Aug. 13th, 2016

I was in the kitchen this evening, perusing pickle reciepts for the way-too-many cucumbers I picked today (5 pounds, and not one zucchini), and Prairie Home Companion was on, in the way that it is on Saturday nights on NPR.  But it wasn't really on, because the show's off the air, and they're only playing reruns.

I've been listing to PHC my entire life, pretty much every Saturday night.  I've seen it live three separate times.  I wouldn't actually say that I am a fan.  I would say that I have always valued the show for what it represents:  a sense of local place, a sense of smallness, a willingness to wait for the punchline, the patience to sit through a shaggy dog story that sometimes really isn't that funny, and is pretty much the same as the last Big Story you got sat down to be told, a sense of not-really-nostalgia, but likewise no sense of needing to proceed full speed ahead.

PHC took its time.  It meandered.  Sometimes it got a little off course.  Still, Garrison Keillor got you to the end of the ride, and in the meantime you'd heard several different things you mightnt've expected, even if you had to put up with some really lame Dad jokes.

I didn't always like the music, but I was glad it was being aired.  I am not a storyteller who could go on for hours, but I appreciated the art and the practice of it.  I am not a small-town resident, or a regular church-goer, but I appreciated that the smallness and ordinariness and regularity of those things as portrayed on PHC nevertheless coexisted with liberality of spirit (and politics), exhortations to be patient and kind, and an interruption of understandable cantankerousness to do the right thing.

Hearing the echoes of all that compressed meaning, rebroadcast tonight, makes me sad because I worry who will fill Keillor's shoes, especially with the insanity that is the election this year and the assault on blacks, women and queer folk by those people whose smallness of mind and of heart make it impossible for them to remember patiences and kindness.  Who will take the time and make the space for slow and steady?  Who will remember that a sad story is best followed by mid-tempo music, and that you've got to have at least one long-winded joke?  Who will remind us that duct tape and rhubarb are treasures of the republic (or who can remind us what it truly means to be a republic)?

I caught myself feeling like an alien-- if I came here because of the Prarie Home Companion broadcasts and found that people did not sit on their porches playing the fiddle and more-or-less-tunelessly singing old hymns, wouldn't I feel very misled?  Would I be consternated by the violence in deed and in word that takes up so much space, so much air?

Who will remind us to be above-average now?


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