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Road to Contentment

An old pal is locked up with COVID this week and another pal is dealing with QAnon relatives who think liberals are vampires and another pal is suffering anxiety about having ringworm infestation, which his doctor says he does not have but he lies awake at night worrying and has been put on antianxiety medication, which doesn’t help all that much. 

I’ve never suffered from anxiety, I don’t know any QAnon people and I don’t have COVID, so I am going to skip complaining today. I’m old and out of touch, and, as the old gospel song says, “This world is not my home, I’m only passing through” so what is the point of complaining, it’d be like going to Vladivostok and asking people to please speak English, or going to church and when the usher comes by with the collection plate, putting in a twenty and asking for a whiskey sour. Wrong time, wrong place.

I’ve never suffered from anxiety, I don’t know any QAnon people and I don’t have COVID, so I am going to skip complaining today.

I am a lucky man and these are wonderful times and we are all fortunate to be living now, in September of 2021, and of course there is poverty and disease and suffering and ignorance and cruelty and crabby people and inferior food and lousy service and poor Wi-Fi and unruly children and robocalls trying to sell you aluminum siding and this cursed printer that says there’s a paper jam though there is not, but there are beautiful advantages that our elders didn’t enjoy, and let me be grateful for the anti-seizure medication and blood thinner that keep me chugging along and YouTube, which has just now, for my benefit, played Don and Phil Everly singing “Let It Be Me,” and all it took was googling a few words and there it is, tender brotherly harmony.

We didn’t have cellphones back in the day and now we do, and so, as the Everlys sing and the GPS lady guides my wife through a maze of colonial streets in small towns on the coast of Connecticut, I can text my daughter and tell her I love and miss her, all simultaneously, and wind up at a nearby café overlooking Long Island Sound.

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The most wonderful thing I have today that wasn’t available to me before is old age. The TV offers us dozens of channels, each with hundreds of shows and movies that we could access at any time, and the phone in my hand offers every streaming music format known to man, any radio network, a choice of thousands of podcasts, puzzles, news headlines, books on Kindle — we could be thoroughly entertained for a thousand years and I decline. There were a couple decades when I traveled more or less constantly and sometimes I’d go into a men’s room in some faraway airport and think, “I was here two or three years ago.” Now I’m happy to sit and look at the boats moored at the dock, a red light flashing at the end and Jay Gatsby on his nice lawn across the Sound looking over and envying us.

There is vast personal freedom to choose from the catalog of gender, hair colors, neuroses and syndromes, conspiracy theory, tattoos. Back in my day, only the men who ran the carnival rides had tattoos, former felons operating the roller coaster, and now young women have Gothic symbols on their backs and thighs and around their belly buttons, and so could I, and I don’t. There are ten thousand options available to me and I choose to subscribe to none, which makes this moment all the sweeter when I sit outside with my love, touching her knee, watching the clouds drift in over the housetops, hearing distant geese.

As they say in Denmark, “Shut up and be beautiful.” I think about the beef taco I had for lunch and the salad with fresh tomato and basil, a very self-accepting cucumber, and a beautiful sliced onion, not a bitter resentful onion but an exuberant one.

GARRISON KEILLOR

I think it may have started out as a cabbage but it transferred out of the program, wanting to be a root, and met other onions, experimented with different dressings and finally settled on straight oil/vinegar with ground pepper. A beautiful salad. Who cares about a salad? You do, my dear reader. I know you do. I used to have countless readers and now here we are, the two of us, peas in a pod. Thank you for staying with me to the end.

Garrison Keillor
Prairie Home Productions