Phrasebook
Saturday, February 12, 2000
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(GK: Garrison Keillor, SS: Sue Scott, TK: Tom Keith, TR: Tim Russell, RD: Rich Dworsky)

(CHORDS INTRO)

(ORGAN UNDER THROUGHOUT)

GK: Every year for summer vacation, Americans purchase about fourteen billion dollars worth of foreign phrasebooks --- little pocketbooks with titles like French For Travellers or Italian Made Easy. And the first phrase you learn is:

TK: Non parlo italiano!

GK: It's perfectly clear from the look of you that Italiano is something you couldn't parlo if your life depended on it, but you learn that phrase and you try to master others.

TK: Dove il bagno, per favore?

GK: Where's the toilet.

TK: Mi fa male la testa. Il dolore si ripete quasi sempre.

SS: Who's Dolores?

TK: It means I have a pain in my head. The pain occurs almost all the time.

GK: So you go to Italy armed with these few phrases and of course mi scusi and prego and grazie, and you arrive and---

TR: Buon giorno, signore.

GK: You make the discovery that millions of other Americans have made, that if you say even one word of Italian and say it fairly well---

TK: Taxi, per favore.

GK: You are inundated with Italian.

TR: (TORRENT OF ROBERTO BENIGNI)

GK: Whereas if you speak English----

TK: Sorry---- I don't understand --- non understando----

TR (RICO): Oh. Sorry. No problem. You want a taxi? This way. Hey. University of Iowa, huh? No kidding. I went to the University of Iowa. The writers workshop. Yeah. Playwriting. Pirandello's my name. (FADING)

GK: And the phrasebook goes back in your suitcase, and you bring it back to America, and the next time you go to Europe ----

TK: Let's go! We're late!

SS: Just a minute.

TK: What are you looking for?

SS: The phrasebook.

TK: We'll buy another one at the airport.

And so, years later, after you check out, your kids clean your basement and they find fourteen copies of Italian Made Easy...

TR: Funny. I don't remember Dad speaking Italian....

GK: And they take them to the Salvation Army and the Salvation Army sends them to landfills in eastern North Dakota. Eastern North Dakota used to be pretty hilly but it got filled in with phrasebooks. As you can imagine, this is a lucrative branch of publishing, phrase books --- they never need to be updated, no royalties, people buy them every time they go abroad under the illusion that suddenly they'll become bilingual----

TR: It worked! I can speak French! (FRENCH) I can order food! I can have my suitcases taken to my room! (FRENCH) I'm monolingual no more!

GK: In 1997, American phrasebook publishers took a pre-tax profit of $11 billion dollars and that's why Congress passed the 1998 Phrasebook Surtax and Public Radio Travel Act, which in 1999 brought in tax revenues of $110 million, of which, under the act, ten percent goes to a travel fund for public radio, and so, the week after next, the entire Prairie Home Companion staff and crew, our performers....

TK: Our choreographer Leo Tard....

GK: Our director of engineering Anna Log....

TK: Our travel agent Fanny Pack....

GK: Our corporate counsel, Meyer Wiener ---- all of us, plus our families and friends, camp followers, hangers-on, peons, retainers --- will travel to Scotland and Ireland for live broadcasts on February 26 in Edinburgh (CRIES OF MERRIMENT, CLINKING) and March 4 in Dublin (CRIES OF MERRIMENT, CLINKING) ---- we'll take off in our luxurious chartered Prairie Air DC-10 (JET TAKEOFF), specially reconfigured for us with onboard pingpong table (PING PONG) and pinball machines (PINBALL SFX) and jukebox (TR ELVIS: Since my baby left me, I found a new place to dwell, down at the end of Lonely Street in Heartbreak Hotel) and bowling alley (BALL ROLL, PINS CRASH) and at lower altitudes, the rear door can be opened to make a driving range (SWING, GOLF BALL CLICK, CROWD OOOOHHH). That's on the lower level, and on the upper level ---- (TR FRENCH: Your table, monsieur----) (VIOLIN) ---- the Cafe de la Aeronautique with a fine selection of wines (CORKSCREW, AND PULL) and Maurice is there with the specials (TK: Tonight, we are serving the FRENCH GIBBERISH.....and also the FRENCH GIBBERISH.) and after dinner there is dancing in the Club Que Sera (LATIN BEAT) where the music never stops (SS: Okay! Everybody snowball!!!) or if you prefer you can take your seat in the Le Gran Teatro (MOVIE AUDIO. INTIMATE FRENCH CONVERSATION) for your favorite foreign film, or go back to your stateroom (SS: Good night. DOOR CLOSE) and take a hot shower (SHOWER) and enjoy a Swedish massage (TR SWEDISH) and a good night's sleep ----- yes, it's luxury on a scale never before seen in the annals of public radio -- -- and of course that's only the beginning ---- in Edinburgh, we'll be staying at the estate of Lord Quimby, the Duke of Argyll (TK BRIT: Your hot towel, sir.) and riding to hounds (HORN, HOUNDS, HOOFBEATS) in the annual Argyll Fox Hunt and we'll attend the Piping of the Haggis (BAGPIPE) and spend a lot of time sitting by the fireside with cheery red-cheeked folks who chuckle a lot (ENGLISH CHUCKLING) and having tea brought (TK: Your tea, sir.) and we'll wear a lot of woolen things and be chauffeured everywhere in Bentley (TK BRIT: Your car, sir.) and enjoy a lavish (CAR PULLS AWAY) lifestyle and wherever we go hired lackeys will fawn over us (FAWNING: Allow me....lovely....this way, sir.....yes, sir....) and in Dublin we'll go to pubs (CRIES OF MERRIMENT) and meet old red-cheeked guys in sweaters (TR IRISH: Jim Joyce? Oh my yes, I knew Jimmy quite well) and we'll go out on the moors (WIND) with our dogs (WOOFING) and we'll sit in the rain (RAIN) and write bitter lyrical poems (TR YOUNGER IRISH: I walked o'er the windswept moor where I had often walked before and turned my face up to the sky and wondered why, and wondered why) and after the shows are done, we'll say farewell to Dublin and each of us fly off on individual vacations----Tim Russell----

TR: Skiing at Biarritz and then a week in Monaco and finally a couple weeks in the Aegean aboard the yacht.

GK: And Sue Scott....

SS: For me and my entourage, it's Paris, of course ---- a week at the Ritz and then to Cannes for the radio festival, and finally a week at the chateau in Provence with Steven and Leonardo and David and Vanessa and just the whole gang.

GK: Great. And Tom Keith----

TK: I'll be taking the Orient Express to Venice, spend a week there --- Anna invited me --- and then down to Rome for a week, Maria and I are renting a house on the Via Veneto, and finally a week in Tuscany, Sophia has a place there.

GK: You may need this phrasebook then.

TK: Grazie.

GK: Prego. And grazie to all of you who bought phrasebooks last year and made this trip possible. (PLAYOFF)

 

(c) 2000 by Garrison Keillor

Old Sweet Songs: A Prairie Home Companion 1974-1976

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