(GK: Garrison Keillor, SS: Sue Scott, TK: Tom Keith, TR: Tim Russell, ER: Erica Rhoades, EA: Emanuel Ax)
TR: A dark night in a city that knows how to keep its secrets, but on the 12th 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 one of those steaming hot days in July when your shoes stick to the floor and when you get up from your seat, your chair gets up with you, a day when the air is rich with the smell of other people and then you realize it's not them, it's you. You smell like a crowd. There are certain people who don't perspire. Essayists, for example. Bank embezzlers. Republicans. I know several Republicans and on the hottest days, they stand around looking like they just came out of the refrigerator. But not me. I was dripping wet. My office was missing an air conditioner which was being held hostage by my landlord Lou who was still trying to squeeze last year's rent out of me. I was sitting in front of the window fan turned up to High when---- (KNOCKS ON DOOR) Yeah, come in. (KNOCKS) It's unlocked. Come in. (DOOR OPEN, CLOSE. FOOTSTEPS.) Yes, sir. What can I do for you?

EA: My name is Sanders, Mr. Noir. Max Sanders.

GK: Pleased to meet you, sir. I see that you're a pianist and you're from New York, the Upper West Side.

EA: That's amazing. How could you tell?

GK: The span of the hands and the small indentations on the forefinger from making glissandos. A smudge of cream cheese on your lapel and a sesame seed between your upper incisors. And the fact that you're carrying a volume of Chopin Polonaises in a Zabar's shopping bag.

EA: Amazing.

GK: Think nothing of it. What can I do for you, sir?

EA: It's like this, Mr. Noir. I was trained as a pianist, but I've been unable to pianize due to the ravages of stage fright.

GK: You? you seem cool as a cucumber.

EA: I am. But I can't perform!

GK: Well, that isn't as important to women as a lot of guys think, studies show that women actually prefer the cuddling---

EA: I'm talking about performing on stage, Mr. Noir. I walk out on stage my hands shake and I can't remember my own name and address. I'm a wreck. And that's just at rehearsals. The concerts are even worse. Unspeakable.

GK: Must be rough on your career.

EA: In a room all by myself, with the door locked, I can play anything Beethoven ever wrote. And on a stage in front of an audience, I can barely get through "The Wheels On The Bus Go Round and Round".

GK: So what have you tried, Mr. Sanders?

EA: I've tried everything. Beta blockers. Meditation. Yoga. I tried playing modern compositions that nobody could tell if I was playing them right or not.

GK: A very smart idea.

EA: You ever hear of John Cage's "4 minutes 33 seconds" --- you know the work?

GK: That's the one where the pianist sits silent, right?

EA: The pianist sits without playing for four minutes and thirty- three seconds. It's tacet all the way.

GK: And?

EA: I was in a panic. Just the act of walking across a stage gave me conniptions.

GK: You know, I can't help but think that part of your problem may be self-consciousness about the way you look. I mean, a seersucker suit---- that look was over a long time ago.

EA: I paid $100 for this suit.

GK: You should've invested in your haircut, pal. That hair--- it looks like you had it done at a carwash.

EA: You say that like it's a bad thing. ---- Anyway, I didn't come to you for fashion advice ---- I need your help finding a woman who cures stage fright using low-frequency radio waves.

GK: Radio waves! So who is she?

EA: I forgot her name. But I know the town where she lives. It's called Piscacadawadaquoddymoggin.

GK: Piscacadawadaquoddymoggin?

EA: Piscacadawadaquoddymoggin.

GK: Probably a small town. I mean, how many people could even pronounce it? No problem. I'll get right back to you, Mr. Sanders.

EA: Please. And hurry. I'm desperate. (BRIDGE)

GK: I called up Directory Information and got an operator----

SS (ON PHONE): How do you spell Piscacadawadaquoddymoggin?

GK: Just the way it sounds. Piscacadawadaquoddymoggin. (KNOCKS ON DOOR) Let me call you back, Operator. (CLICK) Yes? Come in? (DOOR OPEN, CLOSE. FOOTSTEPS)

ER: Mr. Noir?

GK: Yeah, kid. What can I do for you? If it's Girl Scout cookies, I don't have the dough.

ER: It's not that, it's about school.

GK: So what's your name, Kid? And what's with school?

ER: My name is Angela, Mr. Noir. And I've gotten this fabulous offer to go to Hollywood and star in the Harry Potter movie and my parents won't let me go unless I pass my math test tomorrow.

GK: Wow. The Harry Potter movie. That's terrific. Congratulations. How good are your math grades?

ER: Are you familiar with the term, "in the toilet," Mr. Noir?

GK: Unfortunately, I am. Yes. So Hollywood is calling, huh?

ER: They auditioned thousands of girls and I won the part of Esmeralda. The love interest. Harry's main squeeze.

GK: I thought Harry Potter was just a little kid----

ER: They're making him older for the movie. So he can be played by Brad Pitt.

GK: Huuuhh.

ER: I mean, why would a boy go to sorcery school and learn all about magic except to find a great girlfriend. Right?

GK: I suppose. How would I know?

ER: Anyway I'm his girlfriend. But first I have to pass this test.

GK: Yeah. Listen. You want me to get you the answers to the test, don't you --- listen, I'm too old to break into school buildings and go crawling along ledges and hot-wiring alarm systems---- I can't do it. It's not that I'm ethical. I'm just too old, kid.

ER: That's not what I want.

GK: What do you want?

ER: There's someone who developed this system --- called Learn Math While You Sleep.

GK: Does this person happen to live in a small town up in Maine?

ER: Yes. In Piscacadawadaquoddymoggin.

GK: Piscacadawadaquoddymoggin?

ER: Piscacadawadaquoddymoggin.

GK: Listen. I'm on the trail. I'll find this person, we'll get the tapes, you'll learn math, you'll pass the test, everything's going to be fine, let me take care of everything, okay, sweetheart?

ER: Gosh. Thanks!

GK: I'll call you tomorrow, we'll get it all worked out.

ER: Great!

GK: Do you need a ride home, sweetheart? I'll call a car service.

ER: Naw, I rode my bike.

GK: Okay. How about money, sweetheart? You need some? Pocket money? You tell me. Whatever you want.

ER: No, I'm okay.

GK: Okay. Let me ask you one question, sweetheart. You got an agent to work out this deal for the Harry Potter picture?

ER: An agent? No. I didn't know I needed one.

GK: How much they offer you to do the picture?

ER: Seventy-five-thousand.

GK: Seventy-five-thousand! Kid. You really aren't good at math. Listen, we gotta talk. Let's go across the street to the Five Spot. Seventy-five thousand. You've gotta be thinking a lot bigger than that. (TIME CHANGE CHORDS) (DOOR OPEN, JINGLE, CLOSE. FOOTSTEPS)

TR (JIMMY): Hey, Guy. How's it going?

GK: Not bad. Not bad at all.

TR: What can I get for you?

GK: For me, a Martini with a soybean, and for Miss Angela here, a ----- what would you like?

ER: A limeade, please.

TR: A limeade?

GK: Think of it as a margarita without the tequila, the salt, and the triple sec.


GK: Angela, listen---- you gotta have an agent. You're a sweet kid. You need someone mean and nasty working for you to go bite these guys in the pants. That's the only language they understand. Get you the front end, get the back end---- get you the percentage of the gross---- a piece of the video sales, a piece of the product. You need a bulldog. Like me.

ER: How much do you charge for that?

GK: Don't worry about it. It'll be worth it, believe me. Don't think about it. (DOOR OPEN, JINGLE, CLOSE. FOOTSTEPS) Let's not get bogged down talking about money----

TR (OFF): Hey Max---- how's it going? (FOOTSTEPS STOP)

EA: Evening, Mr. Noir.

GK: Mr. Sanders, what a surprise to see you here.

ER: Hi, Uncle Max.

EA: Hi Angela--- good to see you.

GK: You two know each other?

ER: He's my uncle. He's the greatest pianist in the world.

EA: She's the only person I can play for and not get nervous. What are you up to, Angela?

ER: I'm going to be a Hollywood star but first I have to pass a math test.

GK: So what brings you into the Five Spot, Mr. Sanders?

EA: I'm the pianist here.

GK: At the Five Spot?

EA: In dim light, I don't get stage fright.

ER: It's so good to see you, Uncle Max.

EA: Same here, Angela.

GK: You still want me to find you that radio-wave person from Piscacadawadaquoddymoggin?

ER: Piscacadawadaquoddymoggin?

EA: You know about Piscacadawadaquoddymoggin?

ER: Of course. There's someone there who can teach you math overnight.

EA: And there's someone who can cure stage fright. What a coincidence.

GK: Listen, Angela, don't worry about a thing, I'm going to take care of everything.

EA: I have to go to work. See you later, Angela. (FOOTSTEPS AWAY)

TR: Okay. Here's your limeade, miss. And a Martini with a soybean.

ER: What's the soybean for?

GK: Fiber.


GK: That's very nice piano playing, Mr. Sanders. Lovely. I can tell you're a pro.

EA (OFF): Thanks.

GK: Your phrasing is very professional. You're doing great. Maybe you'd like to try another tune, though.

EA (OFF): You don't care for Sondheim?

GK: Never met him. But that tune, no. (CLOWNS STOPS) Thank you.

EA (OFF): What kind of music you go for, Mr. Noir----

GK: I go for quiet music that people can converse over. Music you don't notice. Silent music. (TITANIC THEME)

ER: He sure is a terrific pianist, isn't he?

GK: He's great.

ER: I love this song.

GK: It's the theme from "Titanic," right?

EA (OFF): Right.

GK: Listen, if I hear that song again, I'm aware that I'm liable to go postal. You know what I mean? Okay? (TITANIC STOPS, AND SEGUES INTO "new YORK") Not that one either.

EA (OFF): A lot of people request that one.

GK: I didn't hear anybody here calling for it.

EA (OFF): Okay. How about this? (MEMORIES)

ER: I love that song.

GK: I don't.

ER: Why not?

GK: I just don't. It's like not caring for deep fried bananas, okay? I just don't. Sanders? Do you mind?

EA (OFF): But those are the only four pop songs I know.

GK: John Cage wrote a nice piece called "4'33"" --- think you could play that?

EA: Hum a little bit of it. (LONG PAUSE) Yeah. I think I could do that.

GK: You know, the real solution for stage fright, Sanders, is humor. If you're scared on stage, tell a few jokes before you play. It'll settle you down.

EA: You mean like the one about the man who bought his wife a piano for her birthday and then a week later he traded it in for a clarinet, because, you know, with a clarinet, you can't sing.

GK: Yeah. Like that one.

EA: Why do singers stand for hours on the front step? Because they can't find the key and they don't know when to come in.

GK: Good.

EA: ----One night this nightclub singer said to her pianist, "I'd like to sing 'My Funny Valentine' tonight, but how about we arrange it a little?" And the pianist said, "Fine, how about we do the first chorus in G minor, then modulate to G#minor for the second chorus in 5/4 time, then modulate to A minor in 3/4 time for the bridge, then cut off the last 3 bars!" The singer said, "That sounds complicated." The pianist said, "Well, that's how you did it last night."

GK: That's good. I like that. You like that, Angela?

ER: Why does a violinist have a handkerchief under her chin when she plays? ----Because a violin doesn't have a spit valve.

EA: Twelve violinists and one pianist were climbing Mount Everest and suddenly the rope broke, and they fell down into the crevasse and all of them managed to hang on to the rope, but it was clear that the rope couldn't hold them all, so they decided one man would have to let go, and the pianist said, "Okay, I'm only a pianist. A mere accompanist. You violinists are soloists, geniuses, and the music world cannot bear to lose you, so I'll sacrifice myself to save your lives." And the violinists all let go of the rope and applauded.

ER: Why is a viola like a lawsuit?

EA: Because everyone feels better when the case is closed.

ER: Why is it so hard for a woman to find musician boyfriends who are sensitive, caring, and really handsome?

EA: Because those men have boyfriends of their own.

GK: Okay. All right. Enough with the jokes already. (DOOR OPEN, JINGLE, DOOR CLOSE) I heard somebody come in the door and I turned and saw a tall brunette walk in. (SEXY SAX) ---- A tall brunette in a black see-through blouse and a spandex halter so skimpy, if it was cut any shorter, it would've been a belt. Her black jeans looked sprayed on. They were so tight you could almost read the day on her underwear. She was so beautiful it hurt to look at her. What hurt was the fact that she wasn't looking back. She was a bombshell, all right. And I was the one about to explode.

SS: Do you know Mr. Sanders, the pianist?

EA: That's me. I'm Max Sanders.

SS: I thought so. There's----something so----pianistic about you. And I adore seersucker. Especially on you. And your hair ---- I'd like to take off my shoes and run through it barefoot.

EA: Be my guest.

SS: Later. Mr. Sanders, my name is Annette. Annette Gain. I'm from Piscacadawadaquoddymoggin----

EA: You?

SS: Yes. I heard that you're interested in my low-frequency radio wave treatment.

EA: I am.

SS: It's a three-part treatment: massage, hypnosis, and then I put my head against your chest and I hum.

EA: I'm feeling better already.

ER: Are you the one with the crash course in math, too?

SS: It's all hypnosis. I put you into a trance and play tapes of lectures at high speed and in fifteen minutes, you'll be doing higher calculus.

ER: Wow! That's great!

GK: How about unrequited love---does your treatment help?

SS: Sorry. I don't take clients over 50.

GK: Oh.

SS: The risk of a coronary----

GK: Of course.

ER: So you're a full-time hypnotist, Miss Gain?

SS: Call me Annette. No, this is only a hobby. I'm actually a film agent. I represent actors. And I use hypnosis in negotiations so I get some incredible deals.

ER: Wow. That's great. Would you represent me?

SS: Be glad to.

EA: Do you represent pianists too?

SS: With pleasure. ---- Bartender! A bottle of champagne.

TR: Champagne, coming right up!


GK: I sat down and played the only tune I know as Jimmy poured the champagne (CORK POP, POURING) and the three of them drank a toast to youth and glamour and who knows what else. A man walks into a bar and buys a round of drinks for everybody. He says to the bartender, "I'm celebrating. I just finished a jigsaw puzzle and it only took me two months." The bartender says, "That's a long time to take to work out a jigsaw puzzle." Well, the man says, on the box it said 2-4 YEARS.


TR: A dark night in the city that keeps its secrets, where one guy is still trying to find the answers to life's persistent questions --- Guy Noir, Private Eye.


(c) 2000 by Garrison Keillor