Saturday, December 19, 2009

All the Women Are Strong

"And that's the news from Lake Wobegon. Where all the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all the children are above average." That's the signature sign off of the legendary Garrison Keillor. He's an American story-teller, radio show host, writer, and author who has inspired me, whether I realized it or not, throughout my life.

As a child I would fall asleep listening to his stories from the fictional town of Lake Wobegon, Minnesota, where present-day life felt more like life in a rural 1950s town. At least, that's how it always sounded to me. A town full of Lutherans and modesty, Lake Wobegon had plenty of characters. Farmers, townies, rebellious teens, drunks, and many other characters that I remember as if they're old friends. The best way to describe the majority of the LW population was said by Garrison in a story where he talked about the hottest days of summer when people would be awake in the middle of the night because they saw air conditioning as a luxury (or it meant someone was sick in the house) and they were all so modest that they couldn't sleep without a blanket on. If they kicked the blanket off in the middle of the night unconsciously, the immodesty would wake them and they'd put the blanket back on. (Ha!)

Even during my high school years I would still listen to the different stories as I fell asleep and when I got to college I stopped listening to it for a couple years, then about a year and a half ago I started listening to the radio show on NPR he hosts called A Prarie Home Companion. I try to listen to it every week, and the way he speaks...his pauses and emphases...I love it.

My sister gave my father a book Garrison had written a year ago and I read it in just a few days, when normally it takes me over a month to finish a book. After that, I got one of his audiobooks and spent the next few days listening to that nonstop.

So as I was listening to the broadcast of A Prarie Home Companion last week, I called my dad and asked him if he wanted to take a trip with me to see a live broadcast of APHC. He told me I needed to focus on getting back in college first, but he'd think about it. So this week I looked up dates and Mr. Keillor will be doing broadcasts of Lake Wobegon this year! You'd better believe I'm going.

And I'm going to send him a letter every week. I'm going to be persistent in insisting that I get to meet him. It would mean so much to me and I want to let him know the influence he has had in my life. In my own story telling, and especially in my writing, even though I couldn't get close to the intricacy of the stories he tells and the humor.

One day it would be nice to visit a place like Lake Wobegon. A place of simpler life. Where casseroles are a part of a balanced diet and even the lone bar in town (the SideTrack Tap) stays closed on a Sunday. A place where all the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all the children are above average.

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