February 13, 2010
The Fitzgerald Theater

Saint Paul, MN

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Death

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GK: I think the hardest part about dying is looking around and seeing all the unfinished business. When death came for me last fall, the house was a mess, my desk was a swamp — so much stuff I needed to throw out, but I couldn't because death was at the door. (TINKLING OF BELL) He wore a red-checked wool jacket and a stocking cap and he wore barn boots.

TR: Hey there. Glad I found you. Time to go.

GK: Me? Now?

TR: Yes. Come. (FOOTSTEPS)

GK: Could I make a phone call?

TR: No time for that. I've got the motor running, got other stops to make.

GK: But they said it was only a minor stroke.

TR: I know. That's what they thought at the time.

GK: That's what I told everybody. Minor stroke. That's why they let me go home.

TR: Yeah.
GK: I've got things to take care of first. Listen. How about you give me 24-hours?

TR: Can't do it.

GK: I remember back in 5th grade they had us write essays: what would you do if you have one day to live. One day. How about it?

TR: Here we are. (CAR DOOR OPEN) In back there. Scoot over there, Wilbur. (TK OLD MAN MUTTER) Watch your head, ma'am. That's the way. (DOOR CLOSE). Everybody comfy? (MURMURS) How's the heat? Too warm back there? (MURMURS) Anybody want to listen to the radio? (GROANS, NO)

(VAN PULLS AWAY)

GK: Where are we going?

TR: You'll find out.

GK: Did you hear the one about the Minnesotans who went to hell and liked it because it was the first time they'd been warm in months, so the devil put out all the fires so it got down to forty below, and the Minnesotans were even happier, because if hell froze over, that meant the Vikings won the Super Bowl. You ever hear that one?

TR: Nope. Never did.

(ELEGIAC MUSIC)

GK: The van took us out into the countryside and we drove for miles (VAN) across flat countryside, rivers, some lakes, woods, a lot of farms

GK: Mr. D?

TR: Yessir.

GK: Is this hell?

TR: No, it's Iowa.

GK: Oh. Can you tell me where I'm going?

TR: You? You're going to Arcadia.

GK: Is that in heaven?

TR: It's a suburb of heaven.

GK: So it's nice?

TR: It's nice enough.

GK: Is God there?

TR: He comes around sometimes.
GK: Will I be filled with perfect bliss and will there be no tears, no pain, no sorrow, just constant joy and happiness?

TR: It's not bad.

GK: And will I have a new body and be dressed in new raiment and play a harp and sing in the heavenly choir?

TR: Harp, no —-new body? I donno --- we're try to get you in shape— and it's used raiment, but it's nice. But you'll be in choir, sure. (BRIDGE)

GK: And I was. And it was good.

CHOIR (SINGS):

When you're in heaven, you are in choir,
And stand in your row and sing
Always in tune and in perfect tempo
Your glad hosanna-ing.
And God has a stick and waves it at you
And you sing perfectly
That is the way it is in heaven
And that's how it ought to be.


GK: The people in choir were very pleasant. (STRING OF PLEASANT GREETINGS, IN PASSING) And they smelled clean and fresh. And they loved singing. And I tried to love being in choir but I felt these worldly urges to be different. To stand out. To draw attention to myself. Which one should not feel in heaven.

CHOIR (SINGS):

When you're in heaven, you must conform
To the normal and that is that.
When you are singing in G major,
Don't try singing in A flat.
It isn't the blues, it isn't Broadway,
It's sure as hell not rock and roll.
You are in choir and it's a good place
And the music is good for your soul.

GK: Blending is important in heaven. Heaven is about harmony. And it's about staying in place and singing your part and all the parts making a perfect harmonic confluence and that is the nature of happiness. Harmony. Individualism is romantic but romance is not the secret of happiness. Harmony is. And I knew that, but I still had this urge.


CHOIR (SINGS):

When you're in heaven, singing in choir,
You follow the Lord's command.
Your voices blend, the lower and higher,
You follow the stick in his hand.
You stand in your row and sing your part
And try not to — (CRASH OF METAL, HUBCAP ROLL) --- stand out too much.....

(SILENCE. FOOTSTEPS. AND STOP)

PB: You.

GK: I'm sorry, God.

PB: I know but not sorry enough.

GK: I want to fit in, I really do. I'm just new to heaven, that's
all. Give me another chance.

PB: I'm sending you back. (CROWD OHs AND Ahs) I don't often do that, but I'll make an exception in your case.

GK: I go back down to earth.

PB: Go back and try harder this time.

GK: What am I supposed to do?

PB: You know what to do.

GK: I'm sorry I let you down.

PB: I'm used to it.

GK: When will I come back?

PB: Sooner than you think.

GK: Can I tell people what happened?

PB: You can but they won't believe you.

GK: They won't?

PB: No, they won't. Welcome to the club.

GK: Okay. See you around.

PB: Indeed. Everywhere.

GK: And the moment I left heaven, or Arcadia, the suburb where I was, I started to miss it. The calm of it. The inner light. The feeling of belonging. The lack of stress. It was a good place. And I got kicked out.

TR: Hey. Didn't expect to be giving you a ride back.

GK: Doesn't happen often, huh?
TR: Now and then, but not often. How'd you like it?

GK: Heaven? It was good.

TR: How'd you like the ambrosia?

GK: It was fine.

TR: Well, buckle up your seat belt, this is going to be fast. (MOTOR ROAR AND STEEP DIVE, LIKE PLANE, AND THEN IN FOR A LANDING) There you are.

GK: Thanks. — So— (FOOTSTEPS IN SNOW) here I am, back on earth, February, trying to figure things out. And that's what I miss most about heaven. You don't have to figure things out in heaven. There's no doubt, no irony, none of that. Harmony is a beautiful thing. There's no doubt about that.

CHOIR (SINGS):

Harmony, harmony, harmony, harmony
Without a fault or flaw.
That is the beauty of heavenly happiness
Or, as the French say, joie.
Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha
Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha.

SS: Where were you? Haven't seen you for awhile.

GK: Went on a trip.
SS: I heard you had a stroke.

GK: Minor stroke.

SS: Well, you look about the same.

GK: Oh?

SS: Except you don't talk as much. You used to be more outgoing.

GK: Uh huh.

SS: You used to have more of a sense of humor.

GK: I did?

SS: And now you're — I don't know. You seem sort of stand-offish. Did something happen?

GK: I'm sorry, what'd you say?

SS: Are you listening to me?

GK: Sure. Of course.

CHOIR (SINGS, SOFTLY):

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha
Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha.

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).

Available now»

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