Meeting Garrison Keillor

Micah Osler, print news editor

Great Odin’s raven. I am flying first-class from New York City to Minneapolis (via a layover and an upgrade from my dad’s ticket), and Garrison Keillor is sitting two rows in front of me.

Perhaps I didn’t make myself clear. Here, let me clarify. GARRISON KEILLOR IS SITTING TWO ROWS IN FRONT OF ME.

I saw him when he was getting on the flight, but it was from behind, and I wasn’t sure, but now I’m sitting down, and it’s really, really clear that the man sitting two yards away from me is the voice of Minnesota to the rest of the nation.

Okay, Micah. Calm down. I’ve met Garrison Keillor before. But that was different! I met him backstage once, and it was amazing, but that was because I knew someone who knew him. This is on a plane! Everyone knows that when you meet famous people on planes, it’s the sort of story you tell to assorted family and well-wishers when you’re in a retirement home somewhere.

I wonder if he’d sign something for me. What do I have? I guess it might have some value to have a Dasani bottle signed by Garrison Keillor, but no, that wouldn’t work. My mom doesn’t care about this copy of “Beloved”, right? Right? Okay, I’ll get him to sign that. Okay.

Maybe it’s not him. Maybe it’s just someone who looks like him. That would be… fine, actually. Then I wouldn’t have to get my social awkwardness in gear. I could just enjoy the flight instead of worrying that I’m missing the opportunity to meet Garrison Keillor!!

My, this is stressful.

No, this is definitely Garrison Keillor. He just ordered a Diet Coke, and his voice sounded like a warm summer’s afternoon on the porch of an old wooden house in the Midwest, and a storm’s on the horizon, and it’ll be a Midwestern thunderstorm – a beast of a thing – but for now, there’s friends on the porch and the soothing heat and the knowledge that in a month or two, the sunlight will start to slip away and the land’s long slow descent into winter will begin and so these are days to savor… Apparently, the attendant only heard the Diet Coke part, but yeah, this is the real deal.

Right now, I can only sort of see the top of his head. It looks sort of like a coconut, but so does everyone else’s. Why did I have to get the window seat? Otherwise, I could get out, and I could walk like three steps down the aisle and go and talk to Garrison Keillor.

I’m trying to keep calm. I’m sipping my cran-apple juice calmly and pretending that the flight isn’t ten minutes from taking off and that then I’ll have to put away my computer and I’ll have to be alone with my thoughts and worries and whatnot. The flight attendant just asked me if I wanted to check my jacket, and my voice cracked when I answered no, because I don’t know if Garrison Keillor checked his coat or not, and maybe I missed the chance for my coat to pick up some magical Garrison Keillor dust, but I still kind of want to wear it on the flight because it’s chilly here.

I’ll get back to this saga when we get to our cruising altitude.

UPDATE: Garrison Keillor is still in front of me. And I still haven’t said a word to him.

I was up at the front of the plane a minute ago, but now I’m back at my seat and I didn’t talk to him on the way back. I considered it, but I had nothing good to say. “Hi, Mr. Keillor, I’m Micah Osler, and you probably vaguely remember me as the teenager who was way too excited about NPR from this October” seemed like a fine proposition until I realized that he probably wouldn’t remember me at all. Then I considered the usual “Hi, sir, huge fan of your work [or should it be “your oeuvre”?], just wanted to let you know”, but that seemed too bland.

Wait! I have a British flag in my bag. Maybe he’ll sign that. That would make for a great conversation starter!

Oh wait, that wouldn’t make any sense. Well, at least not any more sense than him signing “Beloved”.

By the way, I have a British flag in my carry-on for reasons only I need know.

UPDATE 2: Keillor, from my surveillance standpoint, appears to still be reading Sinclair Lewis’s “Main Street”. Intimidating as he may be (and yeah, he’s astoundingly intimidating in real life – he’s like 8 feet tall and looks somewhat displeased with you), the man has good taste in 1920’s protest literature.

Should I tell him that we learned about that book in APUSH? No, of course not! He’d already know about the context of the novel – he’s reading it! And the last thing I want to do around Garrison Keillor is make him look down on me because I’m spouting information that’s mere child’s play to him.

Man, I bet people who go to the mall to meet Mr. T or something don’t have these problems.

UPDATE 3: I am sitting next to America’s most average guy, or at least what I think an arrogant Frenchman would think is America’s most average guy. He is reading a James Patterson novel while listening to Nickelback really loudly and occasionally yelling about the joys of the Cheesecake Factory to his buddy, Phil, who’s sitting in the next row up. Occasionally, Phil will make a really stupid joke, and my seatmate will laugh, and then Phil will make the exact same joke, and my seatmate will laugh again.

Oh, how I wish I was sitting next to Garrison Keillor.

UPDATE 4: I met him!

Unfortunately, he kind of sprinted off the plane when it landed, and I was trapped behind Average Guy and Phil, who were laughing about the supposedly incompetent runway dude for an inordinately long time. When I got off, he was gone.

I got down to the baggage claim, heartbroken, but then I saw my mom standing there, holding my bag, chatting up Garrison Keillor! I went over and said hi, and he said hi, then he found his bag and left.

Yeah, it was a bit anticlimactic. But at least I didn’t try to get him to sign the British flag.