Tim Russell: A dark night in a city that knows how to keep its secrets, but on the twelfth floor of the Acme Building, one man is still trying to find the answers to life's persistent questions -- Guy Noir, private eye.
(THEME UP AND OUT)
Garrison Keillor: It was New Year's Eve in St. Paul and the city was covered in fresh snow. Kind of nice. As if maybe we can get a fresh start in life. A nice thought. Meanwhile, I was having the usual for supper at the House of Hash--(CAFE AMBIENCE)
Tom Keith (TEEN): There you go, Mr. Noir. An iceberg wedge with blue cheese, the Salisbury steak, cottage fries, a side of ravioli, and a blueberry pie for dessert.
GK: Thanks, Brent.
TK (TEEN): No problem.
GK: Don't I get a Parker House roll with this?
TK (TEEN): Oh, right. I'll go get that.
TK (TEEN): No problem. (FOOTSTEPS AWAY)
Sue Scott (DEEP): How's it going, Guy? You got a smoke on you?
GK: No, I gave up cigarettes, Doris. Twenty years ago. Remember?
SS (DEEP): Oh, right. Why'd you give up cigarettes?
GK: I donno. Out of curiosity, I guess.
TK (TEEN): Here's your Parker House roll, Mr. Noir.
GK: Thanks, Brent.
TK (TEEN): No problem.
TK (TEEN): Yeah?
GK: When I say "thank you," could you try saying "You're welcome" instead of "No problem"?
TK (TEEN): What do you mean?
GK: I mean, problems have nothing to do with it -- I'm expressing gratitude and you're supposed to say "My pleasure, or you're welcome, or God bless you, or whatever" -- when I say, Thank you, you don't have to tell me that it's meaningless. You get my drift? it's just the English language, Brent. Use it. Okay?
TK (TEEN): Okay. Whatever.
GK: "Whatever" is a word that could stand a little rest, too. You mind?
TK (TEEN): Hey. No problem. (FOOTSTEPS AWAY)
GK: (SIGH) Kids.
SS (DEEP): You got a date for tonight, Guy?
GK: Gotta work a party, Doris.
SS (DEEP): Oh yeah? What time you get off? I'm going over to the big party over at the Smoke House.
GK: They let you smoke there, right?
SS (DEEP): Right. It's great. All my smoker buddies go there.
GK: So it's pretty crowded?
SS (DEEP): Well, not as many as there used to be.
GK: Yeah, smoking has that effect on people.
SS (DEEP): What you talking about?
GK: Never mind.
TR (IRISH): So-- Mr. Noir--
GK: Lieutenant McCafferty--
TR (IRISH): Busy night out there.
GK: I suppose so.
TR (IRISH): Stay off the streets. And turn in early. That's my advice.
GK: I'm working a New Year's Eve party for seniors. They usher in the New Year on Icelandic time. Have a couple Arnie Palmers and call it a night.
SS (DEEP): I could come with you.
GK: Sorry, Doris. I never mix business with pleasure.
SS (DEEP): Which one am I? (BRIDGE)
(CONVERSATION OF SENIORS CLIMBING ON BUS)
GK: The New Year's Senior Gala partygoers were already climbing aboard the bus when I got there and I took a seat in the back, just in time for the announcement.
TR (MINN DUFFER ON P.A.): Hello everyone. This is your captain speaking. (LAUGHS) Oh I love doing that. Oh boy. Anyways. Welcome to our New Year's Eve gala bus tour. Got a big night planned for you. Heading for Mel's Big Boy Buffet for some eats and after that it's off to the Steamboat Casino for bingo and guess who's headlining in the lounge tonight? It's the stars of American Bandstand. That's right. But don't worry, we'll have you home by 11:30.
SS (OLD): Where we going first?
TR (ON P.A.): Mel's Big Boy Buffet.
SS (OLD): Okay, and where after that?
TR (ON P.A.): The casino, Gladys.
SS (OLD): Are we gonna get something to eat?
TR (ON P.A.): At Mel's.
SS (OLD): I thought there was supposed to be bingo.
TR (ON P.A.): At the casino. -- Everybody aboard? Let's go.
Billy Collins: Hold on just one minute.
TR: Who're you?
BC: You'll find out soon enough. Let's get this bus moving. Come on. If everyone sits down and remains quiet, it's likely that none of you will get hurt. (GEEZER MURMURS. BRIDGE)
GK: He was wearing a ski mask and holding a staple gun and he was trying to look menacing, yet I knew he was no ordinary criminal. (BUS PULLS AWAY, SHIFTS UP) Something about the sentence, "If everyone sits down and remains quiet, it's likely that none of you will get hurt." suggested an English teacher-- (BUS SHIFTS UP) The bus climbed up the hill to the front of the Cathedral and then he had the driver turn around and pull over so we were parked on a steep slope, nose first. (PULL EMERGENCY BRAKE) He had the driver get out of the bus and then he sat down in the driver's seat. I slipped into the bus aisle on my hands and knees and edged forward slowly--
BC (ON P.A.): Okay. I want everyone to sit in their seat and stay calm. My name is Bob Christensen and I'm a high school English teacher. I'm sorry to do this, but I am a desperate man. I am at the end of my rope.
SS: (ELDERLY) You want a toot off my inhaler?
TR: (ELDERLY) We got a bottle of hooch back here-- we just can't get the cap off it.
BC (ON P.A.): I'm serious, people. I've got two hundred thirty students. Two hundred thirty papers on The Great Gatsby that I'm supposed to read and correct. Think about that. So-- I've presented my demand to the governor. Either he promises to reduce class sizes -- or I release the emergency brake and all of us go flying down the hill to our deaths. (GEEZER REACTIONS)
GK: Hey, mister.
BC: Stay where you are, Noir.
GK: How'd you know my name? Oh. My name tag. Okay.
BC: I'm serious. No sudden moves or the bus goes down the hill.
GK: Look, mister. You and I are the practically the only ones here without a tube coming out of us. Let these people go.
BC: You know what it's like to read two-hundred thirty papers about The Great Gatsby.
GK: Still reading Fitzgerald, huh?
BC: It's not too long, the story's fairly simple, it's got New York and alcohol in it, so kids like it.
GK: Yeah. That one of the term papers there?
BC: "The role of Nick Carroway in the novel The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, which I liked, by the way, and thank you for suggesting that we read it this semester, is to see that Gatsby wanted to return to the past with Daisy Buchanan, which is impossible, and that's why Daisy did not break up with Tom and when Gatsby was shot in the swimming pool, Daisy went somewhere else and did not attend the funeral."
GK: So you read 243 of those, huh?
BC: Prozac helps, but it wears off. Listen-- "F. Scott Fitzgerald uses "The Great Gatsby" as a way to comment on human relationships and man's search for happiness in the midst of all of the suffering that is a part of life, IMHO."
GK: So how do you grade these papers?
BC: Well, you start out grading sort of tough and then you realize how awful most of them are, so if you get a paper that's grammatical and sounds like maybe they read the book and doesn't have any IMHO in it, you give it an A. And the others you give Bs or Cs.
GK: No more Ds? Or Fs?
BC: A D means you're going to get a visit from a parent. An F, you might have to talk to the parents' lawyer.
(KNOCKS ON BUS DOOR)
BC: Stay away from the door, copper!
TR (IRISH, OUTSIDE): Open the door, Mr. Christensen. We want to talk to you.
BC: Sure you do. Tell the governor I want to talk to him--
TR (IRISH, OUTSIDE): Come on out and it'll go easier on you.
GK: I'm in here with him, Lieutenant McCafferty--
TR (IRISH): That you, Noir?
GK: Everything's okay in here, Captain. Tell your men to pull back.
BC: Everything's okay in here!!! Ha. Listen to this-- "The Great Gatsby is told by the narrator, whose name I believe is Nick Carroway who tells what happened, and his feelings reveal his sensitivity to his surroundings, which was truly outstanding. I liked Nick Carroway a lot." You call that okay?
GK: Everybody's capable of improvement, sir.
BC: You're not an English teacher, are you.
GK: The person who writes a lousy term paper today might write a great poem ten years from now.
BC: Name one.
GK: I'm thinking.
BC: I've got to read 243 of these. Like this one. "The Great Gatsby is a man who goes through many adventures on the Mississippi River with his friend Jim who is African-American and who escapes to freedom."
GK: At least it's original.
SS (OLD): Say, sonny-- : ]Someone is supposed to help me go to the bathroom. Is it you?
GK: What do you say, Mr. Christensen?
SS (OLD): Are you my husband?
GK: No, ma'am. -- I'm going to open the bus door and let these people out, Mr. Christensen.
BC: You do and I release the brake.
GK: You do that and nothing happens, sir.
BC: What do you mean?
GK: It's the end of December in Minnesota. The bus tires are frozen to the pavement. You've got to start the engine to move it, and I've got the key.
BC: Darn it. My first attempt at terrorism and -- I literally freeze.
GK: Don't worry about it. (BUS DOOR OPENS)
TR (IRISH): There you are. We were just about to storm the bus.
GK: No need for that, Lieutenant.
TR (IRISH): Okay, mister. Stick out your hands so I can put the cuffs on you.
GK: No need for that, Lieutenant. Mr. Christensen here was just giving a reading from his class's term papers on The Great Gatsby.
TR (IRISH): What do you mean? He kidnapped forty people and threatened to run em over a cliff if the governor didn't meet his demands-- he's under arrest.
SS (OLD): Excuse me, I have to find a bathroom very very soon.
TR (IRISH): There's one on the bus.
SS (OLD): There's a line.
TR (IRISH): Well, just go in the bushes then. (SS FAINT) (STING)
GK: And the old lady fell over in a faint and the Lieutenant caught her and he gave her mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and she coughed and I guess she coughed up a pill and he swallowed it and two minutes later, he was in a mellow mood.
TR (IRISH, DAZED): So where do we go first?
GK: Going to Mel's Big Boy Buffet, sir.
TR (IRISH, DAZED): And then where do we go?
GK: Going to the casino to play bingo and see the stars of American Bandstand.
TR (IRISH, DAZED): Wonderful. Why do I have a gun in my hand? (GUNSHOT, GEEZER PANIC) (BUS ROLLING, BUMPING)
GK: He shot the emergency brake and the bus went hurtling down the hill. (GEEZER REACTION, BUMPING AND GAINING SPEED) And we were going 60 miles an hour when we went through a red light (HONKS OF CARS, SEMI, PASSING IN FRONT AND BEHIND) And we kept rolling and straight ahead was a big group of schoolkids crossing the street heading for the History Center. And Mr. Christensen hauled on the brake (BRAKES GRINDING, SQUEALING) and the bus slowed and came to a stop, three feet short of the crosswalk. (BUS STOPS) (GEEZER WHEEZING AND SIGHING) You're a hero, sir.
BC: I don't know. If any of them had been carrying copies of The Great Gatsby, I might not have stopped.
GK: Look. A green light.
BC: I knew you'd point that out.
GK: The green light at the end of the dock in The Great Gatsby.
BC: Mr. Noir, after twenty-two years of teaching, I've had enough symbolism. Sometimes a green light is just a green light. It's like a student wrote. "The Great Gatsby could have been an exceptional book; it is extremely well-written. Unfortunately, it's got a lot of irrelevant symbolist drivel like the eyeballs on the billboard. Other than that: great book., IMHO." So forget about the green light, okay?
GK: Okay, I will.
GK: No problem.
BC: What are you going to do with me, Mr. Noir?
GK: You're free to go, sir.
BC: You're not going to lock me up in the loony bin?
GK: It's New Year's Eve. It's a time when people can change their lives if they want to.
BC: You really believe that?
GK: Sure. The problem is -- most of what people know about human nature, they learn from writers, and writers are a bunch of gloomy guses. Lighten up. That's my advice. LOL.
BC: LOL. Okay, I'll give it a try.
BC: No problem.
SS: A dark night in a city that knows how to keep its secrets, but one man is still trying to find the answers to life's persistent questions--.Guy Noir, Private Eye. (THEME OUT)