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Thursday, December 11, 2008

A Quiet Week in Lake Wobegone

After all the running around of recent weeks, this past week has been blessedly quiet. The big adventure was Saturday's trip into Manhattan to attend a live broadcast of A Prairie Home Companion at the Town Hall Theater on West 43rd Street. Wherever we've lived, my family has been listening to the Public Radio International program on our National Public Radio affiliate (currently WNYC) and we've always wanted to go and see the production live. This year, we decided to surprise Ian with tickets.

On Saturday, we went into the city early and wandered around, stopping for hotdogs at Gray's Papaya at 37th St. and 8th Ave., then heading over to the New York Public Library on 5th Ave., where we had hoped to see the stuffed animals that belonged to Christopher Milne, which became the famous children's book characters: Winnie the Pooh, Eyore, Kanga, Tigger and Piglet.

This turned out to be something of a mistake as it seemed that everyone else in the world had the same plans, so we decided to come back another day. Ian posed atop one of the iconic marble lions, then we made our way to Bryant Park, where we watched the ice skaters for a bit and bought Ian a new winter hat at one of the holiday shops that specialized in hand-kint wool hats made in Tibet. Then, with the sun setting, it was time to make our way to the theater for the 5:45 show.

Garrison Keillor always brings together an eclectic mix of performers and Saturday's show featured fantastic performances by jazz vocalist Inga Swearingen, Metopolitan Opera tenor Raúl Melo, and crooner Michael Feinstein. (Just in case anyone out there cares, I wouldn't mind having one of Inga Swearingen's CDs show up in my Christmas stocking this year.)

Kimberly, Ian and I were particularly tickled to get to watch Fred Newman as he did the sound effects for the program. It isn't every day that one has the opportunity to listen and watch as a grown man creates the audio-illusion of a man juggling a hot toaster, a housecat and an alarm clock while jumping on a pogo stick and playing trumpet. Honestly, though, we all thought that it was pretty cool that Newman actually got paid to break real dishes, just for the sound effects.

I've often said that Garrison Keillor is one of the best preachers in America, even though most people think of him simply as an entertainer. He has a knack for telling stories that illustrate a point, without most people realizing that they've even been taught anything. Over the years, I have noticed that his "News from Lake Wobegone" segment more often than not relates to the lectionary readings for the week. This past week, he touched (ever so lightly) on Advent as a season of waiting and preparation, with a message of "keep up, keep awake, keep lively," which ended up with Raúl Melo singing Gesu Bambino, which has always been one of my favorite pieces of Christmas music. What a great evening it was!

And that's the news from where the woman is strong, the man is good looking and the kid is above average.

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