Main Street, Jonesborough May 3, 2012Posted by jayocallahan in Jonesborough.
Creating Main Street, Jonesborough was like climbing a great, rocky mountain during a fog, which turned into a rainstorm, which became a sleet storm and then a ragingly hot day, which parched me and dizzied me so that I started going backwards for days and weeks.
Main Street, Jonesborough was something I dreamed about and one of the dreams was so vivid I was totally lost in the dream.
In the dream I was in a crowded tavern and thought everyone must have been drinking because they spoke so oddly. There must have been a hundred people laughing and talking in the tavern. I could hear horses and carriages going by outside. I could hear the sound of market sellers shouting outside even though it was night. Then I thought, well these must be actors acting some Elizabethan drama and they’re still in costume because they have to do a scene later on. There were lanterns all about but no sign of electricity anywhere. Several colorfully dressed men were smoking pipes and I noticed they were clay pipes and a few were ornamented with gold. I managed to find a table in the rear where there was a man in his forties sitting, nodding to himself. The man had a short red-brown beard; he was balding and had warm alert green eyes. He looked at me and said, “I’ve had more than more.” He laughed and raised his hand for another ale and then called, “Two, two ales.” A waitress dressed as a serving maid brought two ales. She was tall, black-haired and very pretty but when she smiled I saw she was missing a tooth.
“You look worn,” he said.
“I am. I’ve been working on a story called Main Street, Jonesborough. I feel I’ve been at it for years.”
“Tell me,” he said. His voice was strong and rich. Perhaps he’s a singer or maybe an actor I thought.
“It’s about a town,” I said. “It’s a town that nearly died.”
“Death’s good in a story. It keeps attention.”
“But this is a town that turned around; it came back to life. It’s a kind of resurrection story.”
“Ah, a comedy,” he laughed. “A comedy.”
“Well,” I said, “there’s comedy in it but it’s an odd story. It’s a tumble of scenes. I have students that I’ve created and these students are acting out buildings in the town. Can you imagine that? I have the students acting out townspeople. And then I have townspeople telling stories of their lives so they ‘re introducing more characters. There are characters all over the place, there are almost as many characters in my story as there are in this tavern.” I was warming up and went on. “There’s war and song. There’s a man rising up in life because he knows so much about the water. He knows everything about the water in the town.”
My listener smiled asking, “Does he have water on the brain?” And he went on, “Your story sounds wild. What holds it all together?”
“A young woman holds it altogether. She’s been betrayed by her lover and so she goes far from her big city to live in this little town for a year. She goes to live with her grandmother but when she arrives in the town she’s appalled. It’s looks awful compared to the memory of her childhood so she feels betrayed by both her lover and town.”
The bearded man drank more of his ale and said in that strong voice, “Is it entertaining?”
“Well, it entertained me,” I said. “I think it works but I’ve never done anything like it.”
“Have you got some lively characters, funny characters?”
“Well there is one funny character, his name is Buddy Gresham. He’s a local bootlegger. He keeps spirits bright.”
The man looked puzzled. Was it the word bootlegger? “Maybe you need some evil characters,” he said. He looked at me and said, “I’ve written some awful ones. Too many words, boring, boring. I like your Buddy Gresham character. Maybe you need more like him.” Then the man began to stand up and said, “I must go. Another ale, I won’t be able to walk home, but I needed this tonight. I just….”
“You just needed to relax,” I said.
“Yes, yes,” he said. “I’ve been at it. I’ve been working on a long story about a king who has three daughters.”
“Not, Lear,” I said. “Not King Lear?”
“Yes!” He looked suddenly alert and surprised. “Who art thou?”
“Well if it’s Lear you’ve done you must be exhausted,” I said.
He was standing now, a little unsteady and he said, “Well, it all ends badly. There are corpses all over the place. I don’t know if it works. Oh Lear, Lear, Lear. Oh, he’s drowned me. Lear, Lear, Lear.”
He was leaving and I called after him, “Don’t worry about it. It works, it works.”
And he turned, “Well thank you, thank you. I hope it plays well. One day I hope to drop the pen and go back to Stratford and put my feet up.
The dream ended but the voices of the tavern continued through the night. I wish I could have told him the whole story.