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Sun Jul 3, 2016, 12:32 PM

Oh, Wobegone

Well, that was it for Garrison Keillor as host of Prairie Home Companion. He had his last show yesterday, but I waited for the Sunday morning rebroadcast so I could sit outside one last time and listen to the sounds of his hometown chatter and song mingle once again with nature. I got lost one last time, drifting deep into my own thoughts, recalling narratives from my own life as I listened to Garrison's storytelling.

I guess I'm past the denial stage... I'll download the all-too-brief last telling of the News from Lake Wobegon later, I suppose, and listen to it with my wife at some quiet time. Maybe even play a couple of the sad goodbye songs from songstress Heather Massey, before and after.

But, man, what a bittersweet show. President Obama actually phoned in, to my delight, recalling how the show kept him company on long drives around the country. I suspect that was the case for many of us. Garrison's show was a fantastic companion, wherever you happened to be at the time.

"How does it feel?" fellow cast member Tim Russell asked Keillor.

"Well, it's the first last show I've ever done, so I don't know how it's supposed to feel," Keillor answered.

"Radio was an accident. It was never my ambition. My ambition was the circus. And that's what I'm going to be doing starting Monday."


"How does it feel?"

Garrison suffered another seizure this year, so I am certainly wishing him well and hoping he can find some healing time away from work and closer to his family. I wrote about this moment a while back. Like the hopelessly vain, hopefully read writer that I am, I'm sharing it out again, one last time...

Wobegone Is Me

IT'S entirely possible I'll never recover from this. My world just cracked wide open and it's guts are oozing out into the universe, never to be repaired; never to be put back together again.

Okay, maybe I'm exaggerating (maybe not). I just now gathered up the strength to read the details behind the impending, announced exit from the stage of my wizard of the weekend; my Saturday evening/Sunday morning sage and muse; Garrison Keillor. It looks like he really means to retire this time and I'm just not ready for this. Wobegon is me.

Like everything good under the sun in my life which has faded out of being just as I come to it - things which existed for eons and eons and enjoyed by millions before I happened upon them, and then folded before I got my fair share - Prairie Home Companion will now go the way of the dodo; relegated to an archive or a crackly old recording someplace where sad, aging hipsters like me go to relive the glory days of our relative youth.

I'm 54 now, fast approaching 55. I'm just starting to feel old, mainly when I wake up and catch a glimpse of my gray, balding image in the bathroom mirror and glance downward to the sagging and wrinkled frame that still carries on like it's made of steel. I officially reached the outer limit of middle-age this week after an hour-long discussion over the phone with a childhood friend about his surgery for diverticulitis and the travails of his struggles and bout with his colostomy bag. That's it, it's all downhill from here.

I didn't catch up with Garrison Keillor until the late-eighties, well into his career. I was hiking around the woods, looking for a perfect spot to sit and smoke a bit of weed. I found a place by an opportunistic pond created by a rain-swollen little creek and pulled out my trusty transistor radio (yes, transistor radio), turned it on and scouted the stations toward the far left side of the FM dial which promised some natural musicality to mingle with the ambiance of my woodland refuge. I wasn't disappointed.

I came upon a faint, lilting country ballad of the likes I'd listened to the public radio DJ, Lee Michael Demsey, play for years on WAMU as I rode the world around noon atop Sugarloaf Mountain on the outskirts of my D.C. suburban town. I dutifully lit up a bowl and settled back to watch a frog unimpressed by my presence there hop around on the mucky bank, and stretched my gaze upward to gauge the reaction of the birds listening in the trees to the mandolin, banjo, and guitar compete with their orchestrated cacophony in the canopy above.

The music ended and a there came voice from the radio as familiar as it was unknown to me plying itself against the gentle applause from the live audience. The music, the audience, and then the gentle, but deep, baritone of Keillor was an instant source of joy to me which has never waned or grown stale. I listened to the rest of the show, ensconced there, crouched down in the trusty woods and was treated to my first introduction to Lake Wobegon; a magical, farcical town where the 'women were strong, the men good-looking, and the children were above average.'

An instant convert; a self-appointed resident; I never really left that mythical town of his. Through season after season; through repeats waiting it out with extreme anxiety through the days of his stroke in 2009; through every description of the changing seasons in that little town he narrated faithfully to us every weekend; I've wandered through the literary recesses of my own storied mind as I related every humorous and touching tale of the imaginary residents of Wobegone to the ideal of my life and times.

I can be found outside watching the sun set in the summer, listening in on my new transistor radio; watching the plants emerge in the spring; by the window in the glowing light of fall; or on a snowy winter's morning well before any of the sleepy household relinquishes their slumber; listening to the quiet, engaging sounds of Garrison Keillor's gift of a show and measuring my days until the next weekend's getaway into his familiar, comforting repertoire.

On one memorable show, he spoke at length about the day Buddy Holly and other musical greats went down in the plane crash and his spontaneous road-trip that day, after hearing the news, to the site of the plane crash. Interspersed with his singing a few verses of Holly's, he told of reaching the crash site and scouting through the woods and finding a broken piece of a guitar sticking up in the snow. It was an improbable tale (almost certainly a fantastical one) which ended in Keillor leading his audience in softly singing the refrain from American Pie...

They were singin'

Bye, bye Miss American Pie
Drove my Chevy to the levee but the levee was dry
Them good ol' boys were drinkin' whiskey 'n' rye
Singin' this will be the day that I die.


That's Keillor - a compelling mix of the improbable and the believable - not to mention his faithfulness to the Democratic liberal ideal expressed with his wry outlook on the political scene and his faithful reinforcement of our progressive values of community and humanity as he gently prods the demagogues with his own tongue-in-cheek commentary; sometimes brutally direct, sometimes tellingly obtuse.

I have another year, I know. In July 2016, he will host his last show. I'll have one more Fall, Winter, Spring, and Summer to measure my aging life against his aged radio show. So, good times...and then life carries on in its own interminable way.


Old Year! upon the Stage of Time
You stand to bow your last adieu;
A moment, and the prompter’s chime
Will ring the curtain down on you.
Your mien is sad, your step is slow;
You falter as a Sage in pain;
Yet turn, Old Year, before you go,
And face your audience again.


(-Robert W. Service, 1874 - 1958)




AP


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Reply Oh, Wobegone (Original post)
bigtree Jul 2016 OP
monmouth4 Jul 2016 #1
Binkie The Clown Jul 2016 #2
TNNurse Jul 2016 #3
ancianita Jul 2016 #4
Surya Gayatri Jul 2016 #5
yonder Jul 2016 #6
bvar22 Jul 2016 #7
bigtree Jul 2016 #8
bigtree Jul 2016 #9
bigtree Jul 2016 #10

Response to bigtree (Original post)

Sun Jul 3, 2016, 12:41 PM

1. I hope Garrison gets to read this or you send it to him, it's just beautiful. n/t

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Response to bigtree (Original post)

Sun Jul 3, 2016, 01:28 PM

2. Ah, yes. I remember many, many years ago, the first time he had his last show.

I mourned his absence then too.

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Response to bigtree (Original post)

Sun Jul 3, 2016, 02:46 PM

3. Things will just never be the same

without him each weekend. We are quite sad. We understand but we are sad. We have listened almost from the beginning, in fact it was something we discovered about each other ( about 39 years ago) when we met that we were both fans.

I sure my husband will need a mourning period.

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Response to bigtree (Original post)

Sun Jul 3, 2016, 03:09 PM

4. PHC will be syndicatedand replayed across America as long as this country exists.

I'll be happy to revisit all the old "quiet week" stories, ads, silly songs, lives of the cowboys and Guy Noir, in the same way we love to re-experience old songs, shows, movies.

We can now move forward with some comfort in repetition, passing this show on to our grandkids.

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Response to bigtree (Original post)

Sun Jul 3, 2016, 03:39 PM

5. Beatiful and fitting tribute, bigtree. Send it to him.

 

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Response to bigtree (Original post)

Sun Jul 3, 2016, 04:11 PM

6. thanks bigtree, good words for our collective break in routines

For me, I've called it "going to church", being either a drive out in the desert during the months with the smallest or biggest numbers, or a drive several thousand feet higher, up in the trees, for the warmer other months, just in time to catch our local NPR re-broadcast on Sunday evening. Damn, I'm going to miss him and all his characters, probably none more than the dutiful son, Dwayne. Mom and Dad won't be the same without him around.

On the other hand, we can look forward to Chris Thiele, the continuing great music of Rich Jaworski with the house band, the always excellent guest musicians and the many others who have made this show a great production in past years and hopefully many more to come.

ring, ring......ring, ring....Dwayne honey, are you there? Dwayne pick up the phone. Dwayne?

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Response to bigtree (Original post)

Sun Jul 3, 2016, 05:16 PM

7. "Prairie Home Companion" was a ritual at our home,

every Saturday night. We even bought an XM so we could listen when we were on the road.
Goodbye, Garrison,
and Thank You so very much for your weekly gift.

I take some solace in the fact that there are extensive archives online.

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Response to bigtree (Original post)

Sun Jul 3, 2016, 09:41 PM

8. kick

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Response to bigtree (Original post)

Mon Jul 4, 2016, 05:07 AM

9. »

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Response to bigtree (Original post)

Mon Jul 4, 2016, 11:22 AM

10. »

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