Ulysses
Saturday, May 31, 1997
Listen

(TRUMPET FANFARE)

 

TR: He left Ithaca to fight on the side of Agamemnon against the Trojans, and when the war was over and Agamemnon was victorious, he sat alone in front of his tent looking at the ruins of Troy.

 

GK: Speak, speak, O Muse, of fallen grandeur, and of man,

How brief his time to strut his toy parade

Across the darkening plain before ----

(FOOTSTEPS APPROACH AND STOP) rank death shall catch his eye.

 

TR: Hey, Yule! you goin to the party?

 

GK: I don't think so.

 

TR: Yeah. Lot of great Trojan wine ----- we pillaged some good stuff, ---- why dontcha come up, Yule?

 

GK: I'm heading for Ithaca in the morning. And would you mind not calling me Yule?

 

TR: I thought you liked being called Yule.

 

GK: Well, I'd rather you wouldn't.

 

TR: If you don't mind my asking, how come you're goin back to Ithaca? I mean, Ithaca! (HE MAKES SNORING SOUND)

 

GK: It's my home, and I'm committed to preserving green space and preventing urban sprawl. So I'll see you around --

 

TK: Well, good fighting with you. Great war. See you at the next one. (FOOTSTEPS AWAY)

 

GK: My heart says fly to Ithaca and to the waiting arms

Of my faithful Penelope. And yet --- the shouts and cries of battle

Have aroused in me a lust for contest and adventure

That I should not find in Ithaca, a land of passionate recyclers.

Buddhists. Organic growers. Alternative health care providers.

What should I do?

 

TR: And that night, there was a great party (PARTY TUMULT, SS LAUGHTER) and the wineskins were emptied (BELCH) and fireworks were shot off (ROCKETS), and the gods looked down on this revelry in disgust and (THUNDER & LIGHTNING) they sent down a storm to teach Agamemnon's army not to be arrogant in victory, and many of the ships were destroyed (CRIES, SHIP BREAKING) or were blown up onto hidden reefs (SURF, SHIP BREAKING), and the ships of Ulysses, which were heading for Ithaca were blown far off course---

(WIND, SHIP'S RIGGING, SAILOR CRIES)

 

GK: I don't recognize that coastline, helmsman. The white beach, the trees----

 

TR: It's the land of the sirens, Sir.

 

GK: California, huh? --- (SS LANGUOROUS VOCALISE) --- Better tie me to the mast, helmsman. (TYING PROCEDURE) And tell the men to put wax in their ears.

 

TR: Aye, aye, Ulysses.

 

TR (NARRATOR): And the men put wax in their ears and the boat cruised past the sirens on the shore. (SS SINGING)

 

(SS VOCALISE FADES. MUSIC BRIDGE)

 

TR: And the boat sailed on, toward Ithaca, toward responsibility and loyalty and honor and winter and Penelope, who had been faithful to Ulysses all this time---

 

 

 

 

TR: Having safely passed the sirens, Ulysses and his men met up with a powerful whirlpool (WHIRLPOOL, SUCKING AND SWIRLING) that threw the ship to the west and a thunderbolt (THUNDERBOLT) knocked out the compass and a fierce wind came up (WIND) and it blew them into a port and--- when they went ashore, it was still California. (SURF, GULLS)

 

SS: Hey, like, how about some lotus? I mean, like, this is fantastic lotus. Maybe you have had lotus before, but this lotus is, like, beyond any lotus, this like redefines lotus, this is the lotus of all loti. It's not lettuce, it's not tofu, it's, like, lotus. You know?

 

GK: I don't eat lotus, sorry. You got pancakes?

 

SS: No, but I got a lotta lotus. Have a little.

 

GK: Not into lotus, thanks. Wouldn't mind French toast though.

 

SS: Not into lotus? That is, like, really hard to believe ---- you know? Wow. Bummer.

 

GK: I read an article somewhere that said that when you eat lotus, it takes away your commitment to social change.

 

SS: That's only if you get a bad batch. Good lotus, no problem. (SURF, GULLS)

 

GK: Yeah, but look at this place ---- no good affordable housing or reliable mass transit and so few recreational choices----

 

SS: You eat lotus, you don't notice.

 

GK: But all these people sitting on the beach and looking at their own feet ---- where's the sense of community?

 

SS: We have a very strong sense of lotus.

 

GK: Back to the ships, men! Onward! to Ithaca! (BITTER GRUMBLING)--- (BRIDGE)

 

TR: And so Ulysses sailed on toward Ithaca, resolved not to stop until he reached the arms of his faithful Penelope---- and as Ulysses and his men were sailing for home (WIND, RIGGING)----

 

GK: O gentle land, O city on a hill, O Ithaca---

Ten years have passed since last I drank your latte',

Or walked the aisles of an independent bookstore,

 

TR: (OFF) Land ho! Island to starboard! (CLAMOR OF VOICES, THEN HUSHED) The island appears to be occupied, Sir. By giants. Giants with one eye in the middle of their foreheads. (HUSHED MURMURS)

 

GK: Opthalmalogists.

 

TR: No. Cyclops.

 

GK: Cyclops, eh?

 

TR (OLD SAILOR): How horrible to behold! (MONSTER ROAR) Their hair is greasy and badly styled. Their skin is covered with red welts and sores, the result of eating onion rings. Their behavior is reprehensible. (MONSTER ROAR AND GULP).

 

TK: Oh no! The wind has changed! (WIND)

 

TR: It's blowing us toward the island! (WIND, CREAKING OF RIGGING)

 

GK: Bring her about!

 

TR: I can't, sir. (RIGGING, SURF, CRIES OF ALARM)

 

GK: By the way, is Cyclops singular or plural?

 

TR: Sir? (CRIES OF ALARM)

 

GK: Is it a Cyclop or a Cyclops?

 

TR: I don't know! I'm only a helmsman!

 

GK: Well, find out. (CRIES OF ALARM, CRUNCHING) Bring up the dictionary! (TK REPEAT ORDER ---- CRIES OF ALARM) I just would like to know the correct name for it. (MONSTER CRY) If I didn't learn anything else at Cornell, at least I learned accuracy. (FAST FOOTSTEPS)

TR: IT'S CYCLOPS, SIR! (MONSTER, CRUNCHING, SURF)

 

GK: What is?

 

TR: The singular!

 

GK: What's the plural? (SURF)

 

TR CRY AND FALL AND SPLASH

 

GK: Darn. That was my only dictionary----

 

TK: Sir, we have to abandon ship!

 

(CRIES, CRUNCHING, MONSTER)

 

GK; Very well. We'll make a run for those caves! (CREAKING AS BOAT COMES ASHORE)

 

ALL: To the caves! the caves! (RUNNING FOOTSTEPS, DISTANT MONSTER ROAR)

 

GK: Almost there! (RUNNING FASTER) Made it! (RUNNING SLOWS TO WALK. REVERB. SHEEP)

 

TR: It's full of sheep (SHEEP)---

 

GK: We'll hide in here and escape in the morning---

 

 

(SHEEP, FOOTSTEPS)

 

TR (OLD SAILOR): Sir, we're way deep inside the cave. (FOOTSTEPS SLOW) What's that? (ROLLING AND SLAMMING, AS OF A HUGE DOOR) Oh no. The Cyclops rolled the rock shut. We're trapped.

He's here. And he smells us. (MONSTER ROAR)

 

(BRIDGE)

 

SS: The Cyclops sat down and grabbed a couple of sheep and milked them (SQUIRTS) into a cup and and then (CRIES OF PROTEST) grabbed a couple of Ulysses' men and (MONSTER ROAR) put them in a blender (SFX) with the milk and made a smoothie and (GULPS) drank it down and then saw Ulysses.

 

TK: (MONSTER) Who are you?

 

GK: My name is Beat It.

 

TK: Beat It.

 

GK: I brought you a gift. Here---

 

TK: What is this?

 

GK: It's a really good New York State wine. A Chardonnay. Not too dry. Nice fruity finish. You'll like it.

 

TK: I better. We'll see about a fruity finish. (GULP) Not bad. (POURING) A nice bouquet of oak, raspberries, plums, and plywood. (POURING) (GULP) Excellent. (BELCH)

 

TR: (WHISPER) He's getting sleepy.

 

GK: We'll wait for him to finish off the bottle. (POURING, GULP, HICCOUGH) And then I'll take that sharp stick there and---

 

TR: Put out his eye? (HORROR CHORD)

 

GK: I hope Penelope never hears about this, but--- yes. (CHORD) I'll gouge out his eyeball. (CHORD)

 

TR: On public radio? during the dinner hour? you're going to take that sharp stick and poke it right into somebody's eyeball? and you call yourself a liberal?

 

GK: I've never gouged out someone's eye before and probably I shouldn't do it now, but if I don't do it, I'll always wonder what it would have been like to have done it, so I may as well do it. Does that sound ethical to you? (MONSTER SNORING)

 

TR: He's asleep.

 

GK: Time to get out the stick. (BOINGG) It's a sharp one, all right.

 

TR (OLD SAILOR): ALL YOU KIDS LISTENING TO THE SHOW, WE'RE GOING TO GOUGE AN EYEBALL NOW, SO I WANT YOU TO LEAVE THE ROOM UNTIL IT'S OVER WITH, OKAY? ALL YOU KIDS, OUT OF THE ROOM. NOW. COME ON. AND YOU MIGHT WANT TO PUT DOWN A newSPAPER BY YOUR RADIO, BECAUSE A LOT OF BODILY FLUIDS ARE GOING TO COME GUSHING OUT.

 

GK: This is going to be really messy, isn't it. That is one huge eyeball---- how come it's all greenish around the edge ---- I think this man has been ill ----- you all set to run? Good. Okay. One. Two. Three. (GK EFFORT, HUGE CREAMY GOUGING SOUND AND THEN WITHDRAW, WITH FLOW OF PUS) (MONSTER ROAR) Over there! Behind those rocks! (RUNNING FOOTSTEPS) (STOP) (TR & GK HEAVY BREATHING)

 

TR: You okay?

 

GK: Yeah. Got green stuff all over my hands and shirt, though. (CLEANING OFF SLIME) Lot of pus in that eyeball. Pew. He was a sickie, all right. (MONSTER ROAR OF PAIN AND ANGER) Boy. Ticked him off, didn't it. (SHEEP) Come on---- grab hold of a sheep. Hang onto the belly and we'll ride them out to the meadow and get down to the ship.

 

SS: And other cyclopses deeper in the cave heard the wounded cyclops (MONSTER ROAR) and cried:

 

TR (OFF): Who has put your eye out?

 

TK: Beat It!

 

TR (OFF): Oh. Okay. Sorry.

 

TK: Beat it!

 

TR (OFF): Okay. Don't be a sorehead!

 

SS: And when (SHEEP) the cyclops let his sheep out to pasture, he didn't notice that Ulysses and his men were hanging on to the sheep for dear life-

 

(SHEEP HOOVES)

 

GK: Hold on.

 

TR: I'm trying, but this one is really greasy.

 

GK: Grab him by the short hairs. (SHEEP PROTEST) (BRIDGE)

 

TR: And out they went and found their way back to the ship, and made it home to Ithaca. Home to Penelope.

 

GK: (FOOTSTEPS ON GRAVEL) Twenty years. House looks about the same. Still got the wind chimes. And the Thank You For Not Smoking sign. (DOOR KNOCK). Hard to believe I made it. (DOOR OPEN)

 

SS: Yes?

 

GK: You don't know me?

 

SS: Panhandlers are supposed to go around to the back door. Okay? (DOG WOOFS, DOG GREETING)

 

GK: Hello, Argus, good boy. (DOG LICKING)

 

SS: Ulysses?

 

GK: Hi, Penelope---

 

SS: You're back.

 

GK: I am. How's Ithaca?

 

SS: Same as ever. How was the trip?

 

GK: Better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick.

 

SS: You have gore all over your shirt. Have you been hacking and pillaging?

 

GK: Had to gouge an eyeball. That was about it.

 

SS: Are you sure you are who I think you are?

 

GK: I feel like myself.

 

SS: Here. This is my husband Ulysses's guitar. The only man who could ever play this guitar and make it sound decent was my husband. If you can do it, then--- okay.

GK: I just have to play a song? And everything's cool?

SS: Mmmhmm.

GK: Great.

Gee, but it's tough to be lost, kid
And tempest tossed, kid
I confess.
Sailing across the great ocean
My great emotion
Was queasiness.
Sirens and lotus, cyclopses,
That's a synopsis
Of the trip.
And now I've come back poor and modest,
And all I got is
Your friendship.

CHORUS:
I can't give you anything but love, baby
That's the only thing I've plenty of, Penelope
Odyssey, misery
I tried to find
Happiness, and I guess
All those things I always pined for
Gee It's good to see you looking swell, Penelope
Diamond bracelets don't come from Cornell, baby
Till that lucky day you know darn well, baby
I can't give you anything but love

© 1997 by Garrison Keillor

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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