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A Prairie Home Companion with Garrison Keillor

Post to the Host
GK responds to queries on topics from childbearing to potato salad, with a little bookstore fetish in between.

Send your own post to the host.
Here's your chance to ask GK your most pressing questions—about the writing life, the radio life, Lake Wobegon, Guy Noir, whatever you like. Also, feel free to send feedback about the show. Honest comments and criticism are always welcome!


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Post to the Host:
I hear Lindsay Lohan has been tearing through your humble city and making a complete fool of herself. It was a huge mistake that she was cast in your film. Evan R. Wood would have been a much better choice — she's a sophisticated young actress who actually has talent and isn't just the flavor of the month. What's done is done, let's pray for the best.

Syd Willon
Seattle

Syd, Miss Lohan has left town and St. Paul is sort of proud to have had her here, I think. I didn't hear anything about her tearing around. I thought she did well on the set, did her lines with real style and passion, was a pro, belted out "Frankie and Johnny" and "Red River Valley," and all of us around the movie set smile at the mention of her name and sort of miss her. Maybe I'm a complete fool but that's my feeling about it.

Dear GK,
You endorsed M.J. Andersen's book Portable Prairie (with a blurb on the cover) and it has done well in the Midwest. The Boston Globe recommended it for summer reading, yet The New York Times and Washington Post have never bothered to review it. Are they snobs or just too busy to bother with anything outside the Beltline or in view of the Empire State building?

Carol Peden
Rapid City, SD

Carol, I loved that book, it just melted my heart, and I make no bones about it. I am very susceptible to any memoir of growing up in South Dakota that describes a Christmas trip to downtown Minneapolis. The book was much more than that, it was elegantly written and a work of art and Miss Andersen has a beautiful Midwestern voice, but the chapter about downtown Minneapolis at Christmas time made me weepy. As for the Times and the Post book reviewers, they do a pretty good job of covering the Flood, especially the books that people are talking about, and sometimes they go out on a limb for a book by an unknown. But you're right — the Times is a New York paper and the Post is a Washington paper. To me, that seems like a good thing.

Post to the Host:

Our parrots have voted, year after year, for PHC as their favorite radio show. When your theme song starts, our cockatoo raises her crest in approval. Their favorite part is the Powder Milk Biscuit song: she and the macaw bounce up and down in time to the music, flap their wings, and hop from one foot to the other. It's infectious: my wife and I dance along, flapping our arms and singing the words, and if the neighbors ever see us doing this out on our patio we might be committed. Our only problem with this is when the musicians really get into the groove and jam too long. The parrots can flap their wings forever, but we get tired out.

Chris Mason
Mount Dora, FL

We are ever curious about our audience, Chris, especially so since the audience sitting in front of us in the theater is rather decorous and sedate. We always suspected that the audience at home was up to something, and now you have clarified the whole matter beautifully: they are dancing with birds. Knowing this will make it harder to keep my mind on the lyrics, but I'll do my best. And if you are committed to an institution, I hope you get to take the parrots, cockatoo, and macaw with you.

Dear Garrison,
When your audience claps along with the music they don't stay with the beat. This annoys me. Since I don't think you can stop them, can you at least arrange for an audience conductor? Just like you sometimes teach your live audience the four-part harmony, couldn't you also teach them to follow a conductor as they clap?

Alternatively, put the broadcast mikes so close to the musicians and vocalists that we radio listeners don't have to hear the clapping.

Eliot Khuner
Berkeley, CA

I thought that our audiences did a pretty good job of keeping time to music, Eliot. Of course at an enormous outdoor venue such as Tanglewood or Wolf Trap or Ravinia, there's a time delay and the folks clapping 800 feet away are going to be behind the beat, given the speed of sound and all, but by and large, people do well — even manage to clap on the off-beat. Clapping is a spontaneous thing, and we don't encourage it — I would never ever ask an audience to clap along — but when the spirit moves people to do it, you feel charmed and buoyed by it — and correcting people's spontaneous clapping would seem — I don't know — churlish, or pusillanimous, on our part. No? Like correcting the grammar of someone's lavish compliment. I'm sure, though, that Scott Rivard, our intrepid technical director, who mans the mixing board, is doing everything he can do to exclude off-kilter audience clapping from the broadcast mix. And those broadcast mikes are as close to the musicians and vocalists as they possibly can be without doing surgical implants.

Post to the Host:
Sue Scott really nailed the South Carolina accent in last week's Guy Noir episode. I have a friend from South Carolina and Sue sounded just like her. Often when non-Southerners try to imitate a Southern accent they go over the top but Sue hit it right on!

Doug Kiracofe
Midlothian, Virginia (near Richmond)

We were staying at a Ramada Inn in Spartanburg that weekend, Doug, and I believe that Sue and Tim Russell pick up their accents from waitresses and bartenders, sometimes from the hotel housekeeping staff. The Southern accent has gotten a little more rare — it's been going south for sometime — but waitresses get into it real good. And bless your heart for writing. And you all have a real nice day, you hear?

Hello Garrison,
I was driving in Spartanburg, SC last Saturday when your show came on from "Sparkle City." I was about to go into my storage space in a warehouse, so I stopped at the Dollar General nearby and bought a three-dollar radio and four Xtra Heavy Duty batteries for a dollar. I had a hard time getting the signal inside the warehouse. After several attempts at raising the radio toward the ceiling as high as I could and balancing it on whatever I could find, making contact between the antenna and the metal building, I paused to rethink my strategy and casually laid the radio down on some clothes in a plastic hanging bag. Voila! The signal came in perfectly. Who knew?

I was able to hear the rest of the show while sorting through a variety of stored possessions. I found things I had not seen in quite some time. And it was a wonderful surprise to hear Baker Maultsby sing his song about the four WalMarts. He played drums for me in a band performance here a couple of years ago. I didn't even know he also sings
and writes!

Thanks for another great show.

Jennifer Prince
Nashville

Jennifer, we are ever curious about our audience at home and what they're doing and now we have a clearer picture. Some of them are dancing with birds and others are sorting through stuff stored in a warehouse. As for Baker, he was a delight. Of course people have always underestimated drummers. Many of them can sing and most of them can write. Many of them can write whole paragraphs. Now maybe someone will explain why Spartanburg is called "Sparkle City". Do they mine mica there?

Dear Garrison:
I have just listened to the show performed in Atlanta, where you say to the opera singer that her role in La Traviata requires her to sing lying on her back, "lying prone," you say.

Oops. "Prone" means to lie on one's stomach. "Supine" means to lie on one's back. This can be remembered because "supine" sounds like "spine". I don't mind that the world at large doesn't understand this distinction, but a man who has made it part of his act to point out the difference between lay and lie, and between nauseous and nauseated, and other fine points of usage, should not have made this mistake, and should never make this mistake again.

Cheryl Gatling
Syracuse, NY

Yes, ma'am.

Dear Garrison,
I am a biomedical scientist who writes my grants and papers in the middle of the night while listening to old PHCs which somehow get me in the proper frame of mind. In the monologue from Atlanta you mentioned the 5-second rule. As a physician I cannot endorse it. As a parent, I live by it.

Harvey Kornblum
Los Angeles

Dr. Kornblum, the idea that food dropped on the ground can be eaten if picked up within five seconds may be faith-based and not scientific but it is important for human parents to draw the line that divides our children from, say, turkey vultures and jackals. The five-second rule has prevented many many children from feasting on the remains of old raccoons, even if they've observed their old dog Buster doing so. I think that the five-second rule would be a good topic for a biomedical paper and I wouldn't be surprised if a big ice cream company would give you money to study it. Oftentimes it's a scoop of ice cream that falls on the ground that raises the five-second rule. And if your research vindicates the rule, you would be page-one news, sir. They might even name it for you: the Kornblum Principle. This could be your ticket to fame and fortune.

Sir,
I again missed your show today, another Saturday shot to hell. You and your cast and guests are very entertaining and I have enjoyed many hours of your shows. But I gave you up a few months ago, because you too often spoil the show for me, by the interjection of politics. You have every right to do that, of course. Feel free. But also realize that you lose listeners, at least you lost one. Three, if you count my two dogs.

I wish you felt it necessary just to entertain, not to persuade your listeners to a political point of view, or rail against someone you politically dislike. I wonder, would you have been so bold when you were an unknown, trying to establish the success you've now achieved?

Thank you for all the past enjoyment. I wish you continued success.

Regards,
Brian Heintzelman
Salado, Texas

You missed a good show, Brian, but I'm sure that life is rich and varied enough in Salado without the radio. And I'm not sure that, in your current mood, you would have enjoyed the show. There was nothing political in it, no hook to hang your unhappiness on. We had a fine old time.

Dear GK:
Tonic Sol-Fa was great and I hope you have them back on the show soon.

My daughter just graduated from college with a degree in professional writing. She was recently told by a cousin (who is a children's book author of more than 100 books) that poetry is easier to sell than short stories. Do you agree? Do you have any advice for my daughter?

Carol Hammond
Harrison Township, MI

Carol, congratulations to the daughter and best of luck to her in her career, in all its several stages. The first step is to find something to do that people are willing to pay you for, which is a large moment of truth for anybody. And then you need to find out what it is that you yourself truly and deeply want to do. Some people succeed in getting paid for that and others don't. I can't recommend poetry as a money-making proposition, though perhaps in the field of children's books it can be. Journalism is a good place for any writer to start — the retailing of fact is always a useful trade and can it help you learn to appreciate the declarative sentence. A young writer is easily tempted by the allusive and ethereal and ironic and reflective, but the declarative is at the bottom of most good writing.

Dear Garrison,
I attended the show at Blossom Music Center last evening. I first saw the show at the World Theater in 1978 (4 bucks?) and have seen many over the years. I must say that last night's performance was one of the best I have seen. I believe it is because, more than ever, you seem to be a man at ease with what you are doing. In other words, you just keep getting better. How can this be? I am two years younger than you and three weeks ago they made me stop being an airline pilot (Northwest) because I turned 60. Apparently I can get no better. I obtained last night's tickets through a WKSU fund drive. They over-hyped the fact that the after-show ice cream social would be a chance to meet with the cast. By the time we found the social, the ice cream was gone and there was no cast that I could see. That was OK, but I hoped to introduce my 12-year-old son to you and Mr. Russell and others. I would have reminded you of the time 20 or so years ago I ambushed you in the Red Concourse of MSP and had you sign my pilot logbook. (I felt bad for that, you looked so pained.) I would have reminded Tim of the time I was a co-pilot on a flight in which he was conducting a Good Neighbor Tour for 'CCO, and that he and I are of the few people who recall Winky-Dink. But we had a great time anyway. (I think my son really likes the show and is not just patronizing an elderly father.) I realized as I nearly burst into tears at the closing scene in the new Star Wars movie that this marked my life's journey, that when I saw the first one, I was a young man in his 30's. Your show is so much more than that to me. Please keep taking your vitamins.

B. David Petersen
Ashland, OH

Captain Petersen, thank you for the kind thoughts. Everyone had a pretty good time at Blossom, despite the humidity, despite our upbringings, and I'm sorry I had to bag out of the ice-cream social. I was bunged up with a bad back and after the encore of "Chapel of Love" and "Under the Boardwalk" I limped back to the dressing room and lay down on my back on the floor, a huge relief. I could hear people chortling outdoors at the social and thought about joining them but it felt so good to lie flat in a quiet dark place and at our age, Captain, we have to indulge ourselves a little. I hope your back isn't giving you problems. The answer is to do ten minutes of simple floor stretching, including a few crunches and push-ups, twice a day, and it's a big challenge for me to make myself do it. But I'm resolved to do whatever it takes to keep going for a few more years. When you finally, after decades of stumbling around, come within sight of something like competence, it's no time to quit.

Dear Garry,
Loved the show at Blossom! Great job on making Cuyahoga Falls the Niagara of the Midwest. I did want to fill you in on the geography lesson, however. Like you, once a visitor to the Sheraton Suites with the great view from the restaurant, I thought THAT was the Falls, slow and gradual. Actually, the Falls are in the State Park about 2 blocks away — a great hiking area in an area where ancient Indians lived. And there is the Falls, well over 100 feet STRAIGHT DOWN (but as yet undeveloped by tourism....).

Joe Belinsky
N. Canton, OH

Joe, I knew I was in rough water when I described the Falls as more of a horizontal falls, or rapids, and I appreciate the information that there is indeed a major vertical segment, but the local boosters advertise the Falls as being higher than Niagara with a drop of 220 feet, and so they have included a long stretch of rapids along with the 100-foot cataract. In any case, my proposal on the show was that the Falls be built up to 2000 feet, and I am going to stand firm on that.



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