All in the Family (Sarah Deming, Garrison Keillor)

For several years my wife Sarah Deming has been on a profound journey with boxing and writing. A milestone was reached this summer: Richardson, known to us all as Africa, is competing in the Olympics. Four years ago Africa was the guest star in Sarah’s Kickstarter financing a visit to the Olympics in China; this year he was the primary motivation.

Sarah’s writing about boxing is appreciated within the community. Most of it has been blogging reportage, but there is a major essay on Claressa Shields in a forthcoming boxing anthology edited by Carlo Rotella and an amusing piece about to run in The New York Times. There’s also a YA novel about boxing in the works. What I’ve seen of it is fabulous.

Her current Kickstarter made weight in a matter of hours. More money is of course always useful, and the rewards are top-notch. Even if you don’t contribute, you should head over and take a look at the video.

Just for fun, here are two of my own iPhone snaps of Sarah at her gym, Atlas Cops and Kids:

Sarah at gym

Claressa w atlas cops and kids

It was a special day when Olympian Claressa Shields stopped by the gym.  (Claressa in front w. USA sweatshirt, Africa dead center raising the black glove.) 


Garrison Keillor is also a kind of family member. Lake Wobegon could easily be Menomonie (where I grew up) or Two Harbors (mom) or Duluth (dad).

Although I’ve only listened to Prairie Home Companion once in a while over the years, every monologue was always profoundly satisfying. Since the final “News from Lake Wobegon” aired a couple of weeks ago, I’ve been listening to old episodes on YouTube. Truthfully, the man is a genius. While discussing the minor travails of his mild-mannered Lutherans, Keillor is superbly relaxed despite being in the throes of creative fantasy.

There’s a real connection between great comics, great hip-hop MCs, and great jazz musicians. They all know their material, but when the stars align there is room to follow a new thread to an unexpected place. The shock of discovery amplifies the beauty of the statement for both performer and audience.

Many Midwestern artists that move outward to play a larger stage owe Keillor some kind of debt. One day a few years ago I got a phone call from Stanley Crouch: “Ethan? I saw Altman’s Prairie Home Companion last night. Yeah, I think I understand The Bad Plus a little better.”

In my opinion, the New York Times review of the last Keillor performance by Dwight Garner, while positive, was not positive enough. There’s no need to raise questions about Keillor’s legacy. It’s right there in front of us. Dial up a “News from Lake Wobegon” and — especially if you are from the Midwest — you will laugh and you will cry.