From the Desk of Garrison Keillor
A prolific writer, Garrison Keillor is a frequent contributor to newspapers and magazines throughout the United States and abroad. To the right, you find a selection of articles published since 1989, and a few unpublished pieces.

Crankiness in Decline, Says the Old Guy
From Time Magazine

August 19, 2002

There's a new survey out saying that people who take a positive view of aging actually live longer than those who grouse and grumble, which is hogwash and I am paying no attention to it. I turned 60 last week and it's no picnic and anybody who says so is whistling in the dark. Maybe this doesn't sound life-affirming to you . So---- shoot me.

I didn't want a 60th birthday party but agreed to it under pressure lest I be thought a sorehead and so all my jowly friends with thin dead hair sang "Happy Birthday" in their horrible ruined voices and we sat eating aged beef and heirloom tomatoes with a dry but experienced Chardonnay and old pals woofed about how happy and busy they are in retirement and gave me dumb birthday cards ("Welcome to the Incontinence Hotline...Can you hold, please?") and a cake blazed up like the Hindenburg and some people I knew back when they were fun told me how good I look.

Back in the 1960s, birthday parties were major fun. The Grateful Dead was on the hi-fi and you danced and took powerful drugs and swam naked in the lake and lay on the sand talking about what you were feeling. But I can't do that anymore for fear of embarrassing my children.

This week, as a gift to myself, I'm going to Scotland.

Turning 60 is darned awkward in America. We glorify carefree youth and feel sheepish if our abdomen is not hard enough to crack walnuts on and our hearts are not smiley. Geezers and geezerettes go around in juvenile clothes, shorts and flip-flops and jokey T-shirts ("My Goal Is To Live Forever. So Far, So Good."). Embarrassing. A man my age should not aim for boyishness. He should wear an old tweed jacket and trousers and a silk vest with a great belly under it and have wild eyebrows the size of rats and carry a knobby walking-stick and smoke cigars and sit around kicking the bejabbers out of the government. A guy can do that in Scotland.

In Scotland, old codgers like me don't buy into the fairy tale that these are the Best Years of Our Life. They know better. If life is a journey, then your 60s are the homeward leg when you're hung up in an airport and thinking bad thoughts about your travel agent. Your shoes have been x-rayed, your flight is delayed, you're trapped in a lounge full of idiots with those dangly cellphones and voices like chainsaws. You'd like to tell them to get lost. But in America, we've seen a serious erosion of the right to be cranky. That's why all these bozos cruising around in trucks though they're hauling nothing but a briefcase: they know nobody's going to squawk at them for it. Oprah is to blame for this, and the whole Onward & Upward, Little Engine That Could industry that has made smiliness obligatory. Look at the Clintons.

Here are two folks who spent eight years being attacked by midgets and now have fat contracts to write memoirs in which they could pound on their enemies and throw gravel at them, and will they? Will it be Pay Back Time? No, it will not be. They will say that those eight years of persecution only deepened their faith and drew them closer as a couple and made them realize how terribly lucky they really are.

In Scotland, memoirists would be expected to lacerate their enemies and rain garbage on them, and if you raked in $18 million doing it --- bingo! more power to you. A wonderful dour tribe, the Scots, and the right to piss and moan is sacred there. Here, we've been duped out of it by the people who gave us aromatherapy and seaweed wraps.

Face it: a nation that maintains a 72% approval rating on George W. Bush is a nation with a very loose grip on reality. And a man who turns 60 and tells you he never felt better is delusional. He's forgotten how it was when your whole being leaped and bounded, before you turned into a lumbering galoot. Nature is relentless; it programs degeneration into our DNA. Even if you're positive-thinking, hopped up on Viagra, and your face has been lifted and stapled to make you look like a feral lemur, nonetheless one day you'll look like something from the lost lagoon and have the sex drive of a potted plant. Nature doesn't care about your golden years, it's aiming for turnover.

You don't get to be old by putting on a happy face. What keeps you going is stubbornness and righteous anger: at ugly buildings, lousy service, hip hop, the eminence of non-entities, at cravenness and cruelty in general, and the shamelessness of this government ---- leading the lynch mob against a few corporate scapegoats ---- the naked hypocrisy of it! If you're not brave enough to have morals when you're 72% popular, what hope is there for you? Give the bastards a hard time: that's how you get to be old. But why am I telling you, bubby? Grow up and come back when you know something.

Past Articles
  • Phil Keillor Benefit for the Tenney Park Shelter (04/17/09)
  • Bill Holm, 1943–2009 (02/26/09)
  • Happy New Year, Friends (12/29/08)
  • Talk of the Stacks (11/17/08)
  • What Makes St. Paul So Great? (09/03/08)
  • GK On Historic Preservation (10/05/07)
  • Welcome to St. Paul (09/23/06)
  • "Homegrown Democrat," Chapters 1-4 (08/10/04)
  • Sing the National Anthem—and Try it in the Key of G (07/02/04)
  • Holiday Greetings from Garrison Keillor (12/23/03)
  • Remembering Plimpton (10/01/03)
  • Crankiness in Decline, Says the Old Guy (04/19/02)
  • A Governor Works in Mysterious Ways (10/19/01)
  • In Praise of Laziness (09/10/01)
  • I Just Needed a Valve Job (09/13/01)
  • A Eulogy for Chet Atkins (07/03/01)
  • A Foot Soldier in God's Floating Orchestra (04/01)
  • Exile on Main Street (10/02/00)
  • Walking Down the Canyon (07/31/00)
  • The Mysteries of Prom Night (05/15/00)
  • How I Write (12/04/99)
  • The Christmas of the Great Flu (12/99)
  • Let Jesse Be Jesse (10/10/99)
  • The Rice, the Bat, the Baby (09/06/99)
  • Faith at the Speed of Life (06/14/99)
  • The Republicans Were Right, But (02/15/99)
  • Minnesota's Excellent Ventura (11/16/98)
  • The Dangers of Christmas (04/06/98)
  • Gasgate (11/10/97)
  • Talk Radio (10/97)
  • The Seven Principles of a Successful Christmas (09/08/97)
  • The Seven Deadly Sins—Envy (04/97)
  • You Say Potato (04/04/96)
  • The Poetry Judge (02/96)
  • With All the Trimmings (11/27/95)
  • In Autumn We Get Older (11/06/95)
  • Minnesota's Sensible Plan (09/11/95)
  • The Art of the Embrace (02/95)
  • The Voters are Angry (08/94)
  • Word Play (05/18/90)
  • We Are Still Married (12/18/89)
  • Elevator Tales
  • A Graduation Speech

  • Old Sweet Songs: A Prairie Home Companion 1974-1976

    Old Sweet Songs

    Lovingly selected from the earliest archives of A Prairie Home Companion, this heirloom collection represents the music from earliest years of the now legendary show: 1974–1976. With songs and tunes from jazz pianist Butch Thompson, mandolin maestro Peter Ostroushko, Dakota Dave Hull and the first house band, The Powdermilk Biscuit Band (Adam Granger, Bob Douglas and Mary DuShane).

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