Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Welcome Back Keillor

Huh. Just when I'd dismissed him and his sellout smarm forever, little Gary Keillor from Anoka steps up to the plate and belts one out of the park.

In the years between Nixon and Newt Gingrich, the [Republican] party migrated southward down the Twisting Trail of Rhetoric and sneered at the idea of public service and became the Scourge of Liberalism, the Great Crusade Against the Sixties, the Death Star of Government, a gang of pirates that diverted and fascinated the media by their sheer chutzpah, such as the misty-eyed flag-waving of Ronald Reagan who, while George McGovern flew bombers in World War II, took a pass and made training films in Long Beach. The Nixon moderate vanished like the passenger pigeon, purged by a legion of angry white men who rose to power on pure punk politics. “Bipartisanship is another term of date rape,” says Grover Norquist, the Sid Vicious of the GOP. “I don’t want to abolish government. I simply want to reduce it to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub.” The boy has Oedipal problems and government is his daddy.

Welcome back, Gary.
Keillor's been a presence in my life for over 30 years now. In the 70s he hosted the morning show on MPR from 6 - 9 am, and he got me up and outta bed every morning with killer selections like the Mpls. Sabathani Baptist Choir singing "99 and a Half Just Won't Do". And for a long time, long before Prairie Home Companion went national, it seemed like everyone in the state of Minnesota including me turned the radio dial to PHC every Saturday night from 5 to 7 pm.

Then he got all huffy at us because he bought a big house on bigtime old-money Summit Avenue in St. Paul, and Nick Coleman published the street address in one of his columns for the Pioneer Press, so Keillor suddenly had to deal with a pesky multitude of the great unwashed streaming by his front door every day. Well, not entirely unwashed - -this *is* Minnesota, after all - - better make that 'the great unshowered in the past 4 hours'.

Anyway, Gary got all bent out of shape over the rigid, parochial, un-cosmopolitan-ness of Minnesotans. Never mind that with just those exact characteristics we've provided him with very lucrative fodder for his writing over the past 40 years... Anyway, Gary blew outta town, to settle first in his then-wife's home turf of Denmark for a year or two, then in NYC for a few more years. All the better to rub suede-patched elbows with the other cognoscenti, my dear.

But, after a few years of being a Noo Yawker, you could just tell Keillor was starting to pine for us all, back here in the Best Little Treasure Trove of Quirky Behavior a writer ever was lucky enough to stumble upon. So, he came back, and he settled somewhere out in the St. Croix river hinterlands beyond St. Paul, and he got married again, and he and his new wife had a baby, and that gold-plated PHC juggernaut just keeps chugging along.

Somewhere in the course of the past several years I lost the habit of listening to Garrison Keillor, or reading anything he wrote. He became just another grasping , pretentious auteur, a celebrity who'd sold the last vestiges of his heart and integrity in pursuit of the almighty Dollar. He just didn't matter any more.

I've seen him many times over the years, and asked him to sign a book or two or three along the way. Today I'm thinking back to 1985 and what he wrote in the front of my copy of Lake Wobegon Days.

For Tild, standing beside me. Best -- Garrison Keillor

Here's a news flash for you, Gary. Today I'm standing beside you again. And never more proud to be there.

This post also appears over here.

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