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My books can be purchased as e-books for only $1.99. If interested, just click here: Books.
Match Play is a golf/suspense novel. Dust of Autumn is a bloody one set in upstate New York. Prairie View is set in South Dakota, with a final scene atop Rattlesnake Butte. Life in the Arbor is a children's book about Rollie Rabbit and his friends (on about a fourth grade level). The Black Widow involves an elaborate extortion scheme. Doggy-Dog World is my memoir. And ES3 is a description of my method for examining English sentence structure.
In case anyone is interested in any of my past posts, an archive list can be found at the bottom of this page.
My newest novel, Happy Valley, can be found here.

Friday, December 31

Last Minute Thoughts

Cold, cold, cold this morning. All the house roofs white and sparkling, the grass at Pebblebrook stiff with frost, all over town the flowers and shrubs covered with sheets and blankets and towels. I sat on my back patio in the chill, thinking about how lucky we are to be here instead of freezing and deep in the snow that covers most of the rest of the country. Then some five or six rabbits went screaming by in leaps and hops from right to left along the bushes on our back property line, the quail squawking up a storm. I knew that was the prelude to our friendly coyotes out looking for breakfast, a rabbit pie maybe. This is the same trio that passes through regularly, large, healthy, beautifully coated—tan, with black streaks along the neck and front legs, puffy tails tipped in black, a curious patch across the shoulders that looks like a tiny saddle. No rabbits this morning even though the lead animal sniffed at each bush along the way, hoping to flush one out for the trailing two to capture. No quail either. The quail aren’t afraid of coyotes and will usually surround one or more in a circle and angrily give them the business, loud quail invective, probably “Bastards! Sonzabitchs!” in quailese.

Then back indoors to wait for a bowl game or two, listen to a bit of music, read more of my latest reading venture. I don’t really care about any of the bowl teams but I’ll watch anyway, just because it’s football and it’s a guy thing. On my computer I have a playlist of vocal groups, 140 tracks by New York Voices, The Serendipity Singers, The Manhattan Transfer, The Singers Unlimited, The Hi-Los, and The Four Freshmen. Right now I’m listening to the freshmen singing “Graduation Day.” Wow, does that one take me back a few years. I have it on shuffle so that it’s not always the same group. If you’ve never heard The Singers Unlimited you’re missing a treat. There are only four of them often singing a cappella, their voices duped and trebled in the studio to make them sound like a much larger group. The reading venture is the Robert Crais series featuring the p.i. Elvis Cole. I’d read them all five or six years ago and decided to reread. It’s nice as a senior that I can reread novels and feel like it’s a first time thing. Elvis Cole is a west coast version of Parker’s Boston Spenser—same cockiness and quick tongue, same sort of literary allusions that dumber folks don’t pick up on, same stoic tough guy sidekick, same plodding investigative technique. Fourteen in the series and at the rate I’m reading lately I should finish in four weeks.

Oh, man, The Singers Unlimited are now doing their version of “Indian Summer.” Gorgeous. And soon, Miami and Notre Dame will be on in the Who Cares Bowl. It’s a guy thing.

Thursday, December 30

New Year's Eve Eve

One day left in 2010. What to do with it? Well, one thing we won’t do is go out somewhere for drink and fireworks. The only firework we’ll hear is the sound of our heads hitting the pillows around 10:00. It’s been years since we were awake at midnight to see the old one out and new one in. Now, we just try to remain awake to see the ball drop in New York. Sometimes we make it, sometimes not. I can’t say I’ll miss this old year. It’s been a really rotten one for me. Too many doctors, too many appointments. I feel like I’ve signed away my life into the care of one specialist after another. Next year will be better. I’m just sure of it. Next year the holes in my leg will heal. Next year I’ll get hack to the golf course. Next year Tiger will get back on his game and win two majors. Next year the Cardinals and Suns and Diamondbacks will have winning seasons. Wow! That’s a prediction that’s more in my heart than in my head. Next year I’ll finish that sixth novel I’ve been working on for nearly two years. Next year Rosalie will get back to swimming and I’ll get back somewhat into shape. Or not. We’ll see next year. I hope you’ll have a better year also.

Happy New Year.

Monday, December 27

The Gray Swan

Thank heavens, Christmas is now Christmas Past, and New Year’s Eve will come and go as it usually does, both of us asleep about 10:00, maybe watching the ball drop in New York, maybe not. Come on, 2011! You gotta be better than this one we’re just concluding.

I decided, since the Cardinals had already won their game with the hated Cowboys, to go see a movie instead of watching football. True Grit looks good, but that’s one Rosalie would want to see. So I made the grievous error of choosing The Black Swan. Whew! Not my cup of tea, not my glass of Scotch, not even my DQ chocolate shake. Natalie Portman is being hyped as an Oscar contender for her role as the schizo swan girl, and I guess she did a really good job. I just hated the job she had to do—play a wannabe ballerina who wins the lead in a production of Swan Lake. But she keeps seeing herself in mirrors or other people. The movie was intended as a balletic psychological thriller, but all I came away with was a feeling of creepiness, ickiness, yuckiness. When I was leaving, a woman looked at me and shrugged, her mouth sort of sideways, her eyes wide. I shrugged and said, “I agree.” I guess she too thought it was sort of creepy. I felt that I’d just lost two hours of my life. Ah, well, tomorrow is another day and True Grit will save it.

Monday, December 20

Cardinals & Two Movies

Well, I was right, they stunk it up pretty bad, the Cardinals, that is. Lost 19-12 to the worst team in the NFL Now, if they can manage to lose the next two to the Cowboys and 49ers, they’ll be able to pick up a pretty good quarterback in next year’s draft. They should be able to lose those two without even trying, and that’s what they’ve looked like in most of the games they’ve played. Maybe then poor Larry Fitzgerald can get back to catching passes.

I’ve seen two movies in the last week, both excellent. James Franco in 127 Hours as the crazy who liked to climb by himself and paid the price by having to hack off his own arm may get a nomination for best actor, but he won’t win. Christian Bale, in The Fighter, should be a shoe-in for best supporting actor, although I’ve never figured out how they determine who’s an actor and who’s a supporting actor. In fact, he and Collen Firth should be duking it out for that distinction. I haven’t yet seen The King’s Speech so I can’t really say, but everyone else seems to think that he also is a shoe-in for best actor.

But back to the two movies. In 127 Hours the wind- and water-carved gorges in Utah may have been the best thing about the movie. They were eerie and beautiful. We sort of hang on through most of the plot, knowing what happened and would happen, gritting our teeth when it comes time to hack off the arm using a knife he had dulled by chipping away at the imprisoning boulder. A good movie, but not as good as The Fighter. Just watching Bale do his manic thing made it all worthwhile. Mark Wahlberg, as Micky Ward, was excellent as the wannabe welterweight fighter trying to make it up and out of his Lowell, Mass., background. But it’s Bale, as the older boxing brother, who makes the film. Now I have to wait for The King’s Speech to escape the bondage of Harkin’s theatre, where it’s being shown exclusively way to hell and gone over in the East Valley. I just don’t know why so many of the good films are shown exclusively at the Harkin’s Camelview Theatre. Some of them later make it into the other venues, but some don’t.

Sunday, December 19

Sunday Morning

Sunday morning. Rosalie just went to work and I’m here, debating what to do with the rest of my day. I can feast on football, but if I choose to watch the Cardinals/Panthers game, it will be more like a fast than a feast. Wow, do the Cardinals ever stink this year, nearly as bad as in the bad old days. The only thing they’ve got going for them this week is that the Carolina Panthers stink even more than the Cards. This one should be called the Odorous Bowl.

Or I can skip football and finish my latest Wiltse book, this one called Into the Fire. I can’t wait to finish it so I can start another. I’m somewhat obsessive-compulsive when it comes to reading: Once I find an author I like, I read him/her all at once, one after another as fast as I can read; once I find a series I like, I buy them all and then read them in their proper order as fast as I can. Yeah, some would say, that’s o.c. all right.

Or I can simply sit on my back patio and contemplate my backyard. I love my backyard. I mean, I really love my backyard. You will note in the accompanying photo, the height of the arbor vitae on the back property line. These trees were about fifteen feet high when we moved in; they’re now twice that size. They were what first attracted me to this house, that wonderful privacy hedge. Not that I don’t love neighbors; I just don’t want them too close to me.


I’ve written before about this (see photo below) grapefruit tree. Thirty-five years ago, we raised it from a seed, kept it indoors in a pot as a house plant, brought it with us from New York to Arizona, and planted it here, where it grew and grew, and now even has eight grapefruit. I also love the small rocks. Don’t have to water them, don’t have to mow them, don’t even have to rake any leaves that may fall on them. The rabbits take care of any leaves that fall.


Whoa! the Cardinals game is just about to start. Gotta run. Gotta see how bad they’ll stink today.

Thursday, December 16

Gray Drippers

I’ve been away, haven’t I? Not away physically, just psychically. But some would say I’ve been away psychically most of my life. Whatta they know.

It’s a chilly, rainy day in the Valley and it feels and sounds wonderful. I wouldn’t have thought I’d ever say that about a gray dripper of a day, but this one is most welcome. I remember all those five and six and seven day episodes of gray drippiness in western New York when we lived there, hating each of the five or six or seven days they lasted, getting more and more depressed as the gray drips lingered. Those of you in the upper tier states, hunkered down in your snow drifts, would really consider me balmy for now saying I’m enjoying this day. But we get so many calm, sunny days here that every now and then a day like this is nice. But please, don’t hate me for saying it, all you northern tierers.

I’ve been busy editing a first draft of daughter Jeri’s novel called Evolutiion: The Long Journey Home. It’s a most unusual plot, one that I couldn’t begin to describe, but it’s quite interesting, and she’s thrilled to have gotten it done. I told her she had gotten done a rough draft and that it still needed work. She was all right with that and will get to work on a finished copy. And then we’ll get it published.

And other time was spent on getting out all my Christmas cards and cd’s. Now I can settle back and catch up on some reading I’ve been neglecting, and a day like this is perfect for reading and thinking. All it lacks is a fireplace in front of which to sit as I read and think. In the Valley of the Sun, one needs a fireplace only once or twice a year. I’m now reading all of a series of books by David Wiltse, whose main character is a retired FBI agent named John Becker, a man who specialized in tracking down really nasty serial killers, tracking them down and then usually killing them. His character quirk is that he fears he’s too much like those he hunts, that he can too easily identify with the awful needs that drive their psychoses. He wants to stop doing this job, but the FBI keeps hauling him back in. Becker is a most unusual character. I remember several years ago reading a novel called Darkly Dreaming Dexter, about a character similar to Becker, driven by his needs to kill people. So his father, seeing this in his adopted son at an early age, channeled him into police work where he could satisfy his psychotic needs by killing killers. And now Showtime has a very successful tv series about this very character. Odd that we can twist our expectations about right and wrong and accept Dexter as a positive character, much like Becker. Then there’s Lawrence Block’s odd character, a professional hitman named Keller. Keller takes assignments from Dot, who gets the assignments from her sources that know about Keller and need him to hit someone. The oddness of the situation is that we, the reader, can accept Keller for what he does because of what he is—a quite attractive, caring, likeable person. Odd.

I’ll try not to be away quite so long from now on, Amy and the few others I have who read my drivel. And even if I’m my only reader, that’s all right. I’m as driven to write as John Becker and Dexter and Keller are to pursue their dark needs.

Wednesday, December 8

Duffy

We’re fairly regular Ellen Degeneres watchers. She’s funny, she does good interviews, she showcases lots of young, fairly unknown singers and bands. Yesterday, the featured singer was Duffy, singing “Well, Well, Well.” The title words were the only words we could decipher, once again the singer cloaked in a musical cacophony of pounding guitars, drums, and an acrobatic, gyrating young woman on keyboard. I just don’t understand most musical taste these days. To compare Duffy to someone like Barbra Streisand or Lea Michelle from “Glee” is like comparing a Big Mac to a filet mignon, or a Sun City West backyard pool to an Olympic swimming venue, or a copper penny to a $20 gold piece, or a chunk of quartz to the Hope diamond, or a novel by Nicole Richie to Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury. But I fear I’ve stretched the comparison too far. And speaking of Nicole Richie, another of Ellen’s guests. She was there touting her second novel. It may be sour grapes on my part, but that really pisses me off, the fact that anyone with a connection, like her father Lionel Richie, can get a book published. It’s just not fair. I’ve spent thirty years pursuing the nearly impossible dream of getting a novel legitimately published, thirty years of non-success. And then this dingbat comes along and gets two novels published. The next thing you know, her ditzy buddy, Paris Hilton, will come out with a book titled The Blahned Bommer.

Tuesday, December 7

War Years

And while I’m at it, what about those war years? Let’s see, I was eight when it began this December day, and twelve when it ended. Those are years in a boy’s life not easy to remember. I remember my brother Dick going into the navy in 1942 but very little else. No school memories, no sports memories, no memories of what our little town of Mobridge was like back then. It must have been post-Dust-Bowl-days dusty with all streets just gravel avenues except for Main and the highway through town. A few images come to mind: digging an underground room in the vacant lot just north of Coleman’s house on Fourth Avenue West, clambering around in the wooden supports of the highway billboard near that same sunken room, digging snow caverns in our back yard after one of the many snow storms, building rubber guns for playing war in the city park, playing endless summer afternoon and evening games—Run Sheep Run, Kick the Can, Captain May I, Red Light Green Light, hop scotch, migs. I must have gotten my dog Rusty in 1941, a red-coated cocker spaniel puppy that howled and howled when my parents insisted he be put in the basement for the night, a move that didn’t last very many nights. I remember lying on my stomach in our living room, listening to after-school programs on the radio—The Shadow (“Who know what evil lurks in the hearts of man”); Jack Armstrong, the All-American Boy; the Green Hornet; Inner Sanctum (that awful creaking door that opened every show); The Lone Ranger (“Hi ho, Silver, away!”); Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon. In the evenings listening to and laughing over Jack Benny, Red Skelton, Fred Allen, Fibber McGee and Molly, George Burns and Gracie Allen, Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy. I think I must have driven my parents crazy as I lay on the floor, hoisting dining room chairs overhead as I laughed at the radio comics. I and my classmates must have been equally enchanted by the 1939 The Wizard of Oz, probably accounting for my getting hooked on the Oz books about this time, devouring them in the cheap war-time editions I got for birthdays and Christmases. And other movies of the day I remember: Gunga Din, Lassie Come Home and National Velvet (both causing me to fall madly in love with Elizabeth Taylor), all the Saturday afternoons at the Mascot Theatre riding along with Gene Autry and Roy Rogers, reveling in the terror caused by The Black Panther, King Kong, The Mummy and Return of the Mummy. howling at the antics of Abbot and Costello and the Three Stooges. Ah, the good old days. And then the war ended and I grew up . . . sort of.

Monday, December 6

Pear Harbor Day

Pearl Harbor Day tomorrow, December 7, 1941. Sixty-nine years ago. My, how the time does fly. I was eight back then and don’t remember much of anything about that day, infamy or famy. In fact, the only things I remember about the war are the savings stamps we used to buy at school, the government oranges and apples we would get at school, having to use the orange wrappers for toilet paper, the black silhouettes of enemy airplanes we had to be able to recognize in case there was an air-raid warning, the gas stamps when gas was rationed, the News of the Day stuff about the progress of the war at the local theatre before the movie came on, and finally, the sound of the sirens marking the end of the war in 1945. I remember at first wondering why all the sirens in town were screaming and then I realized what it meant, the end of the war. I was then twelve and still relatively stupid about the state of affairs in the world. I guess I still am.

Thursday, December 2

An Early Christmas Present

I have a Christmas present for you, Amy, and for anyone else out there who might be reading this blog, one of Keillor's Lake Wobegon stories. Enjoy.

Christmas Dinner, by Garrison Keillor

It has been a quiet week in Lake Wobegon. Christmas. The exiles were home. It was pretty quiet, though you could hear the gritting of teeth, and there was a moment of poisoned silence at the Clarence Bunsen home that rang like a fire bell. Before the blessing, as they sat around the table and admired the work in front of them, a still-life Christmas Dinner by Arlene, before they ate the art, their daughter, Donna, in town from San Diego, said, “What a wonderful Christmas!” and her husband Rick, said, “Well, if Democrats had their way, it’d be the last one.” Silence.

Arlene said that if Rick had his way, the turkeys would be having us. Clarence bowed his head. “Dear Lord, the giver of all good things, we thank Thee.” He prayed a long prayer, as a ceasefire. Arlene smiled at Rick: “Have some mashed potatoes.” “Thank you, Mom.” She winced. He is her son-in-law and she doesn’t know why. He is not raising her grandchildren right, he comes to Minnesota and talks too much about the advantages of southern California, he wears silly clothes, he makes fun of Norwegians, he makes fun of women including his own wife, and he says “agenda” in place of “plan” or “idea”—“Did you have a different agenda?” he says. “Let’s get our agenda straight.” “I sense a hidden agenda here.”

He piled his plate with Christmas agenda and chomped a big bite of it. He said, “Mom, this is the best dinner I ever ate. I really mean that.” She smiled her brightest smile, the smile she has used all ther life on people she’d like to slap silly. She’d like to give him a piece of her mind, but she can’t because he has hostages, her grandchildren. So she kills him with kindness. She stuffs him like a turkey. Fresh caramel rolls for breakfast, a pound of bacon and smoked sausage and scrambled eggs, and two hours later pot roast for lunch and big slabs of banana cream pie. He has gained four pounds since Tuesday. Her goal is twelve. All day he sits dazed by food. “Fudge bars, Rick? I made them just for you. Here, I’ll put the plate right beside you, where you can reach them.” “Oh Mom . . .” She’s found the crack in his armor, and it’s his mouth. His Achilles mouth. Her agenda is stuffing him so he becomes weak and pliable and goes into a calorie coma, and she takes the little boy and the girl for walks and tells them about our great presidents, our great Democratic presidents. And did you know they were all Norwegian? Yes, they were, a little bit, on their mother’s side, and that little bit was enough to make them great.

* * *

At the Tolleruds’, Daryl and Marilyn and their six kids went up the hill to the folks’ house. His brothers, Gunnar and Fred, and their families were home for Christmas, and Daryl’s family barely has room for themselves around their little table.

When Daryl went into farming in partnership with his dad in 1968, he was under the impression that someday soon he and Marilyn would move into the big house and the folks would take the little one, the one that Grandpa Tollerud built when he came from Norway. But nothing has been said about this for a long time. The little house would be fine for an older couple, who tend to sit quietly and not tear around chasing each other. But the old folks sit quietly in the big house, with four empty bedrooms upstairs. “We really need a larger house,” Daryl says. “Well,” his dad says, “Soon as we get the pig barn build, we’ll see about adding on to it.”

Up at the folks’ house, Christmas is the exact same as it’s been forever. You close your eyes and it could be any time. You might open them and you’d be six years old, not forty-two. The dialogue is the same. His mother complains about leaving the turkey in the oven too long and it being too dry, and every year it is perfect. The men sit in the living room, gently clearing their throats, and when it’s time, his dad stands up and says, “Well, I’m going to go see to the horse.”

They haven’t kept a horse for years. “You boys going to come help me see to the horse?” he says, and they troop out to the barn and he reaches down behind a horse collar and pulls out the bottle of Jim Beam. They pass it around and have a pull, and stand and say some things, and pass it around again, and the old man takes a nail and marks the new level and puts it back, and they troop indoors. Daryl wishes the could just have a drink in the living room, but to his old man there’s a difference. He is not the sort of man who keeps booze in his house. The barn doesn’t count.

Gunnar was on the wagon again, the third or fourth time. He is the oldest boy and the smartest, he should’ve gone on and become somebody but drink has cursed him since he was young. He’d go in the Sidetrack and have a bump with his buddies but then he got belligerent and tried to pick fights, which nobody wanted because he was so strong and quick, so they took care of him by giving him more to drink. He’d say, “I’m not going to take that from you. You son of a bitch, you sat down in my chair.” They’d say, “Gunnar, I bet you can’t drink a whole glass of whiskey. Two dollars says you can’t.”

“Put it down where I can see it,” said Gunnar, and Wally filled up the glass. A beer glass. And Gunnar drank it, and as he drank he forgot about the chair, the two dollars, where he was or why or who. He finished the glass, and they carried him out the back so he could be sick there, and they scraped him up and drove him home. This happened over and over. The Gunnar skipped the part in the middle, the argument and the challenge, and went straight from the first drink to the last on his own steam.

Gunnar drives a semi and when he’s drinking he takes a bottle in the cab to help keep him awake. He quit drinking this time after his last crash, driving a tank truck that jackknifed in broad daylight in the middle of Kansas and overturned in the ditch. The tank had a hole knocked in it and when Gunnar climbed out of the cab he was up to his hips in scrambled-egg mix, a thick yellowish froth. He slipped and went under and thought he was going to drown in egg but struggled to shore and hasn’t had a drink for three months.

Daryl has had some close calls himself the past couple of months. He doesn’t drink except in his dad’s barn, seeing to the horse, but several times he’d been in his old Ford about to pull onto a highway and looked left and turned right and suddenly, HONK, a car swerves and jams on its brakes. Or he looks in the side mirror, turns into the left lane, HONK, a car right there! Once he ran a red light. What’s the matter with him? Is he losing his peripheral vision? Monday he was out teaching Eric to drive and he heard brakes screech, he’d gone through a stop sign. Tuesday he went to ask Dr. DeHaven about it, who talked about changes to the brain that come with aging, a loss of reflex, a diminution of one’s facultles. “This is normal.” He said. “Ordinarily we don’t see it so much in a person of forty-two, but it isn’t anything to worry about. Just relax and slow down and take things at your own speed.”

Daryl was depressed for two days. Tuesday night he left a door open in the pig barn, and twelve got out. Recess for pigs. It took him and Eric two hours to get them back in class, but Daryl felt fast on his feet and felt the reflexes working, bang, bang, bang. Wednesday afternoon, not thinking, he walked in the kitchen and opened the fridge and got out a bowl that was full of glop and dumped it in the garbage, and just as the force of gravity was pulling it down he thought, “That’s mincemeat pie filling.”

How could he do such a dumb thing? Just wasn’t thinking. Marilyn was gone to the farm wives’ luncheon. It was two o’clock. He had never made mincemeat filling before, but how hard could it be to follow a recipe? Fairly hard, he discovered. Mincing the meat. Beef and venison. Mincing the apples. And then the recipe called for brandy. No brandy anywhere that he could find—where did she keep the stuff? Did she have a secret stash in the laundry room? Finally he took an empty mustard jar in his pocket and snuck up the hill to the barn. He crawled around back through the corn, dashed for the door, got the bottle, filled the jar, made a careful mark with the nail. Heard a door slam. Tore out back. Crawled through the corn to the end of the field, stood up, walked down to the house, whistling. Into the kitchen. Tossed in the whiskey. Mixed it, cooked it up, popped it in the fridge as the car rolled up the driveway.

Thursday, as they came to dessert, Daryl’s heart was pounding. He chose pumpkin. Everyone else chose mincemeat, except Gunnar, who chose pumpkin too. The pie was sliced and served and the first forkfuls of mincemeat came to their mouths, “Mmmmmmm,” said his mother. “Oh, Marilyn.” His dad said, “Oh my, now that’s mincemeat.” “It sure is,” said Fred. “How do you make it, Marilyn?” “Oh, it’s just from a recipe,” she said. “Do you use brandy in it?” “Oh no,” she said. “You don’t really need brandy. I just leave the brandy out.” “Well, it’s the best I ever ate,” said Fred’s wife. “You ought to have some of this, Daryl.” “No,” Daryl said. “I got my pumpkin here. I don’t care for mincemeat. Keeps me awake at night. I can’t take so much rich food anymore. I’m getting old, I guess.”

Wednesday, December 1

Holiday Greetings

All right, since it's now December and only moments away from Christmas, here's a cute picture I found in a 2011 calendar. I guess old English teachers might appreciate it more than most others.

And while I'm at it, I'm going to drag out an old Christmas poem I wrote a long time ago.

Ho! Ho! Ho! And a merry Christmas to you all in only three and a half weeks.

The Best Medicine

Not everyone has a sense of humor. Some people just don’t know how to laugh or see anything funny in any aspect of life. I have a good sense of humor. Some writers make me laugh so hard I weep big tears. Twain could do that sometimes. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is a very funny book and any number of his stories, such as “His Grandfather’s Old Ram” or “The Stolen White Elephant.” Of modern writers, Joseph Heller’s Catch-22 is a very funny book in a black-humorish sort of way. The scene in which Major Major Major sneaks out of his office every day to hide from his military obligations is hilarious. And Dave Barry, the Florida columnist, often has me howling at his absurdities. A few years ago he came out with an essay about colonoscopies that helped me get through one of my own, if not laughing all the way into surgery, at least making me smile while under anesthesia. But of all writers currently with pen to paper—the one who can make me laugh so much I have to put book down and stop reading until I wipe my eyes enough to see the words again—Garrison Keillor and his tales of the odd denizens of Lake Wobegon is the winner. I’m not sure if one has to be a present or past upper-plains state resident to see his humor, but it certainly helps. In “Pontoon Boat” Pastor David Ingqvist took twenty-four visiting clergymen out for a ride on Lake Wobegon in Wally’s new twenty-six foot pontoon boat. And as everyone knows, in the Midwest, folks need at least twenty-eight inches of private space. What happened to the clergymen and the boat and the lighted barbeque grill had me nearly rolling on the floor. I tried to read passages aloud to Rosalie and could barely get the words out. Florian Krebsback tells jokes to his flock of ducks, one of which: So this couple went to get a divorce, she was eighty-nine and he was ninety-two—the judge said, “Why? You’ve been married seventy years and now you want a divorce?” “We hate each other,” she said. “We haven’t been able to stand each other since 1932.” “Why did you wait so long?” he said. “We wanted to wait until the children were dead. This woulda killed them.”

If you’ve never read any of Keillor’s Lake Wobegon stories or heard him delivering any of these stories on his radio broadcast called A Prairie Home Companion, you don’t know what you’re missing. If your life is a little barren and humorless, turn to Garrison Keillor and he’ll fix it right up.

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