Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Guy Noir at the Minnesota State Fair (with transcript and questions)

Garrison Keillor's radio "private eye," Guy Noir, from the radio program A Prairie Home Companion, visits the Minnesota State Fair.

Delights of the Subjunctive Booth

Here's a transcript of the piece -- From A Prairie Home Companion, Saturday, September 5, 2009

TR: A dark night in a city that knows how to keep its secrets, but on the twelfth floor of the Acme Building, one man is still trying to find the answers to life's persistent questions — Guy Noir, Private Eye ---
GK: It was September, and there was a chill in the air, the chill of mortality, which makes a guy think maybe he ought to bleach his hair and buy a Jaguar and head west and just let the repo man catch up with him. Gather the rosebuds. Carpe diem. Carpe nocturno too, while you're at it; why not? It was State Fair time in Minnesota, I was a little short on cash so I was working the fair, working undercover out of the Security division —
TK: Okay, Noir. Got a job for you here.
GK: Good. About time, here.
TK: Home Activities building. Call came in at eleven-hundred hours.
GK: You mean eleven ... eleven this morning?
TK: Right. Eleven-hundred hours. That's what I said.
GK: Why not just say eleven o'clock in the morning?
TK: Look, Noir, I'd rather say eleven-hundred hours. I'm in law enforcement, OK? That's the way it works around here, alright?
GK: Okay, okay—What is it, what's going on?
Bundt cake. Source.
TK: It's a Bundt Cake competition....
GK: Uh huh...
TK: We suspect that the second-place winner might be fraudulent. We did a search on her ID. Two different street addresses. So, ah, look into it, will ya?
GK: What's the second-place prize?
TK: It's a red ribbon, $75.
GK: Oh, come on. Who's gonna cheat for that kind of chump change?
TK: Look, we got the call; we've gotta look into it, alright?
GK: OK, what am I looking for, here?
TK: Uh, female, blonde. Medium height, weight. In her late thirties or forties. Shorts, t-shirt, flip-flops. Carrying a shopping bag full of free brochures and giveaways. Should be easy for you.
GK: You want me to find her, huh?
TK: Yeah, just take a look around, OK? See what you can see.
GK: Okay. (STING) So I headed out through the crowds of the fair (CAROUSEL ORGAN, VOICES PASSING, RATCHET OF RIDE), looking for a woman who looked like half the women who were at the fair that day. But it was OK to walk around, get the fresh air, smell the butter from the popcorn stand. And then suddenly a woman was right there, she was right up next to me—
SS (SEDUCTIVE): Hey mister, how about some deep-fried Reese's Pieces? Huh? What do you say? They're good. You want to try some?
GK: Back off! Come on, I'm working, here.
SS (SEDUCTIVE): So am I. So let's work together. C'mon, you only live once, come on....
GK: Temptation, temptation on every hand.
TR (BARKER): Hey step right up, play Monopoly—America's favorite board game—here it is—only Monopoly game at the Fair—put hotels on Boardwalk and Park Place......only takes an hour—win the game and you win a teddy bear—come on, step right up—who wants to play Monopoly—
GK: He wasn't getting any takers at his Monopoly stand but you know he still had a big smile on his face. Optimism. A beautiful thing to see in other people, there's a lot of it going around at the fair.
SS: Oh, step right up here and have a glass of wine. Got a nice Minnesota wine. It's a Sauvignon Honk. Nice dry wine with a complex bouquet of soybeans, plywood, a long finish of shellac. Here you go, how about you?— (FADES)
TK (BARKER): Hey, hey, here it is, here it is, here it is, folks—your lucky day—a dollar a chance, the more you buy the better your chances—come on, how about you, sir? Step right up!
GK: What's the drawing for?
TK: Twins Playoff Tickets.
GK: Playoff tickets, come on.
TK: They're just five games out of first.
GK: Five, my point exactly.
TK: A guy can hope.
GK: Oh, come on, five games out of first [on] Labor Day? You call that hope?
TK (FADING): HEY, hey, here it is, folks—your lucky day—a dollar a chance, the more you buy the better your chances—come on—
GK: I walked around the fair, walked past the high striker there (WHACK, DING BELL) walked past the lady who was selling the juicers —
SS: Here it is, here it is, secret of good health, the Juice-o-rama—(SERIES OF SPLATS) I put in oranges, potatoes, onions, blueberries, herring, Swiss chard (MOTOR WHIRR)—see how easy it is? Ah, but come on....
GK: And the Tilt-A-Whirl going around there (MOTOR REV, CRIES OF PASSENGERS), a new ride called the Salad Spinner, and there was the sheep barn (SHEEP), the poultry barn (SFX), the llama barn (SFX), the loon exhibit (SFX). There was the Live Birth barn where a woman was in labor—
GK: I'm sorry! I'm sorry! I'm sorry! I'm sorry! I didn't mean to, I didn't mean to interrupt you there, you just go ahead and do whatever you need to do there.
GK: Went up to Machinery Hill. There wasn't much machinery left up there, no tractors or harvesters, just a guy with a lot of hardware--
TR: Here it is. Got your pump handles, poles, pillars, pilasters, parapets, pipes, pegs, pins, pans, plates, panels, pommels, planks, pivots—got a pendulum here— how about you, sir? (SFX)—
GK: Excuse me. You wouldn't happen to have any plinths, would you?
TR: Iron plinths?
GK: Iron plinths.
TR: Nope.
GK: Okay. (FOOTSTEPS) I walked into the Technology exhibit and a man was selling p-Pods.
TK: Hey, how about it, huh?
GK: P-pods.
TK: It's the latest thing here.
GK: Don't need a p-Pod.
TK: A hundred bucks, but for you, just for you, eighty-nine ninety- five. Going, going, going, gone.
GK: What does it do?
TK: It's the successor to the iPod. The p-Pod. The p stands for programming.
GK: Yeah, but it's so small, it's....
TK: The size of a postage stamp, indeed. But it's got 100,000 songs on it, 25,000 feature-length films.
GK: What am I, what am I going to do with all that? I've got a life to lead, OK?
TK: Well, just look at this. Look at this. Come here, step up a little closer.
GK: I can barely see it.
TK: Come in a little closer. See— you can get any movie you want— just punch it in here—
TR (BOGART): Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine.
SS (MAE WEST): Well, it's not the men in your life that counts, it's the life in your men.
TK: See? All the classics. You just text in the title and there it is.
SS (GARBO): Gimme a whiskey, ginger ale on the side. And don't be stingy, baby.
TR (OLLIE): Well, here's another fine mess you've gotten me into.
SS (WITCH): Oh! You cursed brat. Look what you've done. I'm melting! Melting!
TR (JIMMY STEWART): You want the moon? Just say the word, and I'll throw a lasso around it and pull it down. Hey, that's a pretty good idea. I'll give you the moon, Mary....
SS (SCARLETT): I can't think about that now, I'll think about that tomorrow. After all, tomorrow is another day.
GK: I don't think so. Thanks.
TR (PEGGY): Now listen, Sawyer, you listen to me and you listen hard. You've got to go on, and you have to give and give and give. They've got to like you, they've got to. Do you understand? You can't fall down. You can't. But you keep your feet on the ground and your head on those shoulders of yours and go out—and Sawyer, you're going out a youngster, but you've got to come back a star.
GK: Listen, listen—I got a job to do, Mister. Now just let—let go of my arm.
TK: Twenty-five thousand movies for eighty-nine bucks.
GK: Life isn't long enough. Okay?
TR (CLINT): So tell me, punk. You feel lucky today?
TK: Hey— come on back, come on back— 75 bucks— (FADE)
GK: I headed into the Education Building, peace and quiet in there, and there was a booth for Arabic school and there was a Twitter exhibit—a guy was doing Twitter updates—
TK: (TYPING); I am online and I am updating my updates. Now I'm done with that update, ready to write a new one. Except I can't think of a new one. So I'll leave that one up for now. Until I think of something new. Which I might. Stay tuned.
GK: And then I saw a big sign that said English Department and I walked over that way, there was a handsome woman under a sign, I walked over—
SS: Step right up, it's the Subjunctive Booth—anybody can be a winner—just use the English language properly—Sir, step up, and win a big big prize.
GK: She was tall, she had broad shoulders and dark hair and she wore a Professional Organization of English Majors T-shirt.
SS: Come on up and use the subjunctive mood and be a winner. You, sir, you sir—
GK: Yes, ma'am.
SS: Did you hear what I said?
GK: Yes, you asked that I speak in the subjunctive.
SS: So you know the subjunctive.
GK: If I didn't, I would not be talking like this.
SS: Oh, two out of two, very good. Do you have time to go for three?
GK: If I should, who would care?
SS: Three. (DING)
GK: It is time I should go home, but I can stay.
SS: Oh, excellent. Four.
GK: Had I known you liked the subjunctive, I would have spoken nothing but.
SS: Five. (DING)
GK: If I were an English major, I'd know more of them.
SS: Six. (DING) Would you like to know what the prize for ten in a row is?
GK: I would not be here if I didn't.
SS: Seven. (DING)
GK: If I'd known you were here, I would've studied up.
SS: Oh, eight! (DING)
GK: If I were to get to ten, I hope the prize involves you.
SS: Nine. (DING)
GK: Would that I could.
SS: Ten. (DING)
GK: Well, God bless America.
SS: Oh, it's a bonus. (DING) That was quite respectable, sir.
GK: If need be, I could do more.
SS: Heaven forbid. What do you say we get out of the subjunctive and into the future perfect?
GK: Oh, well! Ooh. Boy, I am going to think the future is pretty darn perfect if it includes you.
SS: Oh my. You know how to make an English major perspire, don't you?
GK: Just let me … mop your brow there, darling. So what do I, what do I win here?
SS: Well, the prize is $75. Cash. Here it is.
GK: Why, thank you.
SS: I could help you spend it.
GK: I'm sure you could. Should we go? Now?
SS: No time like the present.
GK: So we're going out on a date, huh?
SS: Well, you only live once, right?
GK: Wow. Once should be enough.
SS: Yes. So tell me about yourself, Mr. Noir.
GK: Well, I'm a private eye, kid. Proud profession, died a long time ago. Back in the Age of Privacy, you know, you had to work to find out stuff about people, follow them around, sneak up behind trees, and put microphones in their drinks. Now you just get all this stuff on Facebook. So I'm what you might call semi-unemployed.
SS: So what do you do for fun?
GK: Well, you know, the usual. Long walks, conversation, you know, sharing, you know, emotional intimacy, that kind of thing.
SS: What do you say we have a wild time instead, huh? We've got 75 bucks. (BRIDGE)
GK: You and me, sister! Let's spend it like there's no tomorrow. So we did that. We rode the double ferris wheel (SFX), the Big Loop, going way down, yes! We did the Swiss Sky Ride (SFX). We did the Magic Carpet (WILD RIDE) and then we went over to the old mill, the Tunnel of Love, 97 years old, we rode it around and around and around in five feet of water, until the money ran out.
SS: Thanks, babes. It was beautiful.
GK: Oh, it was. If only it could've been longer.
SS: Yeah, me too, I wish we could do it longer.
GK: Good meeting you, kid.
SS: Same here. Keep using that subjunctive.
GK: Oh, I don't know. I feel like I'm slipping in the past tense now.
SS: Naw. If you only knew— if you only knew— (BRIDGE)
GK: I watched her walk away. My English major. You never know what you're gonna find at the state fair. No, you don't.

My baby don't watch TV
She loves the library
She goes there every day
My baby don't text or wear a pager
My baby is an English major

She is a bibliophile
She has an ear for style
Prose or poetry
She is a high-toned critic
But my baby cares for me

She loves the subjunctive mood
That is her attitude
Come what may, so let it be
I love her, how, she fills my senses
And Lord she conjugates my verb tenses
The dictionary she has read it
She is smart and she can edit
I hope she rewrites me
My baby knows her business
And yet she cares for me

My baby has style and glamour
And she uses perfect grammar
She's perfect as can be
She's a master of seduction
She is also good at deconstruction
She has a fine search engine
Other assets I could mention
She moves me poetically
I wonder what's wrong with baby
I was unprepared for
Don't know the whys and wherefore
But I'd swim the ocean, fly through air for
My baby cares for me


TR: A dark night in a city that knows how to keep its secrets. But one man is still trying to find the answers to life's persistent questions...Guy Noir, Private Eye.


  1. When a guy thinks that “maybe he ought to bleach his hair and buy a Jaguar and head west and just let the repo man catch up with him”—what is going on with him? (And what is a “repo man”?)
  2. Why was Guy Noir “working the State Fair”?
  3. What assignment did the security dispatcher give him?
  4. Did Guy Noir think the assignment was important? How do you know?
  5. Was Guy Noir hopeful that he would find the Bundt Cake competition suspect? Why or why not?
  6. When Guy says “back off” to the deep-voiced Reese's Pieces seller, what does he mean?
  7. Why did Guy think that it was ridiculous to enter the lottery to win Minnesota Twins playoff tickets?
  8. Why is he so unenthusiastic about buying a p-Pod? (At least two reasons!)
  9. When the woman at the Subjunctive Booth says, “What do you say we get out of the subjunctive and into the future perfect,” what does she mean?
  10. What caused the profession of private eye to decline?
  11. The woman asks, “What do you do for fun?” Guy answers, “Well, you know, the usual. Long walks, conversation, you know, sharing, you know, emotional intimacy, that kind of thing.” Where do his answers come from?