Our town?

By JEFFREY GANTZ  |  September 12, 2007

Who’s the most famous person ever to visit Lake Wobegon? Has President Bush been there? Guy Noir? Lefty and Dusty?
Those are all fictional characters. But Babe Ruth came to Lake Wobegon on his Sorbitol Barnstorming Tour back in the ’30s, and people are still talking about it. He hit a home run and they are still trying to find the ball.

Does everyone get escorted off this earth by an angel — as in Pontoon and the Prairie Home Companion movie — or only those bound for Heaven? And do angels regularly pay social calls?
I grew up fundamentalist Protestant, and we were skittish on the subject of angels, we felt that was Catholic territory. Catholics adored angels and imagined squadrons of them hovering more or less constantly over Catholics, protecting them, leading the way, pounding them on the back if they choked on a bite of fish, so we Prots skipped the subject and focused on Grace. I am ignorant about angels. But that does not mean I ignore them when they appear, as they do in the book and the movie.

Not many of us have seen a naked young man parasailing overhead, or 24 Danish Lutheran pastors walking on water, or the innumerable other unusual happenings in your town. Do you think people want to hear the news from Lake Wobegon because it’s different? Or is your town really our town?
 I can’t speak for people in general. My ignorance of marketing is pretty near total. I suppose it depends on where you live — if you live in Boston, then Lake Wobegon definitely is “different,” and if you live in New York, then it really is “your town.” Or is it the other way around? I think people want to hear me talk about Lake Wobegon for many reasons, including the fact that it relaxes them to the point of sleep. Napping is problematic for many in our stressful world, and sometimes a good 20-minute monologue in a baritone voice does what Ambien cannot.

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