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 To the right, you find a selection of articles published since 1989, and a few unpublished pieces.
In Autumn We All Get Older Again
From Time Magazine
November 6, 1995
It is cold in the Midwest, winter is coming, and despite our best efforts, we are still getting older. The fabulous anti-aging vitamin cathline-b discovered in burdock and the fiddlehead fern was discovered too late for us; bales of burdock wouldn't make us a minute younger. In the pasture, where our burdock grows, Holsteins recline, chewing their cud. Cud is food previously eaten, then regurgitated into the mouth for further chewing. This is how a cow's digestive system works, how we get milk. A Holstein lies in the pasture, eating vomit, thinking about her career.
Holsteins are hard-working Danish cows who make it possible for well-disciplined families to earn a living from ground not good enough to grow corn or soybeans. Dairying is not a sentimental line of work, however, and a cow's productivity chart hangs by the stall where she can see it: she knows that when her output declines, she's dead meat; retraining will not be an option. Dogs and cats, when hunting became too hard, retrained as house pets, but a large hoofy animal that chews its own vomit will never be welcome in the American home. So Holsteins are trapped in their profession, which is declining anyway, and someday a brilliant chemist will engineer an enzyme that can be thrown into a tank of silage to produce a non-fat miracle milk that makes people younger and the Holstein specie will face a bleak future, perhaps as a game animal for the slower hunter. A sad fate for a virtuous animal who lets down her milk twice a day and never is a problem to anybody.
Time catches up suddenly to us all: one day, you're young and brilliant and sullen to your elders, and the next day, you're getting junk mail from the Amer. Assn. of Ret. Pers. and people your very own age are talking about pension plans and the prostate. Last week, on the southwest windowsill of my studio, I found a note written in tiny strokes in the dust and two exhausted houseflies lying beside it:
go ahead and kill us god what are you waiting for you bashed our friends so what's two more you don't care youre a lousy god anyway you put us here in this beautiful world and just when life starts to get good, you kill us so go do it just don't expect us to admire you for it
I got a rolled up newspaper and killed them both. In the time it would have taken to explain things, they would have died anyway.
I'll never forget what George Gershwin told me about aging. He was thirty-seven at the time. I met him because I had come to New York to be honored for my heroism in riding my bike across a frozen lake to rescue a lost child, and my bicycle, the Schwinn, had, of course, been invented by Gershwin's father. I'll never forget it. Gershwin was pacing the floor of his apartment on Riverside Drive, trying to write "Love Walked In" when I came through the door, except he was calling it "Truth Walked In". He said, "Listen to this, kid," and sang it, and I said, "Mr. Gershwin, I'm only fourteen, but I know that truth doesn't walk right in and drive the shadows away and it doesn't bring your sunniest day, either. I wonder if you don't mean love."
After he corrected the song, he and I walked out onto the roof. The lights of Manhattan twinkled beneath us. His hair was slicked back, just like in the pictures, and he was holding a Manhattan and a cigarette. He said, "When I was your age, I owned the moon and the stars, I could do anything, and now I'm lonely as a hoot owl and my mouth tastes of cold ashes. Thirty-seven is depressing, kid. My life is half over. What am I supposed to do now?"
A kid can't answer that question, but I can now.
You do the same thing you did before, if you were smart, or else you get smart. You do your work. You spend more time attending to music and art and literature, less time arguing politics. You plant trees. You cook spaghetti sauce. You admire birds, you talk to children. You don't let your life be eaten by salesmen and evangelists and the circuses of the media. The Trial of the Century was a pure waste of time. It was a tar pit, and nobody who went into it came out of it smarter or kinder or happier or more enlightened. Midwestern farmboys can get eighteen years in prison for raising marijuana, rich people can walk away from murder: everyone knew that. Time to get back to work.
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).