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Hi Mr. Keillor, My family

December 20, 2004 |

Hi Mr. Keillor,
My family and I adore listening to your show every week. I grew up listening with my dad — he passed away many years ago — and it is gratifying to do the same with my three children now.

I am married to the most wonderful man in the world and my husband and I are about to celebrate our twelfth wedding anniversary. We have a special place for you in our hearts — you were in the restaurant, at the next table, on the night we got engaged!

So I was hoping that in honor of our anniversary (on December 27th), you might give us some words and wisdom on love.

Thank you so much,
Rabbi Janet Ozur Bass

Rabbi Bass,
I'm dazed to think that I was in the vicinity of such a grand occasion and unaware of it. I imagine this was in New York, maybe at La Reserve on 51st Street, or Alison's On Dominick, or the Rainbow Room, three lovely places that have all passed into restaurant history, but here you are, and here I am, still ticking along. I'm much older than you, but probably no wiser. A rabbi, unless you are a hermit rabbi or a cloistered rabbi, is bound to see more of life than most authors. People defer to rabbis, of course, and tiptoe around them, but you do get to see individuals in terrible straits, under awful duress, in great despair, and that is when you witness the great truth about people, their sheer tenacity. As a young man I hoped to be one of the gifted, but gifts are cheap, and what really counts is tenacity, which everyone has in them but it doesn't come out unless provoked by circumstance. My great ambition has always been to be a novelist, which I've failed at. I had the opportunity — back around the time you and I were neighbors in that restaurant, I had all the time in the world to write the novel I wanted to write, but it wasn't in me. It simply wasn't there. I couldn't find the tenacity. For me, radio was the day job, a stopgap measure, a way to tide myself over until I got to do the big thing I wanted to do, but if it gave pleasure to you and your dad, then I start to see it in a different light. Last Saturday night, I went to a memorial concert at an old firehouse in Minneapolis, to honor an old friend from the early days of "A Prairie Home Companion" who died last summer. Died young. (My age). Milton Schindler, a nice Jewish boy from north Minneapolis who discovered the blues in high school and picked up the harmonica and became an outstanding blues harpist and shouter and got the nickname "Soupy". There were many musicians from the old days of "Prairie Home" and it was good to see them and feel their tenacity, hammering out the classic blues and R&B and jug band numbers that Soupy did so well. He was a sweet man who was possessed on stage and he threw himself into his music and held nothing back. (Pat Donohue has that same fire, and so does Rich Dworsky.) It was a soulful show. None of the folks on stage had ever found wealth and fame in the music biz, and yet they are great artists of tenacity. The art is larger than the artist. It keeps on keeping on. I listened to Bob & Ray as a kid and got a particular odd sense of joy from them and some of it lives on in this show and someday when I'm 101 I'll hear something on the radio and think, "Hey, he stole that from me." and be pleased.

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