Dear Mr. Keillor,
Congratulations on your forthcoming retirement! After an illustrious, 40 season career, you’re preparing to ride off into the sunset like Dusty and Lefty. You’ve garnered many accolades and fans as host of A Prairie Home Companion, and after 32 years of resisting, I count myself among them.
To be fair, it’s not that you failed in any way, shape, or form as a radio host, but rather I failed you as a listener. And it’s not that I really spent all 32 years actively resisting becoming a fan–from years 1-5, I was too little to know or understand your existence. from 5-10, I listened grudgingly as my father blasted it from a transistor radio Saturday mornings while working on projects in the garage, while I did what kids of that age did, which was mostly ride my bike or pester my sister. From probably 10-31, I actively avoided, at first going over to my friends houses when you were on, until one day I finally reached the age where I was on my own and I had full control of what I had on my radio, at which point i wasted my youth on top 40 radio and sports talk.
At 31, you slowly but surely began to win me over. It was Father’s Day, that glorious time of the year where Hallmark proclaimed we should honor the man who sired us, and I wound up at Powell’s books searching for a fitting Father’s Day gift. I did not realize it at the time, but you had just been in town–at the Schnitz, if I recall correctly–and had just done a signing st the Beaverton Powell’s location the day before. As I perused the shelves, I spotted the hardback of the Keillor reader, complete with a shiny yellow “Autographed” sticker on it.
“Oh, that’s that odd Minnesotan dad always listens to,” I remember thinking to myself. “I’ll bet he’d like that.” I picked up a copy, and without really thinking about it, I began to thumb through the volume, just to see if I could glean any understanding about why my father enjoyed your show so much.
I wasn’t too far into the book when something unexpected happened–I found myself stifling a laugh in the middle of the bookstore. You spoke about dreaming of dying young only to wind up too old to die young and instead deciding to stick it out. I came to realize that you were actually quite funny!
This late-breaking revelation led me to ask my dad if I could borrow some of his CDs. He lent me three–two discs of joke shows, in which a small part of my childhood wasshattered when I realized all of my father’s best/worst jokes were lifted from A Prairie Home Companion, and the English Majors set, in which I came to realize that I had spent thirty years trying to ignore a man who was a kindred spirit–while my degree is in management and organizational leadership (or as they would’ve said in my father’s heyday, human resources), my passion was always writing, and deep down I feel like I probably should have been an English major.
After listening through these discs, a veritable treasure trove of humor and laughter, I later found myself turning on your show for the first time, listening intently and actually enjoying it. The bluegrass music, something that I had shown great disdain towards as a child, I now had an appreciation for–in part thanks to my wife, a music major, whose experiences led me to listen to more music that wasn’t necessarily in my wheelhouse, and partially from my picking up the ukulele for the first time while we went on a vacation to Hawaii. It may not seem like a logical connection, but I realized how much work ukulele took me to learn, and for someone like Chris Thile to just start brandishing a mandolin at three times the speed I thought was humanly possible, I appreciated the complexities of the style greatly.
I listened to most of the shows that aired during the last year, and as a birthday present my wife purchased tickets for when you’re bringing the tour bus by the Oregon Zoo, so I will be getting the chance to see you live before you call it a career, even if it isn’t a live broadcast. And thank you for bringing along a talent like Sarah Jarosz along on the show–I only discovered her because of my recent frequenting of your program, and while secretly I had been hoping you would bring Thile, Sarah is a close second.
(Don’t tell Sarah I said that.)
(You know, you’re right–she’ll probably find out anyway. I’m posting this letter to the internet, after all…)
In any event, I’m really looking forward to seeing the show this Friday. Should you need any recommendations for where to get a pretty good cup of coffee while you’re in town, I can make plenty of recommendations.