Skip to main content

I gave my love an Italian cookbook Saturday and she cut the plastic off it and opened it and found recipes for leg of kid, eel, pork liver, braised snout, sweet-and-sour snout, and I could tell that we will be eating vegan for the foreseeable future. I was just finishing up a nice helping of short ribs and she gave me a moralistic look, the sort you might give a cannibal if there were one around. And yet—who in this household is worried about high cholesterol? Not me, the butcher boy. The Queen of Greens, that’s who. Thus once more we discover the fundamental unfairness of life. The good are punished while the wicked get off scot-free.


My favorite breakfast is a sirloin steak with two fried eggs. I’m only a writer at a desk but that meal makes me feel like a stevedore looking ahead to a day on the docks running a forklift. I feel young and strong. Then I sit down at the laptop and taptaptap for a while. Meanwhile, my love eats her steel-cut oatmeal and goes for a run in the park and worries about cholesterol.

The plague struck in March. All of the gifted artists I knew—musicians, actors, comedians—were out of work, whereas I, the writer of homely tropes and truisms, was busier than ever.

I’ve been the beneficiary of injustice for many years. I was an indifferent student and slogged through useless humanities courses and read Kafka and Camus and wrote papers about existentialism, which was all the rage back then and which nobody knew what it was exactly nor even approximately, which allowed an ignorant twerp to write inscrutable term papers about it, meanwhile the best and the brightest were studying engineering or medicine or law and forging ahead, and I, because I have a somber face and no social skills, went into radio during a boom period, and they became serfs in tall buildings in fast-moving fields (especially engineering) where obsolescence set in around age thirty-five, and I did a radio show that, because it was nostalgic, defied change, and thus did the turtle outrun a great many hares.

The plague struck in March. All of the gifted artists I knew—musicians, actors, comedians—were out of work, whereas I, the writer of homely tropes and truisms, was busier than ever. Like most introverts, I enjoyed the pandemic to the utmost.

Life is unfair. This is what the Class of 2020 should’ve been told at commencement, if there had been one. They don’t need to hear about marching to a different drummer and lighting a candle and making a difference in the world because it’s the only one we have. That is a bowl of chicken wieners in canned beans in instant gravy.

Scroll to Continue

Recommended Articles

No, they need to be told that they got a third-rate education and they need to toughen themselves up so they can blow up the gates and take over the world and seize from their greedy boomer parents a fair share of the national wealth. Manufacturing is dying: everything’s made in China. The farms are industrialized. The arts? Ha! You get paid in candy wrappers and bottle caps. Your future gets more limited every day. The rules are rigged and the country is at war with itself and people are stupefied by Twitter and Facebook and it’s time to storm the barricades.

The problem with revolution, though, is that life is unfair. The revolutionaries who go to the barricades never get to enjoy the rewards. Their grandchildren do.

Revolutionaries get into bitter feuds with fellow radicals and wind up in jail or exile, embittered by a long string of betrayals. Meanwhile, billionaires live in fear of losing the mansion and the grounds, the heated pool, the staff at the ready to satisfy your every whim, if only you had a whim, but billionaires don’t have time for whimsy. It’s a hard life on both sides of the battle. So skip it. Just declare victory and go live your life.

School can’t teach you to be independent so teach yourself. If you can be happy alone, then you’ve got a good start. Try sitting in a boat on water with nobody else around, or sit in the yard the morning after a rain, or walk in the woods at dusk. Fall is coming, when the world is gorgeous to all of the senses. Let your soul breathe; experience buoyancy without spending money. Once you learn to be good company for yourself, you’ve achieved the revolution and earned a fortune. Then you can go on to the next step, which is coming in out of the rain, and lying down in the bed you have made.


Garrison Keillor
Prairie Home Productions