I Hear That Ol’ Piano, From Down the Avenue

Once upon a time, before there was the guy and before there was the baby, there was a girl. A girl and her dog and the weekly ritual. For a couple of years, when her dad got sick and her brother passed on, the ritual was a safe harbor. A safe harbor with coffee and muffins, sitting curled up on the floor by the stereo, the dog licking his paws…slurp, schlup, schluck.

Even before the dog, there was the ritual. At 26 years old it was on Sunday, two boom boxes at either end of the house, serenading the halls with tunes and tales, while the broom swept, while the clothes washed.

At 17 it was on Saturday evening. It was even there one evening in the park, playing softly in the car, while the girl rode out the storm of her first LSD trip (we’re all adults, we can talk about this now, right?). The fingers of the trees playfully waved in their windy waltz and she stepped through the doors of perception, tethered to reality by the News from Lake Woebegone. Turns out in the end, she preferred the mundane reality of home life to the electric sparkles of acid.

It was there at 19 in her first apartment, and the girl dreamed of one day having the guy and the baby and dancing about the kitchen with both of them. Now at 41 the boom box is gone and the computer sends its mysterious bluetooth signal to the speakers, and when the fiddle starts, mama puts down the spatula, daddy quits drafting, the kid stops pummeling her stuffed animals, and everyone dosie doses to the Powdered Milk Biscuit song.

And on this past Saturday afternoon, when the On-Air sign flipped on, the lights went down and the chimes rang out From American Public Media the girl was there, finally come Home.

A Prairie Home Companion

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Before the show. We had The Best seats. 10 minutes to starting I ran downstairs to write out one of those greetings Garrison always reads at intermission (Mine didn’t get picked) and then I was waiting behind that same line when the band started their warm-up. I elbowed my way past people, muttering apologies because THERE WAS NO WAY I WAS MISSING THIS.

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Even though the set dressings were minimal, when the house lights went down and the stage lit up, something magical happened. We were all transported.

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One of the biggest surprises of seeing the show live is How Good the band is. Rich Dworsky, that little guy on the piano, is a tour de force. On the radio, the sound is compressed and less complex…on Saturday Jeff and I kept turning to each other, eyes wide in appreciation.

You know who else blew us away? The house singer, Sara Watkins. Give this a listen, I promise you’ll love it.

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Everyone on stage for the final act. The crowd was rousing in participation and we had all clapped and cheered loudly at every chance. Even after they went off air, the band kept going, looking to Garrison for his next improvisational song “I just don’t want to leave!” he said. Neither did we.

There was no Life of the Cowboys or The Phonecall home to mom, but there was Guy Noir (turns out, gentrification can be blamed on an app called “Chipper”), a surprising shout out to Rainbow Grocery and Dolores Park during the sound effects shtick and plenty of Mr. Keillor. Jeff and I agreed afterwards that it was one of the most supremely satisfying experiences we’ve ever had. (You can listen to this particular show here.)

Afterwards, I had one of the most supremely satisfying beers of my life at Two Sisters, and then it was back home to the babe, where we were just in time to turn on the radio and listen to it all over again.

Thank you Jeff, for giving me a dream come true.

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How about you? Are you a fan of the show? What rituals are turning out to be your life-long safe harbors?

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7 thoughts on “I Hear That Ol’ Piano, From Down the Avenue

  1. Wow. Just Wow. Your writing clearly tells what a bright, entirely brand spanking new, sparkling and mesmirizing experience it was for you. You’re going to keep that one and revisit it and smile about it to yourself and “remember when….” long into the future my friend. I’m glad you got to do it. Also, hells yeah that girl can sing! xoxo

  2. I listened to the show and said a little prayer in hopes that you were seeing it in person. So very glad you made it! Thanks, Jeff!

  3. For me, there is nothing better than to listen to APHC on a Saturday. I saw the show once during their summer state fair tours, but it’s on my bucket list to see them in Minnesota. Glad you got your better-than-a-dream-’cause-it’s-real experience. 🙂

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