On Tuesday I awoke an hour ahead of the alarm clock, wrenched from fitful sleep by the unbelievable but nonetheless self-evident fact that I was lying in the master bedroom of the Schwartz House in Two Rivers, Wisconsin, designed in 1939 by Frank Lloyd Wright. Unwilling to waste another slugabed moment, I rolled out of bed and started prowling through the house in my bare feet, stopping just long enough to switch on my iPod and portable speakers and resume the completely unscientific experiment I’d begun the night before. What kind of music sounds best in a Wright house? Should the occasion ever present itself to you, I recommend Aaron Copland’s Appalachian Spring and Piano Sonata, Samuel Barber’s Summer Music, and Pat Metheny’s Bright Size Life.
At ten I heard an unfamiliar buzz. Realizing after a startled instant that it was the doorbell, I ran sixty-three feet from one end of the house to the other and opened the door for Gail Fox, a Two Rivers art historian who has spent the past couple of decades documenting the Schwartz House and knows more about it than I know about George Balanchine. We spent three lively hours touring the house and grounds, in the course of which she proved to be an enthusiast of the very best kind, irresistibly voluble and eager to answer the most arcane questions I could think up. Then I packed my bag, tucked the key under the doormat for the next occupant, and hit the road for Spring Green, home of American Players Theatre, which I’ll be seeing later in the week, and Taliesin, Wright’s home and headquarters, which I’ll be touring today.
Having no more appointments for the rest of the day and nothing left to do but find a place to eat, I slipped off the interstate and drove along two-lane highways to Spring Green, passing through a dozen friendly-looking villages with such quaint names as Sauk City, Lodi (Just about a year ago I set out on the road/Seekin’ my fame and fortune, lookin’ for a pot of gold), and Prairie du Sac as I listened to Lee Wiley, Erin McKeown, and Peter Pears’ recording of Schubert’s Winterreise (suitable music for a solitary wanderer). It occurred to me toward day’s end that I ought to be lonely, having spent the preceding five hours driving by myself down near-deserted roads, but by then the late-afternoon sun had dipped far enough in the sky to cover the cornfields with a glowing yellow blanket, and all at once my heart swelled with gratitude. How beautiful the world is, I thought, and how lucky I am to be in the midst of it! It was the first time I’d felt that way since Hurricane Katrina swept through New Orleans.
Now I’m sitting in a nondescript motel room in Spring Green, listening to Count Basie’s Jive at Five and digesting the heart-attack special I consumed an hour ago at a steak house up the road. It’s been a week since I last slept a full night, and I don’t have to be anywhere until ten in the morning, when I’m expected at Taliesin. From there I’ll head over to Madison to dine with Ann Althouse and see the Madison Repertory Theatre. That will put an end to my tranquil interlude–but not before I pay a long-deferred visit to the land of dreams.
See you tomorrow.