Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Garrison at the fair

I don't know him. But he walks among us. I run into him occasionally. He knows me even less than I know him so we have nothing to say. But he is Garrison Keillor, Pulitzer Prize winner, a great man of letters. So I look. I watch. Celebrities, man. Anything they do will be a story. How strange.

They did nothing? Interesting. What was that like?

I am always surprised by my fellow Minnesotans' french disaffection. Garrison Keillor? "Eh." They say. "I'm not a fan."

I don't care if you're not a fan. He has been telling The World who you are for 40 years. Forty years! Yes, there are teams of geniuses telling the world who New York City is, but Minnesota? Think of it. No one in Georgia, or Wisconsin, or Arizona, or Vermont has that kind of voice. No one is around to tell the world who they are. But we are spoken. We have Garrison Keillor! 

Ah, maybe that's part of the problem. We're not so sure we want to be talked about. Easy for me, a transplant of just 23 years.

There have been others. Charles Schultz? The Peanuts is Minnesota, but you sort of have to know, it is a secret knowledge. And he was maybe too great anyway, and a man who moved away forever. Bob Dylan? No, he tells the world what the world is. He never belonged to us. Garrison Keillor is a great artist, and he is just our size.

There I am at The State Fair, The Great Minnesota Get Together. Yes it is. Garrison Keillor hosted his show at the bandstand on Friday night, thousands in the stands, millions still listening across the world on radio. But it is now Sunday afternoon, warm, almost hot, threatening rain, but relenting. Two hundred thousand people are there on that day. My wife and I sit on a low wall, watching, eating. Here comes Garrison Keillor. Like an apparition. It might as well be Snoopy walking through, no, not someone dressed as Snoopy, Snoopy. Or how about a young Judy Garland, the Prince of Purple Rain?

Earlier in the day we saw the State Fair Mascots (gophers called Fairchild and Fairborne). Symbols. This was the real deal. All legend on foot, Sunday at The Minnesota State Fair. A tall old man stooped enough to no longer be very tall. He is wearing a tan, linen suit. It is wrinkled. He moves slowly and deliberately. He is accompanied by a young woman who seems patient. He is odd and stately. They hardly seem to be going anywhere, just moving through. Sitting on our wall he is merely the hundredth interesting person to look at, but he is also Garrison Keillor. Garrison Keillor. In the great mass of the fair he is spotted by someone other than us. A man approaches him, puts his arm across Mr. Keillor's shoulders and has his picture taken. Garrison Keillor is gracious in it, though faintly pained if you look closely. I look closely.

The corner of Dan Patch Avenue and Underwood Street. You may have never heard of them. They are another people thronged intersection in the Minnesota State Fair. We sit on a wall at what is the absolute heart and soul center of Minnesota for those few moments that Garrison Keillor is there. How sweet to be at the center of something.

And slowly, he moves on. We are finished eating. We have seen the excellent seed art display. We sat at the center of Minnesota watching our modern Paul Bunyan in his later years. Anything else we could venture now would only be anti climax. It is time to leave the fair. We start our long walk to the car. Summer is over.


  1. Sometimes even all the flowery platitudes a master librarian can muster are not enough to adequately enshrine the greatest among us. It's high time y'all carve his likeness in cheese. Something for the ages!

    1. Alas, I suppose you are right, but you must not be from around here as we do not use cheese; the likeness shall be carved in butter!


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