That’s Me?

Garrison-Keillor1It struck me while listening to Garrison Keillor read from  O, What a Luxury at The Fitzgerald Theater that maybe as we get older we become more ourselves. That is, if we’re living right. With age comes either the courage or the exhaustion necessary to sit in our true selves and relax a bit. Other people can either take it or leave it.

Keillor started out the evening telling stories about trying to write dark, mysterious, emotional poetry, trying to be someone else. It took him awhile to find his poetic stride– pithy, light verse that is both silly and profound. He and his poems are so unabashedly, so unapologetically him. His poems claim “I’m white, I’m Norwegian, I’m Minnesotan, I’m Lutheran. And I’m proud, gosh darn it.” I am in love with a man who shares many of Keillor’s qualities. A friend of mine once described Dan as “a stoic Norwegian with a quick wit.” So take, for example, Keillor’s Poem, “That’s Me,” which could also be titled, “That’s Dan:”

That’s Me

I’m a minimalist from Minnesota,

Don’t waste my time and I won’t waste yours.

You are the woman I love, of course.

I’m crazy about you and always have been.

And don’t make me say it again.

Cause I’m a minimalist from Minnesota,

A man of monumental brevity.

That’s me.

I also enjoyed Keillor’s candor because in my daily struggle to be anti-racist, I still baulk at being able to see, think about and claim my whiteness as a color. It was so refreshing, such a relief to laugh with Keillor about his particular brand of whiteness. Here was a crowd pleaser from the night:

Why I Live in Minnesota

Where the temp gets down to thirty below
And it’s perfectly flat, miles of snow,
And you ask why I live in this desolate spot.
Why? Because you do not.

You in loud clothes
With lacquered hair
And monster pickups
And not much upstairs,
Who whoop in church
And worship the Word,
For whom evolution
Has not yet occurred.
The men shoot gators
Out in the marsh,
While the women stay home
And hang up the warsh.
It’s all about rifles
And the second comin’
And wave the flag
And down with Gummint
And up with football
And the G.O.P.
Now what if those people
Lived next door to me?

And the only thing
That keeps them away
Is the fact it will hit
Minus thirty today?
Winter’s a challenge
But it can be faced
When you’re among people
With brains and good taste.

What? Can he say that? Yep, he can, and he did. We, the audience of mainly white Minnesotans laughed because the poem resonated with us and encouraged us to claim who we are. My family came from Ireland, was formed in the Catholic Church and decided to settle in Minnesota for a reason. I have a heritage and a story and genes that someday, I hope to be able to sit in more fully and write about like Garrison Keillor.

On our walk to the car, Dan, without losing stride, touched Keillor’s elbow and said, “Thank you,” to him while he was signing someone’s book. He wanted to acknowledge him without taking up too much of his time. Keillor looked up briefly and answered, “Thank you.” Oh, men of monumental brevity.