a PAW web exclusive column by Hugh O'Bleary (firstname.lastname@example.org)
of the Biscuits
Keillor comes to town, it's not exactly Bob Dylan, or is it?
By Hugh O'Bleary
My Aunt Aggie phoned
the other night in what can only be called -- to use an Aunt Aggie-ish
term -- a tizzy.
"Oh, you must be
so excited," she trilled.
I was microwaving some
leftover garbanzo beans for supper at the time -- having gotten
home even later than usual -- so "excited" would not have
been the first adjective to come to mind, but this was Aunt Aggie,
so I stifled the urge for sarcasm. I was about to ask just what
she was referring to when she went on.
she cooed, "Garrison Keillor will be speaking at Princeton
-- in your town! Garrison Keillor!"
Now, I'm as big a fan
of National Public Radio as the next man (bigger even, if the next
man is Jesse Helms), but the news that the folksy host of A Prairie
Home Companion is to be this year's Baccalaureate speaker at Princeton
on June 3 did not exactly nuke my garbanzos. For Aunt Aggie, though,
who listens faithfully to "The Companion" from her little
house on the north side of St. Louis, Keillor enjoys the stature
of a rock star. (I wouldn't be surprised, by the way, to learn that
dear old Aggie believes Lake Wobegon is a real place.) The fact
that Garrison himself would be coming to her nephew's town was clearly
big news and she wanted to be sure I'd be on hand for the great
moment. I didn't point out that, considering I routinely pass up
appearances and lectures by world-renowned professors, Nobel laureates,
Presidents, and any of the multitude of luminaries who regularly
pass through Princeton, I was hardly likely to rush out to secure
a front-row seat for a man whom Spy magazine liked to refer to as
the "corn-fed dronologist." Instead, I thanked Aggie for
the tip and promised that I would try to snag an autograph. She
rang off with a happy toodle-oo.
I mentioned the conversation
to Marco Hackley the next morning on the Dinky. Hackley, a software
marketer and sometime bass player in his own rock 'n' roll band
(the Deviated Septums), has a healthy appreciation for the wider
world beyond Princeton, and I thought he would get a kick out of
said Hackley with a snort (he snorts a lot, hence the name of his
band). "That's a bit of a come-down for Minnesota-Princeton
I asked what he meant.
"Well, first you
had Scott Fitzgerald, only the best damn prose stylist in American
literature, then you had Dylan, America's greatest rock poet, at
Commencement 1970 -- Day of the Locusts, for god's sake. Now Keillor?
What are they going to remember this as, Day of the Powdermilk Biscuits?"
He looked disgusted. "Who's next, Jesse Ventura?"
Hackley was obviously
in a cynical mood. I dropped the subject and we rode in silence.
Then the thought occurred to me: Perhaps Garrison Keillor was in
at least one respect the ideal speaker for Princeton. After all,
isn't everyone here above average?
Hugh O'Bleary commutes
to New York City from Princeton. He revels in his daily sojourn
across campus to catch the Dinky. You can reach Hugh O'Bleary by
writing him c/o email@example.com