I do miss Guy Noir and his search for the answers to life’s persistent questions and thought of him when I sat the article in Scientific American asking, “Why Don't People Return Their Shopping Carts?” authored by Krystal D'Costa. I selectively quote from the article: “And yet, it’s not uncommon for many people to ignore the cart entirely and leave their carts next to their cars or parked haphazardly on medians. During peak hours, it can mean bedlam. Where does this disregard come from?"
Any thoughts on this perplex? I know it leaves me awake for many wee hours.
Collecting the shopping carts is someone else’s job. A teenager is supposed to go out to the parking lot and collect them into a shopping cart train and bring them back to the store. The real question for Scientific American is “Why Don’t People Get Vaccinated?”
GK: This week I wrote a great memorial service for sister Helen; but the computer tech guys destroyed the file in an "upgrade." Rats. So today, I wore my POEM Tee-shirt, and re-wrote the damn thing. Did a better job second time around. Proving once again, that nothing bad ever happens to English majors. Thanks for providing inspiration.
Rev. Dr. Wes Johnson
What it proves, Dr. Johnson, is that all writing is rewriting because nothing is ever truly finished. Chaucer could’ve improved on the Wife of Bath’s Tale and “King Lear” is full of wrong turns. I’ve written a few perfect limericks but that’s different.
Dear Mr. Keillor,
I enjoyed your radio show for years, especially the music, sometimes the sketches, but the News from Lake Wobegon, I must say, never quite landed for me and I found myself leaving the room to make a drink or look at the paper. The monologue apparently was your ticket to the big time but I much preferred you as the genial host. How do you feel about your work, looking back? Do you wish you’d taken a different path?
Christabel, Portland, Maine
The News from LW came about accidentally a couple years after the show started; it began as an elaboration on a sponsor, Jack’s Auto Repair, which was located in Lake Wobegon, and also Powdermilk Biscuits, and then I made it a separate entity. At various points, I got tired of being the sage of Lake Wobegon and started writing essays and once I wrote a book of love sonnets, some of them erotic, just to expand the franchise. I enjoyed the shock of people who read them. “In the morning she awoke my dear lover, in bed on her back buck-naked, and I crawled under the cotton sky and over a hill with tufts of sea grass and snaked my way into a ravine and there found a delicate sea creature, a pink anemone, and touched it with my tongue, and whoa, the sound….” And so forth.
I’m working happily on a new Lake Wobegon novel but I’m quite aware that I haven’t lived in a small town for decades, I’m out of touch with rural Minnesota (if I ever was in touch), and so I’m creating an imaginary place in which I can place a series of jokes and anecdotes. I hope you’ll take a look at the novel when it’s done. You might like it.
Dear Garrison Keillor:
Your column of June 25th sparked memories here. I lived in the Upper West Side long enough to see Amsterdam Avenue gradually transform from being a marketplace for drugs (the hookers were usually on Broadway) to being a thoroughfare of very good eateries. I also saw my domicile, which had been a $300/month crash pad for friends and acquaintances coming to the Big Apple, become a co-op that fetched what I thought then was an amazing price just before 9/11 (it has since fetched an even more amazing price).
I was once mugged four doors from my apartment in the Bad Old Days. But most memories are of the sheer fun of being in Manhattan. The Village has charm and history but being midway between Central Park and Riverside Park was so delightful. Greenery at midday and in the evening.
BTW, I once stood next to you on line, as is the customary expression there, at the Food Emporium on B’way, which I see is no longer there, a result of the shrinking of the supermarket chain. I was impressed that you were, and probably still are, taller than I, which doesn’t happen all that often.
Thanks for sparking the memories.
You left out a crucial part of the story, sir --- why you left and where you went. I live here because my wife loves it. She’s from Minnesota but arrived here at age 17, an eager violinist, and she got to know the city as an impoverished person, which is a good education, whereas I came when I had the money to afford a nice place, which is no education at all. She knows the neighborhood, loves Central Park, and is an ambitious walker in the city. I’m just a writer who happens to be her husband.
In your most recent column, you referenced one of my absolutely favorite jokes, the one about "'the engineer who was sent to the guillotine, but the blade wouldn’t drop even after several attempts, so they decided to reduce his sentence to imprisonment, but he looked up and said, “I think I see your problem.” You cited this as an instance of coolness under pressure. My perspective is a little different. It's certainly as good a picture of the engineering mentality as any. However, as a son, nephew, and grandson of engineers, even as one who loved my grandfather, uncle, and father dearly, I can attest that it's more fitting to regard this as an example of cluelessness in all situations involving human beings, even unto self-preservation. After all, what's a life worth when there's a problem to be solved? Your thoughts?
Carter, Malden, Massachusetts
My brother Phil was an engineer who started out as a mechanical engineer at 3M but soon tired of wearing a white shirt and tie and sitting in meetings and he reeducated himself as a coastal engineer, working on the Great Lakes, studying shoreline erosion and thermal pollution, which he loved because it gave him the chance to be on boats in his line of work. It’s not possible for me to imagine him going to the guillotine. He died young of a head injury suffered from a fall while ice skating and I can imagine him lying on the ice and even in his unconsciousness reviewing the mistake he’d made and resolving to avoid it in the future.
Hi Garrison. Oh man, if you think you annoyed the birders, you comment about soccer and reading the phone book might be a problem for you this week. But, on the other hand, we Americans who love soccer are used to such indifference. I know the Whippets reign supreme in Lake Wobegon. But I’m reminded about what comedian Chris Rock recently said (words to this effect) about baseball: its average demographic is white men over the age of 50; that's not a sport, it’s a Tea Party Rally. Perhaps it’s time that soccer came to Lake Wobegon, played by the new migrant arrivals to help out in the soon to be marijuana farming coop.
Best – John
Soccer is continuous, which is great for the players, but its fluidity makes it less memorable for the spectator, whereas baseball has clear episodes of innings/outs/distinct plays which creates drama. The double-play has no equal in soccer, nor does the no-hitter. As I write this, I’m watching the Yanks/Red Sox game from Fenway and the crowd is not what you describe, not even close.
My wife and I have been to several live APHC shows over the years. The show was on our local NPR station in our house every Saturday at 6 p.m., so our kids grew up with it. When we thought they were old enough to go with us, we took them to the show at the Fraze Pavilion in Kettering, Ohio, outside Dayton. The show was memorable because the temperature was in the 90s that July day with no breeze, and when we arrived, we were dripping wet since the Fraze is an outdoor venue. We had great seats near the front. We felt so sorry for you and the cast because the stage faced west, so all of you were in direct sunlight the entire two hours. Your white suit looked like you had just crawled out of a swimming pool, which I’m sure you wished you had had available. The funniest thing happened during your monologue. Our kids knew this was one of the highlights of the show because at home we always shushed them when you began, “It’s been a quiet week in Lake Wobegon……” About five minutes into the monologue at the Fraze, you closed your eyes as you recited the story. My son, who must have been about 8 years old, leaned over, and in an audible voice to the people around us said, “Dad, how can he talk and sleep at the same time?” The audience in our section started laughing to the point that I was afraid it would break your concentration. If it did, you didn’t show it. Those live shows were among the most enjoyable and memorable of our 47-year marriage.
DPD, Hagerstown, Indiana
The guy on stage wasn’t aware of the heat, I assure you, he was entirely concentrated on the show and if anything, the heat only focused him more. It’s overpowering to be in front of that crowd which is so intense. We did shows in the rain with lightning on the horizon, shows where cicadas were throbbing, and a show where bats were circling under the tent. I loved doing it and I miss it and hope to do a few more.
Thank you once again Mr. Keillor. You sum it up very well indeed. I am one who has been lucky in love after many years of the reverse. Kindness is free and needs to be more widely shared by everyone; being kind and having empathy doesn't mean being a door mat.
In your “My mystification on the Connecticut coast” column, you state that “I edit; I don’t weed.” But, you see, they are the same process. A weed is any plant that is growing in a place where it is not wanted, so you eliminate it. Same thing with editing. A word written where it is not
wanted is “weeded” out (i.e., it is edited out).
A good deal of editing is rearrangement of the vegetables, substitution of one for another, and there’s not much fixing of mistakes, just making the rows straighter and the growth more lush.
I loved your response to Sgt. Demarest about gun ownership. I'm not a Twitter or Snapchat person so I'll send you my saying which I would like to become a meme: Only cowards carry guns.
Handgun sales doubled in Minnesota last year. I grew up in a state where there were plenty of hunters but if you’d gone into a friend’s house and seen a handgun, you wouldn’t have hung around long. Handguns were considered WEIRD. No more.
I very much enjoy reading your on-line posts. In your latest Post to the Host, you wrote about secular songs you learned in elementary school, among them the E-RI-E song, which brought back wonderful childhood memories of a 78 record my parents played for me on the record player my dad built, in the 1940’s. It’s titled Songs of Old New York (1650-1906). The singers are Frank Luther and Zora Layman accompanied by the Century Quartet. It was put out by Decca Records. Side B is all Erie Canal songs. As a little girl, I would sing myself to sleep every night with these songs, wondering what gin was.
Thanks for the memories!
Your fan, Marty Hartmann
P.S. I still have the record…
You and I are historical figures, Marty. We could go into a museum and amuse the schoolchildren coming through on tour but I think I’d rather listen to them than to myself. But it’s a great song about gin.
Dear Mr. Keillor,
I began listening to A Prairie Home Companion in 1979 or so. I was an early childhood teacher in Green Bay and overheard several of the other teachers talking about a nativity play and sheep pooping on the stage. I was curious and asked what on earth they were discussing. Following their advice, I tuned in to your show the following Saturday and was hooked for life.
During the doldrums of Covid last summer, we dug out our old tapes and started listening to them on Saturday evenings. What a joy! Enough time has passed that every show seems new again. We laugh just as heartily now as we did in our Wisconsin living room long ago.
Thank you for putting such goodness in the world.
Dawn and Stan Sutherland
There was a schoolteacher named Dawn Who loved to hear Lake Wobegon And in the pandemic Rather than chemic- Als she put the monologues on. Thank you, my dear.
Sad to see that Mr. Keillor would compare slavery to weeding on a hot day. The brutal legacy boiled down to folks that didn't like the heat and so ripped families and culture apart for their "convenience.” Even in a "humor piece" this is beyond the pale.
Shame on you.
M. E. Hope
Slavery took root in the South because cotton and tobacco farming was brutally hard work in brutal heat and white people sought to avoid it. I didn’t “compare” slavery to weeding ––– slavery was an unmitigated evil and it was accepted as a convenience. We’re still paying the price for the evil 150 years after it supposedly ended.
I listened to your show beginning in the mid 1980s. One of my favorite moments was you singing “Hello Love” to start the show. Later on, you dropped that, and I often have wondered why. Were there copyright issues or royalty issues?
I am very happy to see you moving back into more writing and touring. The best of luck to you always!
Richard A. Reichle
“Hello Love” was a Hank Snow hit back when PHC started and about ten years into the show I wanted to find a theme song that had more of a blues feel, rather than C&W. I liked “Tishomingo Blues” by Spencer Williams, and I wrote new words for the chorus and it sounded good with the Coffee Club Orchestra and since we’d switched from guitars to piano in the show band, the song started, “O hear that old piano from down the avenue. I smell the roses, I look around for you.”
I enjoyed seeing you perform at the Minnesota State Fair a few years back and wonder why you aren’t on the schedule this year.
My audience is too old and so liability insurance is more expensive, and the Fair books acts for teens and twenties who are less likely to trip on the stairs. But I’ll be at the Fair enjoying it as much as ever, so it’s no problem. A pumpkin the size of a studio apartment makes me happy, so do cheese curds, Percherons, and those designer chickens with feathery pom-pom anklets. My wife is not a Fair person. Her problem is good taste and a limited tolerance for gluttony and barkers and violent centrifugal experiences in motorized contraptions operated by tattooed men who might have done prison time for larceny. I like all that stuff. Plus the River Raft ride, which my daughter calls the Pee Ride. Doing a show was only a sideline for me, the Fair is as good as ever.