I did get to see Garrison Keillor
on Monday night; I ran out at lunch time to get his book Love Me
so I could have it signed, and I also brought one that's been on my bookshelf, WLT
, for a number of years. It occurred to me that I have been listening to this man and his show for going on 20 years; I believe I started before I went to college. John knew I really wanted to go, (and how often do you get to see someone like that for free!) and agreed to stay home while I went by myself. Rather graciously, I might add, it turns out that his jealous act about Mike is mostly to give me a hard time. He called and told his friend Jerry was coming over, and to go ahead and leave from work.
I made it up to Pasadena without incident, although I did have to stop for gas and to put air in the tire (it has a slow leak). However, off the freeway and heading to CalTech, I found that many of the streets are not brightly lit and the street signs are rather small. It was already dark, and although I'd been to the Beckman Auditorium before I ran into a little trouble finding the street the parking lot was on. By the time I could read the street sign, I was already past the street, so I had to make a few U-turns before I found the right place.
I walked to the auditorium and got in line. There was a line for ticket holders, who apparently got reserved seating, and the longer line for people just showing up (like me). However, I was expecting the place to be jammed and it wasn't. There were quite a cross section of people in line with me; older, bordering on elderly people, to younger people - I noticed a guy with a Mohawk and a girl with blue hair.
When they started letting people in, I went up to the balcony, as the lower floor was crowded, and sat in the front row so I could scan the crowd for Mike. The ceiling consists of a bunch of concave gold disks connected together and suspended from the upper ceiling like a parachute. There are little blinking lights that could be seen through the gaps between the disks. I guess I'm easily hypnotized, because I kept finding myself staring at the ceiling.
The PR manager for the bookstore came out to introduced Mr. Keillor finally, and he ambled out the front of the stage, ignoring the tall stool set there for his use for the moment. He started by reading some poetry, starting with Emily Dickinson and another called Wild Geese
, by Mary Oliver.
Now poetry in a book is, for me, like sheet music. I can look at it and know intellectually that there is music there, but I can't hear it. Like music, it's meant to be heard, And by someone with a Voice. The words that were just ant meandering across the page come to life. Sigh.
And then he got a little lighter, and recited his daughters favorite about the seeing eye dog peeing on the blind man's shoe (whaddya expect - she's 5), and the one I felt I had to memorize, a rather different twist on the creation myth:
When God first created woman, she had not two breasts, but three
But the middle one got in the way, so God performed surgery.
After, Woman came to God, the extra breast in her hand
And said, "What shall we do with this useless boob?
So God created man.
Heh. Sorry, guys. But a guy said it.
He read a bit from his book, some of the bits where the main character was giving advice to the lovelorn. Then he perched on the stool, sometimes with his knees drawn up, and sometimes with his legs splayed across the stage, so his bright red socks and black sneakers with white laces were clearly visible, and took questions from the audience, even though the program said that he wouldn't. He offered advice on dealing with celebrity governors (he's from Minnesota, doncha know), admitted that when he quit his show and ran off to Denmark with a new wife he was having a midlife crisis. One of the things he said that struck me, is that once a moment passes, it doesn't exist any more unless it's recorded, documented, written about. That's what writers do. And it's kind of what this whole website is about, isn't it?
After he was done speaking, they set tables up on the stage and people got in line to have him sign their books. The line extended down the stage and into the lobby, but I was surprised it wasn't longer. I assumed he'd be sitting at the table and signing, but he actually stood there and talked to each person as they came up. I was near the back of the line, and passed the time chatting to the woman in line with me, and listening to people behind me. There's one in every crowd - a guy actually said he doesn't have time for a girlfriend because he does nothing but go to book signings and get a thousand signed books a year. He'd been at the front of the line and immediately ran around to the end with another stack of books. *Shakes head* He said he had about 30 and he was sure Garrison wouldn't mind, they were good friends. The store rep, although she seemed like she knew him, put her foot down and told him "no, only five more." Sheesh, I felt guilty giving him two!
When it was my turn, he regarded me gravely - those eyebrows seem to getting more Andy Roonyish every year - and extended his hand )with the pen still in it), looked me up and down and and said "That
is an awesome
shirt!" I was wearing a Hawaiian shirt with surfboards on it. The woman I'd been talking to mentioned I lived in Huntington Beach - "Surf City" and he chimed in with "Oh yeah, The Beach Boys mentioned that in some of the songs. Didn't they grow up there?" Well actually they grew up in Redondo Beach, but at the time I was ashamed to admit I didn't know. He asked if I had a family and how that was going for me, and finished by holding his hand out again with a smile. And of course I was reduced to a giggling schoolgirl, who couldn't make a straight sentence. I giggled all the way back to my car.
I looked at my books before I drove home. In one he just put "Best" and in the new book he wrote, "Love and Coffee," I stopped at In n' Out Burger before I got back on the freeway, since I hadn't had a chance to grab a bite earlier, and as I headed back down the 605 towards the beach and home, I thought Garrison Keillor shook my hand twice!
I'll never wash it again..." Then I remembered I was eating a drippy burger and fries, so that wouldn't work very well.
What a sweet, sweet man. For a shy person, he certainly can put people at their ease. Anyway, I've been trying to get this out since Tuesday morning, and I've just had too much other stuff to do, and now it's after 1 am Saturday morning. So I'll going to bed.