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May 2012

I was dreaming; In my dream, it was night. I was driving a car, looking for a gas-station1, driving around the mall area of South Fargo.

As with most dreams, I only knew it was that part of Fargo. The actual locations weren't "Fargo." The buildings I passed aren't actually there, although they'd fit in well with the actual area of town. Big, boxy structures built from cinderblocks cast like faux raw-cut stone, uninterrupted except for periodic steel fire-escape doors and a glowing neon sigil representing the business' existence. I was driving down the back-streets, off the main drag, so most stores were identified by small rectangle lights above the delivery entrance. A lot of the signs were for stores I didn't recognize, but were interspersed with the everystores: Target, KMart, and so on. As I reached and crossed more major streets, I could look down the road and see the vast parking lots that service each generic retail monolith, each lot dwarfing its building by comparison. It wasn't Fargo as much as it was any city of around 100,000 residents with a mall near the interstate.

As I reached an intersection with the main throughfare, I noticed that the power was off to the south, as far as I could see -- no signs, no streetlights2. I drove north, then through the parking lot of one gas station. The pumps were off, inoperable.

A few blocks further, passing fewer cinderblock retail buildings and more 1970s-era apartment buildings, I found a corner gas station that had no lights on inside the building, but the pay-at-the-pump was working. There were people all over the place, and almost every pump was occupied. I found an open one and pulled in.

As I was getting out, I noticed Garrison Keillor3, host of Writer's Almanac and Prairie Home Companion, was standing close to the gas station itself, obviously people-watching. I hoped to grab his attention and say, "hi," but he wasn't looking my way.

As I was putting the filler in my tank, Kiellor walked by -- I said loudly, "Hey, Mr. Keillor!" He grunted a dismissing greeting back, but turned back my direction. "What brings you to Fargo?" I asked.

"Have you ever eaten rabbit?" -- he didn't wait for me to respond -- "Nasty stuff, but sometimes it's what's on your plate." He walked away.

My subconsious does an excellent Keillor.

I take that to mean he really doesn't want to talk, or even acknowledge, any Fargoans, so I don't say anything as he walks away.

After a few minutes, before the tank is full, he wandered back towards my car. He looked inside and said, "Got lots of little boy things in there," noticing a bunch of stuff on the back seat belonging to my stepson. "Yup," I respond.

Keillor turned to me, lifted up his head a little, lips slightly parted, and regarded me as though studying a book through invisible reading glasses perched at the end of his nose. "So, how's that Razzamatazz Centre going? Amazing Centre?"

"You mean the Alerus Centre -- that's in Grand Forks4. Here, we've got the Fargodome."

"AH! The Fargodome, yes, that's my kind of a place. Oh, you don't have just boy things in here, you've got the whole boy as well." He reached through the open window and adjusted the jacket my sleeping stepson was using as a blanket in his carseat.

"That's my stepson. He's the youngest, he lives in Wisconsin with his dad -- My oldest is my stepdaughter, who lives here, and my daughter, she's 10, no, 11, lives with us."

Keillor sat down on the concrete curb next to the pump. I sat next to him.

"See, my wife is a bit older than me -- I'm 33 -- but my stepdaughter? She's 18...closer in age to my little sister than I am."5

Keillor spoke in the faint, high, strained voice he uses for serious, "what-are-you-gonna-do" statements: "Oh, my boy, why do the times have to change so?"

1 The van is almost out of gas; I noticed it last night on my way home from work. We don't own a car anymore.
2 Our power was out on Tuesday afternoon for an hour or so; my experience driving home was much like this - as I got closer to the house, there were no working stoplights, no power for signs or gas pumps.
3 Keillor was in the news recently, due to a problem with a stalker.
4 I was in Grand Forks a few weeks ago; the stretch of 32nd Avenue out towards I29 also resembles the area in my dream.
5 I don't know why that was supposed to be surprising, but dream-Derek thought it world-shakingly strange.

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