Bertie's Mood

Always Critical and Never Superficial

To Garrison Keiller: For the good times.

“From Minnesota Public Radio”. Four stubborn words introduced me in a gentle but elegant way to A Prairie Home Companion. Even before I knew its name or its origin, the Tishomingo Blues took me on a long journey I never imagined it would or even could. Without it, I would never have undertaken my venture into literature, Roots Music, Folk and Country. Its unique reflection of America allowed me to grasp the history and culture of all Americans. A diversity that is unique, profound but ever so interesting.

Those were the times, the young pristine days of the Internet, when the concept Social Network was unheard of and could only be conceived by an evil-minded programmer. Armed with little more than a 33.6 kbit/s Dial Up Internet Connection, all of us discoverers looked at the broad horizon of the information age, jumping from one internet site to another, hovering over the vast amounts of news and information being thrown on the Internet. We didn’t dare even to challenge let alone question the divine plan Google set out of providing us with the perfect e-mail experience. And yet, among all this seemingly organized chaos, I found each Saturday a portion of Arts, Literature, Political Satire and a good dosage of innocent laughter in something I thought had long disappeared: a live Radio Show with Audience.

Before long, and obliviously advocating the show at home as being one of my major discoveries, I had found a partner in crime. When I mentioned A Prairie Home Companion would be coming to Paris two years ago, my sister and I quickly ordered a couple of train tickets to take the train from Brussels to Paris. So keen we were on seeing the show in real life, at least as much we were disappointed when we found out the show had been canceled. We consoled ourselves we at least had booked ourselves a long weekend in Paris to visit friends, dive into the beautiful Quai d’Orsay museum and wander through many beautiful parks and streets.

A Prairie Home Companion aired first in 1974 and, whilst the date I believe does not matter, its history does. From a state and city which names are seldom found in sensational headlines, whose people are bluntly overlooked or, if lucky, vaguely mentioned when discusses statistics, came into existence through hard work, conviction and never without the necessary mount of self-critique, not only a show but a microcosm that allowed people to grow, create, express themselves and share their work.

I’m too young to talk about the changes in the show, hiccups, setbacks, tried and lost formats. I wasn’t even born when Garrison decided to leave the show to get married and spend time abroad. Minnesotans might be loyal, stubborn, studied and arts-loving, I can imagine Garrison wanting to open up the show for something bigger. As allows the art mastered by a good bartender, a mix is far better than the ingredients served apart. A Prairie Home Companion allowed all Quality Ingredients to be distilled into a sublime cocktail bridging convictions, dogmas and styles. Together, humor and satire delivered on the promised intoxication.

Today, 15 years later after first hearing the show through a jittery Internet audio stream, I still try to find the answers to life’s persistent questions as I doze off during Steering and Decisions Committees, Preparatory Board Meetings and Management Decision Orientation Reunions. At least now, I can attest life is flowing like Ketchup on French Toast.

For the good times, Garrison.

Photo of Saint Paul (MN) by Matt Jones on Unsplash.


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