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A Faerie Home Companion

July 2, 2009

336px-PrairieHomeCompanionGKcast You know that radio show, A Prairie Home Companion, with Garrison Keillor?  He doesn’t know it, but I know him.  We have a connection that goes waaaay back.

Yep.  We do.  Here is the story.

I lived in our “Lake Woebegone”, (Marine on St. Croix, Minnesota) and my boyfriend at the time was watching Garrison’s cat, a female Maine Coon, I believe.

At one point my boyfriend had to go on a field trip and so he asked me to watch Garrison’s cat, which I did.  Although I was thrilled at the honor of caring for something of his, there is so much more to my knowing Garrison Keillor than feeding and playing with his cat.  

That wonderful radio show came to our town and was broadcast down the street from “Ralph’s Pretty Good Grocery” – it really was Ralph’s – above the library in the town hall, in a room that had those old varnished hardwood floors and a little stage.  Marine Town Hall

This is where Marine Elementary held its productions; where my sister Molly played the fiddler and the dead wife Fruma-Sarah in “Fiddler on the Roof”.   It was a small space and could only hold a certain number of  Marine’s elite.  But my friend who had an “in” got me a seat.   

350px-PrairieHomeCompanion2007cast 

My parents were fans of pubic radio and The Prairie Home Companion was not unknown to me.  As I had been raised on music, art, and the kind of lifestyle that was akin to this genre, it felt like he was our hometown-son that had made it and had come home to show us his medals.  I remember the energy in that room.  We were all proud that he was there and that he had done so well, his success felt like our accomplishment too somehow. 

This event was an initiation into the world of possibilities for me.  It took my perception of it from familiar and funny to the reality of what it was.  I personally witnessed sheer magic that the actors, musicians, and especially Garrison created – I had a view of how it worked from equipment to the live performance.  I remember thinking, “I could sing with this show, I could be up there – I could do this.”  He introduced me to a unique version of self-realization and belief.

Of course he taught me something about writing, too.  The most affirming and compelling thing I learned is that it is an exercise in discovery.  When you begin, you don’t know where your story or character might go – as the tale unfolds, it leads you.  I think it’s why I love my writing like I do, I am as surprised and delighted as my readers to find out what happens.

When you write, you draw on your experiences, upbringing, and emotions and weave them subtly or not so very, into your story.  That’s what makes it believable and “real”.  Even if it is a faerie tale.  People want to recognize themselves in what you write – to identify with the work, from the story to those characters within the covers.  Or, they yearn to be taken somewhere foreign, exciting, exotically new and sail with you on uncharted waters. 

“What and where is that land you’re taking me to?”  They wonder.  “Who will I find there?”  The anticipation and revelation of these unknown factors is exciting and compelling; and therefore they are engaged and captivated.  What they don’t know is the author often is just as much.

I have to confess something.  I didn’t put all of this together until last night, when I saw a PBS special on the man.  I couldn’t sleep you see, and was flipping through channels from midnight until 1 a.m. when the special called American Masters Garrison Keillor came on.  I watched the entire thing which ended at 2:30 a.m. – and was so glad I hadn’t been able to sleep. 

As I watched and remembered that time, (back then I was all of 16 going on 17 and now, well, I’m not) it struck me how he’d influenced me so very much. 

I thought of his literary contributions, instruction, and of course the entertainment.  From his humorous and personally resonating writing style to his delivery with its lilting inflections and waltz-paced tones (he sort of speaks in 3/4 time), he is indeed my companion.

He said something though, and on this point I don’t see eye to eye with him.  It was about people dying and leaving a hole in other’s lives.  He said the hole doesn’t last – they just dig one and put you in it and people move on.  Or something like that.

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Oh I don’t agree!  I am sure there will always be hole, a Garrison-sized hole in our hearts when you are gone, Mr. Keillor.  Or when I am gone – don’t you think so too, really?

One more thing is this, his influence has extended beyond just writing.  How very funny to have this suddenly strike me – meet our Maine Coons, whose breed he inadvertently introduced me to (unless of course that boyfriend was lying about cat-sitting in which case, never mind):
Frankincense - Frankie

Frankie (Frankincense)

Myrrh - Mr. Naughty
Myrrh (Mr. Naughty)

Cleopatra

Cleopatra, who is our “little” girl and is dark like his cat was as I recall…

From MaidensWood, where anything is possible and my feet are firmly planted in mid-air – Thank you Garrison.  xJ

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. July 2, 2009 5:15 pm

    I was just talking with someone else about Keillor, I remember when he was the rage, he was everywhere! Funny way of looking at life.
    Awww, Maine coons, so sweet, so gentle. I don’t think I’ll ever go back now that I’ve the pleasure of owning one, or he owns me! Either way….
    I’ve left you something on my blog.

  2. July 2, 2009 5:34 pm

    We drove so many miles visiting family over the years. Of course, we always listened to A Prairie Home Companion on the radio. It’s an American landmark, of sorts. How lucky you were to see a show live. Congrats on finishing your books. I am fairy ignorant, but they look precious as can be to me.

  3. July 3, 2009 10:39 am

    What a great storyof how he
    influenced you!

  4. July 3, 2009 11:51 am

    So glad you visited today, I always love when you visit, I have got to remember to add you to my blog roll, I’m going to do that right now, I seem to overlook my bloggy friends on wordpress and typepad. 😦 My bad, I’m sorry. Love your post, and love your visits! Hope you have a wonderful 4th of July weekend!
    ♥ Teresa

  5. July 3, 2009 12:58 pm

    What a heart-warming story.
    This is the first time I have gotten into your blog that I have not gotten the red x and operation aborted sign…grrr…
    HAVE A WONDERFUL FOURTH OF JULY.
    Angel hugs
    debbie

  6. July 3, 2009 1:08 pm

    How cool that you got to see him live and he has had such a great influence on you. Congrats on finishing your books too. Thanks for taking the time to stop by my blog as well.

  7. July 4, 2009 3:30 am

    I too, am a fan. I’ve seen several live performances of A PRAIRIE HOME COMPANION, as well. I also love to hear Garrison Keillor read poetry.

    Have a wonderful 4th of July weekend,
    Kay

  8. July 7, 2009 4:54 pm

    Well, first of all, let me compliment you on your most handsome cats! As you know, I’m a sucker for a gorgeous feline!

    I don’t know if you know I work at a public radio/TV station and was fortunate enough to both enjoy the program you mentioned (which was excellent) and also to have PHC come to our city a few years ago. SO, I really loved your stories of Garrison, the show, and how it affected your life, and I hope this gets seen by him or someone from his company, because it is a wonderful tribute, beautifully illustrated and told.

    When the show came to East Lansing a couple of years ago, our station hosted it and had a big party after. Most of the company came, including Garrison who was so gracious with his time, meeting folks. After, they kept bugging him — “you’ll miss the plane!” they said. And he did. He didn’t want to leave — kept hanging out even after many of the guests had left! It was great fun and a wonderful memory.

    I think the program is available for online viewing at pbs.org if you’re interested in catching it again!

    And congrats on the books!

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