NOTE: It’s clear to me that Garrison Keillor doesn’t like to be profound, at least not when he’s performing.
He starts off writing or doing a monologue, following the curves and turns of a narrative, striving for a seamless whimsy. Then something big & weighty abruptly rolls like a boulder onto his path — interruptions that happen too doggone often these days — which he’d just as soon avoid, or slide around, or deal with obliquely, sidelong, seeking a way to draw at least a half smile out of it.
I can see him pausing there, peering up at that newest boulder, a mic in one hand, fumbling with the other in the pocket of his tan suit coat. Finally he pulls out a hunk of thick worn-down chalk, scribbles on the boulder’s side, and moves on, across the stage or on a path in Central Park, murmuring about the guys at the Sidetrack Tap, or was it something about Mozart?
Those of us who follow his meanderings soon sidle up in his wake and squint at the very fleeting graffiti. And usually it’s something like: “Well, life is good anyway.”
Maybe to some it just seems silly, or unserious. But then to others, sinking back into the haze of what was weighing us down before he chanced by, it carries a glimpse of something more: the flash of a goldfinch in full summer feather, or a cool drink of water on a broiling afternoon.
And we think, “By golly, the rascal did it again.”
I woke up this morning and my good woman wasn’t gone, she was asleep beside me, I didn’t feel an aching in my head, no blues around my bed. I made coffee, it tasted fine, not like turpentine. I could put gin in the coffee and make it taste like turpentine but why would I?
And that’s how I feel about the Six Supremes who’re trying to take us back to the 19th century. No need to grieve over it, November is coming, and the simple solution is to throw the bums out. Elect a Congress with a two-thirds majority in favor of enlarging the Court to fifteen, which will reverse the reversals. Ninety million eligible voters sat out the 2016 election and that’s how we wound up where we are with this ambitious minority in power.
So you’re depressed by this turn of events. Think of the Six, staying home with the shades pulled, their spouses and children going to the hair salon accompanied by plainclothesmen with a bulge under the jacket.
They know that they are widely despised. They avoid eye contact with passersby. I doubt they’re ordering takeout: some worker at Domino’s sees Alito’s name on the order, she is likely to tamper with the pizza. The Six are not attending concerts. No picnics for them. No long car trips except to Mississippi, Alabama, and Texas. Clarence and Ginni surely have close friends but after he announced that the Supremes should take a hard look at gay relationships and contraceptives, he must be thinking about the children and grandchildren of the friends, the boy with his hair in a bun, the girl with the tattoos, and what about the paperboy and the waiters at the country club?
And what if he takes a wrong turn and runs into the Pride Parade? They might put him on a rainbow blanket and march down the street tossing him in the air, waving his arms and legs, a ridiculous fate for the Leader of the Pack.
You and I, my dears, can walk freely through town with a clear conscience, enjoy the breeze in the trees and say hi to the cop on the corner. The Six cannot. The cop is not so friendly, imagining everybody carrying a loaded .45 and if he sees one of the six enablers, he might give them the finger, which so far is protected by the First Amendment.
Don’t be disheartened. Deal with the problem. If you’re troubled by inflation, cut back on expenses. Don’t buy sparkling water. Fill up the glass with tap water and if you want bubbles, stick a straw in the water and blow. If you’re depressed by the state of things, skip the news and take a walk beside a large body of water and look at the stars and the moon. The newscaster will say, “Good evening” and then give you fifty-seven reasons why it’s not. Give yourself a break.
The Gang of Six is heading for 1845 and I doubt they’ll get to Prohibition before they fade into the sunset and go down in the WWTT chapter of history (What Were They Thinking). The Six couldn’t find abortion mentioned in the Constitution so they dumped Roe but maybe when they go to their physician to deal with their gloominess, they’ll find a medical originalist with a bucket of leeches who’ll bleed them white and administer powerful purgatives until they’re considerably lighter, and thus they will regain their senses and so will we.
Meanwhile, remind yourself that other people have thrived under wretched governors so don’t be discouraged. The Duke of Saxe-Weimar threw Bach in jail for daring to think he had individual rights. Dante was sent into exile and he wrote the Inferno so he could put the politician Argenti into the Fifth Circle of Hell. Dostoevsky joined a liberal study group for which, in 1849, he was thrown into prison and sentenced to death by firing squad, and was third in line to be executed when a pardon arrived. He lit out for Paris, London, Berlin, and figured out how to survive, writing Crime and Punishment in serial installments for magazines, avoiding politics.
While cruelty is in power, do what Mozart did. Exercise your gifts. Create beautiful things. Wolfgang stayed clear of emperors and did his work and he lives on today and the emperors are just moldy names on marble slabs covered with pigeon droppings. If you can’t write The Marriage of Figaro, write your own marriage and make it a work of art.