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Finest Month On Its Way

Photo by Mick Haupt on Unsplash

We got good weather in August, good for a city guy with no lawn, and then a typhoon came to town and a torrent fell last Saturday during a star-studded concert in Central Park where my wife sent me a video of Barry Manilow on stage, whose facelift had destroyed his voice, singing his brains out as lightning flashed to the south which shut down the show, but now the rain has ended and the world feels like September with the smell of apples and possibility in the air and I feel young and indomitable, crossing the street in front of eight beefcakes on Harleys and I feel like saying, “Which one of you cream puffs wants to take on a retired radio announcer?”

We’ve been living small for two years now and the simple pandemic life has been good for us. We switched from Perrier to New York tap water and when we want bubbles, we blow through a straw. We’re done with loud restaurants and the social whirl. I gave my fancy clothes to the Salvation Army and now I’m seeing homeless men in Armani tuxes. But now I need a break and I’m thinking we should rent a house on the coast and do what Emerson said, “Live in the sunshine, swim the sea, drink the wild air …” Forget about memory loss and do some serious self-care. But do I dare suggest this to the boss?

We switched from Perrier to New York tap water and when we want bubbles, we blow through a straw.

I am married to a professional orchestra musician so I am held to a higher standard than most people, and even now, looking at this column, I see where maybe I should go back and maybe scratch the Harleys, but I don’t, I’m not a perfectionist, I feel it’s hopeless, spending all day rewriting over and over and thereby losing the spirit of the thing like Sir Wally Raleigh who sailed up the Orinoco in search of El Dorado and for all his trouble came back to London to have his head chopped off and instead of a wealthy aristocrat he became a city in North Carolina and a cigarette.

My wife has spent her adult life in the string section, where often the players must ignore the wild man waving the stick in an agony of ecstasy and take their cues from each other and thereby keep the symphony from going over the cliff, even as the audience is moved by the maestro with big hair and it is he who gets the standing O at the end, not the oarswomen in the orchestra. So she looks at my desk and says, “Something needs to be done about that,” but I believe great things may emerge from chaos, otherwise what is democracy about?

She came home from the concert in the Park as the storm hit, rain blew against the windows, lightning exploded, and in the worst of the storm, wind howling, the word “apocalypse” almost on our lips, and I quietly suggested we spend a couple days on the coast and to my surprise she said yes. So I wrote:

My darling, you have my devotion,

You set all my hormones in motion,

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You’re my dearest friend

And I hope we can spend

Two days overlooking the ocean

And enjoy it together

Regardless of whether

There’s a midweek discount promotion.

I’m a Minnesotan, my formative experience was hoeing corn and mowing grass, which naturally leads to a career of writing sentences horizontally on a paper rectangle. My hero when I was young was Thoreau, a nice guy but a fraud. He wrote a heroic essay about civil disobedience and spent one day in jail and Emerson paid his fine. He sat out at Walden Pond writing beautifully about independence while his mom was bringing him hot meals and doing his laundry. When he said, “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation,” he was probably talking about himself.


Now I’m old and my hero is Emerson, who said, “Every great and commanding moment in the annals of the world is the triumph of some enthusiasm. … This is the one remedy for all ills, the panacea of nature. We must be lovers and instantly the impossible becomes possible.” So the lovers are going to the sea, the sea, her and me, and the great triumph that comes of it is love itself, the chaotician and the perfectionist, we lie in bed holding hands as the breakers roar, and all of you who do likewise, know how lucky you are. It ain’t desperation, it’s respiration.

Garrison Keillor
Prairie Home Productions