Let the weather outside be frightful
By Garrison Keillor
The world is full of surprises. Some things are new under the sun. A movie in the Mayan language was No. 1 at the box office, and Placido Domingo got booed at the Met, and Rudolph Giuliani is the leading candidate for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination, and a congressman with a freezer full of cash got re-elected in New Orleans. In the light of these developments, you have to wonder what else may be possible. Maybe this wristband that gives you grammatical sentences in 30 days really works. Maybe the Iraq Study Group could move into the White House and help with other things. Maybe we really are all one.
Mr. Giuliani was a famously chippy mayor of New York, a would-be censor, the scourge of the homeless, a man who would've run Joseph and Mary out of town in a minute, and he was headed for an ambassadorship in a small country until 19 men with box cutters rescued him and made him a multimillionaire and an icon to all those who didn't know him as mayor. His resurrection gave hope to Dan Quayle, Gary Hart, Dennis Kucinich, and maybe even Congressman Jefferson, the guy with the frozen assets. And it should give hope to you and me. If a stand-up TV performance can turn a bitter loser into a presidential contender, then you and I should dare to dream again.
I dream of a white Christmas, to be perfectly honest. As I write this, it is mid-December, my lawn in St. Paul is green, the streets are dusty, the sky is blue, there is a mention of snow flurries in the forecast, and by the time you read this, we may be swathed in snowdrifts, windowpanes frosted, trees flocked with white, the classic designer Christmas. But we Midwesterners are brought up to expect the worst, and so I anticipate that we will get rain on Dec. 24 and will walk to church under umbrellas and sing "O Little Town of Bethlehem" in a sanctuary smelling of pine boughs and wet wool.
It's Minnesota. We should have enormous drifts, requiring the Border Patrol to take to their skis to patrol the Boundary Waters wilderness and keep Canadian frostbacks from sliding down with their toboggans full of cheap pharmaceuticals. This is what we're here for, to keep the rapacious Canuck at bay despite heavy snows.
When people ask you where you're from and you say Minnesota, they don't say, "Oh, I loved the Minnesota Orchestra's recent recording of Beethoven symphonies" or "Robert Bly changed my life." No, they say, "It gets cold there, doesn't it?"
I was once in Paris on a bitterly cold January night (and yet one does not associate Paris with cold, one associates it with a quality of light, which is how I feel about Minnesota, a place where the sun shines or sometimes is filtered in interesting ways by clouds) where my French publisher had taken me to La Coupole, a famous bistro jam-packed with gaunt young people in ratty black outfits and ancient communists with enormous eyebrows and heavily-rouged matrons chain-smoking Gaulois and drinking thimblesful of acrid black coffee and tumblers of absinthe, the air full of French and smoke and heavy irony, and me in my nice American suit and tie attempting to respirate, and the publisher's skinny wife asked me, "Where are you from?" and I said, "Je suis a Minnesota" and she said, "So this cold weather must be nothing to you."
C'est tres certainement, madame. Cold is not a problem. One dresses warmly and walks around Paris, which is beautiful in the cold. And so is St. Paul in snow. This is the city of the Winter Carnival and the Ice Palace, where Fitzgerald wrote his beautiful story "Winter Dreams," and so it is disheartening to walk around and see Christmas lights with no snow or ice to reflect them. Little sleds sit in the mud beside the garage. There are no snowmen.
If it won't snow here, then what do we do? Become summer people? Move to Canada and be forced to sing their rather over-dramatic national anthem and listen to the murmury CBC and pretend to care about the Quebec separatists? I do not look forward to that any more than I look forward to hearing Mayor Giuliani orate about his crusade against terrorism. Come clean about the money, Mr. Jefferson. Pull up your socks, Placido, and get back on the horse. Mayans, go home. Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.
Garrison Keillor's "A Prairie Home Companion" can be heard Saturday on public radio station KHPR 88.1 from 6 to 8 p.m. and Sunday on KIPO 89.3 from 6 to 8 pm. His column appears Wednesday online at www.honoluluadvertiser.com/opinion and in Sunday's Focus section.