Tim Russell (ANNC): 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.
Garrison Keillor: It was October and fall was in the air, the leaves were on the ground, and my checking account was flat on its back, gasping for air. My landlady kept leaving me messages.
Sue Scott (DORIS, ON PHONE): Guy, it's Doris. Listen, Guy-- when I gave you three days to pay your rent, I didn't mean Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas, okay? So send me your rent check and this time don't forget to sign it-- that is so old. Don't pull that here. Okay? You get my drift? (STING)
GK: I'd been advertising on the Internet, which meant that I was getting calls from all over--
Fred Newman (ON PHONE): Hey, this Guy Noir?
GK: Yes, sir.
FN (ON PHONE): Great. Listen. I'm suffering from magnesia.
GK: I think you mean amnesia.
FN (ON PHONE): I do?
GK: You called me this morning. About amnesia.
FN (ON PHONE): I called you?
GK: You called me and you wanted me to trace the phone call because you couldn't remember where you were.
FN (ON PHONE): That's crazy. I know where I am. I'm in Ballmer.
FN (ON PHONE): Balmer Merlin.
GK: This is about an embalmer. A funeral director?
FN (ON PHONE): I said Ballmer. Ballmer, Merlin.
GK: Is that a law firm, Ballmer Merlin--
FN (ON PHONE): Merlin. Down here on the Chest Peak. Home of the Oreos.
GK: You mean the cookies?
FN (ON PHONE): Huh? I said Oreos. The ballclub.
GK: You have a ballclub in Ballmer?
FN (ON PHONE): The Oreos. Ballmer Oreos.
GK: Oh. You mean Baltimore. Baltimore, Maryland.
FN (ON PHONE): What you say? (BRIDGE)
GK: He said he had a job for me and he'd remember what it was as soon as I hit the road for Baltimore and the road sounded good after Doris sent her nephew Mickey to collect the rent (POUNDING ON DOOR, TR MUFFLED BEHIND DOOR: Open the door. Pay up, ya deadbeat, or I'm gonna bust your chops. Y'hear me?) and that afternoon I was on a plane to Baltimore (JET TAKEOFF) -- and I hoofed it down to the harbor (TRAFFIC) -- a big crowd of tourists and the usual collection of street musicians -- the bagpiper, of course (AMAZING GRACE first line) and the saxophonist (JAZZ SAX) and a little Indian sitar combo from New Orleans (SITAR, TABLA, SAINTS GO MARCHING IN) -- and a big crowd gathered around a dolphin from the Aquarium who was singing the Maryland state song (DOLPHIN SINGS "O TANNENBAUM") -- and there was a street singer who looked familiar, an old Minnesota guy --
TR (DYLAN): Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore,
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door. (FADING)
GK: I was looking for the guy on the phone who said he operated a jewelry booth on the waterfront, and I found him -- a lean guy with dark glasses and the jewelry was made of crab shells.
Fred Newman (VENDOR): Hey, get your crab claw jewelry here. Hey mister-- want to try on our crab necklace? Nice fancy necklace. Got jewels on it and everything. You got a lady, get her this crab necklace. You don't got a lady, get this crab necklace, and you'll have a lady. My guarantee. Listen. You see this price? Eighteen ninety-five? Huh? You see this? Well, listen. For you, I'm gonna drop that to ten bucks. That's right. Ten bucks. Don't tell anybody. And here -- for free -- some crab cakes made from the crab the necklace came from. How about that for a deal? Huh? Ten bucks. For you. --Hey. Aren't you from Minnesota?
FN (VENDOR): I thought so. I could tell by the long face. Listen, I called a guy up there. Private detective. You him?
GK: That's me.
FN (VENDOR): Listen. I was suffering from-- what is it? Can't remember--
FN (VENDOR): Exactly. So you've had that, too. (BRIDGE)
GK: What he wanted me to do was take a message to his sister. I asked him why he couldn't do it himself, he said he couldn't remember. The sister was working another street corner, in front of an old burlesque joint called Blaze Starr's Fires of Passion Dance Hall and Barbecue Pit. And the sister stood on the sidewalk, singing--
(STREET HUBBUB, AND SS SINGING: Bringing in the sheaves, bringing in the sheaves. We shall come rejoicing. Bringing in the sheaves. REPEAT) She was tall and dark and so beautiful I almost didn't see her dark blue uniform and the big Bible she held in one hand.
SS (DORIS): Do you love the Lord, sir?
GK: Yes, of course. -- What's your name, Corporal?
SS (DORIS): Chastity. Chastity Miller.
GK: I'm Lieutenant Noir. Guy Noir.
SS (DORIS): Salvation Army?
SS (DORIS): I don't recognize you.
GK: I'm not from Baltimore. I came up from Washington.
SS (DORIS): So did I.
GK: From Seattle, Washington. Up from Seattle. Down to Miami and then up. Round about route--
SS (DORIS): But no uniform?
GK: I'm working undercovers. Or undercover.
SS (DORIS): What?
GK: Never mind. How's the conversion going tonight?
SS (DORIS): Nobody so far.
GK: Well, they're hardened sinners here, we just have to keep working at it.
SS (DORIS): Maybe if you got up on this box and preached, Lieutenant?
GK: Preached on what?
SS (DORIS): On this box.
GK: I think these sinners would rather you preached, Corporal.
SS (DORIS): They would and that's why it doesn't work. I preach on lust and I only create more of it. You wouldn't have that problem.
GK: I'm not a preacher so much. I go around in civilian clothes and I say silent prayers, that's my mission. Not a preacher. I'm a beseecher.
SS (DORIS): I never heard of it. How about we sing "Onward Christian Soldiers" --
GK: Okay, you go first, and I'll chime in with the fa-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-'s.
SS (DORIS): You're not Salvation Army, are you.
GK: I'm sort of an intern. I'm thinking about it.
SS (DORIS): When I look in your eyes, sir, I think that what you're praying for is something God is not about to grant. Especially since I'm married. To Captain Miller. And here he comes here.
TR (APPROACHING): Chastity-- I'm bringing the band with me -- (SOME INSTRUMENTS WARMING UP, TRUMPET, TUBA, TROMBONE) I just have a feeling that the Lord is preparing a great harvest. -- Good evening, sir--
GK: Good evening.
TR: Do you love the Lord, sir?
GK: I was just engaged in a little prayerful meditation, sir, and now I believe I am getting a call to go elsewhere. Oh-- by the way -- a message from your brother--
SS (DORIS): From Larry?
GK: He sent a singing telegram: You're the milk in my latte, you're the sash on my tux. You put the fun into fundamentalism, could I borrow thirty-five bucks?
(BRIDGE, TIME PASSAGE) Mrs. Miller rolled her eyes at me and turned away just as so many women have in the past and I headed up the street and ran into this old guy who was watching the whole thing. --(SLIGHT COLLISION) Oh sorry-- you okay?
TR (MENCKEN): Of course. Just watching you fall in love with the Salvation Army lassie. What're you doing with those crabshells hanging around your neck?
GK: I bought it from a guy. Ten bucks. Like it?
TR (MENCKEN): It's like I always said: nobody ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the American people. The men they admire most are liars; the men they detest most violently are those who try to tell them the truth. The whole aim of politics is to keep the people alarmed by a series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary. Each party works hard to prove that the other one is unfit to hold office and both of them succeed.
GK: He was a solid old guy in a three-piece suit and high-top shoes and a derby hat and a cigar between his teeth. Wire-rim glasses and a sort of friendly squint. And a big satchel. Here-- let me help you carry these. What's in here? Books, huh?
TR (MENCKEN): Yeah. Dante. Virgil. Goethe. Never had time to read them when I was living in Baltimore, but now that I'm gone, I thought I'd give em a try. Here-- let's head into this saloon and talk-- you got a minute?
GK: I got a minute. (FOOTSTEPS, DOOR WITH JINGLE, ETC.) You're not in a rush?
TR (MENCKEN): I've got thousands of years--
GK: So you used to live in Baltimore?
TR (MENCKEN): Years and years. Down on Hollins Street. They made a museum out of it.
GK: Wait-- you're H.L. Mencken.
TR (MENCKEN): Call me Henry.
GK: I would be honored to buy you a beer, Mr. Mencken. -- Bartender-- (FN: Yeah?) a ginger ale for me and a beer for my friend--
FN: For who?
FN: Who you pointing at?
GK: Never mind.
TR (MENCKEN): A non-believer.
GK: I guess so.
TR (MENCKEN): Speaking of which -- the Salvation Army lassie -- she was very lovely.
GK: I sort of lost my heart there for a minute.
TR (MENCKEN): Love is the triumph of imagination over intelligence.
GK: Maybe so but with some women it doesn't that that much imagination.
TR (MENCKEN): A man always remembers his first love with special tenderness, but after that he begins to bunch them.
GK: Well, anyway she was married. To the captain.
TR (MENCKEN): No matter how happily a woman may be married, it always pleases her to discover that there is a nice man who wishes that she were not.
GK: No, she was happy, and I respected that. Marriage is a great institution.
TR (MENCKEN): Marriage is a wonderful institution, but who would want to live in an institution?
GK: And her husband was a good man, a man of the cloth.
TR (MENCKEN): Ha. He's a puritan -- a man with a haunting fear that somewhere somebody may be happy.
GK: He struck me as a man of conscience.
TR (MENCKEN): Conscience is simply the inner voice that warns us somebody may be looking.
GK: But he was Salvation Army, they're involved in a whole string of social causes. Good causes.
TR (MENCKEN): The urge to save humanity is almost always a false front for the urge to rule.
GK: Oh, come now--
TR (MENCKEN): Idealism -- not materialism -- the chief curse of the world. Men get into trouble by taking their visions and hallucinations too seriously. Men are the only animals that devote themselves, day in and day out, to making one another unhappy. It is an art like any other. Its virtuosi are called altruists.
GK: Well, that's not how I see human history--
TR (MENCKEN): History! Ha! A historian, sir, is an unsuccessful novelist.
GK: But he was trying to solve problems in the world--
TR (MENCKEN): For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong.
GK: Are you a complete cynic?
TR (MENCKEN): No, sir, I am a newspaperman.
GK: Does that mean you have to be against everything?
TR (MENCKEN): I am not against everything. I am strongly in favor of common sense, common honesty, and common decency. This makes me forever ineligible for public office. I believe that it is better to tell the truth than a lie. I believe it is better to be free than to be a slave. I believe it is better to know than to be ignorant. And I believe that God is a comedian whose audience is afraid to laugh.
GK: So what's your advice for me, Mr. Mencken?
TR (MENCKEN): If you wish to please my ghost, forgive some sinner and wink your eye at some homely girl.
GK: So that's what I did. I forgave the jerk who sold me the crabclaw necklace and I walked around Baltimore looking for a homely girl to wink at and after awhile I got tired of looking and I went back to Minnesota where there is a better selection.
TR (ANNC): 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. (THEME OUT)