An Evening with Garrison Keillor

I’m a Garrison Keillor groupie.  So when my youngest son invited me to attend An Evening with Garrison Keillor last Wednesday at the State Theater, I didn’t scream “Yes! Yes! Yes!” with raised and shaking fists as an ordinary wild-eyed groupie might. Instead my soft “I’d love to, dear. How nice of you to ask.  But are you sure…?” was accompanied only by the rapid thumpety-thump of my heart.  As the Midwestern born and bred daughter of Minnesota Lutherans, it was the only response possible.  A Keilloresque response.

My husband first drew me into the magic of Garrison Keillor’s A Prairie Home Companion radio program when we lived in southern Indiana.  In those days we had only one car, a bronze Chevy Malibu wagon.  No air conditioning, but it had a decent radio.  One evening we came home with the Malibu’s rear filled with bags of groceries, a few pairs of new shoes, and some rambunctious little boys to wear them.  The late spring air hung warm and moist as the car radio broadcast NPR live from St. Paul, Minnesota.  We pulled into the driveway and stopped the car. No one moved to get out, not even our young sons. Instead we sat enchanted by Keillor’s hypnotic voice spinning a tale about the people in Lake Wobegon, “the little town that time forgot and the decades cannot improve.”

Through the years, on long road trips we brought along audio tapes of missed programs, Old Sweet Songs, and even How to Talk Minnesotan.

We’ve seen several live Prairie Home Companion performances.  The first was in Philadelphia.  We still laugh about the bull’s horns and large purple cape Keillor donned, his Sons of Knute lodge attire.  We watched the Christmas progam in Bethlehem, enraptured with the sweet sounds of choir music.  Last summer, we traveled to Red Bank, NJ for his Summer Love Tour.  All were radio style variety shows packed with delightful blends of music and commercials for Powder Milk biscuits, with GK and guests performing skits as Guy Noir, Private Eye and cowboys, Dusty and Lefty.  All complete with radio sound effects, of course.

Wednesday evening was different. It was simply An Evening with Garrison Keillor.  Alone.  Just Keillor and the sold-out State Theater audience.  He took us with on a road trip he and his family made when he was 12. Parents and the six kids, Garrison in the middle, driving to Yellowstone.  Somewhere in North Dakota, he became stranded in a gas station. He waited three days for his parents to return, guests of the gas station owners who lived in a tiny trailer and chain-smoked Camels and drank smelly beer.  Thus began his writer’s journey.

From then on, he told us, he wanted to be a writer.  So he went to college and majored in English.  He planned to write the great American novel but, as an English major, he discovered it had already been written. 🙂

Throughout his nearly two-hour performance (no breaks) we listened as story followed story then found its way home. One love affair unveiled another. Audience laughter shook the ceiling.  Listening, laughing, loving the experience, I thought of Mark Twain and how he, too, once shared his gift of spinning yarns in packed theaters.  Brilliant storytellers, the pair.

An amazing evening crowned by a long rambling side-trip back to the much beloved Lake Wobegon where “all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average.”

Thank you, my son!

19 thoughts on “An Evening with Garrison Keillor

  1. Garrison Keillor is brilliant. He can make you chuckle and bring on existential depression all at the same time. Back when I had a radio, I used to listen to him a lot. Back when I had a tape player, I used to listen to him on long trips.

    What’s great about his style is how he can wander off into seemingly unrelated stories then bring it back to the main story line at the end. You could do worse than to study his technique.

    I’ll bet it was fun to be in that audience.


  2. Patricia,

    You might want to check out one of the links above. Go to the Prairie Home Companion site. You can listen to a free broadcast. I love the skits and Lake Wobegon stories. Hope you like them, too.

    Love your website! And congratulations on your upcoming book. I’ll watch for it. Thanks for your comments.

    • It was sensational, Donnell! Wonderful seats, too. He is a great son…(all of them are)! His birthday today.

      I’m looking forward to the KOD events in NYC! See you there.

  3. Deb,

    Sure wish I could have been with you. How lucky you had a chance to have a special night with your son. Both of you created a very worthwhile memory. Yippee for you.

    Treasure it.

  4. MJ,

    Thank you. It was a very special evening, a memorable one that I’ll treasure. Funny how these things become ever more important as we age.

  5. “Nothing you do for children is ever wasted. They seem not to notice us, hovering, averting our eyes, and they seldom offer thanks, but what we do for them is never wasted.” – GK

    I cannot imagine such a loss, pray I never will. Know that you made his life better.

  6. Deb – how refreshing and talk of GK brings back my many wonderful memories of my “Minnesotan” Dad and all the relatives from MNPLS to Duluth, the Iron Range, and the Boundary waters! Thanks for sharing! Linda

  7. Linda – So interesting that you, too, have a Minnesota connection. I love the state, despite the frigid winters and summertime killer mosquitoes! A few of my relatives are in the twin cities area with closer ones much farther north. Glad you liked the post. – Deb

  8. Sheila, so glad to see a Canadian visitor! Loved your website, and your pictures. Such beautiful country! One of the things I love about my blog is finding other writers far away. Thanks so much for stopping in.

  9. You gotta love kids who do these things. Our daughter and son-in-law took Hubby to see Lomardi for his birthday. You have to understand, this is a man who has been to NYC less than 10 times in his whole life, but has always been a Green Bay fan.

    Of course when she asked him where he wanted to go for lunch, he had no idea. She took him to HER favorite health food restaurant. I was ROFL when they told me that.

    I loved your emotional account of a great time with your son. Oh, and I’m checking out GK also.

  10. So good to hear from you, Pat. The Lombardi gift for your hubby was a wonderful gift from your daughter & son-i-l. I’m sure he loved it, (who wouldn’t? – LOMBARDI – spoken by a Wisconsin gal & GB fan) even if he did have to eat health food as part of the deal. 🙂 . Thanks for stopping by!

  11. Hi Deb I found your post because I wrote one today It’s Wednesday at Lake Woebegon. Just love this very funny man as you no doubt do. I too have sat in the car in the driveway to hear the end of the show.
    I shall return to read your blog soon. Judith:)

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