Sidewalk of the Week: Prescott, WI

River towns are older then the rest of them, and river sidewalks more so. Because rivers are the oldest roads, have always massed marvels on their banks. Because when you walk through a river town you follow many paths, some faded or flooded or forgotten, walking a forest of footprints by water. River sidewalks disturb my categories and I don’t know where to aim my eyes.

River towns are important, and Prescott doubly so. Here just past the rail bridge lies a confluence. Two rivers coming together, colliding, mixing, the muddy river flowing into the clear river until they are the same light brown. These river meeting here means that behind the main street of this river town there’s another sidewalk even older than the brick one, fronting the river street. The riverbank is a sidewalk, it’s the path along the edge where people gather and land, dis- and re-embark, trade supplies and rumors. This isn’t a street corner, it’s a river corner.

That’s why the buildings in Prescott have two fronts. On the main street you’ll find the front(back), like any other town with trains and automobiles. It has its shops and windows. But behind you’ll find the back(front) side, with terraced topography and decks rising from the water. River towns are like that, pressed up to bluffs climbing steep to the sky, a few streets flatly fitted. Next to the flowing water, the actual sidewalks of Prescott seem neglected, far the stage like a theater balcony where the rules are relaxed, where you can put your feet on the railing and whisper more loudly.

[Boats under the railbridge.]

[The riversidewalk.]

[A clocktower with two clocktower banners.]

[Parallel parking with a boat is easier than with a car, methinks.]

[Townfront parking.]

One thing is beyond doubt: few Wisconsin sidewalks are lacking for bars. Gravity seems to pull people down to the street where they collect like rainwater to eat cheese and drink beer. In the summertime this sidewalk, like all the sidewalks along the river, fills with grumbling motorcycles and convertibles with women in hats. In the winter it must be lonely. These people flow through here like streams, living out grimy escapes through time, reaching for the youth of these river towns to recollect when rivers meant more to us.

In Prescott, there’s a banner of the clocktower on the side of the clocktower so that everyone knows where to look. They’ve painted long dead people on the sides of empty streets, and the illusion holds for a moment until you realize that nobody blinks or moves or shouts your name. River towns are wrapped in illusion, the fantasy that the river is still carrying fates. Any maybe they’re right, because no matter how empty the aging brick buildings, the river is still there, moving quickly past the riverbank sidewalks, a swirling sulking musty flooding ebbing power that couldn’t care less about what we think it means.

[Old paintpeople on a sidewalk in Prescott.]
[Main street Prescott with angle parking.]

[Folks watching traffic go by on a sunny Prescott day.]
[One of the few sidewalk front(back) cafés.]
[A back(front) riverfacing bench.]

1 comment:

Alex said...

This post is a masterpiece.