Friday, October 20, 2006

Garrison Keillor and the youngest adults in the audience

Last night, Bede and I went to see Garrison Keillor at the Paramount Theatre. I had bought the tickets as the third part of a mini-subscription series so I could get early-bird tickets for Sarah Vowell and Dan Zanes. I’d listened to Garrison Keillor on the radio, first when I was a little girl, and then when I was in college. In more recent years, the voices and humor styles of Ira Glass, David Sedaris and the aforementioned Vowell appealed to me far more than Keillor’s, but still, this was the guy who brought me the CaféBoeuf skits. For one night, I was willing to be a member of the audience.

What Bede and I did not know beforehand was that we would be the youngest members of the audience. I’m 34. Bede is 36. For the first time in a good while, we felt “too young” for the crowd around us. We eavesdropped on conversations about today’s youth and its obsession with iPods and video-games. “With today’s generation, it’s all about hanging out with your friends, listening to music, " someone said. Someone else said, "Everything has to be in-your-face. They miss the subtleties that we grew up with.” The people talking were children of the fifties and sixties. What exactly did they remember? I wondered. What exactly did they forget?

When Garrison Keillor came on stage, he shared memories of listening to his aunts’ stories and running around on the farm, but couldn’t recall when he started to use the internet. Keillor sang about winters in Minnesota, crooned pseudo-cheeky limericks about the current political administration and waxed nostalgic about the simpler times of long ago when people weren’t afraid to help out hobos and hitchhikers. At the end, he got a standing ovation. (In Seattle, everyone gets a standing ovation.) I clapped, but I definitely felt out of my element.

I am not a fan of nostalgia. Nostalgia says, “My era was better than your era.” Some parts were definitely better, of which I have no doubt. Some parts definitely were worse. Say what you like about the proliferation of cell-phones and how they’ve invaded all aspects of our lives, but I am grateful for cell phones. I remember family trips where we were stuck by the side of the road because our car had broken down. I remember trying to communicate to my parents via mental telepathy that I was okay, I just had to stay after school for a bit, back when it was considered impolite to have answering machines. As far as email goes, I remember exactly when I started using it. Because of email, I have reconnected with people I thought were lost to me long ago. I know I’m now of the older generation because I don’t feel the need to send text-messages, and I’m satisfied with my clunker of a cell-phone. I don’t want to be part of the younger generation, though. I want to be an ally. As terrifying as it might be to encounter a group of boisterous high schoolers falling over themselves with laughter might be, or even worse, a group of snickering, sniggering junior high students, I don’t have to dig very deeply to find that this wide demographic of young adults is made up of individuals with their own thoughts, anxieties, and ambitions. If you don’t believe me, just read the literature out there.

Some of my favorite young adult novels include:

The Chocolate War—Robert Cormier
Catherine, Called Birdy—Karen Cushman
Annie on My Mind—Nancy Garden
The Outsiders—S.E. Hinton
The Adventures of Blue Avenger—Norma Howe
The Adrian Mole Diaries—Sue Townsend
Like Sisters on the Homefront—Rita Williams-Garcia
Probably Still Nick Swansen—Virginia Euwer Wolf


El JoPe Magnifico said...

Dear Ms. The Gleeful,

That's fictional nostalgia, too, the worst kind. People (did he really use that all-encompassing term?) treat hobos and hitchhikers the same as they always have: Hobos have always been generally reviled, and I would guess that hitchhikers still manage to find rides just fine, unless they happen to look like a hobo. Keillor is consistently affable and sometimes insightful, but it is this hazy rosy presentation of America Past that prevents me from listening to his show for more than fifteen minutes at a stretch. I'm right there with you on wanting to treat the current age and generation as a mixed bag with their own potential, same as the previous ones.

Living in the present (because the past is gone and the future is doomed),
Señor Magnifico

Lone Star Ma said...

I love YA.

Having been among the first of my friends to reproduce (I was 24, married and had a master's degeree and an excellent job but there were those who acted like I was 15), I have long felt rather out of step with any generation - the other parents at the Montessori school were older than me and my old friends who still didn't have kids seemed very young. Since I waited over 8 years t have a second child, I am now one of the older parents!

We haven't had a cell phone in awhile for financial reasons and the kids I teach, many of whom are pretty much homeless, find that AMAZING.

BlueMamma said...

I love it that you love sarah vowell, ira glass and david sedaris - i suppose that means you like david rakoff too?

i'm at home in every generation. after all, whose generation am i in? yours? we're nearly the same age. my mother's? she's your sister-in-law.

Alkelda the Gleeful said...

El Magnifico: I nearly sputtered when Keillor talked about how kind people used to be to hobos.
I'm the sort who lives in the past, present and future simultaneously. You know, "suffering in advance" and all that.

LSM: People acted like you were 15 when you were having a baby at age 24? Egads! That says more about them than it does about you.:)

BlueMamma: I know David Rakoff a little bit via TAL, but all I remember is that when the staff did a testosterone test (spitting into a tube), Rakoff had the most.

limpy99 said...

I remember when people used to leave pies on there windows so that the hobos could come by and have something to eat...

then the posse would jump out of the bushes, tar and feather the hobo and run him out of town on a rail.

Garrison Keillor's past, much like Oz, looks good, but never existed.

BlueMamma said...


check out this youtube video of david rakoff making fun of himself...

The Moy said...

I can remember as a kid in the '60s wondering if anyone of my generation would have the sheer nerve to opine about our "gentler, simpler time." Of course, they do, and it never fails to amaze me. They even talk about how rude kids are today (unlike kids in the '60s!)

I've told my husband that if he ever catches me starting a sentence with "Young people today," he should take me out and have my upper palate removed.

galetea said...

I had an overwhelming, powerful fear of the dark when I was small. To help combat my phobia and try to make it as easy as possible to get back to sleep when I woke up terrified in the middle of the night, my parents bought me a tapeplayer and recorded dozens of Garrison Keelor's monologues off off of the radio. So whenever I woke up, I just pressed play and listened to his gentle stories until I fell asleep. I've always associated his lovely voice with safety. When I was about 9, I sent him a street map of Lake Wobegon that I'd drawn and got a reply from his office saying that everyone there had really gotten a kick out of it. :)

As an adult, I've been lucky enough to attend a live broadcast of Prarie Home Companion at Wolf Trap in Virginia. I wish that I'd gotten to attend it at it's home theatre in St Paul when I was living in the Twin Cities, but the lines outside were always quite ridiculous!

Alkelda the Gleeful said...

BlueMamma: Thanks! Of course, on YouTube, one thing always leads to another, and now I have to read Rakoff.

The Moy: Yeah, but what abou the good old 80's? Aieeee.

Galetea: I remember listening to Keillor on rainy car trips when I was a little girl, and his voice lulled me to sleep. That was great of your parents to record all of those monologues for you.

Scott said...

If you want to know the REAL truth about hobos, please check out John Hodgman's "The Areas of My Expertise". He's a comrade-in-arms of Sarah Vowell's, and he has the real story on those "lovable" tramps. Those guys are (and were) not to be trifled with.

Regarding young adult novels, I'm not even going to mention His Dark Materials, because I know you already know it. It would be a waste of everyone's time.