I wouldn’t necessarily consider myself a huge fan of Garrison Keillor’s work, but it’s not like I dislike him either. I’m just sort of ambivalent. But every so often I come across a column of his that I really enjoy. Before I left town on vacation, I came across a piece he wrote entitled “The Old Scout: Singing the Delta Blues” (via Get the Flick), and I thought that others might like to read it as well. It’s a perspective that only someone growing up in Northwest’s backyard could have, but it’s a nice reminder of the romantic side of air travel that exists even today. I recommend reading the entire article, but here are a couple of excerpts to whet your appetite.
We are good travelers, we middle Americans, and when Northwest opened a route to Beijing, everybody and their cousin talked about going there, and this spring the direct Minneapolis-Paris route opened, a beautiful idea to us as we scrape the ice off our windshields. We don’t actually go, of course—we go to work—but we could go on any given day, could write “Au Revoir, Ma Famille” on a paper towel and leave it on the kitchen table under a salt shaker and drive to the airport on the bank of the Minnesota River, abandon the car in a snowbank, flash the plastic, board the plane, and wake up in Paris, like Lindbergh.
And so I mourn the loss of my childhood airline and the silver planes with red tails that rose from the corn. What is a Delta? A delta is mud deposited by the river. Also the fourth letter of the Greek alphabet. Also a sort of triangular shape. But to me it is mud which forms a rich bottomland where they grow cotton and late at night old black men sit in a juke joint and play an old beat-up guitar and sing: “I wanted to go to the Orient someday. Get on a silver plane marked NWA. But that plane that would take me, it done flew away. I heard it on the morning news. They’re wiping out the Ns and Ws. That’s why I got these Delta blues.”