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We old Anglo guys have a bad habit of grabbing the check after lunch and I realize it’s a macho power move, dismissive, marginalizing, elitist, sexist, oppressive, colonialist, and a number of women have told me over the years, “You shouldn’t have done that,” but I notice, now that I’m old and slow and not so grabby, that they don’t reach for the check and it sits there in plain sight for several minutes before Anglo Man picks it up, when perhaps a woman says, “Won’t you let me contribute something?” and I say, “It’s my pleasure,” which they take to mean, "No. End of story."

I’m not complaining. I enjoy inconsistencies and people who say one thing and mean another. My father, whom I knew as solemn and righteous, could be very funny and charming around young women. My mother, though a devout evangelical, adored comedians. I, though I may appear capable, am lost without my wife and after a week of separation I fall into a black hole and am incapable of doing business.

I am all in favor of diversity and inclusivity in theory, but when the pilot comes on the horn and welcomes us from the cockpit, I want to feel that he or she is a Republican.

In my grievous isolation, missing her voice, her hand on my shoulder, I put on a CD of the Bethel Gospel Quartet, a male quartet from Bethel AME church in Mobile, Alabama, who recorded for Victor in the late Twenties, and listened to them sing “We shall walk through the valley in peace” and was stunned by the gorgeousness of their singing, the big bass, the baritone lead, the two tenors, unaccompanied singing, the stateliness and the joy of it, four men weaving brilliant harmonic turns. And then I was blown away by:

The blind man stood in the road and cried,

The blind man stood in the road and cried,

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Crying, “Oh Lord, show me the way,

Show me the way to go home.”

Four lines that sum up my whole situation so beautifully, sung by four Black men in Alabama who clearly love singing together, who are living in a cruel society where they must walk a careful line, avoiding missteps that could easily lead to lynching, but none of that is in their music. In their music, they are free as angels. I suppose Victor paid them some money for the recording session, and then they went back to being stonemasons or cooks or drivers, and here they are in full glory on my CD player in 2021, and who the racists who stood ready to kill them have left nothing behind and are wholly and deservedly forgotten.

I am a white guy, except for some reddish patches and brownish hair, and I admit to being privileged. One privilege is the fact that you are reading what I’ve written. I admit that I sometimes fly first class, which I feel sheepish about because I’m from Minnesota where we are brought up to be self-effacing to the point of invisibility, and when I stride down the express lane past the mile-long queue of peasants in the Economy line, I feel apologetic, and want to hand out cards that say, “I fly first class because I have a painful back injury suffered while rescuing small children from the upper story of a burning orphanage,” but I walk along, eyes averted, face mask pulled up, and through the X-ray and I board the plane.

I am all in favor of diversity and inclusivity in theory, but when the pilot comes on the horn and welcomes us from the cockpit, I want to feel that he or she is a Republican. I want to hear authority in the voice, a growliness that comes from having shouted orders at people. I do not want my pilot to come on singing “Off we go into the wild blue yonder” and if he does, I’m off the plane. If it’s a woman pilot, I want her to be crisp and chill, not warm and caring. If she mentions turbulent conditions ahead, I don’t want to hear concern in her voice. I do not want her to thank us for flying — that’s for the flight attendants.


I prefer my pilot to be a Republican with military service, preferably at the rank of captain or higher, preferably as an aviator, not in the Quartermaster Corps. I’m a Democrat and I’d be leery of a progressive Democrat pilot whose concern about air pollution might make him reluctant to use full power on takeoff. I don’t want anyone like me up front. No deep thinkers. A high-flier, please.

Garrison Keillor
Prairie Home Productions