(GK: Garrison Keillor, SS: Sue Scott, TK: Tom Keith, TR: Tim Russell, RD: Rich Dworsky)

GK: New York is a great Christmas city, home of the tree at Rockefeller Center and the Christmas show at Radio City, the setting of O.Henry's Christmas stories and "Miracle on 34th Street," the city where George Balanchine first produced The Nutcracker, and the city where in 1897, a young lady named Virginia O'Hanlon wrote to the editor of the New York Sun asking if there really was a Santa Claus. And Mr. Francis Church wrote a lovely response which kind of summed up the spirit of Christmas for many generations since. With his resounding phrase, "Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus." Of course little girls don't stop at asking one question, and Virginia wrote back to him:


SS: (KID) Dear Mr. Church: Thank you for answering my letter. My papa thanks you too. And all my little friends who said there is no Santa - boy, I guess that showed em! How about the Easter Bunny? Signed, Virginia.

TR: Dear Virginia: What a sad place our old planet would be if there were no Easter Bunny! Why, your friends may as well say "No springtime," "No joy," "No love!" They are wrong, Virginia, for as long as the human heart beats and carries in it generosity, devotion and charity, there will forever be an Easter Bunny. Signed, Francis Church, Editor, NY Sun

SS: Dear Mr. Church: Okay. Appreciate that. Would you care to express an opinion as to the efficacy of echinacea in fighting the common cold? I know you will tell me the truth as you are kind and forthright. Signed, Virginia.

TR: Dear Virginia: The common cold is caused by a virus and so far seems to be beyond the reach of modern medicine, but hope has always been important in the therapeutic process, and if echinacea can give people hope, then, yes, it can cure the common cold. So long as people need love and hope and dreams, echinacea and other herbal cures will be beneficial to mankind. Signed, Francis Church, NY Sun

SS: Dear Mr. Church: Where do babies come from? I say the stork brings them. My little friends say they come from Mama and Papa doing unbelievable things to one another. What do you say? Signed, Virginia

TR: Dear Virginia: What a sad place this old earth would be if people didn't sometimes do unbelievable things to one another. That is all I have to say at this time. Francis Church, NY Sun.

SS: Dear Mr. Church: Thank you for your editorial, which was very good, and now I wonder if it is true, as my papa says, that a major tax cut is needed to stimulate economic growth. Inquiring minds want to know. Signed, Virginia.

TR: Dear Virginia: What a dismal subject the subject of economics would be if there were no prospect of a sudden big chunk of cash coming down the chute to each and every one of us. Your little liberal friends may scoff, but, yes, Virginia, there needs to be a tax cut. Signed, Frank Church, NY Sun

SS: Dear Mr. Church: Thanks. That really clears things up. One more thing. I'm thinking of moving to New York City and I need to find an apartment that is clean, spacious, filled with sunlight, has a nice view, and is well-maintained. I can pay $500 a month. My friends say I'm nuts. Is there such an apartment? Where should I look? Signed, Virginia.

TR: Dear Virginia: What a cold and cynical city this would be if we always believed the worst about landlords and if we assumed that every apartment is going to be over-priced and under-maintained. Yes, Virginia, somewhere in this great city, an apartment exists that is what you are looking for. I have not found it but I believe in it. Try the outskirts of the city first. Say, around Schenectady. Sincerely, Frank.

(c) 1999 by Garrison Keillor