What do reasonably cool twenty-somethings do when they have free time in a European capital? Listen to an old guy tell stories about Midwestern America of course!
When my parents lived in West Africa in the 80s, my uncle sent them cassette tapes of Garrison Keillor’s radio program A Prairie Home Companion. These days, we download the podcasts, but they’re almost as precious to us as I imagine they were to my parents twenty-five years ago. OK, maybe not quite as precious. But we do look forward to the new episode every week.
The stories that man tells—about the statue to the unknown Norwegian, the Sidetrack Tap and Ralph’s Pretty Good Grocery—are so good that we can’t do anything but listen. Sipping tea in the kitchen, the tip-tap of fingers on keyboards dies out as we trade minifeeds for the news from Lake Woebegone.
I don’t really know why we love it so much. It’s not what you’d expect to be our generation’s thing, but I know tons of young Americans who get totally geeked about Garrison Keillor. I just searched “Prairie Home Companion” on Facebook, that great pulse of Youth, and found a group called “Prairie Home Companion Lovers” with 6,489 members and a fan page with 3,114 fans. There are 81 groups dedicated to the radio program and another 87 about Keillor (although not all are positive; one is called “Please Make Garrison Keillor Stop Singing”). So what makes us love the Guys’ Allstar Shoe Band and the Ketchup Advisory Board so much?
I guess I get transported to Sunday afternoons at my parents’ house, drinking coffee after a good meal with the radio on. Sometimes, we just like to laugh about Lutherans and remember the characters that populate our own childhood churches, shops and living rooms. Nostalgia isn’t generational, I guess, and the stories are good enough to be timeless.
In two weeks, I’ll be home on Sunday afternoon again. Till then, this is the news from Budapest, where all the kids are occasionally homesick.