Garrison Keillor February 12, 2006
Words Beyond Woebegon Life: Garrison Keillor at Cerritos
By Glen Creason
Electronic technology with all its magic demands a price from all of us. Those kids who sit wide-eyed in front of X boxes, cyber hounds who chat in rooms of electronic bytes and those who explore the world from inside darkened cubicles are increasingly detached from the most virtual of realities, their fellow humans. Yet, that yearning which yearns beyond flat screen monitors and the safety of a screen name universe is making a comeback. Assisted, ironically by this same technology an ancient form of connection between people is making a return to favor. That art is storytelling and one of the greatest practitioners of this precious form, Garrison Keillor visited the Performing Arts Center on Sunday afternoon. He absolutely delighted a full house with riveting tales told with affection and warmth. Within his droll descriptions of “plain, honest people” this yarn-spinner enlightened his listeners to the infinite variations of the best and slightly off-kilter idiosyncrasies of folks just like us.
Maestro Keillor is best known for his radio show, The Prairie Home Companion but at this matinee he ventured outside his native rural Minnesota frequently but returned again and again to examples of human frailty and wisdom in those dear ones of Lake Woebegon. He began the festivities with an impromptu song of the joys of warm California that set the stage for two fascinating hours of word paintings on subjects as diverse as his insomniac eight year old daughter, his sleep-eating, the silliness of low-fat diets for grandmas, the sweet memories of necking in the front seat of a car in the 50’s and a teeth-chattering description of Winter in Minnesota.
Keillor’s sonorous baritone caresses the words and his modulation changes slightly to emphasize the dialogues and descriptions. Interspersed, like on his radio show he tosses in a song, well done in fact and always interesting like the unusual “By the Waters of Babylon” mostly done by reggae musicians. There was also a goodly number of rock and roll oldies, which brightened his recollections of parking with a pretty girl, back in the days of bench seats and Ford coupes. You could look around the audience and find fellow travelers grinning from ear to ear and sinking into these dreamscapes joyfully, punctuating the commentary with raucous laughter and nods of understanding. The entire hall was connected by the humanity brought into focus by this one man.
After the intermission the second half was just one, incredibly interwoven story-masterpiece involving the commitment ceremony of Starflower Moonbright of California, twelve Lutheran ministers, a couple of fiberglass ducks, the bowling ball urn of a beloved, a bereaved grandson on a parasail, an ex-lover in a hot air balloon, a drunken old Norwegian bachelor and a lake dog with a rotten fish in his mouth. You kind of had to be there. Yes, the entire hall celebrated the visit of Garrison Keillor and actually exchanged glances of appreciation, not only of the superb storyteller but of each other as well.