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A Walk Around the Central Park Reservoir

Garrison Keillor: I want life to move on so the kids grow up and think of Vietnam as a cuisine and trump as part of card games and “pandemic” will come to mean a college prof who gets negative reviews.

With the birth rate falling and America getting old and cranky, it’s wonderful to walk in Central Park on a sunny day and see all the little families rollicking around, all the little kiddos. It’s brave to raise boisterous kids in a small apartment in a bumpy economy and good for Joe Biden that he put some child support in his Recovery Act. We need more of these kids, otherwise we’ll become a national historical reenactment.

I don’t want that. I want the past to fade into the sunset, except for the classics, like Central Park. I walk in the park as April comes in and it’s a genteel world like what Renoir painted in Paris with the ladies carrying parasols and Dvořák walked in Prague whistling a tune that became the Humoresque that generations of kids would learn for spring recitals and Shakespeare sat in and scribbled notes for “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” –– it is a permanent pleasure, to be cherished for all time, but I want life to move on so the kids grow up and think of Vietnam as a cuisine and trump as part of card games and “pandemic” will come to mean a college prof who gets negative reviews.

The past lives on with Google and that’s okay. In every phone and laptop is a trove of trivia and the answers to all questions –– where did Allen Ginsberg write “Howl” (an apartment on Montgomery Street in San Francisco), or what president hit a hole-in-one during his presidency (Jerry Ford), or the name of George Custer’s horse at the Little Big Horn (Comanche, and he outlived Custer by fifteen years) –– are easily available. Back in the day, you’d’ve spent months in the library paging through dusty tomes in the reference room to get this information and now it’s literally at your fingertips. Good enough.

I want life to move on so the kids grow up and think of Vietnam as a cuisine and trump as part of card games and “pandemic” will come to mean a college prof who gets negative reviews.

Everything is on the Internet, the entire subterranean depths of demons and obsessions. You can read a website saying that doctors and nurses who administer COVID vaccine should be tried as war criminals. You can visit the world of men in love with weaponry. A man writes: “The AK-47 has endearing qualities, is easy to manipulate, the sights are rugged, and a reasonably skilled person can get maybe 60 rounds a minute out. And they’re fun as hell.” This strikes me as lunatic fringe but it’s a fringe that is steering the Republican Party.

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I used Google the other day to locate a column by Russell Baker that I vaguely remembered from his years writing for the New York Times. He was a great writer but it was mostly in newsprint which, as we know, winds up being used to catch spillage or as a dog’s toilet.

Baker was walking along a street in New York and a potato fell from a high window, missing him by a few inches, and shattered on the sidewalk. He wrote, “Coming through a raw‐potato near miss intact has one advantage. It is such a rare event that the odds against being involved in two during one lifetime are overwhelming. Hence, it is as close to statistical certainty as a thing can be that falling potato will not be the instrument of my farewell.”

It was a great column, admired by a generation of columnists including me, but if I went to the library and searched for it, I might spend weeks in the newspaper vaults and come to resent Baker and never want to hear his name again, but if you google “Russell Baker falling potato” there it is in an instant. This is as close to immortality as a columnist gets, to know that your brilliant potato column is ever available to the curious.

Creating a new world of harmony and justice is not in my windshield. I am past that age. My goal is brightening the corner where I am by writing about whatever happens to fall at my feet and let other people deal with the lack of diversity in the royal family and the issue of trans participation in women’s sports. The ship got stuck in the Suez because it was overloaded: Duh. Wake up.

GARRISON KEILLOR

People look to us Minnesotans for leadership but there is only so much we can do. We gave you Bob Dylan who gave you “The Times, They Are A-Changin’” — which is true except in some places like Central Park, the 19th century’s gift to us and these children and their children too.

Garrison Keillor
Prairie Home Productions