What Mac & Cheese Means to Me
Posted: April 28, 2022
The beauty of old age is giving up the pursuit of evildoers and simply enjoying lunch, which my faithful companion and I did yesterday at an old beloved café that still has macaroni and cheese on the menu…
Men my age are not riding high these days compared to back in the Renaissance or the 19th century so I am taking a back seat and not getting fussed up. I appreciate new stuff like YouTube and the Unsubscribe option and the peanut butter latte, but I don’t know who famous people are anymore — Abe Lincoln, Al Kaline, A.J. Liebling are on my A-list but I wouldn’t know Adele if she walked up and offered me her autograph. I’m out of it. So I keep my mouth shut. I’ve listened to people discussing their loyalty to particular coffees from specific regions of Kenya or Nicaragua and I don’t weigh in on this. I’d be okay with Maxwell House Instant. Coffee is coffee. Debating it is like arguing about doormats. You walk in, you wipe your feet, it’s not a transformative experience. I feel the same way about gender: it’s your beeswax, not mine. Be who you want to be but don’t expect me to call you them or it or us.
I drink coffee because it is a warm liquid and I accept the myth that it enlivens the brain though probably hot water from the tap would serve as well. My coffee habit is a cultural choice: I don’t want to be part of the tea crowd, it’d mean I’d have to have a ponytail and wear linen clothing and have a cockadoodle named Josephine. I drink coffee and have short hair and jeans with a hole in the knee.
My people were evangelicals who argued about Scripture, not coffee, which led to schisms and hard feelings, which gave them a pleasurable sense of righteousness, but I don’t need that. I’m a sinner and fully aware of it. In just two paragraphs I slighted people in search of gender identity and insulted tea drinkers. But each day is a new day and there’s hope for improvement. I get up in the morning and start up the coffeemaker and take my pills and pour Cheerios in my bowl and slice bananas on it.
Cheerios sponsored The Lone Ranger on the radio, and the masked man with the fiery horse with the speed of light and the hearty “Hi-yo, Silver” is a good role model for a writer such as myself. He and his faithful Indian companion didn’t waste time disparaging people for their beverage or gender preferences, they were busy pursuing evildoers across the Western plains.
The beauty of old age is giving up the pursuit of evildoers and simply enjoying lunch, which my faithful companion and I did yesterday at an old beloved café that still has macaroni and cheese on the menu, which brings back memories of eighth grade when M&C was served every Wednesday, from which a boy learned the concept of Good Enough. We were Midwesterners and adequacy was sufficient. It still is. It could be worse.
“Let not your heart be troubled,” Jesus said to Thomas, but the heart isn’t the problem, the brain is. Soon an electrocardiologist will be able to run a wire up a vein in your groin and poke around in the heart and clear out old debris like “Doe, a deer, a female deer, ray, a drop of golden sun” and replace it with the Beatitudes, but meanwhile the brain wakes me up at 2 a.m. with prosecutorial questioning and I lie in the dark, exhausted, and then I reach over and touch my companion’s arm and she says, “What?” which is a question that gets right to the heart of the matter.
What matters is that life is getting better. GPS has made a huge difference and soon we’ll wear a scanner in the brim of our cap and Alexa will say, “Watch out for the curb three steps ahead. The smiling woman approaching you is your upstairs neighbor Melissa. The man with her is not her husband, it’s her therapist. She dumped the husband. The trees ahead are a rare Adirondack tupelo and the birds in them are Hibernian warblers. They navigate by starlight.” You greet Melissa by name and if you desire more information about the trees or birds, you click a clicker and Alexa goes into detail. She’s a great advance over the dashboard lady who says, “Prepare to merge right in 600 feet.”
I want to live long enough to see this. I’m scheduled for a heart procedure soon when a cardioarchivist will go into my heart and remove dozens of regrets about bad career moves and unhappy romances and if my faithful companion asks, “How are you?” I’ll say, “Okay,” and okay is not bad, it’s good enough.
Garrison Keillor © 04.26.22
America's story teller, known for his heartland wit and wisdom, and for many years as the voice of Prairie Home Companion on NPR.