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Garrison Keillor: Old man alone on Labor Day Weekend

September 04. 2018 8:45PM

OUR LONG, STEAMY, dreamy summer is coming to an end and it’s time to stop fruiting around and make something of ourselves. You know it and I know it. All those days in the 90s when we skipped our brisk walk and turned up the AC and sat around Googling penguins, Szechuan, engine, honorable mention, H.L. Mencken.

It was he who said: “I am strongly in favor of common sense, common honesty, and common decency. This makes me forever ineligible to any public office. Democracy is a pathetic belief in the collective wisdom of individual ignorance.”

And so here we are today, with a leader whom 60 percent of the people disapprove of and who went golfing on the day of the big funeral where people talked about him without ever mentioning his name.

He was elected by friends of mine here in the Midwest who were angry and wanted a lawyer to sue the pants off the System. When you hire a lawyer, you don’t want a scholarly guy who writes elegant briefs and wins awards from the bar association, you want someone who wears briefs with revolvers on them and goes into a bar and shoves guys around. You’re not choosing a BFF, you’re choosing an attack dog, so you want a jerk and a loudmouth.

And that’s how we got where we are today, the country led by a man who is a daring liar and so nobody follows him except people on his payroll.

The amazing thing is: When all is lost, so much still remains. Invincible ignorance rules the capital, dishonesty is accepted as normal, the U.S. Senate is about to send a robot to the Supreme Court, and yet I walk around with a gizmo the size of half a slice of toast and it buzzes and I put it to my ear and talk to my wife, a smart woman who knows everything about me and yet she loves me. You can’t do better than that. To a man who has married well, Washington is of secondary, even tertiary, importance.

My goal is to live to be 92 while retaining full brain function, and medicine is on my side. I take a blood thinner to prevent lumps of blood from turning me into a moron and an anti-seizure drug so I won’t suddenly fall on the floor, thrashing and foaming at the mouth. I had magnetic resonance imaging a week ago and my brain has been fertile ever since. I couldn’t read French before and now I can. Marcel Proust, in his magnificent “À la Recherche du Temps Perdu,” describes his time doing recherche at Purdue into magnetic resonance. He was temping on the side, while working as a rechercher, and he discovered that loud noise is good for memory — banging, dinging, and the voice of his beloved Madeleine. Peace and calm lead to dementia. So I’m spending the week in New York. The doors were open at church Sunday morning and during the confession of sins, thanks to the sirens outside, I remembered Lust, which I had tried to forget. I was absolved and shook hands with other sinners and came home, feeling joyful amid the honks and the rumble of the subway.

Henry David Thoreau didn’t care for New York and he wrote: “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.” He was talking about men like him who go hide in the woods. Quiet easily leads to despair. In the city, I’m surrounded by the heroism of men and women who came here from far away where they were teachers and managers and now are cleaners and cabdrivers, learning English, making a life for their children. This is inspiring.

It’s a world of progress, and my only complaint is the proliferation of passwords and PIN numbers. I keep forgetting mine and have to click on “Forgot password?” and they give me a new one, A1O2q64bz, and I forget that. I feel like a blind man searching a dark room for a pair of black socks that aren’t there. And then the phone rings and it’s her. She’s boarding a plane. The flight was delayed but it will leave shortly and in two hours she’ll be home.

I’m a happy man. I plan to live until 2034. Plenty of time to throw the crooks out and get a decent government in place. Meanwhile, I’ll wash the dishes and make the bed and await the key in the door.

Garrison Keillor lives in Minnesota.

© Garrison Keillor 2018.

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