY for a performance of classic love songs, poetry, The News from Lake Wobegon, and a conversation about Why You Should Go On Getting Older

March 2, 2023

Thursday

8:00 p.m.

Fargo Theater, Fargo, ND

Fargo, ND

“Garrison Keillor at 80” with special guests Heather Masse and Richard Dworsky comes to Fargo, ND for a show filled with stories, music, sing-along all focusing on the topic of CHEERFULNESS.

March 3, 2023

Friday

8:00 p.m.

Orpheum Theater, Sioux Falls, SD

Sioux Falls, SD

“Garrison Keillor at 80” with special guests Heather Masse and Richard Dworsky comes to Sioux Falls, SD for a show filled with stories, music, sing-along all focusing on the topic of CHEERFULNESS.

Radio

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To make a donation to support this archival project, please click here. You can also support us by buying a paid Substack subscription or mailing a check to Prairie Home Productions  PO Box 2090  Minneapolis, MN 55402

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Writing

The beauty of a bitterly cold Sunday, 8 a. m.

I couldn’t sleep last Saturday night due to anxiety caused by rewinding various lowlights of my long life that hit me like a brick and I lay in bed and watched the hours go by as I contemplated my imminent demise leaving my dependents impoverished and homeless so when the day dawned I put on a suit and coat and I went around the block to the solemn 8 a.m. Mass rather than wait for the more festive 10:30 and walked through the bitter Minnesota cold into St. Mark’s Cathedral where a couple dozen souls sat, widely spaced apart, perhaps to guard against communicable disease, or maybe to avoid the Exchange of Peace after the absolution of our sins.

My sin was dread, anxiety, nameless unreasoning fear, but never mind. I remembered as I came into the cathedral that there is no music at the 8 a.m., no chipper Bach chorale to brighten the mood, no rousing opening hymn, just this scattering of folks in the vastness, like the Church in apostolic times, a few believers hiding out in the catacombs, hoping men in heavy armor don’t break in and bust our heads.

Read More

Picture in a Frame (July 2022)

The sun come up, it was blue and gold
The sun come up, it was blue and gold
The sun come up, it was blue and gold
Ever since I put your picture in a frame

Read More

What I did when you were asleep

I just heard the story of the professor who refused to have “(he, him, his)” after his name on correspondence and his chairman who said, “You must. It’s policy.” And the professor said, “I don’t care. I won’t.” I understand that the policy police haven’t been called yet to haul him away for genderphobia and I salute him for resisting: the policy has no purpose, it’s about appearances.

Here is one more good reason to avoid a career in Academia. I write “(me/us/hers)” after my name and nobody can tell me otherwise. This is America, not Argentina. When I walk into the clinic and a sign says “Masks required,” I put one on, because there is science behind it. I go to the public library and turn my phone off out of simple consideration for the readers and writers at my table.

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I am giving up anger, so should you

The apartment across the hall from where we’re staying in Minneapolis is undergoing extensive renovation, walls being moved, floors torn up, and every day last week the noise from there was seismic, volcanic, like they were throwing pickup trucks into a giant grinder, and when I walked out of our place and saw a workman I asked him how long this racket would continue and I used, as a modifier to “racket,” a word not seen in your family newspaper, not yet, God help us, though I’ve heard it used by small children in New York attending schools named for saints. Kids grow up faster in New York.

I felt bad about my cursing. I still do. I am trying to give up anger. It’s poisonous and it has no effect other than to make the angerer feel bad and perhaps do something truly stupid. You sit in a traffic jam yelling at other drivers and where does it get you? You read about Kevin McCarthy online and in your fury you hurl your laptop out the window and how does this change anything? (I didn’t do that, only considered it.)

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The Band Played On (Nov 26, 2022)

I’ll always remember the day I planned
Thanksgiving with the Coffee Club Band
Heather was there, Rich, Christine and Rob
The horns and reeds signed up for the job
They ate the turkey down to the bone
Drank every bottle of Cote du Rhone
They stayed for pie and wouldn’t go away
Got out their instruments and started to play
I cleared my throat, I said, “Well, it’s late,”
I said, “Thanks for coming, it sure was great.”
I cleared the table and I swept the floor
I turned out the lights and I opened the door
And I pointed to the sidewalk and the lawn
And the band played on.

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Why I am in Minnesota, if you wish to know

We came back to Minneapolis to see snow on the ground, there being none in Manhattan yet, and to drive around the old neighborhood where I lived when I was broke. It was 1969, I’d quit a comfy job at the U so I could write a novel and become famous. I had an infant son and he and my wife and I lived there for several months, then the money ran out. She suggested we live in her parents’ basement and instead I applied for an early-morning shift at KSJR at St. John’s University and Mr. Kling hired me. I was the only applicant, I discovered later. That shift led to “A Prairie Home Companion” and forty-two years of amusing myself on radio. So when I drive by that house, I see an enormous canyon between what might have happened and what actually did, and I say a little prayer of gratitude.

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A night at the opera, she and I

My sweetie and I went to the opera “Fedora” at the Met last Saturday — she loves opera and I love her so it was a deal, though she blanched at the price of tickets — “We could fly back to Minnesota for the price of two seats on the main floor,” she exclaimed. “But the flight attendants wouldn’t be singing,” I said. “And if they did, we’d want them to stop. Hang the expense.”

So we went. I was proud of ordering the seats on my cellphone and saving them in email, a first for me. I’ve always used paper ducats. I am 80. I am one of the 2 percent of Americans who know what the word “ducat” means. (It’s pronounced “duck it,” my children, in case you’re curious.) So it was exciting crossing the plaza of Lincoln Center, cellphone in hand, wondering as we entered the opera house if, when I clicked on my email, the ticket code would appear or would we be thrown bodily out onto the street.

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GUY NOIR – St. Louis

HM (SING): The winter solstice is one week away
And here he sits in Jimmy’s bar,
Wondering where he should spend Christmas Day,
It’s him……Guy Noir.

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Father Time advises a brown-eyed girl

I had a good conversation Saturday with a college student named Emily, a rare pleasure for an old man like me, most of my social life is spent with geriatrics eager to talk about their most recent hip replacement, but Emily talked about her ambition to go to law school and to devote herself to the issue of prison reform.

A bright articulate idealist from a good family who entertains noble ambitions that nobody in my age group would consider for two minutes; we’re done with nobility ¬¬¬— when we were her age we sang that deep in our hearts we believed that we would overcome, but instead we got good jobs and hung out with cool people and were overcome by piles of stuff we couldn’t bear to part with and now we just hope not to fall down in the street and bang our noggin against a curb and lie there gaga and be hauled away by EMTs who’ll never realize what an illustrious person we used to be and not this gibbering mess on the gurney. And we’re hoping to get a decent obit even though our illustriousness ended when most obit writers were in the third grade. The surest way to get a great obit is to be in the arts and die before 40 and it’s too late for that.

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A pleasant night with nice people in L.A.

I left the snowy paradise of Minnesota Saturday and flew to sodden L.A. where heavy rains are making hillsides slide into the canyons and arroyos, which is not a problem on the prairie thanks to our canyonlessness. The land does not slide on the plains unless you are very very drunk and then you go to a Unitarian church basement every Tuesday night and talk with your fellow AA members about your emotionally distant father who drove you to drink.

Most Minnesota fathers are distant emotionally and many others are physically distant, those who divorced your mom and married Bambi the cocktail waitress based on an emotion that took him and her to the mobile home park near Miami where he now sits and drinks. I am emotionally distant except sometimes in church or when I eat a toasted sesame bagel or when my sweetie walks into the room and sits on my lap. She is not emotionally distant at all. She married into my family of crusty evangelicals and when they reach for her hand to shake it she throws her arms around them, and as a result their puritan principles are sliding like a hillside. Which brings me back to L.A.

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Garrison Keillor did “A Prairie Home Companion” for forty years, wrote fiction and comedy, invented a town called Lake Wobegon where all the children are above average, even though he himself grew up evangelical in a small separatist flock where all the children expected the imminent end of the world. He’s busy in retirement, having written a memoir and a book of limericks and is at work on a musical and a Lake Wobegon screenplay, and he continues to do “The Writers Almanac” sent out daily to Internet subscribers (free). 

He and his wife Jenny Lind Nilsson live in Minneapolis, not far from the YMCA where he was sent for swimming lessons at age 12 after his cousin drowned, and he skipped the lessons and went to the public library instead and to a radio studio to watch a noontime show with singers and a band. Thus, our course in life is set. 

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