Thursday, August 28, 2008

who took a left turn on the dharma wheel?

I thought we had stumbled into a convention of Prius owners. Wait a minute, this is the Oregon State Fair -- home of the corn dog, elephant ears, and deep-fried Twinkies. What is with the natural fibers, crystals, and Birkenstocks?

Then I remember. We are heading to the amphitheater to see Garrison Keillor -- the very essence of establishment liberalism with just enough midwestwen nostalgia to create the illusion of cultural worlds fused.

Tonight I am here with the parents of Beth (
Minto Dog). Her parents are two of the most faithful readers of this blog -- and they were kind enough to insist on paying my way. And I thank them thoroughly for sponsoring the grist for this day's blog bread.

Garrison is an interesting character -- a phenomenon in his own right to a certain class of Americans. His eccentricity is legend -- his red tennis shoes being but one example.

Coming on stage, he invited the audience to stand and join him in singing The Star-Spangled Banner. Now, mind you, this is Oregon. We have no professional sports teams -- with the exception of the Trailblazers. And we thrive in a postmodern world. Asking us to stand, sing, and seem patriotic all at the same time is a bit of a challenge. The nervous fumblings for long-forgotten lyrics and fear of having neighbors see this public exhibition earned all of us a barely passing grade.

And take a guess at how we unchurched Oregonians did with the gospel singalong during the intermission. The woman standing next to me joined me in getting a bit carried away -- outing our Pentecostal roots. But sing we did.

There is some magic in all live entertainment. Especially when the live entertainment is surrounded by fair life. When the sun set, the Ferris wheel and its lights looked as if Buddha's wheel was about to roll into the amphitheater.

Eyes roamed from the stage. Watching the audience. Watching the fair action. Watching the show. People catching one another's gazes. Nodding. Connecting. Swimming in the life that flowed from the stage.

The show was the catharsis. But the true enjoyment was connecting with the audience -- especially with Beth and her parents.

What could have been a night reduced to a social stereotype, turned out to be a full (and long) evening of simply being alive with strangers and neighbors.

And we cannot ask much more than that of any evening.


1st Mate said...

Garrison's one of my favorite people -- I admire his writing and try never to miss his show (I get it on the Internet) so imagine how envious I am that you got to see him in person. I love his ability to embrace our precious American values yet poke fun at some of their absurdities.

Islagringo said...

I am so un-Minnesotan. I have never understand the attraction of Mr. Keilor. He puts me to sleep. Glad you had a good time though. Did you go on any rides??

Steve Cotton said...

Bliss -- I have seen Garrison five or six times in person. Even though I like a lot of his humor, I often find him tedious on stage. Listening on the radio is far more enjoyable than the live shows -- for me.

Steve Cotton said...

Wayne -- As you probably know, The Simpsons have a running gag about Garrison's humor. And, of course, it suffers in the comparison. I would prefer an evening with P.J. O'Rourke.

Calypso said...

I'm with Wayne on this one - a little Prairie Home Companion goes a loooong way with me. A little too contrived for my taste.

Can't decide who is more looney - Jesse Ventura or Keillor.

Glad you had a good time with your friends though ;-)

Calypso said...

"I would prefer an evening with P.J. O'Rourke."

I JUST got through re-reading O'Rourke's "All the Trouble in the World."

That would be an evening better spent ;-)

Steve Cotton said...

John -- While walking Jiggs last evening, I ran into a young couple out walking through the neighborhood with their children. The kids love Jiggs. So we formed our own pack -- and started talking about what we mini-urbanites discuss this time of year: the fair. When I mentioned I was seeing Garrison Keillor, they looked at each other and asked: "Who is that?" And there is the divide that people like John McCain and Barak Obama must cross. Real people live in a world not a liberal radio paradise.

Islagringo said...

Calypso, having lived through the Jesse as governor years, I can clearly state that Jesse is by far the most looney of the loons!

jennifer rose said...

Gary Keillor (as he was known in college, one of his fraternity brothers told me) is tedious and boring. I can't stand his self-righteous attitude.

I, too, would much rather spend an evening with P.J. O'Rourke, Florence King or even my dog than with Keillor.

Steve Cotton said...

Wayne -- I agree that Jesse may have been a loon, but politicians have their own standards of mental hygeine. The lot make Britney Spears look well-adjusted.

Jennifer -- No fair raising the ante by dragging in your dog. I would be willing to spend the rest of my life with anyone's dog rather than any inhabitant of the egocentric worlds of politics and show biz.