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Spring has not quite arrived where we are (New York) though there are intimations of it and on Sunday we sat outdoors with neighbors, maintaining a six-foot gap, and spoke of various things and had a good time. I’m a Minnesotan, not a New Yorker, but I do love New Yorkers’ willingness to say what’s on their mind. A woman at church once told me during coffee hour that she never liked my radio show and we became instant friends on that basis. She said it in a friendly way, and frankly I’m not a huge fan of myself either, so right away we have something in common. On the other hand, a New York guy told me Saturday on the phone, “I love you. You know that.” A Minnesotan wouldn’t have said it if you’d put a gun to his head.

Sleep at Night

Last fall I went to the opera and during intermission headed for the men’s room, passing a long line of women waiting to get into the women’s, and inside the men’s, I saw a tall woman in a long black coat emerge from a stall and walk out. She didn’t linger to hold a press conference, she simply walked out, having done what she needed to do. In Minnesota, this would’ve been an international incident; in New York, no big deal. Architects favor symmetry so the Men’s and Women’s are equal but men require three square feet and fifteen seconds to pee, and women need fifteen square feet and may have pantyhose to deal with and they like to converse. Conversation in a men’s room is strictly taboo. So the line of women is three times as long. Equality isn’t equity. And this woman stepped out of line. Point made.

We see the naked socialism in the federal bailout of business. We’re living in a socialist state like Sweden except they do it rationally and we do it in lurches.

This pandemic makes Bernie Sanders look good and I speak as a Sleepy Joe Democrat. Our lives depend on millions of people who are not treated decently, including the undocumented workers picking the strawberries in California that I put on my corn flakes. We hear the sirens go by, a deadly disease that respects no boundaries. We see the naked socialism in the federal bailout of business. We’re living in a socialist state like Sweden except they do it rationally and we do it in lurches.

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I had about twenty uncles and all of them were Republicans. They equated Republicanism with competence and common sense. Watching the nightly news, it is no longer possible to see Republicanism in that way. It’s the party of autocratic impulse, cynicism and anger. None of my uncles would recognize it anymore. In the Eisenhower administration, Trump would be ambassador to Liechtenstein.

November is six months away, meanwhile we wash our hands and shop online and keep in touch and go to bed early. I lie in the dark next to the dear woman working a crossword puzzle on her iPhone and I touch her bare arm and shoulder and she murmurs. Then I close my eyes and take myself back to 1947 and Uncle Jim’s farm, the Model T in the yard, the cows in the pasture by the brook, the horses in their enclave. I wash my face under the hand pump and come in for breakfast, Post Toasties and Grandma’s bread, and she and I and Uncle Jim read from Scripture and he prays for the Lord’s mercy to be upon us and then he hitches up the team, Prince and Ned, and I walk out the door and he lifts me up on Scout’s back. I’m five years old, sitting on the broad back, my face in his mane, the big ears twitching above, and Uncle Jim clicks his tongue and the team leans into the traces and the hayrack bumps along toward the meadow where we’ll rake up hay. By the time we get through the gate and beyond the windbreak, I am asleep.

It was a runaway team of horses that might’ve killed young John Keillor but did not, which convinced him to marry young Grace Denham, and that’s where I come from. I ride this horse into unconsciousness and then it’s morning and I sit down to work. On the Titanic, a passenger stood on deck that night and thought, “The old man doesn’t know what he’s doing and there will be dozens of books written about this and I won’t live to read them.” I hope to live long enough to read about this disaster.


Garrison Keillor
Prairie Home Productions