.....after a word from the Ketchup Advisory Board. (MUSIC) (HUM OF AIRCRAFT INTERIOR)

TR: As you look out the window of the airplane, honey --- you see that big open area --- between the Rocky Mountains and the Appalachians --- the big open area where there are a lot of places without trees where the land is divided into rectangles? Did you see that?

SS (CHILD): You mean, the boring part?

TR: Yes. The boring part. We call that the Midwest.

SS: (CHILD) Oh. Are there people living down there?

TR: Yes, there are. There even are cities, and towns.

SS: (CHILD): Oh. What are the people like? Are they nice?

TR: Yes, they're extremely nice. Not too bright, but very nice. That's one of their problems.

SS (CHILD): Oh. I see.

TR: You see, honey, the reason you and I are sitting up here in first class and these beautiful flight attendants are fawning over us and bringing me all this Scotch and bringing us hot towels and medium-rare steaks when the people in back get some sort of wieners in cheese --- the reason we're up here in first class is that your Daddy is a tiger, and every day your Daddy goes out hunting and chases down some big eland or gazelle and there in the Midwest, that's where the real slow gazelles live.

SS (CHILD): I see.

TR: You see that town down there, honey? That's Muncie, Indiana.

SS (CHILD): Muncie.

TR: That's right. Muncie, Indiana, is where Daddy does market research.

SS (CHILD): Oh. What's market research?

TR: That means that we find out what people are willing to pay money for and how much and whether they care if it's really crummy or not.

SS (CHILD): Oh. I see.

TR: Muncie. That's where Cabbage Patch dolls got their start. Bill Clinton ran for President because he tested well in Muncie. So did wine spritzers.

SS: Do you drink wine spritzers?

TR: Bleaughhhhh. No. Daddy drinks good wine. The wine in wine spritzers is from vineyards in Canada, it comes down here in tanker trucks.

SS: Why do you do market research in Muncie?

TR: Because they're normal, that's why. They're the most normal people there are.

SS: Why are they so normal?

TR: Because they eat ketchup.

SS: Oh.

TR: They put ketchup on everything in Muncie. Put it on their scrambled eggs. Put it on steak. Potatoes. Cottage cheese. They even put it in their wine spritzers. Without ketchup, they'd turn into extremely eccentric people in messy houses with a lot of cats and no TVs whose opinions aren't worth anything.

SS: What if they stopped eating ketchup?

TR: They can't. It's in the drinking water.

SS: Oh.

GK: Ketchup --- it's the key to being a reliable normal person, so if you ever get that odd feeling that you're out of step, reach for Ketchup. A word from the Ketchup Advisory Board.

©1997 by Garrison Keillor