Out of it

     I’ve always been a bit out of step – maybe out of it says it better.
     I remember the first time I heard “A Prairie Home Companion.” I’d been living on an Indian reservation in Arizona for six years, and never listened to radio in all that time. Before that I’d spent four years trying to be a jazz musician, and never listened to radio then either. You never hear jazz on the radio.
     After six years on the rez, I bought an old VW van – with a radio! As I drove it home from Tucson, I turned it on and heard the strangest news show.
     Some guy named Carl Krebsbach had parked his truck on the lake and the ice was melting. Then there was some corny country music and then an update on Carl’s truck. Some more corny music … another update on the truck.
     What the hell kind of a show is this? I wondered as I drove across the rez. This is the worst show I’ve ever heard … but I kind of like it.
     Back in Sells, I told my best pals, the Legal Services lawyers, about that strange radio show.
     They explained Garrison Keillor to me. They knew I wasn’t stupid – just out of it.
     That’s not my strangest encounter with that distant planet Earth, though. Ten years before that, more or less, I drove a VW Beetle from Oregon to New York City, to try to make it as a musician in the Big Apple. I couldn’t sit upright the whole way because of the baritone sax in the back seat.
     Pretty late one night I stopped in Muleshoe, Oklahoma, tired and hungry. Took my horns into the motel room and was headed out the door for food, or beer anyway, when I saw the standard hotel announcement on the door.
     Only, there was nothing standard about this announcement, which from the look of it had been there for a long time. It had a list of all the things that Negroes were not allowed to do. Only it didn’t use the word Negroes. It used the other word.
     I was stunned. I peeked through the cheap curtain of the dingy room. I didn’t want to go out into the streets of Muleshoe.
     Head still buzzing from road noise, I stumbled to the TV and turned it on. On came a grainy black and white quiz show.
     The quiz master asked a rabbi what his perversion was.
     The rabbi said he wanted prostitutes to tie him to a chair and whip him with silk stockings while his wife knelt at his feet and ate pork chops.
     “And now, let’s give him his perversion!” the emcee said, and they brought out the prostitutes and the rabbi’s wife, and gave the rabbi his perversion.
     I stood paralyzed in that cheap hotel room, wondering if I had driven into a time warp.
     I didn’t know it, but I was watching a “Perversion” scene from Woody Allen’s movie “Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex.”
     Ever felt that out of it?
     All I have to do to recapture that feeling today is to open a newspaper, or a website, and read what those wacky Republicans are doing in Congress.
     That’s how the Grand Old Party makes me feel these days.
     “And now, let’s give them their perversions!”
     Nah. Let’s not.

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