Friday, September 19, 2008

Garrison Keillor

Garrison Keillor came to town last week and I was awfully glad to see him.

I've been listening to that voice for 30 years. Now I don't have a "bucket list" of people to see before they die or I do. All last summer I was irritated by displays of books like "1000 Places to Go Before You Die". I don't want anyone telling me what I should do with the rest of my life. What I should read or who I should see live on stage.

I was irrationally pleased last month when one of the authors of "1000 Places" fell on his head in his home and died at age 46.

But I have always wanted to see Garrison, and here he was in my own town with a one man show. First, I was just grateful for someone saying kind things about Alaska. (With all the media coverage of Sarah, you would think there is something wrong with people who shoot and eat moose.) Garrison says he loves Alaska, and reminded us of things we do all the time (like float plane trips or meeting moose on the trail) that are once in a lifetime experiences for visitors.

The he spent over an hour weaving a story of many old and a few new elements from Lake Woebegone. There were the Sons of Knute giant duck decoys, the Lutheran pastors on Wally's pontoon boat, the 53 Chevy septic tank and the homecoming parade, and Bruno the Fishing Dog. This was interwoven with tales of two characters I don't remember hearing about before and one wedding and one funeral intersecting with all those familiar elements. Hot air balloons and gigolos and bowling balls and parasailing.

Then Garrison talked a little about the nature of storytelling. He reminded us that we have our stories too. "I'd like to hear your story," he said. "Maybe someday you will sit next to me on the plane. Say Anchorage to Seattle. That should be enough time for me to hear your story."

So I've been thinking about the story I would tell him on the plane ever since. I've decided to go traditional and tell my "coming to Alaska" story. Most of us have them.

Mine is the best story of my life. I've told it often. Now, approaching my fourteenth winter here, I imagine telling it to Garrison on the 12:15 am flight to Seattle.

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