The perils and joys of self-esteem
By Garrison Keillor
When you look at the audience numbers for TV and then add up the incarcerated felons, Alzheimer's patients and confirmed barflies in America, it dawns on you who is watching TV these days — people unable to lead normal productive lives — and yet they give out awards for this stuff and the hosts of shows are driven to and fro in Lincoln Town Cars and they suffer from toxic self-esteem. TV is wallpaper nowadays and those talking heads might as well be talking to the smoked trout in Murray's Deli or the No Parking signs along Broadway, as people do from time to time, but we allow them their delusions.
And we allow the Current Occupant to leave the Mansion d'Blanc with a big grin in a couple weeks, his self-esteem apparently fully intact, imagining that his legacy will emerge golden and shining in a hundred years after all of us are deceased. He is one of the cheerfullest idiots you ever saw, a man who could burn down his own house and be happy that the patio was still standing. Had Congress impeached him, his defense would have been that he was not capable of understanding the charges.
Laura got the publishing contract, though the world is not abuzz waiting for her to tell us that he was not as dense as he looked. Sure. Right. But she will write it and then go on TV talk shows to flog it and she will be seen by thousands of people in airport waiting areas who will think, "My, she looks familiar. She reminds me of somebody."
So you shouldn't fret, dear hearts, if what you do doesn't draw a big crowd or get written up in the papers. Be proud. If you've dedicated yourself to the tango, or playing drop-thumb banjo, or digging up ancient cities, or writing sonnets, you are beautiful, and please do not yearn for the bright lights. Those wombats reading the news off teleprompters are talking to the bedridden, the delusional and the criminal. The happy StairMaster president is on his way to a mansionette in Dallas, to be the decider of where to put the sofa. His successor, Mister Mambo, has cast his lot with Harvard and Yale and old Clinton hands, and soon enough, Lord knows, they will get the first of many comeuppances, and their shining faces will be chopfallen.
Meanwhile, you and I go on. We dance our little dance and pursue the circuit of our dreams insofar as the bus schedules permit. I have just spent four days in an old Miami hotel under the sheltering palms, having read about how important dads are to their daughters' self-esteem, and so I brought my sandy-haired bright-faced girl down to the Largest Swimming Pool in Judeo-Christian Civilization and got to observe her excellent breaststroke and butterfly, her little pink goggles rising and plunging, her big strong arms pulling her forward, and also her fine social skills in the art of approaching other little girls and becoming fast friends within minutes. Self-esteem did not seem to be a problem.
As for me, I sat and wrote sonnets, including one about self-esteem.
Life is absurd. A man can count on that.
Here I am on the front page, standing alone,
Refusing to hide my face behind my hat,
Which, in my case, I do not even own.
MAN, 66, NABBED FOR PUBLIC EXPOSURE.
All I did was go take a leak in the bushes.
I didn't run through the park with no clothes or
Flash anyone. Ridiculous. Absolutely atrocious.
The injustice! Some gumshoe at the P.D.
Was out to enhance his crime-stopping reputation
And now I am an outcast crying bootlessly
For the crime of emergency urination.
With fortune and men's eyes I'm in disgrace
But you still love me and I refuse to hide my face.
It was inspired, if you must know, by observing a man taking a leak in the bushes at a park where a Cuban band was playing, and a line of dancers formed impromptu next to the stage and did a lovely salsa step, so simple, graceful, slide slide turn slide, arms up, turn step step slide, and you had to think, O my God how beautiful we are. And beyond was the man disgracing himself, and he was beautiful, too.
Garrison Keillor's "A Prairie Home Companion" airs 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.