Woebegone Me

illustrations by Brian Barber

The Rake gains access to one of public radio’s most celebrated—and feared—geniuses, Harrison Taylor, the mastermind of A Prairie Groan Companion and all subsidiaries, subdivisions, copyrights, and service marks thereof. Since this is a pure work of parody and satire (we couldn’t decide what the difference is) any resemblance to living persons is fully indexed in a separate story.)

In the wake of his ruthless climb to stardom as the syest celebrity ever to make Playgirl‘s list of sexiest men,(1) Taylor has left a trail of broken hearts and bruised egos. Taylor sat down with The Rake for a rare chance to come clean with his adoring public as he roosts upon the acme of his fame.

With permission negotiated by my editor (he’s missing some fingers now and won’t say why), I was escorted to an elevator at the secure wing of Minnesota Parochial Radio headquarters in downtown St. Paul. Ninth Street had already been closed, at Taylor’s request, by the city council, so parking near the compound was tricky. But some sacrifice was inevitable to get face time with Taylor, who could cancel your career as quickly as he could make it.

The elevator was down only and operated with a key held by my escort, a serious, bearded man with the posture of someone who spends a lot of time on folding chairs in support groups. My ears popped from the pressure changes as we rode the elevator down about a thousand feet into the sandstone crust beneath St. Paul. I was then led down a brightly lit, steel-walled passageway past a series of bank-style vaults.

We stopped at a vault flanked by a pair of severely straight-backed, flat-seated Aeron chairs. My escort told me we would have to wait; the vault required two keys to open.

Two hours later, just as I realized the time had expired on my parking meter, the sound of expensive heels clicked over the polished floor. Coming into view I saw none other than Will B. King, president of Minnesota Prudent Radio. He wore a ten-thousand-dollar Armani suit bulging like he kept a lawyer in every pocket. He produced a key, as did my escort, and they inserted them into the pair of locks on the vault door and turned the barrels. King then turned the wheel-sized knob and opened the vault. The interior was about the size of a large gardening shed, and stacked from floor to ceiling was the largest pile of U.S. paper currency I had ever laid eyes on.

“Oops,” said King. “Forget you saw that. Wrong room.” He locked it back up and we proceeded to the next vault. I asked my escort about the pile of cash.

“That’s the DNC vault,” he whispered.

King suddenly rounded on a three hundred dollar shoe. “What are you telling him, you idiot? Now we might have to kill him! Are you a valued member?”

“No,” my escort mumbled.

“You’re fired. First help me open the Taylor vault.” As the door to the Taylor vault complained on its massive hinge, King looked at me for the first time. “Are you a valued member?” he asked.

It seemed like a good time to lie. “Yes,” I said, “ I joined at the ‘lap dog’ level during the spring drive. Ten dollars a month.”

“Then you know what to do,” he replied. He stood there, waiting for something. On a hunch, I knelt down and licked his shoes. They tasted like dust from Tuscany.

“Good boy,” he said, and motioned me into the Taylor vault. I found myself face-to-face with Harrison Taylor, tall, waxen-faced, and startled, obviously disoriented by the intrusion.

And his fly was down. Will B. King saw it, too, but said nothing. This was going to be an awkward start. Rather than say something embarrassing, I decided to write him a discrete note—EXAMINE YOUR ZIPPER… YOUR COWS ARE GONNA GET OUT OF THE BARN… He took the note, read it, then held it in front of his lap for the entire interview.(2)

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