Saturday, March 19, 2011

Live Your Life

I just read that Garrison Keillor is planning to retire in a couple of years, after he finds a replacement host for A Prairie Home Companion (yeah, sure), and I suppose says one final “That’s the news from Lake Wobegon, where all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children…are above average.”

He is entitled to retire. Seventy years old in 2013. Had a minor stroke last year. Has other things he wants to do. And it’s not as if I plan my weekend around PHC anymore, the way I used to in my late twenties and thirties.

But the fact is the guy’s been a fixture in my life since the 1970s. What will I do without him?

I’ve had many a dream about Garrison Keillor. In most of the dreams we know each other slightly. Sometimes I’m just in the audience or listening on the radio. Once I appeared on a version of his show, a character in an elaborate radio play. And we’ve had a number of writer-to-writer conversations. I’m usually pretty awestruck, even in the dream.

I had one such conversation with him recently. In this dream, I attended a show of PHC held in some small-town auditorium or town hall. Then afterwards, either he sat down at the table where I was sitting, or I sat down at his. We chatted—good show; thanks—and then as I was about to leave, he gave me some parting advice. “Live your life,” he said, and something else that was a minor adjunct to it, like “and don’t sweat the details.”

Mainly I awoke with the “Live your life” part. It seemed both simple and profound. What else are you going to do with your life but live it? Unless it was a counsel not to commit suicide. Or did it mean “Live your life”: don’t squander it; don’t take a passive role. Live it, steer it, feel it, orchestrate it! Will do. I mean, I will if I damn well feel like it.

Or possibly, as a frequent mentor and ideel in my dreams, he meant to stress the middle word: Live your life. Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.

Wait, I get it. Live your life; not a fantasy, not a fiction, not even a blog.

I don’t know. Maybe I was saying it to him what with his pending retirement. Be well, GK, do good work, and keep in touch.

A sneaky way to give advice to myself.

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