now murphysboro is the county seat, about seven miles up the road, and it has a number of ornate old houses with wrap-around porches, that go for a song, and old brick buildings lying empty waiting for someone to move in. it's a slowly dying town, kind of turning on itself, even less to do than carbondale which itself a one-horse town with a drinking problem. but murphysboro has lots of charm, besides its courthouse, and i got a gig in one ornate old historical-register building, which is now called the "activity center" and which was once an old elks building.
our music is not bad these days, but you could hardly hear it, because the place was full of women, and most of them were talking or had some kind of other business on their minds. so we played and played, but it seemed in some ways like we were spinning our wheels, and music of course gets me in touch with all my dreams. one of course is being really good, and playing literally whatever i want. i saw john hartford in murphysboro one time, and he represents another of my dreams, in that he did exactly what he wanted, going up and down the river, playing the small towns, even after he'd made it in nashville. but playing murphysboro is not really my dream; i've already done that. across from this activity center was the murphysboro american, a small-town newspaper that just lost its editor. now that's a dream- to have one of those, but i don't know what kind of dream that is, let alone whether it's possible, or whether it would be desirable even if it were. just east of the courthouse a couple of blocks, off the main drag, is this enormous old hotel, the leclede, with ornate lettering above the doors, fine stonework, brick all around, windows boarded up, it would take a million maybe, but it sure would be a fine old hotel. now that's a dream. but what would i do with a hotel?
go to africa...that's one of my dreams. but how could i do that? don't know, but i'm not letting go of that one. in fact, i've changed this one a little, made it a little more realizable. make a site about africa on the web- a kind of information hub. now this is something i could do. a kind of resource for americans who badly need to know more about the place, for whatever reason. fuse african and american music...this one is a little esoteric, still a little out of my grasp. i'm a fiddler. i'm not about to do this, yet, at this point.
i indulge my dreams, as i fiddle, or as i drive, when my mind has pure tracks and the space to fill them. i am slowly pulling together a collection of stories, pile of leaves, which represents years of short-story writing which probably, in the big picture, is mediocre. it's my third collection, but i'm thinking of throwing a few more in there from the first; then, i wouldn't be able to say there were three, but this would have the best collection from the last seven years or so, outside of the walmart stories. still, they aren't much; i'll be lucky if i can say i've published them. write a novel...now that's one i'll never let go of, either, because, with time, and real motivation, i could do it. but i haven't.
my partner is relentless, working the wineries and trying to get up music business from the people who fill this ornate old building. it might work; we've played well, and people have heard us. but i'm a little aloof about it; i find it hard to hustle myself, even though i have all these dreams. maybe i'm too busy dreaming; actually i'm focused on playing as well as i can; teaching full-time and all, i have very little energy to put myself in a selling mode, and hardly can even charm people in any way, except by playing well. one thing at a time, i say. but i always have room in my head to dream. the sun goes down over the courthouse, and beyond that the laclede, or whatever it's called, and these real small towns have a way of heating up when something lively is happening in them, as everyone can tell that this one building has so many well-dressed people. these folks have dreams too, i'm sure; it's just that their cars are making too much noise on the street, and they're one step yet even farther, from ever realizing them, than i would be. go to scandinavia. go to laos. go to argentina...i have no patience any more for new york, or houston, or san francisco. but i'll listen to their music. it's a small world these days; you don't have to burn oil to get across the globe, and really find out what's going on somewhere. we're all getting pretty intimately close.
it would be nice to put a mill into a town like murphysboro and make it the new center of the universe. start with the laclede, and build around it; fix up all the old brick and fine victorians that are all over the place; make it a place worth coming to. one time about five years ago i was on a jury and drove every day to murphysboro, back roads all the way, and hung out in the courthouse while we decided one poor guy's fate. i'd look out at all those fine old buildings and, on my way driving to and fro, i'd imagine how nice it would be to call a pretty town like this home: how could i start a business here, and get one of them? i never did it, but, the dream isn't dead. tonight, however, another member of that jury walked right by me, and didn't even recognize me. leaving, i wanted to show my partner the laclede, but we lost it somehow, tangled up in streets on the other side of the courthouse, and ended up just coming home instead of going back. she agreed with me, however, that it's always better to take the pretty two-lane, than the ugly (but safer, surely) big one. she's a-d-d, like me, so she could relate to my insistence that the back roads give you better views; you can see old houses, the old highway, old estates, some of which are going to ruin, of course. you can still dream. sometimes the weeds grow right up on the road, and the for sale signs beckon at you; now these country dreams, an old house with a few acres behind it, these dreams have substance too. lot of times, there's an ancient car in these dreams, or a whole bunch of them, and a movie camera. old signs and farm equipment that is sinking back into the earth, the sun going down and reflecting on peeling paint.
back in carbondale, my wife has been realizing her dreams: landscaping the front, landscaping the back, pulling herbs and vegetables out of the garden, installing a hot tub, painting the walls of the upstairs. often she does this outside stuff in the 90+ weather and doesn't seem to mind half as much as i do when i simply have to walk out into it. i have started riding the bike to work though, and that changes my view a little; today, i got to a crosswalk, and some workers were painting fresh white paint on it, and bicyclists are supposed to get off the bike at these places, which i did today, partly because of the fresh paint. don't want that paint splashing up my work pants, when people are giving me angry looks. i have enough notoriety in this town already; i like a gentle persona, and every once in a while people say something to me like, you're the fiddler, i heard you the other day; this is, like i say, world famous in carbondale, like when i got in the paper, which happens every once in a while. it's not much, and we here have no illusions. but we have our dreams; a long hot summer is just reaching its peak, and they're more important than ever.