I drove out into the backwoods township of Landaff. I was looking for the entrance to Rock Pool – smooth granite formations and a waterfall with a drop of 20 feet that felt like 100 to a cool, deep, crystal clear pool at the bottom. We boys would dare each other, and sometimes take up the dare, to make the leap, watched by our gang’s girls who had been sunning themselves prettily off to the side on one of the huge smooth rocks.
We had heard rumors about the existence of this unusual place Rock Pool, and we found the woodsy path leading into it one summer when some of us were finally old enough to drive. Now thirty-five years later I cannot find the path, but while still in my car I am, in heart and head, back on a certain dreamlike day – the day we saw that the craftspeople had appeared.
Booths made of two by fours and old boards had suddenly been erected on this obscure path. Some of the booths had speakers linked by flimsy lines stretching out from a small wheezing generator, sending out through the woods the heartfelt sounds of Rubenstein playing the Emperor Concerto.
This world about which I had fantasized, populated by artists and artisans who till now I knew only from novels and paintings and movies – these mostly bearded men and mostly pretty women – and no sexless plaid on the girls – nor golf hats on the men – nor the sort of straw hats still around from winter trips to Bermuda. And they all wore sandals. Suddenly right here a world about which I had fantasized in the long winters in dress code boarding school. This was the reality I had thought I would not find till some undetermined time in the future, this life for which I was really intended. These men with facial hair and their lovely pale girls in black – these people out of fantasies that entailed cellar restaurants with red checked tablecloths, the dim lighting from candles whose wax had poured down the sides of wine bottles used as candlestick holders, the men and girls leaning in to each other in sexual promise and in rapt conversation about the kind of art – bright colors, a nude girl at a picnic, touching Montmartre whores waiting, poplar trees in many kinds of light, a waltz at a boat house – the kind of art I'd seen in Paris in the first part of the summer. And poetry I knew from long, cold boarding school winters, the poetry that had meant my freedom – Keats and Wordsworth and Edna St. Vincent Millay, and Edward Arlington Robinson – and novels in which people like these craftspeople would meet and thrive and copulate.
This was reality far from the White Mountains and far from New England schools and far from parents and grandparents who affected English accents.
But the sudden appearance of the crafts people had led to remarks from the young people of our gang whom I had thought of as my people. Tuckie Marsh, who was 15, a year younger than me and planning on art school, but now saying about the people who had appeared, "I don't know what they think they're doing here. They'll never understand this place..."
Danny Trimble, who was headed to Amherst, using the term "weenies."
Esther Roberts, on her way to socially if not academically correct Briarcliff, repeating "What do they think they are?"
And even deeply tanned Tammie Thomas, who was herself a subject of fantasies, saying "Our life here won't last if just anyone can be here."