For me, June, 1987 was a bittersweet month. Without going into too great detail, a relationship which I thought had wonderful potential got side-tracked, although it took it another three years and even greater heartbreak to die. Looking back from 25 years on, I have to admit that not only did she make the right decision for her — as was her absolute right — but also more likely than not for me as well. But that doesn’t mean that it didn’t hurt as badly as it did at the time, or that it took any less time for the wounds to heal. But heal they did, eventually, and although the might-have-been is always tantalizing (call it emotional rubber-necking: I drive slowly past the memories, looking at the wreckage, and wondering what the hell happened to wad things up like that), it no longer has the power to tear the old scars wide open.
June, 1987 was also the month of the Last Show on A Prairie Home Companion, Garrison Keillor’s radio show, which was — up until the point that he discovered left-wing politics — wonderful. It was funny, creative, poignant, well-done yet quaintly informal. I’d bought tickets for the March 20, 1987, show for a friend and myself, and about two weeks after placing my order Keillor announced on the air that he was killing the show at the end of June. After which point tickets became unobtainable. My friend and I ended up driving for what seemed like six months past forever (although familiar with the map of the U.S. for years, it really hadn’t soaked in until I physically experienced it just how huge a place the Upper Midwest actually is; there were places where for more than an hour we couldn’t get FM radio on the interstate), but made the trip in good time, successfully, and had a wonderful time at the show.
That summer I was underway on my ship the night of the Last Show, and so my mother taped it for me, right off the air. [Aside: The video of that show, or what was purported to be that show, which came out a couple of years later, was, to put it mildly, fraudulent. The show that was aired, and was taped by my mother live as it aired, simply does not match the performance on the VHS tape, in several material respects. Interestingly, the CD of that show, which came out many years later and which I also have, matches the show that my mother taped.] It was wonderful. I didn’t have time to listen to the tapes (as I recall it took two) until some time later. And this is the tie-in to the first paragraph of this post, above: I listened to that show as I was driving across Canada, then through New York, and then the Massachusetts Turnpike (by way of utter irrelevance, the turnpike runs right past Stockbridge, Mass., and there was a small sign beside the road that I noticed to the effect that the fine for littering was still $50), on my way from visiting this young lady to a Navy station on the coast. For whatever messed-up reason the two recollections — of listening to that Last Show and feeling my heart slowly tear out, mile by mile — got all twined together, with the result that it was the better part of twelve or so years before I could listen to those tapes again and not immediately experience the emotional trauma of that earlier time.
In any event, among the other things they did on that Last Show, aside from the last installment of News From Lake Wobegon, was wrap up one of their long-running series, The Adventures of Buster the Show-Dog, starring Timmy, the Sad Rich Teenage Boy, Sheila the Christian Jungle Girl, Father Finian, and of course the eponymous Buster. The questing heroes finally make it back to St. Paul after wandering the world and decide, before parting ways, that they’ve just got to get a group photo. So off they go to the corner drugstore, where a crooked clerk intentionally trips the alarm system and makes off with $100,000 from the till, leaving the five (including the cabbie who drove them there; they’d insisted he get in the picture as well) to face the music alone. This all dawns on them the next morning, as they sit around the empty boxcar down at the CB&Q rail-yard, where they’d found refuge from the police the night before. Father Finian comes back with some donuts, coffee, and a morning paper. There on the front page are their pictures, identified as the perps in “$100,000 Drug Heist.” They’re now wanted, fugitives.
But the point of it all is that Timmy’s reaction to reading the paper is the exclamation (he says it twice, in fact, as I recall), “Oh boy! We’re famous!!”
So what does a radio show broadcast 28 years ago have to do with anything?
As the ‘umble proprietor of this ‘umble blog, I do pay attention — embarrassing though it generally is — to the site statistics so helpfully compiled by the lads at WordPress for my enjoyment. It’s how I know to address things to my reader. No, seriously, tossing posts up here is half a jump from what must have gone through Field Marshal Haig’s mind as he dispatched the troops over the top at Third Ypres. Splendid ranks and all, and well-equipped, but you don’t really expect to see them living again.
But there is one post that I put up last year about this time, here, about cooking chitlins. That single post has probably garnered more views than the entire rest of the blog combined. Over the past three or four weeks it’s out-stripped by a factor of fifteen or more (I’m not making this up) every other post, new or old. The search terms that have brought people to that post have run a pretty decent gamut of the questions that people have about the preparation, cooking, seasoning of the guts. I really don’t quite know what to make of it. Here I’ve spent three-plus years now putting up all manner of “heavy” stuff on this site, and yet the solitary item that routinely fetches ’em (cf. Twain: “If that don’t fetch ’em, I don’t know Arkansaw.”) is a post on cooking hog guts.
So I’m constantly reminded of Timmy’s line from that Last Show: Oh boy! We’re famous!!
I suppose I ought to count my blessings and go home. If it’s true, as Oscar Wilde observed, that the only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about, then being the go-to guy on the internet on how to boil up a nice vat of hog’s intestines beats nothing at all.