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Category: General / Topics: Attitudes Contemplation, Insight Humor Optimal Aging Wisdom

Good Isn't Good Enough, Seek Perfection

by Garrison Keillor

Posted: July 8, 2022

I’m in Minnesota where the other day I ate a radish that had a real bite to it, not the tepid politically correct radishes I’ve become accustomed to…



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I’m in Minnesota where the other day I ate a radish that had a real bite to it, not the tepid politically correct radishes I’ve become accustomed to but a confident self-aware radish like the ones I picked in a truck garden when I was a kid and when the farmer wasn’t looking I’d yank a radish out of the ground, wipe it off on my shirt, and chomp on it and it was thrilling. A red root that warmed your heart.

Not many vegetables are thrilling. Greens aren’t or green peppers, and spuds and squash are only vehicles for butter. Corn, as we know, is a grain, not a veg, so it doesn’t count. I consider tomatoes a fruit but either way, the tomato of today is bred for long shelf life, not for flavor. Beans are beans. This leaves onions and radishes, and the sharp keen-edged radish I bit into the other day was so rare, it made up for the fact that half an hour before I had stood up from looking through the cupboard and slammed my head into the cupboard door. Which is as close to being beheaded as I care to come.

I stood up fast and the sharp sensation of wood on bone made me pause to recall my Social Security number and the address of my childhood home, 312 77th Avenue North, Minneapolis 12, Minn. And Juniper 8-2014, our phone number, to make sure the marbles were intact. But the radish made everything right again. It was fabulous.

Perfection is rare in this world. I look through my hard drive at stories I wrote years ago and I’m happy to delete them, shapeless tasteless compost that they are, compared to which this radish is a Monet water lily. Of course it takes a radish afficionado to recognize it and I am that man. I am also a man who believes the American hamburger is capable of achieving perfection. You need a good bun and a slice of onion, and the burger should be slightly pinkish. Some people ruin it with ketchup. Mustard is what’s required and it should be American mustard, not some Dijon variety. A Dijoned burger is a mistake. You go down that road and you may move to New Canaan and change your name to François Moonbright and your family will have to go to court and get guardianship.

We Minnesotans are a self-effacing people so I’d never say to the guy at the grill, “This hamburger is perfection” because he’d feel obligated to say, “I think I took it off the grill too soon” but nonetheless it is perfect. Cheese would only diminish it. The bun is thin and lightly toasted on the grill. A bite that brings bun, mustard, beef, and onion into the oral cavity simultaneously is a sensation that makes up for whatever worthless things you did today, like my grousing about politics.

It’s a great country and it’s been divided ever since it was founded. My Crandall relatives were loyal to the king and had to high-tail it to Canada, taking only their silverware and the good china, and the men who signed the Declaration that July suffered too, nine of them died in the war, others were bankrupted and left penniless.

Meanwhile, we appreciate perfection in the radish or the limerick: Hooray for Henry Thoreau who lived in the woods long ago and wrote lovely prose while his mom washed his clothes and fixed him hot lunches to go. It’s perfect. So is the stolen base, the double play, the outfielder’s long gallop to deep left center to snatch the fly before it becomes a triple and he turns and tosses the ball over his shoulder into the stands and trots to the dugout having killed the rally and broken the hearts of a quarter-million Yankee fans.

But maybe New York will experience perfection that night in the form of an explosive thunderstorm, bombs bursting in air, lightning strikes, a downpour, sheets of rain, cars stopped in the street. Sunsets are vastly overrated and only make me think of dreadful greeting cards: a thunderstorm is the real thing.

Sometimes sitting in a chair, I feel my wife put her hands on my shoulders and whisper an endearment into my hair, and this small perfect gesture, though you won’t find it in The Joy of Sex, is very moving to me. It’s perfection. When she puts her hands on my shoulder, now that we’re getting older, this gentle affection is a perfect connection in the eyes of me, the beholder. Not perfect but you get the point.

Garrison Keillor © 07.05.22



America's story teller, known for his heartland wit and wisdom, and for many years as the voice of Prairie Home Companion on NPR.


Posted: July 8, 2022

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