Minnesotans are a humorous people and we are attempting to elect a comedian to the U.S. Senate, which is delicate work, as you might guess. You shouldn’t sweep a comedian into office on a wave of public adulation any more than you should let him win the heroine in the first reel and fly off to Paris and suddenly start ordering meals in fluent French. You need him to move a piano up a long flight of stairs, and that’s what Al Franken is doing now. He is leading the race by 50 votes or so out of 2.9 million cast. And when he boosts the piano to the top, he’ll sit down and play Chopin.
Meanwhile this earthquake activity at Yellowstone has me thinking maybe I’ll fly to Paris myself. Hundreds of tremors in just a few days — "We might be seeing something precursory," says a geophysicist. As you recall, Yellowstone sits atop an enormous volcano, red-hot lava bubbling just a few miles underground, which is what makes Old Faithful blow thousands of gallons of boiling water 150 feet in the air every 90 minutes or so. You can see this on live streaming video on your computer. All around it are scores of other geysers bubbling and hissing, as the monster dozes.
The volcano hasn’t blown for 70,000 years, which suggests to me that the Big Belch is overdue. And when the volcano blows and Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Utah and Nevada go 30,000 feet into the air and drift east to become part of the Midwest and Eastern seaboard, you will be able to watch it on Google Earth until the boulders start dropping on your roof and fifty feet of topsoil and the power goes out and you lose your Internet connection and all your Facebook friends disappear and you must now bang on the pipes and hope the rescue parties hear you.
I would rather be in Paris.
A Yellowstone spokeswoman says, "There doesn’t seem to be anything to be alarmed about." When a government spokeswoman says that, a person looks around for the nearest exit.
I am in Miami this week with my sandy-haired, bright-eyed daughter, staying at an old hotel with an enormous pool, and Air France has a flight to Paris this evening -— a 747, my favorite plane, with that first-class section on the upper deck, vast leg room, your flight attendant Juliette Binoche serving you Camembert on a baguette with a glass of Pouilly-Fuisse, and so what if it costs $14,000, money means nothing when the End is near. Suction out your pension fund, get a suite at the Ritz, and live on oysters and champagne until the money runs out.
When I was a fourth-grader in Benson School on the West River Road north of Minneapolis, Mrs. Erickson gave us the essay topic, "What would you do if you had one day left to live?" We had just read an inspiring story about Helen Keller and the rich, full life she led despite being blind, deaf, speechless and horse-faced, and Mrs. Erickson wanted us to write something inspiring about smelling flowers and listening to birds sing and watching the sun set, but I wrote that I wanted to get on a plane and fly to Spain.
I had never flown in my life, and we had finished a unit on Spain and learned about bullfighting, which seemed like a very cool thing to do. So it was Spain for me.
Mrs. Erickson told me to choose something else. "Spain is too far," she said. "It takes almost a day just to get there."
I stuck with Spain. Even at that tender age, I knew that life is the journey, not the destination. So Mrs. Erickson kept me indoors for recess, which was fine by me — if she wanted to punish me, she should’ve made me play outdoors with other children.
I’ve never been to Spain because I associate it with having only a day left to live. But I’ll get there one of these days, maybe after Yellowstone blows and I’m already in Paris, propped up in bed reading about the disaster in the International Herald Tribune as my close personal friend Audrey Tautou pours Dom Perignon on my cornflakes. (My daughter is at school in a house that is covered with vines.)
"Tell me about ze Meedwest, mon amour," she whispers. "Ze peoples, are zay fonny?" Yes, sweetheart. Until Montana landed on us, we were hilarious.Garrison Keillor’s column is distributed by Tribune Media Services.